It seems an important question to ask at this time; for we have recently endured a recurrence (which was predominant after Vatican II) of adhering more to pastoral practices and less to our Doctrinal beliefs. Practices, that for all intents and purposes, seem to fly counter to the Doctrines of our Faith.
For the Doctrines of the faith and all practices which emphasize those Doctrines are seen to be Draconian in our present expression of faith which looks more like coddling than the old idea of spiritual direction.
It is no longer enough to simply learn the laws from the Supreme Law-Giver and try to live according to them. We must try to pretend that they are not there at all or else hide them from prying eyes so that nobody will be offended; such is the fallen state of human minds and wills in this overly-sensitive society. And there is the problem.
For from this newly found gentleness and sweetness we have devised pastoral practices to coincide with this present age where pampering and stroking of ones self-esteem (our egos) is more important than speaking the Truth plainly and unashamedly. To teach rather than to ‘share’ is old-fashioned and mean-spirited. Let’s talk about what it means to me and how I ‘feel’ about this article of faith or morals. It is not enough that Christ has written the Law in our hearts and has established a Church to teach His laws to mankind thoughout the world. For the teaching is too hard; who can bear it?
After many years of bad blood between those who accepted the Coucil of Vatican II but did not accept their pastoral documents (which seemed to fly in the face of earlier Church Teachings) we now have a situation where the Vatican is now saying explicitly that the non-adherence of the SSPX in these pastoral documents is not an obstacle to their reintegration into the Church. We all knew that and it had been said by traditionalists over and over again these last 50 years but it is only now that such an admission is being made by Rome. But the Church took baby steps to rectify this situation after ensuring that a huge change in practice had already taken hold and that the generations raised in a post-Vatican II Church would not remember or know what the kerfuffle was about. All they know is the present day expression of Church teachings (or the lack thereof) which they have become acustomed to.
So Pope Benedict XVI finally gave us his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum that clearly stated that the old Mass was never abrogated and that any priest who wished to say this Mass need not ask permission to celebrate it. We knew that as well – and boy what a lot of heartache could have been saved had this been proclaimed at the outset of the reign of the Novus Ordo Missae.
So with the admission of both the Traditional Mass being still operative in the Church and that documents such as Nostra Aetate need not be adhered to and may, in fact, be flatly rejected by a priest or parishioner, then all this internal fighting and bickering would have been nipped in the bud from the start. Sadly, the damage is done as stated before. Most Catholics living today have never been to a Traditional Latin Mass nor have they heard the Catechism taught without hesitation or regard for having to sugar-coat the teachings or pamper the little ‘dears’ who are too delicate to learn the faith of their fathers. Ecumenism has fallen into a false irenicism in far too many corners of the Church and these things have caused irreperable harm to the Faithful.
Is it too late? I guess it is never too late for our Lord. We might yet recover from the degenerative effects of placing the practices above the teachings that they were to be the living witness of. Or maybe not? But the faith shall endure . . . even if it is a remnant Church.