It is certainly not "just traditional Catholicism", or even just Catholicism as widely practised during the Pianische Monolothismus. Rather, it makes sense only in certain very specific terms peculiar to France. Terms that, for very French reasons, it assumes to be universal when they are not.
Lefevbrist devotional and disciplinary practice is an obvious expression of, if not direct Jansenist influence, though probably so, then at least the strain in the French character that made it receptive to Jansenism. Likewise, Lefebvrist theory and organisational practice are no less obviously expressions of Gallicanism, and sometimes of very advanced Gallicanism indeed.
For example, rule of the SSPX is by a General Chapter in which not only do bishops and simple presbyters have equal status, but it is considered an aberration that the Superior-General is at present a bishop, rather than being a simple presbyter to whom the Society's bishops would be, and in the past have been, subject. Shades of the extreme Gallican attempts to prove a Dominical institution of the office of parish priest.
And shades of the structural arrangements of Anglo-Catholic traditionalism over the last two decades and before, echoing the extent to which that movement has always tapped into the same English and Welsh organisational traits that made Congregationalism so popular (and many of the same English and Welsh devotional traits that made Methodism so popular) just as Lefebvrism has tapped into the same French traits that had previously manifested themselves as Gallicanism (and Jansenism).
Although I should have to investigate any specifically Spanish reason why this has come to be so, such trends become even more pronounced in the structure of Opus Dei.
Sanctification through work, the living of a contemplative life in the middle of the world, Christian freedom correctly defined, and the recognition of divine filiation: these are the principles calling all Catholics to rediscover and renew, ever-more-deeply, our beginning the day by offering it to God, our frequent Communion, our daily examination of conscience, our Eucharistic Adoration, our ejaculatory prayer, our use of holy water, and our devotion to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints. And, yes, our practice of corporal mortification.
But Opus Dei's domination by the laity, yet in an organisation of which clergy are members, effectively turning priests into little more than transubstantiation and absolution machines a great deal of the time, seems more appropriate to the more advanced forms of Congregationalism, to the Baptist movement, and to expressions of Methodism such as the Primitive Methodists, the still-existing Independent Methodist Connexion (with its partly Quaker roots) in the North of England, and the Bible Christians of the West Country.
Even those, in fact, were or are not quite like that. There is something positively Quaker, at least historically, about the maintenance of autonomous male and female branches. But most of all, the whole thing looks like lay rule through Royal Gallicanism and its local implications all the way down to parochial level, while also recalling the power wielded in the Jansenist subculture by the Abbesses of Port-Royal and their subjects. Again, there is more than a whiff of Anglo-Catholicism in all of this, or of all of this in Anglo-Catholicism.
Lefebvrism gives perhaps the first ever formal institutional shape to the situation created by the seventeenth century, which began with three competing parties in the French Church, but which ended with two, the Gallicans and the Jansenists having effectively merged against the Ultramontanes due to the deployment of Gallican ecclesiological arguments against the Papal condemnations of Jansenist soteriological ones.
By the wayside had fallen such features as Jansenist belief, with the sole if notable exception of Pascal, in the infallibility of Papal definitions ex cathedra, and Gallican use of belief in Our Lady's Immaculate Conception as a mark of party identity due to its having been defined by the Council of Basel.
The popular attraction of the Lefebvrist clergy in terms of the old Latin Mass and traditional or "traditional" devotions echoes that of the Gallican clergy in terms of the old diocesan Missals and Breviaries and a sympathy for the entrenched local devotional practices reviled, like those entrenched local liturgical forms, by the Ultramontanes.
The French Church, or an idea of the French Church, is assumed to be fundamentally autonomous, so that the incompatibility of Dignitatis Humanae with a very specifically French Counter-Revolutionary theory of the relationship between Church and State means that it is the Conciliar Declaration that must yield. This is simply taken to be self-evident.
In reality, such a position is as schismatic and as heretical as John Courtney Murray's attempt to conform Dignitatis Humanae to the American republican tradition's reading of the First Amendment as taught to high school students, an approach comprehensible only within Manifest Destiny and all that.
That has therefore ended up, for now, in George Weigel's signature to the Project for the New American Century, and in the public support for the Iraq War on the part of the late Richard John Neuhaus, known to George W Bush as "Father Richard".
American "conservative" Catholicism sees the American Church as autonomous as surely as does American "liberal" Catholicism, and freely disregards Catholic Teaching on social justice and on peace as surely as the other side freely disregards Catholic Teaching on bioethical and sexual issues.
As a result, both alike are blind to the Magisterium's brilliant and unique global witness to the inseparability of all of these concerns. In both the French and the American cases, there is a strange inability to recognise that what one was taught at 13 or 14 might not always be the last word on any given subject.
Still, even Richard Williamson (I cannot call him a bishop, since, until such time as the Holy Father tells me otherwise, I cannot see how he could possibly have been ordained as such in a direct act of disobedience to Petrine authority) has a potential use.
It needs to be brought home to our people, among others, to whose legislative will we are now subject via the EU. Let there be a European Senate to which each of the Europarties, currently 11 in number including a Far Right one, would nominate one Senator from each member-state at the same time as the elections to the European Parliament. That would give a total of 297, or 308 once Croatia has had the bad taste to join up.
The European Senate would have the power to propose amendments which the European Parliament would then be obliged to consider, and before the final text went on to the Council of Ministers the Senate would have the power to require unanimity there rather than Qualified Majority Voting. On that second point, it might even do some good.
Why not give the EU some Lords Spiritual? Let each member-state nominate two permanent offices the occupants of which would always be European Senators, one representing the country's religious and spiritual sources of moral sense and cultural identity, and the other representing the country's secular and humanist sources of moral sense and cultural identity. All very Blessed John Paul the Great.
Furthermore, let each of the Europarties nominate a further two such Senators, at the same time as its other appointees on whom see above, one representing the secular and humanist basis of its philosophy, policies and support, and the other representing the religious and spiritual basis of its philosophy, policies and support. Quite an eye-opener.
Not least in view of quite how many of those figures might very well be British, and especially based in the city where the global coup within the SSPX is to be staged, at Earlsfield Library Hall, 276 Magdalen Road, Earlsfield London SW18, between from 9am and 5pm over the 1st and 2nd of June. And not least in view of quite who those Britons would be.
There would be a neoconservative thinker and the dissident vicar or (although he or she would be lucky to find one) the rabbi of his or her choice. Such are the present times, that alongside a Stalinist or Trotskyist historian or philosopher as the secular voice, might be nominated an Islamist leader who would be overwhelmingly likely to be British and London-based.
While the ostensibly opposite extreme would manage two people who might even live in the same house. One would be David Irving. The other would be Richard Williamson.