École française. Its attachment to, and its own declension of, the scuola Romana of neo-Scholastic Thomism in the wake of Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris, after the Modernist Controversies during the pontificates of Blessed Pius IX and St Pius X, developed a remarkable homogeneity of thought as a system by the eve of the Council. This theological position can best be seen in the works of Fr Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964). The position was deeply suspicious of anything outside of the system, as it were, and the advent of the nouvelle théologie, and especially its apparent triumph around Vatican II, was deeply worrisome to those who took this position.
...Pope Benedict XVI changed all that. On the surface, the Bavarian theologian belonged to the same nouvelle théologie that both schools found suspect. His dealings with the affaire Lefebvre had gained him some modicum of respect, albeit it at a distance, with the école française, which grew in numbers as the scuola romana became the preserve of some very few circles in Italy. French traditionalism was imported as a missionary endeavor along with the Mass of the Ages all over the world. But Benedict was also to challenge that école française as well. His overtures to the Society of St Pius X and his increasing questioning of the implementation of Vatican II became a pietra d’inciampo for the traditionalist world (and a scandal for those who hated it). Were they a ruse to lure the faithful into Modernism, or were they a sincere gesture of a loving pastor concerned for unity in the Church? In all of this, Benedict XVI emerged, not as a liturgical traditionalist, but as a liturgical pluralist. While he remained committed to the Council and to the initial motives for the nouvelle théologie’s departure from Scholasticism, he also gained the confidence of many traditionalists, who migrated from a more polemical anti-Roman attitude of the postconciliar école française to a nuanced hermeneutic of continuity which was a kind of rebirth of the scuola romana.
After Summorum pontificum of 2007 effectively ended the exile of traditionalists within the Church, as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was introduced to more people, especially the younger with no historical memory of the affaire Lefebvre, a new Ratzingerian strand of traditionalism seems to be emerging.
It is it possible that there is now a new Ratzingerkreis emerging in the traditionalist world? The école française in many ways risks disintegration as the Society of St Pius X experiences its own internal divisions and spinoffs, such as sedevacantism and strict observances. The classical scuola romana approximates many of the traditionalist communities who have followed the path from Ecône back to Rome. But now there are many people, who are perhaps a bit more open to certain insights outside of the pre-conciliar manualist theological tradition, such as those of Ratzinger, who now find themselves engaging the same critiques of the traditionalists, but from within the desire of a hermeneutic of continuity. Such a school of tradition is no mere reincarnation of Ultramontanism in its neoconservative Amerophilic form. It is embued with the classical liturgical movement, with an eye to the Patristic age, the East, as well as certain insights of the nouvelle théologie. One thinks of a Ratzinger scholar like Tracey Rowland as perhaps more of an example of this type of thought...