Can anyone show me from our 2,000 year-old tradition that there is such a thing as a "pastoral" council, or that a "pastoral" council does not require our assent?
Whether there's historical precedent or not, Vatican II was a "pastoral council" by having a pastoral purpose. From the Nota Praevia to Lumen Gentium:
A question has arisen regarding the precise theological note which should be attached to the doctrine that is set forth in the Schema de Ecclesia and is being put to a vote.
The Theological Commission has given the following response regarding the Modi that have to do with Chapter III of the de Ecclesia Schema: "As is self-evident, the Council's text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rules that are known to all."
On this occasion the Theological Commission makes reference to its Declaration of March 6, 1964, the text of which we transcribe here:
"Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church's supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ's faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation."
From the Council's opening address:
The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all.
For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.
Because this whole approach really seems like doctrinal minimalism: I'll only believe it if it's been infallibly defined.
I don't think that's the case at all. We believe what's been infallibly defined and what's always been believed, but the rest falls under the merely authentic magisterium, which is owed religious assent -- but which can err and must be resisted if it leads to sin or unbelief.
I'm pretty sure that even when the popes spoke "fallibly" and in a non-dogmatic way in the past, they still demanded assent, and any Catholic who would have tried to say, "Sorry, Your Holiness, you were speaking pastorally and not dogmatically, and I personally have come to the conclusion that what you said contradicts the faith, so I'm duty-bound to ignore you on this point," would have found himself outside the Church in a hurry.
It's not that pastoral decisions aren't owed assent. They are. Unless they lead to sin or unbelief, if they prove harmful to souls, etc.
I have a real problem saying that Vatican II "has no such authority" - especially when the documents bear the signature of a valid pope, and end with statements like, "We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God."
Vatican II had the authority to produce documents with passages marked by infallibility, but didn't choose to exercise it except where those documents repeat what's always been taught.
That sounds like juridical language; that sounds like the "binding and loosing" authority that Christ gave to His vicars. I'm not sure how we can say that Vatican II lacks authority. For that matter, Lumen Gentium explicitly addressed the issue of "non-dogmatic" teachings: "This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will." (LG, 25)
All Catholics agree with that. Unless what is spoken not ex cathedra harms the Faith.
For that matter, when Paul VI admitted that, "given the pastoral character of the Council, it has avoided any extraordinary pronouncements of dogmas, equipped with the note of infallibility," he immediately followed this statement by saying, "it has, however, given its instructions the authority of the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium (autorità del supremo magistero ordinario) ... and therefore must be received with docility and sincerity (docilmente e sinceramente) by all the faithful ..." (General Audience, 1/12/1966)
Unless it harms the Faith...
I would think that at the very least, something promulgated by the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium deserves to be given every benefit of the doubt by the lay-faithful; I would think that we would be more duty-bound to show how the council's teachings can (and must) be harmonized with Tradition than we would be duty-bound to consign them to irrelevancy and reach for Kant instead.
This is where we agree -- insofar that I think Sungenis is doing the right thing in trying to make the documents line up and is not going out of his way to nitpick and such. But IF the documents can't be made to line up, IF the typical interpretations of them lead to unbelief, harms souls, incites sin, etc., then they must be resisted.
I am not aware of even one Catholic who directly disobeyed the pope, and was later canonized.
Certainly some saints rebuked the pope (St. Paul, St. Catherine); others pleaded with the popes to change their minds, and were successful in doing so; others still suffered wrongly at the hands of popes (St. Athanasius); but I don't know of any saints who "indulged" in "habitual disobedience," and who for "this very fact of their disobedience" were made saints.
Not even one.
"Habitual disobedience," a "schismatic mentality," and such things are indeed dangerous. But disobedience itself is not necessarily habitual or a result of a schismatic mentality.