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Catholic FAQs
Dz: Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma ST:  Summa Theologica
Is one permitted to maintain social contact with apostate family members?

The question here concerns what is called by the theologians communication with heretics. Here it concerns profane or civil communication, namely that concerning commerce, business and friendly conversation, as distinct from communication in sacred things pertaining to the worship of God, and prayer. Active participation of this latter kind is forbidden by the traditional law and practice of the Church (canon 1258, §1 of the 1917 Code), but encouraged by the post-Conciliar Church in the name of ecumenism (canon 844 of the 1983 Code).

There was a time in the history of the Church when the Church’s law forbade communication in civil or friendly matters with those who were or who had become notorious heretics, and who apostatized. However, the sad conditions of modern society, in which we must constantly live alongside heretics and apostates, forced the Church to mitigate this law. Consequently the injunction to avoid civil communication with heretics and apostates only applied to the special class of excommunicated persons classified as having to be avoided in the 1917 Code. Furthermore, even then such civil communication was permissible for any reasonable cause, such as necessary commerce (canon 2267). In addition, the same canon explains that the forbidding of civil communication does not apply to a person’s spouse, parents, children, servants, or subjects, since manifestly such communication cannot be avoided.

Nevertheless, although the Church’s law does not bind us to avoid all personal and friendly contact with apostates, and especially not with relatives, such contact is frequently highly dangerous to the faith of Catholics, bringing with it the possibility of indifferentism. For, in practice, such contact presumes that the Faith is not discussed, and the beliefs or not of the apostate person are accepted as such. For this acceptation is the basis of ordinary friendly, social contact. In such instances contact even with relatives would be opposed to the natural law, and even to the divine law. St. Paul is, indeed, very explicit: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid" (Tit. 3:10). Likewise St. John, the apostle of charity: "If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him, God speed you. For he that saith unto him, God speed you, communicateth with his wicked works" (II Jn. 10, 11).

However, this being said, it cannot be denied that there is no true Catholic who is not zealous for the conversion of heretical or apostate relatives to the true Faith, and that if there were no friendly contact or conversation, there would be no human possibility of initiating that conversion. It will consequently depend upon the virtue of prudence to balance the possible advantage of maintaining some contact with the grave danger of indifferentism of keeping up that contact, either affecting one’s own soul, or giving one’s relatives the impression that religion does not matter, or finally inducing other persons or relatives into indifferentism by the example of such contact.

The prudent man will generally resolve this question by using the opportunity of a social contact to speak openly and frankly about the true religion and Faith, in an attempt to encourage the apostate or heretical relative to show interest in it. In so doing, he will faithfully fulfill Our Lord’s command: "Everyone therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 10:32). If this effort brings a positive response, then he will maintain the contact, speaking regularly about the Faith. If it does not, but rather seems futile, then he will avoid all friendship, but simply limit his contact to social necessities, thus fulfilling the recommendation of St. Paul: "Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?…Wherefore, go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Cor. 6:14-17). Indeed, for what do we have in common with those who refuse to believe in supernatural realities, in God, His grace, the teachings of the Church, and the Cross, our only hope.

This being said, the prudent man will always be ready to practice charity towards his relatives, even apostate, and in case of need he will always be available to provide physical help or emotional support, even when the spiritual is rejected, as St. Paul teaches: "Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good" (Rom. 12:21).  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

I read an article which stated that the anathemas of the Council of Trent had been abolished by the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Is this true?

The definitions of Catholic doctrine contained in the Council of Trent (e.g., concerning the Mass, the sacraments, grace, original sin and justification) are acts of the solemn, extraordinary Magisterium of the Church. It is a doctrine of Catholic Faith that such acts are infallible and irreformable, that is unchangeable (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Dz, 3074). This means that no authority in the Church can change these definitions, not even a pope or an ecumenical council. Consequently, it is not possible for the 1983 Code of Canon Law to repeal such definitions, nor did it attempt to do so.

It is not possible to say that the definition is infallible and unchangeable, but that the anathema is removed. The reason for this is that the anathema (that is, the expression, let him be anathema, for those who hold a doctrine contrary to that which was just defined) is an integral part of the definition. In fact, the obligation of holding the doctrine under pain of separation from the Catholic Church is one of the four conditions necessary for a definition to be an infallible act of the Church’s Extraordinary Magisterium. If it was once an infallible act, it was because it had an anathema attached to it. If the anathema could in some way be removed, it would not be an infallible act, and in fact would never have been.

The anathemas solemnly proclaimed by the Sovereign Popes and the ecumenical councils of the Church have consequently not been abolished, nor can they be, and they exclude from membership in the Roman Catholic Church any person who falls under their condemnation and who becomes by the very fact a heretic.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Some people have stated that Cardinal Ratzinger’s decree overturning the "excommunication" of the "Hawaii Six" is not a precedent, and does not apply equally to other Catholics who attend the Society’s Masses. Is this true?

It is true that when Our Lady of Fatima chapel in Honolulu was founded in 1987 it was not a part of the Society of St. Pius X, and that it did invite in some other traditional priests, who were not members of the Society. However, as of 1990 it has been regularly and almost entirely serviced by the priests of the Society of St. Pius X. Consequently, the faithful whom Bishop Ferrario attempted to declare "excommunicated" on January 18, 1991 were so treated directly on account of their attachment to the Society of St. Pius X.

This is in fact confirmed by the Formal Canonical Warning itself. Of the three grounds listed in it by Bishop Ferrario, two directly concern the Society. The first does not, being the incorporation of a traditional chapel. The second concerns the radio program "aligning yourselves with the Pius X schismatic movement". The third directly concerned the visit of Bishop Williamson, one of the Society bishops invited to Hawaii to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. This visit was supposed to have communicated, as if it were an infectious disease, the censure of excommunication: 

Whereas on May 1987 [actually 1989] you performed a schismatic act not only by procuring the services of an excommunicated Lefebvre bishop, Richard Williamson, who performed contra iure illicit confirmation in your chapel, but also by the very association with the aforementioned bishop incurred ipso facto the grave censure of excommunication.

When Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith overturned this "excommunication" by a decree dated June 4, 1993, he indicated that he understood that the essential reason was the charge of schism, which was entirely related to procuring the services and association with Bishop Williamson, for this was the only part of the accusation that involved the charge of schism. These were his words: "on the grounds that she had committed the crime of schism and thus had incurred the latae sententiae penalty". The Cardinal went on to say that the charge was false, and since Mrs. Morley did not commit this crime of schism the so-called excommunication was null and void.

It is entirely ingenuous to pretend that because she was not a "member" of the Society of St. Pius X, this decree does not apply to the Society’s faithful. It is only the priests who are members of the Society. The faithful parishioners are all in the exact same situation now as Mrs. Morley was then. They are not members and they do not belong to the Society, any more than she did then. They simply assist at the Masses of priests whose doctrine, integrity, Catholicity and Masses they can trust and depend upon. Cardinal Ratzinger’s decision that Mrs. Morley did not commit a crime of schism by inviting Bishop Williamson for Confirmations and by associating with him, consequently applies just as much to them now as it did to her then.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]


Are the Church’s disciplinary laws infallible?

This theological question is an important one, and has not yet been adequately treated. Fr. Laisney spoke of it in the March 1997 issue of The Angelus (pp. 31-40) regarding the question of the New Mass, and the opinion (a priori) of those who say that it is infallible since it was "promulgated" by the pope, and that consequently it can contain no error or evil. This is manifestly false, just like the new Code of Canon Law (1983) and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This is the principle which both sedevacantists and conservatives use against the position of accepting everything Catholic which the pope legislates and refusing that which is not entirely Catholic. This position is but common sense.

It is certainly true that, before Vatican II, pious theologians proposed that the pope’s infallibility should extend to his legislative acts. We know, however, that if such a thesis be accepted, that it does not and cannot include all his legislative acts, any more than his infallibility can include all his teaching acts.

It is only indirectly that legislative acts teach dogma. It is certainly reasonable that a legislative act of the pope would in this way participate in the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. It could not, however, participate in the infallibility of the Extraordinary Magisterium, for there is not in a legislative act a formal definition of a dogma. It can, therefore, only participate in the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium.

The conditions for the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium are that that which is taught, has been taught ubique, semper et ab omnibus; that is, always, everywhere and by all. I refer you to the essays on the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium in Angelus Press’s book, Pope or Church?

It could easily be considered that the promulgation of Quo Primum does just that, inasmuch as it is a formal codification of a rite of Mass which perfectly expresses the Catholic doctrine taught by the Council of Trent. However, there is no way that new or revolutionary legislation could participate in this infallibility, any more than could the dogmatic decrees of Vatican II participate in this infallibility, for they are not even a part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church when they teach novelties.

Consequently, it comes down to examining the laws (such as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church) and seeing what is perfectly in conformity to what has always and everywhere been taught by all Catholics. Such laws express the infallibility of the Church, inasmuch as they express Catholic doctrine, even though they do not make a direct definition. Other laws either do not express Catholic doctrine, or express something contrary to it (e.g., ecumenism), which means that for serious reasons of Faith we may and should question and refuse them.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Should a traditional religious sister who is unable to live her religious life in a post-Vatican II community request to be dispensed from her vows?

No. If a religious sees the crisis in the Church, she will only ask to be dispensed from her vows if she is paralyzed by legalism, and by the false notion of obedience that this legalism engenders.

The real solution of a traditional sister in a modernist congregation is not to request a dispensation from her vows. It is precisely the contrary that a traditional sister is obliged before God to do —to live faithful for life the vows that she made before God. It is precisely to keep her vows that she must leave the modernist community. It is precisely because she is determined to keep to her religious vows that she is obliged to adhere to Tradition. Consequently it makes no sense at all for her to abandon those vows, or ask to be released from them. These vows are not an impediment to her sanctification, but the means for it.

It is certainly true that in normal times one does not have the right to leave one’s religious community to join another without dispensation or permission from both superiors. However, the proof that we are not living in normal times is the fact that the rule has changed radically and in its entirety since the religious made profession. Her profession is of a rule that the modernist community no longer keeps. Consequently, she is obliged in virtue of her profession, and the virtue of religion, to leave her modernist community and to establish herself in a traditional community in which the spiritual life is compatible with her vowed constitutions. By not keeping the rule, and not watching that others keep it also, the modernist superiors lose their authority to govern. The religious is no longer bound to them in obedience, and can transfer her obedience to another authority.

A sister who has left a modernist community to join a traditional community is consequently not disobedient at all. She has the true virtue of obedience, which is a part of justice, and directly related to the virtue of religion, by which we submit ourselves to God. She is obedient to her rule, and to the superior that God gives her to live that rule. She is obedient. The decision as to just how bad it must be before a religious is forced to leave her community is not in itself an easy one. A simple moral disorder or laxity is not enough. It must be the despising or abandoning of the traditional rule that the religious professed, and of the religious life altogether. This is an easy decision to make in the vast majority of communities at this time in history.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Has the Church’s position on Freemasonry changed?

Despite the fact that in the new Code of Canon Law no mention is made of the excommunication formerly applied to Catholic members of Masonic groups, the Church still prohibits membership of this secretive and anti-Catholic organization whose principles are totally incompatible with the revealed Truths of the Catholic Faith. Eight popes have issued a serious condemnation of its tenets and practices beginning with Clement XII in 1738. His constitution was confirmed and renewed by Benedict XIV.

The same path was closely followed by Pius VII, and Leo XII assumed and ratified all the acts of his predecessors on this matter. It was in the same unambiguous sense that Pius VIII, Gregory XVI and Pius IX declared their opposition. The most interesting encyclical letter is that of Leo XIII.

In the 1970’s a spurious distinction not founded on facts was introduced —a not anti-Catholic Masonic lodge —a contradiction in terms no doubt but widely touted among Bishops and priests.

In 1980, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called this a false perspective and upheld the centuries old condemnation.

The declaration states:

...the Church’s negative position on Masonic associations ...remains unchanged since their principles have always been regarded as irreconcilable with the Church’s doctrine. Hence joining them remains prohibited by the Church. Catholics enrolled in Masonic associations are involved in serious sin [understand mortal sin] and are not to approach Holy Communion.

The declaration further stipulated that no local ecclesiastical authority had the power to diminish in any way the judgment handed down. In this country in 1985, the National Conference of Bishops called Freemasonry "irreconcilable with Catholicism" because the "principles and basic rituals of masonry embody a naturalistic religion active participation in which is incompatible with Christian Faith and practice. Those who knowingly embrace such principles are committing a serious sin."

There is an obligation to make this teaching of the Church known, so that there can be no excuse for seeking application to a Masonic lodge to further one’s temporal well-being at the expense of one’s immortal soul.  [Article by Fr. Leo Boyle]

Does a Saturday evening "vigil" Mass satisfy the Sunday obligation?

It is of the divine law, prescribed by the third commandment of God, that a day of rest be set aside in honor of God. The theologians teach that the precept that this be observed on the Sunday and no longer on the Saturday is of ecclesiastical law, since at the beginning of the Church the apostles continued to go to the temple on Saturday (Acts 3:1; 5:12).  However, the Apostles universally introduced the custom of sanctifying Sunday as the Lord’s Day, so much so that it had become obligatory by the beginning of the second century (cf. Prummer, II, §465, p. 386).

It is certainly true that the liturgical days for Sunday and feast days have always started with First Vespers that are celebrated on the eve of the feast or on Saturday afternoon to prepare for Sunday. But it was never permitted to celebrate a Mass for the feast or for the Sunday on the eve of the day itself, at the time of First Vespers. In fact the Church’s law was explicit on this point, prescribing that Mass could not begin more than one hour before dawn or more than one hour after Noon (canon 821, §1). It was consequently just as inconceivable to celebrate Mass on the eve of a feast to satisfy the obligation of the feast, as it was to claim that the law of abstinence from servile work obliged as of the afternoon before the feast. If it is true that in 1953 Pope Pius XII permitted the celebration of afternoon and evening Masses, this was on account of the shortage of priests, to allow for Masses on the afternoon or night of the feast or Sunday itself, rather than for the celebration of a "vigil" Mass to avoid the sanctification of the Sunday or Holy Day.

The novelty came with the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which permitted the faithful to satisfy their obligation of assisting at Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day either on the day itself or the afternoon or evening beforehand (canon 1248, §1). What are we to think of this? It is certainly true that the highest legislative authority in the Church, the pope, technically has the right to modify the First Precept of the Church, since it is of ecclesiastical law, and not of divine law. It is this ecclesiastical law that obliges under pain of mortal sin, as defined by Pope Innocent XI, and so consequently a person could not be accused of mortal sin for simply availing himself of the privilege of assisting at Mass on the afternoon before a Sunday or feast day.

However, this is not the real issue at stake. The real question is whether this relaxation of the law is in conformity with Tradition, whether it helps protect the Faith, and whether it assures the keeping of the Third Commandment of God, as it was designed to do. Alas, the response must be negative on each count. Whereas those who were legitimately impeded from assisting at Mass (e.g., by work obligations) were freed from their obligation, there is no tradition in the pre-Vatican II Church of substituting Mass for the offices that are designed to prepare for the feast (with the sole exception being in the 1950’s when Pius XII authorized miners who had to work every Sunday to assist at Mass on Saturday evening). It certainly does not protect the Faith or help in the sanctification of Sunday, as experience has shown. What do those Catholics do to sanctify the Sunday, to study and pray their Faith, when they will not even go to Mass on Sunday, but prefer Saturday afternoon so that their Sunday can be free for secular activities? Clearly, little or nothing. Gone are the Sunday catechism classes made obligatory by St. Pius X, the study of scripture, the reading of spiritual books, meditation and prayer, and even the respect for Sunday as a special day, consecrated to the honor of Almighty God. To introduce such a measure into the Church’s law is a major step in the secularization of the Church, and in making Catholics’ lives entirely indiscernible from those of anybody else in this pagan world.

Consequently, we have a duty to encourage our Novus Ordo Catholic friends to stand up against this lukewarm practice, so opposed to the sense of the Church and to the restoration of all things in Christ, and to truly honor the mysteries of the resurrection and of eternal life that are symbolized by the Sunday rest. Let traditional Catholics not even dream of the hypocrisy of attempting to use this provision of the lax post-Conciliar law, unless it be in the case where there is no alternative. For it is a manifest contradiction to pretend to be attached to the traditional Mass, and to the Church’s traditional teachings, and to refuse to even make the effort to attend Mass on Sunday to sanctify the Lord’s day.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

If carrying the crosier is a sign of jurisdiction, why do the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, who claim no jurisdiction, carry it?

In heraldry the crosier is an external ornament to the shield and not to be confused with the processional cross of an archbishop. The crosier is, as it has always been, the pastoral staff, a sign of episcopal dignity and traceable to the fourth century and used by abbots in the fifth.

The crosier is thus an ecclesiastical ornament conferred on bishops at their consecration, or on mitred abbots at the investiture, and used in the performing of certain solemn and sacred functions.  It is also a symbol of authority and jurisdiction.

The notion is unambiguously expressed in the rite of episcopal consecration in the Roman Pontifical 77, "Receive the staff of your pastoral office, etc."  It is then as Durandus comments, "borne by prelates to signify their authority to correct vices, stimulate piety, administer punishment and thus rule and govern with a gentleness that is tempered with severity." (cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, Encyclopedia Press Inc. 1913 Edition, p. 515.)

Cardinal Bona in his Rerum Liturgiarum, XXIV, says the crosier is to bishops what the scepter is to kings. In regard to this symbolism, bishops always carry the crosier with the crook turned outwards while lower prelates hold it towards themselves.

The crosier has many functions:  a sign of the bishop’s pastoral solicitude over his flock, an ecclesiastical ornament in important sacred liturgical functions, a sign of authority and jurisdiction.

The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X have no ordinary jurisdiction, i.e., a jurisdiction attached to their office and as of right, flowing from that office. They have never claimed, in fact deny, such an authority to govern by virtue of their office; they have no diocese to govern and do not establish parallel structures of jurisdiction, recognizing thereby the legitimate authority of the local ordinary appointed by the Holy See. They are bishops in a time of unprecedented crisis and confusion both doctrinal and moral.

They possess, however, an undoubted moral authority over those who seek their guidance and pastoral care and furthermore enjoy supplied jurisdiction in the light of the evident collapse of faith and virtual apostasy in the Catholic world at large. The legislator of the Code [of Canon Law] has not foreseen the circumstances of the present emergency. Since there is no express law concerning the grave situation, the rule must be taken from laws promulgated for similar circumstances, the general principles of canon law itself, and recourse to the mind of the legislator, who never wants his legislation to be too burdensome.

Should the present difficulties in the Church be ignored, minimized or even trivialized, then a refusal to apply the mercy and goodness of the Church will follow. The Church supplies jurisdiction for the spiritual good of the faithful. This jurisdiction is possessed by our bishops and priests.

There is, therefore, no conflict between the carrying of the crosier and supplied, extraordinary jurisdiction which comes not from the hierarchy, thereby its legitimate channels, but from the Church herself. What matters is the good of the faithful, the salvation of souls being the supreme law. This topic is well discussed in a supplement of The Angelus magazine on supplied jurisdiction, Supplied Jurisdiction and Traditional Priests written by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.  [Article written by Fr. Leo Boyle]

Some Catholics are disturbed by the election of one of the Society’s bishops as Superior General. They have read that a Superior General has jurisdiction, and they have also read elsewhere that the Society’s bishops would be schismatic if they claimed to have jurisdiction. Is it not a schismatic act to elect a bishop as Superior General?

In 1994, Bishop Bernard Fellay, one of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, was elected as Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X.

The priests of the Society who elected him were perfectly aware of the distinction between the power of orders and the power of jurisdiction, and that the power of jurisdiction can only be conferred by the Sovereign Pontiff. They were also perfectly well aware that Archbishop Lefebvre in no way pretended to bestow any jurisdiction on the bishops, and that he consecrated them for the use of the power of orders:

This is why we have chosen, with the grace of God, priests from our Society who have seemed to us to be the most apt, whilst being in circumstances and in functions which permit them more easily to fulfill their episcopal ministry, to give confirmation to your children, and to be able to confer ordinations in our various seminaries. (Sermon of June 30, 1988)

It is certainly true that Archbishop Lefebvre thought it best, in 1988, not to consecrate the Superior General as one of the bishops. The above statement indicates a practical reason why he thought it less appropriate. He probably also considered it more prudent, in 1988, not to confuse the two responsibilities: that of governing the Society and the sacramental functions of the episcopacy. He might have feared that it could have been falsely construed as the giving of jurisdiction, if he were to have consecrated the Superior General as a bishop.

However, this was a judgment of prudence. In 1994 circumstances were different. If the priests of the Society chose Bishop Fellay to succeed Fr. Franz Schmidberger as Superior General, it was not because he was a bishop. It was because they were convinced of Bishop Fellay’s many exceptional qualities, especially his holiness, his quiet prudence, his thorough penetration with the spirit of our founder. They could have chosen any experienced Society priest, and they did. They chose the one the most apt for the position. He just happened to be the priest whose qualities Archbishop Lefebvre had already discerned, in choosing him to be one of the bishops. This was not imprudent, since it had become perfectly clear over the previous six years that the Society’s bishops did not claim any territorial jurisdiction, but in fact shared equally through the entire world the work of confirming the faithful who requested it and ordaining priests to provide them with the sacraments and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

There is no contradiction in a bishop fulfilling a post which is normally occupied by a priest. The closest example of that was Archbishop Lefebvre himself. For six years he was Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, a position which was normally held by a priest, and which gave him no episcopal, territorial jurisdiction, for he had no diocese.

It is certainly true that the Superior General of an approved, exempt religious congregation does have some jurisdiction, which he receives from the pope. This is explained in canon 501, §1 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and canon 617 of the 1983 Code. However, it must be understood that this is not a territorial jurisdiction, and is neither exercised over a region nor over the faithful. Moreover, it is not the jurisdiction of a bishop or local Ordinary over his flock, but one that a simple priest can (and usually does) hold. It is called a domestic jurisdiction, and only refers to those people who are members of the community or live the common life in the houses of the community. It gives him the authority to govern his community, within the limits of his office, and to authorize member confessors to hear confessions of other members. It gives him no authority over the faithful.

The Society claims that its suppression in 1976 was illegitimate, and consequently invalid. It also claims to be of Pontifical Right, because it was allowed in the early 1970s to incardinate member priests directly. This means that they did not have to belong to a diocese or religious community, which is tantamount to recognition of Pontifical Right. The consequence would be that the Superior General, priest or bishop, has a domestic jurisdiction over the Society’s members, and over those only, and not over any of the faithful, except those who might be living in the Society’s houses. Modernist canonists, who accept the legitimacy of the Society’s suppression, will deny this domestic jurisdiction.

However, this is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the Society is schismatic. For this jurisdiction has nothing to do with the territorial jurisdiction that schismatics claim to have, maintaining their independence from the Sovereign Pontiff, source of all Ordinary Jurisdiction.

The dispute as to whether or not, technically, the Superior General has domestic jurisdiction over the Society’s priests and bishops, in no way affects their apostolate, which is based upon supplied jurisdiction. For the Society’s apostolic work with the faithful is entirely founded upon the need which the faithful have for the traditional Mass and sacraments, and the complete and entire handing down of Catholic Tradition and doctrine. Neither priests nor bishops nor the Superior General claim to have the authority to govern, in the name of the Church, any area of the world or any group of faithful.

Consequently the fact that the priest elected as Superior General in 1994 also happened to be a bishop is entirely accidental to the Society’s status within the Church. This is notwithstanding occasional articles previous to this election, which used the fact that the previous Superior General was not consecrated a bishop, as proof that the Society’s bishops were not claiming jurisdiction. The above explanation shows that this is not a relevant argument, except inasmuch as the Society’s Superior General, whether bishop or simple priest, has never pretended to have Ordinary Jurisdiction over the faithful who attend the Masses celebrated by the Society’s priests.

There is consequently no break at all with the position of Archbishop Lefebvre, who had this to say to the bishops he was to consecrate: 

Hence we declare our attachment and our submission to the Holy See and to the pope. In accomplishing this act of consecration we are aware of continuing our service to the Church and to the papacy exactly as we have striven to do ever since the first day of our priesthood. The day when the Vatican will be delivered from this occupation by Modernists and will come back to the path followed by the Church down to Vatican II, our new bishops will put themselves entirely in the hands of our Sovereign Pontiff, to the point of desisting if he so wishes from the exercise of their episcopal functions. (October 19, 1983, published in the July 1988 edition of The Angelus, p. 37)  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

I think that the Society of St. Pius X is in heresy. It affirms that the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church can err. The proof of this is that it accepts that the documents of Vatican II are part of the Ordinary Magisterium, but it still says that they have errors, does it not?

It is certainly true that on page one of Michael Davies’ booklet Archbishop Lefebvre and Religious Liberty, published by Angelus Press in 1980, it is stated:

The documents of Vatican II come within the category of the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium which can contain error in the case of a novelty which conflicts with previous teaching.

There follows a reference to Dom Paul Nau’s study on the Ordinary Magisterium, published in 1998 by Angelus Press under the title Pope or Church?

This statement by Michael Davies is erroneous. This expression is a common misunderstanding of the Ordinary Magisterium and just the opposite of Dom Nau’s true teaching concerning the Ordinary Magisterium. Dom Nau’s whole point is that the definition of the infallibility of the Solemn Magisterium by Vatican I has overshadowed the just as real (but perhaps less clear) infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, of which Vatican I also spoke:

It is a duty to believe with divine and Catholic Faith all that is contained in the word of God, whether written or transmitted by Tradition, that the Church puts forward to be believed as revealed truth, either in a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal Magisterium (Dei Filius).

The term Ordinary Magisterium is commonly used for any teaching that is not solemnly defined. This is where Michael Davies’ error lies. The Society certainly does not follow him in this. The Ordinary Magisterium is of its nature both Universal and Infallible. If it is not universal, it is not Ordinary Magisterium and it is not infallible. The term we give for teaching which does not have continuity with the past, is the Authentic Magisterium. This kind of teaching is not at all infallible, and it is to this that the novelties of Vatican II belong, not to the Ordinary Magisterium.

Listen to what Dom Nau says of the Ordinary Magisterium:

The infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, whether of the Universal Church or of the See of Rome, is not that of a judgment, nor that of an act to be considered in isolation, as if it could itself provide all the light necessary for it to be clearly seen. It is that of the guarantee bestowed on a doctrine by the simultaneous or continuous convergence of a plurality of affirmations or explanations; none of which could bring positive certitude if it were taken by itself alone. (Pope or Church, p.18)

Consequently, there are some statements in the documents of Vatican II that belong to the Ordinary Magisterium, and that are infallibly true. These are the doctrinal statements that simply repeat what the Church has everywhere and always taught. However, there are many other statements that do not do this, and that do not belong to the Ordinary Magisterium, but rather to the Authentic Magisterium, which simply means that they authentically come from the Council or pope who has authority in the Church. Under normal circumstances they would be accepted with reverence, but never as infallible. At the present time, it is clear that many of these are radical modernist novelties, such as religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and the adaptation of the Church to the modern world. Since they are clearly in direct contradiction to infallible statements of the Solemn and Ordinary Magisterium, these novelties can and must be refused.

The consequences of this confusion concerning the question of the Ordinary Magisterium are very far reaching. On the one hand those who follow Michael Davies draw the conclusion that these documents are all a part of the Ordinary Magisterium, although they still have a few errors. They end up by accepting their contents (even if rather reluctantly), just as they have ended up by accepting the legitimacy of the New Mass, alas.

On the other hand, the sedevacantists say that all that Vatican II and the post-Conciliar popes say is the Ordinary Magisterium. However, these documents contain errors that are incompatible with the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium. The conclusion is that Vatican II was not a Church Council and that the subsequent popes were not popes. A small error of principle leads them to entirely distort the reality, and refuse its real complexity for their a priori mindset that all teaching is infallible. The correct understanding of the Ordinary Magisterium is consequently of the utmost importance in the present crisis. I strongly recommend the reading of the book Pope or Church?  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]


Are the Masses of Thuc-line priests valid, and can we attend them?

I do not believe that there is a strong reason to doubt the validity of the episcopal consecrations performed by the exiled Vietnamese Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc. However, there are several lesser reasons, that might be considered sufficient to establish some kind of positive doubt in the matter. These include the absence of correct witnesses during the original ceremony of consecration, which was done in private, and in the middle of the night.

Also relevant is Thuc’s confused mental state, as evidenced by his public concelebration of the New Mass with the local Novus Ordo bishop of the diocese of Toulon, just one month before these consecrations in 1981. Also, the lack of conviction can be seen in the fact that twice he consecrated bishops illicitly and twice he requested absolution from the canonical punishment of excommunication. These frequent changes indicate that he was a man who, to say the least, lacked conviction about what he was doing. This is further confirmed by his failure to join the Coetus internationalis patrum, the traditional group of bishops at Vatican II, and by a certain liberal tendency that he showed during the Council, speaking out against discrimination directed towards women and in favor of ecumenism.. Consequently, although the logical thing would be to presume that he did have the intention of confecting the sacrament of Holy Orders, the absence of co-consecrators, and of a clear purpose, does open the door to some astonishment and doubt. Any doubt concerning the first bishops that he consecrated would clearly be passed on to any other bishops and priests ordained as a consequence.

The moral theologians say that we must hold to the pars tutior, or safer position, when it concerns the sacraments. Consequently, in case of doubt, it would not be permissible to go to these priests for the sacraments, unless there was no other priest available, and in danger of death.

However, even were there no doubt at all as to validity, it would still not be permissible to assist at the Masses and receive the sacraments from priests of the Thuc line. For they all hold to the radical sedevacantist position that there is no pope, and that if anybody says that there is a pope, or that he is in communion with the Holy Father, then he is in communion with a heretic and a heretic himself. By maintaining such a position, which makes no distinctions, and takes no account of the confusion in the Church due to the breakdown of authority, they not only condemn every other Catholic to hell fire, but effectively separate themselves off from all other Catholics, and make themselves into a church of their own. They are truly schismatic. It is consequently entirely illicit to have any kind of association with them. As a consequence of their loss of the sense of the Church, they abandon all sense of hierarchy and structure in the Church. Any bishop can consecrate any other bishop at any time, without authority between them. These bishops constantly ordain to the priesthood men who have no preparation or training, who belong to no religious community, and who are consequently entirely independent of one another and all Church authority. Throwing all canonical norms out of the window, they effectively become just as protestant as the modernists they pretend to defend the Church against.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Does the Bull Quo Primum enjoy infallibility?

It is a liturgical and disciplinary law of the most solemn kind. However, it does not have the infallibility of the Extraordinary or Solemn Magisterium of the Church, for it is not a dogmatic definition.

Nevertheless, it is perfectly true to state that it participates in the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, in an indirect manner. I say in an indirect manner, for underlying the whole decree are the unchanging truths of the Catholic Faith concerning the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, renewing in an unbloody manner the sublime act of worship accomplished on Calvary. Inasmuch as the purpose of the Bull is to protect these dogmas from the corruptions introduced by the heretics, denying such dogmas as the Real Presence, and inasmuch as these dogmas have always been taught in the Church, it shares in the infallibility of the Church’s doctrinal teaching. It is in this sense that universal liturgical and disciplinary laws in the Church are infallible (cf. Vacant, Le Magistere Ordinaire, p. 109).

Clearly this does not apply to the "promulgation" of the New Mass, if it ever were promulgated. The reason is that the ideas behind the reform are heterodox novelties, and not at all what has always and everywhere been taught in the Church. They are consequently in no way guaranteed by the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott] © 2013                    home                    contact