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Is the SSPX heretical?


Archbishop Mueller
Archbishop Mueller

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3 | Part 4

Outside the Vatican II Council, no salvation?

In the last section, we have examined the meaning of the terms used by Archbishop Mueller in his argument for the ‘hermeneutic of the reform in continuity’ as the only one in line with the faith, because of its link with the “integral Tradition and the Magisterium.” Opposed to the traditional understanding of these terms, there was a modernist vision which called for a caveat on the part of readers. Indeed there is anguis in herba [1] when Archbishop Mueller, speaking of the integral magisterium, adds:

whose highest expression is the Council presided over by the Successor of St. Peter as Head of the visible Church. Outside this sole orthodox interpretation unfortunately exists a heretical interpretation, that is, a hermeneutic of rupture (found) both on the progressive front and on the traditionalist one. Both agree on refusing the Council… the traditionalists in their not wanting to get there, as if it was the winter of Catholicity.

Thus, to repeat ourselves, his argument is the following:

  • (Major) Whoever does not accept the integral magisterium of the Church is heretical.

  • (Minor) But the SSPX refuses Vatican II, part of the integral Church teaching.

  • (Conclusion) Therefore, the SSPX is heretical.

Now that we have addressed the major which we accepted in the Catholic but not modernist understanding of its terms, we wish in the present section to tackle the minor, and object to some texts of Vatican II because they oppose traditional Church teaching.

1. The value of Vatican II after the Council?

Different authorities, and not the least of them, have brought forward the huge importance of the late Council. In 1976, Pope Paul VI wrote to Archbishop Lefebvre that “Vatican II was in a certain way more important than the Council of Nicea”.

Msgr. Ocariz, about a year ago, gave a lengthy article which gave the impression of a rebuttal from Rome to our SSPX theological commission on the themes of magisterium and tradition. Like Archbishop Mueller, although he admits the absence of dogmatic definition, he concludes that the charism of truth and the magisterial authority of Vatican II was so present such that:

…to refuse them to the episcopal corps assembled cum Petro et sub Petro in order to teach the universal Church would be to deny a part of the Church’s very essence.

He then explained the different degrees of assent to be given according to the truths set forth by the magisterium: the infallible definitions demand the faith under pain of heresy; the other Church teachings demand ecclesiastical assent; other texts with no specific Church teaching demand no such assent.

Lately, Cardinal Brandmuller admitted that "There is a huge difference between a great constitution," like the Vatican II constitutions on the Church, the liturgy and divine revelation, "and simple declarations," like the Vatican II declarations on Christian education and the mass media, which corroborates the evaluation of Msgr Ocariz.

2. Did Vatican II enjoy the charism of infallibility?

When we say that a Council enjoys the charism of infallibility, we mean that it is endowed a priori with the power of the Holy Ghost to teach infallibly Church doctrine. As we have seen above, there are two ways of expressing an infallible statement in the Church magisterium:

  • by the extraordinary (or solemn)

  • and the ordinary magisterium.

Did Vatican II fit in any of these expressions so as to deserve a priori the charism of infallibility?

There is no doubt that Vatican II did not enjoy such charism on the grounds of solemn or extraordinary magisterium. At least twice (December 7, 1965; January 12, 1966) Pope Paul VI said that the Council “did not wish to define any point of doctrine through extraordinary judgments”, and “avoided to pronounce solemn dogmatic definitions which would engage the infallibility of the ecclesiastical magisterium.”

Was Vatican II part of the universal ordinary magisterium which would give it ipso facto the seal of infallibility? As we mentioned in part II, the term ‘universal’ used by Vatican I (and Pius IX) meant specifically that the Church bishops were scattered throughout the world. It is this dispersion which together with the unity of doctrine which is the criteria of apostolicity and truth of this doctrine. Needless to say a council gathering is the opposite of the episcopal body dispersed through the planet.

Yet, this exclusion of this de jure charism of infallibility does not preclude the possibility that, de facto and really, Vatican II was utterly infallible. For this, it would suffice that Vatican II repeat traditional Church doctrine, that is, a teaching constantly taught by the universal Church, and there is no doubt that many Vatican II texts are traditional. The question we need to address is whether Vatican II, in fact and in concreto, was integrally infallible.

part 4 >


1 “A snake in the grass”. © 2013                    home                    contact