“Steeped in Romanity” — Fr. Victor-Alain Berto

Articles written, translated or selected by John S. Daly

The guiding star of this site is fidelity to Rome.

From torrid south to frozen north,
The wave harmonious stretches forth,
Yet strikes no chord more true to Rome’s,
Than rings within our hearts and homes.
Cardinal Wiseman

Proud to be Roman

Welcome to www.romeward.com – a library of articles written, translated or selected by John S. Daly. In the right hand column are links to a constantly growing bank of these articles. In the left-hand column are links to Catholic books published by www.tradibooks.com. Between the two is the leading article, which will be regularly changed. Our first leading article is exceptionally long because it sets out the spirit of Romanity, or fidelity to Rome, which has inspired this site.

Proud to Be Roman

Contents

1. Christ and Rome

2. The Church and Rome

3. Roman Catholic?

4. Our Duties to the Church of Rome

5. Conciliar Catholics and Fidelity to Rome

6. “Romaner than thou?”

7. Sedevacantists and Fidelity to Rome

8. Sedeplenists and Fidelity to Rome

8. Fidelity to Rome During the Present Crisis

9. The Guiding Principles of www.romeward.com

1. Christ and Rome

This website bids its readers turn Romeward, be faithful to Rome and be filled with Romanity. But what is “Romanity”?

Romanity, or Roman-ness, means being Roman, just as Christianity means being Christian. What is less obvious is the close relation that exists between the two concepts.

God prepared the Roman Empire to enable the Gospel to be easily preached throughout the civilized world, as the Roman Missal tells us.1 Hence Our Lord Jesus Christ was born a subject, though almost certainly not a citizen, of the Roman Empire. He displayed outstanding docility to its civil authority by delaying not a single day to be enrolled in the Emperor’s census.2 He instructed the fractious Jews to render tribute to Cæsar.3 Several attempts to inflict on Him the Jewish death penalty by stoning failed ignominiously.4 In the end the Sanhedrin obtained his condemnation only by renouncing Israel’s last claim to be independent of Rome: “We have no King but Cæsar!”5 Christ assured Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, that His divine kingship did not threaten the hegemony of Emperor Tiberius Cæsar. And He died on the Cross – a Roman punishment – sentenced by Rome. A Roman centurion was the first convert of the Precious Blood.7 It was the Roman Governor who delivered the divine Body8 up to Our Lord’s great-uncle9 Saint Joseph of Arimathea for burial. Saint Paul, a native of Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, was a citizen of Rome.10 His converts included members of the household of the Emperor Nero.11 And Peter, the rock upon which the Church is built, definitively pitched his See at Rome.12


2. The Church and Rome

If Rome had been no more than the name of a city-state on the West coast of the Italian peninsula all this would be mysterious indeed. But Rome was much more. While God selected the Israelites to receive His revelation and of whom to be born in the person of the eternal Word, He was also mysteriously preparing Rome for the great destiny that awaited it, as readers of Dion and the Sibylsarguably the greatest of Christian novelswill be aware.13 In spreading her empire over civilized and half-civilized lands, Rome had gradually extended the right to her citizenship far beyond her own natives. Already before the birth of Christ there were many Romans who had never seen Italy, and in the year 212 A.D. the Emperor Caracalla admitted all free men of the Empire to Roman citizenship.

A century later, the advancing conversion of the Empire – now including the Emperor himself – made the terms Roman and Christian interchangeable. This was not because no pagans remained after the conversion of Constantine, but because, as Fr Daniel Quinn14 remarks, “after most Romans had become Christians, popular logic and language regarded as Romans only such as were of the Christian religion … Thus in the Greek countries of the east the Christians called themselves Romans and were so called by others, while such Greeks as had remained pagan were known as ‘Hellenes’.”15 And this is natural enough, for the Christian’s allegiance is to a supranational entity in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek.”16

For three centuries pagan Rome had battened on the blood of the martyrs. Because they were Christians, they were condemned to death. Because they were Romans, they died saying Ave Cæsar morituri te salutamus.17 The Vicars of the one true God who resided within her walls were invariably executed — not for worshipping Christ but for refusing to worship the gods of the pagan pantheon and specifically the “divine emperor” himself.18 It was impossible for truth and error to come to terms. By a providential inspiration Constantine, upon his conversion, put an end to the paradoxical cohabitation in the city of Rome of pope and emperor, the supreme religious and civil powers respectively, by moving the imperial capital to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople) on the Bosphorus.19 But the empire he headed was still the Roman Empire.

Against this sanguinary empire the divine sentence of destruction had long since been pronounced by the Prophet Daniel20 and renewed by the Prophet of Patmos.21 By the time when it finally granted toleration to the Church, it was in a state of terminal decline. Freedom, duty and self-reliance were forgotten in a maelstrom of luxury, state-dependence, socialism, skyrocketing debt, vice and brutality, political corruption, democratisation, religious and philosophical syncretism, bread and circuses – i.e. the clamour for state doles and free spectator sports.22 Rome must suffer the chastisement merited by its crimes and succumb to the diseases engendered by its vices. In the West, the Empire was to fall to the invading barbarians in the fifth century.23

In the East it would last longer, but separated from the city of its origin its lustre was lost. Constantine might well have been astonished to foresee that the Levantine city he refounded would, a thousand years later, in punishment for its schism, fall to the followers of a bloody and barbaric sect called Islam; but he would have been quite unsurprised to learn that Mohammed’s invading pagans called the Greek-speaking people they had conquered “Romans” and their religious leader (the schismatic Archbishop of Constantinople) the “Patriarch of the Romans” – for that was what these Orientals called themselves. Indeed it may be said that the Eastern schism was due in great measure to the Roman-ness of Constantinople: the Constantinopolitan Bishop felt himself supreme in the Church not because he was superior to the Bishop of Rome but because he seemed to himself to be the Bishop of Rome in the full and developed sense of the word “Rome”, rather than in what must have seemed to him like an archaic and parochial acceptation signifying the name of a long-humbled Italian city.

In the same way when Pope John XIII wrote (in 968) to Nicephorus II Phocas addressing him as “Emperor of the Greeks” and reserving the title “Emperor of the Romans” for the Western or Holy Roman Emperor, Nicephoras was far from pleased at the demotion.24

The word Roman had become synonymous both with the Church and with civilization. Not to be Roman was to be barbarian. Not to be Roman was to be heathen. In our own day too, not to be Roman is to be, by default, a pawn or a piece in the dynamic of the New World Order – the politico-religious empire of the Antichrist currently being prepared by the forces of opposition to Christ’s plan for divine order in the world. Antagonism to Romanity is antagonism to Christian Order in the civil and religious spheres, for civilization and the Church are forever intertwined and forever Roman.

The great fourteenth century jurist Bartolus de Saxoferrato observed: “All nations that obey holy mother Church belong to the Roman people,”25 but this Romanity can never be separated from the city on the Tiber. The Empire may expand and fill the earth; the Emperor may translate his capital; the Empire may be divided between East and West; the Empire may fall; but the See of Peter is established forever at Rome. The Pope may live elsewhere, rivals may contest the occupancy of its See, which may even fall vacant, but the Pope can only be Pope because he is first the Bishop of the city and diocese of Rome and the Successor of Peter, for it was in that city that the Prince of the Apostles erected his See, and when he met His Lord on the Appian Way and said to Him “Domine, quo vadis?” the answer was “Romam eo iterum crucifigi — I am going to Rome to be crucified anew.”26

Hence, while the old Roman Empire lingered on ineffectually in the East, christened but fickle in its faith and impotent with age, in the West the new Empire was born, full of life and energy, when the successor of Peter set the diadem upon the head of Charlemagne. Once again the prophecy of Daniel must be fulfilled.27

As the deicide city of Jerusalem fell in rubble amid its seven hills, Rome, its seven-hilled counterpart, became the religious capital of the worship of the one true God. And when the idolatrous tyranny of the Cæsars led to the extinction of their line, Rome was already established anew, not as the seat of a world government but the mother-city of all Christian civilization and the sun about which all else revolves, even in the political order … until Christendom was shattered by the Reformation and the treaty of Westphalia consecrated the decision of the Respublica Christiana to thrust off the sweet yoke of Christ.28

3. Roman Catholic?

The corollary of the Christianity of Rome is the Romanity of the Church.

The reason why the Catholic Church, which is identically and co-terminously the one true Church of Christ,29 has objected in the English-speaking world to the designation “Roman Catholic” is that it is easy, but heretical, to understand the adjective “Roman” as denoting a certain category of Catholic and thereby implying that other categories of Catholic that are not Roman may also exist.30 We refer to man as a rational animal because there exist animals that are not rational. The adjective denotes a specific difference. We refer to harebells as blue flowers because some flowers are not blue. We clearly cannot refer to a Catholic as Roman in that sense, for there can be no Catholics who are not Roman.

However, as a matter of fact, adjectives are sometimes elucidative rather than differential – they provide information which already necessarily applies to the noun. Thus people sometimes speak of a free gift, almighty God, uncircumcised Moabites, apple cider, etc., although in fact all gifts are free, the only God is almighty, no Moabite was circumcised and cider cannot be made except out of apples. In this sense to describe the Catholic Church as Roman and her members as Roman Catholics is unobjectionable and undoubtedly true, if not a truism. Indeed the official name selected to denote herself by the Catholic Church at the 1870 Vatican Council31 was Sancta catholica apostolica romana Ecclesia (“the holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church”).

I hope it is becoming clear what I mean by the claim in the title of this article that Catholics should be proud to be Roman. Every Catholic is bound to Rome: our faith is Roman, our Church is Roman, our civilization is Roman, our heritage is Roman. We are proud to be Romans: outside the borders of Romanity, whether geographical or cultural, there are only the enemies of our faith and the enemies of our freedom, the men who can destroy but can never build.

But our status as Romans by culture implies duties towards Rome as the lynchpin of our civilization, and our status as Romans by religion implies duties towards Rome as the wellspring of Catholicism whence alone come forth until the end of time the oracles of divine truth and the apostolic mission to teach, govern and sanctify.

4. Our Duties to the Church of Rome

The Church of Rome teaches, unites and rules her members. Correspondingly the Christian’s duties towards the Church of Rome are 1. Belief, 2. communion, and 3. obedience.32 Theologians sometimes use different terms to express these concepts. What matters is that the Church is essentially united in faith, common action and sanctification via the magisterium, imperium and ministerium33 whose seat is at Rome. Let us look at these duties more closely.

1. Belief. The Christian must believe the teaching of the Church of Rome: grave failure in this duty makes him a heretic; lesser failure sullies his orthodoxy, endangers his salvation and exposes him to be “carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians iv, 12) This is because the Church is united in faith, and her union in faith depends on the living rule of faith: the Pope.34

2. Communion. The Christian must be subject to the legitimate head of the Church of Rome (the Pope) and to the local ordinaries sent by him, and united in communion with his fellow-Catholics.35 Grave failure in this duty makes him a schismatic; lesser failure sullies his charity.36 This is because the Church is united after the manner of a single body – the mystical Body of Christ. The Holy Ghost animates this body with the life of grace. This union as one body depends on subjection to one living and visible head: the Pope.37

3. Obedience. The Christian must obey the laws and commands of the Church of Rome. Grave failure in obedience is always mortally sinful, makes the culprit a renegade and exposes him in some cases to excommunication. It should be noted that, alone of earthly authorities, the Holy See enjoys the right to impose or forbid interior acts, including adhesion to non-infallible doctrine.38 Thus the Church is united in government. The plenitude of this right to govern resides in the Pope and no one can participate in it independently of the Pope.39

To these duties of belief, communion and obedience, Romanity adds a habitual adoption of Roman attitudes and a sincere love of Rome as the capital and symbol of the Church built on the Rock of Peter – and set forever upon the Vatican Hill. The Latin palindrome roma-amor (Rome-Love) is symbolic and providential. Hence we must add to the foregoing list a fourth Christian duty: Romanity.

4. Romanity. Want of love of Holy Church is want of love of Christ in His Mystical Body.40 Want of love of Rome is want of love of Christ in the visible head of that Mystical Body. It is unfilial and impious. Romanity is manifested by ready acquiescence in non-infallible doctrine taught, encouraged or preferred by the Holy See,41 the use of sources in proportion to their approval by Rome,42 the use of Latin,43 love of the Roman liturgy,44 indulgenced prayers and sacramentals, flight from books, devotions, practices condemned or disapproved of by Rome. In the words of Fr Victor-Alain Berto,45 “Romanity is a disposition of conformity with the permanent and authentic views, thoughts and intentions of the Apostolic See. It is not blind; it is enlightened, lucid and becomes progressively keener.”46

There is no better way of learning the spirit of Romanity than by reading the Catholic authors most impregnated with it. Worthy of special mention are Dom Guéranger, Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Billot, Cardinal Pie, Cardinal Franzelin, Fr. Faber, Dom Gréa, Fr. Clérissac, Fr. Denis Fahey, Fr. Victor-Alain Berto, Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, all the saints without exception but especially Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Doctor of the papacy Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of course the documents of the Holy See itself.

5. Conciliar Catholics and Fidelity to Rome

We all know that in our days few of those who call themselves Catholic respect these duties. Let us consider first the case of those who have been swept along by the Vatican II revolution, for whom the council, the new liturgy and the pastors who impose them enjoy uncritical recognition. Do they respect the Catholic ecclesial duties of faith, communion, obedience and Romanity?

Belief: Even among church-goers who identify themselves as Catholics huge numbers deny elementary truths of the Roman Creed such as the existence of Hell, the bodily Resurrection of Christ, transubstantiation, the demonstrability of God’s existence or the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, while moral teaching such as the intrinsic sinfulness of contraception is disregarded both in theory and in practice.

Communion: The concept of ecclesiastical communion as a bond uniting Catholics and excluding all other baptized persons (schismatics, heretics, apostates, etc.) as non-members of the Church has given way on a huge scale to a notion in which religious brotherhood is co-extensive with the brotherhood of the human race (“solidarity”) and communion is a multi-layer affair like an onion. This not surprising for the Conciliar Church has itself grossly corrupted the principle of ecclesial communion. From Paul VI inviting the heretical layman known as the Archbishop of Canterbury to “bless” the crowds in March 1966,47 to John-Paul II having himself “blessed” by a gaggle of rabbis in the Vatican48 and on to Francis Bergoglio rejoicing in de facto intercommunion with Anglicans practised in Argentina and encouraging intercommunion since his election49 it is clear that this organisation is not, for its heads, a divinely animated body acting in spiritual union for the glory of God, but a global business which conscientiously eschews monopolistic tendencies and is ever ready to negotiate deals with strong rivals and subcontract parts of its activities to other corporations.

Obedience: The attitude to those recognized as pope or bishops is similar to that taken towards politicians or business superiors. Recognition is merely nominal: respect has vanished50 and contestation has become normal. Even children are hardly expected to obey their parents. What remain, in the post-conciliar ruins, of our laws of fasting and abstinence, of feasts of obligation, of the communion fast and other laws are treated as counsels of perfection rather than grave duties.

Romanity: As for love and devotion towards the Church of Rome, nothing resembling it is found save the sentimental counterfeit which convinces some devotees of post-conciliar pseudo-Catholicism that it is an act of fidelity to the see of Peter to adorn their mantelpieces with plaster statues of its current putative occupant.

6. “Romaner than thou?”

But those who can be recognized in the foregoing description hardly claim to be loyal, faithful Catholics. What arouses consternation is to see the loss of all spirit of Romanity and hence the violation of the above duties on the part of many of those who consider themselves to be Catholics faithful to tradition. The enormity that screams to heaven is that those most responsible for these violations not only endeavour to justify them as lawful, traditional and Catholic, but in many cases even flaunt a pretended Romanity and accuse those who most conscientiously respect these duties of being insufficiently faithful to Rome. If hypocrisy in general is encapsulated in the expression “holier than thou”, we may express this particular species of hypocrisy in the boast of being “Romaner than thou,” symbolizing the attitude of traditional Catholics who claim fidelity to Rome while failing in every measurable exercise of this duty.

Here in France, the most visible culprit is probably youthful French historian Jacques-Régis du Cray, director of the tendentious film Marcel Lefebvre – Archbishop in Stormy Times. It would be otiose to rehearse examples from his website http://credidimus-caritati.blogspot.fr/ and his contributions to Fideliter, the Forum Catholique and many other sources, often under pseudonyms such as Ennemond or Côme de Prévigny. Although Mr du Cray has no official status as a representative of the Society of Saint Pius X in the French-speaking world, in practice he acts as though he had such a status, and has never been disavowed by Menzingen, having never been avowed in the first place. As a member of the secretive but influential think-tank GREC51 which brings together traditionalist and Modernist opinion-formers, he is an energetic champion of the “peace process” between the SSPX and current occupants of the Vatican.

Another of the same kidney is Fr. Michel Simoulin, long-time superior of the SSPX in Italy.52 These are men for whom the concept of Romanity is an overwhelming argument for negotiating terms of recognition from those of whom their founder and superior had said:

“The chair of Peter and the positions of authority in Rome being occupied by antichrists, the destruction of the Reign of Our Lord continues swiftly even within His Mystical body here below, especially by the corruption of holy Mass. This is what has brought down on us the persecution of antichrist Rome.”53

It is also in their eyes an overwhelming argument against sedevacantism. They argue that the sedevacantist has severed himself from Rome and thus forfeited all claim to be Roman in faith, communion or spirit. The question inevitably arises: does sedevacantism violate the duty of Romanity?

7. Sedevacantists and Fidelity to Rome

To answer this question we must first recall what sedevacantism means. It is the belief of a Catholic that the man widely believed to be pope is not the legitimate successor of Saint Peter. In our days many have adopted this position with regard to some or all of the Vatican II claimants: John XXIII, Paul VI, John-Paul I and II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Considered in the abstract and without reference to present circumstances the thesis that a manifest heretic cannot be pope and that no legal process or declaration is needed to deprive him of what he does not possess in the first place is certainly Roman. Though not a dogma, and contested by some few theologians, it is the teaching of the theologians most approved by Rome and underpins the ruling of Pope Paul IV’s Cum Ex Apostolatus and of Pope Saint Pius V’s Inter multiplices. It is an application of the principle that the heretic, being outside the Church through the fact of not professing her faith, cannot hold office within her: a principle enshrined in Canon 188, 4° of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. It is taught by several Doctors of the Church,54 most explicitly by Saint Robert Bellarmine, whose doctrine concerning the papacy the Church praises and commends to her children.55

Turning to the circumstances of our times, the presence of countless acts (private and public, words, deeds and omissions) on the part of these papal claimants raising at least a suspicion of heresy is not contested by sedeplenist traditionalists and was fully admitted by Archbishop Lefebvre.56 All traditional Catholics agree that the new rites, new doctrines, new attitudes, new canonizations, etc., of Vatican II and what followed it have drastically altered the ecclesiastical landscape so that new maps are urgently needed.

In sedevacantism, then, we have a thesis which is Roman in its theology and a set of facts about Rome since 1958 which invite the question: does the thesis fit the facts? All recognize that there is at the very least a prima facie case to answer. Even those who think the answer is No cannot legitimately take scandal that an increasing number think it is Yes.

The criteria for applying the thesis papa hæreticus est depositus57 to our situation have been soberly weighed: are the words and deeds of the claimants truly and directly opposed to a dogma of faith? Are they incompatible with the habitual intention of submission to the teaching of the Church? Taken individually and as a whole, in text and in context, is it credible to a reasonable man, insofar as external acts are rightly presumed to represent internal dispositions, that the Vatican II papal claimants were in fact Catholic in faith and erred only by inadvertence? (In other words, is their pertinacity — awareness that their doctrine is opposed to Catholic dogma — morally certain?)

The opposing considerations have also been soberly weighed: apparent popular recognition, danger of consequent extinction of the hierarchy, temptation of wildcat conclaves, etc. No such objection has been left without serious answer by the main sedevacantist scholars.

Faced with the doctrine that the local Church of Rome is indefectible in the faith,58 after fifty years of the dissemination of flagrant heresy, sedevacantists simply and safely conclude that what has defected is no longer truly Roman, while sedeplenists are forced to assert that this ongoing Niagara of heresies does not constitute a defection.

For the sedevacantist, what has defected is not Rome. The individuals who have defected have ceased to represent the Church by manifestly abandoning her faith.

For the sedeplenist: what is at Rome has not defected. So Niagara is an optical illusion. What appear to be corruptions of the faith either are in fact not erroneous at all or do not in fact commit or represent the organisation which has been transmitting them as sound doctrine to the faithful for the last fifty years and more.59

The sedevacantist therefore clearly holds a Roman position. His faith and his filial submission to Holy Church are unsullied. On the worst hypothesis he has made an understandable mistake about a point of fact in his endeavours to elucidate a genuine mystery without injury to his Romanity.

He certainly cannot be accused of preferring his own reasoning to the guidance of modern Rome except by those who themselves honestly adhere to that guidance, and they are few and far between. Once it is recognized that active submission to Roman guidance is uniquely problematic in our day, the sedevacantist can be seen not to have abandoned Romanity but to have applied it under exceptional circumstances.

Let us now turn to whether sedeplenist traditionalism is compatible with Romanity.

8. Sedeplenists and Fidelity to Rome

Some sedeplenist60 traditionalists are in fact in active submission to the post-conciliar authorities of what Archbishop Lefebvre referred to as antichrist Rome. Although using the traditional rites and traditional catechisms they in fact recognize Vatican II as a lawful Catholic Council and make use of its texts, together with post-conciliar encyclicals and the 1992 “Catechism of the Catholic Church61 as doctrinal sources; they recognize the 1983 Code of Canon Law as having wholly superseded the 1917 Code. Their ministry is exercised in virtue of a mission derived from these contested authorities. The orders of their priests are in large measure derived from bishops who were consecrated in the new rites. Even so they are seldom enthusiastic and wholehearted in their submission. They are aware of tension between how they would like Rome to be and how it in fact is. Their Romanity is under constant strain. Their predicament will be the subject of a forthcoming article on www.romeward.com, but for the present we shall leave them to it and the term “sedeplenists” for the remainder of this article does not refer to them.

Our concern today is with those who nominally recognize the authorities located in Rome, but in practise refuse to accept large parts of their ordinary teaching, their liturgy, their pastoral activities and the spirit that animates them. Some of these (for instance the “right wing” of the SSPX and the “Resistance”) have no wish to be recognized by men they regard as legitimate but grossly in error. Others (for instance the “left wing” of the SSPX and similar groups) are anxious to obtain recognition but in fact continue to exercise ministry without having it and are not ready to purchase this recognition at the cost of acknowledging that the doctrines of Vatican II and the liturgy emerging from it are orthodox and beneficial to souls. While these divergences between the two schools of sedeplenist traditionalists are grave, they are irrelevant to the present study. To evaluate their fidelity to Catholic ecclesial duties we may treat both groups together. Let us examine their case under the same headings of Belief, Communion, Obedience and Romanity.

Belief: The position of sedeplenists who refuse to subscribe to the errors of Vatican II or the lawfulness of using the new rites necessarily entails doctrinal views which are incompatible with those authorized by the Holy See before Vatican II. Here are a few of the more flagrant examples.

1. Sedeplenists can have no reasonable objection to subscribing to Article 19 of the Church of England’s 39 Articles: “As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.” For as a matter of fact they believe that for over fifty years the Church of Rome has erred in its ordinary teaching, by transmitting to the faithful throughout the world as sound teaching previously condemned doctrines of religious liberty and ecumenism, by replacing all sacramental rites previously in place by novelties that undermine faith and reverence and cannot safely be frequented; by a series of encyclical letters and other teachings that contain error; by authorizing non-Catholics to receive Catholic sacraments, by encouraging Catholics to attend non-Catholic ceremonies, by inventing novel pretexts for declaring marriages null, by repeatedly placing the true religion on an equal footing with false religions, by the systematic refusal to condemn notorious widely-held errors, etc.

2. Pope Pius XII declares in Humani Generis that:

“Nor should it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand assent, on the grounds that the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority in them, for these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is also true to say: ‘He who heareth you, heareth me.’”

Yet we see sedeplenists regularly refuse consent to a large part of the contents of the encyclical letters of the last fifty years and more, as they (rightly) observe that this teaching is often incompatible with the Catholic faith.

3. More generally, sedeplenists in practice sift all official teaching emanating from what they recognize as the supreme doctrinal authority, with the hypothetical exception of acts of the Solemn or Extraordinary Magisterium which have never in fact occurred in the period in question. In other words, they peruse the doctrinal pronouncements of Vatican II and its putative popes not to find out what to believe but to see whether the man they recognize as pope has or has not got his doctrine right. Moreover they even sift canonizations, although the Roman doctrine is undoubtedly that canonization is an act which of itself engages infallibility62: they venerate some saints raised in the post-conciliar period to the altars (let us allow the term “altars” to pass as a metaphor where it is no longer literally applicable) while refusing to recognize or venerate others.

4. Moreover, whereas Vatican II itself, in the “Notification” attached to Lumen Gentium, expressly states that whatever “the Sacred Synod proposes as being the doctrine of the Supreme Magisterium of the Church must be received and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful” and Paul VI even declared on one occasion that the Council contained “many points of doctrine proposed by the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Church,”63 we observe sedeplenists continue to maintain the absence of any obligation to believe the Council’s teaching.64

5. With reference to the extent of the Church’s protection from error, the doctrinal summary65 of Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum notes that:

“The Church exercises her infallibility either by a solemn judgement or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, by defining revealed truth, by watching over the faith of her subjects, which it is her right and duty to do; she cannot neglect truth or impugn it or permit the graver truths of faith or morals to be obscured; she cannot re-address errors that have once been definitively condemned; she cannot change the meaning of a defined dogma; she cannot establish a harmful discipline; hence her judgement must be acquiesced in even in matters that have not yet been expressly defined, mere respectful silence being insufficient.”

Yet we see sedeplenists unflinchingly claim that what they believe to be the Catholic Church under the government of lawful Roman Pontiffs has for fifty years allowed grave truths concerning faith and morals to be obscured and even travestied. They claim it has neglected the central truth that the Church of Rome alone is the one true Church of Christ outside of which there is no salvation and has established disciplines67 that can by no means be “acquiesced in” precisely because they undoubtedly are harmful, impugn divinely revealed truth and threaten the spiritual wellbeing and indeed the salvation of the faithful.

6. The infallibility of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is a constant embarrassment to sedeplenists, for the bishops they recognize as together constituting the hierarchy of the Church in union with the pope have for fifty years been transmitting these errors to their faithful as being the teaching of the Church. This is the very definition of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium – the transmission of doctrine by the bishops united under the pope without any solemn definition. Hence there is every motive for them to believe that this erroneous doctrine is protected by infallibility, for Pastor Æternus teaches that “all those things are to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and are proposed by the Church, whether by a solemn judgement or by her Ordinary and universal Magisterium, to be believed as Divinely revealed.”68 Hence Denzinger’s Index Systematicus declares roundly that “the Church dispersed throughout the world is infallible in proposing the teaching given by Christ”, and references three magisterial acts to this effect. Yet instead we observe prominent sedeplenist apologists claim to display loyalty to the Church by announcing that the teaching proposed by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church is protected by infallibility only if it is given over a very protracted period of time – far more than a mere fifty years.

This error had already been refuted in detail by Cardinal Franzelin69 a century and a half ago and there is no need to repeat here what those who want to know the truth can easily establish. As Fr. Sylvester Berry expresses it: “The truth of a doctrine is established just as securely by proving its universal acceptance today as by showing that it was universally accepted in any past age of the Church.”70 

The relevance of highlighting this error is that it involves a drastic departure from clear Catholic doctrine, to justify which the sedeplenist apologists referred to actually have the effrontery to cite as a source a 1998 Commentary emanating from the Conciliar “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” and signed by its then prefect Cardinal Ratzinger! Anyone who thinks that doctrinal controversy can be settled by appeal to Cardinal Ratzinger has surely failed to advert to the existence of a doctrinal crisis in the Church at all.

In the present article we are not endeavouring to attach an exact theological qualification to these contingencies of the sedeplenist position since Vatican II. Our goal is simply to ask whether a position which entails such contingencies can reasonably be characterized as faithful to Rome. To help answer the question, the reader may usefully wonder what reply the Holy See would have made under Pope Pius XII if it had been consulted on the lawfulness of holding that it could ever be possible for Catholics to reject teachings, pastoral practice and liturgical rites approved by the Holy See for over fifty years?

Communion: Let us now consider to what extent the sedeplenist traditionalist is faithful to the duties of communion with Rome, the bishops sent by Rome and the faithful recognized by Rome.

The duty of communion with Rome at first sight appears as a godsend to those who are anxious to convince themselves that sedeplenists are more loyal to Rome than sedevacantists. On closer inspection, the contrary emerges.

It must first be noted that Vatican II muddied the waters of ecclesiastical communion by contriving its novel doctrine that communion with the Catholic Church is a matter of degree. In happier days the Holy See had taught unequivocally that submission to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation71 and that the mystical Body of Christ is one and the same thing as the Catholic and Roman Church.72 Hence, in Fr. Faber’s words, “no accurate beliefs, no right sympathies, no generous views, no near approaches, no sensible devotions, no felt actual graces, will make a man a living member of Jesus Christ, without communion with the Holy See.” (The Precious Blood, p.186)

In Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio §3, by contrast, we are informed that all baptized believers are in a certain, though “imperfect” communion, which it is hoped will become perfect thanks to ecumenism. In Lumen Gentium (§14) we are told that the Church “knows herself to be united” with baptized Christians who neither profess the faith in its entirety nor keep unity of communion under the successor of Peter. And of course Lumen Gentium (§8) has already declined to declare the identity of the Church of Christ with the Church of Rome, preferring to adopt the deliberately tendentious Ratzingerian ambiguity that the former subsists in the latter.73

All of this is pure novelty and makes no more sense than for a biologist to declare that jellyfish are in a state of imperfect communion with vertebrates. But it has given rise to the curious paradox that the Conciliar Church recognizes as enjoying its “perfect communion” only those who accept Vatican II with its false notion of “imperfect communion”. The new doctrine which was originally intended to upgrade heretics and schismatics to partial communion now serves to downgrade to the same level all who insist on the traditional concept of communion and refuse to accept that “imperfect communion” is sound doctrine.

Against this background, let us note:

1. The Society of Saint Pius X is actively negotiating for official recognition that it belongs to and exercises its ministry within the communion of the Holy See while the representatives of what it takes to be the Holy See do not in fact accept the Catholic doctrine of what that communion is. They have obtained the lifting of the excommunications of their four bishops from the same authority that had already, before the end of Vatican II itself, lifted the excommunication of Michael Cerularius, schismatic Patriarch of Constantinople in the eleventh century!

2. The unity of the Church is a function of its relation to the pope. When there is a true and certain pope, explains John of Saint Thomas, the Church’s unity of faith and communion are due to her recognition of the pope with infallible certainty precisely as being her rule of faith and of communion:

“There are two things which the Church accepts in the Pontiff : (a) she accepts that here and now this man in particular is the infallible rule of faith, and (b) she accepts … that he is her head by uniting herself to him as to her supreme visible head and submitting to him.”74

By contrast, he explains, when the see is vacant or the legitimacy of its occupant is not yet established with infallible certainty, “the truth and unity of the Church depends on its head not in act but aptitudinally insofar as she is apt to receive and of herself seeks to be united under the one head that she at present lacks in actu.”75

For John of Saint Thomas, then, subject to certainty of his legitimacy, communion with the pope is the touchstone and means of communion with the Church and hence with Christ. This communion is extended by the pope, not claimed by the individual in his despite.

This entire doctrine is reduced to nonsense when we see the Vatican II papal claimants emphatically denying that communion with them has any such status or effect and insisting that the Mystical Body of Christ is a larger entity than the Church comprised of those who are subject to the Holy See.

The sedeplenist negotiator is reduced in effect to saying to the man he believes to be the successor of Peter, “Please recognize us as belonging to your communion because even though you teach that it doesn’t matter very much to do so, we reject that teaching and continue to believe that it matters quite a lot – indeed our rejection of your false doctrine on this point is one of the very reasons why we have for so long not been visibly within the communion which we insist we ought to be in, especially as it is, euh … a safeguard of sound doctrine!”

3. The Roman authorities recognized by the sedeplenist traditionalists cannot make up their own mind about the status these traditionalists at present enjoy relative to the Church over which they preside.

It is well known that even after the episcopal consecrations of 1988 and the consequent sentence of excommunication, John-Paul II scrupulously avoided branding the SSPX as schismatic. In 2003, Mgr Perl, then secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, formally declared that attendance at an SSPX Mass fulfilled the Sunday obligation. The year 2005 saw Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos explicitly reject the term “schism” as an inaccurate expression of the status of the SSPX and in 2009 Benedict XVI himself, by alluding to a “danger of schism”, made it clear that he did not consider the Society founded by Archbishop Lefebvre and its followers to be already in schism from his communion. While Cardinal Müller made it clear in informal contexts that he does consider the Society to be in schism, this appeared to be no more than a private opinion. But more recently it may be observed that Benedict’s notoriously undiplomatic successor Francis has no such scruples.

In the very document hailed as a breakthrough by which Conciliar Ordinaries are permitted to grant faculties to witness marriages to SSPX clergy76 the ordinaries are informed that “various meetings and other initiatives have been ongoing in order to bring the Society of St. Pius X into full communion77 thereby applying to the SSPX the very same expression which is used to characterize the Eastern Schismatics who are notoriously non-members of the Catholic Church and reject not only this or that pope but the entire principle that Christians ought to be subject to the successor of Peter.

It is quite extraordinary to see such a document considered as a step towards a desirable recognition of Catholic communion when in fact it explicitly denies that they are at present in “full” communion with the Catholic Church – a point never hitherto formally denied.

4. Is it in fact possible to be “in communion” with a pope, true or false, while systematically refusing to submit to his teaching unless it incontestably pertains to the Extraordinary Magisterium and while insisting on exemption from the great majority of his laws and commands? The first to pose this interesting question appears to have been Fr. Hervé Belmont, ordained priest in 1978 by Archbishop Lefebvre. In 1981 Fr. Belmont found himself excluded from the Society of Saint Pius X for failure to conceal his conviction that John-Paul II was not a legitimate pope. His exclusion found its way into the press. Thereupon, perhaps because Fr. Belmont is so evidently a learned, intelligent and sincere priest, his case came to the attention of the Roman Congregations dependent on the authority which he refused to recognize as Catholic and a canonist was commissioned to investigate and despatched to meet him. After replying to all the questions posed by the canonist on behalf of the Vatican, Fr. Belmont asked if he might seize the opportunity himself to present a query to the Vatican, via the good offices of their agent. His question was: “May a priest truthfully and lawfully declare that his Mass is offered una cum a pope whose ordinary teaching he does not in fact accept and whose rites he refuses to use on the grounds that this teaching and these rites are not Catholic?” Fr. Belmont did not make this enquiry because he had any wish to name John-Paul II in his own Mass but to highlight the paradox that so many of his confrères saw no difficulty in doing so. His query was transmitted but no Roman Congregation deigned to answer it. A minor adjustment to the question may be necessary depending on one’s exegesis of the Te igitur prayer of the Canon, but the nub of the question remains as pertinent as ever. Once again, we may reasonably wonder what reply would have been given to such a question if posed under Pope Pius XII.

5. It is a fact that in 1988 the district superiors of the SSPX addressed a joint letter to Cardinal Gantin78 in which they practically pleaded to be excommunicated as Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer and those they consecrated had just been:

“To be publicly associated with the sanction which strikes the six Catholic bishops, defenders of the faith in its entirety and integrity, would be for us a badge of honour and a sign of orthodoxy before the faithful, for they have a strict right to know that the priests they approach are not in communion with a counterfeit church …”

The logical link signified by the word “for” implies that excommunication by the man they recognized as pope would enable the faithful to be sure that their clergy were not in communion with this “counterfeit church”, which the letter described as “evolutionary, Pentecostalist and syncretistic”. Indeed the chief message of this joint letter appears to be that the key to remaining in communion with the Catholic Church is to be out of communion with the Church of Vatican II and preferably declared to be so by virtue of formal excommunication by Karol Wojtyła, John-Paul II. Accurate and laudable though this judgement is, surely no one with a fibre of Romanity left in his soul can endure to hear it said that to be in communion with Christ one must be out of communion with His Vicar on earth.

6. As we have noted, the Society which in 1988 so publicly proclaimed its determination to remain out of communion with Modernist-occupied Rome in order to be faithful to Catholic Rome, is now negotiating to be admitted to “full communion” with that same Modernist-occupied Rome, which, though fractionally more tolerant of traditional liturgy, is yet further mired in heresy than it already was in 1988.

Rather than emphasize the scale and gravity of this volte-face, which has been competently done elsewhere, let us rather observe the sheer enormity of negotiating with Rome about one’s membership of the Church at all. Great heavens, Catholics do not negotiate with the pope about anything! And anyone in the slightest doubt about his membership of the Church – in the highest possible degree if such degrees existed – must evidently pocket his pride and hasten under press of sail to submit to whatever requirements, doctrinal or otherwise, are required as conditions of making that communion certain.

And in any event, how can communion with the pope be the criterion of membership in the Mystical Body of Christ if in fact for over forty years the popes have denied “full communion” to those most worthy of it (and who have a strict right to it) while extending it to those least worthy of it?

Surely a position which leads to such conclusions cannot be described as Roman!

Obedience: The Church has the power to govern the faithful by means of laws that bind in conscience. Hence Cardinal Billot writes:

“The legislative power of the Church has for its object both matters of faith and morals and matters of discipline. But in matters of faith and morals the obligation of ecclesiastical law is added to that of divine law, whereas in the matter of discipline the entire obligation is of ecclesiastical law. However infallibility is always associated with the exercise of the supreme lawmaking power insofar as by the assistance of God the Church can never establish a discipline which is opposed to the rules of faith and of evangelical holiness.”79

The duty of obedience to holy Church is well enough known to call for no detailed analysis here. It is not denied that authority may exceptionally err in commands to individuals, nor is it denied that exceptional circumstances unknown to the authority may justify recourse to epikeia, but in the current relations between sedeplenist traditionalists and the authorities they recognize as legitimate, we observe a situation which goes far beyond this.

Let us instance four issues – representative of a much greater number:

1. The SSPX has consecrated bishops not only without papal mandate but even despite the formal prohibition of the man nominally recognized as pope.

2. The SSPX has established a marriage tribunal able to pronounce on the validity or invalidity of marriages and has justified this by the explicit statement that “conciliar ecclesiastical tribunals” cannot be frequented as they follow a falsification of the very notion of marriage contained in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.80 Indeed a condition of seeking the judgement of the SSPX tribunal or commission is to sign a commitment “not to approach an official ecclesiastical tribunal to have my case examined or judged.”81

3. A joint letter of Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Mayer to John-Paul II of November 1983 contains the words : “… we utter this cry of alarm, made yet more vehement by the errors, not to say the heresies, of the new Canon Law.”

4. Sedeplenist traditionalists not only disobey isolated unacceptable commands, but actually and clearly withdraw from any pretence at habitual obedience to the laws or orders of those they emphatically insist must be recognized as holding lawful authority. Churches and seminaries are erected without the slightest request for authorization from the Ordinaries; Orders are conferred; schools set up; marriages conducted, impediments dispensed from, all without the least endeavour to obtain approval or consent from the recognized authority, and nearly all of this has been going on for over forty years.

Against this background it would clearly be disingenuous to reduce the issue to one of epikeia, especially as contact with authority to resolve the controverted issues is, under the hypothesis we are considering, not unavailable.82 The loyal Catholic will recognize the difficulties that;

1. Disobedience has become habitual, not exceptional.

2. Disobedience is readily justified not only when obedience would be actually sinful but whenever the order emanating from authority is deemed inexpedient by the subject.

3. Not only commands but general laws are rejected as manifestly and gravely deleterious to souls whereas Catholic doctrine holds that the Church is infallible in such laws.

4. In practice parallel ecclesiastical structures have been established and function in almost total independence of the structures alleged to be legitimate.

5. Materially at least, the illegally consecrated bishops appear to fall under the anathema of the Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that bishops … who have been neither rightly ordained nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical power but come from elsewhere are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments, let him be anathema.”

The point made here does not depend on whether violation of the requirement for Bishops to be sent by legitimate superior authority may bear exceptions in very extreme circumstances. It is that material disobedience to those technically recognized by sedeplenists as constituting that legitimate authority has attained even the very gravest level, for, short of heresy and schism, the exclusive right of the Holy See and its delegates to select bishops and assign them their office is as sacred as any Catholic principle can be.84

6. To the foregoing we must add that the duty of obedience plays a specific role in the doctrinal order. All Catholics know that they must believe what God has revealed and the Church has transmitted to them. But many fail to appreciate that just as infallibility is not limited to matters directly revealed by God,85 or to matters taught by the Extraordinary Magisterium,86 so the duty to submit our minds to truths communicated to us by the Holy See is not limited in scope to that which is directly taught,87 or to that which is taught infallibly. The Church has the right to call for the inward obedience of our minds by ordering us to adhere to one doctrine and to shun another.88

And it is a straightforward fact that Paul VI commanded all Catholics to adhere to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council including in particular its teaching on religious liberty:

“…we order and command that all that the Council has decided in synod be sacredly and religiously held by all of Christ’s faithful, unto the glory of God… These things we edict and prescribe, decreeing that this present letter must ever be and remain firm, valid and efficacious and obtain and retain its full and integral effects … Given at Rome, under the fisherman’s ring…”89

We must therefore note that traditional Catholics who recognize this authority are in a state of habitual disobedience in the doctrinal order. They are clearly right to disobey, for the teaching they reject is manifestly erroneous. But the problem remains: in every field, even the gravest, obedience as a habitual disposition has clearly vanished altogether.

Romanity: Let us now look at what Romanity adds to the duties of Belief, communion and obedience, and to what extent sedeplenists apply it in practice. We have seen that Catholics impregnated with Romanity have made their own the abiding spirit of the Holy See. They love Rome not as a mere city of bricks and mortar but as the symbol of the Church of the New Testament as Jerusalem was the symbol of the Church of the Old Testament. They see reality with the eyes of the popes. They are proud of the Roman Church.91 They weigh opinions, theologians, parties and books as Rome weighs them. They find no strain in fidelity to Rome even where infallibility in the strictest sense does not apply. They know that with Rome there is always safety – much greater safety than any humble person, however learned, can properly attach to his own reasonings.92

As Fr. Faber explains:

“The gift of infallibility is but a concentration, the culminating point, the solemn official outspeaking, of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Church. While it calls, like revelation, for absolute submission of heart and soul, all the minor arrangements and ways and dispositions of the Church call for general submission, docility, and reverence, because of the whole Church being a shrine fulfilled with the life of the Holy Ghost.”93

Or, in the words of Saint Pius X:

“When one loves the pope one does not stop to debate about what he advises or demands, to ask how far the rigorous duty of obedience extends and to mark the limit of this obligation. When one loves the pope, one does not object that he has not spoken clearly enough, as if he were obliged to repeat into the ear of each individual his will, so often clearly expressed, not only viva voce, but also by letters and other public documents; one does not call his orders into doubt on the pretext – easily advanced by whoever does not wish to obey – that they emanate not directly from him, but from his entourage; one does not limit the field in which he can and should exercise his will; one does not oppose to the authority of the pope that of other persons, however learned, who differ in opinion from the pope. Besides, however great their knowledge, their holiness is wanting, for there can be no holiness where there is disagreement with the pope.94

Surely it is clear to everyone that no sedeplenist in fact has any such attitude towards the conciliar popes? This is telling indeed. But graver still is the observation that in proportion to their eagerness to defend the legitimacy of the conciliar claimants to the Holy See, sedeplenists become increasingly handicapped in displaying this docile Romanity even towards pre-conciliar popes.

Whereas authors imbued with Romanity zealously strive to defend the Church and are reluctant to believe ill of her supreme pastors, we see sedeplenist apologists display the opposite trait. Like pigs hunting for truffles they plough through the histories of the popes – especially those by Protestant or Gallican sources or those condemned by true popes to the Index of Forbidden Books – in frantic pursuit of any pretext for claiming that past popes have fallen into heresy and still been recognized as legitimate. Whereas Denzinger’s Index Systematicus references no fewer than five magisterial pronouncements informing loyal Catholics that “the Roman Pontiff has never erred in matters of faith or morals – not even Liberius” we observe the dirt-diggers rejoicing in every instance, however contested by the soundest Catholic historians, of “bad popes” or “heretical popes”, in the hope of bolstering the precarious credibility of the present claimants.

Once again we may ask, when a position leads otherwise honourable Catholics wishing to defend it to behave in a fashion that makes Absalom appear to be a model of filial piety and Attila the Hun a model of Romanity, is it not clear that this position itself is at fault?

Overall, having examined the consequences of the sedeplenist position in terms of Belief, Communion, Obedience and Romanity, we observe that the attempts of sedeplenist traditionalists to respect these duties generate paradoxes more efficiently than a dedicated algorithm might be expected to.

It is completely clear that the sedeplenist traditionalist who criticizes sedevacantism as unfaithful to Rome, does not even rise to the level of the pot calling the kettle black. Infidelity to Rome is the hallmark of his own position. Without contesting his sincerity we may fittingly apply to him Thompson’s lines:

His honour rooted in dishonour stood

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

8. Fidelity to Rome During the Present Crisis

We are living through the gravest crisis the Church has known – the deepest and most extensive destruction of the Church in her history, beyond anything ever achieved by even the worst of the heresiarchs, occurring in a very brief period and apparently presided over by Popes. This is observation, not analysis; and it states the facts observed in terms borrowed almost verbatim from Archbishop Lefebvre.95 The archbishop noted that such a situation presents “a grave problem to the conscience and faith of all Catholics”. This is undeniable.

Plainly Catholics should react to the present crisis in a way that is compatible with their faith, with a properly formed conscience and with all their duties to the Church, notably belief, communion, obedience and Romanity. Plainly also, many have been led astray by the extraordinary nature of the crisis and have mis-reacted, adopting positions not compatible with these duties.

The paradox of our time is that of an authority apparently entitled to tell Catholics what they must believe as divine truth but which changes its instructions as to the object of belief, requiring Catholics today to believe what yesterday they condemned and to condemn what yesterday they believed. This paradox has engendered three reactions that are unacceptable in terms of the fundamental duty to believe which we call Catholic faith.

1. The first of these errors consists in replacing faith with voluntarism. Some Catholics treat the intimation to believe emerging from Vatican II or the authorities which adhere to it as one might treat any other mere order. They are ready to obey. If today they are ordered to believe that women cannot be priests and tomorrow they are ordered to believe that they can, they will simply change their belief just as they would change any other practice in accordance with orders from their supreme authority. And the same applies to the countless other points of belief which have changed in the Conciliar Church, the latest being the admissibility of unrepentant adulterers to Holy Communion.

This reaction violates the very nature of faith, for faith is not merely verbal – it implies sufficient understanding of the meaning of its object to exclude its contradictory and preclude ever coming to believe that contradictory. God has revealed doctrines not for the primary purpose of testing our docility, but because our spiritual life depends on knowing the truth about them.96 Truth is immutable and faith is infallible, as the act of faith indicates.

There are Catholics who today obey the order to believe X while holding themselves ready tomorrow to believe non-X if given the order by the same authority. For them the list of articles of faith maybe added to or subtracted from: theirs not to reason why, theirs but to accept and believe. They may even think their faith all the more heroic the oftener and more substantially they are called upon to change its object.

But such a disposition in fact violates both faith and logic. It replaces supernatural knowledge of immutable truth with prostitution of the intellect ready to embrace in sequence propositions which cannot all be true.

2. The second error is a little more subtle. Its victims steadfastly refuse to renounce the formula once received from the Church to express her teaching, but they are ready to adapt the meaning of the formula as long as the words are retained. In theory they deny to their doctrinal authority the right to change the object of faith, but in practice they concede it on condition that the new teaching is disguised in the old expression. This is essentially Modernism and hence it is renounced in the Anti-Modernist oath.98

3. The victim of the third error is on guard not to fall into errors 1. and 2., but to avoid doing so he develops an instinct for avoiding the sort of predicament that leads to them. He adopts a reluctant, minimizing, filtering faith. When the authority he recognizes teaches he is reluctant to assent unequivocally for fear that it may get him into hot water owing to incompatibility with some past or future teaching of the same authority. He is on the look-out for grounds entitling him not to assent. Authority will have a hard time speaking forcefully and enunciating the duty of belief clearly enough to convince him – there will always be a condition missing, even if no one had ever previously noticed that it was a condition. Faith is a room such Catholics are reluctant to enter unless they know in advance where the exit is situated.99

These minimizers are liable to accuse others of Ultramontanism. Like many another term of disparagement this one tells us much more about those who use it than about those they apply it to. Very simply, in the years prior to the 1870 Vatican Council, the term Ultramontanism was used by Gallicans (i.e. the deniers of papal infallibility and minimizers of papal jurisdiction) as a derogatory label for those who defended the doctrines they denied. Once the Church had defined as dogmas the infallibility of the pope and his supreme, full, immediate and universal jurisdiction, the word “Ultramontane” as then used became a synonym for “Catholic” and could not be used disparagingly except by one who denied Catholic doctrine. Hence the Catholic Encyclopaedia notes that “assuredly, those who combat Ultramontanism are in fact combating Catholicism, even when they disclaim the desire to oppose it.”100

Today, the term has been revived by minimizers of papal authority who are unashamed to find themselves in the company of Döllinger and other heretics who made use of it in the interests of their propaganda and in due course lost the Catholic faith altogether. These men do not consciously deny Catholic doctrine, but they are at the very least unwilling to admit that the ordinary teaching of the Holy See enjoys the divine guarantees and obligatory character which the Holy See itself has told us it does. It is not unknown for them to state explicitly that the books of theology and ecclesiology approved by the Holy See will need to be revised after the crisis so as to erase the passages making the claims they think the crisis has falsified.

Yet no degree of enthusiasm has yet succeeded in stating the papal prerogatives in wider or more absolute terms than those of Christ Himself:

“And I say to thee that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”101

And the term “Ultramontanism” was selected merely because, from the perspective of most of Europe, the papal city of Rome lies ultra montes – over the Alps. In other words, the word Ultramontanism is, as to meaning, a synonym for Romanity, but as to its use, it is the watchword of the anti-Romans.

Catholics who have fallen into any of the three above errors have ceased to believe as the Church herself believes. They cannot really mean what the Act of Faith declares:

“I believe whatsoever the Catholic Church proposes to be believed, and this because God who is the sovereign truth, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has revealed all these things to this his Church.”

Faith is not a sort of mental contortionism requiring believers to whip up assent to today’s doctrinal plat du jour. It is a supernatural assent of the intelligence commanded by the will. We believe what God has revealed because it is true and therefore must always remain true.102 Our faith is not merely extended to a formula but to the meaning that formula expresses. What we believe one day on the infallible authority of the Church is seen to be true. We therefore know when we say Credo that the same truth will remain true forever and that any statement incompatible with it is and must remain forever false.

In much the same way the notions of communion and obedience have been corrupted because attempts to apply them in their traditional form to the present apparent state of Holy Church constantly throw up the ecclesiastical equivalent of error messages such as “not found” or “access not authorized”.

Opposed to all these falsified versions of faith is faith as the Church herself presents it as being. In the same way, opposed to every corruption of communion and obedience, stand the notions of communion and obedience actually provided by the Church herself. And opposed to the corrupt concept of bricks-and-mortar pseudo-Romanity which actuates the current movement to obtain “recognition” from what Archbishop Lefebvre repeatedly referred to as antichrist Rome, stands Rome’s own notion of Romanity as already set out above.

If a man’s efforts to exercise belief, communion, obedience and Romanity in the context of the current crisis seem to be constantly thwarted by impossibility so that their notions of these realities themselves tend to be distorted, this is no reason to abandon the efforts or yield to the distortions. It is a certain sign of error, not in the concepts themselves, but in the data being fed into them. If the Catholic doctrines of belief, communion, obedience and Romanity cannot digest the data concerning the present state of the Church, it is time to give up trying to fit the doctrines to the facts and examine more closely what we are taking to be facts until we spot the underlying error.

Holy Church cannot lead us astray. Holy Church has not led us astray. Holy Church will not lead us astray.

Against this background it is clear that the sedevacantist interpretation of the crisis avoids all the corruptions and provides the key to understanding the various errors in circulation.

Outside sedevacantist circles we see the “Resistance” murder Romanity in order to keep faith, morals and valid sacraments and we see the left-wing of the SSPX imperil faith, morals and valid sacraments in homage to a purely nominal Romanity. Those who recognize in Francis a true Pope but reject endeavours to reach terms with him come perilously close to denying doctrine, while those who seek his recognition as a token of being faithful Catholics come perilously close to denying facts. Sedevacantists may understand and sympathize with the part that is true in both while deploring the part that is not.

We are indebted to Saint Bridget of Sweden for the now proverbial notion that when the popes leave Rome grass grows in the city’s streets. In our own day the dictum is fulfilled more dramatically, for the fifty-year absence of legitimate Catholic popes from the holy city has left it choked by an irrepressible jungle of heresy.

The Rome to which we owe allegiance is certainly a city, but it certainly does not belong exclusively to the realm of geography. The successor of Peter must first succeed to the faith of Peter, without which he has no more claim to our filial allegiance than has the chief rabbi of Rome.

9. The Guiding Principles of www.romeward.com

This website exists to make available articles written, translated or selected by John S. Daly. The bulk of these articles concern the present crisis in the Church and its correct interpretation. Others, already available or to come, venture into philosophy, literature or history. It is appropriate to state the guiding principles reflected in all of them.

There are four such principles:

  1. Fidelity to Rome

  2. Scientific rigour

  3. Clear, correct English

  4. Recognition of the writer’s fallibility

1. My approach is Roman. I take as data the teaching of the Church of Rome and I adhere energetically to the entire Roman spirit. I use the authors approved by the Holy See and the theology encouraged and used by the Holy See itself.

2. My approach is essentially scientific. Scientists trying to explain a phenomenon first observe the facts (empirical data) and then look for a best-fit hypothesis to explain them. A Catholic looking at the present crisis in the Church should do the same, but he must understand that in this case “the facts” include not just the observed words and acts of the putative hierarchy but also Catholic doctrine. The traditional teaching of the Church is part of the immoveable data, quite as much as the observed actions of the people involved – it is not part of the theory that we could bend or modify to help get a good fit. 

And the sedevacantist thesis in its non-sectarian version103 seems to me not just the best fit theory but the only theory that fits the facts. This does not mean that it explains everything or leaves no mystery to be resolved or points of doubt to be honestly respected. It means that it offers the comfort of knowing that there is no necessary conflict between fact and doctrine, since one explanation at least reconciles them without any great difficulty.

In order to be scientific, research must be laborious and thought must be rigorous, not approximate. There is a difference between serious scholarship and bluff published by vociferous sciolists who have evidently read no more theology books than President Trump has104 and therefore cut and paste 90% of their materials from the writings of those they oppose and purport to consider ignoramuses.

3. Faithful to the late Fr. Oswald Baker’s rule that sloppy English is a sign of sloppy thought, I endeavour to write correct and lucid English and I am hard to convince that those who have yet to master their native tongue have much to contribute to any other subject.

4. My approach is inflexible when doctrine is at stake but tentative and provisional in speculation. I am open to serious and courteous controversy from orthodox-believing and informed Catholics. I do not call on anyone to share my conclusions except insofar as my evidence is convincing.

On the other hand I have no intention of allowing myself to be shouted down by misjudged clericalism as though the priestly grace of state supplied the want of serious study. As a confirmed Catholic I have the mission to defend the faith which that sacrament bestows and I pretend to no other:

“When the layman and Platonic philosopher Justin obtained from the emperor Antoninus an edict suspending the persecutions, when Athenagoras addressed his apology for Christianity to Marcus Aurelius, when Clement of Alexandria published his exhortation to the pagans, when Arnobius, still a simple catechumen, published his work against the gentiles, did anyone take it into his head to tell them that they had no mission?  Has not every one of the faithful the mission to combat God's enemies insofar as he is able?” 

Bishop Pierre-Louis Parisis of Langres (1795-1866)

“Supernatural light will, in those days not only have to withstand the attacks of the children of darkness, who will put forward their false doctrines; it will, moreover, be minimized and falsified by the very children of light yielding on the question of principles; it will be endangered  by the hesitations, and the human prudence of those who are called far-seeing men. Many will practically ignore the master-truth, that the Church never can be overwhelmed by any created power.

“If they remember that our Lord has promised to uphold His Church even to the end of the world (cf. Mat. xxviii, 20), they will still believe that they do a great service to the good cause by making certain politically clever concessions, not weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Those future worldly-wise people will forget that our Lord needs no shrewd schemes  to help Him to keep His promise; they will entirely overlook this most elementary consideration, that the co-operation which Jesus deigns to accept at the hands of His servants  in the defence of the rights of His Church, never could consist in the disguising of those grand truths which constitute the power and beauty of the bride.”

Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, XXth Sunday after Pentecost

Notes

  1. Postcommunion of the Mass for the Election of the Roman Emperor.

  2. Luke ii, 1-5. See too de Nantueil, General Hugues, The Controversy Concerning the Dates of the Birth and Death of Jesus Christ, Appendix: Jesus Christ in the Roman Records.

  3. Mark xii, 17.

  4. In Luke iv, 28-30 we read of the Jews of the synagogue of Nazareth that “they brought him to the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them, went his way.” In John viii, 59 in Jerusalem “They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.” And again in John x, 31-39, “The Jews then took up stones to stone him. … They sought therefore to take him; and he escaped out of their hands.”

  5. John xix, 15.

  6. John xvii, 36.

  7. Matthew xxvii, 54.

  8. See Summa Theologiæ, III, q. 50, a. 2: “Whether at the death of Christ His divinity was separated from His flesh.”

  9. It is impossible to trace the antiquity of this tradition, but if Joseph was the nearest surviving male relative of Our Lord it would explain the otherwise mysterious facts that he (a) requests the body of an executed “criminal” which would normally have been buried in a public cemetery reserved for the purpose, (b) is granted it by the legalistic governor and (c) buries Our Lord in his own tomb.

  10. “And when they had bound him with thongs, Paul saith to the centurion that stood by him: Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? Which the centurion hearing, went to the tribune, and told him, saying: What art thou about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen. And the tribune coming, said to him: Tell me, art thou a Roman? But he said: Yea.” (Acts xxii, 25-27.)

  11. Philippians iv, 22.

  12. The historical facts that Peter was at Rome, was bishop of Rome, was martyred at Rome and that his relics are at Rome cannot be contested without abandoning the ordinary principles of historical evidence, quite aside from the Church’s inerrant confirmation.

  13. Further information on the same subject is to be found in the scholarly works of Fr. Henry Formby.

  14. The distinguished classicist the Rev. Professor Daniel Quinn (1861-1918) of the Catholic University of America.

  15. The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Jan-Oct. 1912, “The Roman Name”.

  16. Gal. i, 28.

  17. “Hail Cæsar, at the point of death we salute thee.”

  18. It is clear from Tertullian, Apology, V and XXI, that the Emperor Tiberius, himself already enjoying divine status, was quite ready to admit Christ to the Roman pantheon on an equal footing with its other divinities. Persecution of Christians was due to the exclusivity which is ever the prerogative of truth.

  19. Dom Prosper Guéranger, Jésus-Christ, Roi de l’Histoire, p. 83.

  20. In the prophetic dream of Nabuchodonosor (Daniel ii) we see the four great empires of the world (Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman) symbolized by the various parts of an immense statue. All are crushed and pulverized by a fifth empire that shall last for ever, clearly symbolizing the Church of Christ. Daniel’s interpretation of this dream has sometimes been found perplexing, since (a) the Church does not seem to have pulverized the Roman Empire but rather to have converted, sanctified and in a measure conserved it, while (b) it is hard to see how the Church – an essentially spiritual power – can be said to crush, destroy and replace the temporal powers which in fact she teaches to be in themselves legitimate and to govern with divine authority. These difficulties are resolved by noting, with Cardinal Billot (De Ecclesia Christi, Vol. II, Proœmium) that Nabuchodonosor’s dream represents the four empires insofar as they govern in opposition to God by idolatry, tyrannical laws and failure to worship the true God and acknowledge Him as the origin of the civil power, i.e. insofar as they were in fact usurpations of God’s right to govern.

  21. Apocalypse xvii.

  22. Yes, the symptoms of the impending death of the Roman Empire were very similar to those displayed by our own society!

  23. Disregarding the barbarian incursions into the increasingly ungovernable empire, we see Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sack Rome itself in 410; Attila the Hun would have sacked Rome in 452 but for the sublime intervention of Pope Leo the Great; the Vandals plundered Rome in 455, and finally in 476 Odoacer (probably a Goth) deposed the Emperor Romulus.

  24. To this day a vast country on the shore of the Black Sea is called Romania and the central element of its coat of arms is the Roman eagle.

  25. Omnes gentes quae obediunt sanctæ Matri Ecclesiæ sunt de populo Romano.

  26. This tradition does not depend on the apocryphal Acts of Peter. It is preserved in Saint Ambrose’s Contra Auxentium de Basilicis Non Tradendis, dating back to 386 A.D.

  27. Daniel ii, 35 and 44.

  28. Cf. Cardinal Manning, The Pope and the Antichrist and Pierre-Michel Bourguignon, Un Bouleversement de l’Occident Chrétien.

  29. Dz. 2319.

  30. This is the “branch theory” of the Church, held by many Protestants but condemned by the Holy See (Dz. 1685).

  31. Dei Filius, Dz. 1782.

  32. Cardinal Billot: “The unity proper to the ecclesiastical society includes the threefold unity of government, faith and communion, although this threefold unity … is not to be taken in a linear sense, for in reality the unity of government is the principle that generates and conserves the other two, one of which concerns the intellect and the other the will.” De Ecclesia, Vol. I, Q. iii, De nota unitatis.

  33. I.e. the powers to teach, to govern and to sanctify. Cf. Dom Adrien Gréa, De l’Église et de sa Divine Constitution.

  34. Cf. for instance, John of Saint Thomas, Tractatus de Auctoritate Summi Pontificis.

  35. Cardinal Billot, “The subordination of the multitude to the social regimen … consists first in the common profession of the faith taught by the society’s magisterium, without which there could be no agreement of minds as to end and means, and secondly in the positive and persevering intention of all to communicate together as parts of the body which depends on the head of the society, for without that it would be impossible to have the radical cohesion of wills without which the unification of intellectual creatures in the operative order is incomprehensible. Hence it follows that the proper unity of the society of the Church comprises the triple unity of government, faith and communion.” Loc. cit.

  36. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II, q. 39, a.1, “… the sin of schism is, properly speaking, a special sin, for the reason that the schismatic intends to sever himself from that unity which is the effect of charity: because charity unites not only one person to another with the bond of spiritual love, but also the whole Church in unity of spirit.” Cf. III, q. 73, a. 3, “… the reality of the sacrament is the unity of the mystical body, without which there can be no salvation; for there is no entering into salvation outside the Church.”

  37. Cf. Pope Boniface VIII’s bull Unam Sanctam, Dz. 469; Canon 1325 §2: “If anyone after Baptism, while still calling himself a Christian … should refuse to be subject to the sovereign pontiff or to communicate with the members of the Church who are subject to him, he is a schismatic;” Pastor æternus: “The Eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls, in order to continue for all time the life-giving work of His redemption, determined to build the Holy Church, in which, as in the house of the living God, all who believe might be united in the bond of one faith and one charity. (…) And, so that the Episcopate also might be one and undivided, and, by means of a closely united priesthood, the multitude of the faithful might be kept in oneness of faith and communion, He set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles …” (Dz. 1821)

  38. Apostolic Letter Tuas Libenter, Dz. 1683-4.

  39. “Hence we teach and declare that, by the appointment of our Lord, the Roman Church possesses a superiority of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatever rite and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world, so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one Supreme Pastor through the preservation of unity both of communion and of profession of the same faith with the Roman Pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and of salvation.. (Pastor æternus, Dz. 1827)

  40. “Venerable Brethren, in Our exposition of this mystery which embraces the hidden union of us all with Christ, We have thus far, as Teacher of the Universal Church, illumined the mind with the light of truth, and Our pastoral office now requires that We provide an incentive for the heart to love this Mystical Body with that ardour of charity which is not confined to thoughts and words, but which issues in deeds. If those who lived under the Old Law could sing of their earthly city: ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten; let my tongue cleave to my jaws if I do not remember thee, if I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joy,’ how much greater then should be the joy and exultation that should fill our hearts who dwell in a City built on the holy mountain of living and chosen stones, ‘Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.’” (Mystici Corporis)

  41. Cf. Cartechini, De Valore Notarum Theologicarum: “The Ordinary Magisterium is also exercised tacitly by the tacit approval granted by the Church to the teaching of the Fathers, Doctors and theologians. For she allows such teaching to be diffused throughout the Church. But evidently this tacit approval does not suffice to establish a dogma.” (p. 39)

Cf. also the attitude of Saint Anselm expounded and praised by Saint Pius X in his encyclical Comunium Rerum: “But amid all these anxieties and in the grief he felt at seeing himself abandoned culpably by many, even including his brethren in the episcopate, his one great comfort was his trust in God and in the Apostolic See. … The hope of the same reward shines out for all those who obey Christ in His Vicar in all that concerns the guidance of souls, or the government of the Church, or that is in any way connected with these objects: since ‘upon the authority of the Holy See depend the directions and the counsels of the sons of the Church’ (Epist. Lib. iv, ep. 1). How Anselm excelled in this virtue, with what warmth and fidelity he ever maintained perfect union with the Apostolic See, may be seen in the words he wrote to Pope Paschal: ‘How earnestly my mind, according to the measure of its power, clings in reverence and obedience to the Apostolic See, is proved by the many and most painful tribulations of my heart, which are known only to God and myself ... From this union I hope in God that there is nothing which could ever separate me. Therefore do I desire, as far as this is possible, to put all my acts at the disposition of this same authority in order that it may direct and when necessary correct them.’ (Ibid., ep. 5)”

See too the quotations from Fr. Faber and Saint Pius X later in this article.

  1. Cf. for instance:

  1. Canon 6§2: “… canones qui jus vetus ex integro referunt, ex veteris juris auctoritate, atque ideo ex receptis apud probatos auctores interpretationibus, sunt æstimandi.”

  2. Resp. S. Pænitentiariæ, 8 June1842 : “Necnon alios probatos auctores consulere non omittat.”

  3. Lehmkuhl apud Merkelbach, “… auctorem inter probatos et classicos numerari aut communi æstimatione, aut judicio Ecclesiæ constabit, aut signis quibusdam erui potest.”

  4. Merkelbach : “… auctores ... probati, scil. probitate et scientia insignes, i.e. illi quorum doctrina, prudentia, probitas, fides passim agnoscuntur...” (...) “Probati auctores a fortiori non erunt omnes illi qui licentiam impressionis vulgo dictam imprimatur obtinuerunt; quot enim futilia et absurda in libris impressis traduntur nullus est qui ignorat.” (...)

  1. “It is sad that so many clerics and priests, insufficiently versed in Latin, neglect the best works of Catholic writers in which the dogmas of the faith are solidly and lucidly propounded … preferring to learn doctrine from vernacular books and periodicals which very often lack clarity of expression, accuracy of presentation and sound understanding of dogma.” (Letter Vixdum haec sacra, Congregation of the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities, 9 October 1921, Enchiridion Clericorum, n. 1125)

“Since even in a layman having any claim to education ignorance of Latin, which may truly be termed the Catholic language, betrays lukewarmness in his love for the Church, how much more ought all the clergy to be well-grounded and learned in Latin.” (Apostolic letter Officiorum et munerum, 1st August 1922, Enchiridion Clericorum, n. 1154)

  1. “… not only should we cherish exceedingly the Sacraments with which holy Mother Church sustains our life, the solemn ceremonies which she celebrates for our solace and our joy, the sacred chant and the liturgical rites by which she lifts our minds up to heaven, but also the sacramentals and all those exercises of piety by which she consoles the hearts of the faithful and sweetly imbues them with the Spirit of Christ.” (Mystici Corporis)

  2. The saintly French philosopher and theologian Fr. Victor-Alain Berto (1900-68) was personal theologian to Archbishop Lefebvre at the Second Vatican Council and author of Pour la Saint Église Romaine.

  3. “La Romanité est une disposition non pas certes aveugle mais au contraire éclairée, lucide, affinée, de conformité aux vues, aux pensées, aux intentions permanentes et authentiques du Siège Apostolique.” (Notre-Dame-de-Joie, p. 268)

  4. Paul VI on this occasion actually donated his personal episcopal ring to “Archbishop” Ramsey despite knowing that the Catholic Church holds Anglican orders to be invalid.

  5. 18th January 2005.

  6. 15th November 2015 and 1 July 2016.

  7. How could it not!

  8. “Groupe de Réflexion Entre Catholiques”.

  9. Cf. Le Seignadou, March 2015 and other articles going back over some years.

  10. Archbishop Lefebvre, letter of 29th August 1987 to the four future bishops.

  11. Viz. Saints Francis de Sales, Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori.

  12. Cf. Collect and Secret of the Mass of Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church as well as the decrees of his canonization (1930) and elevation to the status of Doctor of the Church (1931).

  13. Cf. John S. Daly, Archbishop Lefebvre and Sedevacantism.

  14. “A heretical pope is deposed.”

  15. “As a consequence of this inseparable union of the primacy with the episcopate of Rome, scholastic theology points to the common Catholic teaching that the local Church of Rome, the faithful of the Eternal City presided over by their Bishop who is surrounded by his own priests and other clerics, is an infallible and indefectible institution. (…) The Roman Church could not possibly be the one with which all the other local congregations of Christendom must agree were it not endowed with a special infallibility. In order to be effective that infallibility must be acknowledged in a very practical manner by the other local units of the Church militant throughout the world. Actually the infallibility of the Roman Church is much more than a mere theological opinion. The proposition that ‘the Church of the city of Rome can fall into error’ is one of the theses of Peter de Osma, formally condemned by Pope Sixtus IV as erroneous and as containing manifest heresy. [See Dz. 730]” Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Local Church of Rome.

  16. Long books have been written purporting to show that this is so. Their second editions may be longer still. It is not unknown for such books to quote official documents of the contested papal claimants as evidence of what Catholic doctrine in fact is – a process known in logic as a petitio principii or question-begging. Neither is it unknown for them to draw extensively for their material on works which Catholic Rome placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

  17. The sedeplenist is one who thinks that the Holy See has a legitimate occupant, just as the sedevacantist is one who thinks it has no legitimate occupant.

  18. By contrast the official catechism of the true Catholic Church remains that ordered by the Council of Trent, which is officially known, for obvious reasons, as the Roman Catechism.

  19. “It is theologically certain that the Church is infallible in the canonization of the saints.” Fr. Sixtus Cartechini S.J., De Valore Notarum Theologicarum.

  20. “… complura doctrinæ capita a Magisterio Ecclesiæ extraordinario proposita …” Apostolic Exhortation Postrema Sessio, 4 November 1965. Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, LVII, 1965, 866 (4th December 1965, §13).

  21. Michael Davies, Arnaud de Lassus, Michel Martin, Christopher Ferrara – there is no end to the list of those who deny Vatican II’s statement that its teaching was obligatory.

  22. Or Index Systematicus.

  23. Index Systematicus, IIf. Thirty-two distinct magisterial statements are referenced in support of this summary.

  24. E.g. the new rites, communion in the hand, the admission of non-Catholics to the sacraments, the admission of unrepentant adulterers to the sacraments, the abolition of Catholic states, equal-footing religious congresses, compromise doctrinal agreements with Protestants, mixed schools, no-proselytism guarantees to Jews, Eastern schismatics, etc.

  25. Dz. 1792.

  26. Johann Baptist Cardinal Franzelin S.J., De Divina Traditione et Scriptura (Rome, 1875), Thesis XXIV: The True Meaning of the Vincentian Canon.

  27. Father Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, pp. 268-269.

  28. Dz. 469.

  29. Dz. 2319.

  30. The same error is upheld by the declaration Dominus Jesus, 6 August 2000, absurdly hailed by some as a return to orthodox doctrine in the matter.

  31. John of Saint Thomas, Tractatus de Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, disp. II, art. ii, xiv, xv.

  32. Ibid., xxiii.

  33. Which nothing had ever prevented them from doing if they so wished and as some in practice already did.

  34. Letter of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission to the relevant Ordinaries of the Episcopal Conferences, concerning the Faculties for the celebration of Marriages of the faithful of the Society Saint Pius X. (Prot. N. 61/2010, published 4 April 2017)

  35. Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

  36. De Ecclesia, Thesis XXII.

  37. See Sodalitium, N 51, December 2000, “Dossier sur la ‘Commission Canonique’ de la Fraternité Saint Pie X”.

  38. Ibid. p. 19.

  39. Saint Thomas explains epikeia as an interpretation of the intention of the lawgiver which may, in exceptional circumstances, differ from the actual words of the law. He explains that: “… if the observance of the law according to the letter does not involve any sudden risk needing instant remedy, it is not for everyone to interpret what is useful or is not useful to the state but only for those in authority, and, on account of such cases, they have the power to dispense from laws. If, however, the peril be so sudden as not to allow of the delay needed to have recourse to the superior, the mere necessity brings with it a dispensation, since necessity is not subject to the law.” (Summa Theologiæ I-II, q. 96, a. 6)

  40. Dz. 967. It is occasionally claimed that this Canon may be dismissed in our present situation on the grounds that it was directed by the Council against Protestantism. This is untenable. Anyone reading the Canon can see that it is about bishops who are either invalidly consecrated or not sent by legitimate authority. It condemns Protestants because and insofar as their bishops are unsent or invalid. It does not condemn unsent or invalid bishops because and insofar as they are Protestants. Ambiguities in pronouncements of the Magisterium can often be elucidated by reference to the events that originally occasioned them, but when there is no ambiguity at all it is simply unorthodox to attempt to restrict the condemnation of a proposition so that it no longer anathematizes all who hold it but only those who also hold some other error. No one attempts to excuse Modernists from acknowledging papal infallibility on the grounds that the 1870 Vatican Council intended primarily to condemn Gallicanism and Modernists may not be Gallicans. Nor can the Council of Trent’s seventh canon on Order be eluded on the pretext that not all those who violate it are Protestants. It should also be noted that the “neither … nor” is clearly not intended to be so disjunctive as to imply that either valid orders or ecclesiastical mission suffice to escape condemnation.

  41. See Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Letter Caritas, 13 April 1791 and Pope Pius XII, encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis, 29 June 1958.

  42. Cf., for instance, Cardinal Billot, op. cit., Thesis xviii.

  43. Cf. Dz. 1683, 1792.

  44. Cf.

  1. Cartechini: “… the Ordinary Magisterium is exercised by the implicit teaching contained in the Church’s life or practice. … The liturgy does not create dogmas, but it expresses dogmas because in her manner of praising God or praying to Him the Church expresses what and how and according to what concepts God wants to be publicly worshipped….[so] the Church cannot permit that things should be said in the liturgy in her name that are contrary to what she herself holds or believes.”

  2. Salaverri: “With regard to disciplinary decrees in general … 723. B. The Church claims infallibility concerning decrees of this kind. (a) As to disciplinary decrees in general our statement is certain from Pius VI in the Constitution Auctorem Fidei (1794 A.D.) by which he condemned the errors of the synod of Pistoia. Denzinger 1578. (b) Specifically, as to liturgical decrees, it is certain that the Church claims infallibility …”

  3. “Certainly the loving Mother is spotless in the Sacraments by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends.” (Mystici Corporis)

  1. Cf.

  1. Canon 1324.

  2. “In order completely to exclude any occasion of future error and so that all the sons of the Catholic Church may learn to listen to the Church herself not only by remaining silent (for even the wicked shall be silent in darkness – I Kings ii, 9) but also by that inward obedience which is the true obedience of the orthodox man, by this forever valid constitution we decree, declare, determine and ordain that the obedience due to the aforementioned apostolic constitutions is not satisfied by obsequious silence …” (Dz. 1350)

  3. Dz. 1684, 2007, 2113.

  1. Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, 8 December 1965.

  2. “Let this be the supreme law of our love: to love the Spouse of Christ as Christ willed her to be, and as He purchased her with His blood. Hence, not only should we cherish exceedingly the Sacraments with which holy Mother Church sustains our life, the solemn ceremonies which she celebrates for our solace and our joy, the sacred chant and the liturgical rites by which she lifts our minds up to heaven, but also the sacramentals and all those exercises of piety by which she consoles the hearts of the faithful and sweetly imbues them with the Spirit of Christ. As her children, it is our duty, not only to make a return to her for her maternal goodness to us, but also to respect the authority which she has received from Christ in virtue of which she brings into captivity our understanding unto the obedience of Christ.”(Mystici Corporis)

  3. “… nothing more glorious, nothing nobler, nothing surely more honourable can be imagined than to belong to the One, Holy Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.” Ibid.

  4. “As, in theological doctrine, the proper source, and to that extent the proper and main reason on account of which assent is given, is not its intrinsically perceived truth, but the authority proposing the truth, this sacred authority of universal doctrinal providence is, by virtue of its role, an abundantly sufficient motive on the basis of which the pious will can and must command the religious or theological consent of the intellect. (Cardinal Franzelin, De Divina Traditione et Scriptura, 2 edition, 1875, pp. 130-1)

  5. The Precious Blood.

  6. St Pius X, 18 November 1912, AAS 1912, p. 695.

  7. “… un problème grave se pose à la conscience et à la foi de tous les catholiques depuis le début du pontificat de Paul VI. Comment un pape vrai successeur de Pierre, assuré de l’assistance de l’Esprit saint, peut-il présider à la destruction de l’Église, la plus profonde et la plus étendue de son histoire en l’espace de si peu de temps, ce qu’aucun hérésiarque n’a jamais réussi à faire ?” (Le Figaro, 4 August 1976)

  8. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II, q. 1, a. 6 ad primum and q. 2, a. 7, respondeo.

  9. Ibid. q. 4, a. 5: “… since to believe is an act of the intellect assenting to the truth at the command of the will, two things are required that this act may be perfect: one of which is that the intellect should infallibly tend to its object, which is the true; while the other is that the will should be infallibly directed to the last end, on account of which it assents to the true: and both of these are to be found in the act of living faith. For it belongs to the very essence of faith that the intellect should ever tend to the true, since nothing false can be the object of faith, as proved above, while the effect of charity, which is the form of faith, is that the soul ever has its will directed to a good end.”

No doubt it is true that a specific error as to the object of faith is not necessarily incompatible with the virtue, but this can only be accidental and exceptional. No doubt too a Catholic confronted by a disconcerting doctrinal statement of the Holy See ought to be ready to distrust his own reason rather than the Church. But a Catholic who has habitually sacrificed his ability to distinguish a statement from its contradictory has not exercised a virtue superior to reason but a vice which sets him far below it.

  1. “Fourthly, I sincerely embrace the doctrine of faith transmitted to us by the Apostles through the orthodox Fathers always with the same meaning and interpretation; and I therefore utterly reject the heretical fiction of the development [or ‘evolution’] of dogmas from one meaning to another ....

“... I hold most firmly the Faith of the Fathers, and shall retain it until my last breath, concerning the certain gift of truth ... not so that what may seem better and more fitting according to the culture of each period may be held, but so that neither belief nor interpretation may ever be different from the absolute and immutable truth preached from the beginning by the Apostles.” (Dz. 2145, 2147)

  1. This attitude is exemplified by Bishop Richard Williamson and is stated with remarkable clarity in his Eleison Comments, N. 511 (29 April 2017) in which he appears to argue that the exemption from error of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church was a special privilege granted for approximately five hundred years following the Renaissance, which has now ended as “Church authority is damaged beyond human repair” so that God must use “some other means to wring out of our spiritually exhausted world yet another harvest of souls”. It is hardly necessary to observe that the Church’s teaching authority, with the infallibility of its magisterium whether exercised in an ordinary or an extraordinary manner, belongs to her intimate divine constitution. It may be usurped. It may fall silent. A large part of it may fall vacant for a substantial period. But it can never become obsolete as the ordinary means by which God communicates His divine truth to men.

  2. Article “Ultramontanism”, contributed by Mgr Umberto Benigni, a historian and close associate of Saint Pius X.

  3. Matthew xvi, 18-19.

  4. Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, II-II, q. 1, a. 3, “Whether anything false can fall under faith?”

  5. I distinguish non-sectarian sedevacantism from forms of sedevacantism which err from traditional doctrine by any or all of:

  1. requiring adherence to sedevacantism as a condition of belonging to the Church;

  2. refusing ecclesiastical communion to persons who fail to subscribe to some contingent conclusion concerning the crisis and which has not been expressly taught by the Church herself during the reign of a legitimate pope;

  3. declaring the extinction of the hierarchy of bishops enjoying, by juridically demonstrable means, the apostolic succession.

The rejection of such excesses does not imply that sedevacantism is what is commonly meant by an opinion – i.e. a proposition concerning which certainty remains unavailable even after the normal application of the human mind to the available data.

  1. Asked by journalist Megyn Kelly to name the last book he had read, Mr Trump is said to have replied: “I read passages, I read areas, chapters … I don’t have the time.” The realm of theology is one in which it is easy to spot which propagandists could not honestly boast of a better record.

© Copyright John S. Daly 2017