Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, published Sunday 22nd December, 2013, states SSPX is in Sacramental Schism, de facto:

With the failure of discussions, what is the position of the Lefebvrians?

“The canonical excommunication due to the illicit [episcopal] ordination was lifted from the bishops, but the sacramental one remains, de facto, for the schism; because they have removed themselves away from communion with the Church. That being said, we do not close the door, ever, and we invite them to reconcile. But they also must change their approach and accept the conditions of the Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiff as the ultimate criterion of belonging.”


I have already written previously that the SSPX is schismatic, if not completely in schism ,where the latter is legitimately debated.

But as Cardinal Muller states in his answer above, they are de facto in a sacramental schism because they have removed themselves  from full communion with the Church. In the previous post on this, no one can deny the truth that while the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Holy Eucharist (Mass)are valid but illicit due to the canonical suspension applied to the bishops and priests of the SSPX, these are nonetheless valid.

However, the Sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick (except in a life or death emergency) are invalid as are the attempted celebrations of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. A priest must have faculties from the LOCAL bishop in union with the Pope in order for penance and Holy Matrimony to be validly celebrated by any priest. These faculties could be removed from a priest, although the bishop could allow him to celebrate Mass and Baptism. A bishop may also remove the faculties of a priest to preach a homily, although he could celebrate Mass.

An SSPX parish, such as the one in Roswell, Georgia, cannot have a bishop other than the Archbishop of Atlanta. Only the Archbishop of Atlanta can give the priests of the SSPX parish faculties to preach, hear confessions and witness the marriages. No other bishop, especially the SSPX bishops, have the authority to give faculties to a priest or bishop, only the Archbishop of Atlanta can do that. For any priest or bishop, including the SSPX, to celebrate sacraments he does not have faculties could render them invalid but the act of celebrating them without faculties is a schismatic act although the priest may not be in complete schism with the Church, such as joining any branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church which is in schism de facto, but with valid sacraments.

The Eastern Orthodox de facto schism has led the Vatican to recognize, though, their sacraments of Penance and Holy Matrimony (for the first marriage only) as valid and licit. Interesting, no? Thus in this regard, the actual Eastern Orthodox Church is in more "Communion" with Rome, than the SSPX currently are. Interesting, no?

 Another interesting fact is that the marriages of Protestants (their first) are recognized because the Holy Roman Pontiff has stated that Protestants are not under Roman Catholic Canon Law with regards to who it is that witnesses their marriages, whether that be their own ordained minister, a justice of the peace or even common law. This does not apply to SSPX! Interesting, no?

For example, a visiting priest or even an outside bishop from another parish or diocese  who wants to celebrate a marriage in my parish has to have my delegation as pastor of my parish. If I do not give delegation to him, that marriage, if he celebrates it nonetheless in my parish, is invalid!This does not apply to the Greek Orthodox parish or any Protestant Churches in the boundaries of my parish. Their marriages (if the first for both) are completely valid and sacramental. But not for the SSPX! Interesting, no?

To be schismatic does not necessarily mean being in schism, but certainly heading in that direction. An individual in the Catholic Church could be schismatic for simply rejecting a goodly amount of the dogmas and morals in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but they are not de facto schismatic until some formal censure or excommunication is placed upon them.

For example, could we say that a Catholic who divorces their husband or wife (in a marriage presumed to be sacramental) and then remarries in an illicit and thus invalid marriage outside the Church is de facto schismatic in the technical definition of the term. A censure is automatically placed against them (not an excommunication though) that prevents them from licitly receiving Holy Communion or any other sacraments (except in a life or death situation).

Schism and heresy are not necessarily one in meaning. SSPX doesn't teach heresy except in promoting a Catholicism that doesn't have to obey the pope in certain disciplines.. But liberal or progressive Catholics have been teaching that a long time too. I know of no doctrines, except the obedience due to the Holy Roman Pontiff in faith, morals, canon law and the decrees of an Ecumenical Council legitimately approved by the Holy Roman Pontiff (even non-infallible decrees), that the SSPX reject. Their schismatic acts are based on ecclesiology and rejection of non-infallible statements of the Second Vatican Council regarding religious liberty and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. In these, one may legitimately have differing views when privately held. But when these private views go viral and communities form around the rejection of this teachings and it leads them to form schismatic groups opposing the Supreme Pontiff on these matters.

Secular definition of schism:


A separation or division into factions.

A formal breach of union within a Christian church.

The offense of attempting to produce such a breach.

Disunion; discord.


QUESTION: Greetings! I am writing in order to ask you about the SSPX’s canonical status. I’ve heard that they certainly are in schism, as Bishop ___ (my bishop) said, yet I’ve also heard from you that the Prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has said that they’re not. My question is as follows: would there need to be any talks going on between them and Rome if they are not in schism? Isn’t the point, as Pope Benedict XVI said, something about…”as they discover the path to full communion“? First, that seems to imply that they are not in full communion with the Church. And, as noted earlier, it seems like the whole purpose of the Vatican-SSPX discussions is to bring them into communion. Do you see the seeming conflicts? Nevertheless, I’d refuse to associate or attend their Masses until they learn to trust the Magisterium and learn the humility to keep their minds and hearts publicly and officially in syncronization which that of the One Church.

FATHER Z'S ANSWER: Since the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” has competence in this area, I will opt for the position of the PCED rather than the opinion Bishop of X diocese.

The situation is confusing. In the 1988 Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta Pope John Paul used the word “schism“. It looks like a schism, to be sure. But officials of the PCED have affirmed over the last few years that while Archbishop Lefebvre’s actions in 1988 were schismatic acts, the SSPX did not in fact go into schism. I don’t really understand that, but I will take the PCED’s word on this.

What we need to do is pray pray pray that the SSPX will accept the CDF’s “Doctrinal Preamble” and some eventual canonical structure which could be offered to them.


Rood Screen said...

Fr. McDonald,

When I joined the Catholic Church in the '80's, I was baffled by the desacralizing trends among the clergy, and the laity's ready support of those trends. I found Archbishop Lefebvre to be a voice of reason at the time.

Pope Paul VI said the hallmark of Vatican II was "dialogue", while Lefebvre said the hallmark was "confusion". While I'm certain Paul VI was right, and that dialogue, especially at the service of evangelization, should be more prominent, I fear that desacralization of the liturgy and catechesis has, in fact, brought widespread confusion among the faithful. The fact that no one even knows for sure whether or not the SSPX is in schism is perhaps the clearest evidence of this general confusion within the Church. We don't know who's a friend and who's an enemy.

Anonymous said...

So the SSPX who accept and believe everything the Church has ever taught are in schism? Yet the Church holds up priests and bishops and nuns and "Catholic" institutions as all in good standing like the following, all of whom who have either been disobedient or heretical or given grave public scandal such as: Richard McBrien, Michael Phlager, Roger Mahoney, Walter Kasper, Christopher Schonborn, Teresa Forcades, Megan Rice, Simone Campbell, Theodore McCarrick, Thomas Reese, the Jesuit Order, the Franciscan Order, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of Mercy, the LCWR, Notre Dame University, Georgetown University, and the list goes on and on and on. And the Church allows all of them to continue spreading error. I agree that the consecrations of the bishops without papal approval is objectively wrong.

But why is the tolerance and mercy that is always shown to priests and nuns who deny de fide beliefs not shown to traditionally minded priests and nuns? So the SSPX broke Canon Law, I thought we were not bound by small minded rules? Are we supposed to follow established norms and laws of the Church or are we not supposed to follow them? Is it just Traditional minded Catholics that have to obey and not the radical Catholics? That is a valid question Father.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You conveniently over look what schism is, bishops breaking Communion with the Supreme Pontiff AND ordaining new bishops in defiance of the Pope. There are some actual liberal schisms with some bishops but none on the scale of open defiance as the SSPX, and because the SSPX is not thoroughly heretical or heterodox as you imply, the Vatican and Pope Benedict have worked hard to reconcile them. This won't be the case with "Womenchurch" or other such silly schismatic/heretical liberal groups. The people on the left you have cited haven't ordained bishops in defiance of the pope!

Anonymous said...

"The people on the left you have cited haven't ordained bishops in defiance of the pope!"

I said the SSPX was wrong to consecrate bishops without approval from the pope.

Are not pro abortion nuns who spread this error, in defiance of the pope? Is not a validly ordained priest who openly promotes female ordination not in defiance of a pope who has stated "that door is closed"? Is not a "Catholic" university that promotes active homosexual lifestyles and abortion in defiance of the pope? Are yo trying to say that Pope Francis agrees with the position of a Catholic university that actively promotes as moral something the Church has taught is immoral? I don't think Pope Francis thinks this way.

As usual the questions posed are ignored. Again, do existing norms and rules apply to all Catholic clergy and religious? Is it only Traditional Catholics who must obey and not the liberal ones? Why are the Franciscans of the Immaculate being persecuted by nothing happens to orders like the Jesuits? Have you seen what Jesuit universities are promoting?

Rood Screen said...


"[W]hy is the tolerance and mercy...not shown to traditionally minded priests and nuns?" The creation of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, the establishment of the reconciling commission Ecclesia Dei, the issuance of "Summorum Pontificum", the lifting of the penalties against the four SSPX bishops, etc., were all acts of tolerance and mercy. Holy Mother Church has bent over backwards to welcome the SSPX back into the fold, but Satanic pride has prevented the group from accepting the invitation.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The other thing so conveniently forgotten or perhaps a product of fierce individualism and coloring book Catholicism is that an actual schism depends on bishops alone and then the clergy they bring into schism or ordain and them the laity the absorb. As far as I know, no censure has been placed against SSPX laity. However to join oneself to schismatic clergy and receive their sacraments as the ordinary means of their sacramental life , even invalid ones, is a mortal sin. Their marriages by a SSPX priest renders these invalid and thus they would have a censure against them and not free to licit lay receive Holy Communion as any other Catholic in a marriage not recognized by the Chirch!

Anonymous said...

If the SSPX is indeed motivated by love for Truth, it'll be interesting to learn what Jesus has to say to those against it.
My understanding is the SSPX put on the brakes when it came to following heresy. I'm very curious to learn Jesus' answer on all this.

John Nolan said...

If you go over to Rorate Caeli you will see two photographs taken last week (Holy Thursday in fact) showing a help-yourself buffet-style Eucharist. The first one is in a cathedral, no less, (Tournai in Belgium). They are not, of course in 'sacramental schism' (whatever that may mean) and of course what they are doing is quite licit. If you wonder why the SSPX exists, then look no further.

Cardinal Kasper and the majority of the German bishops are clearly at cross-purposes with Cardinal Mueller over giving Communion to the divorced and remarried - is this a case of 'sacramental schism'?

Consecrating bishops without papal mandate is a serious matter, but is not in itself evidence of schism. In the 1917 Code of Canon Law it did not even incur a latae sententiae excommunication.

Let's see what St Thomas Aquinas has to say (Summa Theologica):
'Schismatics properly so-called are those who wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church ... Contempt of a precept or law of the Pope, no matter how grave or obstinate, is mere disobedience of a precept and therefore not schismatic in its essence, and hence does not separate one from the Church.'

Anonymous said...

On a lighter note, the beloved and brilliant governor of GA will sign into law today a bill that will likely turn the state back to the good old days when men were men and arguments were settled with a six-shooter. I imagine that, being traditionalists, many here are totally for this.

Churchgoers can only be packing if the pastor says it's OK. What say you, Fr. McD? Is St Joseph's a second amendment parish or a modernist, sissy gun free zone?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Can I prevent a law enforcement person from bringing his gun exposed on the waist or prevent someone with a permit from bringing a concealed weapon to church? I would not make this an issue nor encourage it, but would be most grateful for an intervention when a gunman began to open fire in the congregation which happens here and in the middle east and Africa. Say you about possible terrotistic events in Churches here and certainly common abroad where Christian minorities are being slaughtered.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that no one here has any actual interest in the SSPX. That no one here lives within attending distance of an SSPX chapel. That no one here has ever attended an SSPX chapel. That no one here knows anyone who does. That the SSPX affects no one here in any way whatsoever.

And hence that the intricacies of the SSPX's canonical situation make no more difference to anyone here than the precise number of angels on the head of the proverbial pin. So why all the intense discussion of something no one cares a hoot about?

I conclude that the SSPX is just a proxy or stalking horse for some other underlying issue. Can anyone say what it is? What are the axes really being ground about?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Henry it is the contempt and public disrespect for the person of the pope that some commenters show on my blog, most of them I do not post and these comments scandalize me by the mean spiritedness of them, their anti-Christian ethos and post Catholic, coloring book drivel. These comments don't constitute actual schism but are indeed schismatic when directed to the Holy Father. Martin Luther, John Calvin, a host of other Protestant reformers would be proud as would the Patriarch of Constantinople at the time of the Great Schism in 1040. They too held forth preserving truth in the face of popes, good or scandalous, they opposed.

Anonymous said...

As I read it, the law says that unless you say no guns, anybody can bring one. Also, it is not permitted for you or for a law enforcement officer to ask someone who has a gun whether they have a permit.

Good luck to you and your flock and all of the citizens of Georgia.

You could post the law here. It's not that long.

John said...

Not being a theologian, I ask: Is there such a condition as licit but not valid? As in Novus Ordo liturgies performed in an abusive manner. If the answer is in the affirmative, which Mass should we attend?

Anonymous said...

It is quite remarkable that a man such as Cardinal Gerhard Müller, with his own laundry list of heretical doings, would dare to pass judgement upon the SSPX as he has. In the glory days of the Church, a man such as this would have been excommunicated until he repented, not given the authority to confuse the people with his judgements and rants, and confuse the people more with his views on Transubstantiation, the Virgin Birth (defined as dogma), Protestant sects and Liberation Theology.
We must consider the Modernist source when he speaks against the Society.
"So we are excommunicated by modernists, by people who would have been excommunicated by the preceding popes. What is this? We are condemned by people who have been condemned..." ~Archbishop Lefebvre, 1988

Anonymous said...

Father, I feel the same way about mean-spirited comments. But I wonder whether you have reason to believe that SSPX adherents are frequenting this blog. Discontent with our present Holy Father's (real or perceived) liberal leanings probably goes across the board, from faithful OF-only Catholics--whose concerns may indeed be rooted in their loyalty and respect for the papacy--to SSPX and separatist types.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John it is not possible to be licit but not valid. However something could be valid but illicit, such as the SSPX celebrating Mass or a liberal priest manipulating the Ordinary form of the Mass. I could celebrate Mass without vestments in either form. The Mass would be illicit but valid.

Catholic said...

I attend SSPX Masses from time to time, but not as often as I'd like because I have to travel about 2.5 hours each way to attend. I hope to move closer to a chapel soon. I agree with the SSPX doctrinal positions and I support their stand against modern errors inside and outside the Church.

But, I also attend other Masses with the FSSP or Diocesan priests. I will go to a Novus Ordo to meet my obligation, but I simply close my eyes and pray the Rosary. I try to avoid the Novus Ordo for several reasons both personal and doctrinal.

I am not raving against the Pope. He's the Pope, and I'm not. I just don't happen to pay much or any attention to him because I'm rather busy with fulfilling the obligations of my state in life. I do agree with all the things the SSPX bishops have written about him and his sayings and writings.

There is a false correlation here, apparently, that the vitriol against the pope is from SSPX adherents.

I feel an obligation to point out the errors written here as to the status and nature of the SSPX.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Catholic if there is an FSSP parish near by why in the world would you go to a parish where the priests are suspended and have no faculties to hear confessions and preside at weddings both of which if the simulate are invalid and thus their attempt to simulate these are a sacrilege? I don't know if you are married or not, but would you have your wedding at a SSPX parish where you would cooperate in an invalid ceremony and marriage and thus living in a state of mortal sin?

Catholic said...

The FSSP is just as far away as the SSPX for me. I support both with attendance and money. I especially support the mission of the SSPX, which is why I attend there. They are uniquely able to point out the current errors inside and outside the Church and so need our support. For many reasons, the FSSP is less able to do that. But again, I support their fight as well and think both are necessary.

I do not agree with your evaluation of the SSPX sacraments because I have read the theologians and experts on these things. So, I would have no problem with going to Confession with the SSPX priests. Given my location, the situation doesn't arise for me often.

I am married, but I wasn't married in an SSPX chapel. I would attend such a marriage, though.

While I respect your questions, you are incorrect about your understanding of the SSPX sacraments. I am posting, in charity, to provide correct information for your benefit and that of your readers.

Gene said...

Seriously, Muller…give me a break. The Vatican's hypocrisy on these issues is astounding.

Rood Screen said...

Henry's question is a good one. Before the issuance of Eccesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum, the plight of the SSPX was of great importance to those Catholics attached to the older Roman liturgical rites and older methods of cathechesis. The plight of the SSPX should now be only a marginal curiosity to us, our legitimate requests being met by Rome.

Rood Screen said...


"They are uniquely able to point out the current errors inside and outside the Church..." Indeed, they are, precisely because they've separated themselves from the legitimate authority of Rome. They answer to no one. But remember, today's Puritan is tomorrow's Unitarian.

James said...

I think the world of Pope Francis, but I still think it's strange that he is willing to bend over backwards for the likes of 'Bishop' Tony Palmer, yet not build bridges with dissident Catholics. Like charity, ecumenicism should start at home.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course, we don't know what is going on behind closed doors and certainly Cardinal Muller is open to the reconciliation but on the terms of Pope Benedict. The only ones to blame here are the SSPX. They had their chance and they still do.

Desirée said...

My MIL is a true Baptist. I'm trying to convert her. Pope Francis is one reason she doesn't want to be Catholic.
Your comment wasn't very fair or true about making protestants happy.

Catholic said...

JBS, you are correct. They explicitly state that they are unwilling to compromise with heresy. I am also unwilling to compromise with heresy. I am certain that you are also unwilling to compromise with heresy.

I disagree with your assertion the "they answer to no one." They are, as are we all, bound by the Church. But none of us are bound by heresy and error. Error has no rights. Even legitimate authorities cannot bind us to accept heresy or error.

And so, since they perceive that this is exactly what the legitimate authority is attempting to do, they resist that authority on those things that cannot be compelled.

They cannot sign a doctrinal agreement if they perceive that that agreement is erroneous in some ways. And the legitimate authority cannot legitimately compel them to do so.

So, the idea that the blame is all on them for not signing onto whatever document the folks in Rome cooked up is a drastic oversimplification, which further illustrates my main point, with which many seem to agree--this blog is not equipped to discuss this topic.

Look, this is a complicated situation. I think there should be unity amongst people of good will and in the so-called Traditionalist camps, whether they be Diocesan, FSSP, SSPX, or whatever. We all agree on the goal (ultimately the salvation of souls and the liberty and exaltation of Holy Mother Church), even if we sometimes disagree on the means to achieve it.

As an aside, I don't know why you put my handle in quotation marks. Can we please discuss the topics at hand without making accusations against each other? "Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord."

Victor said...

"The only ones to blame here are the SSPX."
It seems to me, if I recall correctly, the rules of the game changed during the talks, where all of a sudden the SSPX had to sign some document in which they recognised all the doctrines of Vatican II as interpreted by some officials. Now, everyone knew that they would never do that, in other words, judging also by the malice that continues to be given them in comparison to other "schismatics", the Vatican does not want them as part of the flock. The Vatican would rather have heretics who put on clown Masses as long as they are "pastoral" in the post Vatican II sense.

John said...

Thank you Fr Allen for your answer to my question. So, I see that, regularly attending illicit NO Masses at a local parish or a TLM said by SSPX are equally problematic.

I do not mind not going to SSPX liturgies but I am troubled with NO Masses where the way we pray Mass teaches false theology of the Eucharist or are treated to homilies that fail to teach the fullness of the faith.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD, you have neither the knowledge nor the ability nor the authority to say that somebody is "living in a state of mortal sin".

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If there is serious matter, the Catholic knows this from the objective teaching of the church and with full consent of the will commits the sin, you are a mortal sinner. Please justify objectively the contrary!

Anonymous said...

Catholic - You say you want to proceed without people making accusations. I agree.

However, you accuse "Rome" of "cooking up" some document that would compel the SSPX the accept heresy. And you offer no evidence to support your accusation that what Rome proposed was heretical.

I agree that accusations don't help the conversation, but you have to abide by your own rules if that is going to be achieved.

Catholic said...

Anonymous, please read my post carefully. You'll notice important usages of the word "perceived" or derivations thereof. Those words were chosen deliberately in my phrasing.

I made no accusation that the document prepared by the Vatican was heretical. I did say, though, that the SSPX perceived it contained errors (I don't know that they claimed it was heretical, so neither did I says they did) with which they believed bound in conscience not to agree.

I'm sorry if my use of the colloquialisms "folks in Rome" and "cooked up" gave a meaning that was not intended. In this usage, I was hoping to illustrate my point by recourse to oversimplified language to match the oversimplified statement to which I was replying.

Fr. McDonald, one cannot know whether any other person ever meets the conditions for mortal sin except the first condition--whether it is grave matter. The others are knowable only in the subjective sense. This is why our Lord tells us we cannot and should not judge the state of the soul of anyone but ourselves and why the Church tells us we can judge actions (that is, to determine whether they constitute grave matter).

rcg said...

This is a bit of conjecture, but would the SSPX be in the state it is in today had the Summorum Pontificum been written in 1970? I think they would not. They would be in heated disagreement with various bishops and other parishes, but I bet they would simply be the right tail of the Catholic modal while various clown Mass parishes would be the left tail. What I think would not be as contentious would be the modals in the middle because there could be large parishes with TLM services as wells folk Masses (wretch).

Gene said...

I have read a great deal about the SSPX and all the hoopla. I believe the SSPX is an embarrassment to the Vatican because they are so scrupulously orthodox and doctrinally sound (yes, the ordination of Bishops was a mistake of judgement). I mean, we can't have a group with doctrinal and liturgical integrity running around while Bishops are making heretical and ambiguous statements publicly, smiling and looking the other way when Priests do the same, and condoning public figures who receive while openly supporting abortion and homosexuality. Nor can we have them saying a proper Mass while Rome condones every liturgical abomination that anyone can come up with…the only limit is the imagination of the Priest. I would attend ten-thousand SSPX Masses before I would return to some of the abominations I have attended. And, SSPX is schismatic…give me a break.
Hopefully, the SSPX will become the rock upon which the hypocrisy and liturgical abuses condoned by Rome will break. Pray for them. Christ have mercy!

John Nolan said...

Henry's earlier comment is apposite. Before either condoning or condemning the SSPX it is necessary firstly to understand the context in which the Society was set up and maintained. Michael Davies's three-volume 'Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre' is a good starting point. A fourth volume was in preparation but was not published at the author's untimely death ten years ago, and the manuscript has been lost. Secondly, it helps to have been an adult and informed Catholic at the time these events were played out. Thirdly, it is useful to have some first-hand experience of post-Conciliar Catholicism in continental Europe. Mass attendance in Flanders, for instance, was nearly 100% before V2 - it is now 5%. In some parishes in Holland what passes for Holy Mass makes the Los Angeles REC neo-pagan shenanigans look like High Mass at Brompton Oratory.

If you still wish to accuse the Society of 'Satanic pride' or castigate the faithful who avail themselves of the Sacraments they provide as being in a state of mortal sin, then go ahead. When I see an SSPX priest, standing at the altar for a nuptial Mass and crooning sentimental pop ditties into a hand mike, I might be prepared to concede the point. Until then, I simply don't believe you.

Anonymous said...

See my comment on Fr. McDonald's post "A Clarification, sort of." We MUST treat SSPX legalistically according to the canons and doctrines of the Church. But pastoral considerations can override any legalism necessary in order for the modernists to have their way.

This blatant double standard is a sign of heresy _within_ the hierarchy of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Catholic - Inasmuch as you support the SSPX and participate in their activities, your disclaimer regarding the reasons the SSPX will not accept Rome's doctrinal document don't hold much water.

You support the SSPX in their "perception" that the doctrinal statement they must sign to be reconciled to the Church contains errors.

So, what are those errors? Making accusations without substantiating them is not helpful to understanding.

Catholic said...

Anonymous at 10:18 a.m., it is difficult to respond to your query because I cannot define "doesn't hold much water." That is your judgment about what I've said.

In truth, I have not made a judgment about the Doctrinal Preamble because I have not read it. I do, though, trust that the SSPX theologians and bishops, who are much more qualified than I am, have perceived some error in the document. I am basing that determination on the fact that they did not sign it and subsequent statements made by Bishop Fellay.

As for my personal thoughts on the matter, I support their decision for many reasons. Among others, I agree with them that there is a crisis in the Church, that the documents of Vatican II contain errors, that the Novus Ordo is dangerous to the Faith, that they have supplied jurisdiction, and that Abp. Lefebvre was justified in consecrating bishops to preserve the priesthood.

My thoughts are heavily influenced by my own study of these things, as well as personal experiences. Because of that, I don't think that my judgment of these things is very relevant, and I am not proselytizing for the SSPX position in my comments. I am simply saying that much of the information being presented here by this blog's author and some commenters is objectively not true. Therefore, I feel a duty to correct it.

Based on your comment, I assume you also feel a duty to correct me for what you perceive as my error. That's fine, and it's the basis for an interesting discussion, I think.

Rood Screen said...


Why defend the SSPX, instead of the Fraternity of Saint Peter and similar groups, or the many diocesan priests struggling to teach the truth fully and celebrate the sacraments reverently? It is precisely because the SSPX stands outside the Church that its members can have no effect upon the Church. It is those within the fold that will lead the way.

Catholic said...

Looks like I was censored for some reason. I didn't write anything rude.

Anyway, JBS, I think we should defend all those priests in the various groups you mention.

I think history, even recent events, prove you are wrong that the SSPX cannot create change in the Church from their "outside" position.

Catholic said...

(I wasn't censored! I just wasn't patient enough!)

Gene said...

JBS, I do support FSSP and I attend their Masses when I can. I also support SSPX and my diocese. So, there.

Anonymous said...

Catholic, I sympathize in a number of ways with your position on the SSPX, even though I don't agree with it in every way. Indeed, having thought 30 years ago that Ab. Lefebvre was the slender thread by which God in his inscrutable ways had chosen to hang the preservation of the traditional Roman rite, and still grateful that his "intransigence" lead eventually (in my view) to Summorum Pontificum and the restoration of the EF as (at least) a model for re-sacralization of the OF in practice . . . My fear now is that--by Ab. Lefebvre's withdrawal from his initial acceptance of the 1988 agreement, and essentially a repetition of this action by Bp. Fellay last year--the SSPX has relegated itself to the dustbin of Church history--as forgotten and irrelevant as, say, the Old Catholics, forever shut off from any possibility of helping the Church to right its course in the way Ab. Lefebvre hoped.

At any rate, I would be interested in hearing from a moderate and reasonable SSPX adherent what you mean by the assertion that "the Novus Ordo is dangerous to the Faith".

As context . . . Of course, in the past I have frequently seen celebrations of the OF Mass that likely were, indeed, dangerous to the faith of some unwary Catholics who were present. But over the years, I have not seen abuses of the OF Mass qualitatively worse or more dangerous to the Faith than the abuses of the EF Mass by equally pernicious priests that were common during the 1960s, years before to the introduction of the Novus Ordo. The problem was not then--and is not now (I think)--the danger inherent in the liturgy itself, but that in the collapse of moral and liturgical discipline among priests celebrating it.

And, being of a very traditional bent myself, I feel confident that the careful and reverent daily Novus Ordo Masses I frequent now (even though I attend only the TLM for my Sunday Mass of obligation) are not dangerous to anyone's faith. Having studied and compared almost every sentence of the EF and OF Roman missals, I am convinced that the real problem in typical Catholic parish liturgy lies not in the Missal itself, but in a misshapen generate of priests malformed by the attitudes that infected the Church and seminaries en masse (so to speak) during the 60s and 70s. But I myself have not seen this problem among orthodox young priests ordained in the last 15 years or so. And these are the priests who represent the future of the Church, and of the normative Roman rite.

Anonymous said...

Catholic - Your error is that of the SSPX - claiming the right to determine what is or is not error while being out of communion with the See of Peter.

You and the SSPX appropriate to yourselves an authority not given by Scripture or Tradition. When you separate yourselves from Peter or his successors, you have separated yourself from the legitimate magisterial authority given to the Church by the Lord Himself.

"Ubi Petrus Ibi Ecclesia" - Ambrose of Milan

"Doesn't hold much water" is a colloquialism - I thought you'd be familiar - meaning "is not worthy of belief."

Anonymous said...

Catholic, I should clarify my 2:15 pm query about the adequacy of the Novus Ordo missal. I am speaking of the official Latin editions of the OF and EF missal.

The 2011 English translation is faithful to the Latin original, and therefore (in my judgement) is no danger to the Faith. The original 1970 English translation was unfaithful and (in my judgement) was indeed a danger to the faith of many who were subjected to it during the past 40 years. I attribute to this unfaithful translation some (though by no means all) of the loss of faith among both lay and priests in recent generations.

Catholic said...

Henry, when I say that the Novus Ordo is dangerous to the Faith, I mean two things, mainly. First, anecdotally, it has proven dangerous to my Faith personally. This is what I meant when I said that my personal experience has colored my perception on these things. Second, the Novus Ordo is celebrated in an irreverent, or at the very least banal, way at every parish in my deanery. In this way, it has destabilized the Faith, by which I mean Catholic identity.

I agree with you that, if there were reverent, properly offered, Novus Ordo Masses readily available to the faithful everywhere, things might be different. It would certainly affect my personal thinking, which is all I'm trying to convey.

Anonymous, I'm not out of communion with the See of Peter. I claim no authority for myself at all. I believe everything the Church teaches and submit to her authority.

The SSPX theologians have the ability to analyze documents to determine if they're erroneous. I also have the ability to do so, with a lot of study and assistance, especially from the Holy Tradition of the Church.

It's really not that hard, actually, because I have books called The Holy Bible, The Roman Catechism, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and The Sources of Catholic Dogma. And that's how I know what to believe. And I believe all of that because the Church teaches it.

Is there something else I should believe that I'm missing here that you can justify your contention that I'm somehow "out of communion," which is a rather serious charges...?

Catholic said...

Henry, I respect your opinion very much. In fact, I'm considering trying your advice from the Missal thread and attend the daily Mass at the best-of-the-worst parish downtown whilst reading along in the Missal. I would like to receive Communion more often... It bothers me that the calendars are off, though. How do you deal with that? Don't you feel schizophrenic going from NO to TLM?

Catholic said...

Anonymous and any one else who wants to join in, I propose a thought experiment:

What if after the synod in October, the Pope determined that Holy Communion could be given to the validly married, divorced, and then civilly remarried, as some suggest?

Do you have the right to determine that is erroneous? Do you have the ability to do so? If so, why and how? If not, why not? And does anyone have the right or ability? Why or why not?

If you determined that it was erroneous, what would you do? Would you still be "in communion" with the See of Peter?

Anonymous said...

Catholic, I cannot disagree with your "two things". My own view is shaped by two things:

-- The daily OF Masses I attend regularly are celebrated in just a reverent and absolutely proper a manner as the TLM I attend on Sundays. And the people also are just as reverent and proper. (Silence before, during, and after Mass--apart from the Mass itself-- never ever a single extemporaneous word from the priest, no songs, brief utterly orthodox sermons, no hand-holding, back-slapping, etc.)

-- I am very much a "man of the book", so even if I occasion to attend an inadequately celebrated OF Mass, I see it as it is in reality--as a participation in the heavenly liturgy--and not as it is abused. (Admittedly, I have been able to do this only since becoming a "liturgy wonk" immersed in the missal itself, rather than in externals around me.) It may help that I generally follow a vernacular Mass in Latin, while I generally follow a Latin Mass in English (aside from vocal participation, responses, etc.)

George said...

I haven't delved much into the SSPX controversy. I've picked up that the schismatic status is "de facto" (If it was actual the Vatican would no longer be involved). While the Vatican response might seem to some as heavy-handed, wrong-headed, and hypocritical, I would not characterize it as merely pro forma either. The FSSP was the route to go. This all will wotk itself out eventually, just like Vatican II and it's implemention.
The rows that will move the Barque of Peter will be the greater number of vocations coming from the most faithful Catholic families and parishes

Gene said...

But, isn't the FSSP under the control of the Bishop? As I understand it, and correct me please, if the Bishop says to the FSSP Church, "Hey, you have to conduct NO Masses with altar girls," then they must do so.

Anonymous said...

Catholic - When you say that the OF has proven dangerous to your faith, personally, why do you assume that it is the mass and not you who is the source of the danger?

And you have asserted that you believe that there are errors in the Doctrinal Preamble and in the documents of Vatican Two. You say, "I agree with the SSPX doctrinal positions and I support their stand against modern errors inside and outside the Church." And you say, "... I agree with them that there is a crisis in the Church, that the documents of Vatican II contain errors,..."

Yes, you do state that you have the authority to declare what is erroneous. You do so based on your agreement with SSPX theologians and bishops.

That puts you out of communion with the See of Rome because the See of Rome does not accept, in fact, rejects, your assertions regarding error.

Thought experiments, without clearly delineated parameters, are nothing but idle speculations. We could, with equal importance, say "What if, after the synod, the declares that all SSPXers are, because they are schismatics, going to hell unless they repent."

The experiment, too, doesn't accomplish much...

Catholic said...

Anonymous, I readily concede, as I have multiple times above, that the Novus Ordo is dangerous to the Faith based on my personal experience. So, yes, I think there is something about "me" that is the source of that danger. That something, though, is the fact that I have reason, coupled with a desire and need to be Catholic and not Protestant. I suggest we not get sife-tracked by the problems with the Novus Ordo, which have been expounded upon by even the highest level theologians and hierarchs of the last 50 years.

I say forthrightly that there are errors in the documents of Vatican II. This doesn't put me out of communion because there is nothing doctrinal in Vatican II that I am bound to believe. For, to be out of communion over doctrine, I would have to be a heretic. Since I believe all the dogmas and doctrines of the Church, I am not a heretic. Therefore, I am not out of communion.

As for how I've reached the conclusion that the documents contain errors, again, I point to reason. If the teaching is defined as "A" and a subsequent teaching says the teaching is "not A" where the previous teaching was binding, then the subsequent teaching is erroneous.

Since I have the ability to read (and an educational background that proves beneficial for this sort of analysis), determining the teachings is a rather easy task. And that task is made even easier by virtue of Vatican II's explicitly pastoral character.

So, you see, despite your insistence, this is not a question of authority, as my thought experiment would have shown if you'd given it some thought (ha). It's very simple, as I said before. I simply believe what the Church teaches, all the dogmas and doctrines proposed for our belief.

I am curious, though, you seem rather invested in arguing that I, personally, am out of communion. Do you have some reason for attempting to make this argument so forcefully in the midst of an otherwise rather impersonal discussion?

Anyway, if you wish, feel free to add clearly delineated parameters to my thought experiment. I thought it was already rather specific, but I'm keen to hear what parameters you feel are missing to make it a worthwhile hypothetical for discussion.

And by the way, the Church does teach that schismatics, properly speaking, are going to hell unless they repent. The idea that they are not is a good example of an error introduced through the Vatican II documents.

Anonymous 2014 said...

Regarding Catholic's thought experiment, I propose an even easier thought experiment. At least it should be easier.

Suppose a pope (any pope: not picking on Francis) solemnly declares, ex cathedra, following all appropriate formalities, that Christ isn't divine. Do the Faithful have the right to determine whether or not that is erroneous?

And please, everybody, no cop-outs such as "that cannot happen" or "if a pope did that, we would know that he wasn't in his right mind so we wouldn't be bound by it." Such a cop-out dodges the whole point of this thought experiment. If a sane pope in his right mind hypothetically did that, could we or could we not legitimately conclude that the pope had formally and authoritatively taught something contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic faith?

If the answer is "no, we could not legitimately conclude that," then there's nothing left here for us to discuss. If we have to accept that "teaching" from the pope, then a fortiorari we have to accept any and all putatively authoritative papal "teachings" that negate prior doctrine. There is no room whatsoever for any private judgment or exercise of reason among the individual Catholic.

If, on the other hand, the answer is "yes, we _could_ legitimately conclude in that case that the pope has taught error," then that position at least theoretically subjects other hierarchical decisions that are more squishy than an ex cathedra pronouncement to private judgment, including the four statements in VII documents that have been--questioned by the SSPX. It also theoretically legitimizes debate as to whether those VII statements were merely pastoral as opposed to doctrinal. The questions then become who can raise such issues and under what circumstances, along with many other complicated questions (including "how far down this road can we go without becoming Luther?"). But if we're going to drink the koolaid of professing that a pope can without challenge officially say that Christ isn't God, then there's no point in getting into such thickets.

I have long maintained that the easiest "out" is for the Church to clarify that the four controversial VII statements are in fact pastoral ones. Then it doesn't matter if they contradict prior magisterial teachings because they can simply be ignored if necessary. But instead of doing that, and instead of formally showing/telling us how the statements can be reconciled with prior magisterial teaching, the Church simply says to SSPX "shut up and accept them," which comes across as unreasonable and authoritarian (and in light of the high degree of tolerance for heterodoxy within the full communion of the Church, blatantly hypocritical).

Gene said...

I do not believe the issue can be stated any more clearly than Anonymous 2014 has stated it. Catholic and 2014 have been pretty straightforward and people are trying to dodge the issues they raise.

Anonymous said...

Catholic - It is most certainly a question of authority.

And that question can be summed up thusly: Who has the authority to determine what is and what is not part of the Deposit of Faith? And: Who has the authority to interpret authentically that which is contained in the Deposit of Faith?

Does that authority rest with a person who uses the name "Catholic" on this blog?

No, it does not.

Does that "Catholic" who has "...books called The Holy Bible, The Roman Catechism, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and The Sources of Catholic Dogma" have the authority to determine what is contained in the Deposit of Faith or what is the proper interpretation of what is contained therein?

No, that person does not.

(The claim, "I have and educational background and the books and can read and reason" is the same claim made by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc., and all those who thought THEY had the authority to establish what is/is not in the Deposit of Faith and to interpret that Faith.)

No, "Catholic" does not have that authority. That authority rests, by Divine Origin, with Bishops.

By Divine law bishops have the right to teach Christian doctrine (Matthew 28:19; Council of Trent, Sess. XXIV, De ref., ch. iv; Encyclical of Leo XIII, "Sapientiae christianae", 10 January, 1890; "Acta Sanctae Sedis": 1890, XXXII, 385)."

Further: CCC 891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."

Many non-bishops are smarter, more insightful, better at reading ancient languages than many bishops. But these benighted souls lack one essential element: The CHARISM, given by God, to teach the faith.

Yes, it is most certainly a question of authority. And you, "Catholic," don't have that authority.

Catholic said...

Thank you, Anonymous 2014, for participating in and simplifying my thought experiment. I agree with your analysis and conclusions. I only with Anonymous would have participated because it might have moved the conversation forward.

Anonymous, in an attempt to do just that, I ask you, What should I be believing from the Vatican II documents that I am not believing when I take the Faith from The Roman Catechism and exclude Vatican II documents? In other words, what is the authority proposing for my belief that I am rejecting?

And, please, again, in charity, I beg you not to make this conversation personal, falling into personal attacks and accusations, for in doing so it risks becoming an occasion of sin. I don't want to be the stumbling block over which you, my brother or sister, fall.

Templar said...

I am glad to see someone else pick up the banner of the SSPX n this Blog, I lon ago tired of the effort. The entire conversation is based on a straw man that the SSPX have no Faculties. It has been proven repeatedly, and restated here by at least me on several occasions, that Canon Lawyers have made the clear and compelling case in FAVOR of Supplied Jurisdiction for the SSPX, but those who blindly follow every error issued from Rome since 1970 without batting an eye, can't get their heads around the simple concept because it doesn't fit their narrative.

God Bless and Save the SSPX.

Anonymous said...

Catholic, as Cardinal Ratzinger is so frequently quoted, Vatican II was not a doctrinal council and therefore did not declare any new doctrine.

Hence, would it not follow that the Roman Canon contains all that is de fide and therefore obligatory of belief? And that the phrase "believe in Vatican II" is literally meaningless, in the sense of conveying no meaning whatsoever.

Catholic said...

Well, Henry, that's my point. There's a person here claiming that there is something about Vatican II that must be "accepted" in order to be in communion with the See of Peter.

Apparently, one must submit to something authorititative vis-à-vis Vatican II in order to be in communion, but we aren't getting a response as to what it is that is lacking in the Faith if one simply disregards Vatican II.

For my part, it makes sense to disregard Vatican II. As it was pastoral in nature, it follows necessarily that is was aimed at a specific point in time that is now past. And since it didn't propose any doctrine, it makes about as much sense to adhere to it as meaningful measure of "being in communion" as the councils of the past that disbanded the Knights Templar our otherwise addressed the issues specific to a given time.

George said...

When you are Catholic bishop, a priest, a leader or founder of a religious order, then you are under a leash so to speak and that leash leads to Rome.It is the Holy Father ultimately ( he can enlist the counsel of others) who will determine how much slack will be in that leash (if any). It is not given to a bishop or priest or leader of a religious order to decide what to obey or not to obey as far as Church teaching (infallibly proclaimed or not) and rubrics go, exclusive of Vatican approbation. That is one of the things that separate us from our Protestant brethren.

The saintly Padre Pio for a part of his life was banned by the Vatican from publicly saying Mass or hearing confession. He obeyed and accepted this without question.

Profession of Faith:

Anonymous 2 said...

Catholic and Anonymous 14,

I restrict myself to the issue of the alleged contradiction between some of the documents from Vatican II and certain earlier magisterial documents.

You both sound like fellow members of the legal profession, so you will readily understand my point here. There have been discussions like this on the Blog before. Indeed, I have a strong feeling of dejà-vu in this exchange, and I will repeat the position I advanced then. Gene may be correct that you have stated the issue clearly but that is, of course, not enough.

Not only do we (you and I) lack authority to interpret the relevant documents (a variation on “Who am I to judge?”), as Anonymous correctly points out, but there is also the question of reasoned argument. Claims that four of the positions in the documents of Vatican II contradict earlier binding magisterial documents, because they say “not A” and the latter say “A”, are not reasoned argument. They are assertions, or perhaps conclusions resulting from reasoned argument. And they are not strengthened by adding that they are shared by the SSPX. This is because the assertions or conclusions on the other side are shared by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. What is needed, then, are the reasons that lead to these respective conclusions, and in particular a weighing of the arguments on both sides -- on the one hand, that the four documents do indeed contradict earlier binding magisterial documents, and, on the other, that they do not.

We could, of course, try to identify and evaluate these arguments on this Blog. Alternatively, and preferably in my view, we could form a study group to inform ourselves about the nature of magisterial reasoning and then to examine the relevant texts in light of that understanding. Somewhat inexplicably to me, no-one seemed has seemed interested in actually pursuing this idea when I have suggested it. This is disappointing and leads me to wonder why not. After all, such examination would not necessarily mean challenging the decisions of the Magisterium . Even if we concluded that the relevant documents were indeed contradictory, we could also conclude that we might have overlooked something in our analysis. And, of course, if we concluded that the documents were not in fact contradictory but could arguably be reconciled through the use of the proper hermeneutical techniques in magisterial reasoning, then this would, one hopes, resolve the matter, at least for us.

To echo Gene’s comment, unless we are willing to do this, then we are indeed “dodging the issue.”

Anonymous said...

Catholic: Then my question would be . . . Since Vatican II taught nothing new doctrinally, merely subsuming the doctrinal declarations of the Council of Trent, and confine itself to pastoral recommendations for a time in history now a half-century past, why the reluctance to just "accept Vatican Vatican II" without reservation.

Accept the fact that, for better or for worse, this council did take place. Accept everything that it taught, since it only affirmed the previously held beliefs of the Faith (including the Roman Catechism). What's the big deal, either way? Why a stumbling block?

Catholic said...

Henry, I think the stumbling block in this instance might be what the word "accept" means? What do you envision it meaning (or entailing) in what you've written?

Anonymous 2, I both agree and disagree that the "a" and "not a" example, being an assertion, is somehow less valuable for purposes. For, the entire issue is the perception of the documents, which explains why you've mistaken the mention that the SSPX agrees for argument in support of the proposition.

Now, I'm not saying any of that to start a new argument with you or to advance the discussion here. I agree with you that having a reasoned discussion, based on research and careful thought, with people who have also engaged in that research and careful thought would be very helpful (and quite enjoyable). That's something best done not on an internet blog, we agree. And that, again, leads me to restate my entire point for posting all these things--to call out problematic assertions and provide what I believe to be a needed counterpoint.

Anonymous said...

Catholic: "Henry, I think the stumbling block in this instance might be what the word "accept" means? What do you envision it meaning (or entailing) in what you've written?"

Is not my previous statement self-explanatory on its face? Vatican II taught no new doctrines for anyone to believe, and made only pastoral recommendations for its very different time in history a half-century ago.

So what could I or you or anyone else possibly mean by to "accept" Vatican II, other than to accept it as it was and happened -- a solely pastoral council that affirmed all the previously accepted doctrine of the Faith, and taught no new doctrine.

Since Vatican II did no more, how could anyone decline to "accept" Vatican II. It did happen, for better or for worse. If any of its pastoral recommendations still make sense, fine. If not, fine. In any event, why not "accept" Vatican II as a historical fact, and move on?

What makes no sense (to me) is anyone making accepting or not accepting Vatican II as a part of the factual history of the Church a pretext for either doing or not doing anything whatsoever.

Catholic said...

Henry, I'm sorry if my question came off as being deliberately obtuse. I didn't intend it that way.

I think your clarifications make complete sense. In fact, you've much more clearly stated the point I was (inexpertly) trying to make.

Now that we've solved the Vatican II problem (ha), I asked a couple days ago in a different thread your thoughts on attending the Novus Ordo during the week and the TLM on Sundays. I'm curious how you deal with the different calendars. For some reason, the duality of that bothers me. Have you given this any thought?

Anonymous said...

Catholic, I missed your question about the Novus Ordo Mass on weekdays and the TLM on Sundays. I simply keep my eye on both calendars. And this sometimes offers the bonus of being able to celebrate a favorite feast twice in the same year, on two different calendar days. This no more confusing that the fact that on both calendars, multiple saints are observed on virtually day of the year. One picks and chooses, as on a ferial day a priest picks what Mass to celebrate.

In short, I regard the two forms of the Roman rite and their calendars as a situation of "mutual enrichment" (to coin a phrase).

George said...

You cannot make a legalistic analysis and comparison of one papal document or pronouncement to another . You just simply cannot.
This is a tendency I see with some of those of legal training and mindset. It is understandable.

Pope Leo XIII in Encyclical "Humanum Genus",condemned freemasonry,as did previous popes and popes since.

After the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1983,the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replied to an inquiry whether the Church's position regarding Masonic organizations has been altered, especially since no explicit mention is made of them in the New Code of Canon Law [1983], as there was in the Old Code [1917]. The Congregation stated that organizations were omitted in the New Code due to a different criterion adopted in drafting the code. They were included in broader categories. [See Canon 1374.] The Congregation did not, however, specify the categories it had in mind (it might have been thinking of such canons as Canon 1364), but it insisted that the Church is still opposed to Masonic associations, since their principles are irreconcilable with the Church's doctrine and that it would be seriously wrong to join them.
From the above one can conclude that there were some who thought that the Church's position had changed. It had not.

We must read Church documents through her magesterial teaching and interpretation, not our own
or the SSPX's.

Catholic said...

George, I think you have an interesting point about those with legal training. I am going to think about that and maybe write something about it after a little reflection. I hope Anonymous 2 might also chime in on that.

Anonymous 2 said...


I agree with you that it is not possible to “make a legalistic analysis of one papal document with another.” Those of us who are trained in the law, however, have been trained in legal reasoning or “how to think like a lawyer” as it is often termed. Therefore, as one of the professions formally trained in the interpretation of a particular kind of texts, namely legal texts, lawyers should be able to appreciate that before one can interpret any type of texts, in this case magisterial texts, one needs to be have an understanding of the particular type of reasoning involved, in this case magisterial reasoning, It is this appreciation to which I was appealing in my comment and in my suggestion for a group to study the nature of magisterial reasoning and then to apply the fruits of that study to the contested documents from Vatican II.

Moreover, even if we_were_to apply legal reasoning to magisterial texts, legal analysis itself involves so much more than just being able to identify an apparent logical contradiction between “A” and “not A” in the relevant texts. Thus, to interpret_legal_texts well requires the lawyer to draw upon a range of different kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Indeed, only when the lawyer does so, is the lawyer likely to know whether a logical contradiction really exists in the first place, let alone what to do about it if it does.

I hope this helps to clarify at least my own position on the matter of interpreting magisterial texts.

Catholic said...

I was very interested that George posted his thought about legal training when he did. After Anonymous 2's first comment mentioning that, I was recalling that in my time attending the Traditional Mass and being involved in "the movement," anecdotally, there is a disproportionately high number of attorneys in the movement. So, as I was thinking about possible reasons why that might be the case, George posted his comment!

I thought of a few reasons, but I will mention just two for now. First, with regard to doctrine, as Anonymous 2 points out, attorneys are trained to take large amounts of information, compare it to other information, and draw comparisons and contrasts between the two. Next, depending on the side being advocated, the attorney will argue the logical conclusions from that analysis as applied to the facts. So, when I make the "A" versus "not A" conclusion in the realm of, say, Vatican II versus prior Magisterial pronouncements, this is the culmination of an analysis wherein I have compared and contrasted the appropriate documents and reached a conclusion, which is then argued to support my position (which is, admittedly, a conservative one, in the strict sense of the word). Anonymous 2, on the other hand, might conduct the same analysis and synthesize the compared documents, reaching a different conclusion than the one I reached--namely, "A" and "not A" are not meaningful labels or some other conclusion.

For what it's worth, I do think that, as an attorney, I could just as easily argue the other side of the debate with as much fervor as I have argued my chosen position. I say that to note that I agree this is a far from settled debate. Of course, that is precisely the problem, in my opinion, with the documents as I believe the teaching should be clear such that everyone can know it and believe it.

(to be continued)

Catholic said...

(continued from above)

The second reason I think attorneys are drawn to the "traditional movement" has to do with the liturgy. For the most part, attorneys are trained to think logically (perhaps hyper-logically). Attorneys are also trained to have a deep respect and reverence for the "tradition" of the law, are hesitant to make hasty changes, and are (or should be) risk averse. Given these mental characteristics, it makes sense that lawyers would be attracted to the orderliness of the Traditional Mass, along with its time-tested historical basis, as well as its time-tested "saint-making" ability. Seeing that there was nothing overtly _wrong_ with the Traditional Mass, such a one would be necessarily hesitant to change it without first being very certain the change has an overwhelming upside.

Moreover, whereas some might have problems with following along in a Missal for a Mass in another language, I think this appeals to the legal-trained mind who is, generally, a textual sort and is used to dealing with complex concepts.

These are two points that sprang immediately to mind when contemplating the link between attorneys and the "traditional movement." I think there are also downsides to this, which George has illustrated quite well in his post. As he says, the sort of textual comparison which we are trained to do might not be an appropriate methodology in this instance. I'm sure there are other issues as well, but I've written enough for now.

Thank you all for the fascinating and civil discussion we've had on this thread. I hope you all have an excellent Low Sunday! Please pray for me at whatever Mass you happen to attend, and I will pray for you.

Anonymous 2 said...


Thank you for your very thoughtful response. I have enjoyed the discussion in this thread too.

Of course I agree that a legal training tends to cultivate a generally “conservative” disposition among lawyers, with an appreciation for tradition and a preference for incremental rather than radical change, for example.

That said, lawyers will be the first to recognize that the legal tradition must indeed change or evolve if it is to remain alive. Are religious traditions really too different, or indeed any different, in this respect? Sunni Islam is a salutary and cautionary example of what can happen when a religious tradition fails to evolve, with the “closing of the gate of ijtihad” several hundred years ago and the resulting crashing of gears or seismic grating of tectonic plates that is now occurring as that religious tradition is forced to face the challenges of modernity and reopen the gate. Catholicism was also forced to face the challenges of modernity. Indeed, isn’t this what Vatican II was really all about?

Perhaps Alasdair MacIntyre’s account of a “living tradition” in his book “After Virtue” (2d. ed., 1984, at pages 221-22) is helpful here:

“[A]ll reasoning takes place within the context of some traditional mode of thought, transcending through criticism and invention the limitations of what had hitherto been reasoned in that tradition; this is as true of modern physics as of medieval logic. Moreover when tradition is in good order it is always partially constituted by an argument about the goods the pursuit of which gives to that tradition its particular point and purpose.

So when an institution – a university, say, or a farm, or a hospital – is the bearer of a tradition of practice or practices, its common life will be partly, but in a centrally important way, constituted by a continuous argument as to what a university is and ought to be or what good farming is or what good medicine is. Traditions, when vital, embody continuities of conflict . . .

The individualism of modernity could of course find no use for the notion of tradition within its own conceptual scheme except as an adversary notion; . . . [M]odern conservatives are for the most part engaged in conserving only older rather than later versions of liberal individualism. Their own core doctrine is as liberal and as individualist as that of self-avowed liberals.

A living tradition then is an historically extended, socially embodied argument, and an argument precisely in part about the goods which constitute that tradition. Within a tradition the pursuit of goods extends through generations, sometimes through many generations.”

On this understanding of tradition, the essence of the challenge for a religious tradition, as it is for the legal tradition, is how to remain faithful to its perennial and unchanging values (including for Catholics deference to magisterial authority) amid the inevitable need for change regarding more incidental matters. It seems to me that this is a central theme that runs through most of matters discussed on this Blog.

I believe you and I could have some fascinating discussions about these matters if we met in person.

(By the way, MacIntyre’s point about modern conservatives is well illustrated by Georgia’s new gun law, also mentioned on this thread, which some have called the “Guns Everywhere Law” but which, being from Britain, I prefer to call “The Stark Raving Bonkers Law” =)).

Catholic said...

Anonymous 2, you and I, if we can agree on nothing else, can agree that the gun law is, shall I say, misguided. And I say that as a born and raised Southerner.

As for tradition, I think the concept in your quotation is interesting. I wonder if you could further describe what you mean by evolve in this connection. I would agree that tradition has to evolve, in some sense, for each generation or epoch. But that doesn't necessitate a break with the past. And getting beyond that point, it seems to me that, even if Vatican II was a legitimate example of positive evolution, it has run its course and no longer speaks to our times. This there is a new evolution needed.

I wonder, though, about certain aspects of your quoted segment as it seems to indicate an incorrect notion when applied to the Church. I think there is a legitimate ongoing discussion about "what is or should a university be." In fact, I think we'd have a good discussion about "what is or should legal education be." This notion, though, implies that we are the creators of the idea, which we are I'm these secular institutions, but not in the ecclesiastical realm.

The Church simply is the Church Christ founded. And all the doctrines are merely descriptions of an existing, non-evolving, objective reality. The subjective aspect is only with regard to how to convey that existing reality to man at any given point in time.

Do you agree with that assessment or see any flaws with that assertion?

I see that we are now on the second page of the blog, and I fear our discussion might end prematurely. Since I believe I know who you are and can easily get your email address, would you object to my emailing you privately to continue this discussion? Unfortunately, I don't love close enough to you to discuss this in person, which I agree would be enjoyable.

Anonymous 2 said...


“The Church simply is the Church Christ founded. And all the doctrines are merely descriptions of an existing, non-evolving, objective reality. The subjective aspect is only with regard to how to convey that existing reality to man at any given point in time.”

No, I don’t see any flaws in this assertion. I agree completely. And I agree that Catholicism, and indeed, following Vatican II, any religious tradition, or at least certainly any of the three great monotheistic traditions, is different in this regard from a secular institution (although I would not want to discount entirely the possibility of divine inspiration when we create in the “secular” realm – particularly as we are called prudently to live out our religious mission within secular institutions as part of stewardship of the gifts we have received).

I am not sure I can easily describe what I mean by “evolve.” I suspect that the meaning of “evolve” in the context of the Catholic Church is contested and, indeed, that this contested meaning is itself part of the “argument about the goods which constitute that tradition.” I suspect, too, that central to the argument is -- as I put it in my previous comment -- “how to remain faithful to [the tradition’s] perennial and unchanging values (including for Catholics deference to magisterial authority) amid the inevitable need for change regarding more incidental matters.” In turn, then, we argue about what those “perennial and unchanging values” are and what, by contrast, are “more incidental matters.” Personally, I would be inclined to put use of Latin and celibacy for priests in the latter category and the teaching on abortion in the former. But again, in this argument we defer to the authority of the magisterium within which the argument is mainly carried on.

I need to track down what MacIntyre himself might have said about these matters. As you may know, MacIntyre is now a Roman Catholic, and a philosopher who seeks to articulate good philosophical reasons for choosing Thomism over all rival philosophical and moral traditions in a postmodern, relativistic world. Here is a link on MacIntyre to whet your appetite further about him:

In sum, MacIntyre is a Thomist who seeks to show, by philosophical argument, that among rival philosophical and moral traditions, Thomism is the “best theory so far.”

I would indeed be delighted to continue this discussion by email. I will look forward to hearing from you.

Gene said...

I love the "Guns Everywhere Law" if for no other reason that it just drives libs bonkers. "An armed society is a polite society."

Anonymous 2 said...

So, you would bring dueling back too, Gene? How about the other aspects of Heinlein’s utopia/dystopia?

By the way, I would respectfully suggest that supporting the new gun law “for no other reason than that it drives libs bonkers” is not an adult reason.

And again, in case it is relevant, I am not a lib. My background and inclinations are those of pre-Thatcherite British conservatism (I know, you will never be able to get your head around the Obama vote, even though I voted for him because of this “conservatism” in preference to the “radicalism” of the alternative and as the lesser of two evils, which is what most elections come down to nowadays).

And as a pre-Thatcherite British conservative, I believe in law and order and not vigilantism. So, it seems, does the Georgia Association of the Chiefs of Police in their opposition to this new “wild west” gun law. I am with the Chiefs of Police. Are you not?