A “Traditional” Question?

A common question in this time of modern crisis, is how should a Catholic act toward the Papacy. The three “traditional” positions on the post Vatican II church and papacy; Indult (Motu Propio), Recognise and resist (SSPX, etc) and Sedevacantism, act differently toward the Papal Authority.

However how can you act toward a Pope who wants to give communion to Divorced and Remarried catholics or to accept Homosexuals in the great magisterium of the Church. A Pope who does not judge, proclaims “God does not exist” and is more concerned about the environment than about evangelisation.

If you are entirely confused about how you should act toward the Pope and the post vatican II church, then please read the excerpt from an article written by Rev. Father Anthony Cekada on this issue.


Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope (1995, 2006)

by Rev. Anthony Cekada


The very men who appear to possess authority in the Church teach errors and impose harmful laws. How reconcile this with infallibility?

IF YOU NOW assist regularly at the traditional Latin Mass, it is because you concluded at some point that the old Mass and doctrines were Catholic and good, while the new Mass and modern teachings, somehow, were not. But (like me) you probably had some initial worries: What if the traditional Mass I go to is not approved by the diocese? Am I defying the legitimate authority in the Church? Am I disobeying the pope? This is the “authority issue,” and it seems to present a real dilemma. The Church teaches that the pope is infallible in faith and morals.  Good Catholics, moreover, obey the laws of the pope and the hierarchy. Bad Catholics pick and choose what laws they want to obey. Yet at the same time, the very men who would appear to possess authority in the hierarchy command us to accept doctrines and a Mass which harm the faith or have other disastrous effects. What is a Catholic to do?

Why Reject the Changes?

In order to solve the dilemma, we should begin by considering what drove us out of our Vatican II parishes in the first place. In most cases, it was either contradiction of established Catholic teaching or irreverence in worship. In other words, we instantly recognized some element of the new religion to be either a doctrinal error or an evil. And we hardly thought that our objections concerned mere changes in minutiae. The new doctrines, rather, struck us as changes in substance — compromises, betrayals, or direct contradictions of immemorial Catholic teaching. Or we came to regard the new system of worship as evil — irreverent, a dishonor to the Blessed Sacrament, repugnant to Catholic doctrine, or utterly destructive to the faith of millions of souls. Weighty reasons like these — and not mere trifles — were what moved us to resist and reject the changes. Once we have arrived at this point and recognized (as we do and must) that some official pronouncement or law emanating from post-Vatican II hierarchy contains error or evil, we are, in fact, well on the way to resolving the seemingly thorny issue of authority. Let us examine why.

Some Errors and Evils

We begin by listing some of the errors and evils officially approved either by Vatican II or by Paul VI and his successors:

• Vatican II’s teaching (and that of the 1983 Code of Canon Law) that the true Church of Christ “subsists in” (n.b., rather than “is”) the Catholic Church. This implies that the true Church can also “subsist” in other religious bodies.

• Abolition in Vatican II and the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the traditional distinction between the primary (procreative) and secondary (unitive) ends of marriage, the placing of those ends on same level, and the reversal of their order. The change provides tacit support for contraception, since the prohibition against birth control was based on the teaching that procreation is marriage’s primary end.

• The systematic suppression, in the original Latin version of Paul VI’s new Missal, of the following concepts: hell, divine judgement, God’s wrath, punishment for sin, the wickedness of sin as the greatest evil, detachment from the world, purgatory, the souls of the departed, Christ’s kingship on earth, the Church Militant, the triumph of the Catholic Faith, the evils of heresy, schism and error, the conversion of non-Catholics, the merits of the saints and miracles. To purge these doctrines

from the liturgy is to signal that they are no longer true, or at least sufficiently important, to merit a mention in the Church’s official prayer.

• Paul VI’s official approval of communion in the hand. This practice was imposed by 16th-century Protestants in order to deny transubstantiation and the sacramental nature of the priesthood.

• The official doctrinal introduction to the New Order of Mass which taught that the Mass is an assembly-supper, concelebrated by the congregation and its president, during which Christ is present in the people, the Scripture readings, and in the bread and wine. This is a Protestant or modernist understanding of the Mass, and it provided the theoretical foundation upon which so many subsequent “abuses” would rest.

Benedict XVI’s Teachings

To the foregoing we could add many teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both falsely portrayed as doctrinal “conservatives.” Their pronouncements and writings reveal a pervasive theological problem that goes far beyond the issue of traditional Mass vs. New Mass. Benedict XVI, as Joseph Ratzinger, was a leading modernist theologian at Vatican II, and left a long paper trail of his errors. He was the chief architect of a new theology of the Church which posits a “People of God” and a “Church of Christ” not identical with the Roman Catholic Church — a Super-Church or a Frankenchurch created from “elements” of the true Church that are possessed either fully (by Catholics) or partially (by heretics and schismatics). The bond holding this ecumenical beast together is Ratzinger’s notion of the Church as “communion.” As a cardinal and John Paul II’s chief doctrinal advisor, he developed this idea in the 1992 CDF Letter on Communion, the 2000 Declaration Dominus Jesus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the 1997 Catechism. Here are some typical propositions from Ratzinger’s teaching:

• Schismatic bodies are “particular Churches” united to the Catholic Church by “close bonds.” (Communion 17).

• The universal church is the “body of [particular] churches.” (ibid. 8)

• Schismatic churches have a “wounded” existence. (ibid. 17)

• The “universal Church becomes present in them [the particular

churches] in all her essential elements.” (ibid. 17).

• The Church of Christ is “present and operative” in churches that reject the papacy. (Dominus Jesus 17)

• One becomes a member of the “People of God” by baptism. (Catechism 782)

• This whole People of God participates in the office of Christ. (ibid. 783)

• Christ’s Body, the Church, is “wounded.” (ibid. 817)

• Christ’s Spirit uses schismatic and heretical bodies as “means of salvation.” (ibid. 819)

• Each “particular Church” is “Catholic,” but some are “fully Catholic.” (ibid. 832, 834)

These teachings are contrary to an article of divine and Catholic faith: “I believe in one Church.” “One” in the Creed refers to that property of the Church by which she is “undivided in herself and separated from any other” in faith, discipline and worship. Ratzinger’s teachings are also contrary the teaching of the Church Fathers and the universal ordinary magisterium that heretics are “outside Catholic communion and alien to the Church.” (Pope Leo XIII)

Church Cannot Give Evil

Such lists could probably continue for pages. Our point is that each item can be categorized either as an error (a contradiction or change in substance of teachings of the pre-Vatican II magisterium) or as an evil (something offensive to God, harmful to the salvation of souls). But the same faith that tells us that the changes are wrong also tells us that the Church cannot defect in her teaching or give evil.

Such lists could probably continue for pages. Our point is that each item can be categorized either as an error (a contradiction or change in substance of teachings of the pre-Vatican II magisterium) or as an evil (something offensive to God, harmful to the salvation of souls). But the same faith that tells us that the changes are wrong also tells us that the Church cannot defect in her teaching or give evil.

One of the essential properties of the Catholic Church is her indefectibility. This means, among other things, that her teaching is “immutable and always remaining the same.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch.) It is impossible for her to contradict her own teaching. Further, another essential property of Christ’s Church is her infallibility. This does not apply (as some traditional Catholics seem to think) only to rare ex cathedra papal pronouncements like those defining the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Infallibility also extends to the Church’s universal disciplinary laws. The principle, set forth in classic dogmatic theology texts such as Salaverri (I:722), Zubizarreta (I:486), Herrmann (I:258), Schultes (314–7) and Abarzuza (I:447), is typically explained as follows:

The Church’s infallibility extends to… ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living.… But the Church is infallible in issuing a doctrinal decree as intimated above — and to such an extent that it can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls.… If the Church should make a mistake in the manner alleged when it legislated for the general discipline, it would no longer be either a loyal guardian of revealed doctrine or a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. It would not be a guardian of revealed doctrine, for the imposition of a vicious law would be, for all practical purposes, tantamount to an erroneous definition of doctrine; everyone would naturally conclude that what the Church had commanded squared with sound doctrine. It would not be a teacher of the Christian way of life, for by its laws it would induce corruption into the practice of religious life.

[Van Noort, Dogmatic Theology. 2:91. His emphasis.]

It is impossible, then, for the Church to give something evil through her laws — including laws regulating worship. A recognition, on one hand, that the post-Vatican II hierarchy has officially sanctioned errors and evils, and a consideration, on the other, of the Church’s essential properties thus lead us to a conclusion about the authority of the post-Vatican II hierarchy: Given the Church’s indefectibility in her teaching (her teaching cannot change) and the Church’s infallibility in her universal disciplinary laws (her liturgical laws cannot compromise doctrine or harm souls), it is impossible that the errors and evils we have catalogued could have proceeded from what is in fact the authority of the Church. There must be another explanation.

Loss of Office through Heresy

The only explanation for these errors and evils that preserves the doctrines of the Church’s indefectibility and infallibility is that the clerics who promulgated them somehow lost as individuals the authority of the offices in the Church they otherwise appeared to possess — or that they never possessed such authority before God in the first place. Their pronouncements became juridically void and could not bind Catholics — just as the decrees of the bishops in England who accepted the Protestant heresy in the 16th century became void and empty of authority for Catholics. Such a loss of authority flows from a general principle in Church law: public defection from the Catholic Faith automatically deprives a person of all ecclesiastical offices he may hold. If you think about it, it makes sense: It would be absurd for someone who did not truly profess the Catholic Faith to have authority over Catholics who did. The principle that someone who defects from the Faith automatically loses his office applies to pastors, diocesan bishops and other similar church officials. It also applies to a pope.

The principle that someone who defects from the Faith automatically loses his office applies to pastors, diocesan bishops and other similar church officials. It also applies to a pope.

Loss of Papal Office

Theologians and canonists such as St. Robert Bellarmine, Cajetan, Suarez, Torquemada, and Wernz and Vidal maintain, without compromising the doctrine of papal infallibility, that even a pope (as an individual, of course) may himself become a heretic and thus lose the pontificate. Some of these authors also maintain that a pope can become a schismatic. In his great treatise on the Roman Pontiff, St. Robert Bellarmine, for example, asks the question: “Whether a heretical pope can be deposed.” Note first, by the way, that his question assumes a pope can in fact become a heretic. After a lengthy discussion, Bellarmine concludes:

A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction. [De Romano Pontifice. II.30. My emphasis.] 

Bellarmine cites passages from Cyprian, Driedonus and Melchior Cano to support his position. The basis for this teaching, he says finally, is that a manifest heretic is in no way a member of the Church — neither of its soul nor its body, neither by an internal union nor an external one. Other great canonists and theologians after Bellarmine have likewise supported this position. Wernz-Vidal’s Ius Canonicum, an eight-volume work published in 1943 which is perhaps the most highly respected commentary on the 1917 Code of Canon Law, states:

Through notorious and openly divulged heresy, the Roman Pontiff, should he fall into heresy, by that very fact [ipso facto] is deemed to be deprived of the power of jurisdiction even before any declaratory judgement by the Church.… A pope who falls into public heresy would cease ipso facto to be a member of the Church; therefore, he would also cease to be head of the Church. [II:453. His emphasis.]

 Post-Vatican II Canonists

The possibility that a pope may become a heretic and lose his office is also recognized by an authoritative commentary on the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Classical canonists discussed the question of whether a pope, in his private or personal opinions, could go into heresy, apostasy, or schism. If he were to do so in a notoriously and widely publicized manner, he would break communion, and according to an accepted opinion, lose his office ipso facto. (c. 194 §1, 2º ). Since no one can judge the pope (c.1404), no one could depose a pope for such crimes, and the authors are divided as to how his loss of office would be declared in such a way that a vacancy could then be filled by a new election. [J. Corridan et al., eds., The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America (New York: Paulist 1985), c. 333.]

The principle that a heretical pope automatically loses his office, therefore, is widely admitted by a great variety of Catholic canonists and theologians.

The Alternatives

Put simply, on one hand we know that the Church cannot defect. On the other, we know that theologians and even popes teach that a pope as an individual can defect from the Faith, and thus lose his office and authority. Once we recognize the errors and evils of the post-Vatican religion, two alternatives thus present themselves:

(1) The Church has defected.

(2) Men have defected and lost their offices and authority.

Faced with such a choice, the logic of the faith dictates that we affirm the indefectibility of the Church, and acknowledge the defections of men. Put another way, our recognition that the changes are false, bad and to be rejected is also an implicit recognition that the men who promulgated them did not really possess the authority of the Church. All traditionalists, one might therefore say, are in reality “sedevacantists” — it’s just that not all of them have realized it yet. Thus the issue of authority is resolved. Catholics who are struggling to preserve the Faith after the post-Vatican II apostasy have no obligation whatsoever to obey those who have lost their authority by embracing error.

Summary of Points

A summary of all the foregoing would perhaps be in order here:

1. Officially-sanctioned Vatican II and post-Vatican II teachings and laws embody errors and/or promote evil.

2. Because the Church is indefectible, her teaching cannot change, and because she is infallible, her laws cannot give evil.

3. It is therefore impossible that the errors and evils officially sanctioned in Vatican II and post Vatican II teachings and laws could have proceeded from the authority of the Church.

4. Those who promulgate such errors and evils must somehow lack real authority in the Church.

5. Canonists and theologians teach that defection from the Faith, once it becomes manifest, brings with it automatic loss of ecclesiastical office (authority). They apply this principle even to a pope who, in his personal capacity, somehow becomes a heretic.

6. Even popes have acknowledged the possibility that a heretic could one day end up on the throne of Peter. Paul IV decreed that the election of such a pope would be invalid, and that he would lack all authority.

7. Since the Church cannot defect but a pope as an individual can defect (as, a fortiori, can diocesan bishops), the best explanation for the post-Vatican II errors and evils we have catalogued is that they proceeded (proceed) from individuals who, despite their occupation of the Vatican and of various diocesan cathedrals, did (do) not objectively possess canonical authority.

WE HAVE AMPLY demonstrated here that it is against the Catholic Faith to assert that the Church can teach error or promulgate evil laws. We have also shown that Vatican II and its reforms have given us errors against Catholic doctrine and evil laws inimical to the salvation of souls. The Faith itself therefore constrains us to assert that those who have taught these errors or promulgated these evil laws, no matter what appearance of authority they may have, do not in fact possess the authority of the Catholic Church. Only in this way is the indefectibility of the Catholic Church preserved. We must therefore, as Catholics who affirm that the Church is both indefectible and infallible, reject and repudiate the claims that Paul VI and his successors have been true popes. On the other hand we leave it to the authority of the Church, when it once again will function in a normal manner, to declare authoritatively that these supposed popes were non-popes. We as simple priests cannot, after all, make authoritative judgements, whether legal or doctrinal, which bind the consciences of the faithful. We traditional Catholics, finally, have not founded a new religion, but are merely engaged in a “holding action” to preserve the Faith and Catholic worship until better days. In the meantime, that goal will be best served if we address difficult issues with attentiveness not only to theological principles, but also to the theological virtue of charity.

We traditional Catholics, finally, have not founded a new religion, but are merely engaged in a “holding action” to preserve the Faith and Catholic worship until better days. In the meantime, that goal will be best served if we address difficult issues with attentiveness not only to theological principles, but also to the theological virtue of charity.

To continue reading this article please visit Traditionalmass.org or here.

It is not too late to start acting, in these times a Catholic soul must face many battles. There are plenty of resources available on our links page, if you want to hear about the current crisis it is not too late to attend His Excellency Bishop Sanborn in person, full details can be found here.

Comments are closed.