SSPX Bp. Williamson: I’m not yet a Sedevacanist and its hard to say Pope Benedict is a formal heretic

Our friends at Rorate have posted about comments made by SSPX Bp. Williamson.

My emphases:

In his latest column regarding the beatification of John Paul II, one of the Bishops of Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, Richard Williamson, ends in the following note:

But note that Benedict XVI as arithmetician absolutely claims that he does believe that 2 and 2 are 4. And for as long as his claim is sincere, and it does appear to be sincere – God alone knows for sure – Benedict XVI is not wilfully denying what he knows to be defined truths of the Catholic Faith. Rather he is convinced, as Bishop Tissier shows, that he is “regenerating” them with the help of modern thinking! This makes it difficult to make the accusation of formal heresy stick in his case, which is why even his love and promotion of 2+2=5 does not yet make me personally into a Sedevacantist!

“Not yet”. Which means this is, for him, an acceptable theological position, even though current circumstances do not make him accept it as an adequate depiction of the facts – at least, not yet.
Hard to know how to react.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Banjo pickin girl says:

    This is just part of the continuing embarrassment.

  2. Joan A. says:

    This seems like one of those deliberately weird and nonsensical statements that are so convoluted they are supposed to impress you as intellectually valid.

    I say 2 + 2 = 6! Can I be considered a heretic now?!? Pretty please!

  3. jdscotus says:

    Bishop Williamson is nothing if not interesting. He goes out of his way to create loopholes for Pope Benedict to jump through, but there will have to be a point at which it is no longer tenable even to be charitable toward the pope and his ilk. On a personal level, I do not understand how anyone who is remotely familiar with the principle of non-contradiction can look upon this pope with anything but disdain for most of his actions and words. The beatification of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, is flat-out disgraceful. Fr. Z., I appreciate your kind words on the anniversary of Archbishop Lefebvre’s death several weeks ago, and there is much in common that we have with respect to the Church. Nevertheless, on matters that require an up-or-down verdict, I believe we would not agree on much. So, what to think of Bishop Williamson’s statements? I suppose you would regard them as reckless and needlessly confrontational. I, for one, am getting rather impatient with the pope and underwhelmed by Bishop Williamson’s ever-elastic interpretation of Benedict’s mathematical abilities.

  4. Jucken says:

    No power on Earth can judge wether a pope has lost his authority. Otherwise, the Keys would belong to that power, not to the pope.

    This is not surprising at all, Bp. Williamson remains lukewarm. He can’t decide if he should remain or not in the Church.

    “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apocalypse 3, 16)

  5. St. Rafael says:

    For Context, the whole article from Bishop Williamson:

    “TRUE POPE ? — I
    Since saying three weeks ago (EC 195, April 9) that tomorrow’s “beatification” of John-Paul II will only make him a Newblessed of the Newchurch, I have reasonably been asked if I am a so-called “sedevacantist”. After all, if I virtually declare Benedict XVI to be a Newpope, how can I still believe him to be a true Pope ? Actually, I believe he is both Newpope of the Conciliar Church and true Pope of the Catholic Church, because the two do not yet completely exclude one another., so I am not what is called a sedevacantist. Here is the first part of my reasoning:–

    On the one hand I consider Benedict XVI to be a valid Pope, because he was validly elected as Bishop of Rome by the parish priests of Rome, i.e. the Cardinals, at the conclave of 2005, and if for some hidden flaw the election itself was not valid, it was convalidated, as the Church teaches, by his being subsequently accepted as Pope by the worldwide Church. As such, towards Benedict XVI I mean to show all the respect, reverence and support due to the Vicar of Christ.

    On the other hand it is obvious from the Pontiff’s words and actions that he is a “Conciliar” Pope, and head of the Conciliar Church. Merely the latest clear proofs of that are tomorrow’s Newbeatification of John-Paul II, great promoter of Vatican II, and next October’s commemoration of John-Paul’s disastrous Assisi event of 1986, violating God’s First Commandment in the name of man’s Conciliar ecumenism. For as that Commandment excludes all false religions (Deut.V, 7-9), so Vatican II virtually embraces them (Unitatis Redintegratio, Nostra Aetate). Therefore besides Benedict XVI’s being the Vicar of Christ, I believe he is also betraying his sacred function of confirming his brethren in the Faith (Lk. XXII, 32), so besides duly respecting him as Peter, I mean also not to follow or obey him (Acts V, 29) when he does not behave like Peter. This was Archbishop Lefebvre’s distinction.

    But note that even while betraying — at least objectively — the true religion, Benedict XVI also holds to it ! For instance, wishing to prevent Assisi III from being accused of mixing religions like Assisi I, he is having the public procession of all religions together take place in silence. In other words, even while Benedict XVI promotes error, he means not to abandon the truth ! And he is constantly in this way resembling an arithmetician who claims that 2 and 2 can make 4 or 5 ! Coming from a Pope, this is a recipe for confusion from top to bottom of the Church, because if anyone follows the Pope in this 4 or 5 “arithmetic”, he will have in his head sheer contradiction and confusion !

    But note that Benedict XVI as arithmetician absolutely claims that he does believe that 2 and 2 are 4. And for as long as his claim is sincere, and it does appear to be sincere – God alone knows for sure – Benedict XVI is not wilfully denying what he knows to be defined truths of the Catholic Faith. Rather he is convinced, as Bishop Tissier shows, that he is “regenerating” them with the help of modern thinking ! This makes it difficult to make the accusation of formal heresy stick in his case, which is why even his love and promotion of 2+2=5 does not yet make me personally into a sedevacantist.

    Mother of God, Seat of Wisdom, shield us from the confusion !

    Kyrie eleison. “

  6. asperges says:

    The statement seen in full puts some kind of sense on what he is trying to say. Unfortunately his means of expression are like those of an excentric university don: a mixture of dry wit and deliberate provocation, probably accompanied by a fine sherry. I cannot think of anyone less suited to forwarding the cause of SSPX.

    Their reconciliation is an important – even essential – part of the rift of the post Vat II Church. Never has their been a Pope more patient and helpful than this one, and the sooner the posturing stops the better. If the Holy Father can reconcile a whole swathe of Anglicans, surely SSPX is not an impossible next step, if only they would make more of an effort and silence those voice is hardly worth hearing in the first place.

  7. Alan Aversa says:

    Bp. Williamson definitely highlights how the devil tries to split the Church even at the level of the Pope. We are only united in Christ’s true Church, not in a syncretic mingling with other religions or Protestant denominations, definitely not with the “Newchurch,” if it exists or not.

    I wonder of the SSPX would’ve made good devils’ advocates in Pope John Paul II’s cause, but the fact that Pope John Paul II no longer required them for saints’ causes definitely adds a new level of logical interestingness, akin to saying “Every man is a liar”…

  8. Fr. Basil says:

    I have noticed how some self-styled traditionalists distinguish between “Conciliar Rome” and “Eternal Rome.”

    This is nothing more than the common Protestant ecclesiology of a “visible church” contrasted with the “true invisible Church” with only slightly different terminology.

    If it’s wrong for the latter, it’s wrong for the former.

  9. Bruce says:

    ” I do not understand how anyone who is remotely familiar with the principle of non-contradiction can look upon this pope with anything but disdain for most of his actions and words.”

    Really jdscotus? Disdain?
    I usually hear this kind of talk from Anne Rice and her ilk.

    I have to say that for me, the bashing of Pope’s Benedict XVI(also John Paul II) from liberal Catholics and as Fr.Basil says self-styled traditionalists is really getting old, stale and unprofitable.

    I would like to make an observation. When I came back to the Catholic Church 6 years ago I would argue with both sides , now I just walk away. It’s the lack of goodwill. They just bring me down. In my experience most liberal Catholics and self-styled traditionalists seem to lack something that the Catholic faith has brought back into my life, JOY.

  10. Ezra says:

    I do not understand how anyone who is remotely familiar with the principle of non-contradiction can look upon Bishop Williamson with anything but disdain for most of his actions and words.

  11. Tom Piatak says:

    Bruce is exactly right. The endless negativity, the lack of charity, and the lack of joy are telling.
    Looking at the comments at another website, I see one commenter stating that John Paul II was as bad as Kim Jong Il, another saying, no, he was worse than Kim Jong Il, and another saying that he could accept a Church declaration that John Paul is a saint in the same manner he could accept a Church declaration that Adolf Hitler is a saint.

  12. dropper says:

    Fr. Basil, it was not any traditionalist that came up with the term “conciliar” Church. This was done by Cardinal Benelli in his letter to Monsignor Lefebvre when he demanded the Archbishop’s fidelity not to the “Catholic Church”, but to the “Conciliar Church”.

    I’m of the Traditionalist bent, I am not a sede, and rarely if ever use the term “Conciliar Church”, but you must see that at least some of the rancor from Traditionalists has been at least understandable. We’re the outcasts of the Church. The lost sheep that our shepherd, in Benedict, is just now starting to try to save. Pope John Paul II knew since 1982 that there were no prohibitions on the 1962 Mass, and that it was never abrogated, but we were still ghettoized. It’s getting better with the current Holy Father, but a lot of the Bishops aren’t making it easy for him (including Bishop Williamson).

    Do I defend Bishop Williamson, no. In fact, I am quite appalled at his choice of words in his current newsletter. He is only going to give ammunition to those that seek to torpedo any reconciliation on the part of the SSPX/Holy See (on both sides) with the ambiguity of his words.

    At any rate God bless and be with the Holy Father and Bishop Fellay as they seek to heal the rift.

  13. Tominellay says:

    …his comments seem boorish to me…

  14. Joseph-Mary says:

    To jdscotus: Shame on you for using the name of a faithful Franciscan blessed and writing what you did! A true Franciscan is ALWAYS faithful to the Holy Father and does not denigrate him nor detract him as St. Francis was very firm about.

    This ‘bishop’ is not worth giving printed space to. He is playing with fire. He considers himself to be in some other ‘denomination’ that is only tied to the Pope in the loosest of sense. As he goes further away, he is a protestant like the thousands of others who think they alone have the answers outside the Pope and the Magisterium–just like the “Old Catholics”. He may not YET be a sede but he is toying with the idea. Maybe he woudl prefer to be his own pope?

  15. jdscotus says:

    Bruce, Mr. Piatak, et al.,

    I do not want to waste anyone’s time in an unprofitable back-and-forth on the SSPX. You have your opinions and I have mine, and we have all had these discussions way too many times for any of us to think that this is the time when our brilliant analysis will–finally!–open the other guy’s eyes to the truth. Fr. Z. referenced yet another interesting and provocative piece by Bishop Williamson and then wondered aloud what to think of it. I like Bishop Williamson’s historical consistency and his willingness to continue to hold Benedict’s feet to the fire. [I think Bp. Williamson’s historical perspective is less trustworthy than that of many. Also, it is not his role in any Church to hold the Vicar of Christ accountable.] Most other readers of this blog would, of course, disagree. So, some comments/observations:

    1) Do not accuse someone of being joyless merely because he supports the position of one who criticizes the actions or inactions of Benedict. You do not know me. However, if you ever find yourself in KC, feel free to look me up. We’ll share plenty of joy: cigars, steaks, booze, and good, lively conversation. I attend St. Vincent de Paul here in KC and I can assure you that joy reigns in the parish life and the home lives of the many friends we have visited.

    2) Please do not forget that the pesky obligation to be charitable runs both ways.

    3) I would really like to know what, in particular, you find offensive or–more importantly–incorrect in Bishop Williamson’s writings from a theological and philosophical perspective. Instead, I see lot of the same, recycled accusations that the SSPX is Protestant, Bishop Williamson is a loose cannon, Bishop Williamson is mean. Perhaps it would be a good idea to re-read St. Paul’s epistles in order to gain some perspective on what blunt speech/writing was like back in the day. But what about what Bishop Williamson actually writes? Remove his emotionally-charged vocabulary and substitute something that is palatable to you and please let me know exactly where Bishop Williamson is wrong.

  16. Ezra says:

    I would really like to know what, in particular, you find offensive or–more importantly–incorrect in Bishop Williamson’s writings from a theological and philosophical perspective.

    “[T]here is no reconciliation possible between the Catholic Faith and the leaders of the Conciliar Church now occupying Rome. These Romans have lost the Faith and are doing their best to stamp it out wherever they can still find it.” (1999)

    “Instead of judging conciliar Rome as a whole by its consistently disastrous fruits, [the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter] wanted to judge it by this or that still Catholic part within the disastrous whole. But when a whole is no longer Catholic, then any parts still Catholic within that whole merely serve to deceive.” (1999)

    “[S]o long as any organisation like the Society has the Truth while Rome has not, then the Society is in the driving-seat FOR ALL CATHOLIC PURPOSES, and any behaviour, shape, size or form of negotiations which would allow this Rome to get back into the driving-seat would be tantamount to a betrayal of the Truth.” (2001)

    “Today the war is total between the one true religion which can alone save souls for all eternity, and the universal anti-religion which has taken effective control in Rome, and which is putting and keeping millions and millions of souls on the road to eternal Hell-fire.” (2001)

    I think that’ll do for the time being.

  17. jdscotus says:


    Thank you for the examples. However, I was hoping for an explanation of how such examples are incorrect. You assume that the quotations from Bishop Williamson are incorrect, but that will not do. These statements are not confessions; you need to offer evidence that they are untrue.

  18. Ezra says:


    Can you reconcile the teaching of Pastor Aeternus with Bishop Williamson’s claim that the Society of St Pius X is in the “driving seat” (a seat other than Peter’s, it seems) of the Church?

    Can you reconcile Sixtus IV’s condemnation of the proposition that “the Church of the city of Rome can fall into error” (deemed to be erroneous and containing manifest heresy) with Bishop Williamson’s claims that a “universal anti-religion… has taken effective control in Rome”, that Rome is “no longer Catholic”, that “these Romans have lost the Faith and are doing their best to stamp it out wherever they can still find it”?

  19. Meredith says:

    A man who thinks that women shouldn’t attend college and that “The Sound of Music” should have been R-rated is flirting with sedevacantism? Shocker!

  20. Charles E Flynn says:

    If you had never seen the fourth paragraph quoted by Ezra, and you read it without knowing who wrote it, you would conclude that the author is a crank.

  21. BobP says:

    Maybe this is more of a test for Bishop Fellay. We know Bishop Williamson’s not steering in the right direction. How does he expect to become a bishop with canonical standing if he keeps blasting the Pope?

  22. Oneros says:

    Well, I suppose it IS an acceptable theological position in some sense: I, for example, was a sedevacantist from April 2nd, 2005 until April 19th, 2005. I hope all of you were too!

  23. Ave Maria!
    Let all the controversies come and go, the Church will continue, the Blesseds and Saints will be proclaimed and confirmed by true miracles and all will be well no matter what the crisis of the day, for the Church is always being battered by the tempests of Satan yet She will never cease to be.

    When Apostolic Authority is invoked…silence and reverence is due, for it is then that Christ speaks through His Church.

    Viva il Papa!

  24. Fr Martin Fox says:


    “The beatification of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, is flat-out disgraceful.”

    That statement is flat-out disgraceful. The Magisterium has carefully examined the cause and sought the verdict of heaven and received it via a verified miracle. Does JDScotus intend to impeach the integrity of this process? If not, then does he deny the miracle? If not, then what? Where in the constitution of the Church is it JDScotus who declares a blessed, and not the Successor of Peter?

    “Fr. Z., I appreciate your kind words on the anniversary of Archbishop Lefebvre’s death several weeks ago, and there is much in common that we have with respect to the Church.”

    That was a curious phrase–“much in common…with respect to the Church.” Did JDScotus mean to suggest that there is at point A the “we” to which he belongs, and then, in distinction to that we, there is the Church? That might be taken as JDScotus not considering himself part of the Church, but I pray I mistook his meaning. Or is he hedging on whether the Pope, the clergy and faithful in communion with him are not “the Church”? At any rate, that phrasing struck me as odd.

    I am sorry to say words that sting, yet something stinging can be healthful. The liberals exemplified by the National so-called Catholic Reporter profess the Faith, and the Church, so long as it, and she, conform to their own image of the same. This is a temptation to which we are all prey. I was, at one point; until I realized that I was called, not to belong to the Church of my own vision and desires, but the Church that is. Really, why are we so surprised to find that being faithful brings trials? Who promised us that none of those trials would come from within?

    But you know, there are crabby and longsuffering liberals who, amidst all their carping, will say, wearily, that however bewildered they are that the Church does not embrace their passions, they will persevere in hope. I firmly believe they are misguided in wishing for women’s ordination, or a change in moral teaching, etc.–yet I can appreciate their pain and admire their hopefulness, without sharing it’s object. Some are fifth-columnists; but some (many?) really are trying to stay faithful–they profess that she is the Church, despite being such a disappointment to them.

    Dear self-styled traditionalists, take caution! Bishop Williamson is on the precipice, and so are many of you with him. If he goes off the deep end, denying the Church is the Church (and he has done a fine little rhetorical dance closer and closer to the edge), and if you go with him, you will have failed in an article of faith that many of the liberals you so disdain manage to cling to: keeping faith in the Church, even when she fails to be what you are certain she ought to be.

  25. Ezra says:

    The passages I quoted are hardly uncharacteristic outbursts. Again and again Williamson has described Rome in terms more redolent of a Free Presbyterian elder than a Catholic bishop. Like Ann Coulter, he frequently gives the impression that he enjoys provocation for provocation’s sake, forever seeking the frisson of being the most extreme person in the room. So we learn that Rome is apostate, the Jews invented the Holocaust, Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy, McVeigh didn’t bring down the front of the Murrah building, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are genuine, the Unabomber was right about technology, the United States is Communist, ideas are not for “true girls”, The Sound of Music is pornographic…

    In an adolescent this kind of idiocy would be deplorable. In a man born in 1940 who purports to be a Catholic bishop, it is simply pathetic. Perhaps if he spent more time reacquainting himself with manuals of Catholic theology, and less Googling for the latest demented conspiracy theory, Williamson would recall that the Church has traditionally regarded joining the priesthood and joining the circus as mutually exclusive vocations. Hardline Lefebvrists may like to rant about the “clown masses” of the Novus Ordo, but for a long time they’ve been only too happy to promote Williamson’s clown sermons.

    Still, ask yourselves a simple question: how much of Williamson’s rhetoric would actually change if he were to embrace explicit sedevacantism? Other than giving Williamson a more intellectually coherent position to defend, I don’t see that much would change at all:

    “Pray for your part that the minds of Society priests (and bishops!) never slip anchor until God restores the Pope and Rome, not necessarily in Rome!” (September 1999)

    “The wheels of God grind slowly. It takes time for the Truth to filter. But there are indications that the Truth is filtering. So, with time, Rome will eventually come back to the Truth.” (2005)

    “As things stand now, for there to be an ‘agreement’, either Rome – neo-modernist Rome – drops its neo-modernism, or the Society betrays its Catholicism, or half and half, etc. We pray to God that Rome may convert. We beg God that the Society may not betray.” (October 2005)

    “[Benedict XVI’s] past writings are full of Modernist errors. Now, Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies (Pascendi, Saint Pius X). So Ratzinger as a heretic goes far beyond Luther’s Protestant errors, as Bishop Tissier de Mallerais well said.” (January 2006)

    “Alongside the Motu Proprio apparently favoring the Mass of the true Faith, Benedict XVI organizes and presides over ecumenical meetings which, by placing the Catholic religion on a more or less equal footing with all other religions (officially represented and all necessarily more or less false) are a grave offence to God. So any apparent benevolence shown by Benedict XVI towards the true Faith or the true Mass can only mean that he wishes them to be reconciled with the Conciliar religion and all other religions! Therefore if he is not a conscious agent of truth-dissolving Freemasonry, at any rate he has no understanding of the true Faith, and so he cannot grasp how absolutely opposed it is to the man-centered religion of Vatican II.” (March 2008)

  26. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Oh, those Freemasons again, always hiding under the beds waiting to eat little Catholic children. I doubt that our Pope is a Masonic agent, especially of the anti-Catholic European kind. If he were not Pope I could picture him as maybe a member of the B.P.O.E.

    Back when I converted I read a lot of SSPX material and I felt they were espousing sedevacantism at least implicitly. I may be wrong though. I don’t really know much.

  27. Gulielmus says:

    As always, I am struck by both the poverty of Williamson’s arguments, which rely so heavily on his beloved 2+2=4 example, and by the fervid defense of them by those who are unable to bear any suggestion that there is nothing “traditional” about his positions. The embrace of cognitive dissonance necessary to accept the Society’s claim that they support the Holy Father and accept his authority– as long as it accords with their likes– seems to encourage the kind of muddled non-defenses of disobedience so much in evidence every time the bishop, who shows evidence of being as much a publicity hound as Donald Trump, comes out with another howler.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    Joan, you said, “I say 2 + 2 = 6! Can I be considered a heretic now?!? Pretty please!”

    Only in some possible number systems.

  29. pjthom81 says:

    I am, admittingly, new to this controversy, but where exactly does the “Counciliar” Church as interpreted by Benedict XVI become logically incompatable with the Catholic Church as it has historically stood? The basis seems to be the approach to ecumenism, but it doesn’t seem to follow that the approaches are necessarily opposite (extremes like Assisi I being tossed to the side….I’m talking about Benedict’s interpretation only). Basically, my point is this: where in the history of conversions to Catholicism can we find people being converted by being told that their religions serve demons? I do not say that that’s an incorrect interpretation, but it does occur to me that people like St. Patrick focused in on the religious aspects that were healthy, and diverted the populace to the True Faith. If Vatican II is interpreted merely as an approach to ecumenism while staying silent on whether particular objects of devotion are demonic, non-existent, or based upon mere men where is the contradiction? Isn’t that point ultimately about effective ecumenical diologue, and isn’t that the sort of point a pastoral council should have examined?

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    Quote from the above: “Actually, I believe he is both Newpope of the Conciliar Church and true Pope of the Catholic Church, because the two do not yet completely exclude one another., so I am not what is called a sedevacantist.”

    I actually see exactly what he is saying, and I find it unremarkable. You have to get past the clumsiness of the arithmetic thing, and realize that this is probably translated from French or some such.

    He is saying that there are two churches somehow rolled up into one, and they are not yet distinct from one another, and it’s not clear where the demarcations that MUST logically and necessarily exist between them are, exactly. He’s saying that this is so over and beyond the normal & timeless admixture of holy & temporal that usually exists in the Church. That there is a malevolent church siamese-twinned with the real church and that this is a relatively new development, since V2.

    I agree with that statement, even though I am by no means and in no way a follower of the SSPX. I’ve never been in one of their chapels and as those of you who recognize my screen name from the “hat controversies” know, I’m no RadTrad. Pretty far from it, actually. I don’t agree with some of the other things he’s said from time to time, and I don’t keep up with all the things he’s said, so there you are, but I agree with this bit.

    I personally think that there are two churches rolled into one, and that the Holy See Proper has been hoping for decades that somehow the real one will overcome the other one, and that people will dumb down to the point that they just accept the one, and it will be the right one. this is why nothing is done. All the while, the veiled enemies of the church hope that the tide will go in the direction of the easy one, the new one, the one they prefer but don’t want to name for fear of making the demarcation clear. It’s a sort of Trojan horse thing.

    But now here’s the interesting part: I do believe that the Vatican will prevail but not in the way they intend. What’s happening is that the defective newchurch will fade away, but not be overcome in any political way. Things that have no raison d’etre soon no longer exist. It’s just that simple. People will wander out of their own free will and in fact, they are doing so in droves. Unfortunately some innocent ones are swept out with them, but that’s how such a scenario works, and the powers-that-be in the real church apparently are willing to accept that, whether they say so or not.

    I am a convert. I believe in God. I professed my faith in the Catholic Church. But if the Catholic church were to defect on her core teachings, if the essential newchurch, the one Wiliamson points out as there alongside the real one, were to win over the real one, I’m not sure I’d placidly accept that without question either. I believe that for scriptural reasons that’s not globally possible, although it may be possible geographically like it once was in England under Queen Elizabeth I’s rule. The power and size of the malevolent one is probably where Williamson and I diverge. I still see the real one in the giant mixed up conglomerated mess that is the Church militant in 2011. That’s the one I attend to, not the other one which is nevertheless still very present.

  31. catholicmidwest says:

    And it’s all where you draw the line, you know.

    There are people you and I all talk to online who don’t see the two churches; there are happy N.O. attenders, unhappy N.O. attenders, people who prefer the TLM, people who insist in the TLM and drive great distances; there are SSPXers who have a high perception of danger of the two conjoined churches; there are people who’ve left or are in the process of doing so, for whatever reason.

    The Catholic Church proper has not really been very clear about any of this “where you draw the line” business, and the cause of that is probably profound and complex. There is danger in that action alone, as we’ve all seen. And of course, it makes it much, much harder to live a Catholic life on the personal, family and community level. This should not be news to anyone in here.

  32. pjthom81 says:

    Put that way it makes things clearer…..but if you have a Church and an anti-Church inside the same organism, wouldn’t the bishop appointments be crucial? And if this is the case, hasn’t Benedict been killing off the anti-Church institutionally bit by bit?

  33. The Cobbler says:

    Call me a boorish internet boob, but Bp. Williamson’s reasoning has a very obvious hole in it. Benedict wouldn’t have to say 2+2!=4 (er, that’s 2+2=/=4 for you non-programmers) to necessitate that we figure out how he’s not validly Pope (and thus be sedevacantist) or else abandon the doctrine of infallibility. He’d have to formally make 2+2!=4 binding on the whole Church. If the bar’s set any lower than that, then papal infallibility has already been historically discredited by the few rare cases where Popes taught heresy outside the officially universally binding requirements.

    Talk about duh. (Which is what this conversation seems to be doing. I hate duh conversations, by the way.)

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    Yup, pjthom81, and he has. There was a shift in the quality of bishops appointed during the second half of the reign of PJP2, but it’s even more profound during the reign of Benedict XVI. Old ones are being retired on schedule to avoid controversy and disruption, but new ones more in line with the continuous unbroken line of authority in the church are generally being appointed as their successors.

    During the middle of the 20th century, bishop appointments were crucial to the growth and well-being of the alternate church. That was realized very late. Here in the US, which is only one of the areas that were most affected, we had an apostolic delegate who worked with the many powerful dissident bishops in this country to cause huge amounts of sheer damage to the church, in attempts to mold her into their own model of church. This was our national version of the rupture that the pope speaks of on occasion. We are still struggling with that transformation which did nearly occur in total. It has been a close call, and it’s not over yet.

    The new translations are a milestone, a marker, a sign and a near miracle for the English-speaking groups. They signify the beginning of the turn to orthodoxy, which is our future, praise God. Amongst carnage of unimaginable proportions, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we should be grateful for that.

  35. pjthom81 says:

    Would you be referring to Jadot by chance?

    Regarding the first half of JP II’s reign I also notice that appointing Bishops seems to be like President’s appointing Judges in one sense….you’ve gotta appoint out of the pool that you have. I thought this may have explained why it took a while to get back on track.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    Cobbler, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that it’s not necessary for the pope to declare anything to be infallibly the authority in the church. And I would agree with you, as long as he doesn’t declare anything obviously ridiculous (ie. the moon is made of green cheese) which he’s not going to do for a lot of reasons, some of them beyond his personal control.

    But I don’t think that this is what Williamson is saying at all. In fact, I believe he is saying exactly the opposite. He’s saying that the pope appears to be presiding over the real church and tolerating the presence of the other one, and to this he objects. I believe that actually, this is a major objection of many SSPXers. They do not see how the church can tolerate the fact that there is a Trojan horse inside the Church and do nothing. They see it as a highlighted contradiction and they do not understand how it can happen in the remotest way. Most of the rest of the church does not obviously agree with them (or they are oblivious to it).

    Again we’re back to the fact that “it’s all about where you draw the line.” And as Williamson says, the Church has not been very explicit about that. The Trojan horse is still a Trojan horse. And the official church is only mumbling to herself about it like a disgruntled toddler, for whatever reason. Those of us out here grouse or not, leave or not, and choose our habits accordingly, depending on where we are on the awareness/alertness spectrum. Williamson’s on high alert; I’m not, even though I see the hollow horse.

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, Jean Jadot. And the normal presumption is that the Vatican uses the apostolic delegate to screen candidates for the office of bishop. Only in this case, it broke down because of the alliance of dissent present here. Many, many bishops in that temporal frame were (and are) corrupt and favored dissent. Some of them are still bishops; some are being retired; some have been retired. We’re all struggling with the aftermath of that now.

  38. Andrew says:

    I wonder if Bp. Williamson’s error does not originate with some false notion about the Church as some sort of an organization of 100% super-saints: there are objectionable elements in the Church both now and have been in the past. That’s nothing new. And there can be some valid criticisms without going overboard and trying to accuse the whole body of universal defection.
    This is clear already in the New Testament, for ex:
    Yet I have a few things against you. You have some people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites: to eat food sacrificed to idols and to play the harlot. Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teaching of (the) Nicolaitans. Therefore, repent. (Apoc. 2:14-16)
    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. (Math. 13:47)
    The idea that there can be nothing wrong in the Church or else the whole thing has become corrupt is not scriptural.

  39. catholicmidwest says:


    No, and this is why I said earlier, “He’s saying that this is so over and beyond the normal & timeless admixture of holy & temporal that usually exists in the Church. That there is a malevolent church siamese-twinned with the real church and that this is a relatively new development, since V2. ”

    I really think that although he may be quite an inflexible stick in the mud about cultural stuff, like many cultural traditionalists are, he sees something distinctly malevolent over & beyond that. I’m no alarmist, and I see the malevolent leering hollow horse too. I choose to sidestep it; he points and yells.

  40. Will D. says:

    Charles E. Flynn said:

    If you had never seen the fourth paragraph quoted by Ezra, and you read it without knowing who wrote it, you would conclude that the author is a crank.

    Exactly so. If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed that it came from one of Jack Chick’s nasty little tracts.

  41. Ezra says:

    If the bar’s set any lower than that, then papal infallibility has already been historically discredited by the few rare cases where Popes taught heresy outside the officially universally binding requirements.

    The sedevacantist thesis isn’t usually framed in terms of whether papal infallibility has been discredited by a pope teaching heresy in a binding manner. Theologians such as St Robert Bellarmine argue that a pontiff could lose his office through being a public and manifest herestic, since to be a public and manifest heretic is to cease to be a member of the Church, and the Church cannot have as its supreme pastor one who is not a member.

    All of which makes more sense than the SSPX approach to the Holy Father, which is to affirm his authority while accusing him of being a heretic and ignoring/nitpicking/rejecting his teachings and disciplinary acts.

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    Not really, Ezra, since according to what this fellow says, he still perceives the true Church to be the Catholic church, and the pope as its leader. But he also perceives it to be plagued by a parasite, the New Church, which tags alongside it and tries to make itself inseparable from it, while seeking to supplant it by covert means.

    He is amenable to the pope as the leader of the true church and although he is not sure what the pope’s actions mean at times, he is sure that the pope is meant to be the leader of the real church which still exists, and to which he still pays his allegiance. He is bothered by the existence of the faux church, the parasite church, about which he is alarmed.

    I still don’t see what is remarkable about this, except maybe for Williamson’s degree of alarm. And yet, that’s one of the possible reactions to this situation of the two churches in one, which I see too.

    I mean, what other conclusion can you come to after you view the liturgy conferences from Los Angeles and listen to the ramblings of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as they try to dodge the Vatican’s inquiries about some of their stranger practices? And that’s just the beginning.

  43. ttucker says:

    Bruce- a big Amen to what you said. It truly is tiresome, and I think it is one way that Satan uses to take our eyes off of Jesus and Mary and the attainment of holiness. Let’s quit participating and reading these discussions, shall we? I’m going to try.

  44. catholicmidwest says:

    All this reminds me of a comment made some time ago. Someone asked Rosemary Radford Reuther, the dissident “theologian” why she remained inside the Church and she quipped without a beat, “because that’s where the copy machines are.” I thought that summed it up nicely. If that statement’s not the acid test that some are seeking a surrogate Catholic church to supplant to real Church, I don’t know what would be.

    It didn’t surprise me when I heard it because I already knew it to be true from reading. I’m an avid reader. But I’d never heard it said so succinctly before, and haven’t since. Catholics usually beat around the bush far more than that and end up saying less, no matter what they physically do.

  45. Ezra says:


    I think Bishop Williamson’s observations go a little further than simply noting that there are some in the Church who desire to change her into something she is not. If he wanted to express alarm about the presence of wolves and weeds, he could have done so without claiming that “the universal anti-religion… has taken effective control in Rome, and… is putting and keeping millions and millions of souls on the road to eternal Hell-fire.”

    Williamson says of the reigning pontiff that he “as a heretic goes far beyond Luther’s Protestant errors”; he expresses the hope that the priests of the Society will say strong “until God restores the Pope and Rome, not necessarily in Rome”; he argues that “the Society is in the driving-seat FOR ALL CATHOLIC PURPOSES”. This position is actually worse than sedevacantism, for in addition to libelling Peter, it claims for the Society of St Pius X – a body whose Superior General has less legitimate authority than your local parish priest – powers which belong to Peter alone..

  46. catholicmidwest says:

    Like I said before, Ezra, I don’t keep up with all the stuff this guy says, just the gist of this thread. I’m no RadTrad. But I do think there’s a kernel of truth in what the SSPX says some of the time, witness Crazy-as-a-Loon Reuther and her obviously heartfelt quip, as just one example. That quip, by the way, got quite a big reception if I remember right. It was considered “funny but true” by many people and widely reported.

    I don’t know what the Vatican thought would happen after V2, after they did what they did, and then allowed it to run amok for years. It’s STILL a complete & utter mess, and it’s actually improved in the last few years, which will tell you how bad it was at one time.

    My contribution to this thread should not be construed as the reflexive rantings of a Radtrad, although that would be pretty funny alongside my comments on the hat wars in the other thread. Rather, I want to say that it’s kind of shocking the kind of rebuttals I often hear,particularly when the SSPX is involved, that don’t take into consideration the logic of the argument but simply attack reflexively, ie nonsensical statements about math to counter nonsensical statements about math. This is what I was looking at before. Some people just react protectively and they don’t really have a logical argument which I find difficult to read, but sometimes that’s very “catholic” behavior and I recognize that after all this time in the church.

    Looking only at the argument Williamson has made in his first sentence above, nevermind what he’s previously said, he does seem to make some logical sense and there is evidence to support that. That was my whole point.

  47. Maltese says:

    “[Benedict XVI’s] past writings are full of Modernist errors. Now, Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies (Pascendi, Saint Pius X).”

    Ezra, with all respect, you almost seem to be breathless with your criticisms of Williamson. There is nothing wrong with strong words of criticism! Great Saints of the past were even known to demolish each other with their words!

    I for one, while dismissing his conspiracy theories, admire Williamson in this respect: he is not afraid to criticize the wrongs he sees. So many prelates today seem to be eunuchs, ready to hug and whimper, but not ready to address problems; at least Williamson has some brass balls.

    Guess who wrote this:

    “[N]ot a few pages of the conciliar documents reek of the writings and ideas of Modernism–this can be seen above all in GS.”

    Msgr. Gherardini: Canon of St. Peter’s Basilica, a secretary for the Pontifical Academy of Theology, a professor emeritus at the Pontifical Lateran University, and the editor of Divinitas, a leading Roman theological journal.

  48. Random Friar says:

    Loons, wackos and fools do not an invalid Church make. They do make for a large portion of Dominicana.

    As for Pope Paul VI not validly promulgating or imposing the New Mass, Quo Primum uses similar language. Finally, “It is Our will (volumus) that these laws and prescriptions be, and they shall be, firm and effective now and in the future.”

    Compare with Quo Primum: It is Our will (volumus) however — and We decree by that same authority — that, after the publication of the Mass…”

    Would that make Quo Primum also optional?

    And remember, abusus non tollit usum. We can argue over one is more poetic, beautiful, and so forth. That’s fine. To suggest that the Novus Ordo is invalid or defective (and by defective, I will use it as essentially synonymous with invalid, in so far as asserting that there is a defect that renders it invalid). It is skating dangerously close to Donatism. In sum, there would be few valid priests, bishops, cardinals, and so forth. And, at the same time, the SSPX would claim to know more than all the Eastern Rite Churches in full communion with Rome as well. They have their own opinions about Roman liturgy, but I do not recall hearing any one patriarch asserting that the Latin Rite Mass was invalid, or that they now constituted the True Church, for failure of the Roman Church.

  49. Random Friar says:

    One last thing: can we all just admit the inherent superiority of the Dominican Rite Mass? Why did we need a Novus Ordo after almost 500 years? (/tongue firmly in cheek).

  50. Maltese says:

    I would like to add one thing: Williamson’s criticisms are always deeply theological, and never ad hominem.

  51. @Andrew: exactly. We were never promised a perfect Church this side of the Church Triumphant.

    But I don’t get this “Trojan Horse”/”two Churches” thing. Maybe I’m just blind, but I simply do not see that the current situation is exceptionally bad. There have, of course, been better/more faithful times, but there have been far, far worse times too (“the world groaned to find itself Arian”). I don’t see any sort of “church”/”anti-church” division, merely people who are more faithful to the Church’s teachings and people who are less so. I don’t think things in the Church are any worse than we could expect merely from external forces (the collapse of the Western cultural consensus over the last 50 years or so, the ascendancy of the artificial contraception/abortion culture, etc.)

  52. And I do not see any Modernism (in the Pius IX sense) whatever in anything of Benedict XVI’s. In fact, I don’t really think there are very many Modernists left in the world at all, and a vanishingly small number who still consider themselves Catholic (I think the Anglicans may have some more…) “Modernism” doesn’t mean “any kind of change” or even “liberalism” (a term which has also pretty much lost its meaning…), it referred to a historicist, progressivist position which relativised or even destroyed dogmas (seeing them as human development rather than Divine Revelation, thus capable of being obsolescent).

    I think the choice of that term (which was Pius IX’s invention; IIRC “Modernism” wasn’t really a self-conscious or coherent position in the way most historical heresies was) was a very bad idea, because ‘modernism’ gets used to mean a lot of other things which are not heretical. And because Modernism-in-the-Pius-IX-sense was such an inchoate thing, the condemnations of it are themselves somewhat vague. I think Pius IX basically handed sedevacantists a hammer…

    (Which is problematic in another way! Pius IX’s documents against Modernism were not ex cathedra, so *even if there were a contradiction with Vatican II* (which I do NOT believe), there would be no particular reason to give Pius IX’s documents priority over Vatican II’s!)

  53. Charles E Flynn says:


    Thank you for mentioning Bishop Williams’ other crank views.

    Those of you who are interested in the general subject of cranks and human gullibility might enjoy the following books (and the comments about them on Amazon):

    1. “Fads and Fallacies: In the Name of Science”, (title varies a bit by edition) by Martin Gardner.

    2. “Counterknowledge”, by Damien Thompson

    3. “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society”, by Farhad Manjoo.

  54. Charles E Flynn says:

    A quick Google search reveals that Bishop Williamson (sorry about the earlier misspelling) did not state that “The Sound of Music” is pornographic, but something even funnier:

    From Damien Thompson’s article, quoting the bishop at:

    Such romance is not actually pornographic but all the elements of pornography are there, just waiting to break out.

  55. Denis says:

    There is one important difference between Bp. Williamson and the liberal critics of JPII: Williamson was excommunicated. He and all members of the SSPX continue to be in canonical exile. Ordinary SSPX members don’t have access to valid absolution, and are cut off from other graces. This is very serious stuff. Why is it that dissenters from the left are deserving of “full communion”, but traditionalist dissenters are deserving of the harshest sanction that the Church can impose?

  56. Charles E Flynn says:

    This combox could inspire another of Fr. Z’s delightful surveys. The topic:

    Under what circumstances did you first encounter the expression “more Catholic than the pope”? Did being “more Catholic than the pope” strike you as:

    1. A good thing.
    2. A bad thing.
    3. A logical impossibility.

  57. Alice says:

    Liberal dissenters are excommunicated when they consecrate bishops without papal mandate. They’re also excommunicated when they’re female and try to get ordained. (I can’t think of any Catholic bishops excommunicated for trying to ordain women because even liberal Catholic bishops fear Rome’s wrath on this one and the Old Catholic bishops who attempt to ordain women are already out of the Church.) Just like the liberal dissenters, the SSPX don’t confess to priests with faculties because they don’t choose to do so. Neither modernists nor traditionalists are barred from finding a priest with faculties for confession. If they choose not to confess to a priest with faculties or not to confess at all, they have only themselves to blame for the lack of absolution and sacramental grace. I see people who attend Mass at the SSPX school near me in the confession lines at local parishes and a couple priest who went to seminary in Winona have told me that they’ve seen SSPX seminarians in confession lines as well.

  58. EWTN Rocks says:

    Charles E Flynn,

    The Damien Thompson article quoting the bishop on the Sound of Music was absolutely hilarious – thanks for posting the link!

  59. jdscotus says:

    Sigh. Unfortunately, this “discussion” has gone exactly where I knew it would go. Maltese, thank you for your comments. The rest of you either do not understand Bishop Williamson’s arguments (I doubt that anyone falls into that category) or refuse to follow the truth. Yes, popes can and have erred. Remember St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter? Remember St. Athanasius? Look at the comments from today and you will see that most people mention obiter dicta from Bishop Williamson. None of them addresses directly my challenge, namely, to point out the errors of Bishop Williamson. I find it curious that people who are so dismissive of the SSPX and Bishop Williamson spend so much time writing about them.

    Look, you can have your altar girls, your “eucharistic ministers,” your “lectors,” your silly music that is inappropriate for the Mass, your “Catholic” colleges, your “nuns” and Fr. First Names, and your revolutionary liturgy and catechism, your popes who kiss the Koran and venerate Buddah and consort with priestesses, who enter a synagogue to “pray” but who would never enter a chapel of the SSPX, who water down prayers for our fellow men in order to appease the secularist ethos, your diocesan rags that reprint Democrat talking points, your Saturday liturgy that pretends to be for Sunday, and your fellow parishioners who dress their girls like sluts and their boys like slobs. You may have all of this and the arrogant feeling of being within the laws of the Church, but I suspect (or hope) your souls remain unsettled. For all of the jejune comments that trash Bishop Williamson, I restate that no one was willing to take on his theology. That’s a smart move, actually.

  60. The Cobbler says:

    CMW: Well, more precisely, my point is that Bp. Williamson implies he would be sedevacantist if Benedict favored the Trojan horse, but strictly speaking infallibility is defined sufficiently narrowly that Benedict would have to do more than just reject the Faith to prove he’s not Pope, he’d have to officially command the whole Church to believe it, unless I’m mistaken. I’m fairly certain any less narrow a scope would pose problems with, say, Pope Honorius I.

    With that said, I can see the point about the hollow horse — in fact, to some extent I agree myself, though I’m not so sure this fifth column is organized by masonry or what have you. However, it seems to me that putting oneself on shakey ground with the real Church because it lives alongside the Trojan horse is, to turn around a common saying, cutting off the face to spite the nose. Bp. Fellay has openly admitted the Society remains in a hazy canonical standing precisely so Rome will have to come around to their view; near as I can tell either they must therefore think Rome and all those of us who give Rome the benefit of the doubt are heretics or something in that line (whatever evil malfeasant one must be to tolerate a Trojan horse, if tolerance is all the matter is), or else they must be playing chicken with their souls to try to get some fire put to the hollow horse. Either is clearly reprehensible (I mean, since when is it ok to call your fellow Catholic heretic for giving Rome the benefit of the doubt?), and it doesn’t help anything that if one points this out the SSPX’s supporters label your criticism emotional — for another example, some say it’s just a fact that the Novus Ordo destroyed the Church, and some of the same it’s just another fact that the Church went down on JPII’s watch, and according to these folks pointing out that the combination of these two “facts” is chronologically impossible (though it could be made correct merely by saying JPII did not halt the collapse already occuring) is sloppy reasoning and whiney to boot… And yet these are the same people who split hairs over the exact technical definition of “schism”, too! My point isn’t to be ad hominem here; my point is, I think there’s something more at issue than being worried for the Church over the Trojan horse, something they must have positively against the real Church or her members that anything other than the Society’s standards for dealing with such issues is reprehensible (and they wonder why they are accused of creating a parallel Church or a separate Magisterium).

  61. Charles E Flynn says:

    EWTN Rocks,

    You are welcome, and I suspect that Bishop Williamson’s objections to “The Sound of Music” were not influenced by its failure to appear on the list of films that the Vatican suggests should be seen by those who wish to be film-literate:

  62. TNCath says:

    I waited a good long time before reading this post because I wasn’t sure why we would even care what this man thinks. After reading it, I can now honestly say with conviction: who really cares what this man thinks? In the words of Bill Murray in the 1980’s movie Meatballs: it just doesn’t matter.

  63. Charles E Flynn says:

    When Bishop Williamson can get his theology published by Ignatius Press, I will be willing to read it. Until then, I will dismiss it as the work of an formerly-excommunicated egomaniac crank who seems to collect crank outlooks as a hobby.

  64. benedetta says:

    I haven’t the slightest idea of what is meant by this note. Furthermore, I am not at all concerned that I don’t know what he is talking about.

  65. The Cobbler says:

    Ok, I’m reading further and Ezra just taught me something interesting. I’d certainly be interested in seeing that logic followed up further; otherwise we could have issues with cardinals not being cardinals and all sorts of breaks in apostolic succession, possibly leading to any number of antipopes on the list of popes because of such breaks, etc. Unless there’s simply never been enough cardinals ordained by popes of questionable orthodoxy, which I suppose there may not have been before Vatican II — in which case it needs to be examined more definitively than ever, since it’s not obviously a historically implicated issue.

    Still think it’s crazy to sweep aside ordinary faithful like myself for giving Rome the benefit of the doubt, whether explicitly or even implicitly by saying the situation requires us to get out of Rome. Criticizing Rome is one thing, adding to the Faith this requirement to criticize is something else.

    Unless there’s something they’re being asked to affirm in VII or the NO that explicitly and without any room for continuity-ward interpretation contradicts previous explicit teaching; in which case they should be focusing less on goofy denunciations followed by blabber about their objectivity compared to the supposed ad hominem of those who call them on such goofiness, and more on explaining where this explicit and unavoidable contradiction is.

    Usually when they bother getting to such detail, all I see is claims that it’s “obvious” that the Novus Ordo is heretical — I’ve looked at the missals side by side, it’s stripped down badly, but I didn’t notice anything obviously heretical _added_ to the new one — or “obvious” that, say, the old truth that one must come to the Church for salvation and Truth cannot not be contradicted by the newish approach of reeling in people to the full Truth based on their bits of truth or the acknowledgement that God could find ways to work around lack of knowledge of the Church for those whose ignorance is what thomists call “invincible” (basically, it’s not their fault in any way). Sooner or later, I adandon any discussion that leads into “duh to infinity”.

    I guess the onus is on me, then, to wade through Williamson’s writings and learn what theological objections need to be addressed. So far all I’ve learned is he puts more weight on the authority of the von Trapp family’s biological father than he puts on the authority of the Holy Father. Is that enough of a criticism for the critics of his critics?

  66. Denis says:


    The Holy Father revoked the Bishops’ excommunication. Now the issue is Vatican II. Period. V2 has been the subject of the talks with the SSPX, and V2 is the stumbling block to the SSPX’s regularization. So, the question remains: why is the harshest punishment of the church reserved for those who question V2? If I was in their position, I’d be cranky, too.

  67. Gulielmus says:

    Maltese and jdscotus– you are apparently using the word “theology” in some other sense than the rest of the world does, since Williamson’s arguments are virtually never theological in their approach. Might you cite an example of his “theology” that the rest of us have not “taken on”?

  68. CarpeNoctem says:

    #$(*!! Twice I have accidentally deleted rather long comments, so here is my contribution in a nutshell:

    1) Scotus has no place in saying that theology has not been discussed here. He has not engaged the serious commentators here. The two I would hold up are Fr. Fox and CatholicMidwest, in particular the “money shot” which explains it better than I have seen anywhere else: “He is saying that there are two churches somehow rolled up into one, and they are not yet distinct from one another, and it’s not clear where the demarcations that MUST logically and necessarily exist between them are, exactly.” Yeah, I’d say that’s theology. “Ecclesiology”, to be exact. It’s actually quite a profound analysis which had not come to mind for me in this way before… thanks for the clarity, CMW.

    2) There is an allusion here, I think, to Lumen Genitum and the whole “subsists in” language, which must be very carefully explained and understood to articulate it in the proper Catholic context which is in unison with history, tradition, and truth. The key question for the SSPX and for that matter everyone who has tried to reform the Church by breaking from Peter is that pesky quesiton of ecclesiology, namely, ‘where does the Church end and the massa damnata begin’? I say ‘ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia’ and do so with the full recognition that here on earth its always going to be a little messy.

    3) Everytime a reformer steps away from Peter it ends… badly. Is there ever a case where that is not true? (I am willing to accept an argument about the Orthodox in either way on this question… I haven’t completely decided… but I am also not sure that the story is over with them.)

    4) I trust that the sacraments are very hard to ‘break’ when you have the right matter, form, intention. While I don’t appreciate being lumped in with the long list of excesses which Scotus lists, I know that when I stand before the altar in both the EF and the OF, that I am intending to do as the Church does to the core of my ability to intend anything as a human person can, that I am validly ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and empowered to do the priestly ministry, and that the bread and wine before me are definitely, irrevocably, and unequivocally the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ… in spite of my faults, ignorance, and unworthiness. We are in very messy times… as I have heard it described before, “it is a unique opportunity for Christians in our day and age to suffer for the faith”. That’s why Fr. Z’s approach is so perfectly in line with the project of the day… “brick by brick”.

    It is an ecclesia semper reformanda. Do we jettison or minimize or convict Peter to do the reform? Only at our own risk.

  69. pjthom81 says:

    Hmm…I dunno. The trojan horse idea is interesting….and definitely explains many a revolting feeling I’ve had in my stomach listening to some of my former Catholic high school teachers (not a bad lot…but they considered me an unabashed reactionary.)

    My main quibble with the comments that hit the current Pontiff and JP II is that I don’t think these were taking the Church in the wrong direction. Certainly Benedict seems to be trying to get rid of the silly music, the eucharistic ministers (out of the appropriate extraordinary role) and the rest. Again, I do not see where Benedict XVI’s interpretation of Vatican II contradicts earlier Church history….rather it seems to reinforce it.

    Regarding the Modernists….I rather like the “Yes Prime Minister” episode that defined “Modernists” as code for non-believer. Its not so much a specific belief as it is looking for an excuse not to believe doctrines that have been handed down. Any argument will do. I think that a Modernist group managed to take advantage of documents at V II that were amorphous, and proceeded to try to bend them to their ends. They achieved power within the structure of the Church over the next decade, then lasted another decade before they started losing their power. This much I agree with. I just don’t see Benedict as a Modernist in any sense of the term…and the accusation seems manifestly unjust. I don’t in fact see many Modernists left in the bishoprics….but I will certainly defer towards those who know more than I.

    One anecdote……my Dad was working for a diocese in the 1990’s and was told that many of the “liberals” there thought Weakland was Pope rather than JP II. This is basically the group I’m referring to. Again, others from this group confidently informed me that the reactionary JP II was trying to undo the Second Vatican Council. That was obviously false, but it is true that JP II was limiting the influence of this crowd in the Church and getting them out if possible. This is also the crowd that provided the “Democrat talking points” Church documents. It always seemed clear to me that JP II was a leader against this group….not part of it. I guess I take an optimistic view….the Trojan Horse is receeding from the citadel.

  70. JSArt867 says:

    Bp. Williamson may not actually be that far-off with The Sound of Music film. I’ve heard that their own literature describes the Von Trapp family as being defined by living in Catholic traditions. Very little of that made it into the movie, which seemed to be sort of de-Catholicized and sentimentalized to fit the musical genre. While it has been awhile, I remember it as a fun film but not a terribly profound one. Of course, I may just need to see it again…

  71. Charles E Flynn says:


    Compose in a text editor, save as you go along, and then paste your text into the comment box. I know exactly what you mean by #$(*!!, having accidentally hit the Back button myself more than once.

  72. Bp. Williamson follows the usual track – that SSPX is the defacto real Magisterium, which upholds the true faith, while Rome has lost it through infection of modernism, which has part truth and part error. After all, even protestants have part of the truth along with their errors, which is what Bp. Williamson says about Pope Benedict and the Conciliar Church. Bp. Williamson is the most outspoken SSPX leader to state such a position quite directly in public. I’ve never met an SSPX follower (or “trad”) who didn’t think the same, even if they weren’t so public about their beliefs.

    Bp. Williamson statements are true relative to particular Church clergy, even high ranking ones, however that cannot be applied to the infallible Church. One must learn to distinguish between the members of the Church and the Church itself. The error of throwing the baby out with the bath water comes to mind. Protestants are relativists of the Bible, that is they take the Bible verses and apply their personal interpretation. SSPX are relativists of Tradition – that is they take Tradition and apply their interpretation to judge Rome. That’s not how the real Church works.

  73. Alice says:

    When you find the parallel international Spirit of Vatican II organization that validly ordains and sets up chapels and schools without the permission of the bishop, let me know. Liberal dissidents have started their own churches headed by women or suspended priests and the local bishops have warned the faithful away. Liberal dissidents have also infiltrated approved organizations, knowing only too well that it is much harder for a bishop to take back the permission given by a predecessor or sort the good from the bad than it is for him to refuse to bless a new organization.

  74. @pjthom81: See, using “Modernist” to basically mean “anybody who dissents” is what bugs me… Pius IX’s use of the term is ambiguous enough as it is, but there it referred at least to a specific worldview if not to specific doctrines. And that particular set of nonsense is not the dominant one anymore; it’s been replaced by the ‘postmodernist’, ‘dictatorship of relativism’ set: which also relativizes Truth but in a very philosophically different way.

  75. Denis says:


    The excommunications of the SSPX Bishops were the punishment for the illicit consecrations. Those excommunications have been reversed. The illicit consecrations are no longer an issue, nor are the schools, chapels, etc. If you read the interviews with Bp. Fellay about the talks, the one and only one issue is Vatican II. Therefore, the SSPX are in exactly the same position as the liberal bishops, priests, laity who disagree with some aspect of church teaching.

    It’s tempting to make ourselves feel better about the SSPX situation by poking fun at Bp. Williamson, but there are serious issues at stake. I would recommend watching the following testimony of Father Yannick Escher–a Swiss priest who left the diocesan priesthood and joined the SSPX–for a sense of the desperation that drives many away from profoundly heretical dioceses, and into the ranks of the SSPX:

    Your parish may be orthodox, but there are many places aroud the world where priests and parishes in full communion have become Protestant, and where the SSPX is the only alternative. There is a crisis in the church, Vatican II is the cause, and people should be able to criticize that pastoral council without being turned into pariahs.

  76. Ezra says:


    Look at the comments from today and you will see that most people mention obiter dicta from Bishop Williamson. None of them addresses directly my challenge, namely, to point out the errors of Bishop Williamson.

    I gave you two at 9.54am. Here they are again:

    Can you reconcile the teaching of Pastor Aeternus with Bishop Williamson’s claim that the Society of St Pius X is in the “driving seat” (a seat other than Peter’s, it seems) of the Church?

    Can you reconcile Sixtus IV’s condemnation of the proposition that “the Church of the city of Rome can fall into error” (deemed to be erroneous and containing manifest heresy) with Bishop Williamson’s claims that a “universal anti-religion… has taken effective control in Rome”, that Rome is “no longer Catholic”, that “these Romans have lost the Faith and are doing their best to stamp it out wherever they can still find it”?

    These are theological problems with Bishop Williamson’s “Rome has fallen, the SSPX drives” ecclesiology. If you think you can overcome them, be my guest.

  77. Pachomius says:

    catholicmidwest: “He is saying that there are two churches somehow rolled up into one, and they are not yet distinct from one another, and it’s not clear where the demarcations that MUST logically and necessarily exist between them are, exactly.”
    Isn’t this almost exactly what Vatican II put forward with regard to those outside the Church who may be saved?

    RandomFriar: And, indeed, aren’t the declarations of permanence attached to almost every tweak to the missal before and since?

    I’m not an expert on Vatican II, but I do have two observations to make. First, that the popular narrative of what happened around the Second Vatican Council and the 1970 Missal is at best hugely distorted.

    Second, as a cradle-Catholic, I find it a little odd to be lectured on Catholicism by a man who went straight from the Church of England into a group in only dubious union with the Church, whose theological qualifications as I recall consist of a bachelor’s degree in English literature, whose critical abilities are at best dubious given his remarks on other subjects, and who is effectively a wandering bishop, having no diocese and thus being in an irregular and questionably traditional state at best.

    Furthermore, I would suggest to anyone who finds that the Sound of Music has “all the elements of pornography” that they mgiht like to retire to a remote place and pay urgent attention to their own soul before they start seeking to guide the care of others’.

  78. CPKS says:

    In response to jdscotus’s challenge, and in addition to Ezra’s points, I should like to make and justify a more far-reaching criticism of Williamson, namely that he presents fallacious reasoning as if it were rigorous, and thus leads astray those who, like jdscotus, are not trained in logic, and thus seduces them not only away from orthodoxy but also from the proper use of their rational faculties. Consider the following argument, quoted above:

    “[Benedict XVI’s] past writings are full of Modernist errors. Now, Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies (Pascendi, Saint Pius X). So Ratzinger as a heretic goes far beyond Luther’s Protestant errors, as Bishop Tissier de Mallerais well said.” (January 2006)

    This has the grammatical structure of a syllogism:

    A1) Premiss 1: B’s past writings are “full” of modernist errors.
    A2) Premiss 2: Modernism is the synthesis of all heresies.
    – “So” – this word implies that the conclusion will follow logically from the premisses.
    C1) Conclusion: Ratzinger’s errors are worse than those of Luther. (Actually, W’s conclusion alleges far more, as we shall see.)

    For the purposes of this argument, I shall assume the truth of W’s premisses. (I do not believe they are true, or even sufficiently clear in meaning to serve as premisses of a logical argument; but I will lay this point aside for the moment.)

    As the student of logic will see at once, the conclusion brings in a number of terms which don’t occur in the premisses: “worse” and “Luther” are particularly significant. Clearly there are more, unstated premisses which will be required if we are to be able to show that the conclusion follows from the premisses. Perhaps something like the following will help W to derive his conclusion:

    A3) Luther’s past writings contain some Protestant errors.

    Now if these Protestant errors are theological, we can perhaps argue that these are heresies:

    A4) Protestant errors are “heresies” in the sense of A2.

    From A3 and A4 we can derive the intermediate conclusion L1:

    L1) Luther’s past writings contain heresies.

    Now, perhaps it can be shown that from A2 and L1 we can further deduce L2:

    L2) Therefore, Luther’s past writings contain modernist errors.

    This would seem to follow, on the basis that if Luther’s heresies were not modernist, then there would be some heresies of which modernism was not the synthesis, and this would contradict A2.

    How, then, does W’s argument show (even when A3 and A4 are addmitted as additional assumptions) that Ratzinger’s heresies are “worse” than Luther’s? I see nothing within the premisses, even as buttressed by A3 and A4, to justify W’s conclusion.

    Moreover, W’s conclusion implies far more than C1. For example, W’s phrase “Ratzinger as a heretic…” clearly implies “Ratzinger is a heretic, and as such…”. But the premisses do not justify the statement that Ratzinger is a heretic, but only that his past writings contain heretical errors. (We would need additional assumptions that Ratzinger had not recanted, etc.)

    What should now be clear is that whilst W’s argument masquerades as a syllogism, on closer examination its conclusion does not follow from its premisses. Rather than continue the boring task of inventing more and more assumptions like A3 and A4, perhaps I can show W’s fallacy more tellingly by constructing a formally similar, but more obviously fallacious argument:

    – Fred has white hair and a stoop.
    – George has Alzheimer’s disease.
    – White hair, a stoop and Alzheimer’s disease are characteristic conditions of old age.
    – “Symptoms of old age” is a synthesis of all the characteristic conditions of old age.
    – Fred has some symptoms of old age.
    – Therefore, Fred’s condition is worse than George’s.

    To present fallacious arguments in the guise of correct reasoning is unworthy of a rational mind. To do this whilst accusing one’s opponents (without bothering to substantiate the accusations) is, on the face of it, both lazy and arrogant. It may well be conduct unworthy of a professional theologian. It is certainly unworthy of a Catholic bishop.

  79. Centristian says:

    The danger with having fun with Richard Williamson is the temptation some fall into of supposing that Williamson is the jester of the SSPX, the clown of the SSPX, that he is the extremist of the SSPX, that he is the way he is and says the things he says DESPITE Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X. The “mainstream” SSPX is not like him, one imagines, and doesn’t believe what Williamson believes.

    Don’t you believe it for an instant, however. Williamson is just shouting into a megaphone everything the rest of them believe but which they are whispering into one anothers’ ears. Don’t imagine that he’s the one cracked egg in the basket. The SSPX are an omlet.

    “Rather he is convinced, as Bishop Tissier shows, that he is ‘regenerating’ them with the help of modern thinking!”

    As Bishop Tissier shows??? You’ve got to love it. I was wondering why on earth Williamson would imagine it matters to the Church what he thinks about this (or anything else), and then he goes and underscores his irrelevant position by referencing the position of Tissier de Mallerais!

    Blimey, guvnah!

  80. kgurries says:

    Aside from removing the prayer for the Pope during Mass, what PRACTICAL effect would come from Bishop W formally declaring himself a sede? It’s nice to have a theoretical recognition of a given papacy — but if it does not include some PRACTICAL submission to papal authority then what does it really matter? Is there a substantial difference between formal and material or practical sedevacantism?

  81. Denis says:


    How many bishops who are “in full communion” fail to show PRACTICAL submission to papal authority by refusing to implement Summorum Pontificum? The percentage is quite high, actually.

  82. kgurries says:

    Denis, there is always the possibility for canonical recourse when a bishop does not follow the law of the Church. He can be compelled by the Holy See to uphold the law. Somehow I doubt that Bishop Williamson’s followers will have the same kind of canonical recourse.

  83. Denis says:


    Bp. Williamson’s role in the SSPX has been reduced to a minimum, because of all of the trouble–legal and other–he has attractedthe society. At 71, he is already, effectively, in retirement. If, God willing, the SSPX are regularized, Bp. Williamson would, at most, have emeritus status. It’s hard to imagine circumstances under which any Catholic would need “canonical recourse” against him. If he were, say, to refuse to marry a couple because they like the Sound of Music, they could, I am sure, find another priest. The SSPX should not remain in exile because of Bp. Williamson.

  84. Ezra says:

    Given that Bishop Williamson has repeatedly ignored his Superior General’s instruction that he observe silence, the simplest solution would be to expel him from the Society. All other things being normal, that would seem to open the way for a solution to the Society’s status in the Church.

    Sadly, however, it’s not entirely obvious that he’s the sole crank among the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. Bishop Fellay may often sound sensible, but what are we to make of Bishop Tissier de Mallerais’ repeated claims about the Pope and the “New Religion” (i.e. Catholicism post-Vatican II)?

    …this Pope has professed heresies in the past! He has professed heresies! I do not know whether he still does… he has never retracted his errors. It was when he was a priest. When he was a theologian, he professed heresies, he published a book full of heresies… He has a book called Introduction to Christianity, it was in 1968. It is a book full of heresies. Especially the negation of the dogma of the Redemption. He says that Christ did not satisfy for our sins, did not – atone – He, Jesus Christ, on the Cross, did not make satisfaction for our sins. This book denies Christ’s atonement of sins. He denies the necessity of satisfaction… It goes much further than Luther. Luther admits the sacrifice…the satisfaction of Christ. It is worse than Luther, much worse. (Interview with Stephen Heiner)


    This New Religion is nothing else, my dear faithful, than a gnostic sect. I think that this is the word that characterizes it perfectly, since it is a religion without sin, without justice, without mercy, without penance, without conversion, without virtue, without sacrifice, without effort, but simply a self-consciousness. It is a purely “intellectualist” religion, it is a pure gnostic sect. Then my dear future deacons and priests, be sure that I ordain you neither deacons nor priests to be deacons and priests of this gnostic religion. And I am persuaded that your intention also was to receive the Catholic priesthood today, from the hands of the Catholic Church, and not to receive the gnostic priesthood from the hands of I know not what gnostic system. Reject with horror, my dear faithful, my dear ordinands, this natural religion, this intellectualist religion, which has nothing to do with the Catholic religion, and, on the contrary, be always more firmly persuaded of the reason for our combat and for our priesthood. (Ordination Sermon of 2002)

  85. MichaelJ says:

    This would seem to follow, on the basis that if Luther’s heresies were not modernist, then there would be some heresies of which modernism was not the synthesis, and this would contradict A2.

    Yes, it certainly would seem so if one did not understand what Pope Pius X meant by the phrase “synthesis of all heresies”.
    To borrow somebody else’s analogy, water is the synthesis of hydrogen and oxygen, but neither hydrogen nor oxygen itself is a kind of water. Being a heretic does not necessarily entail being a Modernist, just as hydrogen is not necessarily water. Being a modernist, though, does necessarily mean that one is a heretic, just as water always contains hydrogen

  86. Ezra says:

    That’s an inept rejoinder. If something is the “synthesis of all heresies”, that means that its constituent concepts are in themselves heresies. Water is not the “synthesis of all waters”, but – as you observe – the synthesis of hydrogen and oxygen. What are the constituent elements of water? Hydrogen and oxygen.

    It’s really not very difficult.

  87. MichaelJ says:

    Not sure what you are trying to say, Ezra. If Oxygen is a “heresy” and Water is “modernism” then what is rust?
    All I am saying is that it does *not* follow that all heresies are modernist. You seem to disagree.

    Given that my response to CPKS is an “inept rejoinder” I can think of only two conclusions. Either:
    1. Luther’s heresies were modernist – or –
    2. Pope Pius X was mistaken when he identified modernism as the synthesis of all heresies.

    Perhaps you can identify another explanation?

Comments are closed.