ASK FATHER: Some say @TaylorRMarshall, Tim Gordon, Archbp. Vigano are schismatic. Is this true?”

From a reader…


I am a relatively new re-convert to Christiantiy. I have learned much from Dr. Taylor Marshall and I have started attending my local Traditional Latin Mass and have picked my latin missal at his recommendation.

Some pastors and critics accuse Dr. Marshall, Timothy Gordon, and even Archbishop Vigano, and others like them of being schismatic. Is this true? What would make schism a schism, and how would Dr. Marshall be any different? I can’t help but agree with some points with Dr. Marshall and that the church is in trouble, but isn’t Papal authority infallible? And aren’t we supposed to treat the councils like Vatican II in a similar manner? I feel so conflicted about this, and I don’t know how to resolve it. What would be the correct way to go about what these men are doing, if such a thing were even possible?

Are they and other Trads correct in doing what they are doing?

I don’t want to be a schismatic, heretic, blasphemer, or to be sacrilegious and in rebellion to God.

How do I move forward?

But I am glad that you are finding sustenance in difference places. Tutto fa brodo!

Do NOT worry about being a schismatic or a heretic.  I’ll explain.

You ask, how do you “move forward”?  Be careful of those who don’t know what they don’t know.

When it comes to Latin Mass hand missals, I have my own recommendations, based on the last three decades of being at this.

Schismatic.. heretic…. These terms are technical terms.

Let’s get some things straight.

First, a primary text.  What does the law really say?

Can. 751 – Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

A Catholic is not a formal heretic unless he or she has been declared to be one by the competent authority.  Until that time, a person might “hold heretical views” but he is not formally a heretic. A Catholic who stops practicing the Catholic faith and attends a Methodist chapel is a lapsed Catholic and probably believes some things which are heretical.

The same for apostasy. One would either need to be declared an apostate by the competent authority, or would have to have one’s defection or apostasy be public.  What would that look like?  Get “ordained” as a “priest” or “priestess” in the Anglican Communion or Wymyn thing. Until that time, a Catholic who stops the practice of his or her Catholic faith is simply a lapsed Catholic.

The same for schism. Wanna be a schismatic?  Get yourself declared a schismatic by the competent authority.

“But Father! But Father!  You hate Vatican II!  Therefore you ignore that Lefebvre commited a ‘schismatic act’ in 1988!  HAH HAH!  You are hoist on your… high … thing.”

Even committing “a schismatic act”, such as the when Archbp. Lefebvre consecrated bishops without pontifical mandate in in 1998, did not in and of itself suffice to establish that the individuals involved were schismatics.  That declaration would have had to come from the Roman Pontiff.  It did not.  Those involved were excommunicated but never formally tried and declared each to be schismatics.

A Catholic might have “schismatic” views etc., but is not actually a schismatic until such time as he or she would undertake something of a public nature.  For a man that might be  diaconal or presbyteral ordination in the Greek Orthodox Church, or Russian Orthodox Church.  They fit the qualification of “refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Other than 1988 consecrations, the SSPX has never refused submission to the Roman Pontiff, nor have they refused to be in communion with the members of the Church subject to the Roman Pontiff, viz., other Catholics.

Think about this.  The Pope can only excommunicate and then lift the excommunication from his own subjects (cf. can. 205: “Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.” That “governance” part is why the SSPX is not schismatic. The Pope exercises “governance” toward his own Catholic subjects.  He does not exercise it toward the Coptic Orthodox, or Baptists, etc.

You asked about “councils like Vatican II“.

Regarding General or Ecumenical Councils (all 21 of them), it is possible to be a valid Council but a failed one.  Consider Lateran V. Utter failure.  Its legislation on ecclesiastical pawn shops went nowhere, which is a darn shame.  I’d really appreciate well regulated ecclesial pawn shops.  And – hey! – what ever happened to the “spirit of Lateran V”?  Moreover, Lateran I and Lateran II weren’t even classified as General or Ecumenical Councils until after the Council of Trent (500 years later).

And Vatican II was a “pastoral” Council….  Whatever that means.

You don’t ignore it, but let’s not make it into something that it isn’t.

You asked about Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon and Archbp. Viganò.

No.  Agree with them or disagree with them, Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon and Archbp. Viganò are not formal heretics.  If you can find something that they have said that contradicts teaching which Catholics have to accept, they may be in error and they may materially be in heresy.  Make your case.  They are not schismatics either, obviously.

Or rather DON’T.  I can’t imagine much that would be more tedious than people without the best tools applying themselves to cobble something together.


I’ll show you much clearer case!  At the Catholic Herald read about that Irish hack Tony Flannery.  Flannery, a founder of the Ass. of Catholic Priests in Ireland, has refused to submit to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on clearly taught doctrinal positions, about the ordination of women, same-sex marriage, and homosexuality.  He refuses, contumaciously, calling the propositions “appalling”.  He is suspended from ministry.  He has been questioned by proper authority, admonished, allowed a chance to recant his heretical notions.  I fully expect that the CDF will issue a statement that Flannery is, for all intents and purposes, a heretic and, therefore, he cannot function as a priest and his views are to be rejected.

It is tempting, and sometimes useful for the sake of shorthand, to use “heretic” or “heresy”.  But when we get really serious about the words and their implications, we have to go back to the fundamentals.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "But Father! But Father!", "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JustaSinner says:

    So technically Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are only heretical and apostastic in theory until a binding authority, the Pope(?), so designates…but isn’t the Lord the FINAL SAYtm?

  2. FrankWalshingham says:

    Father Z: now that you mention it, what are your current recommendations as far as Latin missals?

  3. Blaise says:

    It is hard to tell what they believe as you cannot trust any of their public statements. But their consistent,m public promotion of policies contrary to the clear moral teaching of the Catholic Church is certainly problematic. I think Fr Z posted on the fact that they are bad Catholics but not formally heretics.

    And of course the Lord has the final say. That comes at the end though and before death nothing is final. Thankfully He and the Church constantly work to bring them and all lapsed or bad Catholics back to the truth and to Him. Part of that work is our prayers for them.

  4. JonPatrick says:

    Justasinner what they are advocating i.e. “a women’s right to choose” would be a material heresy but I think as our host has said the Church would have to declare them formal heretics. All we can say is that they hold heretical views.

  5. RosaryRose says:

    At least my SSPX friends can be assured they were baptized with the right words. My sister says her SSPX priest is a stickler for everything being exactly to the book.

    I thank God for you Father! God has you here right now with your gifts for His purpose.

    The storms are raging and will get worse, but know that God is in control. Our job is to pray and fast. Be a people of hope.

    God bless Fr Z!

  6. Both Baronius Press and Angelus Press have beautiful hand missals for the TLM. However, Baronius seems often to be out of print, while Angelus is always available. And the Angelus has one in Latin and Spanish as well.


  7. NOCatholic says:

    Not familiar with Taylor Marshall nor Tim Gordon. We have all heard of Archbishop Vigano. But nothing was said about how any of them could be schismatics, even informally.

  8. jflare29 says:

    “Other than 1988 consecrations, the SSPX has never refused submission to the Roman Pontiff, nor have they refused to be in communion with the members of the Church subject to the Roman Pontiff, viz., other Catholics.”

    I’m sorry, Fr, yet I think that’s a statement in error. Two reasons:  [BOTH WRONG… btw]
    1. Videos I’ve seen here show (part of) Mass offered by SSPX. Judging by numbers of people present, it appeared to be public. I’m not aware of any appropriate faculties SSPX possesses for this.  [A Mass can be private even if there are people there.  ]
    2. We both remember negotiations in 2009. Neither these nor any others have resulted in accord to my knowledge. [So?] SSPX also routinely presents themselves to the world as Catholic, yet cannot be said to be functioning as part of the Catholic….apparatus. [The SSPX presents themselves as Catholic, because they are.  They function as part of the Catholic Church. This is a Church, not an “apparatus”.  They seek a higher canonical status than the present “association of the faithful” without canonical recognition.] To honor a pope is one thing, yet one must still hold oneself accountable to a legitimately selected leader. To my knowledge, ..SSPX does not. [Your knowledge clearly has gaps.  They honor both the Roman Pontiff and the local bishop in the Mass.  Discussions continue with the CDF.  As for a leader, they legitimately elected their own based on the principle of freedom of association.  The one they elected, Fr. Pagliarani, is now the point man with whom the CDF communicates.  And the CDF is engaged with those whom the SSPX selected.  The SSPX works with local bishops regularly.  If they didn’t consider themselves accountable to either, bishop or the Holy See, they wouldn’t deal with either.]

    However technical these matters may be argued to be, however well-intentioned or passionate the SSPX may be, …I cannot escape the consequences of the basic meaning–and impact–of what words mean. So far as I can tell, the SSPX do, at present, fulfill the basic matter of schism.  [“the basic matter of schismj”… as far as you can tell….  Well. There it is.]
    I can only conclude them then to be in a state of material schism.  [Whatever that means.]
    I don’t say I like it that way, I say that’s the only way I can understand this situation that makes a twitch of sense.  [However, well-intentioned you might be, or how well-informed you think you may be, you – and this is a huge PLURAL YOU for a large group out there who think they can opine on the status of the SSPX – would do well to concentrate on other things.  You are out over your skiis on a slope where you shouldn’t be.]

  9. AngelaM says:

    Thank you Father for your info on the SSPX status. Can you clarify, can I receive Confirmation in an SSPX chapel?

  10. AngelaM says: can I receive Confirmation in an SSPX chapel?

    Confirmation would be valid, but illicit.

    The law itself gives the faculty to confirm to diocesan bishops and their equivalent, and, in danger of death, any priest. Diocesan bishops can give the faculty to priests for a good reason. Diocesan bishops confirm licitly anyone in their territory, unless some “outsiders” own bishop prohibits it.

    The problem is, SSPX bishops do not have an territory, such as a diocese. Technically, they have no subjects. Hence, while they, as bishops, validly confirm, the administration of the sacrament is illicit.

    Can one receive Confirmation in an SSPX chapel? One can. However, one might ask, should one receive at an SSPX chapel, given that it isn’t licit? I think you would have to ask the question, “Why do I want to go to that particular chapel to be confirmed rather than be confirmed by a local bishop?”

    “I don’t like the local bishop!”, isn’t an adequate reason.

    This is why it is so important for more bishops to be generous and open to conferring confirmation in the Traditional Rite along with the “Novus Ordo” form.

  11. DeeEmm says:

    We use Baronius and bought a hand missal late last year so it sold out recently. Beautiful! Guess the Latin mass is really taking off. Hopefully they are printing up many more to restock. In my humble opinion Taylor Marshall is rock solid and Archbishop Vigano is a blessing to the faithful but no-one is perfect. In these confusing times read the Bible, Baltimore Catechism and the writings of the saints, just to name a few. Of course, never forget our dear Fr. Z who is a great help to us on the straight and narrow road.

  12. In re hand missals: I have a Baronius Press missal and an Angelus Press missal. I have used them both numerous times at Mass and while they are both good, I have to say I prefer the Angelus missal. The Angelus missal has a lot of good commentary and informative explanations in the margins.

    In re the SSPX and a formal declaration of schism: why were the involved persons never formally tried as schismatics?

  13. KateD says:

    The Gordons are NOT schismatic. Schismatics don’t go to Catholic diocesean churches.

    Hey! But thank you for reminding me! I need to see if I can still sign my kids up for some homeschool courses with Tim Gordon.

    We need to be supporting these valiant young people who hazard all out of fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Church instead of shooting them down and maligning their character.

    Know that any one who stands up for and defends Christ or His Church is a special target for the enemy of men’s souls. We have to pray for one another. Having a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on hand is helpful to reference what is being said.

  14. markbru says:

    Biden officiated at a gay wedding. So it seems he effectively made a public statement that is heretical to church teaching.

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    DeeEmm makes good points. Here’s a reasonable, and a bit flawed, article about Taylor Marshall, who has also written several non-fiction books and novels:

    Timothy Gordon was fired recently from a “Catholic” high school for criticizing BLM and as KateD points out is involved in homeschooling. He is the author of “Catholic Republic: Why America Will Perish Without Rome.” As with Marshall, Gordon has a large family and, I think, a daughter who had brain surgery earlier this year.

    Abp. Vigano is a blessing to the Church. Here’s a good, balanced article on why he supports Trump’s re-election:

    Okay, huh. Well…that would be great for homeschooling too. And America is fed up, lamentations rise to Heaven from sea to shining sea: where is Top Gun 2? I digress.

    Lemme try again…Abp. Vigano supports Pres. Trump…ah, here it is:

  16. jflare29 says:

    Yes, Father, as far as I can tell. I evaluate matters in accord with the information I have available to me at the time I need to make a decision. So do we all.
    We are ALL on thin ice. Very thin ice indeed.

    [No. All of us are not on thin ice.]

  17. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  18. JPD says:

    What about SSPV?

    [What about it?]

  19. robtbrown says:

    Let’s say there is one person who thinks Vat II was a valid Council. And another who thinks it was not. What are the consequences of each position?

  20. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The point here is that canon law is generous, because Mother Church is generous. She doesn’t want to be smacking people down every five minutes, unless things get to the point when a smackdown is really required.

    None of the popes, including Francis, really wanted to try and convict anybody from the SSPX of anything, especially because they are mostly a bunch of Catholics who are honestly distressed by various prudential decisions of various popes. Heck, the popes have been doing their best for the last few hundred years to interpret matters so that the various Orthodox churches are not really really in schism schism, so that just in case somebody decides that Tuesday is Reunify with Rome Day, the popes have the door wide open.

    Sometimes people are a PITA and even a danger, but even some of the worst of the worst bad Catholic thinkers have come back to the Church on their deathbeds. If the popes and bishops thought that medicinal penalties were really useful, they’d use them more. If they’re afraid of scandal being caused more by open condemnation and trials, they have reason. (Maybe not enough reason, in some cases, but reason.)

    The other problem is that solid people can get caught up in exciting new movements, and later get embarrassed or bored and come back out. If we condemned stuff every five minutes, some of those people would be embarrassed to leave and abandon their “leaders” in their time of need.

  21. JPD says:

    What is the status of those groups who become sedevacantists but without a formal declaration of schism?

    [Their status is that of sedevacantists without a formal declaration of schism.]

  22. robtbrown says:


    Your comments seem to indicate that you are not aware of the policy of Paul VI toward the SSPX.

    When JPII was elected, a Cardinal was asked what it meant for the SSPX. His answer: It means the end of the persecution.

  23. catholictrad says:

    Seems utterly bizarre to claim that people who look, smell, quack, and taste like a duck don’t belong in the pond, while others who reject the bill, feathers, and webbed feet of the duck are given ownership of the pond.

    Jesus requires two rule; love God, love neighbor. Many other things are important, but they can’t cause use to take our eyes off of these before judging other as non-duckly.

  24. Semper Gumby says:

    “And Vatican II was a “pastoral” Council…. Whatever that means.

    “You don’t ignore it, but let’s not make it into something that it isn’t.”

    Indeed. Certain clergy and laity, spellbound at the sight of each other as Vatican II ninjas would do well to keep in mind: Christus Vincit.

Comments are closed.