This is Part II of our series talking about the problems with the SSPX with apologist John Salza. In Part I, John exposed that SSPX is in real schism from the Catholic Church, in contradiction to the communion that they claim to have. In this article, John will explain some major doctrinal errors that the SSPX have.
Bryan: There are a whole lot more problems. We can do a whole show on just the problems in the SSPX, but maybe you could talk about some of the errors and problems of Archbishop Marcel LeFebvre. What was his deal and what were his biggest issues that you found?
John: Well, there are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin.
I mean, you know, we can simply start by saying he denied the Council of Trent’s teaching, that ministers have to be lawfully sent and whoever says otherwise, let him be anathema. Right?
He denied the Vatican I council’s teaching that all are subject to the supreme authority of the church, which is a De Fide teaching and which is a matter of salvation.
He had denied the second Vatican Council’s teaching, doctrinal teaching, on the episcopacy, which holds that, when the bishops are in hierarchical communion with the Holy Father, they share in his supreme authority. This is, for example, how they can be judges at ecumenical councils.
I think one of the biggest proofs of their schism, and we haven’t talked about that yet, but among his errors which led to schism, was the fact that after the consecration, he declared that he needed substitute authorities to rule and govern the adherence of the society. And hence, this led to this formation of what they call this St. Charles Boromeo “canonical” commission, which is nothing more than a bogus tribunal that usurps the authority of the local bishops and the Holy See. The society has actually set up a rival altar and a rival tribunal within their own structure that usurps the authority, the legitimate authority, by ruling on marriage cases, marriage impediments, declarations of nullity, lifting of censure, dispensing of religious vows, etc. There’s no more proof of a schismatic mentality, I think in my view, than that canonical tribunal.
I’ve talked about his repeated statements, about how the Roman Catholic Church is no longer the Catholic Church. I mean, he’s on record in 1991 of saying that jurisdiction comes from the people. I’ve talked about this before. It’s in a letter he wrote to one of his priests in 1991. This was condemned by Leo XIII, Piu IX, it is condemned in St. Pius X’s catechism, jurisdiction coming from the people. No, it comes from Christ and the Pope, depending on how you want to look at it. But he used that Bryan, to justify ordaining priests, contrary to the permissions of the Holy See, sending them out into dioceses without incardination, and then ultimately, the illicit and schismatic episcopal consecration. He had claimed that because the people needed these administrations, they conferred upon him the authority to do these things, which again, is heretical. It’s plain and simple. It’s heretical on and on.
Sacramental intention is another real problem in the traditional movement, you know? Where did the idea come from, Bryan, that the Novus Ordo sacraments are somehow invalid or at least of dubious validity. Where did that come from? You know where it came from? Archbishop LeFebvre. That’s where that error started from, because he held a doctrinally erroneous view that the minister had to actually intend the sacramental effect. That is not true. It’s contrary to definitive catholic teaching of the Holy office. The minister only has to intend to do what the church does.
When you read his letter to confuse catholics, he says that if the priest, let’s say, while saying the mass intends the sacrament to be transignification instead of transubstantiation, this brings into question the validity of the Eucharist! That’s false. That’s completely false. The Holy office has said, so long as the priest uses the proper form, intends to celebrate the right as the church has it, the sacraments is confected.
There are many more things that can be said, but I think the point here, Bryan, is that there is an automatic a priori position that the society is somehow orthodox. Just because the priests wore nice cassocks and they say the 62 missile, and in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Once people understand that LeFebvre held serious doctrinal errors and heresies, I believe the dominoes are going to start to fall and we’re getting there. Some people are now beginning to see this, but nobody has really come out against LeFebvre in this manner. It’s not just me. There are a number of us out there, who have studied the writings of Archbishop LeFebvre in great detail, and these are the conclusions that we’ve inescapably reached and they haven’t been challenged to date.
Bryan: Yeah. I have a book, I’m wondering if you read it. It’s by Patrick Madrid.
John: Yeah. He wrote it a long time ago. I know Patrick well.
Bryan: Do you think it’s an accurate presentation of the society of the St. Pius X. I only ask you because he talks about how they weren’t an organization even yet within the church, and they had to have six years of ad experimentum time. And after those six years, if the the local bishop approved, then they would go through six more years, and then it would be a finalized society within the church. But the book goes on to talk about how they never made it to those final six years and they was never fully incorporated into the church in the first place. Is that accurate?
John: Yeah, Patrick is right on. In fact, I did an hour and a half podcast on this very issue starting in 1970, you know, when the society was lawfully erected under the 1917 code of Canon Law as a pious union, which simply means a lay association, as the canonist explained under the old code, a lay association, because these were laymen, these were lay seminarians being formed by Archbishop Lefebvre into priests, who would then not be serving the society or be incardinated into the SSPX. Because after all, Archbishop LeFebvre did not have the ordinary jurisdiction to do so. The society was not a church or a personal prelature, if you will, a juridic person capable of receiving priests through incardination. In fact, the society’s own statutes, Bryan, say that everything dependent upon the local bishop of Switzerland, who would be incardinating, the priests that were ready for ordination, into their diocese or other dioceses in union with the Roman Pontiff. And so the society was lawfully erected as this lay association in 1970. And as Patrick correctly points out, they were then suppressed prior to them making these six year ad experimentum period, which means, they were only erected on a provisional basis, the Holy See and the local bishop wanted to see how this experiment went. And after Archbishop LeFebvre made his 1974 declaration, effectively declaring his view that there was a distinction between eternal Rome and the Roman Catholic Church, by the way, a distinction condemned by Pius XII, the bishop said, wait a minute, this is going the wrong direction. We are not going to renew you. And then the Holy See intervened after the bishop suppressed the society and approved the suppression. So it’s correct to say that this barely got off the ground.
But whether the society was lawfully suppressed or not, and I can prove that it was lawfully suppressed, its canonical shelf life would have expired in 1976. And at that point it was completely off the canonical map, if you will, even if it ever even was on to begin with.
So what you have today, Bryan, is simply a consortium of vagous, acephalous clergy without bishops with ordinary jurisdiction, that wander around, primarily wander through the Roman rites, set up rival altars and chapels in dioceses, thereby usurping the authority of the bishops, and this is the problem.
Bryan: This is all while insulting the bishops.
John: Yes. Attacking the bishops and attacking Holy Mother Church. And this is why Cardinal Cassidy says, well, it is an internal matter of the church because the society is not even a church such as the Orthodox, they’re not juridic person, in the understanding of them being an ecclesial community. They’re an organization completely separate and distinct. They’re not on the canonical map. They’re simply vagous and wandering priests.
The solution to this is in the society leadership itself. If the society leadership itself will not renounce its errors and accept the profession of faith and the divine teaching of the church, hopefully at least some of the priests will leave that institution, go to bishops where they can be lawfully, incardinated, and then carry out their ministry in a legitimate way.
Bryan: And that’s kind of what happened with the FSSP and some others, right? They came back lawfully to the church.
John: Well, yeah. I mean, after the consecrations in 1988, we had a number of priests break off. They actually recognized what was happening and some of these priests have been public about it. They couldn’t reconcile the argument of necessity with the fact that the Holy See actually offered Archbishop LeFebvre, a bishop to be consecrated on August 15th, 1988 and Archbishop LeFebvre both orally agreed to that and agreed to it in writing, and then the next day changes his mind and says that he wants three more bishops, six weeks earlier.
There is no basis for an argument of necessity or emergency on that factual basis. You can’t argue necessity because he was being given a bishop. He was being allowed to form priests in the old rights. He was going to be allowed to consecrate a bishop to perpetuate the apostolic succession within the old, right? I mean, he was given these things and yet rebelled against it. And this is why then we had priests saying, No. we’re going to carry on the Tradition to the extent the church needs it, but we’re going to do this in union with the Holy Father, which is the way to do it of course.
Bryan: Yeah, the priest who officiated my wedding is actually part of the FSSP, and he celebrates the traditional Latin mass perpetually. But it’s within the church and it’s under obedience to the Holy Father and you keep bringing that back. Back to St. Ignatius of Antioch, you know, all throughout the entire history, we see that if you don’t have a valid bishop, then you don’t have the Catholic Church. You don’t have Jesus. And that’s a very serious thing.
So they were suppressed, Archbishop LeFebvre and his four seminarians were excommunicated. Some people would say that this was reversed because, Pope Benedict took away the excommunications. Why did he do that?
John: He took away the declared excommunications in order to facilitate a reconciliation with the society into the Catholic Church. And this is what Pope Benedict precisely said. It was a benevolent gesture to bring the society back, because when one is under a declared excommunication, they’re effectively in a spiritual straight jacket. They can do nothing without having that declared censure lifted. I mean, the society bishops couldn’t even go to a confession and confess their sins because they were still under declared censure. So the first and necessary step for the society to be integrated into the church, if it would include those four bishops, was to lift the declared censure.
But we have to remember. That one can be in schism without the censure being declared. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in fact, has publicly stated, in a letter he wrote in 1978, that the Society of St. Pius X, and remember this is 10 years before the Consecrations, is a schismatical sect. And that’s because they had already withdrawn submission from the supreme authority and governance of the church. The declared censure imposes additional juridical consequences that must be lifted by the same authority or higher authority who imposed the censure. But that didn’t mean that the society wasn’t in schism before. And it doesn’t mean that they’re not in schism today. Of course, those who formally adhere to the movement, as John Paul II said, are excommunicated for schism. The society itself, as an institution, as an organization through its leadership, has refused submission, has willfully refused to accept the conditions of integration in the church. They, by their own will, have refused submission to the governance of the Catholic Church. Again, that’s the definition of schism and there’s no justification. Whether it would be a matter of faith or worship, that can justify the separation in governance. And that’s why the institution itself would still be in schism.
Bryan: I was just about to ask about the schism aspect, because some people will say, they’re in partial communion. Some people have said that they have an irregular canonical status. Can you talk a little bit about the controversy of that. Why do some people say that they have a regular canonical status? What does that even mean?
John: Well, regular comes from Latin regula, which means rule. And the rule of faith is that a clergy must be part of the church and sent by the church to be legitimate. So when one says they have an irregular status, that means that they have no status, which is exactly what Pope Benedict said when he lifted the excommunications. He said that the Society of St. Pius X has no canonical status in the church. So irregular just means not according to the rule. Irregular means not regular. It means there is no canonical status, and that is because the society is not within the juridical structure of the church. They do not share the threefold bond of faith, worship, and governance, which is required to be in union with the church and the bishop and the Holy Father. And so, irregular is a buzzword that’s thrown around, but it means not regular, it means not in communion.
Bryan: You know, that’s what struck me too, when I was reading Benedict on this matter. It actually struck me that he was quite clear, so loving like that, he wanted them back into the communion with the church, but they refused. He offered them every opportunity to come back and he even offered them to have their own rite etc. I mean, he literally bent over backwards and they said: No; of course because they know better. But what struck me is that he said that they have no canonical status. He said they have no licit or active ministries, and he said none of this can change until they come back into communion with Rome and fix their major theological problems. He may have even used the word heresies, I’m not sure. But that was the last authoritative statement on the matter, and he said it: None of that can change until they come back into communion with Rome, submit themselves to Rome. So I don’t see how they can think that they’re in communion with the church if this still hasn’t been the case.
John: Again, because it’s their protestant ecclesiology. And I know that sounds harsh, but the fact of the matter is, they’ve reduced the church to those who profess the true faith, which in their mind means adhering to everything pre-Vatican II, including the rites and disciplines of the church. That’s how they define the church.
Bryan: That’s literally Luther’s argument. That’s literally what Luther was holding to be the true faith and that had been perverted by Rome. I mean, all protestants claim that. I hear it all the time.
John: You know when you read what Marcel Lefebvre said about the church, it’s reading the playbook of the protestants when he continually said Rome has lost faith, Rome teaches a new religion. I mean, you can look at the quotes from Archbishop Lefebvre, he said over and over again, this is a new religion.
Okay, now they want to say that they have not intentionally separated themselves from the Catholic Church, but what do you call an Archbishop who says: There’s a distinction between the eternal Rome, which I’m a member of, and you the juridical hierarchical structure in Rome, the diocese of Rome and all the churches in union with that, the Roman Catholic Church, there’s a distinction there. I’m with Eternal Rome. I reject present Rome, because present Rome teaches a new religion to me that is a clear intention to separate from the Church and from everything that the Church is post Vatican II.
Bryan: So why would they say that they’re in communion with the church in theory? Like we do obey the Pope. But they don’t want to, so why don’t they just do their own thing and stop saying they’re in communion when everything they say is not in communion and everything they do is not in communion.
John: Well, because they want to save themselves from being accused of being heretics. That’s really the main reason. What I’ve concluded, Bryan, in my study of their many videos and I watch just about all the videos; they call it: “At the crisis series”, and the videos are led by many society priests, that what they would these society priests do, and this is a common approach, is to make a correct profession of something. For example, they will profess that the church is a visible, hierarchical, structure, a juridical structure where ordinary jurisdiction comes from the pulp to the bishops and there’s canonical mission etc. They will say that, Okay? The protestants wouldn’t say that. So to that end, they’re “closer” to us. Okay? But that’s an act of the speculative intellect. Then on the practical side, the practical intellect, they don’t resolve the inconsistency that they’re not a part of that juridical structure. That they’re separated from the juridical structure, that they don’t have a canonical mission.
Bryan: Not only that, but they reject it, in a sense.
John: They reject it in practice. So there’s a distinction there between what they practice and what they preach as the old saying goes right? They’ll make a profession of what the church is, but then they don’t reconcile for us the issue of them not being a part of what they profess to be true. And those are called two contraries. They’re actually professing two contraries, which cannot be reconciled. Either they don’t believe one, or they acknowledge the other and then are not part of the church. It’s one or the other.
Bryan: And I guess you don’t foresee them coming back into the church anytime soon?
John: No, I don’t. I mean schism breeds schism. And if you think about what happened in 2012 when we were very hopeful that Bishop Filet was going to accept the very reasonable conditions of the Holy Father and the Holy See for their integration, what happened while there was a separation? Bishop Williamson either left or was expelled, but it was prompted by Bishop Filet even approaching the Roman authorities and by that, according to them, compromising the true traditional faith. And how dare he say that the new rite of Paul XI was legitimately promulgated? And that Vatican II doesn’t contain heresies? So you see one schism led to another. Now Williamson is off. He has consecrated number of bishops and you know, schism breeds schism and breed schism.
No, it’s only when the leadership of the society is going to renounce their errors. It’s not a question of Rome returning to the faith, but it’s really a question of the society returning to the church that there would be any type of integration. Otherwise, I think it will only be done on a clergy-by-clergy basis, unfortunately.
Bryan: Yeah. It’s really sad, and I think you’re right. You know, I hear this all the time: “We hold the true faith.” I’m like: “You definitely disagree with the sedevacantists and they say they hold the true faith, and both of you have the best arguments, I feel like, against each other.” When I read the sedevacantists arguments against the SSPX, I’m like: “Wow, that is spot on.” And when I read, SSPX arguments on sedevacantists, I’m like: “Wow, that’s spot on too.” You know? Neither of them can see it. I mean, since the earliest centuries, Coptics have claimed to have the true faith, and then the Orthodox, SSPX, sedevacantists, protestants, I mean, it’s been down the line. It doesn’t make any sense.
So maybe in closing, I know you used to write for onePeterfive and you decided to depart ways with them. Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on there? I mean, I know they were reprimanded by the Vatican a few times. Their founder has kind of left the faith, I don’t even know if he believes in God anymore. It seems like there are a lot of problems over there and it seems like they’ve become more and more radicalized over time. What are your thoughts on that?
John: Well, they didn’t tell me that I could no longer write for them but it was just a conclusion for myself Bryan, because they initially wanted me to write. They at least told me that they thought the debate that we’re having right now, this discussion that we’re having would be fruitful for the church and especially for the traditional community. What I later discovered is that the leadership were completely sold out to the SSPX and they were looking for anybody to expose me and refute me. Well, that didn’t happen. And I think when they saw the debate going the other way and they were actually losing the written debate they simply canceled me. That’s a fact. I mean, the first article I wrote for onePeterfive was on supplied jurisdiction and the genesis of that article was my addressing Father Don Tranquilo and about the society’s assertions that all clergy get supplied jurisdiction, even including sedevacantist clergy. And I wrote an extensive article on that. And, by the way, this related to the research I had done on the society, I actually submitted my conclusions to a Canonist in Rome who confirmed that my conclusions were correct. This went into that article. So now, onePeterFive actually required me to excise any references to the Society of St. Pius X, or Father Tranquillo of the Society. And I said, wait a minute, I’m actually addressing what the society’s arguments are, and you don’t want me to expose the society. So kind of an alarm bell went off there. And I said: “Okay, I’ll play along for now, but I really want to get the society’s arguments out there and see if anybody can rebuttal them.” So I then I wrote a second article dealing with Canonical mission and three or four rebuttal articles were launched, and they only allowed me to address one of them. They substantially edited my work. They wouldn’t allow me to address all of them. And then finally, I think the straw that broke the camel’s back, is that I requested them to publish my article, which proves that the society masses do not fulfill the Sunday obligation. Again, this was something that I conferred with candidness on, and even went to my local bishop, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who is a Canon lawyer, who gave me a definitive judgment, in writing, that my conclusions were correct for a number of reasons: Mainly, that the society’s chapels are not considered churches which celebrated catholic rites in the sense that the church understood them. So what happened there, is onePeterfive not only refused to publish my article proving that the society masses don’t fulfill the Sunday obligation, but they later issued a statement saying that they believe the masses do fulfill the Sunday obligation, but without allowing any debate on the issue, they simply did not want to be contradicted on that, and that’s where it kind of died.
So I view that as unfortunate and perhaps dishonest. But as we continue down this road, you know, perhaps more reasonable minds will want to look into these matters more honestly, and have legitimate discussion and debate. But I don’t think onePeterfive does.
Bryan: I was thinking that too. I mean, if they’re editing substantially a work and only putting in there what they want, and they’re deleting other things and not allowing you to freely speak. I mean, if you want a debate you want to hear both sides and follow the evidence, wherever it leads, if you’re being intellectually honest. I tell protestants who attack the catholic faith all the time: “At least read a catholic book, get our arguments right, then we can have a discussion. Stop presenting strawman arguments.” But I guess if you already have something in your mind and that’s all you want do, is to prove that point, then you don’t really want to hear the opposition. And to me that’s extremely sad. I mean, we have a long historical Tradition in the church of intellectualism and education and following the truth wherever it leads. And I feel like in many catholic circles, this is just going downhill and it’s really sad to me.
John: Yeah, and that has been my approach, Bryan. I’ve used the society’s writings. I’ve got pretty much all the books of Archbishop LeFebvre, as well as what material they’ve published on their website. So I’m simply using their own teachings. You’ve referenced Patrick Madrid’s book and others, but I’m really using the society’s teachings because I want to know what they teach and what positions they hold. That’s what needs to be evaluated in light of what the church teaches.
Bryan: Yeah. And what strikes me is that you had Canon lawyers in this country and in Rome verify your points, you know, and they didn’t want to hear that. So, I guess do you recommend that people still go to onePeterfive. I mean, I’m sure they have some good traditional arguments. I’m sure they have some good articles. Maybe this is a controversial question, but do you recommend people going there since they seem to be digging in on the extremist side?
John: I don’t know enough about them, but based upon my experience, I would say: No. I mean, if they’re not allowing genuine debate on matters that truly concern the salvation of souls, and think about what we’re talking about here. We are talking about a matter that concerns salvation. That is whether a catholic can leave the Roman Catholic Church, can leave her juridical structure, and be ministered by priests that are not sent by the church, that aren’t part of the Catholic Church, which is something the church has always prohibited. And so to the extent that ANY organization holds the position that one can do such things, NO. We should have nothing to do with them. Not only that, but we should call them out for their errors.
Bryan: Great. Thank you so much and well said. Where can people find you? Do you have a website? Do you have a book you want to advertise?
John: Sure. They can reach me at http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/. That’s our website. That’s where Robert Siscoe and I are putting out our articles dealing with the society, dealing with sedevacantists, dealing with Beneplenism (this issue that some people think Benedict is still the Pope) and a lot of the current errors that are flicking, you know, the so-called traditional movement, that’s where we’re spending most of our time. So people can look at our work on the website and they can email me through the website as well.
Bryan: Great! Thank you so much for joining us.