Paul VI versus Lefebvre and Pope Francis versus Traditionalists

When Pope Saint Paul VI was arguing with archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Paul asserted his authority as the successor of Peter. He gave arguments to Lefebvre, to try to reconcile him to the Church. But Paul also stated quite clearly and correctly that no such arguments are needed. The Pope has the charism of truth and never-failing faith, just as Vatican I taught. So we are required to believe based on the authority of Christ. Those who only believe when their reason tells them a position is correct have no faith at all and will be tormented forever in Hell. One must die in a state of grace, with love, faith, and hope, in order to be saved.

Those who lose their faith arguing with Pope Francis have lost love and hope as well. And this shows in their behavior. They speak with severe malice toward the Vicar of Christ. They spew hatred and nasty rhetoric again and again, showing no respect for his office and his authority — on the excuse that their own fallen reason tells them that they are right and the Pope is wrong. That is faithless. We are required to believe based on the authority of Christ given to the Church, the Magisterium, the Popes, the Councils, and the body of Bishops.

The words of Pope Saint Paul VI to the schismatic and heretic Lefebvre:

“You do not explicitly express your acceptance of the authority of the Second Vatican Council and of the Holy See-and this constitutes the basis of the problem….”

Every Catholic today who refuses to accept the authority and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council is a schismatic and a heretic. The objection is that Vatican II taught nothing infallibly, and so there can be no heresy. But that is false for two reasons. First, whatever is definitively taught on faith or morals by an Ecumenical Council and approved by the Pope is infallible. All the other conditions for infallibility are met by the very fact that the Pope and the body of Bishops gather to teach the Church. Second, since the time of Vatican II, the same teachings have continued to be taught as one position definitively to be held by the successive Popes and the body of Bishops dispersed in the world — making these teachings infallible under the ordinary universal Magisterium.

Pope Saint Paul VI himself asserts that some teachings of Vatican II are infallible, and that the rest of the teachings require assent nonetheless:

“Again, you cannot appeal to the distinction between what is dogmatic and what is pastoral to accept certain texts of this Council and to refuse others. Indeed, not everything in the Council requires an assent of the same nature: only what is affirmed by definitive acts as an object of faith or as a truth related to faith requires an assent of faith. But the rest also forms part of the solemn magisterium of the Church to which each member of the faithful owes a confident acceptance and a sincere application.”

The same error continues today. They call the Council pastoral. They say that it is entirely in the realm of non-infallible teachings and prudential judgment. And they reject the authority of the Council utterly, committing schism, even if nothing were infallible. And they reject the definitive teachings of the Council and of the subsequent Popes teaching with the Bishops. All Catholics who behave this way are schismatics.

Then notice that Paul VI himself believes that the Council’s acts require different levels of assent. There are “definitive acts as an object of faith” in the Council. That is a description of infallible teachings. It is not true that Pope Saint Paul VI thought Vatican II did not use infallibility. Rather, the Council chose not to use dogmatic definitions, yet still the Council taught definitively. These are two of the three ways that a Council can teach infallibly. (The third way is if the Pope decides, during a contentious Council, to settle a matter of faith or morals using Papal Infallibility, inserting this dogma into the acts of the Council by his sole authority.)

Since Vatican II contains infallible teachings, it cannot be rejected “en bloc” without the sin of heresy. Then by rejecting the Council’s non-infallible teachings as a whole, the sin of schism is committed. Ecumenical Councils require assent to their authority. Those who put their own reasoning or the majority opinion of a subculture above the teachings of a Pope or Council are schismatics.

Paul VI describes Lefebvre and the SSPX in a way that matches the Francis critics of today:

“In practice you put yourself forward as the defender and spokesman of the faithful and of priests ‘torn apart by what is happening in the Church,’ thus giving the sad impression that the Catholic faith and the essential values of tradition are not sufficiently respected and lived in a portion of the people of God, at least in certain countries. But in your interpretations of the facts and in the particular role that you assign yourself, as well as in the way in which you accomplish this role, there is something that misleads the people of God and deceives souls of good will who are justly desirous of fidelity and of spiritual and apostolic progress.”

Exactly. That is exactly what is happening in the Church today. Vigano, Schneider, Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon, Father Z. (John Zuhlsdorf), Phil Lawler, Fr. Chad Ripperger, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Steve Skojec, and all the signatories of the notorious documents accusing Pope Francis of failing in faith or of erring gravely, they and many others assign themselves a role to judge Popes and Councils. They present themselves as if they were defenders and spokespersons of the faithful. They claim that Francis is tearing apart the Church. But they refuse to put their faith in the papal charisms and in the Magisterium — whenever it contradicts their own minds.

“You say that you are subject to the Church and faithful to tradition by the sole fact that you obey certain norms of the past that were decreed by the predecessor of him to whom God has today conferred the powers given to Peter. That is to say, on this point also, the concept of “tradition” that you invoke is distorted.

Tradition is not a rigid and dead notion, a fact of a certain static sort which at a given moment of history blocks the life of this active organism which is the Church, that is, the mystical body of Christ. It is up to the pope and to councils to exercise judgment in order to discern in the traditions of the Church that which cannot be renounced without infidelity to the Lord and to the Holy Spirit-the deposit of faith-and that which, on the contrary, can and must be adapted to facilitate the prayer and the mission of the Church throughout a variety of times and places, in order better to translate the divine message into the language of today and better to communicate it, without an unwarranted surrender of principles.

Hence tradition is inseparable from the living magisterium of the Church, just as it is inseparable from sacred scripture. “Sacred tradition, sacred scripture and the magisterium of the church … are so linked and joined together that one of these realities cannot exist without the others, and that all of them together, each in its own way, effectively contribute under the action of the Holy Spirit to the salvation of souls” (Constitution Dei Verbum, 10).

With the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, the popes and the ecumenical councils have acted in this common way. And it is precisely this that the Second Vatican Council did. Nothing that was decreed in this Council, or in the reforms that we enacted in order to put the Council into effect, is opposed to what the 2,000 year-old tradition of the Church considers as fundamental and immutable. We are the guarantor of this, not in virtue of Our personal qualities but in virtue of the charge which the Lord has conferred upon Us as legitimate successor of Peter, and in virtue of the special assistance that He has promised to Us as well as to Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22:32). The universal episcopate is guarantor with us of this.”

The above text is from Pope Saint Paul VI, but it reads as if it were from Pope Francis, who also talks about rigidity and a misuse of tradition. And notice the final point above, that the Roman Pontiff is the “guarantor” of the faithfulness of the Church to Tradition, not by personal qualities, but by the charism of never-failing faith.

“In effect you and those who are following you are endeavoring to come to a standstill at a given moment in the life of the Church. By the same token you refuse to accept the living Church, which is the Church that has always been: you break with the Church’s legitimate pastors and scorn the legitimate exercise of their charge. And so you claim not even to be affected by the orders of the pope, or by the suspension a divinis, as you lament “subversion” in the Church.

From the same erroneous conception springs your abuse of celebrating Mass called that of Saint Pius V. You know full well that this rite had itself been the result of successive changes, and that the Roman Canon remains the first of the Eucharistic prayers authorized today.”

These words are an apt rebuke of the papal accusers of today, who are attached to the Mass of Saint Pius V, more than they are attached to the Popes and Councils, the Magisterium, or the Church Herself. And this is a severe abuse. It is the holy Mass turned into an idol.

We do not have the original books of any books of the Bible. God has not permitted us to even have a single exact copy of an original. All we have are copies of copies, etc. And this was done by the providence of God so that no one could possibly idolize an original copy of a book of the Bible, focusing on the paper, or the ink, or the exact letters, etc. rather than on the meaning. And that is what some persons have done to the Latin Mass. They idolize every detail of the Mass, forgetting that the Mass is the worship of God.

Soon the Roman Pontiff Pope Francis will release his restrictions on the Latin Mass, and the schism will enter its next phase. This will happen in July of 2021, perhaps in the first few days of July. I am reminded that the East-West schism — a much greater event that these Francis critics leaving the Church — also occurred in July. And there was a sign in the sky at that time, a supernova:

“It’s believed that in A.D. 1054 a supernova occurred in the Milky Way. Historical accounts allege it was so bright that it could be seen in the daytime for 23 days, and at night for nearly two years. Nowadays its remains are known as the Crab Nebula.” [CNET]

The supernova occurred in the same month as the schism. It began in early July, and the schism reached a breaking point in mid-July. God marked the heavens with a powerful sign to show His displeasure at the schism of East and West.

Will there be a sign in the sky this July? I don’t know. This is a much lesser event. I could possibly be wrong about the month. However, Pope Francis is not going to stop teaching and doing things that provoke the far right. Sooner or later, they will break away.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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