Clandestine Ordinations by John Paul II versus the Lefebvre Schism

OnePeterFive has published an openly schismatic article, one of many, which attempts to justify the schismatic ordinations of priests and bishops by Marcel Lefebvre by reference to the clandestine ordinations of priests by then-Cardinal Wojtyla (Pope Saint John Paul II). Such a comparison is absurd, as will be explained further on in this article.

But the article by Peter Kwasniewski also justifies and threatens possible future schismatic ordinations of priests and bishops, in direct contradiction to the decisions of the Apostolic See, if the Holy See “were to demand that the old rites of ordination be no longer used”. He then suggests that perhaps “cardinals, archbishops, bishops … under such circumstances,” might be “willing to confer Holy Orders clandestinely in the traditional rites”. And this suggestion includes the ordination of both priests and bishops, apart from and against the authority of the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic See, as is clear from Kwasniewski’s justification of the ordination of priests and bishops by schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre earlier in the article.

If that were to happen in the future, the so-called conferring of “Holy Orders clandestinely” is not clandestine, as it is being announced by Kwasniewski and would almost certainly be announced on various schismatic websites — which have already openly opposed Popes and Councils to the extent of heresy and schism. Rather, the ordinations proposed by this OnePeterFive article would be schismatic. And the article makes this clear by approving of the schismatic ordinations by Lefebvre and comparing these future suggested ordinations to those of Lefebvre.

What did Cardinal Wojtyla do?

The future Pope Saint John Paul II was a Cardinal in Poland. The policy of the Holy See was that of compromise with the Communist authorities in nearby nations, including Czechoslovakia, which limited ordinations in those nations. Cardinal Wojtyla was willing to ordain seminarians who came across the border, and sometimes to train and ordain candidates from some of these nations. The ordinations were done in Poland but with the explicit permission of the Bishop (the local ordinary) from the other nation.

There is zero evidence that these ordinations were contrary to the will of the Roman Pontiff. None of the participants were excommunicated or even warned that there acts were schismatic — as happened in the case of Lefebvre. It was licit for Poland to train and ordain seminarians. The ordinations had the permission of the local ordinary in the other nation. And the Holy See never intervened to even request, let alone order, an end to this practice.

These ordinations by a Cardinal and future Pope Saint were in no way comparable, as Peter Kwasniewski contends on OnePeterFive, to the schismatic ordinations by archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which resulted in his suspension a divinis and later his excommunication. Lefebvre died outside communion with the See of Peter and the Catholic Church. Lefebvre died a schismatic, formally outside of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Whether he died in a state of grace or not is for God to judge. But his public acts were schismatic and heretical, and he never publicly repented, never publicly reconciled himself to the successive Roman Pontiffs or the Catholic Church.

Pope Saint Paul VI wrote a Letter to Lefebvre, indicating clearly his schismatic acts. Parts of the letter could well be applied to the schismatics of today, not the least of which is Peter Kwasniewski and other authors at OnePeterFive.

“We have waited a month. The attitude to which your words and acts publicly testify does not seem to have changed.”

“You speak as if you have forgotten your scandalous words and gestures against ecclesial communion — words and gestures that you have never retracted! You do not manifest repentance, even for the cause of your suspension a divinis. 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 — and you continue in those personal works of yours which the legitimate authority has expressly ordered you to suspend.”

“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.”

“You want to convince the faithful that the proximate cause of the crisis is more than a wrong interpretation of the Council and that it flows from the Council itself. Moreover, you act as if you had a particular role in this regard. But the mission of discerning and remedying the abuses is first of all Ours; it is the mission of all the bishops who work together with Us.”

“But how can you at the same time, in order to fulfill this role, claim that you are obliged to act contrary to the recent Council in opposition to your brethren in the episcopate, to distrust the Holy See itself — which you call the “Rome of the neo-modernist and neo-Protestant tendency” — and to set yourself up in open disobedience to Us? ”

“What is indeed at issue is the question — which must truly be called fundamental — of your clearly proclaimed refusal to recognize in its whole, the authority of the Second Vatican Council and that of the pope. This refusal is accompanied by an action that is oriented towards propagating and organizing what must indeed, unfortunately, be called a rebellion. This is the essential issue, and it is truly untenable.”

“Christ has given the supreme authority in his Church to Peter and to the apostolic college, that is, to the Pope and to the college of bishops una cum Capite. In regard to the pope, every Catholic admits that the words of Jesus to Peter determine also the charge of Peter’s legitimate successors: “… whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” (Mt. 16:19 ); “… feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:17 ); “… confirm your brethren” (Lk. 22:32 ). And the First Vatican Council specified in these terms the assent due to the sovereign pontiff…”

“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….”

“But how can an interior personal difficulty — a spiritual drama which We respect — permit you to set yourself up publicly as a judge of what has been legitimately adopted, practically with unanimity, and knowingly to lead a portion of the faithful into your refusal?”

“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.

“Is it not in this state of mind that you have ordained priests without dimissorial letters and against Our explicit command, thus creating a group of priests who are in an irregular situation in the Church and who are under grave ecclesiastical penalties? Moreover, you hold that the suspension that you have incurred applies only to the celebration of the sacraments according to the new rite, as if they were something improperly introduced into the Church, which you go so far as to call schismatic, and you think that you evade this sanction when you administer the sacraments according to the formulas of the past and against the established norms (cf. 1 Cor. 14:40).”

“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.

“The present reform derived its raison d’être and its guidelines from the Council and from the historical sources of the liturgy. It enables the laity to draw greater nourishment from the word of God. Their more active participation leaves intact the unique role of the priest acting in the person of Christ. We have sanctioned this reform by Our authority, requiring that it be adopted by all Catholics.

“If, in general, We have not judged it good to permit any further delays or exceptions to this adoption, it is with a view to the spiritual good and the unity of the entire ecclesiastical community, because, for Catholics of the Roman Rite, the Ordo Missae is a privileged sign of their unity. It is also because, in your case, the old rite is in fact the expression of a warped ecclesiology, and a ground for dispute with the Council and its reforms under the pretext that in the old rite alone are preserved, without their meaning being obscured, the true sacrifice of the Mass and the ministerial priesthood.

“We cannot accept this erroneous judgment, this unjustified accusation, nor can We tolerate that the Lord’s Eucharist, the sacrament of unity, should be the object of such divisions (cf. 1 Cor. 11:18), and that it should even be used as an instrument and sign of rebellion.”

“We cannot go back on the juridical suppression of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X. This has inculcated a spirit of opposition to the Council and to its implementation such as the Vicar of Christ was endeavoring to promote.”

“If you refuse — quod Deus avertat — to make the declaration which is asked of you, you will remain suspended a divinis.”

The above words from Pope Saint Paul VI are a fitting rebuke to the schismatics at OnePeterFive, including Kwasniewski. His rejection of the Novus Ordo Mass, his insistence that the universal Church must bend to his will and only accept “traditional worship”, his approval of the schismatic ordinations by Lefebvre, and his suggestion that the Bishops of today should do the same — if only the traditional form of ordination were abrogated — is thoroughly schismatic.

Lefebvre refused to make the declaration asked of him by the Pope, which included that he “sincerely adhere to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and to all its documents.” He was later excommunicated under Pope Saint John Paul II for ordaining Bishops in direct contradiction to the will and orders of the Roman Pontiffs. He died formally separated from the Church. The idea that these ordinations, which resulted in the suspension a divinis and later excommunication of Lefebvre are in any way comparable to the ordinations done by a Cardinal and future Pope Saint with the approval of the local Bishop, and absent any contrary expressions from the Roman Pontiff, is patently absurd.

And, by the way, lauding an excommunicated schismatic, who died separated from the Church, and using his example as a way to oppose the Roman Pontiff and the Apostolic See, is itself a schismatic act. Proposing the illicit ordination of priests and bishops, openly compared to those of schismatic Lefebvre, is a schismatic act. Similarly, both robbing a bank and planning to rob a bank are each sins and crimes. Then the repeated publication of heretical and schismatic material by OnePeterFive is also schismatic. The editorial board and the particular authors are responsible, morally and canonically, for these offenses. OnePeterFive is a schismatic publication, which frequently and openly rejects the authority of Popes and Councils.

Wikipedia has a good summary, with a long quote from Pope Saint John Paul II, on the excommunication of Lefebvre:

“On 2 July, Pope John Paul II condemned the consecration in his apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei, in which he stated that the consecration constituted a schismatic act and that the bishops and priests involved were automatically excommunicated:

In itself, this act was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience – which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy – constitutes a schismatic act. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on 17 June last, Mons. Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1382).

“Lefebvre responded by contradicting Pope John Paul, saying that he and the other clerics involved had not ‘separated themselves from Rome’ and were not schismatic.”

Of course, Lefebvre denied being a schismatic, just as almost all schismatics and heretics deny their offenses. But it is a matter of fact that Lefebvre and his ordained bishops were excommunicated. Then notice what Pope Saint John Paul II says about this act of schism and disobedience, that it implies the rejection of the Roman primacy. And the same rejection is found throughout OnePeterFive and the articles by Kwasniewski. They use the term ultramontanism to fend off the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

But it has been the constant teaching of the Church since ancient times that what Peter and his successors bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed even in heaven, and that each Roman Pontiff has Supreme authority over the whole Church, in matters of both doctrine and discipline. And this certainly includes authority over the form of the Mass and other liturgical services, such as ordination. See my previous article on Mediator Dei by Pius XII. As that document teaches:

“the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.” [MD 58]

“Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters… For the same reason no private person has any authority to regulate external practices of this kind….” [MD 58]

“But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world.” [MD 61]

“Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.” [MD 63]

“Let no one arrogate to himself the right to make regulations and impose them on others at will. Only the Sovereign Pontiff, as the successor of Saint Peter, charged by the divine Redeemer with the feeding of His entire flock, and with him, in obedience to the Apostolic See, the bishops “whom the Holy Ghost has placed … to rule the Church of God,” have the right and the duty to govern the Christian people.” [MD 65]

The above quotes from Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei clearly refutes the claims of Kwasniewski that the Church must only have the “traditional worship”, that the Novus Ordo Mass undermines the Catholic Faith, and that Catholics would be justified in imitating the schismatic bishop Lefebvre if the Roman Pontiff or Apostolic See decides simply to require a newer form of the rite of ordination.

The Roman Pontiff has the authority to abrogate the traditional Latin Mass, and to require the Novus Ordo Mass as the sole form for the Roman Rite. And no cleric or layperson has the right to decide that such a decision is destructive, rather than edifying, and on that basis to oppose the will of the Pope and to encourage or perform illicit ordinations, as the schismatic Lefebvre did, to his own condemnation by the Church.

In a separate article, Kwasniewski utterly rejects the Novus Ordo Mass, claims that it harms the Faith — in contradiction to the dogma of indefectibility — and says: “I can neither actively promote nor lend my passive approval to an ersatz liturgy that undermines the Catholic Faith. There is, and there must only be, traditional worship. And no pope has the authority to abolish it.” That is a schismatic assertion, not only because Kwasniewski rejects the authority of the Roman Pontiff over the Mass, but also because he utterly rejects the form of the Mass approved by Pope Saint Paul VI, Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Then the claim that the Novus Ordo Mass “undermines the Catholic Faith” is contrary to the perennial teaching of the Church — of Popes, Saints, Doctors, and Ecumenical Councils — that the Apostolic See is unblemished by any grave error and that the Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. It is not possible for the Roman Pontiff to err so gravely in his decisions on doctrine or discipline that the Catholic Faith would be undermined. And this is all the more clear when successive Roman Pontiffs have approved essentially the same form of the Mass, instituted at the behest of an Ecumenical Council.

Kwasniewski: “The pope’s authority is for edification, not for destruction.”

Sure. But you and your peers at 1P5 do not have any authority in the Church. And you certainly do not have the authority to decide whether a Pope has used his authority for edification or not. And then the dogmas of the Faith absolutely exclude that any Pope would harm the indefectibility of the Church, or that the charism of truth and of never-failing faith would fail, or that the promise and prayer of Christ in Mt 16:18-19 and Lk 22:32 would cease to be true. Therefore, no Pope can exercise his authority, in any grave way, towards the destruction of the Faith or the Church.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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1 Response to Clandestine Ordinations by John Paul II versus the Lefebvre Schism

  1. Todd Voss says:

    In the separate article you linked, Peter K stated: “Even before the Novus Ordo went into effect, the courageous Cardinals Bacci and Ottaviani had put their signatures on a cover letter to a short study of its theological deficiencies—the famous “Ottaviani Intervention”—and showed how it could not avoid leading Catholics astray, how it failed and would fail to transmit the Church’s faith.” This is not so misleading in what is says, but in what it fails to say. For Peter K knows full well (from his reading of Yves Chiron as noted at New Liturgical Movement) that Ottaviani regretted and retracted his signature on this document which has forever since misleadingly bore his name. See Yves Chiron’s biography of Annibale Bugnini (a quite critical one) at pages 141-147 in the English translation. In particular:

    “Then the following month, Pierre Lemaire published a letter from Cardinal Ottaviani that caused a sensation. This letter, which was addressed to Dom Lafond to thank him for the Note Doctrinale, was in near complete counterpoint to the Short Critical Study published a few months before. In this letter, Cardinal Ottaviani characterized Dom Lafond’s Note Doctrinale as ‘remarkable for its objectivity and its dignity of expression.’ He also deplored the publicity that had been given to his letter to Paul VI: ‘I regret that my name has been abused in a direction I did not want through the publication of a letter addressed to the Holy Father, without my having authorized anyone to publish it.’
    Above all Cardinal Ottaviani expressed his satisfaction with the allocutions Paul VI ha given ina genearl audience on November 19 and 26, 1969, and judged that henceforth ‘no one can be sacndlizzed anymore,’ even though ‘there is need for prudent and intelligent catechesis to remove a few legitimate perplexities that the text may arouse.’ ” (pages 144-145).

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