Catholic Apologetics

This essay is a rebuttal to the "novusordowatch" article entitled "Comedy Hour with John Salza" which can be found here:

http://www.novusordowatch.org/wire/comedy-hour-with-john-salza.htm

 

Introduction

The article begins by noting that Mr. Salza is a "tax attorney from Wisconsin".  One would not be off-base in suspecting either an ad hominem argument or simple insult here; as it turns out such things do pervade the article.  Without dwelling too much on this tangent, I will offer a few comments here at the outset.

Mr. Salza's profession is not relevant to the arguments he makes.  While giving attention to the subject (that is, subjective argumentation) may have some (minor) place in a situation in which a position is more or less wholly-owned by an individual, that really isn't the case here: Salza (as the article itself notes with derisive language in many places) is, for the most part, stating the "standard", mainstream Traditionalist position regarding the council and the post-conciliar popes (the authors refer to this as the "semi" or "false" traditionalist position).

Although this is not stated, it appears that the sarcastic commentary regarding Salza's profession may be intended to suggest that laymen should not offer opinions on these topics.  However, such an attitude is not really congruent with the mind of the Church: we are all called to be apologists and we laymen share in the common priesthood as well.  We are called to "always be prepared to give an answer" regarding the faith.

Finally, it is interesting that while derisive commentary regarding their opponents is offered, bona fides for the "novusordowatch" apologists seem to be scarce on the ground: there is no biographical information regarding the authors, nor their identities offered anywhere on the site that I could find, including the "About" link.  Perhaps they are a team of doctoral theologians (like, say, Archbishop Lefebvre, the positions of whom they are deriding in their articles), but, if so, they don't say so, and in any case their arguments must stand or fall on their own merits.

This rebuttal is occasional in nature for two reasons:

  • The article is very long-winded; it is needlessly repetitive.
  • Because sets of arguments tend to rest on a single false premise, it is not necessary to refute every statement.

I use the phrase "mainstream traditionalist" herein to refer to what is the original and still most widespread Traditionalist position: that of the Society of St. Pius Xth founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  Though the authors here deride this position as "semi" or "fake" traditionalism (and slander its adherents as not even Catholic by putting the word in quotes), the fact is that the Society was and is the primary preserver of Catholic Tradition in this time of crisis, and it was Archbishop Lefebvre's policy to expel those who held obstinately to the sedevacantist error (that is, the position that individuals can and must decide that a validly-elected supreme pontiff has lost or never possessed his office).

 

"Error #1 - Confusing Authority with Infallibility"

"The first error we shall look at is promoted by Salza somewhat subtly. He doesn't come out and say it explicitly, but he certainly gives the impression that unless the Church or the Pope propose something infalllibly [sic], it is of itself not really authoritative. His contention is that if it is not proposed as to be believed with divine and Catholic Faith (de fide divina et catholica), then it need not be believed at all."

Of course, Mr. Salza does not believe that only infallible statements carry any authority whatsoever - this is a gross oversimplification of the mainstream traditionalist position.  We do believe that any statement not protected by the charism of infallibility carries the possibility of error since that is exactly what infallibility means.  We also recognize that, as the theologians have explained, different types of statements in conciliar documents, papal encyclicals, etc., demand varying levels of assent, which are made clear by their language, context, and other factors, and that there are occasions where Catholics are bound to reject a fallible statement or teaching.

The level of assent required is proportional to the intention to bind, the subject matter (is it faith & morals, the only subjects of Catholic doctrine?), and the type of language employed (an unclear proposition leaves nothing to assent to).

As quoted in Michael Davies' Pope John's Council, Dom Paul Nau. O.S.B., "cites a number of authors regarding the attitude Catholics should have towards statements of the Ordinary Magisterium: '…that of inward assent, not as of faith, but as of prudence, the refusal of which could not escape the mark of temerity, unless the doctrine rejected was an actual novelty of involved a manifest discordance between the pontifical affirmation and the doctrine which had hitherto been taught.'"

So, we see here the nature of the valid exceptions to giving assent.

No less an authority than Dr. Ludwig Ott (author of the seminal work Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma) notes that, "The ordinary and usual form of papal teaching activitiy is not infallible.  Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible.  Nevertheless, normally they are to be accepted with an inner assert which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus).  The so-called silentium obsequiosum, that is 'reverent silence', does not generally suffice.  By way of exception the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives with a positive conviction that the decision rests on an error."

Though sedevacantists deny it was a valid ecumenical council, let's take a look at a statement from Vatican Council II's Secretary of the Council, Archbishop Pericle Felici; this is taken from a theological note appended to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: "In view of the conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith and morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod openly declares so.  Other matters which the sacred Synod proposes as the doctrine of the supreme teaching authority of the Church, each and every member of the faithful is oblige to accept and embrace according to the mind of the sacred Synod itself, which becomes known either from the subject matter or from the language employed, according to the norms of theological interpretation."

So, although of course it is not true to say that only infallible teachings require assent, the level and type of assent owed varies with non-infallible statements.  Furthermore, it may absolutely be the case that a Catholic is not able to give assent that he recognizes is not compatible with defined Catholic teaching, lest the principle of non-contradiction be violated.  (Such is not an example of Protestant-type "private judgement", because the individual is not defining doctrine but deciding what lies in accord with defined doctrine, which the Church Herself requires.)

"Each Catholic needs to be his own theologian."

With regard to his own conscience and behavior, yes - that's exactly what the Church teaches.  If this were not the case, how could Christ have commanded us to judge in all the ways that He did?  How could Scripture command us to "use judgement, and hold on to whatever is good" (1 Thes 5:21)?  Or Christ order us "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:57), in relation to interpreting the time?  How could we know whether or not we are hearing "another gospel" (Gal 1:8) if Christians were completely unable to discern right from wrong?  For that matter, how could one come to the sedevacantist position that it is morally certain that the man canonically elected pope does not hold the public office of pope if he is not able to think?

Individual Catholics cannot formulate doctrine but they can, and must, decide if a given statement or teaching is Catholic or not, even when that statement comes from a churchman.  To say this is not the case is to assert, among many other absurdities and contradictions, that the faithful in the time of Arias should have followed their Arian bishops into Hell.

Let's take a look at what the theologians have to say about the duty of resisting a [legitimate] pope - we've all seen some or all of these quotes before, including from sedevacantist sources:

St. Thomas says: "To resist openly and in public goes beyond the measure of fraternal correction. St. Paul would not have done it towards St. Peter if he had not in some way been his equal... We must realize, however, that if there was question of a danger for the faith, the superiors would have to be rebuked by their inferiors, even in public."

And also: “It is written: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ Now sometimes the things commanded by a superior are against God. Therefore, superiors are not to be obeyed in all things.”

And: "There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith."

(All quotes are from the Summa.)

St. Bellarmine: "Although it clearly follows from the circumstances that the Pope can err at times and command things which must not be done, that we are not to be simply obedient to him in all things, that does not show that he must not be obeyed by all when his commands are good. To know in what cases he is to be obeyed and in what not, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, 'One ought to obey God rather than man': therefore, were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truths of the Sacraments, or the commands of natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands, to be passed over."

So, Robert Bellarmine, Saint and Doctor, tells us that sometimes a pope - certainly the context speaks of a valid pope - must sometimes "out not to be obeyed".  (Though this statement may seem to apply to juridical commands rather than teachings, certainly demanding assent of a non-infallible and in fact erroneous statement falls into the same category.)

Bellarmine again: "Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body, it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed."

Augustine: "Paul showed, nonetheless, that it is possible for subordinates to have the boldness to resist their superiors without fear, when in all charity they speak out in the defense of truth."

Suarez: “If the pope gives an order contrary to right customs, he should not be obeyed; if he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common good, it will be lawful to resist him; if he attacks by force, by force he can be repelled, with a moderation appropriate to a just defense.”

Could there be clearer support for the Recognize & Resist position than any one of these teachings from the theologians?  It seems that any theologian of merit who spoke on the issue took the position that it is lawful to resist a pope who attempts to harm the Church - rather than the sedevacantist attitude which is essentially that individuals must declare that any pope who behaves thus simply isn't the pope.

Further, all of these good men were speaking about Catholics using their well-formed consciences and God-given ability to reason to decide if or when they must resist valid ecclesiastical authority.

Michael Davies comments: "Those who base their defense of the faith on the axiom that whatever the pope decides must be right would find themselves in a hopelessly indefensible position once they began to study the history of the papacy.  They would have to maintain that St. Athanasius was orthodox until Pope Liberius confirmed his excommunication; that this excommunication made his views unorthodox; but that they became orthodox again when Liberius recanted.  In other words, there are no standards of objective truth at all; an article of faith becomes true or untrue simply because of the attitude of the reigning pontiff [note: such a belief is exactly congruent with much neo-Catholic rhetoric].  Similarly, in the year 896 Pope Stephen VI had the corpse of his predecessor Formosus taken from his tomb, put on 'trial', condemned, stripped of his vestments, and then thrown into the Tiber.  The dead pope was declared deposed and all his acts annulled, including his ordinations - a somewhat strange act as Pope Stephen VI had been consecrated a bishop by Formosus!  In 897 Pope Theodore II recovered the body of Formosus, had it interred with suitable ceremony in St. Peter's, and declared his ordinations valid.  However, Pope Sergius III (904-911) reversed this decision and declared the Formosan ordinations to be null and ordered those ordained by him to be re-ordained.

Without going into the rights or wrongs of the background to this bizarre affair, it makes one thing quite clear - at least some of the popes involved must have been in error, and in error on an important matter of discipline."

Of course, Mr. Davies was responding to the neo-Catholic argument that, essentially, there are no limits whatsoever to papal power, that even juridical commands are protected from error, etc.  But it seems to be that the root error of the neo-Catholic and the sedevacantist is virtually the same - they both believe that a [legitimate] pope cannot err.  The former reacts by acquiescing to every novelty introduced by the conciliar Church and the latter by concluding that a pope who errs (or utters material heresy, etc.) cannot be a true pope.

So, we see that, to some extent, every Catholic has always had to be his own theologian.  This is why God gave him an intellect.

The problem with much sede argumentation is that it does not take into account the fact that the time we live in is not normal.  Of course, they believe that this is caused by the lack of true popes, but this is a tight circle of logic.  Rather, if, as Our Lady of Fatima foretold, the upper hierarchy of the Church has been beset by "diabolical disorientation", we'd expect to be seeing about what we're seeing - even if Pope Francis has indeed left us awestruck again and again.

It seems that the sedevacantist would have had a devil of a time surviving under the reign of any non-saintly pontiff - or even St. Peter himself.  What does the 1st-century sedevacantist candidate say regarding the pontiff who publicly denied Christ?  Who refused communion with gentile Christians, implicitly denying the doctrine that "there is no longer Jew nor Greek"?  And when Liberius agrees to excommunicate Athanasius, how does he escape loss of office?  And what to make of the mess of Stephen, Theodore, & Sergius?

[This is not to say that the present crisis is not the worst in Church history - I think it most certainly is.  It seems to be the devil's trump card.  But this has nothing to do with the logical problems of the sedevacantist position.]

 

"This position, if it were true, would mean that the Church herself is not a reliable teacher and guide in her daily teaching, that God has outsourced the Church's vigilance over the purity of the Faith to un-appointed clerics and laymen. It would mean the Church could not truly be said to be the Ark of Salvation who safely guides all who want to be saved to Heaven via true doctrine and the means of sanctification."

What's ironic about this objection, again, is that the sedevacantist would have had to make his own judgement about "the purity of the Faith" being preached in order to come to the position he has.

But the objection is not valid, for this reason: It is actual, binding Church doctrine that is the Guide we possess to be able to discern if this or that statement or attitude is congruent with Catholic teaching or not.  Though this time, with its unprecedented crisis of modernism, in indeed unique, this is the way it has always been.  This is how rank & file Catholics who rejected it survived Arianism without being dragged into Hell with their errant clergy.

 

An extended passage from Sapientiae Christianae is then quoted.  Here is one sentence underscored by the author: "Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them."

However, the very same pontiff, in the very same encyclical, also said this: "When circumstances make it necessary, it is not prelates alone who have to watch over the integrity of the faith."  Of course, that passage is not quoted by novusordowatch.

It would seem that the key word in the first quote above is authoritatively: It is only the pope who can give the Universal Church doctrine (the documents of an ecumenical council must still be promulgated by the pope; it is he that promulgates).  The fact that this qualifier is used itself makes clear that there are other instances in which laymen must "watch over the integrity of the faith" - as does reading the rest of the document.

We are beginning to see now a tactic that will become familiar: Protestant-style "proof-texting" with selective quoting from encyclicals, conciliar documents - even private papal speeches.  This type of "reading in the small" exegesis does not produce sound results.

 

Next is a quote from Casti Connubiii; here is one of the highlighted passages: "...a filial and humble obedience towards the Church should be combined with devotedness to God and the desire of submitting to Him. For Christ Himself made the Church the teacher of truth...

It is certainly interesting that the folks at novusordowatch are apparently under the impression that these things are news to mainstream traditionalists.  Yes, indeed, I am sure that John Salza, Chris Ferrara, and Bishop Fellay would be surprised to hear that Christ made the Church the teacher of truth.  What can one conclude when such things are brought forth as apparent evidence against the mainstream traditionalist position?  Again, it seems we are looking at an example of gross oversimplification.

 

We are next presented with "more quotes from various Supreme Pontiffs further underscore how wrong John Salza is:"

I must first note that it is curious that the folks at novusordowatch will provide quotations even from private addresses given by popes with the implication that they carry weight.  Such things can certainly be of interest (mainly for the intention of knowing an individual pope's mind on some subject), but it is rather silly to fail, as they repeatedly do, to make meaningful distinctions in authority between such disparate sources as private statements and encyclicals.

However, I mean to place no emphasis on that objection because it's not necessary - these quotes do not prove their case any more than any of the others.

Pius X, in an address to the Priests of the Apostolic Union, stated that "When one loves the pope one does not stop to debate about what he advises or demands, to ask how far the rigorous duty of obedience extends and to mark the limit of this obligation. When one loves the pope, one does not object that he has not spoken clearly enough, as if he were obliged to repeat into the ear of each individual his will, so often clearly expressed, not only viva voce, but also by letters and other public documents; one does not call his orders into doubt on the pretext – easily advanced by whoever does not wish to obey – that they emanate not directly from him, but from his entourage; one does not limit the field in which he can and should exercise his will; one does not oppose to the authority of the pope that of other persons, however learned, who differ in opinion from the pope. Besides, however great their knowledge, their holiness is wanting, for there can be no holiness where there is disagreement with the pope."

Can Pius' statement here be taken as Church doctrine?  Did he intend it as such, in a general sense?  Perhaps, but not in the sense the nowatch author(s) would have us believe.  If that were the cause, we would also need to believe that Pius thought Paul wrong to publicly rebuke Peter, John XXII's cardinals and theologians wrong to "debate about what he advises", and so on.  Because Pope St. Pius X knew Catholic history and Catholic doctrine very well, it is very sensible to believe that he was complaining here, rather, about souls who do not show proper filial love & respect for the pontiff at all, and for those who disagree with him without just cause.

In fact, there is a bit of irony here as mainstream traditionalists are the ones who demonstrate that one can well love the pope (that is, will good for him) yet disagree with him and even resist him.  Archbishop Lefebvre displayed filial love and the utmost respect for the pontiffs he dealt with, as a proper Catholic, even though he also brought forth the harshest condemnations of some of their behavior imaginable - also as a proper Catholic.  This is evident from his own testimony of his famous meeting with Paul VI as well as many other sources.

 

[The words of Archbishop Lefebvre, from Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, for example, regarding Paul VI: "I wrote expressing my deep respect for the person of the Holy Father and saying that if there were, in the expressions I had used in speeches and writings, anything displeasing to the Holy Father, I regretted them; that I was always ready to be received, and hope to be received, by the Holy Father. I signed the letter, and that was that"; "An oath against the Pope? I who, on the contrary, try to give them respect for the Pope, respect for the successor of Peter! On the contrary, we pray for the Holy Father, and you will never be able to show me this oath which they take against the Pope."  Michael Davies notes in this volume that "In point of fact the Archbishop never referred to Pope Paul VI in terms of anything but the most profound respect."]

 

"In a nutshell, we must believe everything Holy Mother Church teaches in her Magisterium..."A blatantly false statement, that.  In point of fact, again, there are various levels of assent owed by Catholics to the body of statements put forth by the Magisterium.  The ordinary Magisterium is not protected from error; since that is the case, to assert that one "must believe" "everything" this Magisterium utters is to assert that one is obligated to believe falsehood.  Of course, the Church has never taught anything so ridiculous.

Sedevacantists make such statements because they take any evidence that any churchman (or at least any pontiff) has made a materially heretical statement as evidence that he has lost his office.  (True, this is a simplification, but not far from the mark.  Material heresy implies formal heresy which implies immediately loss of the public office - so goes the story.  As others (most especially and most recently Robert Siscoe in his brilliant articles) have demonstrated, this is simply not the case - no theologian in the history of the Church has ever taught such a thing.)

Since Mortalium Animos is an encyclical popular among traditionalists, it is curious that they would quote it here.  Of course, mainstream traditionalists are highly aware of the blatant errors of the modern[ist] "ecumenical" movement.

 

"Error #2 - We can ignore what Francis says to the Media"

"For the sake of argument (but not in reality), we shall grant that (putative) papal comments directed at the press are not magisterial…

So, it appears that, in actuality, the author does believe "comments directed at the press" to be magisterial (!).  And we were also just informed that Catholics "must believe" "everything" in the "Magisterium".  Dare we infer that the folks at novusordowatch really do believe that Catholics are bound to believe and accept every single thing any pope says, at any time, to anyone?  It does appear that their position is at least close to something this preposterous.  In reality, however, this is not Catholic teaching.  There is nothing in Catholic doctrine remotely suggesting such a thing.  The theologians, saints, and even popes who have directly spoken to similar questions have never really indicated such a teaching.

 

"Error #3 - The Catholic Church can teach Freemasonic Ideas"

"Towards the middle of the interview, Salza casually and fleetingly mentions that there are 'Masonic principles ... now enshrined in Vatican II teaching.' ...Wait a minute, what?! A Catholic ecumenical council approved and promulgated by a true Pope -- which is what Salza believes Vatican II (1962-65) to have been -- can propose as Catholic doctrine condemned Freemasonic ideas?!"

Sedevacantist statements are often built upon false assumptions that, when removed, collapse any point made to null.  Of course, as has been very widely documented, and as attested to by the promulgating pontiff himself, Vatican II did not define any Catholic doctrine.  So, we have another red herring.

The Church cannot teach freemasonic ideas, for She cannot teach error.  Churchmen, however - even popes, for infallibility is a charism attached to the office and not the person - can & have taught all kinds of them.  Churchmen gave us Gnosticism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, and - probably - every other heresy.  

 

"Error #4 - The Novus Ordo "Popes" are not Heretics"

"Salza also tackled the question of heresy and heretics, specifically regarding the authorities in the Novus Ordo Church. He said: 'I think the only thing that saves some of these men from formal heresy is the very fact that they claim, and think, that they're teaching the Catholic Faith. They're not formally saying, "We are renouncing the Catholic Faith; we are publicly defecting."'

So... let's make sure we get this straight: Salza is saying that it is precisely the Novus Ordo bishops' Modernism that keeps them from being, uh, Modernists?! You've got to be kidding! That's a great punch line for Comedy Hour, but this sort of nonsense has no place in theological discourse concerning such serious matters that pertain to our eternal salvation."

Mr. Salza's statements are less amusing to those who understand such rather important distinctions such as material vs. formal heresy and are mindful of the maxim de internis ecclesia non judica - "the Church does not judge internals".

She does not, and neither are we to.

One of the reasons that modernism as a heresy is so insidious is that, as the great sainted pontiff noted, modernists often sound orthodox yet sow insidious doubt about the very foundations of the Faith at every opportunity.  Not only do formal modernists frequently sound orthodox, there are and have been beyond any shadow of a doubt countless souls whose thinking and speaking have been influenced by the disease of modernism to some extent but have not formally accepted any heresy.  That is the only thing Salza has stated: there are material modernists.  There is a distinction between material and formal modernism, and the latter cannot be determined by private judgement for the purpose of a binding judgement regarding ecclesiastical office.  

Since even St. Bellarmine, the sedes' favorite theologian, argues that it takes formal heresy for a pope to lose his office (but still not in the public forum), it would appear the distinction is relevant to all.

 

"Error #5 - The Second Vatican Council does not demand Assent"

"Like so many other apologists in the false traditionalist camp, Salza too repeats the argument that Vatican II does not demand any assent to its teaching."

That's quite right: In the end, it doesn't.  

As has been established, none of the documents of Vatican II proclaim any new doctrine binding upon Catholics.  Even in conciliar documents containing doctrine, it is only the precisely defined doctrine, when promulgated as part of the Extraordinary Magisterium, that are free from error.  Other parts of such documents and other documents from ecumenical councils demand assent in accordance with various factors, as were explored initially here; a couple of these references bear repeating:

Dom Paul Nau. O.S.B. says of "the attitude Catholics should have towards statements of the Ordinary Magisterium": "that of inward assent, not as of faith, but as of prudence, the refusal of which could not escape the mark of temerity, unless the doctrine rejected was an actual novelty of involved a manifest discordance between the pontifical affirmation and the doctrine which had hitherto been taught."

Dr. Ludwig Ott: "The ordinary and usual form of papal teaching activitiy is not infallible.  Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible.  Nevertheless, normally they are to be accepted with an inner assert which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus).  The so-called silentium obsequiosum, that is 'reverent silence', does not generally suffice.  By way of exception the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives with a positive conviction that the decision rests on an error."

Pope Paul, general audience of January 12th, 1966: "In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium, which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document."

The Council's own Theological Commission, cited by the Secretary of the Council, Archbishop Pericle Felici, in a theological note appended to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: "In view of the conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith and morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod openly declares so.  Other matters which the sacred Synod proposes as the doctrine of the supreme teaching authority of the Church, each and every member of the faithful is oblige to accept and embrace according to the mind of the sacred Synod itself, which becomes known either from the subject matter or from the language employed, according to the norms of theological interpretation" (emphasis mine).

These qualifications, in general and specific to this council, exist for a reason; they nullify the novusordowatch article's repeated insistence that assent is required in an absolute sense with no exceptions to any magisterial statement - even those [which are the vast majority] which the Church Itself declares may contain error.  

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a Doctor of Theology, was a "competent expert" qualified to conclude that the novelties of Vatican II cannot demand the assent of Catholics.

Furhter, one must know what one is giving assent to in order to do so!  As we all know, the "teachings" of Vatican II and the entire post-conciliar New Orientation of the Church are anything but clear!  It is not just traditionalists that have been pointing this out: In recent times we've seen startling phenomena such as Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, canon of the Vatican Arch-Basilica and editor of the international theological periodical Divinitas, echo the SSPX in calling for an authoritative interpretation of Vatican II's vague, often self-contradictory documents.  

Self-contradictory: It's been documented thoroughly by mainstream traditionalists in such works as The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber and Pope John's Council that there was a determined effort by the liberal camp to introduce novelty into the documents alongside orthodox teaching, but in 2013 arch-liberal Cardinal Kasper himself confirmed this explicitly, as everyone is aware.

Quoting Pope John's Council again (emphasis mine): "In his article 'Magisterium' in A Catholic Dictionary of Theology, Father Joseph Crehan, S.J., provides an interesting insight into the degree of assistance given by the Holy Spirit to the Magisterium when it is not promulgating infallible decrees: 'If, as Molina held, human weakness is a limiting factor even in the work of an ecumenical council, so that we ultimately get only the decrees that we deserve, and not all that the Spirit might have given us, then much more reasonably is a place to be found for human weakness in the day-to-day working of the Magisterium.'  Fr. Crehan also draws our attention to the fact that the Council accepted the fact that it had 'put forth its teaching without infallible definitions' by concluding the decree on the Church 'with decernimus ac statuimus ('We decree and establish')" and not with the word definimus.  The same formula was used for all sixteen promulgated documents of the Council, and, as has been explained, infallibility pertains only to definitions."

 

"But there is another issue here that is often neglected: It is one thing to say that Vatican II does not require assent; but what Salza and his Semi-Trad apologist buddies are really saying is that you are not allowed to assent to its teachings, lest you be infected with Modernism. (In the Catholic Church, you don't have the option to adhere to Modernism if you so desire.) So, let's stop talking about whether we 'must' adhere to the Council and instead talk about whether we 'can', that is, whether we are even 'allowed to', considering that, as the 'expert' himself said, it contains Freemasonic doctrine.

Put this way, Salza's argument disappears completely. He's saying that what the 'Pope' requires you to believe is something you are not allowed to believe, sometimes even under pain of heresy."

There's so much wrong here it's difficult to know where to begin.  Though Mr. Salza does not use the type of language brandied here for dramatic effect, we can pay that no mind; in point of fact, yes, Catholics should not assent to the common interpretations of Vatican II documents regarding topics like religious liberty, prayer with non-Catholics, collegiality, and other novelties with no basis in the Tradition of the Church; giving assent to such non-binding, non-Catholic concepts that the Church Herself had formerly condemned on numerous occasions is not Catholic.

"He's saying that what the 'Pope' requires you to believe is something you are not allowed to believe..." - again, this would only be true if novusordowatch's insistence that every iota of every Vatican II documents requires the full assent of the will (as if this were even logically possible - the documents don't use precise enough language) were true.  But this is not true, and no pope has stated such either.  Another compound logical fallacy.

 

Next, Leo XIII is quoted again: "Among Catholics – doubtless as a result of current evils – there are some who, far from satisfied with the condition of 'subject' which is theirs in the Church, think themselves able to take some part in her government, or at least, think they are allowed to examine and judge after their own fashion the acts of authority. A misplaced opinion, certainly. If it were to prevail, it would do very grave harm to the Church of God, in which, by the manifest will of her Divine Founder, there are to be distinguished in the most absolute fashion two parties: the teaching and the taught, the Shepherd and the flock, among whom there is one who is the head and the Supreme Shepherd of all."

This sounds pretty damning, doesn't it?  Pope Leo XIII, it would seem, certainly believed that the laity have no place to correct or even instruct the clergy regarding anything, ever.  Now they have us indeed; we are completely screwed.

But, again, we don't have to look extremely hard to discover that this is essentially a matter of selective quoting.  Leo XIII also said this: "When circumstances make it necessary, it is not prelates alone who have to watch over the integrity of the faith."

We have another example of the now-familiar proof-texting of encyclicals.  

We see again a principle that is certainly true in the general case - that the clergy are to teach and the laity to be taught - turned into an axiom with no exceptions, never minding ecclesiastical law, divine law, history, and common sense.  But if there was ever a time in the Church's history when general cases do not apply, it is now!

Scripture Itself condones (we might say "commands") the correction of clergy by inferiors:

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning." (1 Timothy 5:19-20)

St. Thomas agrees: "When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II, II, q33, a4.

Many more quotations from saints, theologians, and doctors could be brought forth.  And, we have canon law:

212.3: "According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons."

(Ok; it's the 1983 Code - sorry.)

Again, does the anonymous novurordowatch author believe the faithful during the time of Arius should have followed their bishops into Hell - or rebuked them?  Or, at the least, held to the true faith in the interior?  It would be quite interesting to hear them discuss such matters.

 

Next, we are presented with an excerpt from an article by Mgsr. Joseph Fenton.  While noting that this document carries no magisterial authority whatever (a monsignor is not a bishop), let's look at its contents vs. what is asserted by novuordowatch.  Here is one of the money quotes:

"All doctrinal statements contained in the encyclicals must be accepted with a firm and sincere inward assent" and "...every rejection of an authoritative doctrinal pronouncement contained in a papal encyclical is opposed to the theological virtue of faith itself." 

The discerning reader will note that there is a qualification here glossed-over by the article's author - it is "doctrinal statements" within encyclicals that must be given assent.  Perhaps this qualification is worth exploring?

Reading the entire article by Mgsr. Fenton, we come across this statement not brought to our attention by novusordowatch:

"Obviously this applies to doctrinal statements alone.  There are many encyclicals, primarily commemorative rather than doctrinal in content, in which some of the statements, particularly of merely historical import, are obviously not being imposed authoritatively upon the members of Christ's flock."

The fact is that in the post-conciliar period - before which, of course, the good monsignor was writing - we have come to see encyclicals full of non-doctrinal content, which, it would seem, "are obviously not being imposed authoritatively upon the members of Christ's flock".

Take Evangelii Gaudium, for example - 50,000 words that has been rather aptly described as "far more like a personal diary than an official papal instrument".  Doctrine: if it doesn't exist, there's nothing to give assent to.  If the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura himself says of this encyclical - and he did - "I would not think that it was intended to be part of papal magisterium", does this trump the absolutes purported to be taught by Mgsr. Fenton's article?  

Though papal encyclicals that read like the confused musings of an aging hippie are disturbing indeed to the Catholic mind, and we wish to have examples of non-doctrinal content in such documents with less insult to the dignity of the papacy, it does prove our point well.

[The sedevacantist will no doubt here assert that such an encyclical is proof positive that Pope Francis is no pope at all.  But, since he has been validly elected and not deposed by the Church, he does in fact retain his public office even if he is a formal heretic, which none of us can know with certainty: http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2013-0315-siscoe-sedevacantism.htm]

We've already seen that to say, 'assent is always due any papal statement', with no exceptions, to any non-infallible statement, is erroneous.  We give a type of assent - unless we reasonably believe error to be present - to non-infallible teachings related to doctrine, but none at all to private musings which are not even requesting us to acquiesce.

Let's take a quick at some of those famous quotations from popes regarding the possibility of popes - valid popes, that is - believing and teaching error:

Pope Innocent III (died 1216): "The pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honour and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory, because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy, because 'he who does not believe is already judged.' (John 3:18) In such a case it should be said of him: 'If salt should lose its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.'" (Sermon 4)

Pope Adrian VI (died 1523) "If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can error even in matters touching the faith. He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgment or decretal. In truth, many Roman pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was Pope John XXII (1316-1334)." (Quaest. in IV Sententiam).

Pope Adrian II: "We read that the Roman Pontiff has always possessed authority to pass judgment on the heads of all the Churches ( i.e., the patriarchs and bishops ), but nowhere do we read that he has been the subject of judgment by others. It is true that Honorius was posthumously anathematized by the Eastern churches, but it must be borne in mind that he had been accused of heresy, the only offense which renders lawful the resistance of subordinates to their superiors, and their rejection of the latter's pernicious teachings." (Allocution III, Lect. In Conc. VIII, act. VII 

(Source: The Internet.)

In Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, that bull so favored by sedevacantist polemicists, Pope Paul IV states that "In assessing Our duty and the situation now prevailing, We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this kind [heresy] is so grave and so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff, who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fullness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith." 

Even though this bull is [ignoring ecclesiastical law] frequently used by sedevacantists to justify their position, it is clear here that in this statement Paul IV is speaking of a valid pontiff, who he describes as the "Roman Pontiff, who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fulness of power over peoples and kingdoms".

 

Error #6 - The Conciliar Church is the Spotless Bride of Christ Disfigured

This section begins with the assertion that it is preposterous to claim that even though Pope Francis is teaching error, he is actually the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church.

As do most sedevacantist arguments, this one takes a specific axiom or truth and generalizes it well beyond its means.  In fact, the boundaries of the Church's divine protection from error have been formalized by the Church, and all agree that the statements Mr. Salza refers to are not protected by this guarantee of infallibility.  Since the very definition of infallibility is divine protection from error, it follows immediately that it is indeed possible for a true pope to make statements which contain error as long as those statements are not presented as infallible teaching. 

Next, a succession of papal quotes is paraded as evidence of their hypothesis that a true pope cannot err in any matter.  These provide no such evidence whatsoever.  Here is the first:

"Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302)

Who is it among the two camps that refuses submission to the Roman Pontiff?  We traditionalists submit to the Roman Pontiff, which is why the Society never fails to engage in negotiations with the Holy See in good faith.  There is here a complete missing of the critical distinction between refusing to obey a specific command, out of the necessity that divine law commands, and denying the prelate's authority entirely.

There are more quotes demonstrating that submission to the pope is necessary for salvation and that the papacy and the Church are of divine origin - as if traditionalists are not aware of these basic facts of Catholicism.  

This is another case of a long line of supposed evidence brought forth that in actuality does not support the assertion being made.  It is absolutely true that the papacy was instituted by Christ Himself, as was the Church, and that filial submission to the pontiff is necessary for salvation.  It is also true - it is clear, defined Catholic teaching - that it is possible that the pope can err in non-infallible teachings.  In fact, that statement is a tautology.

(Is it being asserted that mainstream traditionalists - the Society of St. Pius X - do not submit to the pontiff?  This is, of course, a charge leveled by some neo-Catholics, but it is not true.  Just as Paul submitted to Peter, his valid ecclesiastical superior, despite also publicly rebuking him, the leaders of the Society have always recognized the pope and negotiated with him - when possible - in complete good faith.  As theologians not associated with the Society have pointed out, if anything, it is not the Society that refuses communion with the Vatican, but the inverse.)

At the risk of repeating myself to the point of annoyance, I must point out once again that the sedevacantist mindset could not deal with that other severe crisis in the Church, Arianism.  Pope Liberius - coerced or not - supported the Arian heresy first by refusing to condemn it and then by excommunicating Athanasius, the virtual soul defender of the Catholic Faith.  Yet, he was a true pope, to be sure.  [He was eventually deposed by the Roman clergy - the equivalent of the College of Cardinals at the time - but there is no record whatsoever of any priest or bishop before that time claiming he was no longer the supreme pontiff.  Then & now, if the Church deposes a pope, he is deposed, but no individual has the authority to do this.]

Next, the Great Schism is discussed, to demonstrate that it is possible for the Church to go through an extended time with no visible Head.  However, this point is missed: During the Schism there were two anti-popes and one actual pope.  The Church did have a pontiff, even though his identity was not clear to all - not even to some future saints.

Again, however, this does nothing for the sedevacantist position; in the end, it was an official action of the Church that resolved the situation: all three popes resigned and a new one was elected via the usual process.  Sedevacantists often miss the fact that "Recognize & Resist" Catholics do acknowledge that it is possible that the current pontiff will be deposed by a future pope or council (or by the cardinals) - the salient point is that unless & until this occurs he still holds his office, as Bellarmine himself taught, he is still the pope. 

Now, let's proceed with a bit of ad-hoc yet hard evidence supporting the notion that the post-conciliar popes are true popes and the visible Church remains the true Church:

- "For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine, but, according to their own desires, they will heap up to themselves teachers having itching ears and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Scripture predicts the apostasy in the Church and tells us that it will be clergy (teachers) that are afflicted with "itching ears".  (Could one find a better phrase for those seduced by the unholy charms of modernism?)  

- If Paul VI was an antipope willfully presiding over the destruction of the Church, why would he have famously warned the faithful and the clergy, as he did, of the "smoke of satan" entering the Sanctuary, along with similar lamentations?  Is it more likely that he was an unwittingly participant, under the spell of diabolical disorientation, besieged with "itching ears" yet unable to see the logical ends of his modernism?

- The same goes for John Paul II's lamentation of the "silent apostasy" - it would be counterproductive for an anti-pope to draw attention to the apostasy he was purposefully furthering.

- Likewise, though Papa Benedict was, at root, at least a material modernist as well, his several concrete and substantial actions in support of tradition make no sense unless he was also a sincere Catholic.

- This crisis was completely predicted by Our Lady of Fatima, as is attested to by such a mountain of evidence it requires a repudiation of reason itself to ignore.  Our Lady ordered the Secret revealed by 1960 - the very year the council was prepared.  She gave us these particular warnings yet, in all of the testimony from the many sources who had read the Secret, there is not one word about false popes.  In fact, of course, the existence of a valid pope is assumed by the entire Fatima phenomena.

- In relation to Fatima, we have the approved apparition of Our Lady of Akita, Whose message is essentially the same.  She warned that "the work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church".

 

"So, if John Salza wants to argue that the Catholic Church must undergo her own Passion, we can certainly agree; but we cannot agree that this Passion should mean the Church's own teachings can be dispensed with, that she can turn from the Ark of Salvation to the Ark of Damnation, that she can turn from the bulwark of truth into a sewer of heresy, from which we must then rescued by various non-authoritative, non-appointed laymen or clerics in the Resistance camp who figure it all out for us."

The Holy Ghost has shown Himself clearly in these critical facts:

- The modernists have not succeeded in changing one iota of Church doctrine.  Not a single binding teaching of faith or morals has been changed - nor can it be.  If the Church were truly now a false, demonic church, there is no way this would be the case.  Not even close.

- Though the Novus Ordo Missae is an abomination and an illicit Rite of Mass, it has retained sufficient form as to be capable of confecting a valid Eucharist (when, of course, valid matter and intent are present).

 

Dave Armstrong

The article finishes with a drive-by accusing Salza of supporting heresy by publishing on his website a piece by apologist Dave Armstrong in which it is asserted that "Catholics must believe that Orthodoxy is part of the universal Church".  Mr. Salza responded via private communication that this article had not been on his website for a very, very long time - perhaps not since 2001 - as he removed it when he became aware of the heretical (it is definitely heretical) proposition therein.  Given that this novusordowatch article was written in 2014, it is not unreasonable to suspect a lack of good faith on the part of its author(s) in failing to mention these details.