Archive for January, 2018

Caution, another “joy” document… commentary from Novus Ordo Watch

Antipope Francis

“Apostolic Constitution” Veritatis Gaudium
on Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties

December 27, 2017

The Vatican has released yet another monster of a document: Veritatis Gaudium (“The Joy of Truth”). In its English version, the thing has 22,862 words in 56 pages. It contains four major sections that include a total of 70 articles, features two appendices, and has 113 footnotes.

Not surprisingly, this supposed “Apostolic Constitution” once again features a Latin word meaning “joy” in its title. This time, it’s gaudium again, a Novus Ordo favorite (think Gaudium et Spes and Evangelii Gaudium, for example, and John XXIII’s address that opened Vatican II, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia). The last major document was entitled Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), and everyone is still reeling from the joy of that.

The Vatican has made the text of Veritatis Gaudium available in sundry languages, of which we make the following available via links:

The document is officially dated Dec. 27, 2017, but it was not actually published by the Vatican until Jan. 29, 2018. Vatican News has released video of its press conference presenting the document, currently available only in Italian:

The following is a list of links with coverage, summaries, and commentary on Veritatis Gaudium by various Novus Ordo news sites:

We have run the text of Veritatis Gaudium through a word cloud generator, which counts how many times each word appears in a document. The more frequent the appearance, the larger the resulting word. The word cloud for Veritatis Gaudium looks like this:

(click image to enlarge)

Episode 045 of our mini podcast show TRADCAST EXPRESS also talks about Veritatis Gaudium. We have embedded the 9-minute audio here:

For more information about the man who falsely claims to be the Pope of the Catholic Church (“Pope Francis”), please see our topical page here.

Image source: Wikipedia
License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Traditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments

January 26th, 2018 by Vigilo

Divine law obliges rather than forbids the conferring of sacraments.

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

Now and again a traditional Catholic will hear someone claim that the sacraments he receives are “illicit.”

Sometimes members of the Novus Ordo establishment — the diocesan, bishop or local pastor, say — will make this charge, citing one provision of canon law or another.

Or a traditional Catholic may come across a tract by a traditionalist type popularly called a “home-aloner.” This is someone who rejects Vatican II and the New Mass, but at the same time denounces the sacramental ministrations of all (or most) traditional Catholic priests as illegal, sinful, punishable by excommunication, against canon law or, in the case of confession, invalid. So in place of receiving sacraments, he recommends that you stay “home alone.”

In the early 1990’s I wrote two articles dealing with these issues, “Canon Law and Common Sense” and “Home Alone,” both of which enjoyed a fairly wide circulation in traditionalist circles.

I decided to return to the topic because several new home-aloner tracts have appeared over the past few years, the most recent claiming that traditionalist clergy violate not merely canon law, but divine law. Now, making credible arguments based on such concepts requires a fairly high degree of specialized knowledge in moral theology, canon law, sacramental law, and dogmatic theology. Ordinarily this can only be acquired by taking formal courses in these disciplines at a Catholic seminary or university, and then augmenting this basic knowledge through comparative study of major canonical and theological works, all of which are in Latin. (Some are listed in the bibliography below.)

No home-aloners I know of have this background, or even suspect how extensive their ignorance of these disciplines really is. Hence it is not surprising to find in their most recent writings two underlying errors.

First, these writers assume that the most important question a Catholic priest must always ask about a sacrament is whether he is “permitted” or “forbidden” to confer it.

This turns everything on its head. The priesthood is not just a privilege that stintingly permits something; it is a munus or officium (duty) to do something: to offer sacrifice and to dispense sacraments. So for a priest the real question is always: “What sacraments am I now obliged to confer?”

Second, probably because less specialized works sometimes use the terms indiscriminately, the writers confuse two distinct concepts in canon law as they relate to the administration of the sacraments: (1) deputation (a legitimate faculty or permission from the Church to administer sacraments) and (2) jurisdiction (ruling power over others in spiritual things).

A priest or bishop must have legitimate deputation for all the sacraments he confers because their “confection and administration is divinely committed to the ministry of the Church” (Capello, de Sacramentis 1:49). Jurisdiction, on the other hand, is required only for confession.

The would-be canonists, however, seem to think the law requires a priest to have jurisdiction whenever he confers a sacrament, and they base most of their criticism on this hidden assumption. But since deputation suffices, such arguments are beside the point.

I will briefly develop both these issues below. Most of what follows serves equally well for answering the home-aloners and members of the Vatican II establishment.

I. Divine Law

Our Lord’s commands to baptize (Mt. 28:19), forgive sins (Jn 20:22), offer Mass (Lk 22:19), etc. constitute a divine law that binds all Catholic bishops and priests until the end of time.

Some priests are obliged in justice to administer sacraments; the rest are obliged on other grounds, explained either as in charity or in virtue of ordination. Here are the principles:

A. Obligation in Justice (ex justitia). This category comprises all priests who have the cura animarum (care of souls).

This technical term in canon law refers to priests who, by reason of their office or special title of jurisdiction, whether ordinary (a diocesan bishop, a superior general, a pastor or his equivalents) or delegated (coadjutor or assistant pastors) are obliged to “shepherd a particular part of Christ’s flock” (Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis3:86).

Their obligation to administer sacraments arises from “the divine law [SS citations] that commands shepherds to feed their sheep and indeed procure their spiritual good and their salvation” (Hervé, Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae 4:491).

Priests with the cura animarum were gravely bound by divine law to provide the sacraments to faithful Catholics qualified to receive them.

B. Obligation in Charity (ex caritate). Other priests who lack this type of ordinary or delegated jurisdiction — e.g., seminary professors, administrators, teachers, unassigned, retired, etc. — are also nevertheless obliged to provide sacraments to the faithful, depending on how serious the need is for an individual or a community.

Some authors say their obligation is based in the virtue of charity: “When priests who have the cura animarum are lacking, other priests are bound out of charity to administer the sacraments… in serious need for a community, [such priests] are bound to administer the sacraments, even at the risk of their lives, as long as there is reasonable hope of assisting and there is no one else who will help.” This obligation binds under pain of mortal sin. (Merkelbach 3:87. My emphasis.)

C. Obligation in Virtue of Ordination. Other authors say that such priests are obliged to provide sacraments not simply out of charity, but in virtue of their sacramental ordination itself. Here is one explanation:

“They are bound by a certain general obligation arising from the sacred order they received. For Christ the Lord made them priests to devote themselves to saving souls. Because of this purpose, their special duty is to administer the Sacraments. This is obvious from the ordination rite, which gives them the power to offer sacrifice and absolve from sins, and which specifies administering the other sacraments among their other duties…. This obligation binds more gravely depending on the seriousness of the spiritual need of the faithful in the diocese where [such a] priest is supposed to serve or in the place where he lives. When such a community is obviously in serious need — when, for instance, due to the small number of priests or confessors, people have no convenient way to assist at Mass on Sundays and feast days and receive the Eucharist, or where it is inconvenient for the people to frequent the sacrament of Penance, so that many remain in sin — a priest has a grave obligation to administer these sacraments and to prepare himself properly for the duty of confessor” (Aertnys-Damen, Theologia Moralis 2:26: “Generali quadam obligatione tenentur ex ordine suscepto… in necessitate simpliciter gravi talis communitatis… gravis est obligatio…”Original emphasis.)

*      *      *      *      *

These principles apply as follows: After Vatican II nearly all bishops and priests with the cure animarum defected to the new religion. The few priests who resisted, on the other hand, were professors, outcast in their religious orders or dioceses, retired, etc.

These priests were then bound by divine law to provide sacraments for Catholics, who, since their pastors had apostasized, were now “obviously in serious need.” The priests were not obliged to “seek permission.” Rather, they were obliged, both in charity and in virtue of their ordination, to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc.

Not only that, but the bishops among them — Abps. Lefebvre and Thuc — were obliged to confer Holy Orders on worthy candidates who would then continue to provide sacraments for faithful Catholics throughout the world.

Their obligation arose from the sacred order of episcopacy they had both received. The one-sentence exhortation to the candidate in the Rite of Episcopal Consecration expresses this obligation succinctly: “It is the duty of a bishop to judge, to interpret, to consecrate, to ordain, to offer sacrifice, to baptize and to confirm.”

Moreover, those of us who derive our orders from Abps. Lefebvre or Thuc obviously have no appointment to the cura animarum. But like all other priests, we are likewise obliged by divine law, in charity and in virtue of ordination, to provide sacraments to the faithful who remain in grave common need.

II. Legitimate Deputation and Mission

Further, “as regards legitimacy… all authority to dispense the sacraments originates from the mission given to the apostles” by means of the same divine commands cited above (to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc.) (Billot, De Ecclesiae Sacramentis 1:179). This is because:

“No one dispenses another person’s property legitimately unless he does so based on that person’s command. Now, the sacraments are Christ’s property. Only those, therefore, who have a mission from Christ — namely, those to whom the apostolic mission derives — dispense them legitimately” (Billot, ibid.).

Those whom Our Lord has bound by divine law to confer sacraments, then, simultaneously receive from Him the legitimate deputation and the apostolic mission to confer them.

III. Human Ecclesiastical Law

Although certain canons in the Code expressly recall principles of the divine positive law (for examples, see Michaels, Normae Generales Juris Canonici 1:210ff), the canons that prescribe how the legitimate deputation to baptize, absolve, offer Mass, etc. is conferred or obtained are not themselves divine law, but only human law.

According to general principles of law, a human law:

A. Ceases automatically and positively when it becomes harmful (nociva) to observe. For this, see the works by moral theologians and canonists Abbo-Hannon, Aertnys-Damen, Badii, Beste, Cappello, Cicognani, Cocchi, Coronata, Maroto, McHugh-Callan, Merkelbach, Michels, Noldin, Regatillo-Zalba, Vermeersch, Wernz-Vidal, etc. in the bibliography below.

B. Ceases in “common need,” even if the law would otherwise render a sacrament invalid. Thus, for instance, an invalidating impediment to marriage normally requiring dispensation by a church official with ordinal jurisdiction would cease to bind “because of common need,” when access to someone with the requisite authority is impossible (Merkelbach 1:353).

Such a common need would also occur, for instance, “during a time of persecution or upheaval in a particular country.” In this case, “if the purpose of the law would cease in a contrary way for the community — that is, if common harm would result from it — the law would not bind, because it would rightly be considered to be suspended, due to benign interpretation of the mind of the lawgiver” (Cappello 5:199).

C. Does not bind when it conflicts with the divine law. “In a conflict of obligations, the higher one takes precedence… Divine positive law takes precedence over human legislation” (Jone, Moral Theology, 70). “The supreme rule in the matter is this: The obligation that prevails is the one arising from the law which, considering its nature and purpose, is of greater importance… Precepts of the divine positive law must prevail over precepts of human positive law” (Noldin, Summa Theologiae Moralis1:207).

IV. Application

As regards the human ecclesiastical laws cited as prohibiting traditional Catholic priests to administer sacraments in the present situation:

A. Common good. Applying these laws would deprive Catholics of the sacraments and thus directly impede the common good (bonum commune) that the Church intends for all her laws. This common good, the theologian Merkelbach says, is “the worship of God and the supernatural sanctification of men” (Summa Theol. Mor. 1:325: “Dei cultus et sanctificatio supernaturalis hominum…”)

B. Cessation. Such human ecclesiastical laws would therefore become harmful (nocivae), and as such would, according to the general principles of law laid down by the moral theologians and canonists, automatically cease. (See III.A).

This includes Canons 953 and 2370, which would otherwise forbid the consecration of a bishop without an apostolic mandate (the papal document authorizing the consecration), because observing them would eventually deprive the faithful of sacraments whose conferral requires a minister in Holy Orders.
This also includes Canon 879.1, which governs jurisdiction for absolution: “To hear confessions validly jurisdiction must be granted expressly, either orally or in writing.” The moral theologian and canonist Prümmer specifically characterizes this canon as “ecclesiastical law” (Manuale Theologiae Moralis 3:407: “A jure ecclesiastico statuitur, ut jurisdictionis concessio a) sit expressa sive verbis sive scripto…” Original emphasis).

Since the canon is human ecclesiastical law and not divine law, the requirement for an express grant of jurisdiction could therefore cease on grounds of “common need” (see III.B), because Catholics in mortal sin need absolution and because we priests are obliged to provide it.

Our obligation would arise, as St. Alphonsus explains, “out of the very nature of the priestly office itself, to which Christ’s institution has connected this duty, and that a priest is bound to fulfill it when the need of the people demands it” (Aetnys-Damen 2:26n. “…ex proprio Sacerdotis officio… quod Sacerdos exercere tenetur…” Original emphasis).

C. Prevailing obligation. In any case, the grave obligation to dispense the sacraments that divine law imposes on traditional Catholic priests in charity and in virtue of their ordination takes precedence over the human ecclesiastical laws cited against them (See III.C).

D. Legitimate Deputation and Mission. Simultaneously, this same divine law necessarily endows traditional Catholic bishops and priests with legitimate deputation or an apostolic mission to dispense sacraments (See II). Moreover, if it were otherwise, God would be imposing a grave obligation while withholding any morally licit means to fulfill it — quod impossibile.

V. Jurisdiction for Absolution

In the case of legitimate deputation for confession, divine law requires that for valid absolution of sinners, a priest must also possess the power of jurisdiction in addition to the power of Holy Orders. No traditional Catholic priest I know of disputes this.

Jurisdiction is “a moral power to rule subjects in those things that pertain to their supernatural end” (Merkelbach 3:569). As noted above, jurisdiction is either ordinary(attached to an office) or delegated (committed to a person, either by law or a superior). It operates in the external forum (the Church as a society) or the internalforum (the individuals before God — usually meaning in confession).

The jurisdiction we traditional Catholic priests possess has been delegated to us from Christ Himself in virtue of the divine law and operates in the internal forum, because:

A. Canon 879 ceases. The human ecclesiastical law (canon 879) requiring that jurisdiction for confessions be expressly granted in writing or orally has ceased (See IV.B).

B. Divine Law provides jurisdiction. The divine law by which Christ grants jurisdiction to those He commands to forgive sins (as distinct from sacramental powerto do so) is found in John 20:21: “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (Merkelbach 3:574).

This divine law always endures, together with the jurisdiction from Christ necessary to fulfill it. It is obvious, says the theologian Hermann, “that this power of the keys will last forever in the Church. For since Christ willed that the Church last until the end of the world, He also lavished upon her the means without which she could not achieve her purpose, the salvation of souls” (Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae 2:1753. My emphasis.)

Indeed, Christ’s Church must supply jurisdiction for absolution in extraordinary circumstances: “The Church must, because of her special purpose, provide for the salvation of souls, and so she is therefore bound to provide everything that depends on her power” (Cappello 2:349. My emphasis).

For although, as Cardinal Billot says, ecclesiastical law is directed more at binding than loosing, and divine law is more directed at loosing than binding, ultimately, “the Church’s instrumental jurisdiction is directed at loosing — indeed, at loosing the bonds which depend not upon ecclesiastical law, but upon divine law” (Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi 1:476. My emphasis.).

C. God exercises the authority. Our delegated jurisdiction in the internal forum is “not an ecclesiastical power, but a divine power granted by authority proper to God Himself (Who alone is able directly to touch the conscience and the bond of sin). It operates through the pope however as a minister and instrument of divinity, and therefore not by authority proper to the Church, but rather by God exercising His own authority” (Merkelbach 3:569. My emphasis).

*      *      *      *      *

To sum up the foregoing:

• Divine law obliges traditional Catholic priests and bishops to administer sacraments to the faithful. (See I.)

• This same divine law also provides legitimate deputation and apostolic mission for their apostolate. (See II.)

• Human ecclesiastical (canon) laws whose application impedes fulfilling this divine law have ceased because they are now harmful (nocivae). (See III and IV.)

• This includes canon 879, requiring an express grant of jurisdiction for validity of absolution. (See III.B and IV.B.)

• Instead, divine law directly delegates jurisdiction in the internal forum to traditional Catholic priests for the absolution they impart. (See V.)

None of this, I hasten to add, justifies ignoring the many other provisions of ecclesiastical law regulating the conferral and reception of the sacraments, especially those forbidding the conferral of Holy Orders on the ignorant and the unfit.

Christ Himself commands His priests to dispense His sacraments to His flock. Since the pastors invested with jurisdiction for the cura animarum have all defected to the modernist religion, their obligation now devolves to us, the few faithful priests who remain.

We confer Christ’s sacraments because He has made it our duty.

— July 2003



Abbo, J & J. Hannon. The Sacred Canons. St. Louis: Herder 1957. 2 vols.
Aertnys, I. & C. Damen. Theologia Moralis. 17th ed. Rome: Marietti 1958.
Badii, C. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. 3rd ed. Florence: Fiorentina 1921.
Beste, U. Introductio In Codicem. College ville, MN: St. John’s 1946.
Billot, L. (Cardinal). De Ecclesiae Sacramentis. Rome: 1931. 2 vols
__________. Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi. 5th ed. Rome: Gregorian 1927. 2 vols.
Cappello, F. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. 5th ed. Santander: Sal Terrae: 1956. 2 vols.
__________. Tractatus Canonico-Moralis de Sacramentis. Rome: Marietti 1951. 5 vols. Cicognani, A. Canon Law. 2nd ed. Westminster, MD: Newman 1934.
Cocchi, G. Commentarium in Codicem Iuris Canonici. 6th ed. Rome: Marietti 1938. 8 vols.
Code of Canon Law. 1917.
Coronata, M. De Sacramentis: Tractatus Canonicus. Turin: Marietti 1943. 3 vols.
__________. Institutiones Juris Canonici. 4th ed. Turin: Marietti 1950. 3 vols.
Herrmann, P. Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae. Rome: Della Pace 1908. 2 vol.
Hervé. J. Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae. Paris: Berche 1932. 4 vols.
Jone, H. Moral Theology. Westminster, MD: Newman 1955.
Maroto, P. Institutiones Iuris Canonici. Rome: 1921. 4 vols.
McHugh, J, & C. Callan. Moral Theology. New York: Wagner 1929.
Merkelbach B. Summa Theologiae Moralis. 8th ed. Montreal: Desclée 1949. 3 vols.
Michiels, G. Normae Generales Juris Canonici, 2nd ed. Paris: Desclée 1949. 2 vols.
Noldin, H. & A. Schmitt. Summa Theologiae Moralis. Innsbruck: Rauch 1940. 3 vols.
Prümmer, D. Manuale Theologiae Moralis. 10th ed. Barcelona: Herder 1946. 3 vols.
Regatillo, E. & M. Zalba. Theologiae Moralis Summa. Madrid: BAC 1954. 3 vols.
Vermeersch, A & I. Creusen. Epitome Iuris Canonci. 7th ed. Rome: Dessain 1949. 3 vols.
Wernz, F. & P. Vidal. Ius Canonicum. Rome: Gregorian 1934. 8 vols.

NOT merely Imperfect Catholicism

January 23rd, 2018 by Vigilo

Can there be an “Imperfect Catholicism”? Bishop Sanborn writes..


Not too long ago I was having a discussion, lively as usual, with a Novus Ordo conservative priest. In the discussions, I always press for an answer to the question: Is the Vatican II religion Roman Catholicism? Is it a homogeneous development of Catholicism, with nothing substantially different? Or is it a substantial rupture with the past? For everything we do and they do rests upon the answer to this question. For we would be wrong to oppose the reforms of Vatican II, if they are indeed a continuation of Catholicism. Conversely they would be wrong to accept them, if indeed they constitute rupture.

Well, I finally got an answer: “It is Catholicism, but imperfect Catholicism.” I never heard it put this way, but it di make me understand much better the position of the Novus Ordo conservative.

For I never understood how so many of them applaud — very discreetly — what we are saying and doing, but at the same time remain in the Novus Ordo.

Can Catholicism be imperfect? First we must define imperfect. There are three senses of imperfect: (1) to be incomplete; (2) to have a defect; (3) to be less perfect than something more perfect. A house under construction is imperfect in the first sense. A house with a leaky roof is imperfect in the second sense. A one thousand square foot home in good condition is less perfect, as a house, than a ten thousand square foot home. But these differ only accidentally, since both houses do the job of a house.

Catholicism cannot be imperfect in either of the first two senses. It cannot be incomplete, for this would mean that Our Lord failed to provide it with its necessary structure an elements.

Nor can it have any substantial defect. The substance of any religion consists in (1) its doctrines, both dogmatic and moral; (2) its laws and disciplines; (3) its worship and liturgical rites. Because the Catholic Church is assisted by the Holy Ghost, and is therefore indefectible, it cannot be defective in any of these areas.

It is to say that it cannot promulgate false doctrines. This means that anything which the Catholic Church universally promulgates as doctrine, contained in Revelation and to be believed as such, cannot be false. The Catholic Church is also infallible in condemning errors which are contrary to its teaching. Even when the Church is engaged in non-infallible teaching, called authentic magisterium, although these teachings could contain error, the error could never be pernicious. This is to say that the Church could never teach something in its authentic magisterium which would be sinful to accept, or a condemned doctrine, or anything contrary to faith or morals. This authentic magisterium is typically found in encyclicals and allocutions of popes, where, in most cases, they do not intend to use their full authority to bind the faithful in matters of faith, but nonetheless do teach authoritatively, and not merely as private theologians. Encyclicals and allocutions, however, can contain infallible teaching. The level of authority in all cases is determined by the language which the pope uses.

Indefectibility also ensures that the Church cannot promulgate sinful practices in its laws and disciplines. While laws and disciplines are always changeable, and while some laws may be more prudent than others, the Church could never make laws by which you would be required to accept or do something sinful.

Indefectibility also protects the Church’s worship, rites, and ceremonies. The Church could never change in the Mass or sacraments something which is of divine origin. What is completely under the Church’s control, however, are the liturgical ceremonies which surround the essential rites of the Mass and the sacraments. Here the Church is free to compose them and alter them as it will, but cannot prescribe a ceremony which does not conform to the doctrine of the Mass or the sacraments. In other words, the Church cannot compose a liturgy which would corrupt the faith or morals
of those who attend it.

More and less perfect. The only way in which the Church could be “imperfect” is in the third sense, that is, more or less perfect. A computer screen, for example, can be more o less perfect in regard to the definition of the image. One might be more defined than the other, but each serves its essential purpose of projecting images truthfully.

So the Church defines more and more clearly her never-changing dogmas by means of new dogmatic formulas. For example, the dogma of the Incarnation was far more defined after the many early general councils which declared this dogma against heresies. It does not mean, however, that the Church’s teaching before these definitions was faulty, but merely less defined.

Likewise the Church, as the centuries progressed, refined both her liturgical rites and her disciplines. It does not mean that her previous rites or disciplines were tainted or evil in any way, just less perfect than what came after them.

Is Vatican II merely imperfect Catholicism? I say no, because of the following reasons:

• Vatican II promulgated condemned and heretical doctrines: (1) Religious liberty, solemnly condemned by Pope Pius IX, (2) the new ecclesiology, which does not absolutely and exclusively identify the Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church; (3) that non-Catholic religions are means of salvation, which is a heresy; (4) that the college of bishops has supreme authority over the whole Church.

• The post-conciliar magisterium contains these errors in more explicit terms.

• The New Mass has been stripped of Catholic doctrines, and portrays a false notion of the Mass, the priesthood, and the Holy Eucharist.

• The 1983 Code of Canon Law sanctions sinful practices, such as giving Holy Communion to non-Catholics.

• The sinful practice of giving Holy Communion to adulterers, sanctioned officially by Bergoglio.

These are merely some of the reasons why the new religion must be termed a substantial alteration of the Catholic Faith. The severe decline in the faith of the clergy and people, the decline in religious vocations, the lack of unity of faith through the failure to impose Catholic doctrine, and the severe decline in the morals of the clergy are further signs of  substantial change.

Where are the four marks of the Church to be found in the new religion?

The Ultramontanism Objection

January 19th, 2018 by Vigilo

Response from Novus Ordo Watch to a misguided accusation…

The Ultramontanism Objection

[UPDATED 21-OCT-2018: powerful quotes added from Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany]

We hear the accusations all the time: “Papolater!” – “Papal positivist!” – “Uber-Papalist!” – “Ultramontanist!” Among those who consider themselves traditional Catholics but accept Francis’ claim to being the Pope, the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy is not very popular, and it is easy to see why: Forcing Jorge Bergoglio through the template of the Papacy yields grotesque results.

Epithets like the ones mentioned are being hurled at us sedevacantists because we proclaim, as every Catholic did until the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, that the teaching of the Roman Pontiff requires our submission — it is not subject to review, criticism, or validation by every Tom, Dick, and Harry who happens to have access to a copy of Denzinger and knows how to hit “publish” on a blogging platform. But for people who accept Bergoglio as Pope, Catholic truth about the Papacy is hard to endure (cf. Jn 6:61).

For example: “Fr.” John Hunwicke, a convert to the Novus Ordo from Anglicanism, likes to complainabout an “Ultrahyperueberpapalism” he sees among those who uphold the traditional teaching on the Papacy, whether it is enunciated and applied by Novus Ordos who think Francis is Pope or by sedevacantists, who know he is not. The Catholic Herald contributor “Fr.” Alexander Lucie-Smith is on record claiming that appealing to the authority of the Pope instead of the Magisterium (huh?) constitutes “Ultramontanism”, which he calls the “deformed and illegitimate offspring” of the Petrine ministry — before proceeding, ironically, to appeal to the putative authority of “Pope” Benedict XVI to back up his claim. In October of last year, the spokesman for the much-touted Filial Correction, Dr. Joseph Shaw, confidently proclaimed the “death” of Ultramontanism when in fact he should have proclaimed the death of the idea that Francis could possibly be the Pope. And then of course there are the usual pseudo-theological comedians like Hilary White and Steve Skojec, whose posts and tweets are strong in rhetoric but infallibly bereft of any serious theology. These latter we can safely ignore.

But while semi-trads may be excited that they have found an erudite-sounding label to slap on their theologial opponents, how many of them even know what Ultramontanism really is and what the term has signified in Church history?

The aim of this post is to clarify the true nature of Ultramontanism, to remind everyone of what the Church teaches regarding the Pope and all Catholics’ obligation to submit to him, and to refute a handful of specific instances in which high-profile Novus Ordos have argued against this obligation.

Misguided Accusations

We’ll begin by taking a look at recent claims made by five Novus Ordo personalities who have tried to contain the damage “Pope” Francis has been doing by distorting, in some way or another, the Catholic teaching on submission to the Pope. We will respond directly to their points towards the end of this article; for right now, we will simply let them state their arguments:

(1) “Bishop” Athanasius Schneider

Third, the Pope cannot be the focal point of the daily life of the faith of a Catholic faithful. The focal point must instead be Christ. Otherwise, we become victims of an insane pope-centrism or of a kind of popalatry, an attitude which is alien to the tradition of the Apostles, of the Church Fathers and of the greater tradition of the Church. The so called “ultramontanism” of the 19th and 20th centuries reached its peak in our days and created an insane pope-centrism and popolatry. To mention just an example: There had been in Rome in the end of the 19th century a famous Monsignor who led different pilgrim groups to the Papal audiences. Before he let them enter to see and hear the Pope, he said to them: “Listen carefully to the infallible words which will come out of the mouth of the Vicar of Christ”. Surely such an attitude is a pure caricature of the Petrine ministry and contrary to the doctrine of the Church. Nevertheless, even in our days, not so few Catholics, priests and bishops show substantially the same caricatural attitude towards the sacred ministry of the successor of Peter.


(2) Edward Feser

Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of believing that a pope has the authority to make up new doctrines or even to contradict Scripture. If a pope decided one day to add a fourth Person to the Trinity, or to declare abortion morally permissible, or to delete the Sixth Commandment, then – so the idea goes – Catholics would be duty bound to salute crisply, bark an enthusiastic “Yes, sir!”, and fall in line robotically with the new doctrine du jour. Call this the “Crude Protestant Caricature” of papal authority. (In fairness, it must be acknowledged that there are many Protestants who do not believe the Crude Protestant Caricature. Also, unfortunately, there are some overzealous and under-informed Catholics who do essentially believe the Crude Protestant Caricature.)


(3) Claudio Pierantoni

[Interviewer:] How far is the neo-conservative movement in the Church responsible for creating this crisis by confusing (over many years) ultramontanism for orthodoxy?

[Claudio Pierantoni:] Certainly there is some responsibility: far too often it’s been the case that many people say that something is true “because the pope said it,” avoiding the trouble of studying the sources of the Tradition and Scripture, and also the difficulty of thinking through the philosophical foundations of ethics. This is definitely something we need to correct: the papacy is an immense gift for Catholics, but it shouldn’t be turned into an incentive for ignorance and laziness, as when people adopt the Pope’s position uncritically, without really examining or understanding the issues.


(4) Joseph Shaw

What can the Ultramontanists, those with an exaggerated view of papal authority so prominent in the debate over Amoris laetitia, make of this situation?

Now, the official Ultramontanist line is that Papal authority, being supreme and (for practical purposes, always) infallible, can never be self contradictory. But between these two papal statements there is a contradiction as plain as the nose on your face. The suggestion that the 2017 statement is a ‘development’ or ‘clarification’ of what was said in 1952, or that is draws out implications of this and other expressions of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment over the centuries, is not something one needs to haggle over. It is simply insane.

But for those who wish to haggle, a simple test of the development of doctrine is to ask if later authors can continue to accept earlier expressions of a doctrine as being true. Thus, we find the discussion of grace in Augustine lacking some distinctions developed by later authors and used in dogmatic statements, but Augustine is not for that reason wrong, and what he writes is not, with hindsight, heresy. It might on occasion be misleading to quote Augustine on grace, but one need not disavow him. In this case, by contrast, it is evident that Pope Francis disagrees with Pope Pius XII: they can’t both be right.

Today’s Ultramontanists are in a bind, therefore. In order to uphold the supreme and (for practical purposes, always) infallible authority of Pope Francis, they are going to have to admit that the authority of Pope Pius XII was not so supreme or infallible after all.


(5) “Fr.” Mark Drew

The tendency we call ultramontanism, which puts an exaggerated weight on the will of individual popes and minimises the limits which divine law puts on their prerogatives, has been influential for centuries. The truths of our faith were revealed by God through the Apostles and the Pope’s task is not to preside over new revelations but to preserve and teach what has been handed down.


As Francis’ chaotic pseudo-pontificate continues, we can expect to see more and more of these types of claims being made. It is important, therefore, that the record be set straight about Ultramontanism and the divinely established limits within which the Papacy operates.

Historically speaking, anyone who uses the epithet “Ultramontanism” to refer to a perceived erroneous notion of papal authority finds himself in bad company. Since at least the time of the Protestant Reformation, those who used the term “Ultramontanists” to deride Catholics loyal to the Pope were almost always on the side of the enemies of the Church, or at least advocated a position that was ultimately rejected by the Church definitively.

In fact, in 1873, several years after the close of the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX had cause to complain about those who were using that label to bad-mouth genuine and zealous obedience to the Pope. Addressing the St. Ambrose Circle of Milan, Pius IX warned of so-called “liberal Catholics” who “grow indignant at anything which savors of devotedness which is fully and absolutely at the service of the desires and the counsels of the Holy See” and who “dub its most zealous and most obedient sons Ultramontanes or Jesuits” (Apostolic Letter Per Tristissima; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 418).

Anyone, then, who considers himself a true Catholic had better think twice about decrying “Ultramontanism.” If history is any indication, the position thus rejected will turn out to be true.

“Papolatry” or simply Adherence to Catholic Teaching?

What more and more semi-traditionalists are decrying as “Ultramontanism”, “Papolatry”, or “Papal Positivism” is in reality simply the Catholic teaching of submission to the Roman Pontiff, a submission that must be given not only when he speaks infallibly, that is, when he defines a dogma ex cathedra, but also when he exercises his non-infallible authentic Magisterium and when he makes disciplinary laws (which laws, by the way, are also infallible if they are universal).

We see this clearly taught, for example, by Pope Pius IX:

This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful….

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7)

Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)

In an Apostolic Letter to the Archbishop of Munich-Freising of Dec. 21, 1863, the same Pope noted:

…it is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church, but that it is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some theological censure.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Tuas LibenterDenz. 1684)

Along these lines, Pope Leo XIII reminded the Archbishop of Paris in 1885:

To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.

…[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

(Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

This is the Catholic teaching, and it is neither difficult to understand nor difficult to accept for a Catholic, whose understanding is continually brought “into captivity … unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

The True Meaning of Ultramontanism

What, then, is Ultramontanism?

To understand the term and its usage, we’ll consult a few different sources. The most concise definition of the term is perhaps the one found in Attwater’s Catholic Dictionary:

ULTRAMONTANISM (Lat., ultra, beyond; montes, the mountains). A term invented by the Gallicans to describe the doctrines and policies which upheld the full authority of the Holy See. With the noun and adjective ultramontane it was used down to the end of the 19th century (especially at the time of the Vatican Council), and still is sometimes, usually by non-Catholic controversialists, to describe a real or supposed exaggeration of papal prerogatives and those who supported them….

(Donald Attwater, ed., A Catholic Dictionary, 3rd ed. [New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1961], s.v. “Ultramontanism”; italics and bold print given.)

A much more elaborate explanation, written by the famous Anti-Modernist Mgr. Umberto Benigni, is found in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912:

A term used to denote integral and active Catholicism, because it recognizes as its spiritual head the pope, who, for the greater part of Europe, is a dweller beyond the mountains (ultra montes), that is, beyond the Alps….

In a very different sense, the word once more came into use after the Protestant Reformation, which was, among other things, a triumph of that ecclesiastical particularism, based on political principles, which was formulated in the maxim: Cujus regio, ejus religio. Among the Catholic governments and peoples there gradually developed an analogous tendency to regard the papacy as a foreign power; Gallicanism and all forms of French and German regalism affected to look upon the Holy See as an alien power because it was beyond the Alpine boundaries of both the French kingdom and the German empire. This name of Ultramontane the Gallicans applied to the supporters of the Roman doctrines–whether that of the monarchical character of the pope in the government of the Church or of the infallible pontifical magisterium–inasmuch as the latter were supposed to renounce “Gallican liberties” in favour of the head of the Church who resided ultra montes. This use of the word was not altogether novel; as early as the time of Gregory VII the opponents of Henry IV in Germany had been called Ultramontanes (ultramontani). In both cases the term was intended to be opprobrious, or at least to convey the imputation of a failing in attachment to the Ultramontane’s own prince, or his country, or his national Church.

In the eighteenth century the word passed from France back to Germany, where it was adopted by the Febronians, Josephinists, and Rationalists, who called themselves Catholics, to designate the theologians and the faithful who were attached to the Holy See. Thus it acquired a much wider signification, being applicable to all Roman Catholics worthy of the name. The Revolution adopted this polemical term from the old regime: the “Divine State”, formerly personified in the prince, now found its personification in the people, becoming more “Divine” than ever as the State became more and more laic and irreligious, and, both in principle and in fact, denied any other God but itself. In presence of this new form of the old state-worship, the “Ultramontane” is the antagonist of the atheists as much as the non-Catholic believers, if not more–witness the Bismarckian Kulturkampf, of which the National Liberals rather than the orthodox Protestants were the soul. Thus the word came to be applied more especially in Germany from the earliest decades of the nineteenth century. In the frequent conflicts between Church and State the supporters of the Church’s liberty and independence as against the State are called Ultramontanes. The [First] Vatican Council naturally called forth numerous written attacks upon Ultramontanism. When the Centre was formed as a political party it was called by preference the Ultramontane party. In a few years the “Anti-Ultramontane Reichsverband” came into existence to combat the Centre and, at the same time, Catholicism as a whole.

…For Catholics it would be superfluous to ask whether Ultramontanism and Catholicism are the same thing: assuredly, those who combat Ultramontanism are in fact combating Catholicism, even when they disclaim the desire to oppose it.

(Catholic Encyclopedias.v. “Ultramontanism”; italics given.)

So Ultramontanism and Catholicism are the same thing. If you remember nothing else about this post, please remember that.

We see this confirmed, for example, by the Benedictine monk Dom Cuthbert Butler, who writes in his excellent book on the council:

A word should be said concerning the term ‘Ultramontane’, as designating what was in reality the Roman doctrine. Since the [First] Vatican Council there is no longer place for the term ‘Ultramontanism’; because that doctrine of the Papacy has, for all in communion with the Holy See, been stamped as Catholicism, much as at Nicea what had been ‘Athanasianism’ was stamped as Catholicism. But up to the Council, strictly speaking, it was not so; for the Gallican position was still permissible within the pale of the Catholic Church….

It is convenient, indeed necessary, when writing of the Vatican Council, to have some name for the school opposed to Gallicanism; and none other than Ultramontanism is to hand. The upshot of the Council was to identify the Ultramontanism of the Roman theological schools, as formulated by Bellarmine, with Catholicism, Gallicanism being ruled out.

(Dom Cuthbert Butler, The Vatican Council 1869-1870 [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1962], p. 42)

The Novus Ordo edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, called the New Catholic Encyclopedia, has the following on “Ultramontanism”:

A term created in the nineteenth century (jointly with its dialectic opponent Gallicanism) to describe the defenders of the Roman vision of the papacy (from the other side of the Alps) against the German or French national conception. In the Middle Ages, as papal claims to power and authority became more precise and also more extreme, they were backed by canonists and theologians from all countries who might well be called ‘‘protoultramontanes,’’ but it is only in later controversies that this designation is fully operative, as they dealt not only with ecclesiological particulars but two visions of Catholicism. This ‘‘early ultramontanism’’ represented the concern to maintain or restore a strong Catholic identity by focusing on the Roman center and developing common features susceptible to reunite and expand Christendom. Therefore, to the defense of Roman prerogatives and pyramidal ecclesiology was associated a forceful missionary program. In this perspective there is a direct continuity between post-Tridentine ‘‘Romanism’’ and nineteenth-century Ultramontanism.

After Vatican I, the concept of Ultramontanism is only analogical, for instance in the qualification of ‘integralist’ perspectives that arose during the Modernist crisis, or of oppositions to the Vatican II doctrine of collegiality [ha!].

(Thomas Carson and Joann Cerrito, eds., New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 14 [Detroit, MI: Thomson/Gale, 2003], s.v. “Ultramontanism”, pp. 283, 285)

This clarifies things quite a bit, doesn’t it?

As we see above, the great antithesis to Ultramontanism in the 19th century was Gallicanism, which sought to curb and relativize papal authority in favor of the bishops, not unlike what we hear in our own times from the Society of St. Pius X and its theological cousins. Some central theses of Gallicanism had already been condemned by Popes Bl. Innocent XI (in 1682), Alexander VIII (in 1690; see Denz. 1322-1326), and Pius VI (in 1794; see Denz. 1599). Gallicanism was definitively rejected as heretical by the First Vatican Council and “is now professed only by the heretical sect of the Old Catholics”, writes Attwater in the late 1950s (Catholic Dictionary, s.v. “Gallicanism”).

In our day, unfortunately, Gallicanism has made a comeback, being pushed by those Novus Ordos and semi-traditionalists who are trying to explain the Francis “pontificate” by modifying the Catholic teaching on the Papacy rather than modifying their belief in the status of Jorge Bergoglio.

Errors Old and New

Now, it is indeed true that in the past there were also some individuals who exaggerated the true Catholic teaching on the Papacy; for example, by extending papal infallibility far beyond the strict limits later defined by Vatican I. Butler calls this a “New Ultramontanism” (see The Vatican Council 1869-1870, pp. 44-62). This error, however, does not seem to have been widespread and was limited only to some time before the council.

In our own day, one of the chief errors is definitely not the extension of papal infallibility to every utterance the Pope ever makes. Rather, a more dangerous and fundamental error is the idea, one particularly popular among adherents of the Society of St. Pius X and other semi-traditionalists, that unless something is proclaimed infallibly, then it is optional for the faithful to adhere to and, because not inerrant, can even contain heresy and blasphemy. Not only does this not follow, it is also plainly in opposition to Catholic teaching and assumes that the authority of the Church is essentially rooted in her inability to err, but this too is false, as once explained by Canon George Smith:

Herein lies the source of the obligation to believe what the Church teaches. The Church possesses the divine commission to teach, and hence there arises in the faithful a moral obligation to believe, which is founded ultimately, not upon the infallibility of the Church, but upon God’s sovereign right to the submission and intellectual allegiance (rationabile obsequium) of His creatures: “He that believeth…shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned” [Mk 16:16]. It is the God-given right of the Church to teach, and therefore it is the bounden duty of the faithful to believe.

But belief, however obligatory, is possible only on condition that the teaching proposed is guaranteed as credible. And therefore Christ added to His commission to teach the promise of the divine assistance: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” [Mt 28:20]. This divine assistance implies that, at any rate within a certain sphere, the Church teaches infallibly; and consequently, at least within those limits, the credibility of her teaching is beyond question. When the Church teaches infallibly the faithful know that what she teaches belongs, either directly or indirectly, to the depositum fidei committed to her by Christ; and their faith thus becomes grounded, immediately or mediately, upon the divine authority. But the infallibility of the Church does not, precisely as such, render belief obligatory. It renders her teaching divinely credible. What makes belief obligatory is her divine commission to teach.

…Therefore, whether her teaching is guaranteed by infallibility or not, the Church is always the divinely appointed teacher and guardian of revealed truth, and consequently the supreme authority of the Church, even when it does not intervene to make an infallible and definitive decision on matters of faith or morals, has the right, in virtue of the divine commission, to command the obedient assent of the faithful. In the absence of infallibility the assent thus demanded cannot be that of faith, whether Catholic or ecclesiastical; it will be an assent of a lower order proportioned to its ground or motive. But whatever name be given to it – for the present we may call it belief – it is obligatory; obligatory not because the teaching is infallible – it is not – but because it is the teaching of the divinely appointed Church. It is the duty of the Church, as [Cardinal Johann] Franzelin has pointed out, not only to teach revealed doctrine but also to protect it, and therefore the Holy See “may prescribe as to be followed or proscribe as to be avoided theological opinions or opinions connected with theology, not only with the intention of infallibly deciding the truth by a definitive pronouncement, but also – without any such intention – merely for the purpose of safeguarding the security of Catholic doctrine.” If it is the duty of the Church, even though non-infallibly, to “prescribe or proscribe” doctrines to this end, then it is evidently also the duty of the faithful to accept them or reject them accordingly.

(Canon George Smith, “Must I Believe It?”The Clergy Review, vol. 9 [April, 1935], pp. 296-309; italics in original.)

This is a concise statement of the Catholic position, and it makes every sense in the world.

To say that a non-infallible statement could contain something that is theologically insufficient or even erroneous and therefore admits of later revision is one thing; to say that a non-infallible statement could contradict Divine Revelation or other known truths that have long been taught and believed by the Church, is quite another. An institution that can promulgate as part of its official teaching to the world something that manifestly contradicts other instances of its teaching authority, is not only not the Catholic Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15), it is not even worthy of any human credibility whatsoever.

The Papacy and the Holy Ghost

But what are we saying, then? Are we saying that the Pope has absolute authority over Faith and morals, such that he could even change Divine Revelation and God’s own laws?

Definitely not. On the contrary, it is clear that the Pope is not an absolute monarch in the sense that he can make doctrines and laws according to his every whim. This is certainly not the case, and this absurd idea was explicitly rejected by Pope Pius IX:

…the application of the term “absolute monarch” to the pope in reference to ecclesiastical affairs is not correct because he is subject to divine laws and is bound by the directives given by Christ for his Church. The pope cannot change the constitution given to the Church by her divine Founder, as an earthly ruler can change the constitution of a State. In all essential points the constitution of the Church is based on divine directives, and therefore it is not subject to human arbitrariness.

(Common Declaration of German Bishops, Jan./Feb. 1875; Denz.-H. 3114; English translation from here.)

Although this declaration was made the German episcopate in response to misleading accusations by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Pope Pius IX enthusiastically approved and endorsed this explanation: “…your declaration presents the truly Catholic understanding, which is that of the holy council of this Holy See” (Apostolic Letter Mirabilis Illa ConstantiaDenz.-H. 3117).

So, it is clear that a true Pope cannot teach or legislate anything contrary to Divine Revelation or the Divine Law. But what distinguishes the correct understanding of the limits of papal authority from that put forward by today’s semi-traditionalists, is that according to the correct understanding — held by sedevacantists and even by many Novus Ordos — the term “cannot” truly means “is not able to”; it does not mean “is not supposed to and if he does anyway, we must resist him and his teaching doesn’t count.”

This becomes especially clear when we review the teaching of the First Vatican Council about the role of the Holy Ghost with regard to the Papacy, which is quoted so often by the semi-trads but never quite in context. To establish the full context, we need to look at Chapter 4 of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus in full:

That apostolic primacy which the Roman pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching. This holy see has always maintained this, the constant custom of the church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.

So the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion.

What is more, with the approval of the second council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession: “The holy Roman church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole catholic church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”

Then there is the definition of the council of Florence: “The Roman pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole church.”

To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received.

It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes individually, sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established custom of the churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred to this apostolic see those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing.

The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God’s help, they knew to be in keeping with sacred scripture and the apostolic traditions.

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviourto the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our saviour, for the exaltation of the catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.

(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4; underlining added.)

Evidently, what Vatican I is teaching here is that because he is assisted by the Holy Ghost, the Pope will“religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles” and will not “make known some new doctrine” by the revelation of the same Holy Ghost.

The semi-traditionalists, on the other hand, reduce this teaching to little more than a superficial banality: They act as though it simply means that the Pope isn’t supposed to make new doctrines, for that is not why the Holy Ghost was given him. Such an interpretation of the text is not tenable because this much is true of anyone, not just of the Pope alone. In fact, even a Protestant would agree that his parish pastor isn’t supposed to teach his own strange doctrines. That’s hardly a profound insight to be taught by a Catholic ecumenical council!

Secondly, notice that the conciliar constitution says that “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine…” (italics added). If the semi-trads’ understanding of this passage were correct, it would mean that the Pope is not supposed to proclaim new doctrines that are nevertheless revealed to him by the Holy Ghost — a grotesque thing for a Catholic council to teach.

Thirdly, the surrounding context given in Chapter 4 of Pastor Aeternus establishes the prerogatives and uniqueness of the Papacy, protected by the Holy Ghost. What sort of divine protection would the Holy Ghost provide if the Pope were merely “not supposed to” invent new doctrines but nevertheless be quite capable of doing so? Wouldn’t that be true also of your local grocery store clerk and the grumpy bus driver on your morning commute? Aren’t they, too, “not supposed to” come up with a new gospel but quite capable of doing precisely that?

It is manifest, therefore, that Vatican I teaches, not that the Pope ought not to teach new (or false) doctrine, but that he actually does not. That is the significance of the special assistance of the Holy Ghost for the Pope. To use more technical terminology, we can say that the council’s doctrine about the Holy Ghost’s assistance for the Pope is descriptive — it describes a truth about the Papacy — and not merely normative — establishing a norm the Pope is expected to follow. The Holy Ghost acts a priori — before the Pope does anything, by preventing him from teaching or legislating grave errors such as heresy — not a posteriori, by means of the Pope’s inferiors correcting his magisterium after the fact.

By the way, treating dogmas as merely normative and not descriptive is actually an error characteristic of Modernism, one explicitly singled out and condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his Syllabus of Modernist Errors: “The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing” (Pius X, Decree Lamentabili Sane Exitu, error n. 26). This statement is to “be held by all as condemned and proscribed”, Pope Pius X decreed.

To give a perfect example of reinterpreting Vatican I in a merely normative sense, we can use the article by Ed Feser referenced earlier. In it, the professional philosopher writes:

In short, the Church puts the pope in a doctrinal box. Even when he is speaking ex cathedra, he must stay within the parameters he has inherited. He can draw out implications implicit in earlier doctrine, but he cannot make up new doctrines out of whole cloth. And what he teaches must be consistent with the entire body of past binding teaching. He is not permitted to contradict past doctrine and he cannot pit one doctrine against another.

(Edward Feser, “Catholic theologians must set an example of intellectual honesty: A reply to Prof. Robert Fastiggi”Catholic World Report, Oct. 30, 2017; underlining added.)

Take a look at the underlined phrases and notice how Feser turns it all into a matter of permissionand obligation rather than ability, thus making the teaching seem normative rather than what it truly is, descriptive; and Feser even extends this to infallible ex cathedra pronouncements! How does Feser envision this to work in practice, even for non-infallible teaching? The Pope makes a pronouncement, and then the faithful decide whether he’s stayed “within the parameters he has inherited”? Does the rest of the Church then proceed to examine “the entire body of past binding teaching” to ensure consistency, to make certain he didn’t “contradict past doctrine” or “pit one doctrine against another”? And what if cardinals, bishops, priests, or lay faithful disagree among themselves as to whether the Pope’s teaching is up to snuff? Are there committees that continually review the papal magisterium to ensure its orthodoxy? If so, why not get rid of the Pope altogether and simply have the committee issue the teachings?

This is obviously a prescription for chaos. No, St. Robert Bellarmine had it exactly right when he taught that the Roman Pontiff “is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err” (De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3). Apparently this Doctor of the Church didn’t get the memo about the Feserian notion of the papal magisterium being kept in check by the Pope’s inferiors a posteriori.

The Ultramontanists of the Past

If we look at the past few centuries, we discover that the most faithful and zealous Catholics were the Ultramontanists. People such as St. Pius X, St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Joseph Hergenrother, Dom Prosper Gueranger, and Fr. Frederick Faber were all bona fide Ultramontanists. Yet, anyone who quotes their teaching today (without mentioning the source) can be counted on to be denounced as a Papolater, Hyper-Ultramontanist, Papal Positivist, or whatever else. Yet all the rhetorical blustering of our semi-traditinalist critics cannot conceal the fact that it is they, the semi-trads, that have it wrong, not the Ultramontanists, who are but Catholics.

In his response to the heretico-schismatic “Munich Declaration” of the excommunicated heretic Fr. Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger, who publicly refused to accept papal infallibility after it had been proclaimed a dogma by Vatican I, Cardinal Joseph Hergenröther rebuked the newly declared heretic, reminding him that:

A Catholic has to believe everything the Church proposes to him for belief [and] to subordinate his private judgment to that of the teaching Church. The theological virtue of faith is something supernatural; according to Scripture and the Fathers [of the Church], Faith is not based on intrinsic evidence and research but on authority; it is simplicity and obedience.

(J. Hergenröther, Kritik der v. Döllinger’schen Erklärung vom 28. März d. J. [Freiburg: Herder, 1871], p. 2; our translation.)

Cardinal Hergenrother is speaking here with regard to what is de fide, “of Faith”, what has been proposed dogmatically and infallibly. And one of the teachings proposed in this manner is the following:

If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.

(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 3; Denz. 1831)

The semi-traditionalists want a Papacy without consequences, but such a Papacy does not exist.

Preaching a sermon on Pentecost Sunday of 1861, the well-known Fr. Frederick Faber beautifully spelled out the Catholic duty of devotion to the Church, a devotion that would be most deadly to one’s soul if the Novus Ordo Sect were in fact the Roman Catholic Church:

But we may forget, and sometimes do forget, that it is not only not enough to love the Church, but that it is not possible to love the Church rightly, unless we also fear and reverence it. Our forgetfulness of this arises from our not having laid sufficiently deeply in our minds the conviction of the divine character of the Church… The very amount of human grandeur which there is round the Church causes us to forget occasionally that it is not a human institution.

Hence comes that wrong kind of criticism which is forgetful or regardless of the divine character of the Church. Hence comes our setting up our own minds and our own views as criteria of truth, as standards for the Church’s conduct. Hence comes sitting in judgment on the government and policy of Popes. Hence comes that unfilial and unsage carefulness to separate in all matters of the Church and Papacy what we consider to be divine from what we claim to be human. Hence comes the disrespectful fretfulness to distinguish between what we must concede to the Church and what we need not concede to the Church. Hence comes that irritable anxiety to see that the supernatural is kept well subordinated to the natural, as if we really believed we ought just now to strain every nerve lest a too credulous world should be falling a victim to excessive priestcraft and ultramontanism.

…Only let us once really master the truth that the Church is a divine institution, and then we shall see that such criticism is not simply a baseness and a disloyalty, but an impertinence and a sin.

(Rev. Frederick W. Faber, Devotion to the Church [London: Richardson & Son, 1861], pp. 23-24; italics in original; paragraph breaks added.)

We already looked briefly at a quote from St. Robert Bellarmine earlier, but it is worth taking a closer look at what he taught regarding the binding authority of papal teaching:

The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.

Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.

On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.

(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; translated by Ryan Grant as On the Roman Pontiff [Mediatrix Press, 2016], vol. 2, p. 160)

Here, too, we find nothing of the semi-trad idea that the Pope’s Magisterium is subject to review by his inferiors to ensure he stays within his “doctrinal box”.

In their 1875 defense of the true interpretation of the teaching of Vatican I against Bismarck’s distortions, the bishops of Germany called attention to the fact that “papal authority does not, as it were, suddenly appear [in order] to handle extraordinary events, but it is real and obligatory at all times and everywhere [sie hat immer und allezeit und überall Geltung und Kraft]” (Denz.-H. 3113; italics added). This explanation, we recall, was explicitly endorsed by Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Letter Mirabilis Illa Constantia.

For almost 40 years, Dom Prosper Gueranger (1805-1875) was the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes in France. He is well known for his monumental 15-volume work The Liturgical Year, but he also wrote other books, including a masterful refutation of Gallicanism and vindication of Ultramontanism, which was published during Vatican I. The name of the book is The Papal Monarchy, and it was written as a direct reply to the errors of Bishop Henri Maret, who had written a book using the pseudonym “Bishop de Sura”. The Papal Monarchy received the direct approbation of Pope Pius IX on Mar. 12, 1870. We will quote from this work extensively because it contains so many tidbits that rebuke and refute the errors of today’s semi-traditionalists:

…[A] system in which the one charged with feeding not only the lambs but also the sheep could not lead the sheep except with their consent — this system would be in flagrant contradiction with the institution established by Jesus Christ. (p. 60)

…[D]oes [Bp. de Sura] not endlessly repeat that the pope is only infallible when he is in agreement with the bishops, who have the right to judge and depose him if he should think otherwise; whereas we know that it is the bishops who derive infallibility from their agreement with him, whose duty it would be to judge them and depose them, if they were to separate themselves from his teaching? (pp. 60-61)

What does the Vicar of Christ become in the system of Bishop de Sura? This head, whose might and grandeur he was vaunting a moment ago, is nothing more than a subordinate. In reading the Gospel we would have thought that the apostles were established upon Peter, and now it is Peter who is established upon the apostles. The Faith of Peter could not fail, founded as it is upon the special prayer of the Savior; from the power of this divine prayer, ‘which the Father always hears’ [Jn 11:42], Peter would derive a faculty of teaching to which his brothers would owe their firmness and would escape the danger of being sifted as one sifts wheat; and here is someone telling us that Peter, if he wants people to accept the Faith that he formulates, needs to have his brothers verify the teaching that he proclaims from his lofty chair! Peter must feed the entire flock, the lambs and the sheep, and now the lambs cannot trust his word until the sheep have judged that one can safely comply with it! Jesus Christ had given to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which in biblical language signifies the scepter of authority in the Church; and now the laws passed by the authority of Peter no longer have value unless they are accepted by his subordinates! Let us say, rather, that he no longer has any subordinates; for now he holds no more than an executive power, which Bishop de Sura claims to subject to general convocations that would be held every ten years, while in the meantime he would remain under surveillance! (p. 61)

…[T]he uselessness of comparing the constitution of the Church with those of worldly States: the one being divine and unalterable, whereas the others are human and changing. Bishop de Sura betrays the basis for his thinking when he tells us: “No one, today less than ever, no doubt, will manage to make reason and conscience admit that pure and absolute monarchy, as the ordinary system of government, is the best of all.” (p. 62)

…[M]ore than ever the measure of respect that the episcopate maintains, in our age of independence, will be in proportion to the respect that the episcopate itself shows for the Roman Pontiff. The hallmark of Catholic piety today is veneration for the pope: it is the grace of our time. (p. 65)

There [in the See of Peter, in the Vicar of Christ] is found the salvation of the world… (p.65)

That some men who are not illuminated by the light of Faith should judge the Church as though it were a human society is perfectly natural… (p. 67)

Bishop de Sura forgets just one thing. That is, to tell us what will become of the learning Church [as opposed to the teaching Church] while waiting for a judgment which is so far from expeditious….

Let us suppose that the judgment of the bishops is in conformity with the papal decision. It is still necessary for the Christian world to learn of it, in order for people to know that the decision has been made. If the bishops have publicized their arguments, it becomes, for the faithful Catholic, a matter of compiling statistics about the Episcopate on the five continents of the world, then of determining the nature of the episcopal judgments rendered in the various latitudes. Until he knows the result, the faithful Catholic will keep his Faith in suspense; for it is not permissible for him to adhere by faith to the apostolic Constitution that he has in his possession, seeing that the pope who issued it is fallible and might have incorporated error into the text. As the reports come in, the unknown result becomes clear bit by bit. Sometimes the news favor the acceptance of the Bull, but then sometimes one learns that this bishop hesitates, that another is in opposition. Where will it end? (pp. 73-74)

Does the reader believe, by any chance, that the Jansenists admitted that they were defeated? Far from it; they had their reply all ready…. (p. 75)

…[T]hen to pretend that papal definitions are valid only inasmuch as the episcopate has judged and approved them? In this way of understanding things, it is evident that the pope is no longer the Doctor [=Teacher] of all Christians; he is taught. Controversies about the Faith are no longer decided by his judgment; it is to those who judge him — him, the pope — that the right of definition belongs. (pp. 79-80)

[Bp. de Sura] tells us that the papal authority is superior only to the particular churches but that, in a council, the pope is bound to follow the opinion of the majority, under penalty of seeing himself judged and deposed; and this not only in the case where he had personally fallen into heresy (in which case he would no longer be pope), but in any case whatsoever, the moment that he had failed to hold the view of the majority of the bishops. (p. 80)

…Peter nevertheless had a great fall in denying his Master. Bishop de Sura takes that as a point of departure in order to weaken Peter’s claim to the duty of strengthening his brethren. It is not difficult to formulate an answer. Peter’s office was not to begin until after the Savior’s departure. The Vicar is not needed when the one whom he must represent is still present. Thus Our Lord speaks at first in the future tense… Thus He says to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church” [Mt 16:18]; therefore it was not yet built. “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” [Mt 16:19]; therefore He does not yet give them to him. “Thou, being once converted [i.e. once thou art converted], confirm thy brethren” [Lk 22:32]; this privilege, therefore, was not to be exercised until some time after the fall and the conversion of Peter. The wondrous gift of this Faith which will never fail was reserved, then, for the days when the speech of the Incarnate Word would no longer be audible to the senses. Then, too, only after His resurrection does the Savior — having established Peter’s conversion undeniably by a triple interrogation in the presence of the apostles — finally grant him possession of the promised power, by saying to him, not in the future but in the present tense: “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep” [Jn 21:15ff.]. The supreme Pontificate is about to begin; until that moment is existed only in promise. Bishop de Sura, therefore, has no reason to see the fall of the pope in the fall of Peter before the passion of his Master. (pp. 95-96)

(Source for all these quotes: Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Papal Monarchy [Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2007]; italics given.)

As a reminder, Abbot Gueranger’s book was explicitly approved by the Pope. The papal brief of approbation is printed on pp. xxi-xxiii of the English edition.

Consider also what the great anti-Modernist Spaniard Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany had to say about Ultramontanism in his 1886 book Liberalism is a Sin, which received the explicit approval of the Holy See under Pope Leo XIII, as explained in a preliminary note.

There have been books, pamphlets, and articles innumerable written on the proper interpretation of the propositions of [Pope Pius IX’s 1864] Syllabus [of Errors]. But the most authoritative interpretation ought to be that of its radical enemies, not of course in the absurdities of their misunderstandings or perversions, like Mr. Gladstone’s unfortunate attempt to distort some of its propositions into a sanction of civil disloyalty, a position from which he has since withdrawn, we are glad to be able to say. But outside of such patent misconstructions, we may rely upon the interpretation given by Liberals of all shades, especially in those points wherein we see them wince under its uncompromising phraseology. When Liberals regard the Syllabus of Errors as their most detestable enemy, as the complete symbol of what they term Clericalism, Ultramontanism and Reaction, we may rest assured that it has been well interpreted in that quarter. Satan, bad as he is, is not a fool, and sees clearly enough where the blow falls with most effect. Thus, he has set the authority of his seal—which after God’s is most reliable—on this great work, the seal of his inextinguishable hate. Here is an instance in which we can believe the Father of Lies. What he most abhors and defames possesses an unimpeachable guaranty of its truth.

Do [Liberals] not regard as their sole and most potent enemy what they contemptuously term “Clericalism,” “Ultramontanism,” and do they not describe the Church as medieval, reactionary, the opponent of progress and the nurse of superstition? When then the term is so intimately associated with a Rationalism so radically opposed to the Church, how may Catholics use it with any hope of separating it from its current meaning?

To know and serve God is the only freedom, and Liberalism completely severs the bond which links man to God. With a just and rational horror does a good Catholic regard Liberalism. Ultramontanism will never cause you to lose your soul; Liberalism is a broad road to the infernal abyss.

What the greatest Catholic polemists and Saints have done is assuredly a fair example for even the humblest defenders of the Faith. Modern Ultramontanism has never yet surpassed the vigor of their castigation of heresy and heretics. Charity forbids us to do unto another what we would not reasonably have them do unto ourselves. Mark the adverb reasonably; it includes the entire substance of the question.

A well-instructed Catholic—who thoroughly comprehends the rational grounds of his faith and understands the character of Liberal tactics under our national conditions—can alone successfully cope with the enemy face-to-face. Ultramontanism is the only conquering legion in this sort of warfare. It is for the vanguard of the army to surprise the enemy at his own ambuscade, to mine against his mine and to expose him before he has burrowed under our own camp. Ultramontanism is Catholicity intact and armed cap-a-pie [from head to foot]. It is Catholicity consistent in all its parts, the logical concatenation of Catholic principles to their fullest conclusions in doctrine and practice. Hence the fierce and unholy opposition with which it is constantly assailed. The foe well knows that to rout the vanguard is to demoralize the entire army; hence their rage and fury against the invincible phalanx which always stands fully armed, sleeplessly vigilant and eternally uncompromising.

(Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism is a Sin, trans. and adapted by Conde B. Pallen [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1993], Chapters 11, 13, 14, 20, 33; pp. 53-54,61,70,101,160-161; italics given; available online here.)

Of course, we must not fail to quote the ultimate Ultrahyperüberpapalist-Ultramontanist, the man known as Pope Saint Pius X. The following speech of his is reproduced in the authoritative collection Acts of the Apostolic See of 1912:

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.

(Pope St. Pius X, Address to the Priests of the Apostolic Union, Nov. 18, 1912; in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 4 [1912], p. 695)

Apparently even St. Pius X himself didn’t “get it” when it came to Catholic teaching of submission to the Papacy and devotion to the Pope (yes, to the Pope himself, not just to the Papacy).

Ladies and gentlemen, can anyone doubt that what is being decried today as an exaggerated view of papal authority is in fact Catholic orthodoxy?

Response to the Misguided Accusations

Enlightened by all of the above, we can now respond to the accusations made by the five individuals quoted at the beginning of this article:

(1) To “Bp.” Schneider: Of course the Pope cannot be the focal point of daily Catholic life, but to tie this to Ultramontanism is silly and gratuitous. We live at a time in which the “Pope” has said he is notinfallible, the Vatican II doctrine of collegiality reigns supreme, authority is decentralized, and the “Pope” has told Hans Kung that the dogma of papal infallibility is open to discussion. We venture to guess that Mr. Schneider would not be decrying any “insane pope-centrism” if Francis were preaching sound doctrine and genuine Catholic spirituality on a daily basis. Aside from that, whenwherein what manner, or how often the Pope decides to speak to the faithful is, frankly, up to the Pope, and not to an auxiliary from Kazakhstan. Schneider’s reference to an unnamed monsignor who in the late 19th century supposedly told pilgrims in Rome that every word of the Pope is infallible, is simply a vivid example that has no relevance to the discussion.

(2) To Dr. Feser: Dr. Feser rightly rejects as a caricature of papal authority the idea that the Pope is an absolute sovereign who can change anything he pleases, including Divine Revelation and the Divine Law. However, instead of inferring from Catholic doctrine on the Papacy and the special assistance of the Holy Ghost that such a thing cannot even be attempted, he resorts to arguing that the real protection lies not in divine prevention of such a scenario but in human resistance on the part of the Pope’s inferiors to any such papal attempts. In other words, Feser is saying that yes, the Pope can teach all sorts of heresies and blasphemies in his Magisterium, but then it doesn’t count because he’s not supposed to, and the faithful won’t stand for it. This bizarre position renders Catholic teaching on the Papacy practically meaningless.

(3) To Dr. Pierantoni: As amply proved in this article, Catholics have an obligation to assent to papal teaching, regardless of whether it is fallible or infallible. Although truth does not take its origin in a papal pronouncement, this does not take away from the fact that for Catholics, the Pope is the proximate rule of Faith, and whatever a true Pope decrees is obligatory for Catholics to adhere to. It is certainly not incumbent on the faithful to examine whether the Pope has done his research, much less to sit in judgment on his teaching. Rather, their duty is to “grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7).

(4) To Dr. Shaw: Dr. Shaw is correct in pointing out that there is a contradiction between the teaching of Pope Pius XII and “Pope” Francis, but he draws the wrong conclusion. Instead of inferring that therefore Francis cannot be a true Pope, he decides instead to attack the doctrine of submission to the Roman Pontiff. The obligation of submission is so strong that if Francis actually were the Pope, a Catholic would have to assent to his teaching over that of Pius XII, because, as Pope Leo XIII taught clearly, “it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them” (Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua).

(5) To “Fr.” Drew: We have seen that Ultramontanism is simply Catholicism — it is the orthodox Catholic teaching on the Papacy, in refutation of Gallicanism. Mr. Drew’s claim that Ultramontanism “puts an exaggerated weight on the will of individual popes and mimises the limits which divine law puts on their prerogatives” has no foundation in reality. Yes, there was an exaggerated, “new” Ultramontanism for a short while, but it was not widespread, it did not have many adherents, it was shot down by Vatican I, and it has most definitely not been “influential for centuries”.

Concluding Remarks

The semi-traditionalists have no idea what they are doing. It is safe to say that their doctrinal chaos here is rooted mainly in one thing: the desperate desire to reconcile the idea of Jorge Bergoglio being a true Pope with the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy. They have made themselves slaves to their unbreakable recognition of Bergoglio as a true Pope. Were it not for this compulsive effort to keep from saying that Francis isn’t Pope, these doctrinal contortions would presumably never even be attempted. Unfortunately, because of their unreasonable refusal to drop Francis from their list of true Popes, they have no other logical choice but to dispose of the Papacy instead. They have decided in favor of Francis at the expense of the Papacy.

Indeed, what would become of the Papacy if a fraternal or filial “correction” could undo the doctrine of the Supreme Pontiff? How supreme would he actually be? Sedevacantist bishop Donald Sanborn has pointed out the impossible dilemma that would result:

The very notion of correcting a pope in a matter of magisterium ruins the teaching authority of the Church. To which doctrine do we give assent? To the pope’s doctrine or to the correctors’ doctrine? Bergoglio has already characterized Amoris Lætitia as ordinary magisterium, which, if he were a real pope, would require our assent under pain of mortal sin.

(Most Rev. Donald J. Sanborn, “Formal Correction”In Veritate, Aug. 25, 2017)

After the famous Filial Correction was issued last September, Bp. Sanborn returned to the topic:

A “correction” implies two obvious problems: (1) that we cannot trust the teaching of the pope; (2) that we should trust the teaching of the correctors.

What is the purpose of a pope if he is subject to correction by a self-appointed Board of Correctors? Who assists the Board of Correctors? The Holy Ghost? Where in Sacred Scripture or Tradition is a Board of Correctors mentioned?

To set up a system of “correction” of heretical “popes,” done by self-appointed “correctors,” implies that it is quite possible that a Catholic pope promulgate heresy to the entire Church, and quite normal that self-appointed “correctors” come to the rescue.

It means that the infallibility of the Church rests with a board of self-appointed correctors.

In such a case, why do we need a pope? Why not just have the Board of Correctors?

(Bp. Donald Sanborn, “Correctio Filialis”In Veritate, Oct. 18, 2017)


We will end this lengthy treatise with a beautiful quote from Pope Pius IX:

But you, dearly beloved Sons, remember that in all that concerns the faith, morals, and government of the Church, the words which Christ said of Himself: “he that gathereth not with me scattereth” [Mt 12:30], can be applied to the Roman Pontiff who holds the place of God on earth. Ground your whole wisdom therefore, in an absolute obedience and a joyous and constant adherence to this Chair of Peter. Thus, animated by the same spirit of faith, you will all be perfect in one manner of thinking and judging, you will strengthen this unity which we must oppose to the enemies of the Church….

(Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Per Tristissima; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 419)

The problem isn’t Ultramontanism. The problem is accepting false popes as true Popes.

Annulments in the False Conciliar Church

January 16th, 2018 by Vigilo

By Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Feast of the Holy Rosary
October 7, 1997

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

In recent months the news media has focused its attention on the extremely high number of marriage annulments which are annually granted by the modern “Catholic” Church, especially in the United States. An annulments is an official declaration by the Catholic Church that a marriage is invalid — that is, not a true marriage — from its very inception. There are a number of reasons that a marriage can be proved invalid. Among them are lack of canonical form, induced grave and unjust force or fear, diriment impediments, and lack of intention in regard to the primary purpose of marriage — that is, procreation of children — and to the essential properties of marriage — that is, indissolubility and unity. These will be explained later on.

One of the many reasons that this explosion in the number of annulments has been brought to public attention is the case of U.S. Congressman Joseph Kennedy. He desired to received from the Archdiocese of Boston an annulment of his marriage to Sheila Rauch Kennedy, wife of twelve years and two children, under the grounds of a “lack of due discretion.” This annulment was eventually granted even though the congressman and his wife met during her senior year of college and knew each other for nine years before their marriage.

How can “lack of due discretion” be exaggerated to the extent that it could annul this marriage contract? Does not the form for the sacrament of matrimony: ”for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death do us part” express future consequences that are willingly accepted?

Since the advent of Vatican Council II, the number of annulments in the United States has escalated to a phenomenal proportion. Why, may we ask, has this taken place? Joseph P. Zwach, modern “Catholic” author and civil lawyer, in his well-circulated book Annulment: Your Chance to Remarry within the Catholic Church states:

“Ever since the Church began recognizing psychological grounds for annulments in 1970, there’s been an absolute explosion in their number. In 1968, for example, only 338 annulments were granted in this country. In 1978, more than 27,000 were granted — an increase of 8000%. Last year, I estimate more than 52,000 were granted.”

Prior to Vatican II, the psychological grounds accepted for annulments were insanity and extreme immaturity (a marriage in China was annulled because a girl of 12 and a half years certainly did not understand the nature and obligation of marriage). Be that as it may, these cases had to be established with certainty.

The official numbers of annulments in the United States since the Second Vatican Council are as follows:

1984 – 36,461
1985 – 53,320
1987 – 60,570
1988 – 50,000
1989 – 61,416
1990 – 62,824

Let us compare the numbers above with the 392 annulments granted by the Catholic Church world-wide for all the years between 1952 and 1956.

There can be no doubt that this situation in the modern Conciliar Church of Vatican II has been and continues to be a grave scandal, and that, once again, the true Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, is publicly discredited by this Conciliar Church. Although some may attempt to make a distinction between the annulments granted in the United States and the supposed “disapproval” of the Vatican, what has the modern hierarchy effectively done to stop these scandalous and dubious annulments?

In this pastoral letter, let us consider the holy Sacrament of Matrimony, its primary purpose and its essential properties, in order to better understand what an annulment actually is and under what circumstances it can be granted by the Catholic Church.

In the book of Genesis, we read that Almighty God is the Author of matrimony:

“And God created man to His Own image: to the image of God He created him: male and female He created them…

“And God blessed them saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:27-28).

God established matrimony with the primary purpose to propagate the human race by the procreation of children.

When our Divine Savior Jesus Christ came into this world, He raised matrimony between a baptized man and woman to a holy sacrament. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians assures us of this when he concludes his chapter on the duties of husbands and wives with the following teaching:

“This is a great Sacrament, but I speak in Christ and in the Church” (Eph. 2:32).

Furthermore, Jesus Christ emphatically taught, on several occasions, the indissoluble nature of matrimony.

In the Gospel of St. Mark, Our Lord made it amply clear:

“From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9).

Again, in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus taught:

“Everyone that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18).

Furthermore, we can add to these quotes of Christ the teaching of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

“To them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband: And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband” (Cor. 7:10-11).

Matrimony is, then, by its very nature an exclusive union between one man and one woman, the bond of which lasts for the couple’s entire earthly life.

For nineteen centuries, the Catholic Church has uncompromisingly held strong and fast to these teachings of Christ in regard to the indissoluble nature of matrimony. As we well know from ecclesiastical history, Pope Clement VII refused to annul the marriage of Henry VIII, King of England, with Queen Catherine of Aragon, and as a result, most of England fell into schism with the Catholic Church.

The sacrament of matrimony is a sacred contract between a baptized man and a baptized woman and their words “until death do us part” mean exactly what they express. The concept of an annulment, a declaration of an invalid marriage, enters into the consideration of the Catholic Church only when there exists matters which are in opposition to the marriage contract itself.

To understand this, we must review the very nature of the sacrament of matrimony. Marriage is a contract (Canon 1012). The agreement between the baptized man and the baptized woman to live as husband and wife constitutes the matter of the sacrament; their marriage vows to each other constitute the form of the sacrament. For Catholics, this contract must, for validity, be made in the presence of a Catholic priest and two witnesses (Canon 1095, 1096, 1099) unless it can be prudently foreseen that a priest will not be available for one month, in which case, then, two witnesses would suffice (Canon 1098). If a Catholic marries outside the Catholic Church — that is, before a justice of the peace, or far worse, before a non-Catholic minister — the marriage contract is invalid.

The primary end of matrimony is the procreation of children (Canon 1013.1). It was for this reason that Almighty God instituted marriage from the very beginning: “increase and multiply.” If either of the parties to a marriage has expressed at the time of marriage the intention to absolutely exclude children entirely from the marriage, there are grounds for an annulment.

Another consideration in regard to the marriage contract is when one of the parties to the marriage is induced to enter matrimony under grave and unjust force or fear; this also is grounds for an annulment.

Furthermore, there are properties essential to marriage which by their very nature are inseparable from it. These essential properties are indissolubility and unity (Canon 1013.2). By indissolubility is meant that the couple entering marriage must intend to marry for life. By unity is meant that the couple intend to enter an exclusive union with each other to the exclusion of all others. If it can be demonstrated by external proof that either of the parties to the marriage has expressed the intention at the time of the marriage to exclude either of these essential properties, then there are grounds for an annulment.

Lastly, there are certain circumstances that hinder the marriage contract and render it invalid; these are called diriment impediments. Many of these impediments are found in Sacred Scripture and are legislated by the Church.

Such diriment impediments are impotency (Canon 1068), which is the antecedent and perpetual inability to perform the act by which procreation takes place; lack of proper age (Canon 1067), which is sixteen years of age for the male and fourteen years of age for the female; consanguinity (Canon 1076), which is marriage between close relatives; major orders (Canon 1072) or solemn religious vows (Canon 1073), which is marriage with one who has received major orders or who has taken solemn perpetual vows; and disparity of cult (Canon 1070), which is marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person.

Disparity of cult is an impediment which for grave reasons can be dispensed as long as the unbaptized party promises to allow the Catholic party to practice his or her Faith and to raise the children as Catholics (Canon 1061). Consanguinity can be dispensed for grave reasons, but only in the case of distant blood relatives.

In regard to all of these matters for an annulment, we use the word “grounds,” for it is necessary that these matters be juridically proven. Witnesses who are not interested parties to the annulment must swear under oath to their testimony in regard to the facts which surrounded the particular marriage at the time it was contracted.

The first and foremost principle that the Catholic Church follows in any annulment case is this:

“Marriage enjoys the favor of law; hence in doubt the validity of the marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proved” (Canon 1042).

What does this mean? It means that once a marriage is contracted, it is considered valid by the Church until it has been proven invalid. The reason for this law is found in the absolute respect that the Catholic Church has for this holy sacrament. If a doubt arises about the validity of the marriage, the presumption is that it is valid until proven otherwise.

Since the infestation of modernism and liberalism into the Conciliar Church, the sweeping number of annulments, many granted under dubious grounds, such as “lack of due discretion,” destroys the respect and dignity due to the holy sacrament of matrimony. It gives the appearance that the sacrament of matrimony is not a permanent institution and that the bond of matrimony can be broken. All this is just one more “bad fruit” of the modern Conciliar Church by which we may know, as Our Lord has told us, “a bad tree” (Matthew 7:18).

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

by Rev. Fr. Gregory Drahman, CMRI

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is nothing new: it comes to us from the pages of Sacred Scripture itself. The significance of St. Longinus’ piercing Christ’s side on Mt. Calvary makes us reflect on the mystery of the love of Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.

Providence always indicates, especially by the establishment of new feasts and ceremonies, the particular devotion that God knows we need at a particular time. Popes, saints, and even Christ Himself have enjoined upon us the need for a deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart as an antidote for the evils of our day.

As we celebrate the centenary anniversary of the ceremony of the Enthronement of the Home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us reflect on its history and importance. In 1907, Fr. Mateo Crawley Boevey, a young priest from Peru, began to spread the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus among Catholic families. He made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial in France where Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary in 1674 and then continued on to Rome. There he received not only a blessing upon this new apostolate, but a command from Pope St. Pius X to devote his entire life “for this work of social salvation.” Returning to Paray-le-Monial, he refined the ceremony of family enthronement on August 24, 1907.

Fr. Mateo made a 5-week retreat in the Holy Land and then stopped in New York on his return to Peru. Wasting no opportunity, he preached the enthronement in a Spanish church and immediately witnessed God’s blessing upon this work. “Accompanied by the parish priest, Fr. Mateo would go from home to home enthroning the Sacred Heart in a place of honor. The results were startling. Fallen-aways returned to the sacraments; great sinners, including enemies of the church and high-ranking Freemasons, were converted. The spiritual growth of the entire parish was changed. It was a veritable Pentecost.”[1]

So great was the enthusiasm for the enthronement of the Sacred Heart in South America that the bishops of Chile obtained special indulgences for this ceremony from the Holy See in 1913. Thanks to the dedicated school children that assisted Fr. Mateo by writing letters to their bishops and who were affectionately called his “secretaries,” this devotion began to spread throughout the world. Europe requested his presence after World War I had begun; his whirlwind tour sometimes required that he speak 8 times a day in various churches and cathedrals.

Fr. Mateo eventually returned to the United States. “In all my travel,” he said, “I have never met a more docile or more generous race than the Americans! I regret that I had not come here years ago!” [2] One of the highlights of his visit was the solemn consecration of the Chicago archdiocese to the Sacred Heart by Cardinal Stritch before 125,000 people in Soldier’s Field in 1943. The aging missionary was enthusiastically received in several large cities in America and then pursued his work in Canada. He eventually returned to Peru in 1956 where he died at the age of 81. “Thy Kingdom Come” was the motto of this zealous apostle of the Sacred Heart.

Families, nations and the world have been consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Pius XI commanded parish priests to annually recite the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Feast of Christ the King. King Alphonso XIII of Spain solemnly enthroned the Sacred Heart as King of Spain on May 30, 1919, in the presence of many bishops, civil officials and the civilian populace.

Fr. Mateo clearly understood that society’s basic building block is the family. Society is a mirror of the families composing it. If families have a deep love for the Sacred Heart, nations will find peace and prosperity. Pope St. Pius X hoped that many souls would be saved through the enthronement.

The recently-instituted feasts of the Holy Family and Christ the King, the enthronement ceremony of Fr. Mateo, and the Family Rosary Crusade of Fr. Peyton indicate the need today for strong, holy families. Since the family is the foundation of society, this devotion is paramount today.

Challenges to Catholic families grow every day in our secular world. Outside the home, away from the prudent advice and good morals of their Catholic parents, children can easily become vulnerable to many temptations. The Catholic home must become a strong citadel against the rising tide of immorality in society. The family must be well defended against all evil influence so young people can grow in wisdom, grace and holiness. Children will find strength and guidance from a good home life as they embark to begin new lives as young adults.

Our Lord assured us that: “Tepid souls shall become fervent; fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.” Those truly devoted to the Sacred Heart demonstrate their love for Christ by frequent attendance at Mass and the devout reception of the sacraments. By recalling that Our Lord is King of the home, parents can be confident that He who would “suffer the little children to come to Him” will help them attain the Kingdom of Heaven. This is also an efficacious means of fostering religious vocations that are sorely needed today. Blessings flow abundantly to all who honor our Lord. The image of the Sacred Heart officially enthroned in the home is a visible reminder that He is its King. Those who take Fr. Mateo’s suggestion that an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary be placed next to the Sacred Heart have a ready-made place where the family can gather to pray. This should be in a prominent place so that the promise may be fulfilled that Our Lord will “bless every place in which an image of My Sacred Heart is exposed and honored.”

Our Divine Lord also promised that He would “give to priests the grace of touching the most hardened hearts,” and that “Sinners will find in (His) Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.” Countless conversions of loved ones and friends have taken place through the enthronement of the home to the Sacred Heart. Catholics should place unbounded confidence in the Good Shepherd, who can bring back the erring members of their families. Should we not be convinced that the Gospel story of the prodigal son comes true in real life?

Through this enthronement of the Sacred Heart as King of the home, families are preserved and sanctified. Jesus promised St. Margaret Mary: “I will establish peace in their homes.” A tender love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus among family members necessarily provides a most efficacious means for the Catholic upbringing of the children. Cultivating a devotion to the Sacred Heart encourages the virtues to grow and develop. Praying together as a family is also a wonderful way to preserve the graces of the sacrament of Matrimony. Jesus promised: “I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.”

Let us, then, enthrone our homes to the Sacred Heart; let us renew the act of enthronement often and honor Jesus and Mary daily as the King and Queen of our homes. Let us implore their guidance and support in the joys, sorrows and crosses of life that we may rejoice in the blessings of the Sacred Heart both here on earth and forever hereafter in heaven.

1 Fr. Francis Larkin, Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, p. 35.
2 Larkin, 50.