Principle of Obedience - Applied to the SSPX


I have synthesized St. Thomas' principle of obedience as follows:
The Catholic principle is laid out as follows:

  1. The person issuing the command is in a position of authority over the inferior
  2. The command is within the scope of the superior's authority
  3. The command does not require the inferior to sin, either in the immediate or proximate case.
  4. If the above conditions are met then the person has an obligation to obey. Disobedience in this case is sinful.
Now the question is how have the leaders of the SSPX applied this principle in key conditions?

  1. Archbishop Lefebvre withdrawing his signature from the protocol of 1988
  2. Archbishop Lefebvre disobeying the order from the Pope to not consecrate bishops
  3. Bishop Fellay refusing to sign the pre-amble provided in 2012.

In this review, I will make the following assumptions:

  • Superiors: Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and their delegates, respectively Cardinals Ratzinger and Levada 
  • Command: 
    • Accept a canonical regularization in which the Second Vatican Council and the Liturgical Reforms (ie primarily the New Mass) are accepted complete and entire.
    • To not perform episcopal consecrations without Pontifical Mandate
  • Perception of immediate sin is objective and that of proximate sin can be either objective or subjective in nature.
  • Acceptance of the following without reservation or exclusion constitutes a compromise that is at least proximately if not immediately sinful.
    • Second Vatican Council
    • Liturgical Reform issuing thereof
  • The Society of St. Pius X, in order to sustain its mission and for its protection required bishops selected from its members.

Case #1: Withdrawal of signature from protocol

While no compromise was required in the protocol (Archbishop Lefebvre stated that there was nothing wrong with it, otherwise he would not have signed it) shortly after the signing Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned having the New Mass said in St. Nicholas de Chardonnet ( Marcel Lefebvre- The Biography: page 554).

There were other issues, but here we have a proximate case of compromise listed above.

Case #2: Performance of episcopal consecrations without Pontifical Mandate counter to express command of Pope St. John Paul II

Given the circumstances within the Church, Archbishop Lefebvre was convinced that no Bishop would ordain the seminarians of the SSPX and that the SSPX needed to continue for the good of the Church.

Therefore, to not consecrate, in the face of the delays and requested compromises, would constitute a dereliction of duty on his part.  Even contrary to the will of the Pope.

Therefore, we have a proximate occasion of sin.

Case #3: Refusal to sign the preamble and accept a canonical regularization.

In the end, Cardinal Levada presented to Bishop Fellay a document that contain compromises on both the Second Vatican Council and the Liturgical Reform.


My conclusion is that in all three cases either an immediate or proximate occasion of compromise (sin) was present - at least in the minds of those making the decisions.  Therefore, obedience to the command was not required as in all three cases some sort of compromise was required.

In the case of the consecrations, it was for the good of the Church to provide for the life of the SSPX.
In the case of the agreements, it is centred on the issues with the documents of the Second Vatican Council (Four Points) and the Liturgical Reform the pose a danger to the Faith due to their ambiguities and departures from Church Doctrine.

Given that the crisis is moving along at a steady march towards the October Synod - perhaps more clarity will be provided.  I know that some "modern" Catholics are getting concerned, we must explain to them the doctrine of the Church concerning error, papal infallibility in order to bolster their faith.


Reference: Obedience Maligned and Misunderstood


Popular Posts