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SSPX and the Resistance - A Comparison Of Ecclesiology

Shining the light of Church Teaching on the doctrinal positions of the SSPX and the Resistance.

Principles are guides used to aid in decision making.  It stands to reason that bad principles will lead to bad decisions.

The recent interactions between Rome and the SSPX has challenged a number of closely held cultural assumptions of people in both sides of the disagreement. This has resulted in cultural skirmishes in both Rome and the SSPX.

Since it is the smaller of the two, the skirmishes have been more evident within the SSPX.  The cultural fault-line that Bishop Fellay crossed appears to be linked to two points of Catholic Doctrine: Ecclesiology and Obedience.  The cultural difference of view points is strong enough that it has resulted in the expulsion of a number of members.  It should also be noted that some other priests expelled since the beginning of the latest interactions (starting in 2000) held the same view points and have joined with the latest departees in a 'loose association'.

The argument can be summed up as thus: The 'resistance' claims that the SSPX has abandoned the principles of its founder, the SSPX asserts that they have done nothing of the sort.

In spite of the inability to appeal to a competent judge in this matter, it is possible to turn to Church teaching in order to make a determination who has abandoned Catholic principles and therefore whose decisions are lacking in moral righteousness.

Where is the Church of Christ?

Setting aside the ambiguous rhetorical devices such as 'newchurch' and 'conciliar church', I believe that the answer to this question is vital. Given our condition as Catholics, if we were to succeed in separating ourselves from the Church, we would be damned as in our case there is no possibility of invincible ignorance as we know that Christ established the Church. Therefore, we should know where the Church is and remain within her fold.

I am aware of four associates of the 'resistance' who have spoken boldly, if not clearly, on this topic.  Bishop Williamson in EC281, Fr. Rua in his defense of Bishop Williamson, Fr. Girouard in his declaration of March 28, 2013 and finally Fr. Fuchs in his own declaration of January 2014.

However bold the words may be, if they do not coincide with Church dogma/doctrine on the matter they are obviously false and not to be followed.

What is the Church of Christ?

The first step in determining where is the Church of Christ, is to have an  understanding of 'What' is the Church of Christ.

St. Robert Bellarmine provided the following definition:
“the assembly of men united in the profession of the same Christian faith and in the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of legitimate pastors, and in particular, that of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.”
This is a commonly accepted definition of what is the 'Church' although the readers are directed to the encyclical Mystici Corporis for a deep explanation of the Mystery of the Church.

Now that we are furnished with a rudimentary understanding of 'what' is the Church, we can now determine its "location".

I will use the following foundations for my analysis in answering this question:
  • The Catechism of the Council of Trent.
  • The First Vatican Council
  • Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ludwig Ott
I open with the words contained in the introduction to the explanation of the article "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church" found in the Catechism of Trent:
Since, therefore, it is impossible that anyone be infected with the contagion of heresy, so long as he holds what this Article proposes to be believed, let pastors use every diligence that the faithful, having known this mystery and guarded against the wiles of Satan, may persevere in the true faith. (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

The Marks of the Church of Christ

What are the four marks by which one can recognize the Church of Christ?  One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic! Every Catholic should know this answer, but do they know how the Church understands the answer - in detail?

Following the Catechism of Trent we find the following explanations:

Apostolic: The Church of Christ can be recognized by its Apostolic origin, for "the Holy Ghost, who presides over the Church, governs her by no other ministers than those of Apostolic succession".

Catholic: The Catholic Church is Universal, "embraces ... all mankind" and includes "all the faithful who has existed from Adam to the present day, or who shall exist, in the profession of the true faith, to the end of time".  Finally, the Church is called Universal because "all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her".

Holy: The Church is Holy for the following reasons: it is consecrated and dedicated to God; because the Church, as the Mystical Body of Christ, is united to its head: Our Lord Jesus Christ; and lastly the Church has the true worship of God.

The Catechism of Trent closes this explanation with the following:
... the Church alone has the legitimate worship of sacrifice, and the salutary use of the Sacraments, which are the efficacious instruments of divine grace, used by God to produce true holiness. Hence, to possess true holiness, we must belong to this Church. The Church therefore it is clear, is holy, and holy because she is the body of Christ, by whom she is sanctified, and in whose blood she is washed.
It is also critical to note ...
"... that the Church, although numbering among her children many sinners, is called holy. ... so in like manner the faithful, although offending in many things and violating the engagements to which they had pledged themselves, are still called holy, because they have been made the people of God and have consecrated themselves to Christ by faith and Baptism. ..."

At this point, I think it is beneficial to reflect upon another essential attribute of the Church of Christ: Indefectibility.
The Church is indefectible, that is, she remains and will remain the Institution of Salvation, founded by Christ, until the end of the world. Sent. Certa. (Ott pg 296)
This attribute is important because, it means that even now the Church is the "Institution of Salvation". Dr. Ott explains further that in their essence the teaching, constitution and liturgy of the Church are immutable.

Keeping this doctrine of the Church in mind, we find that the Apostolicity, Catholicity and finally Holiness cannot be not separated from the Church of Christ. If this were possible she would be severed from either the Apostolic Succession, or the faithful departed or from her holy Head, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In any of these cases the promise of Christ that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church would be made empty.

Finally we can now consider the first 'Mark' of the Church of Christ: Oneness, or more succinctly the Church of Christ can be known by its Unity.

For this Mark of the Church I will draw on three sources: The Catechism of Trent, The documents of the First Vatican Council and finally the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Dr. Ott.

The authors of the Catechism divide their explanation into Unity of Government and Unity in Spirit, Hope and Faith.

Concerning Unity of Government the doctrine is clear and precise: Christ is the invisible  of "the Church, which is his body", the visible "governor" is the Pope "the legitimate successor of Peter".

Of the Pope, the authors further explain, that the Fathers of the Church are unanimous in teaching that the "visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church".

Given Luther's attack on the primacy of the Pope it is understandable why the emphasis was placed on explaining the role of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. In fact, the authors of the Catechism of Trent expended four to five times as many lines expounding on the unifying role of the Pope vs the following passage.

In the brief passage of Unity in Spirit, Hope and Faith, the authors wrote:
 Moreover, the Apostle, writing to the Corinthians, tells them that there is but one and the same Spirit who imparts grace to the faithful, as the soul communicates life to the members of the body. Exhorting the Ephesians to preserve this unity, he says: Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit. As the human body consists of many members, animated by one soul, which gives sight to the eves, hearing to the ears, and to the other senses the power of discharging their respective functions; so the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, is composed of many faithful. The hope, to which we are called, is also one, as the Apostle tells us in the same place; for we all hope for the same consummation, eternal and happy life. Finally, the faith which all are bound to believe and to profess is one: Let there be no schisms amongst you, says the Apostle. And Baptism, which is the seal of our Christian faith, is also one.
I imagine that at reading this direct quotation from the Catechism of Trent a number of people will begin rationalizing that the 'Modern Catholics' are not professing the faith as noted above and jumping to a bunch of conclusion based on that thought.  Please be patient, I will address that objection in due time.

The Fathers of the First Vatican Council put forth the following more detailed explanation:
"The eternal shepherd and guardian of our souls, in order to render permanent the saving work of redemption, determined to build a church in which, as in the house of the living God,all the faithful should be linked by the bond of one faith and charity.
In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation. "  (Session 4 of the First Vatican Council:
Instead of explaining this in my own words, I will rely upon Dr. Ott:
One may, with the Vatican Council, distinguish a two-fold unity of the Church:
Unity of Faith
This consists in the fact that all members of the Church inwardly believe the truths of faith proposed by the teaching office of the Church, at least implicitly, and outwardly confess them. ... Unity of Faith leaves room for various opinions in those controversial questions which the Church has not finally decided. 
Unity of Communion
This consists, on the one hand, in the subjection of the members of the Church to the authority of the bishops and of the Pope (unity of government or hierarchical unity) ; on the other hand, in the binding of the members among themselves to a social unity by participation in the same cult and in the same means of grace (unity of cult or liturgical unity).
The unity of both faith and of communion is guaranteed by the Primacy of the Pope, the Supreme Teacher and Pastor of the Church (centrum unitatis : D 1960). One is cut off from the unity of Faith by heresy and from the unity of communion by schism.
St. Thomas declares that the unity of the Church is founded on three elements: The common faith of all members of the Church, the common Hope of eternal life, and the common Love of God and of one another in mutual service. Fidelity to the unity of the Church is a condition for the attaining of eternal salvation. 

Visibility of the Church

There is one last aspect of the Church to consider prior to moving on to an examination of the various positions of the SSPX and the 'Resistance': the 'visibility of the Church'.  Here are four explanations of the visibility of the Church.
When we speak of the visibility of the Church, we do not mean simply that her members, her rites, and her ministry can be seen. What we mean is that these can be recognized to constitute the true Church of Christ ; so that, in other words, we can point out a certain society, and say of it "This is Christ's Church." ...In order to understand this property of visibility, we  must carefully note the distinction between the body and the soul of the Church. The former consists of those external elements which go to make a society, viz. the ministry of the pastors and subordination of the sheep, the profession of the faith and participation in the sacraments ; the latter means the internal gifts of sanctifying grace, of faith and charity, and other virtues. The external elements are necessary for the Church's social existence ; the internal elements must be possessed by her members if they would attain the end for which they were called to the Church, i.e. eternal salvation. (A Manual of Catholic Theology - Wilhelm and Scannell 1908)
Fr. Hunter has the following to say concerning the visibility of the Church:
The Church Visible.—It remains for us to show that the Church is perennially visible. For a society of men to be visible, in the sense in which the word is used in Theology, it is not enough that the individuals composing it should be visible, in the sense in which all men are capable of being seen ; but the fact of their being associated must be visible: that is to say, the bond of union among them must be of its own nature cognoscible by the senses, and it must be of such magnitude as to attract attention to itself. (Outline of Dogmatic Theology - Fr. Hunter S.J. 1898)
Fr. George Hayward Joyce S.J. wrote the following for the Catholic Encyclopedia in 1908:
In asserting that the Church of Christ is visible, we signify, first, that as a society it will at all times be conspicuous and public, and second, that it will ever be recognizable among other bodies as the Church of Christ. These two aspects of visibility are termed respectively "material" and "formal" visibility by Catholic theologians. The material visibility of the Church involves no more than that it must ever be a public, not a private profession; a society manifest to the world, not a body whose members are bound by some secret tie. Formal visibility is more than this. It implies that in all ages the true Church of Christ will be easily recognizable for that which it is, viz. as the Divine society of the Son of God, the means of salvation offered by God to men; that it possesses certain attributes which so evidently postulate a Divine origin that all who see it must know it comes from God. (Catholic Encyclopedia - The Church, George Joyce, 1908) 
 Finally, Dr. Ott sums up the visibility of the Church in the following manner:
The Church founded by Christ is an external visible commonwealth (sent. certa.) ... A threefold sensible bond binds the members of the Church to one another, and makes them known as such: the profession of the same Faith, the use of the same means of grace, and the subordination to the same authority. (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma - Ott 1954)

Conclusions Concerning The Four Marks, Visibility and Indefectibility

The observant reader will have noted that there is an interplay between the identified elements of the Church.

Of all the elements discussed, that of Indefectibility permeates the others in a most particular manner.

The visibility of the Church, as noted above, is due to the four marks of the Church and must be present throughout the ages in a continual manner.  Any discontinuity, such as a 'transfer' of the marks from one entity to another breaks said continuity and would also break at least one of the 'Marks'.

The four marks themselves are also, by necessity, contiguous with the indefectibility of the Church due to their nature.

As the Holiness of the Church stems from her invisible Head, as well as her consecration to God, given the promise of Christ (indefectibility) it is not possible that this union between Christ and His Church be severed.

As the Catholicity of the Church stems from the profession of the true Faith as the link between all members of the Universal (Catholic) Church past, present and future, as well as the necessity of belonging to the Church for salvation, the Church is protected from alterations of the de fide Teachings of the Faith.

This naturally leads to the Apostolic succession, both from the continual episcopal succession from the Apostles to the bishops of today to the continual safeguarding of the Apostolic creed.  Again, in order to breach this mark, the Church would have to sever its ties with the Apostles in a formal way and indefectibility safeguards against this risk.

Lastly we have the Mark of Unity (Faith and Communion/Government). Here the influence of indefectibility has been explicitly taught concerning the papacy and its roll in perpetuating the unity of Faith and Communion / Government. Ultimately, the Papacy is the visible foundation of the visibility of the Church.  Without the Pope, the rock upon which Christ built His Church, all other constructs tumble in ruins.  This is witnessed with great ease when examining the doctrinal corruption that is ongoing within the heretical and even schismatic entities that have separated themselves from the principle of unity - the Papacy.

So where is the Indefectible, Visible, One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ?

Or put another way where is the continual uninterrupted “assembly of men united in the profession of the same Christian faith and in the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of legitimate pastors, and in particular, that of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.”

Given that the doctrine of the Faith, Sacraments and Vicar of Christ are found intact only in the "assembly of men" united under Pope Francis, that is where we find the Church of Christ - even in these days of crisis within the Church.

If a person claims the name of Catholic and refuses to acknowledge this fact, they should be wary that they aren't being described by the following words:
"For in after ages there would not be wanting wicked men who, like the ape that would fain pass for a man, would claim that they alone were Catholics, and with no less impiety than effrontery assert that with them alone is the Catholic Church." Catechism of Trent

Compare and Contrast of the SSPX vs the 'Resistance'

Finally, we've reached the point where we can separate the Catholic from the Non-Catholic principles.

SSPX Ecclesiology

First, let us examine the SSPX thesis concerning the location of the Church.
"... To the extent in which a ‘change of direction’since Vatican II has occurred, we use the term ‘conciliar Church’. This expression is commonly understood, not as a distinct object or substance, but rather as a new spirit, introduced into the Church at the time of the Council Vatican II, and which constitutes an obstacle the end of the Church ... Bishop Fellay recently stated that the contemporary Church, as represented by the Roman authorities, remains the true Church, one, Catholic, holy, and apostolic. “When we say extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, out of the Church, no salvation, it is indeed to the Church of today that we refer. That fact is absolutely certain. We must cling to it. […} Going to Rome does not mean we agree with them. But Rome is the Church, and the true Church.” He speaks further of “the Church, which is not an idea, which is real, which stands before us, which we call the Roman Catholic Church, the Church, with its pope, its bishops, debilitated as they may be.” Therefore, the official Church cannot be referred to today as a conciliar Church distinct from the Catholic Church ..." (Fr. Gleize
Just in case someone asserts that this is a recent change in the SSPX thesis, I present the following quotation from 1988. These words were sent to Cardinal Gantin by the Superiours of the SSPX shortly after the Episcopal Consecrations by Archbishop Lefebvre:
"... we have never wished to belong to this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church, and defines itself with the Novus Ordo Missæ, an ecumenism which leads to indifferentism and the laicization of all society. ... We ask for nothing better than to be declared out of communion with this adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church for the last 25 years; we ask for nothing better than to be declared outside of this impious communion of the ungodly. We believe in the One God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and we will always remain faithful to His unique Spouse, the One Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church..."( )
The above quotations demonstrate a complete consistency in ecclesiological thought from 1988 to the present. The references to 'Conciliar Church' refer to a movement within the Catholic Church.

Finally, as to the thoughts of the founder of the SSPX concerning the Church we have this statement taken from the Long Island Conference given in 1984.
Why do I maintain relations with Rome? Why do I keep going to Rome? Because I think that Rome is the center of Catholicism, because I think that there cannot be any Catholic Church without Rome.
Without too much difficulty, I have concluded that the SSPX is in complete agreement with the above noted teachings of the Church on this topic. Further, that the line of reasoning concerning Rome extends from the Founder of the SSPX up to its current Superior General.

Resistance Ecclesiology

Having briefly examined the ecclesiology of the SSPX, we can now move on to examining the theses of some of the 'Resistance' associates.

Father Rua

In writing a rebuttal to Fr. Themann, Fr. Rua wrote the following:
"We appeal to you to recognize that the visible church is not the Catholic Church. It is the Conciliar Church, the Church of the new Advent as they call themselves. This Conciliar Church is suicidal and will bring about the institutional death of the Catholic Church but the faith will remain and hence the Mystical Body will remain for all days. ... 
Where is the error in Bishop Fellay’s theology? It is the ecclesiological model from which he draws his conclusions. He considers the visible structure of the church to be the Conciliar Church. In a previous essay we noted that Athanasius and Archbishop Lefebvre were correct to point out that the Catholic Church resides in the Faith. We must worship in Spirit and in Truth. Structures and buildings do not constitute the Church. The Pope and officials in Rome may possess the structures but have lost the Faith." (Fr. Rua A Response to Fr. Daniel Themann’s Lecture Piece by Piece.)
I will set aside Fr. Rua's rhetorical device of accusing the Pope et al of having lost the Faith and focus on his meaning of the phrases 'Conciliar' and 'Visible' Church. Linking the two quoted paragraphs together, he appears to equating the 'Conciliar' Church with the Visible Church and denounces it as not being the Catholic Church.  

Obviously, this does not correspond with the postion (historical and present) of the SSPX vis-a-vis the Roman Catholic Chruch.

It also leads into a number of problems, not the least of which is indefectibility. 

As noted the Visible Church is identified as such due to the Marks of the Church. To state that the Visible Church is not the Catholic Church runs contrary to the teaching noted above. The separation of the Visible Church as identified by the Four Marks from the Church of Christ is not lawful, especially when one includes the fact that both the Unity of Faith and Unity of Communion have as their principle the successor of St. Peter. 

Assuming that Fr. Rua is aware of this aspect of Catholic ecclesiology, one could arrive at the conclusion that Fr. Rua does not believe that Pope Francis is actually the Vicar of Christ.

Suffice to say I find that Fr. Rua's thesis is not compatible with the Catholic teachings noted above.

Father Girouard

Next, let us examine the recent writings of Fr. Girouard.  The one text that stands out as relevant to this analysis is found in his "Declaration to Members of the Society of St. Pius X, Affiliated Communities & Faithful of Tradition". I will quote the relevant passage in its entirety from Fr. Girouard's website.
"Recently, it was asked of us to accept the theory that the term "conciliar Church" does not mean a separate institution of the Catholic Church, but rather a "movement" within it (cf. Fr.Gleize in DICI: The logical consequence of this theory would be that the traditionalist movement should return to the formal structure of the Church, to fight from within the conciliar "movement" and thus help Tradition triumph. It is why we often hear SSPX authorities say that the Society must "help the Catholic Church to reclaim her Tradition." Now, on one hand, the Catholic Church, without her Tradition, could not exist, it would no longer be the Catholic Church. Furthermore, one can no longer speak of a mere "movement" when the liberal and Masonic ideas of Vatican II have been "institutionalised" by reforms covering all aspects of Church life: Liturgy, Catechism, Ritual, Bible, Ecclesiastical Tribunals, Higher Education, Magisterium and, above all, Canon Law. We are confronted with a structure, an institution which is different to the Catholic Church. If it weren’t the case, we would be members! But it is not us who have left the Catholic Church, they have, even if they managed to take control of the official structure. Concerning the role of the Pope in all this, it has to be admitted that therein lies a mystery, a mystery of iniquity. Nonetheless, it stands that we are in the presence of two separate institutions: The Catholic Church founded by Our Lord and the conciliar Church, instigated, let there be no doubt, by Lucifer."
Father's first assertion concerning Fr. Gleize's article is obviously false. This is easily demonstrated by the letter to Cardinal Gantin (quoted above), written by the leaders of the SSPX during the heady days of 1988. In this letter, we are presented with the phrase 'this system which calls itself the Conciliar Church' coupled later with the phrase the "adulterous spirit which has been blowing in the Church". Upon reading this one must ask: In which Church was the 'adulterous spirit' of the 'system calling itself the Conciliar Church' blowing, if not the Catholic Church?

Fr. Girouard's thesis concerning a change in SSPX ecclesiology lies in tatters.

Father's second assertion, summed up in the last sentence, contains his ecclesiological thesis:
"Nonetheless, it stands that we are in the presence of two separate institutions: The Catholic Church founded by Our Lord and the conciliar Church, instigated, let there be no doubt, by Lucifer."
There are number of issues with the thesis as formulated by Fr. Girouard. Such as:
  1. At what point in time did the separation between the two 'institutions' occur?
  2. How has the Unity of the Church (Faith and Communion/Government) been maintained?
  3. How has the Visibility of the Church been maintained as the Pope is the principle of this visibility?
  4. How has the Indefectibility of the Church not been contravened?
  5. Where does Fr. Girouard place the Eastern Churches in union with the Holy See?
  6. Where is the Church of Christ?
Suffice to say that calling the 'role of the Pope' a mystery does not resolve these questions, it is simply an evasion of the problems created by his thesis.

Ultimately, it is necessary to accept the theology of the Four Marks, Indefectibility, Visibility as the Church does, as explained earlier in this article. My opinion is that Father Girouard's thesis contradicts these element of Church ecclesiology. Fundamentally, the elements that he proposes as demonstrating the obliteration of the Catholic Church by the 'conciliar Church' do not bear upon those elements that actually pertain to the marks - they are all accidentals.

His assertion that "If it weren’t the case, we would be members!", I find to be nothing less than schismatic

It appears to me that Fr. Girouard has difficulty distinguishing between people and ideas. More specifically the people who are in and form the Church and the ideas they harbour.  Ideas which may or may not be heretical. Ideas which may or may not be held with pertinacity.

Frankly, I prefer St. Robert Bellarmines vision of the Church and that of the Catechism of the Council of Trent - rather than that of Frs. Girouard and Rua.

Bishop Williamson

Finally, let us review the words of Bishop Williamson on this topic. Fortunately, I have already reviewed the topic to some extent at this link:

My intention is to contrast it with the teachings of the Catechism, in order to determine if the thread that exists between Frs. Rua and Girouard's theses, extends to that of Bishop Williamson. Specifically, that the Visible Church is not the Church of Christ.

As noted in the linked article Bishop Williamson makes the following assertion in paragraph 4 of Eleison Comments 281:
" ... Christ’s Church has four Marks, as they are called.

  • One - above all by oneness of Faith Our Lord meant to unite his Church ...
  • Holy - Our Lord founded his Church to bring men to the All-Holy God and his holy Heaven
  • Catholic - Our Lord founded his Church for all men of all lands and all ages
  • Apostolic - Our Lord founded his Church as a monarchy, to be ruled by the Apostle Peter and his successors

Wherever these four Marks are, there is Christ’s true Church. Where they are lacking, there is not Christ’s Church..."
The merits of Bishop Williamson's exegesis of the Four Marks stands in stark contrast to Church teaching as already discussed in the article linked above.

However at this point we are really interested in where Bishop Williamson thinks that Church exists today.

Before plumbing the depths of Bishop Williamson's ecclesiology, I would like to note that Fr. Laisney of the SSPX has already responded to Bishop Williamson's assertions which have been reproduced in the attached link ( ).

Bishop Williamson's thesis, contained in the document EC 281 "Various Churches" published December 1, 2012, is broken into nine sections:

  1. “Conciliar Church” means the God-centred Catholic Church as fallen and still falling under the sway of the man-centred Second Vatican Council.
  2. Conciliarism (the distilled error of Vatican II) bears the same relation to the true Church of Christ as the rot of a rotten apple bears to the apple which it is rotting.
  3. Just as rot occupies the apple, depends on the apple, cannot exist without the apple, yet is quite different from the apple (as uneatable is different from eatable), so man-centred Conciliarism so occupies Christ’s Church that little of the Church is not more or less rotten, yet Conciliarism is so different from Catholicism that one can truly say that the Conciliar Church is not the Catholic Church.
  4. But the Catholic Church is visible. Isn’t the Conciliar Church also visible ?
  5. “Visible Church” means all the buildings, officials and people of the Church that we can see with our eyes.
  6. But to say that the Catholic Church is visible, therefore the visible Church is the Catholic Church, is as foolish as to say that all lions are animals so all animals are lions. That part alone of the visible Church is Catholic which is one, holy, universal and apostolic. The rest is various sorts of rot.
  7. “Official Church” means the Church as led by, and following, its visible officials. Since these today are largely Conciliar, so the “official Church” is largely Conciliar and not Catholic, according to the four Marks.
  8. Similarly “Mainstream Church”means today’s official Church as opposed to the “Traditionalist” remnant.
  9. However, let nobody say there is nothing one, holy, universal or apostolic left in the mainstream Church, any more than everything in the “Traditionalist” remnant shows forth the four Marks. Wheat and chaff are always mixed in Christ’s Church (cf. Mt. XIII, 24-30).
The rationale contained in the above statements is easier to discern when represented in a mindmap as below.

Conciliar Church Branch:

The key message in this branch is that the conciliar Church so occupies the Catholic Church to the extent that little exists which is not conciliar, leading to the conclusion that the conciliar Church is not the Catholic Church.

Visible Church Branch:

In this branch the message is that only part of the visible Church has the Four Marks, the rest of the visible Church 'is various sorts of rot'.

Official Church Branch:

Church under the visible conciliar leaders is conciliar and not Catholic according to the Four Marks.

I do note that Bishop Williamson makes the assertion that it is a false assertion to state that there is nothing One Holy Catholic and Apostolic in the mainstream/conciliar Church.

Conclusions on Bishop Williamson's Thesis

In reviewing the three branches, it appears that we have three variations on a theme all leading to the roughly the same conclusion: The visible Church is not the Church of Christ.  At best a part or subset of the visible Church is the Church of Christ.

Fr. Fuchs

Recently, a priest in France announced his intentions to leave the SSPX and assist the 'Resistance'. One thing that became clear as I read his rationale, is that his understanding of the Church is both as flawed and is consistent with the other examples noted above.
     Again and again I had to realise that no clear language was being spoken any more. So the second intention in the rosary crusade reads: “for the return of Tradition into the church…”. What is meant by “the church”? The Catholic Church as she was founded by Jesus Christ or the post-conciliar church? If it means the Catholic Church then no return is possible because Tradition is an integral part of the Catholic Church; if the post-conciliar church is meant then it is her who left Tradition. Then it is her who has to return to Tradition, not Tradition to the church.
This passage lends credence to my theory that the 'resistance' sees any Canonical Regularization of the SSPX by the Vatican, which they hold is not the Catholic Church as schism with the Catholic Church of Tradition.

Commonalities Between the Resistance Theses

There exist commonalities between all three of the 'resistance' writings quoted above.

The similarity between Fr. Girouard's and Bishop Williamson's theses is not surprising, as Bishop Williamson formed Fr. Girouard in the Seminary in Winona. In this case the apple truly does not fall far from the tree.  Whether or not Fr. Rua was influenced by Bishop Williamson or if the commonality has another root remains to be seen.

In my opinion the three primary threads present in the assertions of all three of the authors are:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the Four Marks of the Church that does not coincide with the explanations offered by the noted sources. This is particularly evident concerning the role of the Papacy in maintaining the Unity of the Church.  
  • Appear to have a deficient understanding of what constitutes the Visibility of the Church, based on the contrast between their writings and the texts discussed earlier in this article.
  • Have deviated from the historical SSPX understanding of the phrase 'conciliar Church', based on the contrast between their writings and the letter to Cardinal Gantin.


The ecclesiology of the 'resistance' is built upon a faulty understanding of the Four Marks and the Visibility of the Church.  This faulty understanding is potentially coupled with a deficient understanding of the Indefectibility of the Church.

While not developed in the body of the article, I believe that while not professing sedevacantism, the members of the 'resistance' are on a path that leads to the same end point: Schism.

Reviewers Comments

I provided a copy of the article to a friend of mine who is a trained theologian. While I am awaiting his final comments on the article, with his permission I publish his preliminary thoughts.

Comment A

The Catholic Church cannot cease to exist. If it is not the Roman Catholic Church, understood as the Church which recognises Francis as pope, where is it? No answer seems to be given by the people you are arguing against. Not only must the current Roman Catholic church lack some mark of the true Church, but some other Church must also possess all these marks. There is no attempt to do this. Where is the candidate for the Church? It cannot even be the SSPX as they [resistors] hold this organisation to have betrayed the faith. It has to be Bp. Williamson and his followers, with Williamson as the sole surviving member of the apostolic college. But this is ridiculous.

Their argument is basically from the lack of faith of the members of the Roman Catholic Church to the nonidentity of that Church with the Church of Christ. The argument from the parts or members of a thing to the whole thing is notoriously questionable - it is sometimes termed the argument from composition; as e.g. from every brink in a wall weighing 1.5 kg to the wall weighing 1.5 kg. We know from the gospels that sin and unbelief are to be expected in the Church, so the argument from sin and unbelief in the members - even most of the members, even most of the hierarchy - in the Roman Catholic Church does not imply that that Church is not one and holy and apostolic. The argument really returns to ones made by the first Protestants. The standard example here is the Arian heresy; it was accepted by the majority of the bishops and the Pope, but neither St. Athanasius nor anyone else ever concluded that the Church was restricted to the supporters of the Nicene Creed. And the disbelief in that case was much more explicit than it is now in the vast majority of cases, since it involved a public rejection of the teaching of the Creed. Bp. Williamson's analogy of the rotten apple is actually quite a good one, but the rot is the unbelieving members of the Roman Catholic Church, not that Church herself.

Comment B

The analogy [Bp. Williamson's rotten apple analogy] is excellent and correct if we take the rot to consist in individuals who occupy places in the Church, or even in institutions that have a human character; it is wrong and dangerous if we take the rot to consist in actual institutions that have an ecclesiastical character - dioceses, especially the Roman See, and even religious orders considered from the point of view of their official canonical status and purpose.


  1. If that is what the SSPX is based on, Lord help us, they are accepting the Conciliar Church

  2. Actually, the SSPX is based on the formation of priests, the liturgy and all the pertains to it ... or something like that.

  3. The point is that their position / understanding of what constitutes the 'conciliar Church' is unchanged.

    Whereas the position of those who have been expelled from the SSPX, in spite of their claims, have distanced themselves from that position / understanding.

    The claim that they have not deviated from that position is onion paper thin.

  4. Absolutely brilliant! I especially liked the mindmap.

  5. Just to reinforce the SSPX's view of Conciliar Church:

    Communicantes: In this crisis of the Church, let us remain truly ROMAN Catholics, by Fr. Simoulin, District Superior of Italy (May 2001).

    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, Fr Scott (2005).

    Various Churches? Fr. Laisney (2012).

    1. Excellent! Thanks for the additional references.


  6. JUNE 27, 2016

    The Holy SeeInternational Theological Commission
    International Theological Commission, Vol I

    The International Theological Commission(ITC) and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger have put out theological position papers on Lumen Gentium and Ecclesiology.1

    It no where states that Lumen Gentium (14) affirms the strict interpretation of the dogma extra eccclesiam nulla salus ( Feeneyite) when LG 14 states all need faith and baptism, as does Ad Gentes 7.With Lumen Gentium 14( faith and baptism are necessary) and Ad Gentes 7 (all need faith and baptism for salvation),LG 14 and AG 7 are Feeneyite.

    Instead the ITC and Cardinal Ratzinger mention theoretical, hypothetical descriptions of a new concept of Church. This of course is the official, magisterial concept of the Church,approved by the Jews Left, including the liberal rabbis associated with Israel.

    Catholic religious and lay persons are not being allowed to affirm Lumen Gentium ( Feeneyite) and instead have to see Lumen Gentium as being Cushingite.Hypothetical cases must be assumed to be objectively seen and known in the present times.Then they must be projected as contradicting the Feeneyite interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus(EENS).So Vatican Council II( Cushingite) becomes a rupture with EENS ( Feeneyite).Instead we have an EENS(Cushingite).Since it is assumed that the baptism of desire etc,excludes the baptism of water and it refers to an objectively known case, even though there cannot be an objectively known baptism of desire.
    Bishops and priests here know that all this is not rational, it is an innovation in the Church but they say it is a ' development', it is 'a sensitive' subject and they are not going to proclaim the truth and say that the magisterium is wrong, they made an objective mistake.
    If I do quote a priest speaking the truth , saying there are no known exceptions in Vatican Council II( Feenyite) to the dogma EENS( Feeneyite),he will be asked to retract or deny the statement.Since the official position of the Church, the Vatican Curia and the Rome Vicariate, is that there are known exceptions in Vatican Council II (Cushingite) to the dogma EENS( Feeneyite) and Vatican Council II(Cushingite) is in harmony with EENS( Cushingite) with the baptism of desire also Cushingite( not implicit but explicit, not hypothetical but a practical exceptions to EENS).
    For me there are no exceptions mentioned in Vatican Council II( Feeneyite) to the dogma EENS( Feeneyite) and the baptism of desire ( implicit -Feeneyite) is not an exception to EENS( Feeneyite).The baptism of desire refers to a hypothetical case and so it is not explicit for us,it is an impersonal reference and not someone personally known saved as such.
    The International Theological Commission and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger have put out theological position papers on Lumen Gentium and Ecclesiology is irrational, non traditional and heretical.For them there are exceptions mentioned in Vatican Council II( Cushingite) to the dogma EENS( Cushingite) and the baptism of desire ( explicit -Cushingite) is an exception to EENS( Feeneyite).The baptism of desire does not refer to a hypothetical case and so it is explicit for Cardinal Ratzinger and the International Theological Commission.It refers to someone personally known saved as such.-Lionel Andrades

  7. Hi Lionel,

    Haven't "seen" you around for a while.

    So - let's have a go at this as I have a wee bit of time right now.

    First: Do you agree that God desires and provides the necessary grace to each individual to be saved???
    - please consider your answer very carefully as we are dealing with a dogma.

    Second: Do you believe that an unbaptized could cooperate with this grace?

    If you agree with the Dogma of the Church and the possibility that an unbaptized could cooperate with the grace of God, then what is the problem?



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