Do “Traditional Catholics” agree about anything?

There is a hidden assumption underlying conversations between Trads:  we agree on certain key issues.  I think that assumption is false, and in the piece below I’ll try to talk about certain questions in frames of “Indult/Motu” – by this I refer to anyone that relies on a local bishop or groups like the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St Peter) or ICRSS (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest) for access to the Traditional sacraments; “SSPX” – by this I mean anyone who receives sacraments from the SSPX and considers him/herself aligned with their views; “SV” – by this I mean those who do not believe the most recent claimants to the Papacy to be true popes (when necessary I will distinguish between those who adhere to the Guerardian thesis and those who do not).  It’s important to note that labels are always an oversimplification and in this case, even more so, but in discussing the variances in viewpoints between these positions, we may understand the bigger picture better.  Further, as I’ve pursued in other pieces, my framing of these questions doesn’t indicate my point of view on these matters – and ultimately, that shouldn’t matter – what matters is what you’ve understood and discovered through research, study, and prayer during this unprecedented crisis.

Despite the fact that I’ve spent many years studying these issues – though not as many years as many others who know these things better than I do (or were already studying these matters when my birth brought me into this vale of tears in 1979) – I found myself surprised at areas of overlap and agreement which I had known in my head but had never parsed on paper.  I hope you find the examination of these positions as useful to consider as I found them helpful to articulate.
The Mass
The New Mass is “defective”
Indult/Motu: No.  The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is extended to the faithful by a gracious permission of the Holy Father.  If one day he chooses to remove that permission, we will obey rather than put ourselves outside the body of the Church.
SSPX:  Yes, in fact, it is “intrinsically evil.”  Both Fr. Peter Scott and Fr. Jean Violette have advanced this notion contra Michael Davies on separate and different occasions.  The New Mass is “not Catholic,” “Protestant,” and is a “bastard” form of Mass.
SV: Yes, in fact it is invalid.  The change in the words of consecration for the bread and the wine, even in the Latin form of the sacrament, compromise validity.
When saying the Traditional Latin Mass, the John XXIII rubrics and 1962 Missal are to be used without question or debate
Indult/Motu: Well, it depends.  The FSSP uses the 1962 because they were a split from the SSPX who used the 1962.  The ICRSS formerly exclusively used the pre-1955 rubrics and missal, but now use a 1962 missal in concert with the old Holy Week.  Both groups have “permission” to use those respective missals and as such, have not really had to make apologias one way or the other.
SSPX: At the first General Chapter of the SSPX it was decided that regions of the SSPX already using the John XXIII revisions and Missal could continue to use them (the French had in this and in the Dialogue Mass, led the way in this progressive-Traditionalist development) but that regions that specifically used the Pius X rubrics and Missal – namely Great Britain and the United States – would continue to use them indefinitely.  This changed in the break of 1983 in the United States, when the Archbishop imposed the John XXIII rubrics upon a newly ordained priest, who had spent years in seminary with the Pius X rubrics and had even been taught how to say Mass in that way.  Truth be told, we don’t technically celebrate the 1962 rite, as we have introduced as a custom a second Confiteor which was already removed by 1962.  This is notwithstanding that the Dominicans with us use their own rite, as guaranteed by St. Pius V in Quo Primum, and that our Benedictines use their monastic rite, which is the 1965.
SV: It depends.  The CMRI use a pre-1962 Missal, but use the “restored” Holy Week.  Other known sedevacantist groups use the pre-1955 rubrics, not just because the revisions of Holy Week were authored by Bugnini and because Pius XII’s promulgating document gives no indication that he had either read or comprehended the scope of the changes put together by whom he considered to be trusted surrogates, but because the Novus Ordo Holy Week is thus already contained within the 1962 Missal.  The “Restoration of Holy Week” was a dress rehearsal for the years of Concilium and the New Mass, and in examining “where to go back to” we must avoid any association with unwarranted changes, esp. by a known Freemason.
The 1962 Missal can be changed by specific Papal legislation, as seen in the Good Friday prayer revision
Indult/Motu: Yes.  Again, we have the gracious 1962 Missal by gracious permission of our gracious Holy Father who is infinite in graciousness.
SSPX: It depends.  We rejected the Good Friday revision of Pope Benedict XVI through the leadership of Bishop Fellay and plan to resist any modernizing changes to create a future combination 1962/1970 “Single Form” missal as has been indicated and envisioned by surrogates and officials of this Papacy.
SV:  While the Pope has the power to surgically change any part of the Mass that he pleases, as supreme legislator of the Church, it is at best troubling to conceive of an evolving, software-upgrade version of Mass, which is always subject to changes.  The consistent practice of the Church has been to add feasts or make minor changes, not to whole-cloth create a New Mass.  However, leaving aside the discussion of prudence or moral rights, we maintain that the Pope has a legal and moral right to craft a new rite of Mass, as long as he is a valid Pope and as long as the Mass is clearly Catholic.  Neither of those conditions apply regarding the current Popes and the current so-called “Ordinary Form” of the Mass.  We further maintain that no Pontiff may outlaw immemorial custom.
Vatican II
Vatican II was a “pastoral council” and thus, non-binding
Indult/Motu: Yes!  In fact you will note that there isn’t anything in the Vatican II documents that asks you as an individual Catholic to profess anything, therefore, while we (very, very, very quietly and secretly, in the quiet of our hearts) deplore the ambiguous language of the council documents, never before seen in any of the documents of accepted and valid ecumenical councils, we don’t question any of the Vatican II documents.
SSPX:  Absolutely.  The Archbishop signed all of the council documents and never called it an invalid council.  Indeed, he served on the preparatory commission of the Council.  Much good work was done there, he told us, but the conflicts during those meetings foreshadowed the Council itself, which was a triumph of liberalism, a “1789 in the Church.”
SV:  No.  The phrase “pastoral council” was invented by John XXIII and is a novelty when speaking about ecumenical councils.  If one wishes to quote “pastoral council” one must also be willing to quote Paul VI, who said that Vatican II was “as important, and in some ways more important than Nicea.”  Nicea, for those who don’t know, gave us the Creed said at Mass every Sunday.  If Vatican II is as important as Nicea, it is surely a weasel tactic to hide behind the soft ermine of “pastoral council” when confronted with the bête noire of “as important as Nicea.”
There is such a thing as non-infallible Magisterial teaching
Indult/Motu and SSPX: Yes, as can be seen by the correction of Pius XII to the Council of Florence in Sacramentum Ordinis.
SV:  The words “fallible” and “Magisterium” only belong in a sentence that contains “anathema” and “sit.”
There is the Catholic religion and the “new religion” of Vatican II, and the two are opposed to each other
Indult/Motu: Absolutely not.  You are speaking of “rupture theology” which is simply unsupportable.
SSPX and SV: The religion espoused by the majority of Catholics since Vatican II is a counterfeit fraud and is to be considered, both as a whole and in its parts, to be substantial departures from previous Catholic teaching and praxis.  By their fruits you shall know them.
The New Sacraments are all valid
Indult/Motu:  Yes, unquestionably!  We simply prefer the old ones (Thank you thank you thank you Holy Father!).
SSPX: Yes and No, depending on what the current SSPX policy is.  Regarding confirmations, the SSPX has absolutely no investigative process for conditional confirmations and conditionally confirms anyone who presents him/herself to be confirmed and can pass a written doctrinal test.  Regarding ordinations, the SSPX has always had a case-by-case basis policy on conditional ordination, though the Angelus some years ago translated Fr. Pierre-Marie, OP’s  La Sel de La Terre article, “Why the New Rite of Episcopal Consecrating May Be Valid” into English titled as “Why the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration Is Valid.”  Regarding consecrations of Bishops, it is known by not a few that Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has a positive doubt in this matter, as evinced by a late 1990s letter to an inquiring faithful that dealt with two matters: 1) Dr. Coomaraswamy’s book on the new sacraments, particularly the chapter on Episcopal Consecration, and 2) participation of Bishop Salvador Lazo in ordination ceremonies and confirmations.  The vast majority of SSPX faithful are positively doubtful about validity of new sacraments and are at best, somewhat suspicious of Novus Ordo priests who “tradvert” without conditional ordination.
SV: As outlined above, the New Mass is invalid, and therefore the Eucharist is invalid.  So too the New rite of Episcopal Consecration and Priestly Ordination.  The new sacrament of confirmation is suspicious and therefore should be avoided.
SSPX and SV: It is interesting to note that exorcists worldwide complain about the inefficacy of the new rite of exorcism and many have returned to the old rite.
Indult/Motu on the Exorcism issue: No comment.
The New Code of Canon Law is valid
Indult/Motu: Yes, but we get a dispensation to refer to the Old Code to govern things that no longer legally exist in the New Code, like subdeacons.
SSPX: Not entirely.  We accept the one hour fast, but we do not accept that Protestants may receive communion.  It’s a pick-and-choose sort of thing, again, based on “Tradition” of which we are the sole reliable arbiter in these days of crisis.
SV: Not at all.  A new code can only be promulgated by a valid pontiff, and JPII is a doubtful one at best.  It is useful to have a 1983 code handy to study and understand the all-encompassing view of the New Religion of Vatican II.
Josemaria Escriva, John XXIII, and John Paul II are Saints and Blesseds respectively and must be called and honored so
Indult/Motu: Yes, beatifications and canonizations are part of the Church’s infallibility.  St Josemaria Escriva, Blessed John XXIII, Blessed John Paul II, orate pro nobis.
SSPX: Yes, but beatifications are not infallible, and canonizations are.  We can revisit the questions of John XXIII and John Paul II when canonization comes, but then, as now, we accept the validity of the Acts of the Holy See as inscribed in the AAS (Acta Apostolicae Sedis).
SV: No, beatifications and canonizations fall under the disciplinary magisterium of the Church and are covered by the Church’s infallibility and indefectibility.  Since we know these men are not Popes who beatified and canonized these men, and because these alleged saints and blessed are known notorious enemies of the Church, this proposition is a non-starter.
Novus Ordo Annulments are valid
Indult/Motu: Absolutely, without question.
SSPX: As has always been the position of the Archbishop, the answer is yes.  Additionally, we have set up our own tribunal, outside of ordinary Church authority, headed up by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, to judge annulment cases of faithful who have been married in our chapels.
SV: Simply based on the high statistical numbers of annulments (over 90% approved in the US alone), as well as the often faulty legal reasoning used in these annulment cases, it is to be assumed that generally speaking Novus Ordo Annulments are invalid and attempt to dissolve what God has joined together in a practice known as “Catholic divorce.”  Pay the price, get your pass.
The New Mysteries of the Rosary are good and should be said
Indult/Motu: Of course.  Roma locuta est, causa finita est.
SSPX and SV: No.  The Rosary was given by Our Lady to St. Dominic.  Appending mysteries onto a centuries-old prayer designed by Our Lady and confirmed in form at Fatima is hubristic and smacks of the spirit of Modernism.  Oh, and it’s just plain stupid.
The way out of the current crisis requires divine intervention and/or a miracle
Indult/Motu: No, if we simply listen to the Holy Father, he will unerringly lead us.
SSPX and Guerardian SV: In a manner of speaking.  We think that either gradually or suddenly the current claimant to the see of Peter (SSPX considers him Pope, Guerardian SV does not) will realize the errors of Vatican II, refute them, and bring the Church and all the bishops and faithful back into line.  For the SSPX, this can happen through Rosary crusades or by negotiations in which Rome is shown the error of her ways.
Non-Conclavist SV: We see a problem with the behaviors and pronouncements of the recent claimants to the Papacy, but we do not see anything other than a divine intervention getting us out of this mess.
Other issues
Because Our Lady of Fatima said that the Pope must consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart, we have to have a Pope
Indult/Motu and SSPX: Yes.  It’s only logical.
SV: No.  Just as a way out of this crisis may require a divine intervention, so too, such a consecration, if still requested and wanted by Our Lady, may have to be handled in an extraordinary way, not by the way foreseen by Fr. Gruner for decades now, in a simultaneous disparate worldwide consecration.
The SSPX holds a schismatic position
Indult/Motu and SV: Yes, by their actions they wish to have a Pope for display purposes, but in practice they obey him in nothing except in calls to discussion.  They have a “recognize but resist” ecclesiology.
SSPX: Absolutely not.  While there may be some understandable confusion about our legal position, there is no doubt that we are “of” the Church, though not necessarily considered “in.”  We are the lifeboat for those drowning in the Titanic sinking of the New Religion.
The Assisi events have been deplorable acts of apostasy
Indult/Motu: No, the Pope was simply praying at the same place as those other people.  He wasn't praying with them.
SSPX: Yes, but this does not mean that the Pope is not the Pope.
SV: Assisi represents yet another of the events foreseen by Pope Paul IV in his forgotten Papal Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio.  Apostasizing and heretical actions and words are self-deposing and no “declaration” that the “See is Vacant” is possible (no man stands above the Pope) or necessary (the distinction of “material” vs. “formal” heresy is IMPOSSIBLE for a Pope), as St. Robert Bellarmine says, “He who is not of the body cannot be the head.”
Chapels which are paid for by the faithful belong to the clergy, not the faithful
Indult/Motu: Of course, Church property is Church property.  Our parishes are gifts from the Ordinary, not property of the faithful, (and this is how it should always normally be – SSPX and SV would agree on that point).
SV and SSPX: Indeed, they belong to our respective organizations and we do not feel the need to provide any public accounting for our spending.  While these are extraordinary times when faithful must pay for absolutely everything, we do not see a reciprocal extraordinary responsibility to be transparent with our spending, some of which at times involves criminally negligent financial mismanagement which comes from clergy who are too young, green, and unschooled in the incredible responsibilities of managing the heady finances of a parish.  We do not involve the laity in our discussions for master planning of chapels/parishes, even though when we transfer to another chapel or pass on from this life, they and their families will be there, not us.  Sometimes entire monasteries are lost to the Novus Ordo Church through bad planning.
In the final analysis, I hope that people will begin to understand that at a higher level, the questions that are part and parcel of the current crisis have no easy answers, and in some cases, have no answers.  Most would agree we are in uncharted waters, so a sectarian spirit that pits fellow Catholics into an “us” vs. “them” paradigm is not helpful.  Dr. David Allen White recently said to me, “We are all Protestants now, the way we fight with each other.”  Unity at the cost of doctrine is the mistake of the New Ecumenism of Cardinal Kasper.  Yet, we must have charity towards all and understanding and patience.  As one wise old priest once told me, “These things really take time to understand.”  I would add, “and prayer and sacrifice to bear with.”
Sedes Sapientiae, ora pro nobis.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen founded True Restoration in 2006 and served as its first President until 2023. He now lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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10 Responses

  1. traumerei says:

    That looks to be a pretty good summary. No doubt there'll be some nitpicking at some point but it definitely reflects the fact that you've been in all three camps at various points in your life.

  2. De Liliis says:

    "In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.."

  3. "Dr. David Allen White recently said to me, 'We are all Protestants now, the way we fight with each other.'"

    This idea has bothered me for several months. The underlying question is, "Where is the Church?"

    The Novus Ordo people are protestant in their defective faith–they affirm many things which Trent anathematized. Their fruit is the defection from the Catholic religion of faithful and churchman alike on a global scale.

    Traditionalists of all stripes are protestant in that each makes of himself the final arbiter of Tradition–an office reserved to the Vicar of Christ. Their fruit is endless contention and splitting off into warring camps with varying degrees of explicit or implicit rejection of the prerogatives of the Holy See.

    The only important question remains: "where is the Church?"

    Fr. Malachi Martin said to Bernard Janzen in the 90's, "Christ is still in charge of His Church," and "we're going to entombment before resurrection." Entombment. If the present situation really corresponds to the Passion of Christ, then the Church in our times will be difficult to identify and locate. In the Passion, Christ died and his disciples were scattered. Where was the Church then? Our Lady of Sorrows and St. John, the apostle of the Sacred Heart, were both at the cross. There are 20th century private revelations that emphasize devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows and the Sacred Heart, e.g. Fatima and Sr. Elena Aiello.

  4. Oblatus says:

    Interesting. While I thing it is the best that can be achieved for a blog, the categories fails to recognize that some traditionalists are multi-camped. Some people just go to the closest trad Mass. Some people bounce back and forth, and some people who go to any given type may disagree with the leaders on certain positions. The moral is we have a crisis of authority, and indeed the sheep are scattered. I am not so concerned about what we disagree about now, but what we disagree about when God is uniting us. Will we recognize it and stop resisting? How do we recognize that? There are times when B16 gets my hopes up, and then other when I say, "Not yet".

  5. Oblatus

    I'm sorry I wasn't more clear in my intro when I made the point that there is overlap. The very fact that sometimes Indult and SV agree should point out that some are "multi-camped" as you call them.

    The categories are there to point out some contradictions, not to say that all traditionalists rigidly adhere to one party line.

  6. Oblatus says:

    I guess the confusion (on my part) is I am speaking about the people, and you are speaking about the theory/party line. Or in another way, you're talking about the recipes, and I am talking about the eaters. For instance, I will go to any traditional Mass but a sede one, and my views do not align with any one group mentioned, whereas some people are lock-step with their group. But it was a very instructive blog post, and I thank you for it.

  7. Here is what the Blessed Virgin said to Sr. Aiello on February 19, 1949:

    "The devil, my daughter, has brought all the forces of hell to earth and soon he will show all his power…. It is necessary to prepare oneself because the great event is close at hand. Let those who have sinned repent with all their heart; let those who have always sought after God seek him with greater perfection in penance and prayer. I so recommend the devotion to the heart of Jesus and to my immaculate heart, with communions of reparation on the first Fridays and Saturdays; the devotion to the five wounds with the prayer 'Behold, O kind and most sweet Jesus,' which is the prayer before a crucifix after holy communion; and finally in a special way, the daily recital of my rosary. All those who will be faithful to such practices of piety will obtain my motherly protection and will be saved."

    We may think of Lourdes, LaSalette, and Fatima in terms of apparitions of Our Lady of Sorrows. In all of them, she always appeared as inconsolable, either weeping the entire time, or always sad. During the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, she even appeared to Sr. Lucia as Our Lady of Sorrows. It appears that there is a profound connection between Our Lady at the foot of the cross and our times, which would correspond to what Fr. Malachi Martin said regarding the passion of Christ in His Mystical Body on earth.

  8. Unknown says:

    A bit off topic but, I was surprised at this statement in the section on the validity of the new code of canon law:

    "we do not accept that Protestants may receive communion."

    This is news to me. Can you point me to the canon the now allows those outside the Church to receive?

    Which is not to say it's not there – I was astonished to discover the other day that it's no longer sinful to attend Protestant services…

  9. benares says:

    Not only do all factions agree on the ownership of chapels, but they most likely would also do so on the question of funds, big or small, received from layfolk. Once the cash is in their hands the laity can get stuffed!

  10. pclaudel says:

    Mr. Heiner: Apropos canonizations and beatifications, I clearly recall an interview earlier this year (2011) with Bishop Fellay in which he responded to a query about recent c.'s and b.'s by saying, in almost so many words, that the current Vatican process was too questionable in its means and ends to permit him to give an unhesitatingly clear answer. He did, however, refer to the fact that Padre/Saint Pio's case was vastly stronger than any others of recent vintage, not least in that there existed an overwhelming sense among Catholics of his sanctity.

    In a word, he politely and quite reasonably evaded the central issue. I can't imagine him or anyone else who is non-SV and non-indult/motu doing otherwise, things being what they are.

    I think that I read the interview on Rorate Caeli, but I am by no means certain of this recollection.