Interview with Bishop Donald Sanborn, on Vatican II, the SSPX, and the Motu Proprio

This interview with Bishop Donald Sanborn was conducted in March 2009 during a visit to Most Holy Trinity Seminary, in Brooksville, Florida. It was the first of two interviews conducted during a weekend visit. It is being released on June 19th, the 8th anniversary of Bishop Sanborn’s consecration to the episcopacy.


This interview focused on Vatican II, the SSPX, and sedevacantism. It begins in medias res, as part of a conversation that started before I was rolling tape.


Stephen Heiner: Would you accept the case that maybe it was closer to the time of the Council actually happening, so there was not as much time for the dust to settle for people to try to really figure these things out? You know here was this monolithical church that they had always grown up with, and now it was "What's going on?" and they weren't really sure, perhaps. Would you grant that, or do you think that they did see it, and they chose to not say something?

Bishop Sanborn: Well, I think that Bishop de Castro Mayer got on Archbishop Lefebvre’s bus. I think that they are a unit, and that he joined forces with Archbishop Lefebvre in the idea of establishing a worldwide popular Latin Mass, or Traditional Latin Mass movement. Therefore, whatever virtues you could describe for either of them apply to both. Likewise whatever faults apply to both. I see them as a unit. Yes, I do, to answer your question, I do think that… it was unthinkable to these two men, as it is to many old people today, unthinkable that the Church that they grew up with was in the condition that the sedevacantists were describing. To say that this whole hierarchy has collapsed into heresy and we are essentially in a situation of a city that has received an atomic bomb was unthinkable to them. There had to be some other solution, and they were just not willing to go down that path. Nevertheless they thought it in their hearts many times, perhaps on and off, “I think that's a possibility.”

S.H. Frank Sheed wrote that Is it the Same Church? book, right? And I have often thought how many other people were asking that question?

Bp. S. Yes…I notice that the old people – people who are, say, my age (I'm 59) and older – still cannot think of the Vatican II religion as a new religion. It's the same religion that has been made imperfect and somewhat unacceptable, and they think that we have to find our way in this quagmire of the new religion. The younger people understand – the young people who come to our Masses in any case – that there is a definite distinction of religion there, and that the only continuity between pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II is a continuity of administrative structures.

S.H. Why do you feel that's an important distinction, Your Excellency? That is to say the difference between a new religion, and let's say, an updated, you know, changed a few things, religion? The Christendom/TAC “Conservative” Catholics would argue that their institutions still teach Eucharistic doctrine, Marian doctrine, etc. They will continue to hold to the old nostrum that the Council was hijacked, etc. Why do you feel it's important to make that distinction, to say that it's a new religion as opposed to, let's say, a veering off…

Bp. S. A modified Catholicism?

S.H. Precisely.

Bp. S. I think that it is the essential and most fundamental question because if it is merely modified Catholicism, then we must accept it because Catholicism is so defined that its modifications can only be very slight. I'm sure that the flavor of Catholicism in the first three centuries was quite different from the flavor of Catholicism in 1850. You know, I think if you were in Rome in the year 250, the way in which Mass was said, and the general flavor of devotions, and so forth, would have been quite, somewhat different. Something like walking into the Eastern Rite Mass. You would have felt somewhat uncomfortable, I'm sure, but there is no essential difference between those two things. And I think that if Vatican II were giving us something that we're merely uncomfortable with, like a new pair of shoes, even if it were unwise or imprudent, we would have to accept it. If it's Catholicism, or as Father Cekada puts it, "If you're merely changing around the spiritual furniture in the room,” then there's no right to resist such things. It's the Church’s prerogative to make such changes.

S.H. So you would analogize it to something like Pius XI accepting the resolving of the Roman question, and you would say "Well, I wouldn't have done it that way, but, you know, we've got to go along with it. The Pope signed off on it, and it totally undermined his own power, but well, you know…"

Bp. S. Yes, that would be an example. There was a lot of discussion about the wisdom of that, you know…

S.H. Or when he undermined Action Francaise?

Bp. S. I would go even further. When Pius X redid the Breviary, there was a big to-do about that.

S.H. Was it about the translation or was it the…

Bp. S. The problem was that the Leo XIII had loaded up the sanctoral. Leo XIII had put a lot of saints in the calendar. The Breviary at that time functioned much like the Missal. If you have St. Thomas Aquinas, you go to the common of confessors, you see? So, you would go to the common of a confessor, not a bishop. And that was all Sunday psalms. So you were seeing only the same psalms every day, practically. And you were not seeing any of the temporal. And the ideal is a balance of the temporal and sanctoral. So Pius X saw that problem, consequently he reformed, principally, the calendar, with the effect being that you would say the ferial psalms most of the time, and the Sunday psalms only on the major feasts. And that caused a big ruckus. A lot of people didn't like his reforms."

S.H. He had a ton of reforms though, didn't he?

Bp. S. Sure! How about early communion? That was another one that ruffled feathers, and frequent communion – even Cardinal Merry del Val told him, "You're wrong about that." The Cardinal was very loyal, but he opposed him on that.

S.H. He had a new catechism come out… I think there's something to be said for the fact that he was very much one of those on the ground, he was a parish priest…it’s rather like the private becoming a general, you know? That's why I think there's so much validity to his reforms. He knew what the Church was like in the trenches…

Bp. S. Oh sure, and I'm not criticizing those reforms, I'm just saying there was some criticism of those reforms, of their prudence, but you have to accept it. You know, Clement VIII took out the Italic version of the Epistles and Gospels in the Missal that we have and put in the Vulgate. I'm sure a lot of people didn't like that. And there have been reforms all along – every Pope has some reforms, and some are wiser than others. There's no guarantee of wisdom or prudence in any of those things. Nevertheless you have to go along.

S.H. And to an extent, the Archbishop went along early on, right? He used the new rite of ordination at Fontgombault early on.

Bp. S. Yes, the new rite within the Traditional Mass. Fontgombault had an indult early on. I know he attended his brother’s funeral that was in the Novus Ordo, and I think that his idea concerning the Novus Ordo was that it was an imperfect thing. It depended on when you talked to him, however, because he did call it at one point the “Mass of Luther.” I don’t think he regarded it as something absolutely to be avoided but something that needs to disappear, and that it should be avoided usually.

S.H. And you would classify it as something to be absolutely avoided?

Bp. S. Yes, again because either it’s a Catholic Mass or it isn’t. If it’s a Catholic Mass, then we shut down Most Holy Trinity Seminary today. If it isn’t, it’s war. There’s no middle between those two things. Catholicism has an essence like anything else, a very, very defined essence with many, many characteristics. If something defects from Catholicism, it is opposed to the Catholic Church. There can be nothing more opposed than a false rite which is supposed to be the vehicle of truth. It’s like an evil or poisonous medicine. The very purpose of medicine is to cure. Poison is contrary to the very essence of medicine, and so you know a false rite is just something that is totally unacceptable. But again I think that Archbishop Lefebvre’s character was that of a diplomat down to his fingertips, as the French say. I think he approached the problem from a diplomatic point of view. He thought that there was something to negotiate about the New Mass. That’s why he accepted to have the Novus Ordo as late as 1988. He accepted that one New Mass be said at Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris as part of the protocol. He referred to that concession later when he gave some conferences in June. He made a passing remark about it, like “They even asked us to have a Novus Ordo said, one Novus Ordo said in San Nicholas in Paris. This was very disappointing.” He did not say, “I absolutely refused to do that.” The implication was, and it was never denied later, that he accepted to do it.

S.H. Yes, but that was 1988, and now it is 2009. Sellout for the SSPX? You say yes in your most recent article, “Logical Chickens.”

Bp. S. I think they will make an agreement for multiple reasons. I think Benedict wants it very much for various reasons. I think they want it very much if they can get the right conditions, and I think also that this is a moment that may disappear forever. I think that in the next papal election they will never let this happen again. I think the bishops are furious over this whole thing, that is, Benedict’s independent way of dealing with this problem. The London Times reported that (Cardinal Giovanni Battista) Re went into a rage when he was given the document to sign. You could hear him; he was groaning with anger. It was in The London Times. I think he’s the head of the Congregation for Bishops or something, that he was furious over it. Benedict has taken a path very independent of the bishops and many officials, obviously, over unification with the SSPX, and so it is clear that he wants it very much.

S.H. And he knows how to get around the Curia because he’s been there long enough.

Bp. S. Ultimately the pope can always get around the Curia.

S.H. Well I remember in my old “conservative Catholic” days, people would say that JPII was always the prisoner of the Curia. That was always the argument, but this guy couldn’t be the prisoner of the Curia for sure.

Bp. S. The pope can chop off anybody’s head. The pope can chop off the head of anybody in the whole world.

S.H. That’s not conceivable to anyone more after 1965. I mean I can conceive of it in theory and I can read books about Pius V and Pius X and those people but it’s a theory to me.

Bp. S. Pius V threatened Philip II with excommunication. Philip II — that would be like the President of the United States. It was about handing over one single bishop to Rome. Philip II wanted to try the bishop in the Spanish Inquisition and Saint Pius V said no, because according to an agreement bishops had to be sent to Rome, and Philip was blocking this. As a result, excommunication was threatened.

S.H. Yeah, and he was on the next bus…

Bp. S. And he was on the next bus to Rome. Right. No, I mean that’s just silly nonsense to say that the Curia can control the pope. The pope has all the power.

S.H. Well, the excommunications have been “lifted,” no? Plus Summorum Pontificum? Next, Council in the light of Tradition? Though, Bp. Tissier is at least one who has consistently rejected that thesis. When did that phrase originate and who originated it? Sounds like “hermeneutic of continuity,” doesn’t it?

Bp. S. Well, originally it was not a hot-button issue. It became hot-button in 1978 when Wojtyla was elected. Archbishop Lefebvre goes down to Rome, and they have this conversation where—I don’t know if it came from Wojtyla or Lefebvre—they agreed on accepting the Council in the light of tradition. Then there was the bear hug.

S.H. I thought it was a Ratzinger formulation. So 1978, then?

Bp. S. I can say that Archbishop Lefebvre was pushing that in 1982 with great vigor and enthusiasm.

S.H. And some are now going back to it but Bishop Tissier is part of the “hard-line” group. They’re going to have to bring him in line and shut him up, but I think they will. He might go along.

Bp. S. I don’t think he has the guts to do anything. I think he might express a few opinions but that’s it. I think he would go along.

S.H. Do you think that’s coming from the noble family, the aristocrat family thing?

Bp. S. No, I just think, as Father Cekada says, he has a timid personality. I was ordained with him. I knew him; I spent my four years at Econe with him. I knew him very well. He’s a very good person, a very pious person. He has a good mind and was a good student. You know, he was always very good to me. I never had any trouble with him. He was just liked by everybody and was a very humble person but just very timid. I just think that—no matter what he thinks, he will cave into whatever is the agenda of the SSPX.

S.H. So, Bishop Tissier goes along with this…what is “this” – some clarification of Dignitatis Humanae, like “Oh, it wasn’t heresy all along! Our mistake!”

Bp. S. Look, Stephen, if they can do the Joint Declaration of Justification with the Lutherans they can do anything.

S.H. So, then, poof, the problems are fixed? What would fix Vatican II in your eyes? Those of us who grew up with the evils of the Novus Ordo and the lies that are Vatican II documents would be deeply unsatisfied with such an agreement.

Bp. S. (Emphatically) Fixing the council would be to burn the documents in Saint Peter’s square.

S.H. But, they aren’t all terrible. I mean, none of them are good in comparison to documents issued by prior Church councils, but I think the one on formation of priests is “not bad”…

Bp. S. Sure, and you could say that about the writings of any heretic though. Martin Luther wrote a very pious explanation of the Magnificat. But Catholicism does not admit the mixture of error.

S.H. Not in its doctrinal…

Bp. S. Not a single iota. Stephen, look at any heretic, take the writings of any heretic, and I would practically guarantee that 75% to 80% of it would be orthodox.

S.H. So Bishop Tissier told me the solution was to erase the Council, get rid of the Council. You agree, but death by burning, to be specific?

Bp. S. The documents have to be burned in Saint Peter’s Square. That’s my solution to the council.

S.H. So you just can’t repudiate it in some document, as the SSPX is proposing?

Bp. S. A public act of annulment of the council as a false council.

S.H. There’s precedent for such things, is there not? I mean I don’t know for an ecumenical council but certainly Pope Formosus and the Pseudo-Synod of Pistoia…

Bp. S. Well there was Ephesus, second Ephesus…

S.H. A fake Ephesus.

Bp. S. Yes, yes.

S.H. And the stuff was burned and everything?

Bp. S. I don’t know if it was burned. But I think there was a decree of nullity of the council.

S.H. So that it wasn’t an ecumenical council?

Bp. S. Right.

S.H. Do we have precedence for Vatican II in church history as far as an ecumenical council that went astray?

Bp. S. Well, you have to understand a council. A council can be ecumenical from the beginning. In other words, it can be called by the Pope, or a local council can be made ecumenical by the authority of the Pope. The, ecumenicity, if that is the correct word, of the council derives completely from the authority of the Pope. To answer the question: Has there ever been an ecumenical council that has taught error? The answer is no.

S.H. So then, to go back to the root, do you dispute that this was an ecumenical council?

Bp. S. Yes. I don’t dispute it; I deny it because Paul VI and John XXIII were not true popes.

S.H. At the time that they called the council?

Bp. S. Yes.

S.H. So you dispute that John XXIII was a true pope at the time of the calling of the council?

Bp. S. I even deny it. I don’t dispute it. The reason I do is because of his intention, his obvious intention, to alter the fabric of the Faith through the instrument of an Ecumenical Council. Although I don’t think that the case of heresy against him is the same as it is against Paul VI, John Paul II and so forth, nevertheless I definitely think he fails to be a true pope for the reason of his obvious intention to alter the Catholic Church in the direction of Vatican II.

S.H. But doesn’t the Church always say we’re not supposed to judge personal intentions?

Bp. S. No, the Catholic Church does not preach that. You are presumed to have a guilty intention by the commission of an act, whatever it should be, or at least a deliberate intention. Let’s use that word, the deliberate intention by the commission of an act. If you did not have a deliberate intention for some reason the burden of proof is on you.

S.H. I’m sorry, so let me rephrase that. So you would concede that the act of calling an ecumenical council doesn’t betray a specific bad intention.

Bp. S. No. In hindsight, though, as we look back upon Vatican II and what happened as a result of Vatican II and look at John XXIII, it is clear that his intention was to alter the Church in the direction of Modernism and that intention vitiated his own authority.

S.H. Well, yes, Pius XII wanted to call this council but he said it would take a generation or he said it would take a long time to put it together.

Bp. S. Yes, and even he abandoned the idea of a council on the advice of various cardinals who said it was too dangerous because the bishops were infected by bad ideas. The calling of a general council, obviously, is completely within his right as the Pope, but I’m saying that, in hindsight, John XXIII clearly intended the council and clearly intended the effects of Vatican II and therefore is in the same category as post Vatican II “popes.” Saint Thomas says he who intends the principle also intends the conclusion.

S.H. By that deduction, does that this mean that this wasn’t a valid ecumenical council because John XIII had a bad intention?

Bp. S. Correct. It was a conciliabulum.

S.H. Then it was the biggest fake council ever pulled off.

Bp. S. Oh, certainly. Yes, it all goes back to this combination, the fact that such a grandiose thing could happen. It goes back to the combination of John XXIII’s modernism with the appearance of the power of the papacy. When you join those two things, Modernism and the Papacy, and—I’m using that loosely because you can’t really join those things —when you join those two things you are capable of enormous harm on a grand scale. It’s like an atomic bomb of power, of destruction, and that’s why you had such destruction on such a grand scale because you had a fateful combination of two things: the holding of papal power in the hands of a Modernist, Modernism being the worst heresy ever to hit the church according to Saint Pius X. In John XXIII Modernism is combined with someone who is at least perceived to be the Roman Pontiff. That spells disaster.

S.H. Now earlier you had corrected me when I asked if you “dispute” regarding some things and you said you “deny” because you think it is critical…

Bp. S. The fact that the Vatican II popes are not true popes is a theological conclusion, not a matter of Faith but it is attached to the Faith. That is, if you were to assert that they are true Roman Pontiffs, you would be logically committed to saying that the Roman Catholic Church is defective. So while it is not revealed doctrine that they are not true popes, nevertheless it is a theological conclusion that is tightly connected to the indefectibility of the Catholic Church, the infallibility of the Catholic Church.

S.H. So you are saying that this isn’t a valid council and when we were chatting yesterday you said that the solution is to burn the documents of Vatican II…

Bp. S. …burn the documents in Saint Peter’s Square.

S.H. …which is similar to your old classmate Bishop Tissier who said that the Council has to be erased. So you both have the same sort of idea. What informs this idea? Did you think this back in the mid to late ‘70s? That this is the way to handle the Council or did you think there was still some sort of fix in terms of correcting the documents or modifying them or purging them of any act of heresy?

Bp. S. No. Once I realized from studying the Council at Econe in Archishop Lefebvre’s classes – when he spoke clearly about the Council – I realized there was nothing to do with that Council except to shred it.

S.H. Did he advocate this idea?

Bp. S. No, he advocated accepting the Council in light of tradition.

S.H. Did he always use that phrase?

Bp. S. No, he started to use it around 1980, 1981 and it was being hotly pushed in 1982. I said to him that it was not a good formula and I became unpopular as a result.

S.H. How did he respond when you would bring that up?

Bp. S. It was a questionnaire put out and he never responded to me, but I know he was so much in favor of that as the solution that, you know, I was perceived as a hard-liner that was not going along with his program at the time.

S.H. The documents are easy enough. There are sixteen of them; they’re usually bound, you can get them anywhere. So, onto the Savonarola pile. What about the Declaration with Lutherans, Redemptor Hominis, Angelus messages, Allocutions etc. Do we have to go back and burn the entire body of work?

Bp. S. All of it.

S.H. So I’m not disputing that there’s necessity here, Your Excellency. Are we saying that—I mean what kind of scenario is this? Does Our Lord come down and say, “I need you to burn all these documents.” And who would do the burning? Under whose authority would they do the burning? Will you make a phone call to Rome to make sure, and ask something like "Are the documents burning?"

Bp. S. Well, what needs to happen, in my opinion, is that we need to do is get one of these Vatican II popes to convert to the Catholic Faith. And then he, by his authority that he would receive by his conversion or through his conversion to the Catholic Faith, he would do it. It has to be done authoritatively. If I go and burn those documents in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica it doesn’t do anything. The authority of the Catholic Church must turn its face on Vatican II. It must dispose of Vatican II. It’s the only solution to this problem.

S.H. You’ve written before though that this is not the man to do that. This is the man who—this is his baby. You know, he was there; he was a young man at the Council, in suit and tie!

Bp. S. He must convert. The grace of God is stronger than any of his heresies.

S.H. So he may overcome his love for his child?

Bp. S. He could convert just as Saint Paul converted. Anybody can convert. He might be very capable of doing these things because he obviously is able to act independently of the bishops.

S.H. So if he is able to convert you would say this is the best man for the job, to repudiate Vatican II?

Bp. S. Yes.

S.H. Just like Saint Paul was an effective convert because he knew the Jews then this would be an effective convert?

Bp. S. Yes, his would be the conversion of the very person who is an author of Vatican II, rather like Luther converting back.

S.H. Well, humanly speaking, that seems to be just impossible. Okay, so one of these Vatican II popes converts and we return to the 1950s, documentally speaking?

Bp. S. Let’s say 1958, the last reigning Pontiff. Sure.

S.H. What about the canonizations or beatifications that have happened over time?

Bp. S. None of them.

S.H. Even people, for example, like Padre Pio? There would be no doubt about his sanctity?

Bp. S. Well the canonization is null; their sanctity isn’t necessarily null. Their canonization is null as a legal act.

S.H. So you have to go back and review all of these?

Bp. S. Correct.

S.H. Well this is the status quo for most traditionalists anyway as it is now. There’s no new saints, there’s no calendar revisions, but obviously all of those sorts of things would have to be undertaken. If we repudiate the council, do we say that the council should have never happened? Is that what’s being said or that if we ever are going to have a council in the future will we have to readopt the principles of the Syllabus in the approach to the modern world?

Do you think that’s naive? Do you think that the world is gone too far now to say we’re going to go back and issue anathemas in order to proselytize or deal with modern man? Does modern man respond well to those sorts of things?

Bp. S. The Catholic Church should not consider whether people of any age will respond well or not. The Catholic Church has a solemn duty to the truth. Whether people accept it or not really makes no difference. It has a solemn duty to say the truth whether it’s popular or unpopular. The council, if it were undertaken in these times—although a council is not necessary, any pope can do it—a council should undertake to underline and emphasize all of the condemnations that were done since the French Revolution and add more because there are more errors. It should be a council that is full of anathemas more than ever before. It should be a council that says more than Vatican II says but just the opposite. Humanism has to be solemnly condemned. Religious Liberty has to be solemnly condemned. Quanta Cura, and all the principles of Quanta Cura reaffirmed. The Lumen Gentium ecclesiology has to be solemnly condemned. Collegiality has to be solemnly condemned.

S.H. Your Excellency, when the Church has dealt with certain cultures in the past, she’s always taken good care to inculturize. In fact, we can say that no other organization probably has taken culture more into account as we’ve dealt with approaching new countries, at least traditionally, not in the new deviations. In that same sense, because of the intense skepticism in modern man and because we’re not dealing with the base principles that were accepted perhaps in the 1800s when anathemas were put forward, is there another approach that—do you feel that the best approach in the modern world is to forcefully say, “These things are wrong. They are going to continue to be wrong whether you like them or not” even though we’ve gone so far past the ‘60s in terms of, let’s say, skepticism and attitudes towards religion?

Why do you think—and I’m asking in terms of an interviewer and not in terms of me personally—why do you think that this storm of anathemas would be effective in bringing converts to the faith and in reaffirming Catholics in their faith?

Bp. S. Again, because it is the solemn duty of the Catholic Church even if no one is listening, even if we should be fed to lions as a result of it. It is the solemn duty of the Catholic Church to expound Catholic doctrine. It is what confirms the faith of Catholics. The Catholic Church can never take into account whether its doctrines will be popular or unpopular. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. The Church is timeless and ageless, and the truth is eternal. If the Catholic Church loses that connection with eternity and the eternity of truth, it would go down the tubes just like every other false religion. It would become a sect.

S.H. We talked a little bit yesterday that after Ratzinger you were making the allusion to “après moi, le deluge.” If after Ratzinger we get some even worse modernist, do you just see that we are looking to some sort of conversion as some sort of miracle essentially?

Bp. S. Yes Stephen, but every conversion is, in a way, a miracle. A miracle in the strict sense is something visible that happens suddenly, that happens against or in suspension of the laws of physical nature usually, so it’s only in the broad sense that you’re talking about a miracle. Such is a sudden conversion, but every conversion, whether it’s gradual or sudden is by the grace of God. In that sense, it’s extraordinary. The bringing of a sinner and especially a heretic to a state of grace is, and we’re speaking humanly here, an enormous act of God, a tremendous act of God. Of course God is capable of that whether it happens gradually, which is the usual case, or whether it happens suddenly. And it’s within the will of God, and so it is our duty primarily to pray for that end, and at the same time to merely keep alive the Catholic Faith so that’s its visible to all. We are constantly giving testimony to it even though it’s very unpopular. That’s our job. We obviously cannot effect his conversion, but we can be barking dogs.

S.H. In the light of this, what has been your experience with converts in this day and age when you’re giving instructions or catechesis? There are big asterisks you have to put at the end of it saying, “By the way, there’s not a pope currently.” How do the converts react to that or do you see that as a giant obstacle these days to conversion for people who are seeking the out the Church?

Bp. S. Some find it an obstacle. There are others seeking the Faith from us, however, because they’ve already seen in a confused or obscure way that something is deeply wrong with the Catholic Church around the block. They don’t know what it is but they do sense that there is something wrong and that something has changed. For them you’re filling in the blanks and they accept it rather well. Others, who either do not have the faith, or someone superficial or perhaps interested in Faith for other motives, to get married or something, have more difficulty with conversion because they see the obvious contradiction. If you’re accepting these men as Pope and they’ve changed all of this then how do you have an infallible and indefectible Church? Then, of course, the only answer to this is that they’re not true popes. They have manifested themselves as not being true popes by approving things that should never have been approved, that were contrary to the infallibility and indefectibility of the Church. Such an argument presents a difficulty for the superficial, I would say, but in most cases people who come to us are people who are already sensing a problem. They might sense it even in the world or they might sense it in their own religion. Some of the Anglicans for example, get a picture of what is happening to religion in general. As a result, they’re not surprised by the position that the Vatican II “popes” are not true popes.

S.H. Well, in any case, they realize you are a bishop and may wonder how that happened in the absence of a Pope. Let’s start in the beginning of that journey. Why did you go to visit Bishop de Castro Mayer?

Bp. S. I had gone down there at the urging of the priests. So, I went down with John Parrott, who had been ordained a subdeacon by Archbishop Lefebvre, because he was able to speak the language. I went down there and came back with the report that he was not interested in us, but he said: “Go to (Bishop) Guérard (des Lauriers).”

S.H. So, Fr. Cekada might have said “That’s very interesting.” I imagine Fr. Kelly would not have been happy…

Bp. S. Well, yes, Father Kelly wanted a perfectly acceptable, “clean” bishop.

S.H. What, still functioning within “normal structures"?

Bp. S. Well, I don't know what his definition was of that, but it certainly meant somebody who didn't have any bad public reputation, and he felt that (Archbishop) Thuc did have a bad public reputation.

S.H. Did you?

Bp. S. Yes, I did, and I still do. I think that he consecrated many people he should not have consecrated, did so imprudently. I don't admire him for any of those things; I do admire him for being the only member of the hierarchy to have the guts to say the Roman See is vacant. For that, I think we have to be thankful to him. But I see all of the bishops that gave bishops to the Traditional movement as has having some problems, and each one a different set of problems – a different genus of problems if you want. Archbishop Lefebvre was a very, very respectable person by the point of view of his reputation, but was theologically a walking contradiction – constantly flip-flopping, and acting toward the Vatican in a way that was, on paper, schismatic. I don't think he had a desire in his heart to be schismatic, but his position was one of being schismatic, and someone who repudiated the prerogatives of people in authority. So he had a very serious problem. Bishop Mendez was a Novus Ordo bishop who was a worldly person. I mean, everyone who knew him knew he was a worldly person, and he did not enjoy a great reputation. And he was very connected to the Novus Ordo. So he had problems, too. And then Bishop de Castro Mayer was somebody who was soneone who I think, wanted to remain on good terms with the Novus Ordo, and I think that he was vague and timid in his defense of the faith in many cases. He could have certainly done more.

S.H.: How long has it been now since your consecration?

Bp. S. I was consecrated on June 19, 2002, so it’s been seven years, coming up.

S.H. So what precipitated this?

Bp. S. I think Bishop McKenna was looking for persons to consecrate that would carry on both the line and the thinking of Bishop Guerard de Lauriers. I think he saw me as conforming to that necessity and proposed it me to be consecrated officially.

S.H. So were you a part of a group of people that he consecrated during that year or was it an ongoing thing?

Bp. S. No. I think I was the only person he consecrated that year.

S.H. So that was the same attitude that you talked about…Bishop Guerard wanted to consecrate other worthy candidates because he wanted to keep the line going?

Bp. S. Yes, and special to that is the adherence to that thesis of Bishop Guerard de Lauriers about the papacy which is something I do adhere to and have adhered to from the early 1990’s.

S.H. So this is known as The Cassiciacum Thesis?

Bp. S. Yes, that is the name which it received.

S.H. Was there a more trendy, easier to pronounce, current name?

Bp. S. Material/Formal Sedevacantism is really the correct name for it or let’s see…

S.H. I’ve heard it called “Sedeprivationism.”

Bp. S. No, that’s a completely dumb name; I don’t know who gave it that name.

S.H. Because…

Bp. S. Because it means that there is a privation of the seat when you say Sede Privata. It’s as if there’s a privation of the seat; there’s no privation of the seat. Or it could mean that the seat is in a state of privation. But neither of these things is true. We’re saying that the seat is occupied materially but not formally, and that means that Ratzinger is in possession of a formal election but he is not in possession of the power to rule and teach and sanctify. That is in essence what it is and he is effectively in the same position as the United States President-Elect between November and January. He is in an administrative or a legal position to become the Pope but does not yet have the power because he has a voluntary obstacle to the power.

S.H. Among your colleagues, at least here in America, who else—obviously Bishop McKenna—who else holds this position?

Bp. S. Among bishops? No other bishops that I can think of.

S.H. It’s just you and Bishop McKenna?

Bp. S. Yes. Bishop Stuyver in Belgium was also consecrated…

S.H. But yet you’re still able to work with people like Bishop Dolan and Father Cekada. Why do you think that is? Some would say that’s because you’re old friends so you’re able to get along or that you’re united in your opposition against the SSPX.

Bp. S. No, it’s because the thesis is a theological explanation of how he is not the pope, and we disagree on that. However, we agree on the essential issue that he is not the pope, so we are able to have a cooperation.

S.H. So you disagree on something that hasn’t yet been resolved which is how he’s not the Pope. You are able to agree on the principle that he is not the Pope.

Bp. S. That he is not the Pope flows directly from the principles of faith.

S.H. So since you are agreed on that that’s why you can cooperate as much as you do.

Bp. S. Yes.

S.H. What did you think when you were first approached about this? Was there hesitation? Did you really sit on it for a while?

Bp. S. No, I did not. I was very concerned about the situation of bishops at that time.

S.H. So you wouldn’t have included Bishop Pivarunas?

Bp. S. Not for me. I don’t want to throw rocks at Bishop Pivarunas. It’s just that I…and I’ve said this to them; this is not speaking behind their backs…that I do not want to be involved with the CMRI, and the reason is that I think, and I have said this to them, that they should be suppressed, not for any lack of virtue among their members but for the fact that they were founded by someone who was of vile character. I don’t know if you notice when all of the publicity came out about the founder of the Legionaries that there was a comment that this man cannot be the founder of this organization and that this organization should be suppressed because you can’t have that.

S.H. Well, they’re just going to rewrite history and say that he wasn’t the founder. That’s what they’ll do. It’ll be Stalin. I stayed with the Legion for some weeks as a younger man. They are very good at the 1984 stuff.

Bp. S. Well, that’s a lie. He was the founder and he was an immoral man in various ways and you can’t have that in the Church. You can’t have a founder of an organization that purports to sanctifying men and women who was an absolute scoundrel.

S.H. So you would apply these same principles to the CMRI, so then what would they do? Should they just reconstitute themselves as a new religious order?

Bp. S. I think that because of the scandal of the founder that this organization should be dissolved and that all who are members of CMRI come together to form a new organization.

S.H. Have they not already done that, rewritten some documents or have they done something like that?

Bp. S. Not to my knowledge, but in any case for me to consider any kind of relationship with them as a Bishop, I would want them to say “We dissolve CMRI.”

S.H. How did they respond when you said this to them?

Bp. S. They felt that it was not necessary.

S.H. Maybe because they felt that their congregation got it, that this was a bad guy and that we got rid of him and so we can move on?

Bp. S. Yes, so that is why for Bishop Pivarunas it was not an option.

S.H. What about laymen as far as attending their masses or going on retreats? Are you okay with that? You’re talking about cooperation as a bishop and working on initiatives but what about going to Mass? Are you concerned about that?

Bp. S. I think that on the essential points of Vatican II and Ratzinger…Well, let me back up. I would say on most of the essential points, they have an acceptable position. We disagree with them a great deal about Una Cum, and I would say that Una Cum is an essential point. If I were to tell someone you can go to their Mass, I would put the proviso on it that they should not listen to their position on Una Cum.

S.H. Do you think they have a propensity to talk about stuff like that from the pulpit?

Bp. S. I really don’t know. I don’t have contact…

S.H. They seem to me as that’s not their sort of thing.

Bp. S. I know that they will advise people that they could go to the SSPX in case of necessity.

S.H. Necessity meaning?

Bp. S. If you have nothing else.


S.H. And why do you find that problematic?


Bp. S. It’s problematic because Mass with Ratzinger is then postulated as morally acceptable and if that’s morally acceptable then we should accept Vatican II. The logic goes straight to there. If he’s the pope — and you’re proclaiming him to be the pope in the una cum Mass — then he has all the prerogatives of the papacy. One of those is to alter the liturgy in the way he wants and we must accept it because the Church cannot err in universal disciplines. If that is your message that this man is the pope, if that is your position, your public position, it makes mincemeat out of the Traditional Movement. That’s why I say it is an essential point.


S.H. Your Excellency, when you say the pope has the ability to modify the mass, you mean in its non-essential parts? He could add something to the Prayers at the Foot but the pope really doesn’t have the power to do anything to the Mass.


Bp. S. Sure he does. He could take the Roman Missal and say “We’re finished with that” and he could write his own Rite of Mass and say this is the Mass the Church will use.


S.H. He has the legal right to do that but he doesn’t have the moral right to do that.


Bp. S. Whether that’s prudent or not is another question. It would certainly be imprudent, but he has strictly the power to do that and we could not oppose him on the accusation of mere changing…

S.H. So we’re not making the contention that the Pope can’t rewrite the mass if he wanted to.

Bp. S. Correct. He can sit at his computer and do a whole new Rite of the Mass.

S.H. So forget about the Council and all that…when you’re talking about opposing the New Mass, you’re not talking about opposing it on the idea that the pope by his power cannot delegate someone to rewrite the Mass.

Bp. S. Correct.

S.H. You’re opposing it because it is a Mass that…

Bp. S. That does not reflect the Catholic Truth concerning the Mass and instead reflects actual error and heresy.

S.H. And this flows from an observer with a Catholic perspective and not from the idea that the pope does it so therefore it is Catholic.

Bp. S. Well then you get into…that’s a whole other question. Which comes first? Apostolic authority or the Faith? In other words, do we accept it as Catholic because the pope has said it or do we reject it as not Catholic because its contrary to the Faith?

S.H. So how would you answer that?

Bp. S. The Faith comes first because we know the authority of the Roman Pontiff through the Faith.

S.H. But again this goes back to what we talked about the other day about Joe Catholic in the pew. He might not know. Much like the people in the first generation of Lutheranism. All he changed were maybe a few things but everyone thought it was still essentially the Mass, so you know what about Joe Catholic who attends the Novus Ordo, maybe at St. Michael’s Abbey in California, with smells, bells, and Latin?

Bp. S. If he is in good conscience, he is not guilty before God. That’s true of practically anything you do outside of genocide. You can do anything in good conscience. Strictly speaking, you could do genocide in good conscience. There is no sin that is exempt from the excusing cause of good conscience, in principle. Sure, you can do anything in good conscience. But the question is what is it in itself.

S.H. Due to recent events, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the Jews in relation to Vatican II and a change in Church teaching. You mention in your “Logical Chickens” article that the Jewish Covenant had been revoked. Was there ever been dispute with Saint Thomas, were there other views, other theologians who discussed a modification of the covenant or was the idea of succession of the covenant the prevailing theological opinion then that had come from to the Fathers?

Bp. S. I’ve never read anything that talked about the perseverance of the Old Covenant under the New. I mean I don’t know of anybody that says that. In something like the caterpillar becoming the butterfly: that there’s a continuity of covenant but that the old ceded to the new.

S.H. You make the point that it’s incorrect, beyond incorrect – heresy for a Catholic to say that Jews today are living under the Old Covenant or that it’s acceptable, that if they say “Well, I’m living under the old covenant” that you’d have to say “Well you can’t live under the old covenant because it is no longer in force.”

Bp. S. Yes, and this came from the Council of Florence.

S.H. Florence was in 14…?

Bp. S. 1430s and that was a solemn declaration of Florence.

S.H. In the same article you postulate three final predictions: Bishop Williamson will recant his position, Bishop Fellay will conclude an agreement, and there will be no significant exodus of priests or laymen. This would seem to contradict your own, at least in point three, own experience in that when you left Society everyone left with you and almost no one stayed with the Society. And that was here in America, and America’s always a special case when it comes to Tradition, why is it that in your case everyone left the Society and went with you all but in this case they are not going to leave the Society?

Bp. S. Because we had control of the churches.

S.H. But the laypeople might just leave and say we’re going in a garage. We’ve done it before and we’ll just start over.

Bp. S. You might see 5% do something like that, you might.

S.H. But just because the idea is we’re not going to start over again, we’re not going to do that stuff, we’re not going to go to a garage any more.

Bp. S. Yes, and most of the laypeople are “Latin-Massers.” That is: “If it’s the Traditional Latin Mass, I’m going and the rest of it I don’t care about.” Such is the unfortunate truth.

S.H. And you say this about all the laypeople, period? Some are in your chapels.

Bp. S. I’d say most.

S.H. Most in everyone’s chapels. Bishop Dolan said the same thing.

Bp. S. It’s lamentable but it’s true. They just want to go to Mass and it’s the only thing they’re interested in. Is there a priest at the altar? Does the altar look traditional? Is it the Traditional Mass? And that’s the end of it.

S.H. So whose failure is that, Your Excellency, that all of these people are so superficial that it hasn’t really penetrated what the issue is here. Whose failure is that?

Bp. S. I would have to say I don’t know if it is a failure because the layperson should not have to think about more than that. It is a failure I would say of John XXIII. It is a failure of the authority of the Church. A layperson is a layperson just as I am a layperson when I go to the doctor. I am not prepared to read all his things, all of his textbooks that he has in medical school and decide whether this is the right medicine for this or that. I just want something for my aches and pains. And it’s the same thing, you know. The priest is trying to tell them you have to read this or that. Here’s a tract for you to read. It’s beyond most of them. They don’t know, and they trust the priest. I don’t think it is a failure; I think it is just the nature of things. I wouldn’t ask the average layperson or, I should say, expect the average layperson to get beyond that. It’s a terrible consequence of the present age that the average layperson is required to become a theologian, a canonist.

S.H. And that’s in intellectual matters, You Excellency, but would you expect the average layman to go beyond Sunday Mass? Let’s say that they would go to the Forty Hours devotion or confession more frequently. Would there be a problem there?

Bp. S. I would split the generations in this too. I would say people born before Vatican II are much more likely to be “Latin-Massist” than those who were born after Vatican II. The people born after Vatican II have usually come to the Traditional Latin Mass because they see a difference in religion. The ones who are pre-Vatican II born are there because of the fact that they don’t like the Novus Ordo and that’s it. They like the Traditional Mass and they perceive what we’re doing as merely a right to perpetuate something they have a right to, and that’s as far as they go in the theological order. They don’t want to hear the rest, whereas the younger generations do. I’ll say that. As far as what we’re talking about here, regarding the SSPX, they have been filled with this theological schizophrenia for years that you can recognize this man as the Pope and at the same time have your Latin Mass, reject Vatican II or take Vatican II in your own way and that’s all okay. These are the principles that are lodged in their heads. As they’re sitting there, they have no principle by which to oppose the reconciliation with Modernism. At least, I think that if I came into one of our chapels and said “We’re going to hook up with Ratzinger, we’re going to interpret the Council of the light of tradition, and we’re going to give the Council some benign interpretation,” I think most of the people in our chapels would get up and walk out. I really do. They would stare at me in disbelief.

S.H. But I think that’s because it’s you, Your Excellency. Otherwise, if it were Father Jones in wherever, Florida…I think that might be something particular to you. They would definitely think you were under the wrath of ...that someone had threatened to take away the…

Bp. S. Or that I was provoking them or something like that. They would get up and walk out.

S.H. Okay, so that was point number three that you said there would be no exodus. Number two you said there would be a personal prelature. Do you believe that this would be long-lived, that they would wait for all the bishops to die off, that they’re going to allow the consecration of new bishops, that they’re going to use their bishops to consecrate these bishops? How do you see that playing out? Lets go a little further with this. Let’s say it is a personal prelature. What happens?

Bp. S. I think that Ratzinger will give them almost everything they want and let them be what they are. That’s what I think.

S.H. So consecrate more bishops?

Bp. S. I think he will let them because we’re talking about an eighty-two year old man here. I think he will.

S.H. But if they do they will go consecrate a bunch of thirty-five, thirty-seven year olds.

Bp. S. Well, they’ll need the apostolic mandate to consecrate.

S.H. They’ll get the personal prelature and say "We’ll just pick up ten right now."

Bp. S. Yes, I think Ratzinger is ready to give them almost everything in my opinion, but what will happen after Ratzinger is another thing. We already have seen even Ratzinger fool around with the 1962 Missal.

S.H. You’re talking about the Good Friday prayer.

Bp. S. Yes and the promise to put in or the suggestion to put in new prefaces and so forth.

S.H. But that’s acceptable given your idea of the principles of the Pope.

Bp. S. Yes. The pope obviously can do those things, but if you’re saying we want the 1962 missal—as a matter of fact, the 1962 missal is no longer permitted; it is the 2007 missal. That prayer has changed the missal. My point is that even Ratzinger does not see the 1962 missal as a sacrosanct, unchangeable thing. I think that once a few generations or number of years have passed of being in the Novus Ordo as a personal prelature you’re going to see some pressure from the Novus Ordo to do this or that like they imposed on the Fraternity of Saint Peter. I’m sure that for example like the Bishop in Brazil showing up…

S.H. Yeah, aren’t they going to the (Maundy Thursday) Chrism Mass?

Bp. S. I think so.

S.H. And just sit in the sanctuary?

Bp. S. I don’t know. I think that…

S.H. You think they’re going to do that?

Bp. S. There is a part of their brains, the left side of their brains, that would do that. There’s another part that won’t. Which side of the brain is going to be operative that day, I don’t know. For example, they don’t require Eastern Rite priests to attend the Chrism Mass.

S.H. Right, but they have their own bishop that they’re reporting to usually like the Ruthenian or Ukranian Rite in Pittsburgh or something like that. They’re not going to go to Pittsburgh to celebrate that.

Bp. S. I don’t think they will require that. I can see the Vatican backing off of that, but they’re going to require some sort of token, recognition of the Novus Ordo as a legitimate Rite. I think that the theology is there for it in the SSPX.

S.H. Well, if they start using the term Extraordinary Form then its presupposing an ordinary form which you don’t use.

Bp. S. Why even bother to knock on the Vatican’s door if you are not willing to regard the New Mass as legitimate? I think theologically they’re ready for the Extraordinary Form, and that they’ve had these discussions.

S.H. As far as predictions and timelines—I know it’s not always good to get into that sort of thing, but would you say its fair that it will happen in the next year?

Bp. S. Yes, I do, because I think Ratzinger has a ticking clock and they are fearful of the next false Pope. I don’t think the bishops will let that — an attempted reconciliation — happen again.

S.H. They’re trying to wrap this up as quickly as possible?

Bp. S. I think they’re going to see a humdinger for the next Vatican II pope.

S.H. Someone like this Martino guy where its more obvious when he’s trying to change, let’s say, the teaching on contraception and that kind of thing. All of those things which the conservatives have always said for years, like you know nothing essential has changed then one can say, “Well, he changed teaching on birth control, they’ve changed the teaching on abortion and gay rights.” I think that that will actually lessen the confusion. I think that that will drive more people into waking up when it’s like, “This guy says that abortion is okay and this guy says that gay marriage is okay.” The light will…

Bp. S. Yes. It’s a clear break. What helps our cause is a clear break. What doesn’t help our cause it the perception of continuity. But again, they’re unpredictable. There are two sides to them; they talk doubly, as I said. He (Bishop Fellay) was in Winona, I think less than a year ago he was saying it was all off because they wanted them to not criticize Vatican II.

S.H. Bad cop part. I think they’re in the good cop section.

Bp. S. They are committed to a return to the Novus Ordo. They do not have my position that the documents have to be burned. They have a position that leads them logically back into the Novus Ordo as a personal prelature. That’s what they want; it is merely a question of tailoring it, but that’s what they want.

S.H. Well that’s what the Archbishop wanted.

Bp. S. That’s what he always wanted.

S.H. To be the leaven in the loaves.

Bp. S. Our position is the one where the only dialogue we want with Ratzinger is when he’s leaving the Vatican.

S.H. Or when he’s converted.

Bp. S. Yes, a dialogue of conversion. I would like to go and meet with him, and, in the nicest way I possibly could, tell him that he is seriously in error. He’s a heretic and he needs to convert. But they are not prepared to say those things to him. The meetings are full of smiles and soap—mild soap—and kisses. It is not an atmosphere of serious discussion.

S.H. But truly, Your Excellency, it is that same sort of thing where you were talking about the perception of Catholics of the Pope as sort of semi-god, that the pope is that way sort of like, you know, you are paralyzed. You know there’s a scene in Frost/Nixon where there was this journalist who really hated Nixon and he’d written five books against him and said “If Nixon comes up I won’t shake his hand” and he comes up and goes “Hello, young man.” And he goes, “Hello, Mr. President” and shakes his hand, this guy who hated him. It’s sort of like “Oh, now I’m in the presence of the Pope so now I can’t say any of that other stuff.” They’re intimidated or they see his office and might think, “Well I can’t really tell him how wrong he is”. Whatever ideas they had before they walked in there…

Bp. S. I think it is the golden opportunity to open your mouth. You don’t have to be nasty or disrespectful to him in anyway. You could respect him just as a human being.

S.H. How would you address him if you were in that situation?

Bp. S. Father Ratzinger.

S.H. (Laughing) You know that would be highly problematic that here’s a man wearing the white cassock and guards around, you know, that you would practically want to speak to him about these sorts of things to start by addressing him as a priest. This would be…

Bp. S. Yes it would be very uncomfortable, very problematic but that is the time for discomfort and problems. He would understand the purpose of my being there rather quickly after the initial greeting…

S.H. After you were announced by the Chamberlain or something…

Bp. S. Yes I mean my purposes for being there…I would never get anywhere near him in any case. We have to get down to basic principles. Is Vatican II Catholicism or not? If it isn’t, these people either have to go or they have to be converted. If it is Catholicism than let’s embrace it; let’s shut down the seminary. Let’s go get the balloons. What is it? Catholic or Modernist? And the SSPX refuses to answer that question.

S.H. You said Father Ratzinger—going back to the point you disagree with Father Cekada on how we got to there being not a Pope, what about Episcopal Consecration and some of these other ideas? I mean there is no one to currently judge, this is a question of sacramental theology, there’s no competent authority to judge this question, therefore, Father Cekada’s article is just an opinion, much less one not written by someone who is, strictly speaking, a sacramental theologian. He’s someone who has studied this stuff and put some stuff together. No one’s judged this so Father Cekada really just has an opinion about this stuff, so how can you say with certainty that it’s Father Ratzinger? Someone might argue this.

Bp. S. It depends on how you define opinion. Opinion, in the strict sense, means adherence to something, some thesis, some idea, with the fear that the opposite may be true. If that’s what you mean by opinion, I deny that this is an opinion. If you mean by an opinion something based on a certain theological conclusion that has not been approved by the authority of the Catholic Church, then I would say, yes, this is an opinion, but I don’t like the word opinion. It’s a theological conclusion.

S.H. I’m thinking of terms, let’s say limbo as a theological opinion. I mean it’s never been…

Bp. S. It’s not a theological opinion.

S.H. Well, why not? I thought that it had not risen beyond that level, not to the idea of a magisterial teaching...

Bp. S. It’s at least a certain theological conclusion. There’s a big difference between a theological opinion and a theological conclusion. A theological conclusion is something which flows necessarily from principles of the Faith although it does not have the level of dogma and is not the object of supernatural faith. It is necessarily something that must be held because it flows from the Faith.

S.H. So limbo would fall under this notion…

Bp. S. (Emphatic) It’s a certain theological conclusion at the very least. It may well be universal ordinary magisterium, but at the very least it’s a certain theological conclusion.

S.H. So where would Father Cekada’s pieces about the new Rite of Episcopal Consecration fall? It is certainly not a certain theological conclusion, so you would classify it with limbo then? What’s a corollary?

Bp. S. I would correlate it to the conclusion that Anglican orders were invalid before Leo XIII propagated it as invalid. He propagated it because it was a certain theological...

S.H. Did he backdate it? He said it dated back to a certain Book of Common Prayer’s issuance, that then it was over.

Bp. S. In other words, the research had been done. The principles proceed from the Faith. The only thing that can be subject to question in the conclusion is the fact, but not the principle. The fact would be: does the form indicate the fullness of the priesthood? Does the essential form indicate the fullness of the priesthood? The requirement that it indicate it is from the Faith, so it remains a question of fact whether or not the form indicates it. And, to my mind, there is absolutely no doubt about it. I mean for me it is not a theological opinion; it is a conclusion. The same was true in Anglican orders. This is what was required. Did the Anglicans fulfill this requirement?

S.H. And what a beautiful encyclical (Apostolicae Curae) that was. The idea is here’s what it is, here’s all the research, and some Anglican priests figured that “Well, I cannot do this anymore. I’ve got to become Catholic because this is all a lie.” It was an exodus. This goes back to what you were saying earlier about this idea of Anathemas, that clarity is really the best way to deal with these. If nothing else time has shown us that the warm and fuzzy really hasn’t worked for the last forty years…

Your Excellency, you had made the point that there was recently a priest in the United States who had left his diocese and is actually going to be coming to seminary here and he’s going to be treated as a seminarian. Not just because you said so but because he doubts his own ordination. He’s certain of it. He’s certain that he’s not a priest. What happens to, and let’s just reference someone like myself, who comes over from the Novus Ordo? Should we make some sort of profession of faith if this is really a new religion, that we were part of the new religion all these years, that we thought we were Catholic and we didn’t know? Is it necessary for someone who comes over from the Novus Ordo to make some sort of profession of faith, recant any sort of error that he may or may not willingly have held?

Bp. S. He must do so at least informally. The priest must instruct the newcomer in the truths of the Faith and in positions that are necessary in order to oppose Modernism. He must accept these things at least informally. Yes, absolutely.

S.H. But you wouldn’t classify them in the same sort of ceremony as receiving a heretic in the confession in the church where you have to make this…

Bp. S. No precisely because of the thesis of Cassiciacum because there is no legal discontinuity between the Novus Ordo and the Pre-Vatican II Church. There is only a discontinuity of religion and of faith, so there is no burned legal bridge that they have to cross. That is all still intact. What is not intact is their faith or their profession and what they believe. That is not intact and must be corrected. Once that is corrected, they are full-fledged Catholics.

S.H. You said that because of the thesis but would somebody like Father Cekada agree with you regarding these things?

Bp. S. Well, I always say that everyone in the practical order adheres is to the material order of the thesis because if they didn’t you would have to say that that legal bridge has been burned by Vatican II and that they must make a public abjuration of error and have an excommunication lifted. There must a public ceremony of repudiation of the old false religion and acceptance of the Catholic Faith, in the way you would treat a Lutheran or an Anglican, which we do all the time. We just received a seminarian. He had to be received into the Church because he came as a Russian Orthodox. That’s an external ceremony, whereas for a Novus Ordo layperson coming we catechize them and explain to them what our position is and if they accept it informally, that is sufficient.

S.H. What about confirmation?

Bp. S. Confirmation we redo conditionally.

S.H. Just as a rule or do you ask them or interrogate them…

Bp. S. No, no. As a rule because of the problem of the bishops.

S.H. But you don’t have to be a bishop to confirm.

Bp. S. Yes, you do.

S.H. Okay, how did I hear this expressed, it’s a “bound power” of the priesthood.

Bp. S. There’s a dispute about that but it’s certain that Pius XII gave the indult to pastors, missionary pastors, to give Confirmation. This fact would argue that it is a bound power because obviously they need the power fundamentally.

S.H. You can’t get power…

Bp. S. Or the power of pastors to confirm dying babies. That was in general conceded. So, yes, they do have the fundamental power to do that.

S.H. But you’re saying apart from that…

Bp. S. There’s even dispute about that, whether the Church’s giving of that power is merely jurisdictional or if it is a…

S.H. You have to have a sacramental power to do something.

Bp. S. That is all disputed.

S.H. Wow, it is so late in the day, I would think, for something like that to have not been figured it out.

Bp. S. All of the nature of that stuff is disputed, how all that works.

S.H. But you conditionally confirm as a rule, not as a…Did your bishop use olive oil, did you check his Episcopal lineage…You don’t worry about all that.

Bp. S. Because it is conditional. On the outside chance it was originally valid. This takes away any disrespect of the sacrament because it’s conditional. For much and actually lesser reasons, the Catholic Church always conditionally baptizes all protestants coming into the Catholic Church in this country, even Anglicans who have a valid rite, even Lutherans who have a valid rite. The Church conditionally baptizes all of them as precaution because of the fact that you just don’t know what they’re doing.

S.H. And Lutherans don’t have to adhere to any sort of norms probably?

Bp. S. No Protestant has the sacramental theology of the Catholic Church, so rites and validity for them are merely ways of exciting faith. That’s becoming more and more true in the Novus Ordo. Ratzinger has changed the validity of the celebration, saying that the Holy Eucharist does not come from the words but from the…

S.H. Belief or something like that?

Bp. S. I have it in my letter—this may be something that Father Oswald, he is the one that reasonably…let me pull up his letter (looks through files on a computer). Ratzinger said…I have it here. Most of the stuff you’d know already; it’s just a rehash. Same old, same old. But he asked me to do his departure letter anonymously but he did put a cover letter over it and said “I am going to the seminary in Florida to become a Catholic priest.”

S.H. (Shocked) Wow!

Bp. S. The only response out of the diocese was to remove $1,800 from his account for his February pay. They had put it in, but then they took it out.

S.H. You could say that’s either a tepid or a strong response, but there it is.

Bp. S. One of the things he told us was the story of the Vicar in the diocese who had a meeting with his younger clergy and told them they have to get more annulments.

S.H. “Get” more annulments? These people aren’t Catholic. It’s plain as day. I don’t get how there is still confusion about this.

Bp. S. I know. It’s horrible.

S.H. I think it is a testament to the times in which we are in and the coherence of the sedevacantist position that a priest would leave the Novus Ordo and submit to seminary education again, considering his orders invalid…there’s a huge exclamation mark there.

Bp. S. (Smiling) It is you who say so.

S.H. Your Excellency, thank you, we will continue this tomorrow.

Bp. S. Thank you.

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. "B.S."?? Not "Bp S", as with your earlier interview of Bishop Dolan and Fr. Cekada?

  2. Dear Sir

    I think my first instinct, upon reading your comment on my blackberry as I sat in Charles de Gaulle, waiting for my flight, was to tap out a response that said something to the effect of:

    "Really?? After 30 pages of interview this is the relevant comment you have to offer? Why don't you find a tall building nearby and leap off it."

    Thankfully, our religion is one that teaches us to act against our immediate responses and instincts. So here is my reasoned response:

    "You will note that I have made the correction to Bp. S. in the current text. Since it had already been formatted in Blogger, I couldn't use the ctrl-r function and had to do it manually. It only took me 15 minutes. In exchange for my 15 minutes, I'd like you to say a decade of the Rosary for my conversion and for an increase in the virtue of patience with people.

    As a note, I have no idea what you are getting at by pointing out "B.S." as if I have to do all my interviews the same way – I have used "H.L." and "H.E." (His Lordship and His Excellency, respectively) also. Suffice to say, I didn't spend for a flight to Florida and back, 4 hours of interview, and 15 hours of transcription, to make a joke."

  3. Bernadette says:

    Dear Mr. Heiner,
    I thought the interview was very good and interesting. One thing that I would like to know however is this: what does Bishop Sanborn think is the reason for pope Benedict XVI making these 'hat tips' towards tradition? I guess I am asking if there is any ulterior motive or is the Holy Father doing this out of good will and doubts about his own position as it has been in the past. Thanks for all of your work and contributions, I appreciate it greatly. Though I know you are busy, I hope for a reply.

  4. Wow. I didn't realize I had hit a nerver. I thought my humor was obvious. I really don't care whether you're consistent with your initials or not. I do love Bishop Sanborn, though I believe (and hope) he's wrong about the papacy, and maybe I was a bit hasty in sensing some snideness toward him.

    I wasn't yet able to take the time to read this long interview when I posted that comment, hence the lack of anything more relevant from me. Now that I have read it, I will say this: The vast majority of the critiques by the sede-vacantists are right on target. But they need to show, if the role of the papacy is so important, how the Providence of God would allow for half a century of false popes, 5 in a row, who are accepted by 99.99% of the faithful. That has never happened before. Drolesky's argument that "God allowed 100% of the human race to be deceived in the Garden of Eden" doesn't quite do it.

    I very much appreciate the time you took to present this to us, and eagerly await the 2nd half. I will gladly pray 5, not 1 decade of the Rosary for you. And it ain't gonna be the Luminous Myseries.

  5. Mr. Heiner,

    As publisher of Bishop Williamson's collected letters and collaborator on his blog, your apparent embrace of sedvacantism (judging from your interview with Bishop Sandborn) is somewhat surprising. What does Bishop Williamson think of all of this?

  6. @ Prodinoscopus

    I don't know that this interview demonstrates that I have "embraced sedevacantism" at all.

    That being said, know that Bishop Williamson knows my mind quite completely on this issue, and many people know that I hold Archbishop Lefebvre's view on sedevacantism, which is that it's not an unCatholic position. The Archbishop ordained sedevacantist priests and had sedevacantist professors at Econe. He never said that sedevacantism was impossible, he just said it wasn't for him.

    Here's Bishop Williamson's quote from a 2006 interview I did with him:

    And what of the sedevacantist positions which those priests took?

    I am rather less anti-sedevacantist than a number of my colleagues. I don´t happen to believe sedevacantism is the biggest sin in the book. It has been demonized. At worst, sedevacantists are proud and sterile, but there are also some very honest and intelligent Catholics who simply cannot believe that recent Popes are true Vicars of Christ.

    So, to answer your question, I feel that my interviews help people realize that the Traditional movement is larger than just the SSPX.

  7. If no pope occupies the Chair of Peter, how can true bishops be appointed? Are not all bishops appointed under the auspices of the reigning pontiff and by his authority? How then can Bp. Sanborn be a Catholic bishop, since there is no pope under whose authority he might have been appointed?

  8. Mr. Hollingsworth:

    A Catholic bishop is ordinarily someone who receives designation from valid authority and receives valid orders.

    Bp. Sanborn is not a member of the Catholic hierarchy by designation or appointment, which puts him in the same category as Bishop Fellay and Bishop Williamson.

    But like both of those men, he is a Catholic and a bishop, so yes, he's a Catholic bishop.

    But score one for red herrings.

  9. Patricius says:

    Mr. Heiner,

    I always love your interviews. I really wish you would interview H.E. Bishop Clarence Kelly or Bishop Joseph Santay or Fr. Jenkins SSPV. Have you ever tried?
    Also, have you ever visited Delia, KA? Wouldn't that be an interesting interview?
    Thank you and God bless,

  10. Ignes ardens says:

    Excellent interview. I know this is a very late comment, but I'm happy to discover this website. Bishop Sanborn is a strong man of the faith and hopefully one day a video interview of him will be available.