October 6, 1992
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
A very interesting article appeared recently in a twice-monthly paper out of Italy called "Si si no no", in its August edition, Anno XVIII, #14, pp. 4-6. The article itself is a little technical, dealing with matters of Church law, but perhaps it can be explained in not too difficult terms.
The anonymous author, signing himself "Churchman" (all articles in S.S.N.N. are under pseudonyms), is defending Archbishop Lefebvre against the accusation of schism which was levelled at him when he consecrated four bishops on June 30,1988. "Churchman" admits that Pope John-Paul II was right in calling the consecrations "a schismatic act" if those consecrations be judged by the New Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 in the wake of Vatican II; but he demonstrates that that Council and that Code, in order to condemn the Archbishop, have to depart from Catholic Truth and Tradition, and so the Archbishop is innocent of any real accusation: he may be in schism with that Code and that Council, but only in a matter in which they are themselves in schism with Catholicism. As he always used to say, "They have only thrown me out of their Conciliar Church to which I never belonged!" Let us go into detail.
By consecrating bishops against the Pope's orders, the Archbishop committed an act of disobedience, which if it was justified by the crisis of the Church was not real (or formal) disobedience but only apparent (or material) disobedience. In any case Catholic doctrine is, in the words of the great Dominican theologian Cajetan, that "however obstinate disobedience may be, it does not become schism so long as it involves no revolt against the function of the Pope or the Church". Now the Archbishop made it abundantly clear at the time that he was in no way revolting against the Papacy or the Church, so John-Paul II in "Ecclesia Dei" needed to back up his condemnation of the Archbishop's act as being schismatic. This the Pope did by saying that the Archbishop was in fact rejecting the primacy of the Pope because "the consecration of a bishop is the sacramental perpetuation of the apostolic succession". Hence the Pope's condemnation rests upon an episcopal consecration done against his orders being not only an act of disobedience, but also necessarily a rejection of his primacy. Is it?
Here is where the new doctrine diverges from Tradition. We must first explain a classic Catholic distinction, between power of orders and power of jurisdiction. A bishop or priest may have both powers, but they are quite distinct nevertheless. His power of orders is the sacramental spiritual power he received at his own consecration or ordination to confect the sacraments, for instance to ordain priests or to hear confessions. His jurisdictional power is his quite different power or authority to say what goes, in a given diocese or parish to which he is appointed. This power he received not necessarily when he was consecrated or ordained, but when he was put in charge of that diocese or parish. That at any rate is the Traditional teaching.
Now the Pope's primacy is not a sacramental primacy, or primacy of orders, because as Bishop of Rome he is, purely as a bishop, no more or less a bishop than any other bishop. If then as Bishop of Rome he has primacy over all other bishops in the world, as he does, it is a primacy of jurisdiction, meaning the Pope has the authority to say what goes throughout the Universal Church.
Clearly then, according to Tradition, there is no clash between a "disobedient" consecration, which confers the sacramental orders but no jurisdiction, and the Pope's primacy which is one of jurisdiction. That is why Archbishop Lefebvre, following Tradition, emphasized that he was, in consecrating, conferring Orders but no ordinary jurisdiction. That is why the Society bishops go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of taking up any such jurisdiction. That is why Traditionalists cannot understand the Pope accusing Archbishop Lefebvre of schism. Disobedience, if you wish to call it that. Schism, never. But the Pope in “Ecclesia Dei” is proceeding from a brand new doctrine.
At Vatican II, in accordance with that Council's drive to democratize the Church, the document "Lumen Gentium" introduced the famous doctrine of "collegiality". It declared that "the order of bishops is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church" (#22), in other words the Pope shares with the "college" of bishops his supreme jurisdiction over the Church. Moreover their sharing in his jurisdiction is conferred on them by their mere consecration as bishops! Text of Lumen Gentium, #21: "Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying" (power of orders), "also confers the offices of teaching and of governing" (power of jurisdiction)!
This astonishing departure from Catholic Tradition (Our Lord never said "You (plural) are Peter", but "Thou (singular) art Peter", etc.) raised a storm of protest from the Traditionalists at the Council, and a corrective Note was affixed by Paul VI to "Lumen Gentium", but that did not prevent the democratic novelty from being carried over into the new Code of Canon Law: Canon 330: " ....The Roman Pontiff, successor of Peter, and the bishops, successors of the Apostles, are joined together." Canon 336: "The college of bishops, whose head is the Supreme Pontiff is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church." And for consecration conferring jurisdiction, Canon 375: "By the fact of their episcopal consecration bishops receive along with the function of sanctifying" (power of orders) "also the functions of teaching and of ruling..." (power of jurisdiction).
In fact the New Code of Canon Law goes further yet: Canon 331: "The bishop of the Church of Rome…. is" (notice, firstly) head of the college of bishops," (notice, secondly) "the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth;" (notice) "therefore, in virtue of his office he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church...", as though it is being head of the bishops' college which confers on him his power, as though not the Pope empowers the bishops, but the bishops empower the Pope!
On the basis of this new anti-Traditional doctrine, small wonder Pope John-Paul II condemned the Archbishop as schismatic! Firstly, by the mere fact of consecrating bishops the Archbishop was impinging on matters of jurisdiction, and he could not be, as he claimed in accordance with Tradition, merely conferring the fullness of Holy Orders. And secondly, by consecrating uncollegial and undemocratic bishops he was putting himself and them right outside the Spirit of Vatican Two and the spirit of the new Canon Law, proudly codified by John-Paul II in the wake of his beloved Vatican Two (see his preface to the New Code). At least nobody can ever accuse him of being unfaithful to Vatican Two!
But Paul VI with his Vatican Two and John-Paul II with his New Code can be accused of having, in that marvellous modern expression, moved the goal-posts. According to the old goal-posts, it is the Archbishop who scores, but according to the new goal-posts, it is the liberal Popes who score.
But cannot the Popes change the Church's goal-posts? Answer, not those that were put in place by Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Now it is Our Lord who instituted the Catholic Church not as a democracy but as a monarchy, in which the Pope governs the bishops: Mt. XVI, 16: "Thou art Peter..."; Lk. XXII, 32: "...and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren" (fellow-Apostles, fellow-bishops); Jn. XXI, 15-17: "Feed my lambs" (laity), "...feed my lambs" (priests) "...feed my sheep" (bishops). And nearly two thousand years of Church history faithfully continued Christ's monarchy down to Vatican Two, after which Archbishop Lefebvre was its outstanding defender. Therefore it is the Liberalism of these Popes which is in schism, and not the Archbishop.
Poor John-Paul II! When he finds somebody resisting his Church democracy, then he comes down on them like a Church monarch! A tyrannical imposition of democracy! But that is your liberal's deep-down contradiction: — "Freedom for everyone — except for the enemies of freedom"! We continue to pray regularly and sincerely for the Pope here at the Seminary.
He is in fact coming to the New World any day now to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the dawning of the Light of Christ in a whole hemisphere of our globe, an event which he genuinely appreciates. Let us hope his visit is not too disrupted by the revolutionaries spawned by his own liberal democratism.
We have re-printed the Columbus "Verbum". By all means order more copies if you wish. In it we should have acknowledged that the text owed much to the Big Rock Paper on Columbus written in the 1970's by Solange Hertz out of R. 2 Box 158, Leesburg, VA 22075. Many of the Big Rock papers present a fascinating Catholic perspective on modern history, not to be found elsewhere. Recommended, but prepare to be shocked, or delighted.
May Our Lord Jesus Christ reign over the nations, may he reign over the New World in particular. Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella, we thank you for 500 years of a continent's Faith. Pray for us!
Most sincerely yours in Christ the King,