John R.T. Lamont has a great article about the SSPX theological issues

Here’s an excerpt of Lamont’s article via Sandro Magister’s blog:


“On at least four points, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are obviously in logical contradiction to the pronouncements of the previous traditional Magisterium, so that it is impossible to interpret them in keeping with the other teachings already contained in the earlier documents of the Church’s Magisterium. Vatican II has thus broken the unity of the Magisterium, to the same extent to which it has broken the unity of its object.

“These four points are as follows.

“The doctrine on religious liberty, as it is expressed in no. 2 of the Declaration ‘Dignitatis humanae,’ contradicts the teachings of Gregory XVI in ‘Mirari vos’ and of Pius IX in ‘Quanta cura’ as well as those of Pope Leo XIII in ‘Immortale Dei’ and those of Pope Pius XI in ‘Quas primas.’

“The doctrine on the Church, as it is expressed in no. 8 of the Constitution ‘Lumen gentium,’ contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius XII in ‘Mystici corporis’ and ‘Humani generis.’

“The doctrine on ecumenism, as it is expressed in no. 8 of ‘Lumen gentium’ and no. 3 of the Decree ‘Unitatis redintegratio,’ contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius IX in propositions 16 and 17 of the ‘Syllabus,’ those of Leo XIII in ‘Satis cognitum,’ and those of Pope Pius XI in ‘Mortalium animos.’

“The doctrine on collegiality, as it is expressed in no. 22 of the Constitution ‘Lumen gentium,’ including no. 3 of the ‘Nota praevia’ [Explanatory Note], contradicts the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme power in the Church, in the Constitution ‘Pastor aeternus’.”

Fr. Gleize participated in the doctrinal discussions between the FSSPX and the Roman authorities, as did Bp. Ocáriz himself. We may reasonably take his statement as a description of the doctrinal points upon which the FSSPX will not compromise, and that are taken by the Holy See to inevitably give rise to a rift. 

Vatican II as the reason for the rift?

The first question that occurs to a theologian concerning the FSSPX position concerns the issue of the authority of the Second Vatican Council. The article by Bp. Ocáriz discussed by Fr. Gleize, which was published in the December 2nd 2011 issue of “L’Osservatore Romano,” seems to claim that a rejection of the authority of Vatican II is the basis for the rift referred to by the Holy See. But for anyone familiar with both the theological position of the FSSPX and the climate of theological opinion in the Catholic Church, this claim is hard to understand. The points mentioned by Fr. Gleize are only four of the voluminous teachings of Vatican II. The FSSPX does not reject Vatican II in its entirety: on the contrary, Bishop Fellay has stated that the society accepts 95% of its teachings. This means that the FSSPX is more loyal to the teachings of Vatican II than much of the clergy and hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Consider the following assertions of that council:

“Dei Verbum” 11:

“Holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them,  they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.”

“Dei Verbum” 19:

“The four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1).”

“Lumen gentium” 3:

“As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.”

“Lumen gentium” 8:

“But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.”

“Lumen gentium” 10:

“Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.”

“Lumen gentium” 14:

“Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.”

“Gaudium et spes” 48:

“By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.”

“Gaudium et spes” 51:

“Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” 

The vast majority of theologians in Catholic institutions in Europe, North America, and Australasia would reject most or all of these teachings. These theologians are followed by the majority of religious orders and a substantial part of the bishops in these areas. It would be difficult, for example, to find a Jesuit teaching theology in any Jesuit institution who would accept a single one of them. The texts above are only a selection from the teachings of Vatican II that are rejected by these groups; they could be extended to many times the number.

Such teachings however form part of the 95% of Vatican II that the FSSPX accepts. Unlike the 5% of that council rejected by the FSSPX, however, the teachings given above are central to Catholic faith and morals, and include some of the fundamental teachings of Christ himself.

The first question that the communiqué of the Holy See raises for a theologian is thus: why does the rejection by the FSSPX of a small part of the teachings of Vatican II give rise to a rift between that Society and the Holy See, while the rejection of more numerous and important teachings of Vatican II by other groups in the Church leave these groups in good standing and possessed of full canonical status? Rejection of the authority of Vatican II by the FSSPX cannot be the answer to this question; the FSSPX in fact shows more respect for the authority of Vatican II than most of the religious orders in the Church.

It is relevant that the texts of Vatican II that are rejected by the FSSPX are accepted by the groups within the Church that reject other teachings of that council. One might then suppose that it is these specific texts – on religious liberty, the Church, ecumenism, and collegiality – that are the problem. The rift between the Holy See and the FSSPX arises because the Society rejects these particular elements of Vatican II, not because of an intention on the part of the Holy See to defend Vatican II as a whole. The rift does not arise with the groups outside the Society that reject far more of Vatican II, because these groups accept these particular elements. But if this is the case, the first question simply reoccurs with greater force. 

Most interesting!    I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with all those other assertions of the Council.

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3 Responses to John R.T. Lamont has a great article about the SSPX theological issues

  1. Rev22:17 says:


    You wrote: I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with all those other assertions of the Council.

    So do I.

    But I’m not persuaded that the supposed dissent in Catholic schools of theology remains as pervasive as the author of your quotation suggests. Such dissent existed twenty-five years ago, but the Vatican has systematically weeded out most of the dissenters. The Catholic Church holds unity in doctrine to be essential, so it’s no surprise that the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law) explicitly provides for excommunication for those who persevere in heresy. The Catholic position that unity in doctrine is an essential element of the unity of the church is also manifest in the provision of Anglicanorum coetibus establishing the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the doctrinal standard for those coming into the ordinariates established thereby.

    That said, there is a significant difference between the situation of a professor in a seminary who dissents from a point of doctrine and that of members of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). The bishops of the SSPX incurred the automatic canonical penalty of excommunication by virtue of their illicit ordinations, thus falling into schism, and the rest of the members of the SSPX incurred the automatic canonical penalty of excommunication for adhering to schismatics, thus putting the whole of the SSPX into excommunication. The doctrinal errors attributed to the SSPX came from its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and permeated that organization well before his illicit ordination of the present bishops of the SSPX put the SSPX into schism on 30 June 1988, but there was no excommunication. The schism, however, changed the situation entirely, with resolution of the doctrinal errors of the SSPX becoming a necessary condition for its reconcillation.


  2. Norm, I would like to have some explanation of what the problems are that SSPX has with the religious freedom issue that fairly portrays their point of view and how we are properly to understand the continuity between the positions taken previously by the Church and those in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Can you add some enlightenment here?

  3. conchurl says:

    It’s just been confirmed by the SSPX that Bp Fellay has signed the Doctrinal Preamble presented by Rome.

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