And he’s not a sedevacantist because…?

I realize that my more well read, uh, readers may easily be able to guess the author, and perhaps even source, of the following passage, but I have erased the title in the hopes that you would read these words with an open mind.

If you are a “trad”, how closely does the following match your view of the Second Vatican Council? If you are more of the “neo-Catholic” or “conservative Catholic” bent, how does the following strike you?

^ p. xiii

The matter is quite simple.

If you regard the teachings and reforms of Vatican II as substantially in accord with prior Catholic teaching, then you have absolutely no grounds for resisting or even so much as chafing at them.

Conversely, if the divine gift of Faith within you summons a dissent against patent contradiction(s) with and “corrections of” Catholic tradition, then you have absolutely no basis for regarding the promulgators of such teachings/reforms as authentic shepherds sanctioned by Christ.


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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92 Responses to And he’s not a sedevacantist because…?

  1. Dear Elliot. According to this woman, the problem began much earlier and I think she is on to something monumental here – especially when it comes to Paul VI and why he was the chosen one and how he was educated etc.

    He was prepped for the Papacy and John 23rd was just a place holding pontiff until the time was ripe for revolution.

    Just trying to cheer you up and lighten your load 🙂

  2. Why, I was just watching some equally “encouraging” videos about the same last night. I’ll take a look!

  3. In today’s culture, everything about orthodox Christianity requires apologists, against both the left and the right. And really, Vatican II is no different than any other council in that regard. There have always been those who resisted.

  4. Branch says:

    I don’t understand you’re reasoning.

    The ultimatum you give is clear, and I think we know what “Trads” would conclude about the Council. And then if the contradictions and “corrections” must be rejected, so much the shepherds. But then this: “Just because embracing Vatican II may require a crucifixion of one’s intellect, does not mean it is not orthodox, through a glass darkly, as it were.”

    So, sedevacantism because of the Council is the only choice and yet crucify the intellect and pretend its orthodox? I don’t understand what you’re getting at.

  5. My point is that if the contradictions are unbearable for one, one must cut the Gordian knot. Short of that, one must absorb it all with unflinching faith.

    In a word, I’m trying to walk the tightrope.

    Not very helpful, perhaps, but there it is.

  6. Vatican II is no different than any other council in that regard. There have always been those who resisted.

    V2 was the rocket which exploded in the souls of every single flummoxed faithful and it is of no use to claim it was like every council that preceded it because there were no binding doctrines taught and codified in Canons and Decrees and about which one was excommunicated if they did not adhere to them.

    Hell, even the protocol Mons Lefevbre signed with the Vatican allowed he and his followers to dispute pacifically about the putative doctrines which were the fuel for the V2 rocket.

    Tell us which other council was treated in that fashion; that is, tell us which resister to any other ecumenical council was given leave to resist and even reject parts of a putatively binding council.

  7. 3. With regard to certain points taught by the Second Vatican Council or concerning later reforms of the liturgy and law, and which seem to us able to be reconciled with the Tradition only with difficulty, we commit ourselves to have a positive attitude of study and of communication with the Holy See, avoiding all polemics.

    Papal positivism is pernicious especially now that we are supposed to swallow all manner of novel doctrine and praxis; how can the magisterium said to be binding when it appears to be striving against all which came before its own existence; not to mention that the magisterium itself has publicly cast off previous magisterial authority as no longer binding.

    As to how that does not immediately call into question its own putative binding authority by doing that is beyond me; that is, they were sappers undermining their own authority but did not appear to understand that and such profound disorientation is supposed to reassure me?

  8. Branch says:

    But faith is not opposed to reason. I’m not advocating sedevacantism, but the way you’ve presented the points, walking the tightrope is a contradiction itself, isn’t it? And so to go back to last week’s discussion, absurd. Unreasonable, no? And so the “unflinching faith” means what, exactly? What is the substance of such “faith”? I can see, as a matter of prudence and provisional wisdom, the merit in the faith that is walking the tightrope, but that cannot possibly be the definitive conclusion.

  9. “I vow to… exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet (Islam) in the east.” – Pope Callixtus III

    “… there is hope that very many from the abominable sect of Mahomet will be converted to the Catholic Faith.” – Pope Eugene IV

    “Turn the anger of the Almighty against the godless Turks and Barbarians who despise Christ the Lord” – Pope Pius II

    “In the royal city of the east, they have slain the successor of Constantine and his people, desecrated the temples of the Lord, defiled the noble church of Justinian with their Mohometan abominations. Each success, will only be a stepping stone until he has mastered all the Western Monarchs, overthrow the Christian Faith, and imposed the law of his false prophet on the whole world” – Pope Pius II

    “They are to forbid expressly the public invocation of the sacrilegious name of Mohomet …” – Pope Clement V

    “… the Turks and other infidels … They treat the way of true light and salvation with complete contempt and totally unyielding blindess …” – Pope Leo X

    After V2 we have Popes saying this:

    “My visit to Turkey afforded me the opportunity to show also publicly my respect for the Islamic religion, a respect, moreover, which the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate) pointed out …” – Pope Benedict XVI

    “… Nostra Aetate, which as ushered in a new season of dialogue and spirtual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as esteem for the other great religious traditions. Islam occupies a special place among them.” – Pope Benedict XVI

    “… my personal view of the Qur’an, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion.” – Pope Benedixt XVI

    “May Saint John the Baptist protect Islam and all the people of Jordan …” – Pope John Paul II

    When we have an Ecumenical Council and V2 Popes completely contradicting 1962 consecutive years of Catholic Doctrine and Catholic Orthopraxis, do you really think it is wise to reject everything prior to V2 and call for obedience or do the modern Popes have an obligation to explain and defend their novelties and tell us how these novelties are not a rupture with Tradition ?

  10. Please remind me why Msgr. Gherardini’s carefully differentiated view of Vatican II’s binding force is to be rejected. (

  11. Who wrote that Msgr G’s thoughts about V2 ought be rejected?

    In the piece he was as wry and sly as Reverend Cekada advancing an argument but such an approach by a faithful Traditionalist (Msgr. G.) worthy of the name leaves the flummoxed faithful still dazed and confused because what is to be rejected as novel and what is to be accepted dutifully as extrinsically linked to Tradition is not always so easy to discern; nor ought that be the task of the layman.

    Thus, in his book on V2, the great Msgr. G. ends by asking the Holy See to stop declaiming a continuity with Tradition and to start demonstrating continuity with Tradition and we ALL are constrained to wait on the Lord for that response as He acts through the Pope; even to such an extent that as Vatican One taught infallibly, we receive the judgment of Christ when the Pope judges but we now have Popes who refuse to judge and so we are forever stuck on this malign merry-go-round with the only constant being the celerity of change in what we see and hear.

    Now, a Pope COULD clear-up the confusion but one has yet to do so since the besets council ever and so one asks:

    Cui bono?

    And I answer, the revolutionaries

  12. MJ, I believe RT’s question was rhetorical. He’s resisting (pun intended) the dilemma I’m forcing by adverting to Gherardini’s strategy for handling/defusing V2.

    As you know, I have every intention to discuss and defend Gherardini’s analysis, but for now the question remains blood simple:

    If one agrees with the anonymous indictment I cited in the OP, then did a true pope universally promulgate a council which espouses Modernism and Indifferentism?

    It doesn’t matter about the precise dogmatic nature of all the documents and alarming passages. What matters is that, even in her pastoral disciplines and ordinary magisterium, the Church as such cannot prescribe and teach anything contrary to the Divine Will, least of all at an ecumenical council.

  13. On page 52 of Fr Berry’s book, he avers:

    She cannot teach contradictory doctrines in different places or at different times; she cannot even teach a part of her doctrines in one place or in one age, and another part in another place or another age. She must teach all truths at all times and in all places

    In the text, the three “all”s in the last sentence are italicised.

    But, dear friend, me and thee can, with alacrity, point to examples of contrary reality that, putatively, can not exist given our Unity of Doctrine and, thus, we stand at the abyss.

    pax tecum

  14. What matters is that, even in her pastoral disciplines and ordinary magisterium, the Church as such cannot prescribe and teach anything contrary to the Divine Will, least of all at an ecumenical council.

    In lieu of anything truly constructive, I would like to suggest (and I think this was what Tony was getting at) that the key word there is “contrary”.

  15. Tony Jokin says:


    Until you have a reason to object against interpreting the infallibility of the Pope (and Church) in regards to legislating laws as merely being the impossibility of demanding immorality or sacrilege, I really do not see why you are continuing to say there is a dilemma.

    Your dilemma hinges on how you interpret the infallibility of the Church in regards to legislating discipline and laws. Someone who holds a different interpretation to yours, is not faced with the dilemma.

    If I may also point out, the particular interpretation one has of the crisis itself, also forces or relaxes the possible conclusions. For an example, the person who sees a deviance from doctrine in an infallible way, will be left with the conclusion that either the Catholic Church was a hoax or Sedevecantism. Another person who sees merely a deviance in overall tone and discipline will have much more leeway (depending on the interpretation of infallibility in regards to legislating laws, as discussed previously). So there may well exist more nuanced positions that a Catholic can hold that lead to a very different looking pool of conclusions.

    Therefore, it is not accurate for you to identify that all Catholics must choose from the two choices you have presented here. The matter is certainly not as “simple” as you put it.

    I would also suggest that if you feel that your current position most certainly leads to the dilemma you are facing, then the solution is that you change your position.

    Both conclusions of your dilemma, as Branch is pointing out, is equally absurd. One of your conclusions pretty much requires the adoption of modernism (only possible way to reconcile complete obedience to what is seen today), while the other requires the adoption of sedevecantism (which undermines the indefectible nature of the Papacy). All of this points to the fact that you have likely gotten it wrong in your interpretation of the situation, and the infallibility of the Pope (and Church) in regards to legislating laws. I think it is in regards to this error(s) that you should be writing more posts on rather than continuing to ponder on the dilemma.

    Only thing people can say in regards to your dilemma, at best, is that your conclusions do follow from your position. BUT, they will have to point out that your position is not the only one a Catholic can hold and thus there are many ways one is immune from the same dilemma you are facing.

  16. Tony:

    Brief question. Do you agree with the anonymous passage I cited?

  17. Tony Jokin says:


    I hold a position similar to it, and hence refuse to accept (though I do tolerate) the novel disciplines and practices that contradict the traditional practice. However, I would disagree (or rather question the precision) behind some of the statements in the position by the anonymous author.

    For an example, I wouldn’t know enough to say (and I doubt no one knows) that the spirit that dominated the council was not the Holy Spirit. Neither do I see a need to know which spirit dominated the council. From my perspective, all I care about is that the Council did not demand something directly evil to be performed by the faithful. To that extent, I rest happy knowing the Holy Spirit has kept the promise granted to the Church by Christ (in regards to infallibility of discipline and laws). In the same vein, neither can I accept the idea that the Church has promulgated new Dogmas that contradict the previous. I am not even sure the claim is historically correct considering no new Dogmas were promulgated since Vatican II. So I suspect the author was engaged in a bit of hyperbole rather than precision. Same must be said about things like a “new priesthood”, or “new worship”.

    On the other hand, I would not have much of a problem granting the idea that most of the disciplines and laws that stem from the council have a Liberal or Protestant tendency. This is because I do not consider the Church to be protected from promulgating laws that support such tendencies (as long as they do not directly demand an immorality). Neither would I have an issue in granting that many in the Church today in places of authority are exercising such a liberal tendency.

    But the point I am making here is that my position is just one of many possible positions regarding the crisis we see today. Same must be said about the one you have cited above from an anonymous author. Not all positions regarding the crisis are fated to the same two conclusions you have put forward in this article and the one before. Granted, each of these positions lead to different conclusions regarding the middle-ground as well. That is probably why you have the SSPX, but also the FSSP for an example.

  18. Well, it could be said that Infallible Doctrine promulgated by an Ecumenical Council is an actualising of God’s Perfect Will whereas a Pastoral Council promulgating novelties is an example of God’s Permissive will and, in that way, the bestest council ever could be said to not be entirely opposed to the Divine Will.

    OK, geniuses, you think you are the smartest and holiest men ever, go ahead; have at it. But know,this, the Holy Ghost never sleeps and He will defend the Faith and you will NOT be allowed to actually change Doctrine and destroy my Church for I will NOT allow that.

    I fail to see how Elliot has gotten this wrong.

    Now, it is being said that he is in error but in may simply be the classic problem of Elliot being the messenger

  19. Branch says:

    But Elliot’s argument (or dilemma) – I think – is that the Pastoral Council, because of the infallibility of discipline, has promulgated novelties against God’s will, which cannot be. Therefore, the wonder about sedevacantism which seems like the only ‘out’ at this point (to Elliot). Tony is saying that the dilemma is not the simple ultimatum of Modernism or Sedevacantism as proposed, both of which are “absurd” options (though is sedevacantism really absurd, Elliot wonders).

    Elliot is “wrong” in the mind of those who see at least a third option, but Elliot sees third option. Or, at least, the third option he presented at the outset seems (to me at least) to itself be another absurdity–a flat out contradiction in fact.

  20. Branch says:

    “but Elliot sees no third option.”

  21. Tony:

    I’m working on an extensive reply to the article by Fr. Scott that you endorsed, since I think you endorsed it as expressing your position, and may get a chance to address some of your other comments. For now, though, let me say that the reason I asked if you agree with the cited passage–which you don’t–is because, if you did agree with it, you could not possibly embrace the reforms as anything less than evil. The Church can no more promulgate a semi-Arian council than it can a semi-Modernist council, and Catholics can no more embrace semi-Arian laws any more than we can embrace semi-Modernist reforms.

    As it stands, in contrast to the cited passage, you simply don’t agree that there are ANY contradictions or deviations produced by Vatican II. As such, you maintain that ALL of its reforms are SUBSTANTIALLY good and COMPLETELY in accord with Catholic Tradition. Otherwise you would be claiming that the Church at Vatican II taught and imposed things which deviate from Catholic tradition, which would entail her defectibility. Hence, because you have a different view of Vatican II, you have a different response to it. What you fail to grasp is that your different response does not solve or escape the dilemma I’m presenting, precisely because you don’t recognize one of its horns at all. If you began in the same place as the anonymous author, you would have to make the same hard choice that I’m presenting. But what you’re doing is starting from a different place and mistakenly claiming that you’ve found a third option. If you’re fundamentally “okay with” Vatican II, then you do not face the actual traditionalist dilemma.

    Now, I am not addressing whether there are, as traditionalist critics claim, in fact such contradictions and deviations, but I am showing how, once you accept the idea that the council promulgated dangerous errors and disciplines, which must be “resisted to the face”, then you can only conclude that the authors of such perversions did not enjoy the authority of Christ. Insofar as you recognize the authority of those who have introduced the reforms, on what possible basis do you propose to reject (i.e. “refuse to accept”) those reforms? More to the point, why would you refuse to accept the practices if they were not spiritually, morally, or theologically defective? What inclines you to reject them? Mere distaste? If asked about the reforms, would you defend them as a Catholic? Why not?

    Being among the faithful requires not mere toleration of the Church’s doctrines and disciplines, but in fact a docile affirmation of them. Read something like Summo Iugiter Studio (1832) and notice how intricately connected obeying and defending the Church’s canons is with protecting one’s eternal salvation. By refusing to accept the Church’s reforms, you are implicitly scorning the authority which grounds those reforms. As I demonstrated at length in my “dark place” post, there is no basis for the traditionalist “dogma yes, disciplines no” dichotomy.

  22. Gary Wills: Mater, si. Magistra, no

  23. Bingo. I would give you a red clown nose as a reward, but it’s on loan in Rome.

    Did you see the points I made in my first long reply in the “dark place” thread about how hard trads are just the photo negative of liberals?

  24. Dear Branch. As usual, I am just thinking out loud and I may be wrong thinking that there has yet to be any promulgation of discipline that is evil (has there been?) but there most certainly has been a failure to apply discipline but the more likely fact is that this is way over my head.

  25. Tony Jokin says:


    You are still implicitly relying on a specific understanding of the infallibility of the Church in regards to discipline to force your dilemma. The fact here is that if one rejects your particular notion of infallibility in regards to Church discipline, then one escapes the dilemma. This must you must acknowledge. Whether there exists an alternate notion that is acceptable for a Catholic is an entire discussion you have not yet confronted.

    To that end, it must be stated that even if you can fully refute Fr. Scott’s position, it still does not follow that your dilemma is inevitable. Why? Because there may still exists infinitely many possible notions of infallibility in regards to Church discipline that justifies rejection of certain disciplines that may get promulgated by the Church.

    So, the issue I have with your post(s) is that it is forcing a dilemma upon traditionalists without demonstrating how all possible traditionalists positions reduce to the one you have highlighted. Now demonstrating that all possible traditionalist positions must reduce to the one you have highlighted is by no means a “simple” task and I am not even sure it is doable. Only way I can even see it happen is if the Church were to use her teaching office to declare as such.

    Now in reference to Summo Iugiter Studio, it does not say that one must merely obey the Pope if he were to choose to promote something that was always accepted in the Church as leading to a grave danger to the faith. The fact that the document (and pretty much every other Church document) assumes that the faithful should in general be obedient to the Holy See is not something I question. What I do point out, as do other trads, is that the faithful have a basis to oppose the Pope when he chooses to promote what would be a direct negation of a previously established discipline.

    In fact, notice how the Pope himself uses argumentation to demonstrate that the position/discipline he is advocating is something that has been more or less part of the Church as being important to safeguarding the faith. He even begins the address of the issue by stating his very concern is “guided by the example of Our predecessors”. So even the Popes seem to have seen the importance of highlighting that they are not contradicting something that has always been allowed or banned.

  26. By the way, all, lest we lose the forest for the trees:

    The substance of traditionalist opposition to the reforms that keep on reforming is that the pastoral and canonical changes (i.e. matters of discipline) are but symptoms of deeper doctrinal errors.

    All sides agree that the Church cannot impose evil laws (well, except for self-loathing liberal idiots), so the question remains what possible grounds there are for mounting opposition to the council. After all, if even trads deny that the Church has positively imposed sacrilege upon the faithful, and has not explicitly contradicted any dogmas, then what is there to oppose in Vatican II.

    This is why I find the sedevacantist position more internally consistent. Unlike trads, whose entire cause apparently boils down to an atavistic whine (“man, these changes are so stupid!”), sedevacantists do not argue from favor or disfavor but rather from truth or error. In their eyes, the pastoral reforms and disciplinary compromises–prescinding for the moment from their additional claim that such changes are defective and inconsistent with the Church’s holiness in their own right–are irksome and bewildering precisely because they flow from and vivify underlying DOCTRINAL errors woven into the council by the infiltrators.

    Communicatio in sacris, ecumenism, female altar servers, communion in hand, hordes of EMHC’s, relaxed standards for annulments and canonizations, a peculiar loophole for heretics to maintain their offices, troublingly revised sacraments, and on and on and on. All of these things appear as the rotten FRUIT of the Modernist seeds planted at V2. And it precisely because such things are WRONG, and not merely naive or annoying, the so called “dissent of faith” requires rejecting the fruit at its roots.

    That’s how the field looks to me, at least.

  27. Tony:

    This is the crux, though:

    What disciplines do you, as a trad, reject, and why do you reject them?

    Help me out. Be very concrete.

    What is WRONG in current canon law and liturgical rubrics?

    What is something that is allowed now which was always rejected “as leading to a grave danger to the faith”?

    What is at least one example legislated in the Church today which is “a direct negation of a previously established discipline”?

  28. Tony Jokin says:


    I would also like to point out that there are two different questions (a distinction that exists at least in my mind) here that seem to be getting entangled.

    One question deals with whether or not one is right in holding that the Church and the Pope have promulgated laws that promote liberalism/modernism etc. That is the question you seem to be tackling in this article.

    The other question is, given that one holds that the Church and the Pope to have promulgated such laws, what must one do about it. This is another complicated question and is what tends to delineate one trad group from another. Different groups seem to answer this question differently. Some may conclude that they will give their assent of the will. Others like me might decide that they will try to explain to the problems with these laws to others while for our part, refraining from being involved in a situation where one must deal with them or promote them (what I meant by toleration). This group may decide not to “oppose to the face” out of respect for the Papal office.

    Anyway, I wanted to make this distinction so that you understand exactly what I am objecting against and where I stand.

  29. Tony Jokin says:


    I posted the above comment before seeing your replies.

    So as an example of a “change” since Vatican II that I think should be opposed, take the example of Ecumenism.

    Ever since the Apostles, the advise has been for the faithful to avoid close association with those who hold to heresy (whether they be sincere about it or not). But the Popes since Vatican II have pushed the Church in direction of doing the very opposite of it through their encyclicals and other avenues.

    I would oppose the push in favor of it because

    1) There is a precedent in the Church through the centuries against it
    2) A person can see the natural and supernatural reasons behind the reasoning of past Popes in not allowing it

    So now if Popes were to suddenly say the opposite as they do and relaxing laws to allow it, I would see it as leading the faithful to dangerous territory, though not demanding something directly immoral. I would personally not obey the Pope in this case, and encourage others not to as well.

    I don’t see why doing so would be logically inconsistent.

  30. Tony:

    Your predilections to obey the pope or not aside, here again is the logical nub of the issue:

    1) The Church can NEVER legislate that which is contrary to the Divine Will. [AXIOM — This is granted by everyone in this thread, even by those who cite the Catholic Encyclopedia article and Fr. Scott’s article as disproofs of the claim that ecclesial discipline is ‘positively’ infallible.]

    2) The Church ALWAYS legislates in a way that is at least ‘minimally’ in accord with the Divine Will. [If the Church imposes it, we can trust it; follows from 1]

    3) The contradictory of something that accords with the Divine Will is a direct violation of the Divine Will. [If one were to reject or contradict that which is legislated by the Church, one would eo ipso be rejecting something that is in accord with the Divine Will; modus tollens from 2]

    4) The Church formerly legislated X. [PREMISE — historical datum]

    5) Necessarily, X was in accord with the Divine Will. [follows from 1 and 2]

    6) The Church now legislates the contradictory of X, -X. [PREMISE — historical datum]

    7) The Church now legislates that which is a violation of the Divine Will, namely, -X. [follows from 3, 5, 6]

    8) Therefore, the Church has defected by violating the Divine Will. [follows from 7]

    9) As a result, our initial axiom is false, and the Church is neither infallible in elucidating the Divine Will, nor indefectible in submitting to It. [follows from 1, 8]

  31. Tony Jokin says:


    When you say “Divine Will.”, it is not always true that God positively wills it, no? It may be God’s will in so far as he allows it.

    Or is there a reason you think we must hold that everything the Church legislates is positively willed by God?

  32. God leads the faithful by the Church. If the Church calls the faithful to X, as a matter of religious submission and right order, then it is indeed God calling the faithful to X.

    Even the less “prudent” changes in discipline over the centuries (whatever that slippery word is intended to convey) are willed by God as providential concessions which, nonetheless, do not contradict the principle (X) which they protect and promote.

    All we can know for certain is that, it cannot be God who once calls the Church to X and then calls her to the opposite of X. Yet that appears to be the situation in which find ourselves.

    As Mighty Joe Young put it, I’m just thinking out loud.

  33. Tony Jokin says:


    How do you know that God calls the faithful to X as a matter of religious submission and right order? What if one sees the entire thing as God merely permitting the faithful to be tested to see if they will take the easy way out or stick to what they know by reason, and also held by faith for centuries?

    Hasn’t the Church already taught that we are to avoid actions that may lead others to evil or confusion? If so, then the fact that a certain law or laxity of a law will lead the faithful to confusion can be seen by the individual. We can’t even say that the person is mistaken for the very Church has been saying the same thing for centuries.

    At that point, for a person to accept such a U-turn, they have to ask what has changed from then to now?. Has human nature changed? Has God changed? Has Christ come again? All of them seem to be impossible.

    Now someone might say that “society is what has changed”. But anyone with eyes to see can observe that society has changed to become the very thing the Church wanted to prevent it from becoming. It has adopted the very maxims the Church had warned against. So how is it then even correct to simply follow the maxims of the world and change the Church discipline?

  34. Tony Jokin says:


    So thinking about this a bit more, I want to point out the following.

    Your third premise (i.e. (3) The contradictory of something that accords with the Divine Will is a direct violation of the Divine Will….) in the context of the argument you laid out, does not necessarily follow.

    It depends on what Divine will you are speaking about. If we are talking about God’s will as it pertains to permitting something, then we are not bound to submit to this will in the way you put it. For an example, every push toward evil that happens in this world is permitted by God. But God does not expect us to submit or merely accept it. Sometimes, it would in fact be a sin to not do anything about the propagation of evil.

    What most traditionalists would agree with you is that God has permitted this debacle to take place. So in that sense, it is God willed. But there is no sin involved in resisting this form of the Divine will in a legitimate manner.

    But when we come to the discussion of the legitimate means available to resist, that is a different question, as I mentioned before.

  35. joe m says:

    Your post is convoluted to the point of absurdity. Just say what you want to say. Rome is heretical, or not heretical but absurdly compromised. Either way, the valiant defense of the papacy at this point is lunacy. Francis may be legitimate, but he is a legitimate scandal or joke. Hence all the holy outrage at Protestants is also comical. We are all dong the best we can. If ROME is clarity, for God’s sake, Heaven help us.

  36. [The following are words that were originally written at the end of the OP, but I have since excised them. I post them here simply for the sake of continuity, posterity, transparency, etc.]

    The issue remains:

    What kind of ecumenical council needs decades of apologists, both lay and ordained, to assure us that it is “best interpreted” as being in accord with theCatholic tradition?

    Either way, “Choose this day…”

    Just because embracing Vatican II may require a crucifixion of one’s intellect, does not mean it is not orthodox, through a glass darkly, as it were.

  37. st athanasius3 says:

    Tony Jokin,

    In your position, you don’t seem to be considering that we are talking about the Body of Christ being the legislative authority. You are going to be a bit hard pressed to convince me that God’s (Father) divine will would permit His Son’s Mystical Body to legislate or promulgate a discipline or Church law that allows evil and leads those whom He created for His own purpose away from Himself. In my opinion, this introduces a conflict within the very nature of the Blessed Trinity.

    If we were simply talking about a mere secular institution, then I would agree with you 100%.

    This leads me to think that holding the position above only gives credence to those who believe the Catholic Church is merely a secular institution and is not protected by God.

    As Catholics, if we can’t trust the Church, the Body of Christ, then can we truly echo what St. Peter proclaimed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”.


  38. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3,

    If your charge is that my position reduces the Church to the same level as a secular institution, that is somewhat mistaken. As I have pointed out, I accept the infallibility of the Church with respect to her laws, in so far as stating that the said laws can never exact a directly immoral act from the faithful. This is also the main reason why I consider the laws of the Church as being tolerable. That is not something the secular institutions can guarantee. More importantly, the Church also enjoys the infallibility in regards to her teaching which the secular institutions certainly do not enjoy as well.

    So one can hold my position or a similar one without reducing the Church to the same level as a secular institution.

    I am also not sure about the effectiveness of the argument on whether God would allow such a thing in his mystical body. I mean, history tells us that God allowed some real bad characters to occupy the seat of the Vicar of Christ. So while such things that we may prefer not to have happened, have happened. There is also nothing in the teachings of the Church that seem to indicate that such things cannot happen.

    On the matter of trust, I think the key point for us Catholics is that ordinarily, we always owe obedience and assent to the Church. But this assent was never meant in a blind (without reason) manner in regards to her laws. It was always understood that the faithful who submit to her laws will come to see the wisdom of her laws, though they may initially seem burdensome. Now the issue we face is that after understanding the importance of these “burdensome” laws of the Church, suddenly we are faced with a Church that gets rid of all of them and allows (and even encourages) the very things the laws prohibited. At the point, one is left with grave enough reasons (ironically, given by the Church herself) to resist supporting the novel agenda.

  39. Did you see the points I made in my first long reply in the “dark place” thread about how hard trads are just the photo negative of liberals?

    Yes, and I was gonna throw-in that I really used to anger the schismatics at Free Republic because I routinely referred to the SSPX as Protestants in Fiddlebacks.

    You know, it seems the last two score years for me have been accompanied by the Grateful Dead singing “Trucking” lightly as background music.

    What a long strange trip….

  40. st athanasius3 says:


    I just don’t believe (or maybe understand) that God would allow a supernatural part of Him to be a source of confusion or agent of sin via permissiveness and tolerance. God is simple and His laws are simple. It is fine for there to be tolerance towards things that are not intrinsically evil and patience with those struggling but the laws should never be bent towards the allowance of the sin or done away with completely. The main problem with our day and age is permissiveness. It used to be totalitarianism in the secular world but now it is permissiveness. If the very Church God gave has put on this coat of many colors and took up the banner of permissiveness, then how could anyone see the Church as anything but a secular institution? Isn’t this the goal of the enemies of Christ? This goal is only achieved through infiltration; through treason. Someone left the gate open and did not keep watch, and it was not the Holy Spirit.

    Since there can’t be a contradiction between God’s positive and passive will, I can’t see why we can think there can be one in His Church.

    We are not talking about bad popes or men who do evil as members of the Body.

    We are talking about the laws and ordinances put forth by Christ Himself, via his Mystical Body.

    If one day some act is evil, then it is always evil when the circumstances are the same. This means, to me, that the Church can never demand, allow or tolerate, via its laws, this evil act. The Church can tolerate the person, but never the sin or that which is evil.

  41. Exactly which laws and ordinances are we talking about here? If there is a list somewhere, preferably with citations, of all such laws and ordinances, I’d love to have a copy so as to confirm that the Church is, in fact, positively commanding us to either deny defined dogma or do what is evil.

  42. st athanasius3 says:

    Radical Catholic,

    It only take one. The Church has declared female altar servers as an evil practice, in both words and discipline. Now the Church encourages female altar servers in practice and in words. Canon law allows for such practice.

    By the way, I follow your blog and love the reflections and meditations you post.

  43. Fr Harrison develops the background to this subversion of Tradition

  44. If female altar servers are taken as the issue, as being an evil practice, then it might be worth pointing out (given that association with Vatican II always complicates these discussions) that this is not a post-VII issue at all; the 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly allows women to serve at the altar. It restricts this to cases where there is a reasonable need and no suitable man available, but it raises exactly the same problem if one takes the practice to be intrinsically bad or evil, rather than just bad or evil given certain circumstances which may or may not obtain. (If one does take it only to be circumstantially bad, then one would have to show that the relevant circumstances have not changed.)

  45. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3, Brandon Watson

    I would like to suggest that there is another category between “changes depending on circumstance” and “intrinsically evil”.

    I think there are truths in regards to human nature and behavior that have been known to all societies which are not necessarily religious truths. For an example

    1) A person associating closely with someone who holds a contrary view will be influenced over time by the ideas in the contrary view.
    2) Praising a negative view or a person that holds a negative view can lead others to adopt it and view it as positive.
    3) Changing or suggesting that things persons held for centuries as unchangeable and respected as inadequate, can lead to instability.

    There are many more like this. But the point I want to make is that they are not purely based on some historical circumstance. They are principles that hold true for humanity in general. This is why cultures and laws in older societies usually reflected these principles as well. Of course, they do not hold for every individual case! But laws or norms are never based on applicability for every individual. They are based on principles that hold in general.

    So what has happened today in the Church is that laws have been legislated, or existing laws have been relaxed, in such a way that these principles have been violated.

    Now lets take the altar server case for an example. The changes that were made have only facilitated a tone within the Church that women must continue to strive for complete equality with men. Of course, the Church today has never taught such a thing (at least infallibly), and she has only made some concessions. But the impact is clear! The perception and tone within and outside the Church is one where the Church is said to be “coming to terms with accepting feminism”. The results of this are faithful Catholics who keep pushing the feminist agenda. More can certainly be said about this issue, the impact of the laws, and the timeless principles like the one I have cited above that it has violated, but I think I have said enough to highlight the problem.

  46. st athanasius3 says:
  47. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3

    I apologize for not getting a chance to address the specific issues you raised in reply to me.

    You said: “Since there can’t be a contradiction between God’s positive and passive will, I can’t see why we can think there can be one in His Church.”

    Why do you think there cannot be a contradiction? Isn’t it the Catholic position that God does not positively will the evils that take place in this world, but he does permit them? If it is possible for God to act this way, why would it be impossible for his Church to theoretically act in the same way?

  48. st athanasius3 says:


    No reason for an apology and I appreciate your comments.

    The Church can never permit, via its laws, evil. It can deal with them due to the lack of earthly authority, but she can’t codify evil. If the Church still said today that female altar servers were evil, but had to tolerate them due to the state imposing them on the Church, then that is one thing, but that is not what we have. And I am not sure that would even be good enough reason. We have the Church making the change on its own. There is no reason to tolerate, accept, or encourage female altar servers. In fact, the reason for forbidding them in the past has become even more clear, yet nothing is done about it. Why?

  49. javaqueen6 says:


    Interesting and insightful posts and commentary (my family and I are blessed to be able to assist at a relatively-nearby TLM via a “personal parish” staffed with three holy FSSP Priests, so these heart-wrenching discussions are near and dear to me).

    However, as I agree with many of my traditional Catholic friends, Sedevacantism is nothing but a dead end path. As we see it, it begs at least two questions:

    Q1) Short of direct Divine intervention, how does the Church get Herself out of such a precarious “empty seat” predicament? and

    Q2) If direct Divine intervention is required for rectifying the “empty seat of Peter” problem, then why didn’t direct Divine intervention prevent the “empty seat” from happening in the first place?

    What is our anti-sede and anti-Modernist solution? 1) The pursuit of personal holiness (one of the supposed “mantras” of Vatican II), which I DO believe was under-emphasized prior to the Council (as Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand so strongly asserted). 2) Raise holy and well-catechized families, and encourage our children to seriously consider the possibility of a calling to the Priesthood or the religious life. And 3) “take the best” that the Church has had to offer from BOTH before and after the Council – akin to what Our Lord Himself said in Matt. 13:47-48 – in other words, some very-limited amount of “novelty” can (when it BUILDS upon tradition) be of use to the Church and Her truly faithful members.

    Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum,

    Steve B
    Quovadis7 (using my wife’s WordPress account)

  50. Brandon and others:

    Here are couple things I found about the pre-V2 legislation about female altar servers.

    Fr. McNamara wrote the following about Summorum Pontificum:

    “[T]he Holy Father’s motu proprio granting permission for the celebrations of the extraordinary form was for the Roman Missal according to the edition issued under Pope John XXIII. Since the rubrics of this missal in no way contemplate the possibility of female servers, then it must be surmised that only altar boys or adult men are allowed as servers in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite [i.e. that which was the Latin rite’s perennial liturgical tradition]. …

    “It appears [however] there was at least one case in which women were allowed some functions habitually carried out by the servers. In the preface to the 1936 first edition of H.E. Calnan’s guide for altar servers, he mentions the following circumstance: ‘In most parishes, a dozen influences combine to restrict the supply of efficient Mass servers. Layfolk must be asked to serve at short notice, or without warning. A woman with knowledge of Latin may venture, because she has only to answer and not to move about.’ … A woman could carry out this role because it was properly speaking a role of the assembly. …

    “Father Calnan’s mention that the woman ‘has only to answer and not move about’ makes it clear that she did not carry out any of the other functions of the altar boy in serving the Mass. Since in these roles the altar servers substituted some of the functions of those who had received minor orders (and who were thus canonically numbered among the clergy), only males could carry out these functions.”

    As for the 1917 CIC, the only canon I know of that addresses the issue is canon 813, which reads:

    “A priest should not celebrate Mass without a minister who assists him and responds. The minister serving at Mass should not be a woman unless, in the absence of a man, for a just cause, it is so arranged that the woman respond from afar and by no means approach the altar.”

    Meanwhile, back in Reformistan…

    And for all the pins:

  51. Also of interest (pub. 10/5/2011):

    “John Paul II was the first Pope to lend his support to altar girls in 1995 (one year after the issuance of the Vatican Communication on Female Altar Servers), as did Benedict XVI. Indeed, on 5 November 1995 a small historical-liturgical revolution took place around the Pope. For the first time in a Roman parish, 4 girls served the Mass celebrated by Karol Wojtyla. Never before had the Pope – in an Italian church, much less in Rome – been accompanied by girls during the Eucharist, despite the fact that the Vatican had approved altar girls in March 1994. Before ’94, the presence of girls at the altar was individually decided by parish priests, with the tacit approval of some of the more courageous bishops. During his trips abroad, the Polish Pope was sometimes ‘assisted’ at the altar by groups of girls.”


  52. Again, canon 813 explicitly permits women assisting at altar under certain conditions; it therefore is sufficient in and of itself to generate the problem above, on the assumption that women assisting at altar is an intrinsically bad practice. There is, logically speaking, no getting around this, except by rejecting the assumption, which ex hypothesi cannot be rejected.

    Thus the problem is not a post-Vatican-II problem; it is logically created by legislative conditions existing prior to Vatican II. To be sure, one may be faced with many more actual practical examples post-VII, since prior to that it was clearly seen as a rare emergency case to be done only with great care, and posterior to that it is not; but the problem is explicitly about legislation, not how often one meets it in real life, and is equivalent on both sides of the divide. Likewise Father McNamara’s opinion nor the rubrics are at issue; the question at hand is what the Church can and cannot legislate about the matter on the assumption that women assisting at altar is an intrinsically bad practice.

  53. Brandon:

    “canon 813 explicitly permits women assisting at altar”

    Canon 813:

    “it is [to be] so arranged that the woman … by no means approach the altar.”

    What am I missing?

  54. And in case you’re still wondering, the author cited in the OP is Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, from his 1982 book, I Accuse the Council!

  55. There’s no secret about that; it’s manifestly obvious that women are allowed to assist in the entire portion you arbitrarily cut out. Or are you just emphasizing ‘the altar’? Would you accept a situation in which a priest, with no one else suitable to assist, simply set up the woman in the front row and went back and forth from the altar himself at the relevant points? Is that actually where the entire problem arises; female altar servers are entirely OK except they can’t bring the priest the water, wine, and towel?

  56. Brandon:

    “manifestly obvious”?

    Again from Canon 813:

    “The minister serving at Mass should not be a woman unless, in the absence of a man, for a just cause, it is so arranged that the woman respond from afar and by no means approach the altar.”

    Liturgics is not my forte, so I’m simply asking how a woman’s full participation serving at altar prior to Vatican II is “manifestly obvious”. As Fr. McNamara noted, Fr. Calnan’s guide for servers from 1936 indicated that the woman server “has only to answer [from her seat] and not move about.”

    Further, as Fr. Harrison explains:

    “…it appears that the 1994 Vatican permission for altar girls was the most radical single liturgical change ever officially permitted by the Church’s supreme authority. As is well known, Communion in the Hand was for a time permitted in some areas during antiquity, and even having women functioning as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist was not at all unprecedented. In an excellent study on the question of female altar service which was published in France only weeks before the Vatican’s fateful announcement in April 1994, Abbé Michel Sinoir, a priest of the Archdiocese of Paris, records evidence that right from ancient times, in convents of cloistered nuns situated far off in the desert where priests and deacons seldom visited, the Church allowed the Mother Superior to take the Eucharistic Body of Christ from the tabernacle in order to give Holy Communion to the other sisters; however she was not allowed to make use of the altar in doing so.

    “This condition is very significant, and was also reflected in the wording of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 813, §2… [etc.] … Such legislation, I believe, gives us the key to understanding more deeply the heart of the Church’s tradition on this point. And as Abbé Sinoir points out, this prohibition of the presence of women in the sanctuary, even as lectors, remained an official norm of the Church’s liturgical law right up until 1994. The 1975 edition of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal says in §70:

    “Those ministries which are performed outside the sanctuary may be entrusted to women if this be judged prudent by the priest in charge of the church. The provisions of n. 66 about the place whence the scriptures are to be read should be taken into account.

    “And what exactly does §66 of the Instruction say?

    “The Bishops’ Conference may permit a woman to read those scripture passages which precede the Gospel, and to give out the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful. It is for them also to specify the place whence she may most suitably announce God’s word to the people.

    “If we take §§66 and 70 together, the Instruction’s meaning is perfectly clear: if there are to be women readers, the Bishops are to decide which of various possible places outside the sanctuary is most appropriate for them to read from.”

    So again, I humbly ask: What am I missing that is otherwise so “manifestly obvious”?

  57. Yes, manifestly obvious:

    should not be a woman unless, in the absence of a man, for a just cause, it is so arranged that the woman respond from afar and by no means approach the altar.

    I’m simply asking how a woman’s full participation serving at altar prior to Vatican II is “manifestly obvious”.

    As I noted above, this is not logically relevant to the problem at hand, and thus is not even at issue here.

  58. So, to attempt to clarify myself, since you have as usual ignored my clarificatory question. The problem at hand is the inconsistent triad concerning legislation governing discipline:

    (1) The Church cannot legislate explicitly to allow intrinsically bad practice under any conditions. (From infallibility)
    (2) Women serving the priest is intrinsically bad practice. (From comments by Benedict XIV and other popes — Benedict XIV and Gelasius both explicitly say the problem is with women serving the priest at Mass.)
    (3) The Church prior to Vatican II legislated explicitly to allow women serving the priest as long as certain restrictive conditions were met (just cause, no suitable man, outside of sanctuary proper). (From 1917 Code of Canon Law)

    A few comments:
    (a) This is undeniably inconsistent as it stands.
    (b) Actual practice is in no way relevant to this. First, because, regard it as ever so great an abuse as one wishes, in actual practice it has happened often enough that popes have had to comment on it multiple times in letters addressed to entire regions. But most importantly, what is at issue here is not what is happening at the local parish, but what the Church can legislate.
    (c) If one assumes that Benedict XIV et al. meant (as this problem requires that they meant) that the practice was intrinsically bad, there are only two ways in which the inconsistent triad can be broken: one can argue that (1) is problematic as it stands, as Tony, for instance, is doing, or one can argue that the sense of ‘women serving the priest’ that makes (2) true is not what is in view in (3); since the only restriction (3) places on the actual service is that the woman not approach the altar, i.e., stay outside the sanctuary proper, then the only thing left that could actually be intrinsically bad practice is women actually entering the sanctuary during the Mass when they serve the priest at Mass, despite the fact that both Gelasius and Benedict XIV explicitly put it in terms of women serving the priest at Mass.

  59. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3

    When you say evil, you don’t seem to make a distinction between “what leads to evil” and “what is intrinsically evil”. So are female alter servers a bad thing because they lead to acceptance of grave errors and occurrence of intrinsically evil things? If so, then allowing female alter servers is not really an allowance of evil but an allowance of that which leads to evils, no?

  60. Tony Jokin says:


    Though I am ambiguous in regards to the option (3), the following is something that should be considered.

    It is possible that Benedict XIV and Gelasius understood serving at mass in the sense of women entering the sanctuary. Perhaps the idea of serving without entering the sanctuary was entertained later on, thus the allowance made in 1917.

    If understood in that manner, the (3) option you present does seem to be fine without any inconsistencies.

    But as I said before, I do not defend the judgements made by Benedict XIV and Gelasius on the basis that they are infallible. Rather, I defend them and think they should be obeyed because they are based on principles that are more or less unchanging in regards to human behavior.

  61. Yes, it would break the inconsistency; I made that point explicitly. It would not be sustainable merely by appealing to what the popes said (as neither would the post-Vatican-II counterpart), since it requires specifying what they meant beyond what they actually said, but it would eliminate the logical inconsistency.

  62. Brandon:

    I’m not sure precisely what your (singular) “clarificatory question” is, so pardon me for not addressing it.

    In any case, here is what I see as the abiding problem:

    Prior to 1994, the Church ALWAYS AND EXPLICITLY rejected women serving AT THE ALTAR. You fatally err, or at least spectacularly muddy the waters, by speaking of “women serving the priest,” simpliciter, since the issue is precisely whether women may “serve the priest” AT THE ALTAR. Popes Gelasius, Innocent IV, Gregory XIV, and John Paul II, along with 1917 CIC c. 813, all use precise terminology (i.e., not the mere idea of women “serving the priest”) to reject that practice.

    To wit:

    Pope Gelasius, ninth letter (AD 494):

    “With impatience we have heard that divine things have undergone such contempt that women are encouraged [and, by logical extension, permitted] to serve at the sacred altars [ut feminae sacris altaribus ministrare firmentur], and that all tasks entrusted to the service of men are performed by a sex for which these [tasks] are not appropriate! …

    “And when it is written that ‘Whoever scorns small things will gradually come to a fall’ (Ecclesiasticus 19,1), what should we think about those people who, borne down by the immense and multiplicitous burden of their depravities, have caused an enormous downfall by their various impulsive actions which can be seen not only to lead themselves to perdition, but inflict a mortal plague on all churches if they are not healed?

    “And let those people have no doubt, not only whoever has dared to do these things but also those who, in spite of knowing about it, kept silence, that they lie under the loss of their own honour if they do not hasten, as fast as they can, to heal the lethal wounds with adequate medication.”

    Pope Gregory XIV, Allatae Sunt (1755):

    “Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women [“]serving the priest[“] at the celebration of Mass. Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: ‘Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.’ We too have forbidden this practice in the same words in Our oft-repeated constitution Etsi Pastoralis, sect. 6, no. 21.”

    [Nota bene: Where you would find hermeneutical obscurity in what Gregory XIV might have possibly really truly meant, he goes on to clarify, in explicit terms, that “the evil practice” which he, along with popes Gelasius and Innocent IV [r. 1243-1254], condemns, consists in women serving “at the altar”.]

    1917 Pio-Benedictine CIC, c. 813:

    “A priest should not celebrate Mass without a minister who assists him and responds. The minister serving at Mass should not be a woman unless, in the absence of a man, for a just cause, it is so arranged that the woman respond from afar and by no means approach the altar.”

    Pope John Paul II, Inaestimabile Donum (1980):

    “There are, of course, various roles that women can perform in the liturgical assembly: these include reading the Word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful. Women are not, however, permitted to act as altar servers.”

    Now, with the above evidence clearly in mind, let us examine “the inconsistent triad concerning legislation governing discipline” which you propose.

    As a first premise you write: “(1) The Church cannot legislate explicitly to allow intrinsically bad practice under any conditions. (From infallibility)”

    I’m curious if you accept this premise, or if it’s merely a logical prop you’re using arguendo. <– Clarificatory Question

    Next, you wrote: “(2) Women serving the priest is intrinsically bad practice. (From comments by Benedict XIV and other popes — Benedict XIV and Gelasius both explicitly say the problem is with women serving the priest at Mass.)”

    Alas, no, for, as I just demonstrated, the truth is, rather, that the Church has “explicitly” rejected “women serving the priest” AT THE ALTAR. Therefore, your second premise in the triad–and, by my lights, your entire flurry of objections–rests on a manifestly obvious red herring.

    Finally, you try to smuggle in the same confusion when you write: “(3) The Church prior to Vatican II legislated explicitly to allow women serving the priest as long as certain restrictive conditions were met (just cause, no suitable man, outside of sanctuary proper [sic]). (From 1917 Code of Canon Law)”

    I grant this, but also add what you elide, namely, that even in granting such “restrictive conditions” upon women “serving the priest at Mass,” the Church explicitly forbade women serving with the priest AT THE ALTAR. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) I’m also curious what the prevailing “just cause” is in our day which has transmogrified the evil of female altar servers into an either uncontested good or an acceptable compromise. Let me guess: it happened “before Vatican II.”

    In any event, you then go on to make this curious point:

    “[R]egard it [in conformity with popes Gelasius, Innocent IV, Benedict XIV, John Paul II, and 1917 CIC canon 813] as ever so great an abuse as one wishes [?], in actual practice it has happened often enough that popes have had to comment on it multiple times in letters addressed to entire regions. But most importantly, what is at issue here is not what is happening at the local parish, but what the Church can legislate.”

    “In actual practice it has happened often enough that popes have had to comment on it multiple times….”

    I grant this, only I then go on to remind the humble reader that, in commenting upon the matter, the popes have, on multiple occasions, over entire regions, CONDEMNED the practice. Presumably, by your (“pastoral”?) logic, if enough parishes and regions started promoting Arian creeds at Mass, that would indicate that the Church could somehow legislate in favor of such a reversal. No, no… I know that’s not what you mean. It’s only a tragic consequence of what your words convey. Sort of like how the words of popes Gelasius, Innocent IV, Benedict XIV, and John Paul II were taken, until 1994, as undeniable proof that the Church CANNOT legislate the evil of promoting female ALTAR servers.

    [Lest it be lost in the shuffle, let the reader take note that the most complete edition of Pope Gelasius’s 494 ninth letter that I could find, a document which, as we’ve seen, includes an explicit condemnation of women serving AT THE ALTAR, is hosted by a website that campaigns for the priestly ordination of women. But why would such a site host a letter which explicitly condemns the rudiments of their pet practice? Well, here’s why:

    [“Gelasius does not talk of women having been ordained as presbyters. He could just refer to instances where priests had only delegated some liturgical functions to women – like serving at the altar, distributing communion, etc. This would explain why he says that small deviations could lead to major upheavals.”

    [In other words, proponents of female ordination regard the fact of female altar servers–since, in actual practice it has happened often enough that popes have had to comment on it multiple times in letters addressed to entire regions–as proof of the legitimacy of extending all the other rights of the altar to women.

    [But that’s none of my business.]

    Finally, in an attempt to scratch your clarificatory itch, I’ll respond, clarificatorily, to what I think you meant was your multiple “clarificatory question”:

    “[A]re you just emphasizing ‘the altar’?”

    Yes, as the Church has always done so.

    “Would you accept a situation in which a priest, with no one else suitable to assist, simply set up the woman in the front row and went back and forth from the altar himself at the relevant points?”

    What I would ‘accept’ is irrelevant; what the Church has always taught is important. Indeed, the entire point is that, lacking a just cause, part 2 of canon 813 may trump part 1 thereof.

    “Is that actually where the entire problem arises; female altar servers are entirely OK–”

    No. Something that is ‘entirely OK’ would not need special conditions and a just cause to occur. And even then the Church (prior to 1994, at least) explicitly restricted the activity of females to service lying outside the altar.

    “–except they can’t bring the priest the water, wine, and towel?”


  63. This discussion is fascinating. Simply for the sake of the record – I realize that it is of little consequence for anyone who considers disciplinary infallibility absolute – I would like to mention the 1994 CDW letter on this matter, which found it necessary to state that Canon 230 is permissive and not prescriptive in character. Commenting on this authentic interpretation (as per Canon 16), Msgr. John F. McCarthy writes (Living Tradition N° 56):

    “The implication is that the general liturgical norm prohibiting female altar servers remains in existence, so that in general women may not serve at the altar unless a local ordinary intervenes by a positive act and grants permission for his territorial jurisdiction. Thus, the Congregation has clarified the authentic interpretation to mean that an indult is given to diocesan bishops to permit the use of female altar servers.”

    He continues:

    “As such, it could be compared to the law prohibiting the eating of meat on Fridays (Canon 1251), which remains in general effect but can be modified by local episcopal conferences for their own territories. The present indult, however, from its wording, is intended to be used by individual bishops, not by episcopal conferences.”

    As I said, this leaves untouched the question as to whether the Church can justifiably permit something which is – extrinsically or intrinsically? – evil without violating her disciplinary infallibility. But, seeing as the CDW deemed the distinction between permission and prescription important enough to merit explicit mention, it seems that the distinction itself is playing a not entirely insignificant role in the thought process here.

  64. I’m curious if you accept this premise, or if it’s merely a logical prop you’re using arguendo. <– Clarificatory Question

    I don’t use “logical props”, and I deliberately avoid arguing substantive issues here — I never understand your position well enough to make it productive for anyone, and have enough difficulty just trying to get things clarified. My point was already explicitly noted: I was clarifying what the logical problem at hand seemed to be; which in context concerned whether it was a properly post-VII matter; and the clarification was needed because your response didn’t seem to address the logical matter at all.

    I had forgotten the explicit phrase ‘at the altar’ in Gelasius. It follows, then, that to avoid the logical inconsistency one would have to take him to mean that the only intrinsically bad practice in women ministering is when they do what can only be done in the sanctuary proper itself; which is precisely the clarificatory question I asked, the answering of which would have avoided all the bother to follow.

    I grant this, only I then go on to remind the humble reader that, in commenting upon the matter, the popes have, on multiple occasions, over entire regions, CONDEMNED the practice.

    No one here is in the slightest doubt that they commented on it to condemn it; the point was (explicitly!) that actual practice is not relevant to the question at hand, but only what the Church can legislate.

    Indeed, the entire point is that, lacking a just cause, part 2 of canon 813 may trump part 1 thereof.

    No, this is not ‘the entire point’; the admission of any possibility of a just cause was part of the problem in the first place.

  65. Incidentally, and related to my point about never being able to understand your position. I take it from your response that you do not think the inconsistent triad to be structurally similar to your own dilemma (a dilemma being just an inconsistent triad with one of the three assumed as given)? It was intended to be, with (3) being different in content to move it to a different period. If it’s not structurally the same, then put me down with the others here as not knowing how your dilemma is supposed to work.

  66. st athanasius3 says:

    Radical Catholic,

    Where in the past has the Church declared eating meat “an evil practice”?

  67. st athanasius3 says:

    Radical Catholic,

    Let me revise my question.

    Where in the past has the Church declared eating meat on Fridays “an evil practice”?

  68. st athanasius3 says:

    Tony Jokin,

    I understand the distinction you are making and agree that it certainly exists in principle. However, it is my understanding that the Church cannot, via its laws and discipline, permit something intrinsically evil or something that leads to evil. I am also sure the popes in the past were well aware of this distinction yet called the practice itself evil and not just an act that leads to evil. Regardless, it was called “an evil practice” and was forbidden until the Modernists pirates hijacked the Ark of Christ. One is to believe the Ark was hijacked or that the ship hijacked is a fraud and the vessel that leads to salvation is still floating elsewhere looking for travelers.

    At this point, I think both are possible and am simply looking for safe travel. I don’t claim to be correct but the contradictions most people do mental gymnastics over in order to “harmonize” them is, to me, proof they are in denial.

    I just want to get to heaven. This is all I want for my family and self.

    I converted to Catholicism in 2010 and feel betrayed. I understand my feelings may be clouding my judgements but I am honestly doing my best to keep them checked.

    Your responses have been very gracious and I appreciate that.

  69. The mention of Friday abstinence was made to exemplify the case of something taking place by indult to a general norm; as far as I can tell from Fr. McCarthy’s article, it was not intended to set the matter of eating meat on Fridays equal to having female altar servers. Nonetheless, there is a certain parallel, provided one considers the practice of women serving at the altar as extrinsically evil. The argument made by Fr. Harrison – or, rather, by Abbé Sinoir – ends up at the same point. Of course, for a Catholic who accepts John Paul II as a legitimate pope, the fact that he permitted women to serve at the altar under specific circumstances is sufficient proof that the earlier popes did not intend to condemn the practice as being intrinsically evil. But even if one were to judge (and by what authority, one wonders) the practice to be intrinsically evil, the point remains that John Paul II did not positively command the practice of having women serve at the altar. As I see it – in all my unlearned ignorance – that’s what disciplinary infallibility is meant to confer. Of course, I’m sure one could find a theologian or perhaps even a pope who held a different opinion on that. But, when I stand back and look at the matter from a distance, it’s kind of tragicomedic to hang one’s faith in the promise of Our Lord and fidelity to His Church on such legalistic hairsplitting. Not to say that I don’t find it terribly interesting – I do. But it would be tragic indeed if anyone present were to be shaken in his faith by what’s being discussed here.

    And because I forgot to say it before (mea culpa): Thank you, st athanasius3, for your kind words in regards to my blog. I’m very glad you enjoy the postings.

  70. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3

    So if you hold it such that the Pope or the Church will not pass any laws that lead to evil, then how would you reconcile something like the suppression of Jesuits in the history of the Church (linked below) which many argue lead to the weakening of the Church?

    Also, I do want to point out. You have three choices.

    1) Embrace modernism and thus fully assent to the current laws and tone promulgated by the Church and the Pope
    2) Embrace sedevecantism
    3) Embrace the interpretation of infallibility in regards to discipline as one of not being able to demand immorality

    At least from where I stand, option (3) looks the most attractive and likely and the one with no real objection from Church teaching. Option (1) favors modernism which is condemned. Option (2) is pretty much irreconcilable with indefectibility as taught in Vatican I, and seems to lead to a slippery slope as to “who is the real Pope?”.

  71. Socrates says:


    If you look at the history of the Arian problem, Nicea didn’t solve anything right away at all. Many bishops went on to propose robber councils, and many Arians manipulated the council’s own cannons in order to make it match with their erroneous position. What kind of ecumenical council needs decades of apologists, both lay and ordained, to assure us that it is “best interpreted” as being in accord with the Catholic tradition? Many of them actaully. Eventually, in cases like Chalcedon, the emperor just started using the sword of Constantinople to keep heresy down instead. What we see here is modernism being the new trend in the Church, but it will die, just like the Arian fad died. The spirit of the age end with the age, and it seems modernism is already at its peak: which means it can only go downhill from here. Thank God.

    Christi pax.

  72. st athanasius3 says:

    “Many of them”.—Socrates

    Can you name the councils and what teachings needed to be clarified after the council already made the clarification? I don’t object to the fact that some did not like the council’s definitive ruling but that is a far cry from what VII wrought.

    I am looking for a specific instance, before VII, where an actual council created confusion concerning doctrines that were already held by the faithful.

  73. st athanasius3 says:

    Tony Jokin,

    I don’t think your example with the Jesuits helps your case. I think many could be found who would argue well that the Jesuit order should have never been revived.

    As far as your question “who is the real Pope?”, we have had that question before in the Church’s history and an answer was given in due time.

  74. Tony Jokin says:

    st athanasius3

    I think you are missing a vital piece of information. Many historians will point out that the suppression of the Jesuit order (which was very loyal to the Holy See at the time and doing an excellent job fighting the errors at the time), was a mistake. If the Jesuits were not suppressed, there was a good chance you may have never seen the French Revolution.

    On the matter of “Who is the real Pope?”, the issue with the sede claim is actually more damaging. In the history of the Church, the person who the faithful knew to have been elected by the Cardinals (in relatively recent times) in Rome were never doubted as an anti-Pope.

    Also do keep in mind, the matter of “Who is the Pope?” cannot be settled by a Pope. I am sure you see the irony if a Pope were to settle the issue of “Who is the Pope?” The problem with the Sede thesis is that once you reject the Pope (arguably not as an anti-Pope but still in the manner they do), you are in this limbo situation where there is no clear path forward anymore. Why? Because there is nothing to give one certainty regarding their judgement that the Pope is a non-Pope.

    I would also point out that in order to assert that the Pope has now become a non-Pope, the Sede must show why the thesis’s (in regards to infallibility on discipline and legislation) similar to the one I have put forward here must be actually rejected. That is not an easy task to do considering the numerous possible thesis on this very matter.

    The Sede advocate must

    1) Show that all such thesis reduce to a general position which captured the essential elements
    2) Then show they that general position is false

    This is also the same problem facing Elliot. No one on this thread or Elliot himself has produced such an argument. So the Sede position remains pretty much doubtful.

  75. I am looking for a specific instance, before VII, where an actual council created confusion concerning doctrines that were already held by the faithful.

    Is there a reason you don’t think this description applies to Ephesus and Chalcedon? Ephesus touched off the Eutychianism that made Chalcedon necessary. And the complaint people made about Chalcedon was that it contradicted Ephesus; certainly Chalcedon itself did not clarify exactly how it was consistent with Ephesus, and it looked to a lot of people like an obvious contradiction — hence the schism. If we look at similar timeframes, say what occurred within a hundred years of the council, both Ephesus and Chalcedon arguably created massively more chaos than Vatican II has yet to create.

  76. Tony Jokin says:

    In all honesty, I do not really think historical precedence or lack of a historical precedence of a calamity is that big of a deal.

    But to be fair, I think Vatican II is unique because for the first time in history, it made people think that the entire Catholic faith was in a state of flux. Essentially, Vatican II virtually rendered every single Council before it unimportant, in the eyes of most faithful. The damage done is so extensive that today, you have an upcoming synod on a topic that many Catholics Pre-VII would have thought was fully settled. Even the Pope himself seems to think the question is still open (that is true regardless of how we see speculation on which position he favors)!

    That is quiet a unique feat, as far as I can tell. Though I would be happy to hear about historical precedences that I am unaware of.

  77. There was also the crushing of l’Action Française and The Vatican’s perfidious treatment of the Cristeros in Mexico – but those actions are attributable to the then Decretory of State and so often it is difficult to assign responsibility.

    As to the earlier Councils, it is true they trailed in their wakes many kooks and creeps attached to various captious controversies but that was owing to the various councils striving to establish definitive definitions whereas Vatican Two was admittedly (by its own participants) definitely not about tightening/strengthening definitions of doctrines; rather, it appears it was all about loosening such definitions in the service of ecumenism.

    O, and ecumenism is the universal solvent of Tradition

  78. st athanasius3 says:

    I was going to mention what IMNS posted. VII made no new definitions. We know definitions serve the purpose of clarity. I know of no previous council that cast doubt or confusion on previously defined teachings. No council did to doctrine what VII has done to ecclesiology, religious liberty and ecumenism.

    Vatican II was the first time I know of where objective language was abandoned and where the subjective was adopted.

    For example: All humans, including the visible Church herself, are bound to judging visible or manifest realities alone. This is why a manifest heretic is guilty until he proves himself to be innocent. The objective reality is that the heresy exists and it came from that person. The person must prove their innocence by making manifest their intentions, something not visible at first. EENS is an objective truth since those visibly outside the Church can only be judged to be NOT saved. This does not mean they are not saved but only that the Church has no authority to determine differently based on what she knows. The Church always knew this principle and always held to it. Enter Vatican II. Now we move to the subjective, which basically boils down to truth not being known since we base it on what is not visible, the interior forum. The people now outside the Church are not considered lost because we are a people of “hope” and presume their good will. This means the Church has now moved into judging the interior forum by presuming that one is in a state of grace when all visible evidence says differently. It is like saying a person is in heaven when we have no idea unless we have been privileged to receive a private revelation.

    Yes, we are a people of hope, but that hope is not the wishful thinking for others we are so accustomed to these days, but hope that Christ will be there waiting when we return from our sinful ways.

  79. I know of no previous council that cast doubt or confusion on previously defined teachings.

    But again, this is precisely the claim that was made for Ephesus and then for Chalcedon, leading to major schisms that have lasted a millenium and a half. It seems to me that we can only get this result if we somehow simply discount all the people who actually accused ecumenical councils of creating confusion about previously defined teaching, of which there are a very great many. And it’s not just kooks, either. Eutychianism became such an issue after Ephesus in part because Eutyches was one of the most respected men of his day, and one of the greatest fighters the Church had against the heresy of Nestorianism. The Copts schismed over Chalcedon precisely because they were very firm defenders of Ephesus.

    I suppose you could mean something very particular by ‘cast doubt or confusion’, but I don’t see what it could be. If people actually being in doubt or confusion about previously defined teachings is not the standard by which we would determine it, what would be?

  80. Tony Jokin says:

    Brandon Watson,

    Can you contend with the following claim:-

    “Vatican II was the only council in history that left the Catholic faithful with the sense that every ecumenical council before it was irrelevant”

    In that sense Vatican II is unique. I am in no way saying that this uniqueness bestows on it a quality that it is invalid or anything. I am merely acknowledging the fact that it did have unprecedented consequence on the Catholic faithful around the world, whether intended or not.

    None of the councils prior to Vatican II in the history of the Church, including that at Chalcedon, ever left the faithful thinking that every single one of the prior councils, the traditions of the Church, were all irrelevant or questionable. In fact, as you pointed out, the Copts schismed over Chalcedon precisely because they were very firm defenders of Ephesus.

  81. I don’t really know what the claim is supposed to mean.

  82. Tony Jokin says:

    Brandon Watson

    It means that

    1) Vatican II resulted in the Catholic faithful doubting the relevance of every pronouncement by an ecumenical Council held before Vatican II
    2) Thus, Vatican II is unique in history for achieving this feat.

    So what I am basically saying is that we shouldn’t be trying to make it look as if the crisis we see today is business as usual in the Church. I am also pointing out that your comparison of Vatican II aftermath to the aftermath of Council of Chalcedon is not a good one.

  83. (1) is just giving the claim in almost exactly the same words. As I said, I don’t know what it is supposed to mean.

  84. Tony Jokin says:

    Brandon Watson

    Here is the claim I made: “Vatican II resulted in the Catholic faithful doubting the relevance of every pronouncement by an ecumenical Council held before Vatican II”

    What I am saying is that

    1) There were pronouncements by Ecumenical Councils before Vatican II (ex: Council of Trent, Council of Florence etc.)
    2) After Vatican II, the faithful were unsure whether the declarations made in those councils were relevant

    So to give you an example, Council of Trent condemned doctrines as belonging to Protestants. But the Catholic faithful today are unsure whether Protestantism is actually even a heresy. A good part is unsure whether heresy is even a big deal. Some in high places in the Catholic Church are planing to celebrate 500 years since the reformation etc.

    Or here is another. The Catholic faithful today are under the impression that nothing in the Church is off limits. Issues that were settled for centuries are considered to be fair game to be reopened for discussion.

    Now if you are still unable to comprehend what is being said, I think there is a major communication barrier between us. In that event, I think it is best that you and I do not engage in further conversations since it is a waste of our time.

  85. First of all, it is you who are carrying this on; all I did was point out, when you asked me a question about the claim, that I didn’t know what the claim was supposed to mean, and since then you insist on repeating it with slight variations as if that somehow solves the problem. As I said, it doesn’t. I’m not sure what else you want me to say to this question you just keep repeating over and over in slightly different words, unless you are wanting me to lie and pretend that I understand it just fine. This is not a ‘conversation’. You asked me a question; I gave the only answer I could to it. Then you kept asking the same question and yet somehow have expected a different answer. Again, (2) in this comment is just the claim itself, said in very slightly different words.

    The original context of the claim criticized Vatican II for talking in subjective terms rather than objective terms. What, then, justifies this claim relying entirely on what seem to be subjective terms? Only Modernists think that self-identification is determinative for self-identity, but I do self-identify as Catholic faithful and I have never had any such sense as you are attributing to ‘the Catholic faithful’. So which of the Catholic faithful are in view? Given the context of the question, the problem would have to be in some way precisely pinnable on Vatican II itself qua Ecumenical Council. What in Vatican II itself is this vaguely described ‘doubt’ and ‘sense of irrelevance’ actually grounded in, and why would it cause one to regard prior Ecumenical Councils as ‘irrelevant’? For that matter, what is this ‘sense that prior Ecumenical Councils are not relevant’? Relevant to what? The only people I have ever heard talking about ‘relevance’ of Ecumenical Councils are far-liberal Catholics, and I in no way would regard them as reasonable interpreters of anything, nor do they seem to be what you are calling ‘Catholic faithful’. And what kind of sense is it, i.e., how is it actually expressed? Take a typical product of Vatican II: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which quotes the Council on practically every page. What about it is an expression or cause of the ‘sense that prior Ecumenical Councils are not relevant’? Or if something else that shows it, what is it? What is the actual causal pathway between Vatican II and the problem here?

    All of these are obvious questions (nor even the only ones) to ask if one actually wanted to answer your original question. I don’t know the answer to any of them. The claim is vague, points to subjective experiences I do not share, and makes a general claim about the Catholic faithful whose evidential basis I don’t know. Why in the world would you expect me to have a definite stance on it?

  86. Tony Jokin says:

    Brandon Watson

    Wow, this is my last post to you because what you have done here has left a bad taste.

    It appears that your issue was not really that you couldn’t comprehend the meaning of my assertion. NO, your issue is that you didn’t like what I said (i.e. it is a subjective claim, definitions are unclear etc.). Instead of asking questions or providing some counter-argument of that form, you went all Simple Jack on me.

    Next you go on your soliloquy about how you cannot grasp how I arrived at my conclusions regarding the fact that most Catholic faithful are confused about the relevance of prior Councils and pronouncements that precede Vatican II. You also go onto ask me how to reconcile the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a product of Vatican II with my claim. All of them are great questions. If you had bothered to ask me such specific questions like that before you went all Simple Jack on me, I would have actually taken the time to explain it to you and discuss answers like normal people.

  87. NO, your issue is that you didn’t like what I sai

    Nonsense; this is entirely in your head. I have no stance whatsoever on the claim because I don’t know what it means; and I explicitly pointed out that I don’t know how one would answer even the elementary and obvious questions that would be required to know what it is supposed to mean in this context.

    If you had bothered to ask me such specific questions like that before you went all Simple Jack on me, I would have actually taken the time to explain it to you and discuss answers like normal people.

    I don’t understand your sense of entitlement here. You were the one who asked me the question. I answered it as best I could in the context. I have no reason at all to go around trying to clarify random questions thrown at me that I don’t understand and that the person in question merely keeps repeating when I say I don’t understand them.

  88. There can be no doubt that some the documents of Vatican Two were deliberately vague and ambiguous.

    One of these councils is not like the others
    One of these councils isn’t the same
    Can we guess which council is not like the others?

    Yes, we can.

  89. Hello, all,

    It’s been very hard for me lately to find time to sit down and wade through, much less address in fine, the comments written in the past week or so. As always, I have a few posts in the works to address the various issues more systematically, at least one of which I hope to publish today.

    Stay tuned…

  90. We Americans are an impatient lot, sir. Yeah, we know you have a young’n and a family and a job and you are currently reading four different books but that is no excuse to…; no, wait, that is an excuse.

  91. Socrates says:

    1) I think many here emphasis the Confusion after Vatician II, and not after Chalcedon, because we are currently living in that chaos, while the chaos after Chalcedon has largely been resolved (even the Catholic Church now accepts the current Coptic Christology as differences in emphasis).

    Remember, as some else here pointed out, some considered Chalcedon as contradicting Ephesus. I wouldn’t be surprised if the forum in Alexandria possessed people shouting that same things about Chalcedon that some here are shouting about Vatican II!

    2) We live in a time where the full effects of the Council have not reached full bloom.

    3) The chaos around the council seems to be based more in wicked American culture rather than the council. To put it another way, it is not the council which is confusing, but the heretics that are confused. The Church is not among Romans today; She is among Carthagians, and their culture of death.

    Chesterton wrote about how wild and adventurous orthodoxy was, because orthodoxy is trying to set up a system in which near contradictions can exist, at full strength, without destroying each other. I find that right now we are dealing with those who move too far in one direction, and too far in the opposite.

    Christi pax.

  92. Dear Socrates. Is there any evidence the Fathers of Chalcedon intentionally wrote documents that were vague and ambiguous?

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