Exposing the SSPX’s Errors on Collegiality

John F. Salza, Esq.
February A.D. 2022

       In Episode 48 of the Society of St. Pius X’s Crisis in the Church series, Fr. Alexander Wiseman gave a podcast entitled “The 4 Questions to Ask Yourself about the Crisis.” The purpose of the podcast was to explain to Catholics what is the “right position to adopt in the face of this crisis” and, naturally, why the SSPX has adopted the correction position. The four questions Fr. Wiseman asks are: (1) Is there a crisis in the Church?; (2) Is the root of the crisis found in Vatican II and the New Mass?; (3) Should we publicly reject Vatican II and the New Mass?; and, (4) Should we recognize as Catholic the Roman authorities responsible for the crisis?

        Now, I plan to address each of Fr. Wiseman’s answers to these four questions in separate, upcoming articles. For now, suffice it to say that Fr. Wiseman assured his audience that the texts of Vatican II (and the New Mass) themselves are the “root” cause of the crisis, because they teach positive errors against the Faith, as opposed to merely lending themselves to faulty interpretations due to their inherent ambiguities. Therefore, reasoned Fr. Wiseman, Catholics must publicly reject the conciliar documents as a whole, as well as the ecumenical council that gave us them (Fr. Reuter made this same argument in Episode 30 of the Crisis series.). According to Fr. Wiseman and the Society, because certain texts or phrases in the Vatican II documents are irreconcilable with Tradition (they cannot even be interpreted with a hermeneutic of continuity), Catholics must publicly reject the documents and the council wholesale.  

        Fr. Wiseman did not consider a corollary question, which is this: What if the Society is wrong about its harsh, all-or-nothing assessment of Vatican II? More specifically, what if the Society has erred in “publicly rejecting” a doctrinal teaching of Vatican II because, as it turns out, the doctrinal teaching is true? Wouldn’t such a rejection of a true doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church (coming from an organization that is not even a part of the Catholic Church) actually contribute to the crisis? And wouldn’t this contribution be characterized as coming from the “traditional Right,” as opposed the “Liberal Left”? What if the SSPX has rashly accused Holy Mother Church of teaching false doctrine, even heresy?  What if? What then?

         If the Society has falsely accused Vatican II of teaching error, would that mean that “the root of the crisis” can be found, at least in part, in the erroneous positions promoted by the Society of St. Pius X over the past 50 years? Would that further mean that “we should publicly reject” the Society’s writings which contain these false accusations? And also “publicly reject” the SSPX clergy who promote these errors? Evidently, the Society has never considered the possibility that it has erred in its rejection of teachings of the Second Vatican Council, nor the consequences that would follow (no doubt due to the cult-like status it has given to Marcel Lefebvre, who is the source of the Society’s errors).

       Now, since the Society’s position (which it has made clear in its Crisis series of podcasts) is that the documents of Vatican II, and the council itself, should be rejected in toto and completely tossed out, because they are irreconcilable with Tradition, we say what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. That is, if we can prove that the Society has, in fact, erred in rejecting a teaching of Vatican II (especially a teaching that is completely traditional), then, according to Fr. Wiseman’s own reasoning, we should “publicly reject” all of the Society’s writings on the crisis, along with Society of St. Pius X as a whole. After all, shouldn’t the standard the SSPX applies to an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church equally apply to their own public writings? 

       As we will see, the Society’s rejection of the council’s teaching on Collegiality is just one proven example of how the SSPX has, in fact, erred in rejecting a teaching of Vatican II, and which has had dire consequences for the “traditional movement.” These consequences have included leading clergy and faithful out of the Catholic Church, the only ark of salvation. And it is not just “traditional” priests who have fallen for the error. For example, Novus Ordo priest Fr. Michael Oswald wrote a letter to his diocese explaining why he left the Catholic Church for Sedevacantism:


Dear fellow clergy of the Diocese of Rockford:


I have decided to leave the Diocese of Rockford for the reason that I have come to the conclusion that the changes enacted by Vatican II are not compatible with Roman Catholicism. …


The heresies contained in Vatican II. There are four principal heresies contained in this Council. …


The fourth heresy is that of collegiality which alters the monarchical constitution of the Catholic Church, with which she was endowed by the Divine Savior. The doctrine of Vatican II, confirmed by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which states that the subject (the possessor) of the supreme authority of the Church is the college of bishops together with the pope, is contrary to the defined doctrine of the Council of Florence and of Vatican I.” (“Rejecting the Imposter Church,” Fr. Michael Oswald)(emphasis added).


         In fact, it is fair to say that the Society’s rejection of Vatican II’s teaching on Collegiality is its gravest error, because the SSPX accuses the Roman Catholic Church of heresy for teaching it. Heresy is the gravest form of deviation from Catholic truth, insofar as it represents an immediate and direct opposition to what the Church teaches to be contained in the revealed Deposit, and so to be held with divine and Catholic faith.

       Here is just one quote, from Fr. Mauro Tranquillo, who was one of the stars of the Society’s recent Crisis series (in which he also made multiple references to the Church’s “heresy” on Collegiality taught in Lumen Gentium (LG)):


LG's doctrine of the two supreme powers, in spite of the Nota praevia, is heretical because it is contrary to the teaching of Vatican I on the uniqueness of the Pope's power.” (Fr. Tranquillo, Une Tentative De Justification De La Collegialite: Le Livre Du Pere F. Dupre La Tour.) 

       Of course, if the Society has falsely accused Holy Mother Church of teaching heresy (especially when the teaching is completely traditional!), then the organization (which is already not part of the Roman Catholic Church) should be dismissed by all faithful Catholics as lacking any credible voice in the current crisis, even if its priests wear nice cassocks, reverently celebrate the Traditional Mass (which they have no faculties to celebrate), and continue to put out podcasts on the priesthood (which they have no canonical mission to exercise). We should defend our Holy Mother against those who slap Her in the face, especially those who are not of “the household of the faith” (Gal 6.10).

       Unfortunately, the council’s teaching on Collegiality is the Society’s favorite “whipping boy,” as can be seen in the Crisis series of podcasts, mentioned above. Throughout the series, one Society priest after another, in one podcast after another, superficially repeated the SSPX’s mantra that Collegiality is a grave error (even a heresy) of the council, which they even claim altered the monarchical constitution of the Church. But none of the priests offered any real analysis of the issue, much less proof the teaching is erroneous. It appears that each priest simply repeated what he has learned from the Society’s “play book,” like an automaton.

       Let us now show that Vatican II’s doctrine of Collegiality is completely traditional and, consequently, how this truth not only negates the Society’s credibility as a voice for doctrinal orthodoxy, but actually demonstrates the Society is a clear and present danger to the faithful (and should be “publicly rejected”). As many readers will see, the Society’s errors are so obvious, one wonders how the Society has gotten away with its false claim against the Roman Catholic Church for so many years. 

Error 1: Misunderstanding Function vs. Power 

       To begin, in his podcast, Fr. Wiseman makes the following incredible claim (which was also posted on screen): “There is an assertion in Lumen Gentium that bishops receive jurisdiction immediately from God at their episcopal consecration, which is directly contrary to what Pius XII had taught, namely, that they receive it through the Pope when he gives them a canonical mission: ‘Episcopal consecration, together with the office [munera] of teaching and sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing.’ (LG 21)”

       Fr. Wiseman claims this error (that bishops receive their jurisdiction from God at their consecration) is contained in Lumen Gentium 21, which provides, in pertinent part:


And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church's liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry.(19*) But Episcopal consecration, together with the office  [function = munere]  of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college.


         Fr. Wiseman and the SSPX claim that the foregoing teaching on Collegiality contradicts the doctrine of the Church, explained by Pius XII who said: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same divine right, but only through the successor of Peter (Pius XII, Ad Sinarum Gentem).”

         Now, the first point to note is that Lumen Gentium does not say, as Fr. Wiseman claims, that bishops receive their jurisdiction from God immediately at their consecration, in paragraph 21 or anywhere else. Lumen Gentium does not even use the word “jurisdiction” in paragraph 21 (or 22, for that matter, which is the other paragraph the Society rejects, as we will see). Rather, it says episcopal consecration confers the function of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

       The Society’s first error is falsely equating “function” with “jurisdiction.” But the SSPX has no excuse for making this error, because Pope Paul VI issued the Nota Previa which explains that the “function” that Lumen Gentium is referring to does not refer to “jurisdiction.” The Pope’s Explanatory Note, which preempts the erroneous interpretation promoted by the Society, explains: 

In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the sacred functions [munera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical tradition included. The word "functions [munera]" is used deliberately instead of the word "powers [potestates]," because the latter word could be understood as a power fully ready to act. But for this power to be fully ready to act, there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according to the norms approved by the supreme authority.[1]      

        As we can see, the SSPX has failed to understand that the “function” [munere] that Lumen Gentium teaches is conferred in episcopal consecration is merely the ontological capacity the bishop receives at consecration, making him capable of receiving the fullness of episcopal jurisdiction (not that he actually receives jurisdiction from God at his consecration, as Fr. Wiseman and the entire SSPX falsely claim, repeatedly, in their articles and videos). Completely consistent with the teaching of Pius XII, Lumen Gentium says the bishop receives jurisdiction (the function becomes a power ready to act) upon “canonical or juridical determination,” according to the “norms approved by the supreme authority” (the Roman Pontiff).

       Clearly, Fr. Wiseman and the Society disregard the Explanatory Note, and insist on interpreting munera in Lumen Gentium to mean jurisdiction proper (which is what Pius XII is addressing in Ad Sinarum Gentem), and not the mere ontological function to receive jurisdiction (which is what Lumen Gentium is addressing). How could Fr. Alexander Wiseman, a seminary professor, make this mistake? Did he not read the Nota Previa before publicly accusing the Catholic Church of teaching error?

       As we will further see, the bishop receives universal jurisdiction (a share in the supreme power) when he becomes a member of the College of Bishops, which is always in hierarchical communion with the Pope, who is the head of the College. He may also receive particular jurisdiction over a diocese, again, as canonically determined by the supreme authority, the Pope. In short, the bishop does not receive jurisdiction by virtue of his episcopal consecration, but by receiving a juridical mission from the Church or, as the Council of Trent says, when he is “sent by ecclesiastical and canonical power”[2] (which is why the bishops of the SSPX have no mission, jurisdiction or authority in the Church).

       For those who understand the Church’s distinction between “function” and “power” (which is easily comprehended by reading the Nota), they find no contradiction between Lumen Gentium’s use of munera (the functions to receive jurisdiction) and Pius XII’s use of iurisdictionis autem potestas[3] (the power of jurisdiction itself). That is because no contradiction exists. Yet Fr. Tranquillo has the temerity to call the teaching of Lumen Gentium “heretical,” even “in spite of the Nota Previa” (in his words). 

The SSPX Promotes the Masonic Doctrine
that Jurisdiction comes from the People 

       It is quite ironic that the Society accuses the Catholic Church of teaching error on episcopal jurisdiction, while it believes that its own bishops receive their jurisdiction “from the people.” Indeed, it is the Society of St. Pius X, and not the Second Vatican Council, that rejects the teaching of Pius XII on where jurisdiction comes from (“the power of jurisdiction comes to the bishops from the Supreme Pontiff”), in favor of the Masonic doctrine (condemned by Pope Leo XIII) that the people authorize the bishops to act, because the people have a “right” to the sacraments.

       Knowing he did not have a juridical mission required by divine law, Lefebvre fully embraced this Masonic doctrine by claiming that the newly consecrated bishop “has no other basis for jurisdiction than that which comes from the requests of the priests and the faithful to take care of their souls and those of their children, and who have asked him to accept the episcopacy…”[4] Quite incredibly, Lefebvre also said: 

Since the jurisdiction of the bishop is not territorial but personal and has as its source the duty of the faithful to save their souls, if a group of faithful in the diocese calls upon the bishop to have a priest, this group gives by this very fact, authority to the bishop to watch over the transmission of the Faith and of grace in this group, by the intermediary of the priest that he sent.[5] 

        Bishop Tissier has publicly repeated this egregious error of Lefebvre in claiming that the Society’s jurisdiction comes from the people. Says Tissier: “It is inasmuch as you do not refuse to receive from your priests the ministry which they have the right to exercise for your good, that is to say for the good of the Church, that the jurisdiction that you in a certain way give them will be able to be fruitfully exercised.”[6] While Fr. Wiseman falsely accuses the Catholic Church of teaching that “bishops receive jurisdiction immediately from God at their episcopal consecration,” he and his fellow SSPX clergy actually think they get their authority and jurisdiction from “the faithful,” just like the Freemasons.

        Equally ironic is the fact that, while Lefebvre fallaciously appealed to the democratic “authority of the faithful” to justify the exercise of his illicit ministry, he falsely accused Vatican II of embracing this false democratic principle in its teaching on the Episcopacy! Yes, Lefebvre was all too happy to accept authority from the people for his bishops and priests, but he condemned the idea, which he incorrectly saw Lumen Gentium applying to the College of Bishops.

         About the council’s teaching on Collegiality, Lefebvre said: “It is democracy, or at least the democratic principle. It is no longer Our Lord Who commands through the authorities…By the very fact that number is put in the place of the person, that authority is given to number, authority is in the people, in the rank and file, in the group. That is absolutely contrary to what Our Lord wanted.”[7] This is one of many examples of how Lefebvre contradicted himself, as he sought to justify his illicit ministry and reject Vatican II.

         Let us now look at the Society’s second error concerning the teachings of Lumen Gentium. 

Error 2: Conflating the Primacy with the Supreme Authority 

      Having addressed Lumen Gentium’s paragraph 21 and the Society’s first error (which alleges a conflict with the teachings of Pius XII), we now look at paragraph 22 and the Society’s second error, which alleges a conflict with the teachings of the First Vatican Council. Lumen Gentium, paragraph 22, provides, in pertinent part: 

In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. (Ch. III, No. 22). 

         The Nota Previa (note 3) also provides: 

The College, which does not exist without the head, is said "to exist also as the subject of supreme and full power in the universal Church." This must be admitted of necessity so that the fullness of power belonging to the Roman Pontiff is not called into question. 

         Here we see the Society’s second reason for rejecting the teaching of Lumen Gentium (found in paragraph 22 and note 3 of the Nota Previa): the SSPX rejects the doctrine that the Pope with the College of Bishops is a second subject of supreme power (the Pope alone being the first subject). The Society holds that the Pope alone is the subject of supreme power. The Society’s position is erroneous because it is based on a conflation of the Primacy (which is proper to the Pope alone) and the supreme authority (which is proper to the Pope alone, as well as the Pope and Bishops together). The Primacy and the supreme authority are two different things.

       Because the Society conflates the Primacy with the supreme authority, it claims that Lumen Gentium 22 and note 3 of the Nota Previa contradicts Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus, which is the Dogmatic Constitution explaining the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff (the opening chapter is entitled “On the Institution of the Apostolic Primacy of Blessed Peter”). Fr. Gleize, a seminary professor at Econe, tells us:


The doctrine on collegiality, as expressed in n ° 22 of the constitution Lumen gentium, including n ° 3 of the Nota praevia, contradicts the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme power in the Church, contained in the Constitution Pastor Aeternus.[8]     

However, Pastor Aeternus makes a distinction between the Primacy and the supreme authority, and Lumen Gentium maintains this distinction, teaching that the College of Bishops (with the Pope) share in the supreme authority, not the Primacy.  Thus, Lumen Gentium in no way “contradicts” Pastor Aeternus.

       Pastor Aeternus makes this distinction when it says: “That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching.”[9] Lumen Gentium also highlights the distinction when it teaches: “In it [the unity of the Episcopate], the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the whole Church…”[10] This distinction between the Primacy and the supreme authority is based on Sacred Scripture, which reveals that Christ gave St. Peter alone “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (the Primacy), and gave St. Peter, along with the other Apostles, the authority to “bind or loose on earth” (the supreme authority).

Hence, both Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus) and Vatican II (Lumen Gentium) distinguish between the Primacy and the supreme power, which is a privilege of - but distinguishable from - the Primacy. It is the Society of St. Pius X’s error, which conflates the Primacy with the supreme power, not that of Vatican II. Another privilege of the Primacy is individual papal infallibility (which, like supreme authority, is included in, but distinguishable from, the Primacy). In addition, the Pope holds both the Primacy and supreme authority by virtue of his office (thus, they belong to the Pope, singly). On the other hand, the bishops do not share in the Primacy, and only share in the supreme power collectively, by virtue of being members of the College (not by individual offices).

It bears repeating that Lumen Gentium never says (suggests, implies, infers, etc.) that the College of Bishops share or participate in the Primacy. To the contrary, like Pastor Aeternus, it clearly distinguishes between the two. Thus, the Society is without basis in asserting that Lumen Gentium contradicts Pastor Aeternus. The Vatican I Constitution goes on to address “the primacy of jurisdiction,”[11] “the permanence of the primacy,”[12] “the primacy of Peter,”[13] “the world-wide primacy” (of the Pope and Holy See),[14] “the apostolic primacy,”[15] and “the supreme and full primacy” (of the Holy Roman Church).[16] In every case where it addresses the Primacy, Vatican I never equates or conflates the Primacy with the supreme authority, and neither does Vatican II.

The Society’s error, then, is that it reads “Primacy” into the “supreme power” whenever Lumen Gentium addresses the supreme (or universal) power. This error of conflation leads the Society to conclude that Lumen Gentium teaches the College of Bishops share in the Primacy, which would contradict Pastor Aeternus. Again, this is because the Society of St. Pius X – not Vatican II – equates the Primacy with supreme (universal) authority.

The Society’s erroneous conflation of the Primacy with the supreme authority is not just a speculation of ours. Rather, it is explicitly revealed in their teachings, such as the following statement of Fr. de Jorna, Rector of the Seminary at Econe, who is considered one of the SSPX’s top theologians: 

We cannot accept the doctrine of ‘Lumen Gentium’ chapter III. Even understood in the light of the Nota previa, no. 22 to ‘Lumen Gentium,’ it retains all its ambiguity because it still implies that there is in the Church a double subject of the Primacy [the Pope alone, AND the Pope with all the bishops] and opens the door to the denial of the teaching of Vatican I (DS 3054). 

         Fr. de Jorna went on to acknowledge that this (erroneous) interpretation was held by the Society’s founder: “Archbishop Lefebvre insisted on this error on the occasion of the publication of the new 1983 Code of [Canon Law]. … Archbishop Lefebvre would never have signed these statements and there is no reference to ch. III of ‘Lumen Gentium’ in the 1988 Protocol of agreement.” Unfortunately for Fr. de Jorna, Lefebvre signed Lumen Gentium in approval, but then later attacked the document as he went into schism.

       Fr. Gleize and Fr. Pagliarani (the SSPX Superior General) have repeated the errors of Fr. de Jorna and Archbishop Lefebvre, which were made part of the Declaration of the General Chapter of the Society, which falsely claims that “the supreme power of government over the universal Church belongs only to the Pope, Vicar of Christ on earth.” As Robert Siscoe remarked in a private email to a number of SSPX theologians (who failed to give a reply): 

The Society’s best theologian rejects the teaching, according to which the college of bishops, together with the Pope, is another subject of supreme authority, because he mistakenly believes it implies a double subject of the Primacy. He doesn’t realize that, although supreme authority and the Primacy are both part of the Petrine office, the two are distinct; and because they are distinct, the bishops, collectively taken, can participate in one (supreme authority) without participating in the other (Primacy). This is evident from the fact that the Apostles each possessed supreme authority as properly their own, yet they nevertheless remained subject to Peter because he alone held the Primacy. 

         Thus, the Society accuses the Roman Catholic Church of teaching an error (even a heresy) because the Society erroneously interprets Lumen Gentium as equating the Primacy with the supreme authority. How the SSPX could think that the 2,500 council Fathers (including Lefebvre himself) who approved Lumen Gentium conflated the Primacy with the supreme authority is difficult to comprehend. Even more difficult to understand is how the Society claims the Nota Previa is heretical, when Archbishop Lefebvre actually said the Nota Previa was completely orthodox (which means the SSPX accuses Lefebvre of heresy!). Said Lefebvre: “It was the insertion of the Nota explicativa that restored the traditional teaching. The note was very unwillingly accepted in Liberal circles.  Henceforth it forms part of the Acts of the Council and modifies Chapter 2 of the schema The Church (i.e., Lumen Gentium).”[17] This shows just how confused the Society is on the topic of Collegiality.

         To summarize what we’ve seen thus far, the SSPX rejects Lumen Gentium on two grounds, based on two separate errors of conflation: (1) that LG contradicts the teaching of Pius XII, because the SSPX wrongly equates “function” [“office”] with “jurisdiction”; and, (2) that LG contradicts the teaching of Vatican I, because the SSPX wrongly equates the “Primacy” with the “supreme authority.” In light of Fr. Wiseman’s all-or-nothing approach concerning the documents of Vatican II, due to the Society’s egregious errors on Collegiality, shouldn’t we throw out everything the Society has written on Collegiality and Vatican II?

In closing out this section, note that the Society’s error of conflating the Primacy with the supreme authority also causes the Society to only recognize the distinction between the supreme universal jurisdiction that the Pope alone has by virtue of his office, and the particular jurisdiction that other bishops possess by virtue of their office, as the head of a diocese.  However, there is another category, and that is the supreme universal authority (not the Primacy) of the College of Bishops in hierarchical communion with the Pope.

To summarize: (1) supreme universal jurisdiction belongs to the Pope by virtue of his office; (2) particular (or territorial) jurisdiction belongs to the bishop by virtue of his office (as head of a diocese); (3) supreme universal jurisdiction also belongs to the College of Bishops (held by the Pope singly, and the Bishops collectively), and is the same species of jurisdiction, whether exercised by the Pope alone or the College of Bishops united to the Pope.

The Society rejects this third category of jurisdiction, and instead believes the Pope alone possesses the supreme power. The consequence of this error is that every single priest of the SSPX (and seemingly every other priest who was trained in an SSPX seminary) rejects the teaching of an ecumenical council that is qualified as “theological certain,” and hence is guilty of a mortal sin indirectly against the faith.  We now turn to this third error of the Society. 

                  Error 3: Misunderstanding the Double Subject
                 of the Supreme Authority 

         In light of its erroneous conflation of the Primacy with the supreme authority, the Society consequently denies that the College of Bishops together with the Pope is a subject of supreme authority. One error has led them to the next. We recall the teaching of Lumen Gentium (no. 22): 

The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. 

As one learns in Catholic apologetics 101, while Christ gave St. Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (the Primacy) in Matthew 16, He gave the rest of the Apostles (united to St. Peter) the power to bind and loose in Matthew 18, which is a share in the supreme authority of St. Peter (their binding or loosing “on earth” refers to the supreme power or universal jurisdiction). This supreme authority that the College of Bishops possess is often called the “collegiate” power (from where we get the term Collegiality).       
        We see Cardinal Mazzella, who held the Chair of the Gregorian during the reign of Pope Leo XIII, explain the “double subject” of the supreme power and its Scriptural basis as follows:

If we compare the testimonies of Scripture and all of tradition, we find, as it were, an inadequately distinct double subject of supreme power (supremæ potestatis); that is to say, Peter alone - 'whatever thou (singular) shall bind' etc. (Mt. 16:19) and the body of Apostles with Peter - 'whatever you (plural) shall bind' etc. - Mt. 18:18).”[18] 

         Mazzella (and many other theologians) calls the double subject of supreme power “inadequately distinct,” because the Pope is included in both subjects.  Of course, the College of Bishops exercise this binding and loosing authority on earth “only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff” and not independently of him.[19] This is because the source of binding and loosing authority is the keys, which the Pope alone holds singly, and upon whom the authority of the College depends.

        In fact, the collegiate power is the most fundamental power a bishop receives upon becoming a member of the College. This is because such a bishop possesses the collegiate power, whether or not he also has particular jurisdiction as head of a diocese.[20] It was by virtue of the supreme and universal power that the Apostles and their immediate successors established Sees and founded particular churches. Indeed, the Apostles and their successors possessed the supreme power before they established particular churches and territorial jurisdiction over dioceses (with St. Peter alone possessing the Primacy).

       For example, it is commonly held that the Apostle St. James established the See in Jerusalem.[21] But for St. James to establish a particular See (over which he reigned as bishop with particular jurisdiction), he had to exercise his universal jurisdiction. Obviously, the universal jurisdiction necessarily precedes the establishment of particular jurisdiction. Indeed, Christ did not give the Apostles the power to “bind and loose” by dividing up the earth among them (1/12 each), but rather to “bind or loose on earth,” which is the universal power.[22] The Apostles “divided and conquered” the world by virtue of the supreme and universal power of binding and loosing (Mt. 18).

         Perhaps more relevant are the cases of non-Apostles establishing Sees while Apostles were still living (e.g., St. Mark establishing the Church of Alexandria, Egypt), as well as the generations of immediate successors of the Apostles, who established Sees throughout the world, where the Apostles did not. Like the Apostles, these bishops (both during and after the Apostolic age), established Sees by virtue of their universal and supreme power, as members of the College of Bishops, and even though they were dispersed throughout the “earth.”[23] Again, the universal jurisdiction necessarily precedes the establishment of particular Churches (dioceses), and hence the possession of particular jurisdiction by the Apostles and many of their immediate successors.

      In Dom Adrien Gréa’s outstanding book on the Episcopate, De l'Église et de sa divine constitution,[24] he explains how the Apostles and their successors founded the particular Churches at the very beginning, by virtue of the “universal power of the episcopate.” After stating that “This extraordinary power of the episcopate is always and by her essence itself absolutely subordinate to Jesus Christ and to His Vicar,” Gréa explains how this supreme power is proper to, and was exercised by, the College of Bishops, prior to the establishment of territorial (particular) jurisdiction: 

 Primarily, for that which regards the establishment itself of Churches, the apostles in the beginning, and, after them, their first disciples, have acted by virtue of this general mission: “Go, make disciples from all the nations” (Mt 28,19); this is manifest, since the Gospel does not give them any other. Thus, this mission constantly regards the episcopate. It is, in effect, properly to the episcopal college that it has been given, since the efficacy of it had to endure until the end of the world…But this mission was given before all delimitation of territory and before any bishop had a particular power over a determinate people. It [the supreme and universal power] has preceded the foundation of Churches which, it follows, had to be attributed to each of the members of the college.”[25] 

         The Society rejects the truth that the College of Bishops possess the collegiate power, and therefore cannot explain what authority the earliest bishops exercised to establish particular churches. We see this in the confused reply of Fr. Dominique Bourmaud, SSPX, to the following question: 

Question: What is wrong with a bishop having power in virtue of his episcopal consecration? (JS: Note the error in the question, that a bishop gets power through consecration.)


Fr. Bourmaud: This is an error in that, even prior to being summoned by the pope to rule a diocese, a bishop would already be enjoying jurisdiction. In traditional teaching, these powers are distinct and do not share the same extension.” [26] 

         Because Fr. Bourmaud rejects the collegiate power, he cannot understand how a bishop would “already be enjoying jurisdiction” before “being summoned by the Pope to rule a diocese” using particular jurisdiction. Bourmaud asserts that the proposition of a bishop having jurisdiction before the Pope gives him particular jurisdiction is an “error” (with zero explanation, of course), but it is actually his reply which highlights the Society’s error of only distinguishing between the universal jurisdiction of the Pope and the particular jurisdiction of bishops. Thus, Fr. Bourmaud has no explanation for what type of authority the early bishops exercised to found particular churches. Does Fr. Bourmaud actually think St. Mark relied upon “supplied jurisdiction” to found the Church in Alexandria?

      And in his rejection of the collegiate power, Fr. Bourmaud contradicts himself. He concedes that Christ gave the Apostles and their successor bishops the power of the keys (the supreme authority) by divine right when he says “the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, received also the power of the keys (Mt. 18).”[27] But then Bourmaud says: “In the traditional interpretation, the bishops’ College exercised supreme authority merely by human right.”

       Of course, when Christ confers divine authority, it is by divine right, not “merely by human right.” That is a matter of common sense. Indeed, just as Christ conferred certain privileges upon St. Peter (and successors) by divine right, He also conferred privileges upon the other Apostles (and successors) by divine right (not “human right”). As we read in the great book The Unity of the Episcopate Considered (originally published in 1847): 

It follows, therefore, that the privileges and powers which other bishops possessed by divine right, as successors of St. Peter, the bishop of Rome possessed by divine right in a higher degree, as being St. Peter’s successor in a special sense; that is, he had by divine right, ‘certain high prerogatives, which did not belong to any other bishop.’”[28] 

       The divine nature of the authority of the episcopate is not only revealed in Scripture, it was confirmed by the Cardinals on the Commission of Directors for the First Vatican Council, who concluded that titular bishops (who have no particular jurisdiction by means of an office) have a right to participate in ecumenical councils by divine law, and not merely ecclesiastical law. Again, all this shows just how confused the SSPX is on the issue of Collegiality. 

The Two Subjects of the Supreme Authority:
The SSPX vs. Catholic Tradition

       When one reads the Society’s statements on Vatican II’s teaching on Collegiality, he finds one quote after another by an SSPX priest confidently rejecting the two subjects of supreme authority, claiming that such a teaching destroys the monarchical structure of the Church or, in the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, “the collegiality that destroys the personal authority of the Supreme Pontiff, of the episcopacy and of the parish priest.”[29] In fact, Lefebvre claimed that Vatican II’s teaching on Collegiality was one of the three most pernicious errors and sins of Liberalism which triumphed at the council (along with religious liberty and ecumenism). In Lefebvre’s own words: 

There were time bombs in the Council. I believe there were three: collegiality, religious freedom, and ecumenism. Collegiality, which corresponds to the term Egalite of the French Revolution, has the same ideology. Collegiality means the destruction of personal authority; democracy is the destruction of the authority of God, of the authority of the pope, of the authority of the bishops. Collegiality corresponds to the equality of the Revolution of 1789 (That the Church May Endure, 1972).


Now this Liberalism has penetrated the Church through the Council, and its catchwords remain the same; liberty, equality and fraternity. The spirit of Liberalism permeates the Church today, though its catchwords are thinly veiled: liberty is religious freedom; fraternity is ecumenism; equality is collegiality. These are the three principles of Liberalism, the legacy of the 18th century philosophers and of the French Revolution. (On the Similarities between the New Mass and Luther’s Mass, February 1975).


Here lies the mortal sin of this which takes up again and builds on the sins of Vatican II: doctrinal ecumenism, religious liberalism, collegiality and the promotion of the common priesthood of the faithful to the detriment of the ministerial priesthood of priests…(On the Catechism of a New Age of Man, 1982).


The more one analyzes the documents of Vatican II, and the more one analyzes their interpretation by the authorities of the Church, the more one realizes that what is at stake is not merely superficial errors, a few mistakes, ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, a certain Liberalism, but rather a wholesale perversion of the mind, a whole new philosophy based on modern philosophy, on subjectivism. (Two Years After the Consecrations, 1990).


        As you can see, for Lefebvre, the truth that Christ gave the Apostles (and their successors) a share in the universal and supreme power of the keys and the authority to “bind and loose” (explicitly revealed in Mt. 18) is a sinful principle of Liberalism and the French Revolution, which destroys the authority of God and even engenders a complete perversion of the mind. Fr. Tranquillo was a bit more concise, by simply calling the teaching “heretical.”

       All that would be news to Jesus Christ and His Apostles (and their immediate successors), who used their universal power to establish Sees and particular churches at the very beginning. And while Lefebvre claimed Collegiality resulted in the destruction of papal authority, he himself repudiated the Pope’s authority, in practice, from his suppression in 1975 until his death outside the Church in 1991. Greater hypocrisy is difficult to imagine.

         Of course, Lefebvre’s erroneous views were based upon his explicit rejection of the Church’s teaching that there are two subjects of the supreme authority. Again, in Lefebvre’s own words: 

We find this doctrine [double subject of supreme authority] already suggested in the Council document Lumen Gentium, according to which the College of Bishops, together with the pope, exercises supreme power in the Church in habitual and constant manner.  This is not a change for the better; this doctrine of double supremacy is contrary to the teaching and Magisterium of the Church. It is contrary to the definitions of Vatican Council I and to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Satis Cognitum. The Pope alone has supreme power … (Open Letter to Confused Catholics).


The new Code is designed to bring conciliar ecclesiology into legal and canonical language. ... And you now have two subjects of supreme power. Go and understand something ... How can there be two subjects of supreme power? ... (Archbishop Lefebvre, Ecône, January 18, 1983)


Then, the new Canon Law professes above all collegiality… is it not, in the reports? Collegiality is the relations between churches, local churches and universal churches, and between authorities, between bishops and the pope. Well, in the new Law, there are two supreme powers of the Church. There is the power of the pope who has the supreme power, and then the pope with the bishops.[30] 

         Now, let’s compare Lefebvre’s understanding of pre-Vatican II theology with the actual teaching of pre-Vatican II theologians. The first one is very important because it was approved by the First Vatican Council after the council issued Pastor Aeternus, which Lefebvre and the SSPX have falsely claimed Lumen Gentium contradicts. In its preparation of the Second Constitution on the Church, the First Vatican Council’s document reads: “the total plenitude of supreme power” resides “in a double subject (in duplice subject esse), in the body of bishops united to the pope, and in the pope alone.”[31]

       Thus, the very doctrine that the SSPX claims contradicts Pastor Aeternus (even calling it a sinful principle of Liberalism that destroys God’s authority, etc.), is explicitly taught in the relatio for the First Vatican Council’s Second Constitution of the Church, which was drafted after Pastor Aeternus was approvedThis teaching is further confirmed by the theology manuals published after the council. For example, in Ius Canonicum (1905), Fr. Franz Xavier Wernz teaches that “bishops together with the Roman Pontiff constitute another subject (alterum subiectum) of supreme authority in the Church, only inadequately distinct from the Roman Pontiff.”[32]

       In the revised and updated edition of Ius Canonicum (1938) Fr. Vidal presents the same teaching, that “an Ecumenical Council and the Roman Pontiff, even after the definition of the Vatican Council, are two subjects (duplex subiectum) of supreme ecclesiastical power, not adequately but only inadequately distinct.”[33] Cardinal Manning also taught: “Therefore, full, universal, and sovereign power of governing the Church is the Episcopate, full and sovereign, which exists in the person of S. Peter and of each of his successors [one subject], and in the whole Apostolic College united to S. Peter, and in the whole body of the Bishops united to the Pope’. [second subject].”[34]

       Cardinal Billot, who is a prominent authority in SSPX seminaries, even went so far as to state that Collegiality is an explicit dogma of the Catholic Faith. Said Billot: 

Moreover, there is nothing more explicit in the Catholic faith from the beginning than the dogma of the supreme authority (suprema auctoritate) of the whole episcopate, whether united in the ecumenical council, or even dispersed throughout the world. And this collegiate authority of all the bishops together with Peter their head, is how the teaching of St. Cyprian (De Unit. Eccl. n.5) is rightly understood: The episcopate is one, of which a part is held jointly by each.[35] 

         While many more quotations could be provided, an obvious question comes immediately to mind: Have the clergy of the SSPX even read pre-Vatican II theology on the episcopacy and the double subjects of the supreme power? Especially seminary professors like Frs. Gleize and Wiseman? After all, these teachings are quite easy to find. One wonders what Lefebvre and his followers did study, before coming to the conclusion that this traditional and “most explicit dogma,” already well-grounded in the theology of the council Fathers at Vatican I, is actually a sinful, modern philosophy that destroys the authority of God and His Church? In light of the juxtaposition of the Church’s teaching on the two subjects (from Vatican I to Vatican II), and the Society’s diametrically opposed teaching, who, in the words of Marcel Lefebvre, is guilty of a “wholesale perversion of the mind”?

       Nevertheless, in fidelity to the errors of its founder, the General House of the SSPX issued the following statement, confirming that it rejects the traditional Catholic teaching on the Episcopacy: 

Chapter 3 of the constitution Lumen Gentium presents a new definition of the hierarchical constitution of the Church, better known by the name of ‘collegiality’. … According to this new ecclesiology … in the Church there is a numerical distinction between two subjects of the same supreme authority, and this distinction is found between: 1) the pope alone, considered apart from the college and without it and; 2) the college, still including its head… (Society’s General House).[36]

        The General Chapter of the Society also issued the following statement in 2012:

The Chapter believes that the paramount duty of the Society, in the service which it intends to offer to the Church, is to continue, with God’s help, to profess the Catholic Faith in all its purity and integrity, with a determination matching the intensity of the constant attacks to which this very Faith is subjected nowadays.

For this reason it seems opportune that we reaffirm our faith in the Roman Catholic Church, the unique Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, outside of which there is no salvation nor possibility to find the means leading to salvation; our faith in its monarchical constitution, desired by Our Lord himself, by which the supreme power of government over the universal Church belongs only to the Pope, Vicar of Christ on earth;” (Statement from the 2012 General Chapter).[37]

Closing Remarks  

         We began this article by explaining the Society’s position, that if the texts of Vatican II contain any positive errors, Catholics must “publicly reject” the documents wholesale (don’t bother attempting a hermeneutic of continuity), along with the council who produced them. This way, maintains the SSPX, we are able to fight the errors at their source.

         However, we also challenged the Society’s severe, take-it-or-leave it approach to the conciliar documents, and posited that if the Society has erred, the same all-or-nothing approach should be equally applied to them. Specifically, if the Society has erred in its extreme indictment of the council’s teaching on Collegiality, even falsely accusing Holy Mother Church of teaching heresy, then Catholics should “publicly reject” the Society’s writings on the crisis wholesale, as well as the organization from whence these errors came. After all, the standard the SSPX presumes to apply to an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church should equally apply to their own writings.

       As this article has clearly demonstrated, the SSPX has gravely erred in its reckless and groundless indictment of Vatican II and Lumen Gentium’s doctrine on the collegiate power. The doctrine is revealed in Scripture. The power was exercised by the Apostles and their successors to found the early Sees and particular churches. The power is also exercised every time the College of Bishops gathers for an ecumenical council. The Society has falsely accused the Catholic Church of teaching error when it is the one who has erred, and quite severely. Hence, according to the Society’s own standards, its many writings and podcasts on the crisis should be tossed into the dustbin.

       By wrongly accusing the Church of teaching heresy (a grievous error in itself), which has led many souls out of the Catholic Church, the Society has zero credibility as a voice of reason, much less of Catholic orthodoxy, during this time of crisis. The Society of St. Pius X has been proven wrong, and has the burden of publicly retracting its erroneous position on Collegiality. We challenge the Society to do so. The sooner people realize that Lefebvre was not a champion of sound doctrine, but rather a Father of schism and error, the better off the traditional movement will be, and the sooner there will be a genuine restoration of all things in Christ.  

[1] In Lumen Gentium’s Preliminary Note of Explanation, No. 2, at

[2] Council of Trent, On the Sacrament of Orders, Session 23, Canon VI (July 15, 1563).

[3] Pius XII, Ad Sinarum Gentem, No. 12 (1954).


[5] Ibid.

[6] www.fsspx.or/en/supplied-jurisdiction-traditional-priests

[7]Archbishop Lefebvre, Conference to Seminarians, December 1978,


[9] Pastor Aeternus, ch. 4, no. 1. The Constitution mentions “supreme power” only one other time, in ch. 3, no. 6.

[10] Lumen Gentium, ch. 3, no. 22. See also ch. 2, no. 13 and ch. 6, no. 45.

[11] Ibid., ch. 1, no. 1.

[12] Ibid., ch 2 title.

[13] Ibid., ch. 2, no. 3.

[14] Ibid., ch. 3, no. 1.

[15] Ibid., ch. 3, no. 8.

[16] Ibid., ch. 4, no. 2.

[17] Lefebvre, I Accuse the Council, The Angelus, 1982 p. 17.

[18] Mazzella De Religione et Ecclesia: praelectiones scholastico-dogmaticae, 1905, No. 985 pp. 767-768. See also John Salza’s The Biblical Basis for the Papacy, Our Sunday Visitor, 2007.

[19] Lumen Gentium, No. 22.

[20] Hence, ordinary bishops, titular bishops, auxiliary bishops, and even retired bishops possess the power, as members of the College.

[21] While there is conflicting information out there, the consensus is that St. James the Lesser, Apostle (son of Alpheus and Mary, sister of the Blessed Virgin) founded the See of Jerusalem and was its first bishop (see Of course, we could use any of the Apostles to highlight their founding of churches by virtue of their universal power.

[22] While it is a common opinion that the Apostles (but not their successors) each had a special charism of infallibility and also possessed the supreme power individually (unlike their successors who possess it collectively), St. James established the Jerusalem See by virtue of his universal jurisdiction (his “binding” authority “on earth”).

[23] The Church’s ecclesiastical law now restricts the establishment of Churches sui iuris to the supreme authority (the Pope).

[24] Gréa, De l'Église et de sa divine constitution, Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1907.

[25] Ibid. ch. 21, “The Extraordinary Act of the Episcopate.” Gréa also says: “In the lands which they traversed and which traversed their first disciples, there was not yet any Church founded, any particular jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction of the universal Church exercised itself solely through their ministry. They acted, not as particular pastors, but uniquely as ministers of the universal Church.”

[26] “The Problem with Collegiality,” Interview with Fr. Dominique Bourmaud, SSPX,

[27] Ibid.

[28] Thompson, Edward Healy, The Unity of the Episcopate Considered, in reply to the Work of the Rev. T. W. Allies, M. A., entitled, The Church of England Cleared from the Charge of Schism, published by London; Thomas Richardson and Son, 1847, republished by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 12, 2013), p. 61.


[29] Lefebvre's Public Statement against False Ecumenism, written in October 1983, published June 1988.

[30] lefebvre.

[31] Vatican I, Second Constitution of the Church, Mansi 53:308–317.

[32] Vol. I., pp. 259-60

[33] Vol I., pp. 160-161.

[34] Manning, The Pastoral Office, 1883, pp. 96-97.

[35] Billot, De Ecclesia, 1: 571-572.