Joe Bocca Misses the Boat: Refuting His “Case for the SSPX”

Joe Bocca Misses the Boat:
Refuting His “Case for the SSPX”

John F. Salza, Esq.


A person named Joe Bocca wrote a reply (“Operation Survival: A Case for the SSPX”) to my article “Does the SSPX Have an Extraordinary Mission?” In my article, I demonstrate that the ministry of the Society of St. Pius X is illegitimate due to its lack of a juridical (or extraordinary) mission, according to divine law and the teaching of the Church. In short, the SSPX is not part of, nor has been sent by, the Roman Catholic Church, and the SSPX also rejects the Catholic Church’s universal Profession of Faith (among other doctrines). Moreover, the bishops of the SSPX were selected and consecrated contrary to the will of the Holy Father, and thus are schismatics. Therefore, the clergy of the SSPX are not considered legitimate Catholic ministers.

Mr. Bocca’s “case for the SSPX” is entirely flawed ab initio, because he thinks the SSPX can operate due to a suspension of the Church’s legislative laws, based on the ever nebulous and subjective “state of necessity,” and the higher law “the salvation of souls” (the predictable and perfunctory appeals of the false traditionalists). The obvious problem with Mr. Bocca’s argument is that the requirements that bishops must be approved and received by the Pope and have a juridical mission in the Church, is a matter of divine law, not the Church’s legislative law.

While the Church’s canon law may lack provisions for certain unforeseeable cases, divine law foresees all things (including cases of “necessity”). Thus, the presence or absence of something in the Church’s legislative laws, due to “necessity,” as Mr. Bocca argues, can never be used to circumvent the divine law. And, as the PCILT declared in 1996,there is never a necessity to ordain Bishops contrary to the will of the Roman Pontiff, Head of the College of Bishops.Hence, Mr. Bocca’s entire argument is invalid and should be dismissed without further consideration.

In my prior articles, I have explained this truth in some depth, but will briefly repeat it here. Christ conferred the divine mission upon the Apostles by sending them into the world (Mt. 28:19), and commanded them to confer mission upon others, and so on, until the end of the world. Pope Pius XII teaches: “For in virtue of the juridical mission by which our Divine Redeemer sent His Apostles into the world, as He had been sent by the Father, it is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers sacrifices.”[1] Pius XII also says that acts performed by clergy without juridical mission “are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious,” and equated such clergy to “thieves and robbers,” in the words of Our Lord.[2]

To further underscore that the necessity of juridical mission is a matter of faith, the Council of Trent declared: “If anyone saith that bishops…who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.”[3] To hold such bishops as lawful ministers, as Mr. Bocca does, is anathema because the necessity of mission is a requirement of the divine law, not the “legislative laws of the Church,” which only regulate mission. Just as Christ alone chose and sent His Apostles, so the Vicar of Christ alone chooses and sends the successors of the Apostles.

Because Mr. Bocca has failed to address the real issue – how the SSPX can circumvent the divine law of Christ by operating without being part of, or sent by, the Roman Catholic Church – I could simply stop here. His entire article is a non sequitur which does not respond to my own arguments. Nevertheless, for the remainder of this article, I will quote relevant excerpts from Bocca’s article to prove that he has “missed the boat,” and provide some brief commentary where necessary.

Bocca:Along came a man sent by God, and his name was Marcel” (to quote Michael Davies).

Salza: After Lefebvre was suppressed by Pope Paul VI and lost his canonical mission, he was no longer sent by the Church, much less God. If he were sent by God and not Church authority, he would have had the miracles to prove he had such an extraordinary mission from Christ. He did not. Further, Michael Davies was actually a poor apologist for the SSPX, and thankfully changed some of his own views on the Society before he died. Davies repeatedly failed to make the proper distinction between consecrating a bishop without a papal mandate (which, by itself, is not an intrinsically evil act), and consecrating a bishop contrary to the express will of the Pope (which is always evil and schismatic). Bocca makes the same mistake, as we will now see.

Bocca: “On that same day, the Archbishop consecrated four men to the episcopate without papal mandate, which though it is extraordinary, is not without precedence and does not place one outside the Catholic Church.”

Salza: There you have it. Bocca fails to distinguish between consecrations without a papal mandate that are at least tacitly approved by the Pope (e.g., the consecrations of Cardinals Wojtla and Slipyj behind the Iron Curtain, which were later approved by the Holy See) and consecrations that are contrary to the will of the Pope, such as those of the SSPX in 1988 and 1991. When Bocca says Lefebvre’s actions are “not without precedence,” he is correct – we see the same schismatic actions in other sects which left the Catholic Church, such as those of Novatian, Lucifer of Cagliari, the Old Catholics, the Sedevacantists and the Resistance, to name a few sects. Schismatic consecrations prove – not disprove – that such clergy operate outside the Church, without a mission from the Church.

Bocca’s decision to “rebut” my (the Church’s) position on the divine necessity of mission, by beginning with Lefebvre’s illicit consecrations in 1988 – an act which constitutes a usurpation of the divine right of the Primacy – is a most odd approach indeed, because it only highlights that these bishops not only did not have juridical mission from the Church, but were per se schismatics, according to the perennial teaching of the Magisterium (the Pope alone has the right to select and consecrate bishops, as a matter of divine law, the usurpation of which is necessarily schismatic). Bocca does not understand the rights of the Primacy because he holds an erroneous ecclesiology which simply identifies the Church with those who “profess the true faith” - which, for Bocca, means those who agree with the Society of St. Pius X and attend the Traditional Mass.

Bocca: “Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, SSPX, in his essay “The State of Necessity,” posits: If the application of the law goes against the end of the law intended by the legislators, it is no longer legitimate, because it is self-contradictory. The subjects can and must take no notice of it in order to obtain the end of the law despite the authorities who apply the law contrary to the law.”

Salza: Bocca’s error continues; his appeal to Fr. Gleize and the principle of epikeia (which is what Gleize is referring to here) is fallacious because the necessity for the Pope to select bishops and grant them juridical mission is a matter of divine law, and not human law. Epikeia only excuses one from obeying human law, and only in certain circumstances; it does not allow one to circumvent divine law, such as usurping the right of the papal Primacy.

Gleize’s suggestion that Lefebvre was justified in circumventing the canonical requirements of suitability or pontifical mandate is also absurd, because Lefebvre’s acts were contrary to the will of the Pope and Lefebvre was bound to the Pope’s supreme authority, even on matters of discipline (which Vatican I teaches is a matter of divine and Catholic Faith and thus necessary for salvation). But most importantly, it is irrelevant to the necessity of divine law and the rights of the Primacy, which epikeia can never circumvent. I have more to say on this topic in my refutation of Fr. Gleize in my article “SSPX Priest Proves they are in Schism,” as well as my refutation of Fr. Peter Scott in my article “A Refutation of the SSPX’s Appeal to Canonical Equity.”

Bocca: “If the power of the legislator were being applied against his own mission and the mission of the Church, such power would be arbitrary by definition. As a result the faithful would be forced to neglect our faculty of reason and conform our beliefs to whomever is in power at a given time.”

Salza: Of course, the power of the Pope to select bishops and grant them juridical mission is a matter of divine law, and hence Pope John Paul II was not “applying his power against his own mission and the mission of the Church” by exercising his divine prerogatives. Rather, he was fulfilling the mission of the Church. It was Lefebvre who was acting “against” the Pope and “the mission of the Church” by usurping these powers, and against the Pope’s will. As I said, Bocca’s argument is flawed from the beginning.

Further, John Paul II was anything but “arbitrary” in his dealings with Lefebvre. After all, it was Lefebvre who withdrew submission from papal authority in 1975 by ignoring his suppression, after which he committed countless illicit acts in defiance of the Pope and bishops, leading up to his schismatic consecrations in 1988. The truth is that, in spite of Lefebvre’s 13-year schism, John Paul II still bent over backwards to grant Lefebvre a bishop in August, 1988 (which Lefebvre agreed to!). Again, John Paul II made this incredible gesture, even though Lefebvre had rejected papal authority by committing the following illicit acts – many of which were multiple and repeated and subject to additional canonical censures - since his suppression in 1975:

·         disregarded the juridic effects of lawful suppression

·         disregarded warnings not to ordain priests without permission

·         ordained priests without permission

·         sent priests to minister without incardination

·         sent priests to minister who are under censure

·         ignored suspension from the exercise of Orders

·         ignored Pope Paul VI’s direct order to respect his suspension

·         preached in dioceses without permission of the local bishops

·         publicly promoted hostility to the Pope and the Holy See

·         publicly propagated false doctrines

·         founded a substitute tribunal to perform acts reserved to the local ordinaries or Holy See (e.g., marriage annulments, lifting of excommunications, dispensing of religious vows)

·         promoted the erection of chapels, seminaries and schools without ecclesiastical permission 

In light of Lefebvre’s ongoing and blatant repudiation of papal authority, Pope John Paul II would not have been acting “arbitrary” in refusing Lefebvre even a single bishop. However, because the selection of bishops is a right of the Primacy, it does not matter whether John Paul II acted arbitrary or not! Bocca’s subjective characterization of the Pope’s power as arbitrary falls flat on its face. And yet the Pope, in great humility and charity, still granted Lefebvre a bishop, which Lefebvre agreed to, and then reneged on, in complete disgrace.

God only knows how much better the condition of the Church would have been, and tradition would have been served, had Lefebvre submitted to the authority of the Pope. We likely would not have had the forty-some years of invalid confessions and marriages that took place in SSPX chapels, along with illicit Masses, sacrilegious re-ordinations and confirmations, the erection of a schismatic “canonical” tribunal, and countless additional schisms from SSPX breakaways (Sedevacantism, Resistance, Avrille Dominicans, independent sects), which continue to afflict the Church today.

Bocca:In such a case, the faithful would be subject to a kind of papal voluntarism, in which the will of the man who is pope is the supreme governing principle in the Church (editor’s note: this is the definition of the false spirit of Vatican One). The condemnation of this papal voluntarism can be inferred from canon 1752 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”

Salza: “Papal voluntarism” is the new buzzword of the false traditionalists. They ridicule Catholics for submitting to the Pope’s supreme authority, whether on matters of faith or discipline, if they don’t like what the Pope says or does (and in the case of John Paul II, the Pope was exercising his divine right to select bishops). It’s actually an example of “lay voluntarism,” where laity with no authority in the Church attempt to impose their will over the supreme authority of the Vicar of Christ and the divine prerogatives of his office. This, of course, is pure Protestantism and Liberalism.

And their Liberalism leads them to the heretical conclusion that there is salvation outside the Church, since they claim a usurpation of the rights of the Primacy is for “the salvation of souls” – a usurpation which was declared schismatic by the Supreme Authority of the Church. Of course, anyone who claims that one can be saved in a “ministry” that is not part of nor authorized by the Roman Catholic Church, but rather condemned by the Church as schismatic and illegitimate, does not know what the Catholic Church is, and holds the heretical view that there is salvation outside Catholic Church. 

Bocca: “This principle is also refuted by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Here I quote from a Thomistic study on the 1988 Consecrations: Universal laws…are established for the good of the whole. Therefore, in establishing them the legislator bears in mind that which happens ordinarily and in the greater number of the cases (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q.147, A.4)… Therefore, in cases ‘that happen rarely’ and in which ‘one happens to have to act outside the ordinary laws,’ ‘it is necessary to judge on the basis of principles higher than the ordinary laws’ (ST, II-II, Q.51, A.4).”

Salza: My opponent pretends that St. Thomas helps him as he quotes from SSPX propaganda, but again incorrectly appeals to “higher laws” that supersede “ordinary laws” of the “legislator,” even though the right to select bishops and confer juridical mission is of the divine law, of the supreme legislator of the Church, outside of which one cannot act, and which necessarily provides “for the good of the whole.” My opponent completely misses the boat, because he has blindly relied upon SSPX talking points (and, as I pointed out in my article refuting Fr. Gleize, it is simply astonishing that the Society has failed to recognize that the selection of bishops is a divine right of the Primacy, the usurpation of which is necessarily schismatic, a principle which Fr. Gleize even admits).

Bocca: “These ‘higher principles” are the ‘general principles of divine and even human law’ (Suarez, De Legibus 1. VI c. VI n.5) which supply for the silence of positive law…The Church is authorized to apply said principles when, because of cases not foreseen by the law, it defers to the general principles of law and to the common and constant judgment of the Doctors, which, precisely because common and constant, must be considered canonized by the Church.”

Salza: More SSPX talking points which embarrassingly focus on the straw man of “positive law” without recognizing that the Pope’s selection of those who will enter the College of Bishops (of which he is the head) is a matter of divine law. Because Mr. Bocca acknowledges that the “higher principles” that must govern in times of crisis come from “divine law,” he concedes my argument, since this “divine law” requires that the Pope select, consecrate and send his bishops! If my opponent would follow his own advice and consult “the common and constant judgment of the Doctors” of the Church,” he would discover that Lefebvre usurped a right of the Roman Pontiff by consecrating bishops against the Pope’s will. As Blessed Pius IX teaches: The writings of the ancients testify that the election of Patriarchs had never been considered definite and valid without the agreement and confirmation of the Roman Pontiff.”[4] My opponent makes my case for me, while he destroys his own.  

Bocca: “Based on of the law of the Church and principles established by St. Thomas, we can conclude with certainty that papal voluntarism is not in conformity with Church teaching and further proof that a hierarch must legislate with clear sight of the telos of the law.”

Salza: There is that buzzword again; characterizing the submission to the supreme authority of the Pope concerning a right that he alone holds as “papal voluntarism” when you don’t like his decision (here, regarding the selection of bishops for the episcopate). Of course, this is pure Liberalism, not Catholicism. Christ has endowed the Pope alone with the right and duty to perpetuation apostolic succession (the true “telos” of this particular divine law) through the selection and consecration of bishops. A usurpation of this right is a direct attack upon the unity and divine constitution of the Church, which is contrary to the “telos” of the positive law of Christ. None of this has evidently dawned upon Mr. Bocca.

Mr. Bocca then goes on to address Vatican II and a quotation from Lefebvre, even though this material also has nothing to do with the rights of the papal Primacy or juridical mission.

Bocca: “[Quoting Lefebvre] Regarding certain points taught by the Second Vatican Council or concerning subsequent reforms of the liturgy and law which appear difficult to reconcile with tradition, we commit ourselves to a positive attitude of study and of communication with the Apostolic See, avoiding all polemics. Indeed, this proposition represents a concession on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith (CDF) to allow Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX to interpret the council as erroneous; if this position excluded one from being Catholic, certainly the CDF would not have left it “open for study,” as it were.”

Salza: Of course, the Church’s permission to discuss and debate non-definitive teachings of the Second Vatican Council has nothing whatsoever to do with Abp. Lefebvre’s schismatic usurpation of a right of the Roman Primacy. Mr. Bocca is extremely confused. While the Church has always permitted debate about non-definitive teachings of the authentic Magisterium, it has never permitted a bishop to consecrate another bishop against the express will and canonical warning of a Pope! There is simply no relationship between the two.

Bocca also seems to think the ability to question the reforms of the Council was somehow a “concession” to Abp. Lefebvre (as if that would justify his schismatic actions). This is also false. The Second Vatican Council itself granted the bishops the ability to discuss and even question the conciliar texts long before Lefebvre broke away from the Church. Archbishop Pozzo, the point man who has been attempting to bring the SSPX back into the Church, made clear that allowing debate about the pastoral aspects of the conciliar documents is not a concession granted to the SSPX, but rather one granted by the Vatican II council itself, to all Catholics. He noted:

This is certainly not a [later] conclusion on our part, but it was already clear at the time of the Council. The General Secretary of the Council, Cardinal Pericle Felici, declared on 16 November 1964: ‘This holy synod defines only that as being binding for the Church what it declares explicitly to be such with regard to Faith and Morals.’ Only those texts assessed by the Council Fathers as being binding are to be accepted as such. That has not been [later] invented by “the Vatican,” but it is written in the official files themselves.[5] 

Now, we ask Mr. Bocca: What does one’s ability to question non-definitive teachings of the authentic Magisterium have to do with Lefebvre’s usurpation of a right of the Roman Primacy or his clergy operating without a canonical (or extraordinary) mission? The answer, of course, is nothing.

Ironically, Mr. Bocca does not seem to be aware of the fact that Lefebvre and the SSPX actually reject the proposition in the Church’s Profession of Faith – a traditional doctrine of the Church – which permits a conditional assent of the intellect to non-definitive Magisterial teachings! And this rejection of the Church’s Profession does indeed “exclude one from being Catholic,” in the words of my opponent. Because Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre rejected this traditional doctrine of the Church, which is now part of the Church’s formal Profession of Faith, while falsely claiming it was a novelty of Vatican II, the Society of St. Pius X refuses the formal Profession of faith that every Catholic, of whatever rite – East or West – must profess to enter the Church, or to hold office in the Church. 

Bocca: “To defer to the principle stated in the prior paragraph, the teaching authority of the Church must instruct the faithful in accordance with tradition, any deviation is logically incoherent and contrary the Code of Canon Law.”

Salza: Mr. Bocca continues to prove my case for me, because “the teaching authority of the Church” has, in fact, “instructed the faithful in accordance with tradition” that the Pope alone has the right to select and consecrate bishops, as a matter of divine law, and not “Canon Law” as my opponent maintains.

 Blessed Pius IX makes this clear when he refers to “the Apostolic authority given to Us by the Lord through the most holy Peter, prince of the Apostles,’ to appoint bishops, priests and deacons in every city subject to the sees of Jerusalem and Antioch.”[6] The right to appoint bishops is a divine right, given by Christ to St. Peter and his successors, as part of the Petrine office.

       Pope Pius IX further affirms that the election of bishops is a “divine right” of the Pope, given to him “by Christ Himself,” which is indestructible and absolute: 

“But We considered that We should not keep silence on Our right to elect a bishop apart from the three recommended candidates, in case the Apostolic See should be compelled to exercise this right in the future. But even if We had remained silent, this right and duty of the See of blessed Peter would have remained unimpaired. For the rights and privileges given to the See by Christ Himself, while they may be attacked, cannot be destroyed; no man has the power to renounce a divine right which he might at some time be compelled to exercise by the will of God Himself.”[7] (Note: the term “divine right” used by Pius IX to explain this right of the Primacy is the very same term Fr. Gleize uses to deny this right of the Primacy!)

         Because the prerogative to select and ordain bishops is a divine and exclusive right of the Roman Pontiff, if a bishop (like Lefebvre) were to assume the right for himself, he and the bishops he consecrates would necessarily be schismatic – which is a principle that even Fr. Gleize concedes. This truth was taught by another Pope, Pius VI, in his encyclical Charitas:

“For the right of ordaining bishops-belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained, thus invalidating their future actions.”[8]

         Pope Pius VI is reiterating the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Trent, which condemned those (like the SSPX) who say that bishops “who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments.”[9] Notice that Trent makes a distinction between those who are “rightly ordained” and those who are “sent.” “Rightly ordained” refers to the Pope’s divine right to select and consecrate bishops, while “sent” refers to the Pope’s divine right to confer jurisdiction through canonical mission. Indeed, the right to select, consecrate and send bishops all rest exclusively with the Roman Pontiff.

            If Mr. Bocca were actually “instructed in accordance with tradition,” he would have never entered this debate.

Bocca: “Given the innovations in theology and liturgical praxis, and the resulting exodus from the Catholic Church – into nominal Catholicism, other religions, agnosticism, or atheism – we can conclude that a state of necessity Archbishop Lefebvre perceived did, in fact, exist.”

Salza: As already explained above, divine law foresees all “necessity,” and the Catholic Church has ruled “there is never a necessity to ordain Bishops contrary to the will of the Roman Pontiff, Head of the College of Bishops.” In light of Mr. Bocca’s grave errors and omissions, we ask him what he thinks about the “exodus from the Catholic Church” to independent groups which are not part of, nor sent by the Roman Catholic Church, and which include the SSPX. As Cardinal Burke stated, “The Society is not part of the one Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.”  Or does Mr. Bocca believe that clergy who are not part of the juridical structure of the Church, and who do not have a juridical mission from the Church, and who reject the Catholic Church’s Profession of Faith, are still Catholic ministers?

Bocca: “We have now established the claims that any legislative power exercised by the Church hierarchy that is inconsistent with the supreme law of the Church is an abuse of said power.”

Salza: Bocca continues to make my case for me, but does not realize it, because he is ignorant of the Church’s teaching on the rights of the Roman Primacy and the divine constitution of the Church. We agree and have actually established that any act “by the Church hierarchy that is inconsistent with the supreme law of the Church is an abuse of said power,” and the selection and consecration of bishops contrary to the will of the Holy Father is even worse than “an abuse of power,” because it is a usurpation of a right which belongs to the Pope alone, as the Magisterium has always taught.   

Bocca: “Established, too, are the claims that there is a state of necessity in the Church, because of a Council containing within it some erroneous teachings and admissions by both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.”

Salza: What a mess this is. First, the Church has ruled just the opposite! – that there is never a “state of necessity” which justifies the consecration of bishops contrary to the will of the Pope. A “state of necessity” was “established” by whom, Mr. Bocca? It certainly wasn’t the Catholic Church. Second, exactly where did Paul VI and John Paul II admit that Vatican II taught error? And what would that have to do with Lefebvre’s usurpation of a right of the Roman Primacy? Nothing, of course. If Mr. Bocca is concerned about the “teachings and admissions” of John Paul II, he should start by submitting to the Pope’s declaration in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, that Lefebvre committed a schismatic act due to a “rejection of the Roman Primacy.”

Bocca: “The final proposition that demands proof is that Archbishop Lefebvre himself acted justly and within the bounds of the Church law. The most polarizing action undertaken by the Archbishop was, without question, the episcopal consecrations of 1988. Was the Archbishop excommunicated as a result of these consecrations as had been alleged by Pope John Paul II? Another look at Canon Law proves beyond doubt that he was not.”

Salza: Of course, Lefebvre not only did not “act within the bounds of Church law,” but he acted contrary to the divine law. Again, it is astonishing that the Society has failed to recognize this most fundamental truth, taught always and everywhere by the Magisterium (but not so surprising for a newbie SSPX apologist like Mr. Bocca, who appears to limit his research to Society propaganda). And as Pius VI declared long ago, those who consecrate bishops contrary to the will of the Pope are excommunicated for schism. Pope Pius XII reiterated this perennial teaching when he declared:

“Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.”[10]

Bocca: “Having proved that Church law must be legislated for the good of the faithful, that a state of necessity can and does exist in the Church, and that such a state of necessity has vindicated the work of Archbishop Lefebvre and continues to provide the freedom necessary for the SSPX to act, at this point I would like to address an argument made by Mr. John Salza in his work “Does the SSPX have an Extraordinary Mission?

Salza: Again, I quote Mr. Bocca to show that he has completely failed to address the fundamental issue, which is Abp. Lefebvre’s schismatic usurpation of a right of the Roman Primacy. The “Church’s law” and “legislation” are irrelevant to the divine prerogatives of the Primacy, which include the right to select bishops and confer juridical mission. A “state of necessity” can never justify the usurpation of a divine right of the Primacy, as even Fr. Gleize has publicly conceded. Mr. Bocca’s entire “case” is a straw man.

Bocca: “In his article, Mr. Salza claims that “the existence of a crisis in the Church is not relevant to the question of ‘How Can the SSPX Justify its Ministry in the Church?’” His entire case hinges on the veracity of this assumption which ultimately is proven false.

Salza: Wrong. My “entire case” rests upon the revealed truth that Christ conferred the right to select bishops upon St. Peter and his successors, as part of the office of the Primacy, which the Church has taught throughout the course of her history. Mr. Bocca has entirely overlooked the key issue which obliterates the case for the SSPX so that there is nothing left of it.

Bocca: The Catholic Church herself – as I have proved above – allows for Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX to navigate a Church in crisis, in opposition to the expressed will of the hierarchy (not to be confused with the will of the Church). None of the penalties foisted upon the Archbishop and the SSPX have carried the weight of legitimacy and, as such, the Catholicity of the SSPX has been maintained since its inception.”

Salza: Wrong. As I have shown, the Catholic Church does not “allow for Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX to navigate a Church in crisis” where that “navigation” means usurping an exclusive right of the Roman Primacy, because such a right has been conferred by Christ Himself. It was actually the “will” of Lefebvre that was “in opposition” to the “expressed will” of the Pope on a matter of divine right which, far from “carrying the weight of legitimacy and Catholicity,” was necessarily schismatic, according to the declaration of the supreme authority and the entire Magisterial tradition.

As Fr. Gleize conceded in his article “We Owe to Pius XII Important Clarifications on the Nature of the Episcopate” (September 22, 2022), performing an act which is “contrary to the will of the Pope contradicts a principle of divine right,” and “no exceptional situation, no extraordinary circumstance could ever legitimize, much less make possible”[11] Thus, according to the very standard for schism set forth by Fr. Gleize, Lefebvre and the other SSPX bishops are schismatics because they have arrogated to themselves a divine right (here, to select and consecrate bishops) which belongs to the Pope alone. The following syllogism applies:

Major: Usurping the Pope’s divine right to select bishops is schismatic because it is an exclusive right of the Primacy.

Minor: The SSPX bishops have usurped the power of selecting bishops (with their consecrations in 1988 and 1991).

Conclusion: The SSPX bishops are schismatics.

Bocca: “John Salza has also posited that the SSPX, given its irregular stature, would have to produce miracles to ratify the legitimacy of its work. Mr. Salza’s thesis concerning miracles also relies on a premise that is demonstrably false. He cites Cum Ex Injunctio by Pope Innocent III, who in turn, quotes Romans 10:5: “No one should indifferently usurp the duty of preaching for himself. For, according to the Apostle: ‘And how shall they preach unless they be sent?’” He then proceeds to tell us that Pope Innocent warns us that the SSPX should not be believed because they were not sent by the Church. On the contrary, the Catholic Church, the logic of her laws, and the mercy she shows to her faithful soldiers, frees the SSPX to proceed with its mission freely. Mr. Salza has conflated the will of individual hierarchs with the will of the Church as such.

Salza: Bocca should be embarrassed for making such a ridiculous argument, which is this: My premise (that the SSPX, which has no juridical mission, also does not have an extraordinary mission because their clergy have no miracles) is “demonstrably false” because…ready? …the SSPX can operate without them! And why is that? Because, according to Bocca, the Church say so! (it “frees” the SSPX to proceed…)

Read his argument again, folks. This is one of the more flagrant cases of “question-begging” that I have seen. It is actually my opponent’s “premise” (that the SSPX “can proceed with its mission freely” – what mission!!?) that is “demonstrably false,” because the SSPX has neither a canonical mission from the Church, nor an extraordinary mission from Christ. Such an absurd argument disqualifies Mr. Bocca from this debate.

And Bocca nonsensically claims I have “conflated the will of individual hierarchs with the will of the Church as such.” Unfortunately for Mr. Bocca, it is the will of Christ that the head of the College of Bishops determines who will join the College, and that no bishop can join the College against the will of the head. It is also the will of Christ that bishops are sent by the Pope through canonical mission in order to lawfully minister in the Church, and to say otherwise is anathema according to the Council of Trent. Again, none of this has dawned upon Joe Bocca.

Bocca: “He fails to make the distinction as St. Thomas does (quoted above) between ordinary and extraordinary circumstances of law, and between orthodox hierarchs (who act according to the will of Christ) and heretical or misinformed hierarchs (who may act contrary to the will of Christ).”

Salza: Wrong. “Ordinary and extraordinary circumstances” of human law do not circumvent the divine law. And it was Archbishop Lefebvre, a “heretical and misinformed hierarch,” who “acted contrary to the will of Christ” by usurping a divine prerogative that Christ Himself conferred upon St. Peter and his successors.

Bocca: “He then alleges that the SSPX can point to no passage in Scripture to make their case. However, there appears a passage which my interlocutor has hitherto not considered: “Jesus said to him, you must see signs and miracles happen, or you will not believe” John 4:48 (Knox).”

Salza: Like a Protestant, Bocca refers to a single Scripture passage, grossly out of context, to throw out the rest of Scripture, Tradition, and the teachings of the Church, which demonstrate that the right to select and send bishops belongs to the Pope alone, in order to be lawful ministers of Christ! But Bocca’s Protestant hermeneutic may be borne from his Protestant ecclesiology. For Joe Bocca, clergy do not have to be juridically part of the Roman Catholic Church, or sent by the Roman Catholic Church, or even accept the Roman Catholic Church’s Profession of Faith, in order to be lawful Catholic ministers.

In Joe Bocca’s ecclesiology, the Church of Christ “subsists” in clergy and sects that are separated from the Roman Catholic Church in government. In an exact parallel to the Protestants, Mr. Bocca’s ecclesiology maintains that the “visible Catholic Church” consists of all the baptized who profess the true faith, and partake of the true sacraments, regardless of whether they are united in government, and subject to the legitimate authorities.

Bocca:The Catholic Church is the one true Church, established by Jesus Christ. The SSPX, as has already been proven, belongs to the Catholic Church.”

Salza: Another example of Mr. Bocca making my case for me. In Bocca’s Protestant ecclesiology, clergy and individual sects “belong to the Catholic Church,” even though they are not juridically part of the Church, nor have been sent by the Church, nor accept the Church’s Profession of Faith. For Bocca, the Church of Christ “subsists” in clergy and sects that are separated from the Roman Catholic Church in government, even though the requirement of being one in government with the Church is also a matter of divine law (Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum), and those who are separated from the Church’s government are not living in the Body (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi). Bocca’s heretical view distorts the nature of the Church, by replacing her juridical reality with a greater spiritual reality, just like Protestant ecclesiology.

Bocca: “In closing, I would invite John Salza to consider the words of our Savior and ask himself why it is he or anyone else should expect great wonders from a priestly order as criterion for communion with Rome. The SSPX is merely doing what all priestly orders did before the Council, which was suddenly deemed “illegal” by a misinformed (or heretical!) hierarchy.”

Salza: In closing, I would invite Joe Bocca to prove his assertion that “the SSPX is merely doing what all priestly orders did before the Council,” by showing us what priestly orders usurped a divine right of the Primacy by consecrating bishops against the will of the Pope, and remained in the Catholic Church. The answer, of course, is none, except those who were held to be  schismatics. 

I also invite Mr. Bocca to explain what privilege he is claiming for the SSPX, who has not been sent by the Church or Our Lord, over that same Lord, or the Apostles, or Moses – all of whom performed miracles to authenticate their ministries. In light of the constant teaching of Popes and Doctors of the Church, on what ground does Mr. Bocca dispense the SSPX from this proof of miracles, when Our Lord Himself, the Source of all canonical mission, chose not to?

No, Mr. Bocca, not a single legitimate priestly ministry before the council was operating on the basis of a schismatic episcopal consecration against the will of the Pope. Not a single one was operating without being part of the Catholic Church. Not a single one was operating without a juridical mission from the Church. And none of them were guilty of making fallacious appeals to “supplied jurisdiction” to justify their entire ministry, even for acts which don’t require jurisdiction. And none of them were giving invalid absolutions and witnessing invalid marriages for decades. And none of them were offering illicit and sacrilegious Masses (and incurring canonical censures for all of their illicit acts).

What “priestly orders” are Mr. Bocca referring to exactly?

For Joe Bocca, it should have been “acqua in bocca” (an Italian expression which means “keep your mouth shut”), instead of entering into this debate, if he really thought he was going to help “the case for the SSPX.” But, as with his fellow colleagues, such attempts do advance the debate by solidifying the truth, and prove once again that the Society’s apologists have no defense for the indefensible.


[1] Mystici Corporis Christi, June 29, 1943, No. 54. For priests, canon law requires them to be “incardinated” (canon 265), that is, connected or “hinged” to a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction. This technically means priests share in the mission of their bishops. For sake of simplicity, I use “mission” to refer to the ministry of both bishops and priests.

[2] Ibid., Nos 41-42 (emphasis added). In addition to “juridical mission,” Pius XII also teaches that the power of jurisdiction, similarly regulated by positive law, is also rooted in divine law: “But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successor of St. Peter.” Ad Sinarum Gentem, October 7, 1954, No. 12.

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

[4] Ibid., No. 33.

[5] Ibid. In example, Archbishop Pozzo said “Nostra Aetate does not have any dogmatic authority, and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognize this declaration as being dogmatic.”

[6] Ibid., 29.

[7] Pius IX, Quartus Supra, no. 31.

[8] Pius VI, Charitas, April 13, 1791, no. 10.

[9] Trent, Session 23, On the Sacrament of Orders, chapter 4, canon 7.

[10] Ibid., no. 48. For example, in connection with the schismatic episcopal consecrations of the Old Catholic movement against the Pope’s will, Pope Pius IX declared: “We have been undeservingly placed on this supreme seat of Peter to preserve the Catholic faith and the unity of the universal Church. Therefore, following the custom and example of Our Predecessors and of holy legislation, by the power granted to Us from heaven, We declare the election of the said Joseph Hubert Reinkens, performed against the sanctions of the holy canons to be illicit, null, and void. We furthermore declare his consecration sacrilegious. Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, We excommunicate and hold as anathema Joseph Hubert himself and all those who attempted to choose him, and who aided in his sacrilegious consecration. We additionally excommunicate whoever has adhered to them and belonging to their party has furnished help, favor, aid, or consent. We declare, proclaim, and command that they are separated from the communion of the Church.” Etsi Multa, November 21, 1873, no. 26.

[11] Ibid., no. 20.