SSPX Priest Proves the Society is in Schism

SSPX Priest Proves the Society is in Schism

Fr. Gleize Makes a Devastating Admission
and a Fatal Theological Error

Mr. John F. Salza, O.P.
November A.D. 2022


Summary of Points in this Article

 

·  The SSPX admits that usurping a divine right which belongs to the Pope alone is a schismatic act. 

·  The Church teaches that the selection of bishops is a divine right which belongs to the Pope alone (by virtue of the Primacy).

·  Because Abp. Lefebvre usurped this right of the Primacy of bishops in 1988 against the Pope’s will, he committed a schismatic act (the SSPX did the same in 1991 with its consecration of Bp. Licino Rangel).

·  The SSPX claims the consecrations were not schismatic because Lefebvre did not intend to confer jurisdiction (another divine right of the Pope). This is false because:

ü  Lefebvre did intend to confer, and the SSPX claims to have, ordinary episcopal jurisdiction.

ü  Usurping the Pope’s divine right to select bishops is schismatic, even if Lefebvre did not intend to confer jurisdiction.

·  The SSPX claims the consecrations were not schismatic because a bishop other than the Pope can confer episcopal orders. This is false because:

ü  A bishop has no divine right to consecrate another bishop against the Pope’s will, even if he has the metaphysical ability to do so.

ü  Usurping the Pope’s divine right to select bishops is schismatic, even if Lefebvre did not intend to confer jurisdiction.

In short, because the SSPX concedes that usurping a divine right of the Pope alone is a schismatic act, Lefebvre’s 1988 consecrations were schismatic, as Pope John Paul II declared.

 

Introduction to the SSPX’s “Refined” Position on the 1988 (and 1991) Consecrations

 

Evidently, our work this past year, which has exposed the many theological errors of the Society of St. Pius X (on ecclesiology, canonical mission, jurisdiction, schism, etc.), has forced the Society to take a closer look at its position. On September 22, 2022, the Society published an article by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize called “We Owe to Pius XII Important Clarifications on the Nature of the Episcopate.” This article is clearly a response to our work and a hearty attempt at damage control.

In this article, issued shortly after many podcasts on the Society’s schism were aired,[1] Fr. Gleize attempts to refine the Society’s position on schism and the 1988 consecrations. In fact, Fr. Gleize tries to use the teachings of Pope Pius XII – who condemned illicitly consecrated bishops as “thieves and robbers” - to show that the “episcopate in the Society is not schismatic.”[2] Clearly, Fr. Gleize believed it was necessary to confront the very teachings from Pius XII we have used this past year to demonstrate the SSPX’s schism, by trying to make distinctions that spare the Society from the Pope’s condemnations.

Unfortunately, Fr. Gleize’s efforts have backfired on him.

As we will see, Fr. Gleize makes a devastating admission and a fatal theological error which proves, without a doubt, that the 1988 consecrations of the SSPX were schismatic, just as Pope John Paul II declared. Fr. Gleize’s article is critically important because it has reduced the debate to a mutually agreeable principle (usurping a right of the Primacy = schismatic), and also exposed a critical error in the Society’s position (failing to understand that the right to select bishops is a divine right of the Primacy). By directly exposing the Society’s error using the teachings of the Magisterium, as we do in this article, there is nothing left of the Society’s position. There are no more meaningless distinctions to hide behind. This is a game-over moment for the SSPX.

            To tee up the Society’s newly refined position, Fr. Gleize first explains to the reader the distinction between the power of episcopal orders and the power of jurisdiction. With these distinctions in mind, Fr. Gleize then argues that the “episcopate in the Society” is not schismatic because Abp. Lefevre (and his bishops) never claimed to communicate the power of jurisdiction, but only the power of orders. He reasons that because the Pope alone has the power to confer jurisdiction upon bishops, while both the Pope and bishops can confer the power of orders, usurping the former power is always schismatic while the latter is not.

In other words, according to Gleize, attempting to do the “theologically impossible” (i.e., a bishop conferring jurisdiction) is schismatic, while doing the “theologically possible” (i.e., a bishop conferring episcopal ordination, even against the Pope’s will) is not. That is Fr. Gleize’s main argument. Thus, Fr. Gleize concludes, because Lefebvre only consecrated bishops against the will of the Pope, but did not presume to confer jurisdiction upon them, the consecrations were not schismatic.

Fr. Gleize’s position can be summarized as follows:

 

1 – Power of Jurisdiction: For a bishop to communicate the power of episcopal jurisdiction is schismatic because such power belongs to the Pope alone (any attempt to do so would be a theological impossibility).

 

2 – Power of Orders: For a bishop to communicate the power of episcopal orders against the will of the Pope is not schismatic because such power also belongs to the bishops and not the Pope alone (a bishop’s power to confer orders is not a theological impossibility).

 

A Summary of Fr. Gleize’s Errors

 

         Now, as alluded to above, Fr. Gleize makes a devastating admission in point 1, and a fatal theological error point 2. First, regarding point 1, because it can be shown that Lefebvre attempted to confer, and the SSPX bishops have, in fact, assumed for themselves, an episcopal jurisdiction that must come from the Pope alone, they are schismatics, according to Fr. Gleize’s own admission. (As Gleize correctly notes, such would be a usurpation of a power of the Primacy). We will prove this in the first part of this article.

          Next, Fr. Gleize makes a fatal theological error in point 2, by failing to recognize that selecting and consecrating a bishop (communicating the power of orders) against the will of the Pope is necessarily a schismatic act, because the Pope alone has the right to select who will join the College of Bishops (of which he is the head), and this is also as a matter of divine law (by virtue of the Primacy). Never does one become a member of the College of Bishops, against the will of the head of the College of Bishops.

It makes no difference that a bishop who is not the Pope has the metaphysical ability to confer orders; he has no right to do so against the will of the Pope. It is astonishing that Fr. Gleize, a seminary professor, completely overlooks the Pope’s divine right to select a bishop to perpetuate apostolic succession (an issue of ecclesiology and the divine constitution of the Church), while zeroing in on a bishop’s mere ability to confer orders (an issue of sacramental theology).

Needless to say, the determination of who will join the College of Bishops (which is the exclusive right of the Pope, and which he does either explicitly, or at least tacitly[3]) necessarily precedes the conferral of the power of orders (which is then done by either the Pope or another bishop with the Pope’s consent). Thus, because Fr. Gleize admits that “someone who arrogates to himself the Pope’s own authority…fits this definition of schism,”[4] the selection and consecration of a bishop against the will of the Roman Pontiff is necessarily a schismatic act, according to the Society of St. Pius X. That means the 1988 and 1991 consecrations performed by the Society were schismatic.

The formal efficient cause of a Catholic episcopal consecration is the Roman Pontiff, even if he is not the one actually conferring the orders (the consecrating bishop is only the material efficient cause). This is because the selection of the bishop, and corresponding episcopal consecration belong, by divine right, to the Pope alone.

Accordingly, and consistent with Fr. Gleize’s reasoning in point 1, Lefebvre’s 1988 consecrations were schismatic because he usurped a right (to choose bishops) which belongs to the Pope alone. Indeed, it is the Pope who selects and then receives the bishops into collegial communion (the superior always receives the inferior, and not the other way around). The bishops of the SSPX were not received by the Pope; they were selected and consecrated against the will of the Pope, which is a usurpation of the Primacy. The same, of course, applies to the four SSPX bishops; they are schismatics even if they have not assumed an episcopal jurisdiction for themselves, because their reception of episcopal orders is a usurpation of the Pope’s right (and his alone) to select bishops for the College, of which he is the head.

To anticipate the facile objection, we note that the process of nominating bishops is in the domain of discipline and ecclesiastical law (this process has varied over the centuries in both the East and West, subject to the Pope’s approval); but the right to determine who will ultimately be admitted into the College of Bishops is a prerogative of the Pope alone, by virtue of his Primacy.[5] In fact, Pius XII even declares that the right to nominate bishops belongs to the Pope alone: From what We have said, it follows that no authority whatsoever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the canonical appointment granted to any bishop; that no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See.[6]

Thus, even the disciplinary process of nominating bishops, which necessarily precedes the Pope’s divine right of ultimately selecting the bishop for consecration, is also subject to the exclusive authority of the Roman Pontiff. This is because, as Vatican I teaches de fide: “Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.”[7] The council goes on to say: “This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation.”[8]

Indeed, Blessed Pius IX condemned the “neo-schismatic” Armenians, who selected and consecrated bishops against the will of the Pontiff, as “without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of discipline.” The Pope went on to say: “Teaching of this kind is heretical, and not just since the definition of the power and nature of the papal primacy was determined by the ecumenical Vatican Council: the Catholic Church has always considered it such and abhorred it.”[9] As we will see later, the teaching which denies the Pope’s exclusive right to select bishops is heretical, not only because it rejects the supreme authority related to matters of discipline (e.g. the nomination process), but also because the Pope’s ultimate right to select bishops is a matter of divine law, granted to the office of the papacy by Christ Himself.

Just as Jesus Christ alone chose and sent the Apostles, so the Vicar of Christ alone chooses and sends the successors of the Apostles. On this point alone, the position of the SSPX crumbles under its own weight.

In addition to his theological errors, there is also an error in Fr. Gleize’s reasoning, which is that an act cannot be schismatic if the person has the power to perform the act, it being “theologically possible” to carry out (i.e., a bishop conferring orders). This reasoning is absurd; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or communion with those subject to him (canon 751), and such refusal of submission or communion are always within a person’s power of the will, which is why schism is a sin against charity. Clearly, one does not have to attempt to perform an act that is not metaphysically capable or theologically possible of being carried out, in order for the act to be schismatic!

Now, the usurpation of a power belonging to the Pope alone and against his will is the most egregious form of schism, because it is a direct attack on the divine constitution of the Church, and thus admits of no mitigating circumstances. But acts which are “theologically possible” to carry out, such as the illegal ordinations and other sacraments Lefebvre performed from 1975 to 1988 and beyond, and his 15-year repudiation of papal authority by ignoring all canonical warnings and censures against him, would certainly meet the definition of schism under canon 751. Luther did not attempt the metaphysically or “theologically impossible” by assuming or conferring jurisdiction, and yet he was clearly a schismatic.

            Hence, attempting to carry out an act that is “theologically impossible” to actually perform (in the words of Fr. Gleize) is not what makes an act schismatic, but rather whether the act constitutes a withdrawal of submission from the authority of the Roman Pontiff. And an act which attacks the very foundation of unity in the Church (i.e., Lefebvre’s usurpation of the Pope’s exclusive authority to choose bishops in order to perpetuate apostolic succession) is necessarily schismatic, with no exceptions for “necessity” (not to mention Lefebvre intended to perpetuate succession in an organization, previously suppressed by the Pope in 1975, that is not part of the Roman Catholic Church). Indeed, other than the Church’s right to elect a Pope, a Pope’s right to select bishops to perpetuate apostolic succession is most important for the preservation of the Church until the Second Coming. No “necessity” can justify an attack on this process, which was instituted by Christ Himself (and Fr. Gleize himself admits no necessity can justify the usurpation of a right of the Primacy).

As the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts declared, “As far as the state of necessity in which Mons. Lefebvre thought to find himself, one must keep before one that such a state must be verified objectively, and there is never a necessity to ordain Bishops contrary to the will of the Roman Pontiff, Head of the College of Bishops. This would, in fact, imply the possibility of 'serving' the Church by means of an attempt against its unity in an area connected with the very foundations of this unity.”[10] 

Let us now further address Fr. Gleize’s errors concerning the SSPX and the power of jurisdiction. Thereafter, we will address his errors concerning the selection of bishops and the power of orders. In the end, we will see that Fr. Gleize has dug the Society’s own grave.

 

The SSPX Usurps the Pope’s Divine Right to Confer Jurisdiction (Fr. Gleize admits this is schismatic)

 

         We first address Fr. Gleize’s claim that Abp. Lefebvre did not attempt to confer “a power of jurisdiction” on the four bishops he illicitly consecrated. Says Fr. Gleize: Archbishop Lefebvre did not intend to arrogate to himself the authority of the Supreme Pontiff in order to communicate a power of jurisdiction to the four bishops whom he consecrated. He was content to communicate to them the power of order, by means of the sacred rite of episcopal consecration. This distinction is possible theologically, as we showed in light of the teachings of Pius XII.”[11]

         Now, Fr. Gleize’s claim is not only factually inaccurate, but also reveals an erroneous understanding of the nature of the episcopate itself (which is also reflected in the Society’s errors on Vatican II’s teaching on Collegiality, not addressed here). Let’s take the latter error first. St. Thomas teaches that while the simple priest is primarily ordered to sanctification (confecting the physical Body of Christ), a bishop is ordered to governance (the Mystical Body of Christ).[12]  As the Council of Trent affirmed, the bishops have been “placed by the Holy Ghost to rule the Church of God.”[13]

Thus, the Church teaches that a Catholic bishop is first and foremost ordered to ecclesiastical governance, to rule his flock, for which jurisdiction is required. Episcopal consecration gives him supplementary powers to perfect his mission (including the fullness of the priesthood), but he is ordered primarily to govern, through jurisdiction. An anticipated episcopal consecration (for a bishop selected by the Pope) necessarily contemplates the related canonical mission and jurisdiction (again, determined by the Pope). Hence, if as Gleize claims, Lefebvre was truly “content to communicate to them the power of order, by means of the sacred rite of episcopal consecration,” then Lefebvre had a profound ignorance of the nature of the episcopate, by attempting to bifurcate two powers that are necessarily interdependent and ordered to each other. Indeed, episcopal jurisdiction is the authority required to carry out the divine mission of the Church.

As we will now see, Fr. Gleize’s assertion about Lefebvre’s intentions concerning jurisdiction is also factually inaccurate, because it directly contradicts the statements and actions that Lefebvre himself took, as well as those of the other SSPX bishops. Lefebvre not only intended to confer the power of orders upon the four bishops, but also grant them a power of jurisdiction in the realm of governance (not just sanctification), the type of which would normally be exercised by bishops with ordinary jurisdiction (over dioceses), or of the Holy See.

But it gets even worse for Fr. Gleize, because he admits that schism exists when one separates himself from lawful authority and makes himself a “competing authority.” Says Gleize: “Schism consists precisely in refusing as a matter of principle to subordinate one’s action to the precept of the authority and to separate oneself from it so as to set oneself up as a competing authority.[14] As we will see, this is a damning admission for the SSPX.

            Did Abp. Lefebvre intend to set up a “competing authority” that would clash with the diocesan bishops and the Holy See? He most certainly did, based on his words and actions. At the end of his life, Lefebvre desired to set up an ecclesiastical tribunal of sorts, that would operate as a competing or “substitute” authority vis-à-vis diocesan tribunals and the Roman Rota. Said Lefebvre: “As long as the present Roman authorities are imbued with ecumenism and modernism, as long as their decisions and the New Code of Canon Law are influenced by these false principles, it will be necessary to establish substitute authorities, faithfully keeping the Catholic principles of Catholic Tradition and Catholic Law.”[15]

            The Society has indeed erected a tribunal that acts as a “competing authority” with the legitimate tribunals of the Catholic Church, which it calls the ”St. Charles Borromeo Canonical Commission.” According to Bishop Fellay, this schismatic tribunal arrogates to itself the jurisdiction to grant dispensations for mixed marriages, issue declarations of nullity (marriage annulments), lift ecclesiastical censures in the external forum including excommunications, dispense from religious vows, and authorize exorcisms, all without any ecclesiastical approval whatsoever.[16]

            The Society’s schismatic tribunal is specifically designed to operate as a “competing authority” (Fr. Gleize’s words) with the legitimate tribunals of the Roman Catholic Church, by requiring its adherents to swear on the Gospels that they will “conform myself to the verdict of the tribunal” and “not to approach an official ecclesiastical tribunal” of the Church, which the Society calls “Novus Ordo tribunals.”[17] In fact, Bishop Tissier even declares: “The faithful do not have the right to go to Novus Ordo tribunals” and “the priest must never advise anyone to go to a Novus Ordo tribunal.”[18] A clearer case of “setting oneself up as a competing authority” (again, Gleize’s words) against legitimate authority can hardly be imagined.

            Hence, notwithstanding Gleize’s claims to the contrary, Lefebvre did intend to communicate the power of jurisdiction to his bishops and priests by erecting a competing tribunal to judge matters that can only be rightly judged by “official ecclesiastical tribunals.” Lefebvre’s usurpation of the authority to judge marriage cases by true ecclesiastical judges is anathematized by the Council of Trent which declared: “If anyone shall say that matrimonial causes do not concern ecclesiastical judges, let him be anathema.”[19]

            Note also that the Society is not merely claiming that its tribunal operates on the basis of “supplied jurisdiction” (which, as I have proven in other articles, does not even apply to SSPX clergy because of the absence of common error and positive and probable doubt). Rather, the Society claims that it enjoys “ordinary episcopal jurisdiction,” in addition to supplied jurisdiction. Says Bishop Fellay: “The bishops of the Society, though deprived of any territorial jurisdiction, nevertheless possess the suppletory jurisdiction necessary to exercise the powers attached to the episcopal order and certain acts of ordinary episcopal jurisdiction.[20]

Notice that Bishop Fellay distinguishes between “suppletory jurisdiction” (by which he presumably means “supplied jurisdiction”) and “ordinary episcopal jurisdiction,” which would be jurisdiction granted by the Pope in connection with a canonical appointment to an office - even though the Society bishops hold no office in the Church to which “ordinary episcopal jurisdiction” would attach. In fact, Bishop Fellay further clarified that Abp. Lefebvre considered himself to possess a jurisdiction “permitting him, in the interests of the faithful, to grant his priests similar faculties.”[21]

Fellay also refers to their “added powers and faculties relating to marriage certificates (cf. Cor Unum n. 42, p. 44-56), dispensations from vows and the lifting of censures, along with useful precisions regarding cases where there is a danger of death and cases of emergency.”[22] Fellay further says: “The faculties granted to priests are not only for priests who are members of the Society, but for all priests who reside for a prolonged period of time in our houses…”[23] Thus, according to Fellay, faculties of jurisdiction are somehow granted even to non-SSPX priests (by whom?) if they hang out with SSPX priests long enough. Indeed, because supplied jurisdiction is not a “faculty” that is “granted” to priests by a bishop, Fellay is referring to an “ordinary episcopal jurisdiction” (his words) that could only come from the Pope.[24]

Bishop Tissier further explains that the Society’s jurisdiction is “a true jurisdiction” because “we have the power and the duty of handing down true verdicts which have potestatem ligandi vet solvendi [the power of binding and loosing]. Our verdicts therefore have an obligatory character.”[25] And, if it couldn’t get any clearer, Tissier exclaims: “It is true that our verdicts of the third instance replace the verdicts of the Roman Rota, which acts in the Pope’s name as a tribunal of the third instance.”[26] You read that correctly.

In the exact words of Fr. Gleize, schism consists precisely in refusing as a matter of principle to subordinate one’s action to the precept of the authority (that is, true Catholic tribunals, which the SSPX calls “Novus Ordo tribunals”); and to separate oneself from that authority (by swearing on the Gospels never to approach such tribunals and to submit to the Society’s verdicts); so as to set oneself up as a competing authority (or “substitute authority,” in the words of Lefebvre, whose verdicts will “replace” those of the Roman Catholic Church).

Indeed, schism consists precisely in the Society’s erection of a canonical tribunal which assumes a power of jurisdiction that the Pope alone can confer.[27] Because Fr. Gleize concedes that the usurpation of a power which belongs to the Pope alone is necessarily schismatic, he is forced to admit that those who presume to confer and accept such jurisdiction, like those in the SSPX, are schismatics. Again, as Fr. Gleize himself states: “Someone who arrogates to himself the Pope’s own authority in order to communicate a power of jurisdiction of which he is not the source fits this definition of schism.”[28]

Moreover, as Fr. Gleize also admits, no “state of necessity” or “crisis” or “state of emergency” (the buzzwords of the so-called traditional movement) exonerates an act from schism when the act is a usurpation of a right or power which belongs to the Pope alone. Says Gleize: “To communicate somehow the power of jurisdiction in the Church contrary to the will of the Pope contradicts a principle of divine right and is therefore a theological impossibility. No exceptional situation, no extraordinary circumstance could ever legitimize, much less make possible, the communication of the power of jurisdiction against the Pope’s will.”[29]

Fr. Gleize’s Admission: 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, the right to confer jurisdiction) which belongs to the Pope alone. The following syllogism applies:

Major: Usurping the Pope’s divine right to confer jurisdiction is schismatic because it is an exclusive right and privilege of the Primacy.

Minor: The SSPX bishops have usurped the Pope’s right to confer jurisdiction (by attempting to both confer and exercise it).

Conclusion: The SSPX bishops are schismatics.

 

The SSPX Usurps the Pope’s Divine Right to Select and Consecrate Bishops (Fr. Gleize is forced to admit this is schismatic)

 

We now turn to Fr. Gleize’s fatal theological error, which is his claim that a bishop who consecrates another bishop contrary to the will of the Pope is not schismatic, because the bishop also has the power (the “theological possibility”) of performing the act, and hence the act cannot be a usurpation of a divine right (of the Primacy). Says Gleize:

 

“To communicate somehow the power of jurisdiction in the Church contrary to the will of the Pope contradicts a principle of divine right and is therefore a theological impossibility…On the other hand, communicating the power of order against the Pope’s will, by performing an episcopal consecration, does not contradict a principle of divine right, since Divine Revelation does not teach that only the Pope can proceed to consecrate a bishop. Divine right teaches that every bishop can do this, since it is a question here of a theological possibility.”[30]

 

         Of course, it is not a “divine right” for a bishop to “communicate the power of order against the Pope’s will.” “Divine right,” in the words of Gleize, “teaches” no such thing. The truth is just the opposite; it is contrary to the “divine right” of the Pope for a bishop to “communicate the power of orders” against the Pontiff’s will. Such an act would be a usurpation of the Primacy because the authority to choose and consecrate a bishop is “a principle of divine right” which belongs to the Pope alone. This divine truth, which has always been taught by the Magisterium, is totally overlooked or misunderstood by Fr. Gleize, which eviscerates his position to the point that there is nothing left of it.

         Sacramental theology teaches that a bishop can validly confer episcopal orders by imparting the sacramental character, but ecclesiology teaches that the “divine right” to do so is the sole prerogative of the Roman Pontiff, by virtue of the Primacy. Fr. Gleize’s grave, theological error is his failure to distinguish between the metaphysical ability of a bishop to confer episcopal orders, and the divine right to choose and confer episcopal orders (which belongs to the Pope alone). Because Fr. Gleize has already admitted that usurping a divine right which belongs exclusively to the Pope is schismatic, his failure to recognize that the Pope’s right to select bishops is such a divine right is fatal to the SSPX’s position. Proving this divine right of the Pope proves Lefebvre and the SSPX bishops are schismatics, according Gleize’s own admission.

Let us now prove this from Church teaching.

           

The Teaching of the Magisterium on the Pope’s Divine Right to Select and Consecrate Bishops

 

            The Roman Pontiffs have always taught that they have the sole right to both elect and consecrate bishops, as a matter of divine law. As Pius IX proclaimed: “The Roman Pontiffs have always strongly defended these rights and privileges from heretics and ambitious men at the request of bishops of every rank, nation and rite.”[31] We see this doctrine in antiquity, for example, with Pope St. Innocent and St. Gregory the Great, and more recently with Popes Pius VI, Pius IX and Pius XII, among others. Pope Pius IX affirms that true Catholic bishops are only those “elected and consecrated by the authority of this Apostolic See.”[32] Just as Christ divinely established the office of the Primacy, He also divinely established the episcopate (or College of Bishops), which depends completely on the Primacy, the rock of St. Peter. This dependence includes the Pope’s sole prerogative of determining, as head of the College, who is to be admitted into the College.

Both the right to choose the bishop (the first step) and then consecrate the bishop (the second step) are the sole prerogatives of the Pope, by virtue of the papal office (notwithstanding the fact that the Pope can delegate the right to consecrate to another bishop). Selecting and consecrating a bishop are interdependent powers which cannot be separated; indeed, the latter (consecration) depends upon the former (selection). As we mentioned above, the Pope is the formal efficient cause for all Catholic episcopal consecrations, even when he is not the one actually conferring the orders. Again, just as Christ alone chose His Apostles, the Vicar of Christ alone chooses the successors of the Apostles.

Blessed Pius IX explains this divine right of the Roman Pontiff at length in the encyclical Quartus Supra. The Pope states that the divine right to select bishops, even of the Eastern Rite Church, remains with the Roman Pontiff, as part of the Church’s Sacred Tradition: “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.”[33] He also says: “Everyone knows that the eternal and at times the temporal happiness of people depends on the proper election of bishops; the circumstances of time and place must be considered referring all the authority for selecting the bishops to the Apostolic See.”[34] 

Pope Pius IX also underscores that the Pontiffs are not bound by the nominating process (which they themselves approve) which is a matter of ecclesiastical law, because the ultimate selection of a bishop is the sole right of the Pope as a matter of divine law. Says Pius IX: “However, some resent and bemoan both Our declaration that this Apostolic See has the right and power to elect a bishop either from the three names recommended or apart from them and Our prohibition against the enthronement of an elected Patriarch without Our prior confirmation.”[35]

To be clear, this exclusive right of the Roman Pontiff to select bishops is a matter of divine law, and not ecclesiastical law, because Christ Himself vested it in the Petrine office, the Roman Primacy. 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.”[36] 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.”[37] (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 – again, a principle that 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.”[38]

         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.”[39] 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. Trent goes on to say that bishops “must be assumed by authority of the Roman Pontiff,” which again means they must be received by the Pope (the superior always receives the inferior), and that only happens when the Pope approves their selection for the College of Bishops.

            This is why Pope Pius XII declared that “no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See.”[40] Notwithstanding the claims of Fr. Gleize, it does not matter whether the bishop is metaphysically capable of conferring orders; he has no right to confer episcopal consecration without the approval of the Pope, and if he does so against the Pope’s will, he is usurping a divine right of the Primacy, established by Christ Himself, which is a schismatic act (again, Fr. Gleize agrees with this in principle).

         This is also why Pius XII and prior Popes punished illicit consecrations with excommunication, which publicly declared what had already occurred, namely, a schismatic separation from the Church through the usurpation of the Primacy. Says Pius XII:

 

“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.”[41]

 

         Because bishops who confer and receive consecration against the will of the Pope are usurping a divine right of the Primacy, all their acts, in the words of Pius XII, are “criminal and sacrilegious.”[42] They are criminal because this usurpation is the robbery of someone else’s possessions against their will (e.g., Lefebvre usurping the divine rights of John Paul II, and against his will). They are sacrilegious because they traffic in spiritual goods. And thus, says Pius XII: “To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: ‘He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.”[43]

            Thus, using Fr. Gleize’s own words, selecting and consecrating bishops “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”[44] the usurpation of this right of the Primacy. Thus, the SSPX cannot appeal to “necessity,” “crisis” or “emergency” (as they have done for the past 35 years) to justify their illicit consecrations, as Fr. Gleize must now concede.

Fr. Gleize’s Admission: 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.

 

Needless to say, the same applies to the episcopal consecrations performed by the Old Catholics, the Resistance and the Sedevacantists.

 

Conclusion

 

               This latest attempt by Fr. Gleize and the Society to defend their episcopal consecrations in 1988 and 1991 against the charge of schism falls completely flat on its face. It puts a spotlight on the Society’s error, which is a failure to recognize that the right to select and consecrate bishops is a divine and exclusive right of the Primacy, granted by Christ Himself, as the Magisterium and the “writings of the ancients” have always taught. Because the Society has now conceded that the usurpation of such a right “fits this definition of schism,” it has inadvertently admitted that the consecration of SSPX bishops in 1988 and 1991 were schismatic. 

The exposure and refutation of the Society’s position based on its latest offering vindicates the declaration of Pope John Paul II that the SSPX is in schism, and anyone who “formally adheres” to the movement is excommunicated for schism. As the PCILT also declared, “the whole Lefebvrian movement is to be held schismatic, in view of the existence of a formal declaration by the Supreme Authority on this matter.”[45] It also vindicates the conclusion of the SSPX priests Lefebvre commissioned to advise him, prior to the 1988 consecrations, which was that the consecrations would, in fact, be schismatic.[46] Yes, Lefebvre was warned in advance, by his own priests, who told him: “The cause of schism is appropriating to oneself a power which by divine right is reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff alone.”[47]

            Fr. Gleize’s article is providential at this time, when some Catholics are being tempted to leave the Church for Society chapels, due to the restrictions in some dioceses on the traditional Latin Mass. Needless to say, two wrongs don’t make a right. Even if restrictions on the 1962 Missal are abusive, this does not change the theological fact that the Society is in schism, its bishops are schismatics, and anyone who formally adheres to the Lefebvrian movement is excommunicated for schism. Those who have left the Church for SSPX chapels have fallen into the error of equating those who “profess the true faith” with those who celebrate a particular Missal, instead of those “who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance” (canon 205).

All three juridical bonds depend upon unity with St. Peter, which is severed by schism. The most egregious form of schism is the usurpation of a divine right of the Primacy, which Fr. Gleize has conceded. And as we have seen, the Magisterium teaches this happens when a bishop selects and consecrates another bishop against the will of the Roman Pontiff, as the SSPX has done. As St. Augustine said: “There is nothing more grave than the sacrilege of schism; there is never a legitimate necessity to break unity.”

Holy Mother Church has made many efforts to heal the schism and bring the Society into communion with the successor of St. Peter. However, the leadership of the SSPX, like all schismatics throughout history, have refused the conditions for integration into the Church, and remain willfully separated from her governance. The Society’s contumacy continues based on its false accusations that the “conciliar” Church fell into the heresy of Modernism at Vatican II. But as Pius IX taught, “every schism fabricates a heresy to justify withdrawal from the Church.”[48] In fact, Pius IX’s condemnation of the illicit episcopal consecrations of the Old Catholics can be equally applied to the SSPX:

 

And surely what these sons of perdition (Old Catholics + Society of St. Pius X) intend is quite clear from their other writings, especially that impious and most imprudent one which has only recently been published by the person whom they recently constituted as a pseudo-bishop (Joseph Hubert Reinkens in 1873 + Fellay, Tissier, de Galarreta, Williamson in 1988; Rangel in 1991). For these writings attack and pervert the true power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops (usurping a right of the Primacy), who are the successors of blessed Peter and the apostles; they transfer it instead to the people, or, as they say, to the community (Lefebvre said jurisdiction “comes from the requests of the priests and faithful” who “gives by this very fact, authority to the bishop” February 20, 1991). They obstinately reject and oppose the infallible magisterium both of the Roman Pontiff and of the whole Church in teaching matters (e.g., the Pope’s divine right to select, consecrate and give canonical mission to bishops). Incredibly, they boldly affirm that the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops, the priests and the people conjoined with him in the unity of faith and communion (the “Novus Ordo” church) fell into heresy when they approved and professed the definitions of the Ecumenical Vatican Council (Lefebvre said the same about the “conciliar” Church after the Second Vatican Council). Therefore they deny also the indefectibility of the Church and blasphemously declare that it has perished throughout the world and that its visible Head and the bishops have erred (Lefebvre said the same by declaring the Church “is no longer Catholic”). They assert the necessity of restoring a legitimate episcopacy in the person of their pseudo-bishop (Lefebvre asserted the same for his 1988 conescrations), who has entered not by the gate but from elsewhere like a thief or robber and calls the damnation of Christ upon his head” (Fellay, Tissier, de Galarreta, Williamson, Rangel)[49]

 

         Indeed, the devil, who is the instigator of all heresy and schism, does not change his playbook. All schismatics have followed this playbook throughout history, and they often end with the most egregious form of schism, which is the usurpation of the Primacy through illicit episcopal consecrations. Lucifer of Cagliari’s consecration of Paulinus, and the many consecrations of Donatist bishops (e.g., Majorinus, Donatus, Crispinus) during the Arian crisis are some of the earliest examples, and the schismatic consecrations of the Old Catholics, the SSPX, the Resistance and the Sedevacantists are the most recent examples.

Fr. Gleize and the Society of St. Pius X have proven they can no longer defend the indefensible. This is the fork in the road for the SSPX. It is time for the Society to repent of its errors, and return to the Roman Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

 



[1] “Leaving the SSPX Behind,” Salza & Bartel, The Logos Project (July 23, 2022); “What is the Way Forward for the SSPX?,” Salza, Decrevi Determined to be Catholic (July 30, 2022); “The Errors of Archbishop Lefebvre,” Salza, The Robert Sungenis Show (August 4, 2022); “Is the SSPX Right?,” Salza, Reason & Theology (August 6, 2022); “The Formation and Suppression of the SSPX,” Salza & Bartel, The Logos Project (August 9, 2022); “The Schism of the Century – SSPX,” Salza & Bartel, The Logos Project (August 20, 2022); “The SSPX and the Sunday Obligation,” Salza, The Logos Project (August 27, 2022); “Marcel Lefebvre Was Wrong,” Salza, The Logos Project (September 3, 2022); “Questions for Bishop Schneider on the SSPX,” Salza, The Logos Project (September 17, 2022).

[2] Note that Fr. Gleize does not refer to Pope Benedict XVI’s lifting of the declared excommunications in 2009 as “proof” there is no schism, like the many lay apologists for the SSPX claim. Perhaps Fr. Gleize recognizes that one can be an excommunicated schismatic without a declaration of same from the proper authority (which is the case for those who “formally adhere” to the SSPX’s schism).

[3] We see the Pope’s tacit approval of episcopal ordinations in cases of the Eastern Church (e.g., St. Eusebius) as well as the more recent cases of Cardinals Wojtyla and Slipyj behind the Iron Curtain.

[5] Pius IX acknowledges that the Holy See has “moderated the exercise” of this power of the Primacy by allowing, for example, “synods of bishops” to nominate bishops and recommend suitable men for the episcopate, but this delegation of authority always rests upon St. Peter and never against his will. Quartus Supra, no. 30.

[6] Ad Apostolorum Principis, June 29, 1958, No. 47.

[7] First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870, no. 2.

[8] Ibid., no. 4.

[9] Quartus Supra, January 6, 1873, no. 13.

[10] Nota sulla scommunica per scisma in cui incorrono gli aderenti al movimento del Vescovo Marcel Lefebvre, allegato al Prot. N. Protocol 5233/9624 August 1996, Communicationes, 29(2) [1997].

[12] See Summa Theologiae, IIIa, q.82, a.1 and IV Sent. d.25, q.1, a.2.

[13] Trent, Session 23, chapter 4; Acts 20:28.

[14] Fr. Gleize, “We Owe to Pius XII Important Clarifications on the Nature of the Episcopate,” No. 19.

[15] Lefebvre letter to Fr. Schmidberger, January 15, 1991.

[16] Fellay,Ordinances concerning the powers and faculties enjoyed by the members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X,” 1997; see also Cor Unum, No. 61, pp. 33-46.

[17] Ibid., See also www.thetraditionalcatholicfaith.blogspot.com/2010/12/canon ical-tribunals-of-sspx.html.

[19] Touching the Sacrament of Matrimony, Session 24, canon 12.

[20] Bishop Fellay, “Ordinances concerning the powers and faculties enjoyed by the members of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X,” 1997, 79-page pamphlet.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Fellay also refers to SSPX bishops as “auxiliary bishops,” which is false. Auxiliary bishops have habitual jurisdiction that has been delegated to them by a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction, which is certainly not the case with the Society bishops.

[25] Legitimacy and Status of our Matrimonial Tribunals – Status Questionis, Canonical session at Econe, August 24, 1998.

[26] Ibid.

[27] As Fr. Gleize concedes: “The power of jurisdiction is communicated ‘only’ through the Pope…” and “The power of jurisdiction must be communicated by the will of the Pope alone…” Gleize, no. 11.

[28] Gleize, no. 19.

[29] Ibid., no. 20.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Pius IX, Quartus Supra, no. 35.

[32] Ibid., no. 29.

[33] Ibid., No. 33.

[34] Ibid., No. 30.

[35] Ibid., 28.

[36] Ibid., 29.

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

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

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

[40] Pius XII, Ad Apostolorum Principis, no. 47.

[41] 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.

[42] Ibid., no. 41.

[43] Ibid., no. 42.

[44] Ibid., no. 20.

[45] Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, August 24, 1996, no. 3.

[46] The full study of the commission of priests, who left the SSPX to found the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, is found in “A Study on Episcopal Consecrations Against the Will of the Pope – Applied to the Consecrations of 30th June 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre,” A Theological Essay by Members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter under the direction of Fr. Joseph Bisig, F.S.S.P.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Quartus Supra, no. 13.

[49] Pius IX, Etsi Multa, November 21, 1873, no. 22.

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