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 On the extinction of the hierarchy 
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New post On the extinction of the hierarchy
The following are my posts from what became, briefly, a famous IA thread (from 2012):


The idea that the hierarchy is extinct if Paul VI, JPII, and Benedict have not truly been popes is obviously a very serious objection, and Guerard des Lauriers recognised it as such and developed his theory in order to address it. However there does not appear to be any need to adopt novelties such as his in order to answer this objection.

The situation in the Church is certainly confused, but these principles ought to assist clarity.

1. The acts of a false pope who was considered pope by most members of the Church would be validated by supplied jurisdiction due to common error. The exception would be acts such as accepting the resignation of Bishop de Castro Mayer in order to replace him with a Modernist, or the suppression of the SSPX, or the 1988 declaration of excommunications.

2 A non-Catholic cannot validly possess an office in the Church.

3. Merely going along with the reforms of V2 (e.g. Cardinals Siri, Bacci, Ottaviani, Archbishops Graber and Pintonello), did not suffice to put a man out of the Church, precisely because the reforms appeared to come from the Church.

4. Jurisdiction and orders are meant, by divine law, to coincide in the same persons. By divine law a woman cannot maintain habitual jurisdiction. But there is no divine law preventing jurisdiction being maintained by a layman who is a Catholic. This is not controversial. The layman ought not to possess jurisdiction, and is obliged to seek the relevant degree of orders once he has jurisdiction, but he maintains it prior to receiving the relevant orders.

Therefore many of the appointments to the episcopate by Paul VI, and possibly even JP2, would have been valid by supplied jurisdiction. Those ordinaries who are Catholics would truly be the ordinaries of their dioceses. Who these men are may become clear only after some climax of the crisis and a consequent reaction to orthodoxy, but the lack of clarity on our behalf doesn't change the fact that the true ordinaries are objectively visible. This is analogous to the situation which Cardinal Franzelin held to be the case during the Great Western Schism, when there was a true pope at all times, of the Roman line, but that this reality was impossibly obscure to nearly all. He was objectively visible as true pope, but this was not able to be determined by all who needed to know it.

A crass application of the notion of the Conciliar Church doesn't settle the matter. There is certainly a real social body which can be designated by that name, and it's certainly not possible to belong both to it and to the Catholic Church, but which men belong to each is not always clear. In many cases it's obviously unclear.

A fuller explanation is in the last part of this essay: ... Church.pdf


persona_non_grata wrote:
1. You mentioned that the modern popes are recognized by "most members of the Church". Then how do you justify refusing to acknowledge a universally accepted pope, which, according to the teaching of the Church, is an infallible sign of a papal election?

It isn't true that universal acceptance = certainly true pope.

What the theologians say is that the peaceful adherence of the whole Church to a pope is proof that he really is pope. Note the words "peaceful adherence".

The meaning of those terms is explained by examining the foundation of this doctrine, which is that the preaching of the hierarchy is the proximate (i.e. near) rule of faith for the whole Church. In other words, Catholics learn their faith from the living magisterium, not from reading Denzinger. The living magisterium is nothing to do with the Modernist notion of living tradition. It merely indicates that the teaching office is a permanently present reality exercised by the bishops, under the authority of the pope, and brings the same faith to the men of every age. It is infallible, and must be.

Now because the living magisterium is the proximate rule of faith of the Church, and because the Church is infallible, both actively and passively - that is, infallible in its teaching, and infallible in believing - then it follows that the whole Church cannot believe the doctrine of a false pope. To do so would be to fail in the faith, precisely by accepting as infallibly true, doctrines which emanate from a source which is not infallible.

This is why the theologians say the whole Church cannot peacefully adhere to a false pope. They say that the whole Church cannot adhere to a false rule of faith, and the pope is our proximate rule of faith (along with the bishops under his authority, of course).

Now, you tell me, which Catholics treated Paul VI as their proximate rule of faith? Which Catholics treated Paul VI's bishops as their proximate rule of faith? The answer, plainly, is that only those who adopted his errors did so, and they left the Church by doing so (at least, their faith was damaged severely). It is precisely the ones who didn't treat him as their rule of faith that remained Catholic. As Archbishop Lefebvre put it, is it necessary to become Protestants in order to remain Catholic?

persona_non_grata wrote:
2. If I understood correctly, you said that not every person who accepts Vatican II is a heretic.

That's right. Here's Archbishop Lefebvre naming some of them, and also indicating that others exist, the names of which he obviously knows, but does not reveal:
Were there any bishops supporting you [at Vatican II]?

Yes. Many bishops supported my stand.

How many bishops?

There were in excess of 250 bishops. They had even formed themselves into a group for the purpose of defending the true Catholic faith.

What happened to all of these supporters?

Some are dead; some are dispersed throughout the world; many still support me in their hearts but are frightened to lose the position, which they feel may be useful at a later time.

Is anybody supporting you today (1978)?

Yes. For instance, Bishop Pintinello from Italy; Bishop Castro de Mayer from Brazil. Many other bishops and cardinals often contact me to express their support but wish at this date to remain anonymous.

persona_non_grata wrote:
3. You say that it is not possible to belong to both the Conciliar Church and the Catholic Church, and you mention the words of +Lefebvre. However, isn't it true that +Lefebvre considered that the popes belong to the Conciliar Church (he made that clear from the start, after all, they promulgated the 'reforms') but also to the Catholic Church, since he went to talk with them and addressed them as Holy Father, and recognized them as popes?

Well, you really need to read my articles on Archbishop Lefebvre, especially the one linked above, and try and understand the Archbishop's thought.

In brief, he said that those who adhere to the errors of Vatican II, despite being aware that these errors are condemned by the Church, are not Catholics. But those who went along with the practical programme of Vatican II, without accepting its errors (see the names above for examples), remained Catholics.

He put the popes into a special category. For example, when questioned by the CDF in 1979 he replied that he was not sure whether Paul VI really promulgated the New Mass. Likewise he gave the benefit of the doubt to JP2 for a few years, then he formed the judgement that the latter wasn't a Catholic, and began speculating that he wasn't pope either.

In 1986 the Archbishop began putting up trial balloons to see if declaring the See of Rome vacant would be practically possible. He found very quickly that this would split the traditional Catholic milieu into pieces. He decided not to do so, but there is plenty of evidence that his own private opinion was that JP2 was not the pope.


Sede-privationism is an ambiguous term as it's used around the place. It was coined by Fr. Paul Morgan's father, Bill Morgan, and he meant by it the Thesis of Cassiciacum of Guerard des Lauriers. Others these days use it to refer to the minority opinion among theologians that a heretical pope is not automatically deposed, but must be deposed by the Church. So I'm not sure which you mean, and either would imply some kind of power remaining in a true pope who became a heretic.

Of course, I don't accept the idea that a true pope can ever become a heretic, so I'm not really open to the minority opinion theory.

The difference between a false pope's acts being validated by supplied jurisdiction, and the Guerardian theory, is stark. In the latter, the notion is that none of the acts of the "material pope" would be valid except those which have a purely "legal" character and are necessary for the "legal" continuity of the Church. In this way the apointments of Paul VI to the office of cardinal were to be considered "materially" valid, and on that theory if the cardinals recovered their faith they would automatically become true cardinals and would be capable of validly electing the pope.

None of this is found in the theological literature. It's a complete novelty. And it's unnecessary.

Supplied jurisdiction is a concept which is extensively treated in the literature, certainly applies in cases of common error, and appears to solve the problem.

Likewise the election of a pope in the absence of any cardinals is treated explicitly in the literature, by St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Cajetan, and countless others since. It's a non-problem also. Either the remaining members of the Roman clergy could elect (i.e. all those who have recieved first tonsure in Rome, and have not apostatised, or have recovered their faith after apostasy), or failing that, an imperfect general council could elect.

The situation is certainly confused and mysterious, but it is not necessary to abandon any of the truths found in the theology manuals in order to solve it.


The dogmatic pronouncements of a general council are infallible. The preaching of all the bishops throughout the world, in union with the pope, is infallible.

Catholics who remained faithful, rejected doctrines that fell within both categories.

Now, in order to explain this, which was necessary, some have postulated that Paul VI was not pope, and therefore the very lynchpin of infallibility was not present, and some have tried to re-write the theology of the Church in respect of infallibility instead. You apparently follow the novel theories on infallibility. I can't do that, because I thnk they are erroneous and of course dangerous.


Possibilities are all we need, and the notion that our thesis is impossible immediately falls. This is logic.

If somebody were to say, no man could have sailed a boat from Europe or Africa to South America with the technology of the Ancient World, then one only needs a single successful voyage made in a reed boat in the present era to see that the thesis that such a thing is impossible cannot be maintained. Thor Heyerdahl did it, and revolutionised several human sciences.

In the case of V2, we know that Cardinal Siri was personally orthodox, continued to profess the faith, and yet he allowed the reforms of Vatican II throughout his archdiocese. This is the very heart of the mystery of the crisis in the Church. A whole new religion was implicit in these reforms, but not every priest or bishop who adopted the reforms adopted that new religion, and thereby left the Church. So far I don't think there would be any disagreement between you and I, or indeed any traditional Catholic. And it's a mystery we all need to explain, one way or another.

I don't know who amongst the Novus Ordo hierarchy might still be Catholics, but it would be an interesting exercise to run through the well-known conservative members of it and try and work it out in each case. For example, you've got men like Charles Chaput, who is capable of this kind of comment: β€œLet us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other – whatever the cost – so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time.”

The point is that true faith is compatible with material error. One would need in each case to work out whether somebody like this maintains the errors he no doubt expresses despite being conscious of the fact that they conflict with the teaching of the Church. I don't know much about this man, so I'm not making any case for his orthodoxy. I just point out that unless in each case we form the certain judgement that this baptised man left the Church, we have no business saying that all such men left the Church. And such an exercise would be a very large project, I think you will agree.

For some reason when somebody says "Paul VI wasn't a Catholic," non-sedes think, "Oh, that means everybody else isn't Catholic too!" I have no idea why that is. Perhaps you could explain.

And yes, I agree with you that the blanket statement, "The hierarchy of the Novus Ordo is not the hierarchy of the Catholic Church" is problematic. I've said it myself, of course. It depends upon what is meant by it, just as Archbishop Lefebvre's assertion that the Novus Ordo reforms are a whole new religion must be understood correctly, with appropriate distinctions. What he didn't mean, was that all who didn't immediately reject every reform thereby adopted the new religion and left the Church.

So that's one point.

Another is to consider the multitude of retired bishops around the world, living in nursing homes, retirement homes, etc. If any of these are orthodox, it is quite possible they retain their ordinary jurisdiction. The reason for this is that in order to be valid, a resignation must be accepted by a lawful superior. But if JP2 wasn't pope, then all of the resignations made to him by bishops would, on the face of it, be invalid.

In a general reaction to orthodoxy, after some cataclysm that awakens the world from its worldy slumber, such men could be approached and called to a general council, at which a pope could be elected, just as happened at Constance.

Another possibility arises from the fact that an office is a stable position to which is permanently attached some power, of orders or jurisdiction. In the case of episcopal sees, the power is ordinary jurisdiction. Most of the sees in the world today were established by indubitable popes. A man elected by the clergy of a diocese to such an episcopal see, would receive ordinary jurisdiction immediately, jurisdiction which comes as it must from the Roman Pontiff, because the Roman Pontiff attached it to the see permanently. He would obviously make some declaration that he holds his office only by appeal to the future approval of the Roman Pontiff, but prior to that approval actually being received, he would have the office, truly de jure and not just de facto. This argument is at least probable, which is all we need.

Anyway, no matter how unlikely you think any of these possibilities is, they must be eliminated completely before one could assert that they are not possibilities.

One only needs to read the history of the Great Western Schism and some of the theological/canonical discussion of it by subsequent experts to realise that the most absurdly unlikely things may actually have been factual. But unlikely things happen all the time. It was unlikely that the Titanic would sink, even more unlikely that she would do so on her maiden voyage. It was unlikely that the title afixed to the top of the Cross would survive, legible, including its three languages - Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. You can go and see it in Rome today. It was buried on Golgotha for three hundred years and dug up by St. Helen. It was unlikely that a man could cross the Atlantic in a boat made of reeds. It's been done. It was unlikely that there was an objectively visible true pope all through the forty years of the Great Western Schism, yet Cardinal Franzelin says that is true, even though he was not recognised by miracle-working saints like St. Vincent Ferrer.

Vatican II was about the most unlikely event in the history of the Church. Yet it happened.

The real difference between somebody like me, and the dogmatic sedeplenist, is not in where we think the Church is. The real difference is actually very narrow, yet very, very important. The dogmatic sedeplenist effectively reduces the whole question to whether Benedict is pope. Then everything must be made to conform to that dogma. The dogmatic sedevacantist does the same thing, in reverse. He makes recognition of Benedict the one shibboleth for membership in the Church, and ends with a little sliver of a church of which he and his friends are the only members.

Archbishop Lefebvre was not a dogmatic sedeplenist.

Tue Jun 28, 2016 11:54 am
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