My Response to Mr. Sean Johnson’s Response to “The Conciliarization of Bishop Williamson’s Thinking regarding the Catholic Church”

In response to my post titled “The Conciliarization of Bishop Williamson’s Thinking regarding the Catholic Church“, Mr. Sean Johnson posted “Archbishop Lefebvre Explains Himself“.  In it he claims that I did not properly understand Archbishop Lefebvre’s mind regarding the relationship between the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church”.  Mr. Johnson points to an explanation given by the Archbishop in 1980 regarding his use of the term “schismatic” in reference to the Second Vatican Council.  This explanation supposedly tames the 1976 quote of the Archbishop I used in my post to render my thesis (that there is a substantial difference between the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church”) incompatible with the Archbishop’s “true” position on the matter.  Here is the 1980 statement quoted by Mr. Johnson (emphases Mr. Johnson):


“I am not saying that in words one cannot use one phrase and then oppose it with another one, pull it out of context and, thus, make me say things that are not in my mind. I have sometimes dared to use strong phrases, for example, that the Council was more or less schismatic. In a certain sense it is true because there is a certain break with Tradition. So in the sense that the Council is in breach with Tradition, it can be said, to some extent, that it is schismatic. But when I said that, it was not to say that the Council is really, profoundly schismatic, definitively. You have to understand everything I say. The Council is schismatic insofar as it breaks with the past, that is true. But that does not mean that it is schismatic in the precise, theological sense of the word.


“So when you take terms like that, you can say, ‘You see! If the Council is schismatic, the pope who signed the Council is schismatic, and all the bishops who signed the Council are schismatics, so that we no longer have the right to be with them.’ This is false reasoning. It’s madness, it does not make sense!” 


First of all, the Archbishop does not speak of the conciliar “church” as such in this quote.  Rather, he is simply explaining his use of the term “schismatic” in reference to the Second Vatican Council in that he doesn’t mean “schismatic” in the strict theological sense, but in the origin of the word “schism” (i.e., break or split).  The Second Vatican Council was to a certain extent a break from Tradition.  Of course, there are teachings of the Council that are line with Tradition.


Secondly, the reason for his explanation should be evident.  It is to counteract those who reason that because the Council is schismatic, it is correct to conclude that those who have signed onto the Council are (formal) schismatics.  Of course, the Archbishop did not hold this position; he was not a sedevacantist and neither am I.


According to Mr. Johnson, however, those like me “have (erroneously) given this tendency of the Archbishop to speak of the ‘conciliarists’, or a ‘conciliar church’, of the Council as ‘schismatic’ an excessively rigorous interpretation, which would have the Archbishop formally and theologically declaring them to be schismatic properly speaking…..”  I object!  I am very well aware that the Archbishop would say no such thing.  And nowhere in my post did I posit a conclusion regarding the theological or canonical status of those who accept the teachings of the Council.  I wrote about the conciliar “church” as such and not the status of the individual members.  Therefore, Mr. Johnson, you have erroneously placed me in the same group of those of which the Archbishop spoke about in his 1980 statement.  But Mr. Johnson replies, “….the natural and inevitable result of believing in ‘one pope for two churches’ is sedevacantism and ecclesiavacantism….”  Then, Mr. Johnson, you should take it up with your superiors in Avrille who promoted the “one pope for two churches” idea in their Winter 2006-2007 issue of Le Sel del la Terre and then reinforced it in their September 2013 newsletter.


Mr. Johnson also takes objection to my statement that the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church” are two formally separate entities.  Yet the same proposition is supported by his superiors in their Summer 2013 issue of Le Sel de la Terre in which they presented a study written by Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais.  His Excellency writes:


“Firstly, the conciliar church is not materially separate from the Catholic Church. It does not exist independently from the Catholic Church. There is a distinction certainly between them, a formal one, without an absolute material distinction…….the conciliar church is born of the corruption of the Catholic Church and it cannot exist but by living of this corruption, as a parasite lives depending on an organism, sucking of the substance of its host to construct its own substance. There is a sort of transfer of substance (read here, change in “substantial form”), I would dare to say, from one to the other, in a metaphoric sense obviously and not in a philosophical sense.”


In this same study, His Excellency presents definitions of two churches:


“The Catholic Church is the society of the baptised who want to save their souls in professing the Catholic faith, in practising the same Catholic worship and in following the same pastors, successors of the Apostles.


“The conciliar church is the society of the baptised who follow the directives of the current Popes and bishops, in espousing more or less consciously the intention to bring about the unity of the human race, and in practise accepting the decisions of the Council, following the new liturgy and submitting to the new Code of Canon law.”


Mr. Johnson, you may also want to take it up with Fr. Peter Scott who answered the following question in the April 2003 issue of The Angelus:


“Is it possible to say that the post-Conciliar Church is a new religion, and if so, how can it be considered as Catholic?”


Fr. Scott writes:


“It consequently cannot be denied that Vatican II attempts to constitute a new religion in radical rupture with all of Catholic Tradition and teaching, a new religion whose principal purpose is to exalt the natural dignity of the human person and to bring about a ‘religious’ unity of mankind.”




“… does not at all follow from the fact that the Vatican II religion is truly a new religion, that we should maintain that we are the only Catholics left, that the bishops and the pope have necessarily lost the Faith, and that we must not pray for them or respect their position in the Church.  This false assertion of the sedevacantists is much too simple….”


Kind of flies in the face of your assertion that “the natural and inevitable result of believing in ‘one pope for two churches’ is sedevacantism and ecclesiavacantism”.


Even most recently (in Eleison Comments #530), Bishop Williamson, to his credit, sounded more like the Bishop Williamson of old:


“Fruits of Vatican II? Newchurch!”


“Alas, for 50 years a Nomenklatura (Communist-style bureaucracy) within the Church has used the ambiguities of Vatican II to distort the Council’s original intent, and to create a new church, of a relativist and protestant kind.”


Mr. Johnson, you messed up in defending active attendance at the Novus Ordo Mass under certain circumstances and now you’re messing up with the distinction between the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church”, what’s next?  I hope that it will be your return to the positions of the Archbishop.


Let us now listen to the Archbishop.


Well, we are not of this religion. We do not accept this new religion. We are of the religion of all time; we are of the Catholic religion. We are not of this ‘universal religion’ as they call it today – this is not the Catholic religion any more. We are not of this Liberal, Modernist religion which has its own worship, its own priests, its own faith, its own catechisms, its own Bible, the ‘ecumenical Bible’ – these things we do not accept.”
(Sermon, July 29, 1976)


“I should be very happy to be excommunicated from this Conciliar Church… It is a Church that I do not recognize. I belong to the Catholic Church.
(Interview on July 30, 1976, published in Minute, no. 747)


“This Council represents, in our view and in the view of the Roman authorities, a new Church which they call the Conciliar Church.”
(Le Figaro, August 4, 1976)


“It is not we who are in schism but the Conciliar Church.”
(Homily preached at Lille, August 29, 1976)


“How can one avoid the conclusion: there where the faith of the Church is, there also is her sanctity, and there where the sanctity of the Church is, there is the Catholic Church. A Church which no longer brings forth good fruits, a Church which is sterile, is not the Catholic Church.
(Letter to Friends and Benefactors, September 8, 1978)


“I remark, first of all, that the expression ‘Conciliar Church’ comes not from me but from H.E. Mgr. Benelli who, in an official letter, asked that our priests and seminarians should submit themselves to the ‘Conciliar Church’.” 
(Conference, January 11, 1979)


“…since they have put us out of an official Church which is not the real Church, [but] an official Church which has been infested with Modernism; and so we believed in the duty of disobedience, if indeed it was disobedience!  To obey, but to obey the immemorial Church, to obey all the popes, to obey the whole Catholic Church…”
(Ordination Sermon, June 27, 1980)


“It is easy to think that whoever opposes the Council and its new Gospel would be considered as excommunicated, as outside communion with the Church.  But one may well ask them, communion with what Church? They would answer, no doubt, with the Conciliar Church.
(I Accuse the Council, p. xiii)


“Such things are easy to say. To stay inside the Church, or to put oneself inside the Church – what does that mean? Firstly, what Church are we talking about? If you mean the Conciliar Church, then we who have struggled against the Council for twenty years because we want the Catholic Church, we would have to re-enter this Conciliar Church in order, supposedly, to make it Catholic. That is a complete illusion.”
(One Year After the Consecrations, July-August, 1989)


“This talk about the “visible Church” on the part of Dom Gerard and Mr. Madiran is childish. It is incredible that anyone can talk of the ‘visible Church’, meaning the Conciliar Church as opposed to the Catholic Church which we are trying to represent and continue. I am not saying that we are the Catholic Church. I have never said so. No one can reproach me with ever having wished to set myself up as pope. But, we truly represent the Catholic Church such as it was before, because we are continuing what it always did. It is we who have the notes of the visible Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. That is what makes the visible Church.
(One Year After the Consecrations, July-August, 1989)


“Obviously, we are against the Conciliar Church which is virtually schismatic, even if they deny it. In practice, it is a Church virtually excommunicated because it is a Modernist Church.
(One Year After the Consecrations, July-August, 1989)


“That is no longer the Catholic Church: that is the Conciliar Church with all its unpleasant consequences.”
(One Year After the Consecrations, July-August 1989)


“This ‘Conciliar Church’ is imbued with the principles of 1789.”
(Spiritual Journey)


It is, therefore, a strict duty for every priest wanting to remain Catholic to separate himself from this Conciliar Church for as long as it does not rediscover the Tradition of the Church and of the Catholic Faith.
(Spiritual Journey)


“But the Church against her past and her Tradition is not the Catholic Church; this is why being excommunicated by a liberal, ecumenical, and revolutionary Church is a matter of indifference to us.
(Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, p.547)

The Conciliarization of Bishop Williamson’s Thinking regarding the Catholic Church

“How could it be more clear?! From now on it is the conciliar church one must obey and be faithful to , and not to the Catholic Church. This is precisely our problem. We are suspended a divinis by the conciliar church, of which we do not want to be a part. This conciliar church is a schismatic church, because it breaks with the Catholic Church of all time. It has its new dogmas, its new priesthood, its new institutions, its new liturgy, already condemned by the Church in many official and definitive documents. This is why the founders of the conciliar church insist on obedience to the church of today, making abstraction of the Church of yesterday, as if it didn’t exist anymore. […] The church which affirms such errors is at one and the same time heretical and schismatic. This conciliar church is therefore not Catholic. In the measure in which the Pope, the bishops, priests or faithful adhere to this new church, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church. The church of today is the true Church only in the measure in which it continues and is one with the Church of yesterday and of always. The norm for the Catholic faith is Tradition.”


Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre wrote the above on July 29, 1976 to his friends (reproduced in Sel de la Terre 36, p. 10, as stated here).  It is clear from these words that the Archbishop understood the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church” to be two formally separate entities even though they share material elements (e.g., members of the hierarchy).  It is sad, however, that Bishop Richard Williamson has deviated from the Archbishop’s position on this significant matter.  It is the purpose of this post to show the conciliarization of Bishop Williamson’s thinking regarding the Catholic Church.


Before we begin, we must define some philosophical technical terms.  These are all taken from the “Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy” by Bernard Wuellner, S.J., published by the Bruce Publishing Company in 1956.


1. Substance (sense 1):  being whose essence naturally requires it to exist in itself.

2. Substance (sense 2):  loosely equivalent to essence and nature.

3. Substantial Form:  the intrinsic incomplete constituent principle in a substance which actualizes the potencies of matter and together with the matter composes a definite material substance or natural body.

4. Substantial Change:  change in the substance of a thing because of change of its substantial form.

5. Essence:  what a thing is.

6. Accident (logical sense):  an attribute belonging to some nature but not constituting its essence or a part of its essence.

7. Accidental form:  an accident considered as a secondary or added perfection that determines a nature that is already substantially complete.

8. Accidental change:  real change in the accidents of a being.


I wanted to define these terms so that I could apply them to the Catholic Church.  However, I must make clear that these terms will be applied to the Catholic Church only in an analogical sense.  The Catholic Church is not a substance.  It is a society (a perfect one) and societies are not substances.  Nevertheless, we can think of the Catholic Church as a substance analogically in that we can say that it exists in itself (sense 1) and has an essence (sense 2).  Furthermore, there is no other substance that has its essence.  It is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ.  The Anglican “church”, for example, exists in itself, but its essence is not the same as that of the Catholic Church since it was founded by a heretic.  The same goes for all the other false “churches”, including the conciliar “church”.


From philosophy and Church teaching, we know that the substantial form of man is the soul of man.  Likewise, analogically speaking, we can say that the substantial form of the Catholic Church is the Holy Ghost, unchangeable Truth Itself.  After all, the catechism teaches us that the Holy Ghost is the “soul” of the Catholic Church.  On the other hand, the substantial form, analogically speaking, of the conciliar “church” is man.  When the substantial form of a thing changes, the thing undergoes a substantial change.  The substantial change results in a thing essentially different from the thing that underwent the substantial change.  Likewise, again analogically speaking, if the substantial form of the Catholic Church were to change, it would be a substantial change, which would result in a “church” essentially different from the Catholic Church.  For example, Archbishop Lefebvre affirms in the quote above that the conciliar “church” has “its new dogmas”, which make it “not Catholic”.  Of course, a substantial change in the Catholic Church cannot happen because she is of the Holy Ghost and hence indefectible.  What resulted instead at Vatican II, from the evil actions of the human element of the Catholic Church, is a heretical and schismatic “church”, the conciliar “church”, which is a separate entity from the Catholic Church.


When an accidental form of a thing changes, the thing does not undergo a substantial change; rather, the change is accidental or non-essential.  The thing before and after the accidental change remains the same thing but with an accidental difference.  Likewise, analogically speaking, if an accidental form of the Catholic Church changes, it still remains the Catholic Church.  For example, changes to Church laws regarding the election of a new pope are accidental.


Let us now give a more concrete example to illuminate better the concepts defined above.  A tree is a true substance.  It exists in itself and has an essence.  The substantial form of a tree is what makes the matter to be a tree and not something else.  If a tree (think about any particular tree) were to catch on fire, the portion that is being consumed by the fire undergoes a substantial change from “tree” to “ash”.  The ash has a different substantial form than the tree; hence, the essence of the ash and tree are different.  On the other hand, when the same tree buds leaves in the spring and loses them in the autumn, the tree undergoes only an accidental change; hence, only the accidental form is affected.  Throughout the whole process (spring to autumn), the tree remains a tree.


I bring these concepts up because Bishop Williamson has on many occasions used a good analogy in comparing the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church” as apple and rot, respectively.  In his Eleison Comments Issue #281 (December 1, 2012) titled “Various ‘Churches'”, he wrote the following:


“‘Conciliar Church'” means the God-centred Catholic Church as fallen and still falling under the sway of the man-centred Second Vatican Council. Conciliarism (the distilled error of Vatican II) bears the same relation to the true Church of Christ as the rot of a rotten apple bears to the apple which it is rotting. Just as rot occupies the apple, depends on the apple, cannot exist without the apple, yet is quite different from the apple (as uneatable is different from eatable), so man-centred Conciliarism so occupies Christ’s Church that little of the Church is not more or less rotten, yet Conciliarism is so different from Catholicism that one can truly say that the Conciliar Church is not the Catholic Church.”


As an apple oxidizes, it undergoes a substantial change from “apple” to “rot”.  The rot has a different substantial form than the apple; hence, the essence of the rot and apple are different.  Bishop Williamson, understanding this, distinguishes the apple (Catholic Church) from the rot (conciliar “church”) as two different substances (in both senses defined above).  Of course, we have to keep in mind again that the Catholic Church cannot undergo a substantial change.  The analogy, as with all analogies, is imperfect.


In his Eleison Comments Issue #360 (June 7, 2014) titled “Conciliar Church”, His Excellency continues to substantially (in both senses defined above) distinguish the Catholic Church from the conciliar “church”:


“The expression ‘Conciliar church’ obviously expresses a reality, something real, namely the mass of people and institutions professing themselves to be Catholic but in fact sliding into the practice of the new humanist religion of the Second Vatican Council. “Sliding,” because Conciliarism, or neo-modernism, is precisely designed to enable Catholics to maintain the appearances of the Faith while they empty out the substance.” 


“On the one hand the rot belongs to the apple. All rot was once apple. The rot is a corruption of the apple, a parasite on the apple, it could not exist without the apple and it remains firmly attached to the apple unless and until the rotten part falls off. Likewise Conciliarism belongs to the Catholic Church insofar as everything Conciliar was once Catholic, it is a corruption of the Catholic Church, a parasite on the Catholic Church, it could not exist without the Catholic Church, and it remains firmly attached to some part of the Catholic Church unless and until it destroys that part, as it was designed to do.”


“On the other hand the rot does not belong to the apple. No apple was ever meant to go rotten. All rot is a transformation of some apple, a corruption and parasite of apple, transforming it for the worse, resulting in something quite different from apple, something which nobody in his right mind would dream of eating or of saying that it was no different from apple. Likewise Conciliarism does not belong to the Catholic Church, it is a corruption of something Catholic and is a parasite on whatever is Catholic. It transforms (a human part of) the Catholic Church for the worse, resulting in something essentially non-Catholic which no Catholic in his right mind would call Catholic or want to associate with, on pain of losing his faith.”


“In brief, Conciliarism is rot, and the ‘Conciliar church’ is the one divine-human Church being rotted in one or other of its human aspects. Of course the Catholic Church will last to the end of the world (Mt. XXVIII, 20), while the ‘Conciliar church’ is merely one in a long line of parasite churches down the ages, living on what they rot and rotting what they live on. A plague on all liberals, confused and confusing!”


Let us now move to 2017.  In his Eleison Comments Issue #495 (January 7, 2017) titled “Vatican ‘War'”, His Excellency writes:


“In today’s crisis of the Church, of an unprecedented gravity in all Church history, it is most important that Catholics should give due importance both to the Traditional movement and to the Catholic Church outside the Traditional movement. Tradition in its broadest sense, meaning everything which Our Lord entrusted to his Church to be handed down (tradendumin Latin) to world’s end, is indispensable to the Church, and the Traditional movement has played an indispensable part in preserving Traditional doctrine and sacraments from their destruction by the Conciliar Revolution over the last half-century. But to survive, the Traditional movement had to place itself outside the normal hierarchical structure of the Church, and that structure is very much part of Tradition – ‘Peter, feed my sheep’ (Jn XXI, 17). Therefore however deep is the Conciliar corruption in Rome, Catholics must still be looking to Rome.”


A faithful adherent to the position of Archbishop Lefebvre knows that Tradition and the followers of Tradition, objectively speaking, are the Catholic Church.  However, from the portion of the above paragraph that I have placed in bold, we should see that His Excellency has shifted his thinking regarding the relationship between the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church”.  For if the “Traditional movement” (followers of the Archbishop) is only that, a movement, within the larger structure of the Catholic Church, then it stands to reason that the rest of the Catholic Church is composed of the conciliar “church”.  It is therefore no longer that the apple (Catholic Church) and the rot (conciliar “church”) are two different substances (in both senses defined in the beginning); rather, the conciliar “church” (rot) forms an essential part of the Catholic Church (apple), along with the Traditional movement.  Note here that the analogy has shifted from one thing being substantially different from another thing (in both senses of substance defined in the beginning) to one thing forming an essential part of another thing.  The latter would be akin to stating that the rational soul forms an essential part of man.  Nevertheless, the point I am trying to make is that His Excellency used to clearly distinguish the relationship between the Catholic Church and the conciliar “church” as substantially different (in both senses of substance defined in the beginning).  Now he makes the relationship between the two of one (conciliar “church”) forming an essential part of another (Catholic Church).


His Excellency basically repeats what he wrote in Issue #495 during a sermon, at the 34 minutes and 40 seconds mark, given at the first Pontifical Mass of His Excellency Bishop Gerardo Zendejas on May 12, 2017:


“Let us not believe that Tradition has a monopoly on Catholicism.  Catholicism is much much more than the dear movement of Tradition of today….May Our Lady look after all Catholics in whatever part of the Church they are to be found.”


Earlier in the same sermon, at the 24 minutes and 10 seconds mark, His Excellency said:


“When an apple goes rotten, it is still an apple, even if it’s a rotten apple….It’s still the same apple as the one that was rotten.  The Catholic Church has gone conciliar.  It’s still the Church, even though it’s rotten, with conciliarism, with Vatican II.”


Compare the above with what His Excellency wrote in 2014:


All rot is a transformation of some apple, a corruption…….resulting in something essentially non-Catholic which no Catholic in his right mind would call Catholic or want to associate with, on pain of losing his faith.


The impression is that rot (conciliar “church”) and apple (Catholic Church) in 2014 are substantially different (in both senses of substance defined in the beginning); in 2017, they are accidentally different (or as mentioned earlier, that the conciliar “church” forms part of the essence of the Catholic Church).


Finally, in his Eleison Comments Issue #523 (July 22, 2017) titled “Menzingen’s Mistake III”, His Excellency writes:


“But, one replies, in real life, as the rot of an apple is and is not apple, so the Conciliar Church is and is not the Church. In real life, the Society is not dealing only with the Catholic Church or a Catholic Pope, but directly with Conciliar rot.”


Even though His Excellency doesn’t go into more detail in this issue on how the rot (conciliar “church”) of an apple (Catholic Church) is and is not apple, we can prudently state, based on what he wrote and said earlier in the same year, that the difference between the conciliar “church” and Catholic Church is not substantial (in both senses of substance defined in the beginning).  Furthermore, it would not make sense to state that “the rot of an apple is apple” if the difference was intended by His Excellency to be qualified as substantial (in both senses of substance defined in the beginning).


To conclude, I have shown the conciliarization of Bishop Williamson’s thinking regarding the Catholic Church.  As such, His Excellency has deviated from the Archbishop’s position on a major point in the fight for Catholic Tradition.