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)

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