September 2012 Print

Magisterium and Faith

Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, SSPX


The Church’s end is to bring about the salvation of souls, notably by ensuring the transmission of the truths of faith that must be believed and professed for salvation. It is the Church’s end that explains the definition of the Church: The Church is the hierarchical society in which men come to the knowledge of the soul-saving truth. This definition appears in the sources of revelation in a phrase expressing the purpose of the Church: She is “the guardian and teacher of the revealed word.” This phrase is used by Vatican Council I in the Constitution Dei Filius.1 Pope Leo XIII in the Encyclical Satis Cognitum of 1896, though not using the same words, expresses the same idea. And St. Pius X in the Oath against the Errors of Modernism again took up these hallowed terms: “I believe that the Church, guardian and mistress of the revealed word, was instituted proximately and directly by the true and historical Christ…”2

So that the Church might fulfill this role, Christ entrusted her with His own teaching authority. In the conclusions of the Gospel according to St. Matthew (28:18-20) and of St. Mark (16:15-16), we see that Christ established in the Church the power to teach, in the name of God, the divinely revealed doctrine necessary for salvation; the power established by divine authority is a power duly laying claim to the submission of every man. This is the Church’s authentic magisterium, or teaching authority. In the Gospel according to St. John (20:21, 17:19-20), Christ’s mission consists in teaching with authority in the name of God these same truths, and since the apostles and their successors were established by Christ as those who exercise in His name the mission that He himself received from God the Father, it follows that the apostles received the function of the authentic magisterium. St. Paul asserts that preaching the truths of faith is necessary (Rom. 10:13), that Christ made provision for this need, that the apostles received from Christ responsibility for preaching (1 Cor. 1:17), that this preaching constitutes an exercise of authority (Rom. 1:5 and 2 Cor. 10:4). The same idea recurs in the writings of the Fathers of the Church.3

In the etymological meaning of the word, magisterium denotes a function the purpose of which is instruction.4 Furthermore, the meaning of the word must be distinguished according to two different senses: that of a “scientific” magisterium and that of an ecclesiastical magisterium, which is a particular instance of attesting magisterium. The ecclesiastical magisterium in effect proposes divinely revealed truths which are obscure and not evident, and that is why it is incapable of establishing cogent or compelling scientific demonstrations of the truth of its teaching. The ecclesiastical magisterium causes not knowledge, but faith. Being unable to provide demonstrations, it bears witness: it is a witnessing or attesting magisterium. The divinely instituted ecclesiastical magisterium is that which causes faith by means of its authoritative testimony. And it is the only one able to fulfill this role: an act of faith regarding an obscure, attested object. Only the magisterium of the Church is able to speak in the name of God in order to point out to the faithful the truths to which they must give the adherence of their Catholic faith.

This being said, the expression “to cause faith” may be understood in quite different ways. The magisterium causes the act of faith at its level. But the action of divine grace intervenes also, no less than the activity of the intellect and will of the believers who give their adherence. Thus it behooves us to form a more precise idea of the role of the magisterium in the act of faith, all the more so that this idea has serious ramifications. One of the most important is undoubtedly the manner in which one will be inclined to justify the attitude of the Society of Saint Pius X (and more generally, of all perplexed Catholics) in the post-conciliar context. Should one wish to explain this attitude, the pertinent question is whether the mind of believers is capable of recognizing what in the teachings of Vatican Council II contradicts truths of faith.

1. The Negative Argument

First: Discernment of what is contrary to the object of faith in light of one’s own individual intellect is characteristic of Protestant freethinking or private judgment. Since only an act of the magisterium is able to indicate what the objects of faith are, it alone can tell what is contrary to it, and believers cannot make this judgment without ceasing to be Catholic and becoming Protestant.5

Second: Discernment of what is contrary to the object of faith amounts to exercising a certain understanding of the object. Since the supernatural object of faith revealed by God cannot be evident to the merely natural powers of a created mind, then, firstly, the Church’s supreme teaching authority can alone put that object before believers as being revealed by God, and secondly, the merely natural reasoning power of believers is incapable by itself of knowing what is an object of faith and what is not.

Third: Vatican II is the living magisterium such as it is exercised today. Now, continuity of the teachings of the magisterium is a necessary presupposition of any reading, for the proximate rule of faith is the living magisterium, which gives the correct understanding of past teachings. When the mind of believers experiences some difficulty grasping this continuity, they must rely upon the explanations of the current living magisterium rather than prefer their own reading of past teaching. And this leads to the same conclusion as the preceding argument.

Fourth: The magisterium of Vatican II is not infallible. Now, discerning what is contrary to the object of faith in the acts of the non-infallible magisterium jeapordizes the authority of these acts. Since the chief arguments we use to support our rejection of Vatican Council II are acts of the non-infallible magisterium prior to this council, one cannot discern anything in the teachings of Vatican II that would be contrary to the object of faith without begging the question and sawing off the branch upon which one sits.

2. The Affirmative Argument

Fifth: Discernment of what is contrary to the object of faith in the acts of Vatican II is possible precisely because this council expressed an intention incompatible with the exercise of the veritable magisterium. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI in effect wanted to present the doctrine of the Church in conformity with the categories of liberal, humanistic modern thought. The minds of believers can rely on the teachings of the magisterium prior to Vatican II to judge its questionable teachings owing to the fact that they are of no magisterial worth in the traditional sense of the term.

Sixthly, discernment of what is contrary to the object of faith appertains to divine authority. Since all of the faithful benefit from the light of this authority thanks to the sense of the faith, they are able to discern what is contrary to the object of faith.

Seventh, discernment of what is contrary to the object of faith is an attribute of the act of the intellect. Since faith is an intellectual act, faith can discern what is contrary to its object.

3. Archbishop Lefebvre Has Legitimized This Ap­proach to the Acts of Vatican Council II

“It is up to every Christian, every Catholic, to judge what is true. He is taught the truth; he knows the truth—it is in the catechism. He knows how to read like everyone else; he is quite capable of reading the Acts of the Councils; he is quite capable of understanding and knowing what the truth is that is taught in the catechism and in his Bible and to realize that what is now being preached by his parish priests, or even by the bishop, is not in conformity with what is said in his old catechism or with what he was taught. It is up to every Catholic to defend his faith when it is attacked” (September 11, 1976).

“Whereas for me, for us, I think that to say the conciliar documents should be judged in light of Tradition obviously means that what contradicts Tradition should be rejected, what is ambiguous should be interpreted in accordance with Tradition, and what is in conformity with Tradition should be accepted” (December 2, 1982).

The term judge used here must be understood in a very precise sense. In the act of judging, one can judge with authority, as a superior judges whether his inferior is mistaken or not. But one can also judge by exercising the second operation of the mind, and verify by the light of right reason enlightened by faith that a statement of the magisterium is coherent, and that, for example, what the Catechism of St. Pius X says confirms what is said in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Neither Archbishop Lefebvre nor the SSPX has ever presumed to claim an undue juridical authority. But no one can deny anyone the legitimate use of his reason enlightened by faith.

4. Explanation and Response

Every act of the intellect discerns what is contrary to its object. Now, the act of faith is an intellectual act. Hence the act of faith discerns what is contrary to its object.

4.1 Explanation of the First Premise

Every act of the intellect discerns the contrary of its object. The intellect is measured by reality, for its proper object is being. Truth is defined rightly as the matching (“adequation”) of the mind and the real by means of the being of reality. Of course, the human intellect has a mode, a particular manner of understanding, and there is an important distinction to be made between this mode of understanding (thanks to which it arrives at an idea of things) and the mode of being (by which the things known by the intellect exist in reality independently of the intellect). The intellect does not attribute its mode of understanding to the things that it understands.6 “Since it is clear,” says St. Thomas, “that our intellect understands material things below itself in an immaterial manner; not that it understands them to be immaterial things; but its manner of understanding is immaterial.” Our human manner of knowing comprises immateriality, even when our intellect is applied to understanding material things. “Likewise, when it understands simple things above itself, it understands them according to its own mode, which is in a composite manner; yet not so as to understand them to be composite things.”7 Composition is linked to the very nature of the knowing mind and not to the nature of the thing known. Even if the manner by which the intellect proceeds in order to know things is not the manner in which the things really are, it remains that the intellect indeed knows what things really are.

Since the mode proper to intellectual understanding results in placing the intellect in contact with things as they are in reality, this mode has to obey the laws that govern reality. The first of all these laws is the principle of non-contradiction, an absolutely necessary metaphysical principle, which can be verified in the exercise of every intellectual act, whatever it may be.8 St. Thomas discusses it in Lesson 6 of his Commentary of Book IV of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. This principle is not demonstrable, even if it presupposes a certain element of sensible experience. It is absolutely first and represents the natural law inscribed in the correct exercise of human intelligence.9 It is formulated thus: One and the same thing cannot be at the same time and in the same respect what it is and what it is not. One of the possible applications of this law is that an individual cannot be at the same time located and not located in the same place. Peter cannot be at the same time at Paris and elsewhere than Paris, for example, at Rome. If there happened to be credible and concordant testimony attesting to the presence of Peter at Paris and at Rome at the same moment, we should conclude that our senses are the victim of an illusion, at least at one place, and hold fast to the principle of non-contradiction.10

The judgments by means of which our intellect knows and expresses reality obey the principle of non-contradiction. A judgment is an intelligible statement and takes the form of a logical proposition in which a predicate is attributed to a subject. The metaphysical principle of non-contradiction, because it is universally necessary, has logical consequences. As St. Thomas explains,11 logical contradiction is an opposition that takes place between two propositions one of which affirms and the other denies the same predicate of the same subject. The principle of non-contradiction requires that if this opposition occurs, both propositions cannot be true at the same time. For example, there is not a logical contradiction between stating that “Every human creature has been redeemed by Christ” and stating that “Some human creature is conceived without sin,” since the predicate is not identical. These two propositions can thus be true at the same time. Logical contradiction would occur between two propositions one of which stated that “Every human creature is redeemed by Christ” and the other that “Some human creature has not been redeemed by Christ.” The dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pius IX does not at all state that “The Mother of God is not redeemed by Christ”; it even states the exact contrary: “The Mother of God is redeemed by Christ,” even if it is in a manner more sublime, “sublimiori modo.” St. Thomas did not refuse ahead of time the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as it was to be defined by the infallible magisterium of the Church. Not seeing how this conception would not have withdrawn the Mother of God from Christ’s redemptive act, he refused to affirm a truth that would have contradicted the dogma of Redemption.12 But he would have admitted without reservation the authority of Pius IX defining a truth of faith the carefully weighed terms of which implied nothing contrary to the dogma of Redemption.

In light of these clarifications, it is easy to justify the first premise: “Every act of the intellect discerns what is contrary to its object.” Since it obeys the principle of non-contradiction, from the very fact that it states a proposition as true, the intellectual judgment affirms implicitly as false the contradictory proposition. Since the object of the act of the intellect is the truth of a proposition, the negation of this truth is contrary to this object. By acting in conformity with the principle of non-contradiction, the act of the intellect thus discerns both its object and its contrary.

4.2 Explanation of the Second Premise

The act of faith is an intellectual act. The act of faith is an act of the intellect having for its proper object as such (in Scholasticism one speaks more precisely of the formal object quod) the truth of the mysteries divinely revealed by God and proposed as such by the magisterium of the Church.13 This act of the intellect is a judgment that states as true an intelligible proposition, wherein one predicates something of a subject, because of the authority of God revealing. Although the link connecting the predicate to the subject is not obvious by the natural light of human reason, the mind is certain the link exists because of God’s authority.

4.3 Explanation of the Conclusion

The act of faith discerns what is contrary to its object. If the intellect of the faithful judges that a statement proposed by the Church as revealed by God is true, it judges by that very fact that the contradictory statement is false since God cannot contradict Himself. The principle of non-contradiction must hold good in the exercise of an act of faith as it does in any act of the intellect. The object of the act of faith is doubtless obscure or less than obvious, because in the proposition setting forth the truth of a revealed mystery the intellect cannot clearly apprehend the link between the predicate and the subject.14 But the object of the act of faith remains intelligible, as does every object of an act of the intellect, because the terms that enter in composition in the proposition stating the truth of the revealed mystery (the subject and predicate) are intelligible;15 the intellect can grasp their import up to a point. A proposition denying the same predicate of the same subject would appear as contradicting the object of the act of faith and hence false. In this way the mind of believers can discern a contradicter to the act of faith by distinguishing it from the object of that act.16

The magisterium of the Church enters into this discernment, for it fulfills the role of an indispensable condition in the intellect’s act of faith. It is only one condition, and in this sense the Church is only the minister that proposes in the name of God the material object of faith; it indicates what must be believed, but it is not the formal motive of belief.17 Nevertheless, it is an indispensable condition, and in this sense the objective proposition of the Church is required for the concrete integrity of the formal object of our faith as it is ordinarily exercised in the economy willed by God.18 The act of faith bears upon an attested mystery, and only the magisterium of the Church can speak in the name of God in order to point out to the faithful which truths they must believe. This point is not debatable. Even if the faithful Catholic is led to give his assent to the teaching of the Church by the interior virtue of faith, the certitude of this profession of faith depends formally on criteria by means of which the party can recognize the proposition of this same teaching authority coming from the Catholic hierarchy. The crux of the question is to know what these criteria are. We think that one of the main ones is the objective continuation of the teaching of the magisterium, and that the intellect can ascertain it by applying the principle of non-contradiction simultaneously with the act of faith.19 Insofar as it is something already proposed by the continuous and infallible magisterium, the revealed truth indubitably appears as the necessary object of the act of faith. And consequently, the statement opposite to this truth indubitably appears as contrary to the object of the act of faith, were it (by any remote chance20) set forth in the framework of an act of infallible Church teaching.

5. Replies to Objections

Reply to Objection 1. The Protestant presumes to discern by the light of his own reason independently of the magisterium—and even against it—what is contrary to the object of faith as it is stated in Sacred Scripture.21 The faithful Catholic discerns what is contrary to the object of faith as stated in the Word of God written and transmitted, and as such already proposed infallibly by the ecclesiastical magisterium. The discernment of faithful Catholics is not autonomous, but is dependent on the infallible proposition of God and the Church.


Reply to Objection 2. The object of faith is obscure, but it is intelligible, and that is why the act that attains to this object is not blind, but intellectual. As every act of the intellect, the act of faith can ascertain a contradiction between two propositions one of which is infallibly proposed as true by God through the ministry of the ecclesiastical magisterium. The other, contrary proposition appears then as contradictory to the object of the act of faith and therefore false.

One might object that it is often difficult to gauge a contradiction because in order to do so the meanings of the terms entering into its formulation (subject and predicate) must be grasped. The contradiction may be only apparent and may disappear if it is shown that the meaning of the terms is not the same in both propositions. And in theology, this is not always easy. For example, Peter of Bergamo’s Tabula Aurea enumerated 1,208 apparent contradictions in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas; and for many of them, it is not easy to establish that they are merely apparent. The famous question of “the natural desire to see God” remains emblematic of this kind of difficulty. At this stage, we would answer that difficulty does not necessarily mean impossibility. The pertinent question, to word it precisely, is whether the intellect of the faithful Catholic in general (and not the intellect of any one in particular) can always make the distinction. The answer is yes, even if this discernment may prove to be more or less easy and in some cases to be beyond some people not sufficiently trained in theology. Quite often in the Church, those whose intellect is capable of discerning discern for the rest.22 And we see that in the context of Vatican II, it is the pastors and theologians who have preserved the faith of the simple faithful. At the time of the Council, the Council Fathers who were members of the International Group of Fathers denounced the errors and ambiguities present in the documents, and subsequently some priests were opposed to their implementation in their parishes. But we also see that this was not always the case, and that often faithful Catholics reacted spontaneously in order to contest the errors the seriousness of which they recognized quite well on their own. For if there are contradictions that are hard to establish, others are flagrant. In fact, the three major difficulties presented to the Catholic conscience by the last council (religious liberty, collegiality, and ecumenism) flow from flagrant contradictions. And these contradictions can be so either directly in the documents themselves or indirectly in the practical consequences that result from their implementation. The tree can be judged by its fruits. Indeed, the fruits of the last council have been and still are sufficiently eloquent facts for many among simple Catholics to remain perplexed.23

One might make a new objection to this last point, and retort that these results are not fruits of the Council, but abuses. They would have happened because the documents of Vatican Council II were badly understood and badly applied. We would answer that the abuses are the effects of bad accidentals and that they are defined as such in contradistinction to their good, essential effects. Now, one is obliged to acknowledge that the post-conciliar period has not enjoyed any positive results comparable to those of the post-Tridentine period. Rather the opposite seems true: dechristianization and religious indifferentism have only gained ground.24 The good essential effects are thus far from being obvious. Moreover, what is accidental should be exceptional. An exception is always possible (even the best expert can make a mistake), but if it is an exception, by definition it remains rare (an expert may make a mistake once in a long while in an unusual case). Frequent occurrence would establish the likelihood that one is not dealing with an exception (someone who is frequently mistaken is probably not an expert). Now, the baneful consequences of the Council have not ceased to make themselves felt on a large scale for nigh on fifty years. And if a few happy initiatives have succeeded in neutralizing their impact, they proceed from traditional principles, in what they have contrary to the teachings of Vatican II.

Reply to Objection 3. An act of the magisterium is not defined as the exercise of a present magisterium as distinguished from the exercise of a past magisterium, and this is precisely why it cannot be said, in speaking of the magisterium, that the present is the sole judge of the past. For if the magisterium judges, it is not inasmuch as it is present or current, but it is inasmuch as it expresses the truth more precisely. The magisterium is in effect governed by its object, which is the truth of faith divinely revealed, and its act consists in proposing the same object while preserving the same meaning even when it gives a more exact understanding of it by means of more explicit concepts and verbal expressions. This object, with the explanation that accompanies it in eodem sensu, is of itself timeless. On the other hand, we do not deny that the ecclesiastical magisterium is living or that as such it is the proximate rule of faith in the sense that it amounts to an act exercised by persons acting as living and intelligent individuals when they use their authority to safeguard and set forth dogma. But this holds true for every epoch of history. In this sense, the living magisterium is not reduced to the present magisterium, in contradistinction to the past magisterium, which would be classified as non-living or posthumous.25 If the present magisterium is living, so was the past magisterium. Both remain the rule of faith. Time has no direct and immediate influence upon the object or the act of the magisterium. Time only pertains to the subject who exercises the act of the magisterium, and in this sense a distinction can be made between a remote rule of faith (the past magisterium) and a proximate rule (the present magisterium). The question is to know which point of view should prevail: that of the subject or that of the object. Before the last Council theologians did not speak of the “continuity” of Tradition, but rather of its “constancy.” One speaks exactly of continuity in regard to a subject that remains identical over the course of time and change, and this expression indicates the primacy of subject over object.26 It is not the subject that adapts itself to the object, but it is the object that is said to be continuous because the subject teaching it remains the same. To speak of constancy, on the other hand, is to indicate the priority of object over subject. The necessary presupposition of every reading is the constancy of the teaching of the magisterium and not its continuity. For the magisterium is defined first and foremost, that is to say, formally and specifically, by its object. This necessary law of objective constancy amounts to the principle of non-contradiction applied to magisterial teaching. A statement contradicting the established teaching of the magisterium is unacceptable, and the Catholic mind, sufficiently enlightened by the living magisterium of the Church, has the means to perceive this contradiction, whether it arises in the past or in the present.

Reply to Objection 4. When a faithful Catholic discerns in the non-infallible acts of the magisterium a statement contrary to an object of faith, this contradiction can occur in regard to a statement infallibly defined by either the preceding or the current magisterium. In both cases, the properly magisterial value of the acts contradicting the infallible definition is null. But the magisterium as such (and hence the magisterial value of all its other acts) is not called in question. There is a difference between remarking that an isolated act emanating from the authorities is null and systematically casting doubt on the value of all the acts of the authorities. Faced with the above-named contradiction, the attitude of the faithful Catholic is the first, but never the second. Furthermore, when the faithful Catholic discerns in the non-infallible acts of the magisterium a statement contrary to the object already proposed by an isolated act of the non-infallible magisterium, recourse to the authorities is indispensable for resolving one’s doubts. But we deny that this is the situation in which the faithful find themselves as regards the teachings of Vatican Council II, for the non-infallible teachings of the magisterium that are contradicted by Vatican II, far from being isolated, benefit from a constancy and unanimity which confer upon them an authority if not equal to, then at least very near to that of the ordinary and universal magisterium.

Reply to Objection 5. In order to establish that Vatican Council II presented its teaching as open to discussion because it deliberately refrained from engaging a magisterium properly so-called, one should begin with the observation that the statements in which Vatican II teaching is presented as discussable are in contradiction with all the statements of the preceding magisterium in which its teaching is presented as not subject to discussion. In other words, everything the magisterium of the Council can say about itself and its intentions is already part of its magisterial teaching. To identify the theological note of the teachings of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI said: “In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium, which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document.”27 That having been said, on the one hand, even when non-infallible, the ordinary magisterium retains its authority. On the other hand, in order to know precisely what is “the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document” and to establish whether this mind is compatible or not with the exercise of a true magisterium, it is already necessary to judge the documents of Vatican II and discern what may be found therein to be contrary to the object of the act of faith already proposed by the magisterium.

One might object that official statements of intention concerning the theological note of the teachings of Vatican II are much more forthright than the teachings of the Council strictly so-called. We would reply that this does not seem to us to be established. Everyone was able to ascertain readily that ecumenism and religious liberty are contrary to what Pius IX and Pius XI said and to what the Church had done till then. Undoubtedly, the declarations of Cardinal Ratzinger explaining the intentions of Vatican II in his book Principles of Catholic Theology are quite clear. But they were made more than fifteen years after the Council ended, and cannot be adduced to confirm an already clear analysis. In order to determine the intention of the Council while it was still happening, one need only confine oneself to John XXIII’s declarations about the pastoral character of the Vatican II (Pope John’s Opening Speech to the Council on October 11, 1962, and the Allocution to the Sacred College of December 23, 1962) and to those of Paul VI (in the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam of August 6, 1964, and in the Closing Speech of the Council on December 7, 1965). What did John XXIII mean by the term pastoral? What did Paul VI mean when he said, “dialogue must characterize our apostolic charge”? What is meant by “characterize”? Is this statement meant to define the magisterium as such, or is it intended as a benevolent way to approach the unschooled minds of the modern era? Do terms such as these used in the statements of these modern popes contradict other statements of other popes? We do not pretend that it is impossible to respond to these questions and to make sufficiently clear the intentions that presided over the elaboration of the Council documents and their implementation.28 Neither do we deny that these frank intentions have their importance, and that their incompatibility with the exercise of Catholic magisterium furnishes a decisive argument. But on the one hand, it seems to us that clarifying these intentions is not easier, nor less difficult, than establishing the opposition between religious freedom, collegiality, or ecumenism and the prior teaching of the magisterium. On the other hand, it seems to us that in order to clarify these intentions, the mind of the faithful Catholic must already be up to discerning what is contrary to the object of his faith in the teachings of Vatican Council II since these intentions form an integral part of these teachings.

Reply to Objection 6. The sense of the faith is a discernment produced in the faithful’s intellect by the formal motive of the virtue of faith, which is the supernatural authority of God revealing.29 In an act of discernment, the faithful thus act in dependence on the authority of God as it has already been manifested to them by means of the condition of infallible teachings of the ecclesiastical magisterium. If one grants that the faithful can discern what is contrary to the object of faith, that does not amount to investing the faithful with any authority in relation to the magisterium of the teaching Church.

Reply to Objection 7. We grant the seventh objection, taking into account all the clarifications given thus far.



By definition, the ecclesiastical magisterium is the organ of Tradition, and it fulfills the indispensable condition required for the visibility of the object of our faith. It is signalized by the objective constancy of its teachings. The mind of the believer can always ascertain this constancy by exercising the operation of judgment in docile dependence on the magisterial teachings. In effect, Vatican Council I taught: “And, indeed, reason illustrated by faith, when it zealously, piously, and soberly seeks, attains with the help of God some understanding of the mysteries, and that a most profitable one, not only from the analogy of those things which it knows naturally, but also from the connection of the mysteries among themselves and with the last end of man.”30

Vatican II represents a singular, unique, unprecedented event. In effect, unlike the others, this council did not engage the infallibility of the solemn magisterium, and it manifested a new intention extraneous to the purposes of Catholic teaching authority and openly opposed on several points the teachings of the earlier Tradition. These three facts can be readily apparent to the eyes of faithful Catholics. This is understandable because the act of faith is a mental act of judgment. The principle of non-contradiction holds true there as for every act of intellect.

The faithful Catholic, then, can rely upon the objective constancy of traditional teachings as a legitimate criterion by which to judge the authenticity of the teachings of Vatican II. While fully recognizing in the pope and bishops of today as in those of yesterday the subject of the ecclesiastical magisterium, one can nevertheless deem that the exercise of this authority since the council inclusively does not impose itself indubitably on the adherence of the faithful, precisely insofar as it manifests a new pastoral intention and arrays itself in opposition to the constant teaching of the prior teaching authority.


1 DS 3012 (Dz. 1793).

2 DS 3540 (Dz. 2145).

3 Of St. Clement of Rome in the Letter to the Faithful of the Corinthian Church; of St. Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Faithful of the Church of Philadelphia; of St. Irenaeus in the Adversus Hæreses, Bk. III, Ch. 3, §1, and Bk. IV, Ch. 33, §8; and of Tertullian in De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, §21.

4 Salaverri, De Ecclesia, Thesis 12, §503.

5 For example, this is the reproach made by Cardinal Garrone, when during a meeting with Archbishop Lefebvre on March 3, 1975, he challenged the soundness of the Archbishop’s Declaration of November 21, 1974, in which the founder of the seminary of Ecône had clearly expressed his rejection of the direction taken by the Council: “Your manifesto is unacceptable. It teaches your seminarians to depend on their personal judgment and on Tradition such as they understand it. This is freethinking, the worst of all liberal doctrines!” (Tissier de Mallerais, tr. Brian Sudlow, Marcel Lefebvre [2002; English version—Angelus Press, 2004], p. 480). This reproach also crops up in the review of this biography by Fr. Serge Bonino, O.P., published in the Revue Thomiste, Vol. 102 (2002), p. 692. The position of the SSPX is judged to be “untenable.” According to him, “the subject that judges the magisterium in the name of Tradition is, finally, an individual conscience that is not without a somewhat rash self-confidence in order to assert that it has discovered an obvious ‘discontinuity’ in the teaching of the magisterium.”

6 Summa contra Gentiles, Bk. I, Ch. 36.

7 Summa Theologica, I, Q. 13, Art. 12, ad 3.

8 Garrigou-Lagrange, Dieu, son existence et sa nature (Beauchesne, 1938), p. 149 ff. (See No. 2 of this article.)

9 St. Thomas, ad locum Nos. 566 and 607 (Marietti edition). At No. 605, St. Thomas shows that each of the two principle operations of the understanding, simple apprehension and judgment, presuppose a first principle. Simple apprehension cannot ascend infinitely in a series of concepts, and their analysis leads by degrees to a first concept, which is the concept of being. From this first concept flow, first, judgment, which is said of being qua being: being cannot at the same time and in the same respect be and not be.

10 St. Thomas teaches that bilocation is metaphysically impossible (Supplementum, Q. 83, Art. 3, ad 4). In the lives of saints, there has never been veritable bilocation, but rather a simple apparition (produced miraculously by God) of the saint at one place and the physical presence of the saint elsewhere. The same individual is thus present at the same time in two different places, but not in the same respect: there is a physical presence in one place and an apparent presence, or apparition, in another.

11 In his Commentary on Aristotle’s Peri Hermeneias, Bk. I, Lesson 9, Nos. 116-117.

12 Summa Theologica, III, Q. 27, Art. 2.

13 St. Pius X, motu proprio Sacrorum Antistitum in DS 3542: “…faith is…the true assent of the intellect to the truth received extrinsically ex auditu, whereby we believe that what has been said, attested, and revealed by the personal God, our Creator and Lord, to be true on account of the authority of God the highest truth.” Vatican Council I, constitution Dei Filius in DS 3008: “…faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, is a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by Him are true, not because the intrinsic truth of the revealed things has been perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Vatican Council I, Constitution Dei Filius in DS 3011 (Dz. 1792): “By divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed.”

14 Cf. Vatican Council I, Constitution Dei Filius, in DS 3008, quoted above in the preceding note.

15 Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, 3rd ed. (1929), I, 178-180. Revealed mysteries are intelligible “analogically,” for the terms in which they are expressed are analogically intelligible.

16 One could even go so far as to say that the contradiction in some cases is already ascertainable by reason alone, for it suffices to apply the simple rules of logic: a journalist (even non-Catholic) is perfectly capable of recognizing whether the pope is innovating by his contradiction of his predecessors. In a book entitled L’Église: Questions aux protestants et aux catholiques (Labor et Fides, 1978), pp. 16-17, the Protestant Franz J. Leenhardt, professor at the College of Geneva, establishes the contradiction between the traditional dogma “outside the Church, no salvation” and the ecumenism of Unitatis Redintegratio (the paternity of which he attributes to the new theology of Yves Congar in his book Chrétiens désunis). This example is interesting because it is clear that this man doesn’t have the Catholic faith, yet he retains right reason, and he can make use of it to ascertain a lack of uniformity between the two teachings. The difference between him and us is that we also know that, if it takes place, this contradiction occurs between the teaching of the past magisterium and the current one, which though being the magisterium cannot be magisterial. Even a new explanation cannot contradict what has already been explained. For example, in vain do they tell us that Dignitatis Humanae 2 is an explication of the natural law that has never been made till now; it is a fact duly established by the infallible tribunal of logic that DH 2 contradicts Quanta Cura. The obviousness of that fact becomes blinding when they speak to us about a “counter syllabus.”

17 Cajetan, Commentary on the “SummaTheologica,” II-II, Q. 1, Art. 1, No. 10-11; Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, I, 510.

18 Cajetan, Commentary on the ST, II-II, Q. 5, Art. 3, No. 1.

19 Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, I, 442-443. The attestation of the Church can be compared to the teaching of a professor. At first this teaching is requisite as the necessary condition enabling the disciple’s intellect to know its object. But once the object is known, the disciple’s intellect retains it by itself without further help from the professor. And if his professor were to fall into error by denying the teaching given formerly, his old student would be in a position to correct him by relying on the teaching once given by the professor himself (and not by his own personal insight). Thus did St. Paul with regard to St. Peter in the incident at Antioch.

20 It is impossible for the magisterium to be engaged as such in the proposition of something contrary to a thing to be believed. Were that to happen, one would have to conclude that the act of this proposition is bereft of any magisterial value strictly speaking.

21 Quite often the text of Holy Writ calls for an interpretation. Con­sequently, before ascertaining a contradiction between the current magisterium and Scripture, the Protestant is obliged to substitute himself for the magisterium in order to judge in its place what the Scripture must mean: and so it is indeed he (and not the past magisterium) that judges the current magisterium in the measure that he judges the meaning of Scripture.

22 St. Thomas makes a similar distinction, when he speaks of majores and of minores in regard to the notoriety of the Messias among the Jews (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 47, Art. 5). The former had an explicit knowledge, whereas the latter had only an implicit knowledge, dependent on the explicit knowledge of the majores.

23 As Archbishop Lefebvre pointed out in his book They Have Uncrowned Him (1986; Angelus Press, 1988), p. xv, it was mainly by starting with the fruits of the Council that one could trace them back to the poisoned fount of its teachings.

24 Cf. the lecture of Professor Matteo d’Amico, “From Christian Humility to the Humiliation of the Church” in the Acts of the Eighth Theological Congress of ‘Si Si No No’ (January 2-4, 2009), p. 242: “A recent poll by the Italian Federation of Scouting with a sampling of 2,500 scouts between the ages of 16 and 21 coming from 25 European countries (but for the most part Italian), two-thirds of whom are Catholic, yielded the following results: 90 percent of them approve of premarital sex; 39 percent accept abortion; 82 percent do not think it is wrong to get drunk; 47 per­cent see nothing wrong with smoking marijuana; a significant percentage do not disapprove of extramarital affairs (Corriere della Sera, March 16, 2008). I think that little commentary is called for here; such are the results of the ‘New Springtime’ of Vatican II: the destruction of Catholicism.” See also pp. 254-56.

25 Posthumous magisterium can moreover be a present magisterium, since it is defined as the simple repetition of a past teaching before the cessation thereof.

26 Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005, in fact speaks, not of “continuity,” but of “renewal in continuity,” and it is question of “renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church….which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”

27 Allocution during the Audience of January 12, 1966, La Documentations Catholique, No. 1466, col. 418-420 [English version in Michael Davies, Pope John’s Council, 2nd ed. (Angelus Press, 2007), p. 218].

28 It can be prooved that Vatican II set itself the goal of harmonizing the teaching of the Church with the principles of liberal and modern thought of the world that came to be after 1789.

29 Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, 3rd ed. (1929), I, 180.

30 DS 3016.