Discerning Between Traditional Catholicism and Catholic Traditionalism

An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism "

By Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere
Our Sunday Visitor - 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750
Paper 240 pp. - $12.95


Patrick Madrid, well known author of such popular works of apologetics as "Pope Fiction" and "Answer Me" has joined canon lawyer Pete Vere, JCL, a former member of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), to write a thorough refutation of claims and allegations by "extreme traditionalists" who have followed Archbishop Marcel Lefebrve in rejecting the teachings and directives of the Second Vatican Council and the authority of the Roman Pontiff to make the liturgical changes in the present reformed Mass which is now the normative Mass for the Church of the Roman rite.

Our authors leave no doubt that:

  1. the Archbishop was legitimately excommunicated,
  2. that the Society of St. Pius X is in schism,
  3. that the Popes had full authority to change the liturgical discipline embodied in the famous Bull "Quo Primum",
  4. and that Vatican II was in doctrinal continuity with past Ecumenical Councils.

They also convincingly defend Pope John Paul II from the harsh and insolent criticisms of detractors claiming he presides over a despised "Conciliar Church" that has broken sharply with Catholic Tradition. Their objections regarding the Mass and Eucharist, ecumenism, the doctrine of "No Salvation Outside the Church", and Dialogue with other religions – are adequately treated.

Our authors demonstrate that extreme traditionalists have utterly distorted the true nature of "Tradition", divorcing it from the indispensable role played by the Magisterium in guiding and sanctioning the development of doctrine in the Church. In falsifying the true notion of Tradition, they directly resist the authority of an Ecumenical Council and have opposed the exercise of the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff as Successor of Peter and visible head of the Church Militant. Such opposition goes far beyond mere disobedience. It amounts to real schism as noted by the Church’s classical theologians and in Canon Law. Our authors rightly observe:

"At the root of every schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him (Canon 751). Such ruptures from communion with the Church, The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, wound the unity of Christ's Body."
(CCC, 817)

It follows that the existence of "independent Tridentine Chapels" not sanctioned by Bishops or the Holy See – also constitutes schismatic acts.

The book contains a detailed and welcome history of Archbishop Lefebrve’s once distinguished career, his creation of SSPX in reaction to spreading liturgical and doctrinal abuses in the post-conciliar period, and the growing suspicions concerning his orthodoxy resulting from many questionable assertions regarding the reformed Liturgy and the teachings of Vatican II on religious liberty, ecumenism, and its "Opening to the World". It would not be long before Lefebrve would be openly declaring:

"We refuse and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies."

In response a special Commission of Cardinals declared that the SSPX, whose seminarians had been ordained to the priesthood unlawfully by Archbishop Lefebrve, was now suppressed. It noted with respect to the false understanding of Tradition being furthered by SSPX leaders and sympathizers:

"It is inadmissable that every individual should be invited to submit papal directives to his own private judgment and decide for himself whether to accept or reject them."

A sorry train of events would follow with the rejection by Lefebrve of a Protocol-agreement that would have led to his full reconciliation with the Holy See. He would be formally excommunicated on July 2,1988 for his "schismatic act" of ordaining 4 Bishops without permission by the Pope.

Readers will benefit from the authors’ detailed treatment of Canon Law justifying Pope John Paul II’s excommunication of Archbishop Lefebrve for a specific act of schism and revealing the true nature of the SSPX Schism. Especially helpful to readers misled by misleading propaganda that Vatican II was merely a "pastoral Council" is the authors’ demonstration that it was also a doctrinal Council. "Pastoral" and "doctrinal" did not exclude each other. It was so understood during the Council’s proceedings, and underscored by Pope Paul VI in an important letter to Archbishop Lefebrve:

"You cannot convoke the distinction between dogmatic and pastoral in order to accept certain texts of the Council and to refute others."
(page 85)

Madrid and Vere fittingly sum up traditional Catholic teaching in dismissing the position of "extreme traditionalists":

"Catholic Tradition maintains we must submit to the Roman Pontiff in matters of discipline and governance, which encompasses the pastoral application of doctrine, and not merely in faith and morals."
(page 87)

It is to be hoped that those who have been so provoked by a false notion of Tradition and by disorders in the Church to become involved in a tragic schism from the communion of the Holy See will read attentively this work. May yet others who have abandoned their parishes because of the disfigurement of the liturgy to attend "independent Tridentine chapels" (declaring they "will have nothing more to do with that Novus Ordo Church") realize the injury their disobedience inflicts upon the solidarity of the Mystical Body of Christ, The Catholic Church.

In the very beginning of their book, our authors quote fittingly the words of St. Pius X as particularly applicable to all those proclaiming themselves "traditionalists" but have become embitttered and made hostile to the Vicar of Christ by a relentless campaign of calumny and defamation waged against Vatican II and the Popes commissioned by Christ to defend and properly implement its teachings and directives:

"Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements of those who persistently claim to wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave her... But judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their directives and judgments... then about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about that [one] ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone’." (Ephesians 2:20)
(Address, May 10, 1909)

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage