Bishop Williamson Responds

A week or so ago, I wrote a post entitled "Williamson of SSPX -- Yeah, That Helps" that generated a fair bit of debate.

In that post, I remarked about an admission by Bishop Williamson the the SSPX is defectible and could very well fail in its mission. This is what I wrote:
What interests me is the admission that the SSPX has no divine promise of truth and his acknowledgment that the SSPX may very well fail in its mission. If, as Williamson puts it, the Church of Rome has "departed the true Faith" and the SSPX might fail in its mission would that not mean that the "Gates of Hell" had prevailed against the Church? I am pretty sure that somebody pretty high up on the food chain promised that would not happen.
Perhaps Bishop Williamson is a CMR reader (not) because this week in his column he responds directly to the point I raised. He puts it this way:
A reader of "Eleison Comments" of two weeks ago had some reasonable questions. Here are some answers:
Q.1 If the Conciliar Church is proving defectible by its Conciliarism while the Society of St.Pius X is defectible by nature (not having the Church's guarantees of indefectibility), then where is that indefectible Church?
Right to my point, eh? So in fairness, since I asked the question I should publish his answer. So what is the Bishops answer to this reasonable question?
A 1 Defectible plus defectible equals defectible. But defectible plus defectible plus God equals indefectible. In the Arian crisis of the fourth century, Pope Liberius was proving defectible by his support of Arian bishops while St. Athanasius enjoyed no guarantee of indefectibility. Yet the Lord God used both to carry the Church through until the Papacy came back to its Catholic senses. Even with the best of Popes, the Lord God alone is responsible for his Church's indefectibility. In God's good time he will rescue his popes from Conciliarism. Meanwhile the SSPX, amongst others, is playing the part of St. Athanasius, but even if the SSPX were to defect - God forbid ! - it would be child's play for the Lord God to raise other carriers of his Church's indefectible Truth.
Now I could follow up with some snarky remarks about defectibility arithmetic, but I will refrain. Rather, I will attempt to see what Bishop Williamson is saying. We all know the limits of the charism of indefectibility. The Church has had weeds among the wheat since its inception and always will until that time that the wheat is separated from the chaff.

What Bishop Williamson seems to be suggesting is that were the SSPX to fail in its mission, that God would have to raise up some other heretofore unknown group to carry the torch for indefectible truth. Now there is a can of worms. Were that to happen, how would your average person in the pew know which group has THE truth? Which group to follow? How can you know? Which truth?

We have been down this road before. Why would God put us in the position of having to figure out which group carries the truth? So should it now suffice us to say that God will simply raise up THE bearer of truth from a stone? But hasn't Jesus already done that specifically so we would not have to wonder who has the truth? God gave us the stone — the rock — he gave us Peter.

I for one do not trust my own judgment to always know who is Athanasius and who is Arius. Above my pay grade you might say. So as far as it goes, I stick with the Pope and those Bishops in union with him. That is the only sure guarantee of truth and indefectibility.


  1. "I for one do not trust my own judgment to always know who is Athanasius and who is Arius. Above my pay grade you might say."

    You and me both!

  2. The Rule of faith is ultimately the Rule of Tradition. When in doubt, we simply hold fast to that which has always been taught everywhere.

    If the question is how do we know how to interpret the Deposit of Faith in a matter of invincible doubt, the answer is that, ultimately, we must rely on God Himself to inform us in the Faith, and this request on our part must come as prayer from the heart. St. Augustine taught that the process begins with God, not with us. God animates us to seek the Truth, especially if we are not hearing it, and *then* we pray to be informed in it, and then we are. We trust in the process because we trust in God. I'm sure that that is how St. Athanasius came to stand fast in truth when it was being vitiated by bishops and even by a pope.

    This is manifested in time through tradition. God does sort it out in the end. But if we are in a legitimate doubt about something, we simply pray on it. We cannot lose our souls through direct ignorance, which is not culpable ignorance. If we honestly and truly believe that we disobey in a case of necessity to save our souls, then we are not culpable for this if we be in error. But, in such a case, we must not go beyond what we believe to be necessary, and we must always seek to end any need for 'rightful disobedience'.

    While I commend Mr. Archbold for his questions on this, I think that might be missing Bishop Williamson's point. When the S.S.P.X was considering a juridical structure suggested by Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos in 2000, Williamson, in an interview published in "The Remnant" made the same sort of points. They are thinly-veiled threats against various authorities in the S.S.P.X that, should they accept an arrangement from 'Conciliar Rome' before essential problems have been solved, he, Williamson, might just have to lead a revolt against the rest of the Society. He is saying, I think, that, since the Society per se is definitely not protected by indefectibility, it can make a big mistake, which, in turn, can justify a rejection of such an arrangement.

    While I strongly support a juridical structure for the Society right now, Williamson's point is plausible; that is, it is internally logical. I think that the problem with Williamson's position--if there is one--may come as a result of a lack of judgement, not a lack of logic. He and all of us should pray for good judgement, which is a faculty for seeing things as they really are.


  3. P.K.T.P
    Respectfully, I don't think I missed the point. Even if his remarks are in part as you say "thinly veiled threats" we cannot ignore the plain text of what he says and only concentrate on the subtext. Leaving the internal politics of the SSPX out it for a moment (as intriguing as it may be) I am addressing the plain meaning of what he is writing about. Namely, where is this indefectible Church and how do you find it?

    This is the point I address in my post

  4. Yes indeed, Christ, God Himself, established His Church on earth.
    His Bride who is infallibly headed by Peter who is impassable in matters of Faith and Morals.

    As St Cyprian bears witness,"The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she gaurds the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."

    I, being a creature, will rely solely on my Creator and the Rock that He established in St Peter and every single Pontiff that follows Him, in matters of teaching on Faith and Morals.

    In this the Church is united totally with Christ and can NEVER go wrong.
    The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity promised this and the Holy Ghost ensures it, forever.

    Ut Prosim.
    Dan Hunter

  5. Dear Mr. Hunter:

    We must not confuse indefectability and infallibility. The Church is indefectible, not the Pope. The Pope only speaks infallibly under certain carefully-defined circumstances.

    Indefectibility means that the Church cannot lose the means of salvation, such as the Sacraments. She cannot lose the Faith or the Sacraments *despite* the failures of her children, including those of popes. I would think that the position of the sedevacantists will soon be disproved by the principle of indefectability; the same applies for the position of those who deny the validity of the new ordinal. But it does NOT apply to the situation of the S.S.P.X.

    While the Pope is certainly the supreme guardian of the Faith, this only means that he has more authority to defend it than does anyone else. It does not mean that he is unable to err, even in crucial matters. Popes Liberius and Honorius I did err while they were popes, although I am convinced that they did not die in a state of error.

    The common teaching of the Church in this matter is that there can indeed by such a thing as an abuse of power, even one coming from a Pope. When that occurs, there is a right to resistance, bringing one in to a state of 'rightful disobedience' and invoking supplied jurisdiction. This contention is hardly controversial. Pope Benedict XVI himself has commented on it to suggest to Bishop Fellay that, assuming such a state did exist, it no longer does (owing to the offer made to the Society).

    I wish to make it clear that I am not defending the Society position. I agree with the Pope on this. I think that the Society had at least an argument for a state of necessity from 1976 to 2000. But I cannot see how it can be justified since 2000, when Pope John Paul II offered the means of ending it and, when the Society refused to accept this, he even showed his good faith by offering it to the Campos.

    But we must get our arguments straight. Bishop Williamson's position is plausible. Moreover, anyone who holds an absolutist view of papal authority is, to that extent, no Catholic. Such a view is directly contrary to Vatican I, the better of the two Vatican Councils. The Pope's authority is supreme, plenary, universal and immediate, but it is NOT absolute.


  6. Dear Mr. Archbold:

    Yes, I do see your point about the direct meaning of Bishop Williamson's statement. I believe that I have answered that in my first post. I wish to make clear that I do not support Bishop Williamson's apparent inclinations in regard to negotiations with the Holy See. However, his position on the matter in hand is sound. He is saying that (a) The Church is indefectable but (b) the Pope is not 'indefectable'; nor does he speak infallibly in most cases and (c) the Society is not indefectable.

    My main point, having dealt with yours, is that the purpose of Bishop Williamson's statement was not to undermine the authority of the Pope but to warn certain people in the S.S.P.X that, should they accept an arrangement with the Pope without certain safeguards, Williamson will divide the Society. His threat is grounded in the observation that the Society is not indfectible: it can fail. He means that a deal with 'Conciliar Rome' could amount to such a failure. As he has said many times before, there is a right to resistance against an abuse of power, but the Society need not be the instrument of that resistance. Should the Society no longer be the best means to resist papal abuses of power, he, Williamson, will find other instruments and means to carry on the resistance.

    His entire point was designed to warn Society moderates not to make a deal with the Pope until doctrinal matters have been settled.

    In my view, there is no way that such matters will be settled in the foreseeable future. Essentially, then, he is saying that we are decades away from any sort of rapprochement.

    Benedict XVI, on the other hand, clearly wants a rapprochement as soon as possible, and so do many in the S.S.P.X.

    You may be not interested in Society politics but, in this case, it is important. It is important because it is the entire basis of his statements.

    In at least human terms, Williamson is taking a very extreme position. Thanks to "Summorum Pontifium", the 1962 Mass is spreading like wildfire. Soon, few will see a need for the S.S.P.X. It is in the Society's interest to make an juridical arrangement with Rome as soon as possible. Should this happen, a Williamson who refuses to co-operate may soon find himself leading an organisation the members of which are few enough to fit into a callbox.


  7. Mr Perkins:

    This is a little off-topic, but please contact me at my yahoo address.


  8. Dear Mr. Alexander. I'm not sure how to find your e-mail address. I don't have much experience with blogs; in fact, I'm new to them.

    My e-mail address is


  9. "The Rule of faith is ultimately the Rule of Tradition. When in doubt, we simply hold fast to that which has always been taught everywhere."

    And just how do we go about determining that which has always been taught everywhere?

    St. Thomas Acquinas argued that human life does not begin at the moment of conception. Instead, as the baby develops, there is a succession of vegetative, animal, and finally a human soul. While considering abortion a mortal sin, he did not think it was murder necessarily.

    St. Augustine thought our souls were generated from those of our parents.

    St. Jerome doubted the canonicity of significant portions of Esther, Judith, Tobit, and Daniel. He also doubted and argued against the longer ending of Mark.

    St. John Chrysostom, and indeed, much of the East during the early Church period, considered the Apocalypse as a forgery and hotbed of heresy. They denounced it vehemently at times.

    My point is, if "that which has always been taught everywhere" was such an unambiguous monolith, we'd have no need of interpreters. But alas, we do, in fact, need interpreters. Some matters, although not theoretically impossible to resolve, are practically impossible to resolve for the average laymen.

    Dear P.K.T.P.,

    Who was it that said logic is the science of making truth into a lie, and philosophy is the art of making those lies believable?

  10. Dear Geoffrey:

    Although most people don't realise this, the Church even today "only favours" the view that ensoulment occurs at the momemnt of conception (the question of when human life begins is a scientific one). One of my points is that we have no guarantee that all our questions will be answered. Only some are. (Abortion is necessarily a mortal sin from conception only owing to the principle that, given the scientific evidence, we are bound to *assume* that ensoulment occurs at conception, since it might occur then and, as a result, to assume otherwise would risk homicide, which we have no right to do. But we are not bound to *believe* that ensoulment occurs at any particular point in utero.)

    So we are back to the question of how to interpret what has always been taught everywhere by all legitimate authority. The Pope does indeed have supreme jurisdiction in this matter, but that does not mean that he is inerrant. He is only inerrant when he speaks infallibly. On other matters, he can err, and popes certainly have.

    When we find that we cannot reconcile a pope's interpretation with our own, we are bound to pray to God to enlighten us in the truth. The process begins with God, not with us. Hence we affirm that our very desire to pray for understanding in the first place came from Him, not from us. But if, after honest prayer, we cannot reconcile the Pope's interpretation with our own, our response can depend upon the authority used by the Pope. For example, we are sometimes bound to will agreement (i.e. assent) even if the teaching is not infallible, and we must then shun all contrary doctrines. In other cases, we are free to withhold assent but not to dissent; in others, we are free to dissent but not to translate that into action which might undermine the unity of the Church; and so on. There can be cases in which the Pope insists on an error which necessitates our resistance in order to obey the highest law, which is not obedience to the Pope but the salvation of souls. Ultimately, this is a matter of Moral Law, not Canon Law. We can only act in accordance with an honest conscience. I am not putting conscience above law but only insisting that, in matters of Moral Law, we must avoid sin; and sin always includes intention. Of course, conscience is not free but is bound to seek the truth by respecting the Pope's authority; it can only resist that authority as a loving response to it and never as an act of wilfulness.

    But this is a different subject than that of indefectibility. So we must keep these principles straight. Indefectibility is a property of the Church, not of the Pope. It merely means that the Church cannot fail. It is connected to the Pope because 'where Peter is, there is the Church'. Christ instituted the office of the Supreme Shepherd and that of the College of Bishops when He instituted the Church. He also instituted the Sacraments as helps (sometimes necessary helps) to salvation. So, if you say that the papacy has permanently ended, or that the episcopate has lapsed, or that there are no longer valid Sacraments, you are a heretic. The S.S.P.X does not say these things. (I note in passing that the papacy is different than a secular monarchy in terms of succession. In secular monarchy, succession is usually held to be instantaneous. That is not so with the papacy because the papacy, in a sense, proceeds out of the fabric of the Church and is inseparable from it.)

    Of course, the S.S.P.X does not deny that Benedict XVI is the Pope or that the Church is to be found where he is. The Society is not saying that the Pope has ceased being Catholic, thereby resulting in a vacancy, although Williamson does seem to say that the Pope does not think in a Catholic way--a really dangerous assertion, I think.

    On the question of authority, I have already commented on this: the Pope's authority is supreme, universal, immediate, and plenary; it is not absolute. By plenary, we mean that it is fully adequate for him to fulfil his divine mission, which is to build up the Mystical Body and save souls. But he has no power or authority to break down the Mystical Body or sacrifice souls.

    To return to the first question. How do we know what to believe? First if all, we must separate necessary beliefs from others. We don't need to know everything. But we believe that which has been handed down and taught everywhere by all. If we have trouble interpreting this, we look first to the Pope, who may or may not answer to our difficulty. If we find that we cannot reconcile our understanding with one given by the Pope, we pray for guidance.

    I don't see what the problem is here regarding the S.S.P.X. The Society has not affirmed that any *necessary* teaching of Vatican II is unCatholic. It does contend that some teachings of the Council which are non-infallible are incompatible with earlier Church teaching, or seem to be. So the logical process is to examine these one-by-one, which is what the Society has proposed.

    What I cannot understand, however, is why the Society has refused regularisation until this process is complete. Rome is not threatening the Society's mission to help save souls. On the contrary, Rome has suggested a jurisdiction to protect that mission. To prove her good faith, Rome has even granted same to the Campos group.

    The Society had at least a plausible case from 1976 to 2000. The argument was that 'rightful disobedience' to legitimate authority was justified to obey the highest law, to save souls. Right or wrong about this, the Society, I think, acted in good faith; that is, its members believed this to be a state of necessity. There definitely is at least a theoretical case for acting in this way, and even Benedict XVI has implied as much.

    But Rome suggested a solution in 2000 which was FAR MORE than what Abp. Lefebvre was prepared to accept in 1988. It seems to me that any claim of a state of necessity ended then. Since then, the Pope has granted priests substantial (although not full) liberty to celebrate the old Mass.

    In his latest statement, Bsp. Williamson seems to be asserting the S.P. did not satisfy the Society's pre-condition that the old Mass be completely freed. If that is how he interprets that pre-condition, we must respond by saying that he has apparently asked for the practically impossible. If the New Mass is normative, then faithful have a right of access to it. This right will limit any right of access to the 1962 Mass, since the number of priests, canonical hours, and sacred places is limited. Really, the only way to grant what Williamson seems to demand would be to abolish the New Mass altogether.

    An American might say, This ain't gonna happen. (But since, thank God, I'm not an American, I will say that this is a practical impossibility; that is, it is impossible in practice, given the state of the Church at the moment.)

    I shall not develop an argument against Bsp. W. any further because I fear the construction of a straw man. But I would be pleased if he would explain to us why S.P. does not fulfil the Society's first pre-condition for regularisation. At the very least, the Society could agree to a provisional ordinary structure which could be discontinued by either party once a year (say) during the period of discussion (notice how I avoid that horrible word dialogue: I hate that word).


  11. Know the truth and truth will set you free
    Know your Self =>your living man upon the land soul nature or Soul union with the universal creative source, withholder, imbuer, unifying omnipresent never began never ending space-like witness OF THE ENTIRE COSMIC CREATION, the awareness and loving thinker within your individual living man upon the land loving AWARENESS and you will become like by magic free from your egotistic inferiorly emotional self and awaken within THE KING OF ALL UNIVERSEAL YOU Will BECOME AWAKEN AND SELFRECOGNISED AS HIS=YOUR OWN DIVINE SELF.
    You will PERCEIVE that you are not ONLY EXISTING within the world, but that the entire world exist within you, and it is your LOVE GENERATING SELF.
    I was born in the spiritually gray corridor of the materialistic communist somnambulism, but thanks that event combined with the Universal Creator whom I manage to recognised first intellectually (intelligent design within every cell of our LIVING MAN/WOMEN OPN THE LAND body and much, much wider ,within the entire scenario of the live world of our planet Earth and from there toward the entire universe) the POTENTIAL which reside beyond my rational common sense mind was released from LOVE DISTORTING ego driven jail, and , I passed the major tests of spiritual awakening.
    I become prised with two values from which i believe and know , the entire humanity all people of the planet Earth could benefit greatly .
    One is that by few minutes of intellectual drawing explanation on the board, I can revile clearly to the we people of are totally somnambulistic and un aware who we are????
    And who we are really!!!!!!!!!!!!! By the way this is one of the most preserved truth on our planet preserved by “big brother” and his servants ...
    Second gift that I have got from the King if the entire universe is spiritual/soul/divine gift by which is possible to address (on the way that it is also preserved spiritual knowledge )soul alienated energies (inferior emotional “human=by law bouvie dictionary human is a the beast) energies, inferior to the Soul frequencies or to divine vibrations and to transform them backwards with my hands soaked with divine awareness, back into their original soul vibration, which superiorly conscious energy transformation process has power to experientially, in vivo, to revile to treated living man and women upon the land who forgot on them selves, who they really are= pure loving Souls or prolonged hand of the Creator of the entire universe.
    This message is for Bishop
    Williamson maybe he would like to check what coud be done with this awareness for the benefit of the entire people of the Earth and most authentic King of the entire universe.


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