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The Campos Defection and the
Illogical Theological Position of the Society of St. Pius X

By Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Feast of St. Joseph
March 19, 2002

Dearly beloved in Christ,

The shocking news of the recent reconciliation of the traditional group in Campos, Brazil (the Society of St. John Vianney, founded by the late Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer) with the Conciliar Church of Vatican II, should have been no surprise to anyone. The bishop and priests of this society, just like their former associates, the Society of St. Pius X, have held an inconsistent theological position for so many years that their present decision to return to the modernist Church was ultimately the logical course of their illogical position.

On January 18, 2002, Bishop Licinio Rangel, the bishop of the Society of St. John Vianney, after so many years in defense of the Tridentine Latin Mass and the true Catholic Faith, compromised with the modernist hierarchy and issued the following declaration:

“We recognize the Second Vatican Council as one of the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, accepting it in light of Sacred Tradition... We recognize the validity of the Novus Ordo Missae promulgated by Pope Paul VI wherever celebrated correctly and with the intention to offer the true Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.”

“We recognize the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, along with all his powers and prerogatives, promising him filial obedience and offering our prayers for him.”

Having made such a public declaration, Bishop Rangel and the priests of the Society of St. John Vianney should ask themselves how the situation in the Conciliar Church is any different today than it was when their founder, the late Bishop Castro Mayer, originally made a stand in support of the true Mass and the true Faith in opposition to the Novus Ordo Missae and the false teachings of Vatican II on ecumenism and religious liberty. The present situation in the Conciliar Church is far worse today than it was then.

If the Novus Ordo Missae is a valid Mass and Vatican Council II was a legitimate council, then their position in support of tradition for all these years has been for nothing. They might as well have been part and parcel of the new ecumenical Church of Vatican II from the beginning.

No less disturbing and no less surprising is the fact that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, was in communication with the Conciliar Church one year ago, but has nevertheless broken off dialogue.

Thus, it will also come as no surprise when the Society of St. Pius X follows the Society of St. John Vianney, reconciles (actually “compromises” is a better word) with the modernists of the Conciliar Church, and becomes another “pea in the pod” of this false ecumenist Church.

And, how can it be otherwise? While the Society of St. Pius X, in their attempt to maintain the true Mass and the traditional Catholic Faith, must oppose the Novus Ordo Mass and the false ecumenism and religious liberty of Vatican Council II, they erroneously maintain that John Paul II is their pope, even though they are in no way canonically approved by him and have absolutely no jurisdictional connection with him.

For all their protestations that they recognize John Paul II as a true pope, they, in reality, completely disregard him by their public disobedience to him, inasmuch as they administer the sacraments without a canonical mission and without jurisdiction from him whom they recognize as pope. They have no authority or approval from John Paul II to set up churches and chapels throughout the world, nor to dispense the Sacraments. If the Conciliar Church of Vatican II is the Catholic Church (as they believe), then how can they not consider themselves as schismatic?

This is the ultimate contradiction; while they maintain nominal recognition of John Paul II as pope, they completely disregard him by acting without jurisdiction which they would need to receive from him in order to function as bishops and priests.

What is the source of this theologically-confused position? They recognize John Paul II as pope and yet have no jurisdictional or canonical connection with him. Why is the Society of St. Pius X caught in this dilemma?

The answer is to be found in the vacillating position of its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. By the consideration of a few public statements made by the late Archbishop throughout the years, the absence of a clear and consistent theological position becomes most apparent. And as this inconsistent position was bequeathed to the Society of St. Pius X, it will be the ultimate reason for their eventual compromise and reconciliation with the Conciliar Church.

On June 29, 1976, the late Archbishop Lefebvre stated on the occasion of his suspension from the administration of the Sacraments by Paul VI:

“We are suspended a divinis by the Conciliar Church and for the Conciliar Church, to which we have no wish to belong. That Conciliar Church is a schismatic Church, because it breaks with the Catholic Church that has always been. It has its new dogmas, its new priesthood, its new institutions, its new worship, all already condemned by the Church in many a document, official and definitive...

“The Church that affirms such errors is at once schismatic and heretical. This Conciliar Church is, therefore, not Catholic. To whatever extent Pope, Bishops, priests, or faithful adhere to this new Church, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church.” (Reflections on Suspension “a divinis” by Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre)

And, then a few years later, on March 8, 1980, the Archbishop back-peddled with the modernist Church in a written statement to John Paul II in which he contradicted his former position and affirmed:

“Holy Father,

“To put an end to some doubts that are now circulating in Rome and certain traditionalist areas in Europe and America concerning my attitude and thought with regard to the Pope, the Council, and the Mass of the Novus Ordo, and fearing that these doubts reach even Your Holiness, permit me to state again that which I have always expressed...

“That I fully agree with Your Holiness’ judgment of the Second Vatican Council made on November 6, 1978, at the reunion of the Sacred College. That the Council must be understood in the light of all Holy Tradition and on the basis of the constant Magisterium of the Holy Church.

“Regarding the Mass of the Novus Ordo, despite all the reservations one must have about it, I have never said that it is in itself invalid or heretical.”

Shortly after this affirmation, Archbishop Lefebvre, in a letter to American friends and benefactors dated April 28, 1983, took a theological middle ground in which he claimed:

“The Society does not say that all the sacraments according to the new post-conciliar rites are invalid, but that due to bad translations, the lack of proper intention, and the changes introduced in the matter and form, the number of invalid and doubtful sacraments is increasing.”

But wait a few years, and once again we find that Archbishop Lefebvre, just one year before his consecration of four bishops for the Society of St. Pius X, in a Letter to the Future Bishops on August 29, 1987, addressed the following:

“My dear friends,

“The See of Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs, the destruction of the Kingdom of Our Lord is being rapidly carried out even within His Mystical Body here below, especially through the corruption of the Holy Mass which is both the splendid expression of the triumph of Our Lord on the Cross — Regnavit a Ligno Deus — and the source of the extension of His kingdom over souls and over societies.”

Nevertheless, the Archbishop’s reference to “the See of Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs” did not last long, for in his letter to John Paul II on June 2, 1988, he concludes:

“We shall continue to pray for modern Rome, infested with Modernism, to become once more Catholic Rome and to rediscover its two-thousand-year-old tradition...

“Be so good, Most Holy Father, as to accept the expression of my most respectful and filially devoted sentiments in Jesus and Mary.”

How apparent was the vacillation of Archbishop Lefebvre! One year he claimed the Conciliar Church to be “schismatic and heretical” and then, a few years later, he claimed it to be the Catholic Church; one year he referred to “the See of St. Peter and the posts of authority in Rome being occupied by anti-Christs,” and the very next year he addresses the occupant of the See of Peter as “Most Holy Father.”

And the confusion continued. Following the consecration of the four bishops for the Society of St. Pius X in June of 1988, Stefano Paci, a reporter for 30 Days (an international magazine), held an interview with Archbishop Lefebvre, and the following excerpt was contained in the July/August 1988 edition of the magazine:

“PACl: And now, what do you foresee will be the future of the Fraternity in its relations with the Church of Rome?

“LEFEBVRE: I hope that within a few years, four or five at the most, Rome will end up coming to an agreement with us.

“PACI: And if this does not happen?

“LEFEBVRE: Rome would remain far from the Tradition. And it would be the end of the Church. Since I recognize in the Pope the successor of Peter, I am not one who considers the See of Peter vacant; I do not say that this Pope is a heretic. But his ideas are heretical, and they have already been condemned by previous pontiffs, and they lead to heresy. To see how the authorities of the Church have acted since the Council, it seems that the Holy Spirit has taken a vacation.”

How interesting a position! He claimed that John Paul II “is not a heretic, but his ideas are heretical — and they lead to heresy.”

When the so-called “pope” invited the leaders of the various false religions of the world to Assisi in order for them to invoke their false gods for world peace; or when he promulgated the new Code of Canon Law (1983) in which heretics and schismatics are allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist (under certain circumstances, without their reconciliation to the Church); or when he continues to enforce the Novus Ordo Missae and the false teachings of ecumenism and religious liberty, “his ideas are heretical” but “he is not a heretic”!?!

During the last presidential election, the term “fuzzy mathematics” was employed to describe one of the nominee’s erroneous economic calculations. Likewise, it may be said that the Society of St. Pius X has some “fuzzy theology” when it comes to the situation in the Church, and this will unfortunately be the very thing that will ultimately lead them to a reconciliation with the Conciliar Church.

Among the theological motives that are presented by the Society of St. Pius X to maintain their nominal recognition of John Paul II against the sedevacantist position, we find a quote from Fr. Peter Scott:

“Nevertheless, it is preposterous to say, as the sedevacantists do, that there has not been any Pope for more than 40 years, for this would destroy the visibility of the Church, and the very possibility of a canonical election of a future Pope.”

The answer to their first “difficulty” as to a lengthy interregnum (a vacancy in the Papal office) is found in the history of the Church during the Great Western Schism which occurred between the years 1378 and 1417. From 1378 to 1409 there were two claimants (one in Rome and one in Avignon) to the Papal office; then in 1409 a third claimant (from Pisa) came on the scene.

In regard to this confused state of affairs in the Church during the Great Western Schism, there is a most interesting theological point found among the teachings of Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly, S.J. He was one of the leading theologians of his time, having been theologian to Cardinal Cullen of Armagh at the Synod of Thurles; theologian to Bishop Brown at the Synod of Shrewsbury; theologian to Bishop Furlong at the synod of Maynooth; and having been named professor of the Catholic University in Dublin. In 1882, Fr. O’Reilly published a book entitled The Relations of the Church to Society in which he asserted that a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time cannot be considered incompatible with the promises of Christ and the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church:

“We may here stop to inquire what is to be said of the position, at that time, of the three claimants, and their rights with regard to the Papacy. In the first place, there was all throughout, from the death of Gregory Xl in 1378, a Pope — with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”

During these difficult times in which the Novus Ordo has replaced the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in which false religions have been invited by the Conciliar Church to render false worship to their gods in the churches of Assisi, are we not witnessing nothing less than the Great Apostasy foretold by St. Paul in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (II Thessalonians 2:3-8)?

As for the second “difficulty” proposed by the Society of St. Pius X against the sedevacantist position, that there would be an impossibility of a future Papal election if the See of Peter were vacant since Vatican II, we read in The Church of the Incarnate Word by Monsignor Charles Journet:

“During a vacancy of the Apostolic See, neither the Church nor the Council can contravene the provisions already laid down to determine the valid mode of election (Cardinal Cajetan, O.P., in De Comparata, cap.xiii, no. 202). However, in case of permission (for example if the Pope has provided nothing against it), or in case of ambiguity (for example, if it is unknown who the true Cardinals are or who the true Pope is, as was the case at the time of the Great Schism), the power ’of applying the Papacy to such and such a person’ devolves on the universal Church, the Church of God.” (ibid., no. 204)

In recent months, the Society of St. Pius X has been, in its publications, quite adamant against the sedevacantists; however, the late Archbishop Lefebvre, their founder and spiritual father, at one time held the same position as the sedevacantists:

“This Conciliar Church is, therefore, not Catholic. To whatever extent Pope, Bishops, priests, or faithful adhere to this new Church, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church.”

And, in addition to Archbishop Lefebvre, Bishop Castro Mayer in an interview granted to Jornal da Tarde claimed:

“The Church which adheres formally and totally to Vatican II with its heresies is not, nor could it be, the Church of Jesus Christ. In order to belong to the Catholic Church, to the Church of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have the Faith, that is, not to put in doubt or deny any article whatever of Revelation. Now, the Church of Vatican II accepts doctrines which are heretical, as we have seen” (The Roman Catholic, August, 1985).

How can the Society of St. Pius X refuse to submit to the authority of John Paul II whom they recognize as pope? The traditional Code of Canon Law (Canon 1325) defines the schismatic as one who refuses to submit to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff.

Since they have no jurisdiction from him, no canonical mission from him, and, as a matter of fact, their bishops have been excommunicated by him, how can they honestly not recognize the reality of their position? If John Paul II is the pope, as the Society of St. Pius X openly professes, then how can they not consider themselves anything other than schismatics?

As for the future of the Catholic Church, it is entirely in the hands of God; however, it is an implicit denial of the infallibility of the Church to claim that the Conciliar Church is somehow still the Catholic Church.

The late Archbishop Lefebvre erred in his 1988 interview with 30 Days magazine when he answered:

“To see how the authorities of the Church have acted since the Council, it seems that the Holy Spirit has taken a vacation.”

No, the Holy Ghost abides with the Church forever and will never fail the Church. For this reason the Catholic Church has infallibly taught at the First Vatican Council in 1870:

“For the fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople following closely in the footsteps of their predecessors, made this solemn profession: ‘The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18), should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied, and its teaching kept holy’...

“Indeed, it was this apostolic doctrine that all the Fathers held, and the holy orthodox Doctors reverenced and followed. For they fully realized that this See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior made to the prince of His disciples, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32).”

May St. Joseph, the patron of the Universal Church, foster father of the Son of God and chaste guardian of the Blessed Virgin, intercede for our Holy Mother the Catholic Church!

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A Pivarunas, CMRI

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