Burke and Schneider – False Hopes

There are many who are asking me if there is anything to hope for in Novus Ordo Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider. For those who do not know them, these are two vocal critics of Bergoglio among the Novus Ordo hierarchy.

My response is that for the moment there is nothing to hope for from them. Cardinal Burke has taken the position thus far that the way to solve the Bergoglio problem is (1) by making public corrections of his errors, or (2) by dismissing his errors as merely Bergoglio’s opinion.

Neither of these “solutions,” however, does anything to preserve the Church’s continuity of doctrine. The problem facing the Novus Ordo conservatives is how to preserve the seamless garment of continuity of dogmatic teaching, moral teaching, essential disciplines, and liturgical rites of the Catholic Church. The Church claims to be divinely assisted in these matters, in such a way that the universal teachings, disciplines, and liturgical rites of the Catholic Church would be free from any pernicious error.

Let me explain. The infallibility of the Church is restricted in this way: (1) the doctrine which is taught must be contained in revelation, either Scripture or Tradition, at least implicitly; (2) the doctrine must be taught as having been divinely revealed either by the pope speaking with his full authority or by all the bishops of the world, together with the pope, either in a general council or dispersed throughout the world.

Infallible teaching made by popes alone, what is commonly referred to as ex cathedra teachings, are very rare. General councils are very rare, as well, and not all things which a general council teaches qualify as infallible unless such language is used to indicate that the Church is declaring something to be divinely revealed. There are many explanations given in council documents which do not qualify as having been divinely revealed, or promulgated with supreme authority with the intention to define.

What is not rare is ordinary universal magisterium, which happens every day, according to Pope Pius XI. This is the common teaching of bishops in union with the pope, that is, in union with the pope who is also teaching the same doctrine. This teaching happens through preaching, through the creeds of the Catholic Church, through approved catechisms, through the general teaching of Catholic theologians, and through approved universal liturgical rites. Nearly all of the Church’s moral teaching is by means of universal ordinary magisterium. For example, I know of no document which solemnly teaches that adultery is wrong, or that fornication is wrong. These things are taught by the Church’s universal ordinary magisterium, and require the assent of faith. The same may be said concerning the doctrine of Guardian Angels. These are infallible teachings. To deny them would be heresy.

Apart from these teachings which I have already described, there are many doctrines, disciplines, and liturgical rites which are negatively infallible. This simply means that although they are subject to reform, even suppression or retraction, they nonetheless are free from anything that would be sinful to accept or observe. So, for example, a pope might increase or decrease the obligation of fasting. While one could argue about the prudence of his decision, we have the guarantee from the indefectibility of the Church that it would not be a sin to observe the law. The same would be true of what is known as pontifical magisterium, which is used very commonly by popes, in which they teach authoritatively, usually in encyclicals, but do not wish to make a definition of what they are teaching. They may be unwilling to define the doctrine for many reasons, for example, that they have not done sufficient research about the matter necessary for a definition. To these teachings of popes we owe something called religious assent, that is, not the assent of faith, which can never change, but an assent to the teaching based on the authority of the pope as universal teacher of the whole Church. It would be sinful to repudiate these teachings, although not the sin of heresy. An example of this would be the teaching concerning the Mystical Body of Christ contained in Mystici Corporis of Pope Pius XII. [1]

The universal disciplines of the Church, as well as her universal liturgical rites, also come under negative infallibility. This means that while they may be more or less good, more or less perfect, they nevertheless could never prescribe anything sinful or pernicious. The Chinese missal, approved in the seventeenth century, is an example of this. The approval was later rescinded as a bad idea, but the law did not prescribe something sinful. [2]

This infallibility of the Church in its solemn and universal ordinary magisterium, as well as its negative infallibility in its sacred rites, pontifical magisterium, and disciplines, is all the effect of a more general principle of its indefectibility. By indefectibility we mean that (1) the Church must continue as an institution until the end of time, and (2) must continue the same in all its essential elements, without deviation or corruption, until the end of time. The essential elements of any religion are threefold: (1) faith and morals; (2) laws and disciplines; (3) liturgical rites.

This indefectibility is based on Our Lord’s words: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.”

The central issue for the Catholic Church since Vatican II is this indefectibility. While there is no argument about the continuity of the Catholic Church as an institution, there is plenty of angst about its continuity in doctrine, disciplines, and liturgy.

There are three responses to this problem: (1) that of the sedevacantists, who hold that the Vatican II revolution was evil from the start, and that all those who have participated in it and promote it have lost their ability to rule the Church, or never had it to begin with; (2) that of the SSPX and similar organizations, which hold that many doctrines, disciplines, and liturgical practices of the Novus Ordo are indeed evil, but that Catholics can “sift” these things for what is Catholic, and reject what is non-Catholic; (3) that of the Novus Ordo conservatives, who, up to recently, have said that the changes of Vatican II are in themselves acceptable, if deficient, but involve nothing false or pernicious. The problems in the Church are caused by bad interpretation of the documents of Vatican II.

The preservation of indefectibility is absolutely central and essential to the Vatican II problem. If Vatican II involves defection from the faith, or has prescribed or even permitted pernicious errors or sinful practices, then the claim of the Catholic Church to be assisted by Christ until the end of time collapses in ashes. If Vatican II is defection, and has been promulgated by the true hierarchy of the Catholic Church, then the Catholic Church is a big hoax.

The Novus Ordo conservatives are presently experiencing a meltdown, because they are no longer capable of making a credible argument that Bergoglio’s teachings are in accordance with the Catholic Faith. So they are turning toward one of the two other solutions, either that of sedevacantism or that of the SSPX, the “sifting solution.”

The Modernists, of course, have no care about continuity of doctrine, discipline, or liturgy. They believe in the evolution of all of these things. What they are very concerned about, however, is the continuity of the institution of the Catholic Church, since they want to use its credibility as a vehicle for their wicked doctrines and practices. It is similar to a bunch of thugs who have stolen your Rolls-Royce and are now taking it for a joy ride around town.

All of this brings us to the point: Is there hope in Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider? The answer is no, not at this point at least. They are abandoning the Novus Ordo conservative position (the “nothing-has-changed” solution), but they are embracing the SSPX “sifting” position. So Cardinal Burke has issued corrections of Bergoglio’s false doctrines, as if this fixes the problem.

It does not fix the problem. The very idea that a correction is necessary proves the fact that there has been a deviation in doctrine in the supreme teacher of the Church. The correction merely supports the accusation that the Church has defected. Then there is the problem: Who is right? the pope or the correctors? Would not a Catholic side with the pope? Who appointed the correctors anyway? What authority do they have? Maybe the self-appointed correctors need self-appointed correctors. And maybe the correctors’ correctors need self-appointed correctors. Does everyone see the absurdity of this? Why have a pope if all you need is self-appointed correctors?

Bishop Schneider has written a whole treatise addressing the heretical pope issue, in which he incorporates many Modernist ideas about the papacy, and advocates the recognize and resist (SSPX) approach to the problem. For example, he espouses the Modernist doctrine that the Church did not become “pope-centrist” until the late Middle Ages, as if up to that time the pope were merely one bishop among many. He also espouses the Modernist idea that the pope does not embody the whole Church. This is clearly false, since the pope is the vicar of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the entire Mystical Body, the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, as all the members of the Church are members of Christ’s Mystical Body, so does the pope represent in himself the entire Church. Saint Ambrose (fifth century) said it so succinctly: Where Peter is, there is the Church.

So there is no hope in these men. They are trying to save the Vatican II religion and its heresy-promulgating hierarchy by diminishing the authority of the pope, and by suggesting that issuing “corrections” will suffice to ensure the indefectibility of the Catholic Church. These are very serious errors.

I say, however, that there is no hope for the time being. For these men, and those like them, are obviously of good will, and desire to see doctrinal continuity in the Church. But we must understand that they have, for many decades, inhabited the same ecclesiastical nest together with the Modernists. As a result, they have lost their sense of outrage against heresy. They live in a church that has institutionalized heresy. It is a heretical flop-house, lodging in it all sorts of theological derelicts. It is akin to living in a slum, where there are rats and cockroaches crawling everywhere in the house, and stinking garbage cans overflowing with refuse. These men have lost all sense of the magnificence, the doctrinal purity, the integrity, the consistency, and the unity of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. Perhaps one day, by God’s grace, they will come to realize what they must do to solve the problem.

The only solution to Vatican II is to dump it, that is, to recognize it as a modernist revolution in the Church, conceived by Modernists, used by Modernists, and directed by Modernists. Consequently, it has no value in the history of the Church, and the hierarchy which instigated it and promulgated it, from John XXIII on, have no legitimacy as rulers of the Catholic Church. In other words, it is not the Catholic Church which is the hoax; it is they who are the hoax.

But one or the other is the hoax. In other words, you cannot somehow bring together an infallible, divinely-assisted, indefectible Church, on the one hand, and the universal promulgation of condemned doctrines, heresies, evil laws, evil disciplines, and non-Catholic rites on the other hand. Logically this is impossible. Something must give.

We know by faith that the Church is divinely assisted, infallible, and indefectible. Consequently the necessary logical conclusion, required by faith, is that it is Vatican II, together with its subsequent reforms, which is the hoax.


[1] Pope Pius XII was explicit about the necessity to accept non-infallible papal teachings. In his encyclical Humani Generis of 1950, the Pope states: “Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”

[2] “From the extent of the infallible teaching authority to all questions of faith and morals it follows that the Church, and, consequently, the pope, is infallible also in decrees binding the whole Church in matters of divine worship and discipline, since these are in closest connection with faith and morals; that such decrees, therefore, can never contain anything contrary to faith or morals. The same infallibility extends to the canonization of saints.” (Rev. W. Wilmers, S.J., Handbook of the Christian Religion, New York: Benziger Brothers, 1891, no. 59.)