'Traditionalist' Errors Syllabus Part I - On Tradition

The following passages were taken primarily from the writings of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who was one of the founders of the 'traditionalist' movement. (Some were taken from various SSPX prelates as well.) These and other errors will be addressed later on in this treatise.

"To insure our salvation the only attitude of fidelity to the Church and to Catholic doctrine is a categorical refusal to accept the Reformation. We will pursue our work of the formation of priests under the star of the age-old magisterium in the conviction that we can thus do no greater service to the Church, to the Pope, and to future generations."
"I do not reject it [Vatican II] altogether. I accept the council in so far as it conforms to Tradition."
"This conciliar church is a schismatic church because it breaks with the Catholic Church of the centuries ..." "This conciliar church is schismatic because it has taken as the basis for its updating principles opposed to those of the Catholic Church." "The church which affirms errors like these is both schismatic and heretical. This conciliar church is thus not Catholic."
"We are thus quite decided to continue our work of the restoration of the Catholic priesthood whatever happens, convinced that we can render no better service to the Church, to the pope, to the bishops and to the faithful. Let them allow us to experiment with tradition."
"Nothing is more dangerous for the Church than liberal popes who are in a continual incoherence. We pray for the Pope, but we refuse to follow him in his errors on religious freedom, ecumenism, socialism and the application of reforms destructive for the Church. Our apparent disobedience is true obedience to the Church and to the Pope as successor of Peter in the measure that he continues to maintain holy Tradition....All the members…have one desire, to be submitted in filial obedience to a Rome returned to Tradition."
"The best service we can give to the Church, the Pope and the Bishops, is to insist inflexibly on our position, to preach the Gospel at any cost, to continue in the way in which we are engaged, and first of all to form true priests. Our disharmony with the present Rome does not come from us but from those who have broken with tradition. It is not us who are the defendant; we are the prosecution, and this not by a caprice, nor pharisaism, but in virtue of a sacred duty and with our heart full of sorrow."
"We do not want any particular spirituality, we make ours the one of the Holy Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, priest and victim, prophet and king. The holiness of the Church is not to be found in the new liturgy, in the relativist ecumenism, nor in the naturalist laicization of the nations. The sanctity of the Church is to be found in holy tradition."
Do the 'traditionalists' who make these and other similar comments have any idea what is and is not legitimate unchanging Tradition??? No they do not and this will be demonstrated in the next section of this treatise url. These and several other quotes like them will also be revisited later on when sketching out the frightening parallels between 'traditionalists' and other historical dissidents who spoke and acted in much the same manner.

On Tradition/Living Magisterium

Neither living nor lifeless faith remains in a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith…The formal object of faith is the first truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the first truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the first truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. [1]
I - Introduction:

The focus of this url will be on the Living Magisterium that preserves authentic Tradition and the Apostolic tradition itself as understood by the Catholic Church herself. What will be demonstrated is that the views of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Feeneyites, and numerous others in this company are not only wrong but spectacularly wrong: that their views are based on a fundamental defect in the understanding of what is and is not legitimate unchanging Tradition. Much of what they claim is unchanging Tradition are instead pious customs or ecclesiastical traditions originating not from the Deposit of Faith but instead from the Church which may be suitable for one age but not for another. The only party who can legitimately make that determination - and bind people to the decisions made - is the Church and not individuals.

II - The Catholic Encyclopedia on Tradition/Living Magisterium:

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 ed.) has an extensive article on these two topics because they cannot be separated from one another anymore than Scripture can be separated from Tradition. The article is long but the relevant sections of it have been excerpted here emphasizing certain areas as needed:

III. The proper mode of existence of revealed truth in the mind of the Church and the way to recognize this truth.
There is a formula current in Christian teaching (and the formula is borrowed from St. Paul himself) that traditional truth was confided to the Church as a deposit which it would guard and faithfully transmit as it had received it without adding to it or taking anything away. This formula expresses very well one of the aspects of tradition and one of the principal roles of the living magisterium. But this idea of a deposit should not make us lose sight of the true manner in which traditional truth lives and is transmitted in the Church. This deposit in fact is not an inanimate thing passed from hand to hand; it is not, properly speaking, an assemblage of doctrines and institutions consigned to books or other monuments. Books and monuments of every kind are a means, an organ of transmission, they are not, properly speaking, the tradition itself. To better understand the latter it must be represented as a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism. This conception of tradition is not always clear to all at the first glance. It must be reached, however, if we wish to form a clear and exact idea. We can endeavour to explain it to ourselves in the following manner: We are all conscious of an assemblage of ideas or opinions living in our mind and forming part of the very life of our mind, sometimes they find their clear expression, again we find ourselves without the exact formula wherewith to express them to ourselves or to others an idea is in search as it were of its expression, sometimes it even acts in us and leads us to actions without our having as yet the reflective consciousness of it. Something similar may be said of the ideas or opinions which live, as it were, and stir the social sentiment of a people, a family, or any other well-characterized group to form what is called the spirit of the day, the spirit of a family, or the spirit of a people. [2]

Tradition in short is not a static deposit but instead is a living entity which grows and develops within the Church throughout the centuries (Mark 4:26-33; John 16:12-15).

III - Dei Verbum on Tradition and the Magisterium:

In the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council declared Tradition's role in the handing on of Divine Revelation in the following manner:


Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2:42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others,and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. [3]

There is the need for a Living Magisterium to insure not only the proper interpretation of the Scriptures but also the correct transmission of the Tradition of the Church.

IV - Tradition, Living Magisterium, and Indefectibility of the Church:

Most reasonably informed Catholics recognize the distinction between doctrines and disciplines but often there is a problem understanding what constitutes authentic Tradition from mere ecclesiastical traditions. This distinction and the inability of self-styled 'traditionalists' to differentiate between the two is a serious problem. To put it as bluntly as possible: no Apostolic Traditions were abolished by Vatican II. There were some ecclesiastical traditions that were modified but this is not something that is uncommon throughout history. Since Our Lord gave the power of binding and loosing to the Church; consequently if error was either bound or loosed by the Church, than the gates of hell would have prevailed as Our Lord promised they would not (Matt. 16:18, Luke 22:32). It would also make both the Son of God and the Holy Spirit who were promised to be with the Church forever (Matt 28:20, John 16:12-14) accessories to the error taught since their promised presence "unto the consummation of the world" is useless if error in official teaching was in no way safeguarded from bring promulgated as official teaching by the Church Magisterium. These assertions indicate not only a lack of faith in the words of Our Lord, but the rebellious tendency to self-determine what is and is not authentic Tradition. We know the Church is indefectible, indeed it is a dogma of the faith that must be held. And any 'traditionalist' who is involved in a catechism program can go pick up Baltimore Catechism Four and look up the one hundred and twenty-sixth question on the subject of indefectibility. Here is what they will find:

126. Q. What do you mean by the indefectibility of the Church?
A. By the indefectibility of the Church I mean that the Church, as Christ founded it, will last till the end of time.
Therefore indefectibility means that the Church can never change any of the doctrines that Our Lord taught, nor ever cease to exist. When we say it is infallible, we mean that it cannot teach error while it lasts; but when we say it is indefectible, we mean that it will last forever and be infallible forever, and also that it will always remain the same as Our Lord founded it. There are two things that you must clearly understand and not confound, namely, the two kinds of laws in the Church-those which Our Lord gave it and those which it made itself. The laws that Our Lord gave it can never change. For example, the Church could not abolish one of the Sacraments, leaving only six; neither could it add a new one, making eight. But when, for example, the Church declares that on a certain day we cannot eat flesh meat, it makes the law itself, and can change it when it wishes. Our Lord left His Church free to make certain laws, just as they would be needed. It has always exercised this power, and made laws to suit the circumstances of the place or times. Even now it does away with some of its old laws that are no longer useful, and makes new ones that are more necessary. But the doctrines, the truths of faith or morals, the things we must believe and do to save our souls, it never changes and never can change: it may regulate some things in the application of the divine laws, but the laws themselves can never change in substance. [4]
The witness of the Baltimore Catechism is that there are laws given the Church by Our Lord which the Church cannot change in substance (though she may regulate some things in their application) and laws which the Church makes herself and which she can modify "to suit the circumstances of the times or place". The former fall under the heading of Apostolic Tradition and the latter are mere ecclesiastical traditions or customs. The fatal flaw of the self-styled 'traditionalist' is that they fail to make this core distinction. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has the following to say about Apostolic Tradition:
74 God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth": that is, of Christ Jesus. Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth: God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.
75 "Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."
76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: - orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit"; - in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".
77 "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority." Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."
78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes. "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer."
79 The Father's self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness." [5]
The self-styled 'traditionalists' much like the overwhelming majority of Protestants misunderstand the dynamic of Tradition as the living soul of the Church. Protestants reject the Tradition except in areas where they need it such as in determining the NT Canon of Scripture (but not on the Old Testament), the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, etc. whereas 'traditionalists' err in taking a somewhat Anglican view of Tradition which will be covered more in detail later on in this treatise. (When contrasting 'traditionalism', with a very subtle and poisonous seventeenth century heresy.) A very important distinction never made by 'traditionalists' is the difference between Apostolic Tradition and mere ecclesiastical traditions. Here is what the Catechism states on the matter:
83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.
Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. [6]
84 The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful."
85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
86 "Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith."
87 Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: "He who hears you, hears me", the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.
88 The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes in a definitive way truths having a necessary connection with them.
89 There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.
90 The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."


91 All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them into all truth.
92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."
93 "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium), receives the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. . . The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life." [7]
This has served as a "macro" look at Tradition and the necessity of the Living Magisterium of the Church as explained by the Magisterium of the Church to properly understand Divine Revelation. Scripture cannot be properly understood apart from the Tradition of the Church, the Tradition of the Church cannot be properly grasped without understanding the Scriptural underpinnings of Catholic doctrines. Consequently, neither can be properly understood apart from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Pope St. Peter noted in his second epistle: "For we (the Apostles i.e. the Magisterium of the Church) have the word of prophecy, surer still, which you (the laity) had do well to attend to, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. This then, you must understand first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture is made by private interpretation. For not by will of man was prophecy brought about at any time; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Because the Church's hierarchy has retained not only legitimate succession from the Apostles but also the Apostolic See of St. Peter as the rock of the Church, they can legitimately say that they "have the sure prophetical truth" because the hierarchy speaking either collectively united with the Pope (in certain parameters) or the Pope individually (within certain parameters) is "moved by the Holy Spirit" exactly as St. Peter claimed. The actions of 'traditionalist' individuals or organizations in denying the authority of the Magisterium of the Church (except in areas where it pleases them to acknowledge it) have set themselves up as the defacto "Magisterium" of the Church. To paraphrase Pope St. Peter on the subject of Tradition (since his statement on Scripture applies equally to Tradition as well):

"For we (the Apostles i.e. the Magisterium of the Church) have the word of prophecy, surer still, which you (the SSPX and other self-styled 'traditionalists') had do well to attend to, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. This then, you must understand first of all, that no determination of what constitutes authentic Tradition is made by private interpretation.  For not by will of man was Apostolic Tradition passed on at any time; For not by will of man was prophecy brought about at any time; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". (2 Peter 1:19-21 applied by logical extension to Tradition.)

As will be shown in the many treatise urls following this one, the 'traditionalist' is not to be trusted on faith matters because they are constantly erring in properly setting forth the "Catholic" position on issues. Indeed they quite often have no idea what the "Catholic" position is. Because of this and other reasons (soon to be made apparent) they cannot legitimately call themselves faithful Catholics but instead they are rebels. And just to remind the readers (lest they forget) the term 'traditionalist'  here is used only in reference to those who are not in communion with the Roman Pontiff. To be a Catholic is to be in accord with Sacred Tradition which is why the phrase 'Traditional Catholic' is so oxymoronic.

V - The Church Fathers on Obedience to the Church and Private Interpretation:

In seeking to point out by means of demonstration the folly of a so-called 'traditionalism' which separates itself from the authority of the bishops and the Pope - while still claiming that they have the true Faith or are preserving the true Faith - this very small (for the sake of economy) collection of Patristic texts is offered to buttress the earlier points made in this section. With each Father there is listed a reference pertaining to heresy, schism, or the living magisterium. (The relevant part in those cases will be bolded.) References to the private interpretation of Scripture can also be applied to the method by which the self-styled 'traditionalist' attempts to utilize what they misperceive as Tradition. (This can serve as a snapshot of how the Fathers would look upon today's puffed up schismatic self-styled 'traditionalists' - not to mention the extremists of the sedevacantist camp who are not only schismatical but heretical.)

See that ye follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father. [8]
Follow the bishop, all of you, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the presbyterium as the Apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of God. Let no one do anything with reference to the Church without the bishop. Only that Eucharist may be regarded as legitimate which is celebrated with the Bishop or his delegate presiding. Where the bishop is, there let the community be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. [9]
ST. PAPIAS (c. 60-120 A.D.)
But I shall not be unwilling to put down, along with my interpretations, whatsoever instructions I received with care at any time from the elders, and stored up with care in my memory, assuring you at the same time of their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those who spoke much, but in those who taught the truth; nor in those who related strange commandments, but in those who rehearsed the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and proceeding from truth itself. If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice. [10]
ST. IRENAEUS OF LYONS (c. 140-202 A.D.)
Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters....It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures. [11]
Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who as I have shown, possess succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of bishops, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God -- namely, strange doctrines -- shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hell (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore [Korah], Dathan, and Abiron. But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. [12]
True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]. [13]
For those are slothful who, having it in their power to provide themselves with proper proofs for the divine Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, select only what contributes to their own pleasures. And those have a craving for glory who voluntarily evade, by arguments of a diverse sort, the things delivered by the blessed apostles and teachers, which are wedded to inspired words; opposing the divine tradition by human teachings, in order to establish the heresy. [14]
TERTULLIAN (c. 160-240 A.D.)
Let them show the origins of their churches, let them unroll the list of their bishops, (showing) through a succession coming down from the very beginning that their first bishop had his authority and predecessor someone from among the number of Apostles or apostolic men and, further, that he did not stray from the Apostles. In this way the apostolic churches present their earliest records. The church of Smyrna, for example, records that Polycarp was named by John; the Romans, that Clement was ordained by Peter. In just the same way, the other churches show who were made bishops by the Apostles and who transmitted the apostolic seed to them. Let the heretics invent something like that. [15]

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, 'as many as walk according to the rule,' which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, "Who are you? When and whence did you come?" [16]

ORIGEN (c. 185 - 254 A.D.)
We are not to give heed to those who say, Behold here is Christ, but show him not in the Church, which is filled with brightness from the East even unto the West; which is filled with true light; is the 'pillar and ground of truth'; in which, as a whole, is the whole advent of the Son of Man, who saith to all men throughout the universe, 'Behold, I am with you all the days of life even unto the consumption of the world.' [17]
When heretics show us the canonical Scriptures, in which every Christian believes and trusts, they seem to be saying: 'Lo, he is in the inner rooms [i.e.., the word of truth] ' (Matt 24.6). But we must not believe them, nor leave the original tradition of the Church, nor believe otherwise than we have been taught by the succession in the Church of God. [18]
Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: 'I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. [19]

Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church. [20]

ST. HILARY OF POITERS (c. 315-367 A.D.)

[T]hey who are placed without the Church, cannot attain to any understanding of the divine word. For the ship exhibits a type of Church, the word of life placed and preached within which, they who are without, and lie near like barren and useless sands, cannot understand. [21]

And, O wretched heretic! you turn the weapons granted to the Church against the Synagogue, against belief in the Church's preaching, and distort against the common salvation of all the sure meaning of a saving doctrine. [22]

ST. ATHANASIUS THE GREAT (c. 295 - 373 A.D.)
But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and preserved by the Fathers. On this the Church was founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian. [23]
Such are the machinations of these men against the truth: but their  designs are manifest to all the world, though they attempt in ten thousand ways, like eels, to elude the grasp, and to escape detection as enemies of Christ. Wherefore I beseech you, let no one among you be deceived, no one seduced by them; rather, considering that a sort of judaical impiety is invading the Christian faith, be ye all zealous for the Lord; hold fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicaea recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps' clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies.  [24]
ST. BASIL THE GREAT (c. 330 - 379 A.D.)
To refuse to follow the Fathers, not holding their declaration of more authority than one's own opinion, is conduct worthy of blame, as being brimful of self-sufficiency. [25]

Now I accept no newer creed written for me by other men, nor do I venture to propound the outcome of my own intelligence, lest I make the words of true religion merely human words; but what I have been taught by the holy Fathers, that I announce to all who question me. [26]

ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (c. 314-386 A.D.)
For the method of godliness consists of these two things, pious doctrines, and virtuous practice: neither are the doctrines acceptable to God apart from good works, nor does God accept the works which are not perfected with pious doctrines. For what profit is it, to know well the doctrines concerning God, and yet to be a vile fornicator? And again, what profit is it, to be nobly temperate, and an impious blasphemer? A most precious possession therefore is the knowledge of doctrines: also there is need of a wakeful soul, since there are many that make spoil through philosophy and vain deceit. The Greeks on the one hand draw men away by their smooth tongue, for honey droppeth from a harlot's lips: whereas they of the Circumcision deceive those who come to them by means of the Divine Scriptures, which they miserably misinterpret though studying them from childhood to all age, and growing old in ignorance. But the children of heretics, by their good words and smooth tongue, deceive the hearts of the innocent, disguising with the name of Christ as it were with honey the poisoned arrows of their impious doctrines: concerning all of whom together the Lord saith, Take heed lest any man mislead you. [27]
ST. JEROME (c. 342 - 420 A.D.)
Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of the Scripture, the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of command. For there are many other observances in the Church which, though due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law. [28]
And let them not flatter you themselves if they think they have Scripture authority since the devil himself has quoted Scripture texts...we could all, while preserving in the letter of Scripture, read into it some novel doctrine. [29]
ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (c. 354-430 A.D.)
Will you, then, so love your error, into which you have fallen through adolescent overconfidence and human weakness, that you will separate yourself from these leaders of Catholic unity and truth, from so many different parts of the world who are in agreement among themselves on so important a question, one in which the essence of the Christian religion involved? [30]
But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are commended and ordained to be kept, either by the Apostles themselves or by plenary councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church. [31]
ST. VINCENT OF LERENS (c. 400-450 A.D.)
But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view, if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practiced negligently should thenceforward be practiced with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils, this, and nothing else, she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name. [32]
This is but a smattering of texts that could have been brought forward but the consensus is against anyone - be they bishop, priest, deacon, or layman - interpreting the Scriptures apart from the Church. By implication the same principle applies to the Tradition. It seemed fitting to add them here as they support the assertions made by the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of Tradition and who has been entrusted with its preservation and exposition.

VI - Other Considerations:

The understanding of the Fathers was that the Church is indefectible. This is what the Catholic Church teaches today. The understanding of the Fathers was that the Church could not err in handing on the Tradition. This is what the Catholic Church teaches today. As the abbot BC Butler noted so eloquently when contrasting Catholicism with another group which protests against the Catholic Church (referring to Protestantism) in providing an answer to the question "is there any discoverable true answer to the question, what is human life for":
The Reformed Religion (so to describe the general position, as against the Catholic Church, of the bodies deriving either directly or indirectly from the upheavals of the sixteenth century) has an immense difficulty to overcome, a formidable praejudicium to circumvent. Like the Catholic Church, it holds that Jesus of Nazareth was the Revealer of divine and final truth to mankind, the Founder of the true religion. But the Reformed Religion came into existence nearly fifteen hundred years after the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus, and it originated as a protest against the religion of the Catholic Church. All that is positive in it it shares with the Catholic Church; where it differs, it does so by denial. It presents itself to the enquirer as biologically mutilated, just as Eastern Orthodoxy presents itself as an arrested growth; whereas the Catholic Church is plainly the central normative outcome of the impact of Jesus on world history…
It is in fact so difficult to believe in Luther as the first Christian to understand the Gospel message, that for the detached observer [Dr. George Salmon’s] attack on Catholicism will amount to the same thing as an attack on Christianity. He did not mean it to be so; he supposed that Protestantism was the alternative. But for the modern detached enquirer, it can be said with confidence, the Reformed Religion, in its peculiar combination of accepted fragments of Catholic teaching with denial of the rest is no longer a ‘live option.’ Judaism has a stronger claim on his acceptance than Protestantism. [33]
Abbot Butler’s observations of the fundamental problem of Protestantism mirrors that of the 'traditionalists' except the latter has much more than mere fragments of Catholic teaching of course. The problem is that like Protestantism where 'traditionalism' differs from the Catholic Church is also by denial. As Ven. John Henry Newman noted on the subject of heresy and its identifying mark:
[I]ts dogmas are unfruitful; it has no theology; so far forth as it is heresy, it has none. Deduct its remnant of Catholic theology, and what remains? Polemics, explanations, protests. It turns to Biblical Criticism, or to the Evidences of Religion, for want of a province. Its formulæ end in themselves, without development, because they are words; they are barren, because they are dead. If they had life, they would increase and multiply; or, if they do live and bear fruit, it is but as "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." It developes into dissolution; but it creates nothing, it tends to no system, its resultant dogma is but the denial of all dogmas, any theology, under the Gospel. No wonder it denies what it cannot attain...Heresy denies to the Church what is wanting in itself. [34]

As far as whether or not 'traditionalism' is heresy or not, it is impossible to see how from a functional standpoint it is not heresy. The Baltimore Catechism on the subject of schism stated that "[a] schismatic is one who believes everything the Church teaches, but will not submit to the authority of its head--the Holy Father. Such persons do not long remain only schismatics; for once they rise up against the authority of the Church, they soon reject some of its doctrines and thus become heretics; and indeed, since Vatican Council I, all schismatics are heretics" (Balt. Catechism A 323). It is honestly difficult to see how from a functional standpoint this is not the case since Vatican I taught as a matter of divine faith the primacy of the pope and his supreme authority in all matters pertaining to the universal church. Supreme authority means that there is no legitimate protest against that authority whatsoever. To the extent that 'traditionalists' do this, they are not only schismatics but also functionally heretics. The author though will only refer to them as schismatics since that classification is undeniable whereas there is some controversion to the Baltimore Catechism assertion of heresy. Nonetheless, at least Protestants are honest in their dissent and do not try and pretend to be faithful Catholics whereas so-called 'traditionalists' do.

VII - Conclusion:

One area has been shown already that Catholics believe in and that 'traditionalists' deny: the necessity of a Living Magisterium to interpret Tradition. In the next three urls, the focus will be on the Mass examining the Pauline Rite of Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI which was first put into effect on November 30, 1969. Many if not most 'traditionalists' claim this Mass is either illicit or invalid. They also claim that it is a "Protestant parody" among other not-so-nice things said about it. Contrast the words of the Fathers with those of the Society and other 'traditionalists'. Explain if you can how this biologically mutilated entity known as 'traditionalism' that walks, talks, and sounds remarkably Anglican can possibly be Catholic. The answer is that they most assuredly are not. The rest of this treatise will continue to show exactly why in even greater detail. To paraphrase Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s famous dictum on history being the greatest enemy of Protestantism: "To be deep in knowledge of authentic Tradition is to cease to be a 'traditionalist'".


[1] St. Thomas Aquinas: "Summa Theologiae", IIa, IIae Q5, A3 (circa 1270-73)

[2] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Tradition and Living Magisterium" (c. 1913)

[3] Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" (DV) §10 (November 18, 1965)

[4] Baltimore Catechism: Q/A 126 (c. 1896)

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church: §74-79 (January 25, 1993)

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church: §83-84 (January 25, 1993)

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church: §85-93 (January 25, 1993)

[8] St. Ignatius of Antioch: To the Smyrnaens §8,2 (c. 110 AD), in ANF, I:89

[9] St. Ignatius of Antioch: Epis Philadelphians §8,2 (c. 110 AD)

[10] Papias: Fragment (c. 120 AD)

[11] St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against Heresies, Book V §20, 2 (c. 180 AD)

[12] St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against Heresies, Book IV §26,2 (c. 180 AD)

[13] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV §33,8 (c. 180 AD), in ANF, I:508

[14] St. Clement of Alexandria: Stromata §7,16 (c. 200 AD), in ANF,II:553-554

[15] Tertullian: Prescription against Heretics §32 (c. 200 AD), in ANF,III:261

[16] Tertullian: Prescription against Heretics §37 (c. A.D. 200), in ANF,III:261

[17] Origen: Commentary on Matthew, Tract 30 (c. 244 AD), in FOC, 194-195

[18] Origen: Homilies on Matthew, Homily 46, PG 13:1667 (ante. 254 AD), in CON, 392

[19] St. Cyprian: To the Lapsed §1 (c. 250 AD),in ANF,V:305

[20] St. Cyprian:  To Florentius, Epistle 68[66]§8 (c. 254 AD), in ANF,V:375

[21] St. Hilary of Poitiers: On Matthew, Homily 13§1 (c. 355 AD), in FOC, I:347

[22] St. Hilary of Poitiers: On the Trinity, 12§36 (inter. 356-359 AD), in NPNF2, IX:227

[23] St. Athanasius the Great: Ad Serapion §1,28 (c. 358 AD)

[24] St. Athanasius the Great: Ad Episcopos §8 in NPNF2, IV:227 (c. 372 AD)

[25] St. Basil the Great: Epistle To the Canonicae, §52,1 (c. 370 AD), in NPNF2, VIII:155

[26] St. Basil the Great: To the Church of Antioch, Epistle 140§2 (c. 373 AD), in NPNF2, VIII:204

[27] St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures §4,2 (c. 350 AD), in NPNF2, VII:19

[28] St. Jerome: C. Dialogue Luciferians §8 (c. 382 AD)

[29] St. Jerome: C. Dialogue Luciferians §28 (c. 382 AD)

[30] St. Augustine of Hippo: C. Julian 1 §7,34 (c. 400 AD)

[31] St. Augustine of Hippo: To Januaris (c. 410 AD) in Jurgens Vol. III p. 3.

[32] St. Vincent of Lerins: Commonitory, §23,59 (c. 434 AD), in NPNF2, XI:148-149

[33] BC Butler: "The Church and Infallibility", pgs. 2-4 (c. 1954)

[34] Ven. John Henry Newman: Oxford Sermon #15 on "The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine. (Preached on the Feast of the Purification, 1843)

Additional Notes:

The citation from St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/300503.htm

The citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Tradition and the Living Magisterium" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15006b.htm

The citation from the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" was obtained at the following
link: http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/dei.ver

The citation from the Baltimore Catechism was obtained at the following link: http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/baltimore/bcreed09.htm#Lesson12

The citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church were obtained at the following link: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc.htm

The citations from the Church Fathers were obtained from Joe Gallegos' Corunum Apologetics website which specializes in Patristic studies: http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/

The citation from BC Butler was taken from his book "The Church and Infallibility: A Reply to the Abridged Salmon", Sheed and Ward, New York, 1954

The citation from John Henry Newman's Oxford Sermon "The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/oxford/sermon15.html

©2003, 2000, "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (Part 2), written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.


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