Antiquarianism and Traditionalists

© Copyright 2014, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)


The error of antiquarianism, condemned by Pope Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei, (DZ 1533) originated at the Jansenistic Council of Pistoia in the 1700s. It resurfaced again in the late 1800s. Pope Pius XII officially condemned this resurgent heresy in Mediator Dei (1947), after the liberals once again began promoting it in the name of liturgical renewal. In his work “The Vatican Council Decrees and their Bearing on Civil Allegiance,” (see site references) Henry Cardinal Manning tells us that the Vatican Council retroactively made Auctorem Fidei infallible, hence the condemnation of this error then was as infallible as it is today. Since the Novus Ordo Missae under the guise of Catholic liturgy incarnated this error, it certainly must be considered an even more dangerous heresy.

But we not only find references to antiquarianism in Mediator Dei; we find them also in Ad Apostolorum Principis. There Pope Pius XII condemned antiquarianism because the Chinese bishops had used it to justify deviation from the very form of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They had done this by allowing themselves to be elected bishops by the clergy and laity and receiving consecration without papal mandate, a requirement written into the Catholic episcopal rite itself.  This is precisely what Traditionalist bishops today do, some being elected by fellow “clergy,” others simply materializing onto the Traditionalist stage. All lack the papal mandate. They excuse the need for this by pointing to customs and practices allowed hundreds of years ago, and as seen below this is the very thing condemned by Pope Pius XII in two separate papal documents. We must note that this involves two errors. One, it uses the excuse of previous usage to justify the action. Two, it then involves the actual deviation for the sacramental form in omitting the papal mandate, something Pope Pius XII tells the faithful is defined by the Vatican Council as belonging to the powers of the Roman Pontiff.

So read what is said by Pius XII below with this in mind.

Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII, Nov. 9, 1947:

63. Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.

64. This way of acting bids fair to revive the exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism to which the illegal Council of Pistoia gave rise. It likewise attempts to reinstate a series of errors which were responsible for the calling of that meeting as well as for those resulting from it, with grievous harm to souls, and which the Church, the ever watchful guardian of the “deposit of faith” committed to her charge by her divine Founder, had every right and reason to condemn. For perverse designs and ventures of this sort tend to paralyze and weaken that process of sanctification by which the sacred liturgy directs the sons of adoption to their Heavenly Father of their souls’ salvation.

Ad Apostolorum Principis, Pope Pius XII, June 29, 1958:

36. …For those who profess themselves most interested in the welfare of their country have for some considerable time been striving to disseminate among the people the position, devoid of all truth, that Catholics have the power of directly electing their bishops. To excuse this kind of election they allege a need to look after the good souls with all possible speed

38. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff. But if, as happens at times, some persons or groups are permitted to participate in the selection of an episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has allowed it in express terms and in each particular case for clearly defined persons or groups, the conditions and circumstances being very plainly determined.

39. Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis in the following words: “. . . As far as his own diocese is concerned each (bishop) feeds the flock entrusted to him as a true shepherd and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff.

40. And when We later addressed to you the letter Ad Sinarum Gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity.”

41. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.

42. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: “He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.” The sheep indeed know the true shepherd’s voice. “But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

43. “We are aware that those who belittle obedience in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have unrighteously assumed defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise. In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying…

46. …The faithful are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience not only in matters which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church.” 

47. From what We have said, it follows that no authority whatsoever, save that which is proper to the Supreme Pastor, can render void the canonical appointment granted to any bishop; that no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See.

48. Consequently, if consecration of this kind is being done contrary to all right and law, and by this crime the unity of the Church is being seriously attacked, an excommunication reserved specialissimo modo to the Apostolic See has been established which is automatically incurred by the consecrator and by anyone who has received consecration irresponsibly conferred.


It must be remembered that there can be no apostolic succession without lawful, canonically appointed bishops and the pastors they have assigned to their parishes. Apostolic succession exists only when orders AND jurisdiction both are present, (See apostolicity under references). Jurisdiction cannot be present because it was never received, and without a canonically elected Roman Pontiff it cannot be supplied, even in danger of death. Traditionalists are robbers and thieves because they have not come through the door. They have not received their jurisdiction through the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the canons as Can. 147 demands. They have not been rightly ordained nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical authority, because even in the case of priests, the ordination proceeds without the dimissorial letters; impediments also are removed in those to be ordained by “bishops” who have no jurisdiction whatsoever and whose acts are made null and void under the terms of the papal election constitution Vacantis Apostolica Sedis.

Antiquariansim is yet one more heresy that can be added to the growing list of heresies incurred by Traditionalists.

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  1. james

    It’s hard to see how traditionalists are guilty of antiquarianism when Pope Benedict XVI declared that the old rite has never been abolished.

    It seems pretty clear that, on the other hand, it’s the Novus Ordo that fits the bill better. The aim of the liturgists was to restore the “pure” form of the liturgy as practiced in the early Church. They cast aside organic development in favor of cherry-picking what they thought the practice was and mashed it into a new liturgy over the course of a few short years.

    All of what you’ve quoted in this blog applies to modern, liberal, novus ordo Catholics. Not traditional Catholics.

    • T. Stanfill Benns

      Thank you for your comment.

      Perhaps you need to read a few more of the blog series articles. Try Regardless of how much they may disparage Novus Ordo believers, Traditionalists in reality are only an extension of the Novus Ordo church.

      Antiquarianism was not just about the liturgy. In Ad Apostolorum Principis, Pope Pius XII also condemns it in relation to other practices which the popes have abrogated as no longer tolerated. Catholics accept such statements as binding because true popes, not Traditionalist “clergy,” are Christ’s Vicars and speak in His name.


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