Traditionalists, Novus Ordo churchgoers are NOT CATHOLIC!

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


Even those who stay at home have fallen into the regrettable habit of referring to “Novus Ordo” catholics, or to Traditionalists as Catholic. Their motivation could be as follows: “Well I was wrong once but now I know that and I was still a Catholic, so they must still be Catholic too.” Prior to our conversion, all of us knew people we felt were trying their best to be good Catholics and do the right thing by belonging to Traditionalist or Novus Ordo sects. We were told that by not giving them the benefit of the doubt we were not being “charitable” to them and were guilty of rash judgment. But this is nothing but a liberal idea of charity, and can be found described almost to a “T” by Rev. Felix Sarda, in his Liberalism is a Sin.

While it is true that all of us once erroneously believed the Novus Ordo and Traditional sects were Catholic, that was never the case and most of those belonging to these sects, sadly, will remain where they are. For their sakes AND ours, we must make a concerted effort to cease and desist from considering them true Catholics lest we sow confusion among those who are just now coming to the truth and even convince ourselves that somehow those who publicly continue in error have an active share in the life of the Mystical Body. We must set aside all emotional inclinations that prompt us to make excuses for these people, who are perfectly capable of picking up and reading the proofs necessary to convince themselves that they are outside the Church. By not doing so we are enabling them to remain in heresy/schism and cooperating in their sin by silence and/or defense of the evil done.

Definition of schism

Traditionalists don’t believe they are heretics or schismatics but believe instead they constitute the true Church, complete with its four marks; they cannot accept the idea that they are in schism, or hold that their schism is “pure” but wait — it’s worse than that. Very Rev. H. A. Ayrhinac wrote, after referring to the bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, (1559):  “Schism is formally assimilated now to heresy and apostasy in every respect,” (Penal Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, 1920) and below he explains why, since the Vatican Council decision, pure schism can no longer exist. Essentially Traditionalists hold the Gallicanist heresy, which places bishops on an equal level with the pope. But it is not for us to accept or reject any premise unless it is taught or condemned by the Church Herself. This is clearly Church teaching; we are allowed to understand that teaching not as we choose to understand it, but only in that same sense in which the Church Herself has always taught and understood it. We must hold these people accountable for their sins in obedience to the Church. So the question is: What does the Church teach concerning those who attend the services of sede vacante and other priests today and those priests who lead them? Are they in schism and do they constitute a non-Catholic sect? Quoting the theologians Schmalzgrueber and Wernz, Rev. Szal defines schism as:

1. A direct (express) or indirect (one’s actions) withdrawal from obedience to the Roman Pontiff and separation from ecclesiastical communion with the rest of the faithful, even though one does not join a separate schismatical sect;

2. Such withdrawal must be made with obstinacy and rebellion;

3. The withdrawal must be made in relation to those things by which the unity of the Church is constituted; and

4. Despite this formal disobedience, the schismatic must recognize the Roman Pontiff as the true pastor of the Church and he must profess as an article of faith that obedience is due the Roman Pontiff.

It would seem that by disregarding the election law of Pope Pius XII concerning the preservation of Church law inviolate during an interregnum, it could be said that this constitutes at least an indirect withdrawal from papal obedience, (1). Despite the circulation of articles on jurisdiction beginning in 1984, priests and bishops have obstinately and consistently continued to wrongly invoke Can. 209 and 2261 §2, (2). The pope is the center of all unity, and in order to all be members of the same Mystical Body, we must all believe the same truths of faith, participate in the same Sacraments and worship, obey the same laws (Mystici Corporis) and follow lawful pastors who in turn are subject to the Roman Pontiff, (St. Robert Bellarmine’s definition of the Church). This is the classic description of the Catholic Church accepted by all theologians. The last two items in this definition of the Church are missing, the second depends on the last two and we are left only barely with the first, (3). And here we must observe that those who provide the Sacraments especially Penance, and their followers who deny the necessity of such jurisdiction to absolve, in contradiction of DZ 920, deny a truth of Divine faith. This consequentially anathematizes both Traditionalist clergy and their followers (4).

Pope Pius IX on Catholics in name only

If all those following these priests do not agree 100 percent with those of the faithful adhering to each and every doctrine the Church teaches, they cannot qualify as Church members and there can be no unity. Clearly there are problems with fulfilling the specifics necessary for this, the primary problem being a lack of lawful pastors and a true Roman Pontiff. The leaders of these sects complain that the Church always continues to exist during an interregnum and to state that She does not is a denial of indefectibility. But the Church Herself has the right to determine HOW She will exist during an interregnum, and Pope Pius XII did so decide. Unity is injured under #3, and this leads us to #4. No one in these sects denies that usually the Pope is the true and necessary head of the Church. All claim that obedience is owed to him. And yet they obviously believe that obedience does not include obeying all the existing laws Pope Pius XII infallibly decreed must be observed during interregnums. Nor does it include faithfully following the teaching of the ordinary magisterium concerning jurisdiction, unity, episcopal consecration or priestly ordination. If this is not indicative of schism, what is? For all the lip service they pay to the papacy, they clearly do not follow the teachings of the Church either from the distant past or even the last century regarding their actions, from what is presented above as well as Pope Pius IX’s teaching in Quartus Supra below:

“The chief deceit used to conceal the new schism is the name of ‘Catholic.’ The originators and adherents of the schism presumptuously lay claim to this name despite their condemnation by Our authority and judgment. It has always been the custom of heretics and schismatics to call themselves Catholics and to proclaim their many excellences in order to lead peoples and princes into error. St. Jerome, presbyter, referred to these men, among others, when he said: “The heretics are accustomed to say to their king or to Pharaoh, ‘We are the sons of wise men who have handed down to us from the beginning the Apostolic teaching; we are the sons of ancient kings who are called kings of the philosophers; and we possess the knowledge of the scriptures in addition to the wisdom of the world’… But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867 answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is.

“For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the LAWFUL prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all. Schismatics avoid carrying out their orders and even deny their very rank. Since thefaction from Armenia is like this, they are schismatics even if they had not yet been condemned as such by Apostolic authority,” (and the laws and infallible decrees givenus by past popes and councils were issued by lawful authority. Yet Traditionalists do notobey them, choosing instead to listen to their “priests.”)

“For the Church consists of the people in union with the priest, and the flock following its shepherd…. Nor can the Eastern Churches preserve communion and unity of faith with Us without being subject to the Apostolic power in matters of disciplineTeaching of this kind is heretical, and not just since the definition of the power and nature of the papal primacy was determined by the ecumenical Vatican Council: theCatholic Church has always considered it such and abhorred it. Thus the bishops at the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon clearly declared the supreme authority of the ApostolicSee in their proceedings; then they humbly requested from Our predecessor St. Leo confirmation and support for their decrees, even those which concerned discipline.

“Accordingly, then, unless they abandon the unchanging and unbroken tradition of the Church which is so clearly confirmed by testimonies of the Fathers, the neo-schismatics can in no way convince themselves that they are Catholics even if they declare themselves suchBut since discipline is the rampart of faith, the Apostolic See needed to restore discipline. It has certainly never abandoned this most serious duty even in adverse times when it could attend only to transitory needs while it awaited more favorable times,” (end of Quartus Supra quotes).

Discipline is regulated by Canon Law and disciplinary decrees issued by the Holy See. It is these very laws and decrees that Traditionalists ignore, misinterpret on their own authority, dispense themselves from and even declare non-applicable or non-existent. This despite the fact that Volume V (v), of the Catholic Encyclopedia, under ‘Discipline’ states that it is the UNANIMOUS OPINION of the theologians that discipline enjoys “a negative, indirect infallibility, i.e., the Church can prescribe nothing that would be contrary to the natural or Divine law, nor prohibit anything that the natural or Divine law would exact.” So not only papal decrees on this subject are infallible; Canon Law itself enjoys an indirect infallibility. But Traditionalists will not even follow infallible decrees of the continual magisterium, so it is no wonder they ignore Canon Law. There is no “one law, one faith one Baptism” among Traditionalists. And in calling themselves Catholics while in reality they are separated from the Church they detract from the efforts of those valiantly struggling to preserve the faith against great odds, who often must suffer unjust persecution from these very people who have no right to claim the name. That they are true to their schismatic predecessor’s type is mirrored below.

Catholic Encyclopedia on schism

Under Catholic in the Catholic Encyclopedia we find: “It is in fact a prevalent conception among Anglicans to regard the whole Catholic Church as made up of three principal branches, the Roman Catholic, the Anglo-Catholic and the Greek Catholic… The erroneousness of this point of view has been sufficiently explained in the articles CHURCH and CATHOLIC… Bishop Andrewes, in his “Tortura Torti” (1609) ridicules the phrase Ecclesia Catholica Romana as a contradiction in terms…The dog-in-the-manger policy of so many Anglicans who cannot take the name of Catholics for themselves, because popular usage has never sanctioned it as such, but who on the other hand will not concede it to the members of the Church of Rome, was conspicuously brought out in the course of a correspondence on this subject in the London “Saturday Review” (Dec., 1908 to March, 1909) arising out of a review of some of the earlier volumes of THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA.” So it is standard procedure for those wishing to deceive others and themselves to claim the name while deforming Catholic doctrine. This is also seen in the establishment of the “Old Catholic, Old Roman Catholic and Liberal Catholic” sects following the rejection by these sects of the definition of papal infallibility in the 19th century.

“Often schism springs from heresy or implies the denial of some article of faith.” Rev. Ayrhinac writes, (Ibid). He defines a schismatic as one who: “While claiming to remain a Christian, refuses to recognize the authority of the Pope, or to communicate with the faithful who are subject to him, (Can. 1325)…Particularly since the Vatican Council, schism almost invariably leads to the rejection of papal infallibility, if it does not presuppose it,” (no. 193). And this is undeniably the case with the Novus Ordo, who accept false popes as true; the Anglicans and Lutherans who rejected the papacy outright and those sects mentioned above who refused to accept the definition of papal infallibility. Pope Pius IX clearly testifies to this in Quartus Supra. The fact that a pope cannot be elected at present does not excuse anyone from following every dictate of all the previous popes. If Traditionalists were truly loyal to the Church and to the papacy, they would not even consider following men ordained or consecrated without the express permission of the pope. They would never consider allowing such men to establish churches or pretend to offer Mass/administer sacraments.

Decisions of the Roman Curia

In his The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, Catholic University of America, 1948, Rev. Ignatius Szal, A.B., J.C.L., begins with questions asked the Holy Office concerning the attendance of the Masses of schismatics. On Dec. 5, 1668, the Holy Office ordered a bishop to instruct his people not to go to Mass or other Divine offices in the churches of schismatics, and to warn them that they were not bound by the precept of hearing Mass when there was no celebration of a Catholic Mass. Another reply from the Holy Office on April 10, 1704 concerning active participation in schismatic rites brought the following response from the Holy See: “Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) decreed that it was not licit on the principal feasts of the year for converts, in order to avoid persecution, to go to the churches of schismatics, especially during divine services…”

On August 7, 1704, The Holy Office also stated that, “The decree which prohibited Catholics from being present at the Masses and prayers of schismatics applied also in those places where there were no Catholic priests and with reference to such prayers as contained nothing contrary to faith and the Catholic rite.” On two other occasions, May 10, 1753, and April 17, 1758, the Holy See again forbade Catholics to participate in the masses of schismatics. In 1769, certain priests “were called to task for joining in the celebration of Mass with schismatics. The ignorance was inexcusable, and the act was a sacrilege which violated the true faith.”

In order to participate in such functions, Rev. Szal points out, one would need “an authorization or dispensation from the visible head of the Church.” Continuing his assay of Holy Office pronouncements, Szal lists further decisions concerning Holy Communion. On June 17, 1839, The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith forbade the reception of Holy Communion from an heretical priest. A general prohibition against receiving any sacraments from schismatics was issued by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605). “Benedict XIV (1740-1758) also forbade the use of the services given by schismatics for the conferring of the sacraments. Rev. Szal gives this stunning summary of these decisions as follows: “From the nature of the response which the Holy Office gave to questions concerning the reception of absolution and Extreme Unction from schismatics on the part of persons who are in danger of death, it seems to be the mind of the Church that Viaticum should not be received from schismatics under any conditions.”

In 1631, Rev. Szal reports on the Holy Office’s various decisions concerning the use of faculties and the hearing of confessions. He writes: “The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith stated that priests could seek permission for the use of their faculties from bishops who were regarded to be Catholic, provided that the priests had that degree of certitude regarding the orthodoxy of the bishops which excluded all suspicion of the schism or the error current in that region as attaching to them,” (Ibid). In answer to further doubts that same year, “the same Congregation replied that it was not permissible to seek the permission for the use of even one of the faculties from schismatic bishops. It insisted that the clause which had stated that permission was to be sought must be understood in regard to bishops who were in communion with the Church of Rome. There was asked the further question whether this permission could be obtained from schismatic pastors, but the reply of the Congregation was the same as that in regard to schismatic bishops.

“On May 15, 1709, the Holy Office forbade Catholics to hear the confession of schismatics or to confess to them…Under no circumstances, not even in the case of necessity, according to a response of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith on Feb. 17, 1761, was it permissible for a Catholic to confess his sins to a schismatic priest in order to obtain absolution from him…” In a question presented to the same Congregation in 1839, the following reply was made: “Ethiopian converts were not to receive the sacrament of Penance from an heretical priest.” When the Congregation was asked about whether such a practice could be tolerated in a case of necessity, “the Congregation furnished the ironical if not indignant reply, ‘Nihil esse respondendum.’” Rev. Szal comments: “The answer to the question appeared so manifest that to raise the question at all branded the questioner’s action as foolhardy, and consequently as deserving no reply.” Szal notes that, “It is gravely illicit to request or receive the sacrament of Penance from a schismatic minister outside the danger of death. The ordinary necessity which a person senses when he is in the state of mortal sin is not sufficient to allow him to confess to a schismatic priest and receive absolution. Such a person would be obliged to make a Perfect Act of Contrition as best he could…”

Won’t invincible ignorance excuse them?

Of all the theologians writing on invincible ignorance, the Scottish Bishop George Hay provides one of the best descriptions of this unfortunate state available. Hay is commended by Henry Cardinal Manning as “one of the most energetic and learned…Vicars Apostolic of Scotland in the last century,” (from Manning’s Miscellanies, 1870, “The Bishop of Rome.”). Most especially those Protestants living among Catholics have no excuse for invincible ignorance. Bp. Hay comments: “For invincible ignorance to exist, three things are necessarily required:

1) “That a person have a real and sincere desire of knowing the truth. For if he be cold and indifferent about an affair of so great concern as his eternal salvation; if he be careless whether he be in the right way or not; if being enslaved to this present life, he takes no care about the next, it is manifest that an ignorance arising from this disposition

is a voluntary ignorance and therefore highly culpable in the sight of God…

2) “For one to be in invincible ignorance it is required that he be sincerely resolved to embrace the truth wherever he may find it and whatever it may cost him.  For if he be not fully resolved to follow the will of God, wherever it shall appear to him, in all things necessary to salvation; if on the contrary, he be so disposed that he would rather neglect his duty and hazard his soul than correct an ill custom, or disoblige his friends, or expose himself to some temporal loss or disadvantage…Such a disposition must be highly displeasing to God and an ignorance arising from it can never excuse him before his Creator…(all emphasis in bold throughout this work is the author’s unless stated otherwise).

3) “He must sincerely use his best endeavors to know his duty, and particularly that he recommend that matter earnestly to Almighty God, and pray for light and direction.

For whatever desire he may pretend of knowing the truth, if he do not use the proper means for finding it, it is manifest that his ignorance is not invincible but voluntary; for ignorance is only invincible when one has a sincere desire to know the truth with a full resolution to embrace it, but either has no possible means of knowing it or, after using his best endeavors to know it, yet cannot find it.” (Nor does a formal doubt excuse, for all are expected to resolve such doubts.) “A person brought up in a false faith, which the Scripture calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies and hypocrisy; and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees the divisions and dissensions which they constantly have among themselves, has always before his eyes the most cogent reasons to doubt of the way he is in.”

Bp. Hay goes on to remind his readers that many are called and few are chosen, and that broad is the path to destruction and narrow is the way to salvation. When asked if he is saying that none who are in heresy and invincible ignorance can be saved, he answers,

“God forbid that we should say so! All the above reasons only prove that if they live and

die in that state they will not be saved…No man knows or can know what may have passed between God and the soul in his last minutes.” Many attempt to appeal to the various exceptions cited in Canon Law to justify their ignorance in matters of faith. But Canon Law does not generally excuse one from observing the law for reasons of ignorance, the general rule being “Ignorance of the law is no excuse…” Affected ignorance is never accepted as an excuse from observing the law where faith is concerned. Ignorance of certain facts can in some cases lessen imputability but must be proven. And for this situation Canons 2200 §2 and 2315 apply to allow the offender six months to prove his innocence once the error is realized. How invincible ignorance results in material heresy is further explained below.

Invincible ignorance and material heresy

We must examine #3 of Bp. Hay’s reasons above and carefully consider the last sentence of this point:

“A person brought up in a false faith, which the Scripture calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies and hypocrisy; and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees the divisions and dissensions which they constantly have among themselves, has always before his eyes the most cogent reasons to doubt of the way he is in.” How many Traditionalists today were raised in just such an atmosphere, whether in the Novus Ordo church or in various Traditionalist factions? Should this very reason not give them pause and cause them to carefully investigate the foundations of their Traditionalist sect? Rev. Ignatius Szal, in his “The Communication of Catholics With Schismatics” rightly states that those raised in heresy or schism who convert to the true faith, even if no obstinacy was involved on their part, must be absolved from the censure for schism if they convert after reaching the age of 14.

This is also the opinion of Canon Mahoney and others and has been confirmed by several decisions handed down by the Holy See and the Sacred Congregations. It is based on the rule expressed in Can. 2200 §2, (1917 Code) that they are bound by the censure of excommunication for schism or heresy given the external violation of the law. The age 14 is probably used because this is determined to be the age of discretion by the Church in regard to other matters. This is probably because by the time one has spent 13 years in a non-Catholic sect, the balance of one’s spiritual formation is no longer Catholic. Basically all Catholics 13 and younger when Pope Pius XII died were certainly raised in a false religion and have become material heretics, even if they later became Traditionalists. For both the V2 anti-Church established by Roncalli and Montini as well as Traditionalism itself are non-Catholic sects by the Church’s own definition.

What Rev. Szal says is repeated by Rev. Pierre Gury in his Compendium of Moral Theology under the heading of material heresy: “Material heresy is free from all fault because a material heretic, as is supposed, errs through invincible ignorance…He must be considered only a material heretic who (1) is prepared to submit to the Church’s judgment as soon as he knows it; (2) who, being born among heretics knows nothing of the true faith and has never doubted his own religion; (3) who, although doubting, has endeavored to learn the truth so far as he was able but has not yet reached it,”and this is the state of many Traditionalists.This definition of material heresy is further supported by a very crucial and neglected teaching of the Vatican Council: “Wherefore, not at all equal is the condition of those who, through the heavenly gift of faith, have adhered to the Catholic truth; and of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion. For those who have accepted the Faith, under the teaching power of the Church, can never have a just cause of changing or doubting that faith,” (DZ 1794).

But as Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey then points out: “All theologians teach that publicly known heretics, that those who belong to a heterodox sect through public profession, or those who refuse the infallible teaching of the authority of the Church, are excluded from the body of the Church, even if their heresy is only material heresy,” (Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II). As Rev. J. C. Fenton notes in his “The Teaching of the Theological Manuals,” The American Ecclesiastical Review, April 1963: “If the theses taught by Tanquerey were opposed to those of ‘the most authentic Catholic tradition of all ages,’ then thousands of priests, educated during the first part of the twentieth century were being led into error by the men whom Our Lord had constituted as the guardians of His revealed message.” They may not be culpable, but if their heresy is public, until they are absolved they are outside the Church. All the heresies of Tradtionalists and Novus Ordo adherents are public; public and offensive. They cannot pretend they are incapable of using their intellects.


Nothing that we read here could possibly justify the continuation of Traditionalists or those embracing the Novus Ordo to remain in their errors. Invincible ignorance will not excuse them, and neither will material heresy. If the Church does not excuse them, than neither can we.

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  1. clare christmas

    What are you saying? I attend a sedevacantist church in Brooksville, Florida but do not believe in it. I just want to go to the Latin Mass and Sacraments of the true Catholic Church. Please explain this article to me as I guess I am ignorant.

    Sincerely yours,

    Clare Christmas


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