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Society of Saint Peter FSSP

Apostolic Tradition

Rev. Rama Coomaraswamy, MD

Are The Priests of St. Peter's Society "Massing" Priests? (part 2)

It is extraordinary to note how apt are the points, which Father Gallway made over 100 years ago, to present day circumstances. One has only to replace the term "Ritualist" with "post-Conciliar Catholic" to give his argument pertinence and what the modernists like to call "relevance." We have then yet further evidence in favor of strictly adhering to the constant ritual practice of the Church. It is this alone that can assure us of the validity of the Sacraments. Blessed are those of us who can claim to be in the same Church as Father Gallway, and who can rest secure that we enjoy the same Sacraments he did.

Before discussing the Society of St. Peter and the use of traditional rites, it is necessary to consider some of the specific problems relating to the present situation in the Church. First of all, the number of Catholic and would-be-Catholic groups that describe themselves as "traditional," have increased to the point that the word has almost lost its meaning and usefulness. The term has, of course, always had a multiplicity of applications - but all of them related to its intrinsic meaning of what is "handed down," what was received. Its religious usage is closely related to that of Revelation. What our Lord and the Apostles taught and did, has come down to us through the written word - Scripture - and by oral transmission, called Tradition.

Tradition with a capital "T" usually refers to those teachings and practices which can be traced back to Our Lord and the Apostles, while tradition with a small "t" to those established in sub-apostolic times. Immediately an element of confusion enters, for it is often difficult to draw clear lines between the practices established by the Apostles as opposed to their successors; and between what was "revealed" (and hence incumbent) and what was approved but not mandatory.

Finally the adjective "traditional" can be applied to the principle of adherence to what was revealed and established by the Apostolic Church and preserved intact as a precious pearl, as well as to practices established at a later date that are consistent with those established by the Apostles. Finally, the adjective can be applied on a cultural level to those patterns of acting and thinking that can be characterized as "truly Catholic." Thus, for example the true Mass can be said to be Traditional (and indeed, its core was revealed); blessing oneself with holy water as "traditional," and saying of the Rosary as "traditional." Obviously, it would be absurd to claim to be an "untraditional" Catholic, and hence the confusion.

Any true claim to be "traditional" must include the rejection of the new and post-Conciliar rites and doctrines. In the practical order, this means that one must take a firm stand with regard to three things:
1) the Mass and the other Sacraments, especially Holy Orders;
2) Vatican II; and
3) the post-Conciliar "popes."

Let us consider each in turn.

1) It is against the laws of the Church for one to use or receive sacraments that are in any way dubious. Indeed to do so is a sacrilege. Now, each and every one of the post-Conciliar sacraments, with the possible exception of Baptism and marriage (neither of which depends upon the sacrament of Orders) is at least dubious. It is only natural that traditional Roman Catholics should insist on the Mass as codified by Pius V or one of the parallel traditional Eastern (Uniate) rites. They also insist on their priests being ordained by traditional rites - those in use up to 1968. What is not as well known is that the rites of Episcopal Consecration have been more drastically changed than any other sacrament. Priests "elevated" to the episcopacy (i.e., made bishops) after 1968 are almost certainly only priests without the power to ordain others (and if ordained as priests after 1968, laymen).[3]

2) Traditional Catholics reject Vatican II as a false council. Vatican II has been declared to be at least "the supreme form of the ordinary Magisterium," and is hence totally incumbent upon the consciences of post-Conciliar Catholics. (According to a de fide statement, the ordinary Magisterium is binding upon the Catholic conscience.) Now it will be argued that there are many orthodox statements in Vatican II. The point is granted. The same can be said for the writings of Luther - and indeed, Satan quoted Scripture to our Lord when he tempted him. The presence of occasional orthodox statements in heretical writings has never led the traditional Church to lend approval to such productions. It would be as if a physician mixed poison with good medicine. And hence, the only "traditional" attitude one can take toward these documents is total rejection. The same applies to the various catechisms and other "doctrinal" documents produced after Vatican II.

3) The third area of importance relates to the status of the post-Conciliar "popes." Now certain principles must be kept in mind. First of all a true pope is "one hierarchical person with our Lord" which is to say that when he speaks or teaches, it is our Lord who is speaking and teaching. The pope makes this clear when he speaks in his triple function of teacher (magister), ruler (jurisdiction) or sanctifying (as in the Sacraments). Now, in these settings he partakes of infallibility precisely because when he speaks, "it is Christ who teaches, rules and sanctifies." As a result, we owe him obedience. Either we recognize his authority or we don’t. It is a teaching of the Church that one must be in obedience to the pope (and the bishops in union with him) in these areas, which pertain to his infallible authority. Again, the reader is referred to my essay on the Magisterium.

Catholics who reject the new "mass" and even a single teaching of Vatican II are in DISOBEDIENCE to those (i.e. the last four "popes") presently sitting on the Chair of Peter. Attempts to justify this situation are to a great extent responsible for the present chaos. Several possible solutions can be taken:

A) One can simply refuse to follow these individuals when they depart from the Faith. This follows the principle that "one must obey God rather than men." It leaves the state of these "popes" open but recognizes that they are in fact commanding us to sin against the Holy Spirit in obeying them. The problem is that it leaves one very much on one’s own with regard to spiritual matters. It forces one to "pick and choose" what one thinks is Catholic.

B) One can declare that these "popes" are somehow in control of the papacy, but have no authority. Varieties of this position have labeled these "popes" as anti-popes, usurpers, etc. This is in essence the materialiter/formaliter argument.

C) One can declare these men are manifestly heretics and as such have either lost or never had any authority - that they are not popes at all, which is essentially the sede vacantist position. What all these attitudes have in common is a declaration that these "popes" have no authority - that they do not speak with the voice of Christ.

It matters not whether one takes the sede vacantist position or whether one says they are "popes" without authority. To say they have no authority is to say they are not one hierarchical person with Christ and do not speak with His voice. A pope without authority is no pope at all.

It is often argued that we cannot declare these individuals to be false popes, for that is the function of the Magisterium. Actually, a study of the Magisterium would make it clear that it is the Magisterium, which has in fact made it clear that they cannot be popes. However, one should not abandon one’s common sense. It is a matter of simple logic that these men who claim to be "popes" are not Catholic, and it is a teaching of the Magisterium that a person who is not a Catholic cannot be a pope. (He who is not a member of the Body cannot be its Head, and he who is not a member of the "learning Church" cannot become part of the "teaching Church.")

Those that loudly proclaim their loyalty to these "popes" and hold them to be true popes, are as Catholics obliged to obey them. Should they argue as many do that they will obey these "popes" when they speak in accord with tradition, but not when they do not are simply proclaiming themselves as Protestant. They are picking and choosing on their own authority what they find acceptable which is nothing less than to declare themselves to be the Magisterium. Paul VI made this quite clear to Archbishop Lefebvre when he told him that it was up to him as pope to decide what was and what was not traditional, and further that he (Lefebvre) had to give his full intellectual assent to the entire content of Vatican II. It goes without saying that the Church cannot ask us to give our intellectual consent to error.


The so-called Mass of the Indult, frequently and incorrectly referred to as the "Tridentine," "Latin" or "traditional" Mass is in fact the Mass of John XXIII. Even though - providing the priest is properly ordained and has the right intention and uses proper form and matter - the Consecration is valid, this is not the traditional Mass as fixed by Pius V. It is in fact a sort of half-way house on the way to the Novus Ordo and has been called by some "half-way Bugnini." In allowing for its use John Paul II specified certain conditions: namely the acceptance of the post-Conciliar "popes"; the acceptance of all the teachings of Vatican II; and the recognition that all the post-Conciliar sacraments are valid. This may not be insisted on as it originally was (people had to sign statements to this effect), but it remains true in principle.

To accept the Indult is to accept the Church that gave the Indult. Among the changes that the Mass of John XXIII specified was a new and different Breviary (which contained writings of individuals who were clearly heretical and subsequently left the Church), and a different Church (liturgical) calendar which made previous Breviaries and Missals obsolete. This was a direct attack on the spiritual life of priests. Those who attend the Indult do so in order to receive a valid Sacrament. However, two things should be kept in mind:

1) Older priests are dying out;

2) It ties one hand and foot to the new and post-Conciliar Church, which is of course its intention.


Prior to the consecration of the four bishops against the commands of John Paul II, Archbishop Lefebvre had taken a well-known position. This can be characterized as holding that:

1) John Paul II was a true and valid pope who had some modernist ideas - but not such as to make him a formal heretic. Hence he expelled from his Fraternity any priest who would not recognize the post-Conciliar "popes" and pray for them within the Canon of the Mass, where they are thus characterized as both "orthodox" (having "true faith and sound doctrine") and Catholic.

2) Vatican II was capable of being interpreted in a traditional fashion.

3) All the post Conciliar sacraments were in se (in themselves or as they stood) valid. Hence he allowed priests ordained with the new rites to join his Fraternity without insisting on conditional re-ordination, and such is the policy of the Society of Pius X to this day. Archbishop Lefebvre was suspended in divines for many years, which means that his activities in running seminaries and ordaining priests were acts of disobedience to the authority, which he recognized as valid.

When he was negotiating with the Vatican about consecrating bishops, he stated that accepted the New Code of Canon Law (take a moment to look at canon 840) and considered it binding. This Code clearly states that for one to consecrate a bishop without papal permission results in automatic excommunication.

He then proceeded to ordain four bishops against the express will of John Paul II, while in no way repudiating his stand. He stated that his reason for going ahead were that he had lost confidence in the Vatican, but he reiterated his stand on the various points listed above. Such an act placed him, at least in schism if not open rebellion. Not only is he in schism with the post-Conciliar Church, he is also in schism with the true Church, for he recognizes the new sacraments and because of his attitude towards Vatican II. The net result is that his followers are placed in an untenable position. They must accept John Paul II as Christ’s Vicar on earth, and they must disobey him and receive sacraments - some of which are questionably valid - from priests who are excommunicated. Like it or not, the Society of Pius X is tied to the post-Conciliar Church and is part and parcel of it.

In view of all this the recent negotiations between the Society and Rome are somewhat of a joke. Again, many are duped into thinking that the Society is going to bring the new Church back to tradition. The fact that the Society insists on the use of the Indult Mass ties it irrevocably to the post-Conciliar institution. The bottom line is always the acceptance of Vatican II and the new sacraments. But the post-Conciliar Church is delighted to play this game.


Given these facts, it is easy to understand that many of Archbishop’s Lefebvre’s followers abandoned his position and welcomed the offer of the Vatican to form a new society, that of St. Peter. In order to encourage the followers of Lefebvre and other conservative Novus Ordo Catholics to stand within the post-Conciliar fold, they were promised the Mass of John XXIII and where seminaries were established, ordination according to the traditional rites.

All this sounds wonderful. Many saw this as proof that John Paul II was returning the Church to tradition. One could eat one’s cake and still have it. One can be in communion with the post-Conciliar Church and all her dogma-denying heretics, and still have a valid rite in Latin. Seminarians can wear cassocks, behave and act like priests, and have the approval of modernist Rome. But there is a catch which the directors of "the pope’s own traditional order" never mention. And that is that there are no bishops to ordain them!

We are told they will be ordained by cardinals Meyer and Ratzinger, individuals whose seemingly conservative stance is constantly stressed.[4] (Some have sought out older bishops elsewhere.) But both these individuals were made bishops after 1968 - Paul Augustin Meyer on February 13, 1972 and Joseph Ratzinger on May 28, 1977 (both in the diocese of Passau in Bavaria), by the new and highly dubious post-Conciliar ceremonies.

The Society of St. Peter has also had some problems because they have been told that they must say, upon request of the bishops in whatever diocese they establish themselves - the Novus Ordo Missae - especially on Holy Thursday. Any idea that they are traditional is clearly removed by the recent Protocol 1411.

Recently a traditional priest who made inquiries about the possibility of joining this Society was told that he had to sign papers stating that he accepted all the teachings of Vatican II and the validity of all the new sacraments. This he was of course unable to do.

And so we have clear cut evidence that this is just another conservative ploy of the post-Conciliar Church. In addition, it adds confusion to confusion. Not only do we have Archbishop Lefebvre accepting priests ordained with the new and highly dubious rites of ordination, now we are going to have St. Peter’s priests ordained with traditional rites by "bishops" who lack the Apostolic Succession, but we are going to have them present themselves as priests in cassocks and as saying something reasonably close to the traditional rite even though they have no power to Consecrate. Before long, the world will be filled with traditional priests providing useless sacraments in Latin!

And so we must ask with Father Galloway, ARE THEY "MASSING" PRIESTS?


[3] For a time there were validly consecrated bishops available, but these have almost completely died out. With regard to the invalidity of the new rites of consecration, readers are referred to my essay on Holy Orders.

[4] Some, it is true, have been ordained by older bishops, but such is an exception.

* * *

The opinion of the editor of this article is that it's impossible to prove the invalidity of episcopal consecration and the Holy Orders in "Conciliar Church", what differ them from, for example, Novus Ordo with false Consecration Formula ("pro omnes" instead of "pro multis"). We consider the thesis of Father Coomaraswamy rather as good advice to FSSP and conciliar priests (that, they would better ask for sub conditione ordination), than de fide statement that their priesthood is invalid.

Rick Agon

Society of Saint Peter FSSP

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