Monday, July 02, 2012

What is Schism?

I was initially going to do this post on the question of whether the SSPX were truly in a state of schism or not. However, upon reading a lot of the commentary on this question from individuals on both sides of the question, I realized that there is a fundamental disagreement on what constitutes a schism. Those defending the SSPX and those who say the SSPX are in schism both have different definitions of what constitutes a schism. Therefore, this post will serve as preliminary to a future post about the SSPX schism question; today we will simply look at formulating an adequate definition of schism.

One point of contention is that too often schism is defined as simple disobedience. Defining schism as simple disobedience is simply not sufficient, as we will see. This definition is what brings up the oft-repeated SSPX objection that if disobedience constitutes schism then 90% of the Church is in schism because of the disobedience of liberal priests, bishops, etc. The SSPX defenders are correct here; simple disobedience cannot equate to schism.

For example, let's say a priest is instructing his congregation in the Church's precept on attending Mass every Sunday, which is a discipline of the universal Church. Now suppose Joe Smith in the pews hears the legitimate instruction of the Church but chooses to disobey it. He scoffs at the precept and misses Mass regularly, knowing that the Church teaches otherwise.

No one would deny that Joe Smith is being disobedient to the Church's authority - but does this simple disobedience put him in a state of schism? I do not know of anyone who would use the phrase "schism" when applied to this simple disobedience. We could think of many other scenarios: a couple contracepting, people refusing ever to give money to the Church, neglecting the religious formation of children, eating meat on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. All of these things constitute disobedience, but none of them are considered schism. Even in the rather severe case of the women religious in the United States, with all their disobedience, nobody has (yet) started throwing around the word schism. Therefore, I think we can say with certainty that simple disobedience does not constitute schism. Every schismatic is out of union with the Church, but not everyone who is out of union with the Church is schismatic; and not every act of disobedience breaks ecclesial unity.

But these example are all involving lay persons. Does the scenario change if the offender is a clergyman and not a lay person? Perhaps schism is brought about by disobedience on the part of the clergy.

This definition falls short also. Some examples: Suppose the bishop orders a pastor to form a parish council, but the pastor does not obey the bishop and refuses to form a parish council. Clearly, the bishop has been disobeyed, but I don't know if anybody would suggest the pastor is in schism.

Further examples: priests introducing liturgical innovations that are explicitly prohibited by their bishop and by the Holy See, pastors hosting events for dissenting organizations like Call to Action against the bishop's express command, Franciscan priests organizing pilgrimages to Medjugorje despite the prohibitions of the local ordinary. In each of these situations we have a cleric engaging in disobedience, although again none of these situations is considered a schism in the formal, canonical sense.

For an act to truly be schismatic, it need not only be a denial of obedience, but a denial of obedience to an authority coupled with a denial that the authority has the right to command obedience in a certain issue. This denial is almost always found alongside the act of the creation of a rival hierarchy, usually validly but illicitly consecrated. Let's look at the circumstances around some of the Church's principle schisms throughout history:
  • The first large schism was that of Novatian, who was elected antipope in the time of Pope Cornelius (251). The sect believed Cornelius' treatment of those Christians who had lapsed in the Decian persecution was too lenient.

  • The schism of Antioch (330-415) erupted when two lines of bishops, one Arian and one orthodox, disputed about who were the legitimate pastors of the Antiochan Church. The orthodox bishop, Eustathius, was deposed by the Arian party who consecrated their own bishop illicitly.

  • The schism during the time of Pope Liberius was caused when the Arian party consecrated as antipope one Felix who claimed the See of Rome while Liberius was in exile. The Romans eventually got Liberius recalled and Felix was deposed.

  • The Donatist schism, one of the largest of the ancient Church, began when many African Christians objected to the legitimacy of Caecilian of Carthage, since he was consecrated by a traditor. These declared his election invalid and elected their own bishop, Majorinus. The dispute spread, and soon most large cities had two hierarchies, one loyal to Caecilian, one to Majorinus. Those loyal to Majorinus were the rigorists that eventually were called Donatists (the Donatus take their name from a Bishop Donatus who succeeded Majorinus).

  • The Acacian schism, the first real major east-west schism, occurred when Acacius of Constantinople continued to exercise his episcopal office despite being excommunicated by Pope Felix II over the Henoticon of Emperor Zeno.

  • The Aquilean schism during the time of Pope Vigilius broke out when the bishops of Milan and Aquilea refused obedience to Pope Vigilius over the latter's condemnation of the Three Chapters. For a time they functioned as their own hierarchy independent of the pope.

  • The schism of 1054, when the Greeks effectively denied that the Pope had any jurisdiction in the east.

  • The schism of Anacletus (1150), which had to do with the election of an antipope.

  • The Great Western Schism, of course, which was brought upon by the dispute between a pope and antipope following the return of the Church from Avignon in 1378.

  • The Anglican schism, when, for a time, the Catholic Church existed side-by-side with a schismatic Church in England. This is no longer a schism, however, since the Holy Orders of the Anglican bishops went extinct after the first generation.

  • The schism of the "Constitutional Church" in France following the promulgation of the Civil Constitution on the Clergy in 1790. This in effect set up two hierarchies, one loyal to the Pope and one on the state dole and under obedience to state appointed bishops who were invalidly consecrated.

  • The schism of the Old Catholics, which began in 1871 after Vatican I, when the protesters against papal infallibility voted at the Council of Munich to constitute themselves a separate Church.

Note that in each and every case, the schism involves either a establishment of a valid but illicit rival hierarchy or else the formal withdrawal of an existing hierarchy from obedience to the Holy See. Schism, then, consists in an act of disobedience that results in either the withdrawal of an existing bishop or member of the hierarchy from obedience or else the establishment of a illicit rival hierarchy; this is true at least of the Church's historical schisms.

This is why the pope stated that the consecration of four bishops illicitly is a schismatic act - following the trends we saw in the historic schisms, it was an act of disobedience that took the form of establishing a hierarchy outside the pale of the pope's authority. Setting up rival, illicit hierarchy is always a schismatic act. Whether or not the SSPX did this, and to what degree a schismatic act confers ipso facto the status of schismatic, remains to be seen.

One thing that is plainly clear from looking at the history is that schism does not necessarily entail denial that an authority exists. The SSPX argument that they are not in schism because they have not denied the existence of legitimate authority within the Church is a weak argument that creates a definition of schism so narrow that virtually no one other than Sedevacantists would fit it. It is not necessary that the SSPX (or any group) deny the existence of a legitimate authority to be in schism - it is enough to disobey that authority whilst setting up a rival outside authority, even if one continues to admit the existence of the legitimate authority.

Interestingly enough, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that one does not need to formally join schismatic group or form a distinct sect to be guilty of the sin of schism: "On the other hand, schism does not necessarily imply adhesion, either public or private, to a dissenting group or a distinct sect, much less the creation of such a group." This means that schism seems to be on a continuum. There are certainly some schismatics at the far end, like the Old Catholics - but it also implies that one can be guilty of schism even without adhering to a formally schismatic group or founding one. I think the Encyclopedia is trying to distinguish between the sin of schism (incurred whenever there is a partisan spirit of haughty disobedience) and the canonical status of schism (established by the setting up of a rival hierarchy). Though they usually go together, they are two different concepts.

Next time we will take these principles and apply them to the situation with the SSPX, taking into account current and previous Magisterial statements on the question.


El Eremita said...

A most interesting topic, Boniface. Looking forward for the next instalments.

Catholic Mission said...

SSPX would be protesting Augustine Di Noia’s statement on extra ecclesiam nulla salus - if they understood it!

When speaking about the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus the Vice President of Ecclesia Dei said that he knew saintly Protestants, implying that they will be saved, he knows they will be saved, even though they are not in the Catholic Church.

According to Protestant theology just believing in Jesus is enough for salvation.According to Catholics belief in Jesus is necessary but so also are the moral teachings of the Gospel, they need to be lived, since a mortal sin un-Confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation can lead to Hell- even if one believes in Jesus or is a Catholic. For Catholics it is necessary to be a member of the Catholic Church and to live the Gospel within the Catholic Church.

Only Jesus can judge if Di Noia’s ‘saintly Lutherans and Anglicans' are exceptions. The Catholic Church however teaches in its documents, and not through the Vatican Curia, that Protestants are on the way to Hell because they do not have access to the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. They do not have Catholic Faith (AG 7). Di Noia cannot claim that any Protestant he knows is saved or will be saved. He cannot say that for himself.

He said ‘the Council did say there are elements of grace in other religions, and I don’t think that should be retracted.’ It should not be retracted since it is not in conflict with the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Neither does it contradict AG 7.

Catholic Mission said...

LG 8 mentions ‘elements of sanctification in other religions’ but LG 8 does not say that these cases are known to us, or are the ordinary means of salvation or that they contradict the literal interpretation of the dogma or that they contradict AG 7 which says all need Catholic faith and the baptism of water for salvation.

The Archbishop is assuming that a non Catholic can be saved with ‘elements of sanctification’ and that he personally knows these cases.Here is the error.

His error is at the basis of the Society of St. Pius X’s rejection of Vatican Council II. Since for them Vatican Council II (LG 8, LG 16) are exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. They are ‘known’ exceptions. So they reject Vatican Council II, which for them, has changed the traditional teaching on other religions and ecumenism.

Augustine Di Noia, Luiz Ladaria, Kurt Koch, Bernard Fellay, Richard Williamson….all assume there are known exceptions.

For the Vatican Curia there are known exceptions and so they accept one version of Vatican Council II. For the SSPX there are known exceptions and so they reject Vatican Council II.

So Augustine di Noia says the SSPX are in schism. He is not in schism because he assumes there are defacto, explicit exceptions to the dogma. He does not realize that his concept of Vatican Council II is a hermeneutic of rupture. If he accepted that there are no known exceptions, he would interpret Vatican Council II as a hermeneutic of continuity. This would mean Vatican Council II would be saying Judaism and Protestantism are not paths to salvation. LG 16 and LG 8 would not be exceptions to the dogma.

This would not be acceptable to the Jewish Left who want us to believe that the SSPX are in schism and do not accept their approved version of Vatican Council II.

If he says there are no known exceptions, his concept of Vatican Council II will change. He would have to choose the Anti Semitic version of Vatican Council II and then the Jewish Left will protest.

Di Noia can mention of course those saved with God’s grace. However no document of Vatican Council II says that they are exceptions to the dogma. He has to imply it personally and please his friends.

In the interview with the National Catholic Register he refers to Ralph Martin of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Martin and the Catholic Charismatics proclaim Jesus without the Catholic Church. They can evangelize with the Protestants and do not believe in the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus neither do they accept Vatican Council II (AG 7).

The SSPX bishops and priests do not know what is happening. Since they too believe that there are Protestants who can be saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire etc and these cases can be explicit exceptions to the traditional interpretation of the dogma.

If they knew what was happening they could choose the anti Semitic version of Vatican Council II.It would be in harmony with their values on Judaism and other religions.
-Lionel Andrades

Anonymous said...

A related question I would greatly like to see addressed is whether or not there is a real limitation to the duty of obedience of a legitimate authority, such that disobedience denying the right of a legitimate authority to command in a certain case may at certain times be acceptable. Certainly all Catholics acknowledge this limitation in the case of legitimate political authorities, but is there any similar limitation with authorities in the Church? Cardinal Newman says one may legitimately disobey even the pope if something is commanded that would work toward the destruction of the faith, and he quotes several doctors of the Church as well as some contemporary cardinals and bishops to defend this point. I am at an SSPX chapel, and I do accept your point that simply acknowledging in some way that Peter is Peter is not enough to get around the claims of schism, so in my case I believe that the real question is whether or not there is any true limitation on the obedience one owes a bishop. For example I know a rather traditional priest in our diocese who once complained to me that during seminary he was forced to pray with some sisters who refused to invoke the trinity and would only pray to "oh great unknowable one." In his words it bothered him because "I really didn't think we were praying to the same God." I don't give this as a "look how bad these NO bishops are! You must all join the ranks of SSPX now!" type argument, but only to press the question of whether or not anyone, a priest or layperson, is obliged to obey a bishop who is commanding something not merely unjust (such as John of the Cross suffering imprisonment) but actually destructive of the faith, and further if a bishop might legitimately disobey a pope if something destructive of the faith was being asked. Even if we answer this question affirmatively it would still remain to be proven that such a situation existed in the case of Lefebvre, but I will say that the question of what may be the ultimate limitations of the pope and bishops' power to speak in the name of Christ and the apostles seems to me a question that must be addressed before we can start asking the question of schism. OBviously if there is no such limitation to their authority, then this is a schism.

I do willingly accept that many in the SSPX are guilty of the sin of schism, and would point out that some of us talk about "traditional Catholics" as including SSPX and Sedevacantists but excluding anyone who, even with the best of intentions and without ever participating in the new mass, is obedient to the bishops. Others of us think this is madness. (What Lefebvre would say about this is another question, as he did at times allow sedevacantists to receive communion but also entered into open conflict with what became SSPV).

Sidenote: "a definition of schism so narrow that virtually no one other than Sedevacantists would fit it." I see no reason why it's logically impossible that the schism among traditionalists is so small that it only includes sedevacantists (and conclavists). If you object to it because it would only include sedevacantists then it seems to me that you're already beginning with the thought that you must prove that the SSPX is in schism. If it's truly an open question then a definition which only includes sedevacantists is at least plausible.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Boniface. Thanks for taking this task on.

FFR said...

"The SSPX argument that they are not in schism because they have not denied the existence of legitimate authority within the Church is a weak argument that creates a definition of schism so narrow that virtually no one other than Sedevacantists would fit it"

No, the eastern schismatic churches deny that the Pope has jurisdictional authority. That's millions of people.

Alexander said...

The situation with the FSSPX is very unique and weird.

It differs from schismatic Orthodox and protestants because they deny Papal infallibility and universal jurisdiction whereas the FSSPX do not.

Also to compare the situation with Modernist and liberal Catholics as well, we see that these groups recognize to some degree or less that the Pope has authority but only by democratic recognition by the majority of the Church. This is why they act like the Pope has some kind of authority but can be disobeyed when their consciences (ill-informed) dictate otherwise. Hence they deny that Christ set up authority on St. Peter and his successors. The difference here is that the FSSPX believe that the Pope's office is in fact set up by Christ and not mandated by the majority opinion of Catholics.

Further the citations in the blog post above also differ insofar as the FSSPX are not setting up an alternative hierarchy like the Anti-Popes et al.
They are not creating a rival or new power entity that assumes papal power or something just like it. Hence they are not claiming authority to lead the Church as if Rome were defunct (lost authority) and/or Rome's authority never existed in the first place. Basically Fellay is not saying he is Pope nor are they giving up on the Catholic Church and becoming their own Church.

I'm no FSSPX supporter and I don't agree with the illicit consecrations and ordinations, but it's a very weird situation unlike any other, there are schismatic underlyings I think, because the act itself was described as schismatic, but full schism? Hmmm...

Catholic Mission said...


The anti-Semitic version says Lumen Gentium 8 and 16 are explicit only for God while the present interpretation suggests it is explicit also for humans and so we judge these cases.

This interpretation is not anti Semitic. I refer to it as the anti-Semitic interpretation since this is what it is called by some of the Jewish Left. It meets the political anti Semitic criteria even though it may not be anti Semitic. For the Jewish Left even the New Testament is anti Semitic.

The anti Semitic version has a continuity with Tradition and the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

The Vatican Council II model approved by Pope Benedict XV is not anti-Semitic and so has the hermeneutic of rupture. It is also an irrational version.It suggests that those who are saved with 'elements of sanctification' (LG 8) and invincible ignorance and a good conscience (LG 16) are known to us and so they are known exceptions to the ancient, literal interpretation of the dogma on exclusive salvation.

So when Edward Pentin in the NCR interview asked Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, Vice President of Ecclesia Dei about extra ecclesiam nulla salus he said grace is available in other religions ( implying there are known exceptions to the dogma) and that he personally knows saintly Protestants ( who are exceptions to the dogma and who will be saved).

If the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican (CDF) supports and announces the anti-Semitic model of Vatican Council II it would be telling Di Noia that we do not know anyone saved with elements of sanctification ( so LG 8 is not an exception) and only God can know who is saved in invincible ignorance etc( So LG 16 is not an exception). This means all non Catholics, Jews included, are oriented to Hell, unless they convert into the Catholic Church.This would draw protests from the Jewish Left.

This would be supporting the Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) position on other religions, ecumenism etc.It would be supporting traditional ecclesiology.This is the interpretation that the CDF must choose in all honesty and not pretend that there is only one interpretation of Vatican Council II- the false one.

The reality is that Vatican Council II (AG 7) affirms the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and this is our Catholic Faith even though the Jewish Left and their oppressed- supporters in the Vatican may not like it.

The Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) would then not be in schism. If Di Noia, Ladaria and Koch reject this interpretation of Vatican Council II, the only rational one, the only one in continuity with Tradition it is they who would be in heresy. They would be in schism, in the words of Di Noia in the NCR interview.

Who will be in and who will be out of the Catholic Church ?

Di Noia needs to interpret Vatican Council in accord with Tradition and the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus,so does the pope. -Lionel Andrades

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Alexander. The praxis of the SSPK is an absolute rejection of Universal Jurisdiction.

One can not claim they accept universal jurisdiction and belie that claim by their actions.

During Vatican Two, Bishop Lefebvre stood four-square for the Catholic axiom - No Jurisdiction no Ministry

Tina in Ashburn said...

Boy Boniface, you did a lot of work for this post. And its the details that often reveal the truth.

I just figure that the SSPX is in schism because they have no bishops who 'report' to the Pope. I don't get the impression that the SSPX allows for Pope Benedict to have any jurisdiction over them. Your term "rival hierarchies" seems accurate to me.

If you have no bishops attached to Rome, how can they be called anything else?

Catholic Mission said...


They Vatican is supported by the Jewish Left media but they have no citations for their ‘ecclesiology of communion’, ‘theology of religions’ and ‘non Catholics do not have to convert for salvation’.

The SSPX –Vatican (Ladaria-Morerod) talks were kept secret. This helped the Vatican which has no citations from the Council for their new theories and obligations.

1.Eclesiology of communion :Ad Gentes 7, Vatican Council II says all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation.Since LG 8 and LG 16 are not explicit they do not contradict AG 7. The Curia cannot cite LG 8 or LG 16 as exceptions. They have no citations from Vatican Council II for their ecclesiology of communion.

One cannot just refer to ‘the spirit of Vatican Council II’ which could mean anything to different Catholics. It could also be used to justify sin.

2.Theology of religions:As mentioned above Ad Gentes 7, Vatican Council II says all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water. Since LG 8 and LG 16 are not explicit they do not contradict AG 7.Neither do we know who is saved with the seeds of the Word and imperfect communion with the Church.

AG 7 is in accord with the literal interpetation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus and there are no known exceptions.

Cardinals Ladaria and Koch cannot cite any exceptions from the Council.

3. Jews do not have to convert in the present time :There is no text in Vatican Council II to support this un-biblical theory. This new political view is contradicted by AG 7, the Bible (John 3:5,Mk.16:16), the dogma on salvation etc.

4.Jews are the Chosen People of God : The Bible says Jews need to convert and there is a New Covenant. Nostra Aetate 4,Vatican Council II says Catholics 'are the new people of God'.-Lionel Andrades

Catholic Mission said...


Archbishop Augustine Di Noia does the Holy Spirit teach that LG 8 and LG 16 are known to us and not implicit?

The new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is quoted as saying that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) needs to accept Vatican Council II.

The SSPX has accepted Vatican Council II. They have signed the doctrinal preamble and as promised they should be given canonical status.

It should not be said that the SSPX does not accept Vatican Council. It has been reported and is well known now that the Superior General of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay signed the doctrinal preamble which was accepted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

If the SSPX is not being given canonical status it is not because of Vatican Council II.

There were new conditions that the SSPX had to accept it was reported. They are with reference (1) to the Jews and (2) the theology of the liberal version of Vatican Council II.

So it should be clearly said in public that the SSPX is not being accepted into the Church even though they accepted Vatican Council II according to Tradition but because of two other reasons.

1) They are not being accepted because of the demands from the Jewish Left e.g Jews do not have to convert, or that Catholics are not the Chosen People of God and there will be no mission to the Jews.

2) They have to accept theological conditions based on an explicit LG 8 and LG 16. They will have to assume that the baptism of desire and being saved in invincible ignorance are explicit and visible to us and so contradicts extra ecclesiam nulla salus..So the result is that now there is a theology of religions and an ecclesiology of communion.

The Vice President of Ecclesia Dei Archbishop Augustine di Noia has told La Stampa that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and does not make errors.Explicit LG 16 and LG 8 is an error being thrust upon the SSPX.

Catholic Mission said...

John Vennari says ‘the SSPX position is nothing more than the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church throughout the ages' but the SSPX also says that we know cases of persons saved in invincible ignorance which is non traditional ‘Conciliar Thinking’.

When Vennari talks about Vatican Council II it is the same ‘Conciliar Thinking’ according to Di Noia since he assumes there are known exceptions.This is the same Conciliar Thinking on Vatican Council II according to the correspondents of Rorate Caeli.

If John Vennari, the Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) bishops and the communities of Fr. Leonard Feeney agree that LG 8 and LG 16 are always implicit, (never explicit for us) we have a traditional, rational interpretation of Vatican Council II. It is Vatican Council II without the ‘Concliar Thinking’.

If the SSPX admits that they are not known to us then the LG 16,LG 6 cannot be exceptions to outside the church no salvation.The present position of the SSPX is confusing.

The Church Fathers mentioned non Catholics being able to be saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire but did not say that these cases were explicitly known to us.

John Vennari says 'that the SSPX position is nothing more than the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church throughout the ages, that all non-Catholics, Jews included, must convert to the Catholic Church for salvation. There is no salvation outside the Church.'(1) True - however the SSPX also says that some people on earth in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire are exceptions to there is no salvation outside the Church. In other words there are known on earth exceptions to the dogma !?.

'The SSPX position is what the Church has always taught: the Old Covenant is superseded and made obsolete by the New. Those who are still members of non-Catholic societies, such as Judaism or Protestantism, can only be saved by leaving their false positions and joining the one true Church that Christ established' , he writes.

'This should not be a difficult concept for a Catholic.'

The SSPX position is a difficult concept for a Catholic since it says ‘Those who are still members of non-Catholic societies, such as Judaism or Protestantism, can only be saved by leaving their false positions and joining the one true Church that Christ established’ -and yet the SSPX believes there are known exceptions of non Catholics saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre only accepted in principle that a non Catholic could be saved in invincible ignorance or implicit desire. He did not suggest like the SSPX webpages and websites that these cases were known to us.

If the SSPX admits that those saved in invincible ignorance etc are not known to us then Lumen Gentium 16 and Lumen Gentium 8 cannot be exceptions to outside the church no salvation.

The present position of the SSPX is confusing.
-Lionel Andrades

Archbishop Di Noia Admits: The Goal is to Convert SSPX to Conciliar Thinking- John Vennari

Alexander said...

One can not claim they accept universal jurisdiction and belie that claim by their actions.

This is why it is a weird situation. Their actions were, as claimed, done through the fear of the Church deteriorating all around them. One aspect that pushed this was JPII's 1986 Assisi meetings for example. While certainly believing the Church is indefectible they think that the situation is so bad they must somehow act. This demonstrates a lack of faith for sure, but unlike the examples cited above the three differences are that they hold to the Catholic faith, are not constructing an alternative or supplementive hierarchy, and acknowledged universal jurisdiction.

“But they can't claim to believe it and not act like it.”

Sure they can, they are just wrong to do so. The explanation is that they were so afraid and alarmed about everything going on they sought to act on their own. It however shows a wavering faith in Christ's presence in His Body – they thought that it was going to get so bad they had to to this, not necessarily to the end that Church would become defective but very grim nonetheless.

Note that this does not mitigate the gravity of the illicit consecrations nor the disobedience towards the Pope and local prelates but rather shows why Lefebvre acted in such a way. Here is where I have some sympathy; if you see the pews emptying all around you, massive liturgical abuse, and your Pope is letting pagans worship their gods (which Scripture calls demons) on Sacred Church ground, no wonder someone like Lefebvre would act in such a way. A weakness on his part and the wrong action to take but schism? Even prelates at the Vatican are not unanimous in their labeling of the situation. Ratzinger called it a schism but Hoyos stated it was not a formal schism. I do think think there is a danger of a schismatic attitude though.