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Monday, May 24, 2010


Jeffrey Pinyan

The same paragraph of Unitatis Redintegratio which mentions the "hierarchy of truths" begins thus:

11. The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.

I don't see how "hierarchy of truths" should be interpreted to mean that one truth of the Catholic faith need not be believed, simply because it is dependent on other, more "fundamental" truths.


The hierarchy of truths should be understood in terms of prior truth and derivative truth. Consider Euclid's Elements as an analogy. Every theorem in Elements is true, but some theorems are derived from other theorems. The prior theorems are greater hierarchically than the derivative theorems, by way of logical relation, but both the prior and the derivative are equally true. In Catholic doctrine, all doctrines are equally true. However, some doctrines are prior and others are derivative, meaning some doctrines are derived from other doctrines by way of logical relation.

Tim Cronin

We need to remember that our faith is not a set of doctrines to know. It is about knowing and following Jesus Christ in the entire gift of oneself to Him.

Carl E. Olson

It is about knowing and following Jesus Christ in the entire gift of oneself to Him.

Very true. But, then, "knowing" and "following" requires knowing what to know and following what should be followed. In the words of the Catechism:

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.

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." (pars. 89-90)


And to paraphrase Chesterton, everyone lives by dogmas. Without them we could not live.

What those dogmas are, then, determines who we are and what we do, as well as how we pray and to whom we pray.

It seems that Doorly's concern or fear perhaps, is the abandonment of doctrine for the sake of ecumenism. As others have pointed out, that is not the intent of Vatican II.

I have been seated at the table negotiating a collective agreement and a common practice is for both sides to run through a list of items that are not in dispute first, in order to focus on the issues that are in dispute. Occasionally, some of those items perceived to be in dispute can be resolved when it comes to light through discussion that both sides have virtually the same desire but from different perspectives.

However, this is where the analogy breaks down, because the Church has no intention of horse-trading or negotiating a compromise on doctrine in dispute. But from the point of view of ecumenical discussion, it seriously undermines some forms of rabid hatred, to come to this point of knowing the actual issues in dispute, and to see how they fit into that organic "hierarchy of truths".

In our modern world, however, the presumption is that everything is negotiable and there are those in the various "spirit of Vatican II" movements who would gladly negotiate doctrine, or just simply toss it overboard unilaterally. Thankfully they are not in charge.

Dan Hunter

The FSSPX is doing the work of Almighty God.

They love the Holy Father!


Agreed, Dan. Although I don't attend SSPX Masses (I go to an FSSP parish nearby), I'll be eternally grateful for their preservation of the faith and resistance against the VII cult of novelty and its poisonous fruit (the vandalized Mass, etc.). It wouldn't surprise me if Archbishop Lefebvre is one day recognized as a Saint.

Christopher Lake


Regarding Archbishop Lefebvre and at least his original compatriots, how can they be said to have been involved in the "preservation of the faith" by rejecting and leaving the very Vicar of Christ and the Church that preserves the Faith?

Such actions do not speak of Sainthood. Sedevacantists, by definition, cannot be declared Saints in the Catholic Church. Usually, your reasoning seems spot-on, but the above comment is far afield of Catholic orthodoxy. The abuse of Vatican II does not nullify the proper use (and interpretation) of it.

There are no valid reasons for what Lefebvre chose to do in leaving the Church. There are *reasons*, but if the Church is what she claims to be, and the Pope is, indeed, the Vicar of Christ, there are no *valid* reasons for leaving. That one action, alone, disqualifies Lefebvre from canonization.


I find the conversation a bit boring. It is not that Doorly's objections are not well intentioned or even unimportant. It is that they do not really have any effect on every day affairs. My experiences with radical traditionalists like SSPX and others have convinced me many things, such as that they do not really know anything about Aquinas, the Fathers of the Church, theology in general, and they even reason improperly. Take the example of the "hierarchy of truths" argument. One of the things that the world lacks nowadays is actually the notion of a hierarchy. So why shouldn't there be in dogmas too? Did not Christ say, "the Father is greater than I?" But this doesn't mean that Christ is not essential? My heart is more essential than my leg. But if you try to cut my leg off, I'll probably try to tackle you. Or take the example of fatherhood, motherhood, etc. Reality is a well ordered hierarchy.

But the most important thing that they have convinced me is that they are not really in touch with the real world. One cannot propose Christ to the world today with Denzinger in one's hands. Or one cannot simply make the priest turn east and sing a couple of gregorian chants to convert the world. I am not saying that these are not necessary. I believe they are. But solving the problem with a policy or a law will not help the human person. I find that to be the problem with American Church especially. What is necessary is a true education of the human heart, that the heart is made for Christ. This takes time and patience, and something other than proposing what Aquinas said or what Pius X said. Tim Cronin got it right. Christianity is following Christ and Christ is not a doctrine but a Person. This is not to say that doctrines are not important. But to limit education to orthodoxy won't help. Try taking classes at a Pontifical University where all they talk about is essence/existence distinction. You'll find yourself reading T.S. Eliot and John Keats instead. The fact is, most Catholic universities have this idea that Catholicism is simply orthodoxy. And that is just plain wrong from a Catholic point of view. Education is much more than just memorizing the Council of Trent. It is helping the person truly live. It is about proposing something to a cashier in an American Eagle store, that his Sunday life at Mass is the same thing as him spending his nights counting money in the store. Life is much more beautiful than just attending a Mass said in latin and the smell of incense. There are big problems that hits our lives every day than just seeing whether Vatican 2 contradicted all the Piuses. And that is why this traditionalist movement will die. It has nothing to offer to life. As Balthasar said, the SSPX movement will not endure because its reasons are too weak.

Unless you can propose something to the real world, something to a woman who stays up at night with her baby, to a young man studying astrophysics, to a farmer, to a telemarketer, to an old man dying in a hospital, to a brat who spends all his time on the internet and video games...unless you can propose something beautiful to these people, what you will have is an abstract Christ, a Christ not worth following. What will happen if the Masses become all pre-Vatican 2...would that take away what seems to be the monotony of life? will still be there. What we need is a witness who can show us the novelty of every instant because Christ is all in all. And this is where true dialogue comes in: we can only talk to others if we are certain of Christ in *our* lives, in our experiences. Otherwise you will have bad exchanges such as whether the paschal mystery takes away the notion of satisfaction. Next thing you know, you will find everything that happens in Rome part of a conspiracy theory, that the masons have been behind the Church all along.


"Taken at face value, and without a philosophical training, the term surely opens the door to the sidelining of traditional Catholic doctrines, which is what has happened after all."

Actually, the reverse is the case. A common dissident ploy is to effectively deny the hierarchy of truths, insisting that all teachings are equally important. Comparatively peripheral issues are then used as a wedge to sideline more central issues. Ambiguity around the periphery between less-important defined truth and non-definitive teachings is used to bring all teaching down to the level of non-definitive teaching. For example, immigration reform is no less important than abortion. Etc.

Brian J. Schuettler

I concur with SDG. Giving equality of value to all Church teachings negates the need for, indeed, eliminates the discussion of hierarchy altogether. It is analogous to relativism's attempt at leveling, or "equalizing" all forms of spirituality and therefore eliminating the essential teaching of Jesus as being the Way, the Truth and the Life for all human beings.


Christopher, Lefebvre wasn't a sedevacantist, nor does the SSPX support sedevacantism. In fact, sedevacantists attack the SSPX for not being so. See:

Again, I'm not of the SSPX, but I live with a fellow student who is. He's not a sedevacantist.

Regarding your first question, I'd refer you to this:

You might also see Lefebvre's Open Letter to Confused Catholics.

Christopher Lake


In sincerity, I thank you for your correction about Marcel Lefebvre. I was mistaken as to his exact position, regarding the Pope and the Church, and on his status, as related to the Church.

However, as I understand it (and please correct me again if I am wrong here), it appears to still be the case that Lefebvre consecrated bishops without the approval of the Pope, which was described by John Paul II as a schismatic act. Moreover, in Lefebvre's letter to his soon-to-be "bishops," he stated, "I do not think that one can that Rome has not lost the Faith."

Quoting from the above document: "In Rome they are most upset. De Saventhem gave me Cardinal Ratzinger's fax number. They have spiritual AIDS down there. They no longer have God's grace, their immune system has shut down. I do not think one can say that Rome has not lost the Faith."

Are these the words of a potential Saint? I think that they speak for themselves. I must still maintain that any man who declares that Rome has "lost the Faith" is not even close to displaying the heroic virtue required for Sainthood. Again, if the Church is what she claims to be, and the Pope is actually the Vicar of Christ, Rome will never "lose the Faith." To think otherwise speaks of a failure of one's own Catholic faith. The gates of Hell shall *not* prevail...



[W]hen the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

-Luke 18:8

Archbishop Lefebvre had in mind the prophecy of Our Lady of La Salette who said that Rome will lose the faith. Thus it's not only possible but certain that Rome will lose the faith. This does not mean that the gates of Hell have prevailed. Rome can lose the faith without the gates of Hell prevailing against the Church.

As for the issues of the alleged excommunication after the consecrations, schism, the proper response to the crisis in the Church, and whether obedience can oblige us to disobey, the SSPX addresses that on their site. E.g.,

Regarding L's possible sainthood, he heroically stood for the uncompromised Faith when few others at the top of the hierarchy would do so. If not for Lefebvre and the SSPX, who knows how much worse things would be.

As for his words, their tone is akin to those of past Saints. For example:

"How are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off the Apostolical faith, and become authors of fresh evils?"

-St. Athanasius, Discourse Against the Arians, I-4

"Only one offense is now vigorously punished: an accurate observance of our fathers' traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries, and transported into deserts."

-St. Basil, Epistle 243

"The apostles and their successors are God's vicars in governing the Church which is built on faith and the sacraments of faith. Wherefore, just as they may not institute another Church, so neither may they deliver another faith, nor institute other sacraments."

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 64, ad. 3

"It is a work of charity to shout: 'Here is the wolf!' when it enters the flock or anywhere else."

-St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, III, Ch. 29

"It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new social vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilization, and many other things of the same kind."

-Pope Leo XIII, Instruction to the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, January 27, 1902; quoted by Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, par. 55

"[T]he great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer....Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists."

-Pope Saint Pius X, Letter "Our Apostolic Mandate" to the French Episcopate

John Herreid

Jackson--I do not think we've ever canonized someone who was directly and obstinately disobedient to their superiors in the Church. For example, St. Pio even obeyed his superiors when they were incorrect. The Curé D'Ars submitted to his wrong-headed bishop when the bishop decided to wrest the control of an orphanage the Curé had started away from the parish.

There have been many reformers who have been obedient while still voicing disapproval of what was going on among the hierarchy. Lefebvre was not one of them. And it's because of his actions that the SSPX is in the situation it's in right now.


"I do not think we've ever canonized someone who was directly and obstinately disobedient to their superiors in the Church."

I doubt this is true. But even if it is, I wouldn't be surprised if the unprecedented nature of the Second Vatican Council and its fruit lead to unprecedented kinds of Saints. And see:

I'm done. Anyone who likes can have the last word.

Christopher Lake


Honestly, I'm disappointed and a bit disturbed. You aren't a sedevacantist now, but you are using almost the exact same fallacious arguments as the ones that I have heard from Catholic converts who, impatient and upset with goings-on in the Church, have become sedevacantists. I have seen it happen repeatedly.

First, none of the Saints whom you quoted ever engaged in such open defiance of, and showed such disrespect to, the Pope as did Lefebvre.

Second, while many of the quotes do refer to heretics and heresy "within the Church," in a sense (as with the Arian heresy which invaded the Church), none of them dares to opine (as did Lefebvre) that Rome has "spiritual AIDS." One does not "heroically stand for the uncompromised Faith" by making such statements.

Third, I don't think that it's wise to use Our Lady of La Salette to try to justify Lefebvre's actions. Lefebvre's personal interpretation of the message, and his seeming application of it to the entire post-Vatican II Church, reveal an attitude that prizes private interpretation and application over submission to the Pope and the magisterium. Simply put, when Lefebvre decided that he could openly defy commands of the Pope, regarding the consecration of bishops, he ceased to "stand for the Faith" in a true, Catholic sense. He did not become a Protestant, but he acted as one.

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