Enigma Variations: A Reader's Devastating Critique of Bishop Williamson's attempt to Put a Square Peg into a Round Hole.

Dr. Chojnowski: Here is a Reader's critique of Bishop Williamson's position in the current "Pope Wars." To the question, Does Bishop Williamson's position avoid the charge of Schism? Mr. Kozin says that it does not, leading to serious implications for those adhering to his Resistance movement. Do the Dominicans of Avrille agree with him? We will assume they do until they say otherwise.

UPDATE: Interestingly enough, the main "Resistance" website in the US, CathInfo is taking a poll on the "pope question." So far, only 1/3 of posters on the website indicate they subscribe to the "Recognize and Resist" position, while 25% subscribe to some form of "Sedevacantism." A full 21% say they do not know whether Francis is pope, a small 6% subscribe to the "Resignationist" position, and only 3% indicate that they "know with certainty" that Francis is pope and, I suppose, support him as such.

Enigma Variations
Part 1

Two letters recently posted on this blog, one by Bishop Richard Williamson and the other by Fr. Peter R. Scott, effectively demonstrate two radically different attempts to harmonize perennial Catholic teaching with those teachings proposed by the “Conciliar” Church of Vatican II.  It is astounding to realize that these seemingly contradictory approaches originated in the mind of one man, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, but not at all surprising that each of these antithetical approaches has been adopted by current or former members of the Society of St. Pius X.

Bishop Williamson recently took it upon himself to respond to a letter addressed to the Dominicans of Avrille by a French Catholic layman, identified only as Monsieur MN, who accused the Dominicans of violating the provisions of Pastor Aeternus by disregarding Canon laws and liturgical forms established by men the Order publicly recognizes as true Popes, validly elected to the Papal office.  According to Monsieur MN, these actions were both sinfully disobedient and a hypocritical denial of the Pope’s authority.  Although Monsieur MN’s letter was not posted we may assume that, consistent with those qualities so typical of the French temperament, his criticisms were pointedly, if not bluntly, expressed.  Bishop Williamson correctly recognized that MN’s criticisms challenged not only the position taken by the Dominicans of Avrille on the validity of the Popes of the Conciliar Church but all other Traditional Catholics holding a similar view responded on behalf of the Avrille religious community.

Bishop Williamson, in his blithe and winsome way, dismisses Monsieur MN’s gravely serious charges with a mere wave of the ecclesiastical hand.  The Bishop’s arguments can be summed up as follows:

The Pope’s authority doesn’t include the authority to lead me into heresy.

I recognize the teaching of the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Popes and Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Bishops prior to Vatican II is infallible but I reject any teaching of post-Vatican II Popes that contradict previously defined doctrine.  

In refusing what the Conciliar Popes teach I am not actually refusing…just using my God given abilities to recognize their errors and contradictions to previous doctrine.

The blatant logical contradiction embedded in the first statement, that a man whom he resolutely maintains is the Vicar of Christ could also be guilty of leading the entire Church into heresy, provides us with a classic example of cognitive dissonance impossible to ignore.  For implicit in this statement is a contradiction in terms so stark that, when expressed clearly, renders the statement completely nonsensical, i.e. a person could be at one and the same time both the Vicar of Christ and a Manifest Heretic actively working for the destruction of souls! 

There is also a very inconvenient corollary lurking in Bishop Williamson’s confused explanation of his position; if we have a valid Pope, the true Vicar of Christ on earth, then Bishop Williamson must be, by definition, in schism and no longer a member of the Church!  These conclusions cannot be evaded, either the Pope has complete authority over the jurisdiction and government of the Church as defined in Paster Aeternus, or Bishop Williamson is the ultimate judge, able to define the limits of Papal authority.  Bishop Williamson appears to be untroubled by the logical incompatibility of the theological propositions he presents to us in this article, and he attempts to resolve this apparent incompatibility in the much the same manner he has adopted in the past when dealing with similar theological issues…to ignore any apparent contradictions and to dismiss any criticisms as irrelevant. 

The remainder of Bishop Williamson’s response to Monsieur MN’s objections are simply variations on his initial theme that the Pope may declaim but he decides.  He correctly draws our attention to the undeniable fact that some important pronouncements of the “Conciliar Church” clearly contradict the infallible Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church and the dogmatic declarations of former Popes.  He appeals to the very same tradition to justify his novel response to these contradictions. However, while the contradictions are themselves undeniable, the Bishop’s deliberate course of action is not condoned by the traditional authority of the institution to which he appeals.  On the contrary, the Church has always condemned those who have the temerity to oppose the decisions of its Popes, laws, and traditions.  The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Pastor Aeternus, is devastatingly clear on this very point and commentaries included in all the manuals of Dogmatic Theology published prior to the debacle of Vatican II have expounded in depth on this very issue; the Bishop’s unorthodox and untenable position finds no support there.

The ease with which +Williamson dismisses the very authority he claims to recognize, the heresies that are implicit in his statements but refuses to acknowledge, and the enormous contradictions imbedded in his arguments, are positively breathtaking in their audacity and presumption.  The duties and responsibilities of a Bishop in the Catholic Church have been clearly defined in its canons and traditions and primarily consist in the sanctification and edification of souls.  Sober judgment, clarity of thought and expression, a deep knowledge of the Faith, and the ability to lead others along the path to salvation, are indispensable traits a Bishop, most especially today, must possess.  Bishop Williamson’s most recent public actions and remarks do not engender confidence that he possesses these indispensable characteristics in any appreciable way.  Bishop Richard Williamson is, in my opinion, piping a dangerous tune leading his followers along a path away from the perennial teaching of the Church.

J. E. Kozin


  1. "Do the Dominicans of Avrille agree with him?" This questions is aimed to narrowly, why pick on the Dominicans or Bishop Williamson, when they are just repeating and holding onto the R&R position that Archbishop Lefebvre held and that is still held by the SSPX, unless Mr. Kozin sees the SSPX as no long R&R and only sees the SSPX as just R (Recognize and no Resist). If that is the case, then he is correct to aim his criticism at only the Resistance, being the only R&R group left, but he should state so.

  2. Having spoken to +Richard Williamson in the past and communicated with him via several emails, I am of the opinion that there is nothing a Vatican II antipope could do to convince this putative 'ex-Anglican' that he is not in fact the pope. For him, there would never be sufficient evidence to justify the sedevacantist conclusion. That is because +Williamson bases his 'apostolate', his 'authority', his whole raison d'ĂȘtre on his resistance to 'papal authority', and like any schismatic, he takes no pleasure in the thought that Almighty God would NEVER permit a true pope to poison His sheep with heresy or sinful rites.

  3. Mr Kozen complains +WIlliamson 'dismisses the very authority he claims to recognize'. This shows Mr Kozen does not understand +Williamson's position. No, +Williamson does not 'dismiss the very authority', he simply DISOBEYs it. There is a difference. If my father, pastor, bishop, or pope asks me to do something sinful, I do not deny his authority by disobeying him, even if I have to continuously disobey continuous requests to do something sinful. All one does when one disobeys authority in this case is acknowledge that authority is being abused. I would be open to consider an argument that +Williamson's position is wrong, but what it is not is a 'blatant logical contradiction'.
    I can not tell whether Mr Kozen is Sede Vacantist or Neo-Conservative. If the former then his position is condemned by Pastor Aeterus which appears to guarantee that there will be always and continuously be a valid Pope. Obviously the term of a conclave is an exception and history tells us it could last a few years, but 60 years appears to be stretching things just a little!
    If Mr Kozen is a Neo-Con, how does he explain the obvious contradictions between the teachings of post V2 popes and the perennial teachings of the Church? There is no fall back to the mythical 'hermeneutic of continuity'. Mons Levebvre gave Card. Ratzinger the opportunity to conform to a 'hermeneutic of continuity' back in '86 with his dubia, but all +Ratzinger did was confirm the rupture. Conciliar popes are clearly teaching heresies.
    The R&R position, may in the long run turn out to be incorrect. I am in no position to judge this way or that. In the mean time R&R, which could also be defined as the 'Faith is greater than obedience' position, remains as an honest attempt to reconcile this crazy state in the Church on the one hand, with authentic Catholic teaching on the other, which is explicitly taught in Paster Aeternas wherein the extent of Papal Infallibility is limited to: 'the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex Cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church'. No V2 or post V2 affirmation falls in line with this criteria. We must then compare these affirmations to the Doctrine of the Church, stick to the latter, and take whatever consequence comes our way as a result.
    Paul McK

    1. Finally someone who is not full of prunes, as my grandmother used to say. I agree with Paul McK wholeheartedly. What is all this about? The position of Bishop Williamson and the Society has been the same all along since our beloved Archbishop Lefebvre was leading as Founder and Superior General. Nothing has changed. Francis has caused such a stir and it appears to me that the only reason for it is that he has finally stooped to such a level that even the ill-informed can recognize that he is a heretic. But he is still pope if he was canonically elected and how can anyone know for certain that he wasn't? We can only go by what is apparent. And apparently he is the Pope. I will repeat one point, all of the post-Conciliar popes have been guilty of heresy if they have adhered to the false teachings contained in the Second Vatican Council. How difficult that seems to be for so many to grasp. It is so easy! Those who believe as we did before the Council are Catholic, those who believe everything the Council taught are not Catholic any more. God bless Bishop Williamson, the Monks of Avrille, and all of the traditional bishops, priests and monks who are doing their best to get through this darkest hour in the history of the Church. There are so many trying to stir up discontent and paranoia with no real purpose. None of us knows with certainty these and none of us would be willing to bet our souls we did know absolutely and without a doubt who the Pope is right now. God isn't going to punish us for praying for Francis and also our last pope, Benedict. We might, however, have a difficult time explaining why we didn't pray for either of them.

    2. "If my father, pastor, bishop, or pope asks me to do something sinful, I do not deny his authority by disobeying him, even if I have to continuously disobey continuous requests to do something sinful. All one does when one disobeys authority in this case is acknowledge that authority is being abused."

      This is well stated. My position is that I presume that PF is a valid pope, until and unless it is proven otherwise by a competent authority. Who would be the competent authority? I don't know. But I know it is not I. However, I will acknowledge that the questions raised by the sedevacantists are becoming increasingly legitimate, because of the seriousness of the current crisis of the papacy.

    3. IF PF is the pope can we all agree that Benedict XVI is then the antipope?

      All V2 issues a side, if we look at it from different angle- definition of antipope according to the Catholic Encyclopedia -"A false claimant of the Holy See in opposition to a pontiff canonically elected.

      Correct me if I'm wrong.

      Premise 1: There are two people in Vatican claiming the title of pope at the same time.

      Premise 2: Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302: “… Of the one and only Church there is one body, one head, not two heads as a monster…”[46]
      (so no Emeritus nonsense)

      Conclusion-:Logically, one of them is an antipope, as Church is not a two headed monster.

      If Benedict XVI wants me to accept PF as pope, he should stop wearing white, take off the fisherman's ring, stop responding to "Your Holiness", drop the title pope, move out of the Vatican etc..

    4. Chojnowski, fleeing the Cross and Passion of the Church, taking the great leap over the edge it appears, logically will be thinking soon you can never go to Confession again or receive the consolation of the Last Rites, except in the remotest corners where a priest he, as an amateur Canon Lawyer, can be found. Poor man. Pray for him but you'd be advised to stay away from him until he fully returns to the Faith. The Arian crisis of old was very bad and very long, but Catholics knew that even sacraments performed by heretics are valid if there is a right intention. Nor were the people excommunicated for their confusions.

    5. Dear Sir/Madam,
      You cannot know anything about me if you say that I am fleeing the Cross and the Passion of the Church. Being born in 1965, I have known nothing other than the Passion of the Church. I do go to Confession to a validly ordained priest, of whose Orders I am certain. Being in the Post Falls/Spokane area, there are traditional priests galore. Explain, since you say it on my own blog, exactly which article of the faith I have departed from OR don't say that I have departed from the faith. If you remember St. Hermenigild, he died rather than receive holy communion from an Arian heretic. Not being a theologian, I would still say that there is a WHOLE WORLD OF DIFFERENCE between an Arian who was a Neo-Platonist philosophically, from a Neo-Modernist who is an EPISTEMOLOGICAL RELATIVIST AND SUBJECTIVIST. How you get proper intention out of phenomenology, existentialism, or Kantianism is anyone's guess.

    6. Also, if you put your own name on your direct attack on me, please have the decency to put your own name on the comment section so that I know who I am dealing with and from which angle they are coming at me.

  4. Jim

    When I submitted my article for publication I expected that my comments would stimulate some discussion and I looked forward to reading whatever counterarguments it would engender and what constructive criticism might be offered. Unfortunately, the outspoken yet timidly unidentified members of the Tradgruppen who have taken the time to respond to my little essay seem to have confused labels with ideas and tantrums for arguments. One of those responding couldn’t even get his labels straight; I was under the impression that the term “neo-con referred to a member of a politico/military group that advocated bombing people they didn’t like from a safe distance, does it now describe someone who disagrees with Bishop Williamson?

    In any event, for those of you who commented on my article and might be interested in responding to commentary in the future in a more adult and civilized manner, let me offer some advice; first, labels may express your deeply held sentiments but labels convey neither concrete thoughts nor clearly expressed opinions and are guaranteed to make an unfavorable impression on any reasonable person…except for those to whom the use of labels is the highest form of intellectual expression; second, tantrums are infantile so try to get your responses at least up to the juvenile level if you expect your remarks to be noticed; third, vulgarities, even those passed on to you by your grandmother, are simply rude, tasteless, and discourteous…an unmistakable indication of a weak intellect and the obvious result of a poor family environment. I hope this helps.



  5. Shouldn’t the followers of Christ be kind to one another even when they disagree? My friend and colleague Fr. Christopher Hunter has often noted the lack of charity among traditional Catholics (as did Archbishop Lefebvre who famously began to smile in his portraits to counteract the “if looks could kill” faces he encountered in U.S. chapels). Fr. Hunter points to the way in which the early Catholics converted many pagan Romans based on the latter’s observation concerning the first Christians, “See how they love each other!” Can this be said of us?

    I am gratified that someone of Dr. Chojnowski’s stature operates a serious blog containing challenging intellectual and theological questions faced candidly. His blog appears to be open to most any reasonably literate critic and this too is a wonder since some trad Catholic blogs are operated as private fiefdoms, with a “My way or the highway” orientation by the blog owner. The lively comments in this thread are evidence of a refreshing willingness to inquire and debate.

    With regard to this issue at hand, the Pastor Aeterus doctrine ought to be faced in all its self-contradictions: there will always be a continuously valid pope. Really? I am not a sedevacantist, and I adhere to Archbishop Lefebvre's fundamental position, but let us recall that his position was articulated in the pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II. Is a “valid” pope someone who does not issue magisterial judgments at variance with Biblical and Patristic dogma? If so, Francis is not valid. No one can depose a pope; that’s all I believe the Archbishop was saying. But it seems to me that Satan can do a great deal with the “valid pope" cover: he can inflict his incremental decay and subversion of the Church. John Paul II radically altered the Church’s teaching on Judaism and because he was “valid” that revolution concerning Judaism has been implemented. Francis has radically altered the Church’s teaching on marriage. His “validity” allows that teaching to gradually take hold of the Church. This incremental decay process predates Vatican II. Other “valid” popes radically altered the immemorial dogma on usury (by pastoral means, like Francis does; cf “Usury in Christendom: The Moral Sin that Was and Now is Not”), and protected Kabbalism, Hermeticism and Neo-platonism in the hierarchy from the Renaissance onward (cf. "The Occult Renaissance Church of Rome”).
    Where there is the search for Truth there is Jesus Christ -- that should be our highest commitment. God sends us these trials to open our eyes.


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