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.
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