Discernment is necessary

A Catholic, legitimately perplexed, can rely upon the infallible and solid former teachings of the Church, and refuse all statements that break with Tradition.

The constitution Dei Filius of Vatican Council I condemns as impossible the idea:


that to the dogmas declared by the Church a meaning must sometimes be attributed according to the progress of science, different from that which the Church has understood and understands. 

Reference point

A Catholic who is legitimately perplexed can therefore rely on the infallible and certain teachings of the past and reject any statement that breaks with that Tradition, by the mere fact that it introduces a different meaning from the one that has been asserted in the preaching of the Church’s Magisterium, and with greater reason if it contradicts that traditional meaning. This act of discernment cannot be condemned as though it reintroduced the principle of individual interpretation [libre examen], since it is performed in reliance on the supernatural authority of God who reveals, as that authority is manifested to the discerning believer by means of the unquestionable teachings of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. 

This judgment of right reason, enlightened by faith, served as a landmark for Archbishop Lefebvre, and still serves as one for the Society of St. Pius X in its critique of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.


 We are not against the pope as pope, but we are against the pope who teaches us things that were condemned by his predecessors. 1


This is why we must judge the documents of the Council in the light of Tradition, in the sense that we reject those that are contrary to Tradition, we interpret those that are ambiguous according to Tradition, and we accept those that are in conformity with Tradition. 2

The disputed points

Out of an ecumenical concern, the liturgical reform of Paul VI marked a certain regression with regard to explanations given by the Magisterium from the Council of Trent to Pius XII. The question arises first of all with respect to the Mass, but also with respect to the other sacraments. 

    • 1Archbishop Lefebvre, sermon at Ecône 14th May 1989 – translated from “Vu de haut n° 13" (automne 2006), page 70 […]
    • 2Archbishop Lefebvre, Conference at Ecône, 2nd December 1982 – translated from “Vu de haut n° 13” (automne 2006), page 57.

    Moreover, on at least three points, the teachings of Vatican Council II appear to be, if not in logical contradiction, then at least difficult to reconcile with the statements of the earlier traditional Magisterium.

    1. Its doctrine on religious liberty, as expressed in paragraph 2 of the declaration Dignitatis humanae, contradicts the teachings of Pope Gregory XVI in Mirari vos and of Pius IX in Quanta cura, as well as those of Leo XIII in Immortale Dei and those of Pius XI in Quas primas.

    2. Its doctrine on the Church, as expressed in paragraph 8 of the constitution Lumen gentium, contradicts the teachings of Pope Pius XII in Mystici corporis and Humani generis; its doctrine on ecumenism, as expressed in paragraph 8 of Lumen gentium and paragraph 3 of the decree Unitatis redintegratio, contradicts the teachings of Pius IX in propositions 16 and 17 of the Syllabus, those of Leo XIII in Satis cogitum, and those of Pius XI in Mortalium animos.

    3. Its doctrine on collegiality, as expressed in paragraph 22 of the constitution Lumen gentium, including paragraph 3 of the Nota praevia [Preliminary Note], calls into question the teachings of Vatican Council I on the uniqueness of the subject of supreme authority in the Church in the constitution Pastor aeternus

    In addition, on the level of ecclesiology, there are ambiguities or novelties that appear chiefly with the new definition of the Church as sacrament and the vague notion of the common priesthood [of the faithful].

    This liturgical reform, this threefold opposition and these two main ambiguities logically raise the question: What underlying principles could explain the thoroughgoing novelty of the pastoral magisterium introduced at Vatican II? 

    To find out more:

    • John XXIII, “Address Delivered by His Holiness Pope John XXIII at the Solemn Opening of the Second Vatican Council,” English edition by Vatican Translations (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference, no date), pp. 3-12. Pope John XXIII: Address to the College of Cardinals, 23rd December 1962
    • John XXIII, “Allocution to the Sacred College of Cardinals, December 23, 1962,” in The Pope Speaks....
    • ​Paul VI, “Address at the Opening of the Second Session of Vatican Council II, September 29, 1963,” in The Pope Speaks....
    • Paul VI, “Address at the Conclusion of the Council, December 7, 1965,” in Council Daybook: Vatican II, Section 4 (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1966), p. 286.
    • Archbishop Lefebvre, I Accuse the Council (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 1982), especially the Reply to Cardinal Ottaviani on December 20, 1966, pp. 99-105.
    • Archbishop Lefebvre, Open Letter to Confused Catholics (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 19923).
    • Archbishop Lefebvre, They Have Uncrowned Him (Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press, 19943).
    • Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century, translated by John P. Parsons (Kansas City, Missouri: Sarto House, 1996).
    • Fr. Matthias Gaudron, The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church (Angelus Press, 2012).
    • Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, Vatican II en debat (Courrier de Rome, 2012).