Consistorial allocution of May 24, 1976
Paul VI in 1976: Vatican II is Binding, New Mass is Obligatory and Replaces the Old
Abp. Giovanni Montini played “Pope Paul VI” from 1963-78
(image credit: Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo)
If you’ve been researching Catholic Traditionalism for a while, chances are you’ve come across the argument made by recognize-and-resist apologists that “Pope” Paul VI (1963-78) himself confirmed that his Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was neither infallible nor binding.
The line of argumentation given in Taylor Marshall’s 2019 book Infiltration is characteristic of this approach:
Pope Paul VI promulgated Dignitatis humanae on 7 December 1965, and the next day he closed the Second Vatican Council and stated: “The magisterium of the Church did not wish to pronounce itself under the form of extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements” [footnote: Pope Paul VI, Discourse closing Vatican II, 7 December 1965]. This effectively hamstrung the Council. It’s true that theological statements are made throughout the Conciliar documents. Yet the Council made no extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements. Nothing binding came from Vatican II. Paul VI clarified this a little over one month later when he explained: “In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it has avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogma carrying the mark of infallibility” [footnote: Pope Paul VI, Audience of 12 January 1966]. By a divine miracle, the pope of Vatican II taught that Vatican II contained no extraordinary dogma and did not carry the mark of infallibility — meaning the documents of Vatican II are fallible and may contain error. Unlike the previous twenty ecumenical councils, the pope placed an asterisk next to Vatican II.
(Taylor R. Marshall, Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within [Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019], p. 143; italics given.)
What sounds like a plausible case at first, quickly shows itself to be fallacious if one looks up what Paul VI really said in context. We’ve addressed this in the past:
Not only did Paul VI not say that his council isn’t binding, he actually said quite the opposite. We have touched on this before:
- Paul VI in 1970 calls Vatican II “Authoritative Compendium of Doctrine”
- Did Vatican II Teach Infallibly? The Ordinary and Universal Magisterium
More fundamentally, recognize-and-resist traditionalists have long believed, and perpetuated, the myth that Catholics are not bound to assent to Church teaching unless it meets the criteria for infallibility, or at least unless it has been “believed always, everywhere, and by all.” But that is simply not true, nor does it sufficiently reflect their true position, which is not so much that Vatican II and the teachings of the post-conciliar magisterium aren’t binding — which would still allow one the option of embracing them –; rather, they maintain that Novus Ordo doctrines are actually false and dangerous and therefore no Catholic is even permitted to assent to them.
This popular pseudo-traditionlist myth is refuted in the following posts:
- What are Catholics Bound to Believe?
- Recognize-and-OBEY is the traditional Catholic Doctrine
- Can we reject Magisterial Teaching if it wasn’t believed Always, Everywhere, and by All?
- Denying the Papacy to affirm Francis is Pope: John Salza’s Conundrum
Nevertheless, although it should stand to reason that whoever accepts Paul VI as a true Pope also has to accept his teachings and laws, Paul spelled it out for those still opposed to the conciliar agenda.
On May 24, 1976, the false pope presided over a consistory at which he created 20 new “cardinals”. As is customary, he also gave an address for the occasion, and he dedicated a good amount of it to deliver a monumental spanking to Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, his Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), and those who follow them.
What’s significant about this speech is that Paul VI, wearing his conservative hat for a while, clarifies a number of things about the reforms of Vatican II and thereby confounds those who assert the contrary. For example, he leaves no doubt that Vatican II is binding, that the New Mass is likewise obligatory, and that this new liturgy replaced the prior (traditional) one.
Front page of L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, June 3, 1976
The consistorial allocution of May 24, 1976, is a historic milestone in the traditionalist dispute about the Vatican II Church. As its full text in English had apparently never before been released on the internet, we have published it in its entirety here:
The following excerpts from this address pertain directly to the case of Abp. Lefebvre and his resistance to the conciliar and post-conciliar program:
…[T]here are those who, under the pretext of a greater fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium, systematically refuse the teaching of the Council itself, its application and the reforms that stem from it, its gradual application by the Apostolic See and the Episcopal Conferences, under our authority, willed by Christ. Discredit is cast upon the authority of the Church in the name of a Tradition, to which respect is professed only materially and verbally. The faithful are drawn away from the bonds of obedience to the See of Peter and to their rightful Bishops; today’s authority is rejected in the name of yesterday’s. And the fact is all the more serious in that the opposition of which we are speaking is not only encouraged by some priests, but is led by a Prelate, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who nevertheless still has our respect.
It is so painful to take note of this; but how can we not see in such an attitude—whatever may be these people’s intentions—the placing of themselves outside obedience and communion with the Successor of Peter and therefore outside the Church?
For this, unfortunately, is the logical consequence, when, that is, it is held as preferable to disobey with the pretext of preserving one’s faith intact, and of working in one’s way for the preservation of the Catholic Church, while at the same time refusing to give her effective obedience. And this is said openly! It is even affirmed that the Second Vatican Council is not binding; that the faith would also be in danger because of the reforms and post-conciliar directives, that one has the duty to disobey in order to preserve certain traditions. What traditions? Is it for this group [=Lefebvrists], not the Pope, not the College of Bishops, not the Ecumenical Council, to decide which among the innumerable traditions must be considered as the norm of faith? As you see, Venerable Brothers, such an attitude sets itself up as a judge of that divine will which placed Peter and his lawful Successors at the head of the Church to confirm the brethren in the faith, and to feed the universal flock (cf. Lk 22:32; Jn 21:15 ff.), and which established him as the guarantor and custodian of the deposit of faith.
And this is all the more serious, in particular, when division is introduced precisely where congregavit nos in unum Christi amor [the love of Christ has gathered us into one], in the Liturgy and the Eucharistic Sacrifice, by the refusing of obedience to the norms laid down in the liturgical sphere. It is in the name of Tradition that we ask all our sons and daughters, all the Catholic communities, to celebrate with dignity and fervor the renewed liturgy. The adoption of the new Ordo Missae [order of the Mass] is certainly not left to the free choice of priests or faithful. The instruction of 14 June 1971 has provided for, with the authorization of the Ordinary, the celebration of the Mass in the old form only by aged and infirm priests, who offer the divine Sacrifice sine popolo [without people attending]. The new Ordo was promulgated to take the place of the old, after mature deliberation, following upon the requests of the Second Vatican Council. In no different way did our holy Predecessor Pius V make obligatory the Missal reformed under his authority, following the Council of Tent.
With the same supreme authority that comes from Christ Jesus, we call for the same obedience to all the other liturgical, disciplinary and pastoral reforms which have matured in these years in the implementation of the Council decrees. Any initiative which tries to obstruct them cannot claim the prerogative of rendering a service to the Church; in fact it causes the Church serious damage.
Various times, directly and through our collaborators and other friendly persons, we have called the attention of Archbishop Lefebvre to the seriousness of his behaviour, the irregularity of his principal present initiatives, the inconsistency and often falsity of the doctrinal positions on which he bases this behaviour and these initiatives, and the damage that accrues to the entire Church because of them.
It is with profound sadness but with paternal hope that we once more turn to this confrère of ours, to his collaborators and to those who have let themselves be carried away by them. Oh, certainly, we believe that many of these faithful—at least in the beginning—were in good faith: we also understand their sentimental attachment to habitual forms of worship or of discipline that for a long time had been for them a spiritual support and in which they had found spiritual sustenance. But we are confident that they will reflect with serenity, without closed minds, and they will admit that they can find today the support and sustenance that they are seeking in the renewed forms that the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and we ourself have decreed as being necessary for the good of the Church, her progress in the modern world, and her unity. We therefore exhort yet once again all these brethren and sons and daughters of ours; we beseech them to become aware of the profound wounds that they otherwise cause to the Church, and we invite them again to reflect on Christ’s serious warnings about the unity of the Church (cf. Jn 17:21 ff) and on the obedience that is due to the lawful Pastor placed by him over the universal flock, as a sign of the obedience due to the Father and to the Son (cf. Lk 10:16). We await them with an open heart, with arms ready to embrace them; may they know how to rediscover in humility and edification, to the joy of the whole People of God, the way of unity and of love!
What Paul VI says here about the authority and role of the Roman Pontiff, about the Church, about the necessity of remaining in the bonds of communion, etc., all of that is entirely consonant with the traditional Catholic teaching before Vatican II. In essence, this text could have been written by Pope Pius XII or any of the pre-Vatican II Popes.
Of course Paul VI misused this true teaching about papal authority to push the wicked conciliar revolution. The purpose of our critique here is not to get anyone to follow Paul VI and embrace the council or assist at the abominable Novus Ordo liturgy. Rather, our intent is simply to point out the glaring incongruence in the position of the Lefebvrists and other recognize-and-resist traditionalists. They are trying to defend the traditional Faith but, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Vatican II popes must have been false popes, they are forced to deny that Faith by distorting, nay trashing, the true doctrine on the Papacy. The only way out of this conundrum is Sedevacantism:
- The Stumbling Block of the Papacy: Why Francis doesn’t fit
- Why would Anybody be a Sedevacantist?! A calm and insightful Explanation
Among the Lefebvrists, the “papal” address of May 24, 1976, predictably fell on deaf ears.
Instead of loyally submitting to the “Holy Father”, SSPX lay apologist Michael Davies (1936-2004) had the audacity to critique the address, contradicting the “Pope” on various points and presuming to correct him, as it were. His bold assessment of Paul VI’s allocution can be found in his book Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Part I (Kansas City, MO: The Angelus Press, Inc., 1979), pp. 173-191. The text is also available online here.
Filial submission to the Roman Pontiff looks different! The SSPX’s patron, Pope St. Pius X, once explained what obedience to the Pope should look like:
…[T]his is why, when we love the Pope, we do not dispute whether he commands or requires a thing, or seek to know where the strict obligation of obedience lies, or in what matter we must obey; when we love the Pope we do not say that he has not yet spoken clearly — as if he were required to speak his will in every man’s ear, and to utter it not only by word of mouth but in letters and other public documents as well. Nor do we cast doubt on his orders, alleging the pretext which comes easily to the man who does not want to obey, that it is not the Pope who is commanding, but someone in his entourage. We do not limit the field in which he can and ought to exercise his authority; we do not oppose to the Pope’s authority that of other persons — no matter how learned — who differ from the Pope. For whatever may be their learning, they are not holy, for where there is holiness there cannot be disagreement with the Pope.
A few years prior, the same sainted Pope had been very clear about what constitutes the “ultimate and unassailable test of orthodoxy”. His Holiness stated:
…I recommend to you only to remain strong in your determination to be loyal sons of the Church of Jesus Christ, at a time when there are so many who, perhaps without knowing it, have shown themselves disloyal. For the first and greatest criterion of the faith, the ultimate and unassailable test of orthodoxy is obedience to the teaching authority of the Church, which is ever living and infallible, since she was established by Christ to be the columna et firmamentum veritatis, “the pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
Pope Pius then went on to elaborate:
Jesus Christ, who knew our weakness, who came into the world to preach the gospel to the poor above all, chose for the spread of Christianity a very simple means adapted to the capacity of all men and suited to every age: a means which required neither learning, nor research, nor culture, nor rationalization, but only willing ears to hear, and simplicity of heart to obey. This is why St. Paul says: fides ex auditu (Rom 10:17), faith comes not by sight, but by hearing, from the living authority of the Church, a visible society composed of masters and disciples, of rulers and of governed, of shepherds and sheep and lambs. Jesus Christ Himself has laid on his disciples the duty of hearing the instructions of their masters, on subjects of living in submission to the dictates of rulers, on sheep and lambs of following with docility in the footsteps of their shepherds. And to shepherds, to rulers, and to teachers He has said, Docete omnes gentes. Spiritus veritatis docebit vos omnem veritatem. Ecce ego vobiscum sum usque ad consummationem sæculi (Mt 28:19-20): “Going, teach ye all nations. The Spirit of truth will teach you all truth. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
Pius X also refuted those who would falsify the true notion of obedience and rebuked those who would look for ways to dismiss or minimize the authority of the lawful shepherds:
From these facts you can see how far astray are those Catholics, who, in the name of historical and philosophical criticism and that tendentious spirit which has invaded every field, put in the foremost rank the religious question itself, insinuating that by study and research we should form a religious conscience in harmony with our times, or, as they say, “modern”. And so, with a system of sophisms and errors they falsify the concept of obedience inculcated by the Church; they arrogate to themselves the right of judging the actions of authority even to the extent of ridiculing them; they attribute to themselves a mission to impose a reform — a mission which they have received neither from God nor from any authority. They limit obedience to purely exterior actions, even if they do not resist authority or rebel against it, opposing the faulty judgment of some individual without any real competence, or of their own inner conscience deceived by vain subtleties, to the judgment and commandment of the one who by divine mandate is their lawful judge, master, and shepherd.
Oh, my dear young men! Listen to the words of him who truly wishes you well: do not let yourselves be seduced by mere outward show, but be strong to resist illusions and flatteries and you will be saved!
But the official Church, they say, wants ignorance, impedes the development of religious studies; an intolerable discipline imposes silence. No, dear students: the Church, representing Jesus Christ, continually preaches those same words He addressed to the Jews: Mea doctrina non est mea, sed eius qui misit me; “My doctrine is not mine, but his that send me”; and He added: Si quis voluerit voluntatem eius facere, cognoscet de doctrina, utrum ex Deo sit, an ego a meipso loquar: “If any man will do the will of him, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (Jn 7:16-17). That is why the Church has always honored, not only the early Fathers and Doctors, but also the writers of every age who have studied and published works to spread the truth, to defend it against the attacks of unbelievers, and to throw into relief the absolute harmony which exists between faith and reason.
Do not let yourselves be deceived by the subtle declarations of others who do not cease to pretend that they wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight for her so that she will not lose the masses, to work for the Church so that she will come to understand the times and so to win back the people and attach them to herself. Judge these men according to their works. If they maltreat and despise the ministers of the Church and even the Pope; if they try by every means to minimize their authority, to evade their direction, and to disregard their counsels; if they do not fear to raise the standard of rebellion, what Church are these men speaking about? Not, certainly, of that Church established super fundamentum Apostolorum et Prophetarum, ipso summo angulari lapide, Christo Jesus: “upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20). So We must have ever before our mind’s eye that counsel of St. Paul to the Galatians: “If we ourselves or if an angel should teach you any other Gospel than that which we have taught you, let him be anathema” (Gal 1:8).
(Pope St. Pius X, Address Con Vera Soddisfazione, May 10, 1909; in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. I (1909), pp. 461-464; underlining added. Translation taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 716-720; italics given.)
Perhaps Mr. Davies and the entire SSPX should have taken salutary instruction from their holy patron, the very Supreme Pontiff whom they profess to revere, and whose teachings they supposedly seek to uphold and defend!
If, on the other hand, it becomes manifestly absurd and impossible to attempt to apply the Catholic doctrine regarding the Papacy to Paul VI and his successors, then perhaps it is finally time to recognize the elephant in the living room.
Image sources: alamy.com / Osservatore Romano (screenshot)
License: rights-managed / fair use