DOCTRINE UNDER-ESTIMATED? OR, BLAMING THE VICTIM?
An Exchange of Views between Bishop Richard Williamson and E. Michael Jones
In a generally thoughtful magazine from the USA, “Culture Wars”, the Editor recently took me personally to task, together with the Society of St Pius X as a whole, for wilfully cutting ourselves off from the mainstream Catholic Church. Let me present as briefly and as fairly as possible E. Michael Jones’ argument, with its main steps lettered to facilitate the answer:--
His main point is that the problem of Vatican II is not doctrinal: “(A) The Council documents are not themselves responsible for any of the craziness following the Council in the name of its “spirit”. As for the documents themselves, they are sometimes ambiguous, but (B) God is always with His Church, which is why (C) only something Catholic can gain the assent of the world’s assembled bishops, as happened at Vatican II. (D) Therefore it can and must suffice to interpret the ambiguities in the light of Tradition, as Archbishop Lefebvre himself once proposed to do.
“Therefore (E) Vatican II is Traditional, and any problem between Rome and the SSPX cannot be doctrinal. (F) Therefore the SSPX’s real problem is that it refuses communion out of a fear of contamination, (G) proceeding from its schismatic lack of charity. (H) The ensuing guilt they cover up by pretending that the Church is in an unprecedented emergency, brought on by the anti-doctrine of Vatican II. (I) Therefore the SSPX is saying that the Church has failed in its mission, and that the SSPX is the Church. Nonsense! SSPX bishops, sign over to Rome!”
REPLY: the problem of Vatican II is ESSENTIALLY doctrinal. (A) Alas, the Vatican II documents are indeed responsible for the “spirit” of Vatican II and its crazy aftermath. Their very ambiguity, recognized by E.M.J., let the craziness loose. (B) God is indeed with His Church, but He leaves His churchmen free to choose to do it great, but never fatal, damage (cf.Lk. XVIII, 8). (C) Thus the mass of Catholic bishops He let fall in the appalling Arian crisis of the fourth century. What happened once is happening again, only worse. (D) At an early stage in the post-Conciliar fight for Tradition, it may have been reasonable to appeal for Vatican II to be interpreted in the light of Tradition, but that stage is long past. The ambiguity’s bitter fruits have long since proved that the subtly poisoned Conciliar documents cannot be salvaged.
Thus (E) the Council is not Traditional, and the Rome-SSPX clash is ESSENTIALLY doctrinal, so (F) there is good reason to fear contamination, because of Vatican II’s false doctrine -- it is leading souls to Hell. (G) Nor is there a schismatic mentality amongst (non-sedevacantist) Traditionalists, even though (H) the Church is in the thick of the worst emergency of her entire history. (I) But just as in the Arian crisis the few bishops who kept the Faith proved that the Church had not absolutely failed, so today the SSPX belongs to the Church and is keeping the Faith, without remotely pretending to replace, or to be on its own, the Church.
Michael, when, in all Church history, were her assembled bishops deliberately ambiguous? You admit the ambiguity of Vatican II. When did churchmen ever resort to ambiguity unless it was to pave the way for heresy? In Our Lord’s Church, yes is to be yes, and no is to be no (Mt.V, 37).
The assembled bishops were not deliberately ambiguous nor did they issue deliberately ambiguous statements. The assembled bishops deliberated on and called for modifications to documents that were influenced by the machinations of men whom history has shown to be double agents. I am referring to people like Malachi Martin, who was a paid agent of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee at the council, and John Courtney Murray, who was working for Henry Luce’s Time/Life empire, which had intimate connections with the CIA. The first story has been told pretty much in full; the second will appear in the pages of Culture Wars and a forthcoming book by David Wemhoff.
To say that Malachi Martin and the Luce cabal at Time/Life, which included John Courtney Murray, tried to influence the council is a fact which is now part of the historical record. To say that they succeeded is something else again. To say that the bishops of the world were in league with Fathers Martin and Murray is nothing short of preposterous. Does this mean that Archbishop Lefebvre was in league with John Courtney Murray? Archbishop Lefebvre approved Dignitatis Humanae. Was he being “deliberately ambiguous” when he did? Did he do so “to pave the way for heresy”?
I have never claimed that the Council Fathers issued deliberately ambiguous statements. In my chapter on Malachi Martin and the Jews in The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit, I explain in detail how the bishops tried to eliminate what they saw as error in the drafts that led up to Nostra Aetate. As I point out in my book, the Jews backing Malachi Martin’s efforts were not happy with the final result.
Even if the Council Fathers failed to eliminate every ambiguity from the texts they approved, that contingency can be dealt with by the formula which Archbishop Lefebvre endorsed, namely, “I accept Vatican II in the light of tradition.” This formula can resolve all doctrinal difficulties. The fact that Bishop Williamson can’t bring himself to sign it is a tragedy for the Church which I lament bitterly and which I lamented to him personally when we met. The SSPX would be more effective if it rejoined the Church, and the Church would be much more effective in dealing with the world’s problems if Bishop Williamson spent less time wasting his considerable talents on blaming the victim.
Bishop Williamson says: “At an early stage in the post-Conciliar fight for Tradition, it may have been reasonable to appeal for Vatican II to be interpreted in the light of Tradition, but that stage is long past.” If it was reasonable in the past, it remains reasonable today. And it will remain reasonable in the future. It is always Catholic to interpret in the light of tradition. Indeed, I believe it is now more necessary than ever.
Bishop Richard Williamson belongs to the Society of St Pius X. He writes from Wimbeldon, England.
E. Michael Jones is the editor of Culture Wars.
Index of SSPX articles
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