Traditionalist Catholic

Traditionalist Catholic

Traditionalist Catholics are Roman Catholics who believe that there should be a restoration of many or all of the liturgical forms, public and private devotions and presentations of Catholic teachings which prevailed in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).[1] They are most commonly associated with an attachment to the Mass liturgy in general use in that time period (often called the Tridentine Mass, the Traditional Mass or the Latin Mass), but their theological and practical concerns are broader in scope.

Traditionalist Catholics are distinct from other groups of Catholics who have a broadly "traditional" or conservative outlook, since the latter tend to accept in general terms the legitimacy of the changes associated with the Second Vatican Council.



Traditionalist Catholics generally prefer to be referred to either simply as Catholics or, if a distinction must be made, as "traditional Catholics" (with a lower-case T). However, since Roman Catholics in general consider themselves to be "traditional" in the sense of being faithful to historical Catholic teaching,[2] the term "traditionalist Catholics" is used in this article as a means of clearly distinguishing them from other Roman Catholics.

Different types of traditionalists

Tridentine Mass in the chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, Palm Sunday 2009

Traditionalist Catholics may be divided into four broad groups.

Traditionalists in good standing with the Holy See

Several officially-approved societies of traditionalist priests exist, most notably the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS), the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IGS), the Servants of Jesus and Mary (Servi Jesu et Mariae, SJM), the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem (CRNJ), the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius (SJC), the Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer, and the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney (PAASJV). There are also multiple monastic communities, including the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek, the Monks of Norcia (, and the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. These accept in principle the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and regard the changes associated with the Council (such as the revision of the Mass liturgy) as legitimate, but prefer the older forms and, with the approval of the Holy See, use those forms.[3]

In addition, many traditionalist Catholics in good standing with Rome are served by local diocesan or religious priests who are willing and able to offer the traditional rites. Many other Catholics sympathize or identify as traditionalist who are not able to attend the traditional liturgy regularly because it is not offered in their area (at least not with regular canonical standing) and so they more or less reluctantly attend the Mass of Paul VI, the current ordinary or normal[4] Roman Rite of Mass following the Second Vatican Council.

Catholics in good standing with Rome who attend the traditional liturgy have diverse worldviews and outlooks ranging from traditional to otherwise neo-conservative.[5]

Traditionalists not in good standing with the Holy See

Some traditionalists practise their faith outside the official structures of the Church, though they affirm their loyalty to the Church and to the papacy. The largest priestly society to fit this description is the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which was established in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a founding figure of Catholic traditionalism. Members of this category view the post-Conciliar changes as being doctrinally and pastorally unacceptable. The fact that they recognise the official Church hierarchy while rejecting its decisions draws accusations of disloyalty and disobedience from the preceding groups — whom this group in turn accuse of blind, un-Catholic obedience. Discussions between the SSPX and the Holy See have been in progress for some years, and in January 2009 the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops remitted the excommunications which the Congregation had declared to have been incurred by the Society's bishops in 1988. He further expressed the hope that the Society would speedily return to full communion with the Church by showing "true fidelity and true acknowledgment of the Magisterium and the authority of the pope".[6]


Sedevacantists are those who believe the Pope or previous Popes have fallen into heresy and therefore the Pope and those bishops in union with him have forfeited their authority. Such people neither possess nor seek the approval of the Church hierarchy. The terms sedevacantist and sedevacantism derive from the Latin phrase sede vacante: "while the chair [of Peter] is vacant", a term which is normally applied to the period between the death of one pope and the election of his successor. Sedevacantists usually date the vacancy of the papacy from the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, though some regard Pope John XXIII (1958–1963) as a true pope. Sedevacantist groups include the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV) and the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI).


Conclavism is the belief and practice of some who, claiming that Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II and other recent occupants of the papal see are not true popes, elect someone else and propose him as the true pope to whom the allegiance of Catholics is due. They are often classified as sedevacantists because they reject the official papal succession for the same reasons. Conclavist groups include the "true Catholic Church", the Palmarian Catholic Church, and the followers of David Bawden ("Pope Michael").

Traditionalist positions

Traditionalist Catholics believe that they are preserving Catholic orthodoxy by not accepting all changes introduced since the Second Vatican Council, changes that some of them have described as amounting to a "veritable revolution". They claim that the positions now taken by mainstream Catholics—even conservative Catholics—would have been considered "modernist" or "liberal" at the time of the Council, and that they themselves hold positions that were then considered "conservative" or "traditional".

Many traditionalists further believe that errors have crept into the presentation and understanding of Catholic teachings since the time of the Council. They attribute the blame for this to liberal interpretations of the Conciliar documents, to harmful post-Conciliar pastoral decisions, to the text of the Conciliar documents themselves, or to some combination of these.

Most traditionalists view the Council as a valid, albeit problematic, Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, though most sedevacantists regard it as wholly invalid. It is common for traditionalists in dispute with Rome to affirm that the Council was "pastoral", and hence that its decrees were not absolutely binding on Catholics in the same way as the dogmatic decrees of other Ecumenical Councils. Support for this view is sought in Pope John XXIII's Opening Address to the Council, Pope Paul VI's closing address, statements from Pope Benedict XVI, and the lack of formal dogmatic definitions in the Conciliar documents.

Pope Benedict XVI has contrasted the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" which many traditionalists apply to the Council with the "hermeneutic of reform" put forward by the Church authorities, quoting with approval Pope John XXIII's statement that the Council was intended to "transmit [Catholic] doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion".[7] He made a similar point in a speech to the bishops of Chile in 1988, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger:

[Archbishop Lefebvre] declared that he has finally understood that the agreement he signed aimed only at integrating his foundation into the 'Conciliar Church'. The Catholic Church in union with the Pope is, according to him, the 'Conciliar Church' which has broken with its own past. It seems indeed that he is no longer able to see that we are dealing with the Catholic Church in the totality of its Tradition, and that Vatican II belongs to that.[8]

There is some tension between different traditionalist groups at the official level: the SSPX, for example, condemns the FSSP and attendance at its Masses.[9] The SSPX itself also is often in conflict with other traditionalists. In fact, the only common denominator that is held by all the groups identifying as traditionalist is love of the traditional liturgy and, usually, suspicion of modern "neoconservative" Catholicism, which is viewed as shallow, ahistorical, and intellectually dishonest. On other questions, there are a variety of opinions.

Many traditionalist Catholics associate themselves with a particular priestly society. Other small groups of traditionalists sometimes form around an individual "independent" priest who has no ties with any particular organisation.

Some leaders of Independent Catholic Churches also claim to be traditionalist Catholics and to be preserving the Tridentine Mass and ancient traditions. Examples are the Apostolic Catholic Church, the Canonical Old Roman Catholic Church, and the Fraternité Notre-Dame.

Traditionalists' claims of discontinuity and rupture

Traditionalists' claims that substantive changes have taken place in Catholic teaching and practice since the Council often crystallise around the following specific alleged examples, in which others see not what Pope Benedict XVI called "discontinuity and rupture", but what he called "renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us":[7]

  • A new ecclesiology which they claim fails to recognise the Catholic Church as the one true church established by Jesus Christ, and instead holds that the true church "subsists in" the Catholic Church in an unclear way. They claim that this contradicts Pope Pius XII's Mystici Corporis Christi and other papal documents.
  • A new ecumenism which they see as aiming at a false pan-Christian religious unity which does not require non-Catholics to convert to the Catholic faith. They see this as contradicting the teachings of the Bible, Pope Pius XI's Mortalium Animos, Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis and other documents.
  • Acceptance of the principle of religious liberty, based on one interpretation of Second Vatican Council's decree Dignitatis Humanae, allegedly in contradiction to Pope Pius IX's teachings in Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Errors.
  • A revision of the Mass liturgy of the Roman rite. They affirm that this revision de-emphasises the central Catholic doctrines that the Mass is a true sacrifice and that the bread and wine are changed through transubstantiation into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, that it has been stripped of important prayers, that it is centered on the congregation rather than on God, that it is less beautiful and spiritually edifying, and that it omits certain Bible readings that mention subjects such as hell, miracles, and sin. Traditionalists hold differing opinions on the validity and acceptability of the revised rite of Mass:
    • Some see it as valid, and as acceptable when necessary, though the older rite should be attended when possible.
    • Some, including the leadership of the Society of St Pius X, hold that it is in principle valid as a sacramental rite but maintain that the revisions in the liturgy are displeasing to God, and that it is often celebrated improperly to the extent of being sacramentally invalid. They therefore generally refuse to attend it.
    • Some, including many sedevacantists, see it as categorically invalid in principle and entirely unacceptable.[10]
    • Some hold that celebration of any modern-language translation even of the Tridentine Mass would have to be presumed invalid.[11]
  • An inappropriate emphasis on the "dignity of man", which they claim ignores original sin and the need for supernatural grace, and which they also claim has led to a utopianism that sees world peace as possible without recognising the kingship of Christ. They see this orientation as contradicting Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas, Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, and other papal and conciliar documents.
  • A teaching on collegiality that attributes to the bishops of the world a share, with the Pope, of responsibility for the Church's governance in a way that they claim is destructive of papal authority and encourages a "national" church mentality that undermines the primacy of the Holy See. They also claim that national bishops' conferences, whose influence was greatly increased following the Council, "diminish the personal responsibility of bishop[s]" within their dioceses.[2]
  • A new and critical attitude towards the Bible that, they say, contradicts Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus and Benedict XV's Spiritus Paraclitus, among other documents.
  • A departure from the traditional belief that the Church and the world are at variance with one another to some degree, and that the Church has enemies. They believe that Pope Pius X's warnings in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Leo XIII's Humanum Genus and other papal warnings against Freemasonry and other alleged enemies of Christianity have gone unheeded.

Responses to traditionalists' claims

Those who in response to these criticisms by certain traditionalists defend the decisions of the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent changes made by the Holy See make the following counterclaims:

  • They say that the criticisms are false, exaggerated, or lacking appreciation of the organic character of Tradition, and give as examples traditionalist criticisms that Dignitatis Humanae contradicts the Church's earlier teaching on religious liberty,[12] and that the revised rite of Mass represents a break rather than a prudent development of the earlier liturgy.
  • They say that traditionalists who claim that there has been a break from and discontinuity with the Church's traditional teaching are displaying a Protestant attitude of "private judgement" on matters of doctrine, instead of accepting the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church.[13]
  • They say that such traditionalists fail to distinguish properly between changeable pastoral practices (such as the liturgy of the Mass) and the unchangeable principles of the Catholic faith (such as the dogmas surrounding the Mass).
  • They say that traditionalists of this kind treat papal authority in much the same way as the dissident, liberal Catholics whom traditionalists claim to oppose. While liberals believe that, on sexual matters, "the Pope can teach whatever he wants... but whether or not he should be listened to is very much an open question", the stance of certain traditionalists on the reform of the Mass liturgy and contemporary teachings on ecumenism and religious liberty amounts to the view that, on these issues, "faithful Catholics are always free to resist [the Pope's] folly.... As theories of religious dissent go, Catholic liberals couldn't ask for anything more."[14]
  • The traditionalist claim that the Second Vatican Council was pastoral is often countered by referring to Paul VI subsequently emphasising the authoritative nature of the Council's teachings.[15]

Sedevacantists' criticisms of other traditionalists

Sedevacantists claim that they avoid much of the mainstream Catholic critique of traditionalism because their view is that, beginning with John XXIII or Paul VI, one or both of whom and all their successors they consider to be heretics, there is no valid Catholic Pope or body of bishops to whom allegiance or obedience is owed. They criticise non-sedevacantist traditionalists for recognising the recent Popes, on grounds such as the following:[16]

  • By declaring that the revised liturgy of the Mass promulgated and defended by these popes is evil, they teach that the Church can decree evil and has decreed evil.
  • By declaring that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council contradict the Church's Tradition, they either repudiate the teaching of the First Vatican Council on the infallibility of even the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Pope and the bishops, or they implicitly deny that the Pope and bishops at the Second Vatican Council were truly the Pope and truly Catholic bishops.
  • By refusing subjection to a supposedly legitimate pope, they contravene the famous Bull Unam sanctam in which Pope Boniface VIII stated: "... we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
  • Compounding the problem, according to the sedevacantists, is the revising of the rite of Holy Orders in 1968; many believe that priests and bishops consecrated according to the new rite are invalid and could not administer traditional sacraments even if they wanted to. They say this problem applies to the FSSP and even to many SSPX priests, since the SSPX accepts priests ordained in the new rite, although it ordains its own new priests in the old. According to this line of reasoning, Benedict XVI is only a priest, and was never consecrated a bishop validly, and therefore has been given no true authority to be Pope, i.e., the Bishop of Rome.

Radical traditional Catholicism-critique

Integrism is a term to describe those who adhere to radical traditional Catholicism.[citation needed] It is used derisively in modern times by some who believe that certain Catholics have falsely elevated theological differences into differences in dogma, by degrees. For example, the term was used by liberal Catholics at the time of St. Pius X (Papacy 1903 to 1914) to deride those who defended his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis.[citation needed] These include those who separate the Holy See from the governance of Catholic faith, especially where it concerns the Latin Mass and reject what since 1970 is the normative form of the Mass in favor of the Mass of the 1962 Missal (which is recognized as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite), but the term also is used toward some who believe and practice other forms of traditional Catholicism.[citation needed]

Southern Poverty Law Center used the terms "radical traditionalist Catholics" to describe those who "may make up the largest single group of serious anti-Semites in America, subscribe to an ideology that is rejected by the Vatican and some 70 million mainstream American Catholics and many of their leaders have been condemned and even excommunicated by the official church.[17] Adherents of radical traditional Catholicism "routinely pillory Jews as 'the perpetual enemy of Christ'", reject the ecumenical efforts of the Vatican, and sometimes assert all recent Popes are illegitimate.[17] Adherents are also "incensed by the liberalizing reforms" of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which condemned hatred for Jewish people and "rejected the accusation that Jews are collectively responsible for deicide in the form of the crucifixion of Christ."[17] Radical traditional Catholics also embrace "extremely conservative social ideals with respect to women."[17] In certain cultures the term 'integrism' has become synonymous with fundamentalism or religious fanaticism and is used in a broader sense.

Traditionalist practices

The rite of Mass

Altar of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, erected in 1700 and still used today. It faces both east and versus populum (towards the people)

The best-known and most visible sign of Catholic traditionalism is an attachment to the form that the Roman Rite liturgy of the Mass had before the liturgical reform of 1969-1970, in the various editions of the Roman Missal published between 1570 and 1962. This form is generally known as the Tridentine Mass, though traditionalists usually prefer to call it the Traditional Mass. Many refer to it as the Latin Mass, though the Mass of Paul VI that replaced it can also be celebrated in Latin (Latin is the original language of all liturgical documents in the Roman Rite). In his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict XVI relaxed the regulations on use of the 1962 Missal, designating it "an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite". Some refer to it, less exactly, as "the extraordinary form".

Different traditionalist priests use different editions of the Roman Missal to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. Most, not only those in good standing with the Holy See but also such as those in the SSPX, use the 1962 edition, the only one that the Holy See authorises. A series of modifications to the 1962 liturgy introduced in 1965 are used by some traditionalists in good standing with Rome. This version of the liturgy is sometimes referred to as that of the "1965 Missal", though no new edition of the Roman Missal was in fact published in that year.

Since the 1962 edition was promulgated by Pope John XXIII, sedevacantists and some other independent chapels reject it and generally use the 1920 Missal, with feasts updated perhaps to 1954, before Pope Pius XII's changes to the calendar. Those who follow the 1954 calendar also reject the same Pope's revision of the rites of Holy Week.[18] To put it more simply, these traditionalists reject both John XXIII's 1962 rite and Pius XII's changes, since they led to the Novus Ordo Missae. There are no reports of priests regularly using any edition of the Missal earlier than that of 1920, which incorporated the rubrical and calendar changes made by Pope Pius X in 1910.[19]

Linked with the celebration of the Tridentine Mass is the observance of the liturgical calendar of saints' days as it existed before the revision of 1969 (see General Roman Calendar of 1962). Some also ignore the revisions of 1960 by Pope John XXIII, and of 1955 by Pope Pius XII, and use instead the General Roman Calendar of 1954.

Individual and private devotions

Traditionalist Catholics lay stress on strict following of customs prevailing immediately before the Second Vatican Council, such as the following:

  • Abstaining from meat on Fridays. Present discipline maintains Fridays and Lent as days and times of penance, declares that abstinence from meat or some other food as determined by the local episcopal conference is to be observed on all Fridays (excluding solemnities) and on Ash Wednesday, and allows episcopal conferences to permit other practices of personal penance to take the place of abstinence from meat.[20]
  • Fasting from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. This discipline was modified in 1953 by Pope Pius XII, who reduced the fast period to three hours,[21] and this modification is accepted by many traditionalists. Few accept the one-hour rule promulgated by Paul VI in 1966, which is that laid down in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.[22]
  • Kneeling to receive Communion directly upon the tongue, under the Host species alone, and from the hand of a cleric rather than a layperson. Some would refuse to receive even from deacons, who, before the reforms of Pope Paul VI, were allowed to give Holy Communion only if there were a serious reason for permitting them to do so.[23] Many traditionalists regard the practice of receiving communion in the hand, though ancient[24][25] and authorised by the Holy See,[26] as an abuse[27] and as sacrilegious.[28]
  • Women wearing a headcovering in church, a practice that was widespread, but not universal, before the Council,[29] and that also is not universal among traditionalists today.[30]
  • Frequent confession, a practice that grew in the first half of the twentieth century, when increasingly frequent Communion led to more frequent confession.
  • Prayers such as the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary in the form in use before the late twentieth century, and so without the alterations in the number and identity of the Stations that became common, though by no means universal, in the time of Pope Paul VI and without the addition of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary recommended by Pope John Paul II.[31]

These practices are of course not confined to traditionalists: many mainstream Catholics also follow them.

Traditionalism and the Eastern Catholic Churches

The Second Vatican Council's decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum encouraged the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches to return to their own past traditions and practices, which in some cases had been overlaid with elements taken from the Latin Church. Subsequent Vatican documents reinforced this tendency. Some of the Latinising modifications to be undone date back decades or even centuries, and the process of reviving older traditions is ongoing. This process has been opposed by some, perhaps most notably by the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat which claims to be part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and which has close links with the Society of St Pius X (SSPX). In some other Eastern Catholic Church too, there are small numbers who, like the Latin-Rite traditionalist Catholics, try to hold to practices as they were at the time of Pius XII's death (1958).

Relations with the Holy See

The Holy See recognises as fully legitimate the preference that many Catholics have for the earlier forms of worship. This was apparent in Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei and Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Naturally, however, the Holy See does not extend its approval to those who take a stand against the present-day Church leadership.

Ecclesia Dei Commission

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei was founded in July 1988 in the wake of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei. Pope Benedict XVI was a member of the Commission during his tenure as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Speaking on 16 May 2007 to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Cardinal Castrillón, the current head of the Commission, stated that his department had been founded for the care of those "traditionalist Catholics" who, while discontented with the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council, had broken with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, "because they disagreed with his schismatic action in ordaining Bishops without the required papal mandate". He added that at present the Commission's activity is not limited to the service of those Catholics, nor to "the efforts undertaken to end the regrettable schismatic situation and secure the return of those brethren belonging to the Fraternity of Saint Pius X to full communion." It extends also, he said, to "satisfying the just aspirations of people, unrelated to the two aforementioned groups, who, because of their specific sensitiveness, wish to keep alive the earlier Latin liturgy in the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments."[32]

In the same speech Cardinal Castrillón indicated that it was intended to make the Commission an organ of the Holy See for the purpose of preserving and maintaining the traditional liturgy; at the same time he stated that this was not with the purpose of "going backward, of returning to the times before the 1970 reform.... The Holy Father wishes to preserve the immense spiritual, cultural and aesthetic treasure linked with the old liturgy. Recovery of these riches goes together with the no less precious riches of the Church's present liturgy."

Summorum Pontificum

Following months of rumour and speculation, Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in July 2007. The Pope ruled that priests of the Latin Rite can freely choose between the 1962 Roman Missal and the later edition "in Masses celebrated without the people".[33] Such celebrations may be attended by those who spontaneously ask to be allowed.[34] Priests in charge of churches can permit stable groups of laypeople attached to the earlier form to have Mass celebrated for them in that form, provided that the celebrating priest is "qualified to [celebrate] and not juridically impeded"[35] (this would exclude traditionalist priests not in good standing with Rome).

The document, as well as being welcomed by the traditionalist groups that have been in good relations with Rome, has been considered by groups such as the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, which have been in dispute with Rome, to be sufficient grounds for seeking an agreement.[36] The Society of Saint Pius X welcomed the document, but referred to "difficulties that still remain", including "disputed doctrinal issues" and the notice of excommunication that still affected its bishops.[37] Sedevacantists of course consider all documents issued by Benedict XVI to be devoid of canonical force.

Validity of holy orders of traditionalist clergy

Catholic doctrine holds that any validly ordained bishop can ordain any other baptised male as a priest or a bishop, provided that he has the correct intention and uses an acceptable ordination liturgy. This remains the case whether or not the ordination is performed with official approval, and even if the individuals involved are not Catholics.[38] The conferring of holy orders may therefore be valid but illicit.[39]

The Catholic Church obviously considers the orders of traditionalist clergy who are in good standing with the Holy See, such as the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, to be both valid and licit. It sees as valid but illicit the orders of the bishops and priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, and accordingly considers them to be forbidden by law to exercise priestly offices.[40] As for the "independent" traditionalists, whether bishops or priests, it certainly sees their ordination as illicit, but its judgement on the validity is less clear. The Holy See declared devoid of canonical effect the consecration ceremony conducted by Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục for the Carmelite Order of the Holy Face group at midnight of 31 December 1975, while expressly refraining from pronouncing on its validity. It made the same statement with regard also to any later ordinations that those bishops might confer, saying that, "as for those who have already thus unlawfully received ordination or any who may yet accept ordination from these, whatever may be the validity of the orders (quidquid sit de ordinum validitate), the Church does not and will not recognise their ordination (ipsorum ordinationem), and will consider them, for all legal effects, as still in the state in which they were before, except that the ... penalties remain until they repent."[41]

Traditionalists themselves are divided on the question of the validity of the orders conferred using the rite promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1968. Those who deny or put in doubt the validity of the sacramental liturgies as revised after the Second Vatican Council pass the same negative judgement on all such ordinations.[42] The Society of Saint Pius V split from that of Saint Pius X for reasons that included Archbishop Lefebvre's acceptance of priests ordained according to the revised sacramental rites as members of the traditionalist Society that he founded.[43]

Number of traditionalist Catholics

According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the Catholic Church's worldwide recorded membership at the end of 2005 was 1,114,966,000.[44] Estimates of the number of traditionalist Catholics vary. Catholic World News reported that "the Vatican" estimated the number of those served by the Fraternity of St Peter, the Society of St Pius X and similar groups at "close to 1 million".[45] A poster on Yahoo Geocities, put the number of traditionalist Catholics (in good standing with the Holy See or not) "somewhere around the six or seven million mark",[46] and a sedevacantist site put them at "60 to 120 million worldwide".[47] Various sources estimate the adherents of the Society of St Pius X alone at 1 million,[46][48][49][50]

The two most prominent societies of traditionalist priests - the SSPX and the FSSP - claim to have a presence in 31 and 14 countries respectively. A large share of their members in each case are stationed in France.[51] Two other societies, the SSPV and CMRI, are based in the United States and also claim a presence in many countries, especially the CMRI.

For purposes of comparison with mainstream Catholic organisations, the Knights of Columbus in the United States are stated to have 1.7 million members, the Neocatechumenal Way is reported to have around 1 million members,[52] and Opus Dei is claimed to have 87,000 members.

Another comparison is that Eastern Rite Catholics number 16 million. Approximately 7,650,000 belong to the fourteen Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite, whether they attend the Divine Liturgy in that liturgical rite or in another,[53] and 8,300,000 belong to other Eastern Catholic Churches of Armenian, Coptic and Syriac traditions.[54]

See also

Doctrinal and liturgical issues
Notable Traditionalist Catholics
  • List of Traditionalist Catholics by nationality
Canonically regular traditionalist groups
Canonically irregular traditionalist groups

Sedevacantist groups

Generic list of groups


  1. ^ Traditionalist Catholics usually belong to the Latin Church. See, however, the article on the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat
  2. ^ The"Catechism of the Catholic Church, 84".  states that "the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles."
  3. ^ See, for instance, the decrees of erection of the Priestly Fraternity of St Petger and of the Institute of the Good Shepherd
  4. ^ Letter of Pope Benedict XVI accompanying his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum
  5. ^ "Operative Points of View". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  6. ^ "Pope lifts excommunications of Lefebvrite bishops". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  7. ^ a b "Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas greetings". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ What are we to think of the Fraternity of Saint Peter?[dead link]
  10. ^ "Adam Miller, Is the New Mass of Pope Paul VI Invalid?". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  11. ^ "August 25: A Reader Asks: "Can a Valid Mass Be Celebrated in a Vulgar Tongue?"". Traditio. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  12. ^ Vatican II and Religious Liberty: Contradiction or Continuity?[dead link]
  13. ^ "On Waffling, Tradition and the Magisterium". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  14. ^ Michael W. Cuneo, The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism (JHU Press, 1999 ISBN 0-8018-6265-5, 9780801862656), p. 119
  15. ^ "In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the supreme ordinary Magisterium. This ordinary Magisterium, which is so obviously official, has to be accepted with docility, and sincerity by all the faithful, in accordance with the mind of the Council on the nature and aims of the individual documents" (General Audience of 12 January 1966)
  16. ^ Cf. a talk available as audio files at this sedevacantist website
  17. ^ a b c d "Radical Traditional Catholicism", Intelligence Files, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011
  18. ^ Maxima Redemptionis of 16 November 1955 (AAS 47 (1955) 838-847)
  19. ^ Printings based on the earlier typical editions of 1884 or 1634, which immediately preceded that of 1920, would now be very difficult to find. However, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana made the editio princeps of 1570, the original Tridentine Mass as promulgated by Pope Pius V, available in reproduction in 1998 (ISBN 88-209-2547-8).
  20. ^ "Canons 1249-1253 of the Code of Canon Law". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  21. ^ "Motu proprio ''Sacram communionem''". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  22. ^ "Canon 919". 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  23. ^ "canon 845 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law". 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  24. ^ Anscar J. Chupungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist (Liturgical Press, 1999 ISBN 0-8146-6163-7, 9780814661635) p. 307
  25. ^ Michael Kunzler, The Church's Liturgy (LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2001 ISBN 3-8258-4854-X, 9783825848545), p. 241
  26. ^ Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Letter "En reponse a la demande" to presidents of those conferences of bishops petitioning the indult for communion in the hand, 29 May 1969 published also in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 61 (1969) 546-547
  27. ^ Why should Catholics have nothing to do with the Novus Ordo Missae[dead link]
  28. ^ "Communion in the hand is a sacrilege". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  29. ^ Canon 1262 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law mandated that, in church, women should cover their heads and men should uncover theirs "unless this is in contrast with approved customs of peoples".
  30. ^ Not all the women attending Mass in the SSPX church of St Nicholas de Chardonnet in Paris, as seen in this video, even those singing in the choir, wore a head covering.
  31. ^ "''Rosarium Virginis Mariae'', 19". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  32. ^ The text of Cardinal Castrillón's speech, in the language in which he gave it, can be consulted at Intervención sobre Ecclesia Dei-16 de mayo de 2007 (Retrieved 17 May 2007) or at Intervención sobre Ecclesia Dei - Card. Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Presidente Ecclesia Dei (Retrieved 7 December 2008). English translations may be consulted at Rorate Caeli (Retrieved 7 December 2008), and extracts are given in English at Adoremus Bulletin(Retrieved 7 December 2008).
  33. ^ "''Summorum Pontificum'', art. 2". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  34. ^ "''Summorum Pontificum'', art. 4". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  35. ^ "''Summorum Pontificum'', art. 5". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  36. ^ "Declaration on Relations with Rome". 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  37. ^ "Press Release from the General Superior of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, 7 July 2007". 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  38. ^ Peter Kreeft: Introduction to the Sacraments, section 13: What is required for a valid sacrament?
  39. ^ See especially Canons 1012-1023
  40. ^ Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre by Pope Benedict XVI concerning his remission of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X
  41. ^ Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decree Episcopi qui alios of 17 September 1976 - Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1976, page 623).
  42. ^ See for instance Is the Apostolic Succession Intact? by Rama P. Coomaraswamy.
  43. ^ See section "Doubtful Priests" in the letter of "The Nine" to Archbishop Lefebvre.
  44. ^ Central Statistics Office (2007). Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2005. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. ISBN 978-88-209-7928-7. 
  45. ^ "Catholic World News : “All We Ask is for the Mass”". 2005-05-01. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  46. ^ a b "Roman Catholic Traditionalism?". 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  47. ^ "Traditional Catholics ARE the Christian Mainstream (jun2str.htm)". 2006-06-02. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  48. ^ "The Universal Indult vs". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  49. ^ "Vatican Decree May Bring Back Latin Mass". 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  50. ^ "SSPX to send spiritual bouquet and encouragement to Pope". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  51. ^ SSPX Statistics FSSP official site
  52. ^ report of 27 May 2007 from Zenit News Agency
  53. ^ "The practice, however long standing, of receiving the sacraments according to the rite of an autonomous ritual Church, does not bring with it membership of that Church" (Code of Canon Law, canon 112 §2).
  54. ^ "What All Catholics Should Know About Eastern Catholic Churches". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 

External links

Further reading

  • Sinke Guimarães, Atila (1997). In the Murky Waters of Vatican II. Metairie: MAETA. ISBN 1889168068. 
  • Amerio, Romano (1996). Iota Unum. Kansas City: Sarto House. ISBN 0963903217. 


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