There is much misunderstanding as to how the Church teaches us. That is the reason for much of what plagues us in the Great Apostasy. It exemplifies what was meant by the prophet Zechariah when he wrote, "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered..." In a time of prolonged sedevacantism, people go far astray without a true pope. One such example is how many have a false view of the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium (hereinafter "UOM").
According to theologian Van Noort: "The subject-matter of divine-Catholic faith are all those truths proposed by the Church's Magisterium for our belief as divinely revealed...The principle laid down above is contained almost verbatim in this declaration of the [First] Vatican Council: 'Further, all those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment, or by her ordinary and universal Magisterium, proposes for belief as having been Divinely-revealed.' [Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith]" (See Dogmatic Theology, Newman Press 3:220-221; words in brackets and emphasis are mine).
The Magisterium, therefore, is expressed either solemnly (ex cathedra pronouncements of the pope or of Ecumenical Councils) or in an ordinary and universal way. This is clear from both Church history and the dogmatic decree of the Vatican Council of 1870. The former exercise of the Church's teaching authority is called the Solemn or Extraordinary Magisterium and the latter is called the Universal and Ordinary Magisterium or "UOM". Both are equally infallible.
Two examples of how this truth goes awry can be seen with the Feeneyites (i.e., those who deny Baptism of Blood [BOB] and Baptism of Desire [BOD]), and the "recognize and resisters" ("R&R"; i.e., those who recognize all Vatican II "popes" yet feel free to decide when, how, and if they will obey them, such as the SSPX and John Salza). In the case of the Feeneyites, they disregard the UOM completely and reduce the Magisterium to ex catherda pronouncements exclusively; and then only their private interpretations of them divorced from the teachings of the Church's approved theologians.
I actually had a Twitter exchange some months back with a follower of a the infamous Feenyite Dimond brothers, Fred and Bobby. I inquired of this person how Pope Pius XII could be considered pope since he taught BOD in his Address to Midwives (1951). He responded that since it wasn't an infallible decree, Pope Pius XII "simply got it wrong." It was my interlocutor who got it wrong. The pope is divinely protected by the Holy Ghost from error, so he could not promulgate anything but truth ex cathedra. If any "pope" did so, it is proof that defection from the faith has already taken place. The pope cannot fall from office in his capacity as pope but only as a private theologian. As St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches, "If ever a pope, as a private person, should fall into heresy, he would at once fall from the pontificate." (See Verita della Fede, Pt. III, Ch. VIII, 9-10). Therefore, if the Address to Midwives was a "mere talk" of Pope Pius XII expressing his "personal opinion," and if it is a dogma that baptism by water alone allows one to be saved as the Feeneyites falsely believe, Pope Pius XII would have lost his office at once. So much for the "theology" of Fred and Bobby.
Recently, I came upon an article written by the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) entitled Clear Ideas on the Pope's Infallible Magisterium (See https://sspx.org/en/clear-ideas-popes-infallible-magisterium). It sounds scholarly, but is actually a masterpiece in fallacious reasoning and introduces the novel idea that the"Authentic Magisterium," which is non-infallible and correctly distinguished from the UOM, may be resisted and need not be followed. If you think about it, it is simply another spin on the Feeneyite idea that anything non-infallible may be discarded if you disagree with it. It is this article with which I will take issue.
Error by Excessive Defects
I will outline the main points; my readers can read the entire article at the web address citation I provided, if they so desire.
The SSPX article cites theologian Salaverri, It is necessary to know "what degree of assent is due to the decrees of the sovereign pontiff when he is teaching at a level which is not that of infallibility, i.e., when he is not exercising the supreme degree of his doctrinal authority" It then goes on:
The error by excess actually eliminates the Ordinary Non-Infallible or "Authentic" Magisterium and inevitably leads either to Sedevacantism or to servile obedience. The attitude of the people of this second category is, "The pope is always infallible and so we always owe him blind obedience."
The error by defect eliminates the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium. This is precisely the error of the neo-Modernists, who devalue the ordinary papal Magisterium and the "Roman tradition" which they find so inconvenient. They say, "The pope is infallible only in his Extraordinary Magisterium, so we can sweep away 2000 years of ordinary papal Magisterium."
Both of these errors obscure the precise notion of the Ordinary Magisterium, which includes the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium and the ordinary, "authentic," non-infallible Magisterium. (Emphasis mine).
The SSPX then explains when the UOM really operates:
When Humanae Vitae (Montini's encyclical against artificial contraception---Introibo) came out, various theologians indicated that the notion of ordinary papal Magisterium was obscured. Generally speaking, those who supported the infallibility of Humanae Vitae deduced "the proof [of this infallibility—Ed.] on the basis of the Church’s constant and universal Authentic Magisterium, which has never been abandoned and therefore was already definitive in earlier centuries." In other words, on the basis of the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium (E. Lio, Humanae Vitae ed infallibilita, Libreria Ed. Vaticana, p.38). They should have noticed that even the notion of the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium and its particularity [its constancy and universality—Ed.] had been effaced from the minds not only of the ordinary faithful but also of the theologians...
Such is the case with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Wojtyla's decree against priestesses--Introibo)when it repeats the invalidity of the priestly ordination of women, which has always been held by the Church with "unanimity and stability" (L’Osservatore Romano, Dec. 20, 1996).
The "practical application"? Declare Vatican II a true Council, but feel free to reject it.
Because it declared itself to be non-dogmatic, the charism of infallibility cannot be claimed for the last Council, except insofar as it was re-iterating traditional teaching. Moreover, what is offered as the Ordinary Pontifical Magisterium of the recent popes—apart from certain acts—cannot claim the qualification of the "Ordinary Infallible Magisterium." The pontifical documents on the novelties which have troubled and confused the consciences of the faithful manifest no concern whatsoever to adhere to the teaching of "venerable predecessors." They cannot adhere to them because they have broken with them. Look at the footnotes of Dominus Jesus; it’s as if the Magisterium of the preceding popes did not exist. It is clear that when today’s popes contradict the traditional Magisterium of yesterday’s popes, our obedience is due to yesterday’s popes: this is a manifest sign of a period of grave ecclesial crisis, of abnormal times in the life of the Church.
Finally, it is evident that the New Theology, which is so unscrupulous in contradicting the traditional teaching of the Roman Pontiffs, contradicts the Infallible Pontifical Magisterium; accordingly, a Catholic must in all conscience reject and actively attack it...
The Church’s current crisis is not at the level of the Extraordinary or Ordinary Infallible Magisterium. This would be simply impossible. Furthermore, it is not at the level of the Extraordinary Infallible Magisterium because the [Second Vatican] Council did not wish to be a dogmatic one, and because Pope Paul VI himself indicated what theological "note" it carried: "Ordinary Magisterium; that is, it is clearly authentic" (General Audience of Dec. 1, 1966: Encycliques et discours de Paul VI, Ed. Paoline, 1966, pp.51, 52). Lastly, it is not at the level of the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium. The turmoil and division in the Catholic world have been provoked by a break with this doctrinal continuity. Such a break is the very opposite of the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium. Thus Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, or John Paul II’s intervention against women’s ordination in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis caused no dismay to the Church’s obedient sons.
The upshot of the SSPX argument is that for the Ordinary Magisterium to be infallible it must teach something in a "constant and universal" manner. Any break with tradition means it is not infallible. Moreover, not only is it fallible, since it contradicts traditional teaching, Catholics must "reject and attack it." Vatican II is not dogmatic because the Council itself "did not want to be one." Feel free to pick and choose what you will and won't believe coming from the Vatican II sect. If it follows tradition, accept it--if not, reject it. We need to follow "yesterday's popes" and discard the one we don't like today. There's so much wrong, it's hard to know where I should begin, but I'll do my best to keep it on point and terse.
1. The teaching of theologian Salaverri. The citation to Salaverri is quite beside the point. It appears that the theological giant is somehow giving the green light to "resist" when the pope is not teaching infallibly. Actually, the title on that very page where the citation is taken states, "Internal and religious assent of the mind is due to the doctrinal decrees of the Holy See authentically approved by the Supreme Pontiff." (See Sacrae Theologiae Summa, IB, , pg. 241). You will search this tome in vain seeking to find an affirmation that a non-infallible decree of a pope can be resisted.
2. What does it mean that the Ordinary Magisterium must teach something in a "constant and universal" manner? When the Fathers of the 1870 Vatican Council were discussing the draft of Dei Filius before voting, questions were raised about the meaning of the word "universal" in the expression "Ordinary and Universal Magisterium" and the Council’s official "relator," Bishop Martin, referred them to Pope Pius IX’s Tuas Libenter (1863). In the relevant portion Pope Pius IX wrote, "Even limiting oneself to the submission made by the act of divine faith, this could not be restricted to those things that have been defined by the express decrees of ecumenical councils and by the decrees of this See, but must be extended also to what is passed on as divinely revealed by the Ordinary Magisterium of the whole Church spread over the world…" (Denzinger 1683). No special kind of teaching is required. Nor is it necessary for the teaching to be given over a lengthy period of time. If the universal teaching authority, i.e. the pope and the bishops with moral unanimity, pass on to the faithful a teaching as revealed, the faithful are obliged under pain of heresy to believe that doctrine with Divine faith.
The teaching of the 1870 Vatican Council on the subject is dogmatic and any doubt of interpretation is resolved by reference to the conciliar discussions. The term "universal" implies universality in place, not in time. In technical terms, it is synchronic universality, not diachronic universality, which conditions the infallibility. The present teaching of the Church’s supreme teaching authority, whether expressed in a solemn judgment or by ordinary acts, is necessarily infallible and thus quite incapable of bringing in false or new doctrine. It may make explicit what has been implicit or reaffirm what has been called into question. If obvious false doctrine is taught, it is not just the novelty that must be rejected, but the pseudo-authority imposing it, because legitimate authority cannot err in such cases. Blatant error is therefore a sure proof of illegitimacy. (See John S. Daly's Did Vatican II Teach Infallibly? for a magnificent elucidation of this point).
3. If you accept Montini as valid (Pope Paul VI), Vatican II is obligatory. Calling Vatican II "pastoral" does nothing to alleviate this obligation.
Despite the quote of Montini (taken out of context anyway), "pastoral" simply means "after the manner of a shepherd." "Pastoral" and "dogmatic" are not mutually exclusive terms as R&R would like us to believe. A "pastoral"council, if it teaches on faith and morals, is also doctrinal or dogmatic in character. "Pope" Paul VI stated in his audience of January 12, 1966: "In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogma carrying the mark of infallibility."
"...but it [Vatican II] nevertheless endowed its teachings with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium, which ordinary (and therefore obviously authentic) Magisterium must be docilely and sincerely received by all the faithful, according to the mind of the Council regarding the nature and scope of the respective documents." (Emphasis mine).
Moreover, two of the Council's constitutions expressly call themselves "Dogmatic," i.e., Lumen Gentium ("The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church") and Dei Verbum (i.e., "The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation"). To claim that Vatican II gave no dogmatic teaching directly contradicts the Council itself. Furthermore, Montini expressly reaffirmed the fact that a pastoral role rather implies than excludes doctrinal teaching in his motu proprio Pastorale Munus of 1963 which declares in the first sentence: "The pastoral office was linked by Christ to the grave responsibilities of teaching and sanctifying, of binding and loosing." (Emphasis mine).
When the bishops of the world gathered together in the Vatican from 1962-1965 and gave morally unanimous consent to their teachings on faith and morals to the Church, and which were promulgated by "Pope" Paul VI, all the requirements of an exercise of the infallible UOM were met. If Montini were truly pope, you must submit and believe all of what was taught at Vatican II. To claim the Council was not infallible, can only be sustained as true if there was no pope with whom those bishops could hold union with, and who could ratify their decisions. Welcome to sedevacantism.
The SSPX's "clear ideas" about the pope's infallible Magisterium are little more than muddled thinking, misused terminology, and false principles deceitfully dressed up as "scholarship," so as to lead souls astray by thinking that you can "resist" Vatican II and its false popes. By misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting how the Church teaches us, strange and un-Catholic ideas emerge. Feeneyites claim, "A pope can only lose office if he infallibly proposes error." R&R declares, "Vatican II was only pastoral and not infallible, so you can resist the 'Authentic Ordinary Magisterium' and choose what you want to believe and do regardless of what the 'Church' decrees." Unfortunately, for the SSPX, Salza, and the rest of the R&R, infallibility is not outside the Ordinary Magisterium and it guarantees Vatican II must be true and obeyed if Paul VI were a true pope.
The only thing that would really be out of the ordinary is authentic Catholic theology coming from the R&R crowd.