Ecclesiavacantism
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Between two extremes

Closely related to sedevacantism, there is a position called (improperly) “ecclesiavacantism”, according to which that organisation that everyone calls the “Catholic Church” is not that [the Catholic Church], but rather another society called the “conciliar church”, while the real Catholic Church is reduced to a remnant (small herd) consisting only of traditionalists in direct opposition to the hierarchy of the “conciliar church”. The “conciliar church” not only occupies the Catholic Church, but it replaces it. Like the more radical Protestants, ecclesiavacantists come to identify “the worldwide religious organization run from the Vatican” with the synagogue of Satan, the synagogue of antichrist or the woman of Revelation 17 and 18.

At the other end of the scale (among those who can be called traditionalists) we find Msgr. Fellay and the other accordistas of the SSPX, who reject the idea that the “conciliar church” is anything more than an evil spirit [tendency] within the Catholc Church : “However, it [the Catholic Church] is made up of an entire organization. On the one hand we must call this organization holy, and on the other it shocks and scandalizes us. (…) The Catholic Church is our Church. We have no other. There is no other. The Good God has allowed it to become diseased (…) The disease is a disease; it is not the Church itself. It is within the Church, but the Church remains itself. (…) Certainly, we must fight the disease. But this diseased Church is indeed the Church founded by Our Lord. It alone holds the promise of eternal life. To it alone has been promised that the gates of hell will not prevail” (Msgr. Fellay, DICI). “To the extent in which a ‘change of direction’ since Vatican II has occurred, we use the term ‘conciliar Church’. This expression is commonly understood, not as a distinct object or substance, but rather as a new spirit, introduced into the Church at the time of the second Vatican Council, and which constitutes an obstacle to the end of the Church, in other words the Tradition of its faith and morals. (…) Therefore, there are not two Churches; there is only within the Church an antagonistic movement fighting the Church from within, working to neutralize the Church for its own advancement by impeding the accomplishment of the Church’s end.” (Fr. Gleize, DICI).

Between these two extreme positions there is a middle position : the two churches are closely intertwined, such as the wheat and the chaff of the Gospel. Sharing the same material cause, distinct but not separate. One can say that the “conciliar church” is like a malignant tumor in the Catholic Church. In the Hierarchy there are formal heretics and material heretics. The non traditional faithful, in general, are material heretics led and kept in error by clergy who profess, culpable or not, the conciliar errors. This position has been explained by the Dominicans of Avrillé in an article entitled “One Hierarchy for Two Churches” and by Msgr. Tissier de Mallerais in his article “Is there a Conciliar Church ?”.

Equivocal

Terms that do not support more than one sense are called univocal. The opposite happens with non univocal terms, which in philosophy are called equivocal and analogous. For example, the word “bank” is misleading because it can mean a type of seat, a work bench, a company that performs financial transactions, the building where the company operates, a medical storage facility, a group of fish; an elevation of sand or dirt from the bottom of the sea, a river or lake, which is close to the surface; etc.

The term “conciliar church” is not univocal because it supports different meanings or senses :

According to a first sense, the “conciliar church” is the organization of the conciliar religion which coexists with the Catholic Church in the same subject (Explanation of the Dominicans of Avrille and Msgr. Tissier). The “conciliar church” is the weeds in the wheat field.

According to a second sense, the “conciliar church” is the Catholic Church in actual reality, that is, decaying or rotting (in its human aspects) at the hands of the modernists who control the Church since Vatican II. The “conciliar Church” is the sowing of the wheat together with the chaff. In this sense, the opposite of “conciliar church” is not “Catholic Church” but “pre-conciliar Church.”

These first two senses of “conciliar church” are not mutually exclusive, but exclude the following two.

In a third sense, the “conciliar church” is that society which the general public erroneously identifies as the Catholic Church. That society is currently headed by Francis and is known everywhere as “Catholic”, yet it is not Catholic. Neither the hierarchy nor the parishioners that belong to this organization, are said to be Catholics as such, but conciliar heretics. The real Catholic Church is reduced to the level of households and individuals, being composed only of traditionalist groups separated from Rome, scattered throughout the world. The “conciliar church” is the chaff separated from the wheat. This third sense excludes the other three, it is held by many sedevacantists, and leads to sedevacantism and schism.

According to a fourth sense, the “conciliar church” is only an evil spirit (liberal and modernist) existing within the Catholic Church. The “conciliar church” is a defect or disease of the wheat. This is what Msgr. Fellay, Father Gleize and the accordistas in general hold. This fourth sense excludes the other three. Note that the organization or conciliar sect is improperly called “church”, as when we speak of “Anglican Church”, or “Lutheran Church”, etc.

Ecclesiavacantism and the Teaching of the Church

How far can one inject heresy into the Church? To what degree can one decrease it’s visibility? What are the precise limits of the damage the Church can receive to it’s marks of unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity? These are difficult questions indeed.

Well, the burden of proof is on all types of ecclesiavacantists, to prove that, despite the fact that the false and heretical conciliar church supplants the Catholic Church throughout the world (according to what they say) and despite the extreme smallness and insignificance (they argue) to which it has been reduced, that the gates of hell have not prevailed, and that the Church remains unwavering, visible, and still retains the marks of unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity.

According to the most extreme ecclesiavacantists, the triumph of Vatican II modernism, means that the Church now finds itself without pope, without bishops, without priests or with just a handful of them contaminated with modern errors, and the number of the faithful so diminished, numbering barely a few hundred or a few thousand. However, this is tantamount to saying that the gates of hell prevailed against the Church because, according to the infallible Magisterium, the Catholic Church can not decline to such an extent that it is reduced to a tiny remnant, scattered around the world, without Pope and without bishops. Indeed, according to the first Vatican Council, it is impossible that the Church will be reduced to such extremes, because the council decided that, for the institution founded by Christ, the Pope will have perpetual successors, and she will always have bishops under him :

Doctrine of the Church.

  1. The perpetuity of the Primacy is defined explicitly and directly in the first Vatican Council (D 1824s). [D 1825 Canon. If anyone then says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord himself, or by divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the Universal Church.. let him be anathema.].

  2. The perpetuity of the Church is defined explicitly, but indirectly, in the same Council (D 1821 1824s).

  3. The perpetuity of the Hierarchy is implicitly defined by the first Vatican Council. In fact, explicitly it defined the perpetuity of the Primacy (D 1824s). Thus it also defined that it is typical for the Primate to have his own subordinates and to rule the pastors or bishops of the universal Church (D 1827-1831). There will always be priests or bishops subordinate to the Primate. The same is taught explicitly in the introduction to the Constitution of the Church (D 1821).

(Sacrae Summa Theologica by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, BAC, 1955, Trat. III,” From the Church of Jesus Christ “ pp. 595-596).

Some Objections

1. The words of our Lord in Luke 18:8 : “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” ? Well, today there is practically no faith in the world. It is estimated that faithful traditionalists make up more or less 0.01% of all the Catholic faithful. The remaining 99.9% have lost the faith by professing the conciliar heresy, and they no longer belong to the true Church. So what ordinary people call “Catholic Church” is nothing more than a non-Catholic sect, and the true Church survives in those outside of this “conciliar church”.

Answer: There is a “majority of Catholics, conciliar by habit, [with] a spirit of conformism or ease who, as said above, belong only ‘materially’ to the conciliar church.” (Msgr. Tissier in ‘Sel de la Terre’ #85). But to be excluded from the Church material heresy does not suffice, only formal heresy does 1. Therefore, the vast majority of those who call themselves Catholic, despite their material heresy, keep the Catholic faith and continue to be part of the Catholic Church.

2. The same Bishop Tissier said in that article the following : “And beside this vulgar conciliar church, what remains of the Catholic Church? We respond that, even reduced to the modest number [of] the sane faithful comprising its ‘healthy part’, and perhaps one only faithful bishop, as may be the case according to Father Emmanuel, of the Church at the end of time, the Catholic Church remains the catholic Church”. Well, that’s the state of the Church today. The Church continues to exist only in the remnant traditionalists, not in the official structure or “conciliar church”.

Answer : In this same article, Bishop Tissier maintains that the Conciliar Church and the Catholic Church coexist in the same subject, that is why the quote in question said “with”. Note also that Father Emmanuel, at least in the play “The Drama of the End Times”, does not say that the Church could ever be reduced to one faithful Bishop (see the quote from Vatican I, above).

3. The well known words of Cardinal Pie (in his speech at the Reception of the relics of San Emiliano, Bishop of Nantes, on 08-11-1859): … “As the world approaches its end (…) the Church, a society certainly always visible, will be reduced more and more to the level of individuals and households”. That is what we are witnessing today. The true Church is the one that is currently reduced to this level of individuals and households, which is exclusively made up of traditionalists in opposition to the “conciliar church”, the imposter, which appears to be the true Catholic Church.

Answer: Cardinal Pie was talking about a serious regression in the Church, not about an impersonation of the Catholic Church by another organization.

4. The words of Our Lady of La Salette : “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist”.

Answer: 1st: First of all, I must mention that private revelations have no place in theology, that is, as “sources of theological knowledge, neither to discover, nor to judge what was found already, and has no place among categories of arguments to prove or refute” (Summa Theologica Sacrae, BAC, 1955, Volume I, p. 20). 2nd: That quote is not in the original version of 1851, so it can be considered doubtful. 3rd: Even if the quote is authentic, the interpretation of the ecclesiavacantists is not the only possible one. 4th: The Holy See can not deviate so much that it becomes, somehow, the seat of the Antichrist (see above citations of the Infallible Magisterium of the first Vatican Council).

5. The words of the exorcism of Leo XIII : “.. they have placed the throne of the abomination of their wickedness, so that, the Pastor having been struck, they may also be able to scatter the flock”.

Answer: those words can not be interpreted as that throne having supplanted the Holy See.

6. The religion of Vatican II is a religion specifically different and even opposed to the Catholic religion. It is impossible that this religion exists within the Catholic Church, it is impossible that both religions exist together in the same subject, in the same organization. Therefore the ‘conciliar church’ and the Catholic Church are separate.

Answer: 1st: The error of this reasoning exists in regarding as equivalent or synonymous the terms religion and church (Both are equivocal). In the broadest sense, “church” is the organization of men who profess some form of “Christian religion”. Now one can profess the false conciliar religion inculpably, committing only material heresy and since a baptized person who commits material heresy does not stop to belong to the Church, in the same way can the “conciliar religion exist within the Catholic Church.” 2nd: Also, Saint Pius X called the modernists a “secret organization” (Mot. Propr. Sacrorum Antistitum, 09.01.1910), which is hidden “within the same bosom and union of the Church” (Pascendi, 09/08/1907).

7. Objection from the opposite end : “If I follow your logic, I must conclude that the conciliar Church exists as a schismatic sect, formally different from the Catholic Church. Therefore, all members are, at least material schismatics; they are outside the Church; we can not give them the sacraments unless they have abjured publicly, the conciliar popes as antipopes”… (P. Gleize in an interview by DICI on 7-6-13).

Answer: 1st: That the Conciliar Church exists as a schismatic sect, formally other than the Catholic Church, does not prevent it from coexisting together with it in the same subject, the two have the same material cause. 2nd: The Catholic who is materially schismatic, is not outside of the Church because of it, but only if he is in formal schism.

8. These words of Monsignor Lefebvre: “We must [according to Rome] henceforth obey and be faithful to the Conciliar Church, no longer to the Catholic Church. .. we are suspended a divinis by the Conciliar Church, the Conciliar Church, to which we have no wish to belong! That Conciliar Church is a schismatic church because it breaks with the Catholic Church that has always been. It has its new dogmas, its new priesthood, its new institutions, its new worship… The Church that affirms such errors is at once schismatic and heretical. This Conciliar Church is, therefore, not Catholic. To whatever extent Pope, bishops, priests, or faithful adhere to this new church, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church. The church of today is not the true Church except insofar as she continues in unity with the Church of yesterday and of all time.” (Letter from Monsignor Lefebvre in Le Sel de la Terre 36).

Answer: Bishop Tissier says in Le Sel de la Terre no. 85 that Archbishop Lefebvre “seems to admit the transmutation of the Catholic Church into the Conciliar Church. (…) The text of Monsignor Lefebvre must be understood with this precision: it is to the extent that the councils adhere exclusively to the aforementioned profanatory purposes, that they leave the Catholic Church. And of this measure, we are not to be the judges.

9. The words of Monsignor Lefebvre in the famous declaration of November 21, 1974: “We hold fast, with all our heart and with all our soul, to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of the traditions necessary to preserve this faith, to Eternal Rome, Mistress of wisdom and of truth. We refuse, on the other hand, and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which were clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it.” So there are two Rome’s, the Catholic Church and the “Conciliar Church”, and they exist seperately.

Answer: Archbishop Lefebvre distinguishes both Rome’s or churches, but does not consider them as existing apart from each other. That is why he says later in the same statement that “no authority, not even the highest hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic Faith.” In these words there is an acknowledgment of the authority of the official hierarchy. And he adds: “Is that not what the Holy Father repeats to us today? And if he manifests a certain contradiction in his words and acts as well as in the acts of the dicasteries, then we opt for what has always been taught and we are deaf to the destructive novelties of the Church … we continue our work (…) persuaded that we can render no better service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Supreme Pontiff and to future generations.” He recognizes here the Pope as such and the Roman dicasteries as part of the Church.

10. These other words of Monsignor Lefebvre: “I say: Rome has lost the faith, dear friends. Rome is in the apostasy. I’m not talking empty words! That’s the truth! Rome is in apostasy! We can no longer trust those people. They left the Church! They left the Church! It’s true, true. We can not understand each other. That, I assure you, is the synthesis. We can not follow these people. We truly face people who no longer have the Catholic spirit, who no longer have the Catholic spirit. It is the abomination, truly the abomination. We can say that these people who occupy Rome today are antichrists.” (Conference in Ecône, 4-9-1987).

Answer: If Monsignor Lefebvre had really judged that Rome is outside the Church, he would not have signed the protocol of agreement with Rome eight months later (May 1988), nor would he have said, in a short time, these other words among many other possible examples: (…) “supposing that Rome calls for a renewed dialogue, then, I will put conditions” (Fideliter 66, 1988 ). “During the last contacts I had in Rome, several times I wanted to probe their intentions, to measure if there really was a real change. (…) If I went to argue in Rome, it was because I wanted to see if I could reach an agreement with the authorities of the Church”(Fideliter 68, 1989).

11. The words of Bishop Lefebvre in the 9-9-1989 retreat: “I think it is necessary to be convinced of this: you really represent the Catholic Church. Not that there is no Church outside of us; It’s not about that. But this last time, we have been told that it was necessary for Tradition to enter into the visible Church. I think there is a very, very serious mistake here. Where is the Church visible? The visible Church is recognized by the signs it has always given for its visibility: it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. I ask you: where are the true notes of the Church? Are they more in the official Church (it is not the visible Church, it is the official Church) or in us, in what we represent, what we are? It is clear that it is we who preserve the unity of faith, which disappeared from the official Church … Where is the unity of faith in Rome? Where is the unity of faith in the world? It is in us, who preserve it. (…) Now this unity of faith in the whole world does not exist anymore, they have no more catholicity practically speaking. (…) There is no more catholicity. Apostolicity? They broke with the past. If they did something right, that’s it. (…) Apostolicity: we are united to the Apostles by authority. (…) As for the apostolicity of faith, we believe the same faith as the Apostles. We do not change anything and we do not want to change anything. And then, holiness. (…) All this shows that it is we who have the notes of the visible Church. If there is still a visibility of the Church today, it is thanks to you. These signs are no longer in the others. There is no longer in them the unity of faith; Now it is faith which is the basis of all visibility of the Church. (…) It is the official Church that rejects us; But it is not we who reject the Church, far from it. On the contrary, we are always united to the Roman Church and even to the Pope, of course, to the successor of Peter..”. (Priestly Retreat in Ecône, 9-9-1988, Fideliter 66). Then, if the notes no longer exist in what people call the “Catholic Church”, which, in fact, is the “conciliar church”, an impostor; but those notes are in us traditionalists; It turns out that this so-called “Catholic Church” is not such, and that we traditionalists are the true Catholic Church.

Answer: 1st Mgr Lefebvre also says there: “Not that there is no Church outside of us.” That is, the notes remain outside of traditionalism. Where? In the official structure - where else? - although greatly diminished by modernism. 2nd He also says: (the notes of the Church) “Are they more in the official Church or in us …?” This question is a recognition that the notes are in the official Church and in us, albeit unequally: less in the official Church and more in us. 3rd And for that reason towards the end he adds: “It is the official Church that rejects us; But it is not we who reject the Church, far from it. On the contrary, we are always united to the Roman Church and even the Pope, of course, to the successor of Peter.

12. Other quotations from Monsignor Lefebvre that some interpret in an ecclesiavacantist sense:

A) “Make no mistake, it is not a disagreement between Monsignor Lefebvre and Pope Paul VI. It is a question of the radical incompatibility between the Catholic Church and the Conciliar Church, representing the Mass of Paul VI, the symbol and program of the Conciliar Church.”(Archbishop Lefebvre’s preliminary note, July 7, 1976).

B) “All those who cooperate in the application of this alteration, those who accept and adhere to this new conciliar church as designated by His Excellency Monsignor Benelli in the letter he addressed to me on behalf of the Holy Father on June 25, enter into schism.”(Declaration to Le Figaro, 4-8-1976).

C) “We must gather everywhere where there are groups of Christians who still believe in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in His Kingship, and who have love in their hearts, the love that the Blessed Virgin has for her Son Jesus. Well, those who have this love, it is they who are the Church. They are not the ones who destroy the kingdom of our Lord. This must be said openly! We are the Catholic Church. It is them who separate themselves from the Catholic Church. It is not us who enter into schism.”(Homily at Ecône, 28-8-1976).

D) “I believe that we are in the Church, and that we are the ones who are in the Church and that we are the true children of the Church; And that others are not. They are not because liberalism is not a child of the Church, liberalism is against the church, liberalism is the destruction of the Church. In this sense they can not claim to be children of the Church. We can say that we are children of the Church because we continue the doctrine of the Church, we maintain the whole truth of the Church, in full, as the Church always taught it.”(Conference in Ecône, 21-12-1984).

E) “Cardinal Ratzinger strives once again to dogmatize Vatican II. We are faced with people who have no notion of Truth. We will be more and more forced to act and consider this new conciliar church as no longer Catholic.”(Letter to Jean Madiran, 29-1-1986).

F) “It is they who create another church. (…) The cardinal has reminded us, I do not know how many times: There is only one Church! … It is not necessary to make a parallel Church! So this church, of course, is the church of the council. (…) Then it is they who create a parallel church, not us.” (Conference in Ecône, 9-6-1988).

G) “Obviously we are against the conciliar church that is practically schismatic, even if they do not accept that. In practice, it is a virtually excommunicated church, because it is a modernist church.” (Fideliter 70, 1989).

H) “To enter the Church, what do you mean? And in principle, which Church are we speaking of? If it is from the Conciliar Church, it would be necessary for us, who have fought against it for twenty years because we want the Catholic Church, to enter into this conciliar church supposedly to make it Catholic. It is a total illusion. (…)” Fideliter. Do you not fear that in the long run, and when God has called you, gradually the separation becomes more accentuated and the impression of a Church parallel to what some call the “visible Church”? Mgr. “This story of the visible Church of Dom Gérard and M. Madiran is infantile. It is incredible that we can speak of the visible Church to designate the Conciliar Church by opposition to the Catholic Church that we try to represent and continue. I do not say that we are the Catholic Church. I have never said it. No one can reproach me for ever wanting to consider me a pope. But we truly represent the Catholic Church as it was in all times since we continue what she has always done. It is we who hold the notes of the visible Church: unity, catholicity, apostolicity, holiness. This is what constitutes the visible Church.”(Fideliter 70, 1989).

I) “This council represents, in the eyes of the Roman authorities as well as ours, a new church which they call “the conciliar church”. (…) All who cooperate in the application of this alteration, accept and adhere to this new conciliar church (…) enter into schism.” (”A Bishop Speaks” pp. 97 and 98).

Answer: Archbishop Lefebvre’s thinking about the Church is expressed in very precise terms in his latest book, “Spiritual Journey” (1990). Explanatory quote from chapter 8, “The Church“: “Just as the Old Testament Israel had a very turbulent history because of their continual infidelities with God, often due to their leaders and their Levites, so the militant Church in this world knows without ceasing periods of trials because of the infidelity of their clergy, for their commitments to the world. The more scandals come up, the more disasters they provoke. It is true that the Church itself retains all its sanctity and its sources of sanctification, but the occupation of its institutions by unfaithful popes, and by apostate bishops, ruins the faith of clerics and the faithful, sterilizes the instruments of grace, favors the assaults of all the powers of Hell, which seem to triumph. This apostasy turns these members into adulterers, in schismatics opposed to all tradition, in breach with the past of the Church and, therefore, with the Church of today, insofar as it remains faithful to the Church of Our Lord. … The more attacked the Church is, the more we must cling to it, in body and soul, and strive to defend it and assure its continuity, availing ourselves of its treasures of holiness to rebuild Christianity.


  1. “Although public apostates and heretics, schismatics and excommunicati vitandi are outside the legal organisation of the Church, still their relationship to the Church is essentially different from that of the unbaptised. As the baptismal character which effects incorporation in the Church is indestructible, the baptised person, in spite of his ceasing to be a member of the Church, cannot cut himself off so completely from the Church, that every bond with the Church is dissolved. The obligations arising from the reception of Baptism remain, even if the use of the rights connected with it are withdrawn by way of punishment. Thus the Church claims jurisdiction over baptised persons who are separated from her”. (Ludwig Ott, Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Herder, Barcelona, 1966, p. 467).