Richard Williamson was born in the UK during WWII. He converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1971. He was later ordained a priest in 1976 and consecrated a bishop in 1988, both by Archbishop Lefebvre. Bishop Williamson was a bishop for the SSPX and later departed from them. Last year (in Spring 2022) I met Bp. Williamson in England and even stayed with him one evening. I found him very intelligent and gracious. However, you don’t have to appreciate Bp. Williamson as much as I do to appreciate a prophetic quote from him below. I think even people who find him too “extreme” or too “controversial” or too “disobedient” need to keep reading.
Last year, also in 2022, he was on Restoring the Faith‘s podcast (Apple link only there, as YouTube removed it for content violations.) I normally don’t write a blog meticulously dissecting sentence-by-sentence, but what he said is such a brilliant commentary on the current Church crisis (and perhaps an inadvertent explanation of the growing lack of charity among conservative and traditional Catholics) that I decided to evaluate every sentence he said at one point in the pod.
So, first, let’s relay the entire section that Bishop Williamson said at minute twenty in the above-linked podcast. Please read this slowly, because it’s dense and prophetic, but clear:
In 1969, in the revolution in the Church, Catholic authority split from Catholic truth. And ever since, all Catholics are more or less schizophrenic, because if truth and authority are separated from one other, then either I follow authority and forget truth or I forget authority and follow truth. Or somewhere in between. So, I might mix it 10 to 90. I might mix it 20 to 80. I might mix it 30 to 70 or 70 to 30… So, all Catholics who want to be Catholic are somewhere between 0 and 100. And there’s a great variety and a great confusion in the Catholic Church because of that. And all of that will only be settled, but it will be settled, when Almighty God—nobody else can do it—will bring these erring humans, these erring human beings in Rome back to tradition. And when authority and truth reunite—that’s when the crisis is over.
Let’s look at the first line from the above paragraph: In 1969, in the revolution in the Church, Catholic authority split from Catholic truth.
What Bishop Williamson means here is that any prelate or bishop or priest or nun or layman quoting the faith and liturgy handed on by Jesus Christ to the Apostles and all the saints, Popes and martyrs up to the point of 1960s was subsequently called “disobedient” by men in the highest levels of the Church for doing what the Church had always done. In other words, God did not change His mind on everything in 1969. The Popes and bishops followed the way of the world, and the Catholics following perennial truth were told they no longer stood with authority. Hence, the bifurcation of authority and truth. (Bishop Williamson admits this was in the making long before the 1960s, but what happened in the Church in that decade became the weapon of claiming “disobedience” against any traditional Catholic, nearly overnight.)
And ever since, all Catholics are more or less schizophrenic, because if truth and authority are separated from one other, then either I follow authority and forget truth or I forget authority and follow truth.
This is a brilliant line. Keep in mind that “Evangelical Protestants” today simply go and find or start a new ecclesial community or “emergent Church” when they believe their lead-pastor has diverted from the Bible. However, we Catholics know we are wired for obedience, so we can not do that. We are wired for obedience not only to God, but also to the Pope and our local ordinary. Look, even I admit that, and so does Bp. Williamson. In fact, Bp. Williamson said in that podcast that Archbishop Lefebvre had no rebel-spirit, but was a very obedient person his whole life. (I believe him, because I too was criticized by formators for being “too obedient” in seminary.) But when we have reached an unprecedented time in Church history when a Catholic must choose between classic Gospel-truth and Apostate Rome, it leads to “schizophrenia.” Liberals will say “Just obey the Pope.” But even neo-cons who do not have the same view of the papacy as me are apparently ignoring Amoris Laetitia that says that divorced and remarried can receive Holy Communion without a life of celibacy or a declaration of nullity. Apparently, American neo-cons simply have a higher flash-point (apparently sexual only?) that the traditionalists of the 1960s had on Pope Paul VI giving an unprecedented overhaul to not one or two, but a full seven sacraments. But it’s leading anyone who cares about this Church crisis to the schizophrenia of choosing between Truth and Authority in a way not even presented to Catholics during the height of the Arian crisis.
So, I might mix it 10 to 90. I might mix it 20 to 80. I might mix it 30 to 70 or 70 to 30… So, all Catholics who want to be Catholic are somewhere between 0 and 100.
Bp. Williamson is talking about how one mixes Truth and Authority. America Magazine would be an example of something that follows a positivistic obedience to Rome, in which case they have 0% truth and 100% authority (or so they think.) Maybe the Augustine Institute or FOCUS is about 50/50 where they try to hold to the Gospel and some of the Church Fathers, but will play defense (or at least damage-control) for modernist hierarchy so as to make converts to Catholicism. Perhaps FSSP is about 70/30: FSSP will certainly preach St. Thomas Aquinas from the pulpit (70% truth-choosers) but will probably disband if told to do the new sacraments (eg 30% importance of authority.) Maybe SSPX aims at 90/10. Sedevacantists would be about 100/0. (I mean that 1958-sedevacantists aim for 100% truth and 0% authority. That doesn’t mean they actually obtain it.) In any case, I don’t give those numbers to insult anyone, so please don’t take the above as me ripping on the Augustine Institute or FSSP or sedevacantists. I’m just saying all these groups are trying to reconcile truth to authority as best they can, so don’t condemn any other conservatives for doing their best in reconciling truth with authority in the most unique Church crisis in history.
And there’s a great variety and a great confusion in the Catholic Church because of that.
Now, notice the title of this blog post: A Circular Firing Squad of Catholics. Although Bishop Williamson was not speaking of fraternal charity in this part of the podcast, I extrapolated from his words that those who hijacked the Council (not only in implementation, but even at the outset in 1962) purposely wanted division in the Church. That means for us: The only way to disarm Satan here is to stop fighting and show charity to one another. This is especially important for us in the traditional and conservative movement at this moment in Catholic Church history. And no, we’re not talking about how “a Council takes one hundred years to take effect.” What Church historians traditionally meant by “a Council takes one hundred years to take effect” was to effect the clarifications contained of an ecumenical Council, not debate the purposeful ambiguities of a Council. And these ambiguities have led to a circular firing squad not only with liberals, but even among good-willed traditionalists within the Catholic Church. We can’t “unite the clans” if even we in the traditional world can’t agree on how to balance truth versus authority (30/70 vs. 70/30?) So, I come to the conclusion: Perhaps this is all a test from God to show charity to one another as we live in “a great confusion in the Catholic Church,” just as Bp. Williamson mentioned.
And all of that will only be settled, but it will be settled, when Almighty God—nobody else can do it—will bring these erring humans, these erring human beings in Rome back to tradition. And when authority and truth reunite—that’s when the crisis is over.
In other words, if even Bishop Williamson or Archbishop Viganò can not fix this, then definitely a priest with a blog can not fix this. Therefore, until the total restoration of the Church, my only job is to teach the truth in charity. I would encourage you to do the same. Of course, there are leftists within the Catholic Church who are trying to destroy the ancient faith and the ancient liturgy, and they need to be named and exposed as vile heretics. (I am currently reading the book titled, Liberalism is a Sin by Fr. Félix Sardà y Salvany in 1899. He shows how the saints call heretics names and why we should, too.) But for traditional and conservative Catholics who may have a different mix of truth of authority (90/10 vs. 10/90?) but are actually trying to promote Apostolic Catholicism and a love of Jesus and Mary—those are the people we need to not kick out of bed, so to speak. Why? Because most conservative and traditional Catholics are doing the best with what they have. And if even a Bishop Williamson can admit that no YouTuber can solve this Church Crisis, then we need to put away our weapons of living in a circular firing squad among traditional Catholics. Notice again his closing words of that section of the podcast, namely, that only God can bring about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Thus, we trads must teach the truth in charity and expose leftists heretics, but we must stop this infighting among ourselves, especially as we’re “majoring in the minors” in shooting each other on rather unimportant topics in a circular firing-squad in this TLM world.
Recently, I watched on Amazon Prime a documentary on the Korean War called American Experience: The Battle of Choisin. In making that documentary, they interviewed many US servicemen who were at the grinding “Battle of Choisin” in North Korea during —30º conditions. It was perhaps the most grueling war documentary I have ever watched. One Mexican-American serviceman named Juan Balleza who was still alive at the making of this documentary described how both the Americans and Chinese suffered the same freezing-to-death of so many of their friends. He then said this astonishing line: “Up to this day if I were to meet a Chinese soldier, I’d hug him like a brother, cuz I know he’d suffered the same thing I did.” So, if an American serviceman can say that about the Chinese in the Korean War, then we traditionalists should be able to say that about a fellow conservative Catholic fighting this same spiritual war for souls. In fact, if the visible Church is in eclipse right now, then the Light may shine around the intended-path to anybody seeking supernatural faith, even before their baptism.
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