I’ve had a very useful clarification from a reader in my combox. I would like all readers to know that Bishop Williamson and the other members of Society of St Pius X are not schismatic.
They have been consecrated as bishops without permission from the Pope, and their consecration went on in direct defiance of the Pope’s directives. They continue to promote their own priests and parishes separate to the recognized hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but I must repeat that they are not schismatic.
It is true that Archbishop Lefebrve undertook an illicit Episcopal consecration and therefore performed a schismatic act. It is for this reason that the Bishops consecrated by him have been suspended and excommunicated. However, just because a person does a schismatic act, and their group continues in schismatic acts, does not mean that they are schismatic. Why some people find this difficult to understand is beyond me.
At the time Pope John Paul wrote:
In itself this act [of consecrating those four bishops] was one of disobedience to the Roman pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the Church, such as is the ordination of bishops whereby the apostolic succession is sacramentally perpetuated. Hence such disobedience—which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy—constitutes a schismatic act [Code of Canon Law, 751]. In performing such an act, notwithstanding the formal canonical warning sent to them by the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops last June 17, Archbishop Lefebvre and the priests Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta have incurred the grave penalty of excommunication envisaged by ecclesiastical law [Cf. Code of Canon Law, 1382].
Later in the same apostolic letter, the pope speaks directly to those Catholics who are part of the SSPX or who are tempted to become part of it. Notice the grave urgency of his exhortation:
In the present circumstances I wish especially to make an appeal both solemn and heartfelt, paternal and fraternal, to all those who until now have been linked in various ways to the movement of Archbishop Lefebvre, that they may fulfill the grave duty of remaining united to the vicar of Christ in the unity of the Catholic Church and of ceasing their support in any way for that movement. Everyone should be aware that formal adherence to the schism is a grave offense against God and carries the penalty of excommunication decreed by the Church’s law [Cf. Code of Canon Law, 1364].
However, we should make it clear that the group is not, I repeat, NOT schismatic. Do not be deceived by appearances. Just because a group breaks away from the authority of the pope, consecrates its own bishops, ordains its own priests and disobeys the pope it should not be regarded as schismatic. Again, let us repeat this is not schism.
Tomorrow I will be clarifying the situation regarding the confusion over the colors black and white. There is a current opinion out there that black is black and white is white. Check my post tomorrow in which I will be correcting this error.