Traditionalist catholics

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, the Latin Mass, or extraordinary form of the Mass), but their theological and practical concerns are broader in scope.

Traditionalist Catholics are distinct from other Catholics who have a broadly "traditional" or conservative outlook.


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

Traditionalist Catholics may be divided into four broad groups.

Traditionalists in good standing with the Holy See

Since the Second Vatican Council, several traditionalist organizations have been started with or have subsequently obtained approval from the Catholic Church. These organizations 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) as legitimate, if often prudentially unwise, but celebrate the older forms with the approval of the Holy See.[3]

There are also multiple monastic communities, including

See Communities using the Tridentine Mass for a more detailed list.

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. There are also numerous local and international lay organizations of traditionalist Catholics, such as the youth-groups of Juventutem.

Catholics in good standing with Rome who attend the traditional liturgy have diverse worldviews and outlooks ranging from (modern concepts of) liberal to 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]


Main article: Sedevacantism

Sedevacantists hold that the popes have forfeited their position through acceptance of heretical teachings connected with the Second Vatican Council and consequently there is at present no true pope.[7] They conclude, on the basis of their rejection of the revised Mass rite and of postconciliar Church teaching as false, that the popes involved are false also.[8] This is a minority position among traditionalist Catholics[7][9] and a highly divisive one,[8][9] so that many who hold it prefer to say nothing of their view,[8] while other sedevacantists have accepted episcopal ordination from sources such as Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục[9]

The terms sedevacantist and sedevacantism derive from the Latin phrase sede vacante ("while the chair/see [of Saint Peter] is vacant"),[7] a term normally applied to the period between the death or resignation of one pope and the election of his successor.

Sedevacantist groups include the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV) and the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI).


Main article: Conclavism

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"). The Palmarian Church has drastically altered its worship and doctrines and as such is no longer considered Catholic by other traditionalists.

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, closing address, statements from Pope Benedict XVI, and the lack of formal dogmatic definitions in the Conciliar documents.

Pope Benedict XVI contrasted the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" (an interpretation imposed by traditionalists and "progressives" alike)[10][11] 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".[12] He made a similar point in a speech to the bishops of Chile in 1988, when he was still Cardinal Joseph 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.[13]

There is some tension between different traditionalist groups at the official level: the SSPX, for example, condemns the FSSP and attendance at its Masses.[14] 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":[12]

  • 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.[15]
    • Some hold that celebration of any modern-language translation even of the Tridentine Mass would have to be presumed invalid.[16]
  • An inappropriate emphasis on the "dignity of man", which they claim ignores Rerum Novarum, and other papal and conciliar documents.
  • A teaching on [1]
  • A new and critical attitude towards the Bible that, they say, contradicts Leo XIII'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 Humanum Genus and other papal warnings against Freemasonry and other alleged enemies of Christianity have gone unheeded.

Example of one such claimant

Georges de Nantes, a priest of the Diocese of Grenoble and founder of the traditionalist Catholic League for Catholic Counter-Reformation, criticized the Second Vatican Council for encouraging ecumenism and reform of the Church, and accused Pope Paul VI of heresy and of turning the Church into a movement for advancing democracy, a system of government that de Nantes abhorred. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a notification on 10 August 1969, stating that, as de Nantes continued to maintain his views on the Council, the aggiornamento of the Church, the French episcopate, and the "heresies" of Pope Paul VI, he thereby "disqualified the entirety of his writings and his activities".[17] It issued another notification in 1983, published on L'Osservatore Romano of 16–17 May of that year, stating that de Nantes had come to Rome to present a "Book of Accusation against Pope John Paul II for Heresy, Schism and Scandal", and that the Secretary of the Congregation had received him, as instructed by the Pope, but had refused to accept from him a book that contained unjustified gravely offensive accusations of the same character as those that de Nantes had directed against Pope Paul VI in a book published in 1973. It added that the refusal of de Nantes to retract his previous attacks on Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, to which he was now adding attacks on Pope John Paul II, made it impossible to believe in the sincerity of his declaration in 1978 and 1981 of a desire for the reconciliation for which the Pope remained always disposed.[18]

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,[19] 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.[20]
  • 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."[21]
  • 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.[22]

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:[23]

  • 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. 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. 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 favour 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.

The 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.[24] It claims that adherents of radical traditional Catholicism "routinely pillory Jews as 'the perpetual enemy of Christ'",[24][25] reject the ecumenical efforts of the Vatican, and sometimes assert all recent Popes are illegitimate.[24] And it says that adherents are "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"[24] and that "Radical traditional Catholics" also embrace "extremely conservative social ideals with respect to women."[24]

Traditionalist practices

Rite of Mass

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 sedevacantists consider John XXIII not to have been a Pope, they reject the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Missal, which he promulgated. They generally use the 1920 typical edition, updated to some date previous to 1962. The Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen follows the Missal as in 1955, accepting the changes introduced by Pius XII, but others reject his alteration of the calendar of saints and his revision of the rites of Holy Week.[26] Thus these others reject both John XXIII's 1962 edition and Pius XII's changes, seeing them as steps that led to the Novus Ordo Missae. There are no reports of priests regularly using any typical edition of the Missal earlier than that of 1920, which incorporated the rubrical and calendar changes made by Pope Pius X in 1910.[27]

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.[28]
  • 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,[29] 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.[30]
  • 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.[31] Many traditionalists regard the practice of receiving communion in the hand, though ancient[32][33] and authorised by the Holy See,[34] as an abuse[35] and as sacrilegious.[36]
  • Women wearing a headcovering in church, a practice that was widespread, but not universal, before the Council,[37] and that also is not universal among traditionalists today.[38]
  • 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 as an option by Pope John Paul II.[39]

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 within the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat claims to be part of that particular Church, while having close links with the Society of St Pius X (SSPX). On 3 March 2008 a group of Basilian priests stationed at Pidhirtsi, Ukraine informed Pope Benedict XVI that four of them had been consecrated as bishops in order to "save" the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) from heresy and apostasy. On 11 August 2009, they announced the formation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church as a "new Church structure for the orthodox faithful of the UGCC", professing the Catholic faith, including the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, and disassociating themselves from "contemporary heresies which destroy both the Eastern and the Western Church".[40] Having elected their own patriarch, they declared on 1 May 2011 that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were excommunicated, leaving the Holy See vacant; they added: "The Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate is now commissioned by God to protect the orthodox doctrine of the Catholic Church, including the Latin Church. Only after an orthodox Catholic hierarchy and an orthodox successor to the Papacy is elected, will the Patriarchate be relieved of this God-given duty."[41] In some other Eastern Catholic Church too, there are small numbers who 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

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".[43] Such celebrations may be attended by those who spontaneously ask to be allowed.[44] 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"[45] (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.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48] The conferring of holy orders may therefore be valid but illicit.[49]

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.[50] 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."[51]

Traditionalists themselves are divided on the question of the validity of the orders conferred using the

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.[54] 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".[55] 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",[56] and a sedevacantist site put them at "60 to 120 million worldwide".[57] Various sources estimate the adherents of the Society of St Pius X alone at 1 million.[56][58][59][60] No major religious survey has ever made an attempt to sample and enumerate subsets of Catholics by their position on a liberal to mainstream conservative to traditionalist and sedevacantist continuum, so any figure on the numbers of traditionalist Catholics must by necessity be more or less educated guesses.

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.[61] Two other societies, the SSPV and CMRI, are based in the United States and also claim a presence in many countries, especially the CMRI. Traditionalist Catholics in English-speaking countries and Germany are more likely to be sedevacantist than those in France and other Latin countries.

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,[62] 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,[63] and 8,300,000 belong to other Eastern Catholic Churches of Armenian, Coptic and Syriac traditions.[64]

See also

Doctrinal and liturgical issues

Notable Traditionalist Catholics

Canonically regular traditionalist groups

Canonically irregular traditionalist groups

Sedevacantist groups

Generic list of groups

See also

  • Old Believers, a comparable phenomenon in the Russian Orthodox Church dating from the 17th century.
  • The Remnant – an American newspaper dedicated to traditionalist themes


External links

  • International Federation Una Voce The main international organisation of Traditionalists considered regular by the Holy See
  • The Society of St. Pius X The largest traditionalist body considered irregular by the Holy See
  • The Vatican department which deals with relations with traditionalists
  • Foederatio Internationalis Juventutem Largest organization of young traditionalist Catholics
  • Christ or chaos Site by Dr. Thomas A. Droleskey, one of the most prolific Catholic writers in the world providing all the proof needed for traditional Catholics
  • Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen Largest sedevacantist religious congregation
  • In Today's Catholic World Catholic news source for "Church in Eclipse"
  • Traditional Mass Upholding the true Church and Traditional Latin Mass

Further reading

  • Hull, Geoffrey (2010). The Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church, 1995, rpt. T&T Clark/Continuum, London. ISBN 0-567-44220-8


  • Video of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's 1988 consecration of Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, Bernard Fellay, and Alfonso de Galarreta as bishops of the Society of St. Pius X
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.