MICHAEL DAVIES — AN EVALUATION
by John S. Daly
(1st ed. 1989, 2nd ed. 2015)
One of the most prominent and influential writers of the traditionalist movement in the Vatican II Church was the English writer Michael Treharne Davies (1936-2004), shown above with then-“Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger. No individual has written more prolifically than Davies on traditionalist issues, and probably no single layman, with the possible exception of Dietrich von Hildebrand, has enjoyed wider prominence, credibility, and trustworthiness than him. But is this respect Mr. Davies has enjoyed really well-founded? If not, what does this mean for the people who base most of their understanding of the traditionalist subject matter on the research and argumentation of this one individual?
In a devastating dossier of 584 pages entitled Michael Davies — An Evaluation, Englishman John S. Daly (web site here) thoroughly dismantles the star apologist for Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X. This exhaustively-researched and well-documented book exposes and refutes the errors, fallacies, dangers, false theology, and sloppy scholarship of Michael Davies. Twenty-six years after it was first published, a new revised and expanded edition of this invaluable work was made available to the public in 2015, both in hardcopy and electronically, the latter as a free PDF download only through Novus Ordo Watch. We have advertised this outstanding work in various ways on this web site before and are happy to do so once more.
The book description provided by the author reads as follows:
Cambridge-educated translator John S. Daly puts the scholarship of the late Michael Davies under the spotlight. What emerges from systematic comparison with statements of the Magisterium and the greatest theologians must destroy Davies’s credibility in the eyes of every serious reader. “Michael Davies – An Evaluation” remains not only an unanswered indictment of Davies as a Catholic scholar, but a standing refutation of the entire ecclesiology of those who believe it possible for an orthodox Catholic to reject the doctrinal errors and reformed rites spawned by Vatican II without calling into doubt the legitimacy of recent papal claimants and the validity of the new sacraments….
There is no doubt, of course, that Davies has done considerable good and provided excellent analysis and refutation of many errors promoted by the Vatican II religion. His work as a whole is certainly responsible for opening the eyes of a great many people to the dangers and heresies of the Novus Ordo Sect (which he, alas, identified with the Catholic Church), and has (re)kindled in countless souls a love for the Holy Catholic Mass offered in the traditional Roman rite.
Daly’s exposé does not mean to detract from the good which has admittedly been accomplished by Davies over the years. However, this good must be weighed against the considerable damage he has done and harm to souls he has caused, as demonstrated throughout this work. A glass may be filled 80% with nutritious juice, but if the remaining 20% are poison, the entire glass will be contaminated, and death or serious illness will result. Pointing out that 80% of the contents were good, will not help to undo or minimize the damage of the 20%. It would also be quite irresponsible and deceptive to focus only on the healthful content and pretend the poison does not exist.
It is for this reason that we wish to assist in the distribution of Mr. Daly’s dossier — to reveal, for the good of souls, the many dangerous errors, fallacies, and problems in the research and argumentation of Michael Davies, upon whom so many, quite unjustifiedly but in good faith, have relied in their understanding of traditionalist Catholic issues over the years.
The author himself clarifies his motives for exposing Davies in the introduction to his study:
In view of Mr. Davies’s uniquely influential position in the Catholic world today, a candid examination of his writings to assess to what extent his facts, theology and reasoning can be relied upon seems to be an appropriate undertaking. That is what this Evaluation sets out to achieve by subjecting Mr. Davies’s writings to careful analysis in the light of Catholic authority.
…After several years of study and work in Catholic publishing I reached the conclusion that an Evaluation such as this was necessary in order to accomplish three main objectives:
(i) To refute the gravely erroneous positions of Mr. Davies … in which his assertions have been responsible for leading many souls astray in matters upon which salvation may quite literally depend.
(ii) To show by careful analysis that Mr. Davies is a grossly unreliable author whose statements about Catholic doctrine should never be accepted without verification from genuine Catholic authorities.
(iii) To set out in a single study the main points of disagreement among those commonly referred to as traditional Catholics, allowing both sides to state their case, and showing by rigorous demonstration in each case where the truth lies.
(John S. Daly, Michael Davies — An Evaluation, new ed. [Saint-Sauveur de Meilhan: Tradibooks, 2015], pp. XIII-XV)
Davies was a very interesting speaker, and his writing was usually quite pleasant to read. His English accent and delightful humor contributed to his affable personality. We have already conceded that much of his research and argumentation was valid and good. However, this cannot exonerate him from the many erroneous arguments he advanced and the inadequate or selective research he engaged in, often with regard to issues impacting Sedevacantism (case in point: his widely-repeated but false thesis that St. Athanasius was excommunicated by Pope Liberius, refuted here and also here).
The conclusions author John Daly reaches about Michael Davies are less than flattering:
The conclusions reached in this Evaluation are that Mr. Davies is a shameless purveyor of false doctrine, sometimes reaching actual heresy; intensely ignorant even on many elementary points of theology as well as on matters of historical fact and general Catholic knowledge; not infrequently guilty of downright dishonesty; an execrable scholar; arrogant and foolish; a source of huge scandal and, in fine, an utter disgrace to the name of Catholic. Naturally these conclusions are far from savoury. My only justification for reaching them is that they are inescapably true, and my justification for publishing them is that the good of souls demands that so great a source of danger be exposed as publicly as possible.
(Daly, Michael Davies, p. XV)
To give you a snapshot of the valuable information contained in Michael Davies — An Evaluation, we are reproducing here its table of contents:
Introduction to the New 2015 Edition
I. Davies’s Attitude to Authority
II. Shockingly Slipshod Scholarship
III. The Vacancy of the Holy See
Appendix: Suarez on the Heretical Pope
IV. Dishonesty, Inconsistency and Arrogance
V. Which Side is Michael Davies on?
VI. Miscellaneous Doctrinal Errors
VII. The Society of St. Pius X
VIII. Davies as an Anarchist
IX. Errors of Sacramental Theology
(a) The Orders of Archbishop Lefebvre
(b) The 1968 New Rite of Ordination
(c) Validity and “Significatio Ex Adjunctis”
(d) Validity of the Novus Ordo Missæ
X. The Alleged Fall of Pope Liberius
XI. Salvation Outside the Church?
XII. Doctrinal Evolution?
XIII. Open Letter to Mr. Michael Davies
At almost 600 pages, the reader will find this work is quite comprehensive in its critique of the Lefebvrist apologist. Such a critique is necessary because we who live in these times are engaged, at least in prefigurement, in the battle of Christ vs. Antichrist, and certainly that of Pope vs. Antipope, Church vs. Counterchurch. Human respect can never get in the way of defending the truth, no matter how unpopular it might be.
To purchase a copy of this dossier on Michael Davies in paperback, you may do so directly from Mr. Daly’s web site:
- Michael Davies – An Evaluation by John S. Daly
2nd ed.; Tradibooks (2015); 588 pp.
If you prefer to order through Amazon.com, you may do so by clicking here.
If you would like to download for free an electronic copy of this book — fully searchable through optical character recognition — you may do so at the link below:
PDF Format (3.5 MB)
Michael Davies — An Evaluation
by John S. Daly
New Edition (2015)
© John S. Daly
Although this book reserves copyright, Novus Ordo Watch is distributing it with the full and explicit permission of the copyright holder, author John S. Daly.
The battle for truth is an essential part of the battle for the salvation of souls, our own as well as those of others. It is therefore imperative for people to see falsehood exposed for what it is, and to realize that Michael Davies, whom many consider a weighty authority on the pressing issues or our time, was in fact a dangerous charlatan, even if he was right on many points. People who object in principle to a critique such as the one by Mr. Daly, on the grounds that “we should not be criticizing fellow-traditionalists”, have not understood the nature and the severity of the situation we are dealing with. Motives aside, we must know who is working on the side of Christ and the Truth, and who is working for the other side.
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, St. Paul wrote that God would permit, in the end, the “operation of error” to blind many souls because they did not love the truth:
And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.
(2 Thess 2:6-11; underlining added.)
If you have not seen it yet, make sure you read Cardinal Edward Manning’s commentary on this passage and the great research he did on the question of the Pope, the Antichrist, and the latter times, in which we must surely now be, simply because that which 60 years ago would have been considered practically impossible, has now come to pass, and things are deteriorating quickly:
- The Pope and the Antichrist — Cardinal Manning explains what is to come (1861)
- Related: The Papacy and the Passion of the Church
The situation in which we find ourselves today is unprecedented but not unexpected. A long-term vacancy of the Apostolic See, with no clear way out, seems to be a necessary condition enabling the rise of the Antichrist, else “he who withholdeth” — the Pope — would indeed restrain him. So, keep this in mind, whenever you hear some uninformed loudmouth tell you that “God would never permit this!”, that what God will or won’t permit is told to us in Divine Revelation, including Holy Scripture, and the matter is clear: God will not only permit but even “send”, as it were, the “operation of error”, with the precise intent that people will “believe lying” so that “all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity”.
Davies in his last years
We must remember also that while good will is necessary in this battle, it is not sufficient. The late great Fr. Frederick William Faber warned that one reason why the deception of the Antichrist would be so successful is that many “manifestly good” men would follow him and do his work, in ignorance:
We must remember that if all the manifestly good men were on one side and all the manifestly bad men on the other, there would be no danger of anyone, least of all the elect, being deceived by lying wonders. It is the good men, good once, we must hope good still, who are to do the work of Anti-Christ and so sadly to crucify the Lord afresh…. Bear in mind this feature of the last days, that this deceitfulness arises from good men being on the wrong side.
(Fr. Frederick Faber, Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, 1861; qtd. in Fr. Denis Fahey, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World [text here]; underlining added.)
Besides, fallen men tend to deceive themselves, quickly ascribing good will to themselves when in fact the truth may be quite different. How often do we not tell ourselves we are only interested in the truth when in fact we are not and prefer our own self-interest before all else! (On this, see the same Fr. Faber’s excellent spiritual advice on self-deceit in Spiritual Conferences, 2nd ed. , pp. 153-235.)
Jeffrey Knight’s talk on Sedevacantism and willful ignorance is also apropos here, a real eye-opener:
So, remember, ignorance alone will not get you off the hook, because much ignorance today is quite culpable. This doesn’t mean that those who are culpably ignorant are guilty of malice or ill will — no, it may simply be a case of culpable negligence. It’s time to show some fortitude, which is, after all, one of the four cardinal virtues and also a gift of the Holy Ghost: This is about the eternal destiny of your soul, for heaven’s sake! And if you have a spouse and children, it is about their souls as well. It’s time to take things seriously! Stop kidding yourself and look the facts in the eye! They do not cease to be facts just because we refuse to look.
Likewise, remember that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain: If Sedevacantism is true, it does not become false just because you refuse to look at the evidence; and if Sedevacantism were false, it would not become true just because you are looking into it. Besides, consider that Sedevacantism is entirely safe. By adhering to it, you cannot be led into heresy, nor into schism, if you are faithful to Catholic teaching. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the position were false, where would be the danger? What could you be accused of?
The worst that could be said of you is that you were wrong about who the Pope was, or whether there was a Pope. You believed, in good faith, that there was no Pope when in fact there was one — but at least you acted consistently and in accordance with Catholic teaching, to the best of your ability and in peace with your conscience. You could be accused of having made a sincere mistake, nothing more; a mistake regarding the identity of the true Pope, as many others did before in Church history, and quite innocently (assuming, of course, that you have done your best to figure it out). This is the worst that could be said. You could not be accused of adhering to or spreading false doctrine (heresy), nor of refusing to be subject to the man you acknowledged to be the Pope (schism). That you would not submit to a man you were sincerely convinced could not possibly be Pope, cannot be laid to your charge, since a Catholic is required to refuse submission to an impostor.
God does not require us to be infallible, but He does require us to adhere to Catholic teaching at all times and in the same sense and meaning it has always had, and He requires us to accept manifest facts as true and to reject contradictions as false. Sedevacantism is the only position that can reconcile the known empirical facts with Catholic teaching. For this you cannot be faulted, even if — per impossibile — it turned out to be false.
But back to Michael Davies, the man upon whose research and argumentation so many have relied for their understanding of traditionalist issues, from the Novus Ordo Missae to Sedevacantism to the illicit episcopal consecrations of Archbishop Lefebvre.
On April 22, 1980, Davies appeared on Firing Line with Bill Buckley, Jr., debating a Novus Ordo priest and the infamous pseudo-traditionalist Malachi Martin. The video of the show is available online, and we are embedding it below as a little perk so you can experience Michael Davies at a time when he had just published the first volume of his Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre:
What’s interesting — and very telling — is that although Michael Davies lived until 2004, he never responded to John Daly’s blistering critique, which had first been published fifteen years prior. One would think that if such a powerful refutation of one’s own writings was being disseminated, that the individual targeted would do everything in his power to defend himself to retain or regain his credibility, certainly over a period of time as long as 15 years and at the request of several intellectuals (see Daly, Michael Davies, pp. IX-X). Not so with Michael Davies — even though his critic had even provided a convenient summary of his findings, issued as an open letter consisting of very specific errors he challenged Davies to address (found in the book as Chapter 13, pp. 553-584). No attempt at a rebuttal was ever made by the Lefebvrist apologist.
Davies died on September 25, 2004, and so has already received his judgment. We pray that it was a merciful one and that he repented of all his errors and sins before being summoned to appear before the Divine Judge. It is not our desire to focus so much on the person of Davies as on his errors, powerfully refuted in this work by John Daly, because these errors are still alive and well today, not least because the name of Michael Davies has been attached to them. Nevertheless we must call attention to the fact that it is not wrong, according to the Catholic position on personal polemics, to attack, besides the argument itself, also the person making it. Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany explained this in his Vatican-endorsed book Liberalism is a Sin (1886):
This monumental dossier on Michael Davies is as explosive as it is detailed, and yet it is also eminently readable. You will find a great many arguments still heard today from people in the “recognize-and-resist” camp competently refuted by the sound reasoning and authentic Catholic sources used in this powerful critique, which most people have never seen or even heard of.
This Evaluation of Mr. Davies will prove a very valuable tool in defending the sedevacantist position and debunking one of its foremost critics. We do not think it an exaggeration to say that after these 584 pages, there is nothing left of the credibility of the celebrated Lefebvrist apologist.
The facts are in; the truth is out. Exit Michael Davies…