Response to “Catholic Answers”
Rejoinder from the “Rad Trads”
Chances are you’ve heard of an organization called Catholic Answers in Southern California. This enterprise was founded in 1979 by Karl Keating and has effectively become the de facto bulwark of the Novus Ordo religion in the United States. They follow a policy of strictest adherence to the Novus Ordo Vatican in all things and so are Novus Ordo and modernistic to the core, yet with that “conservative” veneer that keeps many trapped inside the Conciliar Church.
On May 31, 2013, their Catholic Answers Live radio show featured a program entitled “Radical Traditionalism”, which was dedicated to refuting the errors of the Society of St. Pius X (though from a Novus Ordo perspective) and also the supposed “error” of sedevacantism.
As the show caused some backlash and Catholic Answers found itself receiving nasty emails from (apparently) their very own indult semi-traditionalists (whom they took great pains to distinguish from the “radical” traditionalists), they will have another program devoted to “Radical Traditionalism”, on August 12.
Until then, we are presenting below a commentary on the May 31 broadcast and a response to the arguments made by host Patrick Coffin and guest Tim Staples that pertain specifically to sedevacantism, which is the position held and defended by Novus Ordo Watch.
Catholic Answers Live
Broadcast “Radical Traditionalism”
May 31, 2013, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
(click on desired broadcast hour to listen to audio)
Novus Ordo Watch Commentary / Responses
Overall, the radio broadcast of May 31 seemed pretty charitable. Perhaps it was because our expectations had been awfully low, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that Patrick Coffin and Tim Staples actually argued the issues and appeared to have no personal animosity towards anybody in the “Rad Trad” camp. And though their arguments against sedevacantism were flawed, it was refreshing to hear the host and his guest make their points calmly and tactfully. In fact, towards the end of the show, they even permitted a sedevacantist cleric who had called in to explain why he rejected the modernist “Popes”.
About half of the show (or more) was dedicated to the traditionalism of the Society of St. Pius X and the “recognize-and-resist” followers, a traditionalism we reject as ultimately un-Catholic and heretical because it denies the Catholic obgliation as a matter of faith to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Though we recognize that many of the “resisters” are devout people who are of good will and only trying to be Catholic as best as they know, we must point out (and have many times in the past) that this position of recognizing the Vatican II “Popes” as valid Popes but then sifting what to accept and what to reject from them, is not Catholic because it runs afoul of Catholic principles and makes submission to the Pope and the Church — which is required as an infallible article of Faith — effectively meaningless. (For example, see our article Refinishing the Great Facade here and listen to this informative radio broadcast here.)
For the most part, the criticism Catholic Answers delivered of the “recognize-and-resist” position and the SSPX was actually right on the money. The true Catholic teaching regarding the authority of the Pope and necessary submission to him does not allow for the “resistance” position of these traditionalists. There is no need to belabor the point now, but the following canon from the First Vatican Council lays it down pretty firmly:
“If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.”
(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3; Denz. 1831)
Tim Staples was entirely right in citing this canon against the SSPX and those who follow them in their resistance. The Pope can be licitly resisted, but only when he gives an evil individual command to an individual person, such as if he were to command you to commit blasphemy or fornication or theft. He cannot be resisted when he exercises his office in teaching the entire Church, or in promulgating disciplinary laws for the Church, or in canonizing saints, for example. (See The Bellarmine “Resistance” Quote: Another Traditionalist Myth and Traditionalists, Infallibility, and the Pope [PDF] for more information.)
Recently, the absurdity of the recognize-and-resist position reached a new milestone. Semi-traditionalist John Vennari, who is absolutely emphatic that Francis is the Pope of the Catholic Church, in all seriousness stated that he would never allow “Pope” Francis to teach religion (!) to his children. Our exposition and commentary on this can be found here.
But back to the broadcast. Though he correctly refuted the resistance position of the SSPX by citing Catholic dogmatic teaching, Tim Staples then blundered badly by claiming that the “most extreme form” of this denial of the Pope’s authority was found in sedevacantism.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Staples is apparently not aware that sedevacantism is not a “more extreme” form of the SSPX resistance position but actually rejects it in principle. Sedevacantism is founded on completely different (and genuinely Catholic) principles — not on the principle, for example, that a Pope can be resisted or ignored in the exercise of his office by the faithful at will, and so in effect becomes nothing but a glorified Protestant minister; but rather on the principle that the True Church cannot give evil, impiety, or error to her children, and therefore the Novus Ordo institution in the Vatican cannot be the True Catholic Church and its head cannot be the Pope.
Sedevacantism, then, has nothing — repeat: nothing — to do with denying or rejecting the authority of the Pope. It haseverything to do with rejecting false papal claimants. This is a distinction hopefully everyone can appreciate. We fully adhere to everything the Catholic Church has taught, including the authority and infallibility of the Pope as defined by the (First) Vatican Council. The issue is not one of the authority of the Pope, but one of whether John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis I have been true Popes and the institution they led the Roman Catholic Church.
It is therefore entirely unjust for Staples to accuse sedevacantists of having “gone even father” than the Society of St. Pius X. We have not gone “farther” but into a different direction. Comparing the SSPX and sedevacantists in this regard is like comparing apples with oranges. The following three essays will help underscore this fundamental difference between sedevacantism, the SSPX, and even the indult:
- Resistance and Indefectibility: Where is the Church?
- The Apostasy of John Paul II: A Catholic Response
- Traditionalists, Infallibility, and the Pope (2nd ed.) PDF download
To make matters worse, Staples accuses sedevacantists of being “actual outright heretics” on the grounds that we, allegedly, deny the following teaching of the (First) Vatican Council:
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, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in the same primacy, let him be anathema.
(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 2; Denz. 1825)
Staples argues that since we believe there has been no true Pope since Pius XII (d. 1958), we are denying the “perpetual successors” dogma.
But this argument is false and based on a misunderstanding of what the council is teaching here. First, just because St. Peter will have successors until the end of time, doesn’t mean the succession cannot be interrupted for some time, as it is, in fact, every time a Pope dies. Fr. Martin Stepanich, OFM (1915-2012), who was a real Catholic theologian, clarified this in two letters made available under the title An Objection to Sedevacantism: ‘Perpetual Successors’ to Peter. No sedevacantist believes that the institution of the papacy has been destroyed or has ended; rather, we believe that there is currently no (known) valid Pope to fill the office.
Second, just because St. Peter must have successors until the end of time doesn’t mean that the Vatican II “Popes” are in fact the legitimate successors. We already know that they cannot be valid successors, and the evidence for that isn’t refuted by pointing to the perpetual successors dogma, because this dogma doesn’t identify these men as the true successors; that Roncalli, Montini, Luciani, Wojtyla, Ratzinger, and Bergoglio are the legitimate successors to St. Peter is not part of the dogma. Moreover, the legitimacy of any Pope can never be a dogma but, at best, only a dogmatic fact, which is a “truth logically following from one proposition which is Divinely revealed and another which is historically certain” (see Fr. Sixtus Cartechini, SJ, On the Value of Theological Notes, 1951). So for Staples to accuse us of heresy is unacceptable on that score alone and shows that he’s not sufficiently familiar with Catholic doctrine. (Be sure also to see what the distinguished theologian Fr. Edmund J. O’Reilly wrote regarding the possibility of a long-term vacancy of the Apostolic See.)
Third, what the council is actually teaching is not that St. Peter will always have successors — true though that may be — but that all successors he has until the end of time share equally in his primacy. This is made clear not only by the canon itself, as quoted (“perpetual successors in the primacy“), but also in the paragraph immediately preceding the council’s definition:
Moreover, what the Chief of pastors and the Great Pastor of sheep, the Lord Jesus, established in the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual salvation and perennial good of the Church, this by the same Author must endure always in the Church which was founded upon a rock and will endure firm until the end of the ages. Surely ‘no one has doubt, rather all ages have known that the holy and most blessed Peter, chief and head of the apostles and pillar of faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race; and he up to this time and always lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors, the bishops of the holy See of Rome, which was founded by him and consecrated by his blood’ [cf. Council of Ephesus, Denz. 112]. Therefore, whoever succeeds Peter in this chair, he according to the institution of Christ himself, holds the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. ‘Therefore the disposition of truth remains, and blessed Peter persevering in the accepted fortitude of the rock does not abandon the guidance of the Church which he has received.’ For this reason ‘it has always been necessary because of mightier pre-eminence for every church to come to the Church of Rome, that is those who are the faithful everywhere,’ so that in this See, from which the laws of ‘venerable communion’ emanate over all, they as members associated in one head, coalesce into one bodily structure.
(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 2; Denz. 1824)
In other words, every valid successor to St. Peter — until the end of time — possesses the same primacy over the entire Church that St. Peter had. Whenever there is a true Pope, he has the primacy of St. Peter and is equal to him in this regard. This is what the “perpetual successors” dogma is teaching, and this is what sedevacantists firmly believe. We’re sorry for Mr. Staples that his intended blockbuster accusations of “heresy” and “fundamental loss of Faith” against sedevacantists turned out to be a howler.
But Staples isn’t done yet. Not only did he totally get the meaning of Vatican I’s dogma on the perpetual successors in the papal primacy wrong, he also claimed that it is impossible for sedevacantists to ever have another Pope again. He argued this on the grounds that since Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis of December 8, 1945, stipulates that only cardinals can elect a Pope validly, and since all of the cardinals created by Pius XII have long died, then it is not possible for there to be another Pope if Pius XII was the last one.
This argument is likewise fatally flawed. Pius XII’s constitution on how to elect a Roman Pontiff is, of course, merely human law, not divine law, and is therefore, of its very nature, limited. A human legislator — in this case, the Pope — can never foresee all possible circumstances, and human laws, even in the Church, are not meant to address all possible scenarios but are typically made only for ordinary circumstances.
In his monumental 4-volume work on moral and pastoral theology, Fr. Henry Davis discusses this: “[N]o human legislator can possibly foresee all circumstances”, he writes, and clarifies that church law “need not be fulfilled … if it has become impossible, or harmful, or unreasonable, or useless in general” (Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol. 1, pp. 188, 168; italics added). This isn’t anything “new” or controversial, and it is astounding that Staples would resort to making such a daft argument.
Of course the Church does not lose the ability to elect a Roman Pontiff when all cardinals — the electors currently designated by law — are deceased. At that point the human law given by the Pope automatically ceases, because it is incapable of being fulfilled, and the right to elect the Pope is then transferred back to those whom the cardinals represent, namely, the Roman clergy.
There is no need to take our word for this. Cardinal St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, wrote on this very point, on how a Pope would be elected if the entire college of cardinals, that is, the electors designated by law, became extinct and so the Church’s law could no longer be fulfilled.
“If there were no papal constitution on the election of the Supreme Pontiff; or if by some chance all the electors designated by law, that is, all the Cardinals, perished simultaneously, the right of election would pertain to the neighboring bishops and the Roman clergy, but with some dependence on a general council of bishops.
“In this proposition, there does not appear to be universal agreement. … Without a doubt, the primary authority of election in that case pertains to a Council of Bishops; since, when the Pontiff dies, there is no higher authority in the Church than that of a general Council: and if the Pontiff were not the Bishop of Rome, or any other particular place, but only the general Pastor of the whole Church, it would pertain to the Bishops either to elect his successor, or to designate the electors: nevertheless, after the Pontificate of the world was joined to the bishopric of the City, the immediate authority of electing in that case would have to be permitted by the bishops of the whole world to the neighboring bishops, and to the clerics of the Roman Church, which is proved in two ways.
“First, because the right of election was transferred from all the neighboring bishops and the Roman clergy to the Cardinals, who are a certain part of the bishops and clergy of the Roman Church; therefore, when the Cardinals are lacking, the right of election ought to return to all the bishops and clergy of the Roman Church.
“Second, because this is a most ancient custom (as we showed above from Cyprian), that the neighboring bishops, in the presence of the clergy, should elect both the Bishop of Rome and others also. And it is unheard of that the Bishops or Archbishops of the whole world should meet for the election of the Supreme Pontiff, except in a case where it is doubtful who should be the legitimate electors. For this doubt ought to be resolved by a general Council, as was done in the Council of Constance.”
Though Staples acknowledges that St. Robert Bellarmine resolved this question, he casually dismissed it as mere “speculation by a man 500 years ago” and “not the teaching of the Church”. Such a careless and shallow repudiation of the contribution of a sainted Doctor and exceptional theologian who is sometimes dubbed the “Doctor of the Papacy” and whom the Church has designated the Patron Saint of Catechists, is simply outrageous.
But let’s address Staples’ dismissal directly: First, it was not “speculation” but the competent resolution of a theological question by someone with the necessary authority, learning, and mandate from the Church to do exactly that — not to mention his eminent holiness. Second, the fact that it was “500 years ago” is irrelevant because that doesn’t make it any less true. Third, though St. Robert’s teaching doesn’t appear, to our knowledge, in any papal document or catechism, the fact that the Church has endorsed the teaching of St. Robert Bellarmine in general, raising him to the rare status of “Doctor of the Church”, and the fact that she has never qualified or contradicted this specific teaching of his, suffices, at the very least, to allow one to accept it. The status of St. Robert Bellarmine as a teacher of the Faith and a hammer of heretics is exceptional in the Catholic Church. Pope Clement VIII said of him that “with respect to learning, the Church of God had no equal”, and Pope Pius XI called him “the most brilliant glory of the Catholic episcopate, of the College of Cardinals, of the famous Society of Jesus”. All this can be verified in Pius XI’s Declaration on St. Robert Bellarmine as a Doctor of the Church (1931).
For Catholic Answers, apparently none of this matters; they don’t mind using a phony argument to accuse sedevacantists of heresy. The facts, however, refute their position. As for the question of how a true Pope could be determined once again, different possible solutions are enumerated in Appendix 5 (pp. 14-15) of the 2006 edition of Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope, available in PDF here. But the main point to remember is that the issue of how sedevacantists can get a true Pope is entirely separate from the fact that the Novus Ordo Church and its papal claimants are false. In other words, the evidence that proves the Novus Ordo Church and its papal claimants a fraud doesn’t somehow go away just because we may have difficulty figuring out how a true Pope will be restored.
This is actually somewhat similar to the Life of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The miracles He worked proved His Divinity, and this proof wasn’t negated by the fact that He died and laid in the tomb for three days, even if, at the time, it caused immense consternation and confusion among those who believed in Him (cf. Luke 24:21,25-27). This confusion and agony was not due to the objective facts — the Divinity of Our Lord, the Truth of His teaching, or the truth of the Messianic prophecies — but was due to unbelief, ignorance, lack of understanding, or weakness in His followers. In our time we must simply be content with the fact that Divine Providence has not seen fit to allow us to resolve every conundrum. “For we walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
Staples’ errors, however, were not confined to just the ones enumerated above.
Another big blunder he made on the show was regarding the infallibility of the Church’s universal disciplinary laws. Though he condeded that such laws cannot be harmful nor lead the faithful into sin, heresy, or impiety, he nevertheless said it is not correct to refer to them as “infallible” because, so Staples argued, “they can change”. But here Mr. Staples does not seem to be familiar enough with the subject matter. It is entirely true that laws promulgated for the entire church cannot be intrinsically evil, harmful, impious, heretical, etc., and it is also true that they can nonetheless change — but the Church does indeed refer to them as infallible; more properly, they are considered to be a secondary object of the Church’s infallibility and are thus infallible indirectly. To prove this, we need but look at the theologian Gerard van Noort’s treatment of the subject:
“The secondary object of infallibility comprises all those matters which are so closely connected with the revealed deposit that revelation itself would be imperilled unless an absolutely certain decision could he made about them.
“The charism of infallibility was bestowed upon the Church so that the latter could piously safeguard and confidently explain the deposit of Christian revelation, and thus could be in all ages the teacher of Christian truth and of the Christian way of life. But if the Church is to fulfill this purpose, it must be infallible in its judgment of doctrines and facts which, even though not revealed, are so intimately connected with revelation that any error or doubt about them would constitute a peril to the faith. Furthermore, the Church must be infallible not only when it issues a formal decree, but also when it performs some action which, for all practical purposes, is the equivalent of a doctrinal definition.
“One can easily see why matters connected with revelation are called the secondary object of infallibility. Doctrinal authority and infallibility were given to the Church’s rulers that they might safeguard and confidently explain the deposit of Christian revelation. That is why the chief object of infallibility, that, namely, which by its very nature falls within the scope of infallibility, includes only the truths contained in the actual deposit of revelation. Allied matters, on the other hand, which are not in the actual deposit, but contribute to its safeguarding and security, come within the purview of infallibility not by their very nature, but rather by reason of the revealed truth to which they are annexed. As a result, infallibility embraces them only secondarily. It follows that when the Church passes judgment on matters of this sort, it is infallible only insofar as they are connected with revelation.
“When theologians go on to break up the general statement of this thesis into its component parts, they teach that the following individual matters belong to the secondary object of infallibility: 1. theological conclusions; 2. dogmatic facts; 3. the general discipline of the Church; 4. approval of religious orders; 5. canonization of saints.”
(Van Noort, Dogmatic Theology 2: Christ’s Church [Newman Press, 1957], see transcript here; italics given; underlining added.)
It is remarkable that Mr. Staples does not know this. We are bringing this up to set the record straight and to show that just because you call your organization “Catholic Answers” doesn’t mean you actually provide Catholic answers. (For further explanation regarding the infallibility of the Church’s universal disciplinary laws, please see the entire chapter transcribed here.)
Several times during the radio show, Staples used the line that in their criticism of the New Church, “Rad Trads” are “blaming the fireman for the fire”. This was totally off the mark. While the phrase no doubt served as a useful polemical tool for him to score some much-needed rhetorical points, rhetoric is all it was. Staples was saying, in effect, that the worldwide Novus Ordo apostasy is not due to the Council, the New Mass, the teachings and actions of the Vatican II “Popes”, etc., but in spite of it all.
This contention is as absurd and laughable as it is historically unsupported. The council and the post-conciliar magisterium weren’t the fireman — they were the arsonist! Staples was simply repeating the old (and easily refuted) contention that the real problem was that the council was “disobeyed” and “hijacked” afterwards — as though the texts themselves weren’t filled with errors, modernist language, crucial omissions, etc.
Besides, who does he think has been implementing the council since its close in 1965? Who oversaw it? Who has been overseeing its application, especially as regards liturgy, disciplinary laws, and catechesis? Who came out with the 1969 Novus Ordo Missae? Who came out with the 1983 Code of Canon Law? Who came out with the 1992 Universal Catechism? Who came out with the abhorrent 1993 Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism? Who gave all this authority to the local bishops? Who rehabilitated and gave a voice to the condemned ‘New Theologians’ that won the day at the council? Who made them “cardinals”? What have we seen from the Vatican, especially by the false “Popes”, if not an application and implementation by the “rightful authority” of the Second Vatican Council?
In 1998, Ralph McInerny published a book entitled What Went Wrong With Vatican II, in which he advanced that same “it wasn’t the council but the bad, disobedient theologians after the council” argument. The book is as thin as the evidence for the thesis itself. With plenty of filler pages, large font, and additional line spacing, the publisher was barely able to scrape together 168 pages for this book. People who want the evidence of what really happened at the council should obtain copies of the following works:
- The Rhine Flows into the Tiber by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen (author is Novus Ordo)
- The History of Vatican II (5 vols.) by Giuseppe Alberigo et al. (authors are Novus Ordo)
- What Happened at Vatican II by Rev. John W. O’Malley (author is Novus Ordo)
- In the Murky Waters of Vatican II by Atila Sinke Guimaraes (author is non-sedevacantist traditionalist)
- Tumultuous Times by Frs. Francisco and Dominic Radecki (authors are sedevacantists)
No, Mr. Coffin and Mr. Staples. Don’t blame it on “Vatican II has been misunderstood.” This indefensible position has been around for a long time, and the historical evidence simply isn’t there; in fact, it points in the opposite direction. Maintaining this stance is as preposterous as arguing that the epidemic of abortion and out-of-wedlock pregnancies in the United States is due to a lack of sex education! No, “Catholic Answers.” We’re not blaming the fireman for the fire. We’re blaming the arsonist, whom you’re trying to dress up as a fireman!
Another issue dividing Novus Ordos, resisters, and sedevacantists is the question of whether it is permitted for the True Church to make changes to the liturgical rites of the Holy Mass. As this is a question many traditionalists are mistaken on, we want to be sure not to neglect addressing it. The argument is made that Pope St. Pius V forbade any modification to the Roman Missal in his Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum (1570) with the following words: “…in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that … this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used.”
For the sake of truth, accuracy, and justice, we must point out that Tim Staples was entirely right in saying that this decree does not forbid later changes to the Missal by other Popes, for all Popes are equal in their primacy (as we saw above – wink, wink) and an equal cannot bind another equal in disciplinary matters. This is spelled out in more detail in the post “Quo Primum: Could a Pope Change It?” by Fr. Anthony Cekada. The “in perpetuity” clause used by St. Pius V essentially means that the law does not expire, that it is valid until changed by a future Pope.
So, on this point, Catholic Answers is right, and any traditionalist arguing the contrary is wrong. It is very important not to use flawed arguments when defending true Catholicism — because it is wrong, it is counterproductive, and it is unnecessary.
One popular accusation against traditionalists — and one Catholic Answers could not resist using — is that our position amounts to “high church Protestantism”. Such a charge is always most ironic, considering that if it were true, then most certainly the Novus Ordo Church would be the last entity on earth to have a problem with it. In fact, their Second Vatican Council teaches (see Unitatis Redintegratio, par. 3) that Protestants “are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church” and — note well — “have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation” because “the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.” So if traditionalists are high church Protestants, what’s the big deal?
Let’s keep in mind that it is actually the Novus Ordo Church that is Protestant. The “New Mass” is an invalid Protestant-Masonic-modernist worship service. The Novus Ordo Vatican occasionally signs theological agreements with Protestant heretics. The false “Popes” and their henchmen act as though Protestants had an apostolic mandate to preach the Gospel. They give away highly-symbolic Catholic sacramentals such as episcopal rings and pectoral crosses and hand them to Protestant laymen dressed up as clergy. The Vatican II Sect invites Protestant churchmen to have joint ecumenical worship services and even allows for the building of joint Catholic-Protestant churches, as John Paul II’s Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism legislates (nos. 137-140). The same legislation allows “Catholic bishops” to help heretics celebrate their false worship “worthily” by lending them whatever may be necessary for it (no. 137). (See this principle put into practice in Houston earlier this year.)
Plus, when some Protestant faith leaders die, they get a shout-out from the “Pope”, who declares them to have “attained eternal joy” (see Benedict XVI’s comments on the death of Bro. Roger Schutz, August 17, 2005). So what’s the problem?
As can easily be seen here, it is the Novus Ordo Church that is Protestant, and we would become Protestants by joining it, not by refusing to join it. So far the response of the sedevacantists.
It is true, on the other hand, that the semi-traditionalist “resistance” position — as opposed to the sedevacantist position — rests on non-Catholic principles that resemble (ironically) those of Protestantism, Modernism, Gallicanism, or other heresies — such as, for example, the idea that we need not accept the teachings of papal encyclicals, we can reject papal canonizations, universal disciplinary laws, the Roman Missal as promulgated by the Pope, etc. This is an inherent flaw in that position that renders it entirely unacceptable.
Staples & Co., however, believe sedevacantists and semi-trad “resisters” are in the same boat, essentially. For them, we must join the Protestant Novus Ordo Church so we don’t become, uh, Protestants. So it seems like we’re just condemned to becoming Protestants either way. In which case, why do they care?
Now, it is true, as Staples pointed out, that “we do not have the authority to sit in judgment of the decrees of ecumenical councils and Popes”, but this, too, is an argument against the “resistance” position of the Society of St. Pius X and people of similar conviction; it has nothing to do with sedevacantism. Sedevacantism very much affirms that there is no higher authority in the Church than the Pope, and no one can appeal from a judgment of the Roman Pontiff (cf. Canon 1556). Nor are official papal acts, teachings, laws, councils, etc., subject to review, revision, or acceptance by the faithful. This is beyond question.
At the same time, however, sedevacantists are emphatic that the Second Vatican Council and the “Popes” in Rome after Pius XII have been fraudulent. The council itself was not called nor promulgated by a valid Roman Pontiff, and that is why its teachings are null and void. It has nothing to do with “resistance” to perceived legitimate authority. The sedevacantist position arises out of the realization that (1) the Novus Ordo teachings are genuinely in irreconcilable conflict with Catholic teaching, as is proved not only by the words themselves but also by the official interpretation of these words by the Novus Ordo authorities and their utter refusal to even attempt a reconciliation with — or even reference to — past teaching; (2) it is not possible that the Catholic Church contradict her own teachings, or that the faithful have to sift the good from the bad and “resist” accordingly — this would make a mockery of the role of the Church. Therefore, the only viable conclusion is that the Novus Ordo church is a false church — in its essence, in its teachings, in its laws, and in the “authorities” that preside over it.
This just by way of summary — it is not our intent now to get into the detailed evidence, but at the end of this post we are providing links to various essays discussing this.
Before bringing our response to Catholic Answers to a close, there is one more observation we would like to make.
Unlike some in the semi-traditionalist camp, such as The Remnant, we do not object to being labeled “Radical Traditionalists.” After all, the true Catholic Church is radically traditional. In 1910, His Holiness Pope St. Pius X himself acknowledged: “Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists” (Apostolic Letter Our Apostolic Mandate). Now the term “radical” means “fundamental”, and the Church is certainly traditional at her core, for Tradition — literally, “that which is handed down” — is the lifeblood, as it were, of the Church. So what’s wrong with being considered a Radical Traditionalist? It should be a compliment for us. (By the way, if you’ve ever wondered what these “Radical Traditionalists” typically look like, here is a sample photo – are you prepared??)
At the end of the May 31 “Rad Trad” radio show, sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada called in and discussed with Coffin and Staples the Novus Ordo “Frankenchurch” ecclesiology error of Vatican II. As we anticipate further elaboration from both sides on this issue in the August 12, 2013, broadcast, we will refrain from commenting on the arguments at this point and wait until after the next broadcast, which we will examine in a separate post.
[UPDATE 2/21/14: We address the substance of the Coffin/Staples position in this post here: Francis’ Heresy on the Nature of Faith.]
Pope St. Pius X, scourge of the Modernists, pray for us!