Deflating a misused analogy…
On that “Passion of the Church” Argument
It has become quite popular in recent weeks for Semi-Traditionalists to justify their utterly novel and theologically absurd “recognize-and-resist” position by simply repeating an attractive but misleading analogy found in the new book True or False Pope? by John Salza, a former 32nd-degree Freemason, and Robert Siscoe (pp. 9-10, 23, 39-40, 80, 677-680). According to this idea, the Catholic Church is currently undergoing a Mystical Passion, similar to that of her Divine Founder: Like Him, she is bleeding and agonizing, lacerated and disfigured; like Him, she is suffering at the hands of the lawful spiritual authorities. Most recently, Kazakh “Bishop” Athanasius Schneider employed this analogy, saying the Church “is nowadays enduring a sorrowful passion, participating in the Passion of Christ” (source). No doubt we will hear more of this “Passion of the Church” talk in the months ahead, as the false pope in Rome, Francis, shifts his work of destruction into ever higher gear.
In this post we will examine the Salza-Siscoe thesis about an ecclesiastical Passion in some detail. We have touched upon and refuted this argument before, so if some of the following lines seems familiar to you, please bear with us — they merit repeating. Nevertheless you will also find much new content in what follows.
Let’s be clear up front: Sedevacantists agree that the Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is undergoing a Mystical Passion of sorts today; this much is beyond dispute, considering what has happened since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. It is also hinted at in Holy Scripture, in 2 Thess 2:7: “For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way”. The one who “now holdeth” who will at one point “be taken out of the way” is the Pope, as Cardinal Henry Edward Manning (1808-92) has so convincingly proved, and it is this “taking out of the way” that begins the Mystical Passion of the Church.
However, claiming that the Church is undergoing a Passion is not enough. The question is, what is the nature of that Passion, and who can authoritatively tell us that?
The False Passion pushed by Salza & Siscoe
Authors Salza and Siscoe leave their “Passion of the Church” concept conveniently vague and undefined. Judging from their theological position, however, it is clear that they believe this Passion to consist in the true and lawful shepherds of the Church, including the legitimate Popes, i.e. the Vicars of Christ, leading the entire Church astray and inflicting incalculable damage on souls through their teachings and laws, their saints and liturgical rites, even to the point of proclaiming heresy in ecumenical councils and other official magisterial documents — the sole exception being the very narrow criteria pertaining to dogma and infallibility that were spelled out by the First Vatican Council (Denz. 1792; 1839). This seems to be the Salza-Siscoe idea of the “Passion of the Church”.
But do the two anti-sedevacantist pundits cite any justification for their curious view of the Church’s Passion? No, of course they do not (if we missed it, please, someone correct us). By this we do not mean that they do not argue for their false theological recognize-and-resist position and against Sedevacantism — for this they do at great length in over 700 pages —, but that they do not prove that this is in what the Passion of the Church essentially consists. Nor could they possibly prove this, for what they are suggesting is an absurd, blasphemous, and heretical concept.
Not only will we now proceed to show that the Salza-Siscoe version of the Church’s Mystical Passion is in fact a false analogy, we will also demonstrate that the real Passion of the Church as understood by the Church’s competent authorities supports the Sedevacantist position and stands in stark contrast to the Salza-Siscoe idea of the Mystical Passion.
On p. 23 of True or False Pope?, the authors enlist Pope Pius XII in service of their disrespectable thesis, by quoting the first sentence of paragraph n. 3 of his encyclical on the Mystical Body. We will be happy to repeat the quote here, without, however, omitting the rest of the passage:
From the outset it should be noted that the society established by the Redeemer of the human race resembles its divine Founder who was persecuted, calumniated and tortured by those very men whom He had undertaken to save. We do not deny, rather from a heart filled with gratitude to God We admit, that even in our turbulent times there are many who, though outside the fold of Jesus Christ, look to the Church as the only haven of salvation; but We are also aware that the Church of God not only is despised and hated maliciously by those who shut their eyes to the light of Christian wisdom and miserably return to the teachings, customs and practices of ancient paganism, but is ignored, neglected, and even at times looked upon as irksome by many Christians who are allured by specious error or caught in the meshes of the world’s corruption. In obedience, therefore, Venerable Brethren, to the voice of Our conscience and in compliance with the wishes of many, We will set forth before the eyes of all and extol the beauty, the praises, and the glory of Mother Church to whom, after God, we owe everything.
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 3)
The Pope here is clearly and rightly drawing an analogy between the Catholic Church and the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Son of God was persecuted and had to endure the greatest sufferings, so must the Church, His Body. But notice that in what follows the first sentence, Pius XII hastens to present the Church as the antidote to her and His persecutors, the ark of salvation which confounds the errors of the world and grants a safe haven to all who seek to follow Christ. In fact, as the Pope says, after God Himself we owe everything to her, to that glorious Mystical Body of Christ, outside of which no one can be saved.
This beautiful description can hardly be reconciled with the novel and outrageous idea being pushed by Salza and Siscoe, according to which the Church herself is persecuting Christ and His followers! No wonder they didn’t quote that part of the encyclical. Indeed, in the recognize-and-resist scheme promoted by the anti-sedevacantist duo, our Lord’s Sacred Passion is blasphemously distorted. For if, suffering the Passion, the Church is analogous to our Lord, then this means that the Church is the victim, not the perpetrator. But yet, it is the Vatican II Church — the Catholic Church in Salza’s and Siscoe’s minds — that is at the source of all these evils, for it imposed on the Catholic world all the harmful teachings, liturgical rites, disciplinary laws, bogus saints, etc., that Salza, Siscoe, and all their cohorts are so vehemently “resisting”! By analogy with our Lord’s Passion, they are arguing in effect that Christ persecuted and condemned Himself, that He scourged Himself, that He spat at Himself, that He crucified Himself, that He blasphemed and cursed at Himself!
We know by Divine Faith, but also by the simple light of natural reason, that anyone who persecutes, condemns, and curses the True God, obviously cannot be the True God himself! In other words, if there is a man who curses, blasphemes, teaches error, leads one to false worship, feeds poison to his flock, and instead of healing the sick cripples the whole, we know with infallible certitude that it is not the Messiah but an impostor! And, by analogy, if any church should do such a thing, we likewise know that it is not the Catholic Church, for the Catholic Church is the Ark of Salvation, not the barque of damnation. Bp. Donald Sanborn made this point very convincingly in his Syllogism of Sedevacantism.
If we want to look for a label Divine Revelation ascribes to the power that perennially persecutes the Church, there is one that stands out: Antichrist. St. John the Apostle warned the faithful directly: “…Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us.…” (1 Jn 2:18-19). It is interesting that St. John states that “they went out from us”, i.e. they were once part of the True Church but then defected into heresy or apostasy. Sound familiar? And St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, pointed out that this persecuting power is the “operation of error” that God would send “to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity” (2 Thess 2:10-11). According to sedevacantists, the “operation of error” is the false Vatican II Church, which seeks to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect (cf. Mt 24:24). For Salza and Siscoe, the “operation of error” is apparently the true Catholic Church herself, with her true Popes and other rightful shepherds, who are deceiving the people through their official teachings and laws — but to know that, apparently the faithful must have a subscription to The Angelus, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and tune into the theological arguments of non-appointed journalists, lawyers, and mortgage brokers, who are constantly engaged in issuing corrections of their own church’s (supposedly) lawful Magisterium.
Who is the one who has lost Faith in the Church here?
It is the expert in Freemasonic ritual and his theological sidekick who are out there claiming that the Catholic Church can teach the foulest of errors as long as she does not do so under the conditions for infallibility. Apparently it never occurred to these master theologians that perhaps these conditions for infallibility also belong to those foul errors an ecumenical council can teach without undermining the Church’s indefectibility. But we’ll leave that for another post.
In the Salza-Siscoe world of Disneyland theology, the Church can teach whatever she pleases, just not infallibly, and it is then incumbent upon the faithful to recognize the errors, sift them out, discard them, and warn the rest of the faithful against them. This must be done, if necessary, against all opposition from the (supposedly) lawful authorities in the Church — even the punishment of excommunication (see Abp. Marcel Lefebvre). In other words, each individual Catholic must play theological babysitter to the Holy See, ensuring that it does not teach error, or at least recognizing it when it does and then effectively overruling it. What justifies this course of action for every believer? Simple: Some American tax lawyer on his way out of the Lodge decided there’s a Passion going on.
In TRADCAST 009, we already demolished Salza’s attempt to refute Sedevacantism based on this misleading “Passion of the Church” analogy. If you have not done so yet, you will definitely want to take a listen because we deflate Salza’s rhetoric pretty powerfully. Contrast the Salza-Siscoe thesis on the Passion of the Church with the beautiful words of the great Fr. Frederick Faber:
But we may forget, and sometimes do forget, that it is not only not enough to love the Church, but that it is not possible to love the Church rightly, unless we also fear and reverence it. Our forgetfulness of this arises from our not having laid sufficiently deeply in our minds the conviction of the divine character of the Church… The very amount of human grandeur which there is round the Church causes us to forget occasionally that it is not a human institution.
Hence comes that wrong kind of criticism which is forgetful or regardless of the divine character of the Church. Hence comes our setting up our own minds and our own views as criteria of truth, as standards for the Church’s conduct. Hence comes sitting in judgment on the government and policy of Popes. Hence comes that unfilial and unsage carefulness to separate in all matters of the Church and Papacy what we consider to be divine from what we claim to be human. Hence comes the disrespectful fretfulness to distinguish between what we must concede to the Church and what we need not concede to the Church. Hence comes that irritable anxiety to see that the supernatural is kept well subordinated to the natural, as if we really believed we ought just now to strain every nerve lest a too credulous world should be falling a victim to excessive priestcraft and ultramontanism [“papolatry”? —N.O.W.].
…Only let us once really master the truth that the Church is a divine institution, and then we shall see that such criticism is not simply a baseness and a disloyalty, but an impertinence and a sin.
(Rev. Frederick W. Faber, Devotion to the Church [London: Richardson & Son, 1861], pp. 23-24; italics in original; paragraph breaks added.)
BAM! So here we see just who is the traditional Catholic! Is Fr. Faber not precisely describing our Semi-Traditionalists? (As you can see, there is a reason why we call them Semi-Traditionalists!) Michael Matt of The Remnant in particular always likes to play the supposed “human element” of the Church card when he needs to justify his resistance to a public apostate he acknowledges as Pope, yet here Fr. Faber sets him straight. The true Catholic Church does not need a theological babysitter. Her teachings, laws, decisions, liturgical rites or canonizations are not subject to review by a bishop from Switzerland or lawyers and journalists from the United States, as Pope Leo XIII also made clear. This goes to show that the Resisters really do not have Faith in the Church at all, but consider her a merely human institution, which can fail as much as any other human society and which is therefore in need of criticism and human assistance lest she go under. That, at least, is exactly how they behave.
We have said it before: The reason why so many people who mean to be traditional Catholics can easily accept Francis as Pope, or can take a position that “it doesn’t matter” whether he is Pope, is that they do not submit to him anyway. Refusal of submission to the Pope, however, constitutes schism, and, if it is denied that a Catholic must submit to the Pope, then it is heresy as well (see Denz. 1831). If you are not sure what you believe on this matter, you can do a quick self-test. Watch the brief video below and see if you can, in good conscience, assent to the pre-Vatican II Catholic teachings quoted there and reconcile them with the idea that Jorge Bergoglio or his five predecessors are valid Popes. Good luck!
Ask yourself this, ladies and gentlemen: As a result of the impious position put forth by Messrs. Salza and Siscoe, are you led to a greater love and veneration for the Church and her Supreme Pontiff? Are you led to greater obedience and faithfulness to everything she teaches? Are you not, rather, looking upon her with great suspicion and disgust, having been led to believe that what comes from her is often tainted with damnable errors, especially Modernism, and that you must often guard yourself against the Church lest she lead you astray? Is this the Church Christ left us, the “church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15)? Is this not rather a frightening monster?!
It is one thing to say that the Church is not infallible in every single utterance of her Magisterium, and hence some things taught by the authentic ordinary Magisterium could technically still undergo revision in the future (in the meantime, however, you would still have to assent to the non-infallible teaching, which could only be revised by the Church herself in the future, not by your local lawyer, journalist, or blogger) — yet it is quite another thing to claim, as Salza and Siscoe do, that the Church can teach heresy and contradict her very own doctrine. Such an institution would not be divine — it would not even be credible!
The Real Passion of the Church: Cardinal Manning explains
What, then, is the real Passion of the Church? Let us turn to an eminent theologian who addressed the question at length. As already mentioned, it is Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, who presented his research, based on the Church’s best theological authorities throughout the centuries on this topic, in a series of lectures in 1861 that were later compiled into a book under the title, The Present Crisis of the Holy See Tested by Prophecy.
What follows is some select excerpts (in blue font) from His Eminence’s Lectures III and IV, which are directly pertinent to the Passion of the Church. If you would like to read more excerpts, please see our post, “The Pope and the Antichrist”. As you read this text, notice that the Vicar of Christ is always spoken of, not as the problem but as the solution, not as the perpetrator but as the victim, not as the persecutor but as the one persecuted — and that those who fall away, fall away from him, the Pope, who himself always remains the upholder and standard of the Faith, in accordance with the divine promises: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Lk 22:32).
[BEGIN CARDINAL MANNING EXCERPT; underlining added]
As there is perpetual working of this mystery of iniquity, so there is a perpetual hindrance or barrier to its full manifestation, which will continue until it be removed; and there a fixed time when it shall be taken out of the way…. Now, inasmuch as this wicked one shall be a lawless person, who shall introduce disorder, sedition, tumult, and revolution, both in the temporal and spiritual order of the world, so that which shall hinder his development, and shall be his direct antagonist after his manifestation, must necessarily be the principle of order, the law of submission, the authority of truth and of right….
We have now come nearly to a solution of that which I stated in the beginning, namely, how it is that the power which hinders the revelation of the lawless one is not only a person but a system, and not only a system but a person. In one word, it is Christendom and its head; and, therefore, in the person of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and in that twofold authority with which, by Divine Providence he has been invested, we see the direct antagonist to the principle of disorder….
Ever since the foundation of Christian Europe, the political order of the world has rested upon the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; for which reason all the public acts of authority, and even the calendar by which we date our days is calculated from the year of salvation, or from “the year of our Lord”…. [I]n the day in which you admit those who deny the Incarnation to an equality of privileges, you remove the social life and order in which you live from the Incarnation to the basis of mere nature: and this is precisely what was foretold of the antichristian period….
If the barrier which has hindered the development of the principle of antichristian disorder has been the Divine power of Jesus Christ our Lord, incorporated in the Church and guided by his Vicar, then no hand is mighty enough, and no will is sovereign enough to take it out of the way, but only the hand and the will of the incarnate Son of God himself….
The history of the Church, and the history of our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel. For three-and-thirty years the Son of God incarnate was in the world, and no man could lay hand upon Him. No man could take Him, because His “hour was not yet come.” There was an hour foreordained when the Son of God would be delivered into the hand of sinners. He foreknew it; He foretold it. He held it in his own hand, for He surrounded His person with a circle of His own Divine power. No man could break through that circle of omnipotence until the hour came, when by His own will He opened the way for the powers of evil….
In like manner with His Church. Until the hour is come when the barrier shall, by the Divine will, be taken out of the way, no one has power to lay a hand upon it. The gates of hell may war against it; they may strive and wrestle, as they struggle now with the Vicar of our Lord; but no one has the power to move Him one step, until the hour shall come when the Son of God shall permit, for a time, the powers of evil to prevail. That He will permit it for a time stands in the book of prophecy….
We have need, then, to be upon our guard. It shall happen once more with some, as it did when the Son of God was in His Passion — they saw Him betrayed, bound, carried away, buffeted, blindfolded, and scourged; they saw Him carrying His Cross to Calvary, then nailed upon it, and lifted up to the scorn of the world; and they said, “If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” [Mt 27:42]. So in like manner they say now, “See this Catholic Church, this Church of God, feeble and weak, rejected even by the very nations called Catholic. There is Catholic France, and Catholic Germany, and Catholic Sicily, and Catholic Italy, giving up this exploded figment of the temporal power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” And so, because the Church seems weak, and the Vicar of the Son of God is renewing the Passion of his Master upon earth, therefore we are scandalised, therefore we turn our faces from him. When then, is our faith? But the Son of God foretold these things when He said, “And now I have told you before it come to pass; that when it shall cons to pass, you may believe” [Jn 14:29].
Now, it is against that person [the Pope] eminently and emphatically, as said before, that the spirit of evil and of falsehood direct its assault; for if the head of the body be smitten, the body itself must die. “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,” was the old guile of the evil one, who smote the Son of God that he might scatter the flock. But that craft has been once tried, and foiled for ever; for in the death which smote the Shepherd, the flock was redeemed: and though the shepherd who is constituted in the place of the Son be smitten, the flock can be scattered no more. Three hundred years the world strove to cut off the line of the Sovereign Pontiffs; but the flock was never scattered: and so it shall be to the end. It is, nevertheless, against the Church of God, and above all against its Head, that all the spirits of evil in all ages, and, above all, in the present, direct the shafts of their enmity….
Now the Church has had to undergo already two persecutions, one from the hand of the Jews and one also from the hand of the pagans; so the writers of the early ages, the Fathers both of the East and of the West, foretold that, in the last age of the world, the Church will have to undergo a third persecution, more bitter, more bloody, more searching, and more fiery than any it has undergone as yet, and that from the hands of an infidel world revolted from the Incarnate Word….
As the wicked did not prevail against Him [our Lord Jesus Christ] even when they bound Him with cords, dragged Him to the judgment, blindfolded His eyes, mocked Him as a false King, smote Him on the head as a false Prophet, led Him away, crucified Him, and in the mastery of their power seemed to have absolute dominion over Him, so that He lay ground down and almost annihilated under their feet; and as, at that very time when He was dead and buried out of their sight, He was conqueror over all, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, and was crowned, glorified, and invested with His royalty, and reigns supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords,— even so shall it be with His Church: though for a time persecuted, and, to the eyes of man, overthrown and trampled on, dethroned, despoiled, mocked, and crushed, yet in that high time of triumph the gates of hell shall not prevail. There is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and a dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured. Like Jesus, it needs must suffer on the way to its crown; yet crowned it shall be with Him eternally. Let no one, then, be scandalised if the prophecy speak of sufferings to come. We are fond of imagining triumphs and glories for the Church on earth,— that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the world to be converted, and all enemies subdued, and I know not what,— until some ears are impatient of hearing that there is in store for the Church a time of terrible trial: and so we do as the Jews of old, who looked for a conqueror, a king, and for prosperity; and when their Messias came in humility and in passion, they did not know Him. So, I am afraid, many among us intoxicate their minds with the visions of success and victory, and cannot endure the thought that there is a time of persecution yet to come for the Church of God….
The first sign or mark of this coming persecution is an indifference to truth [ecumenism? interreligious dialogue? —N.O.W.]. Just as there is dead calm before a whirlwind, and as the waters over a great fall run like glass, so before an outbreak there is a time of tranquillity. The first sign is indifference. The sign that portends more surely than any other the outbreak of a future persecution is a sort of scornful indifference to truth or falsehood. Ancient Rome in its might and power adopted every false religion from all its conquered nations, and gave to each of them a temple within its walls. It was sovereignly and contemptuously indifferent to all the superstitions of the earth. It encouraged them; for each nation had its own proper superstition, and that proper superstition was a mode of tranquillising, of governing, and of maintaining in subjection, the people who were indulged by building a temple within its gates. In like manner we see the nations of the Christian world at this moment gradually adopting every form of religious contradiction— that is, giving it full scope, and, as it is called, perfect toleration; not recognising any distinctions of truth or falsehood between one religion or another, but leaving all forms of religion to work their own way….
[T]here grows up an intense hatred of what is called dogmatism, that is, of any positive truth, anything definite, anything final, anything which has precise limits, any form of belief which is expressed in particular definitions— all this is utterly distasteful to men who on principle encourage all forms of religious opinion….
The next step is, then, the persecution of the truth…. [In ancient Rome] there were all manner of sacred confraternities, and orders, and societies, and I know not what; but there was one society which was not permitted to exist, and that was the Church of the living God. In the midst of this universal toleration, there was one exception made with the most peremptory exactness, to exclude the truth and the Church of God from the world. Now this is what must again inevitably come to pass, because the Church of God is inflexible in the mission committed to it. The Catholic Church will never compromise a doctrine; it will never allow two doctrines to be taught within its pale; it will never obey the civil governor pronouncing judgment in matters that are spiritual. The Catholic Church is bound by the Divine law to suffer martyrdom rather than compromise a doctrine, or obey the law of the civil governor which violates the conscience; and more than this, it is not only bound to offer a passive disobedience, which may be done in a corner, and therefore not detected, and because not detected not punished; but the Catholic Church cannot be silent; it cannot hold its peace; it cannot cease to preach the doctrines of Revelation, not only of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, but likewise of the Seven Sacraments, and of the infallibility of the Church of God, and of the necessity of unity, and of the sovereignty, both spiritual and temporal, of the Holy See; and because it will not be silent, and cannot compromise, and will not obey in matters that are of its own Divine prerogative, therefore it stands alone in the world; for there is not another Church so called, nor any community professing to be a Church, which does not submit, or obey, or hold its peace, when the civil governors of the world command….
The holy Fathers who have written upon the subject of Antichrist, and of [the] prophecies of Daniel, without a single exception, as far as I know, and they are the Fathers both of the East and of the West, the Greek and the Latin Church— all of them unanimously,— say that in the latter end of the world, during the reign of Antichrist, the holy sacrifice of the altar will cease. In the work on the end of the world, ascribed to St. Hippolytus, after a long description of the afflictions of the last days, we read as follows: “The Churches shall lament with a great lamentation, for there shall be offered no more oblation, nor incense, nor worship acceptable to God. The sacred buildings of the churches shall be as hovels; and the precious body and blood of Christ shall not be manifest in those days; the Liturgy shall be extinct; the chanting of psalms shall cease; the reading of Holy Scripture shall be heard no more. But there shall be upon men darkness, and mourning upon mourning, and woe upon woe.” Then, the Church shall be scattered, driven into the wilderness, and shall be for a time, as it was in the beginning, invisible, hidden in catacombs, in dens, in mountains, in lurking-places; for a time it shall be swept, as it were, from the face of the earth. Such is the universal testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries….
The secret societies have long ago undermined and honeycombed the Christian society of Europe, and are at this moment struggling onward toward, Rome, the centre of all Christian order in the world. The fulfilment of the prophecy is yet to come; and that which we have seen in the two wings, we shall see also in the centre; and that great army of the Church of God will, for a time, be scattered. It will seem, for a while, to be defeated, and the power of the enemies of the faith for a time to prevail. The continual sacrifice will be taken away, and the sanctuary will be cast down…. If you would understand this prophecy of desolation, enter into a church: which was once Catholic, where now is no sign of life; it stands empty, untenanted, without altar, without tabernacle, without the presence of Jesus….
And thus we come to the third mark, the casting down of “the Prince of Strength;” that is, the Divine authority of the Church, and especially of him in whose person it is embodied, the Vicar of Jesus Christ…. The dethronement of the Vicar of Christ is the dethronement of the hierarchy of the universal Church, and the public rejection of the Presence and Reign of Jesus….
The direct tendency of all the events we see at this moment is clearly this, to overthrow Catholic worship throughout the world. Already we see that every Government in Europe is excluding religion from its public acts. The civil powers are desecrating themselves: government is without religion; and if government be without religion, education must be without religion. We see it already in Germany and in France. It has been again and again attempted in England. The result of this can be nothing but the re-establishment of mere natural society; that is to say, the governments and the powers of the world, which for a time were subdued by the Church of God to a belief in Christianity, to obedience to the laws of God, and to the unity of the Church, having revolted from it and desecrated themselves, have relapsed into their natural state….
[Many] shall fall from their fidelity to God. And how shall this come to pass? Firstly by fear, partly by deception, partly by cowardice, partly because they cannot stand for unpopular truth in the face of popular falsehood; partly because the overruling contemptuous public opinion, as in such a country as this, and in France, so subdues and frightens Catholics, that they dare not avow their principles, and, at last, dare not hold them….
The Word of God tells us that towards the end of time the power of this world will became so irresistible and so triumphant that the Church of God will sink underneath its hand — that the Church of God will receive no more help from emperors, or kings, or princes, or legislatures, or nations, or peoples, to make resistance against the power and the might of its antagonist. It will be deprived of protection. It will be weakened, baffled, and prostrate, and will lie bleeding at the feet of the powers of this world. Does this seem incredible? What, then, do we see at this moment? Look at the Catholic and Roman Church throughout the world. When was it ever more like its Divine Head in the hour when He was bound hand and foot by those who betrayed Him? Look at the Catholic Church, still independent, faithful to its Divine trust, and yet cast off by the nations of the world; at the Holy Father, the Vicar of our Divine Lord, at this moment mocked, scorned, despised, betrayed, abandoned, robbed of his own, and even those that would defend him murdered. When, I ask, was the Church of God ever in a weaker condition, in a feebler state in the eyes of men, and in this natural order, than it is now? And from whence, I ask, is deliverance to come? Is there on earth any power to intervene? Is there any king, prince, or potentate, that has the power to interpose either his will or his sword for the protection of the Church? Not one; and it is foretold it should be so. Neither need we desire it, for the will of God seems to be otherwise.
But there is One Power which will destroy all antagonists; there is One Person who will break down and smite small as the dust of the summer threshing-floor all the enemies of the Church, for it is He who will consume His enemies “with the Spirit of His mouth,” and destroy them “with the brightness of His coming.” It seems as if the Son of God were jealous lest any one should vindicate His authority. He has claimed the battle to Himself; He has taken up the gage which has been cast down against Him; and prophecy is plain and explicit that the last overthrow of evil will be His; that it will be wrought by no man, but by the Son of God; that all the nations of the world may know that He, and He alone, is King, and that He, and He alone, is God….
The writers of the Church tell us that in the latter days the city of Rome will probably become apostate from the Church and Vicar of Jesus Christ; and that Rome will again be punished, for he will depart from it; and the judgment of God will fall on the place from which he once reigned over the nations of the world…. Rome shall apostatise from the faith and drive away the Vicar of Christ, and return to its ancient paganism….
[Summing up,] the Antichrist, and the antichristian movement, has these marks: first, schism from the Church of God; secondly, denial of its Divine and infallible voice; and thirdly, denial of the Incarnation. It is, therefore, the direct and mortal enemy of the One Holy Catholic and Roman Church— the unity from which all schism is made; the sole organ of the Divine voice of the Spirit of God; the shrine and sanctuary of the Incarnation and of the continual sacrifice….
This, ladies and gentlemen, describes and foretells the real Passion of the Church, not the phony Salza-Siscoe version, custom-tailored to fit their pre-conceived ideas about Francis as a “Vicar of Christ” so genuine that submission to his teaching and laws leads to contempt for all things Catholic and ultimately to eternal damnation. It is no accident that Salza’s and Siscoe’s vehemence in insisting Francis is a true Pope is matched only by their vehemence in refusing him submission. With this kind of a Vicar of Christ, who would have need for an Antichrist? The “Pope” could do the job all by himself!
Cardinal Manning’s words — which, once again, do not simply express his own opinions but are based upon his research of the Church’s most competent authorities over the centuries — are refreshingly perspicacious; presented in 1861, the predictions he outlined then have already come to pass to some extent with stunning and frightening accuracy. As we can see here, in the true Mystical Passion of the Church, the Body of Christ and the Vicar of Christ are not the ones doing the persecuting; they are the ones suffering it, together.
Manning explicitly identifies the Vicar of Christ with the Church, just as Christ Himself is identified in Holy Scripture with His Mystical Body (see Acts 9:4; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18,24), for the Pope is the visible head of the Church. And thus His Eminence states that “the Vicar of the Son of God is renewing the Passion of his Master upon earth” — notice, the Pope himself is the one who is suffering, he is not the one inflicting the suffering! —, and he goes on to attribute that persecution of (not by!) the Pope then to the entire Church: “…even so shall it be with His [Christ’s] Church: though for a time persecuted, and, to the eyes of man, overthrown and trampled on, dethroned, despoiled, mocked, and crushed, yet in that high time of triumph the gates of hell shall not prevail”! The Pope and the Church, ever united, are both suffering persecution at the hands of their enemies. Just as the Pope suffers, so does the Church; as he is persecuted, so is she as a whole (cf. 1 Cor 12:12,26). This should not cause any astonishment, for the Pope is not only a member of the Church but, as we said, even her visible head. The two are always and necessarily united, just as Christ is always and necessarily united to His Mystical Body.
So, we see here that the true Passion of the Church is quite different from that envisioned by the anti-sedevacantist duo, who want their readers to believe that the Pope is not the victim of the persecution but its chief executor. But, as Cardinal Manning implies, the fault of the persecuting power and all who succumb to it, lies precisely in their refusal to adhere to the Pope and the Church, which adherence is not the problem but the solution.
This is good news for Catholics, but bad news for Salza and Siscoe, because in their book, quite the opposite idea is advanced, namely, the idea that adherence to the Pope and the Church is what has caused the massive apostasy we have witnessed. None other than the SSPX Superior General speaks thus: “Through unwitting obedience to recent Popes, [Novus Ordo “Catholics”] now profess and practice a faith unrecognizable to our forefathers” (Bp. Bernard Fellay, “Foreword”, in True or False Pope?, p. i). This is an interesting claim the SSPX’s Resister-in-Chief makes here, because Pope Pius XI had something to say about that:
…[I]n order that no falsification or corruption of the divine law but a true genuine knowledge of it may enlighten the minds of men and guide their conduct, it is necessary that a filial and humble obedience towards the Church should be combined with devotedness to God and the desire of submitting to Him. …[God] has constituted the Church the guardian and the teacher of the whole of the truth concerning religion and moral conduct; to her therefore should the faithful show obedience and subject their minds and hearts so as to be kept unharmed and free from error and moral corruption, and so that they shall not deprive themselves of that assistance given by God with such liberal bounty, they ought to show this due obedience not only when the Church defines something with solemn judgment, but also, in proper proportion, when by the constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, opinions are prescribed and condemned as dangerous or distorted.
Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.
(Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, nn. 103-104; underlining added.)
Bp. Fellay and the whole SSPX/Resistance crowd may have one view of “unwitting obedience” to the Pope and the Church — Sedevacantists, on the other hand, subscribe to that presented by Cardinal Manning and Pope Pius XI.
It seems as though the Salza-Siscoe version of the “Passion of the Church” is now first in line to replace the old worn-out “diabolical disorientation” cliche as the new joker to be pulled whenever the Semi-Trads have to justify why they’re not clinging to traditional doctrine when it comes to the Church, the Magisterium, or the Papacy, and why even a public apostate must be recognized as the Vicar of Christ but cannot be submitted to. It is the one-size-fits-all slogan aimed to immediately disarm all opposition and justify any theological aberration needed to squeeze the square peg of a public apostate into the round hole of the indefectible Catholic Papacy.
We won’t hold our breath, but if the two anti-sedevacantist authors ever find a magisterial document — or even a single theologian — teaching that the Passion of the Church consists in the Pope and legitimate hierarchy persecuting themselves and those subject to them, we would be glad to hear about it. The fact is that, like its predecessor “diabolical disorientation”, the Salza-Siscoe version of the Mystical Passion is but a poetic concept useful for pseudo-theological rhetoric because it deeply touches one’s emotions, and this is exactly what Salza and Siscoe are relying on their readers to be persuaded by.
By the way, since the recognize-and-resist apologists always like to harp on sedevacantists’ alleged “private judgment” regarding the last few claimants of the papacy in Rome, would they care to tell us who gets to decide whether or for how long the Catholic Church is suffering through her Passion? And who will resolve disputes about this? Since they have already subjected the Pope and the lawful hierarchy (in their minds) to their judgment, quite in contradiction to the First Vatican Council’s dogmatic teaching that “the judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment” (Denz. 1830), what authority is left in their recognize-and-resist church that can decide who, when, how, and how long anyone or anything is to be resisted? Bp. Fellay? Brian McCall? John Salza? Chris Ferrara? Some other lawyer?
Let no one say that the same accusation can be hurled at Sedevacantists, for there is a difference in principle: In Sedevacantism, any problem can be resolved in principle by a judgment from a true Pope, to whom everyone must submit; in the “recognize-but-resist” position, no solution is possible even in principle, for the final authority, the Pope, is eschewed at will by the Resisters, based on their subjective ideas about what constitutes the True Faith and Sacred Tradition. Thus they neutralize, nay castrate, the Papacy and make the Pope subject to them rather than themselves subject to him. For all practical purposes, the Papacy is irrelevant in the Disneyland theology of Salza and Siscoe.
But the Pope “is judged by no one”, as Canon Law legislates (Canon 1556) and as the Church teaches infallibly (see Denz. 1830 quoted above); and contrary to what the Resisters like to argue, this canon does not mean that one cannot discern that a particular person’s claim to the Papacy is false, but rather that any judgment made by the Pope is final and admits of no appeal, revision, disagreement, resistance, or “loyal opposition.” That’s how submission works in the Catholic Church. Otherwise, you have chaos and you deprive the Vicar of Christ, the highest authority in the Church, of the power to settle disputes and rein in wayward sheep. He would then no longer be what he was constituted by Christ to be, namely, the principle of unity in the Church (cf. Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13). In short, the sheepfold cannot be kept together unless the shepherd has legitimate power over the sheep, that is, unless he can direct their wills and bind their consciences. But obviously this he could not do if his power could be contradicted, neutralized, minimized, or taken away by individual sheep whenever they deem it necessary or appropriate (cf. Jn 10:16). It’s really not that complicated once you know how to think about it.
As Bp. Donald Sanborn once pointed out, it is possible that any individual person or group of people go astray and fall into heresy. This is possible. It is possible that a heretic invalidly usurp the Papal Throne (hence Pope Paul IV’s Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus regarding such a scenario). It is perhaps even possible that a validly-elected Pope at some point become a heretic — although then he would immediately and necessarily lose the pontificate. All this is possible.
But it is not possible that the Pope lose the Faith and remain Pope, a faithless Pope, a non-Catholic Pope, an emasculated Pope, a Pope to whom no submission is allowed to be given; for this would mean that the Holy See has failed: “…though the [Apostolic] See can never fail, it can be vacant, and indeed often is vacant” (Cardinal Johann B. Franzelin, Theses de Ecclesia Christi: “Thesis on the Perpetuity of the Papacy”, qtd. in J. S. Daly, Michael Davies: An Evaluation, p. 105, n. 15). Further, it is not possible that the Church should cease to be true to her Founder. It is not possible that the Bride of Christ turn into the Whore of Babylon. It is not possible that the Church should teach heresy. It is not possible that by clinging to the Church in all things, souls could be led astray. It is not possible that the very Church that Christ has instituted as our necessary means of salvation should become an obstacle to salvation, even a means of damnation. These things are not possible!
If these things were possible, of what good would be the Church? How would she distinguish herself from the countless Protestant denominations, whose adherents likewise resist and contradict their “pastors” whenever they feel the need? Is the Vicar of Christ distinguished from “Pastor Chuck” at Christian Fellowship church down the street only in that he enjoys some very rare instances of infallibility? Is this what Catholics believe?
The persecution of the true Faith and the true Church by the Novus Ordo Modernists has been extremely successful, not only because people like John Salza and Robert Siscoe continually furnish for them a basis which lends legitimacy to their godless revolution, but also because it has been accelerated not only by malicious deceivers but also by many good-willed people who are themselves victims of the deception. The same Fr. Faber quoted earlier lamented and warned against this explicitly:
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)
This sad fact, that many who mean to do good and seek to serve Christ will unwittingly end up doing the work of Antichrist, only adds greater tragedy to it all and does not change the nature of the problem. If anything, it adds to its seriousness.
In their book True or False Pope?, the authors smugly claim for themselves the prudent middle ground between the errors of defect and of excess (e.g., pp. 4-5). Of course, claiming to be in the virtuous center is very easy to do whenyou get to define the extremes. Anyone can claim to be taking the “prudent middle” — and in fact, many do. For example, Catholic Answers effectively claims to be taking the middle course between the Richard Rohr types and the “Rad Trads” like the SSPX and John Salza (ha!). Most Novus Ordo seminaries would probably claim to be steering a middle course between Hans Kung and Leonardo Boff on the left and EWTN and the Fraternity of St. Peter on the right. And Chris Ferrara could truthfully say that when it comes to accusing Vatican II of error or even heresy, he is taking the prudent middle ground between Catholic Answers on the left and John Vennari and Salza/Siscoe on the right! Indeed, even we sedevacantists could say we are taking the middle course: To our left we find Salza, Siscoe, and the SSPX, and to our right, the conclavists who have elected their own “Pope”. You see, anyone can play this game. If Messrs. Salza and Siscoe want to have a discussion about defect and excess, we would be glad to join the conversation, but the outcome will be different from what they expect.
Not surprisingly, True Or False Pope? has received glowing reviews from only those pundits and “experts” who had already made up their minds against Sedevacantism anyway. Even the Modernist Novus Ordo bigshot Tim Staples of Catholic Answers was suddenly Catholic enough for Salza and Siscoe to allow him to endorse their book, even though, of course, he totally disagrees with their recognize-and-resist theology and was once battled by The Remnantfor his anti-traditionalism in a radio show against “Rad Trads”. Clearly, expediency here prevails over principle.
The Semi-Traditionalist Bro. Alexis Bugnolo goes so far as to say that Salza and Siscoe’s book “merits to be on the bookshelves of every Pope [!], Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Religious, Theologian, and learned Layman” (source). Yes, picture a copy of True Or False Pope? on Francis’ bookshelf, right next to Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper, John Quinn, Carlo Martini, and Thomas Merton. A perfect fit! But truth be told, nothing would please Francis more than to see some useful idiots carry the water for him by arguing that despite his total abandonment of any semblance of Christianity, he is still somehow the Vicar of Christ — you just can’t follow him.
Speaking of which, let us close this lengthy post with a beautiful quote of Pope Pius IX, writing to the clergy and faithful of the Chaldean rite:
What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?
…In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema.
We are living through very distressing times. Yet, our Blessed Lord has put us into this world at just this particular time through the inscrutable counsels of His holy Providence, knowing that it is this point in time that is most conducive to the eternal salvation of our souls (cf. 1 Tim 2:4).
God is putting us to the test: Do we really believe in Him and His Church and His promises? Or do we seek to figure everything out with merely human wisdom? Do we doubt as soon as we discover a difficulty? Do we mistake a mere human conviction for true Faith? True Faith, we must remember, is a supernatural gift of God: It is “a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by Him are true, not because the intrinsic truth of the revealed things has been perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived” (First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 3; Denz. 1789).
It makes sense that in these agonizing times, surely close to the end, our Lord should demand nothing less than a genuine, mature, and exceptionally strong Faith, one that overcomes all difficulties. In this battle, it is all or nothing — as it always has been, but as perhaps has often been masked by the “human grandeur” of the Church, as described by Fr. Faber. Thus will be separated the wheat from the chaff (cf. Mt 13:24-30), the true Catholics from those who only went by externals, by appearance, by a “traditional Mass” without, however, the traditional Faith.
There can be no doubt that the Church is suffering her own Mystical Passion today, and Francis has a considerable part in it. But contrary to the claims of John Salza and Robert Siscoe, Francis isn’t St. Peter — he’s Judas.