You Can’t Have It “Your Way”:
A Response to Fr. Chazal’s Arguments against Sedevacantism in his Dec. 8 Letter to “Fr.” Paul Kramer
At the end of November 2013, the well-known traditionalist Novus Ordo priest Rev. Paul Kramer, editor of the popular book The Devil’s Final Battle, declared publicly that Francis could not possibly be the Pope of the Catholic Church and that the Holy See was vacant. As Kramer had hitherto been loosely affiliated with the Fatima Center, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News and had joined their well-known opposition to sedevacantism, this announcement came as quite a surprise to many. Shortly thereafter, however, Kramer began to say that even though Francis was not a true Pope, he was convinced that Benedict XVI’s resignation on Feb. 28, 2013, was invalid and that Benedict was still reigning as the true Pope. (We gave this novel position the label “Resignationism.”) You can read both of our reports on the Rev. Kramer conversion here:
- Rejecting Francis: “Fr.” Paul Kramer becomes Sedevacantist (11/29/13)
- Rev. Paul Kramer: “Benedict XVI Still Pope!” – The Rise of “Resignationism” (12/3/13)
On Dec. 8, 2013, Fr. Francois Chazal (left), formerly of the Society of St. Pius X, now with the newly-founded so-called “Society of St. Pius X of the Strict Observance” (abbreviated as “SSPX-SO”), wrote a brief letter to the Rev. Kramer in which he disagreed with him on his view that Benedict XVI is still Pope but lauded him for supposedly “dealing a severe blow to sedevacantism,” as Chazal put it. He then offered his own objections to the sedevacantist position to reassure “Fr.” Kramer — and, presumably, himself — that it is a dead end. But is it really? Does Catholic teaching even allow for any other position?
It is quite tragic that after everything that has transpired since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, and especially now with the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the latest papal impostor, there are clergy who are still either unable or unwilling to recognize that the theological position of sedevacantism, despite some admitted difficulties, nevertheless is the only position that can make sense of the apostasy of the Modernist Vatican II Church without at the same time contradicting Catholic teaching (see here how sedevacantism compares to the indult and to the resistance position).
We shall now highlight the arguments Fr. Chazal uses against sedevacantism and offer a sobering reality check in response (Fr. Chazal’s entire letter can be read here).
At the outset, Fr. Chazal cheerfully argues that “Fr.” Kramer’s embracing of the Resignationist position, i.e. the idea that Benedict XVI is still Pope, discredits sedevacantism:
Alas I cannot follow you when you publicly declare that Francis is no pope while Benedict is instead. Yet I must thank you from the onset because you are dealing a severe blow to sedevacantism in the process. It confirms that sedevacantism is in fact a logical Pandora’s box, leading more to confusion than order, since, yet again, another theory emerges… one among so many species.
It is really not clear just how Fr. Chazal reasons that the idea that Benedict XVI is still the Pope and Francis is not somehow deals a “severe blow” to sedevacantism. Obviously, the Rev. Kramer does not believe that the Holy See is vacant (which the expression sede vacante signifies), so sedevacantism, properly speaking, really has nothing to do with Kramer’s position. The only thing “Fr.” Kramer and sedevacantists agree on is that Jorge Bergoglio (“Francis”) is not the Pope. If Francis is not the Pope, then there are two possible scenarios: Either (1) there is no Pope, or (2) someone else is the Pope. Kramer has decided on option (2). So just where is the problem here? Where is the absurdity? Where is the “severe blow”?
Ah, Fr. Chazal says the problem lies in the fact that now “another theory emerges… one among so many species.” Yes, Father, it is indeed another theory, but one not held by sedevacantists (we labeled it, as stated above, “resignationism”). All this proves is that the Eclipse of the Church we’re in, the terrible crisis that has come upon us since the passing of Pope Pius XII, has just caused even more confusion. Imagine that. To pin this on sedevacantism, which is first and foremost a diagnosis of the situation rather than a remedy, is entirely unjust. Fr. Chazal seems to be reasoning with his emotions rather than with his intellect, which, alas, is not uncommon for people who hold to the “resistance” position of the SSPX or SSPX-SO.
It is not sedevacantism that is the Pandora’s Box, but the situation we find ourselves in: the ostensible defection of the Catholic Church after Pope Pius XII. There are three basic approaches to this problem that people who consider themselves Catholic Traditionalists have taken:
- The Indult Position, which says there is no real defection, only unfortunate ambiguity, “novel concepts”, and some exaggerations and non-magisterial errors; this position seeks to work for change within the Vatican II Church to turn things around and have the old ways restored;
- The SSPX/Resistance Position, which acknowledges the defection as genuine but refuses to participate in it and instead “does its own thing” on the side, as a parallel establishment as it were, essentially ignoring the Pope and the entire hierarchy and actively opposing them as needed; this position considers Traditional Catholics, especially the SSPX, the “baby sitter” of the Holy See, which is acknowledged to have defected; people of this persuasion firmly believe they can eventually make the Holy See Catholic again;
- The Sedevacantist Position, which acknowledges the defection but, adhering to the Catholic teaching on the Church’s infallibility and indefectibility, as well as the nature of papal primacy and the inherent binding authority of the Catholic Magisterium, concludes that therefore the Church after Pius XII cannot be the true Catholic Church but must be a false church that has “eclipsed” (to use the words of Our Lady of La Salette) the True Church, in accordance with (but not based on) various Catholic prophecies; this position holds that the “Popes” after Pius XII must have been impostors because they have done things true Popes cannot do and furthermore have shown themselves to be heretics who reject Catholic teaching (this is the position taken by Novus Ordo Watch)
Comfortably ensconced in his resistance position, which presents the most convenient of all the alternatives because it has the “best of both worlds” (no indult submission to the Modernist hierarchy — no sedevacantist difficulties about an apparent absence of the Church), it is easy for Fr. Chazal to take aim at sedevacantism and accuse it of “leading more to confusion than order.”
It is easy to make the charge because sedevacantism is messy indeed (more on that in a moment). Yet, let’s not lose sight of the fact that, despite first appearances, Fr. Chazal is hardly one who can claim “order” in his church or his resistance position. Consider these facts:
- The institution he believes to be the Catholic Church and to which he professes allegiance, has no unity of Faith (one of the marks of the True Church), as it includes people as far left as Hans Kung, Roger Mahony, and Richard Rohr in it, yet also, on the other side of the spectrum, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the Fraternity of St. Peter, and people like John Vennari and Michael Voris — and a whole host of individuals in between those two extremes, incl. Fr. Chazal himself (well, at least he would insist that he is a part of that church also). Oh, and let’s not forget the Feeneyites! Seriously — is this order or confusion?
- The “order” in his church is so great that the teachings, laws, sacramental rites, canonizations, marriage tribunals, and disciplinary sanctions of the (supposed) Pope can be resisted, contradicted, dispensed with, denounced, and ignored at will — the final authority is not the Pope in Fr. Chazal’s church but each individual Catholic’s understanding of “Tradition.” The one-size-fits-all excuse to be used each time is the panacean “diabolical disorientation”, a phrase coined by a woman claiming to be Sr. Lucy of Fatima. Is this order or confusion?
- Fr. Chazal himself was just recently expelled from the Society of St. Pius X — so we must ask, Just who is really traditional here? Is it he or is it the SSPX he left? Who gets to decide? To be really traditional, that is, authentically Catholic, ought one to follow the SSPX or Fr. Chazal? (We’ve already learned you can’t follow the Pope, whom Chazal labels a “heretic”, so this question must be permitted.) Again, is this order or confusion?
- All this “resisting” the SSPX, SSPX-SO, and other groups and individuals have been doing with regard to the Novus Ordo hierarchy, just how will it end? Who will say, “OK folks, now we have a really great Pope again, time to stop the resistance, it’s back to normal now, back to pre-Vatican II papal submission! From now on, you have to obey again and can’t do your own thing!”? And what if people disagree? What if one group thinks the current Pope is traditional and it should be back to normal, whereas others don’t agree? Then what? Who is the final arbiter? One more time: Is this order or confusion?
Now keep in mind: All the chaos described above is true for Fr. Chazal’s church despite the fact that they have a Pope and a fully functioning hierarchy! If this mayhem can prevail when there is a Pope and a body of bishops and cardinals and the Holy See is functioning, then who needs a Pope and a hierarchy?!
Don’t fall for the illusory argumentation of “disordered” sedevacantism versus the “neat” and “orderly” resistance position. If there is confusion in sedevacantism, as there no doubt is, at least our confusion has a very simple cause and also a very simple remedy: We have no Pope and we need one! Once there is a true Pope, all problems can be resolved. Yet, with the resistance position advocated by Fr. Chazal, this is not at all the case. They have a true Pope (so they insist), and it’s still chaos! What, then, is their solution? There is none, there can be none, for they have already rejected even the ultimate solution: the Pope!
We continue with what Fr. Chazal writes:
Just recently I bumped into another sedevacantist who told me that Mgr. Guerard des Lauriers is a traitor. But that Bishop is a founding father of the movement. Among the non conclavist sedevacantists, it is getting harder and harder just to know what the different schools think. Such total talmudization I refuse to find myself embarked on.
For those not familiar with the bishop mentioned, here is a little background. Bp. Michel-Louis Guerard des Lauriers, O.P. (1898-1988), was a highly-gifted Catholic theologian and mathematician who taught at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. It is commonly said that he was one of Pope Pius XII’s theological advisers on the dogma of the Assumption (defined in 1950). He ghostwrote the famous Ottaviani Intervention of 1969 and concluded at some point in his life that the See of Peter was vacant — he became a sedevacantist. More specifically, he held the position that the Vatican II “Popes” were Popes “materially” but not “formally”, which, translated into layman’s terms according to Guerard des Lauriers’ thesis, means that they were “Pope-elect”, if you will, that is, someone who would become the true Pope automatically as soon as he would renounce his heresies and become a Catholic.
This position is known as the “Material/Formal Thesis”, the “Cassiciacum Thesis”, or also as “sedeprivationism”. It is held by a number, though probably the minority, of sedevacantists throughout the world, the most well-known defenders being Bp. Robert McKenna, O.P., and Bp. Donald Sanborn. The great advantage of this sedeprivationist position is that it provides an answer to the pressing question, “How do we get a true Pope back to restore the Church?” It answers this conundrum by arguing that the bogus Novus Ordo “cardinals”, despite their invalidity, nevertheless possess the power to designate a true Pope, whether potentially or actually. One may not agree with this stance, but everyone should be put on notice that it cannot easily be dismissed and has very strong evidence in its favor, which should not be surprising given that it originated with the great theological mind of Bp. Guerard des Lauriers. For those interested in understanding this thesis, we recommend Bp. Sanborn’s article “The Material Papacy” (click here), which explains it in detail.
So Fr. Chazal apparently bumped into a sedevacantist who disagrees with the Material/Formal Thesis. So what? Most likely, the man in question didn’t really understand it, because to call Bp. Guerard a “traitor” on account of his theory is totally unjust. But in any case, whether it be true or false, the Cassiciacum Thesis is a lot better than Chazal’s “Popes-can-be-heretics-but-then-we-cannot-submit-to-them” position, which is theologically indefensible (although quite convenient and emotionally satisfying, we understand).
Next, Fr. Chazal cedes at least a little bit of respect to the Guerardian Thesis:
Archbishop Lefebvre was keen to say that the theory has some serious reasons, but it leads to no certain conclusions. It looks very clear at the start, yet ends in great confusion, leading to a dangerous fragmentation of the Remnant of the Faith. Theologians are split into those who don’t even consider the case and those who do… and among those who do, there again, their sentences are split.
Ah yes, and of course Abp. Lefebvre’s theological credentials when compared to those of Bp. Guerard were….? …Exactly. We didn’t think so.
Novus Ordo Watch does not endorse the sedeprivationist position but does not reject it either. The great St. Augustine advised: “In doubtful things, liberty.” It should not be surprising that, being faced with the most horrible crisis the Catholic Church has ever gone through in her 2,000-year history, with an apparent disappearance of the Catholic hierarchy and the Magisterium, and nothing but blatant heretics claiming the Papal Throne, those few remaining Catholics should perhaps differ on the exact nature of the problem and therefore also on the means to its resolution. Only the proudest of the proud could possibly think they have all the answers in this time of the Passion of the Mystical Body. If anything, sedevacantism draws people to humility as we realize just how limited we are in the face of this terrible exile, and how we must beg God without ceasing to end this most distressing state of affairs if it should so please Him.
In the above quote, Fr. Chazal insinuates that we don’t really know if Popes can be heretics; that, historically, Catholic theologians have been divided over this question and over what would follow if a Pope were to become a heretic or if a heretic were to be elected Pope. But this is not quite true. We can simply quote the great Doctor of the Papacy on the matter, St. Robert Bellarmine:
Therefore, the true opinion [of the five examined] is the fifth, according to which the Pope who is manifestly a heretic ceases by himself to be Pope and head, in the same way as he ceases to be a Christian and a member of the body of the Church; and for this reason he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the opinion of all the ancient Fathers, who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction, and outstandingly that of St. Cyprian….
(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Ch. 30; underlining added.)
St. Robert is clear that this position — that a heretic Pope is impossible and any Pope who would become a heretic would thereby automatically cease to be Pope because he would no longer be a member of the Church or even a Christian — is true. It is true and “the opinion of all the ancient Fathers.” Furthermore, Pope Pius XII reiterated this teaching in his 1943 encyclical on the Church, in which he clarified that to be a member of the Church it is necessary to “profess the true Faith,” which is something a heretic by definition does not do. Moreover, His Holiness pointed out that the sin of heresy “of its own nature [severs] a man from the Body of the Church” (Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, par. 22-23), so the question is really settled.
There is no great difficulty or mystery here; we simply have to accept it: A heretic is not a member of the Church and therefore cannot be Pope. Period. What is so difficult or hard to swallow about this? For anyone interested in studying this issue in greater depth, we recommend the well-researched essay “Concerning an SSPX Dossier on Sedevacantism” by Mr. John Lane, which is a response to Fr. Dominique Boulet’s 2003 book Sedevacantism: A False Solution to a Real Problem.
The dreaded “fragmention of the remnant of the Faith” that Fr. Chazal mentions is no concern at all if people realize that in unresolved, doubtful matters, Catholics enjoy the liberty to accept that position which they find most reasonable, assuming at all times, of course, that no alternative runs afoul of Church teaching in any way. That in some matters we can currently have no certain conclusions is irrelevant, since we are not bound to have certainty in every matter, and in this, Almighty God has obviously not seen fit to give us the desired certainty. (We are speaking of sedevacantism vs. sedeprivationism here, not sedevacantism vs. the recognize-and-resist position.)
But even so, is Fr. Chazal seriously asserting that his position causes no confusion? We challenge Father and those who agree with his “resistance” stance to tell us how it squares with the following papal teachings, and how it does not even so much as cause confusion:
- “…religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair [of St. Peter] remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion.” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, par. 7)
- “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.” (First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chp. 3; Denz. 1831)
- “In the Apostolic See, the Catholic religion has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated.” (First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chp. 4; Denz. 1833)
- “To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.” (Pope Leo XIII, Letter Epistola Tua to Cardinal Guibert, June 17, 1885; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 263)
- “Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic…. ‘You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held.'” (Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, par. 13)
- “…the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.” (Pope Leo XIII, Allocution of Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 353)
It is impossible to apply the above to the Vatican II “Popes” and still maintain the same Faith the Catholic Church taught from 33 AD to 1958. Yet, this is exactly what the recognize-and-resisters like Fr. Chazal attempt to do, and the result is a horrific distortion of sound doctrine they pass off as “traditional Catholicism.” For a fairly recent example of the absurdity to which this attempt to square the circle leads, see our post on John Vennari declaring that he would not allow the “Pope” to teach religion to his children! Clearly, no confusion in the non-sedevacantist camp, eh?!
Fr. Chazal next advises:
We should be content with the principle of Nullam Partem [“no part”] with heretics, not denying the existence of heresies when they appear in Rome, unlike the XSPX [sic], who threw us overboard on account of us sticking to that principle.
The problem with remaining “content” with this principle of having no part with heretics is that if at the same time you say that one of those heretics is the Pope of the Catholic Church, you run into a conundrum, because not only does Catholic dogma require you to be in communion with the Roman Pontiff but also to submit to him under pain of eternal damnation. This goes to show how serious the matter is:
Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
(Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam ; Denz. 469)
Clearly, we cannot be content with Fr. Chazal’s position because it is contradictory, that is, it is in blatant opposition to defined Catholic dogma. On the one hand, we must refuse to have anything to do with heretics; on the other, we are required to submit to the Pope. So how could a heretic possibly be Pope, or the Pope a heretic? Such a scenario would require us to do two mutually exclusive things. The concepts of “heretic” and “Pope” cannot go together, any more than you can have a married bachelor. Talk about a position that creates confusion!
We continue with Fr. Chazal’s letter:
But the Archbishop [Lefebvre] always refused to tread beyond this point, the overall sterility of the sedevacantist movement proved him right. Just one look at the city of Cincinnati is enough to see: the turf wars, the mutual excommunications, the endless doctrinal hair splitting, the comparatives between the different lines of bishops and the quarrels around the validity of this or that line… all of it like the vain genealogies denounced by St. Paul.
For most people, a bit of background and context will be needed to understand this. Father is here referring to the U.S. city of Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the most populous areas of sedevacantists in the world. At present, there are as many as three sedevacantist parishes in the larger metropolitan area there. But since sedevacantists deploringly acknowledge the tragic absence of a (known) true Pope and a (known) true governing hierarchy in the Church, it follows that when disputes arise, there is no one who can resolve them in an authoritative and binding manner. This is simply the logical implication of the predicament which sedevacantism points out: We have no Pope!
Disagreements about various Church matters is a regrettable but unavoidable truth that comes with the fact of the vacancy of the Holy See; it is thus not due to a defect or flaw in the sedevacantist position but is part of its essential thesis. Quarrels and disputes among the “Pope-less” shows the high importance the papacy plays in Catholicism as the ultimate unifying principle — quite in contrast to the “resistance” position, where the papacy is, for all practical purposes, irrelevant, because the resisters decide on their own when to submit to the Pope and when not to; they essentially ignore him and do their own thing.
Yet, Fr. Chazal wants to use our admitted lack of a Pope — which we genuinely lament — against us: He wants to fault us for recognizing we have no Pope, claiming that instead it is better not to hold this position. In this he again fails to realize that sedevacantism is, first and foremost, a diagnosis, not so much a solution. Before we can even hope for or work towards a genuine solution, we must be sure that we have the correct diagnosis. What would we think of a doctor who refuses to diagnose in patients what he does not know how to cure? Would we want a doctor to tell a cancer patient he has pneumonia instead, simply because he is perplexed and bewildered by a cancer diagnosis? Is such a doctor actually serving the patient, regardless of intent? Is he actually concerned about his physical health? But how much more important is the soul than the body (cf. Mt 10:28)?
Disagreements among sedevacantists are typically not regarding the Faith, for all hold to the same Faith, nor about the Sacred Liturgy, for all subject themselves to the same law, but rather about the application of Faith, morals, and Church law to specific problems and circumstances. This is completely normal in the absence or eclipse of the unifying authority which can settle all such disputes (i.e., the Church hierarchy, esp. the Pope). Some matters are speculative (e.g., whether the above-mentioned Material/Formal Thesis is correct), others are practical (e.g., whether a sedevacantist may assist at Masses offered by a priest who erroneously professes communion with Antipope Francis but really does not follow him). People disagree over these things, and these disagreements are legitimate, that is, one does not somehow cease to be a Catholic by taking one side or another in these matters, or even suspending judgment altogether, because they have not been definitively settled by rightful Church authority.
It is ironic that Fr. Chazal brings up questions of sacramental validity. Obviously, those questions more than any other ones, are going to be prominent in times when no legitimate Church hierarch with jurisdiction can be approached to resolve such cases authoritatively. And for this Father scolds sedevacantists? Seriously?
Secondly, does the Society of St. Pius X not suffer from the same kind of problem, regarding the validity (or lack thereof) of Novus Ordo ordinations? For example, the official line of the SSPX is currently that ordinations carried out in the Modernist rite of Paul VI (1968) are valid, and so they have some “priests” in their worldwide organization that were “ordained” in Montini’s doubtful rite, or that were “ordained” in the traditional rite but by a “bishop” who was consecrated in the invalid rite of the Novus Ordo. Yet, SSPX Bp. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais is on record stating he does not believe that the 1968 rite of episcopal consecration is valid (source).
What about Fr. Chazal? Does agree with Bp. Fellay that the Modernist ordination rites are valid? Or does he agree with Bp. Tissier that they are invalid or at least doubtful? Most importantly, what do the SSPX lay faithful think about these things? The SSPX doesn’t exactly advertize who among their priests was “ordained” in the Novus Ordo rite or by a Novus Ordo “bishop” and who wasn’t. Could that be because they fear disagreement concerning the validity of these orders?! And who in the SSPX is the final authority that could settle this, anyway? The Superior General, Bp. Fellay? If so, why did Fr. Chazal not submit to him and instead allowed himself to be expelled? Is it the man they recognize as Pope? If so, why is Fr. Chazal not in communion with him?
For the “resistance” clergy to accuse sedevacantists of having some disagreements and confusion is simply the pot calling the kettle black. Whatever problems they may be able to point to in sedevacantism, these exist equally in their own position, but much more seriously so.
The difference is that in sedevacantism, any problem can be resolved in principle by a judgment from a true Pope, to whom everyone submits; in the “recognize-but-resist” position, no solution is possible even in principle, for the final authority, the Pope, is eschewed at will by them, based on people’s 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.
But the Pope “is judged by no one”, as Canon Law legislates (Canon 1556); and contrary to what the SSPX has been saying, 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, or “loyal opposition.” That’s how submission and obedience work 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, par. 13). In short, the sheepfold cannot be kept together unless the shepherd has legitimate power over the sheep, and this power cannot be contradicted, neutralized, minimized, or taken away by individual sheep (cf. Jn 10:16). It’s really not that complicated once you know how to think about it.
As Bp. 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 — but then he would necessarily and immediately 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, a Pope deprived of authority, to whom no submission is allowed to be given. 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 error. 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 a means of damnation. These things are not possible!
And so we choose the possible over the impossible, the unpleasant and improbable over the irreconcilable and antithetical. This is why we are sedevacantists: Because the position is possible, whereas all other alternatives are impossible. No doubt, there are numerous phony reasons not to embrace sedevacantism, and only one reason to do so: because it is true. But that alone suffices for those who love the truth, because Christ is the Truth, and, as He taught, “the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32; cf. Jn 14:6).
Fr. Chazal’s letter continues, but he makes no further arguments against sedevacantism.
In a nutshell, our answer to him and all other “recognize-and-resist” priests is this: If you want to be a Catholic, then be a Catholic and submit to Catholic teaching, all of it. This is the Catholic Church, not Burger King — you can’t have it “your way.”