The battle has begun…
True Or False Pope?
On that Alleged “Irrational Response” by Sedevacantists
The year of our Lord 2016 promises to be loaded with fireworks. Ahead of the official release of the new, 700-page book arguing against Sedevacantism, True or False Pope?, written by John Salza and Robert Siscoe and published by the Society of St. Pius X, the authors have opened a “Sedevacantist Watch” section on their web site. In that section, they have posted their first article, entitled, “The Sedevacantist’s [sic] Irrational Response to the Book, True Or False Pope?”, which is a PDF file approximately 3.5 pages in length. We do not want this to escalate into a blogging war of bits and pieces, but we nevertheless want to provide a response to this first article and what it asserts:
“True or False Pope?” by John Salza and Robert Siscoe has not yet hit the shelves and the Sedevacantists are already scrambling. Websites have been set up, and at least three videos produced so far, in their attempt to counter the book that none of them have read. Why do we see such an irrational response, which has no equal in recent times, to this particular book? And why was almost nothing heard from these same individuals when another book was published against the errors of Sedevacantism only a few months ago?
First, we are not “scrambling”. What we are doing is prudently preparing for the tidal wave of discussion that we will be both expected and obligated to give in response to the forthcoming book. Secondly, the article posted is clearly intended to elicit a response, and so we will oblige the authors in this post.
As far as “web sites [having] been set up”, what web sites are they referring to? We have set up no websites. We simply bought a domain name, trueorfalsepopes.com, and redirected it to our new section on this book and on defending Sedevacantism in general. We are not aware of anyone setting up any web sites. Maybe Messrs. Siscoe and Salza would like to elaborate?
Furthermore, Novus Ordo Watch has produced one video showing that according to Catholic teaching, it is not possible to believe Francis is a valid Pope and still adhere to everything the Church teaches about the papacy. We are aware of one more video having been produced by a Catholic priest in anticipation of the book, addressing the general question of why it is that so many people appear to have an irrational fear of Sedevacantism.
Apparently Salza and Siscoe think all this is an “irrational response” to their book. But not only is it not irrational, it is not even a response to the book at all, and not meant to be; it is merely some pre-emptive commentary and argumentation. That’s all we can do until we have actually read the book. This isn’t hard to understand, but perhaps Messrs. Salza and Siscoe are eager to create a perception of irrationality where none is to be found.
So, why was “nothing heard” from us “when another book” against Sedevacantism was published recently? Quite simply, we didn’t hear about it at all until today, from Siscoe and Salza. Doing some research online, we conclude that the book in question is probably The Sedevacantist Delusion: Why Vatican II’s Clash with Sedevacantism Supports Eastern Orthodoxy by John Pontrello, released in August 2015. Again, we didn’t know about the existence of this book until today, Jan. 5, 2016. The book argues for the schismatic and heretical Eastern Orthodox position, so it is not a Catholic book even by Novus Ordo or recognize-and-resist standards. But clearly Messrs. Salza and Siscoe are trying to insinuate that we intentionally kept silent about this book — when we simply didn’t know of its existence. (We are typically not in the know about books arguing for Eastern Orthodoxy. Are you, dear reader?)
Interestingly enough, on John Salza’s web site we find unequivocal heresy in favor of Eastern Orthodoxy: “Catholics must believe that Orthodoxy is a part of the universal Church (commensurate with the Second Vatican Council and many recent papal encyclicals on ecumenism in general or Orthodoxy in particular)”. These words were penned by Novus Ordo apologist Dave Armstrong, but they appear on John Salza’s web site as part of an article entitled, “Catholicism and Orthodoxy: A Comparison”. Here is a screenshot of the evidence, posted at http://www.scripturecatholic.com/orthodoxy.html (see the sentence between the two red brackets towards the end):
Mr. Salza, what is this heresy doing on your web site?
But let us continue examining the little article about the “irrational response” of the sedevacantists:
In his personal diaries, Fr. Joseph Clifford Fenton commented about a book that he intended to write after the close of the Second Vatican Council (the diary entry was written during the Council). He noted that he would have to word everything very carefully, since, as he said, any important book is sure to be publicly attacked. In light of this, the irrational attacks on True Or False Pope? are indeed an encouraging sign. These Sedevacantists know that their position will now be under the microscope like never before.
Our first response to this quote is that the authors should have shown the proper dignity of title to the author they quote: It was Monsignor — not simply Father — Joseph Clifford Fenton. We announced the public availability of his diaries on August 17, 2014, in this blog post. Perhaps our anti-sedevacantist duo (Salza and Siscoe) would like to piggyback a little bit off the prominence or popularity of Mgr. Fenton — if so, we would like to use this opportunity to draw everyone’s attention to the following blog post:
Secondly, Salza and Siscoe are engaging in a rhetorical catch-22 here. If we do not oppose their book, they will say we have no answer and are trying to ignore it; if we respond, then they will say we are attacking their book, and this is a good sign because only important books get attacked. Well, here’s the deal: Obviously a 700-page book arguing against Sedevacantism published and promoted by the Society of St. Pius X is going to get “attacked” by us — if we want to use that term. That is a sign that (1) we are paying attention; (2) we acknowledge that the SSPX has plenty of influence; (3) we know the book presents a danger to souls. They can take that as an encouraging sign if they want to. We are certainly willing to concede that their book is a big deal — not in and of itself (we obviously haven’t read it) — but in terms of the impression it has made and can be expected to make on people: After all, it is published and recommended by the SSPX, it features John Salza’s celebrity name on the cover, it will surely be advertized in countless online and offline publications, and so forth. There’s no denying that. But so what? And yes, we know our position will be under the microscope like never before. That’s obvious — at 700 pages, we would hope the authors have managed to examine Sedevacantism in depth. That too cannot and need not be denied.
Following several interviews with the authors of the book, which quickly spread across the internet, Fr. Anthony Cekada, the Sedevacantist priest from northern Cincinnati, released a “damage control” video in which he tried to convince his viewers that the only reason anyone would not embrace Sedevacantism is because of “fear,” since, as he claims, Sedevacantism is simply the logical answer to the current crisis. Needless to say, it is Fr. Cekada and those like him whose livelihood and reputations are connected to the ongoing survival of Sedevacantism who have the real “fear,” since they have the most to lose after the Sedevacantist ship has sunk.
No doubt, hordes of sedevacantist clergy are shaking in their boots right now in fear that once the 700-page whopper hits the shelves, their pews are going to empty out one by one as people flock to the apostate Jorge Bergoglio as the one man on earth with the “never-failing faith [that] was … divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine” (Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4). If you believe that, we have a bridge in Buenos Aires to sell you — over the Tiber. Right, Jorge?
To claim that Fr. Cekada’s video was made to do “damage control” is pure speculation, perhaps rash judgment. A video like that, addressing the irrational fear of Sedevacantism that undoubtedly exists, was long overdue. Our anti-sedevacantist duo claim that Fr. Cekada “tried to convince his viewers that the only reason anyone would not embrace Sedevacantism is because of ‘fear’” [italics added] — really? Perhaps we missed it, but we don’t recall Fr. Cekada arguing that this was the only reason. Clearly, it is one reason, and it is the one being examined in that video. Fr. Cekada’s publications typically center on theological errors at the root of a rejection of Sedevacantism, so to accuse him now of making it all a matter of fear is simply unjust.
As far as that “livelihood” that is at stake, our readers can rest assured that no one involved with Novus Ordo Watch makes a living from Sedevacantism in any way, shape, or form. If someone wants to argue that clerics do, well, fine — one can make that argument, but it is gratuitous and denigrating to the holy priesthood to reduce it to such profane considerations. Besides, the argument cuts both ways, because priests of any theological stripe have their “livelihood” attached to their priesthood. If it were simply a matter of making a living, then people like Fr. Michael Oswalt and Fr. Bernard Uttley, OSB, for example, would have had every reason not to become or remain sedevacantist, as it is a lot easier to make a comfortable living as a cleric in the Novus Ordo Sect than it is as a sedevacantist out in parochial and diocesan no man’s land.
Salza and Siscoe then share some reactions to Fr. Cekada’s video that were posted on a message forum. The first commenter quoted starts out by admitting he has “not seen the [20-minute] video” — but decides to complain anyway. It’s ironic that our anti-sede duo should now feature this comment, since they start off their article by rebuking us for making initial remarks about a 700-page book we have not read. Well, which is it? The commenter quoted accuses Fr. Cekada of pretending that people only refuse to be sedevacantists because of fear, but Fr. Cekada never argued this, nor do we. Obviously, some refuse the sedevacantist position out of fear, but clearly not all of them. The commenter in question is obviously not one of them. So what? Does this mean one is not allowed to examine the fact — and yes, it is a fact — that there is a veritable “sedevacantophobia” out there?
The second commenter quoted, likewise, protests that he himself has no fear of Sedevacantism. OK, fair enough — the video is obviously not addressed to him then. But so what? Shall we now scour the depths of the internet to find how many people seem afraid of Sedevacantism and how many don’t? What is the point of this? You’re obviously going to have people who reject Sedevacantism for any number of reasons — some of them fear, some of them pride, some of them ignorance, some of them misunderstanding, etc. On Novus Ordo Watch, we have certainly provided ample argumentation regarding the substance — rather than the motive — of the issues in question, so to now act as though we were trying to make it all about fear seems rather disingenuous.
The third commenter quoted makes a number of opinionated assertions that really don’t demand a response because no evidence is adduced.
So, from these three select comments, Salza and Siscoe triumphantly conclude that Fr. Cekada’s video “did not have the desired effect”. Brilliant. Salza and Siscoe have spoken with empirical authority that Father’s video missed the target. Q.E.D. Dear reader, why not simply watch the video and judge for yourself? Here it is:
Our commentary on the video and the question of sedevacantophobia can be found here.
The anti-sede duo then asks: “Can a person truly be secure in their position if they have only seen one side?” Again, quite an assumption is being made here: that sedevacantists have only seen one side. Really now? Do they know (m)any people who were raised sedevacantist? Aren’t almost all sedevacantists converts who examined the different alternatives before coming to the conclusion they now hold? Why this unfounded and rash assumption that we have all only seen one side of the issue? Visit any sedevacantist chapel and ask some parishioners at random how they came to embrace the sedevantist mindset. Chances are you will hear a response that starts with, “Well, I was Novus Ordo until…” or, “We used to go to the SSPX, but…” The implied claim that Sedevacantists have seen only one side of the issue, is completely uncalled-for and factually false in most cases.
Further on, the authors arrogantly assert: “…if there is one virtue that is clearly lacking in Sedevacantist apologists, it [is] the virtue of humility”. Ah yes, don’t we all have that problem!
So, to summarize, let’s see if we can get this straight: Salza and Siscoe are complaining in their article about a video that criticizes one ulterior motive (fear) that keeps some people from examining openly and honestly the question of Sedevacantism. As part of their criticism, they (1) make several gratuitous assumptions; (2) use as evidence that the video “did not have the desired effect” a commenter who admitted he hasn’t watched it and two other commenters to whom the video was not addressed; and then finish by (3) accusing Fr. Cekada of an ulterior motive in (4) not adhering or responding to arguments in a book they haven’t published yet.
If this is the kind of argumentation we are going to see in True or False Pope? when it’s published, our expectations will have been met. Well, at least one thing seems clear: The gloves are off.