Another argument goes down in flames…

The Case of Pope Celestine III:
A Refutation of Robert J. Siscoe

The Pope is the one on the left

The master theologians of the recognize-and-resist camp are just too smart for their own good. On Feb. 21, 2017, Remnant contributor and True or False Pope? co-author Robert J. Siscoe published what he thought was a slam dunk against Sedevacantism. In an essay entitled “Pope Celestine III’s Error on the Indissolubility of Marriage”, published in the online edition of The Remnant, Siscoe argued that Pope Celestine III (1191-1198) had committed a serious doctrinal error which was later incorporated into universal Church law by Pope Gregory IX.

Of course, the whole idea behind anti-sedevacantists arguing this is that if an indisputably true Pope in the past has taught error or heresy, and this made its way into the official Magisterium of the Church and even became part of her universal disciplinary law, then there is no reason why we couldn’t accuse Francis of the same thing today and still maintain that he is a true Pope. In other words, the argument is basically this: “Just because Francis teaches rubbish doesn’t mean he’s not the Pope, because the Church has taught rubbish in the past.” A brilliant defense of, uh, Catholic teaching!

Sedevacantist author Fr. Anthony Cekada has now produced a video in which he responds to Siscoe’s argumentation. You can watch it here:

To sum up the facts of the matter:

  • It is true that the position of Pope Celestine III was erroneous; however:
  • Pope Celestine was merely offering his opinion on a matter that had not yet been settled, and on which a diversity of opinions was permitted at the time. Siscoe himself acknowledges this when he admits that St. Robert Bellarmine wrote that “the whole matter was still being thought out” (De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Ch. 14; Grant translation). And the same St. Robert Bellarmine also clarified: “Neither Celestine nor [his successor] Innocent [III] stated anything certain on the matter” (ibid.).
  • Siscoe concludes rashly and incorrectly that “what this historical case does show is that a Pope can commit a serious error in judgment concerning a moral issue (one that should have been clear) as long as he does not intend for his judgment to be a solemn definition.” Rather, what the case really shows (and what Siscoe should have argued) is that a Pope can commit a serious error in judgment concerning a moral issue that has not yet been settled and that he merely offers an opinion on. But of course this isn’t helpful to Siscoe’s case because it does not contradict Sedevacantism.
  • Siscoe’s claim that the error of Pope Celestine III was included in the Church’s universal disciplinary law is false and based on his own ignorance about the text he relies on, which was not part of the authentic collection of canons — in fact, it was left out at the express command of Pope Gregory IX.

It is amazing that Siscoe seems undeterred by the fact that if his argumentation were correct, then he would have refuted not simply Sedevacantism but Catholicism altogether, since it is Catholic doctrine that the Church cannot promulgate universal disciplinary laws that are in themselves evil, harmful, heretical, or otherwise defective:

Certainly the loving Mother [the Church] is spotless in the Sacraments, by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary graces through which, with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 66)


…as if the Church which is ruled by the Spirit of God could have established discipline which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is even dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism.

(Pope Pius VI, Bull Auctorem Fidei, n. 78; Denz. 1578)


[T]he discipline sanctioned by the Church must never be rejected or be branded as contrary to certain principles of natural law. It must never be called crippled, or imperfect or subject to civil authority. In this discipline the administration of sacred rites, standards of morality, and the reckoning of the rights of the Church and her ministers are embraced.

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Mirari Vos, n. 9)


The Church’s infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church… By the term “general discipline of the Church” are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living… The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church’s rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a twofold judgment: 1. “This law squares with the Church’s doctrine of faith and morals”; that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. This amounts to a doctrinal decree. 2. “This law, considering all the circumstances, is most opportune.” This is a decree of practical judgment.

(Mgr. Gerard van Noort, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, Christ’s Church, pp. 114-115)


The Church is infallible in her general discipline. By the term general discipline is understood the laws and practices which belong to the external ordering of the whole Church. Such things would be those which concern either external worship, such as liturgy and rubrics, or the administration of the sacraments…. If she [the Church] were able to prescribe or command or tolerate in her discipline something against faith and morals, or something which tended to the detriment of the Church or to the harm of the faithful, she would turn away from her divine mission, which would be impossible.”

(Jean Herrmann, Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae, Vol. 1, p. 258)

All this really stands to reason because a church which can mislead the faithful to the point even of being effectively a cause of their damnation is useless, nay dangerous, and most certainly not the Church founded by Jesus Christ, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail (cf. Mt 16:18-19). But when Christ promised that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail, He didn’t mean that the Church could teach all sorts of heretical and dangerous junk but would always be corrected by self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy such as John Salza, Chris Ferrara, John Vennari, or Robert Siscoe. Rather, the divine guarantee that the Church is indefectible means precisely that the Church cannot be overcome by heresy and will always be the Ark of Salvation to which people can cling with childlike trust and confidence. In other words, the scenario we now have with the Vatican II Sect is something that God guarantees can never happen to the true Catholic Church:

This is why we sedevacantists can be so absolutely sure that the monstrous Vatican II Sect is not the Catholic Church and its heads are not true Roman Pontiffs.

The Remnant is notorious for publishing half-baked arguments and flawed theology. Just recently, Remnant columnist Chris Jackson had tried to argue that history teaches us that Pope Clement XIV’s decree suppressing the Jesuit order was manfully resisted by true Catholics who refused to take papal nonsense — but then it turned out that Jackson hadn’t done his homework: The one bishop who did resist incurred an automatic papal excommunication, and St. Alphonsus Liguori, a canonized saint of the period, who is certainly to be imitated, submitted to the papal judgment, calling it “the will of God”! But readers didn’t hear this from The Remnant, they had to come to Novus Ordo Watch to find out:

It appeas that in their blind hatred of Sedevacantism, the stubborn defenders of the Gallicanesque recognize-but-resist position do not care if they tear down the entire Church with it. They would be more than happy to have a defected, dangerous, wicked church that resembles the Whore of Babylon rather than the Immaculate Bride of Christ, along with an irrelevant, anti-Catholic “Pope” whose every word and deed needs to be fought against lest we be led to hell by his teachings, laws, or liturgical rites — so long as they do not have to admit that they were wrong about Sedevacantism. And then they have the gall to say that if we don’t adhere to such a ridiculous position, we “end by losing the Faith in the Church Herself” (Siscoe, “Pope Celestine III’s Error”)!

Who has lost Faith in the Church here?

You can do a quick self-test to see if you believe in the Catholic Church or you do not. The following was written by the legendary 19th century priest Fr. Frederick Faber, and sedevacantists wholeheartedly agree with it:

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.)

Can you apply these beautiful words to Francis and the Vatican II Sect? Hardly! And these words of Pope Pius XI aren’t helpful to the recognize-but-resist case either: “Not least among the blessings which have resulted from the public and legitimate honor paid to the Blessed Virgin and the saints is the perfect and perpetual immunity of the Church from error and heresy” (Encyclical Quas Primas, n. 22).

Just yesterday, The Remnant outdid itself once again, publishing a feature article by their star columnist Chris Ferrara with the absurd title, “Imploding Papacy Signals Triumph of Immaculate Heart”! These people are so far removed from Catholic doctrine on the Papacy that they do not even see the irony in such a headline. An imploding Papacy would be a victory for Satan, not for our Blessed Mother! The Modernist apostasy is an apostasy from the Vicar of Christ and the Church, not by the Vicar of Christ and the Church!

The recognize-and-resist position has done tremendous damage to what people who consider themselves traditional Catholics believe about the Church and the Papacy. Or when was the last time you heard its proponents quote, for example, the following?

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)

You have a choice: You can have Francis and his five predecessors of infelicitous memory, or the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy.

But you can’t have both.

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18 Responses to “The Case of Pope Celestine III: A Refutation of Robert Siscoe”

  1. Tom Healey

    The pope is the one on the left…. Good for a laugh. Mr. Siscoe looks soooo “weighty”. He is clueless and has no idea that in his own devious way, he is more than willing to sacrifice the truth to further his ambition to defeat Sedevacantism.

    • Siobhan

      You describe here quite well, albeit possibly unintentionally, one aspect of the vice of human respect from which these “Recognize & Resist” destroyers of Mother Church’s teaching on the Primacy of Peter suffer.

  2. poapratensis

    The continuous stream of deceptive writing from Siscoe has destroyed his credibility in the eyes of anyone seeking the truth. One has to think that they can’t possibly believe their own rubbish. Supposedly there are numerous “don’t ask don’t tell” Sedevacantists in the SSPX. Are S&S the designated PR team out to demonstrate SSPX’s “fidelity” to Bergoglio by kicking some of them down the stairs?

  3. Pascendi

    I almost feel sorry for the Siscoe Kid. It must be embarrassing to be so wrong and so thoroughly refuted every time he opens his mouth about the status of the papacy. Oh Pancho!

    • CT

      He’s constantly having egg on his face these days.
      The SSBS is a cucked bunch because they have no idea how to submit to and love the Catholic Church. As you say, they can have their “popes” or they can have the Catholic doctrine of the papacy, but they can’t have both.

  4. Pedro

    “Robert Siscoe was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He has enjoyed a successful business career, beginning at the age of 23 when he was the top producing trader for an international Forex trading firm. He has founded several successful companies, including a mortgage brokerage firm at the age of 25, and currently works for himself in the insurance and financial industry. Mr. Siscoe converted to the Catholic Church in his 20s and never lost his convert’s zeal. He quickly became a fervent student of all things Catholic, with a special interest in theology and metaphysics. Mr. Siscoe is a widely published author. His articles have appeared in publications throughout America and Europe and he is a regular contributor to The Remnant and Catholic Family News, the two leading traditional Catholic publications in the U.S.A.”

    No surprise. No formal training in theology. Yet Siscoe, apparently due to his aggressiveness in mortgage brokerage work, has the gall to assert himself as some sort of “expert” on matters of dogmatic theology? Business success, my dear Siscoe, in America is not that difficult, especially with usurious practices like those of the American mortgage system. If you are aggressive enough the sky is the limit. Honest work? That is open to debate. So a guy who made bank deluding others about mortgages is The Remnant’s go to source for weighty matters of theology? No surprise. The “successful business career” paradigm is rife in America. This is a hangover from Calvinism-God has blessed his work, therefore he is wealthy. If God is blessing his business, he must have special graces or something to that effect.

    Who in their right mind, knowing what the mortgage industry in America has done, would trust a businessman to explain matters of importance regarding morals? These people are not altogether with us in the real world.

    Mr. Siscoe should go back to his usurious business world. Leave the world of dogma and morals to real men.

    • Alan F.

      Exactly. The usurious mortgage and modern banking system is a Jewish construction; before the Reformation it was illegal throughout Christendom for Catholics to have anything to do with it.

  5. Pedro


    Today at 9:45 AM

    Between the two of you, how much Thomistic theology did you study? You two have about as much right to write a book on Sedevacantism as I do to author one on jet propulsion. Is it just sheer hubris that fuels your fires?

    A lawyer in America may make himself into a god by “twisting” words around verbally and in print. Makes a lot of money and garners a healthy disgust in others. But for you to assume a mantle of expert in matters of dogmatic theology? May St. Thomas Aquinas pray for your conversion to reality.

    Do I even need to address a mortgage broker passing himself off as an “expert” on matters of morals? How hilarious. A system based on lies from start to finish. Phony money loaned as debt by a private bank. And there you are with the stones to pretend the bank or whatever usurious institution is involved is making a loan of something with real value. Wake up and smell the coffee. The dupes signature on the “mortgage” makes it have any value at all, to be sold as a financial instrument, then bought and sold by speculators like so much paper. You do have “chutzpah” to borrow a term from your Talmudic allies. While your usurious business has given you ample free time to write a book, it has not allotted you the time to research a matter closer to where you actually live. Try “The Creature from Jekyll Island”, an extraordinarily well written book by G. Edward Griffin, if you have not ever read it. Start living in the real world of facts. Perhaps you should rediscover the Catholic Church’s position on usury. And its position on being party to fraud. Perhaps, in discovering reality in your own life you might cease to believe in other fairy tales. You know, like Francis is a Roman Catholic.

  6. Scott

    Robert makes a minor mistake which he will gladly admit to, but sedes entire belief system is a series of major mistakes which amount to an enormous lie and formal schism, which they will never admit to. Which is worse? Let me guess, some idiot will defend the indefensible sedevacantist lie here, and ask a question that has already been answered umpteen million times. Don’t waste my time, I only debate those capable of comprehension and listening skills, which I’ve never found in a sedevacantist. Trust me, I’ve got literally hundreds of debates with them, and they are all intellectually dishonest, all take theologians out of context, invent laws as they go, and love having the last word. There’s no way in hell I plan to waste my time with you knuckleheads here. My point is anyone can make a mistake. We all do. But sedevacantism itself is a mistake that was condemned by the 4th Council of Constanitnople, but even the sedes I’ve talked to won’t even admit that.

    • 2c3n1 .

      A minor mistake? It’s a total like like all of Siscoe’s garbage. He won’t admit it either. He’s never admitted the hundreds of mistakes he’s made. And Scott, you’ve never been honest with me. You’re the biggest knucklehead out there. You never answer the questions and you are the one who invents laws while accusing us of doing so. You should read below how the 4th Council of Constantinople doesn’t condemn sedevacantism but it does condemn you for doing what the followers of Photius did. Yet, you still won’t admit that you’re wrong even after proving it over and over.

      The fact that you go out of your way to defend a super radical apostate as pope just goes to show how sick you are.

    • Lee

      Minor mistake which he will gladly admit to??? #1 It was a huge flaw #2 That man never admits he’s wrong about anything and neither does his colleagues #3 Siscoe is the one who is schism with his own Pope since he will not submit to him or his teachings.

      You should be glad that you can even post an antagonist comment on this website. If you go on the remnant newspaper website, many of my comments and others I know don’t get posted. They want to keep it as one sided as possible. Fake news indeed.

    • Pedro

      So a heretic is Catholic? An obvious Marxist like Bergoglio is not a heretic when he rejects Church teaching again and again? Objectively, you are out of touch with reality.

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