“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered…” (Zac 13:7)
When the Shepherd is struck:
The Papacy and Sedevacantist “Disunity”
The following article appeared in the sedevacantist quarterly The Reign of Mary, vol. XLV, no. 155, in the summer of 2014. It addresses a phenomenon that a lot of people seeking to be genuine traditional Catholics struggle with: the apparent “disunity” among sedevacantists. If Sedevacantism is the correct position to take in the face of the apostasy of the Novus Ordo Church, why then are there different groups of sedevacantists that are at odds with each other over various issues?
The solution, the author argues, is found in a correct understanding of the Papacy as the essential principle of Catholic unity. Precisely because a true Vicar of Christ is currently absent, disunity among Catholics is bound to occur; however, any such lack of unity is only accidental and does not infringe upon the essential unity enjoyed by all true Catholics. Moreover, any accidental disunity could, in principle, be resolved as soon as a true Pope is once again reigning — something that cannot be said about the recognize-and-resist position, which also has its various groups fighting or disagreeing with one another, but where a papal judgment does not in and of itself settle anything, because according the recognize-and-resist position, it is ultimately each individual believer who decides whether or not to accept a papal decision.
This article is a great companion piece to the author’s “The Papacy and the Passion of the Church” and also to Jeffrey Knight’s “Culpable Ignorance and the Great Apostasy”.
When the Shepherd is struck: The Papacy and Sedevacantist Disunity
by Mario Derksen
All too often we hear from people seeking to be traditional Catholics that what keeps them from becoming sedevacantists is the problem of “disunity” among them. From disputes about which Holy Week rites to follow, to contemporary bioethical problems, to the question of whether one may ever assist at non-sedevacantist Masses, the disagreements among those who do not recognize the papal claimants after Pope Pius XII as legitimate seem too numerous or too daunting for many people’s comfort.
In what follows, I propose to show that though lamentable, the divisions among sedevacantists need not be a stumbling block to us, because they are but the natural consequence of that which is truly at the root of all the trouble: the absence of a Pope.
It is from the Pope that the unity of the Church derives, and it is the Pope upon whom it depends. It therefore follows that, if there is no Pope reigning for a long time or he is unable to exercise his office freely, the cohesion of the faithful will suffer serious injury before long.
Although this situation is undeniably a great trial, we should take advantage of it, as it were, and use it for our personal sanctification and thus transform our anguish into a seedbed from which the future restoration of the Church will flower.
The Papacy, Infallible Source of Catholic Unity
On May 18, 1890, Pope Leo XIII approved a series of exorcism prayers against Satan and the apostate angels, which includes the long version of the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which Leo himself had composed. Part of this prayer reads:
In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.
(See Acta Sanctae Sedis XXIII [1890-91], p. 744; cf. also Ambrose St. John, The Raccolta or Collection of Indulgenced Prayers and Good Works , n. 292.)
This idea of the sheep being scattered after – and especially because of – the Pastor having been struck, originates in the words of the prophet Zacharias, quoted by our Blessed Lord: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zacharias 13:7; cf. Mark 14:27).
The reason why the sheep are scattered when the shepherd is struck is that the shepherd – the Pope – is the principle and source of unity for the flock, the Catholic Church, as Pope Benedict XIV taught:
The vigilance and the pastoral solicitude of the Roman Pontiff … according to the duties of his office, are principally and above all manifested in maintaining and conserving the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God. They strive also to the end that the faithful of Christ, not being like irresolute children, or carried about by every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men [Eph 4:14], may all come to the unity of faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God to form the perfect man, that … united in the bond of charity like members of a single body having Christ for head, and under the authority of his Vicar on earth, the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Blessed Peter, from whom is derived the unity of the entire Church, they may increase in number for the edification of the body, and with the assistance of divine grace, they may so enjoy tranquility in this life as to enjoy future beatitude.
(Benedict XIV, Apostolic Constitution Pastoralis Romani Pontificis ; in Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, eds., Papal Teachings: The Church, trans. by Mother E. O’Gorman [Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1962], n. 1; underlining added.)
No one can be a Catholic, a member of the Church, without being in union with the head of the Church, to whom all must submit under pain of schism and heresy and as a condition for attaining unto a blessed eternity. Papal teaching on this matter is quite explicit:
Furthermore we declare, state, and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all human creatures that they submit to the Roman pontiff.
(Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam ; see Denzinger-Hűnermann 875 or Denzinger-Rahner 469.)
Union with the Roman See of Peter is to [St. Jerome] always the public criterion of a Catholic…. And for a like reason St. Augustine publicly attests that… “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” (Sermo cxx., n. 13).
(Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum 13 )
Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.
(Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi 22 )
Pope Leo XIII beautifully elaborated on just how the Pope brings about this unity among the faithful, to wit, by means of the jurisdiction which is intrinsic to the papal primacy and comes directly from God Himself. Commenting on Matthew 16:18 (“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”), the scriptural passage in which Christ announces the future establishment of the papacy, the Holy Father taught:
From this text it is clear that by the will and command of God the Church rests upon St. Peter, just as a building rests on its foundation. Now the proper nature of a foundation is to be a principle of cohesion for the various parts of the building. It must be the necessary condition of stability and strength. Remove it and the whole building falls. It is consequently the office of St. Peter to support the Church, and to guard it in all its strength and indestructible unity. How could he fulfil this office without the power of commanding, forbidding, and judging, which is properly called jurisdiction? It is only by this power of jurisdiction that nations and commonwealths are held together. A primacy of honour and the shadowy right of giving advice and admonition, which is called direction, could never secure to any society of men unity or strength.
(Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum 12)
In this clear papal teaching, we can already see how misguided are those “traditional Catholics” today who would recognize Francis as a true Pope while in reality only conceding him a primacy of honor, not at all believing his teachings or per se accepting any exercise of his putative jurisdiction over the whole Church – not his magisterial documents, not his liturgy, not his laws, not his saints.
Pope Leo continues, explaining what our Lord meant when He said that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the Church:
The meaning of this divine utterance is, that, notwithstanding the wiles and intrigues which they bring to bear against the Church, it can never be that the church committed to the care of Peter shall succumb or in any wise fail…. Therefore God confided His Church to Peter so that he might safely guard it with his unconquerable power. He invested him, therefore, with the needful authority; since the right to rule is absolutely required by him who has to guard human society really and effectively. This, furthermore, Christ gave: “To thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven”…. In this same sense He says: “Whatsoever thou shall bind upon earth it shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth it shall be loosed also in Heaven” [Mt 16:19]. This metaphorical expression of binding and loosing indicates the power of making laws, of judging and of punishing; and the power is said to be of such amplitude and force that God will ratify whatever is decreed by it. Thus it is supreme and absolutely independent, so that, having no other power on earth as its superior, it embraces the whole Church and all things committed to the Church.
(Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum 12; underlining added.)
This teaching that the Church, no matter what may happen to her, can never fail, is found again and again in the Catholic Magisterium, and it is based on Christ’s promises to St. Peter, whose Faith cannot fail. It is for this reason that the Holy See will forever be the ultimate measuring rod of the orthodoxy of any doctrine, and adherence to it will always be the ultimate criterion of any Catholic:
Therefore, the bishops of the whole world, now individually, now gathered in Synods, following a long custom of the churches and the formula of the ancient rule, referred to this Holy See those dangers particularly which emerged in the affairs of faith, that there especially the damages to faith might be repaired where faith cannot experience a failure…. Indeed, all the venerable fathers have embraced their apostolic doctrine, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed it, knowing full well that the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” [Lk 22:32].
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus 4; see Denzinger-Rahner 1836 or Denzinger-Hűnermann 3070; underlining added.)
By means of the Roman Pontificate, then, God guarantees that the entire Church, united to the Pope, will always be the exclusive and indefectible means of salvation:
…[B]y God’s commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church; the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.
(Leo XIII, Allocution for the 25th Anniversary of his Election [Feb. 20, 1903]; in Benedictine Monks, Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 653.)
Just as at the first moment of the Incarnation the Son of the Eternal Father adorned with the fullness of the Holy Spirit the human nature which was substantially united to Him, that it might be a fitting instrument of the Divinity in the sanguinary work of the Redemption, so at the hour of His precious death He willed that His Church should be enriched with the abundant gifts of the Paraclete in order that in dispensing the divine fruits of the Redemption she might be, for the Incarnate Word, a powerful instrument that would never fail. For both the juridical mission of the Church, and the power to teach, govern and administer the Sacraments, derive their supernatural efficacy and force for the building up of the Body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine and enable her to rule them for the salvation of their souls through divinely enlightened pastors and to bestow on them an abundance of heavenly graces.
(Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi 31, ibid.; underlining added.)
Behold, then, the beauty and the power of the papacy! It is a most wonderful and glorious gift to the Church, established by God Himself.
The Papacy Impeded
Yet, there is a flip side to all this as well: If the Pope is the rock of doctrinal and moral verities, guaranteed to be so by God Himself, then it follows that unspeakable evils would befall the Church if at some point, somehow, the Pope were to be impeded in the free exercise of his office, if he were to be prevented from assuming office, or if, after a Pope’s death, there should be an extended period of time before a new Pope is elected.
Surely it comes as no surprise, given the exalted nature and authority of the papacy, that there have not been found wanting, throughout Church history, enemies of Christ who desire precisely to harm the papacy in any way possible. Writing to the bishops of France, His Holiness Pope Pius IX warned against such forces and exhorted all Catholics to even greater love of and obedience to the Holy See:
Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair 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. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.
(Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices 7 ; underlining added.)
Here we see demonstrated the greatness and power of the papacy in engendering, fostering, and enforcing genuine unity among all members of the Church. The papacy possesses this power in itself as it is one of the constitutive elements of the Church established by our Lord. Yet, unity is ensured in this manner only as long as “this Chair remains intact,” as Pius IX teaches, in which exists “the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion.”
What, then, might happen if this Chair were no longer “intact” at some point? We have already seen that the See of St. Peter, being the infallible Chair of Truth, cannot ever fail; it cannot turn into the Chair of Error all of a sudden, else the Church would turn from being the vehicle of salvation to being a vehicle of damnation, and this with the backing of Christ.
Yet we must still consider other possibilities, scenarios that would not contradict the divine promises, under which we may indeed say that the Chair of St. Peter is no longer “intact,” even though it has not failed. Such would be the case, for example, in the event of a prolonged vacancy of the Apostolic See, or in the case of serious secular interference with the exercise of the Supreme Pontificate (for example, by taking the Pope prisoner), or if an antipope should usurp the Holy See and impede either the election or the free reign of the rightful Pope.
The state of the papal chair being vacant is known as sede vacante, that of it being obstructed as sede impedita. Neither condition is foreign to the Church, as her history shows.
Any time a Pope dies, the Holy See becomes vacant, and this state of affairs lasts until the valid election of a new Pope. Until the death of Pius XII in 1958, the longest vacancy in the history of the Church had occurred between the reigns of Popes Clement IV and Gregory X: a vacancy of over two-and-a-half years, from 1269 to 1271.
In the twelfth century, Pope Innocent II was hindered from exercising his papacy freely because of the schism of Antipope Anacletus II, whom a majority of people erroneously believed to be the true Pope, and who occupied [the papal chair] in Rome. It took eight years for Innocent II to finally be acknowledged as the legitimate Roman Pontiff by the entire Church.
The case of the Great Western Schism in the 14th and 15th centuries was also a great trial for the Church. For approximately 40 years, there was great confusion as to the identity of the true Pope, with two, even three, simultaneous claimants at various times. The Jesuit theologian Fr. Edmund J. O’Reilly provides some astute commentary on this tragic period of church history, which helps to shed some light on our present situation:
The great schism of the West suggests to me a reflection which I take the liberty of expressing here. If this schism had not occurred, the hypothesis of such a thing happening would appear to many chimerical. They would say it could not be; God would not permit the Church to come into so unhappy a situation. Heresies might spring up and spread and last painfully long, through the fault and to the perdition of their authors and abettors, to the great distress too of the faithful, increased by actual persecution in many places where the heretics were dominant. But that the true Church should remain between thirty and forty years without a thoroughly ascertained Head, and representative of Christ on earth, this would not be. Yet it has been; and we have no guarantee that it will not be again, though we may fervently hope otherwise. What I would infer is, that we must not be too ready to pronounce on what God may permit. We know with absolute certainty that He will fulfil His promises; not allow anything to occur at variance with them; that He will sustain His Church and enable her to triumph over all enemies and difficulties; that He will give to each of the faithful those graces which are needed for each one’s service of Him and attainment of salvation, as He did during the great schism we have been considering, and in all the sufferings and trials which the Church has passed through from the beginning. We may also trust He will do a great deal more than what He has bound Himself to by His promises. We may look forward with a cheering probability to exemption for the future from some of the troubles and misfortunes that have befallen in the past. But we, or our successors in future generations of Christians, shall perhaps see stranger evils than have yet been experienced, even before the immediate approach of that great winding up of all things on earth that will precede the day of judgment. I am not setting up for a prophet, nor pretending to see unhappy wonders, of which I have no knowledge whatever. All I mean to convey is that contingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree.
(Fr. Edmund J. O’Reilly, The Relations of the Church to Society, trans. by Matthew Russell [London: John Hodges, 1892], pp. 287-288; underlining added, original italics removed.)
As we have seen, such possible contingencies include sede impedita as well as an extended period of sede vacante. They manifestly do not include what we might call sede lapsa, the idea that heresy and error can come from the Chair of Truth. (This idea of a “Holy See gone bad” is held by a great many “traditional Catholics” today who have chosen to acknowledge the Vatican II popes as true Popes yet resisting any exercise of these claimants’ office judged to be contrary to pre-Vatican II teaching or practice.)
Fr. Herman B. Kramer, in his interpretation of the Apocalypse, warns that a prolonged vacancy of the Apostolic Chair, entirely within the realm of possibility according to Catholic teaching, would mean terrible hardship for the Church:
…[T]he great [secular] powers may take a menacing attitude to hinder the election of the logical and expected [papal] candidate by threats of a general apostasy, assassination or imprisonment of this candidate if elected. This would … cause intense anguish to the Church, because an extended interregnum in the papacy is always disastrous and more so in a time of universal persecution. If Satan would contrive to hinder a papal election, the Church would suffer great travail.
(Fr. Herman Bernard Kramer, The Book of Destiny [Rockford: TAN Books, 1975], p. 278. This book was first published in 1955 by Buechler Publishing Company, but the page reference refers to the 1975 reprint edition by TAN, which is widely available.)
Clearly, the situation in which we find ourselves today, and which all those who recognize Pius XII as the last true Pope have correctly identified as being either that of an extended period of sede vacante or that of sede impedita, is not at all foreign to the mind of the Church, nor contrary to her teaching. That terrible trials should result from such a situation stands to reason. (I mention here also sede impedita since we cannot discount the possibility, however unlikely it may appear, that there is currently a true Pope in hiding, somehow prevented from making himself known to the world.)
All these considerations will help us in assessing the true significance of any “disunity” and disagreements found among sedevacantists.
The Papacy and Sedevacantist “Disunity”
Having extensively reviewed the Catholic doctrine on the power of the papacy, specifically with regard to its being the source and safeguard of the unity of the entire Church, as well as the possibility that the papal office may at some point either be vacant or impeded, we can now turn to the difficulties that exist among sedevacantists and understand how these dissensions, far from disproving our theological position in any way, are actually but the natural outcome of the absence of a rightful Roman Pontiff.
When we examine the issues sedevacantists are divided on, we realize very quickly that they are not really disagreements pertaining to doctrine per se, for all who recognize the Popes up to Pius XII as legitimate must also submit to their Magisterium at least under pain of mortal sin, sometimes under pain of heresy. Rather, the disagreements typically concern the correct application of the Church’s teaching to a specific case at hand, or to a finer doctrinal point not yet settled by the Church, or to the right interpretation of a law, or to the proper pastoral response to a particular situation.
So, for instance, we find Catholics holding divergent views regarding how to resolve this or that parish problem, what constitutes the most suitable Catholic school curriculum, whether a particular seminary is worthy of support, or whether a specific individual is a fit candidate for holy orders. We find people disagreeing on whether a specific type of clothing meets the required standards of modesty, whether Pope Pius XII would still want us to use his liturgical reforms of the mid-1950’s, or whether a priest has the right – or the duty – to deny Holy Communion to this or that individual. Other points of contention include whether a priest can bind the consciences of the faithful regarding a theological conclusion other priests disagree with, whether a particular ordination is to be considered doubtful or not, and whether or to what extent we should, or should not, be involved in the secular political process.
The list of disagreements can seem overwhelming at times, but we must take a step back and view it all in its proper context: We are lacking a true Pope who could, by virtue of his office, settle these disputes and enforce the unity of the flock by an authoritative decision. The situation we find ourselves in is clearly an exile of sorts, a great agony which we should accept, like any other suffering, with great love, patience, and perseverance, knowing that it has been permitted by an all-wise, all-good God, and that what we truly deserve is infinitely worse.
We should also evaluate how realistic our own ideas and expectations are. Is it reasonable to expect that if there has been no Pope for decades, everything in the Church will simply continue normally? Can we really, on the one hand, affirm sede vacante, but then on the other complain that there are so many disagreements among us? Does the latter not rather accompany the former as a practically inevitable consequence?
But let us suppose for a moment that these sedevacantist disagreements we so lament did not exist. Let us suppose that all of us who recognize Pius XII as the last true Pope agreed on every detail with regard to the difficulties enumerated above, so that we would enjoy complete and perfect unity in these matters.
I maintain that it wouldn’t make a difference.
That is to say, it would not make any difference in principle. The reason for this is that any agreement on a matter that has not been settled by a true Pope will always only be incidental, that is, the product of circumstance, as it were, because the Pope is the only one who could engender and enforce consensus by virtue of the unifying power of his office, which enjoys authority from God to direct the minds and wills of all the faithful. Thus only the Pope himself can intrinsically “cause” agreement and therefore unity, whereas any other agreement would merely come about as nothing more than the product of sheer happenstance, possessed by people who all happen to think the same way, but whose agreement is not the essential effect of a unifying cause and thus could come to an end at any time. It would be an incidental unity only, not an essential unity, which can only come from the Pope.
This consideration, I believe, shows that whether we should suffer lamentable divisions as we presently do, or whether we should all be in complete agreement on all things, we cannot escape the fact that the absence of a Pope means that the principle of unity is temporarily prevented from bringing about the unity of the flock on those matters about which we currently legitimately dispute and disagree.
Realizing, then, that our essential unity would be no greater if we happened to agree on all those matters concerning which we now diverge, because it would still not be the result of a true Pope governing our wills and our intellects on these points, we should feel consoled that by the same token, this unity also cannot be lessened or taken away by the disputes and divisions we presently undergo.
I would like to conclude by drawing your attention to a pertinent remark made by Fr. Leo Trese writing in the early 1950’s:
There may come in our time, as there came in the fifth century, a barbarian invasion to inundate the Christian world. If that happens, the light of Faith may flicker again, as it flickered fifteen hundred years ago, a feeble flame marking the hot embers that lie beneath the new fuel that God is heaping upon His Church.
(Fr. Leo Trese, “Foreword”, in Dorothy Dohen, Vocation to Love [New York: Sheed & Ward, 1951], p. vii)
Though the barbarian invasion this priest had in mind did not come to pass, a much more sinister one came in its stead: an invasion of Modernists usurping the Holy See under the external guise of Catholicism, like the Trojan horse in ancient Greece, to cause much more serious and extensive damage than any barbarians ever could.
But we take heart because, as Fr. Trese suggests, the tribulations we are now afflicted with are but a necessary prelude to the glorious future restoration of the Catholic Church (cf. Romans 18:8: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us”), which shall take place at precisely the time and in precisely the manner which Almighty God has preordained from all eternity.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons (cropped)
License: public domain
“according the recognize-and-resist position, it is ultimately each individual believer who decides whether or not to accept a papal decision.”
According to the sedevacantist position, it is ultimately each individual believer who decides whether or not a true Pope is reigning or not.
Be real here: suppose someday in the future there is someone that you consider a true Pope. It is not true that the sedevacantist disunity will suddenly be fixed, because plenty of other sedevancantists will continue to say that he is not a true Pope — your personal opinion will be different from theirs.
Perhaps the above link to a treatise entitled “Bickering Priests”–by Bp. Sanborn might bring clarity.
Your objection misses the essence of the critique, though: The recognize-and-resist position has maneuvered itself into a corner from which there is no escaping, even in principle, because it makes the power of the papacy — recognized by all to exist in the man acknowledged to be Pope — subject to each Catholic’s agreement or disagreement. Thus the Pope is deprived of all his power. He can no longer be said to enjoy genuine power to bind consciences, direct wills, and instruct the faithful, all by virtue of his office (and not by virtue of his subjects’ gracious agreement).
On the other hand, the sedevacantist position leaves the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy in tact. Now, certainly, you may object that this would mean that each man has to figure out for himself who the true Pope is, but that’s exactly how it was during the Great Western Schism, too, in the 14th/15th centuries. The Church was not able to resolve the situation — if the three papal claimants had not all resigned, it is not clear how this would have ever been resolved. Theologians certainly have not provided a solution (that I’m aware of).
So, this shows that the idea that each individual must figure out who the true Pope is, is by no means at odds with Catholic doctrine. On the other hand, the idea that even the final decision of the Pope is not really binding, is completely contrary to Catholic doctrine.
Hear! Hear! The Pope’s power is, as is stated in the article, from God, Jesus Christ Himself. This is a source of absolute vitriol from Protestants on the web as they labor over and over to dismiss Our Lord’s clear words to one man, and one man only, St. Peter, of blessed memory. The crisis all over the planet is one of Authority. From fathers like myself, literally ripped out of their homes, to the Holy Father, the Devil has attacked God’s Sovereignty at the head. The Devil will lose but, boy oh boy, is his vile, diabolic act tearing the world apart!
Please also see Bp. Donald Sanborn’s response to the objection that while R&Rs may be sifting doctrine, sedevacantists are guilty of sifting Popes:
No, entirelyuseless, a heretic, by his own words, actions and pertinacity in choosing heresy declares himself outside of the faith. That declaration is recognized by the faithful as he persists in his heresy. It is therefore the true recognition of heresy and the resistance of evil that obliges sedevacantists to thus act.
Judging whether or not someone is a true Pope is not a matter of “personal opinion” or Protestant-style “private judgment”.There is another article on this site about the subject, but it boils down to this: under certain circumstances, an individual can make a judgment that is infallible, based on such things as objective facts, the reason common to all men, and Catholic dogma. I have a friend who refuses to admit that “Pope” Benedict’s statement that “the resurrection is by no means a resurrection of the body” is heretical, even though consideration of all three must yield that conclusion: Benedict wrote it (objective fact), it violates the common sense principle that two contradictory statements cannot both be true (reason common to all men), and Catholic dogma (the resurrection is most definitely bodily.) It is my friend, therefore, who will not acknowledge that Benedict is a heretic, who is truly using “personal opinion” and “private judgment” in the sense that the Church admonishes that we must avoid, that is, some privately-held principle that disregards facts, common sense, and the Catholic faith.
Yes, thank you for making that point. The post you are referring to is this one here:
“Sedevacantism and Private Judgment”
Thanks, I knew you would find it more quickly than I could have. By the way, I should have concluded by saying that when a true Pope is restored to the See of Peter, recognizing him as such will not be a matter of opinion–facts, common sense, and Catholic dogma will make it clear.
What must be made clear, are the men who call themselves, “pope” are in fact not of the utmost relevancy. These men, from “pope Paul VI through pope Francis” are the head of a monstrous false church, created at “Vatican II.” They uphold the heretical/ masonic doctrines of this false council. In other words, a Catholic person can rightly ascertain the truth by comparing what is taught in the documents of Vatican II, and what the Catholic Church has dogmatically defined prior to Vatican II. Particularly the blatant heresy taught in the Vatican II document(s) denying the dogma, no salvation outside the Catholic Church, to name a few. Hence these men can not even be called “antipopes” as they are not a member of the Catholic Church. They are worse than any protestant, as they falsely claim the name “Catholic” and “Pope.” True Catholic’s today dub the name of this “church” “the church of the Council” “the Vatican II church” “the whore of Babylon” NOT the Catholic Church. These men, individually, can rightly be called “antichrist.” We do not judge the Pope, for we have no pope to judge. The truth cannot change. ” Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8) and the very next verse, 9: Be not led away with various and strange doctrines.” A billion plus people adhere to this false church/ impostor church, posing as the true bride of Christ. The acceptance of this false council and the resultant false church by the majority of “Catholic’s” demonstrates the lack of faith prior to the council. The Vatican II council was the CULMINATION of an already faithless people. To all who adhere to this false church, calling herself, ” The Roman Catholic Church,” HEAR this, ” And I heard another voice from heaven, saying: Go out from her, my people; that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and the Lord hath remembered her iniquities.” (Apoc.18: 4-5)
Jorge is at best a Lutheran. He praises Martin Luther and even said one time that the Lutherans were right about justification. A Lutheran CANNOT be pope because he is not a catholic. Not complicated. This is not a private judgment.
“Bickering Priests”-by Bishop Donald Sanborn
The essential point is made throughout the article, as I am certain Bishop Sanborn affirms it as well, that the Authority of the Holy Father, the Sweet Christ on Earth, is from God Himself, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Each Protestant (protesting Catholicism) I encounter refuses, like a Scribe or Pharisee, to acknowledge in any manner the words of Our Blessed Lord to St. Peter. They labor like scholars to air their own version of what Our Lord said or meant. Sort of like what the Vatican Press corps does whenever the Apostate from Argentina, the liberal loser in linen, opens his boca to vomit forth more bilge water.
There is no unity without a pope . There is no unity in the Vatican II sect! There is an illusion of unity. In my own Diocese you can find gay friendly churches, liberal churches, conservative churches all given a wink and a nod by the local bishop. Even churches with no resident priest where a permanent married deacon and his pastoral wife run the church.Sin is never mentioned unless it’s a sin against mother earth . The VII church is a joke.
I’ve been a traditionalist (indult, FSSP) all my adult life, and my wife was raised in traditionalist (indult, FSSP) parishes, and we both came to sedevacatism in the last year. According to some Sedevacantists we are not even Christians since we may not be baptized. According to others we are welcome to communion. That’s a pretty big divide, no?
We have never in the decades of being a traditionalists seen anywhere near the disunity, acrimony, and scandal that is found among sedevacantists in the Cincinnati area. I have been to dozens of traditionalist chapels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and California in the course of my travels. In fact, the very author of this piece, Mario Derksen, would probably be denied communion if he were to present at a SSPV parish and was recognized due to his correct and I would say courageous refutation of Bp. Kelly’s the Sacred and Profane which is an attack on the so called “Thuc-Line” bishops.
It’s not just disunity. Different sedevacantists seem to regard others traditionalists as more or less worse than protestants, or at least they seem to reserve the most venom for other traditionalists. Take a look at this website (just one among many), which seems to be dedicated to not articulating a convincing (well researched) and thorough (book length) explanation of Sedevacantism, but rather to piling on non-sedevacantists: novus ordonarians (who are considered part of a sect) and SSPX in particular (of which many I understand are quiet sedevacantists). I am a sedevacantist in the sense that I believe the most probable explanation for crisis lies with the seat of Peter being vacant, but even I recognize the that asking one to be a sedevacantist brings up the immediate theological problem of resolving the question of “where is the Church?” which we were promised by our Lord would be with us for all time. Is the church the handful of bickering (and mutually “excommunicating”) sedevacantist clergy? If it is them, well, I doubt it would have the marks of “one” or “holy” because sedevacacantists are certainly not one in faith and holiness seems to be lacking. Or are we to accept the sedeprivation thesis?
The Shepherd is Struck is commendable for trying to resolve the matter of explanting what appears to be simply diabolical conflict among sedevacantists, and I greatly appreciate its charitable tone, however, it is nowhere even close to a satisfactory resolution, at least in my thinking. As this website’s tagline used to read: “know them by their fruits.”
Thank you for your thoughts. Please allow me first to express my sincere sympathy with your struggle. Yes, Sedevacantism is messy. There is no denying that. And there are problems, believe me, not just in the United States but also, for example, in Europe. However, this lies precisely in the nature of the position: There is currently no valid occupant of the papal office, and it is the Papacy which brings about, by its very office, Catholic unity. So, if you are frustrated, if you are scandalized as it were, it is not because Sedevacantism is false but because it is TRUE.
“By their fruits you shall know them.” We might reword this a little to fit perfectly our time: “You shall know the truth of the Papacy by its fruits.” The fruits of the Papacy are perhaps never better seen than today, when its absence — that is, the long-term absence of a valid occupant of the office — is showing exactly why the Papacy is so important.
So, I think that most of the problem you are having is basically just the fact that there is no Pope in action. The Papacy has consequences, after all. Is it frustrating? Is it hard? Is it a cross? Yes, certainly. But such is the path to Calvary. If we want to rise with Christ, we must first suffer with Him.
You may say that’s not a satisfactory solution, but I don’t think it’s even *meant* as a solution. It’s simply an analysis based on Catholic teaching and empirical observation.
One of the concerns you mention is that according to some sedevacantists you may not be validly baptized. I understand that this is something that upsets you, but the point itself is not uncharitable: You might not be validly baptized. Now, in general, Novus Ordo baptisms ARE valid, but it is a good thing to check into the circumstances of one’s own baptism (I was baptized Novus Ordo myself, so I am in the same boat as you). If the baptism was done according to their ritual book and the water actually touched the skin of the head rather than just the hair, then the baptism must be considered valid.
So, while I totally understand that you are upset about this conflict, I am asking you to please also “cut the others some slack”, so to speak, who are (apparently) pointing out that some Novus Ordo baptisms are doubtful or invalid.
The heart of the question here is: What is a Catholic to do with a Novus Ordo baptism? Make a blanket assumption that they are all valid? That they are all invalid? Investigate case by case? In the absence of Church authority to settle the issue, you will obviously have differing views. That’s not wrong – it’s just unfortunate, because it can confuse and scandalize people, but it’s the nature of the exile we’re in.
You say you used to be in the indult. Then perhaps you will remember that some years back there was a controversy over exactly when a man enters the clerical state. According to the Vatican II Church, a man becomes a cleric when he is ordained a deacon. This posed a problem for the FSSP and other indult congregations because they use the pre-Vatican II liturgical rites, and acc. to the pre-Vatican II ordination ritual, a man becomes a cleric when he receives the tonsure. So here we have a disagreement over whether certain people are even clerics or complete laymen. The Vatican was petitioned, and of course the Vatican sided with the Vatican II idea that a man becomes a cleric when he is ordained a deacon. But if you attended FSSP ordinations and someone received tonsure, then the rite said the man was becoming a cleric right then and there. So which was it, then? Was the tonsured man a cleric or not?
So you see that disagreements, even fairly basic and important ones, are by no means confined to sedevacantists. But of course in the indult, some people will simply reserve the right to “resist” even a decision from Rome, should it not be in accordance with what they think it ought to be.
If we want to talk about disunity, there is no greater disunity than in the Vatican II Church. The difference to sedevacantism is that the Vatican II Church already *has* a Pope (as it were), and it’s still a complete mess. Acc. to the Vatican II Church, all of the following people can be described as Catholics, although they believe very different things: Ron Rohleiser, Michael Voris, John Vennari, Rembert Weakland, Antonio Socci, Richard Rohr, John Crossin, Hans Kung, Chad Ripperger, Mitch Pacwa, … I think you get the point.
As for Cincinnati in particular: Fr. Francois Chazal (SSPX-Resistance) once brought up Cincinnati, and I’d like to point you to our response to Fr. Chazal:
Yes, I realize very much that there is venom, bitterness, bickering, whatever. But if you look at church history, I think you will find that in just about any period. It’s fallen human nature. And although we humans tend to make quick excuses for our own faults, we have a very hard time having to put up with other people’s. All I’m saying here is that it all works both ways: If we are ready to admit that we are not perfect, let’s extend the same courtesy to everyone else. They’re not perfect either. But at the end of the day, this has nothing to do with the theological issues we’re facing.
Where is the Church? Let’s start with where she is not: in the Vatican. That institution cannot be the Catholic Church. So, we can cross that one off our list of possibilities. Next, we have to accept the fact that we are dealing here with *mystery*, the mystery of iniquity. But in my experience, people tend to be more willing to accept a certain (clean, straightforward) answer that is definitely wrong, rather than not having a clear answer at all. But while mystery and unanswered questions are compatible with Catholic doctrine, contradictions are not.
I wish we could easily answer all the questions surrounding this mystery. Oh, how beautiful it would be! But then it wouldn’t be a mystery, right? Be that as it may, God has not seen fit to allow us to have this knowledge. But we are not required to know all things; we are just required to keep the Faith and to trust in God. I am convinced that not a single theologian, not even a Doctor of the Church, would have been able to give you a complete and completely satisfactory answer for our times. I find it all the more ironic, then, that recently Michael Matt said that sedevacantists claim to “have all the answers, have it all figured out.” Really? That’s not my experience at all. But just because we can’t have *all* the answers, doesn’t mean we can’t have *some*.
The sedeprivationist / material-formal theory of Bp. Guerard des Lauriers which you mentioned is one very capable attempt at answering the essence of the problem. Is it correct? I don’t know. Alternatively, Benjamin Dryden wrote an article on the question here, back in 1979, that you may find helpful:
Allow me, please, to say a few words about your objection that this web site “seems to be dedicated to not articulating a convincing (well researched) and thorough (book length) explanation of Sedevacantism, but rather to piling on non-sedevacantists”. I’m sorry you have this impression. (An actual book may be forthcoming, though, if we get enough financial support.) Actually, our site is a blend of both genuine research with compelling argumentation (see our topical page “Sedevacantism” under “The Issues” in the menu bar at the top) and various, more “informal” posts or modes of presentation. The errors of the resistance traditionalism of the past decades are so prevalent, so engrained in people’s minds that it takes a combination of things and modes of presentation to try to undo this damage. And what may appeal to one person at one time, may not appeal to another person at another time, because we all have different temperaments, personalities, backgrounds, etc. So, no matter what you do, there will be someone for whom it’s not working, and that person is turned off by it or simply not convinced.
Yes, we use plenty of rhetoric to make our points, and that can include hyperbole, derision, satire, and other devices some people will take as “venom” or “hate”. And I apologize if it has been excessive as of late, but the situation in Novus Ordo Land is so horrific at this point that it becomes very difficult to be dispassionate. In any case, none of these things (satire, derision, etc.) is wrong in itself, and on this web site they’re all being used in the service of truth. While it may be prudent or imprudent to use such rhetoric at particular times or with particular people, it is not wrong: “…if the speech be always nicely framed, it will not be grateful to the readers” (2 Mach 15:40). For details and documentation from Catholic sources, please see our answer to Question 4 on our Frequently-Asked Questions page:
The Novus Ordo Church is a laughing stock, and the sooner people realize this, the better it is for all. We make fun of Francis because his claim to the papacy must not be taken seriously. It is a joke, and we point that out. A number of people who criticized us for this in 2013 have now come to the same conclusion, it appears.
You bring up the Church’s marks of unity and holiness. As this very essay on which you are commenting tries to point out, the *essential* unity is not lacking among sedevacantists, inasmuch as all adhere to the Catholic Church of Pius XII and before. Again, let me point you to Church history, where different orders of clerics once fought bitterly over theological issues, accusing each other of heresy or disobedience, etc. (for example, over the Immaculate Conception or the relationship between grace and free will), and the only one who could put an end to the fighting was the Pope himself. Can we expect any better in our situation today, where there is no Pope to resolve conflicts?
As far as the Church’s holiness goes, the dogma that the Church is holy means she is holy in her origina, her purpose, her means (of sanctification), and her fruits. I don’t see how this presents a problem. The ‘fruits’ refer primarily to the ordinary holiness in her members, i.e. the state of sanctifying grace in souls which she produces. But surely you do not mean to say that you know how many sedevacantists are (or aren’t) in the state of sanctifying grace.
God bless you. Wishing you a Blessed Lent!
I appreciate the reply. In many ways it is a restatement of what you have said before, and which I’ve already found inadequate in a number of ways. I don’t think anyone has all the answers of course, and I genuinely appreciate your efforts. I wish the same sentiment of magnanimity was more common among not only sedevacantists, but also traditionalists generally.
First I would like to state that I am not scandalized by the SSPV idea that post 1969 baptisms may be invalid. I understand their cause for concern, but practically speaking it is an impossible matter to resolve (unless there was videotape/film evidence), so it will result in conditional re-baptizing if things are to move forward, which to my thinking isn’t a problem as the individual is concerned, rather, it is a problem because baptism is the mark of becoming a Christian, and therefore any sedevacantist that makes it a common practice (re-baptizing) is essentially saying that everybody else is not just a non-Catholic, but not even a Christian. It practically means that everybody outside of SSPV isn’t a Christian, even if they don’t directly state that and obviously have no problem taking money from the parents of hundreds of “Novus Ordo” children that go to their schools. Baptism is fundamental in a sense that ordination (deacons, priests) and consecration (bishops) are not. Provisional ordination and/or consecration can be interpreted to mean simply that the “other line” of succession is possibly defective in some way. It isn’t saying that the person isn’t a Christian or setting the group up as having the faith while the other group doesn’t. Same goes for all the other controversies that you mention. None, as far as I know, of those disputes even approached the bitterness or acrimony of the disputes among sedevacantists, and most importantly, never produced practical mirco-schisms (though armed conflict has occurred at times). Dominicans were not “excommunicating” Franciscans and Jesuits, etc., or for that matter, questioning weather their baptisms were valid!
Here is just an example of what I mean: Mario Derksen has produced a book length defense of the Thuc line–a matter of inter-sedevacatist dispute–yet has not produced a book length exposition of sedevacantism, which is a much more important matter, generally speaking, to souls and to the Church. No other sedevacantist writer, not John Lane, John Daly, none of the Sedevacantist clergy despite many of them holding doctorates in theology and canon law, have produced a single book length exposition of sedevacantism, Yet we have a book length dismantling of Michael Davies by John Lane. A book length dismantling of the Thuc-line by Bp. Kelly and a book length refutation of Bp. Kelly. We have what amounts to book length disputes of matters like Una Cum, sedeprivationism, and every other conceivable dispute. But really nothing beyond brief articles/blog posts or you tube videos when it comes to the essential matter.
The pope isn’t the head of the Church. He is the vicar of the head of the church which is Christ. From Christ comes the Faith, which is antecedent to the pope. And it is why a pope that doesn’t have the faith can’t be the pope. In the absence of the pope there can still be the faith and still be unity. The flock need not necessarily scatter (or begin eating each other, which is closer to the truth) because it has no shepherd (or the shepherd it hidden), though certainly an active shepherd is essential in holding it all together long term.
I certainly do not think I know who is or is not in a state of sanctifying grace, though many sedevacantist clergy seem to think they know and are not afraid to say it. For some, merely assisting a mass where the priest says a likely anti-Pope’s name in the Canon, one is in a state of mortal sin (not in a state of sanctifying grace). Others condemn a soul for simply being unaware of the their inter-sedevacantist fighting and affiliating with the “wrong” group. All seem to assume authority unto themselves which they cannot have and elevate what are essentially their opinions (which may or may not be well reasoned) to the level dogmatic facts.
A blessed lent to you as well.
Please let me preface my remarks by saying that Novus Ordo Watch will refrain from commenting on intra-sedevacantist disputes. That’s because the primary purpose of this web site is to educate people in true Catholicism and convert them out of the Novus Ordo Church; it is *not* to resolve disagreements among sedevacantists. So, I hope you will understand why I will not comment on that specifically.
In general, however, let me say that your objection that “any sedevacantist that makes it a common practice (re-baptizing) is essentially saying that everybody else is not just a non-Catholic, but not even a Christian.” OK, perhaps so. But such an objection is not a refutation. But actually, no, your conclusion does not follow. There is another way to understand the insistence to rebaptize: They just want to be really sure that you have a valid baptism. Better safe than sorry. “We’re not sure you’re really baptized, so please let us make sure you really are.” I don’t think this is an uncharitable position to take. I think you are confusing *doubt* about the validity of a sacrament with a claim of definite invalidity. If there is probable, objective, positive doubt regarding the validity of a sacrament, it must be repeated conditionally.
Also, let’s suppose for a minute that your (or my) baptism was indeed invalid. To point to that is not to accuse you or me of a moral fault. You’re not at fault if your baptism was invalid without your knowledge. But your objection seems to imply that you’re being accused of a moral fault. You’re not.
Secondly, this whole claim of “you’re saying I’m not even a Christian!” strikes me as confused. I think the reason for the offense taken (exaggeratedly so, in my opinion) is that there is an ambiguity here in the word “Christian”. Even if the baptism wasn’t valid, obviously you profess the true Faith, just like unbaptized catechumens. Well the Church’s Canon Law grants catechumens who die with no fault of their own, an ecclesiastical baptism, something that would hardly be possible if “they’re not even Christians”.
I can’t get into the whole matter at length now, but I think you are misled by the ambiguity in the word “Christian”. You’re making it sound like you’re being accused of not even so much as believing in the Trinity. In reality, we’re simply talking about whether or not the water touched your head and the priest said the words right. There is a difference here that you seem to pass over entirely, and this puzzles me especially because this is apparently causing you a lot of distress.
I must respond to some other things you said. Please allow me to be succint in my responses. No rudeness intended, I just can’t spare much more time:
>> None, as far as I know, of those disputes even approached the bitterness or acrimony of the disputes among sedevacantists <> and most importantly, never produced practical mirco-schisms (though armed conflict has occurred at times). <> Dominicans were not “excommunicating” Franciscans and Jesuits, etc., <> or for that matter, questioning weather their baptisms were valid! <<
Irrelevant. You are confusing the essential with the accidental. If the theological issues of the day had been about baptism, then they might very well have questioned each other's baptismal validity. That they didn't has to do with the fact that what is required for valid baptism was no longer a hot-button issue then.
As far as writing a book on sedevacantism… Perhaps you are not quite aware of how some book writing projects develop. These things are often a matter of how much time a person has, what subject matter he is familiar/comfortable with, what research tools he has at his disposal, what the background in his own life is, etc. I can assure you, however, that if you are interested in helping to get a full book on sedevacantism published, you will have the opportunity to do so. In fact, I would surmise that the Salza-Siscoe book against Sedevacantism will ultimately lead to a big book explaining and defending Sedevacantism, much like Stephen Hand's "Traditionalists, Tradition, and Private Judgment" led to Chris Ferrara and Tom Woods' "The Great Facade."
Please realize also that what one person may think of as a really necessary or useful thing, another person may dismiss. So, for example, one person may say that we absolutely need a book, whereas another will opine that making videos would be much more useful since people do not like to read. Just as an example. So please keep that in mind too. There are a lot of people offering advice on what should be done, but sometimes the advice is contradictory.
I know that John Lane is currently working on a book, "The Church Crucified". I also will say that John Daly's book "Michael Davies: An Evaluation" is in effect a terrific course on Sedevacantism. He touches on so many of the different pertinent issues that it is, de facto, very similar to the kind of book you are looking for, in my opinion. Also, some other, similar books that have already been written are the Radecki Fathers' "What has happened to the Catholic Church?" and "Tumultuous Times" and another one that is forthcoming. Then there is Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy's "The Destruction of the Christian Tradition", Fr. Joaquin Saenz y Arriaga's "Sede Vacante: Paolo VI No Es Legitimo Papa" as well as the same author's "The New Montinian Church." Patrick Henry Omlor's "The Robber Church", a collection of his writings, is also useful, although not quite what you're looking for. Steve Speray has written a number of books, and his latest one, "After Pope Pius XII, the Deluge: How to articulate Sedevacantism" is perhaps exactly what you want to read:
I am all for having a book put together and published. But you know what, there are simply not a whole lot of people who have the capability of doing it (by that I mean *all* the necessary prerequisites: time, education, tools, money, perseverance). So everyone tries his best, does what he can with the means at his disposal, and hopefully there will be ever more converts, and then we will be able to do something like that.
The Pope is the VISIBLE head of the Church, Christ the Invisible Head: "Unique is the Body of the Church of which Christ is the Head, and all together we make up this Body. We who exercise His authority as His delegated Vicar, We are, by His will, placed over all the rest, while you are bound to us as to the visible Head of the Church, you constitute the principal parts of this same Body" (Pope Clement XIV, Encyclical Cum Summi Apostolatus, 1768).
You are confusing the judgment (whether it be right or wrong) that a certain thing is an objective sin, with the judgment that a particular person is or isn't in the state of sanctifying grace. You may say that Fr. so-and-so doesn't have the right to say that such-and-such thing is definitely a sin because we don't know that for sure, but that's not the same as saying that so-and-so is not in the state of grace.
Like I said, I won't comment on intra-sede disputes specifically, I will only offer some general advice. But once again: Disagreements like this are bound to occur, and just as similar disagreements (at least in kind, if not in degree) throughout Church history did not disprove Catholicism then, they do not disprove sedevacantism today.
God bless you.
I see the following problem: sedevacantistas apply the Code of 1917 without the highest legislator, the Pope. Because there may be law, but there is no legislator.
On the other hand, it is easy to see the errors of Vatican Council II and later, but what to do in concrete is not so easy. Who is the one who has the authority to judge?
I think we have to be more humble.
I meant to concede as much at least for the sake of argument. The point being that this really has nothing to do with the theological truth of the matter.
All discussion on this web site assumes that Roman Catholicism is the true religion. The proof for that is not presented on this web site because the target audience of this web site is people who already accept this truth. Apologetics for Catholicism in general can be found in plenty of books, in videos, and on web sites, such as radioreplies.info
The proof of the truth of the Catholic religion is as valid as it was when it was printed in pre-Vatican II books. That hasn’t changed. What is important to understand in all of this, though, is that what we are undergoing now was prophesied in Divine Revelation, as explained by the Church’s Fathers, saints, doctors, and theologians. In his summary presentation of the evidence in regard to this, Cardinal Manning says this: “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.”
“All discussion on this web site assumes that Roman Catholicism is the true religion.” I also profess this and agree with it, but there was another TOFP-like book to have a look at possibly and refute: The Sedevacantist Delusion: Why Vatican II’s Clash with Sedevacantism Supports Eastern Orthodoxy [link removed].
This is a problem which tempts people to abandon Catholicism (although I emphasize this as only a temptation and do not agree that it proves Catholicism is false)
For one thing, I meant to concede the point at least for the sake of argument so as to address it. I wasn’t meaning for this to be a discussion of whether, or to what extent, there is “acrimony” or anything else along those lines in a certain number of people or what one might be allowed or required to conclude from that.
I have said before (in a podcast) that the strangest people I ever met in my life I found in the “indult” camp of the Novus Ordo Church. But I would never use that as an argument against the indult position. We can debate all day long about what qualifies as acrimony, whether or not (or in what cases) acrimony is morally justified, perhaps required (remember the choice words our Lord had for the Pharisees?), and whether what one person takes as offensive or acrimonious may perhaps have something to do with his own personal predisposition or temperament or just subjective impression more than anything. The fact that our society is overly feminized and hyper-sensitive to being offended, doesn’t help things.
In 1943, Pope Pius XII wrote the following in his encyclical letter on the Church: “For, as We said above, Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members.” (Mystici Corporis, n. 66)
The idea of the evil, venomous, bitter sedevacantist is a myth, by the way. Most sedevacantists are completely normal people, so to speak. Yes, we have our share of “problematic” individuals, but I don’t think the quotient is any higher among sedevacantists than anywhere else, all things considered.
The disunity among Sedevacantists just means that only 1 Catholic set of Sedevacantists and all the other sets, along with everyone else, are heretics. Problem solved.
I have a feeling I know which of these sets you think yourself to belong to… Let me guess…
Exactly the attitude I was referring, too. And a perfect example of the idea the sedevacantists don’t hold a common faith. Strangely, Mr. Clifford seems to be among the faithful, which in general seem more reasonable to me. If he had been Fr. Clifford, no doubt he would express this attitude from the pulpit, in the bulletin, or on the internet somewhere, probably invoking his non-existent authority as a sedevacantist cleric.
In general, I think it would be healthy if all sedevacantists (both clergy and faithful) realized that they have no more authority than reason provides and ceased backdoor dogmatization of their theological/pastoral opinions.
Sir, these are not matters of *Faith* we’re disagreeing on but what is a prudent or ideal way of action. It is a matter of applying the Faith to the terrible and perplexing situation we find ourselves in. (And if they were matters of faith, I would remind you that it’s not looking any better in the Vatican II Church, where you can have Richard Rohr and John Vennari in the same religion.)
Again, I can understand your frustration, but I think your criticism regarding the ‘claiming of authority’ is exaggerated. A priest has the DUTY to warn the faithful against error and sin, and protect them from it if reasonably possible. Without authoritative guidance from a local bishop or the Pope himself, there are bound to be disagreements on what the best course of action is. And you find that in the indult movement as well, by the way, and it will soon get worse as the indult presbyters will have to decide whether to give ‘Communion’ to publicly unrepentant adulterers or not.
You are right to criticize anyone who ‘dogmatizes’ what is merely an opinion, but I would also caution against too quickly labeling as an ‘opinion’ even things which really aren’t opinions but theological conclusions or dogmatic facts.
I don’t know whether to take your comment as a compliment or an insult.
The Council of Trent teaches that all Doctrinal Canons are to be used by all the whatever remaining Faithful, both laypeople and clerics alike, to distinguish Truth from heresy. Pope St. Pius X, in his Syllabus of Modernist Errors, condemns as heresy the falsehood that “the use of Dogma is private interpretation”.
I’ve always hated the acrimony between some sedevacantists, but after much reading I got over the “it’s a perfect world” thing.
My personal experience was this. I asked a bishop via email where I should go to receive the sacrament I needed. He told me where to go which was not the hate filled avoid that place response that seems to be cooked up as the norm. I was told where to go and that their issues with each other should not affect me. So I go, and I received that sacrament and I assist at mass. I’m happy (that I’ve found the One True Faith) and working on saving my soul. I get good sound Catholicism from good (and valid) Catholic priests. In the end, their issues don’t affect me and I won’t get caught up in them.
NOW has been a great source and I appreciate the hard work put in.
Salza and Siscoe wrote a tome that they said was the product of 10 years of research and has been refuted and to my knowledge has solved nothing. I don’t see why producing a volume on sedevecantism will solve much either. I mean as an end all.
Here is an audio that confirms that your emphasis is correct & I admire what you say here. This audio is a talk given at a conference from the beloved sedevacantist priest Fr. Bernard Uttley. God Bless you.
I’m also including a link to the book which is archived free online, by Fr. Faber, that Fr. Uttley mentions in this audio.
Talk entitled “Theology: Foundation of the Spiritual Life”–: http://www.traditionalcatholicsermons.org/wordpress/audio/?link=http://traditionalcatholicsermons.org/MiscArchives/FrBerUtt_TheologyTheFoundationOfTheSpiritualLife_2015_FatimaConference.mp3
Book by Fr. Faber entitled “Bethlehem” by Fr. Faber (mentioned in the talk,) free online:
Fr. Uttley is truly honorable in his service to God and I am sure the book (now that I know where to get it) will be of great service to me. Thank you and God Bless you as well.
Close, though two groups could disagree and be in schism without one of them being in heresy. There are multiple sede schisms. And yes this would imply that one group would be right (presuming sedevacantism is true) and therefore Catholic while the rest are not … although some of these schisms may be material rather than formal
You’re making it a bit too easy for yourself, Sir. The problem that exists today — and that didn’t exist in Pope Benedict XV’s time — is that there is a gigantic religious institution on this planet that falsely claims the name “Catholic” and “Christian” and, under these labels, has spread apostasy around the globe. Almost everyone on the globe believes that the doctrines and practices of this apostate institution are what is meant by the labels “Catholic” and “Christian”. Therefore, if you now identify yourself simply as “Catholic” or “Christian”, you run the serious risk of leading people to believe that you are an adherent of this apostate sect. Therefore, to make clear that one is NOT part of the FALSE “Catholic Church”, it is important to add some sort of a qualifier.
Keep in mind, too, that some labels simply designate a particular school of theology or a particular position that is permitted within the realms of Catholic orthodoxy, and this was common practice in Church history. Thus in the last 2000 years we’ve heard of Ultramontanists, Molinists, Thomists, etc. These are not ‘replacement’ or ‘additive’ labels to the term “Catholic”, they just refer to particular theological positions within Catholicism on a given issue. That’s not wrong.
Doctrine doesn’t change with the times. Benedict XV’s instructions are still binding. He, and every other pope, from Clement XII to Pius XII, saw the Antichurch coming. Fr. Elwood Sylvester Berry and Fr. Herman Bernard Kramer explain that the Antichurch is the whore foretold by Ev. Ap. St. John in Apocalypse. Everyone of good will can see that the Antichurch is nothing more than a mockery of the Church. In following Benedict XV’s still-binding instructions, I say “all Catholics are Christians, all Christians are Catholics, and all Christians are “Sedevacantists”, but not all “Sedevacantists” are Christians” and that should be enough for anyone of good will. I’ve made all my non-Christian, that is, non-Catholic, buddies aware of the “Sedevacantist” reality.
I’ve never used labels, such as Ultramontanist, Molinist, Thomist, and so on, to identify myself and never will. Christianity is only Catholicism, which at this time teaches “Sedevacantism”.
Doctrine doesn’t change, although this isn’t even a matter of doctrine but of pastoral practice. We might say it is a papal *directive*, which, of course, is of itself binding. However, when a situation arises in which a papal directive would have the opposite of its intended effect, thus becoming harmful through the new circumstances that have arisen, the directive ceases to bind. This is a principle of Church law called “instrinsic cessation.” The legislator, the Pope, cannot possibly foresee all circumstances. It does not make the least bit of sense to condemn absolutely the use of a qualifier or modifier to communicate to the hearer that one is NOT the kind of “Catholic” that one is typically now understood to be by using that label. It was certainly not Pope Benedict XV’s intent for us today to mislead people into thinking we are adherents of an apostate sect.
The instruction regarding identity came from an encyclical, which is part of the Acts of the Apostolic See, which makes it Doctrinal, which makes it still binding regardless of the situation, which was foreseen every pope, from Clement XII to Pius XII, including the pope who gave the instruction, which is why I say what I say when the occasion calls for it thus still following the instructions, which means no disobedience on my part and no harm done. I forgot to mention that the “Traditionalist” Movement started in the Antichurch so no self-respecting “Sedevacantist” should want anything to do with the “Traditionalists” label. We should all just let the right-wing Vatican 2s have it all to themselves.
Please do not take this as an insult because it is not meant to be one but rather an exhortation to caution: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. To say that anything published in the Acts of the Apostolic See is thereby doctrinal, is to show extreme ignorance regarding the subject matter.
Your exhortation to caution is duly noted. I’m not saying that everything in the Acts of the Apostolic See is Doctrinal. I’m well-aware that a lot of it’s disciplinary. The Church is just as infallible in her discipline as she is in her Doctrine because the Holy Ghost prevents her from giving harmful discipline so everything in the Acts of the Apostolic See, it’s binding and therefore infallible, Doctrinal or disciplinary, which, in the case of an encyclical, is Doctrinal whereas a bull and or a constitution could be either Doctrinal or disciplinary or both.
The Church is infallible in her *universal* disciplinary laws, which means she cannot make a law for the whole Church that is *in and of itself* harmful, dangerous, heretical, or impious. Her laws could, however, become harmful, dangerous, or imprudent *by circumstance*, such as when the administration of Holy Communion under both kinds started to be taken to mean that one had to receive under both kinds in order to receive the whole Christ. For this reason, too, universal disciplinary laws, although in themselves never harmful or dangerous, are changeable.
If the Church was capable of passing discipline that could ever be harmful, even by imprudence or circumstance, then her discipline wouldn’t be infallible as is her Doctrine and such a concept is condemned as heresy by the (only) Vatican Council. (The use of the term “Vatican 1” heretically implies Vatican 2 to have been a Council. That’s just something extra to consider.)
That’s false. This is something in which ecclesiastical law is distinguished from divine law: Unlike God, the human legislator (the Pope) cannot foresee all possible cirumstances, hence he cannot make laws for all circumstances.
Before studying the law of the Church, it is important to become familiar with the principles of Church law because they underlie all ecclesiastical laws and govern how they work. This is the sort of thing the Church teaches her seminarians in a course on canon law, for example. It is not enough to simply read magisterial documents. Holy Mother Church treats Sacred Theology as a real science. It is not simply quoting prooftexts from the Magisterium. There is a scholastic method to it all (reasoning from principles to conclusions), not just a positive method (presenting data).
Church Law is part of Divine Law (Ev. St. Luke 10:16). A pope is protected by the Holy Ghost from error when acting as pope (Ev. Ap. St. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-14) and that means he’s also protected from making laws that could be harmful in the future. We follow the Law to the letter. The “Spirit of the Law” thing is a Modernist novelty.
The principles of Church Law, Sacred Theology, and the Thomistic Scholastic Method do nothing to negate the unconditional infallibility in her Doctrine and/or discipline.
This is exactly what I mean when I say that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when one is nevertheless under the impression that one has great knowledge. Sacred Theology, of which canon law is a part, is a lot more than bringing up Scripture quotes. The “Spirit of the Law thing”, I might add, was taught by Christ Himself and is a basic principle of ecclesiastical law. There is a reason why the Church requires her priests to study long and hard before they can become canon lawyers. It’s a bit more complex than simply quoting Denzinger.
For us laymen living in these difficult times, our fundamental attitude should always be, “I know enough theology to know that I don’t know much theology. However, I know where to look it up.”
The Spirit of the Law, as Jesus Christ taught it, is the Holy Ghost, Who is the Spirit of God, Who is the Law (Ev. Ap. St. John 1:1,14). The “spirit of the law”, as my mom calls it, is a Modernist novelty.
The fundamental attitude should be “I’m a laymen bound by the latest orders of the last true bishop of my diocese and the last true pope under the pain of the mortal sin of schism and even heresy”.
I didn’t say or imply that no sedevacantists ever do anything that’s wrong or worthy of criticism. My point was that the (apparently widespread) idea of ALL or MOST sedevacantists being nasty, terrible individuals, is just a myth.
Whether you meant to imply that is one thing but the statement itself does. Thank you for the clarification.
Ok, but I think sedevacantists should probably comment more on conclavism or sedevacantists electing a pope, as well as consider how to go “beyond sedevacantism”. If having no pope is a breeding ground for disunity, then the longer this goes on intentionally (if sedes could elect a pope), the more likely it is for division to occur. Basically the question is about how to attain to true unity and ideally be under a pope. Can sedes work out their differences and come to agreements? It should be possible to prove with certainty certain positions and put an end to various divisions. I know NOW’s policy is not to comment on various disputes, just wanted to make a few notes here though about how the current status quo among sedes seems to possibly foster more division.
Additionally, there are some sedeplenist “schisms” (real or close to it anyway); as far as I know, there is SSPX-Main (Bp. Fellay), SSPX-Resistance (Bp. Williamson), and then SSPX-MC (Frs. Hewko/Pfeiffer who broke from +Williamson after his comments last year in semi-defense of the novus ordo missal). And “under” the Vatican there are some dissenters who are “tolerated”, factions on the political left. Hence the point is that disunity is not really an argument against much of anyone’s position, fortunately or unfortunately.