Time to see the elephant in the living room…
Anything but Sedevacantism!
Analysis of a curious Phenomenon
We have said a number of times on this blog that in the world of the semi-traditionalists, the blind are leading the blind. This is not just rhetoric, it simply describes reality. Whether it be people arguing that there is no point to having the correct diagnosis of a problem if one does not have the cure — as though a correct diagnosis were not at least the indispensable starting point for any remedial action; whether it be Christopher Ferrara promoting the idea of an “Anti-Catholic Pope”; whether it be one blogger’s argument that the Pope need not be submitted to “if he’s an idiot”; or whether it be “Bp.” Athanasius Schneider’s bizarre thesis that while being in union with the Pope one could nevertheless be in schism with Christ: No thesis is too absurd or anti-Catholic for adherents of the recognize-and-resist position not to entertain it as a possible explanation for the current state of the Church, as long as that thesis does not require them to hold the position that the Vatican II Church is not the true Catholic Church and its head is not a valid Catholic Pope (commonly known as “Sedevacantism”).
On July 10, 2016, we published a post entitled, “The Trouble with Jorge: Semi-Trads at the Breaking Point”. Since then, things have only gotten worse — lots worse — for people who try to be good and faithful Catholics but nevertheless accept the world’s worst apostate as the Vicar of Christ and remain inside an ostensibly Catholic establishment which, however, opposes Catholic Faith, morals, and piety at every turn.
Why is it that so many people are bending over backwards to avoid the sedevacantist position?
In early 2015, Fr. Anthony Cekada spoke of an unreasonable fear of Sedevacantism in the semi-traditionalist camp, which was, of course, immediately denied by people of that persuasion. But this veritable phobia of Sedevacantism — we may want to term it “sedevacantophobia” — is anything but illusory. Even if we do not want to term it a phobia, it is nevertheless, quite objectively, an unreasonable systematic and compulsive refusal to consider Sedevacantism as even so much as a possibility to explain the situation in the Catholic Church today. Anything but that! appears to be the battle cry of the semi-traditionalists in this respect.
The Latest Idea: Practical Sedevacantism
Anything indeed, as we already saw above, and as exemplified in the recent post “Stand Fast. The Storm Will Break”, found on the One Peter Five web site. It was written by Steve Skojec, who argues for a practical (but not theoretical!) Sedevacantism as the right position to take.
It is this post we will now examine. That is, we will touch upon those parts of Skojec’s article that are particularly troublesome and are virtually “begging”, as it were, for a sedevacantist reply.
The first such part is a comment written by a One Peter Five reader who identifies himself as “Theodosius“. Skojec quotes it at length and quite approvingly:
I think really for all intents and purposes we must be practical sedevacantists. I myself am not one formally, but the daily business of working out our salvation and picking up the pieces of faith and moving on is one which must decidedly exclude any place for Francis in our lives, other than the nod that he is the one in Peter’s see.
With John Paul II I could spin most of what he said as orthodox. Much the same with Benedict XVI. But this guy…I got nothing. And so all I can do is render him nothing in my life. For me, the see is empty practically speaking because it is devoid of what ought to be there – orthodox catholic leadership. It really is up to us finding good priests on our own, if possible, and God bless the small remnant who can find a Catholic Bishop in America who stands by tradition. There are a few, but not in my life.
The See may be possessed physically, but my heart is vacant, devoid of any earthly shepherd and must rely on the one true shepherd and bishop of our souls.
I don’t know whether to thank God that I have lived to see such times or to curse the darkness for the confusion it rains upon millions who want to be of goodwill. I don’t know whether I will ever see the Church restored to her former glory, or if I am doomed to watch the bishops all topple like bowling pins, the fall of each spinning and knocking over his fellows.
When did we imagine that we would look upon a Pope and wish that God would take him from our lives? When did we imagine that we would cringe to hear the voice of Peter, knowing it was Judas, fearing to say it aloud.
This is what it must have been like to be gathered around the campfire in the courtyard on that dark night, knowing Peter, waiting for him to defend his master, and to hear him not once, not twice but three times deny the man he swore he would die for.
“Get behind me Satan, for you are an obstacle to me.”
Get behind me Francis. You are an obstacle to me. Your thoughts are not his thoughts neither are your ways his ways. I want to be Catholic and you want me to sing the praises of Luther, I want to be Catholic and you would hand me over to the Greeks, I want to be Catholic and you will not genuflect before the eucharist, I want to be Catholic and you curse the Roman Rite, you mock the faithful, you call us heretics, you open the doors of heaven to unrepentant Jews and grant the grace of baptism to those who have separated themselves from Holy Mother Church.
What have I to do with you? And what can you be to me? How can I help but be tempted to declare the see vacant when you have vacated Christ? What is there in you or the exercise of your office that would inspire the faithful to greater fidelity?
But sweetest Christ, though you hang dead upon the cross, lifeless in the arms of your mother I believe, I believe, I believe and confess that there is no flesh but this flesh that will grant us life, that there is no body but this which will be our salvation and that only in the tear stained face of your Immaculate Mother will my tears find their purpose.
(Comment of “Theodosius” at One Peter Five, Apr. 2, 2017)
Rarely has the absurdity of the recognize-and-resist position been manifested more vividly than in this comment. We are not concerned here with the commenter himself, who is no doubt a good-willed, pious man who is completely lost in the confusion engendered by the Vatican II Sect on the one hand, and the propaganda of the false opposition (such as the SSPX) on the other. But personal culpability considerations of the commenter aside, the position he lays out must be exposed for the utter anti-Catholic nonsense it is, especially because a lot of non-sedevacantists think, or at least act, in much the same fashion.
First, it is relieving to see that someone is finally willing to admit what Fr. Anthony Cekada has been saying for a long time: The recognize-and-resist people are sedevacantists in practice. Indeed they are. The problem is, however, that to be a sedevacantist in practice while verbally acknowledging Francis as Pope, does grave violence to the Catholic teaching on the Papacy, precisely because “Pope” is not simply an honorary title with no substantial meaning (as in Theodosius’ mere “nod that he is the one in Peter’s see”), as though nothing of consequence followed from holding the papal office. Indeed, to ascribe the Papacy to someone is to affirm of him all that Catholic doctrine affirms of the Papacy — and that is a lot more than simply the charism of infallibility when making ex cathedra statements, as we will see shortly. So, beware, Theodosius: Your “nod” has consequences!
Secondly, if, as the commenter notes, the Holy See “is devoid of what ought to be there – orthodox catholic leadership”, then he must conclude that the Holy See is vacant. He must conclude this because it follows with strict logical necessity from what the Church teaches about the Papacy and his own admitted premise that there is currently no Catholic leadership there.
It seems that people often do not realize how serious these matters are. They act as though they could just play around with Catholic doctrine and simply “do their own thing”, as it were, as long as they pay lipservice to the belief that Francis is the Vicar of Christ. And where does this carefree attitude come from? It comes from their totally unreasonable but nevertheless firmly-held first premise, which is always that Sedevacantism cannot be admitted.
And there we see it in action: that veritable phobia of Sedevacantism. Reducing the Papacy to meaninglessness? Not a problem! Saying that Jorge Bergoglio isn’t the Vicar of Christ? Perish the thought! And yet, which of these two alternatives is incompatible with Catholic teaching? Does Theodosius really think that Catholic teaching on the Papacy consists, essentially, in nothing more than a “nod” of verbal affirmation that a particular man is Pope? Was Pope Boniface VIII talking about a mere nod when he proclaimed that submission to the Pope is necessary for salvation? “Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Bull Unam Sanctam; Denz. 469).
Resistance Clergy to the Rescue
The commenter then proceeds to state: “It really is up to us finding good priests on our own, if possible….” Of course, what constitutes a good priest is ultimately left to each self-styled “traditionalist” to decide. Which is not to say that an arbitrary or self-serving standard would be used; but no matter what standard is chosen, it will certainly not be the traditional Catholic standard, namely, that the priest be in submission to and good standing with the Holy See:
For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church. As a result, that man is already a schismatic and a sinner who establishes a see in opposition to the unique See of the blessed Peter from which the rights of sacred communion derive for all men.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 8)
In the same encyclical, Pope Pius IX adds that in order to be considered an orthodox Catholic, a man must “hasten to satisfy the Roman See before all others. For when this See has been satisfied, all men everywhere will join in declaring him pious and orthodox” for the simple reason that only “the Apostolic See has been granted the command, authority and power of binding and loosing for all God’s holy churches in the entire world” (St. Maximus; qtd. by Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 9). And if this applies to any Catholic, how much more does it apply to priests!
The recognize-and-resist camp has plenty of its own alternate “approved clergy”, if you will, and it is to them that people submit rather than to what they verbally affirm to be the Pope and the Holy See. Thus, for example, we have the SSPX-affiliated Fr. Albert Kallio, O.P., who is apparently now the go-to priest to give theological direction to followers of the Fatima Center and is part of their advisory council of priests (see p. 29 here). Currently replacing the late “Fr.” Nicholas Gruner in his “Ask Father” role, Fr. Albert answers questions about the usual recognize-and-resist topics, such as what to think of Novus Ordo annulments or whether SSPX sacraments are valid and licit. Of course, people are expected to prefer Fr. Albert’s judgment over that of the “Pope” (remember, diabolical disorientation!).
Because they affirm that Francis is Pope, they think they are not judging the Pope! Yet, the contrary is true: They are subjectively guilty precisely of judging the Pope because they adhere to their own judgment and dismiss the one of the man they insist is a true and legitimate Pope! However, the First Vatican Council taught: “…the judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment” (Denz. 1830). So it is actually they who are “judging the Pope”, not sedevacantists. (A detailed treatment of this whole “judging the Pope issue” can be found here.)
On the other hand, if the “Holy See” happens to agree with their position on something, it is invoked as an authority to be followed. This charade has the tail wagging the dog!
St. Peter or Judas? The Difference it makes
Returning to the commenter Theodosius, we observe that he proceeds to utter — unwittingly, no doubt, but no less egregiously — an incredible blasphemy, asking rhetorically: “When did we imagine that we would cringe to hear the voice of Peter, knowing it was Judas, fearing to say it aloud?”
Such a scenario is entirely at odds with the traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy, which we must now quote at some length:
This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful….
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.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7; underlining added.)
In the Catholic Church Christianity is incarnate. It identifies itself with that perfect, spiritual, and, in its own order, sovereign society, which is the mystical body of Jesus Christ and which has for its visible head the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Prince of the Apostles. It is the continuation of the mission of the Saviour, the daughter and the heiress of His redemption. It has preached the Gospel, and has defended it at the price of its blood, and strong in the Divine assistance, and of that immortality which have been promised it, it makes no terms with error, but remains faithful to the commands which it has received to carry the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the uttermost limits of the world and to the end of time and to protect it in its inviolable integrity.
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Annum Ingressi; underlining added.)
For the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, adhering to the ways of the former ones, published this solemn profession: “Our first salvation is to guard the rule of right faith [. . .]. And since the sentiment of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed over when He says: ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church’ [Matt. 16:18], these words which were spoken are proven true by actual results, since in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated. Desiring, then, least of all to be separated from the faith and teaching of this [Apostolic See], We hope that We may deserve to be in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the solidarity of the Christian religion is whole and true”….
To satisfy this pastoral duty, our predecessors always gave tireless attention that the saving doctrine of Christ be spread among all the peoples of the earth, and with equal care they watched that, wherever it was received, it was preserved sound and pure. 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. The Roman Pontiffs, moreover, according as the condition of the times and affairs advised, sometimes by calling ecumenical Councils or by examining the opinion of the Church spread throughout the world; sometimes by particular synods, sometimes by employing other helps which divine Providence supplied, have defined that those matters must be held which with God’s help they have recognized as in agreement with Sacred Scripture and apostolic tradition. For, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth. 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” [Luke 22:32].
So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair, that they might administer their high duty for the salvation of all; that the entire flock of Christ, turned away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished on the sustenance of heavenly doctrine, that with the occasion of schism removed the whole Church might be saved as one, and relying on her foundation might stay firm against the gates of hell.
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus; Denz. 1833, 1836-37; underlining added.)
No, the Chair of St. Peter cannot turn into the Chair of Judas. The Bride of Christ cannot become unfaithful to her Divine Spouse. That is the whole reason why Christ instituted the Papacy: so that His Church would always be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15); so that people would always be able to rely entirely on her and not “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).
To this end, our Lord founded the Church on the rock of St. Peter and not on Judas. The See of St. Peter cannot fail because “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Lk 22:32), and Christ’s prayer is infallibly effective. Thus God Himself guarantees that the Catholic Church will always stand firm against the gates of hell. A betrayal like that of Judas — or of the Vatican II “popes” — is out of the question.
What is not out of the question, however, is the emergence of false shepherds, whose voice the sheep do not recognize: “But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers” (Jn 10:5). Our Blessed Lord specifically warned us about those “who say they are apostles, and are not” (Apoc 2:2), and St. Paul pronounced a clear anathema against them: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal 1:8).
Nor will it do, as the One Peter Five commenter proceeds to do, to invoke the “St. Peter denied Christ three times and was still Pope” argument. He says: “This is what it must have been like to be gathered around the campfire in the courtyard on that dark night, knowing Peter, waiting for him to defend his master, and to hear him not once, not twice but three times deny the man he swore he would die for.”
Quite simply, the truth is that when St. Peter denied Christ, the Papacy had not yet been conferred upon him; it had only been promised to him (“upon this rock I will build My church” [Mt. 16:18]). The Papacy was actually conferred on St. Peter after the Resurrection when our Lord gave him the charge with the words, “Feed my lambs”: “And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Feed my sheep’ [Jn 21:15ff.]” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus; Denz. 1822; underlining added).
Towards the end of his comment, Theodosius lists some of Francis’ heresies, blasphemies, and other outrages and then asks rhetorically:
What have I to do with you [Francis]? And what can you be to me? How can I help but be tempted to declare the see vacant when you have vacated Christ? What is there in you or the exercise of your office that would inspire the faithful to greater fidelity?
To which we must respond:
Indeed, Sir, what has Francis to do with you? Nothing! And why, then, do you have anything to do with him? Anathema to Francis! (cf. Gal 1:8-9) What is it that keeps you from accepting that a public apostate cannot at the same time be the Vicar of Christ, who guarantees the true Faith and the unity of the Church? Why are you more willing to deny the Papacy than to deny that Bergoglio possesses it? Why do you recognize in Francis the voice of a hireling and still consider him your true and legitimate shepherd?
Thus far our analysis of the comment by Theodosius quoted approvingly by Steve Skojec in the One Peter Five post, “Stand Fast. The Storm Will Break”.
Practical vs. Real Sedevacantism
We will now turn to some of the observations Skojec himself offers, beginning with his clarification of the term “practical sedevacantist”, since he naturally has to make absolutely clear to his readers that he would never countenance being an actual or real sedevacantist:
Note the important qualifier, “practical.” We are not sedevacantists. Not sedeprivationists. These things would be easier. It is a far less traumatic thing to believe that the reason a pope is doing these things is because he is not really a pope at all than to believe that somehow he can be the legitimate successor of Peter but take on the mantle of Judas. We are instead forced to accept that there is an emptiness in the See of Peter that the formal reality of papal legitimacy cannot wipe away.
(Steve Skojec, “Stand Fast. The Storm Will Break”, One Peter Five, Apr. 3, 2017)
Ah yes, the “Sedevacantism is too easy” argument. It is very popular these days, especially among those who prefer to go by emotion rather than reason or Faith, or who desperately look for anything at all to justify not being a sedevacantist (there we go again!).
In response, the first question one must ask is: What does easy or difficult have to do with any of this? The only concern we should have is not whether Sedevacantism is easy or difficult but whether it is true: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:32). Since when is the level of difficulty an indicator of truth? One might say that the equation 1+1=2 is “easy”, but is it not true nonetheless?
Secondly, we have shown again and again, and also in this post, that Sedevacantism is based upon Catholic doctrine (unlike that merely Practical Sedevacantism). We have not at all appealed to anything emotional, much less told people to choose the “easier” path. It is not the easy path you must choose, but the one that is compatible with Catholic teaching; whether this be easy or difficult for you is, frankly, irrelevant. So, while Skojec may pride himself on courageously accepting the “difficult” idea that the Ark of Salvation can turn into an Ark of Damnation, we must reject it nonetheless because the “easy” truth is that such a scenario is excluded by the divine promises.
Thirdly, if we want to talk about what’s easier, isn’t it simply easier to affirm the Vatican II Sect is the Catholic Church (hey, you get a complete and very visible hierarchy!) and Francis the Pope (none of those pesky problems the sedevacantists have!)? You get to accept countless ordinations as valid (if you want — depends on you!), and you also get to pick and choose what teaching and directives from the Vatican you will accept (Drive-thru annulments? No way! Sins against ecumenism? Forget about it! Francisco Marto declared a Saint? Awesome! Valid SSPX confessions? Love it!). Chances are your closest “traditional Mass” is just around the corner, and it’s a lot easier to explain your religion to your co-workers, who won’t look down on you as being one of those wacky sedevacantists!
So, it is clear that both sides can play this silly game of “easy vs. difficult”, because something can be easy in one respect but difficult in another.
Ultimately, this whole objection of “it can’t be true because it would be too easy” must be dismissed as an irrelevant non sequitur.
Walking by Faith, not by Sight
Later on in his post, Skojec states:
I wish I had wisdom to offer you. I wish I had answers. I wish I could tell you what is next. But the fog of war has grown so thick that we are stumbling forward in total darkness. We are being forced to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
This candid assessment is very well put; but it is puzzling to see why Skojec will not accept this same answer from sedevacantists. Somehow, sedevacantists are expected to have all the answers, else their position “must” be rejected as false (and even if we did have all the answers, we would still be lambasted precisely for claiming to have all the answers and, especially, such easy answers!).
We are criticized for not having a clear answer on how a new Pope would be elected or chosen. We are criticized for not being able to point to a living Magisterium today. We are criticized for not being able to explain exactly how such a situation of near-total defection in the Church could come about in the first place. We are criticized for struggling to explain the existence of ordinary jurisdiction in the Church.
And yet, the recognize-and-resisters will not permit us to simply say, “I don’t know.”
But “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer if you really do not know and if you do not need to know. And we do not need to know, strictly speaking. We are like the disciples waiting and wailing at the tomb on Holy Saturday. We do not know how God will resolve the situation, but we know that He can and that He will.
As Cardinal Henry Edward Manning explained in a lecture given in 1861:
As the wicked did not prevail against Him [our Lord Jesus Christ] even when they bound Him with cords, dragged Him to the judgment, blindfolded His eyes, mocked Him as a false King, smote Him on the head as a false Prophet, led Him away, crucified Him, and in the mastery of their power seemed to have absolute dominion over Him, so that He lay ground down and almost annihilated under their feet; and as, at that very time when He was dead and buried out of their sight, He was conqueror over all, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, and was crowned, glorified, and invested with His royalty, and reigns supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords,— even so shall it be with His Church: though for a time persecuted, and, to the eyes of man, overthrown and trampled on, dethroned, despoiled, mocked, and crushed, yet in that high time of triumph the gates of hell shall not prevail. There is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and a dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured. Like Jesus, it needs must suffer on the way to its crown; yet crowned it shall be with Him eternally.
(Excerpted in “The Pope and the Antichrist: The Great Apostasy Foretold”, Novus Ordo Wire, Apr. 23, 2015; underlining added.)
“Practical Sedevacantism” is simply trying to have your cake and eating it too. It is a best-of-both-worlds position that harvests all the pleasant fruits from Sedevacantism (you get to dump all the Novus Ordo junk!) while rejecting its bitter chalice (where is the hierarchy? where to go to Mass? how will we get a Pope back? how do we settle disagreements?). It adds the pleasant sedevacantist fruits to everything positive it decides to retain from the Novus Ordo Sect (validity of Novus Ordo ordinations! my marriage annulment! convenient Mass locations! dinner with the bishop!). The result is perhaps a most interesting fruit salad but certainly not Catholicism.
Engendering Cognitive Dissonance
Thus, while “practical sedevacantists” may very well think of themselves as retaining the traditional Catholic faith, the truth is that they have long rejected it — keeping in mind that rejecting even one dogma rejects the Faith entirely, since the Faith exists only as a whole and not in parts or degrees. This has frightening consequences, because, as Pope Leo XIII taught, we “hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9).
Certainly, the “practical sedevacantist” may perhaps pay lipservice to the traditional Catholic teaching while contradicting it in practice, but such a course of action would not only be dishonest and hypocritical, it would also amount to cognitive dissonance, a state in which one’s actions deny — or at least do not match — one’s thoughts or stated beliefs. Such a state cannot last long for a sane human being. The discrepancy between one’s thoughts and one’s actions will quickly resolve itself into either changing one’s actions to align with the thoughts, or changing one’s thoughts to correspond with the actions.
Since he refuses to abandon the belief that Francis is a true Pope, no matter the consequences, the “practical sedevacantist” thus forces himself to either submit to Francis and become Novus Ordo, or else deny the traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy. We are reminded of these words of St. Jerome: “…every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church” (qtd. by Pope Pius IX, Encylical Quartus Supra, n. 13).
And so it is.
The Papacy has Consequences
That people in the recognize-and-resist camp have long given up belief in the Catholic teachings on the Papacy is made evident again and again. One of the most candid displays of this was John Vennari’s declaration in 2013: “I would never allow Pope Francis to teach religion to my children”!
Of course the sentiment is entirely justified: Jorge Bergoglio should never be allowed to teach religion to anyone’s children. As soon as we give that “nod” of the Papacy to the man, however, a conundrum arises because the Pope enjoys the divine right to teach all Catholics:
“The Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have primacy in the entire world. The Roman Pontiff is the Successor of Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, true Vicar of Christ, Head of the whole Church, Father and Teacher of all Christians.”
(Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolic Constitution Etsi Pastoralis, May 26, 1742; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 32; underlining added.)
“If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.”
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chp. 3; Denzinger 1831; underlining added.)
Yes, the Papacy has consequences!
Like Christ, the Church must suffer
Tragically, the recognize-and-resisters will never be able to restore traditional Catholicism because they themselves do not adhere to it. It is sheer folly to think that one can restore real Catholicism by advancing a corrupted version of it. It is simply not possible to keep the Faith by denying it — one might as well try to borrow one’s way out of debt.
This is not to say that there are no difficulties with the sedevacantist position, and we have already touched upon them. There are unanswered questions, there is mystery, and there is confusion and disagreement about some matters; but there are no impossibilities and there are no genuine contradictions, unlike what we see in resistance land. Having no answers is better than having wrong answers, and we know that the answers given by the recognize-and-resist position are wrong because they cannot be reconciled with Catholic doctrine.
We must accept the fact that we live in a period of Church history in which Almighty God has seen fit to eclipse the Church and to keep hidden from us the answers we so much desire. This, however, is no excuse for us not to keep the Faith. In fact, it is part of Sacred Tradition that before Christ returns, there will be an apparent “death” of the Church and an “operation of error” to make us “believe lying” (2 Thess 2:10). Let us once again turn to Cardinal Manning for an explanation:
The history of the Church, and the history of our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel. For three-and-thirty years the Son of God incarnate was in the world, and no man could lay hand upon Him. No man could take Him, because His “hour was not yet come.” There was an hour foreordained when the Son of God would be delivered into the hand of sinners. He foreknew it; He foretold it. He held it in his own hand, for He surrounded His person with a circle of His own Divine power. No man could break through that circle of omnipotence until the hour came, when by His own will He opened the way for the powers of evil….
In like manner with His Church. Until the hour is come when the barrier [=a valid Pope] shall, by the Divine will, be taken out of the way, no one has power to lay a hand upon it. The gates of hell may war against it; they may strive and wrestle, as they struggle now with the Vicar of our Lord; but no one has the power to move Him one step, until the hour shall come when the Son of God shall permit, for a time, the powers of evil to prevail. That He will permit it for a time stands in the book of prophecy….
We have need, then, to be upon our guard. It shall happen once more with some, as it did when the Son of God was in His Passion — they saw Him betrayed, bound, carried away, buffeted, blindfolded, and scourged; they saw Him carrying His Cross to Calvary, then nailed upon it, and lifted up to the scorn of the world; and they said, “If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” [Mt 27:42]. So in like manner they say now, “See this Catholic Church, this Church of God, feeble and weak, rejected even by the very nations called Catholic. There is Catholic France, and Catholic Germany, and Catholic Sicily, and Catholic Italy, giving up this exploded figment of the temporal power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” And so, because the Church seems weak, and the Vicar of the Son of God is renewing the Passion of his Master upon earth, therefore we are scandalised, therefore we turn our faces from him. When then, is our faith? But the Son of God foretold these things when He said, “And now I have told you before it come to pass; that when it shall come to pass, you may believe” [Jn 14:29].
(Excerpted in “The Pope and the Antichrist: The Great Apostasy Foretold”, Novus Ordo Wire, Apr. 23, 2015; underlining added.)
His Eminence wrote these words in 1861. What was still in the future for him, has since come to pass: The Pope was taken out of the way in 1958, when Pius XII died and a false pope — John XXIII, the first in a series of charlatans — was installed during a turbulent conclave that possibly first elected and then suppressed a true successor of Pius XII.
The Novus Ordo “popes” are thus successors of John XXIII, not successors of St. Peter. Francis is simply the latest in this series of pseudo-papal charlatans. How much longer the succession of false popes will go on, we do not know. But we do know that it will end.
For more information on the Church’s traditional teaching regarding the eclipsing of the Church and the Great Apostasy, we have made available a riveting talk in audio and as a transcript. It is entitled “The Papacy and the Passion of the Church” and can be accessed here.
With regard to this Mystical Passion of the Church, we must never cease to point out, as Cardinal Manning does, that “the Vicar of the Son of God is renewing the Passion of his Master upon earth”. Whether this refers to a possible true Pope who is impeded from the exercise of his office, or whether it is in reference to a future Pope, we do not know. But it is certainly yet another clue that the Vatican II “popes” are not true Popes, because they did not suffer from this apostasy but imposed it. The Great Apostasy is an apostasy from the Vicar of Christ, not of the Vicar of Christ!
Our Lady of Fatima, which practically all recognize-and-resisters are devoted to, said to Sr. Lucy: “The Holy Father will have much to suffer.” It is a line they love to repeat, apparently forgetting that the Novus Ordo “popes” did not have much to suffer but caused much suffering. Let us not confuse the victim with the perpetrator.
It is tragic to see so many good-willed people eschew Sedevacantism for no sufficient reason. They have been deceived into rejecting it even as a possibility. Decades of SSPX/resistance propaganda has taught them to put greater importance on having someone to fill the papal office than even the very meaning of the papal office itself.
Thus we now have hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of “traditional Catholics” who would rather reduce the Papacy to utter meaninglessness and have its divinely-guaranteed purpose of ensuring the orthodoxy of the entire Church overturned, rather than maintain that the Papacy is indeed the bulwark “which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion” but currently unoccupied! Such people have sacrificed the Papacy for the sake of having a “Pope”. Oh, the irony!
But it does not stop there. Semi-Traditionalists have no problem speaking of a fake Church, a fake Mass, fake sacraments, fake theology, fake saints, even an altogether fake religion — but it never occurs to them that perhaps all of this is possible only because there’s a fake Pope. No, this could not be! And so they are forced to attribute to a true Church with a true Vicar of Christ a false religion, false theology, false sacraments, and so forth, all as part of a forlorn attempt to make sense of a situation whose true nature they have excluded a priori as being even a possibility.
We have seen that the Papacy has consequences. So does a denial of the Papacy.
The cognitive dissonance of a “practical sedevacantism” will be coming home to roost.