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Some additional considerations…

The Catholic Church after Pope Pius XII: A Postscript to Fr. Ringrose’s Repudiation of Recognize-and-Resist

As expected, our post of May 3 regarding Fr. Ronald Ringrose’s repudiation of the recognize-and-resist position has engendered lots of debate about resistance theology, Sedevacantism, and the Guerardian material-formal thesis (aka the Cassiciacum Thesis or Sedeprivationism).

We offer the following lines as some additional material for reflection and to help those who have been wedded, as it were, to the recognize-and-resist (R&R) position for a long time to realize how seriously it is contrary to the Roman Catholic Faith, which all who call themselves Catholics have an obligation to defend and uphold.

A Priori Rejection of Sedevacantism has Consequences

In the experience of the present writer, a great many R&R defenders exhibit an unreasonable aversion to, even fear of, Sedevacantism. By this we do not mean that all who oppose Sedevacantism do so out of an unreasonable fear or aversion. Rather, we mean that there simply are a lot of people who seem to lose all sense and reason when the subject turns to Sedevacantism. As we have pointed out on this web site before, some are willing to embrace the most absurd ideas, even such as blatantly contradict Roman Catholic teaching, only in order to escape the conclusion that Francis (or any of his five predecessors) is not the true Pope of the Catholic Church:

Even those who rashly claim that Sedevacantism itself is a “most absurd idea” will have to agree that there is no sense in substituting for an idea held as absurd, one that is even more absurd and directly contrary to Catholic teaching. Again, this is not to reduce all opposition to Sedevacantism to an irrational fear or some other ulterior motive, it is only to acknowledge that in not a few cases something other than right reason or Catholic teaching is at the root of the opposition.

To illustrate how far the unreasonableness goes, consider the case of Steve Skojec. Roughly 13 months ago, the founder of One Peter Five went so far as to advocate a “practical Sedevacantism” without, however, admitting Sedevacantism in theory. In other words, he said that in his view the right course of action to take would be to act like a Sedevacantist but without actually being one, as in: Say Francis is Pope but act like he’s not. Of course, to Skojec it was absolutely crucial to affirm Francis as the legitimate Pope, he just didn’t want that verbal affirmation to have any practical effect on anything. He calls it a “practical Sedevacantism”; we prefer to call it “hypocrisy” or “cognitive dissonance.” Its most serious flaw, however, lies in contradicting the Catholic teaching on the Papacy.

People like Skojec apparently do not realize how much damage they are doing when they propose such nonsense. A Catholic is not at liberty to reinterpret the Papacy according to the needs of the moment. It is a dogma that the Pope has full jurisdiction over every single Catholic and must be submitted to not only in his teachings (infallible or not) but also in his disciplinary laws. To deny it is heresy; to affirm it in theory but not act accordingly is schism:

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, Ch. 3; Denz. 1831)

What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?

…In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X [1877], pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434; underlining added.)

We can easily see, then, that Pope Pius IX wasn’t too crazy about that idea of a practical Sedevacantism. But then again, maybe his teaching can simply be resisted, too? What should prevent a recognize-and-resister from extending his resistance only to the Vatican II “popes” and not to any other, including Pius IX?

What indeed, figured the Remnant contributor Hilary White and proposed exactly that, questioning the truth of the teaching of the First Vatican Council in a public tweet on July 16, 2017 (tweet can be accessed here). By thus doubting pertinaciously and in public what she is required to believe in order to be a Catholic, she has manifested herself to be a genuine heretic:

Almost ten months later, White is still a writer for The Remnant, a newspaper that claims to be upholding Traditional Catholicism and “keeping the Faith”. But one cannot keep the Faith by denying or doubting it, any more than one can borrow one’s way out of debt.

But what about the bad Popes?

When faced with the Catholic teaching of submission to the Roman Pontiff, some people point to the “bad” Popes of the past and mistakenly conclude that the obligation of submission to the Pope is relative to his moral conduct. But this is not so. Although morally bad a Pope may be, his Magisterium is untouched and requires submission at all times:

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

(Pope Pius XII, Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

Notice how a Church historian marvels at this teaching, finding it empirically confirmed in Church history:

Nothing in his life marked him for this office, and everything should have kept him from it. He was rarely seen in church. His days and nights were spent in the company of young men and of disreputable women, in the pleasures of the table and of amusements and of the hunt, or in even more sinful sensual enjoyments. It is related that sometimes, in the midst of dissolute revelry, the prince had been seen to drink to the health of the devil. Raised to the papal office, Octavian changed his name and took the name of John XII. He was the first pope thus to assume a new name. But his new dignity brought about no change in his morals, and merely added the guilt of sacrilege.

Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy. There is not a heretic or a schismatic who has not endeavored to legitimate his own conduct dogmatically: Photius tried to justify his pride, Luther his sensual passions, Calvin his cold cruelty. Neither Sergius III nor John XII nor Benedict IX nor Alexander VI, supreme pontiffs, definers of the faith, certain of being heard and obeyed by the whole Church, uttered, from the height of their apostolic pulpit, a single word that could be an approval of their disorders.

At times John XII even became the defender of the threatened social order, of offended canon law, and of the religious life exposed to danger.

(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, Vol. 3 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], pp. 510-511; underlining added.)

More discussion of the bad Popes can be found here; the popular objection that “St. Peter denied Christ three times” is answered here; and discussion of the supposedly heretical Popes of the past is available here.

The Hierarchy must be Perpetual — but also Catholic

Some people, it must certainly be acknowledged, oppose Sedevacantism because they see it as necessitating the conclusion that the Catholic hierarchy has perished, which is impossible and a heresy to affirm:

The [First] Vatican Council implicitly defined the perpetuity of the Hierarchy. For, it explicitly defined the perpetuity of the Primacy [Denz. 1824-1825]. But it also defined that it is proper to the Primacy to have subordinate to itself and to govern the Pastors or Bishops of the universal church [Denz. 1827-1831]. Therefore there will always be Pastors or Bishops subordinate to the Primacy. This very point is taught explicitly in the prologue of the Constitution on the Church [Denz. 1821].

(Rev. Joachim Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, trans. by Fr. Kenneth Baker [original Latin published by BAC, 1955; English published by Keep the Faith, 2015], n. 294; italics given.)

Clearly, no one is allowed to affirm that the Catholic hierarchy has perished or that Apostolic succession has been lost. Concerning this matter, the Sedeprivationists have a fairly clean answer, whereas Totalist Sedevacantists tend to leave it to mystery. A minority of Totalists holds that the Sedevacantist bishops are the hierarchy but bereft of a Pope. This was already touched upon in our original post, where we also provided quotes regarding the perpetuity of the Church from Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII.

The Semi-Traditionalists (our term for those who hold the R&R position) think their position must be correct because it easily safeguards the dogma of the perpetuity of the Catholic hierarchy, whereas this presents somewhat of a difficulty for Sedevacantism. However, there is an essential element many Semi-Trads leave out of consideration, and that is the fact that of course the Church’s hierarchy must at all times be Catholic. It does not suffice merely to have a hierarchy — it must be a hierarchy that professes the true Faith. The Eastern Orthodox, for example, also have a hierarchy that can trace its lineage back to the Apostles; the problem is that its hierarchy is not Catholic because it is not in communion with the Holy See and does not profess the true Faith.

Therefore, not only does the R&R position run afoul of Catholic teaching on submission to the Pope and his Magisterium, it even runs afoul of the perpetuity of the Catholic hierarchy. They have a Pope, so they think — but it is a Pope who is not a Catholic. They believe that people like Walter Kasper, Roger Mahony, Blase Cupich, Rembert Weakland, Joseph Bernardin, Oscar Rodriguez-Maradiaga, or Carlo Martini are/were not Catholics but nevertheless hold/held office in the Catholic Church. It is an absurdity. A non-Catholic hierarchy solves nothing; their “hierarchy” is a sham.

The following quotation about Apostolic succession may help give some insight:

Apostolicity of origin and of doctrine are easily understood without further explanation, but some knowledge of succession is necessary for a proper conception of apostolicity of ministry. Succession, as used in this connection, is the following of one person after another in an official position, and may be either legitimate or illegitimate. Theologians call the one formal succession; the other, material. A material successor is one who assumes the official position of another contrary to the laws of constitution of the society in question. He may be called a successor in as much as he actually holds the position, but he has no authority, and his acts have no official value, even though he be ignorant of the illegal tenure of his office. A formal, or legitimate, successor not only succeeds to the place of his predecessor, but also receives due authority to exercise the functions of his office with binding force in the society. It is evident that authority can be transmitted only by legitimate succession; therefore, the Church must have a legitimate, or formal, succession of pastors to transmit apostolic authority from age to age. One who intrudes himself into the ministry against the laws of the Church receives no authority, and consequently can transmit none to his successors.

(Fr. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ [Baltimore, MD: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, 1955], p. 78; italics given.)

It is in light of what Fr. Berry says here that the Sedeprivationist position is a bit easier to understand, which holds that the papal claimants since John XXIII have not been true Popes and have held the office only materially, that is, illegitimately.

Whether we understand all these things or not, one thing is certain: We are never permitted to utter heresy; we can never go contrary to what the Church obliges us to hold.

The Faith can accept Mystery but not Contradiction

In all this difficulty and confusion, it would behoove us all to recognize that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer to certain questions. As we saw in the original post reporting on Fr. Ringrose’s change of position, what distinguishes divine Faith from mere reason or even human faith is the fact that we assent to what God has revealed because He who cannot deceive or be mistaken has revealed it, and not because we find it agreeable to our desires, or because we have been convinced of its truth by some kind of rational demonstration, or because it satisfies us emotionally. In fact, we had better be on our guard, for “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

In the theological maze of the Catholic Church after the death of Pope Pius XII on Oct. 9, 1958, it is absolutely crucial to draw very strict distinctions between what we know, what we don’t know, what we suspect or speculate about, what we are permitted to hold, and what we are not permitted to hold. We must be clear on what is impossible and what is possible, however unlikely it may be. Too often people will dismiss as absurd (i.e. impossible) something that is not contrary to Faith and not contradicted by the empirical facts, simply because they find it to be fantastic or not in accordance with their tastes.

Let us take some instruction here from Fr. Edmund J. O’Reilly, who warned that any situation may arise in the Church, no matter how absurd or bewildering it may seem, that is not strictly excluded by Christ’s promises:

The great [14th-century] 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 Catholics should be divided on the question of who is Pontiff, 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 James O’Reilly, SJ, The Relations of the Church to Society [1882], pp. 287-288; underlining added, italics given; excerpt available online here.)

We see, then, that we must be willing to embrace any possible theory that, no matter how improbable it may seem in itself, can salvage what is known by Faith and therefore is impossible to be false. Tragically, as we can see on the internet on a daily basis, a lot of people who consider themselves Catholics are much more willing to tinker with the dogmas of the Faith than to concede certain possible if unlikely scenarios. As we saw earlier, Hilary White is a prime example of this.

Excuses for Rejecting Sedevacantism

The sad reality is that many people would sooner reinterpret (and thus deny) the Catholic dogma of the Papacy, reducing it to little more than a primacy of honor, rather than hold that a certain individual who claims to be Pope, actually isn’t. Yet the former is heresy, whereas the latter is, at worst, factually wrong. Even if the recognition that the last six papal claimants cannot have been true Popes leaves us perplexed and with no clear answer as to what has happened or how it could be fixed, that is certainly a more tolerable option than heresy.

And yet, again and again people come up with curious pretexts for why they will not choose the non-heretical option. Take Michael J. Matt, Christopher A. Ferrara, and John Vennari, for example.

Michael Matt, the editor of The Remnant, likes to decry the sedevacantist position as the “easy answer”, as though perceived level of difficulty had anything to do with truth or falsity. Precisely how Sedevacantim is “easy”, he does not — to our knowledge — explain, nor does he clarify why we should be concerned about an answer’s being easy or difficult rather than being true or false.

Remnant columnist Chris Ferrara, for his part, simply declares that the sedevacantist syllogism (=logical argument) is “ridiculous”. Proof offered? None. Premises refuted? Nope. Conclusion shown not to follow from the premises? Not at all. (One sedevacantist syllogism, laid out and explained in detail, can be watched here.) Similarly, Ferrara likes to pronounce the idea of Francis and his five predecessors not being real Popes a “patent absurdity” — all the while he himself proposes, in effect, that before the faithful can safely accept any teaching or disciplinary law from the Holy See, it must first be sifted by self-appointed American journalists and lawyers lest their souls be poisoned with heresy and sacrilege from an “anti-Catholic Pope”. We’ll let the reader decide on which side the absurdity is to be found.

The late former editor of Catholic Family News, John Vennari, was similarly prone to rejecting Sedevacantism for insufficient reasons: “Sedevacantism is a position I have never even been tempted to embrace. I see it as a kind of despair that ends up asking more questions than it answers”, he once wrote. But this says nothing about the truth or falsity of the position. Instead of being concerned about raising or answering a certain quantity of questions, Vennari should have focused on whether Sedevacantism is compatible with Catholic teaching and how his own recognize-and-resist position fares when held to the same standard. Alas, the only criterion that ultimately matters he did not apply, and behold the consequences: Along with countless other souls, he believed that the Papacy is essentially a primacy of honor that has no ultimate authority with which to bind the Catholic conscience. If the Pope gets it right, you submit to him — if he gets it wrong, you resist him. What distinguishes such a notion of authority from what Protestants believe about their “pastors”? As for the charge of “despair”, it is unfounded. Concluding that a man who according to the teaching of the Church cannot be Pope, is not Pope, has nothing to do with despair; it has everything to do with taking Church doctrine seriously.

What has blinded so many people in the R&R camp to the serious error of their position for so long? Surely in many cases it is the stubborn a priori rejection of Sedevacantism.

We must have Faith, not (necessarily) all the Answers

We have said before that quite probably a great many of those foaming at the mouth against Sedevacantism would embrace its principles in a heartbeat if they were proposed by someone like “Cardinal” Raymond Burke or “Bishop” Athanasius Schneider and were 0ffered to them under a different label (see a case in point here). The principles that lead to the conclusion that Francis is not the Pope and his club is not the Catholic Church are entirely in harmony with Catholicism because the Catholic Faith is what those principles are drawn from. That an application of these principles to our situation today can leave us perplexed and unable to answer all questions that may arise, can readily be conceded — but it is here that Faith must overcome the wisdom of the world: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftines” (1 Cor 3:19).

This is what Christ expects of us. He does not expect us to have all the answers, but He does demand of us Faith in Him, as He did of the disciples: “During the Passion, the Apostles and disciples lost their faith; they doubted their Master’s being the true God and Messias; they looked upon him as nothing more than a great prophet” (Abbot Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, vol. 8 [Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000], p. 286).

Just as during the Passion of our Lord 2,000 years ago many fell away because they were scandalized (see Mt 26:31), not understanding God’s Word or His ways (cf. Lk 24:25; Is 55:8-9), so many sadly fall away again today, as the Church suffers her Mystical Passion. It is for this reason that the New Testament warns us not to be misled by false teachers or false miracles (see 2 Tim 4:3-5; 2 Cor 11:13; Mt 24:23-25) and why our Blessed Lord asked rhetorically: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8).

Back in 1861, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning (1808-92) reminded his audience in a series of lectures that the coming Great Apostasy, prophesied in Scripture and Tradition, would resemble the Passion of Christ, and we ought therefore to be on our guard lest we be scandalized as the disciples once were:

As the wicked did not prevail against [our Lord] 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. Let no one, then, be scandalised if the prophecy speak of sufferings to come. We are fond of imagining triumphs and glories for the Church on earth — that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the world to be converted, and all enemies subdued, and I know not what — until some ears are impatient of hearing that there is in store for the Church a time of terrible trial: and so we do as the Jews of old, who looked for a conqueror, a king, and for prosperity; and when their Messias came in humility and in passion, they did not know Him. So, I am afraid, many among us intoxicate their minds with the visions of success and victory, and cannot endure the thought that there is a time of persecution yet to come for the Church of God.

(Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, The Pope and the Antichrist [Tradibooks, 2007], pp. 63-64)

May this always be a salutary warning to us never to abandon or deny our Lord: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us” (2 Tim 2:12; cf. Mt 10:33).

Bad News for the Mainstream “Traditionalists”

Surely Fr. Ringrose’s rejection of the recognize-and-resist position as heretical comes as a huge blow to the massive mainstream “traditionalist” resistance movement, which has long been accustomed to commandeer what is and isn’t the traditional Catholic thing to do and believe. Yet in the last five years the self-appointed traditionalist gatekeepers have been struggling not to lose their influence over the masses as Francis’ antics expose the absurdity of their position better than any sedevacantist ever could. The usual excuses, typically based on straw men and devoid of any serious theology, about how not everything the Pope says or does is infallible, how there have been bad Popes before, how the gates of hell will not prevail, etc., are beginning to lose their force. People are starting to see that if someone like Jorge Bergoglio can be the Pope of the Catholic Church, then there is no point to the Papacy. In fact, it would make the Papacy downright dangerous, and rather than being the Ark of Salvation, the Catholic Church would descend to being an occasion of damnation for many.

Over the decades, the R&R traditionalists have not had much luck in their efforts to combat Sedevacantism. In 1986, the Lefebvrist lay apologist Michael Davies published the book I Am With You Always. Three years later, the sedevacantist layman John S. Daly dismantled Davies so comprehensively in his 464-page Michael Davies – An Evaluation (read the 2015 edition here) that the latter never even attempted to rebut it. All he could do was ignore it, even though some of his readers pleaded with him to respond (see “Introduction to the New 2015 Edition”).

In 2005 after Benedict XVI’s election Chris Ferrara published a multi-part series against Sedevacantism to accompany his highly tendentious narrative of the “Restoration of Tradition” that was supposedly in progress under “Pope” Ratzinger. Hoping to strike a fatal blow against us “Empty Chair believers”, his polemic had a very unwelcome consequence, however: Not only did Fr. Anthony Cekada show in his response that Ferrara didn’t really know what he was talking about; Ferrara’s very own friend and long-time colleague, the high-profile recognize-and-resist columnist Dr. Thomas Droleskey ended up converting to Sedevacantism, a position he has faithfully maintained and defended on his web site, Christ or Chaos, ever since.

When in 2016 John Salza and Robert Siscoe released their 700+ page mammoth True of False Pope?, it was supposed to be the definitive refutation of Sedevacantism. Fr. Cekada responded in various installments on YouTube, the last two of which Messrs. Salza and Siscoe never answered. But better yet: Over two years after the launch of True or False Pope?, some of their very own people have turned against them: “Fr.” Paul Kramer has exposed many theological errors in the book and blasted the authors as incompetent; Fr. Chazal has questioned their tone and theology; Dr. Peter Chojnowski has squarely come out against them on his blog; and the SSPX’s Angelus Press does not even include it in its print or browsable online catalogue. The much-touted second edition that has been “immiment” for over a year now, appears to be stuck dead in its tracks.

Against this background, Fr. Ringrose’s public rejection of recognize-and-resist theology is simply the latest setback the Semi-Traditionalists have had to suffer. And it will get worse for them from here, because the R&R position is falling further apart every time Francis opens his mouth (latest example here), something that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

Conclusion

In 1922, Pope Pius XI taught clearly that our Lord Jesus Christ “has promised that His aid will never fail [His Church] at any time for she is the infallible teacher of His doctrines in every century and before all nations…” (Encyclical Ubi Arcano, n. 41). Three years later, the same Pope extolled “the perfect and perpetual immunity of the Church from error and heresy” (Encyclical Quas Primas, n. 22). That the Novus Ordo Sect does not fit these descriptions could not be any more evident. Although we may not have all the answers with regard to where the Church’s hierarchy is or in what sense it exists today at least in potency, we can rest assured that all of the Church’s doctrines are true.

Here it will be helpful to keep in mind some historical precedent: Just because someone reigns in Rome calling himself the Pope does not mean he definitely is the Pope, even if the majority of cardinals recognizes him as such. This is illustrated in the case of Antipope Anacletus II, who eclipsed the true Pope, Innocent II, for a time in the twelfth century. It was Anacletus who reigned in Rome for years, but he was not the rightful Pontiff. The following brief video explains what happened:

(This clip is taken from the series “Papal Impostors”, available in full here)

Confusion about the Pope, clearly, is not new in the history of the Church, especially not when we consider the Great Western Schism. At the same time, it is undeniable that the situation we are in today — at least with regard to its magnitude and its long-term consequences — is unique and unprecedented. What has happened to the Catholic Church since 1958 is the greatest evil fruit to date of the “mystery of iniquity” prophesied by St. Paul (2 Thess 2:7); it is, it seems, the devil’s last hurrah before the advent and rule of the Antichrist, after which our Lord will return in majesty to judge the living and the dead. The reason why the flock is scattered is because, as it was 2,000 years ago, so too today the shepherd has been struck (cf. Mk 14:27; Zac 13:7).

Let us not be scandalized (cf. Lk 7:23), therefore, because of disagreements about what precisely has happened or how to resolve it. There are necessarily going to be different “-isms” as different ideas are put forward to reconcile the empirico-historical facts with Catholic doctrine. Yes, this is frustrating and difficult and wears on our souls. However, it is part of the battle we have been called to fight. St. Paul exhorts us: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened” (1 Cor 16:13). As we navigate these difficult waters, we must always be sure to “stand fast in the faith”, and this cannot be done if we compromise that Faith, whether by denying the Catholic teaching on submission to the Pope, on the infallibility and indefectibility of the Church, or on the perpetuity of the hierarchy.

As we said before, “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer; heresy or denial of doctrine, on the other hand, are not an acceptable answer. As Catholics, and especially as Catholics living in these bizarre times, we must be willing to accept mystery because mystery is not contrary to reason and it is not contrary to Faith.

As we all struggle to explain fully what has happened to the Catholic Church since the death of Pope Pius XII, it would behoove us to acknowledge that we simply do not have all the facts; that is, we do not know everything that has transpired, for example, with regard to the conclave of 1958. This is where the whole Novus Ordo Sect mess started, and right from the beginning New York’s Cardinal Francis Spellman had a choice remark to make about the new “Pope”, Angelo Roncalli, who had assumed the name of John XXIII: “He’s no Pope. He should be selling bananas” (John Cooney, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman [New York, NY: Times Books, 1984], p. 261). If only he had!

Interestingly enough, Spellman “refused to place John XXIII’s coat of arms either at St. Patrick’s [cathedral] or the chancery” and instead “had a life-size wax figure made of Pius XII” (ibid.). Did Spellman, who of course had participated in the secret conclave, know something we can only speculate about? This is the same Cardinal Spellman about whom Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton wrote in his personal diary that he was “coming out of the [1958] conclave looking white and shaken” (Fenton, Personal Diary: “My 1960 Trip to Rome”, entry for Nov. 2, 1960). Whatever transpired in that most fateful conclave, we know from the results that it was not of the Holy Ghost.

“Because of its indefectibility the truths revealed by God will always be taught in the Catholic Church”, according to the beautiful catechism My Catholic Faith by Bp. LaRavoire-Morrow (1954 ed., p. 139; italics given). “St. Ambrose said: ‘The Church is like the moon; it may wane, but never be destroyed; it may be darkened, but it can never disappear'” (ibid.). A darkened or eclipsed Church is what we have today, but she is still a Church that has not been corrupted by Modernism, nor does she teach error or have a false liturgy.

To conclude, we thank Fr. Ringrose for having publicly rejected the recognize-and-resist position, something that surely a number of his associates and parishioners do not appreciate.

Let us pray for all men of good will, begging God to grant us a true Pope soon, so that this horrific exile will come to an end and more men will “be saved, and … come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

And may God have mercy on us all!

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