Don’t Ask Father:
Mr. Zuhl$dorf trips over Sedevacantism
There is no doubt that “Pope” Francis is the best advertisement for Sedevacantism the world has ever seen. Although he annoys the daylights out of anyone who has retained a modicum of Catholicism, in a certain sense he is a great grace, because he is forcing people to wake up and draw a conclusion about the new religion that has come forth from the Vatican since the usurpation of the papal throne by the Novus Ordo antipopes, beginning with Angelo Roncalli in 1958. This observation is underscored by the fact that the traditionalist members of the Vatican II Church are coming to their wits’ end in defending what is becoming more and more obviously indefensible.
The latest case in point: Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, the wine-and-dine-on-your-dime blogger who moonlights as a “traditional Catholic priest” in the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, although he is incardinated in the diocese of Velletri-Segni, Italy.
Today, the man known on the internet as “Fr. Z” published a blog post in his “Ask Father” series in which he tries to reassure a reader who tells him he’s mulling becoming a sedevacantist. The unidentified reader writes:
Father, I’ll get straight to the point: I’m having difficulty believing that the Pope is the head of the Church. I know that regarding the past heresies Popes were often negligent in carrying out their duty to oppose error, but it seems that recently Rome has been actively spreading error. This is most obvious under Francis, of course, although it’s not a new phenomenon — Vatican II and the liturgical reforms, which resulted in a disastrous loss of Catholic faith and identity in so many countries, were all carried out at Rome’s instigation and under her aegis. I know, too, that official teaching hasn’t changed, but that frankly seems like an unsatisfactory response. When Our Lord promised that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church, surely he meant more than that a core of esoteric doctrine, accessible only to people with enough theological training to parse the exact level of authority possessed by each papal communication, would remain, whilst the actual teaching organs of the Church were actively spreading error. I’ve read too much Church history to find Protestantism or Eastern Orthodoxy plausible options, but I’m seriously considering adopting some form of sedevacantism, if only to be rid of the cognitive dissonance involved in believing both that communion with the See of Rome is necessary for salvation, and also that being a good Catholic nowadays requires one to ignore 90% of what comes out of Rome.
(Quoted in “ASK FATHER: ‘I’m seriously considering adopting some form of sedevacantism'”, Fr. Z’s Blog, Jan. 7, 2019; bold print given.)
What’s really encouraging is that Zuhlsdorf reveals that he is “receiving more and more notes like this”, but what’s even more positive — and quite telling — is that the response Z proceeds to give his reader is really a non-response, inasmuch as it is devoid of serious theology and instead filled with verbal fluff and logical red herrings.
For instance, “Fr.” Z says the following:
First, you say: “I’m having difficulty believing that the Pope is the head of the Church.”
On this point, we turn to Colossians 1:18:
“[Christ] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.”
Christ is the head of the Church, friend. The Pope is Christ’s vicar on Earth. Very fancy, right?
That’s a nice attempt to deflect from the issue, but we won’t let him get away with it.
First, the questioner’s concern obviously isn’t that the Pope as such is the (visible) head of the Church but that Francis in particular is claimed to be. He can no longer square that with the Catholic teaching on the Papacy, and rightly so.
Secondly, to point out that Christ is the (invisible) Head of the Church is true enough but doesn’t help to resolve the questioner’s conundrum in any way; if anything, it makes it worse because to say that Christ is the Head of the apostate Novus Ordo Sect is a blasphemy!
Thirdly, let’s recall what the Council of Florence under Pope Eugene IV taught concerning the Papacy:
We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.
(Council of Florence, Bull Laetentur Coeli; Denz. 694; underlining added.)
This teaching was renewed and reiterated by the First Vatican Council (Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3; Denz. 1826), promulgated by authority of Pope Pius IX.
Christ is the invisible Head of the Church, and His vicar is the visible head. That this does not mean that the Church has two heads was explained by Pope Pius XII in his landmark encyclical on the Church:
Since [Christ] was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in virtue of his primacy is only Christ’s Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 40)
After facetiously poking fun at the notion of vicar as a “useless man, lacking authority, rarely of intelligence, the shadow of his superior”, Zuhlsdorf brings up the Church’s indefectibility, which is likewise beside the point:
Also, you yourself brought up one of three attributes of the Church: indefectibility. If we believe Christ’s promises – and I sure do – then we hold that the Church will not fail even to the end of the world when He returns to take all things to Himself and submit them to the Father.
What Z says here is beside the point because the question isn’t whether the Church is indefectible or not — that is dogma, after all — but whether, in order to preserve that indefectibility, it is necessary to hold that Francis is not the Pope, which is what the questioner was getting at.
For those who may not be sure which way to decide on that, the following 7-minute video clip should help (as will our accompanying post):
Apparently “Fr. Z” believes that it suffices to hold that Francis is Pope and say the Church is indefectible, without explaining how this could be so when Francis has clearly defected from the Faith.
Mr. Zuhlsdorf does not realize how much theological trouble he has gotten himself into here because the fact of the matter is that, per Catholic doctrine, the indefectibility of the Church is guaranteed by the Pope, by the papal primacy, and hence it is absurd to think that one could invoke indefectibility against the Pope! In other words, the Church is indefectible because she has a Pope, not inspite of it!
As always, don’t take Novus Ordo Watch’s word for it; rather, listen to the true Catholic Popes:
By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?
(Pope St. Leo IX, Apostolic Letter In Terra Pax; Denz. 351; underlining added.)
…[M]en should realize that all attempts to overthrow the “House of God” are in vain. For this is the Church founded on Peter, “Rock,” not merely in name but in truth. Against this “the gates of hell will not prevail”, “for it is founded on a rock.” There has never been an enemy of the Christian religion who was not simultaneously at wicked war with the See of Peter, since while this See remained strong the survival of the Christian religion was assured. As St. Irenaeus proclaims openly to all, “by the order and succession of the Roman pontiffs the tradition from the Apostles in the Church and the proclamation of the truth has come down to us. And this is the fullest demonstration that it is the one and the same life-giving faith which has been preserved in the Church until now since the time of the Apostles and has been handed on in truth.”
(Pope Pius VII, Encyclical Diu Satis, n. 6; underlining added.)
The words – and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it proclaim and establish the authority of which we speak. “What is the it?” (writes Origen). “Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the Church or the Church? The expression indeed is ambiguous, as if the rock and the Church were one and the same. I indeed think that this is so, and that neither against the rock upon which Christ builds His Church nor against the Church shall the gates of Hell prevail” (Origenes, Comment. in Matt., tom. xii., n. ii). 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. “For the Church, as the edifice of Christ who has wisely built ‘His house upon a rock,’ cannot be conquered by the gates of Hell, which may prevail over any man who shall be off the rock and outside the Church, but shall be powerless against it” (Ibid.). 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.
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 12; italics given; underlining added.)
It goes without saying that this guarantee for the Papacy is given only to the legitimate Popes, not to usurpers or other charlatans:
Mother Church, Catholic, Roman, which has remained faithful to the constitution received from her Divine Founder, which still stands firm today on the solidity of the rock on which his will erected her, possesses in the primacy of Peter and of his legitimate successors the assurance, guaranteed by the divine promises, of keeping and transmitting inviolate and in all its integrity through centuries and millennia to the very end of time, the entire sum of truth and grace contained in the redemptive mission of Christ.
Pope Pius XII, the last (known) of the true Popes up until now, was careful to point out that the Church is indestructible because of her submission to the Pope, not inspite of it, as the Rev. Zuhlsdorf would have you believe:
Because Christ has realized his will to found a Church, one and indestructible, and to do so by the promise made to Peter, by the institution of the primacy, or, what is the same thing, the Papacy. The Church established on Peter and his successors, and she alone, must be the Church of Christ, one in herself and destined to remain until the end of time by means of submission to a personal and visible Head.
See, then, how misleading Mr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog post is on this. It is precisely through the Roman Pontiff that the Church is assured of her perpetual indefectibility, because the Pope — the Papacy — enjoys the divine protection in accordance with our Lord’s promises in Mt 16:18 and Lk 22:32. That “Fr. Z” would have to invoke indefectibility against Francis to keep his readers calm is an unwitting but powerful testimony to the fact that Francis, far from being the guarantor of indefectibility, is its very antithesis!
Indefectibility means not only that the Church will continue to exist until the end of time — there might perhaps be a few man-made institutions that will exist until then, too, simply by circumstance — but that she will exist until the end of time in the same essential way Christ established her, preaching the same unchangeable truth entrusted to her by God and continually sanctifying souls.
That’s why Pope Leo XIII taught that Christ the Lord “ordered the Church to strive, by the truth of its doctrine, to sanctify and to save mankind” and that this Church “continues the mission of the Saviour for ever” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9; underlining added). It is also the reason why Pope Pius IX taught that “in that Church truth must always continue firm and ever inaccessible to all change, as a deposit given to that Church to be guarded in its integrity, for the guardianship of which the presence and aid of the Holy Ghost have been promised to the Church for ever” (Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes; underlining added).
Speaking of Pius IX, Mr. Zuhlsdorf unceremoniously slams this venerable and longest-reigning Pontiff in Church history as “rather mercurial and not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, an idea he got from reading “a book about Vatican I”. We may surmise he is talking about the work Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church by Fr. John O’Malley (cf. p. 15), which he mentions here. Although we have no reason to doubt O’Malley’s expertise as a church historian, the man is an openly Modernist suit-and-tie Jesuit who at other times probably wouldn’t be relied upon by Mr. Z when it comes to assessing the character or intelligence of real Popes.
Mr. Z continues his post by reminding his readers that “there have been great popes, okay popes, forgettable popes and bad popes.” That is indeed so, but he curiously omits to remind everyone that there have been antipopes too, that is, false popes, impostors, on the Chair of St. Peter.
After reassuring everyone, without any justification, that “Sedevacantism isn’t the answer,” the wine-and-dine blogger counsels his hapless questioner: “Go ahead and ignore 90% of what comes out of Rome and you’ll probably be more at peace.” That sounds like a statement Pope Pius IX would have included in the Syllabus of Errors, had any Catholic priest back then been audacious and foolish enough to make it.
Throughout his post, Zuhlsdorf seems simply lost. He appears helpless as he throws empty slogans or irrelevant points at his readers, such as the following:
- “[Francis] is unsettling, but I suspect that, in the long run, he won’t be considered that important. Perhaps it is a good thing that [the] cult around the person of Popes should be shaken up a bit, knocked down a few notches”
- “…just because [Francis] is jarring or his importance has been exaggerated by his papalatrous camp followers (some of whom I hold to be very bad actors indeed), that doesn’t mean that he isn’t really the Vicar of Christ”
- “We are terribly information overloaded these days”
- “We must learn to put all our churchy news into perspective, especially through a review of the Church’s many centuries of trials through history”
- “Trust in God’s divine providence. He knows what he is doing”
Translation: “I have no idea, guys. All I know is you shouldn’t be a Sedevacantist.”
Ladies and gentlemen, this sorry spectacle on Fr. Z’s Blog is great news for souls everywhere: The Novus Ordo apologists are at their wits’ end. They have run out of excuses and, faced with the unbearable contradictions a Francis “pontificate” presents vis-a-vis traditional Catholic doctrine, are forced to assuage their sheeple with placebo tranquilizers such as, “hang in there, we’ll get through this” and “there have always been bad popes.”
By giving this doozy of a non-answer, Mr. Z has essentially confirmed the questioner in his resolve to consider Sedevacantism as the only reasonable answer that can explain the facts before us. Deo gratias!
On a related note, we recently came across this encouraging remark by a Twitter user: “…the more I read refutations of sedeva[ca]ntism and read a sede reply (or dig deeper into their reasoning) the more I become convinced that the sede’s are correct” (source). Deo gratias again!
More and more people are waking up to see the light! For those still searching and looking, we would like to recommend in particular the following important articles we have published:
- The Stumbling Block of the Papacy: Why Bergoglio doesn’t fit
- Anything but Sedevacantism! Analysis of a curious Phenomenon
- The Trouble with Jorge: Semi-Trads at the Breaking Point
- The Impossibility of Judging or Deposing a True Pope
- Have the Gates of Hell Prevailed against the Catholic Church?
- The “St. Paul resisted St. Peter to his Face” Objection
- St. Robert Bellarmine’s Teaching on Resisting a Pope
- The “St. Peter Denied Christ Three Times” Objection
- The Ultramontanism Objection
- Catholic Family News and the 100% Challenge
- The “Perpetual Successors” Objection: Must we have a Pope at all times?
- The SSPX and “Pope” Francis: Theological Absurdistan on Full Display
- Do Catholics only need to believe what was taught “always, everywhere, by all”?
- Vatican I on the Question of a Heretical Pope
- The “Bad Popes” Argument
More such articles can be found on our Sedevacantism topical page, here.
Keep praying, folks, and thank you to all who support our efforts at spreading the truth about the Vatican II Sect and its “false apostles [who] are deceitful workmen, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13).
As for “Father” Zuhlsdorf, we recommend he put down his fork and his iPhone for a while and begin studying Catholic teaching on the Papacy. Unless, of course, he is afraid of what he might find.
Image sources: picssr.com / unknown
Licenses: Fair use / fair use