SEDE VACANTE 1958 – 2008
Reflections on a 50-Year Vacancy of the Apostolic See
Fifty years ago, around 3:50 am local time on October 9, 1958, His Holiness Pope Pius XII drew his last breath in Rome. At that time, most Catholics surely viewed this as simply an ordinary death of yet another Pope, and though lamentable, a new Pope would surely follow soon, and all would be well.
The last 50 years have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that such was not the case. At first, everything seemed to go the usual way. The deceased Pope received a solemn funeral, and a conclave to elect his successor was scheduled for October 25. Some facts about the conclave’s participants are listed on the Novus-Ordo-run “Catholic Hierarchy” web site:
The first sign of something unusual occurring was the white smoke that poured out of the chimney the following day at 6 pm. It was unusual because, even though Vatican Radio announced that there was no doubt that a Pope had been elected, the white smoke having been visible for a full five minutes, no Pope appeared on the balcony, and the smoke turned to grey and later to black. The cheering crowd turned away in confusion.
If this had been any other ordinary conclave, not too much would have to be thought of this, and a reasonable explanation would surely have been given. But it appears to this writer to be too much of a coincidence that something like this should happen in this conclave of all conclaves — a conclave that turned things around so dramatically that there is no question that a “New Church” was created with the supposed “election” of Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, known as “Pope John XXIII,” whose bogus “election” was, in the opinion of this writer, probably preceded by the valid election of a different cardinal to the Supreme Pontificate, a man whose legitimate and free acceptance of the papal office was then invalidly suppressed and the Church thus deceptively thrown into an “eclipse” by a schismatic anti-church that still has control of the Vatican to this very day.
The fact that Roncalli took the name of an Antipope of the fifteenth century, and the fact that he chose the name John — as in “St. John the Baptist,” herald of a new beginning — were two indicators of what was to come. Not that such a name by itself would prove anything — but taken together with everything else that has happened, especially in retrospect, this is something that ought not to be passed over silently.
St. John the Baptist came to make crooked ways straight — John XXIII came to make straight ways crooked by means of the so-called “Second Vatican Council” which he called, so he claimed, because of an “inspiration” he had from God. (An inspiration it may have been — but now we know that it wasn’t from God!) What was certain and clear before the ominous council, was uncertain and obscure afterwards, to say the least. Such are not the ways of God but of the devil. The Holy Catholic Church has always insisted on precision in terminology to make sure the truth is taught without ambiguity or error. Before the council, people knew what the Church taught — whether they believed it or not — but after the council, everything was up for grabs, and this was no doubt intended, for the very “experts” who insured that the council’s documents would be at the very least gravely ambiguous, had been appointed by John XXIII himself.
St. John the Baptist came to announce and prepare the coming of the New Covenant — John XXIII came to announce and prepare the New Modernist Church.
St. John the Baptist’s function was to point out the Messiah who was to come and prepare His way — John XXIII’s function was to make Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini a cardinal (something Pope Pius XII had refused to do) so as to prepare the way for his “election” as “Pope.” Indeed, Montini was the very first man to be named “cardinal” by John XXIII:
The world came to call John XXIII the “Good Pope” — not something said of Pope St. Pius X, who was truly good, because the world hates the truth and detests the light. Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ was clear: “Woe to you when men shall bless you: for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Surely, just as St. John the Baptist was a true prophet (and hated by the world), so John XXIII was a false one (and loved by the world)!
And further, Our Blessed Lord declared: “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). St. Pius X fits this description; John XXIII does not. In fact, John XXIII denounced the “prophets of doom,” asking people to accept the illusion that the 1960s were going to usher in a great period of peace and triumph for the Church. What dangerous nonsense! He has surely been exposed as a false prophet!
Compared to the period of 1963 to the present, the “pontificate” of John XXIII (1958-63) seems to have been “not so bad.” In fact, his successors have made him look like an ultra-orthodox altar boy serving High Mass for Pope St. Pius X. But we must not forget that it was John XXIII who called the New Church into being. He prepared the way. He ensured that Montini could be elected “Pope.” He appointed the Modernist “experts” at Vatican II. He chuckled with contempt at finding a file on himself in the Holy Office labeled “Suspect of Heresy” — whereas a truly Catholic man would have been appalled and would have sought to correct anything that could possibly have led the Holy Office to such a terrible, serious, and unflattering conclusion. So, the question is: Did John XXIII remove this suspicion? Did he, by his words and actions as “Pope,” signify that he was a Catholic so that the suspicion would prove unjustified, or did he increase this suspicion? The question is rhetorical. We all know the answer.
One of the biggest “achievements” of the ominous pseudo-council in Rome was the endorsement of a supposed moral right to religious liberty, whose principal author, the infamous Jesuit Fr. John Courtney Murray — appointed an “expert” by John XXIII to the council — had been censured (!) in 1954 by the Holy Office for erroneous views on Church-state relations. Vatican II claims:
This Vatican Council … professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.
Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.
This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
(Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, nn. 1-2)
Whereas the true traditional Catholic doctrine is as follows:
When religion is manifested by external acts and, in a special manner, by a cult or rite, the ecclesiastical and civil authorities have the right and duty to prohibit those acts which are harmful to the social good.
Consequently, the error of Catholic Liberals is deservedly condemned, because they contend that full liberty is to be given to everyone and that error is to be repressed only by an exposition of truth.
…if we posit the fact that the good of society demands that the various kinds of divine worship enjoy the same serenity as the true religion, then what today is called freedom of conscience and of worship can be tolerated.
Therefore, the Roman Pontiffs do not absolutely condemn these freedoms; but they do forbid that these liberties be considered as rights which must be granted to error or to false religion.
(Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, Manual of Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, nn. 280.d; 281.a.2; 281.b.2)
We note that what before the council was a right of the Church and the state, namely, to repress external manifestations of false religions insofar as the social good requires, has now been shifted to being a right of the individual which is only restricted by certain undefined “due limits” on the part of the Church and state. In other words, the truth has been turned on its head. No longer does the state have the right per se to repress external manifestations of false religions; now the right per se is with the individual to practice false religions, and that right is merely given certain “limits”. This is a total inversion of truth. The only reason the Church and state may repress the external acts of false religions is because individuals do not have a right to practice them externally, whereas the Church and state have a right to repress them. At best, then, the Church and state tolerate the external expressions of false religions for the good of society. Certainly, at this point in 2008, the good of society here in the United States of America would require that the external manifestations of false religions be tolerated until a more opportune time when the Social Kingship of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ can be established.
On occasion an argument is made that Pope Pius XI taught religious liberty in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge in 1937. In response to this objection, consider the following answer to a question given by Fr. Francis Connell, the great American theologian and fellow-anti-Modernist associate of Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton:
Question: In the English version of the Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, sent by Pope Pius XI to the German bishops on March 14, 1937, we read: “The believer has an inalienable right to profess his faith and to put it into practice in the manner suited to him.” Could not one conclude from this that no matter what religion a person may profess he has a genuine natural right to practice it, without being molested or impeded?
Answer [by Fr. Connell]: If Pope Pius XI meant to teach what our questioner concludes from his statement, he certainly departed from traditional Catholic belief and from the clear teaching of his predecessor, Pope Pius IX, who condemned the proposition: “Everyone is free to accept and to profess that religion which, under the guidance of the light of reason, he has judged to be true” ([Denzinger], 1715). It is incredible that Pope Pius XI intended to teach a doctrine so utterly at variance with Catholic tradition — a doctrine, moreover, which would lead to the strange conclusion that a person has an inalienable right to be wrong.
The only reasonable interpretation of the Pope’s words is that he was speaking of the inalienable right of Catholics to profess and to practice their faith in the manner suited to their religious needs. It must be remembered that the Pope was denouncing the Nazi government for its restrictions on the Catholic Church, so that it was most natural that he should proclaim the right of the Catholic to practice his religion. It should be remembered, too, that our English word “believer” is not an adequate translation of “Der glaubige Mensch,” as used in a papal document. This latter phrase is the equivalent of the Latin “fidelis,” which in the language of the Church normally means “one who has the Catholic faith.” Similarly, the word “Christian,” when used in the Church’s official statements, does not, at least not ordinarily, signify anyone who accepts Christ as his religious leader, as the word does nowadays in our land. A Christian, in the language of the Church, means, at least ordinarily, a Catholic.
(Rev. Francis J. Connell, Father Connell Answers Moral Questions, ed. by Rev. Eugene K. Weitzel [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1959], pp. 2-3)
Now, lest anyone should say that just as Pope Pius XI could be misunderstood in his encyclical, so Vatican II was misunderstood, let it be remembered how the New Church has implemented its decree on religious liberty and forced Catholic countries, such as Spain and Colombia, to change their constitutions so as to bring them in line with the new and erroneous teaching, requiring them to permit the public exercise of false religions, thereby denying their right (!) to repress the external acts of false religions, which true Catholic teaching concedes to the state, switching, instead, the right to the “human person” even if restricting it by nebulous “due limits.” (It is important to understand that the “due limits” clause does nothing to save Vatican II from error — a right that is given limits is nevertheless still a right. Just as a husband has conjugal rights over his wife, and these rights are restricted by certain reasonable limits, yet at the same time they remain genuine rights on his part — they are just not absolute.)
The Modernist Church has destroyed Catholic doctrine and is clearly a different institution from the Catholic Church of 1958. Everyone admits that the Church in Rome today is manifestly different from the Church of Pope Pius XII. Just as the great St. Pius X condemned the Modernists severely, so must we. And just as the fact that only God knows their hearts did not prevent the saintly Pontiff from tearing off their masks and condemning not just their doctrines but them, so neither must we be silent in the face of the near-absolute devastation of Our Lord’s vineyard on the grounds that perhaps we’re committing a “rash judgment” if we should say that those who have so thoroughly devastated the field again and again are not in fact friends of the vine-grower but in fact his worst adversaries — duh!
St. Pius X specifically wrote:
Although they express their astonishment that We should number them amongst the enemies of the Church, no one will be reasonably surprised that We should do so, if, leaving out of account the internal disposition of the soul, of which God alone is the Judge, he considers their tenets, their manner of speech, and their action.
(Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi, n. 3)
His Holiness here tells us that Modernists are identified not only by what they teach (tenets), but by how they speak (manner of speech), and by what they do (action). This is what we must go by, and not foolish speculation along the lines of “perhaps they mean well” — it is of no concern, as St. Pius X confirms here, for the Church’s hierarchy is composed of real Catholics, and not a bunch of “well-meaning” heretics!
His Holiness was very explicit:
Nor indeed would he [the Catholic] be wrong in regarding them [the Modernists] as the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church. For, as We have said, they put into operation their designs for her undoing, not from without but from within. Hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of her is more intimate. Moreover, they lay the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers. And once having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to diffuse poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt. Further, none is more skillful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious devices; for they play the double part of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and as audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance.
(St. Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi, n. 3)
Look at this! The Pope does not care what the internal dispositions of their souls are — he judges them by their manifest actions as they employ “a thousand noxious devices” in order to “lead the unwary into error”! And how many people believing themselves to be Catholics today have been led into the errors of the Freemasons, believing the “rights of man” and the “dignity of man” and ecumenism and opposition to the death penalty as being truly Catholic beliefs? See how the Pope here can judge (!) that they are employing “noxious devices” — without judging their internal dispositions! They are Modernist heretics regardless and must be avoided! And as Modernists, they cannot hold positions of authority in the Church!
Consider the case of the “Catholic bishops” in Germany. There we see “religious liberty” in action! If there is ever any genuine ambiguity in what the Novus Ordo hierarchy says, just look at how they act (as St. Pius X says): Just recently, the German “bishops” gave their explicit approval for the building of a mega-mosque in the once-Catholic city of Cologne! They are accelerating the destruction of Catholicism — and even the semblance of Christianity — to the nth degree. They cannot wait to see their work of destruction completed. We must see the truth as it is and quit sugarcoating. We must also finally stop being afraid to “judge.” The situation we are in calls for a judgment — a just one, to be sure, and one that is not rash, but a judgment nonetheless. These people are not Catholic; they do not share our religion. They have no authority in the Catholic Church, and even those professing to be traditional Catholics who claim these “bishops” do have authority, resist them! The evidence is clear, and anyone who still concedes some sort of “authority” to these manifest Modernist non-Catholics, is only helping to perpetuate the charade, is only prolonging the crucifixion of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The council ended in 1965. Back then, there was no internet. Compared to today, communication was extremely slow. Things appeared to be happening that were impossible to happen. One may say that the circle was being squared right in the face of the whole Catholic world. I think it would be very wrong to attempt to pass judgment on the laymen during that time for not recognizing what was going on, or even on many priests, who were faced with what appeared to be an impossible situation. Only extraordinary grace could allow people at the time to see through this.
But now it is 2008. Where are we? Where are we going?
There are still — and there probably always will be — those who can never get out of their perpetual cycle of making excuses for the most outrageous sacrileges, heresies, and blasphemies, that, even though things are terrible, somehow the New Church cannot be said to have departed from the Faith, and sedevacantists are the real danger to the Church. They are the ones lamenting how bad the “bishops” and “cardinals” are without ever ascribing any blame to the only man who is keeping them in power. They are the ones who want to make you believe that the “Pope” is “suffering” and is being “persecuted” by enemies in his own flock, and if only we would all help him, everything would be well. Leave them be. They are the blind following the blind. Whoever still cannot see what is going on, after 50 years of devastation and the most obnoxious offenses against Our Lord and His Church, perpetrated by the highest officials of the New Church, removing any sort of doubt or ambiguity about the true nature of the wolf presenting himself as a shepherd and the institution of which he is the head, will never see it unless we pray, fast, and do penance for them.
On a more positive note, while the Novus Ordo Church, it is clear, is still alive, I would say it is not well. They have no vocations (not surprisingly), and they have no funds. As their religion blends so well into other religions, it has become irrelevant, and as the people have been taught to just “be nice” every day, they figure that anything else is really not that important. “As long as I don’t hurt anyone, it doesn’t make a difference if I go to church or not.” And considering what goes on in Novus Ordo churches every weekend, it is better they stay home.
The Novus Ordo Church, then, is dying. Deo Gratias! But where are we in the True Church, eclipsed and mystically entombed, as it were?
We sedevacantists are, as the name makes clear, without a leader. This is a terrible situation, but a situation we are not able to change, as far as we can see. However, the one thing worse than being without a leader is accepting a false one. We have no choice.
It is curious to note that while we sedevacantists have several good bishops, there is not one who stands out as a leader of the sedevacantists, and I believe this is very providential, lest we give the impression that while the Apostolic See is vacant, we are just following an “ersatz Pope.” There is no Pope (that we know of), and we must accept our exile and endure it willingly and lovingly, in reparation for our sins and for the conversion of sinners. There is no substitute for the genuine Apostolic See; there is no substitute Pope. There is only the “real thing,” and without it, we must rely on God’s grace and providence entirely. And while this is certainly difficult, especially in regions of the world where there are no churches or priests, it is also, in a way, very beautiful. It is beautiful because there is a humble adherence to Catholic doctrine and practice, even in the midst of terrible suffering, agony, and desolation. Just as martyrdom is at the same time both cruel and beautiful, so the sedevacantist exile is both trying and yet immensely graceful.
Let us, then, carry our cross not with resistance and tepidity, but lovingly and willingly, realizing that what we truly deserve is infinitely worse.
Due to the lack of a Pope in Sedevacantism, there are many divisions among sedevacantists. But this must not scandalize us because our very position holds that the principle of unity, the Pope, is lacking. So why should we be surprised that there is disunity if there is no principle of unity? Let us accept it as our well-deserved exile. If the Church could function just as well without a Pope as it can with one, what would that say about the Church’s doctrine of the papacy?
Next, we must consider why there are divisions in Sedevacantism. There are such divisions because the difficult times we are in have created many problems, and these problems call for a resolution. In many cases, no matter what, the problems must be resolved in the practical order one way or another. For example, a priest must decide whether or not he will admit a certain couple whose marriage appears of doubtful validity to him, to the communion rail. He decides he either will or will not give them Holy Communion, but no matter what he does, a decision is made either way. Other clergy may disagree with that decision. Likewise, every priest must decide whether he will use the Holy Week rites of 1954 or the ones in effect prior to the changes made by Pope Pius XII. Again, this may be a source of disagreement between sedevacantist priests.
Then there might be a theological or a moral problem that comes up in the course of time, that people will need an answer to (for example, whether or not sedevacantists may assist at a Mass where the priest mentions Benedict XVI in the canon, or whether or not it is morally acceptable to vote for a certain political candidate, or whether or not we may have living wills). Our clergy can give it their best shots, but at the end of the day, they lack authority and are fallible. This should not concern us too much, however, as long as bad faith is not evident in those who make those decisions. Surely, throughout the Church’s past, there were times and situations in which individual clergy had to make difficult decisions, and where appeal to a higher authority was not possible. Do not be scandalized at the divisions in Sedevacantism, for they are but the symptom of the real problem: the eclipse of the Church. The true enemy is not this or that fellow-sedevacantist cleric with whom we may happen to disagree, but the archenemy Ratzinger in the Vatican!
The Society of St. Pius X likes to say that the fact that we sedevacantists are without a Pope and appear to have no way of electing a new one, shows that our position is faulty. But this could not be further from the truth. It is quite ironic that the SSPX appears to have, in a way, the same problem, for although they pay lip service to their “Holy Father,” Benedict XVI, in practice, of course, they are as leaderless as we sedevacantists are, because at the end of the day, they decide when to follow and when not to follow “the Pope.” This they would never do with any Pope before John XXIII, so the problem they pose to us sedevacantists is theirs as well, but worse: How do they know when they will have a Pope who no longer needs to be resisted, whose encyclicals, pronouncements, canonizations, etc., no longer have to be sifted, and who in the SSPX gets to make that determination? Why is it that Pope Pius XI, for example, was not sifted as John Paul II was? When can they once again trust the Holy See? When will they once more allow the Pope to teach them, rather than them teaching the Pope? When will they no longer sit in judgment of an ecumenical council but subject themselves to the Church’s extraordinary teaching office (Magisterium)? Who ever set the SSPX over and above the Holy See? Isn’t the Holy See judged by no one, as canon law says (Canon 1556)?
I said above that the predicament of the sedevacantist and that of the SSPX adherent “appear” to be the same. I used the word “appear” on purpose because they are essentially different. The SSPX’s predicament is infinitely worse, because their position implies a contradiction: Somehow the Holy See is judged by no one, and doctrinal orthodoxy is guaranteed to come from it in virtue of the Church’s authoritative teaching on her own infallibility and indefectibility, yet at the same time this somehow does not apply to the Church post-1958. Since the SSPX was not founded until 1969, one wonders who guarded the Church during the 11 years in between Pope Pius XII’s death and Archbishop Lefebvre’s Rome-watching society?
The sedevacantist predicament does not imply a contradiction but only leaves questions unanswered: How shall the next Pope be elected? We do not know. Where is the Church’s teaching Magisterium? We do not know, but we do know where it is not: in Rome, for the Church’s indefectibility precludes the Church’s Magisterium from teaching error. When will this terrible situation end? When God so wills it. Though these answers are by no means satisfying, none of them in any way contradict Catholic teaching.
So, to sum it up: Sedevacantism runs into mystery (imagine that, the Catholic religion and mystery!); the SSPX position runs into contradiction. Which of these must a Catholic reject?
For those who labor in doubt, here is some advice: Embrace the safest position and reject all others. Sedevacantism is entirely safe. You cannot possibly go wrong by believing everything the Church taught up until 1958. What was true then must still be true now. What was false then is still false today.
Beware of those who look at the theological manuals of 1958 and prior and say that certain things in them cannot be believed today because of the Vatican II disaster, that the teachings of the manuals on ecumenical councils, canonizations, papal authority, etc., do not apply to the situation today, for reasons of “diabolical disorientation,” an entirely novel and non-magisterial concept they use to square the circle and justify their “resistance” to an impossible church.
This is surely false! They feel the need to change the faith in order to uphold their false position of a “resistance” to the authority they claim to be entirely legitimate! This is not safe; this is erroneous and dangerous. The only “danger” a sedevacantist might expose himself to is accidentally and mistakenly not acknowledging someone as Pope who actually is or was the Pope. But this is not really dangerous. Since the Pope cannot change the faith, the position is still safe, and since the sedevacantist’s intention is manifestly to adhere entirely to all Catholic truths and all true shepherds of the Church, there is absolutely nothing dangerous there either, especially considering that those who do insist that the charlatans after Pope Pius XII are genuine Popes, nevertheless resist those very men because they know them to be dangerous and unorthodox!
Again, which position is safest here? In which position can the possibility of your salvation be assured? Which position is consonant with the divine command to disassociate from heretics (Gal 1:8-9; 2 Jn 1:10-11)?
What, then, shall we do? Let us entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a devotion which was specifically requested to be established by Almighty God Himself, as told by Our Lady of Fatima, in order to save sinners in these difficult times. And let us always heed the advice of the Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich: “They [the faithful] must, above all, pray for the Church of Darkness to leave Rome.”
Pope St. Pius X, pray for us!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
License: public domain