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Why is Sedevacantism Wrong?

“In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation.” –Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus

The Errors of Sedevacantism

Intention of this work

The following errors I observe are not presented to minimize the disasters and tragedies which have befallen the Church in the last forty years, but to strengthen the Church by bringing those zealous but misguided souls who have not recognized the recent Popes back into the fold, and to preserve the faith of those in the Church who are deeply scandalized by the last 40+ years.

I dedicate this work, and as well as my entire life to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I ask that all who intend to read on pray five decades of the most Holy Rosary before doing so, for the intention of knowing more perfectly the fullness of truth who is Jesus Christ.

First Error

“A man who is a heretic, publicly or privately, cannot be, or ceases to be Pope, because he cannot be head of that which he has separated himself from.”

I say this is false for otherwise the First Vatican Council would not have confined the Popes charism of infallibility to a certain event, specifically when he defines a doctrine to be excepted de fide by the whole Church. If it were impossible for him to be in error on matters of faith and morals other times this clarification would have no meaning. It also would imply then that Pope John XXII would have never been the Pope, or at least not until the last day of his pontificate when he renounced the error which he had proclaimed publicly from the pulpit that the beatific vision is not seen by the Saints until the last judgment, an error which was clearly false by reason of the whole weight of the Church’s universal magisterium up until that time. The Church has certainly never declared null the pontificate of Pope John XXII, who actually made other infallible pronouncements during his reign, regarding particularly the heresies of the spirituals and flagellates.

Second Error

“By reason of Pope Paul IV’s Apostolic Constitution, “Cum Ex Apostolatus,” a man who is a heretic cannot be elected to the Papal dignity, despite the unanimous consent of the cardinals…”

The error here is to assume that “Cum Ex Apostolatus,” is either an infallible document or still in force. It is a disciplinary document, which is not irreformable and can be annulled. To confirm it is disciplinary one can refer to Bishop Fullers “True and False Infallibility of the Popes.” Most sedevacantists will admit this. In regards to the second error, whenever a full Code of Canon Law is promulgated, it explicitly abrogates canons and disciplinary laws which came before it therefore only if a canon is explicitly carried in the new code does it remain in effect. Cum Ex Apostolatus was abolished when the 1917 Code of Cannon Law came into effect. Its precepts on papal elections replaced anything that came before it, and enshrined Pope Pius X’s apostolic constitution on papal elections as the authority.

Some would continue to object, that the 1917 Code does not abolish “Cum Ex Apostolatus” because the Code references the Bull to show how Bishops can be deposed. They fail to realize that this is predominately commentary on the code to explain how deposing hierarchs generally takes place. Just because bishops can still loose office and the Bull is referenced in the 1917 Code, it does not follow that everything in “Cum Ex Apostolatus” is still in effect. For instance the Bull also speaks of how if a king harbors a heretic, his kingdom shall be forfeit and seized. Surely this is Bull no longer in effect.

Third Error

“In the 1917 Code of Canon law, Canon 188.4 shows that a Pope who is becomes a heretic looses his office.”

Canon 188 states: “Through tacit resignation, accepted by the Law itself, all offices become vacant by the fact itself (ipso facto) and without any declaration if a cleric … (the canon gives eight possible occurrences of which the fourth is) … has publicly defected from the Catholic Faith.”

Canon 188 on first appearance would seem to indicate that a heretic looses office. However this is not the case. “To defect” according to the American Heritage dictionary means, “To abandon a position or association, often to join an opposing group.” The etymology according to the “Online Etymology Dictionary” explains the origin of the word, as coming from the Latin word ‘defectus’ meaning “failure, revolt,” or ‘deficere’ “to fail, desert.” Clearly what is spoken of by Canon 188 is apostasy, the complete repudiation and abandonment of the Catholic faith. This can also be discerned from the context of the Canon.

This particular cause of losing an ecclesiastical office is found in that section of the Code dealing with the resignation of such an office (canons 184–191) and is part of a canon which lists eight sorts of actions which the law treats as “tacit resignations.” In other words, they are the sorts of actions that can be safely taken as evidence that the cleric in question does not even to want to continue in the office he held up till that time, even though he may never have bothered to put his resignation or abdication in writing.

Other examples within canon 188 make clear the sort of thing that is contemplated. Paragraph 3 has in mind a priest who accepts promotion to another ecclesiastical office incompatible with his previous one (e.g., a new diocesan bishop, whose very consecration could be taken as a tacit resignation from his previous office of being pastor of a certain parish). Paragraph 5 mentions clerics who get married, whether canonically (with a dispensation) or merely civilly. Paragraph 6 mentions clerics who, contrary to canon law, spontaneously join the secular armed forces.

In such a context, therefore, canon 188 §4, in speaking of “public defection from” (or “abandonment of’) the Catholic faith, can mean only that kind of defection that is obvious and indisputable before all the world, even to doctrinally illiterate Catholics and non-Catholics. In this kind of defection, the cleric in question ceases even to profess the Catholic faith and clearly has not the slightest desire to continue in his previous clerical office. Sedevacantists must admit that these occupants of the Apostolic Palace, recognized by the world as popes, have all at least publicly professed to be Catholics throughout their respective pontificates and have shown every public sign of intending to continue exercising the papal office until their dying day.

Fourth Error

“The excommunicated cannot hold office or be elected Pope.”

This is false for according to Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution “Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis,” “None of the cardinals may in any way, or by pretext or reason of any excommunication, suspension, or interdict whatsoever, or of any other ecclesiastical impediment, be excluded from the active and passive election of the supreme pontiff. We hereby suspend such censures solely for the purposes of the said election; at other times they are to remain in vigor.”

Active in this context means that such a cardinal may vote in the election, while passive means he himself can be elected. This goes to show that even if sedevacantist claims that Pope John XXIII and subsequent were affiliated or even of the ranks of Freemasons or that their electors had been, then these Popes are still valid popes and their elections are perfectly valid. One wonders why Pope Pius XII would go to such lengths to do ensure this, probably since he feared the coming era would bring grave scandal and he wished to ensure and preserve the office of the papacy.

Fifth Error

“Vatican II promulgated heresy, therefore the men who reigned over the council and have propagated it cannot be true popes.”

First it is of importance to revert back to the first error which I have taken to disprove. One must first take into account the intention and nature of the Council as has been declared by the Council itself in the Nota Previa of Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI’s general audience of January 12, 1966, and the writings of theologians like Dietrich Von Hildebrand. It is clear from these that the Second Vatican council declared nothing which was to be understood as binding on the Church, especially in matters of faith and morals. In fact the Council specifically avoided doing so.

Remember that according to Dietrich Von Hildebrand, “When the pope speaks ex cathedra on faith or morals, then unconditional acceptance and submission is required of every Catholic. But it is false to extend this loyalty to encyclicals in which new theses are proposed.”

Also the errors or alleged errors of the Second Vatican Council are shrouded in ambiguity making it impossible to truly convict the adherents or authors of heresy. Orthodox traditionalists, men like Ottaviani and Lefebvre all signed (most of) the documents of the council. The document with the most blatant contradiction of previous Church teaching is Dignitatis Humanae, which appears at odds with the Syllabus of Errors, and Quanta Cura, though it again is ambiguous. Although this should cause concern for Catholics Pope Pius IX gave an approbation to what is considered the most legitimate source for understanding Papal Infallibility, “The True and False Infallibility of Popes,” which declares that the Syllabus and Quanta Cura are not infallible declarations. Unfortunately the Council was shrouded in ambiguity and all the concerns of traditionalist Catholics cannot all be discussed in this work, however Catholics who privately discern error in the Council should not be swayed into Sedevacantism because the Council did not intent to be binding on the Church or infallible in anyway.

Sixth Error

“The post-Vatican II Church cannot be the True Catholic Church because it has promulgated evil rites such as the Novus Ordo Mass, Communion on the Hand, and altar girls.”

For this I will take into account the legitimate objections raised here in light of tradition.

Auctorem Fide states, “The proposition of the synod by which it shows itself eager to remove the cause through which, in part, there has been induced a forgetfulness of the principles relating to the order of the liturgy, “by recalling it (the liturgy) to a greater simplicity of rites, by expressing it in the vernacular language, by uttering it in a loud voice”; as if the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church, had emanated in some part from the forgetfulness of the principles by which it should be regulated,—rash, offensive to pious ears, insulting to the Church, favorable to the charges of heretics against it.”

This seems to condemn the Novus Ordo Mass, however what has truly been condemned is the idea that extreme simplification of the Rites and the use of the vernacular, and Mass offered in a loud voice, are superior to the traditional Rite of the Church. What is condemned is a mindset, which no doubt many of the supporters of the New Rite cling to. However a simplified ritual is not condemned. Long before the Second Vatican Council the Carthusians have used a greatly simplified version of the Roman Rite. The Eastern Rites though they have their own sacred language, have predominately used the vernacular throughout their history, and the Latin Rite itself was originally changed to Latin because it was the vernacular. These things are not intrinsically evil, and you will find many holy and orthodox priests and faithful who use the Novus Ordo Mass and have completely orthodox understanding of the Catholic faith.

We must always remember that according to Dietrich von Hildebrand “But when it is a question of . . . the introduction of a new missal, or the rearrangement of the Church calendar, or the new rubrics for the liturgy, then our obedience as Vatican I declares, but by no means our agreement is required.”

Pope Benedict XIV in his encyclical “Allatae Sunt” wrote, “Pope Gelasius in his ninth letter (chap. 26) to the bishops of Lucania condemned the evil practice which had been introduced of women serving the priest at the celebration of Mass.Since this abuse had spread to the Greeks, Innocent IV strictly forbade it in his letter to the bishop of Tusculum: ‘Women should not dare to serve at the altar; they should be altogether refused this ministry.’ We too have forbidden this practice in the same words….”

First we must realize that Church discipline is not irreformable. However we still realize that Church discipline cannot be evil and this certainly seems to condemn the use of female altar servers an intrinsically evil act, however it is not an infallible condemnation. Also we must look at why it was condemned as an evil practice. In both the East and West it was understood that serving at the altar was preparation for the priesthood and ideally it still should be viewed and reverenced as such. However if one takes an honest look at the Novus Ordo Mass one realizes that sadly this role is no longer as noble. The altar server observes the Mass in no more special a way than the laity. There are no words or actions he observes which are not easily seen by those in the pews. Realistically the serves role could easily be replaced by furniture. Though Catholics can see that this is perhaps and unwise or lamentable change, it is not intrinsically evil for it is essentially a far different role than the traditional one.

Scholars recognize that it has in fact been the custom of the Church since the beginning to receive communion on the tongue, and not to receive the host on the hands. Even touching the sacred vessels, much less the Sacred Host, was forbidden by Pope Sixtus the First as early the second century. Heretics from Aryans to the Protestants adopted the practice to show their contempt for the doctrine of the real presence, however this act once again is not intrinsically evil. If an act is intrinsically evil it can never be acceptable, however it is well known that the Church has adopted this practice in times of persecution from the times of the catacombs to the Communist revolution in Mexico. However lamentable it might be, the Church has the right to change this discipline.

Seventh Error

“Canon 844 of the New Code of Canon Law is intrinsically evil, and therefore could not have been promulgated by a valid pope.”

The part objected to in Canon 844, parts 2-4 are represented below.

“2. Whenever necessity requires or genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.

3. Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned.

4. If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law strictly prohibited giving Holy Communion or the other sacraments to non-Catholics. This flows from the constant teaching of the Church that there is no salvation outside of her, and that the sacraments are the ultimate means of salvation, particularly Holy Communion, which is also the most perfect sign of Catholic unity. St. Jerome said of those who receive the sacraments outside of the Catholic Church, “Whoever eats the lamb outside this house is profane.” I won’t pretend that the current practice isn’t a breach with tradition or extremely dangerous.

However the Catholic Church according to the teaching of the Popes, though a perfect and visible society instituted by Christ is not only made up of those who are explicitly members. The Catechism of Pope St. Pius X says,

“If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can, such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.”

Hence it follows that even though in 1917 it was explicitly forbidden the Church could give Holy Communion to those separated from her “in good faith,” or “through no fault of their own.” The judgment of whether someone is truly “in good faith” is one that can only be made absolutely by God however the Church has given her ministers the authority to make the assumption for the good of souls who potentially receive sanctifying grace through the sacraments. After all both the 1917 and 1983 Canon Laws make clear, “The Highest Law is the Salvation of Souls.” However the error of indifferentism must be avoided therefore Catholic ministers are still bound to preach the Catholic faith uncompromisingly, and hopefully those who are in separated in good faith can through the sacramental grace they receive, and through charitable and efficacious preaching be brought to perfect visible union with the See of Peter.

What I have just stated may very well sound rash and unacceptable to some at a glance, but it is not all together new in the Church’s history. Clement VI (1342-1352), for example, gave a very general permission to Armenian priests who had returned to the Catholic Church: these he permitted to administer the sacraments among the schismatics, not in approval of their schism, – this is stated – but to lead them back to obedience to the true Church.

Eighth Error

“The Novus Ordo Mass changed the words of the consecration to the point where it is invalid, particularly with the vernacular change of ‘for many’ to ‘for all.’ The Mass has also deformed the intention of the priest rendering it invalid.”

Though the Novus Ordo is a drastic change the charge of invalidity is false on all accounts. The Catechism of the Council of Trent admitted that not all the words of the consecration were of equal importance. The Catechism of St. Pius X states,

“5 Q: What is the form of the sacrament of the Eucharist?

A: The form of the sacrament of the Eucharist consists of the words used by Jesus Christ Himself: “This is My Body: This is My Blood.””

Unless St. Pius X was in error on this matter of extreme importance, these are the only necessary words for the form of consecration. As long as other words of consecration do not negate the meaning of the sacrament, or are heretical, then it is valid. The words in Latin meaning for many translate, “for you and for many unto the remission of sins.” However the vernacular translations are often wrong saying, “for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” Though it is a mistranslation of the official text it is not heretical for “unto the remission of sins” and “so that sins may be forgiven” are both doctrinally true and cannot render the Mass invalid.

As for intention, the famous Ottaviani intervention stated that the Novus Ordo Mass constituted “a striking departure” from the theology of the Council of Trent. He stated that the focus of the Mass had been shifted from its primary function of the unbloody representation of the eternal sacrifice of Christ to the Masses vastly secondary function of a communal meal. Though in a sense both are true the focus is clearly less on the primary and more on the secondary, however the Novus Ordo’s rubrics and text do not oppose nor abandon the primary and proper understanding of the Mass. Most priests, particularly those who model themselves off the “conservative” EWTN television network would certainly give you a text book definition of the Mass and their intention to do what the Church has always done cannot be doubted.

Ninth Error

“Following the same logic which caused Pope Leo XIII to declare the Anglican church’s form of Episcopal Consecration invalid in ‘Apostolic Curae,’ the New form of Episcopal Consecrations are invalid.”

Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Constitution “Sacramentum Ordinis,” laid down the general principle when he declared that for Holy Orders these must “univocally (or unambiguously) signify the sacramental effects – that is, the power of the Order and the grace of the Holy Ghost.”

We know their can be variety in the forms of the sacraments provided the essentials are present. See for example of the Traditional Latin form of Episcopal consecration and an Eastern Rite form.

Traditional Latin: “Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the dew of Heavenly anointing.”

Byzantine: “Through the election and approbation of the (most senior) most sacred metropolitans, Divine Grace, which ever heals that which is infirm and fulfills that which is lacking, through the Laying on of Hands, elevates this presbyter, Most Beloved of God, to the episcopacy; let us pray for him that the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.”

Now let’s look at the Novus Ordo form. The following was declared by Pope Paul VI to be the essential part:

“So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by Him to the Holy Apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name.”

“Governing Spirit” is clearly the Holy Ghost, it is no less ambiguous than the traditional reference to “the dew of Heavenly anointing.” Second we find the power of the order of the Episcopacy in the words “the power which is from you… the Spirit given by Him to the Holy Apostles” for faithful Catholics know that the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles.

Pope Leo XIII declared the Anglicans had lost valid orders because in their rite the form was merely, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This was clearly invalid because the power of the order was never invoked.

 In 1622 the Anglican form was changed to, “Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Bishop.” In addition to a change in the invalid Episcopal consecration form, there was also a change in the priestly ordination form. Of that Pope Leo wrote,

“But even if this addition could give to the form its due signification, it was introduced too late, as a century had already elapsed since the adoption of the Edwardine Ordinal, for, as the Hierarchy had become extinct, there remained no power of ordaining.”

Of the form of episcopal consecration he wrote, “The same holds good of (their newer form of) episcopal consecration… but even these, as we shall presently state, must be understood in a sense different to that which they bear in the Catholic rite…” He goes on to show that the Anglican Ritual no longer even grasps the nature of the sacrificial nature of the priesthood.

Some Sedevacantist would argue that the Novus Ordo Episcopal consecrations must be invalid because the concept of the sacrificial nature of the Mass is gone in the Novus Ordo Mass, but as we have established already this is not the case. Also from the very Mass of Episcopal Consecration the prayers clearly reflect the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. After the essential form is prayed by all the consecrating Bishops the following prayer is recited with the laying of the hands by the principal consecrator,

“Father, you know all hearts. You have chosen your servant for the office of bishop. May he be a shepherd to your holy flock, and a high priest blameless in your sight, ministering to you night and day; may he always gain the blessing of your favor and offer the gifts of your holy Church. Through the Spirit who gives the grace of high priesthood grant him the power to forgive sins as you have commanded, to assign ministries as you have decreed, and to loose every bond by the authority which you gave to your apostles. May he be pleasing to you by his gentleness and purity of heart, presenting a fragrant offering to you, through Jesus Christ, your Son, through whom glory and power and honor are yours with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, now and for ever. Amen…. God has brought you to share the high priesthood of Christ, May he pour out on you the oil of mystical anointing and enrich you with spiritual blessings.”

Clearly nothing is lacking in the form or intention.

Tenth Error

“Cardinal Siri was elected to the Pontificate in 1958 and took the name Pope Gregory XVII but was illegally forced to step down because of death threats, possibly even threats of a nuclear bomb being dropped on Rome. Before his death he consecrated bishops and made cardinals secretly…”

This sounds like something out of the world of Tom Clancy, or worse a Dan Brown novel. To those who subscribe to this theory I admit that some of the things which Siri supposedly said give the eerie impression that this theory has some validity. However it lies entirely in the realm of conspiracy. There is no way to prove or disprove it. If the previous sedevacantist arguments had convinced me that John XXIII through Benedict XVI were not Popes, then the Siri theory would be a reasonable conclusion to the question, “how did this happen?”. However this is not the case as I have demonstrated.

The only facts which can be confirmed are that Cardinal Siri was the Bishop of Genoa, that he vowed obedience to Pope John XXIII and his successors, that he offered the Novus Ordo Mass with profound reverence and in a traditional manner, and that he was responsible for the spiritual formation of the founders of the Institute of Christ the King.

Though possible it is unreasonable to believe that a Pope would be such a coward as to vow obedience to anti-popes and let the Church be dissolved into a secret underground society. Vatican I declared that the Pope would have perpetual successors and that he was the visible source of the Church’s unity. I end with the words of Our Lord whose spirit is inconsistent with this theory.

You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

Eleventh Error, a Rebuttal

“You’re missing the point! It is the teaching of Sts. Bellarmine, Francis De Sales, Alphonsus Ligouri that a heretical pope would ipso facto fall from the pontificate!”

It is true that these men thought that, it was their private opinion. They would also be the first to admit that it was their private opinion, certainly not infallible truth. It was debated during the protestant reformation and the First Vatican Council what would happen if a Pope were found to be a heretic, but the Church never settled this debate. Throughout these debates it was the “more common opinion” according to the respected theologian Billuart that, “Christ, by a particular providence, for the common good and the tranquility of the Church, continues to give jurisdiction to an even manifestly heretical pontiff until such time as he should be declared a manifest heretic by the Church.”

The Dominican Father Garrigou-Lagrange, (vehemently anti-modernist theologian and renowned neo-Thomist who lived from 1877-1964) basing his reasoning on Billuart, explains in his treatise “De Verbo Incarnato,” that a heretical pope, while no longer a member of the Church, can still be her head. For, what is impossible in the case of a physical head is possible, albeit abnormal, for a secondary moral head,

“The reason is that, whereas a physical head cannot influence the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul, a moral head, as is the Roman Pontiff, can exercise jurisdiction over the Church even is he does not receive from the soul of the Church any influx of interior faith or charity.”

Note also that I have not tried the Popes for heresy in this work, but rather the sedevacantist thesis which I believe to have given ample evidence to dismiss as heresy.

Conclusion

“In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation.” -Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus

Annuntio vobis gaudiam magnum! Habemus Papam!

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