Sedevacantism is Impossible: How We Can Know Francis is Pope

In recent days, there’s been a nasty dustup between several prominent Catholic bloggers. The argument was ostensibly about “tone,” and it quickly devolved into a lot of bruised egos, and personal attacks on other Catholics for making personal attacks. It was an ugly spectacle, and I’ve stayed well clear of it.

Pope Francis

But while I’m not interested in wading through uncharitable personal attacks, I am interested in the ideas underlying much of the dispute. Underneath all the bruised egos there’s a real dispute over how much respect to pay to Pope Francis. Near the heart of this is the fact that Steve Skojec and others have advanced a view that maybe the pope isn’t really the pope:

I have never said that Vatican II is invalid, but have said that I believe it is possible that the Church could declare it so.

I have never said Pope Francis is an antipope, but I believe it possible that the Church could declare him so.

On his own blog, he spells out his reason for entertaining the possibility:

Juridically speaking, it is certainly possible. We have had both interregnums and antipopes – 30 of the latter, according to the Catholic encyclopedia.

The question is how it affects the man who is the visible head of the office. Since only the Church (most specifically in the person of the pope, who is her supreme legislator) has the authority to say that a pope is a heretic, and thus, in fact, an antipope, a pope would have to in a fit of conscience accuse himself, or a successor of his would have to accuse him posthumously.

A good treatise on this (and why the sedevacantists are wrong for arrogating to themselves the authority to make such judgments, but not wrong in recognizing that such a situation could exist) can be found here.

To his credit, Skojec rightly rejects the standard sedevacantist position that an individual Catholic may declare the pope a heretic and an antipope. But publicly musing that Pope Francis might be a heretic and an antipope is only a little better, and serves only to undermine the faith.

Usually, these debates devolve into one side arguing why the Pope is a heretic, and one side arguing why he’s not. But I’m not going to go that route. Rather, my point is that even if radical Traditionalists were right about Pope Francis being a heretic, he wouldn’t cease to be pope. That’s because built into Skojec’s reasoning are a set of errors that it’s important to unpack.

I. A Validly-Elected Pope Isn’t an Antipope
As this map shows, 14th century Europe was divided as to the identity of the true pope.

As Skojec notes, there had been several antipopes throughout history. An antipope is someone who claims to be pope, but isn’t validly the office-holder. Perhaps the most famous antipopes in Catholic history are those from the time known as the Great Western Schism, in which there was great confusion over who the true pope was. Here’s how that began:

  • In 1378, Pope Gregory XI died, shortly after returning the papacy to Rome, ending the so-called Babylonian Captivity, in which popes governed the Church from French-controlled Avignon, rather than Rome. When the Cardinals met to elect Gregory’s successor, the Roman mobs rioted, demanding that the next pope be Roman (to prevent any risk that the pope would again flee Rome and take up in another city).
  • The Cardinals were unable to agree upon a Roman well-suited for the papacy, but they ended up electing an Italian: Bartolomeo Prignano, the Archbishop of Bari, in southeastern Italy. Prignano took the name Pope Urban VI.
  • Urban, who had been a mild-mannered administrator of the papal chancery in Avignon, turned out to be an aggressive reformer pope after his election. In response, the French Cardinals claimed that Urban’s election was invalid, citing the coercion of the mobs. They quickly elected Robert of Geneva as Antipope Clement VII. Clement promptly moved to Avignon.

This created a true crisis within the Church. Nations, theologians, and even Saints were divided between the two claimants to the papacy:

Clement VII was related to or allied with the principal royal families of Europe; he was influential, intellectual, and skilful in politics. Christendom was quickly divided into two almost equal parties. Everywhere the faithful faced the anxious problem: where is the true pope? The saints themselves were divided: St Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Sweden, Bl. Peter of Aragon, Bl. Ursulina of Parma, Philippe d’Alencon, and Gerard de Groote were in the camp of Urban; St. Vincent Ferrer, Bl. Peter of Luxemburg, and St. Colette belonged to the party of Clement. The century’s most famous doctors of law were consulted and most of them decided for Rome. Theologians were divided.

Ultimately, it became clear that the Roman line of popes was the true line, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances in which Urban VI was elected. But while “Clement VII” and his successors were thus shown to be antipopes, nobody (to the best of my knowledge) claims that they were heretics, and even some Saints initially supported the Avignon line. So being an Antipope isn’t the same as being a heretic pope.

The common thread in all of these cases is that it turns on whether a particular man was validly elected to the Chair of Peter. A man isn’t declared an antipope simply because you think he’s wrong, or that he’s doing a bad job. Even the supporters of the Avignon antipopes recognized this: their argument wasn’t that Urban VI was a bad pope, but that his election was invalid due to the coercive threat of Roman mobs in the street. And they were wrong: even that radically-imperfect papal election was valid, and thus, Urban VI and his successors were the true popes.

II. Being a Heretic Doesn’t Make the Pope an Antipope
Mosaic depicting Pope Honorius I,
St. Agnes Outside the Walls, Rome

When Skojec suggests that the Church has the authority to declare “a pope is a heretic, and thus, in fact, an antipope,” he appears to be assuming that a heretical pope ceases to be pope for that reason. While there are some Saints who have speculated that this might be the case (St. Robert Bellarmine being the most famous), the Magisterium has never said this. And for good reason: we have at least two instances which suggest that this isn’t the case.

The first is Pope John XXII (1316-1334), who had a series of sermons in which he denied that Saints enjoy the Beatific Vision prior the Final Judgment. At the time, this was not formal heresy, inasmuch as the doctrine was dogmatically defined only by John’s successor, Benedict XII, in 1336. Theologians corrected the pope’s error, and John had the humility to retract his views. Being wrong on this doctrinal issue didn’t mean that John ceased to be pope. He was just a pope in error. (When sedevacantists refer to “Saint Thomas Aquinas,” they unwittingly concede this, for it was Pope John XXII who canonized Aquinas; if John wasn’t pope, Aquinas isn’t canonized).

The second is Pope Honorius (625-638), who has the ignoble distinction of being the only pope that’s anathematized. As pope, Honorius permitted the spread of the Monothelite heresy. For this, he was condemned by the Third Council of Constantinople, a condemnation affirmed by Pope St. Leo II in these words:

Likewise we anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is Theodore bishop of Pharan, Cyrus of Alexandria, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Peter, ambushers of the Church of Constantinople more than prelates, and also Honorius, who did not enlighten this apostolic church with the doctrine of apostolic tradition, but allowed the immaculate faith to be defiled by profane treachery, and all who died in their error.

This is a perfect case to test Skojec’s theory, because it’s a pope who is a condemned heretic (not for teaching heresy, but for letting it flourish). And guess what? Honorius didn’t cease to be pope. Leo didn’t declare his predecessor an antipope, or nullify all of his papal decrees on the grounds that they weren’t issued by the real pope, etc.

So just as being an antipope doesn’t automatically make someone a heretic, neither being a heretic automatically make him an antipope.

III. This Heretical Antipope Theory is Logically Impossible.
The Second Vatican Council; photograph by Lothar Wolleh

Let’s return to one specific aspect of Skojec’s theory. He says:

Since only the Church (most specifically in the person of the pope, who is her supreme legislator) has the authority to say that a pope is a heretic, and thus, in fact, an antipope, a pope would have to in a fit of conscience accuse himself, or a successor of his would have to accuse him posthumously.

This presents a Catch-22. The “fit of conscience” that Skojec envisions couldn’t occur. Why? Because if Pope Francis is a heretical antipope, then he’s not pope. If he’s not pope, then he’s not the supreme legislator of the Church, and doesn’t have the authority to declare anyone an antipope.

But couldn’t a later pope declare Pope Francis an antipope and Vatican II a false Council? No.

As then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained in the Doctrinal Commentary on The Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei, the legitimacy of a particular pope or of a particular Council is infallible (despite not being divinely revealed):

With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations …

This is necessarily the case. Papal infallibility would be meaningless if it were impossible to know who (if anyone) was pope. According to Skojec’s view, the Church could conceivably declare tomorrow that there were no valid popes or Councils after the death of St. Peter. But such a declaration would obviously end Catholicism. We would no longer be able to trust anything – every infallible dogmatic definition would have to be thrown out, since they were all made by antipopes or robber Councils. So the Church must be able to know, infallibly, whether a particular Council or pope is legitimate or not.

Here’s why that matters: if Vatican II is a false Council (as Skojec thinks it might be, and the sedevacantists thinks it is), then it means that the Church from the time of Paul VI onwards has been a false Church. But if that’s the case, Catholicism is over. Every Cardinal elector on earth was appointed by Pope St. John Paul II,  Pope Benedict XVI, or Pope Francis. In this vision of history, none of these men were really popes, and had no more authority to appoint Cardinals than do you or me. So if Skojec was right, we would not only be left without a pope, but without any way of ever having a pope. In that case, there’s no possible future pope or future College of Cardinals capable of declaring Vatican II a false Council, because there’s no possibility of a future pope or College of Cardinals at all. There’s simply no more Church.

IV. Skojec’s Proposal Flirts with Heresy

The Fifteenth Session of the Ecumenical Council of Constance condemned the following propositions of Jan Hus as heretical back in 1415:

Jan Hus

11. It is not necessary to believe that any particular Roman pontiff is the head of any particular holy church, unless God has predestined him to salvation.

20. If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy church militant since he is not even a member of it.

22. The pope or a prelate who is wicked and foreknown to damnation is a pastor only in an equivocal sense, and truly is a thief and a robber.

24. If a pope lives contrary to Christ, even if he has risen through a right and legitimate election according to the established human constitution, he would have risen by a way other than through Christ, even granted that he entered upon office by an election that had been made principally by God. For, Judas Iscariot was rightly and legitimately elected to be an apostle by Jesus Christ who is God, yet he climbed into the sheepfold by another way.

29. The apostles and faithful priests of the Lord strenuously governed the church in matters necessary for salvation before the office of pope was introduced, and they would continue to do this until the day of judgment if—which is very possible—there is no pope.

So the notion that a wicked pope ceases to be pope is a condemned heresy. So is the idea that we can stay in a perpetual state of sedevacantism.

What Constance was affirming is what needs to be reaffirmed today: the pope is the pope by virtue of his election to the Papal See, not by virtue of his personal merit. Some men are better popes than others, but none of them merit being pope. Conversely, none of them cease to be pope because of their sinfulness. Judas didn’t cease to be an Apostle when he betrayed Christ. Likewise, even the worst pope doesn’t cease to be pope, even if he betrays Jesus Christ through his bad actions. To claim otherwise is heretical.

V. If We Can’t Be Sure Who (If Anyone) is Pope, Catholicism is Chaos.

Consider the alternative. The positions put forward by Skojec and by the sedevacantists would mean that a validly-elected pope could, at any moment, teach heresy and secretly cease to be pope. He, and the Church, would no longer be protected by the charism of papal infallibility. But the people of God would have no way of knowing for certain that the man wasn’t pope, and would be bound to obey his possibly-heretical teachings.

Alternatively, they could resist, on the grounds that he might be a heretic for teaching something that they think is wrong. But this alternative is hardly any better: if the pope and Councils are binding unless they disagree with you, then you’re the final authority. This is exactly the maneuver that Martin Luther attempted in the early days of the Reformation: he acknowledged the authority of popes and Councils unless they contradicted Scripture (which is to say, unless they contradicted Brother Luther’s interpretation of Scripture). One need look no further than the last five hundred years of Protestant history to see how well this chaotic approach works.

Conclusion

We live in an era in which we want to declare marriages null because we don’t like the way our spouses act, and in which we want to declare popes antipopes because we don’t like the way they act. But God’s the final authority, not us. If He united a couple in Holy Matrimony, they’re united (like or not). If He didn’t, they’re not united (again, like it or not: you may want to be married to your already-married coworker, but no dice). If He raised a particular man to the Chair of Peter, that man is the pope, whether or not he’s a good pope, and whether or not you happen to like or respect him. To hold otherwise is to envision an impossible Church, and to fall headlong into the realm of heresy.

98 Comments

  1. Hello!

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up. I have been struggling with these kinds of issues for some time now. Could you take the time to address some issues that I’ve been facing? Note that everything said is an opinion, and I am supposing what Catholics or protestants both could argue.

    For starters, the New Testament clearly teaches that baptized Christians are not allowed to fellowship with self-professed “brothers” (1 Cor 5:3-12) who live in a persistent lifestyle of sin. There is another Apostolic truth coming from the first epistle of John which tells us that “If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. “.

    In Catholic theology and discipline, each baptized Christians is bound to submit himself to as well as being in “fellowship with” the Pope as well as the Bishops who are in good fellowship with the Pope, regardless of their status as “children of the devil” or “children of God”. Whereas St. John tells us that we only have fellowship with “one another” when each of us is walking in the light, and those that do not walk in the light do not have fellowship with those who walk in the light.

    In Catholic Theology, even when the Pope is not walking in the light, there is a binding law on all Christians to remain in fellowship with him. This “appears” to be in contradiction to the Apostolic mandate through St. Paul who said not to have fellowship with any brother who is living in sin, for they are lost and do not either walk or know the truth.

    The Catholic will want to demonstrate how the Principles of revelation and epistemology concerning every subject of doctrine can only be reasonably upheld when adopting the Catholic principles of revelation and doctrinal epistemology. And yet, even if this argument can win against the Protestant epistemic situation, there is a striking difference between say a Reformed baptist congregation that has been holding to the same confession of faith for the last 400 years, who abundantly bear good fruits, discipline erring and sinning members, and sustain a mark of holiness and perseverance that is outstanding in the community. A philosophical argument can never cloud out the visible evidence of the Spirit’s works in the lives of Christians who are gladly not in communion with Rome.

    1. I’m thinking the answer would depend on how one interprets the word “fellowship”. As a previous commentator pointed out: We also see this in the fact that Jesus Christ hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes and didn’t give scandal thereby, by either condoning or appearing to condone their sins–instead, He saved His greatest condemnation (other than for Judas) for the “Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” They were formally in communion with the Lord, and charged with being holy men whose job it was to lead the masses to the Lord–but materially they did not love those made in God’s image and likeness and so did not love God.”

      Joe does point out that while Pope Honorius WAS recognized to be a heretic (for not condemning a heresy, therefore allowing it to grow), he was STILL considered to be pope. One can recognize the position of another, obey their authority, even knowing them to be sinful or wrong, without necessarily falling into sin themselves. You can refuse to join them in sin, but still recognize their authority. Likewise, you can have non-Christian friends, or non-practicing friends, or atheist friends, associate with them, work with them, and yet actively not participate with them in sinful or heretic acts. I’m thinking “fellowship” is not quite the same as “friendship” or even “obedience”. Fellowship implies a likeness of mind, of thinking, of spirit.

      We are ONE Church, but we are not ALL in fellowship.

    2. In your reply you fail to recognized that those tax collectors were not practicing while being with Christ, Matthew left everything behind and followed Jesus….and Zaqueus made a promise to return what he had stolen and more…in fact they had being washed in the blood of Christ and no longer practice those deceptive practices at will….the were converted…
      To the prostitute Jesus asked ” Go and sin no more”…
      So it is an error in your part to assume that Jesus kept communion with purposely practicing sinners…we no desire for reformation..
      and no listening to His advices…
      That is why we are told not to have communion with darkness!!
      .

      1. You are correct, which testifies to your commitment and familiarity with Scripture.

        And the reality is that while Scripture says to “have no company with” the rebellious, (2Thes. 3:14) with including impenitent moral sinners, and to not eat with them (1Co. 5:9,11) and to reject heretics after reproving them, (Titus 3:10) Rome treats even notorious publicly known pro-abortion, pro-sodomite public figures as members in life and in death.

        Thus, as faith is shown by works, Rome manifests what we really believes her doctrine, incld, canon law, means, to the faithful see this as the interpretation of such.

        To separate from such requires being in schism, which is how the church began anyway, but RCs treat conservative evangelicals as their greatest threat in the West.

        But the doctrinal heresies of Rome are sufficient to obey 2 Cor. 6:14-18. Thanks be to God.

  2. Sedevacantism, the logical consequence of Ultramontanism.

    “If ever a pope, as a private person, should fall into heresy, he would at once fall from the pontificate.” – S Alphonsus Ligouri

    “A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction.” – S Robert Bellarmine

    On top of it all Pius XII gave heretical cardinals voting rights according to the AAS of 1946, so the point is moot even if John XXIII onward were heretics. Then there is the lunacy of Pius XII being the last true pope….

    1. I think Rad Trad got to the heart of the matter with the following 2 quotes you offer to us:
      “If ever a pope, as a private person, should fall into heresy, he would at once fall from the pontificate.” – S Alphonsus Ligouri

      “A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction.” – S Robert Bellarmine

      …I suppose I am a Bellarminean on this problem of a manifestly heretical pope, and a Liguorian if a pope keeps his heresy in his private sphere.

  3. If “sedevacantism is the logical consequence of Ultramontanism”, then you might as well say the Protestant movement was a logical consequence of the theory of apostolic succession. That’s to say, it doesn’t save the position from error, or prove that the antecedent is/was false. In fact, sedevacantism isn’t the child of Ultramontanism but of rather of Pride, the “Magisterium of Me”, the refusal to subordinate one’s own interpretation of Scripture and Tradition to the teaching authority of the Church.

    The sedevacantist position suffers from the same central difficulty that bedevils the Protestant theory of human authority: By asserting that the pope and the entire episcopate fell into error, both necessarily imply that the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, promised in John 14:26 and 16:13, failed or departed … allowing the gates of Hell to prevail contrary to the promise of Christ (cf. Matt 16:18). Either the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leadership protects the Church from error or it doesn’t — there’s no third option. If A leads/guides B, then B follows A; the logical relationship is baked in, so to speak. So if the Church leadership has erred, then either 1) the Holy Spirit led the bishops into error, or 2) the Holy Spirit abandoned the leadership. It’s up to you whether you want to contradict the fidelity of God or the infallibility of Scripture; either position, though, is intolerable from the standpoint of the Faith.

    1. To second Mr. Layne’s comment: The sedevacantist position is effectively saying that the Holy Spirit guided the Church all the way from Pentecost (in the first century A.D.) all the way to: PICK ONE: (the election of Pope John XXIII); (the start of Vatican II); (the election of Pope Paul VI); and then gave us up as a “bad job”.
      If God’s Holy Spirit did not abandon us during either the “Iron Age of the papacy (886 to 1046 A.D.) nor during the times of popes with personally bad morals in the 13th to 15th centuries, He would not abandon us now.
      TeaPot562

    2. By asserting that the pope and the entire episcopate fell into error, both necessarily imply that the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, promised in John 14:26 and 16:13, failed or departed … allowing the gates of Hell to prevail contrary to the promise of Christ (cf. Matt 16:18).

      As your premise is fallacious so is your conclusion. That John 14:26 ( the Spirit “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you) and 16:13 (“He will guide you into all truth..and he will shew you things to come”) promises the novel premise of ensured perpetual magisterial infallibility, which is essential for Matt 16:18 (“upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”) is reading into the text what is not there or in Scripture.

      While Rome presumes that man cannot even assuredly know what Scripture consists of and means apart from a infallible magisterium, and which excludes any valid dissent, the church began because ordinary souls had rightly discerned what was of God, both men and writings. And God often provided His Truth and preserved by raising up men, prophets, and wise men, and scribes, (cf. Mt. 23:34) from without the magisterium, which rejected their reproof.

      And while the organized nation fell into division, by such God preserved His remnant of Israelites indeed.

      And such noble souls followed itinerant preachers whom the stewards of Divine revelation rejected, but who established their Truth claims upon Scriptural substantiation in word and in power. Thus the church began and thus it has endured as the body of Christ, which is what such texts as Mt. 16:18 and 1 Tim. 3:15 (“church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”) refer to.

      Which alone can be the one true church since it alone always consists 100% of believers, while the organic organized visible church is one in which believers express their faith alone with tares. The latter is not the bride of Christ which will be resurrected at the Lord’s return.

      That the history of the church of Rome is that of a progressive manifold deformation of the NT church is abundantly manifest (though she is not alone), yet as with other groups she retained enough gospel truth amidst her baggage that pious souls could be born again.

      Due to further moral and doctrinal declension and the terminal recalcitrance of Rome to reproof, the imperfect Reformation began, which must continue (as must my own reformation and growth), but by which the kingdom of God has been greatly expanded, to the glory of God.

      1. On the contrary, the nation of Israel’s division was manifestly illegitimate, and Jerusalem was obviously the rightful center of the Jewish religion. The kings of Israel made no claim to be successors of David and openly practiced and encouraged idolatry in order to separate the people from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, there were some faithful Jews among the people of the northern tribes.

        1. On the contrary, the nation of Israel’s division was manifestly illegitimate,

          That only took about a year, but contrary to what? Contrary to God preserving Truth and faith without an infallible magisterium as per Rome, often by raising up men from without the magisterium, which rejected their reproof, while common people correctly discerned both men and writings of God as being so?

          Or contrary to dissent and division sometimes being necessary from even the historical magisterium over those who were the inheritor of promises of God’s presence and preservation?

  4. To the original blogger:

    God bless you and thank you for posting this! Ever since the successful canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, I had hoped this would do something against sedevacantism–I wasn’t naive enough to think that sedevacantism would die, but perhaps this would make it clearer that sedevacantism is out of touch with reality.

    One way in which I’ve come to think of how you make your point is this: persons come before dogma. Even if the dogma is true and the person isn’t adhering to it, persons come before dogma. We see this in the fact that what is most fundamental is the Holy Trinity of Divine Persons–God the Father is even the origin of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, rather than the Father having an impersonal origin in the divine essence common to all three Divine Persons.

    We also see this in the fact that Jesus Christ hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes and didn’t give scandal thereby, by either condoning or appearing to condone their sins–instead, He saved His greatest condemnation (other than for Judas) for the “Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” They were formally in communion with the Lord, and charged with being holy men whose job it was to lead the masses to the Lord–but materially they did not love those made in God’s image and likeness and so did not love God.

    I believe the same principle applies here. Is Jesus Lord because He is the Son of God, or because He is all good? This is a crucial question because if the former, then His vicarious Rock, Peter, remains the Vicar of Christ no matter what Peter does wrong–and the same for Peter’s successors. If the latter, then we’re out of luck because no one on Earth is impeccable.

    I might agree with the beliefs of some of the more conservative or traditionalist Catholics, but if they have that alone without love for neighbor and respect for Pope and Church, then it doesn’t matter–they’re being worse hypocrites than the Pharisees, because these are people who profess the Catholic faith, who profess Jesus Christ.

    I wish I had known this last year, when I flirted with being a “Traditionalist Catholic” myself.

    Again, God bless, and have a blessed Pentecost!

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that sedevacantism isn’t an entirely new thing in the Church. There could’ve been maybe one to three (or even more perhaps) people in Rome, probably Jews or Roman/Greek pagan-converts to Christianity, around the year 64 or so who did not agree with St. Linus being elected as St. Peter’s successor, and were really stubborn in refusing to accept him and his teachings.

  6. I would think that the lesson of Urban VI is that when a pope is elected in irregular and difficult circumstances, it is unwise for him to rock the boat—a point that has direct application to our current situation.

  7. Just putting in two cents here: Skojec only mentions “antipope” a couple times, and when he does, it’s only as a juridical possibility. Bear in mind that he’s trying to reconcile the legal consequences of Pp. Benedict’s abdication.

    So, while an “anti-pope” would dangerously lead some to think the Church is sedevacantist, 1: I don’t think Skojec is arguing that; 2: the “anti-pope”, in this case, wouldn’t bring about sedevacantism (Benedict would, by the “munus”, still have the office); 3: most of the blogosphere is overreacting to “sedevacantism” because they don’t understand the logical consequences of the situation we’re in. In that case, a post about hypothetical antipopes and sedevacantism only adds to the confusion of laity who (as a general rule) don’t understand the terms.

    Can we just bring back the imprimatur, for realz? 🙂

  8. Great article, Joe, and I agree with all that you said. But perhaps, to be more persuasive, you should back up what you say with pre-Vatican II sources when arguing with sedes, as we would use first millenial sources when speaking to the Orthodox, or Scripture for a Protestant. I can give you some such sources to prove what you said.

    But yes, it is traditionally taught that the legitimacy of a Pope is a “dogmatic fact” (is infallible, inseparably connected to revelation and its safeguarding by the Church) as soon as it is accepted by the Church. For example, by Van Noort, the great dogmatic theologian, Wernz Vidal, great canonists, Cardinal Billot, one of the greatest Thomist of this last century, by Cardinal Journet, whom Archbishop Lefebvre praised.

    Another thing infallibly taught is that only a Pope can appoint bishops to an episcopal see, or office, only the Pope can grant them ordinary jurisdiction. Even the sedevacantists know their bishops do not have ordinary jurisdiction for this reason. But here’s the rub, and this is very important, there are only 15 bishops left in the world appointed by Pius XII and all have resigned their offices. This means 55+ year sedevacantism is heretical, also it leads to an impossibility, because only the world’s Ordinaries gathered in Council can pass the required juridical judgment that even sedevacantists admit is necessary.

    In this way, the Petrine succession and the Apostolic succession (which requires not only orders but also jurisdiction, succession to an episcopal see) are inextricably intertwined, and the consequence of an interregnum indefinitely extended, or extended beyond the point when every bishop appointed by the last Pope (in this case Pius XII) dies is that teh Catholic Church will cease to be Apostolic, which is impossible.

    1. Resigned the office, but the “munus” is forever. There are two parts to a bishops authority, the munus and the occupation and exercise of the office. The munus is an eternal mark, the second part is temporal. When a bishop “retires” he does not loose the mark of the episcopate, he only lays down the exercising of the office.

      I do not know how it can be denied that there are those, wishing to be afforded the deference and prestige of being visibilly associated with the glory of an office founded by God Himself, desiring to exercise the authority that this office has among the faithful with the express, if occult, aim of undermining the Church from within.

      Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean nobody is out to get you.

      As an aside, it so happens that I am moving on to reading Vol. II of van Noort’s Dogmatic Theology. Given that he explicitly singles out the errors of the Modernist, I doubt that he’d be all that pleased with the current situation.

    2. “Another thing infallibly taught is that only a Pope can appoint bishops to an episcopal see, or office, only the Pope can grant them ordinary jurisdiction…”

      Unless you forgot to add “in the West” to the end of the sentence, that’s ahistorical ultramontanist kool-aid.

    3. Nishant,

      If you are interested in texts, John of Saint Thomas, certainly one of the greatest theologians of second Scholasticism, has a fine discussion of the deposition of a pope in his Cursus Theologicus, In Secundam Secundae. It can be read here. Someone should translate the whole article. Alas, I have not the time.

  9. Nishant addresses a key point regarding jurisdiction. But there remains a fundamental question. Would apostolic succession truly cease? After all, there are still valid (even if illicit) bishops. They can consecrate new bishops.

    Now, going back to the original argument in point III of the article, the practice of the cardinals electing the pope is a matter of discipline, not dogma. True, the practice has the weight of law. However, if the law ceased to be intelligible (a situation that would arise if there were no cardinals), would it not be a stretch to say the law continued to be binding?

    There are still illicit bishops. They are illicit because the law requires a mandate from the Roman Pontiff. However, there is also no way the law has any binding effect, as there is no one enforcing it. The law cannot stand in and of itself; it must be founded upon a legitimate authority.

    As long as there are still bishops and sacraments, the Church must still be alive in some respect. But the question is now whether there can there be a new pope? One might argue that the Church would continue only in the manner in which the Orthodox continue, with valid bishops and sacraments. However, under this scheme, there would never be another pope. The Church would exist, but only in a drastically incomplete state (i.e. without a pope). But this also seems weak.

    The Orthodox have no basis for choosing a bishop of Rome, as they belong to the east. The western bishops belong to the west, and so have a claim on choosing a head. Is there a way in which the bishops are able to continue in their apostolic capacity, allowing them to address the unique demands of their situation and elect a new successor of Peter as they deem fit?

    Roman pontiffs were elected before cardinals ever existed. It would seem that the Roman Church is what is truly needed to select a new bishop of Rome (assuming bishops of the Latin Rite still exist, which is the case here, even if there are only a few valid ones, as the sedevacantist argument would assume), and there is no reason to think that the loss of the cardinals also means the loss of the Roman Church altogether.

    Let’s say the pope and all the cardinals were killed. This is not completely out of the realm of possibility. Would that mean the Church also ceases completely? Of course not. But the author would have to say so under his own reasoning in point III.

    1. Max,

      It’s true that Cardinals aren’t the only way that pope could be elected. But they’re the way that popes are elected. The only person who could change that would be the pope (I’m sure you see the problem).

      On Facebook, someone suggested that it might devolve to the priests or faithful of Rome to select a man as their bishop, and get a couple bishops to agree to ordain/consecrate him. It’s a clever approach to the (hypothetical) problem, and but it’s not clear to me that this solution works, both because I’m not convinced that authority would automatically devolve in this way, and because this sounds impossible in practice.

      But if that doesn’t work, and I don’t think it ultimately does, what would the alternative be? A group of self proclaimed true believers hold a conclave (despite none of them having authority to do so), and declaring one of their own pope? This is what we’ve seen amongst so called “conclavists.” Does that sound remotely like the Catholic Church?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. On a related note, I would suggest that history shows that the Holy Spirit never lets the Roman See fall into the sort of crisis situation you envision in the last paragraph. Otherwise, what solution would there be? In your own hypothetical, how does the Church end up with another pope?

  10. Joe’s New Advent headline for his blogpost was: Here’s why sedevacantism is a bunch of baloney. In the same spirit, I submit the following proposition:

    Belief in sedevacantism might be the consequence of taking too many seedy vacations.

  11. “if the pope and Councils are binding unless they disagree with you, then you’re the final authority.”

    This is an incorrect characterization of the situation, for by it you do violence to your neighbour’s exercise of reason and act of faith. If, in assenting the lawful exercise of the teaching magisterium of the Church, one accepts and assents to what is taught, one does so on the basis of an act of reason. If, subsequent to this act of faith leading to assent to the set of beliefs and practices proposed to one’s reason, someone comes along claiming to possess the same authority and teaching office as the previous occupant but teaches something materially^ different, then one is perfectly in accord with reason to question such a bizarre occurrence and attempt to discern the causes of the difference in teaching from ostensibly the same office. That it is extremely difficult to discern does not make one at fault for attempting to do so or mean that various individuals might fail miserably in the task.

    This is NOT acting as one’s own authority. This is wondering how it is that the supposedly same teaching office can articulate one set of beliefs and practices to which, it is claimed, one is obliged to give obedience, can then come out with another set of beliefs and practices to which, it is proposed, one is now obliged to give obedience to. If the second set of beliefs and practices is the really best and true exercise of the saving faith, how then is it possible that it was not taught in the first place?

    What fault is there in expecting a reasonable and coherent answer to this question?* Indeed, the conundrum is even more complicated, for, to whom can we turn for the answer when the living occupants of the office are the authors of and/or adherents to the “revised” set of teachings? Answering my own question, I have turned to what has been said prior to the council in question to compare before and after.# I have concluded that it is against reason to demand of me adherence to the “revised” teachings solely upon the basis of a series of statements that boils down to, “By the authority afforded to the office I exercise from the tradition that formed it, I here by command you to, hence forth and forever, ignore what the same tradition had lead previous holders of the teaching office to teach and only accept as being de fide what I say it tradition.” To do so is to use one’s authority to destroy one’s authority, for it introduces the mistaken notion that the office is whomever occupies it, which is to say that the faith is not what it always has been, but instead it is whatever those in authority say it is. If you think that is a good idea… well, good luck being a priest. Some people will listen, but will their assent be sound? Will there assent be one to universals; will it be Catholic?

    ^materially different because the results are different. One set of beliefs and practices produced results “A”, the revised set of beliefs and practices produces results “B”, if there is a disconnect, there is a material difference.
    *which I have not, here to fore, seen.
    #I believe that there is a solution that does not involve agreeing to the “empty chair” or the equally unworkable “full chair” that is ignored to the degree that it might as well be empty.

  12. Hi Max. Good post, you’re on track.

    The great authority Dom Prosper Gueranger teaches, in The Liturgical Year, “Rome was, more evidently than ever, the sole source of pastoral power. We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on them the sacred character of the episcopate : it matters not ; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors. ‘.thus it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain/ gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite ; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisfied with this.. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honour, then, and submission to Jesus in His vicar! honour and submission to the vicar of Christ in the pastors he sends!”

    So, no one is a pastor or shepherd and has a share in the power of the keys unless he is duly sent by Christ through Peter, Vatican I confirms, “just as he sent apostles, whom he chose out of the world [39], even as he had been sent by the Father [40], in like manner it was his will that in his Church there should be shepherds and teachers until the end of time”

    Secondly, it’s not true that the excommunication attached to episcopal consecrations without a Papal mandate is ferendae sententiae (or neeeding to be imposed), it is latae sententiae or ipso facto (it goes into effect by the very performance of the act forbidden) and therefore this is very problematic for sedevacantists.

    Providentially, perhaps no Pope in history ever stressed this teaching with as much vigor and force, as did Pope Pius XII, whom most sedevacantists accept as the last Pope. He clearly taught that these bishops are not shepherds and teachers, because they have no power of teaching and jurisdiction, since that flows to bishops only through the Pope, which even sedevacantists accept today. But he also taught they incur ipso facto excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See, which of course today’s sedevacantists deny, but Pius XII already answered and refuted their excuses. So, no one can remit their excommunication, save only the Pope, who isn’t there! A fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into! And one, more seriously, that can only be resolved, by a submissive attitude toward the authority of Peter, of Rome and of Church, who alone can restore them to regularity.

    1. Your complaint rings hollow. Many things are on the book as illegal actions, but the only ones that do not enjoy the indulgence of the brevus manus are those that challenge the authority of those that refuse to exercise authority.

    2. Pope Pius VI, in Charitas, begs to disagree with you, my friend, “For the right of ordaining bishops-belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained …the Pope as a duty of his office appoints bishops for each of the churches, and no lawful consecration may take place in the entire Catholic Church without the order of the Apostolic See (Trent, session 24, chap. 1, de Reformat.).”

      And Pius XII concurs, in Ad Apostolorum Principis, “Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious. To such conduct the warning words of the Divine Teacher fittingly apply: “He who enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, is a thief and a robber.”[15] The sheep indeed know the true shepherd’s voice. “But a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”[16] no person or group, whether of priests or of laymen, can claim the right of nominating bishops; that no one can lawfully confer episcopal consecration unless he has received the mandate of the Apostolic See”

      Be very careful of falling into the web of sedevacantism and schism, I am obliged to warn you, if even Pius VI though being Pope was obliged to declare schismatic those who performed such unlawful acts, meaning there is a divine law in the matter, then so much the more are you and I.

    3. Authority combines both right and obligation. Failing to exercise authority the authority afforded by the office one has been called to occupy is a sin of omission. One can not, in justice, enjoy the prestige of an office of the Church and fail to perform the duties of the same office, even if that office has been legitimately obtained.

      Anything that diminishes the authority of an office of the Church is a scandal. The members of the hierarchy must proceed with the utmost care and caution. Since the council in question, far too many have abandoned this sacred responsibility to preserve the prestige of the office entrusted to them.

      Your points would carry more weight with me if I did not see on a regular basis, within my own diocese no less, actions which diminish the faith. The Church is to be a perfect society, an opportunity in which to exercise the gifts given me by God. It is precisely the awareness of the duties and gifts granted me from being incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ that I am so seriously concerned by what I see.

      I don’t see “Glory to God.” I see “Don’t bore me with God.”

  13. Well, it seems to me that you did not follow the antipope question. There were popes elected coorectly, that were considered antipopes after that, because people and governors prefererd another one. See, for instance, Clement III and Innocent II.

    Besides that, the problem with antipopes for me is much more related to 12th Century, when the Church had a lot of antipopes.

    1. Pedro Erik,

      Those examples only confirm what I’m saying:

      – In the case of Pope Gregory VII and Antipope Clement III, the Holy Roman Emperor tried to have the pope deposed, and tried to install his own pope. But the man he “installed,” Clement, was an Antipope, because he wasn’t canonically elected (nor could he be; since the Petrine Office wasn’t empty, it couldn’t be filled).

      – In the case of Pope Innocent II and Antipope Anacletus II, the entire dispute turned on which of the two men was canonically elected.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  14. Legalese, Legalese and more Legalese. Who here really thinks that the Lord Jesus would be concerned with Legalese when he returns?
    Our God searches the heart of Man; not Legalese.
    Some ask: is Pope Francis an anti-Pope?
    My response: in his heart is Pope Francis seeking to please Jesus Christ or is he seeking to please the world?
    Blessed be the Lord our God who sees the heart of men.

    1. Should baby conceived in a rape for example be also condemned because of that act? Same applies here, church has given this baby the life through baptism, because the baby is not at fault here.

    2. @cp sho
      It is not very simple situation. There are many issues with this. I think the priest decided to focus on the good of the baby and put up with the sins of the “parent+a partner”. The question is how the baby will be raised considering the situation it finds itself in. But we cannot tell the future so the priest baptized the innocent child, and I understand that the whole situation caused scandal. May I also add that the children of many nominal Catholics are in the same boat. I personally know some regular Sunday mass attending Catholics, who have not been to confession in a number of years, because they told me so when I said I was going to confession. Apparently this is more common than I was aware of. So how can somebody who attends mass regularly not being aware of the need of confession? I believe something drastic will have to happen in the church and the world, and very soon, because the train has derailed, or better the people and many of the clergy have left the train. I do feel sympathy for this poor innocent child, and the cross it will have to bear.

      1. Any Confirmed Catholic is aware of the obligation to go to Confession when in a state of mortal sin, for Confession is the ordinary means of receiving pardon for mortal sins, and without this pardon, the sinner will be condemned to Hell. For a Confirmed Catholic to be ignorant of the necessity of Confession means that either the Catholic in question regards him/herself as innocent of mortal sin or that person is guilty of heresy on account of having been taught about the necessity of Confession and choosing to deny it.

        1. Considering the gravity of this, along with the extensive record of the early church and teachings given it (Acts onward, and which are interpretive of the gospels), then surely we should see this necessity exampled in the life of the church. That of believers regularly coming to clergy in order to obtain forgiveness, as required of Catholics.

          However, while we see the magisterium engaging in the judicial power of binding and loosing souls from guilt even in the OT, (Dt. 8:13) and in the NT of binding and loosing in regards to discipline, (1Tim. 1:20) in union with the church, (Mt. 18:15-17; 1Co. 5:4,5; 2Co. 2:10) and extended spiritually to all, Mt. 18:18-20; Ja. 5:16-20) yet the only example of confessing sins is that of apparently publicly doing so, (Acts 19:18) and the only exhortation to confess sins is toward each other:

          “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

          That this referred to believers in general is contextually apparent, with the spiritual power of binding and loosing being provided for all of Elijah-type holy faith and fervent (effectual exercise) prayer. (Not that I can much claim the same.)

          Confessing sins to clergy distinctively called “priests” (“hiereus”) is never seen, which simply did not exist, but forgiveness/healing is promised in the case of the presbuteros being called to intercede for one who is sick, evidently due to chastisement in which forgiveness and healing can go together. (Mk. 2:1-12; Is. 33:24; Jn. 5:14) And which God can remove in response to holy intercession, with the clergy being expected to be most holy as a class.

          That the sick confessed his sins here can only be presumed, and in any case it is not that of regular confession to priests, nor “extreme unction” given in preparation for death, as instead it is for healing.

          In addition, believers are plainly told that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

          And there is nothing contextually here about confessing to the pastorate in order to obtain this, but that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

          The teaching of believers regularly coming to clergy in order to obtain forgiveness must read into the NT.

  15. As a sedevacantist who’s been writing about this issue for nearly thirty years, I consider myself at least somewhat of an expert on the issue, so I thought I’d write to clarify some points that Mr. Heschmeyer and even Mr. Skojec seem to have misunderstood.

    1. The possibility that a pope could fall into heresy and lose his office, or that a heretic COULD be elected pope, but that his election would be invalid and not grant him papal authority is confirmed by TWO POPES, Innocent III (who preached it in his coronation sermon) and Paul IV (who, fearing the election of a heretical cardinal at the next conclave, promulgated the Bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, which declared such an election null and void).

    So the underlying principle is not one we picked out of thin air, and is not THAT far out if two popes who were fierce defenders of papal authority acknowledged it publicly.

    2. The sedevacantist argument does not technically maintain that the post-Vatican II popes are “anti-popes” (which would imply another real pope hanging around somewhere) but rather FALSE popes — not the genuine article or lacking true authority.

    3. As I demonstrated more that twenty years ago in a short article Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope, dogmatic theologians and canonists after St. Robert Bellarmine eventually unanimously adopted his teaching that a pope could become a heretic, and that if his heresy were public, he automatically lost papal office (authority) without the need for any declaration.

    4. The use of the Honorius and John XXII examples as evidence against sedevacantism has been repeatedly refuted. The letters supposedly attributed to Honorious did not come to light till AFTER his death, so even if authentic, they would not constitute the PUBLIC heresy required for loss of office. The doctrine John XXII supposedly denied, moreover, had not yet defined (and so would not constitute heresy) and he specifically said his teaching was merely a private opinion which would be subject to correct (thus removing the element of pertinacity necessary for heresy)

    5. The “everyone recognizes Francis” argument doesn’t work, because (a) sedevacantists do NOT recognize him and (b) Paul IV decreed that even universal recognition could not validate the election of the a heretic to the papacy.

    6. In a recent blog posting entitled “Bergoglio’s Got Nothing to Lose” on fathercekada.com I point out that with the advent of Francis, the sedevacantist argument must now change.

    Rather than saying he LOST the papacy, we must now maintain that he never truly obtained it in the first place.

    This, as I show, is based on the teachings of pre-Vatican II dogmatic theologians and canonists who taught that a heretic, BY DIVINE LAW, could not be validly elected pope.

    Finally, remember the POINT of the sedevacantist argument. It seeks to reconcile the obvious errors and evils officially sanctioned by the post-Vatican II establishment with the teaching that the authority of the Church cannot give error or evil (defect). If the authority of the Church cannot defect, the only possible explanation is that the men who gave us these errors and evils did not possess true authority. And the principles behind the sedevacantist arguments explain how this could have happened.

    If you keep these points in mind, it may aid you in understanding our argument, even if you disagree with the conclusion.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify things!

    1. Fr Cekada,

      You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. The letters of Honorius were certainly considered authentic enough for him to be condemned by an ecumenical council during living memory of his papacy, some four and a half decades later. Indeed, his condemnation by St Leo II—removed from the Mattins readings of the saint’s feast by those wishing to puff up the popes during the Counter-Reformation—stands as a resounding testament to the authenticity of his heresy, as does the fact that every pope for the next three centuries had to take an oath recognizing the sixth council and explicitly anathematizing the late pope.

      “The doctrine John XXII supposedly denied, moreover, had not yet defined (and so would not constitute heresy)”

      Were Arius and Luther then not heretics because the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of transubstantiation had not yet been “defined”?

      Lastly, and with all respect, who cares if the canonists who followed the tradition of Bellarmine agreed that a heretical pope would lose the papacy? History proves them wrong. Moreover I do not see how the bull of Paul IV is applicable given than Pius XII gave heretical cardinals the right to participate in conclaves (AAS 1946, #36). It suggests that the Pauline bull was an administrative rule, unenforceable and no longer on the books. No one seemed to think John XXIII was a public heretic at the time of his election; it began when people grew frustrated with Paul VI and wanted an easy explanation. And neither John nor Paul taught something directly contrary to what was received (unlike Pacelli, of regrettable memory, who reversed lex orandi lex credendi and finally got the ball rolling with liturgical reform).

      Sedevacantism is logical, but only if one is so caught up in the official party line of the Counter-Reformation papacy, but loses sight of the forest of history in the trees of the Ultramontane era.

    2. By the way, thank you for writing “The Work of Human Hands,” particularly for your analysis of the Sacramentary and Lectionary in the Pauline liturgy, fields understudied in the concentration on the Ordo Missae.

    3. Rev. Cekada,

      If a putative pope contradicts a previously articulated putative doctrine, and in doing so claims the previous putative doctrine was a heresy promulgated by the previous putative pope, is there an ecclesial mechanism that resolves the situation to discover which putative pope was legitimate (current or previous) and which putative doctrine is legitimate (current or previous)?

    4. Rev. Cekada,

      Would you be able to explain why sedes put the first ‘antipope’ as John XXIII, of all men?

      Pius XII took a hatchet to the sacred Roman rite with his “reforms” (most notably Holy Week, which I’ve noticed most sedes don’t use), promulgated blatant heresy in Mediator Dei, installed Bugnini and oversaw his work, and spent years paving the way for the Second Vatican Council.

      John XXIII – erstwhile – restored Papal liturgies to their pristine state (under Pacelli they were common low masses), fired Bugnini, celebrated the Rite of Lyons as bishop simply because he could, and lastly refused to celebrate the 1956 Holy Week.

      Yet, the former is considered by the sedes to be “the last true pope” while the latter is condemned? How does this make sense by sede logic?

      Furthermore, if a pope falling into error ends his papacy then Pius IX should have been struck from the pontificate MULTIPLE times as he opposed the amendments that ended up in the final documents of the canonical and doctrinal Ecumenical Council in the Vatican (namely, the restrained view of papal infallibility and the limits to the so-called “universal jurisdiction”).

      Simply put, this idea that the pope cannot err and remain pope is absurd and historically disprovable. It requires an idolatrous view of the successor of St. Peter, who himself erred both before and after him being chosen (a little scripture always helps).

    5. Rad Trad,

      While you are entitled to YOUR own opinions about a lot of things, the nature of what constitutes “public heresy” is not one of them, even for a Gallican.

      1. The Honorius case cannot be adduced against sedevacantism because, even if the documents containing it were authentic and even if Honorius privately held the alleged heresies, he DID NOT PUBLICLY PROFESS these heresies during his pontificate. And theologians emphasize that, for a loss of office to occur, a pope’s profession of heresy must be PUBLIC.

      2. Your analogy to Arius and Luther with the case of John XXII also fails. They did not frame their denials of, respectively, the divinity of Christ and transubstantiation, as mere private opinions, but publicly and repeatedly proclaimed them as sound doctrine.

      John XXII, on the other hand proposed his teaching only as a “private doctor who expressed an opinion (“hanc opinionem”) and who recognized that it was open to debate.“ (Le Bachlet, “Benoit XII,” in Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, 2:662.)

      In his second sermon, moreover, he said the following:

      “I say with Augustine that, if I am deceived on this point, let someone who knows better correct me. For me it does not seem otherwise, unless the Church would so declare with a contrary statement [nisi ostenderetur determinatio ecclesie contraria] or unless authorities on sacred scripture would express it more clearly than what I have said above.” (Le Bachelet, DTC 2:262.)

      Such statements EXCLUDE PERTINACITY, which is a necessary component of heresy.

      3. If Honorius fit into the general principle we are discussing (a pope who becomes a public heretic automatically loses his office), the theologians who proposed that principle would have adduced him as a historical example. But they did not, even though the case was widely known. One of the authors who defends the principle, moreover, explicitly says that THERE IS NO EXAMPLE OF THIS IN HISTORY.

      So you can’t blow off the teachings of an army of approved canonists and dogmatic theologians with the airy declaration that “history proves them wrong.”

      What? YOU, an anonymous guy on a forum in the twenty-first century, were the first person to think of Honorius and John XXII in connection with the question of a heretical pope, and heads of theology departments in pontifical universities somehow missed it?

      4. Your objection based on the bull of Pius XII has also been repeatedly answered. He does indeed say “No Cardinal, by pretext or reason of any excommunication, suspension, interdict or other ecclesiastical impediment whatsoever can be excluded in any way” from either electing a pope or being elected pope.”

      But he specifically says an ECCLESIASTICAL impediment. Heresy, the authors teach, is NOT an impediment of ecclesiastical law, but an impediment of DIVINE law from being validly elected pope.

      So “excommunication” has nothing to do with the sedevacantist argument – unless you think that maybe WE incur it…

      5. The “Ultramontanism” crack gives away your real position. This term was used by anti-clericals, Gallicans, sniffy High Church Anglicans, Febronians and other haters of the papacy and papal authority.

      So I suspect your REAL argument is not against sedevacantism, but against the standard pre-Vatican II theology of the papacy itself.

      Readers here should be aware of that, because I doubt that few of them share it.

      They should also realize that I, too, (as a long-time defender of Paul VI) was surprised to find out that pre-Vatican II theologians taught a pope could become a public heretic and then automatically lose his office.

      So while some may indeed want to argue that the post-Conciliar popes were NOT in fact guilty of heresy, the major premise of the sedevacantist argument is fairly unassailable in terms of pre-Vatican II theology.

    6. “Pre-Vatican II theology”. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

      Please read the 9th and 10th century Popes named John and Stephen. After you have properly edumacated yourself, then tell me whether a pope that errs is still pope. As far as I am concerned, to take this silly view of the papacy means that EVERY single pope has fallen from the papacy. They are men and sinners like us. If they cannot err as a private person (per Ligouri) then the moment each pope sinned after taking office he ceased to be pope.

      Obviously, this is ridiculous.

      The Gallicans were not haters of papal authority. They were French Catholics who opposed duplicitous centralist madmen like Dom Guranger who labeled their old (and approved by Trent, an ECMUNENICAL COUNCIL) rites as “Jansenist”.

    7. Daniel,

      Exactly the problem, isn’t it? The entire Sedevacantist thesis relies on a demented 19th Century view that does not hold up to tradition or church history.

      I think a study of the first millenium church could benefit a great number of Catholics in this matter.

  16. I embraced sedevacantism when I was Catholic, so I was considering responding to clarify its claims. (It seems to be so deeply misunderstood by non-sedevacantists: I recall my Bishop telling me it was the position that the mass could never change in any respect 0.o) But, I was just going to reference Cekada’s material (which is simply a boon). So, it’s great (and surprising) to see him commenting here.

  17. I think the bottom line still is whether or not the VII popes have been and are teaching heresy. [That they are teaching heresy is ‘obvious’ to Fr. Cekada; it may not be obvious to others, such as myself.] Whether or not they are anti-popes, all here now might willingly agree is, at the least, beside the point. Whether or not they are valid popes–an important question–still seems to be debatable. Assuming that the possibility exists that they might be invalid popes, the underlying question as to whether or not they are heretics is the important question. And that may be decided [for individuals, not the Church] by debating whether or not they teach heresy.

    If they do teach heresy, then, whether or not one chooses to become a sedevacantist, one should publicly oppose their teaching.

    My own take, after studying the matter and closely considering the teaching of the sedevacantists for a number of years, is that they do not teach heresy; and that therefore, the question as to whether the popes are valid or antipopes is entirely moot. They do not teach heresy; therefore they are true popes.

  18. Going off the first anonymous, if the popes are indeed teaching heresy, is all of their teaching heretical or are there heretical portions and aspects? If the latter option is true, then by what means would we discern where the heresy lies?

  19. an apostate heretic who persecutes Catholics like FFI can NOT be pope. You are following a wolf to hell and more evil seeking to lead other people there by convincing them to follow a devil. Reexamine whom you are seeking to serve with your life to find why you CHOOSE to follow a devil to hell.

  20. This post has certainly attracted some very interesting characters. One of the worst aspects of modern mainstream Catholicism is its willingness to relegate great theologians and doctors of the Church to a parenthetical or footnote. You simply can’t casually brush aside an intellectual and spiritual giant like St. Robert Bellarime, who was commisioned to write the catechism by POPE St. Pius V and is the patron saint of catechists, to justify some novel defense of the indefensible. Did Bellarmine “flirt” with heresy? Certainly not. Isn’t it more prudent to submit to a Doctor of the Church on these matters, rather than assert a rather tenuous argument to the contrary. I am not a Sede, but I think it is quite possible for a Pope to be a heretic and lose his offoce as a consequence. St. Rober Bellarmine agrees with me…what doctors of the Church agree with you?

    1. Robert Bellarmine’s statements are not infallible in any way, shape or form. A pope does not cease to be pope unless he has been physically deposed (as Benedict IX was …several times). People like to forget what the pope is: he is not some sort of cult head or Catholic Dalai Lama. He is quite simply the Bishop of Rome. Therefore, if he has been consecrated bishop and his diocese is Rome then he’s the pope. It’s that simple.

      What this means is that during the Western Schism, the ones who resided in Rome were actually pope.

      In fact “pope” (a Greek word roughly meaning “daddy”) was first used by the bishop of Alexandria, not Rome.

      By always referring to the Roman ordinary as nothing else but “the pope” or “the holy father”, do we lose sight of what he is? Do we forget that his infallibility is extremely limited (read what Vatican I actually says sometime and you’ll see my point)? Do we forget that he is a man and a sinner like the rest of us?

    2. Lord of Bollocks, I’m not sure that the true pope is the one in Rome holds up–Pope Martin was definitely Pope, but he was exiled in Crimea when he received news of the election of Eugenius. At what point does Martin cease to be Pope and Eugenius begin to legitimately exercise the papal faculties? I think most hold he was actually the Pope–in Crimea!–until he commended Eugenius…the words I believe were “its present pastor”…to the protection of God. An implicit resignation.

      That’s Dr. Warren Carroll’s conclusion in History of Christendom vol 2 page 244:

      “Not knowing exactly what had happend to the Pope, and fearing the worst…the clergy of Rome assembled in August 654, after Martin had been gone for more than a year, and elected as Pope Eugenius I…During that year, therefore, a situation existed unique in the history of the Papacy: two men simultaneously acting as Pope, but neither an Antipope. Eugenius and his electors probably thought that Martin might have resigned, or might even be dead…But in fact Martin was alive, had not resigned, and was not incapacitated; therefore he was still in fact the Pope (since a Pope cannot be deposed or supplanted without his consent) while Eugenius was in fact simply the ecclesiastical administrator of Rome.”

    3. Daniel,

      Thank you for bringing that up. Let me clarify the legal situation of that time.

      Martin, like the popes at Avignon, was Bishop of Rome despite his exile. I do not believe that the pope must necessarily reside in Rome (else the Avignon exile would have nullified the Papacy, which is simply untrue), but that he must be bishop of it.

      In this case, Martin was still pope in exile while Eugenius was what could be described as an “auxiliary bishop” to look after the flock in Martin’s absence.

      In other words, Martin was Bishop OF Rome while Eugenius was Bishop IN Rome.

      Cheers!

  21. Quick question for Fr. Cekada: If Sedevacantists think that the occupant of the Throne of Peter is a false pope, does Vatican consider Sedes as false Catholics? No sarcasm here. I’ve been very symphatetic to the sedevacantist position but wonder if they are just another kind of protestants?

    I’m so disillusioned with the present Pope, I’ve even consider jumping ship, but not to a place “outside the Church.” My problem with Pope Francis is not that he’s teaching errors but that he’s teaching incomplete truths. And too, he’s been hostile (not lately) to traditional Catholics (in my case, a “Summorum Pontificum” Catholic), who remain faithful to Mother Church. He calls them all sorts of unsavory names but sweet and tender to aetheists, homosexuals, Muslims, liberation theologists, charismatics etc. When will this Pope us – we, who love tradition and remain faithful to the Church, as his own children?

    1. If you think Frankie is a horrible pope, read about John XII or Benedict IX.

      Things could be a lot worse.

      FYI, this is from someone who was raised in an SSPX church, spent time in an FSSP parish, and now attends a Byzantine church. I am a lifelong traditionalist and I really don’t think Frankie is a problem.

    2. Dear Anonymous,

      I don’t know what the official Vatican position on sedes is. If they were consistent in applying their ecumenical ecclesiology, the would consider us a “particular church” united to them by “elements” of something or another, and say that we were a “means of salvation, used by the Holy Ghost.”

      We reject all those categories of course, and don’t really care what they think of us. As far as we’re concerned, this new ecclesiology is heretical and has put THEM “outside the Church.”

      Strong stuff, on a site like this, but since you asked….

      The overriding Francis problem is that the errors he teaches undermine the VERY POSSIBILITY of objective truth in doctrine and morality. I’ve written extensively on that topic on my blog at fathercekada.com, so I’ll refer you there instead of cluttering up the comboxes here.

    3. Ukrainian. However, I use Melkite prayer books for my daily prayers (they seem to be the best organized church, even if they aren’t the largest)

      I am still Roman Catholic canonically speaking, but I have considered switching eventually. There’s no presently need for it since I don’t have to be married or take priestly orders… yet.

    4. Actually.. I would consider Sedevacantism as a parallel to Protestantism.

      While Protestants hold to private interpretation of scripture, sedes hold to private interpretation of authority. The Pope and bishops are invalid because some priest in the United States has declared them so based on a few cherry-picked (and out of context) quotes, some dogmatic and some not.

      Protestants: If you don’t like something from scripture, interpret it your own way.
      Sedes: If you don’t like something someone in authority does, then claim the man has no authority in the first place.

      You’ll also notice that Sedevacantism is most prominent in the United States. Before Vatican II the US had a massive influx of numbers to the church but then it all collapsed when the reality (Quantity, not Quality) was laid bare. Sedevacantist are too caught up “chasing the past” to realize that the plastic 1950’s were what led directly to the collapse.

  22. If you are referring to the Franciscans of the Immaculate controversy, then I’d like to point out there is far more going on behind the scenes. I won’t say any more on it, since I have my information from secondary sources and don’t wish to spread gossip.

    Here’s my advice: Don’t make the pope and Rome the center of your spiritual life. Before the 19th Century a Catholic could live and die without ever knowing who was the occupant of the Roman see. Relax, read the early church fathers, pray the divine office, and trust in God.

    “I am on the barque of Peter. I do not need to see the engine room.” – Adrian Fortescue

  23. LOB,
    I don’t think Pope Francis is the problem – it’s his way of teaching that I find incomplete and therefore sows confusion and division among people of faith.

    I know exactly what he meant when he said, God is God and there is no Catholic God. But he should have gone beyond that to mean the God whom Catholics worship is the one true God. I see Pope F’s teaching as incomplete and misleading.

    When he preaches about mercy for the sinner, he forgets to include the necessity for sorrow for sins and the firm resolve to sin no more.

    When he says he’ll baptized anybody, including Martians, who asks for the Faith, the pope forgets to tell people that Martians, if there be any, may not need baptism at all, because they did not descend from Adam and Eve and therefore did not inherit original sin. (Firstly, I think that Martian example is silly.)

    When he referred to the people who gave him a spiritual bouquet of 3000 Rosaries as “so-1950’s”…When he referred to old people who go to the TLM as “nostalgic for things that may no longer of necessity” (or words to that effect) and young people who like the TLM as “addicted to the Latin Mass fashion)…I felt a kick in my stomach.

    This pope continually preaches against gossip, but have no qualms at scolding people – faithful Catholics – he hardly knows.

    But you’re right. Once upon a time, people from the colonies embraced the faith without even knowing about the Pope. I came from the Philippines and I learned from history that in the 18th century when communication between Asia and Europe was limited to the Galleon trade, it takes five years to learn that a Pope has died and another five years to know who his successor was. Still, the people kept the faith.

    I think I should stop reading about Pope Francis and just continue to enjoy the very generous privilege of worshipping at the Traditional Latin Mass given through Summorum Pontificum.
    Thank you.

  24. Rev. Cekada, [reposted to bring it to your attention]

    If a putative pope contradicts a previously articulated putative doctrine, and in doing so claims the previous putative doctrine was a heresy promulgated by the previous putative pope, is there an ecclesial mechanism that resolves the situation to discover which putative pope was legitimate (current or previous) and which putative doctrine is legitimate (current or previous)?

  25. Point V. “If We Can’t Be Sure Who (If Anyone) is Pope, Catholicism is Chaos.” Frankie says, ‘make a mess.’ And guess what, the Church is a mess. The mass is a mess. Catechism is pretty much satanic in many parishes. Princes of the Church preach the world in the most unashamed terms and Catholics partake of the culture of death as if it were the new virtue. The Vatican-II church which has been sublating the authentic Church for 50 years preaches openly against the pre-concilliar Church and Her Popes, and now even the post-concilliar church is preaching against itself (apparently jpii is out of date now). Everywhere one looks in contemporary Catholicism, is Chaos. So not sure number V helps much. And which came first? Overturning the mass, marriages and the unique mission of the Catholic Church? or the post-concilliar church which overturned the mass, the unique mission of the Catholic Church with its new ecumenism and now teaching the dissolubility of marriage, amongst a plethora of other hellish nonesense? I do wonder what exactly a pope, antipope or false pope would have to do for the majority of Catholics to finally go, ‘well, that just is against Christ?’ Or would there ever be a line to be crossed these days? Can a pope really be against Christ’s Church? And what defines against Christ’s Church these days? Perhaps simply being a Catholic, at least in most people’s opinions.

  26. I agree with the statements in the title of the article. Sedevacantism is impossible for several reasons. 1—because the Protestant principle of personal judgment and passing sentence against the last 6 Popes destroys the visibility and hierarchy of the Church.
    2—Because Our Lord Jesus Christ is God and He established the Church to infallibly teach and sanctify in His place until the end of the world. Vatican I Council issued 4 anathemas regarding heretical opinions regarding the Papacy..one is that Blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the Universal Church. The Catholic faith infallibly teaches that Our Lord established His Church upon the foundation as solid as a rock, will that she be endowed with the gift of the perpetual papacy, 266 Popes thus far and promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her. Given Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it’s plain to see that Our Lord did not/would not ever leave us orphaned without a legitimat e Pope occupying the Chair of Peter for 55 years and counting. The Sedevacantist’s personal judgment of, passed sentence against, and rejection of the last 6 Popes as not legitimate is to claim that Our Lord did not keep His promise.
    3—The Sedevacantist belief that we have no legitimate Pope is, in essence, calling Our Lord and Lady deceivers because by saying we have no Pope is to remove the means or the person(s) necessary for ACHIEVING the Fatima Message made by Heaven. Our Heavenly Father wouldn’t give us the task to do something and then remove the means of achieving that task.

    The promised not to leave us orphaned and sedevacantism has judged and passed sentence against with no legitimate Pope sitting in the Chair of St. Peter ever since 1958. 2–

  27. I read it and found the argument entirely unconvincing. Still if these guys want to believe in a cardboard cutout pope who they can then sift anything he does or says, deciding what to believe and what not to believe then that is up to them. They say “sede vacantists” sin is pride? What is more prideful then saying you have the right to selectively obey what a pope says. You claim that sede’s are closer to protestants? It is the average traditionalist who decides on a daily basis what they will or will not accept from the pope! Not only that but we have had a solemn ecumenical council and seven popes since that council in constant agreement with it’s implementation and still the regular non sede trad says that Vatican II is not part of the ordinary magisterium. When does VII become part of the magesterium? Maybe ten more popes and 100 more years. Mike Matt and Chris Ferrer will be dead. Who will be the trads sifter of popes then? If you guys want to believe in a cardboard pope, a mere figure head who you do not have to listen to ever then that is up to you but it has never been the catholic way. One thing about us Sede’s we point out heresy not just at regular bishops but also the bishop of Rome. We don’t care how much we are hated or cast aside. We stand for the truth. Most traditionalist , or neo cath writers run from the sede position. It would marginalize them and they would lose their lively hood. Just check out Tom Drolesky who lost teaching jobs and jobs writing for Wanderer etc because he took the sede position.

    Traditional Catholics’ Motto;

    We are what you once were.
    We believe what you once believed.
    We worship as you once worshiped.
    If you were right then, we are right now.
    If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.

    Ut Roma cadit, sic omnis terra [As Rome falls, so the entire world]

    1. Before I rebut a few of your points I would like to point out that we are in complete agreement over something.

      I am quite frustrated in my dealings with a handful of ultramontine Neocon traddies of the FSSP flavor who hypocritically center themselves around Rome and obedience to the Holy Father theoretically (“unlike those naughty schismatic SSPXers”) while freely sniping at Francis or JPII as they see fit. At least sedes are consistent… In their insanity. The sedevacantist position makes complete sense if you follow the thought of 1950’s American Catholicism to its natural conclusion. The issue is, that way of thinking runs contrary to dogmatic reality, ecclesiological history, or the early church fathers.

      For instance, if we take your points and apply it to sedevacantism (and the worst of traddie Catholicism, of which I am quite familiar) in comparison to authentic Roman tradition:

      We are what you once were. (see my points below…)
      We believe what you once believed. (Such as St. Peter Damian and others calling Benedict IX “A demon in the robes of the priest” while still acknowledging him as Pope? What of the Borgia? Did he fall from the Papacy?)
      We worship as you once worshiped. (Really? Is obsessing over Sacred Heart devotions, mantillas, skirts to the floor, no women in pants, and Fatima while quietly praying your rosary at a weekly mandatory silent Low mass what medieval Catholics did? Where are your Mattins and Lauds before Liturgy or Vespers afterwards, as they did in the those times? Do you have public celebrations of the divine office? Where is the grandiosity in your Mass? Why don’t you take out ugly plaster statues and put some mosaics in your churches? Why is your church music 1940’s ditties like “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” or “Faith of Our Fathers” instead of Gregorian or Old Roman chant?)
      If you were right then, we are right now.
      If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.
      (These last two are loaded as they assume that the 19th and 20th century Papal-centric view was ever right to begin with. Please see this excellent article: http://www.romancatholicism.org/duty-resist.html )

      Ut Roma cadit, sic omnis terra [As Rome falls, so the entire world] (To paraphrase the Deacon at my Byzantine church: “If, hypothetically, Rome and the Roman church were to be wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow (which will never happen, by the way) our church would still stand. We are in communion with Rome as a brother/sister church, not under them.” In other words, the Catholic Church is a fleet and the Roman ship – while the flagship with the Pope as admiral – is not the only vessel in the fleet)

      Note that I am not pointing my finger at you directly, just making points I’ve made to traddies who frustrate me, including and especially sedes.

    2. Lord of Bollocks, can you imagine the look on a rad trads face if they saw a liturgy from the 11th century? Communing infants via intinction?! In Rome?!

      Lol

    1. Will do. Let’s look at the definition of infallibility from Vatican I. A pope is infallible ONLY when:

      1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
      2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
      3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church (i.e. he clarifies further a dogma already held by Catholics; he does not get to invent new dogmas as that is outside his authority; if he contradicts a doctrine held by the Catholic church then he may be deposed, but he remains the pontiff until he is deposed)

      In everything else, the popes can err and often do.

  28. Perhaps it’s admirable that you have set out to prove the actual impossibility of the thing, where most reasonable people might have stopped at the so-highly-unlikely-it’s-crazy borderline. At some point, without having to know something is impossible, it suffices for it to be highly unlikely for a sane person to stop going down that road. So for example, I don’t have to prove that it’s impossible for the moon landing to be a hoax if I can consider the objective evidence and on that basis come to a reasoned, sensible and invariable conclusion. Think the Pope is an anti-Pope? Could it be that the Pope is not Pope and only a handful of bloggers realizes it? Could it be that the Pope is not Pope, even though not a single cardinal has taken the view that the Pope is illegitimate? Could it be so even though the rank and file faithful not only do not question his legitimacy but overwhelmingly approve of him? could it be so even if every Western leader and every head of every major Christian denomination, including the Orthodox churches, all recognize the Pope as Pope? I am glad this discussion is an internal Catholic discussion because if the greater world got wind of this, they’d conclude we’d gone mad. Even as a discussion happening in one particular corner of the Church, it certainly looks to the rest of us as if that corner is either imploding or has gone bonkers.

    1. Carlos X, here is what is bonkers: Extraordinary ministers in hot pants. Balloons and guitars in the sanctuary. Dropping hosts all over the place because there is no protection for the Blessid sacrament. Spilling the blood of Christ and trampling on it. Ask any woman who cleans the church. I have sen it over and over. That is what is
      bonkers, Carlos. Recognizing the problem is not bunkers. pretending it is not happening is insane. Why are you so impressed with what the secular media thinks? You know if you know any scripture at all that widespread approval by the modern world is usually a sign that you are truly evil. Those who wish to defend the Catholic
      faith must get their heads out of the sand and unite to drive the heretics out. Remember Arianism. Even the Pope was ready to throw the faith overboard. I think
      90% of the bishops were corrupt. That’s where we are now. The few who are not
      corrupt do not have the courage, partly because the faithful are interested in a circular firing squad among other faithful Catholics rather than pointing at the enemies of the
      faith. Until traditional Catholics realize who the real enemy is and stop bickering, the real true Cardinals and bishops will remain shuddering in their libraries or backpedaling like Burke. They need support and we need to unite to support them. When those who believe in the true Catholic faith spend their time attacking others who believe in the true Catholic faith, they are working for the enemy.

      One example of a brave bishop is Athanasius Schneider in Kazakhstan. Athanasius would make a great Pope!
      Know them by their fruits. For our Cardinals to get together over fine wine and dinner
      meetings plotting the destruction of Catholic teaching on the family during the
      massacres and crucifixions of Christians in the Middle East is a pure sign of evil. This
      Vatican is totally corrupt. We must take our church back. this time, they can’t leave the buildings behind and get there homosexual fannys out of Rome and start their own church. They could start one right here in the Grand Island Nebraska diocese and I am sure they would be most welcome here.

    2. > Carlos X, here is what is bonkers: Extraordinary ministers in hot pants. Balloons and guitars in the sanctuary. Dropping hosts all over the place because there is no protection for the Blessid sacrament. Spilling the blood of Christ and trampling on it. Ask any woman who cleans the church. I have sen it over and over.

      I have never seen any of this.

      > I think 90% of the bishops were corrupt

      How do you arrive at this figure?

      > The few who are not corrupt do not have the courage, partly because the faithful are interested in a circular firing squad among other faithful Catholics rather than pointing at the enemies of the faith

      A little ironic, given that you’ve just spoken about driving out heretics from the Church…

      > For our Cardinals to get together over fine wine and dinner
      meetings plotting the destruction of Catholic teaching on the family during the
      massacres and crucifixions of Christians in the Middle East is a pure sign of evil

      Church councils being held while there are persecutions in other parts of the world is a sign of pure evil? That’s an awful lot of councils you’ve just dismissed…

  29. so, Joe, you are saying that by making the simple observation that bergoglio is a heretic makes me a heretic? Of course a heretic cannot be followed and the Church clearly teaches that a formal heretic automatically loses his office. Why would you be interested in getting people to follow this heretic? May I suggest that those who truly wish to protect the true Catholic
    Faith stop getting into the circular firing squad and begin fighting the real enemies of the
    church? It is easy to pick them out. Walter Kaspar for instance and his ilk who with the pope’s blessingl, in a majority although not two-thirds vote, tried to turn Catholic teaching on its head
    . Traditional Catholics must unite and drive the modernists out of Rome. Pope Francis never wearies of telling us that the church is us. So if we are the church, we have the right to declare
    him a heretic by his own reasoning. Recently, in a speech to a Protestant group, Pope Francis
    said that he knew his remarks would get him into a theological disaster in other words he knows he is preaching against the Catholic Church. That crosses him over into formal heresy.
    He must go and his other communist modernist nutjobs must go with him. Let them start their own church and give us ours back.

    1. so, Joe, you are saying that by making the simple observation that bergoglio is a heretic makes me a heretic?

      No. I’m saying that the claim that a wicked pope ceases to be pope is explicitly condemned as heretical.

      Of course a heretic cannot be followed and the Church clearly teaches that a formal heretic automatically loses his office.

      Where does the Church “clearly” teach this? That a heretical pope would lose his office is an opinion advanced by several of the Church’s great theologians (Bellarmine, de Suarez, etc.) , but these same men also described it as impossible, as the Holy Spirit would prevent such an impossible situation from arising.

      And make no mistake, it would be an impossible situation: there would be no competent tribunal capable of judging the pope a heretic or deposing him. The idea that a lesser Church authority can trump or depose the pope is the heresy of conciliarism.

    2. Recently, in a speech to a Protestant group, Pope Francis said that he knew his remarks would get him into a theological disaster in other words he knows he is preaching against the Catholic Church. That crosses him over into formal heresy.

      No. It doesn’t even remotely. I’ll let the Catholic Encyclopedia explain:

      “The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval. The heretical tenets may be ignorance of the true creed, erroneous judgment, imperfect apprehension and comprehension of dogmas: in none of these does the will play an appreciable part, wherefore one of the necessary conditions of sinfulness–free choice–is wanting and such heresy is merely objective, or material. On the other hand the will may freely incline the intellect to adhere to tenets declared false by the Divine teaching authority of the Church. The impelling motives are many: intellectual pride or exaggerated reliance on one’s own insight; the illusions of religious zeal; the allurements of political or ecclesiastical power; the ties of material interests and personal status; and perhaps others more dishonourable. Heresy thus willed is imputable to the subject and carries with it a varying degree of guilt; it is called formal, because to the material error it adds the informative element of “freely willed”.

      Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal. For as long as one remains willing to submit to the Church’s decision he remains a Catholic Christian at heart and his wrong beliefs are only transient errors and fleeting opinions. […] It is not for man, but for Him who searcheth the mind and heart, to sit in judgment on the guilt which attaches to an heretical conscience. [….]

      Pertinacious adhesion to a doctrine contradictory to a point of faith clearly defined by the Church is heresy pure and simple, heresy in the first degree. But if the doctrine in question has not been expressly “defined” or is not clearly proposed as an article of faith in the ordinary, authorized teaching of the Church, an opinion opposed to it is styled sententia haeresi proxima, that is, an opinion approaching heresy. Next, a doctrinal proposition, without directly contradicting a received dogma, may yet involve logical consequences at variance with revealed truth. Such a proposition is not heretical, it is a propositio theologice erronea, that is, erroneous in theology.”

      And you’re going to claim with a straight face that Pope Francis has met this bar because someone said he said that he knew the Synod would be messy… a Synod at which he said and did absolutely nothing heretical? Fly that by someone with some training in theology and see if they treat it as a serious proposition.

    3. Traditional Catholics must unite and drive the modernists out of Rome. Pope Francis never wearies of telling us that the church is us. So if we are the church, we have the right to declare him a heretic by his own reasoning.

      That’s a ridiculous assertion. First, I’m not sure on what grounds you’re possibly critiquing Pope Francis’ ecclesiology here.

      “The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.” That’s from the Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 11. See also Lumen Gentium 30-31.

      But it’s a joke to claim that you can somehow get from that (which is true) to the heretical idea that we can judge the pope, which we explicitly cannot. As Canon 1442 says, “The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge for the entire Catholic world; he renders judicial decisions personally, through the ordinary tribunals of the Apostolic See, or through judges he has delegated.”

      Why would you be interested in getting people to follow this heretic?

      I guess because (a) he’s not a heretic, (b) because he’s the Vicar of Christ, and (c) because sowing dissent against the pope is sowing disunity in the Church, and is gravely sinful.

      In all this, I’ve purposely refrained from answering your critiques about Pope Francis (that is, whether the view he’s actually expressed are right or wrong). This is not because his statements are indefensible, but because they’re in no need of defense. You don’t have a colorable – or even coherent – case for the gates of Hell having overcome the Church. I’m not saying that there aren’t problems in the Church. I’m saying you’ve misdiagnosed both the source of the problem, and the solution.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. Sorry for the triple reply. I normally try to keep it shorter, but your confusion about what “formal heresy” is seemed best resolved by quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia at length.

  30. //When Skojec suggests that the Church has the authority to declare “a pope is a heretic, and thus, in fact, an antipope,” he appears to be assuming that a heretical pope ceases to be pope for that reason. While there are some Saints who have speculated that this might be the case (St. Robert Bellarmine being the most famous), the Magisterium has never said this//

    False.

    Pope Paul IV, Bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, Feb. 15, 1559:

    “1… Remembering also that, where danger is greater, it must more fully and more diligently be counteracted, We have been concerned lest false prophets or others, even if they have only secular jurisdiction, should wretchedly ensnare the souls of the simple, and drag with them into perdition, destruction and damnation countless peoples committed to their care and rule,
    either in spiritual or in temporal matters; and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place. In view of this, Our desire has been to fulfill our Pastoral duty, insofar as, with the help of God, We are able, so as to arrest the foxes who are occupying themselves in the destruction of
    the vineyard of the Lord and to keep the wolves from the sheepfolds, lest We seem to be dumb watchdogs that cannot bark and lest We perish with the wicked husbandman and be compared with the hireling…

    6. In addition, [by this Our Constitution, which is to remain valid in perpetuity We enact, determine, decree and define:-] that if ever at any time it shall appear that any Bishop, even if he be acting as an Archbishop, Patriarch or Primate; or any Cardinal of the
    aforesaid Roman Church, or, as has already been mentioned, any legate, or even the Roman Pontiff, prior to his promotion or his elevation as Cardinal or Roman Pontiff, has deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy:

    (i) the promotion or elevation, even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous assent of all the Cardinals, shall be null, void and worthless;

    (ii) it shall not be possible for it to acquire validity (nor for it to be said that it has thus acquired validity) through the acceptance of the office, of consecration, of subsequent authority, nor through possession of administration, nor through the putative
    enthronement of a Roman Pontiff, or Veneration, or obedience accorded to such by all, nor through the lapse of any period of time in the foregoing situation;

    (iii) it shall not be held as partially legitimate in any way…

    (vi) those thus promoted or elevated shall be deprived automatically, and without need for any further declaration, of all dignity, position, honour, title, authority, office and power…

    10. No one at all, therefore, may infringe this document of our approbation, reintroduction, sanction, statute and derogation of wills and decrees, or by rash presumption contradict it. If anyone, however, should presume to attempt this, let him know that he is destined to incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul.

    Given in Rome at Saint Peter’s in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1559, 15th February, in the fourth year of our Pontificate.
    + I, Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church…”

    With the fullness of his papal authority, Pope Paul IV declared that the election of a heretic is invalid, even if it takes place with the unanimous consent of the cardinals and is accepted by all.

    1. You can delete that last rash post. I searched for my handle but did not realize “Match case” was on. Sorry. I have had met with so many calls by RCs to censor that I assumed I met one who did.

      Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (James 1:19)

  31. You lost me when you said it’s not possible for Vatican II to be pronounced invalid and John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis to be someday pronounced antipopes. A Council is like a Sacrament. Validity depends on matter, formula, and intention. In the case of the matter, the Catholic bishops alone dress liturgical he and proceed into St. Peter’s Basilica. In the case of the formula, they invoke the Holy Spirit and ask him to guide the Council and protect it from error. In the case of the intention they intend to condemn error and heresy. Vatican II did not have the proper formula or intention.

  32. Check out youtube.com/mhfm1 for amazing scientific evidence for God, the prophesied end-times V2 Counter-Church, Bible proves Catholic Faith and its absolute necessity for salvation, the importance of the daily Rosary, the 3rd Secret of Fatima and the Apocalypse, the evils of all kinds of birth control including NFP, proof against UFOs, the Great Apostasy and the imminent end of the world, and many other topics.

  33. Your article, while interesting and informative, doesn’t address the Skojec position at all: either Benedict effectively abdicated or he did not. Either Francis is pope or Benedict still is. There is no question of sedevacantism here.

    How do you respond to that, as opposed to the Francis was a heretic before or after election thing?

  34. So Francis and the post-Vatican II crowd are constantly telling us that the faith was wrong until the 1960’s. They are constantly telling us we need to change the faith.

    And now Catholic bloggers are telling us we must accept Vatican II, which is a clear departure from the faith that was handed down to us. By forcing is to accept Vatican II and the new religion, you are forcing is to either become sedevacantists (which you all seem to think such an evil opinion) or non-Catholics (which is apparently ok in the Vatican II cult).

    Isn’t it more logical to say Vatican II and the concilliar popes are just plain wrong? Not once has anyone been able to show that the Vatican II cult is in keeping with Catholic Tradition. Nobody attempts to argue that, but instead insists that we must simply accept Vatican II and the new popes. The irony is that if we accept Vatican II then there is no reason to accept any part of the faith, since the Faith was wrong until Vatican II, thus removing any authority of Vatican II.

  35. Traditionalism has a huge problem: traditionalists don’t need a magisterium. Each trad must judge for himself what the Church really taught. Never mind the way today’s magisterium teaches it’s meaning. Sedevacantism is just the logical conclusion when you realize that it is impossible for the Church to give error or defective worship. The trad recognize and resist position is incompatible with the obedience and reverence that Catholic must have to the bishops and the pope.

    But let’s say you go sede. Where, then, does the magisterium lie? Certainly not with the sedevacantist bishops. They don’t have legitimate offices (epikia they say!) and when they disagree on what is Catholic, how can they settle the issue? How does one discern whether bishop 1 is right or bishop 2 is right? Just read some Church documents, they say, and you do, and YOU are the judge of the issue, discerning who reads Church documents the same way YOU do. In fact, we can safely say, the magisterium lies in each individual traditionalist. If any bishop, cardinal, or pope dare disagree with your reading of Church documents, they are heretics you ought to resist or are not even members of the Church! Then it’s not even the virtue of faith to submit to the authority that God placed over you even when you can’t see clearly, but your own ideas and interpretation of the faith that you are “preserving”. God said that the Church cannot fail, but the traditionalist Church has! A popeless Church, maybe; a magisterium-less Church? Never! How can God condemn a man for not following an authority that doesn’t exist, or cannot even exist? For if a pope dare disagree with your interpretation of Church teaching just denounce him as a heretic or deny that he was a pope to begin with!

    1. Well said, and i have told such Trad. types who pick and choose from V2 and throw Francis under the bus that they are in essence Protestants whom the censure for ascertaining the veracity of teaching by examination of warrant for it in the light of Scripture, their supreme standard. Likewise Trad. types do the like by determining what is valid modern church teaching by examination of what is taught in the light of historical church teaching.

      And yet such historical church teaching.exhorts such things as can be seen here such as “It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock…the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors .” – Vehementer Nos, an Encyclical of Pope Pius X promulgated on February 11, 1906.

      To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment , and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation.

      Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor…. Similarly, it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

      On this point what must be remembered is that in the government of the Church, except for the essential duties imposed on all Pontiffs by their apostolic office, each of them can adopt the attitude which he judges best according to times and circumstances. Of this he alone is the judge. It is true that for this he has not only special lights, but still more the knowledge of the needs and conditions of the whole of Christendom, for which, it is fitting, his apostolic care must provide. – Epistola Tua (1885), Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII; http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage_print.asp?number=403215&language=en

      And unless the laity render implicit obedience to all public papal and magisterial teaching then there will be debates as to what magisterial level it belongs to and thus what degree of assent is required, as well as their meaning, leading to competing Catholic web sites and apologists.

      Trad. RCs themselves affirm such obedience, even that “when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed,…with letters and other public documents..we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority…bedience must not limit itself to matters which touch the faith: its sphere is much more vast: it extends to all matters which the episcopal power embraces” ((Pope Saint Pius X, Allocution Vi: http://www.christorchaos.com/?q=content/choosing-ignore-pope-leo-xiii-and-pope-saint-pius-x)

      And thus they must disallow modern popes from being popes, and presume they render implicit obedience to those from before, as problematic as that would be in “all matters which the episcopal power embraces.”

      However, their problem is actually not with ascertaining the veracity of teaching by examination of it, but with the supreme source they look to, that of an office to which they ascribe ensured perpetual infallibility, based upon the premise that an infallible magisterium is essential for determination and assurance of Truth (including writings and men being of God) and to fulfill promises of Divine presence, providence of Truth, and preservation of faith, and authority.

      And that being the historical instruments and stewards of Divine revelation (oral and written) means that such is that assuredly infallible magisterium. Thus any who knowingly dissent from the latter must be in rebellion to God.

      Yet the church actually began in dissent from those who sat in the seat of Moses over Israel, (Mt. 23:2) who were the historical instruments and stewards of Scripture, “because that unto them were committed the oracles of God,” (Rm. 3:2) to whom pertaineth” the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Rm. 9:4) of Divine guidance, presence and perpetuation as they believed, (Gn. 12:2,3; 17:4,7,8; Ex. 19:5; Lv. 10:11; Dt. 4:31; 17:8-13; Ps, 11:4,9; Is. 41:10, Ps. 89:33,34; Jer. 7:23)

      And instead they followed an itinerant Preacher whom the magisterium rejected, and whom the Messiah reproved by Scripture as being supreme, (Mk. 7:2-16) and established His Truth claims upon scriptural substantiation in word and in power, as did the early church as it began upon this basis. (Mt. 22:23-45; Lk. 24:27,44; Jn. 5:36,39; Acts 2:14-35; 4:33; 5:12; 15:6-21;17:2,11; 18:28; 28:23; Rm. 15:19; 2Cor. 12:12, etc.)

      And which is certainly not opposed to magisterial authority, but the authority of the NT church was under men of supreme Scriptural integrity “not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Co. 4:2) “in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God…” (2 Co. 6:4)

      Which is what is lacking today. Catholicism presumes too much of an office, and too little of Scripture, the only substantive body of Truth that is affirmed to be wholly inspired of God, and in which she is substantially absent and contrary to , while evangelicalism presumes too much of Scripture as far as practical authority is concerned, and too little of the magisterial office established thereby. The rest of Protestantism fails more. And both (and I) fail of the degree of holiness and faith the prima NT church exampled needed for the church of the living God to manifest itself as being so, and as grounded in and supporting the Truth. Time for greater repentance.

  36. As evidence continues to mount regarding current state Rome, what are we to believe now. We have 2 popes that aren’t speaking and Francis instructs us to go pray with the Anglicans if we nothing is available. Poor St. Thomas More.

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