The Reactionary and the Magisterium

Mark Citadel put up a great article over at his site.

By way of commenting generally, both upon it and some of the issues that arose in the comments, I would say that, insofar as Reactionary politics is subject to ideological manipulation and human failing, of course it is subject to the teaching authority of the Church.  If some Reactionaries were to start saying that anything but Monarchy is heresy, for example, this would be a bridge too far; yet there are Magisterial reasons for preferring it.

Indeed, that is the point.  The teaching authority has given us some very clear precepts on social matters, and on Liberalism; in addition to its genesis in the traditional outlook more broadly, the Reaction is largely the result of adherence to this Magisterial teaching – meaning that opposition to an authentically Magisterial Reaction is certainly illegitimate, regardless of the supposed clerical dignity of the opponent.  The Church has taught clearly such things as: there ought not to be a Liberal-style “Separation of Church and State;” the State must recognize the rights of the Church (and vice-versa); there are no such things as “rights,” abstracted from the norms of objective morality, nor are they rooted in any important sense in “the dignity of man” (true rights are rooted in God’s dignity and the norms of objective morality and subsidiary dignities which flow thence); and there are many, other things one could cite.  One could admire the nice motives, therefore, of the USCCB’s “fortnight for religious freedom;” its orthodoxy, less so.

And here is where Catholics must face up to the crisis in the Church.  I apologize if this is difficult for some readers, and I imagine there will be questions.  As some commenters at Citadel Foundations pointed out, it would be absurd, of course, to assert that the Magisterium could change teaching.  Yet we see a constant tension now in Catholicism, and often even in Orthodox circles, where things that are manifestly contrary to prior teaching are routinely proffered to the faithful.  This has resulted in immense confusion and a de facto schism in Catholicism.  This schism is tripartite, not bipartite.  On the one hand, there are the manifest heretics; on the other hand, there are well-meaning folk who wind up following these heretics into some of their heresies (but not all their heresies; normally they adhere to “theological” dogmas, but are unaware of how greatly they have departed from the Church’s “social” dogmas), with great consternation and much resort to strained “hermeneutics of continuity,” etc.; finally, there are the few that face up to the true horror and depth of the crisis, long since prophesied in Scripture and explicitly forewarned by our Lady at La Salette, at Fatima and at Akita (amongst others).

There is an immense difference between “private judgment,” and the always and necessarily personal act of choosing to adhere to the Magisterium as one best can.  As soon as the dogmatic pronouncement is made, it is an article of the past which you must personally make the effort to understand in an authentic manner.  And the Church protects those who do so in good faith, even if they make mistakes.  The fact that this activity is personal, does not make it a “private judgment” (which, of course, is to make of one’s self, rather than the Magisterium, the authoritative interpreter and teacher).   Nor are we living in primitive times, such as the times of the Arian crisis, where Magisterial pronouncements had not yet silenced all debate on the fine points of many questions (and where, therefore, orthodox persons could still debate them or be agnostic about them).  We live with 2000 years of clear, unambiguous, Magisterial teaching behind us.

There is nothing ambiguous about the fact that “Religious Liberty” is an heresy; or that Communio in Sacris with heretics and schismatics is a mortal sin and an act of apostasy; or that merely affirming the possibility of composing entirely new rites for the Sacraments similarly incurs ipso facto excommunication; nor is there any ambiguity that the entire framework of modern, Western society is rooted in the condemned heresy of Liberalism/Modernism, and in a gravely immoral form of systematic impiety, and in illegitimate, abstract rights, etc.  Thus, clergy who advance such ideas are unambiguously public heretics – either formally, because they reject the Magisterium, or materially, because their Modernist prejudices have blinded them to the need to learn and to adhere to the Magisterium.

There is no ambiguity in Church teaching about what happens to all manifest, public heretics, whether they are material or formal heretics.  There is no ambiguity in Church doctrine about what happens to popes themselves, who espouse heresy; indeed, that specific question was asked by the Church when the Protestant apostasy began, and again when the fine points of Papal Infallibility were debated at Vatican I.  The answer given, was that heretics cannot be members of the Church, let alone her head.  Such men are invalidly elected and, if they were orthodox at the time of their election, they immediately lose their papacy *without judgment of the Church* (which is impossible against a pope, though a recognition of such a vacancy of the Holy See by the Church is highly desirable).  These principles were ratified again and again in solemn papal encyclicals, which, as Pius XII reminded us (Human Generis 20), are doctrinally binding in themselves.

It is not “private judgment,” therefore, to acknowledge that such manifest heretics are not themselves members of the Magisterium, and so to adhere to the authentic Magisterium of the Church while rejecting the men who have abandoned – nay, trodden underfoot and exposed to universal contempt – her dogmas, rites and laws, and even the Divine Law.  If Trent forbids the composition of new rites, and all of Holy Tradition insists on proper matter and form in a Sacrament, and then some manifest apostate comes and expresses his contempt for the mere notion of validity and Tradition, and composes a brand new rite, what Catholic would dare to acquiesce to this on the grounds that “I’m merely obeying; I’m just following orders!”

If a man claiming to be the pope receives the Eucharistic elements from bare-breasted women (and then has them read the epistle, similarly topless!), participates in pagan rites and blessings, invites idolaters to desecrate Catholic altars, kisses Korans and legislates that Sacraments must be given to non-Catholics, what Catholic will dare to say that such a man could possibly be, or remain, the pope?  What Catholic will say “We must obey and respect the hierarchy?”  Indeed we must!  And that is why men who so abuse the hierarchy and its trappings, far from being obeyed, should be hunted down and punished severely!  Catholic moral theology itself, offers us no such excuse.  We are morally obliged to disobey all commands contrary to faith and morals, and we are commanded to avoid public heretics.  Obviously the Church recognizes that this is not “private judgment,” being as she herself obliges the members of the faithful to take such actions even contrary to the commands of authority.  And Church history bears this out.

So, in sum: yes, the Reactionary is bound to adhere to the Magisterium and should not exalt his personal views as dogma; his Reaction should cleave to the Church’s teaching, not erring to the right or the left of it.  But if some manifestly heretical apostate puts on a miter and dares to arrogate the name of “Catholic” to himself, resisting authentically Magisterial Reaction by advancing the heresy of Liberalism at every turn, not only *must* a Reactionary disobey, but…

…if some Christian prince has the power to end such an acute crisis in the Church by applying the power of the sword to such abominable heretics, he should do it.  He should do this because he adheres to the Magisterium.  If I were a Christian prince with the power to do so, I tell you plainly that I would march on the Vatican and make a mountain of the corpses of so many sodomites and heretics who have devastated Holy Church and defamed the martyrs by decking themselves in albs and the cardinalitial purple.  And I encourage any Reactionary regime that is able, to do the same.  Some will hear this, and say that I am insane, a kook, an extremist.  What I find in Church history is that good and great men have been motivated by similar sentiments, and they would have nothing but contempt for our modern antipathy to such “extremism” in the name of politeness, patience and tolerance.

Sometimes I wish I could get a letter to Putin or some worthy personage of the Russians.  I was Russian Orthodox, and became a Catholic after I realized that the ambitions of Constantinople fueled a contempt for Latinity in the East, which forestalled their ability to understand the Latin Tradition on its own terms.  Sadly, the Slavic peoples, who converted just as this tension reached its apex, were pulled into it by the regional dominance of Constantinople.  But I am convinced that an objective examination of the entire Patristic Tradition, even in the Greek Fathers, vindicates the West.

Yet Liberalism has now overwhelmed the Latin Church.  Our Lady of Fatima indicated that Russia has a role to play.  A part of me imagines that Russia will be saving Europe from itself sometime soon, and I also imagine that Our Lady will throw off from them the yoke they inherited from the hubris of Constantinople, and bring about the conversion of that people to the pristine integrity of the ancient Faith, which the Catholic Church has continued to hold in its fullest, legitimate development.  Perhaps we will see a real pope again soon, and perhaps he will be a Russian.

In any case: God have mercy on us all, remove blindness from our hearts, grant us true repentance and a zeal according to knowledge, that we may fulfill His perfect will, whatever it may be.

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Open yourself to the Will of God, trust His Holy Providence and return to union with the Roman Pontiff. “God Himself has set up a living authority to establish and teach the true and legitimate meaning of His heavenly revelation. This authority judges infallibly all disputes which concern matters of faith and morals, lest the faithful be swirled around by every wind of doctrine which springs from the evilness of men in encompassing error. And this living infallible authority is active only in that Church which was built by Christ the Lord upon Peter, the head of the entire Church, leader and shepherd, whose faith He promised would never fail. This Church has had an unbroken line of succession from Peter himself; these legitimate pontiffs are the heirs and defenders of the same teaching, rank, office and power. And the Church is where Peter is, and Peter speaks in the Roman Pontiff, living at all times in his successors and making judgment, providing the truth of the faith to those who seek it.” (Qui Pluribus, Pius IX) Do you presume to think that Christ our Lord’s promises are vain? Do not be blinded by lies any longer, return to the True Church.

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    1. aureliusmoner says:

      Respectfully:

      The Church has dealt specifically with the question of what to do in the case of a pope becoming a public heretic; it is not a theoretical or new question, the Magisterium has definitively spoken on the topic. The theologians admit it is possible, and that such a man ceases to be pope at once, before and even without any sentence being passed upon him. The Magisterium itself has taught us what to do when it happens. He ignores the Magisterium, who ignores that teaching. The statements at Vatican I cannot be interpreted in a manner that defies the integrity of Holy Tradition, nor in a way that contradicts manifest facts of history (there are admitted anti-popes in history, during whose tenure the See was vacant).

      As to Holy Tradition and the interpretation of Vatican I, in The Life and Life’s Work of Pope Leo XIII, published with Archbishop James Edward Quigley’s Imprimatur during the pontificate of St. Pius X (when that meant something!), Archbishop John Purcell’s recounting of the council fathers’ discussion during Vatican I is presented at length. You can read the book for yourself here, and the bishop’s discussion begins on pg. 237. On pg. 241, he gets to the heart of the matter:

      “The question was also raised by a Cardinal, “What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?” It was answered that there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.”

      This merely reiterates the teaching so admirably clarified by St. Robert Bellarmine, whose teaching on the papacy was specifically cited as preeminent in Pius XI’s Bull <Providentissimus Deus, which declared him a Doctor of the Church “by a particular counsel of divine providence.” In St. Robert’s De Controversiis, in the section on the Roman Pontiff, he goes through five false arguments about whether popes can be heretics or can be deposed. Let us start with the fourth:

      “The fourth opinion is of Cajetan. There, he teaches, that a manifestly heretical Pope is not ipso facto deposed; but can and ought to be deposed by the Church. Now in my judgment, such an opinion cannot be defended. For in the first place, that a manifest heretic would be ipso facto deposed, is proven from authority and reason. The Authority is of St. Paul, who commands Titus, that after two censures, that is, after he appears manifestly pertinacious, an heretic is to be shunned: and he understands this before excommunication and sentence of a judge. Jerome comments on the same place, saying that other sinners, through a judgment of excommunication are excluded from the Church; heretics, however, leave by themselves and are cut from the body of Christ, but a Pope who remains the Pope cannot be shunned. How will we shun our Head? How will we recede from a member to whom we are joined?

      Now in regard to reason this is indeed very certain. A non-Christian cannot in any way be Pope, as Cajetan affirms in the same book, and the reason is because he cannot be the head of that which he is not a member, and he is not a member of the Church who is not a Christian. But a manifest heretic is not a Christian, as St. Cyprian and many other Fathers clearly teach. Therefore, a manifest heretic cannot be Pope….

      …Now the fifth and the true opinion, is that a Pope who is a manifest heretic, ceases in himself to be Pope and head, just as he ceases in himself to be a Christian and member of the body of the Church: whereby, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the opinion of all the ancient Fathers, who teach that manifest heretics soon lose all jurisdiction…. The foundation of this opinion is that a manifest heretic, is in no way a member of the Church; that is, neither in spirit nor in body, or by internal union nor external.” – De Romano Pontifice I, ii, 30-

      These principles were reaffirmed by Pope Leo XIII (“The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.” – Satis Cognitum 9), and Pius XII (“Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.” – Mystici Corporis 22). Hence the teaching is found in all the standard theological manuals – i.e., Dr. Ludwig Ott could flatly state that “public heretics, even those who err in good faith (material heretics), do not belong to the body of the Church, that is to the legal commonwealth of the Church.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p.311)

      So, again: the Magisterium has already considered this possibility; it is not impossible, the principles are known. “Personal judgment” and schism lies with the man who will follow innovators into their heresies, or with people who, despite owning Paul VI, JPII, Francis, etc., as their popes, refuse them the submission and obedience due to them… which is every Catholic who wants to retain even a shred of the Tradition intact. The only consistent position for someone who believes the Faith and the prior, inalterable definitions of the Magisterium, is that the manifest heretics of our days are self-deposed, and we owe them no submission or obedience at all.

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      1. The Magisterium subsists primarily in the Roman Pontiff [“The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.” Pastor Aeternus], and this together with Christ’s Promise, prevents the Succession of the Apostolic See of St. Peter from being broken. Were even a Pope to privately hold heresy [John XXII on the Beatific Vision], he is not the deprived of the Papal Office, nor as a matter of Divine Providence could a Pope authoritatively teach heresy. As it is, nothing the current pontiff has taught authoritatively is heresy, there are simply no cases of it. I ask again, would you presume that the Promises of Christ are vain?

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  2. Last of the Romans says:

    THR, I am not a sedevacantist myself but I have the feeling that you believe in the exaggeration that “what seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.”

    I have not looked at the matter enough to be certain in my judgment of the situation, but it seems to me that a lot of the problematic things said by many of the recent popes were not meant infallibly but rather were said in their status as private theologians. The media announcing to the whole word each and every word of theirs no doubt also adds to the belief that their every word is infallible.

    However, I can understand where the sedevacantists are coming from and they do provide good arguments. For instance, the difference between the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar magisteriums is indeed quite striking and cannot just be waved away with a magic wand. If indeed these popes said such problematical things while using their infallibility, then we cannot just deny the law of non-contradiction and pretend that what is true is not true. If they did indeed contradict what the Church of ages past has declared and did so using the organs of infallible, then it is clear that in such situations they could not be true popes. Personally, I don’t believe they have done so and perhaps, as you seem to believe, their even doing so in an impossibility (yet some theologians HAVE affirmed the possibility like St. Robert Bellarmine) but the sedevacantist position does have a certain kind of logic to it.

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    1. AureliusMoner says:

      Yes, I think it may be good to do a brief primer on the relevant points, here – starting with the fact that Sedevacantists, even if wrong, are at least joined to the Church by internal ties sufficient for salvation, provided they intend to adhere to the Magisterium and to the communion of the Church. I think many Catholics run screaming from it because they fear that they leave the Church simply by professing what amounts to a well-founded theological opinion, without ever once having renounced the Faith or communion with the Body (which are required for heresy and schism).

      The argument you make from the Universal, Ordinary Magisterium is itself the strongest argument, for it is manifest that, in its liturgies, laws, practices and even doctrinal statements, the post-conciliar ‘magisterium’ is markedly different, often even antithetical or hostile, to the undoubtedly authentic, pre-conciliar Magisterium.

      A common mistake, is that the only thing that “counts” for the pope, are statements he makes with the intention of Infallibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church states that it is impossible for a (true) pope to define an heresy ex cathedra; but this does not mean that, so long as he is not speaking ex cathedra, his other statements could teach obvious heresies, and get a pass. The same laws apply to him as to all other members of the Church, meaning that if he is a public heretic, even when not speaking ex cathedra, he still excommunicates himself. If he joins in non-Catholic rites, even in a “friendly and informal capacity,” he, like any other Catholic, excommunicates himself.

      Finally, many modern Catholics also make the mistake of thinking that less than explicitly infallible teaching is not binding upon us. But as Pius XII said, affirming the Tradition:

      “Neither must it be thought that what is set forth in encyclical letters does not of itself demand consent on the grounds that in writing such letters the pontiffs do not exercise the supreme authority of their Magisterium. For these things are taught by the ordinary Magisterium, concerning which the words ‘He that hears you hears me’ are also applicable; and the greater part of what is set forth and inculcated in encyclicals already belongs to Catholic doctrine on other grounds. But if the sovereign pontiffs should pronounce an express judgment in their official documents upon a matter previously subject to dispute it is plain to all that according to the mind and intention of the same pontiffs this point cannot be any longer considered a matter of free dispute among theologians.” (Humani Generis 20, also cited in Denzinger 2313)

      Now, who is prepared to submit like this to such documents as “Pacem in Terris,” “Ut Unum Sint,” or “Evangelii Gaudium?” Thus, if we find it impossible to submit to such encyclicals, finding them repugnant to the Faith, either we are heretics and schismatics, or those pontiffs are. And if we say that these men were popes, we must either reject the prior Magisterium, or invent an “hermeneutic of continuity” that does more to distort the past than it does to correct the present. Yes, God will judge us for our choice. I think many Catholics imagine they are escaping judgment by defaulting to a pretense of obedience towards those who claim to be the Catholic hierarchy. That decision is subject to divine judgment, too! If the Magisterium demands that we reject heretics and not follow them, “I was just following orders” will be no excuse.

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      1. “Therefore they deny also the indefectibility of the Church and blasphemously declare that it has perished throughout the world and that its visible Head and the bishops have erred… Diffused among all people, the Church was built by Christ the Son of the living God upon the rock, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail, and with which He Himself, to Whom all power in heaven and on earth is given, said He would be with until the consummation of the world. “The Church cries to her Spouse: Why do certain men withdrawing from me murmur against me? Why do these lost men claim that I have perished? Announce to me the length of my days, how long I will be in this world? Tell me on account of those who say: it was and is no longer; on account of those who say: the scriptures have been fulfilled, all nations have believed, but the Church has apostatized and perished from all nations. And He announced and the voice was not vain. What did He announce? ‘Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.’ Moved by your voices and your false opinions, it asked of God that He announce to it the length of its days and it found that God said ‘Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.’ Here you will say: He spoke about us; we are as we will be until the end of the world. Christ Himself is asked; He says ‘and this gospel will be preached in the whole world, in testimony to all nations, and then will come the end.’ Therefore the Church will be among all nations until the end of the world. ” (Pius IX, Etsi Multa against the “Old Catholics”)
        If you indeed claim the Sedevacantist position, you fall into the Old Catholic Heresy denying the indefectibility of the Church and the Papal Office, indeed denying the validity of Christ’s very words inerrant in Holy Scripture.
        “Now, who is prepared to submit like this to such documents as “Pacem in Terris,” “Ut Unum Sint,” or “Evangelii Gaudium?” Thus, if we find it impossible to submit to such encyclicals, finding them repugnant to the Faith, either we are heretics and schismatics, or those pontiffs are.”

        The answer is obvious according to the Tradition of the Church, if anything defined in the above encyclicals seems to contradict the Teaching of the Church, the fault is in the understanding of the reader, not the encyclicals themselves. In the Holy Roman See is the authority, given by God, with the promise of indefectibility. [ Only to One particular Church is indefectibility assured, viz. to the See of Rome. To Peter, and in him to all his successors in the chief pastorate, Christ committed the task of confirming his brethren in the Faith (Luke 22:32); and thus, to the Roman Church, as Cyprian says, “faithlessness cannot gain access” (Epistle 54). CE 1914]. If indeed you find them repugnant to the Faith, you err in your understanding of the Faith.

        “The same laws apply to him [the Pope] as to all other members of the Church”
        The Pope is the source of the disciplinary law of the Church and he may suspend it as he sees prudent (“Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.”)

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        1. aureliusmoner says:

          I appreciate the honest concern and exchange. I would reply to you with a few thoughts:

          1) Etsi Multa is replying to Old Catholics, who objected to an Ecumenical Council held by a pope and bishops to whom no prior suspicion of heresy was attached, and which defined doctrines that clearly follow from the Tradition. Vatican II was held under an anti-pope long suspected of heresy, appointed by an anti-pope long suspected of heresy, was deliberately ambiguous, oftentimes issues statements that contradict prior Tradition (Benedict XVI flatly stated that Gaudium et Spes was a Counter-Syllabus), and its signatures from the Council Fathers were obtained under circumstances of admittedly great confusion. The differences are very plain.

          2) I appreciate that your main point in citing the document, was to discredit the notion that the Church has failed throughout the world. Neither I, nor any sensible Sedevacantist, believes that the Church has perished from the nations. Indeed, I acknowledge that there are many Catholics in the Conciliar church, still. The Church herself teaches that those who err in good faith, even if they are severed from the body of the Church externally, retain internal ties to the “soul” of the Church, and can be saved. Heresy is rejection of the Magisterium’s teaching, not a mere error about the Magisterium. Schism is the refusal of submission to the primacy, not a mere confusion about whether a man has really acquired it. The Magisterium teaches that there will be a Great Apostasy, and that it is possible for a pope to self-depose/excommunicate himself through heresy. Sedevacantism is not an heresy, but a theological opinion that those admittedly possible conditions now exist; Sedeoccupantism is not an heresy, but is a theological opinion that those admittedly possible conditions do not, now, exist. Neither side needs to be accusing the other of formal heresy and schism; I dislike this when Sedevacantists do it, as well. There are traditional Catholics all over the Earth; the Eastern Rite remains largely intact. Of course the Church remains.

          3) As to the pope being subject to laws, I should have been more clear. The principle of ipso facto excommunication for heresy is a matter of Divine Law, to which the pope is subject equally with every other member of the Church. Canon Law also recognizes this principle.

          Finally, I would ask: the Church has taught us explicitly that heresy by its very nature automatically excommunicates anyone who publicly professes it. As Leo XIII said, this is the universal doctrine “of all the fathers” and of the Church; Pius XII reaffirmed it. Vatican I, Bd. Pius IX, and St. Robert Bellarmine applied it explicitly to the popes; in fact, they said it was doubly relevant to popes, because they cannot be judged; only through heresy, do popes excommunicate themselves.

          Why did the Church bother giving us this teaching, if, as you seem to think, it could not possibly be true? Under what circumstances would you be prepared to admit that a pope was a manifest heretic and excommunicated? Does a pope have to say “I don’t believe in Jesus Christ or His religion?” What about “I don’t believe in a Catholic God?” We know from the Holy Tradition that to deny one dogma is tantamount to denying them all; the denial of any, single dogma puts a man outside the Church and destroys supernatural Faith. This is truly the unquestioned doctrine of the Tradition and its Magisterium. If that does not apply now, when does it apply?

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          1. Thank you for the dialogue, but Etsi Multa, Pastor Aeternus, and very words of Christ are clear, the Papal office is indefectible. Sedevacantist erroneously try to separate the Magisterium from the Papal Office, which is not only contrary to tradition, but logically impossible. The teaching authority of the Church subsists in the “Teacher”, Pontiff, who has the authority to dogmatically teach the Deposit of Faith. Thus, (2) Etsi Multa teaches that the Pope ex cathedra and the Bishops in union with him cannot err in Faith and Morals. The question remains did the Second Vatican Council define anything contrary to the Dogmas of Faith and Morals in the Deposit of Faith, and the answer to any Catholic who has more than superficially studied the Latin texts, is no. Any objections raised that I have come across either are erroneous understandings of the Council, or are erroneous understandings of the Faith, usually a case of both. Which leads to your leads to your final points, yes it is logically possible that Pope might be a heretic and thus cease to be Pope, but it is consistent with Tradition to say that the Promise of Christ (“Upon this Rock…”) renders this *actually* impossible. Finally, aside from vague accusations of heresy, is there any actual evidence of heresy in the Latin texts (even ambiguity is not heresy, but “in the same sense and of the same meaning” as the Tradition of the Church)? Further, even of seeming contradiction, were you invested with the authority to competently judge? Was your duty of Holy Obedience suspended? Are you or other Sedevacantists infallible in your understanding of the Faith and Morals? You make many assertions with little authority and no evidence, based on a twisted understanding (“For it is certain that a single monk must err if he stands against the opinion of all Christendom”). I’m afraid there’s little more to say, unless it were to refute the heresy of Sedevacantism point by point. It’s really ultimately a matter of Trust in Christ’s Divine Promise. Thank you again, God grant you knowledge of Truth.

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          2. If I may, I would like to add to my last comment these words of St. Alphonsus Liguori, “We ought rightly to presume as Cardinal Bellarmine declares, that God will never let it happen that a Roman Pontiff, even as a private person, becomes a public heretic or an occult heretic.”

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            1. aureliusmoner says:

              Certainly it is a pious belief that God will not let a pope fall into heresy, and I also believe this. I do not believe that any of the modern anti-popes fell into heresy as popes; I believe they were never validly elected as popes in the first place.

              But since you have St. Alphonsus citing the thought of St. Robert, let us see what St. Robert actually said:

              “There are five opinions on this matter [of what to do if the pope becomes an heretic]. The first opinion is that of Albert Pighius, who argues that he pope cannot be an heretic, and hence would not be deposed in any eventuality. Such an opinion is indeed probable, and can easily be defended, as we will show in due order. Still, being as the opinion is not a certain one, and the contrary opinion is the more common opinion, it will be worthwhile to see what the response should be if the pope be an heretic.” De Romano Pontifice II xxx

              Those who know Catholic Moral Theology, understand that a “Probable Opinion” is an opinion that has some reasonable theological foundation and is not otherwise contradicted by the Church. In certain circumstances, Catholics facing a moral choice are allowed to follow a Probable Opinion even if there are opinions with better theological foundations (Cf. Moral Theology, Heribert Jone, Article 94). Yet a Probable Opinion is only stronger than a “Tolerated Opinion;” every other grade of opinion is above it (i.e., “The Common Opinion,” “The Certain Opinion,” “The Opinion Which is Next Unto the Faith Itself,” and Infallibly defined truths and dogmas).

              It is also worth mentioning that the opinion held by St. Robert and St. Alphonsus merely as a probable (but less certain) opinion, became even less probable after Vatican I; at that Council the Relator (who gives the official explanation of the dogmatic text being proposed), Bishop Vincent Gasser, said:

              “As far as the doctrine set forth in the Draft [of Pastor Aeternus] goes, the Deputation is unjustly accused of wanting to raise an extreme opinion, viz., that of Albert Pighius, to the dignity of a dogma. For the opinion of Albert Pighius, which Bellarmine indeed calls ‘pious and probable’, was that the Pope, as an individual person or a private teacher, was able to err from a type of ignorance but was never able to fall into heresy or teach heresy… but it is evident that the doctrine in the proposed Chapter [of Pastor Aeternus] is not that of Albert Pighius or the extreme opinion of any school…” Relatio of Vatican I, quoted in
              The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser at Vatican Council I
              by Ignatius Press

              I.e., Vatican I regarded this as an extreme opinion; elsewhere it specifically discussed the possibility of an heretical pope, affirming St. Robert’s teaching that he would cease to be pope of himself. So, at this point, the faithful are more than justified in holding to this, which is now by far the safer and more common opinion.

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  3. I’m not a sedevacantist nor a theologian, and I have no desire for argument really, but I have a point I’d like to share. If material heresy is enough to cause a pope to forfeit his office, then we’ve had that happen several times throughout history. Pope Liberius gave into the Arians early in his pontificate, Nicholas I taught that baptisms done in the name of “Jesus Christ” were valid (borrowing from St. Ambrose), John XXII held heretical views on the beatific vision, Honorius I was a monothelite, etc. It would throw everything into chaos if material heresy is enough. Who’s to say who the last pope truly was and what elections were valid or not? That is why, as I understand it, most theologians say that it would take formal heresy for it to happen. So, it would be a matter of finding out whether any of the recent popes have taught explicit formal heresy. As far as I know, the more thorough and cautious of the traditional theologians (including those who reject Vatican II) don’t think that any before Francis did (though Paul VI is a more arguable case). It is more a matter of them misinterpreting tradition and holding false beliefs or being ambiguous enough to hide any sort of formal heresy. Francis, however, I know nothing about because I simply ignore him. Honestly, whether or not he or those before him are popes seems more like a historical question at this point and one that is difficult to firmly answer in the negative. The cardinals are still the cardinals, and they’re the ones who validly elect the pope unless the law is changed. I advise caution, even if you are a sedevacantist.

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  4. fjwawak says:

    Great discussion. Let me restate your arguments, comment on them and ask some questions.

    What does the ‘unbroken line’ exactly mean? THR’s argument seems to be that the the line was never interrupted while AM asserts there were anti-popes. If there were we can assume the words ‘unbroken line of successors of Peter’ do not mean there can’t be a heretical pope. So who were the heretical popes of the past?

    There is the interesting case of John XXII. If the sedevacantist theory is correct John XXII could not be a pope, right?

    Then there is the question if the popes after Vatican II were heretics and/or apostates and if the documents contain error.

    THR quotes *Etsi Multa* against Old Catholics. I think this is pretty strong argument against sedevacantists and I don’t find AM reply that the situation before VII was different sufficiently persuasive. I think there always were people resisting what a council teaches and I am inclined to believe the council as the voice of the Church. They would have to come up with very strong arguments to support their claims against the council.

    On the other hand, the second reply (that the Church did not disappear) is a good point. However, I disagree that sedevacantism is a mere theological opinion. When someone calls a pope heretic when he isn’t then one must be a heretic himself.

    To the last THR comments: I don’t think sedevacantists want to separate Magisterium from the Papal Office, they want to separate the actual person from the office if that person is a heretic. As far as I know sedevacantists do not claim infallibility (at least AM does not) and because authority of the person holding the Papal Office is in question here the problem really boils down to if he can or can’t actually be a heretic.

    I am not familiar with sedevacantist case against post-conciliar Church but it is undeniable that the Churche changed to worse after the council. AM mentioned some examples in his post: pope kissing Koran, joining pagan rituals etc. If those are true my old book of Catholic moral teachings calls such acts apostasy. I don’t want to jump into quick conclusions so some digging into the matter is necessary. I would like to read some serious and well-founded sedevacantist claims against post-conciliar Church and popes and possibly their refutation. Are there any good sources?

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    1. aureliusmoner says:

      Thanks for the reply and the interest. Yes, I will go through a “primer on the crisis” here, looking at Moral Theology on the kinds of opinion men are allowed to follow about the present situation, just what exactly heresy and schism are, and whether people can be called heretics or schismatics simply for having a Sedevacantist or Sedeplenist opinion at present, and what the relevant points of theology are to the question of the current crisis.

      By far the most important thing, is to learn first principles and to proceed clearly forward from them. The question get easily confused by not being very tightly-reasoned in our thinking. For example, you say: “When someone calls a pope heretic when he isn’t then one must be a heretic himself.” I understand what you mean, but what is pertinent, is the actual definition of heresy. “Heresy is an error of judgment in consequence of which a baptized person obstinately denies or doubts a truth revealed by God and proposed by the Church for belief” (Moral Theology, Heribert Jone, article 123; cf. Canon 1325 of the Pio-Benedictine Code). Calling an orthodox pope an heretic may be uncharitable, rash, erroneous, impious, etc., but it is not itself heretical. If you said, “the pope is an heretic because I believe heresy x, but he believes dogma y,” that might make you an heretic, in certain circumstances.

      That’s why I want to do a brief primer on the issue; it’s such an important and complex issue, that very tight, rational arguments have to be employed without the slightest errors to the right or to the left.

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    2. aureliusmoner says:

      I almost forgot to mention:

      For pro-sedevacantist arguments, I think one does well to read many of the arguments of Fr. Cekada. I do not agree with everything the man says, but much of what he says is quite good:
      http://www.traditionalmass.org/articles/

      In fact, one of the most interesting and convincing arguments, is that the Novus Ordo rite for episcopal consecration is certainly invalid, meaning that men consecrated in it (like Ratzinger and Bergoglio) actually have not even received episcopal orders.

      http://www.traditionalmass.org/images/articles/NuEpConObjex.pdf

      For a good video of his going through the main objections to Sedevacantism:

      In my opinion, the strongest argument that the post-Concilliar church is not the Catholic Church, is the argument from the Infallibility of the Universal, Ordinary Magisterium, which does not depend upon any judgment of the personal pertinacity or heresy of any individual pope/anti-pope. John Daly presents this argument in the first lecture of this Conference:

      You can also read the lecture, here:

      http://www.thefourmarks.com/Daly.htm

      As to arguments against it, probably the most comprehensive will be the new book by Salza: http://angeluspress.org/True-or-False-Pope

      There are excerpts of it up, here and there. I can’t really recommend, as what I’ve read of it indicates that they are either not honest enough or not intelligent enough to follow the complex trains of thought that occur when examining St. Robert’s (or Cajetan’s, Suarez’, etc., arguments). For example, I read one excerpt where they acted as though Sedevacantists are “hiding” something by not citing Bellarmine’s other arguments about the deposition of a pope, when Bellarmine himself only cites those arguments to prove that they are wrong

      Or, they get very confused and say that certain statements of Bellarmine imply that the Church’s hierarchs must depose a pope before his deposition is legitimate, ignoring the entire thrust of Bellarmine’s argument (and subsequent magisterial teaching) that the Church can only judge a manifestly heretical pope because he has ceased being pope even before their judgment is forthcoming. They are then confused, thinking that for a private Catholic to opine that a pope is a manifest heretic and so deprived, is somehow “private judgment” (apparently not knowing what this really is), or is somehow tantamount to the laity sitting in judgment on matters of Divine Law. The judgment of the Church’s hierarchs is desirable for canonical order, but has nothing to do with whether private Catholics are justified in following their conscience in the probable opinion that the pope is a manifest heretic in the meantime, and must be disobeyed. If they merely understood the principles of Moral Theology, they would understand that following a probable or a more probable opinion in a matter of conscience is morally licit), and that one only commits the sin of heresy or schism in very specific circumstances. Indeed, they are prepared to streeeeeetch out the leash when it comes to the heresy of a pope, but if you’re a private Sedevacantist, well, they have no problem making the “private judgment” that you are an heretic from head to toe!

      So, I think their book is pretty awful, from what I’ve read of it; if somebody is not very intelligent, he will probably only be confused by it. If a man has a disciplined mind, he can read it safely, although he will read it with great irritation. In any case, it is likely the most complete dossier against the Sedevacantist opinion.

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      1. fjwawak says:

        Thanks, Aurelius, for the lengthy reply. I almost missed it.

        And thanks for correcting me. Yes, you understood it well and I should have been less strict and more precise for there are other possibilities in this case.

        I will look at the links and wait for your ‘primer’. I expect it takes more than that though.

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        1. aureliusmoner says:

          Fair enough, my friend! We live in interesting times, so charity and patience all around, is a good rule of thumb. I think it’s understandable that people are confused, and I admit that I may have erred on this complex topic, as well.

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  5. Mark Citadel says:

    Highly interesting response. I want to point out something that was perhaps not clear in the original article, and that is my view of necrocracy.

    At least from an Orthodoxy perspective, we see authority not grounded in a pontiff, but instead in ‘Tradition’. Tradition is like a plant that grew from many seeds, some originating from the original Hebrew peoples (prophecy of the Messiah), and some originating from a Perennial understanding of the divine, nourished by the individual cultures which came to embrace Christianity and proclaim the Lord. Tradition grows stronger with each generation that passes. Early in the Church’s history (and this was brought up in a recent Christian hangout with Reactionary Ian), the Arian heresy overtook Constantinople’s emperors for a brief and dark time, but this was understandable as the Church was very young. As she got older, she hardened against change the longer that things remained unchanged. This was made evident by the turmoil Russia endured after Raskol in the mid-17th Century, where thousands of Old Believers were killed for their stiff resistance to what were, compared to Arianism, minor clerical footnotes.

    Arianism could never resurface in Orthodoxy today, because of the necrocracy. The weight of the saints, the previous patriarchs, monks, and priests overrules any declaration made by a living patriarch, even the titular first among equals in Constantinople, and this authority has the allegiance of the faithful. It is different from Protestantism in that it is still seeking authority, but goes beyond the living to find it. The more Orthodox are added to the boneyard, the stronger the Tradition becomes to the point of impenetrability. Communism, despite having almost a century of absolute iron-fisted power, could never change the doctrines of the Church, nor did it dare try. Killing priests and demolishing churches was far easier.

    The infallibility ex cathedra in Roman Catholicism renders such a stubborn approach from Tradition quite difficult because one Pope can theoretically overrule previous Popes all by his lonesome, and be legitimate in doing so.The authority of the dead is something we often overlook, but it has tremendous stabilizing potential. You cannot argue with the dead.

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    1. aureliusmoner says:

      Mark, thanks for reading.

      “At least from an Orthodoxy perspective, we see authority not grounded in a pontiff, but instead in ‘Tradition’. …Tradition grows stronger with each generation that passes.”

      It’s actually exactly the same in the Catholic Church, save for the fact that the Supreme Pontiff and his prerogatives, of course, are a part of our Tradition; to use the analogy of swordplay (since the sword is a potent symbol of authority), the Tradition is all the lore on how to wield a sword well, and the hierarchs, with the pope as their chief, are the living men who wield it. The authority of the pontiff is bound by Truth, by Tradition and morality, just as is the authority of the Emperor, and every authority. Some foolish men think that admitting the personal, moral obligation to temper one’s obedience with other virtues, truthfulness and piety first of all, is somehow akin to “private judgment.”

      You also said: “The weight of the saints, the previous patriarchs, monks, and priests overrules any declaration made by a living patriarch, even the titular first among equals in Constantinople, and this authority has the allegiance of the faithful… The more Orthodox are added to the boneyard, the stronger the Tradition becomes to the point of impenetrability.”

      I found the exact same view in (authentic, Traditional) Catholicism, which is why the Traditionalists do ignore the anti-popes; but the respect for the supremely authoritative office in the Church adds and element. Some can properly understand why the stance of disobedience is coherent and just; for others, the sensus fidei simply compels them to reject the obvious errors, though the justifications can get a bit fuzzy.

      Essentially, your concept of the necrocracy, is what Catholics call the “Universal, Ordinary Magisterium” – i.e., the witness to Tradition and doctrine in the liturgy, pious customs and faith of the people, writings of Saints and Fathers, teachings of bishops and councils and supreme pontiffs. The teaching of the Church is that the Holy Tradition receives an infallible witness from the morally unanimous teaching in these sources through time, exactly as in the Orthodox Church’s view of Tradition. Past that, of course, Catholics have the Extraordinary Magisterium: Ecumenical Councils, or the Solemn Definitions of the Roman Pontiff. Orthodox agree with us halfway on that; but for Catholics these are really not different things; they are just different modes of producing and promulgating the doctrine that has the Holy See’s necessary and supreme approbation.

      And that’s where it gets interesting. The clarity and precision of these authoritative definitions also intensify over time, like the “necrocracy,” and also constitute a supremely binding body of doctrine. You said: “one Pope can theoretically overrule previous Popes all by his lonesome;” but, in fact, the Church has condemned that proposition as an heresy; the supreme pontiffs have explicitly stated that the prior Tradition – whether found in the Universal, Ordinary Magisterium (the “Necrocracy” Tradition) or the solemn definitions of the Extraordinary Magisterium (the Authoritative Clarifications of the Tradition) – are as binding on every pope as they are on all other members of the Church, going so far as to say that any pope (or other person) who manifestly breaks with a point of Divine, Catholic or Ecclesiastical Faith (technical terms), automatically and by Divine Law severs himself from the Church.

      The implications of that in the modern age, after the promulgation of Infallibility and two millennia without any pope having taught heresy, and after over a century of centralization in response to intensifying, Liberal dissent, led to a perfect storm when revolutionaries finally commandeered the institutional trappings where the Church had the lowest “immune response” to manipulation. The matter is easily resolved by the doctrine of the Church herself, but only for a man equipped to overcome the emotional prejudices that occlude the issue. Many well-meaning Catholics are quite confused on the topic, and with good reason; I do not blame or disdain them for it.

      I hope to explore the matter on the blog in the near future, clarifying why the popes themselves have confessed to being absolutely bound by Tradition, and how this Truth, attested to in many facets of the Church’s certain doctrine, gives us all the certainty we need to resist these modern destroyers of the Church.

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  6. Samuel Dalton says:

    At the risk of being glib: if God had saw fit for his True Followers to engage in extensive legalistic disputation to properly determine his will, he would have just stuck with the Jews. The idea that one is sinning by not engaging in sedevacantist theorizing — sedevacantist theorizing that is 100% guaranteed to have zero effect on the manifest church, I’ll add — is ahistorical and insane.

    Otherwise, I love the site.

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    1. aureliusmoner says:

      I don’t know if it’s so much glib, as it is an unfair – to me, to Tradition and to Catholic morality. I am not the type of Sedevacantist who reckons that all non-Sedevacantists are “sinners” or heretics or schismatics, though I don’t doubt you’ve run into such persons. But I nowhere said that those who fail to engage in “theorizing” are sinners.

      Yet this is an issue, first and foremost, about one’s moral obligations as a Catholic. Nobody doubts that we are in a crisis in the Church. One’s moral obligation to figure out what is going on, and what one must do about it, vary depending upon intellect, state in life, position, etc. Most Catholics who have even a moderate intent to be faithful to Church teaching, find themselves having to ignore or to disobey the supposed pope and hierarchs, more or less frequently. If the Church teaches that I must obey the teaching even of a pontiff’s non-infallible encyclical letters as a general rule, but I find that as a general rule they now promote mortal sins and heretical or proximately heretical propositions, I have a moral quandary on my hands. If the Church informs me that I am excommunicated simply for affirming that somebody could compose new rites for the Sacraments, let alone actually use them, yet I find that the pope and the bishops have rewritten all the rites for all the Sacraments and for decades insisted that I must attend them (only at long last providing a limited option for a minority of people to use the actual rites of the Church), then I have a moral quandary on my hands. It is no light thing for a Catholic to discover what his moral obligations are at this present crisis. The degree to which one is guilty of sin for not doing this, as I said, varies.

      I would also say that if wrangling over details and teasing out the implications of speculations strikes you as Jewish and anti-Catholic, you need to learn your Church history better! The Church does this far more than the Jews, even as our Tradition is more sublime, complex, beautiful and rich. Things only seem “simple” in the post-conciliar Church. Anybody who knows Catholic theology more generally from before that time – just read St. Thomas, or the acts of the Ecumenical Councils, or the writings of Suarez, Cajetan, Bellarmine, etc. – knows that a meticulous attention to every little detail, endlessly argued back and forth, is the hallmark of great, old-fashioned, Traditional, Catholic theology!

      And, finally: I am convinced that the the “Sedevacantist theorizing” – which is really just the clear exposition of St. Robert’s teaching on the papacy and on heresy (and on heresy in the papacy), confirmed subsequently in the supreme pontiffs’ magisterial documents (including the declaration, which proclaimed St. Robert to be a Doctor of the Church precisely for his teaching on the papacy) – will be of tremendous effect on the “manifest Church.” The Conciliar disaster becomes more volatile with each passing year. For example, after all the treats Francis has given us, Msgr. Ganswein recently announced a real gem from Benedict XVI: namely that, in resigning, Benedict XVI only intended to resign the “active ministry,” and he remains the “contemplative element” of a newly conceptualized papacy, in which the one papal office is wielded by two persons at the same time! You couldn’t make this stuff up.

      The facts are plain enough that the “sensus fidei” amongst the adherents to the Conciliar movement, has completely broken down in many circles, including, sadly, the most authoritative ones. It is precisely the kind of close theological reasoning based on the Magisterium’s own teaching on heresy, the papacy, the nature of the Ordinary Magisterium, etc., that will allow the Church to really make sense of the incredibly convoluted and messy crisis on our hands. Every crisis in the past has been resolved precisely by getting into the weeds and sorting out the nitty-gritty details of complex, theological argumentation. It won’t be any different this time – unless, of course, the Lord simply incinerates almost everything and simplifies the process considerably.

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  7. Guest says:

    Sedevacantism turns each individual Catholic into a Magisterium. There’s no higher authority in theory that could correct him. Suppose there is an “authentic pope” who wants to correct the sedevacantist. Well, they just claim that he lost his authority for teaching heresy and that is that. Sedevacantists don’t follow Father Cekada, Bishop Dolan or Bishop Sandborn because they have apostolic authority (who sent them?). They follow these people because the sedevacantist believes that they don’t teach heresy. The minute they start teaching things that the sedevacantist believes is heresy they will be abandoned. Traditionalists all have this mentality where the Magisterium has to be scrutinized scientifically to make sure it’s correct, rather than trusting that it has to be correct (because of the promises of Christ and the inevitability of the Church) even if they do not see clearly how that is possible. If you only believe Church teaching that you can understand it is not the theological virtue of faith that you have. The Living Magisterium interprets the true meaning of scripture and tradition. Traditionalists have either an impotent or dead Magisterium. The reason they resist Vatican II is because they believe that the Catholic Church has defected but don’t want to live according to it. Hence the cognitive dissonance of two Churches, resisting the pope, having no pope, the Church relocating to a chapel in Kansas, visible Church that nobody knows about, epikia, etc.

    Either go Orthodox or rekindle the virtue of supernatural faith and trust the hierarchy of the “Novus Ordo”.

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    1. aureliusmoner says:

      The first mistake you make, is thinking that Sedevacantists set themselves up as individual magisteria. This comes from a common confusion about “private judgment.” Private judgment is not the personal act of attempting to understand and follow the Magisterium. Unless you have a constant, telepathic link to the Mind of the Church, by which She beams the whole content of Her magisterium into your mind, you are using your personal best judgment to understand magisterial documents and decrees, and to follow them. The real meaning of Private Judgment, is making one’s private opinion the standard tool for interpreting and applying truth – as a Protestant would, for example.

      The whole reason for the Church to issue encyclicals, conciliar decrees, replies of the Holy Office, etc., is because it expects Catholics are capable of reading and understanding, more or less, the Church’s teaching. For the same reason that it is not “private judgment” when I accept the Church’s teaching that Christ has two wills exercised in harmony in the one divine Person of Jesus Christ, as the Incarnate Word, neither is it private judgment when I accept the Church’s teaching that all public, manifest heretics – especially purported popes – are automatically excommunicated and deposed, without any intervening sentence of the canonical authorities. They are both defined doctrines of the Magisterium.

      Sedevacantists do not “follow” leaders such as Cekada, Sanborn, etc. For my part, I don’t believe Sanborn is necessarily a bishop. Neither the Sedevacantists nor the SSPX or “Resistance” bishops, have made any claim to have Ordinary jurisdiction. We look to them for moral support and guidance, and provision of undoubtedly valid Sacraments. That is all.

      They would be within their rights, at this point, to definitively acknowledge the automatically incurred excommunication of nearly the entire Conciliar hierarchy, and to announce themselves as the occupants of any of the many sees that have been left vacant by heresy. They have not done so heretofore, because the prevalence of error is at present so great, that such a move would likely do more harm than help. But we are coming upon a time where such a move will become morally obligatory and necessary. Then they will be tasked with the election of a valid, Roman Pontiff.

      Finally, you say: “Traditionalists all have this mentality where the Magisterium has to be scrutinized scientifically to make sure it’s correct, rather than trusting that it has to be correct…”

      The premise underlying your criticism, belies a very dangerous and anti-Catholic attitude. All through Church history, the laity were often the first to notice that an heresy was rising, and were the first to take action in avoiding it. There have been times of grave confusion, like the Arian crisis, where such a trusting attitude was not so easy. Or, during the Great Western Schism, when even Saints of the Church did not know who the pope was, and were sometimes on different sides of the debate.

      It is really quite simple: the Church has always warned of the need to be wary and to avoid false teachers, specifically warning of the Great Apostasy at the end of the age. When Protestantism began, great Saints and Doctors of the Church realized that it is now upon us. It was in response to the Protestant crisis, that the Church clarified the fine points on her teaching, regarding manifest heretics. You see, the Church was worried about what to do, if by some chance a Protestant was elected to the papacy, or some pope apostatized into the Protestant heresy. It was then that St. Robert worked out all the fine points of the Patristic teaching, and carefully examined, now rebutting or approving, the arguments of other approved theologians like Suarez, Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, etc. He was the one who clarified that any person, including a pope, who manifested their lack of intent to adhere to the Magisterium, automatically put themselves out of the Church. He mentioned that this was especially necessary to hold in the case of the pope, because there is no authority competent to judge a real pope – the Church can only recognize when a pope has manifestly deserted the Magisterium and Tradition. Then, she can certainly know that he is not the pope, and so he may be judged as an heretic.

      The same concern motivated pope Paul IV to officially decree as much in Cum Ex Apostolatus, where he made it clear that heretics could not be elected to the papacy, nor could they hold the papacy once they fell into heresy. He also made it clear that the Church was obliged to recognize this, no matter what pretense of canonical right the heretical anti-pope claimed in his defence.

      The same concern motivated the Council Fathers at Vatican I, where they asked what recourse they could possibly have, if a pope began to espouse heresy, if he also possessed the prerogative of Infallibility. The teaching of St. Robert was explicitly cited and reiterated – i.e., that such a man would cease to be pope as soon as his heresy was noticeable.

      So, it really is very simple: Catholics know very well that the Magisterium if Infallible in certain circumstances, and is at least infallibly safe in many other circumstances (i.e., the Church’s more solemn documents, rites, laws, etc., could never teach heresy or grave sin). But the Church has also always recognized that heresies often emanate from authoritative places in the Church (Patriarchal Sees, for example), and can often take large portions of the hierarchy with them (all the Copts, and then essentially all the Greeks and Russians and Georgians and Bulgarians, and then almost all the English and Scots and Dutch and Northern Germans and and and…). Also, we have always known to be on guard against the Great Apostasy. So, while we know the Magisterium is indefectible, if your view is that anybody holding himself forth as a pope or Catholic bishop is one, then you are gravely mistaken about the teaching of the Church, and have set yourself up to follow people who are not the Magisterium, as though they were the Magisterium.

      The pope is not simply the man who says he is pope and is in a white cassock. Neither is that man necessarily the pope because many follow him. It really is very simple: so long as a man publicly shows himself to have the intent of conforming to the Magisterium and Holy Tradition, it does not matter whether you agree or disagree with him, whether you like him or not, and whether he is a good man or not – he is a Catholic. If he has been validly and licitly elected and/or installed into some Office of the Church (including the papacy) he holds it, and you must recognize it.

      The one and only case where an inferior is not only allowed to judge his superior, as St. Robert and many others say, is in the case of heresy: for the moral obligation of the faithful not to adhere to any heresy or any heretic is absolute, on pain of incurring the same sentence of automatic excommunication.

      And that is why it is not we, who believe the Church has defected. Rather, logic requires those who uphold Vatican II, to believe that the Church has defected. I do not believe she has defected at all; rather, I believe that she has been much diminished and that only a remnant of the faithful still hold the Faith and remain visible members of the visible Church. I believe the visible Church is eclipsed, or hidden from the sight of many by the shadow of this monstrous new church, the Conciliar Church, which was born in the late 60s and 70s. I know that many in the Conciliar Church remain Catholics at heart by intent, and a few even remain members of the visible Church by publicly professing the traditional faith and holding that the newer developments were not validly promulgated, or somesuch. But the fact is, that the best argument for Sedevacantism at present has nothing to do with the pope. It has to do with the fact that even the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church cannot, on the whole, lead the faithful into grave sin or error by her laws, rites, solemnly approved customs, or loftier, magisterial documents. Yet many things in the Novus Ordo movement’s liturgy, law and doctrinal body, flatly contradict the pre-Conciliar teaching. Attempts to prove that they really harmonize, fall flat.

      There are difficulties on both sides. On our side, the only serious difficulty is explaining where the unbroken continuity of pastors and teachers in the Church may lie (i.e., persons with Ordinary Jurisdiction). But the difficulties on the other side are manifold, and they begin with certain things I described above – such as, explaining why their interpretation of the Indefectibility of the Magisterium contradicts the pre-Conciliar Magisterium’s Magisterial teaching on the Magisterium!

      There is also the fact that those who make an error in judgment about who has Magisterial authority, do not incur guilt or penalty for either the sin or crime of heresy and/or schism, simply for not following a person whose orthodoxy or authority they doubt. That is made clear both by moral theologians and the commentaries on Canon Law. Nor do those who innocently embrace an error because they mistook it for being Magisterial. So, what is needed is charity on both sides towards those on the other side in this difficult period of Church history, and a willingness to examine the hard truths of Magisterial teaching on what happens automatically to heretics (even material heretics), which alone provides us with the clarity we need in order to resolve the present crisis.

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