Concern Expressed for Sedevacantists
From the mail: I have a Sedevacantist member of my family and it worries me...
Response: Try not to be too worried. The Sedevacantist's I know and with whom I have shared in discussions are, for the most part, good people who are trying to make sense of the fallout of the past decades as best they can, and just cannot see things as other traditional Catholics do; quite a few of them are Sedevacantist for a time and then change; others have been so for a longer time. In either case they decide this is the only way they can see things to protect their Faith for now; and who knows what tomorrow will bring?
For most of them it was the deplorable state of liturgy in their parishes that led them to become traditionalists and then eventually more and more extreme, usually under the tutelage of some person, priest or not, who substituted his opinions and interpretations of opinions for the living magisterium (Click). Despair, then, led from hope for reforms to a revolutionary stance. The best of them are not nags or nasty, many are of course, but that's true anywhere. I once rashly thought they were not Catholic at all, but today I distinguish persons and their conclusions, however wrongheaded. When a person is motivated by the desire to keep the Catholic Faith, I don't see how they can be simply lumped with those who reject it in principle. Yes, I think they are very clearly mistaken, led astray into non sequiturs about what is required to actually reject the Catholic Faith (like rejecting the Creeds, see # 6 here) and they clearly draw erroneous conclusions based on a selective and very narrow reading of the fathers. But what can one do? People see things the way they see them. I would only say try not to get into futile debates which too often lead to bad feelings; sadly, many are so locked into a polemical hermeneutic of suspicion they will not let go of private judgment, no matter how many times it has been condemned by the Church, until hard experience shows them all of the dead ends by the grace of God alone. Discussion is one thing, debate is another.
Sedevacantists are not one thing but a number of very small chapels or individuals ("home aloners") who often cut off even from other Sedevacantists; they often fight bitterly among themselves about what tradition is (i.e., what traditions bind, and what do not, etc) and anathematize one another; over 20 anti-popes have been "elected" from among such circles. The only real unity among them is in the negatives, they all reject the Popes since Vatican II. They do not believe the visible Church will reform herself any longer.
Christ is the living Vine (Jn 15) and the Church---visible and hierarchical, Peter, bishops, Faithful, together and never apart---is His mystical Body which ever abides in him. Bad priests and bishops or laypersons are like dead branches or leaves, but the Vine ever lives as originally constituted, per His Word and Promise. The Good Shepherd can never leave His Mystical Body like a hireling who deserts the Flock when wolves come into the pasture (Jn 10). The walls can collapse, the area in which it is planted can become almost barren, but the Vine lives, and all who do not forsake communion will be nurtured by His Life which spreads through the whole Communion like sap through a Vine, no matter what the circumstances. Jesus, the Vine, will never abandon his visible hierarchical Petrine Body or cease spreading His Life through each and every healthy branch until the consummation of all things, no matter how many leaves or branches fall, are blown away, or wither on the Vine. All who remain in His mystical Body---visible and hierarchical---will receive His life no matter what the storms, mistakes, betrayals or Laodicean indifference...His Promise alone is our surety. And we will cling to that Word alone in Him.
What is also sad about Sedevacantism is its retreat into unbalanced personal piety to the neglect of the good works of the Church's social action which seeks to stop, delay or mitigate the triumph of evils. Sedevacantism is fatalistic in these matters and so ensures that much less in the way of resistance to evil and love for neighbor, which is the second greatest commandment, perdures. To retreat from the Cross and the battle between good and evil is hardly a virtue.
Follow the label "Seevacantism" below this post to see why Catholics cannot be Sedevacantists..
Catholic Encyclopedia on the Living Magisterium: "The living magisterium, therefore, makes extensive use of documents of the past, but it does so while judging and interpreting, gladly finding in them its present thought, but likewise, when needful, distinguishing its present thought from what is traditional only in appearance. It is revealed truth always living in the mind of the Church, or, if it is preferred, the present thought of the Church in continuity with her traditional thought, which is for it the final criterion, according to which the living magisterium adopts as true or rejects as false the often obscure and confused formulas which occur in the monuments of the past. Thus are explained both her respect for the writings of the Fathers of the Church and her supreme independence towards those writings--she judges them more than she is judged by them." [Source: Catholic Encyclopedia Updated 7/10]
The Mass in 155 A.D.
Today we are targeted again ...by the powers. And again we, and all those who join us, will endure; because peace and suffering are not opposites. He has overcome the world.
The Unchanging Gospel and Scandals: What Does Faith In the Midst Of Scandals Look Like? It Looks Like This:
St. Catherine of Siena wrote to Barnabas:
"He is insane who rises or acts contrary to this Vicar who holds the keys of the blood of Christ crucified. Even if he was a demon incarnate, I should not raise my head against him, but always grovel and ask for the blood out of mercy. And don’t pay attention to what the demon proposes to you and you propose under the color of virtue, that is to say to want to do justice against evil pastors regarding their fault. Don’t trust the demon: don’t try to do justice about what does not concern you.
"God wants neither you nor anyone else to set themselves up as a righter of the wrongs of His ministers. He reserves judgment to Himself, and He reserves it to His Vicar; and if the Vicar does not do justice, we should wait for the punishment and correction on the part of the sovereign judge, God Eternal." (Letters, Vol. I. Letter No. 28---St. Catherine of Siena wrote to Barnabas, Viscount Lord of Milan, on the Pope and Obedience to Him, emphasis mine)
God Himself will right all wrongs, purge all evils, God Himself will correct all problems, God Eternal, Who reserves "punishment and correction" to Himself. We are His sheep and the flock of His Pasture.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."---Jn 10: 27-31
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What good will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." ---Matt. 16:24-27
We can trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, come what may. Trust His very Word, that God will bring good even out of evils and even convert (or deepen) the hearts of those who appear at the moment to be part of the problems. Trust...letting go of fears.
Traditional Catholics certainly have the right to state their opinions, make their case as it were, on matters affecting Faith and morals in keeping with sacred tradition as always, with a view to persuading our shepherds how best to help the Church which always reserves final judgment to herself and answers to God for it. We have been warned against any however who would go beyond such assistance / confessing the Faith, and who in effect create a parallel Church by asserting that, per impossible, the sacraments do not exist anymore in the one Church in the whole world, that Christ has forsaken His sheepfold, rather than supply (ecclesia supplet) for any defects. That is a tragic foolishness which would make Christ a hireling (Jn 10) and His promise of indefectibility empty, null. St. Francis, together with St. Catherine (above), will forever serve as examples of true reformers who for all their radicalness were not revolutionaries. What lives they lived to the full!
Truth induces many towards true reform but exaggeration seduces many towards the abyss of deformity.---Post updated 1x, 4/26/10
Indefectibility: The Self-Correcting Church
Christ Supplies (Ecclesia Supplet) in Every Tempest for His Ecclesia, Visible and Hierarchical
As St. Thomas wrote, "Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person". (ST III Q.48 a.2)
And St. Augustine: "The Church will totter when her foundation totters. But how shall Christ totter? ... as long as Christ does not totter, neither shall the Church." (Enarr. in Ps. 103, 2, 5)
"Let not heretics insult, divided into parties, let them not exalt themselves who say, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there." (Matt 24:23) Whoso says, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," invites to parties. Unity God promised. The kings are gathered together in one, not dissipated through schisms. But that city which has held the world, shall sometime be overthrown? Far be the thought! "God has founded it forever." If then God has founded it forever, why fearest thou lest the firmament should fall?"---Commentary Psalm 48
Finally, he also writes, "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church."
The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Church sketches her teaching on Indefectibility:
"Among the prerogatives conferred on His Church by Christ is the gift of indefectibility. By this term is signified, not merely that the Church will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will preserve unimpaired its essential characteristics. The Church can never undergo any constitutional change which will make it, as a social organism, something different from what it was originally. It can never become corrupt in faith or in morals; nor can it ever lose the Apostolic hierarchy, or the sacraments through which Christ communicates grace to men. The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is manifest that, could the storms which the Church encounters so shake it as to alter its essential characteristics and make it other than Christ intended it to be, the gates of hell, i.e. the powers of evil, would have prevailed.
"It is clear, too, that could the Church suffer substantial change, it would no longer be an instrument capable of accomplishing the work for which God called it in to being. He established it that it might be to all men the school of holiness. This it would cease to be if ever it could set up a false and corrupt moral standard. He established it to proclaim His revelation to the world, and charged it to warn all men that unless they accepted that message they must perish everlastingly. Could the Church, in defining the truths of revelation err in the smallest point, such a charge would be impossible. No body could enforce under such a penalty the acceptance of what might be erroneous. By the hierarchy and the sacraments, Christ, further, made the Church the depositary of the graces of the Passion. Were it to lose either of these, it could no longer dispense to men the treasures of grace.
"The gift of indefectibility plainly does not guarantee each several part of the Church against heresy or apostasy. The promise is made to the corporate body. Individual Churches may become corrupt in morals, may fall into heresy, may even apostatize. Thus at the time of the Mohammedan conquests, whole populations renounced their faith; and the Church suffered similar losses in the sixteenth century. But the defection of isolated branches does not alter the character of the main stem. The society of Jesus Christ remains endowed with all the prerogatives bestowed on it by its Founder. 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). The various bodies that have left the Church naturally deny its indefectibility. Their plea for separation rests in each case on the supposed fact that the main body of Christians has fallen so far from primitive truth, or from the purity of Christian morals, that the formation of a separate organization is not only desirable but necessary.
"Those who are called on to defend this plea endeavour in various ways to reconcile it with Christ's promise. Some, as seen above (VII), have recourse to the hypothesis of an indefectible invisible Church [Sedevacantist's too---SH]. The Right Rev. Charles Gore of Worcester, who may be regarded as the representative of high-class Anglicanism, prefers a different solution. In his controversy with Canon Richardson, he adopted the position that while the Church will never fail to teach the whole truth as revealed, yet "errors of addition" may exist universally in its current teaching (see Richardson, Catholic Claims, Appendix). Such an explanation deprives Christ's words of all their meaning. A Church which at any period might conceivably teach, as of faith, doctrines which form no part of the deposit could never deliver her message to the world as the message of God. Men could reasonably urge in regard to any doctrine that it might be an "error of addition"
Note: Of the dramatic clash between traditional Catholicism and neo-modernism (in any degree) we can be certain, Christ will never allow a recklessness so grave that the Church---the one visible, hierarchical Church---will not, in Him, be self-correcting; or that the ordinary means of grace will be vanquished, per impossible. For Jesus is no hireling (Jn 10) who abandons the Flock no matter what kind of tempest or wolves. "I am with you always," He said, even to the end of the world"---Matt 28:19
The effect of ambiguity in doctrinal formulations will almost always make for mischief, but that is a far cry from formal heresy.
Apostasy then must mean a great falling away of Catholics, likely together in consequence of the failure of some shepherds to obey, teach and govern as they ought (clearly, unambiguously, checking heresies and evils), with terrible consequences; but never the undoing of the ordinary means of grace and visible / hierarchical nature of the Church. Even in the catacombs Peter and the faithful will remain together to the end of time.
In the appointed time Jesus quells every storm: “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey him?"---Matt 8:23-27
“If we consider that Divine Providence guided the Church by the Holy Spirit so that it does not err, as he promised in John 14:26, that when the Spirit comes, it will teach everyone the truth, which is as regards matters necessary for salvation, the impossibility of erroneous judgment by the universal church in matters related to faith is a sure matter” --Saint Thomas Aquinas
--The Baltimore Catechism (1891): 126. Q. What do you mean by the indefectibility of the Church?
A. By the indefectibility of the Church I mean that the Church, as Christ founded it, will last till the end of time. Therefore indefectibility means that the Church can NEVER change any of the doctrines that Our Lord taught, nor ever cease to exist. When we say it is infallible, we mean that it cannot teach error while it lasts; but when we say it is indefectible, we mean that it will last forever and be infallible FOREVER, and also that it will ALWAYS REMAIN THE SAME as Our Lord founded it. (Nihil Obstat: D. J. McMahon Censor Librorum, Imprimatur: *Michael Augustine, Archbishop of New York New York, September 5, 1891)
“The promise of Christ assures the Church an indefectible life to the end of the world. Therefore the Church that Christ funded in Peter will arrive to the end of the world without interruption, without essential change, thru all storms and thru all centuries. Not only Christ promised that He will remain will them all days to the end of the world but also He promised his perpetual assistance in the spirit of Truth. This assistance is to last for ever….”. ---All Bishops Argentina Pastoral Letter, 1921
“…saying that the Church errs is the same as saying that God errs and that He wants us to err, which is a great Blasphemy” (St. Francis de Sales, Catholic controversy page 70)
"Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of Truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own. As often, therefore, as it is declared on the authority of this teaching that this or that is contained in the deposit of divine revelation, it must be believed by every one as true. If it could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God Himself would be the author of error in man. "Lord, if we be in error, we are being deceived by Thee" (Pope Leo XIII, SATIS COGNITUM)
With respect to the Sedevacantist thesis, it is theologically certain that while a (hypothetical) heretic-pope may fool some of the bishops some of the time, it is not possible for him to deceive all of the bishops all of the time. Heresy would be detected and exposed. Therefore it follows that if all the bishops at the Second Vatican Council and today have not detected papal heresy, then such heresy cannot exist.
That however does not mean that the Council was necessarily wise or good for the Church or that there are not real and objective problems which need corrections even in the formulations in the Council's documents. It only means we must not draw erroneous conclusions from the problems; and that Christ will never abandon the sacraments by which He feeds the whole Catholic people the Bread of Life. The Lord is no hireling (Jn 10) who leaves the sheep to starve or otherwise perish when trouble comes. Conversely, if all the bishops in the world were to fail in a doctrinal matter, Peter would check them, correct them or otherwise provide the remedy. In this way the visible Church is self-correcting, indefectible.
Meanwhile, Sedevacantists, it must be said, are playing solitaire and not fighting with the Church in her time of persecution by the powers of the world and infiltrator's within the visible hierarchical Body (of Christ) against which the gates of hell (heresies) cannot prevail.
"There are an infinite number of ways to fall, but there is only one way to stand." --G.K. Chesterton
--->Former Sedevacantist Bishop Terence Fulham's website: How are we to receive Vatican II?
--->Storms We Know Aplenty: St. Bridget and the Popes: Warning They Must Govern
Q: What is a traditional Catholic?
A: Someone who attempts to help the Church correct perceived theological problems, proposing sacred Tradition as the solution.
Q: That is all?
A: Yes, that is all.
If someone's conclusion is preposterous (e.g., "God does not exist" or "all the sacraments in the world are gone from the visible Church in consequence of "heresy", no Pope will come from Rome ever again", etc.) then the reasoning which led to those conclusions must also be rejected a priori no matter how smartly they appear to write or how charismatic they are, or how well they say the Mass (Didn't all the original Modernists in Pius X's time say the Tridentine Mass?). The world has always been full of charismatic and even pious men led astray into the trap and theological knots of drawing false conclusions from difficult realities. "Liturgical correctness," as the original Modernist's showed, is no guarantee of orthodoxy.
--->See also, The Church Our Mother and Mess...
"No man ought to sever himself from the unity of the Church before the time of the final separation of the just and the unjust merely because of the admixture of evil men in the Church." – St. Augustine, On Baptism
Note: Anyone who would like a far more in-depth assessment of Sedevacantism (on Bellarmine and the fathers, etc.) than is found here, may write me. ---2008, updated 2010