Often, traditional Catholics focus so strongly on the errors besetting the progressive and conservative Catholics that we may overlook or underestimate the dangers of the sedevacantist threat. Although most of us would rather not discuss it, sedevacantism is an ever-increasing danger to Catholics, not only to traditionals, but also to the awakening mass of conservatives. Up until now, I have dodged discussions over sedevacantism and simply urged others to avoid it like the plague it is. I’m aware of my limitations and when pushed for more information, usually refer inquirers to Dr. Robert Siscoe, John Vennari or John Salza, i.e., someone who can assist them.
That is why I was happy to see that John Salza and Robert Siscoe have written a solid, thoroughly documented refutation of sedevacantism. At 700 pages, it is not exactly a quick read. And for me, will require a lot of work and a great deal of time to get through it. I will not be able to purchase it until after the first of the year, but for now, will share with you some excerpts from a recent interview by Catholic Family News which demonstrates the value of the book, and shows us the scope of the threat posed by sedevacantism. For a full interview and more information on the book, please see: “TRUE OR FALSE POPE? Refuting Sedevacantism and other Modern Errors”.
A few quotes:
“Siscoe/Salza: The book was originally intended to be a refutation of Sedevacantism alone, but it developed into much more. It addresses and answers virtually all of the difficult questions that are on the minds of Traditional Catholics, and even the conservative Catholics, today. Something else worth noting is that as the book developed systematically, it logically led to the refutation of other errors that depart from Tradition to the Right. In the post-Vatican II era, Traditional Catholics have been fighting against the errors of Modernism and Liberalism that have infected the Church. But, as usually happens, the reaction to these errors of the Left has caused some to overreact in the opposite direction. With the human condition as it is, such a pendulum swing is entirely to be expected. We address a number of these overreactions to the Right, which can be just as dangerous as the errors to the Left – especially for Traditional Catholics, since the errors on the Right appear to be nothing but a refutation of a Liberal error on the Left. The result is that the Traditional Catholics’ sensus fidelium, which is flashing with lights and sirens in response to the errors on the Left, is less likely to alert them to the errors of excess on the Right. The solution to the errors in either direction is a firm adherence to Tradition, which, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, “can never be led astray by any lying novelty” – that is, by a lying novelty on the Right or on the Left.”
The authors explain that the crisis in the Church and the ongoing papal scandals make a thorough analysis of sedevacantism more necessary than ever. “The purpose of the book is to demonstrate that the Sedevacantist thesis is untenable (and, in fact, leads straight to heresy) and also has increased to refute each and every argument presented in defense of the position.” They note that for many Catholics, the temptation to Sedevacantism is increasing under Pope Francis: “The more conservative or ‘Novus Ordo’ type Catholics are now having to deal with issues that the Traditional Catholics have been struggling with for decades, namely, what happens if a Pope appears to have lost the faith, and is undermining the faith by his words and actions?”
“The doctrinal aberrations of the post-Vatican II Popes prior to Francis were swept under the rug and ignored by the conservatives. This is because their focus was directed primarily to the moral issues (abortion, contraception, etc.), rather than doctrinal matters (specifically doctrines related to the First Commandment). In other words, the conservatives were concerned almost exclusively with the last seven Commandments. Well, now that Pope Francis is undermining not only the faith, but also morality (the last seven Commandments), the conservatives are searching for answers. One ‘answer’ they are no doubt considering is whether Francis is a true Pope. And because most of the conservative types have a false understanding of Papal Infallibility (as do their Sedevacantist counterparts), it is to be expected that many of them will be tempted to embrace the Sedevacantist thesis. …”
I agree, it is not much of a jump from “papalatry” to rejecting a pope who just doesn’t measure up to their exaggerated notion of infallibility. The authors then explain the basic premise of Sedevacantism, and list the errors involved, carefully refuting each one. There is not space here for their entire answer, however, I recommend the article at the above link. Their intent in this is to show what God can permit His Church to endure while not permitting the gates of hell to prevail over Her. Siscoe and Salza have included an impressive amount of research, “Three chapters (9, 10 and 11) are quite technical and, as noted above, present information and theological arguments that, to our knowledge, have never been addressed in the English-speaking world.”
“Chapter 12 shows how the faithful can have infallible certitude that a determined Pope is, in fact, the true Pope; it also addresses the Papal Bull of Paul IV, Cum ex Apostolatus, and canon 188.4 (1917 Code) which deals with tacit resignation from office due to public defection from the faith. This chapter also discusses the controversy surrounding the resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis. We explain why some think Benedict is still the true Pope and provide our thoughts on whether we believe this is possible.”
Now, that’s another good reason to get this book! Towards the end of the book, the authors cover the new rites of episcopal ordination and priestly ordination, while their final chapter discusses the results of Sedevacantism. “As the reader will see, we allow the Sedevacantists and the Church’s theologians to speak for themselves. Throughout the book you will find copious quotes from today’s top Sedevacantists, which makes the book both practical and very engaging at the same time.”
Salza and Siscoe state that the many errors threatening the Church today call for a renewed study of ecclesiology, that is, the study of the nature of the Church, especially in view of the false ecumenism, so widespread at present. Therefore, they have included a substantial section on true Catholic ecclesiology which should be helpful in apprehending the errors of Sedevacantism as well.
“The simplest way to refute Sedevacantism is by considering the properties of the Church, especially the attribute of visibility. When we say the Church is visible, we don’t mean that it merely has visible people, or visible rites or ceremonies. False religions also have this material visibility. When we say the Church is visible, we mean it is both materially and formally visible. Formal visibility means that the Church is a visible society (or visible social unit) that can be recognized as the true Church founded by Christ. It is recognized as being the true Church by its four marks (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic). While the Sedevacantists will pay lip service to the marks of the Church, they are unable to point to any Church that possesses them. They confidently proclaim that the Catholic Church of our day does not possess the marks, yet it is a fact (as we prove) that none of the Sedevacantist sects possess them. This means that, according to their own theory, there is no Church today that possesses the four marks – marks that will be with the Church to the end of time. In fact, the only Church that even claims to possess them is the Catholic Church (that is, the Church which everyone in the world but the Sedevacantists identify as the Catholic Church). The inescapable conclusion of their theory is that the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church, which means the Church has defected (which is also a denial of the attribute of indefectibility).”
“It is important to realize that the promises of Christ – e.g., “the gates of hell shall not prevail” – apply to the visible social unit (Pope, hierarchy, laity), and not to the individual members as such. Now, if the visible social unit had morphed into a New Church sometime following the death of Pius XII (as the Sedevacantists claim), it would mean that the gates of hell had prevailed against the Church (the visible social unit). Hence, it is not possible to hold the Sedevacantist position without denying at least one of the Church’s attributes, if not all three (visibility, indefectibility and infallibility). When you study the subject in depth, there is no escape from this conclusion. They (Sedevacantists) will continue to accept (or claim to accept) the attributes of infallibility and indefectibility, but be forced to deny the attribute of visibility (or else they will understand this attribute in a way that differs from how the Church itself understands it). Their distorted notion of visibility, which they are forced to embrace due to their erroneous Sedevacantist thesis, causes them to profess the Protestant error of an invisible Church of visible members.”
“I was amazed to see that the top Sedevacantist apologists, in both their oral and written defenses of their thesis, explicitly embrace the Protestant heresy of an invisible Church with visible members, thus denying the Church’s attribute of visibility. We quote from them directly, and compare their definition of the Church with the Protestant definition (taken from the Westminster Confession and other Protestant authorities). In short, because they cannot point to a Church which has the attribute of visibility, they have been forced to adopt the Protestant heresy that the true Church merely exists “in the hearts and minds of true believers.” That definition, of course, would gladden the heart of any Protestant.”
Then, Salza and Siscoe touched on a subject dear to my heart, which is the Passion of the Church. I have written about the privilege we have today, to stand with our Sorrowful, Immaculate Mother at the foot of the Cross, offering our prayers and reparation in this dark time.
“…The explanation for the crisis in the Church: it is not that we have no Pope, or that the Church has morphed into a New Church. Rather, the explanation is that God is permitting His Church – the Mystical Body of Christ – to undergo a Passion similar to what Christ Himself endured. Just before Our Lord’s Passion, He warned his Apostles: “All you shall be scandalized in me this night. For it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed” (Mt. 26:31). Just as the Apostles lost their faith in Christ during His Passion, so too the Sedevacantists have lost their faith in the Church during the present crisis. In the book, we even demonstrate how there is a mystical death taking place in the Mystical Body of Christ. In such an unimaginable crisis, it is entirely to be expected that there would be some individuals today, who claim to believe what the Church teaches, yet lose their faith in the Church itself. Just as the Apostles could not believe that the Messiah could suffer what He did, so too the Sedevacantists cannot believe it is possible for the Church to suffer what it is enduring. A consequence of their loss of faith in the Church is that the Sedevacantists end up becoming the most bitter persecutors of Christ’s Church. They focus all attention on the wounds of the Church, not so they can be dealt with, dressed and healed, but for the purpose of mocking and ridiculing the Church.”
The authors conclude:
“The Sedevacantists are victims of the current crisis, no less than the Modernists. And their error – which results in their attacking the suffering Church – explains something that the Sedevacantists themselves are at a complete loss to understand. As we show in the book, even the Sedevacantist apologists admit that the extent of spiritual maladies and disorders amongst Sedevacantists is beyond explanation. This is exactly what one would expect to find in those who viciously attack, mock and ridicule the Church as it endures its own bitter Passion.
“It is our hope that the Sedevacantists will read the book carefully and prayerfully. If they do so with an open mind, they will see that Sedevacantism is not the answer for the current crisis. It is instead an overreaction to the crisis, and a most serious error in itself – an error that, according to the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, places the Sedevacantists objectively outside the Church.
“To end on a positive note, we should consider that just as Christ rose again, so too will His Mystical Body. And just as the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ resulted in a restoration of the spiritual order, so too the Passion, death and resurrection of His Mystical Body (which will follow the collegial consecration of Russia) will result in a restoration of the temporal order and an Age of Peace. For now, let us persevere in our fidelity to Christ and His Church by holding fast to tradition (2 Thess 2:14), which can never be led astray by any lying novelty.”
To order the book, please go to www.trueorfalsepope.com.
To see my previous writings on the Passion of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, see here:
Thank you for reading. Please, pray for the Church, pray for our priests!
Remember, pray the Rosary and confound satan!
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
~ by evensong, for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.