By Rev. Dominique Boulet, sspx
On November 8, 1979, Archbishop Lefebvre wrote the following for Cor Unum, the internal bulletin of the Society of St. Pius X:
“How often during these past ten years have I not had occasion to respond to questions concerning the weighty problems of the Mass and of the Pope. In answering them, I have ever been careful to breathe with the spirit of the Church, conforming myself to Her Faith as expressed in Her theological principles, and to her pastoral prudence as expressed in moral theology and in the long experience of Her history. I think that my views have not changed over the years and that they are happily those of the great majority of priests and faithful attached to the indefectible Tradition of the Church. It must be clear that the few lines which follow are not an exhaustive study of these problems. Their purpose rather is to clarify our conclusions to such an extent that no one can be mistaken regarding the official position of the Society of St. Pius X.”
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this declaration, I would like to bring to our faithful some tools which will help them to a better understanding of such official position of the Society of St. Pius X, as expressed from the mouth of its venerable founder. Many things happened over these twenty years, and it appears to us that the situation of the Church now is much worse than in 1979. As the years are passing by, the number of unheard and shocking events seems to be multiplying at a higher speed. Let me quote only a few of them: the 1986 Inter-religious meeting of Assisi, which was renewed in 2002; the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran document on Justification; the 1993 Balamand agreement, by which the Catholic Church officially renounce to the apostolate of conversion with the members of the Orthodox Church; and more recently, in May 2004, the profanation of the Fatima shrine with a Hindu worship. Some of us may now wonder if, in view of such shocking events, Archbishop Lefebvre would have kept in 2004 the same position he had in 1979.
Let us come back to Archbishop Lefebvre own words:
“Let us pass now to a second but no less important subject: does the Church have a true Pope or an impostor on the throne of St. Peter? Happy are those who have lived and died without having to pose such a question! One must indeed recognize that the pontificate of Paul VI poses and continues to pose a serious problem of conscience for the faithful. Without reference to his culpability for the terrible demolition of the Church which took place under his pontificate, one cannot but recognize that he hastened the causes of that decline in every domain. One can fairly ask oneself how it was possible that a successor of Peter can in so little time have caused more damage to the Church than the French Revolution.
Some precise facts, such as the signatures which he gave to Article VII in the Instruction concerning the New Mass and to the Declaration on Religious Liberty are indeed scandalous and have led certain traditionalists to affirm that Paul VI was heretical and thus no longer Pope. They argue further that, chosen by a heretical Pope, the great majority of the cardinals are not cardinals at all and thus lacked the authority to elect another Pope. Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II were thus, they say, illegitimately elected. They continue that it is inadmissible to pray for a Pope who is not Pope or to have any "conversations" (like mine of November 1978) with one who has no right to the Chair of Peter.”
1. Exposition of the Sedevacantist thesis: Let me first quote from a Sedevacantist author: “Sedevacantism is the theological position of those traditional Catholics who most certainly believe in the papacy, papal infallibility and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, and yet do not recognize John Paul II as a legitimate successor of Peter in the primacy. In other words, they do not recognize John Paul II as a true pope. The word Sedevacantism is a compound of two Latin words which together mean “the Chair is vacant.”1 Sedevacantism appears then to be a theological position or a theory kept by some traditional Catholics who think that the most recent popes, the popes of the Vatican II council, lost their pontifical authority on account of the grave heresies they have been promoting, and the crisis that came along.
1.1. Theological argument of sedevacantists: It consists of saying that a heretic cannot be head of the Church, but John-Paul II is a heretic, therefore he cannot be a true Pope. A notorious Sedevacantist, Brother Michael Dimond, O.S.B., from Most Holy Family Monastery, NY, came up with a list of the “202 heresies of Vatican II” and the “101 heresies of John-Paul”. By the way, Bro. Michael Dimond considers the SSPX, the SSPV, and the CMRI as heretics, because they believe in the baptism of desire, which, according to him, is a denial of the dogma ‘outside of the Church, there is no salvation.’ Bro. Michael Dimond is well known for his extreme statements on a number of topics, up to the point that he is attributing to himself a quasi-magisterial authority by which he thinks that he is able to make infallible statements where he is right, but everybody else is wrong. Basically, he is acting like a pope.
1.2. Canonical argument of sedevacantists: It is to consider that the laws of the Church invalidate the election of a heretic; but Cardinal Wojtyla was a heretic at the time of his election, therefore he cannot be a pope. The Sedevacantists quote the Papal Bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio of Pope Paul IV, which says that if anyone was heretic before the Papal election, he could not be a valid pope, even if he is elected unanimously by the cardinals. They also base their argumentation on the Code of Canon Law2, Can. 188, # 4: “Any office becomes vacant ipso facto and without any declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric… #4 publicly defects from the Catholic faith.”
2. Survey of the Theological opinions of a heretical pope: For that survey, I will follow the study of Arnaldo Xavier de Silveira in his book La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser3. After explaining how the New Mass departs from the traditional teaching of the Church, this author makes an in-depth study of the theological hypothesis of a heretical pope. Such study was highly praised by Archbishop Lefebvre, as “the very objective study of Xavier de Silveira”. To my knowledge, this is the most complete and most clear study on that topic. Such study was originally published as a series of articles in the magazine Catolicismo, from Brazil, from1969 till 1971. That publication was under the care of the TFP4 (Tradition, Family, Property) movement. A French translation was eventually published in 1975. Then, the TFP forbade any other publication or translation of that book. The fact that LNM made a survey of 136 authors who speak about the possibility of a heretical pope, joined with the fine theological sense of Xavier de Silveira makes his book most highly valuable.
2.1. Five opinions according St. Robert Bellarmine:
|1. The pope can never fall into heresy||Pighi, Suarez
St. Robert Bellarmine
Matthaeucci, Bouix, Billot
|2. Theologically one cannot exclude the hypothesis of a heretical pope (see below)|
|2.1. On account of his heresy, the pope would never lose his pontificate||Bouix|
|2.2. The heretical pope would lose his pontificate
|2.2.1. The loss of the pontificate would happen the minute the pope falls into an internal heresy, and before it becomes public||Torquemada|
|2.2.2. He would lose the pontificate when his heresy becomes manifest||St. Robert Bellarmine
|2.2.3. He would lose his pontificate only upon a declaration of heresy made by a council, or by cardinals or by group of bishops|
|(18.104.22.168. Such declaration would act really as a deposition)||(Such opinion is condemned by the Church as heretical)|
|22.214.171.124. Such declaration would not be a deposition but a merely act to report the loss of the pontificate by a heretic||Cajetan, Suarez|
2.2. Value of St. Robert Bellarmine’s opinions:
1st Opinion: “God would never allow a pope to fall into heresy” The defenders of such opinion argue that Our Lord would never allow a pope to fall into heresy. For Cardinal Billot, the hypothetical possibility of a pope falling into heresy would never come to reality, according to the promise of Our Lord: “And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke XXII, 31-32). For Billot, this promise should apply not only to St. Peter, but also to all his successors, as it was always understood by Tradition. Against that opinion, we have the case of Pope Honorius (625-638), who was condemned in 680, by the 3rd Council of Constantinople on account of his letters to Patriarch Sergius, which favoured the Monothelite heresy5. Let me quote from that Council:
“Having found that (Honorius’ letters) are in complete disagreement with the apostolic dogmas and the definitions of the holy councils, and of all the approved Fathers; and that, on the contrary, they lead to the false doctrines of the heretics, we absolutely reject and condemn them as being poisonous to the souls… We also state that Honorius, formerly pope of the elder Rome, had been also rejected from the God’s Holy Catholic Church and is being anathemized, on account of the writings he sent to Sergius, where he adopted his ideas in everything, and reaffirmed his impious principles.”
Let us note that such condemnation happened 42 years after the death of Honorius. Also, no matter what kind of judgement can be passed on Pope Honorius, it is a matter of fact that we have an official pontifical document which admits that a pope could possibly fall into heresy. Such document is from Pope Adrian II, more than 200 years after the death of Honorius:“After his death, Honorius was anathemized by the Eastern Church; but we should not forget that he was accused of heresy, the only crime that would make lawful the resistance of inferiors to the orders of their superiors, and the refusal of their malicious doctrines.”
As we see, St. Robert Bellarmine’s 1st Opinion has reasons in favour and against it. Thus we can say that this 1st opinion is only probable.
2nd Opinion: “As he falls into heresy, even only internal, the Pope would ipso facto lose his pontificate”. Such opinion is now abandoned by theologians. Because the Church is Visible, it is necessary that its government be visible, and not depends on internal acts.
3rd Opinion: “Even if he falls into notorious heresy, the pope will never lose his pontificate.” Xavier de Silveira comments: “among the 136 authors we have consulted (for the book LNM), Bouix is the only one to defend such opinion” 6We could say like St. Robert Bellarmine that such opinion is very improbable, because it goes against the unanimous consent of the Tradition of the Church.
4th Opinion: “The heretical pope would lose effectively his pontificate only upon an official declaration of heresy.” It is clear that such declaration cannot be judicial one, for the pope doesn’t have any superior on earth, capable to judge him. It would be only a non-judicial act by which Jesus-Christ would Himself dismiss the pope. Even though such opinion is defended by serious theologians, like Cajetan and Suarez, it is not admitted by St. Robert Bellarmine. I can see two dangers that can rise from such opinion - to fall into the heresy of Conciliarism, which was condemned by the Church - or at least, to fall into subjectivism. What can tell us, for sure, that a declaration of heresy coming from a group of bishops is not an attempt to make an act of deposition?
5th Opinion: “If he was to fall into a manifest heresy, the pope would ipso facto lose his pontificate." Some authors say that the pope would lose his pontificate ipso facto at the very moment when his heresy becomes external; some others maintain that the heretical pope would lose his pontificate only when his heresy becomes notorious and publicly spread. Among the 5 opinions studied by St. Robert Bellarmine, this 5th opinion appears to be the most probable.
3. The heretical pope:
3.1. Can a pope be heretic? It has been taught by various popes that a pope can teach heresy against the Faith. Pope Adrian VI († 1523) stated that:
“If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith. He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgement or decretal. In truth, many Roman pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was Pope John XXII († 1334).”
Venerable Pope Pius IX († 1878) recognised the danger that a future pope would be a heretic and “teach […] contrary to the Catholic Faith", and he instructed, "do not follow him". He said: "If a future pope teaches anything contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him." (Letter to Bishop Brizen).
3.2. Incompatibility between heresy and ecclesiastical jurisdiction: Both Holy Scripture and Tradition teach clearly that there is a deep incompatibility in radice (in the root) between the condition of a heretic and the possession of an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, because a heretic ceases to be member of the Church. However, such incompatibility is not absolute, that is why theologians are using the term in radice (in the root). In the same manner as a plant can still stay green for a while after it had been rooted up, likewise, jurisdiction could be maintained, in a precarious manner though, even after the Churchman had fallen into heresy (cf. Suarez). Theologians are basing their argumentation mostly on Canon Law, Can. 2314:
“All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic and schismatic incur the excommunication ipso facto. Unless they respect warnings, they are deprived of benefice, dignity, pension office … and if clerics, with the warning being repeated, they are deposed.”
Then, Can. 2264 declares unlawful, but not automatically invalid, the acts of jurisdiction coming from someone who has been excommunicated:
“An act of jurisdiction carried out by an excommunicated person, whether in the internal or the external forum, is illicit; and if a condemnatory or declaratory sentence has been pronounced, it is also invalid, without prejudice to c. 2261, §3; otherwise it is valid.”
Thus the heretical cleric does not lose automatically his functions, but he has to be deposed by the lawful authority. From this, we can conclude that heresy, even external, does not automatically eliminate jurisdiction. Against it, it may be argued from Canon 188 # 4:
“Any office becomes vacant upon the fact and without declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric: 4. publicly defects from the Catholic faith.”
Sedevacantists are using this canon as a weighty proof of their thesis, however, such canon cannot be considered as a final proof that a heretical pope had lost his office. One has to remember that the pope is always above the dispositions of the positive law, as the one of Can. 188. Such argument would be final only if it was being proved that the canonical disposition of Can. 188 belongs to the divine-positive law of the Church. One would have also to prove that this divine-positive law applies properly to the specific case of the pope. But, it is precisely on that matter that the greatest theologians have been in disagreement for centuries.
3.3. Jurisdiction of the heretic: Being cut off at the root, the jurisdiction of the heretic does not disappear automatically, but it will remains as much and as long as it is maintained by a superior authority. This will happen if the pope maintains the jurisdiction of a heretical bishop who has not yet been punished according to Canons 2264 and 2314. But, what happens if the pope himself falls into heresy? Who has the power to maintain him in his jurisdiction? It is not the Church, or even a group of bishops, for the pope is always superior to the Church, and he is not bound by ecclesiastical law. According to LNM7, Christ Himself could maintain, at least for a while, the jurisdiction of a heretical pope. What would be the reason that would justify maintaining the jurisdiction of a heretical pope? Theologians have considered different answers to that question. The most serious answer to that key question is to say that Christ would maintain the jurisdiction of a heretical pope as long as his heresy is not notorious enough and widely publicised. Meanwhile, all the acts of jurisdiction of such a heretical pope would be valid and, if he was to proclaim a dogmatic definition, such definition would likewise be valid. In such case, the Holy Ghost would speak through the mouth of that pope, like He spoke through the mouth of Balaam’s ass (Numbers XXII, 28-30). Such conclusion of Xavier de Silveira is perfectly consistent with the thought of St. Robert Bellarmine. The famous Dominican Father Garrigou-Lagrange8 reaches the same conclusion. Basing his reasoning on Billuart, he explains in his treatise De Verbo Incarnato (p. 232) that a heretical pope, while no longer a member of the Church, can still be her head. For, what is impossible in the case of a physical head is possible (albeit abnormal) for a secondary moral head. The reason is that, whereas a physical head cannot influence the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul, a moral head, as is the Roman Pontiff, can exercise jurisdiction over the Church even if he does not receive from the soul of the Church any influx of interior faith or charity.
In short, the pope is constituted a member of the Church by his personal faith, which he can lose, but he is head of the visible Church by the jurisdiction and authority which he received, and these can coexist with his own heresy.
3.4. Public and Notorious heresy: It is to be understood according to the Canon Law principles. A Public crime, according to the law of the Church is not necessarily something which is done in the open and witnessed by Television cameras, as most people think. Let me quote the famous canonist Bouscaren:
“Classification as to Publicity. A crime is: 1. Public, if it is already commonly known or the circumstances are such as to lead to the conclusion that it can and will easily become so; [...] ‘Commonly known’ (divulgatum) means known to the greater part of the inhabitants of a place or the members of a community; but this is not to be taken mathematically, but in prudent moral estimation. A crime may remain occult though known to a number of persons who are likely to keep it quiet, whereas it may be public though known to only a few who are sure to divulge it.” 9
As the pope is the Universal pastor of the entire Church, how can we apply such principles to the case of his heresy? According to the canonists, for an act of heresy by a pope to be Public, the knowledge of it would either have to be either already widely spread amongst the faithful of the universal Church, being known to most of them, or at least such as that it will be in practice impossible to stop it from becoming so known and it certainly will. Such heresy would have to be widely publicised, as well as Notorious – in order to be Public in canonical terms. For a pope’s heresy to be Notorious, not only would the heretical act have to be widely known of, as we have seen, but it would also have to be an act whose criminality had been legally recognised. In other words, for the criminality of a pope’s heresy to be legally recognised, such that his heresy would be canonically Notorious, not only would a knowledge of his heresy have to have spread widely through the Church, as we have seen above, but it would also have to have been widely recognised as a morally imputable crime.
3.5. Notoriety of law and notoriety of fact:2. Notoriety of fact: Can we say the same thing about the notoriety in fact of the pope’s heresy? For it to be so, it would have to be widely recognised as both heretical and morally imputable – as Pertinacious (persistent and determined to the point of stubbornness). That is to say that it must be not only materially notorious, the heretical act being widely known, but also formally notorious, the act being widely recognised as a morally imputable crime of formal heresy. We may see this from the comments of the canonists:“An offense is Notorious by notoriety of fact, if it is publicly known and committed under such circumstances that it cannot be concealed by any subterfuge, nor excused by any excuse admitted in law, i.e., both the fact of the offense and the imputability or criminal liability must be publicly known.”11
So a papal act of heresy would be notorious in fact only if both the act were “publicly known” – and the “imputability or criminal liability” were “publicly known”. There is no competent judge who could rule of a pope that guilt was involved, and so the guilt could be Notorious only by being widely publicly known – it would have to be widely known that the act was morally imputable. And it would be necessary that it could not be excused by an appeal to an “accident”, some sort of “self-defence”, or some other legally admissible excuse; it would also be necessary that “no subterfuge” could possibly conceal it.
3.6. Can John-Paul II be declared Notorious and Pertinacious heretic? As much as the concepts of Notorious and Pertinacious are clear in theory, nevertheless, their concrete application is extremely difficult, especially in the case of the pope. The main reason is that such pertinacity is finally determined by the public acknowledgement of the heresy coming from the legitimate authority.
It would have to be necessary not only that a knowledge that John Paul II had committed heresy had spread through the universal Church– which obviously is not so, as only a tiny, tiny minority, far less than 0.1% of the Church, even claim that he has – but it would also be necessary that a knowledge of a guilt on his part of formal, pertinacious heresy, had likewise spread through the Church. It would be necessary that no resort could conceal the act or the guilt: no appeal to dodgy translations of the original text or to camera tricks; no appeal to faulty speech writers; no appeal to old age; no appeal to ignorance of, or confusion as to, the doctrine in question; no appeal to an accident of writing or speech; no appeal that his saying was “in some way compatible with the doctrine of the Faith if we understood his modern ‘philosophical’ speech”; no appeal to some kind of ecclesial self-defence in the present hostile liberal social or ecclesial climate.
Even if the crime could not be covered up and there were no legally admissible defence or excuse for the act, nevertheless the greater part of the Church would still have to know of his moral guilt and that the act was legally inexcusable. It would be necessary that the priests and the Catholic press could not cover up the crime to the people in any way, by any device. The fact is that the Church is most resourceful and the Faithful are most docile and deferential and next to no one has recognised the heresy of the pope, let alone any moral culpability and legal inexcusability.
And anyway, the priests and the people themselves have embraced the very same heresies as John Paul II and think that he is just fine, or even “the greatest pope ever”, as many have been heard to say. Even the vast majority of the comparatively very few who have not embraced all the same heresies as he do not see or accept that the pope is in heresy – and the tiny, tiny number who can see it tend to excuse it as not pertinacious but rather due to the overall situation in the Church, especially since “Vatican II”, which has blinded almost everyone to many of the true doctrines of the Faith.
The heresy of John Paul II obviously is formally secret in canonical terms, regardless of how clear it might seem to the occasional “traditionalist”: his acts have been recognised neither as heretical nor as morally imputable and legally inexcusable. Hence, his heresy is not legally recognised as notorious in fact; accordingly it is not notorious; and the legal conditions have not been fulfilled which canonists have specified for a pope to lose his office by heresy.
3.7. Could the pertinacity of John-Paul II be presumed? Could we make such a statement looking at the insistence of the Pope on the new ways, and this in the face of all tradition and its present-day witnesses? Perhaps; but not socially, which means, as regards loss of office, etc., which must not be presumed but proven, otherwise societies would collapse. One can understand that a quick and imprudent answer to such difficult question could easily lead someone to sink in the quicksand of Sedevacantism.
If John Paul II often enough makes heretical affirmations or statements that lead to heresy, it cannot easily be shown that he is aware of rejecting any dogma of the Church. It appears that, in his conduct, John-Paul II is deeply convinced that he is doing his best for the service of the Church12. How is it possible for subjects to prove with moral certainty that the Pope, in his heart of hearts (i.e., within himself), actually hopes and wishes to cause and bring evil upon his subjects and that it is on account of this evil will that he promulgates evil laws? It is not possible.
As a typical liberal, John-Paul II is multiplying the ambiguous statements, and concessions, in order to please the world. It may happen that he is making heretical statements without even realizing it: thus he cannot be found as a formal heretic.13 Therefore, as long as there is no sure proof, it is more prudent to refrain from judging. This was Archbishop Lefebvre's prudent line of conduct.
4. Problems with the Sedevacantist thesis: After the study of the theological and canonical possibility for a pope to fall into heresy, let me go to the subject that concerns us, namely what can we think about the Sedevacantist theories which are being promoted around us.4.1. Dealing with the qualities of the Church: Visibility and Indefectibility of the Church: The main difficulty of Sedevacantism is to explain how the Church can continue to exist in a visible manner, while being deprived from her head. St. Robert Bellarmine exposes the universal and constant belief in the visibility of the Church. He says that it is proven by the necessity to obey the visible head of the Church, under pain of eternal damnation14.
The Visibility of the Church is directly linked to the Roman Pontiff. The Council Vatican I taught the that the permanence and the source of unity of the Church and its visible foundation depend on the perpetual existence of the Roman Pontiff:“ In order, then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, He set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation… And since the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the Church, make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against its divinely laid foundation, we judge it necessary, with the approbation of the Sacred Council, and for the protection, defence and growth of the Catholic flock, to propound the doctrine concerning the 1. Institution, 2. Permanence and 3. Nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon which the strength and coherence of the whole Church depends. This doctrine is to be believed and held by all the faithful in accordance with the ancient and unchanging faith of the whole Church. Furthermore, we shall proscribe and condemn the contrary errors which are so harmful to the Lord's flock.”15
Father Gréa is using some very strong terms to explain the perpetuity of the See of Peter:“Such is the institution of St. Peter that through him, and him alone, Jesus-Christ, chief of the Church, is made visible. Thus, it is manifest that such institution has to remain as long as the Church; for the Church cannot be deprived even for one instant of the communication of life flowing forth from her chief. If so, the Church cannot be deprived even for a day of the presence of the exterior and visible government of her divine spouse, it had been necessary to provide for the succession of St. Peter.”16
This quote from Fr. Gréa has to be understood properly. Between the death of a pope and the election of the next one, there is a time of interregnum where the day to day exterior and visible government of the Church is kept by the offices of the Holy See. This is how the permanence of the institution of St. Peter is kept from one to the next successor. Popes St. Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John-Paul II set up precise rules for the time of vacancy of the Apostolic See, between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. Such rules precise the powers of the Cardinals and of the Roman Curia during the interregnum. The longest interregnum that happens in the history of the Church was of 3 years. Now, for those who follow the Sedevacantist theory, the Church would be without a pope for 40 years or more.
The Sedevacantists17 claim that they do not reject the papacy, the primacy and the indefectibility of the Church, but it is a matter of fact that they cannot come up with an objective way to tell us when and by whom the next pope will be elected. This is the main problem with their thesis.
4.2. Election of the recent popes: John XXIII, Paul VI, John-Paul I & II: The Apostolic Constitution Cum ex Apostolatus of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) declares invalid the election of a heretic to any ecclesiastical office, including the supreme pontificate. However, it cannot be used to prove the invalidity of the election of Paul VI and John-Paul II.
First, it should be reminded that such bull was merely disciplinary, and not doctrinal. Since that time, the Church has judged that it would be better for her to be validly governed by a heretic than to be invalidly governed by the same, with all of his acts void and giving no power. The law governing papal elections which was in force for the elections of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI was that of Pope Pius XII († 1958) who legislated, on 8 December 1945, as follows:“None of the Cardinals may, by pretext or reason of any excommunication, suspension, or interdict whatsoever, or of any other ecclesiastical impediment, be excluded from the active and passive election of the Supreme Pontiff. We hereby suspend such censures solely for the purposes of the said election; at other times they are to remain in vigour.”18
Now, to participate in an election ‘actively’ means to vote in the election and to participate ‘passively’ means to be elected to the office, to be the ‘passive’ (acted upon) object of the election. Thus, no cardinal subjected to “any excommunication” was “excluded from the active and passive election of the Supreme Pontiff" and any of them could have become pope.
Hence, even if John XXIII and Paul VI had been subject to excommunications for any reasons whatsoever, due to heresy or Masonic membership or whatever, they would still have been validly elected to the papacy. The same conclusion would apply to John Paul I and John Paul II, who were elected to the papacy under the substantially identical legislation which Pope Paul VI issued on October 1, 1975. They too were validly elected popes.
Fr. Brian W. Harrison comments:“Thus, if the Church's law required that a Cardinal be free from all ecclesiastical censure in order to be eligible for the papacy, the voters in general would have no guarantee that any given candidate was not in fact ineligible because of some secret crime by which he had incurred excommunication. They might unwittingly carry out an invalid election, in which case the "Pope" they elected would not be true Pope. The invalidity of his acts would then be a kind of spiritual cancer, quietly destroying the Church's vital structures from within: the Bishops appointed by him would have no true right to govern their respective dioceses; no laws he passed would be binding on the Church; and in particular, the Cardinals named by him would not be valid electors of a future Pope. How, then, could a true Pope be restored, if at all? Who would be competent to decide? When the fact of this hidden excommunication finally came to light, the resulting chaos would be unimaginable. Nobody would know with certainty who, if anyone, still had any real authority in the Church, and schism - perhaps a series of schisms - would seem almost inevitable. The Church's law therefore foresees and avoids the possibility of this catastrophic situation by allowing that even a secret heretic or apostate, if elected as Pope, would ascend the Chair of Peter with full juridical rights over the universal Church on earth“19
Archbishop Lefebvre spoke also about another problem that may affect the value of the election of the recent popes:“Does not the exclusion of the cardinals of over eighty years of age, and the secret meetings which preceded and prepared the last two Conclaves render them invalid? Invalid: no, that is saying too much. Doubtful at the time: perhaps. But in any case the subsequent unanimous acceptance of the election by the Cardinals and the Roman clergy suffices to validate it. That is the teaching of the theologians.”20
4.3. The Case of Cardinal Siri: It is being argued by some Sedevacantists that some very serious defects affected the Conclaves that elected Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, then, consequently John-Paul I and John-Paul II.
It is being claimed that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, the former Archbishop of Genoa, Italy was elected pope in the 1958, 1963 conclaves, and possibly also in 1978. Cardinal Siri was extremely popular in Italy, mostly for his strong social accomplishments in Genoa. He was also considered as a strong conservative, even though he did not publicly stand in defence of Tradition during the Vatican II council. So, apparently, Cardinal Siri had been ‘elected’ pope at the conclave that followed the death of Pope Pius XII. Some are going as far as telling us that he had accepted the election of his fellow cardinals, and had taken the name of Gregory XVII. Shortly before such ‘election’ was to be made public to the world, a group of cardinals would have revolted against him, and forced him to renounce to the supreme pontificate. Then, Cardinal Roncalli was chosen and appeared to the world as Pope John XXIII. Some Sedevacantist pulled out a recent report from the FBI to prove such thesis. They added on that ‘Pope Siri’ secretly appointed cardinals to succeed to him in the future. Frankly, such theory doesn’t make sense, for a number of reasons.
First of all there is a Church law that binds under secrecy all the proceedings of a conclave, under the penalty of excommunication for whoever would break such seal. Even if Cardinal Siri was properly elected as a pope, it is a matter of fact that he never showed it in public. He was among the cardinals that paid allegiance to both Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. After the 1958 and 1963 conclaves, he went back to his diocese of Genoa. In 1969, though reluctantly, he adopted the Novus Ordo Missae.
Meanwhile, a French priest, Father Guérin, had established a ‘conservative’ community of priests in Genoa. Back in the seventies, Father Guérin was living in Paris, France, where he used to say a weekly Novus Ordo Mass all in Latin, with biretta and incense, which I attended a couple of times. I know personally two members of Fr. Guérin’s community that have been ordained priests by Cardinal Siri. They have now an apostolate in France, and say the Novus Ordo Mass. Their ordination was held with the New Mass, though in a more conservative way.
Finally, Cardinal Siri died in 1989. But, the most important reason why we must discard the “Pope Siri” theory is the fundamental principle that a peaceful acceptance of a pope by the Universal Church is the infallible sign and effect of a valid election. All theologians agree on that point. Cardinal Billot says:“God may allow that a vacancy of the Apostolic See last for a while. He may also permit that some doubt be risen about the legitimacy of such or such election. However, God will never allow the whole Church to recognize as Pontiff someone who is not really and lawfully. Thus, as long as a pope is accepted by the Church, and united with her like the head is united to the body, one can no longer raise any doubt about a possible defective election… For the universal acceptance of the Church heals in the root any vitiated election.”21
Now, the kick: let us imagine that I am totally wrong, and that, indeed, Cardinal Siri was the real pope that came out of the 1958 and/or 1963 conclaves. Let’s go even further: imagine for a moment that ‘Pope Siri’ secretly appointed cardinals, to be able to provide for a successor after his death. Such secretly appointed cardinals would be called cardinals in pectore (close to the heart). It happened a number of times in the history of the Church that popes appointed cardinals in pectore. For different reasons, the popes didn’t want to make public their names at least for a while. Usually, the reason was to protect the life of such cardinals, who were living in countries where the Church was persecuted.
This was the case for Cardinal Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1944 till 1984. There is a rule which says that the name of any cardinal appointed in pectore had to be made public by the pope who appointed him. Thus, all cardinals appointed secretly whose name had not revealed before the death of the pope who nominated them would automatically lose their title22. This was the case of Cardinal Slipyj, who was made Cardinal in pectore by Pope John XXIII in 1960. As John XXIII never released his name, Cardinal Slipyj was unable to participate in the 1963 conclave. However, in 1965, Pope Paul VI officially restored Cardinal Slipyj’s title, thus giving him all the rights and privileges of a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.
Consequently, any and every ‘cardinal’ that was appointed secretly by ‘Pope Siri’ lost their title in 1989, upon the death of Cardinal Siri, and automatically lost their right to participate in the election of ‘Pope Siri’s successor. Such an argument may not be final to some people. They may try to tell us that ‘Pope Siri’ changed the law of a papal election, in order to allow cardinals in pectore to participate, thus allowing the election his successor. When it goes that far, the only thing we can say is that such conspiracy nuts have lost complete contact with reality.
4.4. The Case of Bishop Thuc: No matter how divided is the Sedevacantist world, it is a matter of fact that it survives sacramentally thanks to the episcopal consecrations of Bishop Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc (1897-1984). Bishop Thuc was the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hué, Vietnam. At the time of the fall of Vietnam to Communism in 1975, he had to flee out of the country, and was more-or-less abandoned by Roman authorities. In 1976, he consecrated Bishop Clemente Dominguez y Gomez, the founder of the sect of Palmar de Troya, Spain. Bishop Thuc was then excommunicated by the Vatican for such consecration, but was ‘reconciled’ by Paul VI in the course of the same year. In 1977, the following year, he consecrated Bishop Laborie, the founder of the sect called Eglise Latine de Toulouse.
Then, in 1981-1982, he consecrated Bishop Guérard des Lauriers and 3 other bishops in different ceremonies held in secret in his private apartment, in Toulon, France. In 1982, he made a statement, called the Munich Declaration, by which he declared Vacancy of the See of Peter, in other words that John-Paul II lost his office. Last but not least, Bishop Thuc was finally ‘reconciled’ by the Vatican shortly before his death, in 1984. So, from 1976 till his death, Bishop Thuc had been oscillating between Sedevacantism and reconciliation with the Vatican. This fact is enough to question the seriousness of the Munich Declaration. I think that he was a good man much abused by many on account of his own readiness to consecrate bishops, but could not have been the one whom God chose as the instrument of His Providence, although his work has shown itself altogether ‘providential’ for the Sedevacantists!23
We should not forget that the present day Sedevacantist bishops, and then the priests they ordained are all coming from the lineage of Bishop Thuc.
5. Sedevacantist attitude:5.1. Mass Una Cum: Bishop Guérard des Lauriers24 used to say that “to cite John Paul II at the Te Igitur of the Holy Mass is to commit, objectively and ineluctably, the double crime of sacrilege and capital schism.”
On the contrary, the expression Una Cum in the Canon of the Mass does not mean that one affirms that he is ‘in communion’ with the erroneous opinions of the pope, but rather that one wants to pray for the Church ‘and for’ the pope, her visible head. In order to be sure of this interpretation, let us report the rubric of the missal for the occasion of a bishop celebrating Mass. In this case, the bishop must pray for the Church “Una cum… me indigno famulo tuo”, which does not mean that he prays ‘in communion with… myself, your unworthy servant’ (which doesn’t make sense!), but that he prays ‘and for… myself, your unworthy servant.’ We should then consider that those who refuse to name the pope during the canon of the Mass think that the Church lost her visible head. This attitude is schismatic!
5.2. Validity of the New Sacraments: Many Sedevacantists hold that the New Mass and the New Sacraments are always invalid. They consider that all priests ordained in the new rite, after 1969, are not priests. On that topic, let me quote Archbishop Lefebvre:“Now it is easy to show that the New Mass manifests an inexplicable rapprochement with the theology and liturgy of the Protestants. The following fundamental dogmas of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are not clearly represented and are even contradicted… Must one conclude further that all these Masses are invalid? As long as the essential conditions for validity are present (matter, form, intention, and a validly ordained priest), I do not see how one can affirm this. The prayers at the Offertory, the Canon and the Priest's Communion which surround the words of Consecration are necessary, not to the validity of the Sacrifice and the Sacrament, but rather to their integrity. It is clear, however, that fewer and fewer Masses are valid these days as the faith of priests is destroyed and they possess no longer the intention to do what the Church does, an intention which the Church cannot change. The current formation of those who are called seminarians today does not prepare them to celebrate Mass validly.”25
5.3. Misunderstanding of the true nature of the Church: At this point, I would like to give a diagnosis of the Sedevacantist attitude.“Sedevacantists are truly obsessed by the question of the papacy. One may well wonder if in many of them this is not due to some psychological trauma. Their understandable ancestral veneration for the pope seems to unleash a veritable panic at the idea of contrasting their cherished, idealized image of the papacy with such popes as Paul VI and John Paul II. Sedevacantism appears to be more of a psychological than a theological problem… We now see only too well what effects those theological outpourings produce in passionate Catholics. They now have become their own pope. They judge their own priests. No longer do many of them have recourse to the sacrament of Confession. No longer do they hearken to the Church's infallible teachings. They generally bring moral ruin on their own families.”26
Such cherished, idealised image of papacy is leading them to act in practice as if the Church was only a divine institution. On the contrary, the Church, as founded by Jesus-Christ, is both divine and human. It is divine in its origin, its founder and its invisible head… but it is human in its members, in particular in the visible head, the pope. As being divine, the Church is the unspotted and unblemished spouse of Christ… but, as human, the Church is composed of men who, like you and I are sinners. Then, we should not be surprised if the present pope can betray his master, as did St. Peter. Along with Sedevacantism, we see a revival of some of the old errors of John Wycliffe and John Hus, who pretended that sinners are no more members of the Church.
Let me quote some of the propositions condemned by the Council of Constance (1414-1418):“if the pope is foreknown and evil, and consequently a member of the devil, he does not have the power over the faithful given to him by anyone, unless perchance by Caesar.”27
“If the pope is wicked and especially if he is foreknown, then as Judas, the Apostle, he is from the devil… and he is not the head of the holy militant Church, since he is not a member of it.”28
5.4 Subjectivism: No matter how they try to justify their position, we have to admit that the Sedevacantist thesis is not based on objective facts, but rather on subjectivism. The objective criterion required by Catholic theology for recognizing who is a true pope is the recognition of the one elected by the Cardinals, Bishops and by the Whole Church. In the Sedevacantist mind, such criterion cannot any longer be objective, but will necessarily make appeal to a fundamentally subjective source, even if an effort is made to make it appear as objective.
Because the Sedevacantist attitude is not based on safe and objective principles of Catholic theology, we should not be surprised to witness some astounding reversals and turnabouts. Let me give one example among others: back in the 1980’s, Father Olivier de Blignières, then an outspoken supporter of the Sedevacantist thesis of Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, had founded in France a religious community. Then, in the wake of the 1988 Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei Afflicta of Pope John-Paul II, the same Father de Blignières flipped over and put himself under the Ecclesia Deicommission. His community, called the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer, was immediately recognized by the Roman authorities, and granted the status of Pontifical Right. In the doctrinal field, back in the 1980’s, Fr. de Blignières thought that Religious Liberty was heretical.
Now, he is writing books to justify Vatican II’s Religious Liberty.
6. Judgement on Sedevacantism: Could we say that the Sedevacantist thesis is simply a wrong thesis, but that we should tolerate it in a spirit of charity? No, I think that Sedevacantism is very dangerous. It leads to an attitude which is not Catholic, but schismatic.
6.1. Schism:“It is consequently true that there can be some theological discussion as to whether Sedevacantists are formally schismatic or not. The answer to this depends on the degree of Sedevacantism. There are radical Sedevacantists that call us heretics since we are in communion with a heretic (Wojtyla), so they say.
These are certainly schismatic, for they clearly reject communion with true Catholics, who are in no way modernist. By making their Sedevacantism a quasi-article of faith they certainly fall into the second category of persons that canon 1325, §2 declares to be schismatic: "He is a schismatic who rejects communion with members of the Church subject to him (i.e., the Sovereign Pontiff)." It is consequently by their refusal to be a part of the Church, and effectively making the "church" as they see it consist only in Sedevacantists that they are certainly schismatic.”29
This is exactly the case of the CMRI (Mount St. Michael, Spokane), which states:“Are traditional Catholics subject to the local hierarchy and ultimately to Rome?... He (the Sedevacantist) recognizes that he is actually not subject and obedient to John Paul II.”30
Some other Sedevacantists claim that, on account of the failure of the hierarchy of Vatican II, they can now elect their own pope. Such theory is called Conclavism. This is the most radical brand, but somehow the most logical consequence of Sedevacantism. There are now about 20 ‘popes’ in the world, for example ‘Gregory XVII’ from Palmar de Troya, Spain; another ‘Gregory XVII’ from St. Jovite, Québec; ‘Pius XIII’, in the USA… Certainly, Conclavism is schismatic. Does it mean that every Sedevacantist is a formal schismatic? No, I would not go that far.
Among the people who follow the Sedevacantists theories, there are a number of confused Catholics who are being attracted by these ‘simple’ and ‘clear’ answers to the problems of the situation of the Church coming from the masters of Sedevacantism. It is mostly to these confused Catholics that this study is addressed: beware of the mirages of Sedevacantism. It will lead you astray from the Church and the Sacraments!
6.2. Spiritual illness of Sedevacantism:1. Intellectual desolation: How could we understand the state of a Sedevacantist mind? I think it is characterised by a fixed idea, which is almost an obsession.Their mind seems to freeze on the problem of the pope, which appears to them as being very serious and urgent.
This is a typical case of Intellectual Desolation, by which their soul is being disturbed as long as a ‘clear answer’ has not been found for such a serious problem. Sedevacantists claim that it is urgently needed to make a judgement on the Vatican II popes.
For them, it appears to be THE fundamental problem all Traditional Catholics should focus on. For example, let me quote Bishop Pivarunas:“As unpleasant as this subject may be, traditional Catholics are confronted by the terrible and burning questions: Is the Conciliar Church the Catholic Church? Is John-Paul II, as the head of the Conciliar Church, a true pope?…Suffice it to say, the issue of the pope is a difficult one, and unpleasant one, and a frightful one; yet it is a necessary and important issue which cannot be avoided.”31
Let me summarise how Sedevacantists approach the question of the pope: #1 it is a question they have at heart; #2 they want to get a final answer with absolute certainty; #3 such problem is so urgent that it becomes the focus of their attention, up to the point that they cannot see anything else.
Thus, they direct their arguments not much against the Modern Church, for which they care less, but against those fellow Traditional Catholics who do not share their conclusions.
St. Francis de Sales suffered similar Intellectual Desolation. It was on the matter of predestination. His intellect froze on that question, and his heart was filled with the anguish that he may be damned no matter what. The more he was studying, the more he was finding serious objections against predestination. This was driving him nuts. How did St. Francis manage to free himself from that intellectual prison? One day, he fell on his knees before a statue of Our Lady and said:“O Holy Virgin, I think that I am going to be damned. If I have to curse God for all eternity, let me at least offer you this day in honour of God.”
When St. Francis de Sales got up, he was healed, being able to relocate his ‘problem’ at the second place, which is after the humble fulfilment of his daily duty.
Let me apply that example to the sedevacantist bug: “Who knows if John-Paul II is pope? Who knows if the Society of St. Pius X is schismatic, as they recognise the pope, and don’t obey to him?” In a sedevacantist mind, such questions are producing deep emotional reactions, which lead to anger and panic: the Sedevacantist is looking for a final answer right now.
This kind of Intellectual Desolation is very dangerous. It is threatening pious souls, who are being convinced that they would betray their consciences if they were to ignore these fundamental issues. Such problem affects persons tempted to intellectual pride, and having a tendency to look for the most extreme and desperate solutions, like Brother Michael Dimond, from Most Holy Family Monastery.
By the way, Mr. John Vennari, the editor of Catholic Family News, was monk in that monastery. He left them because he did not agree with their attitude.
2. Remedy: In the book of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola gives some rules for Discerning the Spirits. Here are the ones that should be used to deal with the Intellectual Desolation of Sedevacantists:do not make any change to your previous resolutions (5th rule); counter attack the temptation, by prayer and penance (6th rule); make an act of will by which you will refuse to be locked in a controversy that you are not qualified to settle (12th rule).
You need to practice intellectual self-discipline and mortification of the will, in other words humility. In our daily life, there are many problems which we are unable to settle, because we do not have the tools. Let us humbly recognise it. Moreover, I think it is important to de-passionate and de-dramatise the problem of the pope: when you will appear before him, do you think that St. Peter will ask you for your opinion on one of his successors?
Let me be clear: I do not want to evacuate the real problem of the Church since Vatican II, but to give some simple rules of intellectual self-discipline in order to de-dramatise the Sedevacantist issue, which appears very clearly to be a case of Intellectual Desolation.
Always remember that the devil is a liar. He is using the Sedevacantist bug to draw some pious souls away from the means of sanctification, the Mass and the Sacraments. Beware!
7. The true nature of the Infallible Magisterium:
7.1. Is it conceivable that we could find any heresy in any document from the Magisterium? A superficial study of the theologians who deal with the problem of a heretical pope would lead to a negative answer to that question. Viewed with the Sedevacantist glasses, the conclusion would be that the existence of heresies in the Magisterium of John-Paul II is another proof that he is not a pope, and that all his Magisterium is null and void.
However, it is a matter of fact that all the authors who studied the possibility of a heretical pope only imagined the possibility of a pope heretic as a private person32, and considered the matter of a possible heresy in an official document of the Magisterium as being out of question, as it is recorded by Xavier de Silveira33. Accordingly, in his article on the Infallibility of the pope, Dublanchy says that it cannot be concluded that, because the Infallibility, the pope could never fall into heresy as a private doctor.34
7.2. Fallible or Infallible? Only recently, after the definition of the Infallibility at Vatican I, the matter of the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium had been included in the theological debate. It is very important to get clear ideas about the nature of the pope’s Infallible Magisterium.
Let me recommend the book Pope or Church35, which contains two essays on the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium. This book was summarized in an article published in the January 2002 issue of the SiSi NoNo magazine:"What worries Catholics most in the current crisis in the Church is precisely the "problem of the Pope." We need very clear ideas on this question. We must avoid shipwreck to the right and to the left, either by the spirit of rebellion or, on the other hand, by an inappropriate and servile obedience. The serious error which is behind many current disasters is the belief that the "Authentic Magisterium" is nothing other than the "Ordinary Magisterium."
It is very important to keep the proper understanding of what is and what is not infallible in the teachings of the pope. Xavier de Silveira says that we cannot exclude the existence of a possible heresy in a non-infallible pontifical document36. Fr. Le Floch, superior of the French Seminary in Rome, announced in 1926:"The heresy which is now being born will become the most dangerous of all; the exaggeration of the respect due to the Pope and the illegitimate extension of his infallibility.”
One of his students was none other than the future Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
7.3. The case of the Conciliar Magisterium: There is also a very thorough article from Fr. Alvaro Calderon, SSPX, published in Le Sel de la Terre37 Father Calderon overviews the conditions required for the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium. He concludes that the conciliar Magisterium (Vatican II and post-conciliar) is not covered by the charisma of infallibility.“Both in the field of the Ordinary and of the Extraordinary Magisterium, the conciliar and post-conciliar authorities did not want to teach with infallibility. Why? Being infected with Liberalism, the said authorities refused to use the extraordinary charisma, and prevented the Ordinary Magisterium from being Universal, thus preventing it from being infallible. That is why, the conciliar Magisterium is not infallible, and cannot be so in any way as long as the ecclesiastical authorities will not depart from liberalism.”38
Let us remember that both Popes John XXIII and Paul VI did not want the Vatican II Council to be a dogmatic Council making infallible statements, but rather, a Pastoral Council, to reach forth the needs of the modern man. Such fear of using the charisma of infallibility is typical of the liberal attitude.
Archbishop Lefebvre spoke about the liberalism of Pope Paul VI:“The liberalism of Paul VI, recognized by his friend, Cardinal Danielou, is thus sufficient to explain the disasters of his pontificate. Pope Pius IX in particular spoke often of the liberal Catholic, whom he considered a destroyer of the Church. The liberal Catholic is a two-sided being living in a world of continual self-contradiction. While he would like to remain Catholic, he is possessed by a thirst to appease the world. He affirms his faith weakly, fearing to appear too dogmatic, and as a result his actions are similar to those of the enemies of the Catholic Faith. Can a pope be liberal and remain Pope? The Church has always severely reprimanded liberal Catholics, but she has not always excommunicated them.”39
8. A Catholic attitude for our times:
8.1. Recognition: As Catholics, we are bound to believe everything that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church believes and teaches, and we wish to live and die in this Faith, for outside of the Church, there is no salvation.
We also profess a perfect communion with Peter, and with his legitimate successor, and for nothing in the world shall we dissociate ourselves from Peter, the Rock upon whom Jesus Christ founded the Church.
We firmly believe in the papal infallibility, as defined by the first Vatican Council. We acknowledge that the power of the pope is not absolute, but is limited by Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Unconditional and unlimited obedience we owe only to God.
8.2. Resistance: We resist the ecclesiastical authorities when they depart from Tradition.
Let me be clear: it is not by a private judgment that we ‘pick and chose’ what we want to follow in the teachings of Pope John-Paul II, but it is in virtue of an objective criterion, which is Tradition. The Society of St. Pius X made a clear and definite commitment to Tradition. Thus, it gives us a right to refuse the official documents that departs from these 2000 years of Tradition.
Let me quote from some approved theologians. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that, in extreme situations, it is licit to publicly oppose a papal decision, like St. Paul resisted St. Peter (Galatians II, 14).“It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal. 2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects." (Summa Theologica II, II, Qu. 33, article 4, ad2).
St. Robert Bellarmine says:“It is licit to resist a Sovereign Pontiff who is trying to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him in not following his orders and in preventing the execution of his will” (De Romano Pontifice, Lib.II, c.29).
Pope Leo XIII says:“But where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.” (Encyclical Libertas, #13).
Abbot Guéranger:“When the pastor becomes a wolf, it is first of all for the flock to defend itself. Without a doubt, doctrine normally descends from the bishops to the faithful people, and the subjects, in the order of faith, are not to judge their leaders. But in the treasure of revelation there are essential points concerning which every Christian, by virtue of his very title as a Christian, has the necessary knowledge and obligatory custody. The principle does not change, whether it concerns belief or conduct, morality or dogma. Treasons like that of Nestorius are rare in the Church; but it can happen that the pastors remain silent, for one reason or another, in circumstances where religion itself is at stake. The true faithful are those who, in such circumstances, draw from their own baptism the inspiration for a line of conduct, not those pusillanimous persons who, under the specious pretext of submission to the established powers, await a program-which is not at all necessary and which ought not to be given them-before chasing away the enemy or opposing his undertakings”.40
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre:“No authority, even the very highest in the hierarchy, can constrain us to abandon or to diminish our Catholic faith, such as it has been clearly expressed and professed by the Church's Magisterium for nineteen centuries.”But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema". (Gal. I. 8.) Is this not what the Holy Father is repeating to us today? And if a certain contradiction is apparent in his words and actions, as well as in the acts of various Roman Congregations, then we choose what has always been taught, and we turn a deaf ear to the innovations which are destroying the Church.”41
8.3. Prayer for the Pope and for the Church: Could we say that, on account of the heretical teachings of Pope John-Paul II, traditional Catholics are not bound to pray for him? First of all, I would say that to refuse to pray for the pope is not a Catholic behaviour. When St. Peter had been thrown in jail by King Herod, the whole Church was praying for him: “But prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him.” (Acts XII, 5).
We are now in a different situation, though we could say that the Vatican II popes are like prisoners of their false ideas. Their liberalism is preventing them from fulfilling their mission of confirming their brethren in the Faith: “and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke XXII, 32). We need to pray for the pope, so that he will get the strength to fulfill his mission of successor of St. Peter, as defined in Vatican I Council:“For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”42
Also, if we want to gain indulgences, we need to pray for the intentions of the pope. If we refuse to pray for the intentions of the pope, we will not able to gain most indulgences, and we will have to roast for a longer time in purgatory for that reason.
Canon 934§ 1:“If to gain an indulgence a general prayer for the intention of the Supreme Pontiff is prescribed merely mental prayer does not suffice; a vocal prayer at the option of the faithful is acceptable, unless a particular one is assigned.”
8.4. Attitude of Archbishop Lefebvre:“Here, too, we must continue in the spirit of the Church. We must refuse Liberalism from whatever source it comes because the Church has always condemned it. She has done so because it is contrary, in the social realm especially, to the Kingship of Our Lord. As with the question of the invalidity of the Novus Ordo, those who affirm that there is no Pope over simplify the problem. The reality is more complex. If one begins to study the question of whether or not a Pope can be heretical, one quickly discovers that the problem is not as simple as one might have thought. The very objective study of Xavier de Silveira on this subject demonstrates that a good number of theologians teach that the Pope can be heretical as a private doctor or theologian, but not as a teacher of the Universal Church. One must then examine in what measure Pope Paul VI willed to engage his infallibility in the diverse cases where he signed texts close to heresy if not formally heretical.”43
9.1. Was Our Lord sedevacantist? As He was preaching in Palestine, and even when He was arrested and condemned to death, Our Lord kept recognizing the authority of the Mosaic priesthood.“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not. For they say, and do not.” (Matthew XXIII, 1-3).
Moreover, Our Lord did not fire St. Peter after his triple betrayal during the night of the Passion, but confirmed him in his functions after Peter made reparation for his sin (John XXI, 15-17).
9.2. Was Our Lady sedevacantist? When she appeared at Fatima, Our Lady requested the consecration of Russia to be made by the pope in union with the bishops of the world. As we know, such consecration has not yet been done. If there is no more pope, it would follow that Our Lady was mistaken when the foretold that the consecration will be done, but late.
9.3. Words of wisdom: At the end of this study, I would like to apply the words of great Abbot Marmion to our topic:“When we appear before Christ on the last day, He will not ask us if we have fasted a great deal, if we have passed our life in penance, if we have given many hours to prayer: no, but if we have loved and helped our brethren. Are the other commandments, then, put aside? Certainly not, but our observance of them will have served for nothing if we have not kept this precept of loving one another -this precept which is so dear to Our Lord, since it is His commandment.”44
Let me paraphrase: when we will appear before Christ, He will not ask us what was our opinion on the legitimacy of Pope John-Paul II’s Pontificate. Rather, He will ask us if we had kept the Faith, and fed it by attending valid Mass and receiving valid Sacraments.
Such is the mission of the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to provide souls with these necessary means of sanctification.
1. Sedevacantism, by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, Cmri. Bishop Pivarunas is the superior of the Congregatio Mariae Regina Immaculatae (Congregation of Mary Queen Immaculate). Bishop Pivarunas received his episcopate from Bishop Thuc’ line bishops. The priests of CMRI are in charge of the Mount St. Michael School, Spokane, WA.
2. All my quotes from the Canon Law are related to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, published under Pope Benedict XV.
3. LNM: for the sake of convenience, I will use this abbreviation for the book La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser?
4. TFP (Tradition, Family, Property) is a movement which was founded in Brazil in the 1930’s by Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira, who , for 40 years, was a close friend of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer. Plinio wrote a famous book on the agrarian reform in Brazil, in which he defended quite well the Catholic Principles. However, in the early 1980’s, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer publicly broke with the TFP, when he became convinced that the TFP had turned into a dangerous personality cult whose purpose is the glorification of its Brazilian founder, Dr. Plinio Correa de Olivera. Many highly idealistic and religiously motivated young men have been captivated by its persuasive program. The appeals to moral, dogmatic and liturgical tradition which are so refreshing in this age of turmoil are simply a means to lure individuals into the cult.
5. The Monothelite heresy pretends that there is only one will in Our Lord, thus denying the existence of both divine will and human will.
6. LNM, p 246
7. LNM, p 276- 279
8. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange o.p. (†1964), was one of the finest theologians of the XX century. He was especially famous for his extraordinary capacity to give a synthesis of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. His many works show him as an achieved thomist and roman theologian. cf Pour La Sainte Eglise Romaine, V.A. Berto, Cadre, 1976.
9. Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bouscaren, 1951
10. Canon 1556
11. A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Woywod Smith, 1943
12. Once again, recently, Pope John-Paul II praised his predecessor Paul VI, and the Second Vatican Council which “marked a true renewal of the Church”. He added: ”The Church is alive today more than ever! But when one consider, it seems that there is still a lot to do; the work begins today and never ends.” Angelus prayer, Castelgandolfo, August 9, 2004.
13. Le Sel de la Terre, #49 (2004), p. 28. This quarterly review of theological studies, published by the traditional Dominican Fathers of Avrillé, France. This high quality review follows the mind of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX in the combat for Tradition.
14. DTC (Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique), Dublanchy, article Eglise, col. 2143
15. Constitution Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870
16. De L’Eglise de de sa Divine Constitution, Dom Gréa, Paris, 1885, p. 153. This book gives a commentary of the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I Council. It has also a very interesting section which deals with “the extraordinary action of the episcopate”, which gives doctrinal ground to justify the actions of Catholic bishops in time of crisis. Fr. Gréa gives 3 reasons: 1. Such a state of necessity that the existence of religion would be at threat; 2. When the ministry of the regular pastors is annihilated or made powerless; 3. When there is no hope of a possible recourse to the Holy See.
17. Sedevacantism, Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, Cmri, op. cit.
18. Apostolic Constitution, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, December 8, 1945
19. A Heretical Pope Would Govern The Church Illicitly But Validly, Living Tradition, May 2000
20. The New Mass and the Pope, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, November 8, 1979
21. Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, Vol. I, pp. 612-613. Along with Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange o.p., Louis Card. Billot s.j. was one of the greatest and finest Roman theologians of the XX century. He was a close friend of Fr. Henri Le Floch C.S.Sp., superior of the French Seminary in Rome, where Archbishop Lefebvre studied. Fr. Berto, who also studied in the same seminary under Fr. Le Floch, and was the personal theologian of Archbishop Lefebvre during the Council Vatican II said: “The genius of Cardinal Billot was to have recovered, separated, expanded and renewed the doctrine of the Angel of the School (St. Thomas Aquinas); to have taught the pure doctrine of St. Thomas, which he mastered remarkably with his personal charism.” Pour La Sainte Eglise Romaine, V.A. Berto, Cedre, 1976.
22. Canon 233 #2: “If, however, the Roman Pontiff announces the creation of some (Cardinal) in Consistory, (but) keeps his name reserved in his heart, one so promoted in the meantime enjoys no rights or privileges of a Cardinal, but, when the Roman Pontiff later makes his name known, he enjoys these from the date of publication, but with right of precedence from (the time of) the reservation in the heart.”
23. Sedevacantism – A False Solution to a Real Problem, pp. 51-57, Angelus Press, 2003
24. Fr. (then Bishop) Michel Guérard des Lauriers o.p. (†1988). In the 1970’s, Fr. Guérard was called by Archbishop Lefebvre to teach in the seminary of Econe. Later on, Archbishop Lefebvre had to dismiss Fr. Guérard des Lauriers on account of his sedevacantists theories. In the late 1970’s, Fr. Guérard des Lauriers developed his theory of the material pope, known as Cassiciacum thesis. In 1981, he was consecrated bishop by Bishop Thuc.
25. The New Mass and the Pope, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, November 8, 1979
26. Concerning a sedevacantist Thesis, SiSiNoNo, November 1998
27. Council of Constance, Session VIII: error #8 of John Wycliffe
28. Council of Constance, Session XV: error #20 of John Hus
29. Is a Sedevacantist to be considered a non-Catholic? Questions/Answers, Fr. Peter Scott, Angelus magazine www.sspx.org
30. Sedevacantism, by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, Cmri.
31. Sedevacantism, by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, Cmri.
32. Le Sel de la Terre, #47 (2003), p.73
33. LNM, p 317
34. DTC (Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique), Dublanchy, article Infallibilité du Pape, col. 1716
35. Pope or Church? Two studies on the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and on the Infallibility of the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium, Angelus Press, 1998
36. LNM, p 318
37. Le Sel de la Terre, #47 (2003)
38. Le Sel de la Terre, #47 (2003), p.47
39. The New Mass and the Pope, op.cit.
40. The Liturgical Year, Volume 4 – Septuagesima, feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Abbot Gueranger, p. 379-380
41. Declaration of November 21, 1974
42. Constitution Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870
43. The New Mass and the Pope, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, November 8, 1979
44. Christ, Life of the Soul, Abbot Columba Marmion, p.354