In my fourth installment last week, I concluded with the question about the Code of Canon Law being similarly meant to serve as a kind of spiritual "rules of the road" to salvation. Do its detail ecclesiastical provisions apply or not, and if not then what equivalents?
For this we point back to Lumen Gentium again. Notice that when it granted jurisdiction to those outside the Vatican, it required nothing of anyone to be the means of providing God's Grace and Sanctification to souls. Those who subsist within the Vatican (Bishop Rifan and attached priests of Campos, for example) would be still bound by whatever laws it applies to itself (currently a new "Code of Canon Law" issued in 1983), and bound to respect the former diocesan boundaries, if they are to continue functioning within that organization.
But what of those subsisting outside? If you live in the State of Kansas, then you are bound by its State Laws. But to those clerics who lawfully subsist outside today's Vatican, you are not in Kansas anymore, Toto. So let's see what doesn't apply to you: For one thing, diocesan boundaries. Nothing was said in Lumen Gentium (nor even Unitatis Redintegratio for that matter) restricting the activities of these non-Vatican clerics to certain regions nor of granting any cleric remaining within its structures to banish nor judge or exclude non-Vatican clerics from accomplishing their ministry, nor for any non-Vatican clerics to banish or judge each other or even (for that matter) banish or judge any Vatican clerics.
For those who function outside the Vatican boundaries, all geographical territorial diocesan boundaries are therefore dissolved. There are no specific assignments of any such cleric to any particular region. Their jurisdiction is therefore worldwide, but neither primary (as only the supreme bishop can be prime in his jurisdiction, and that limits it to one single bishop), nor territorially exclusive. In short, no traditional bishop can say to any other "This is my area; you must go work somewhere else."
Any ranking, or divvying up of geographical territory must therefore be only by mutual consent of all bishops, until such time as one bishop will once again command the obedience of all and whose duty that normally is. The only known instance of this taking place was that Campos was ceded by all (Indult, SSPX, sedevacantist alike) to the Society of Saint John Vianney. I am not sure if this status has continued now that they have transferred from an SSPX-like position to an indultarian one.
As to the rest of the faithful Catholic clerics, do they belong to a diocese? With Lumen Gentium, all of that was transferred over to the Vatican institution, and with that the Church's diocesan boundaries are all dissolved. When this happens, there can only remain the one eternal diocese, namely that of Rome. Why is that so? Combine any two or more dioceses by dissolving the boundary between them and what do you get? One diocese equal to the total of the former dioceses. If any of the former dioceses happens to be that of Rome, the new larger diocese would simply all become the diocese of Rome.
Traditional bishops are therefore bishops of Rome. None of them being prime (else he would be Pope), they all would properly be described as "assistant bishops to the Diocese of Rome," and that indeed they are. Being of the Diocese of Rome, does this make traditional bishops and priests "Cardinals"? An interesting question and one suitable for further study. For now I can only offer that idea as a speculation. However, one should be able to see that these bishops are all Canonical equals. None has the right to judge or dismiss another (unless one falls into heresy), nor to do same for any member of another's flock.
Can things really be this way, and it is healthy? It was so in the beginning. The whole concept of diocesan boundaries was completely unknown to the original Apostles, who basically just said among themselves "OK, you go North, you go North-East, … and you stay here." When the Arian crisis broke out, no Arian bishop ever once claimed the right to deny faculties to any Trinitarian priest entering even his own city, as the concept of diocesan boundaries and the prerogatives that come with same was still largely undeveloped. One of the less well-known things that the First Council of Nicea did was to begin the setting up and instituting of such territoriality in the first place.
How does it help? This is the amazing part. Unlike any merely human institution where (for example in medicine) it is always good to be able to get a second opinion, the Church, being divinely instituted, does not work that way. By putting one bishop in charge of a particular territory (diocese), whatever assistant bishops he may or may not have who are subordinate to him, this invokes Divine intervention to keep that bishop honest. For the Church to function in that territory, the bishop in charge of it must remain (or at the very least, tolerate) real and authentic Catholicism. Otherwise the Church would not exist there legally, and would thereby cease to be Catholic (universal in territory as well as adherence to the whole counsel of God). God cannot allow that and does not, owing to His promises to His Church.
Strangely, the very lack of such an arrangement is what had allowed the Arian heresy to spread so far and wide. As long as someone (canonical equal or lesser) has the jurisdiction to enter a bishop's territory or city, that bishop can himself fully fall into error and utterly refuse to serve the Church, since it is within the lawful power of others to fill in for him. When 99% of all bishops had went Arian, the Church was no less worldwide in being able to supply all sacraments and ruling guidance as always in all areas. Though few and widely dispersed, the jurisdiction of Trinitarian clergy still legally covered the whole earth.
By dissolving the diocesan boundaries, Lumen Gentium essentially brought the Church back into a pre-Nicene juridical condition. This is what freed the Vatican bishops to defect in such massive numbers even as the Church's bishops similarly defected back then. Yes we have jurisdiction, but they lost a certain Divine protection. And yes, the Church survived several centuries of persecution with such an arrangement without defecting. But it is not an ideal state of affairs. One day, such things must all be restored, and towards this end we are all obliged to work.
And what is first of all required to heal this situation and restore the former order? Point one and most preeminent: Vatican II (or at least Lumen Gentium in particular) must be revoked. To be revoked, that implies that it first be recognized has having been "on the books," so to speak. The later documents may be either revoked or condemned as need be, but that first must be revoked. Indeed, I don't see a full solution that would not start with revoking not only Vatican II itself, but also all that followed from it, and even all that merely (and falsely) pretended to follow from it. Anything short of that will provide a loophole for the evil one to continue the madness.
To possess jurisdiction, it is not necessary to acknowledge Vatican II as even valid (as many Catholic bishops have already condemned it), but to revoke it will require at least a brief acknowledgement of Vatican II so as to revoke it. Who can do this? If today's Vatican were to corporately repent and revoke it, would not all the traditional Catholic bishops around the world join in, making it's revocation official? And else if the Vatican loses even what it could still claim with respect to the Church (that is, if ever the Church should cease altogether to subsist within any portion whatsoever of it), it would be enough for the traditional bishops themselves to come together and do so.
Even from a more basic standpoint, this is a necessary action, since Lumen Gentium has yet one other consequence I have not discussed. If part of the Church subsists within the Vatican organization and another part similarly subsists outside, then, while such a condition persists, could any one bishop really and lawfully possess full and universal jurisdiction? The Vatican lead bishop could still be "prime" (providing he is not found to be a heretic), but his authority is by Lumen Gentium limited to only PART of the Church, namely that which subsists within his organization. Those subsisting outside are beyond his jurisdiction.
For any other bishop, such a difference would be merely a quantitative difference. Instead of having 10,000 souls in one's charge one instead has 8,000, or whatever. But for the Supreme and universal Bishop (Pope), to lack jurisdiction over so much as a single Catholic soul in union with the Church is to redefine his office in a far more fundamental and qualitative manner. His ecclesiastical rank cannot be Pope any longer, but instead something more equivalent to that of Archbishop, or perhaps the Patriarch of some particular Rite.
Look what happens to infallibility: A pope engages his infallibility when he 1) teaches on either Faith or Morals, 2) attempts to impose his teaching by virtue of his Petrine authority, and most crucially of all to this discussion, 3) attempts to bind the WHOLE Church to his decision. Only a bishop whose jurisdiction extends to every Catholic soul can do this, in other words a Pope. That is why the Pope alone can claim infallibility in himself, the infallibility of others being at all times dependent upon their attachment to the Pope's teaching. The Vatican Leader, whose jurisdiction is restricted by Lumen Gentium, is incapable of binding the whole Church for he lacks that fullness of authority.
How could any man whose jurisdiction is thus limited be Pope? Even if he were totally and unquestionably orthodox in all his faith and morals, he still cannot be Pope until Lumen Gentium gets revoked. Nor can anyone else be Pope either. Granted those who have attempted private "conclaves" so far have been of far less than ideal mental stability or even sanity, but even if they were fully sane and mentally stable, their efforts would even then similarly fail to produce a Pope for the Church.
When I say therefore, that our beloved Church has no Pope, I say that, not as a criticism of (for the moment anyway) John Paul II, but as mere statement of fact that no one bishop currently rules all traditional bishops. Indeed, in the case of John Paul II (and John Paul I for that matter, and to some extent Paul VI after Lumen Gentium), I say this as a way to excuse them. Were real and actual Popes, Successors to the Apostle Peter, to have done and said and taught the things done and said and taught by these men, one would have to declare the Church utterly and irrevocably destroyed, the Gates of Hell having thus entirely and perpetually prevailed. It would take a supernatural evil in them to do such a thing as shatter the Papal prerogative of infallibility.
But thankfully, Lumen Gentium has in fact seen to the formal and legal removal of Paul VI (and those following after him and sustaining rather than revoking it) from the papacy. We don't need to remove them (indeed no one of us nor even all of us put together would have had that kind of authority), but instead God acted. Lumen Gentium was God's Providential means for removing the Modernists from office in a formal and legal manner that need only be recognized for it has long since already taken place.
It is in fact their lack of a hold on the papacy that has freed them to fall into whatever errors they have privately and secretly harbored in their pre-Lumen Gentium canonically Catholic days. They do not lose the papacy for being in error, rather they are free to wander into error due to their "a priori" lack of the papacy. So what does that make the Vatican institution, as an organization? It is just like any other man-made organization (since men created it back at Vatican II with Lumen Gentium), and as such as subject to error as any other humanly made organization, nation, club, or what have you. This is why it can create new invalid "sacraments," and knowing all of this is why we Catholics need not continue to twist our minds into pretzels trying to reconcile its activities with authentic Catholicism. It is even why we need not be shocked, nor even the least bit surprised, when they act like the non-Catholics that they are, doing all they can to corrupt the souls of those who mistakenly trust in them.
So, what is the true state of the Church today? What picture is the correct one for all Catholics who would wish to save and keep their Faith? Today, there is no one bishop leading the whole Church, in other words, no Pope. The Papacy is in fact "closed" and can only be "reopened" by revoking Vatican II; a mere conclave, even to elect a truly Catholic and qualified person, is not enough. We have now only a dozen or two bishops, spiritually responsible for the care of all Catholic souls all around the world. Perhaps some several dozen or so Novus Ordo bishops (?) might also show themselves to be with Christ and us rather than against Him by being generous with the Indult and staunchly solid in exhorting truly Catholic morals, such as Bishop Weigand of Sacramento or Archbishop Pell in Australia, but this will have to be seen as history unfolds. Our Faith is as strong and orthodox as ever, perhaps never so sound since at least centuries ago. Our faithful priests, though numbering barely a thousand or so, are spread thin over the whole world, and we are bound to assist them in any way we can, including assisting at their Masses.
Our Faithful make up for their lack of numbers with their almost unequalled zeal and ardor. Never since Apostolic times has our devotion been so strong. However, our lack of leadership has enabled divisions to grow up among us true Catholics, and at times a lack a charity has resulted, even (worst of all) at times in the local level of our concrete actions towards our fellow Catholics. Our bishops, though similarly lacking the organizational unity that is incumbent upon them (and they will answer for this in their personal judgments if they do not repent and cooperate with each other) nevertheless all maintain the same exact Faith.
We are in fact as stripped-down as the Church could ever possibly be, as if several crises were all combined. Like the First Great Western Schism we have factions, each able to be the whole Church, and mistaking itself for that at times, but in fact merely portions of the one Church as due to reunite as the factions did back then. For we are, as Lumen Gentium states, all "forces impelling towards unity." Like the Arian crisis, nearly all the former bishops of the Church have defected, leaving the barest handful of those who walk in the shoes of the faithful St. Athanasius. Like with the fall of England, the non-Catholics have stolen our Church buildings and physical plant and even many fine clerics who unfortunately seem to have thought more of their earthly retirement plans than their heavenly one.
A few real questions occasion some discussion and even disagreement among us, but none of them are doctrinal: should the Leonine prayers be said at the end of the Low Mass? Should the 1962 Missal be used? Or the 1955 or something still previous? Which of the present Vatican leaders are within or outside the pale, as far as being qualified to be considered Catholics at all? But deep down we all know that these questions will just have to wait until somewhat more order can be restored, and all of us with any right to the title of Catholic will strive with all our might to work towards that wonderful Day, working together in charity with all of those other Catholics who disagree with us on the above legitimate questions.
That is what defines our unity with the Church today: Are we willing to submit ourselves to our traditional priests and bishops in matters spiritual, not flitting from one to another as suits our wanton desires, but supporting our chosen clerics as befits all Catholics, and not participating in any of the hateful schismatic denunciations of our fellow Catholics who do the same for their equally faithful clerics of supposedly "rival" orders? Do we live as we ought, in Catholic charity and humility, with an active and ever-maturing interior life, as guided by our spiritual director? In that we keep our full and lawful membership in the Church as a member in good standing. The Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church has already occured; let the Restoration begin.