Dr. Rama P. Coomeraswamy
If the chair is not empty, then those who believe John Paul II was - and now Benedict XVI is - a true pope, must accept what he imparts and not pick and choose as if they were the Magisterium.
"The sedevacantist position makes no attempt to define the nature of the post-conciliar popes - be they "usurpers" or "anti-popes." What it states is that the Chair of Peter is at this point in time empty - the Chair however continues to exist as it always will - but that the commands of those who are supposedly sitting in this Chair are without authority. To those who are horrified by the idea of sedevacantism, and who proclaim their conviction in the legitimacy of the present hierarchy, one can with sadness only say, "if he (and the bishops in union with him) are true popes, then obey them." It makes no sense for those who loudly proclaim JP II [and now Benedict XVI] is a true pope, to complain about the New Mass or some teaching of Vatican II. Such is simply not Catholic. Rather, they must embrace with love all his teachings and actions and extend every effort to fulfill his expectations."
To adhere to a false Bishop of Rome is to be
out of communion with the Church.
In the discussion
that follows there is no intention of binding anyone's conscience. Nor is it
claimed that there are no other ways of explaining the current chaos that has
its roots in Rome. However, what is attempted is to show that the sedevacantist
position is both logical and based on sound Catholic principles.
The sedevacantist position
makes no attempt to define the nature of the post-conciliar popes - be they
"usurpers" or "anti-popes." What it states is that the Chair of Peter is at
this point in time empty - the Chair however continues to exist as it always
will - but that the commands of those who are supposedly sitting in this Chair
are without authority. To those who are horrified by the idea of sedevacantism,
and who proclaim their conviction in the legitimacy of the present hierarchy,
one can with sadness only say, "if he (and the bishops in union with him) are
true popes, then obey them." It makes no sense for those who loudly proclaim
John Paul II [and now Benedict XVI] is a true pope, to complain about the New Mass or some teaching of Vatican
II. Such is simply not Catholic. Rather, they must embrace with love all his
teachings and actions and extend every effort to fulfill his expectations.
What is important above all, is
the need for one to remain Catholic, for on this rests the hope of our
Catholics know or should know
that they owe obedience and subjection to the Pope when he is functioning as
Pope. As Gueranger said, He is the "universal pastor whom none can disobey
without disobeying God Himself." (Liturgical Year, Nov. 23.) Similarly
Pius IX tells us "we must obey the Apostolic See, "not only with respect
to faith, but even with respect to discipline. Anyone who denies this is a heretic.
Anyone who recognizes this and doggedly refuses to obey him is worthy of anathema."
(Apostolic Letter Quae in patriarhatu) .One could provide other authoritative
quotes, such as Denzinger 1608, but the principle is so well accepted that such
would be redundant.
The reason for this
is easy to understand. Once a Pope has been elected and has accepted this function,
he is "one hierarchical person with our Lord." That is to say, he becomes Christ's
representative or Vicar on earth. Of him it can be said, "He who hears you hears
Me." Since he is speaking or functioning in unity with Christ, it is clear that
the charism of infallibility resides with him (and by extension with those in
unity with him). This has always been the case, though because it was disputed
- especially after Pius IX promulgated his Syllabus
of Errors - it had to be made explicit at Vatican I. It should be clear
that this infallibility does not reside in a pope's every statement or action,
but only with those within his function as Pope. Hence the importance of clearly
delineating these functions.
There are two ways
of doing this. One is to follow the rulings of Vatican I which affirmed the
infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium and declared that when the
pope speaks on matters of faith and morals in such a way that it is clear that
he intends to instruct the Catholic faithful, he is infallible. The other is
to look at the function of the Pope in terms of his Triple authority, namely
Teaching, Governing and Sanctifying. We will discuss each of these in turn.
With regard to his teaching function,
this is usually expressed as the Magisterium (from the Latin Magister
or teacher). Now there is currently considerable confusion about what constitutes
the Magisterium and one or two doctrinal points have to be clear.
1) There is only
one Magisterium, though it may be given expression as "Ordinary" or as
"Extraordinary." Both are equally true. Both are protected by the same charism
of infallibility. It is not necessary that the Church or anyone at all agree
with the Pope for this charism to apply. (This principle was changed at Vatican
II under the name of "collegiality" which teaches that the bishops must agree
with the pope.) Normally, the agreement of the hierarchy with the Pope extends
his infallibility to them, but should they teach differently than the pope,
they are on their own. This is the meaning of the phrase, "The Pope and those
in union with him."
2) There are those who like
Michael Davies hold that the Ordinary Magisterium can contain error. This is
an heretical position, and clearly if such were the case, then we would have
no assurance that the Magisterium was a source of infallible truth. 1
3) The idea that a reigning Pope
can change what a previous Pope has established. This is of course true of disciplines
such as rules for fasting, but it could never be true of Doctrine for the simple
reason that Truth cannot change and the Holy Spirit cannot contradict
Himself. Thus St. Paul tells us that even if an angel from heaven were to teach
us some other doctrine than what he taught, it would not be true.
With regard to
the pope's teaching function: When the Pope teaches on matters of Faith and
Morals in such a way that it is clear that he intends to instruct the Catholic
faithful, he is infallible. This may be through the Ordinary or the Extraordinary
Magisterium. How do we know that he intends to instruct the faithful? By the
manner of expression, such as Encyclical letters, by approval of Conciliar documents,
by pronouncements to the world at large (urbs et orbe - to the city of
Rome and the world), or in any other manner that makes this clear..
Let us examine some of the teachings
which Catholics "faithful to the present Pope" implicitly accept. Both Paul
VI and J-P II have told us that the documents of Vatican II are the "supreme
form of the ordinary Magisterium," and that we owe them our intellectual assent.
When Archbishop Lefebvre wished to be free to "interpret" them" in accordance
with tradition," Paul VI told him that he was usurping his papal function,
and if any interpretation was necessary, he would do it. And so it is that those
who recognize the authority of the post-Conciliar popes must give their intellectual
assent to all these documents contain. Now quite apart from their terrible ambiguity,
these documents contain a host of theological errors. (One must not be deluded
by such phrases as "theological error." In the context of doctrine, this means
they contain lies, and their promulgation with supposed magisterial authority
is spitting in the face of Christ for Christ is the Truth - the phrase may seem
harsh, but this is what happened during His passion.) Those who wish to "pick
and choose" what they will give their assent to, are in fact playing the Protestant
game. But that is not all. They must also accept the socialist ideation and
evolutionary thinking that pervades the post-Conciliar Church which has its
delineation both in these documents and in the various Encyclical and other
statements made by JP-II. What is more, they must agree with his opinion that
the United Nations is the "hope of the world," and above all with his Apokostastic
views that all men are saved - indeed, saved from the moment of their conception.
Some will argue that they
know nothing of all these heresies without judging anyone's individual culpability,
it should be remembered that none of us know every aspect of the Magisterium.
However, our attitude is one of accepting all the Magisterium contains, whether
or not we know some matter which may not impact on our life. There is certainly
enough evidence that something is wrong for people who take their religious
seriously, to investigate and study the contents of the documents of Vatican
II. Moreover, the Pope's Encyclicals are not promulgated without the intent
that they should be read and studied. Those who are capable and who refuse to
study what is being taught in the name of Christ are simply indifferent, or
deliberately hiding their head in the sand. One wonders how indifferent they
will be at the Final Judgement.
Governance is often
combined with Sanctification as both depend upon what is called the power
of Jurisdiction. Both are closely tied to what is called the "Apostolic Succession."
Without a valid Apostolic Succession the authority for governance and the power
of confecting the Sacraments is absent. With regard to governance, it is often
forgotten that at one time the popes were heads of state (and still are since
the Vatican City is an independent state).. The purpose of governance is the
salvation of souls and the obligation that falls upon the Pope (and those in
union with him) is the fostering a social order that has the true goods of mankind
in mind. The former is well explained by Boniface VIII put it:
"We are taught by evangelical words that in this power
of his are two swords, namely spiritual and temporal... Therefore each is in
the power of the Church, that is, a spiritual and a material sword. But the
latter, indeed, must be exercised for the Church, the former by the Church.
The former (by the hand) of the priest, the latter by the hand of kings and
soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest." (Denzinger 469)
Formerly the Church owned large tracts of land in
Italy and was fully responsible for its administration. These of course have
long since been taken away from her. But the principle that the Church had the
right to direct the civil power has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout
history, though the civil powers have for several hundred years refused to acknowledge
such. Following upon Vatican II Paul VI told those few countries such as Spain
and Argentina who still had in their constitution the statement that they were
"Catholic," that such was no longer acceptable. He insisted that they remove
such phraseology from their constitutions. He made it clear that the new Church
was no longer going to interfere in the political sphere of nations in a Catholic
manner.. Again, we have the bland acceptance of Socialist ideas, despite the
fact that Leo XIII and Pius IX clearly taught that it is impossible for a Catholic
to be a socialist. This of course is part of the program aimed at bringing the
Church into the modern world as a participant, and hence it is not surprising
that JP II should tell the United Nations that "you are the hope of the world."
And this in a speech in which he didn't even mention the name of Our Lord Jesus
is also tied to the power of Jurisdiction, and covers every aspect of religion,
above all the Sacraments. Now, everyone who is not blind or deaf knows
that all the Sacraments have been changed. Many arguments are raised as the
validity of the new Sacraments, but without going into these in detail, no one
questions but that they are "doubtful." Without a valid Apostolic Succession,
there can be no valid priesthood, and hence however correctly Mass or the other
Sacraments are administered, they are invalid. Anyone can say the words, but
without the power conveyed by Ordination and or Consecration,
nothing is effected. Now for all practical purposes the post-Conciliar Church
has rendered the Apostolic Succession invalid. Pius
XII in a de fide statement specified what was required in the form
and matter for the passing on of this power. (Such had not previously been necessary
as no one questioned it). The new rites for consecrating bishops have only one
word in common with what Pius XII specified as essential, namely "et" meaning
and. This makes all the bishops and in turn their ordinands (priests) at least
dubious - and it is a principle of sacramental theology that a dubious sacrament
is no sacrament at all, and indeed Catholics are forbidden to partake of doubtful
Sacraments. A Tridentine Mass properly said
by a priest improperly ordained effects nothing. And beyond this, even the most
beautifully performed Novus Ordo Mass remains at least doubtful for three simple
reasons (apart from the doubtful ordination of the priest-president).: 1) the
words of Christ have been changed2;
and 2) the Novus Ordo is tied to the definition in paragraph 7 of the General
Instruction which provides the rubrics and understanding for saying it; and
3) there is no true sacrifice. (Those who doubt all this should read the General
Instruction which accompanies this rite). It should be stressed however that
the invalidating of the consecration of bishops is in many ways more serious
than the issue of the Mass, for a properly ordained priest can always go back
to the true Mass, but a priest without valid orders is in a much more difficult
Many will claim that they know nothing
of all this, and so they continue to accept all the changes - be they doctrinal
or ritual without question. But once again, it is almost impossible for
people not to know that something has drastically changed in their religion.
One has only to enter a post-Conciliar Church to become aware that the tabernacle
has been moved and the altar turned into a table. Anyone who sees priest-presidents
saying funeral masses in white and shaking hands with relatives of the deceased
without ablution - i.e., when his hands have presumably just touched the body
of our Lord - should wonder what is going on. If religion is of any importance
in our lives - and it should be the most important thing in our lives, surely
it behooves us to investigate what is happening.. Our failure to do so, especially
when they have been pointed out to us, is culpable.
There is of course a mystery
in all this. Christ could have stopped His Crucifixion, but within the divine
economy, it was necessary that he suffer on the Cross. In a sense His Church
is also being Crucified. He could stop it if He wished. But the Crucifixion
of His Church is also within the providence of God. One must remember that the
Catholic Faith is not dependant on the structure of the Church as it exists
today. An entirely different structure existed during the first three hundred
years of its existence. Yes there was a pope and there were bishops and priests.
But it was an underground Church. During the English Reformation the Church
again became an underground organization, at least in England. It is clear that
the post-Conciliar Church is in the process of self-destruction. Such may well
be what will once again happen.
In stating that one is a sedevacantist,
much more than the status of the post-Conciliar popes is involved. The pope
is not alone in all this, and truly it is the Pope "and the bishops (if such
they are) in union with him." The reality is that the present Church organization
is simply not Catholic and hence is to be rejected - its pseudo Sacraments and
its false doctrines.
One must be careful of how things are worded. To
say that the Church as we know it is dead is not to say that the Church is dead.
The Church which is the body of Christ, the presence of Christ in this world,
can never die. The Truth can be obscured, but never destroyed. Christ will not
leave us orphans. We have legitimate bishops and priests - not many, but in
sufficient numbers. It is incumbent on us to seek them out and support them
in any way we can. In all that is going on, there is nothing that stops us from
being Catholic, but to be Catholic demands a great deal of work and effort on
our part. And perhaps - here I would ask that my presumption be forgiven - this
is what our Lord really wants - namely that we put forth this very effort. The
salvation of our souls may well depend upon it.
Father Gruner and his associate Christopher Ferrara have presumed to inform the faithful that sedevacantism is not a legitimate position for Catholics to take and that indeed all Catholics must accept the post-Conciliar “popes” as true and valid Popes.
Mr. Ferrara tells us that if the changes of Vatican II were imposed de jure, he would find the Sedevacantist position more understandable. This presumably refers to the position that these “popes” have declared the Council to be “pastoral” in nature. Lest one accept this seeming saving statement, we must start by showing that the opinion that JP-II never used his infallibility and hence could not be guilty of heresy is false. While Mr. Ferrara does not allude to this directly, it should be clear that JP II has frequently used his supposed “powers of infallibility” – for example, every canonization is considered an infallible statement. While it may be true in that he never spoke with the authority of Christ, he certainly has used the infallibility of his office to promulgate error.
Now returning to the question of Vatican II, allow me to share with you what Paul VI told Archbishop Lefebvre who wished to interpret the documents of Vatican II “in accordance with tradition.”
"You have no right any more to bring up the distinction between the doctrinal and the pastoral that you use to support your acceptance of certain texts of Vatican Council II and your rejection of others. It is true that the matters decided in any Council do not all call for an assent of the same quality; only what the Council affirms in its 'definitions' as a truth of faith or as bound up with faith requires the assent of faith. Nevertheless, the rest also form a part of the SOLEMN MAGISTERIUM of the Church, to be trustingly accepted and sincerely put into practice by every Catholic."(Epistle Cum te, Oct 11,1976 Notitia #12, 1976)
Just for the record, the Ordinary Magisterium is binding on our conscience and to declare the entire content of the documents of Vatican II to be part of the SOLEMN MAGISTERIUM and clearly such a statement carries with it – if Paul VI was pope – all the marks of infallibility. Similarly, John Paul II held:
John Paul II has expressed his full agreement with Paul VI whom he considers as his "spiritual father", and has further stated that the Council was "inspired by the Holy Spirit", and that "obedience to the Council is obedience to the Holy Spirit." 3 Still elsewhere he has stated that the Council is "the authentic teaching of the Church." Clearly in his eyes to refuse to give our assent to the Council is equivalent to "sinning against the Holy Ghost."
What confuses me about the Anti-Sedevacantists is their claim to be Catholic. Let us consider how the Church considers the function of a true Pope. According to the theologians he is “one hierarchical person with our Lord.” This being so, when he speaks within his function, it is our Lord who speaks – teaches, governs and sanctifies. These are the areas of his authority, the basis of his triple crown, and to say he has not used them is absurd. In so far as he appoints his Bishops and provides Jurisdiction, he is governing. Similarly, in declaring the Novus Ordo Missae to be the “normative” mass, he is sanctifying. And in declaring the documents of Vatican II to be the Supreme form of the Magisterium, he is teaching.
It is quite beyond my understanding how individuals who recognize the post-Conciliar “popes” to be a true and valid Popes, have no problem in disobeying them when they say things we do not like or agree with. Paul VI also told Archbishop Lefebvre that it was his task – not Lefebvre’s to determine what was and was not traditioinal. But people like Ferrara and Gruner are happy to guide us as to when we do and do not have to follow the teachings of these seeming papal individuals. The number of groups willing to guide us down what is essentially a Protestant path are legion.
What Father Gruner and Mr. Ferrara do not seem to understand is that the post-Conciliar Church (a name they chose for themselves) is a new and different religion. It is not the Catholic religion. The argument put forth that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” is indeed true. For the true Catholic Church is true and as such can never be destroyed – and God will be with it “unto the consummation of the world.” But we know that in the “end times” only a Remnant will remain Catholic, and obviously, it is with this remnant that God will remain. These Scriptural statements are verified by the fact that throughout the world there are a small but significant number of traditional Catholics who reject the post-Conciliar Church, and retain the true Catholic Faith As Catherine Emerick said, if there is only one Catholic left at the end, the Catholic Church will be found in him. To call this Remnant that has not changed their beliefs or practice “rebellious,” “schismatic” or subject to anathemas, is obviously absurd.
The argument that the Remnant will always have a living Pope with it is has no basis in fact. It is a pure opinion – indeed as is the claim that if there is no pope, there is no Church. That the Church continues to exist despite the absence – temporary – of a pope in no way denies the statement of Vatican I. Indeed the saints tell us that at some time in the future Sts. Peter and Paul will return and inform us as to who the real pope is.
Christopher Ferrara informs us that were a Pope to be a manifest heretic he would ipso facto cease to be pope. Now ipso facto means just that. It doesn’t require a council to decide the facts. The pope, like all of us, is endowed with free will and he can walk away from the Church without the help of a council. Now apparently Mr. Ferrara doesn’t think these post-Conciliar popes have ever denied an article of the Catholic faith with pertinacity. It seems clear that Mr. Ferrara doesn’t know how to recognize heresy when it hits him in the eye. Of course he will claim that these “popes” never used their infallibility and so what they had to say on a multiplicity of issues is quite beside the point. Or he suggests a host of excuses – he even seems to postulate that perhaps he has lost his mind, or made some awful mistake in his choice of words, or been subject to some compulsion such as a threat to his life. Moreover, he suggests the need for a general council to declare a given pope to be heretical. Of course, it might be argued that we are hardly qualified to judge the doctrine of a pope. But surely we have the obligation to recognize error – if not why would we not all be Protestants or communists?
Much is made by anti-Sedevacantists about their freedom to “resist” a Pope. Resisting is very different from refusing to accept a Pope’s teaching when couched in infallible terms – that is to say, when he speaks within his function as “one hierarchical person with our Lord,” or as the theologians often put it, “from the chair of Peter.”
An example of resisting the Pope is provided by Bishop Grosseteste who refused to provide a prebund for a cousin of the Pope because the cousin didn’t know English. The Pope in question was angry but could do nothing about it. This is very different from
refusing to accept the teaching of a Pope when he speaks within his function as the spokesperson for Christ. Such is clearly a rejection of Christ’s teaching – that is if the Pope concerned is a true Pope, and is the worst form of disobedience, for it is a rejection of the truth.
Mr. Ferrara raises the issue of Vatican I’s declaration on the Papacy. Let it be quite clear, Sedevacantists fully accept this teaching. We are not attacking the Papacy – indeed, it is because we love the Papacy that we refuse to admit these pretenders have any true authority. Most traditional priests in saying Mass do so “in union with the Apostolic See.” They do not say in union with the post-Conciliar popes, for such would be to declare their apostasy.
Father Gruner in a separate epistle goes so far as to warn sede-vacantists that “the devil is Ready to snare you,” and that “sedevacantism could ultimately lead to the loss of [their] souls in hell.” One wonders where he gets his theology – perhaps from Vatican II. In any event, he is not the judge of souls, and such threats on the part of one who is in intimate union with the post-Conciliar “popes” borders on the absurd.
Now one thing is clear. If we as Catholics believe we have an obligation of obey the pope, then we face a dilemma. If we obey these popes we must give up our Catholic Faith. Hence it is that all sorts of solutions are considered – solutions that avoid recognizing the real issue. The bottom line is one cannot obey these individuals and remain Catholic. Hence it is that one must declare that they have no authority – that they do not speak as one hierarchical person with Christ. It matters little how one labels them – anti-popes, usurpers, materialiter popes, or no popes at all. The bottom line is that they have no authority to speak in Christ’s name. [For myself, if I thought they spoke in Christ’s name, I would never go to any mass but the novus ordo (quod absit), and I would accept all the errors of Vatican II.]
(I have not raised the issue of the legitimacy of their elections. Obviously, one cannot elect a non-Catholic to the Papacy. But this issue of before, during or after is not the crux of the matter.)
Rama P. Coomaraswamy, MD
1. Davies argues that only what was once determined can be relied on. This implies
that the Magisterium is dead and that no true pope can explain or determine
issues that may not have previously required explication.
Not necessarily in the Latin, though even in Latin
the context is altered - and how often is it said in Latin.
Hominis and Speech to the Sacred College reported
in Documentation Catholique (Paris), 1975, pp. 1002-3.
For past articles of Transition to Tradition, see 2005ttr.htm Archives