In Part One of this short series on the Anatomy of a Papal Resignation, titled The Procedure, I wrote of the how a pope, once validly elected, can lose his papacy through only two basic means, namely his death and his resignation. In Part Two, The Precedents, I covered specific examples of how this has been done several times. In this final installment, I will now apply the procedure and precedence to the present situation and provide the proof, once again, pinpointing exactly where Paul VI resigned and, how the course he took into a new ecclesial organization of his creation, created a new religion, one that was no longer Catholic, thus making him a pope of the new religion, but not of the true Catholic Church founded by Christ.
Thus, to begin let us review Canon 188, the one most frequently quoted in support of the sede vacante finding. It reads (in full):
Any office becomes vacant upon the fact and without any declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric:
1.° Makes religious profession with due regard for the prescription of Canon 584 concerning benefices;
2.° Within the useful time established by law or, legal provision lacking, as determined by the Ordinary, fails to take possession of the office;
3.° Accepts another ecclesiastical office incompatible with the prior, and has obtained peaceful possession of [the other office];
4.° Publicly defects from the Catholic faith;
5.° Contracts marriage even, as they say, merely civilly;
6.° Against the prescription of Canon 141, § 1, freely gives his name to a secular army;
7.° Disposes of ecclesiastical habit on his own authority and without just cause, unless, having been warned by the Ordinary, he resumes [wearing it] within a month of having received the warning;
8.° Deserts illegitimately the residence to which he is bound and, having received a warning from the Ordinary and not being detained by a legitimate impediment, neither appears nor answers within an appropriate time as determined by the Ordinary.
Now, by far most commonly, it is the fourth clause, namely that which reads "Publicly defects from the Catholic faith" which is cited as the basis for claiming that the recent and current papal electees have lost their office. I can think of about four different ways a person might defect, or be found to have defected, from the Catholic faith.
One is their own explicit testimony or action, for example he who declares (as does English royalty upon receiving the Crown) "I declare myself to be a faithful Protestant," or any similar such admission on the part of the person themselves. This would also include having oneself baptized or otherwise formally initiated into some other religion, e. g. a Catholic having himself "baptized" again by the Mormons into their church, or initiation into any degree of Freemasonry in accordance with their initiation rituals. This represents the easiest and most trivial case, for the person has admitted to their heresy themselves, and no trial is necessary, exactly like a person pleading guilty before going into trial.
Another is that they may be tried and found guilty by a lawful Tribunal authorized to examine the person in question. Within such a trial there are many procedural details ("processes" are the modern buzzword for these) which must be followed to ensure that the trial is an honest and fair one. The nature of what the person believes or teaches must be identified, shown to be against the teaching of the Church (and for "heresy" as distinct from some lesser offence such as mere "error" or being "temerarious"), and finally the person must be given a chance to recant, to back down and withdraw their heretical proposition, in which case the offense no longer exists. When the person is duly examined, and does not recant something genuinely heretical that they insist on holding and teaching, then said Tribunal validly finds the person guilty of heresy.
These first two cases are big and obvious, but sadly do not apply here. None of the recent or current Vatican leaders have admitted anything so clear and explicit, and of course until they can be somehow identified as already having departed from the Papal chair, there can be no such Tribunal which would be necessary to remove them for this.
But then there are the other cases. Suppose a person, thinking himself to be a faithful Catholic, begins to believe ideas that have already been condemned. Is he aware that they have been condemned? Without asking the person we have no way of knowing, unless they see fit to volunteer the information. In the case of a pope, we have no basis to challenge him on the question, putting it to him straight as if we are entitled to an answer: "Did you know that this doctrine you are teaching contradicts that teaching of the Church?" If he volunteers that he knows that he is contradicting former doctrine then it is for him to try to justify it with whatever excuse he may give. The tricky part here is the question of who can judge the excuse, as to whether it shows sufficient basis for not calling a heretic the person who is openly flouting a known doctrine, and how they are to proceed when the person flouting the known doctrine is a pope. As above, there is no such duly appointed body capable of doing this.
Finally, there is the case where the deviation is taught, but the previous teaching never admitted, as though the person might genuinely be unaware of it. Could a pope do this? I can think of three categories of answer to this. One is that he can, and that if he does we are simply to follow him into his error. Another is that he can, and that if he does we are supposed to all just realize at once that we don't have a pope and cannot follow him anymore. The absurdity of the first is obvious. The second seems to be the short-circuit approach taken by most sedevacantists, and I say that I reject that approach. This leaves the third possibility which is that a pope cannot do this, even though he should even wish to do so. Infallibility cannot be of any truth or value whatsoever unless this is the case. Which in turn means that without a more obvious resignation by heresy, such as by formally announcing his departure from the Catholic Faith and Church to join some sect or other religion or lack of religion, a true pope, so long as he remains pope, is incapable of doing this.
I have actually had one prominent sedevacantist cleric write to me that he regarded infallibility as something given to the Pope himself to use at his discretion, and that if the pope does not elect to avail himself of this gift, like a boy being offered lessons in how to ride a bicycle but who never chooses to accept that offer, then he doesn't and that's that. I believe that it is indeed a gift given to the pope (in that it is in his physical custody), but which is not subject to the pope nor merely to be invoked or not at his own private (secret and interior) whim. In fact, it is a gift given and belonging by all rights to the Church through him, to guarantee that he will not mislead us. In such a scenario as propounded by the cleric, his gift of infallibility therefore would be something he can just set aside any time he chooses and we the Faithful subject to him would be none the wiser. Imagine what could be the case if that were really how it is:
Recall Pope Pius IX deciding to render a final decision as to whether Mary was immaculately conceived or not. There were theologians on each side of the question, and the common understanding of this event in history is that he as Pope invoked his gift of infallibility to decide that she was immaculately conceived. But if his choice to avail himself or not to this gift is merely and purely some interior act, something he can withhold through some simple interior choice of his own, then he could have lied, and the wrong set of theologians and theological opinions vindicated, and no one would be any the wiser. How can we REALLY know that Pope Pius IX invoked this gift when pronouncing on this question, if he is free not to use it (as the boy is free not to accept the lessons offered in how to ride the bicycle) without any of us knowing?
No, papal infallibility has to be a gift to the Church, through the pope, but at the service of the Church, independent of the Pope's own interior choices (of which we necessarily always must know nothing anyway). If we had to go sifting through all the teachings of each and every pope, so long as he remained pope, whether to filter out what is false and keep only what is true ("recognize and resist" position) or to evaluate whether the man still retains the papacy at all (classical sedevacantist position), we'd drive ourselves nuts. And maybe that's a part of what has been going on.
What checks and balances exist here? Joe Schmoe decides one day that he disagrees with the Pope about some religious question. He dusts off his grade-school catechism and looks up the topic and the passage to see it again and to see if it reads how he remembers it and how he understood it at the time. The passage is there in his catechism exactly how he remembered it and yet the Pope has just contradicted how Joe Schmoe has always understood this relevant passage. What happens now? Is the Church supposed to conclude from this event that the Pope is now no longer Pope? Should the cardinals (or somebody) hold another conclave? Or might it simply be Joe Schmoe's understanding of the relevant catechetical passages which might have been deficient and incomplete, or even outright mistaken? Despite the comparative unlikeliness of the Pope being wrong as against Joe Schmoe being wrong, what absolute guarantee can there exist that yea verily it has to be one or the other in every case? And without some sort of guarantee, who is to judge? What outside arbiter can there be to come along and judge between the Pope and Joe Schmoe?
The result here is that much of sedevacantism proceeds on a subjective and interior finding. We Catholics who are trained and of integrity know quite specifically the parameters within which a Pope by definition must necessarily function, and how the recent and current Vatican leaders have so patently and brazenly functioned mostly outside those parameters, and so many of us simply reach an interior conclusion. We are not claiming to judge the Pope, as if we, or anyone, would have that kind of formal and legal Tribunal authority to pronounce such a judgment, but merely making an observation. A sniper is shooting people at random in the street and we decide that the sniper is dangerous and therefore to hide from him. This observation and decision on our part, of itself, counts for nothing as regards having the sniper captured, placed in custody, and tried and sentenced. Apart from any testimony any of us might give at such a trial if called in as witnesses, our observations and decisions are of no relevance to the legal process whatsoever.
I think we all know that no such official and canonically valid trial has ever occurred. And neither have any of the men openly confessed to having renounced the Faith, nor even that they have openly repudiated any doctrine they admit to knowing. No, they simply go about repudiating various doctrines as if they never existed in the first place, as if they might possibly have been genuinely unaware of them (but if it were really the case that they are ignorant of the doctrines they contradict, where did any of them go to school? A diploma mill?). Sadly, if this were all, then it would place the whole sedevacantist finding on the level of a subjective observation, that is to say opinion. The bare fact that the opinion happens to be objectively true, as seen from God's perspective (Who sees all), adds absolutely no canonical weight or standing to it in the legal and official eyes of the Church. This is why it is that no action based on that opinion (or finding or observation) can be morally binding on anyone in the Church, even on those who happen to hold that opinion. The degree of certitude is not the issue here, but the legal and visible weight is. Without some official declaration to point to, such a finding has no official "standing" in the Church.
This is the exact point at which the entire sedevacantist cause (except myself) has long been stymied. One either treats the sede vacante finding as a mere "opinion" (which given the productions of all of our most famous sedevacantists have done is all that they have provided any valid basis for), or one tries to find some way to "graduate" that private opinion to the status of some sort of quasi-canonical quasi-official finding or declaration. From what I have seen, the only thing they have done to try to do this amounts to saying, "Just look how powerful our evidence is! Look at what the Church has infallibly taught, and then look at how these guys have flatly contradicted it! And it only gets worse and worse!" There is no denying that the facts are indeed quite conclusive, even "damning," and if only there could be some sort of lawful tribunal at which such facts could be presented, there is no room to doubt what the conclusion would necessarily have to be, short of a total recantation on the part of the Vatican leadership. But as I just mentioned, there has been no such trial, and as I discussed in The Procedure neither can there be any such trial of a person who as yet legally or visibly at least seems to occupy the See of Peter. There is no forum at which to present this crucial information, save that of the interior forum of individual believers.
Or else some simply press for some sort of snap decision on the part of the individual believer, something that scarcely any ordinary layman in the pew, with not only a soul to save but a family to feed, would validly be capable of doing. They make it all black and white: Either the Vatican leader is the Pope and you are therefore bound to follow him into all of his nonsense, or he is not and you are bound to reject everything that has anything to do with him! It's one or the other so decide now! You must be FOR one group and AGAINST the other, or else both should reject you! And you need to decide that right Now; your very soul is at stake so you must decide it NOW NOW NOW! Never mind the fact that the ordinary layman to whom this decision is so put in no way possesses the training necessary to make a decision about so momentous an issue. Given what the average layman in the pew knows of theological questions, he might as well make his choice by going "Eeny Meany Miney Moe" amongst the alternatives presented to him.
Contrary to what these types have stated, and to the usual state of affairs, in the present situation, and from a pragmatic standpoint of the individual layman in the pew to whom the sede vacante question is posited in such a limited view of things, it really does not make any difference whether you mistake the man for a Pope or not. The individual Catholic layman sitting in the pew of his SSPX or "independent" church along with his wife and 13 small children is receiving the exact same sacraments and teachings as he who similarly sits in the pew of his sedevacantist church, and all in valid and visible unity with that Church founded upon Saint Peter. The evident lack of any Petrine Voice coming from the Vatican these past several decades is obvious to all, regardless the canonical status of the man inhabiting it. We know what is Catholic and we stick to it, and should leave the questions as to who is canonically what and who is not to others with more expertise than ourselves.
Ah hah! The Answer!
As I have indicated however, there is a legitimate and lawful way to get past the stymie. There are other means for a Pope to lose his office, as listed in Canon 188, one of which has direct bearing on our present situation. And that is the third clause, namely "Accepts another ecclesiastical office incompatible with the prior, and has obtained peaceful possession of [the other office]." Now let's explore in detail how and where that happened.
Canon 218 specifies a fundamental component of the definition of what it means to be Pope, and furthermore this Canon is rooted not merely in some disciplinary decision but in the dogmatic definition of the Papacy itself. It states:
§ 1. The Roman Pontiff, the Successor in primacy to Blessed Peter, has not only a primacy of honor, but supreme and full power of jurisdiction over the universal Church both in those things that pertain to faith and morals, and in those things that affect the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world.
§ 2. This power is truly episcopal, ordinary, and immediate both over each and every church and over each and every pastor and faithful independent of any human authority.
Do you see what that says? The Pope has jurisdiction over EVERY "church" (here speaking of particular congregations within the Church, e. g. of this or that particular Rite or religious order or even Diocese, in short over each and every bishop and his respective flock), every "pastor" (which is to say, every cleric of whatever grade), and every individual member of the "faithful." And that is intrinsic to the definition of what it means to be the Pope, the Successor of Peter. Now it is possible for the Pope to have an additional form of jurisdiction over some of the faithful, as for example many popes have long been "Patriarch" of the Latin Rite, on par with the Patriarchs of the various alternate Rites, but this is obviously in no way incompatible with also being Pope. But it is impossible for the Pope to not have at least some sort of jurisdiction over at least some Catholic or group or community of Catholics or of Faith.
Can I prove that this is no mere disciplinary creation? I believe I can. Suppose the contrary were true, that a man could be Pope while possessing no jurisdiction over some particular Catholic or group of Catholics. Then that group would have another head, and the unity of the Church would legitimately be divided. As it is Divinely established that Christ intended no such division within His Church, such a scenario is patently impossible. Ergo, the Unity of the Church requires that the Pope's jurisdiction must extend over all the Church and all individual Catholics, bar none. Q. E. D.
But what would happen if a Pope (with or without a Council, but in this case it was with a Council) were to attempt to redefine the nature of his office so that there could be souls in the Church (not merely "united to" but actually "part of" the Mystical Body of Christ) who, together with their clerical leaders, were in no way answerable to the Pope? Can a Pope so alter something so basic in the Gospel as to, for example add an eighth Sacrament, or another Person to the Holy Trinity, or delete the rank of bishop from the Church? And what happens if he does attempt it? There are several trains of thought I can see as might be advanced by theologians examining this question. One would be that the thing changed would indeed be changed. I. e. there would now be an eighth Sacrament, another Person added to the Holy Trinity, no more bishops in the Church, and so forth. I think a position like that would be shot down immediately. At the opposite extreme would be the claim that such an act would be without any force at all, automatically null and void. Still another might put such a thing as being a heresy that would be big and obvious enough to depose him, and still others that such a thing would be on par with the example of a Pope who attempts to excommunicate the entire Church.
The outcome here is further affected by the strange fact that the document doing this was not only promulgated by the Pope, but also peacefully accepted by the entire hierarchical membership of the Church in an Ecumenical Council. Had at least one or more such member, within some short amount of time, repudiated that Conciliar document or its contents and declared the Council null and void (or whatever decision he might make about it), then at least we might have that to go on. But we don't. By the time any clerics recognized the need to abolish the Council, any such acceptable "time period" had long since lapsed, and even those who despise the Council are at a loss to come to any consensus as to how to get rid of it. But we must know that dogmatically speaking, there are some certain characteristics of the Church which are Divinely established and which even a Pope (and even with the whole of an Ecumenical Council behind him) simply cannot change, one of them being the necessity for a Pope to possess universal jurisdiction over the entire Church.
When Lumen Gentium introduced that non-exclusive sense of the Church (Mystical Body) being no longer absolutely and precisely equated with the visible organization which had up to that point simply been the Roman Catholic Church with its "subsists in" language, it did so deprive the Pope of such universal jurisdiction. For in that same paragraph it states in no uncertain terms that "elements of sanctification and of truth" exist outside the "confines" of the Vatican organization ruled by its leader, the former pope.
"Elements" are actually "hierarchical members," that is to say, clergy. And being clergy who are "outside the confines" of the Vatican organization they are clerics who are in no way answerable, "de jure," to Rome. And yet they are endowed, in this document, with the power of being sources of "sanctification" (only the governorship and sacraments of the Church, lawfully administered with due faculties and jurisdiction can convey sanctification), and of infallible "truth" (only the Pope and the Church are sources of truth, which is reliable - mere passing factual correctness about some topic or other as almost any sort of Minister can trivially attain does not constitute truth).
Is that what is intended? Absolutely. Unitatis Redintregatio, Nostre Aetate, and the numerous writings of their new "theologians" such as Karl Rahner have all made it abundantly clear that they see these other religions and religious leaders and clerics as being mediations of God's grace to souls. The Protestant need not convert to Catholicism in order to be saved since his Protestant Minister has sufficient faculties to guide, rule, bless, and teach in the name of Holy Mother Church, and to sanctify his soul to be fit for Heaven. And the same goes for Jewish Rabbis, Islamic Imams, Hindu Gurus, Wiccan Priestesses, and so forth.
But as the Vatican leader has no jurisdiction over all these lawful-jurisdiction-and-faculty-holding Roman Catholic (!?!) clerics, his jurisdiction is not universal at all. In short he does not meet the criteria of the basic definition of what it means and requires in order to be a Roman Catholic Pope, and actual Successor to the Apostle Peter.
Now, is it possible to redefine the papacy to be thus limited in its jurisdiction? The papacy was Divinely established, and as such cannot be changed, even by the will of a man holding the supreme earthly office. So what result can we expect such an attempt to do so to have? We have already ruled out that its result could be a fundamental change to a Divinely established component of how the Church has been set up. That leaves two other possibilities:
One is that the attempt is merely automatically null and void. Obviously for certain kinds of things, this would have to be the case, for example an attempt to make the Devil into being the Fourth Person of the Holy Trinity would by its very nature necessarily be wholly null and void. But does that apply to every kind of Divinely established ecclesiastical detail possible? I believe that for some things, including this one, another scenario is also possible, indeed far more probable.
The other is that the attempt would be granted what limited effect it was capable of having without actually changing the Divinely established parameters of the Church. If a Pope were to attempt to redefine the nature of the Church, might that not simply create a new organization of the nature he defines, though that new organization would not be exactly the Church? And especially bear in mind that this redefinition of his organization even carries with it explicit language as to its relation (of overlap, but non-identity) to the Church. And if he attempted the same for his office as pope to be one of less than universal jurisdiction, might not the result of that be the creation of a new and lesser office which indeed has less than universal jurisdiction?
Theologically, given that we are speaking here of something done to the membership of the Church, or certain visible aspects of the Church, and not to something totally outside the reach of the leader of the Church (e. g. the nature of God), both possibilities would have to be considered legitimate. The second however has a great deal to recommend it.
So what delineation can be made between those declarations which are intrinsically null and void under all circumstances, versus those which could validly have some effect, while nevertheless being unable to change any Divinely established parameters? One key aspect here is the issue of whether the declaration admits to a disciplinary interpretation. An attempt to change dogma or doctrine, for example by adding a fourth Person to the Holy Trinity must intrinsically be null and void. But an attempt to change something with a significant amount of disciplinary features, for example the organization of the Church, as in how it is to be structured, or who is in and who is out, or how jurisdiction is to be allocated and subdivided, leaves considerable room for a disciplinary interpretation which is wholly consistent with Catholic doctrine.
With Lumen Gentium, you have a Pope (at least material pope whose juridical actions can have juridical force, e. g. a cardinal appointed by him is a true valid and lawful cardinal) together with all bishops and cardinals in an Ecumenical Council defining their organization (though they confusingly call it a "catholic church") to be something different in range and domain from the Mystical Body of Christ, Christ's own Church, the real and eternal Catholic Church.
If one takes this simply as just one more heresy from the "heretical Vatican II church," perhaps more heretical than those things going before and less heretical than those things to follow, then it just becomes yet one more place out of how very many one could draw some arbitrary line and say, "Here, the Church stops!" As such, this point would have no more to recommend it as the actual cut off date than any of a zillion other spots, such as the death of Pope Pius XII, or the first white smoke that turned black, or the second, or the election of Roncalli, or when Roncalli declared his intention to hold a council, or his opening remarks at that council, or his particilation therein, or Pacem in Terris, or his death, or the first white smoke that turned dark in 1963, or the election of Montini, and so on, continuing into Montini's declaration that the United Nations was the last hope for peace on earth, or the destruction of the Rite of Ordination in 1968 or of the Mass on April 3, 1969 or his forbidding of the Mass in 1974... and so on.
Alternatively, if we take it to be a disciplinary step, a juridical declaration merely attempting to redefine the Church's boundaries such that they no longer necessarily coincide with the boundary between those in good standing with Rome and those who are excluded (for whatever cause, regardless of how just), something else happens, something marvelous. The former visible body of the Church goes from being simply the Church to being some other lesser (and man-made) organization within portions of which portions of the real Church happen to exist (or "subsist," as the Church necessarily always does wherever it exists). That some of this new organization's contents would not be any part of the Catholic Church is only implicit, but that some portion(s) of the Catholic Church would subsist outside it is made quite explicit when Lumen Gentium goes on to explain how "elements of sanctification and of truth" are discoverable outside this organization.
Would such a declaration necessarily have to be heresy? I don't believe it is. This document CAN be taken in isolation, and it CAN be interpreted this way, which by the way is the only way to interpret it which is NOT heretical. And Vatican II was, after all, only a "pastoral" council, issuing mere disciplinary mandates only. Anything is possible in the realm of discipline where it is not in doctrine. For example, it is impossible in the realm of doctrine to declare the dogma of the Trinity to be false, but in the realm of discipline it is quite possible to forbid the teaching of the dogma of the Trinity in any of a list of normal venues in which the Trinity would otherwise normally have been taught.
Let us posit that the Holy Spirit, long desirous to depart from so many such ungodly men, now finally finds here an opportunity to make that departure from them while remaining with the real Church of those who are faithful. The demarcation between Catholic and not will soon be made most evident, and those who have departed from the Faith (and Church) will not be easily mistaken for Catholic clerics, owing to their willingness to distort the liturgy, injure the Truth, oppress the Faithful, and sidle up to heretics and infidels of every sort. As the organization is no longer to be equated with the Church, standing in that organization no longer means anything, nor does being outside it.
It is only in subsequent documents to Lumen Gentium that an attempt is made to attach such membership in the Church those who are members of any of the false schisms, sects, religions, and even lack of religion. Only documents subsequent to Lumen Gentium attempt to assign a Divine mediatorship of salvific Grace to any false religions and sects specifically, and by name. Lumen Gentium itself merely allows in general for Divine mediatorship to exist outside the Vatican organization, which itself is (and always has been) quite possible if only you have some Catholic clerics, validly ordained and orthodox in teaching, who are outside the Vatican organization. We have that now in the traditional Orders and Societies.
So now we arrive at the question as to what happened to the leader of the Vatican organization (canonically speaking) as a result of Lumen Gentium, for he too was given a new office. There is a qualitative difference between being some mere bishop of the line, and whose jurisdiction goes from being that which is limited to a certain territory to being that which is limited to that which is shared with his fellow bishops as with equals, but remaining qualitatively inferior to the authority of the Pope. Lawful bishops therefore remain lawful bishops, and provided they continue their Catholic mission and not give themselves entirely over to their new and alien task, they remain true bishops of the Church, at least on a part-time basis (or a full-time basis on the part of what very few entirely shunned the new task assigned to them).
But the top office now undergoes a significant and qualitative change. To be pope one must have jurisdiction over the entire Church. To admit any portion of the Church to be, de jure, outside their jurisdiction is to deny possessing universal jurisdiction. Ergo, the Vatican leader, by having relinquished jurisdiction over those portions of the Church which subsist outside the confines of his organization, has in that action relinquished his own formerly held papal office. By Canon 188 paragraph 3 he has resigned by taking another office. That he took this office "peacefully" is evidenced by the universal acceptance of Lumen Gentium by which he accomplished that act. That the new office he took is incompatible with the office of the papacy is by definition. One cannot simultaneously possess universal jurisdiction over the whole Church and Mystical Body of Christ, and not possess it.
These are direct and trivially verifiable facts, all rooted directly in the most official statements of the man himself. I have not judged him, nor do I care one whit what any of his "secret inner motives" might well have been for such an act. That is occult to me and I do not know it and will not know it ever until the Great White Throne Judgment. Note also that I do not make any attempt to "depose" him, but merely show where he has himself admitted to not being pope (lacking universal jurisdiction). It would not matter if he were fully as orthodox and holy and saintly as Pope St. Pius X was, this lack of universal jurisdiction is an open admission to having taken a different and incompatible office, and the peaceful acceptance of the document by which he accomplished this is the peaceful acceptance by all of his transfer to this new and different office.
By the way, this also shows why it is that none of his successors have been popes. This is no mere statistical fluke, nor need it require some vast conspiracy. All the procedures necessary were followed in the elections of John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, all of which were valid elections that I accept, however these elections have all been to this new and different office created by Lumen Gentium, and as such no more renders its electees to be Roman Catholic Popes than would election to the American Presidency. None of them have rejected or overturned Lumen Gentium; all of them have consciously accepted their lack of jurisdiction over certain valid and lawful portions of Christ's own Mystical Body. Even with no heresy and no ill will on their part they still would not be popes.
Without pursuing the question any further, the resulting position or rank of the man would therefore be comparible to that of an Archbishop over some particular Archdiocese, or that of a Patriarch over a particular Rite. As such he would still have some considerable rank in the Church, just not that of the supreme (and unchallengeable) rank. More notably this takes the whole thing outside the realm of accusation, of innocence and guilt, of judges and juridical findings. Trying to prove a person guilty of heresy (or murder, or anything (except traffic violations)) is quite difficult. The accused, by mere virtue of being "the accused," has all manner of rights, and the whole weight and necessary bias of the legal system must lean in his favor. "Better to let 50 guilty persons go free than to put away one innocent person." Heresy is a difficult enough thing to prove even when you CAN lawfully have a Tribunal to do so, and only all the far more difficult when you CAN'T. But proving resignation by transfer to another office as I have just done, like proving that a person sold his house by consulting the City records, deeds, or the Escrow office, entails no such accusation, and as such that necessary legal bias simply does not apply here. The fact is simply a matter of public record and need only be verified to be ascertained.
Most significant of all, this is no mere "subjective" observation. We are dealing here with verifiable facts that have substantial standing before the Church, which the whole Church is morally and legally bound to accept as true. THIS sedevacantist finding is objective, morally binding on all, and has to be acknowledged by all. It requires no future declaration, no tribunal, no "consensus," no judgment of individuals, or anything else. The resignation of Paul VI (and non-papacy of his successors) is official, legal, and already published before all, and for all to see.
Now why it is that this significant finding is not shouted from the rooftops by sedevacantists in general I'd like to know. Perhaps it's not well known. I am a pretty minor and obscure figure, not a priest, not a bishop, and not one of those with a vast publishing or media empire behind me, so of course much of what I write is not widely known. And no doubt there are others who are aware of these facts but who have not latched on to their significance, the sort of people who, once they get it, would have to proclaim "My God! I had the whole answer right here all the time!" In many cases all that's needed is for certain persons to go through their own "ah hah!" experience on this. Once that happens, the breakthrough can finally break through.
But I suspect another significant part of the problem is attitude. Sedevacantism is rightly and legitimately called a "finding," nothing more. But in my experience I have often seen it in the lives of many taking on something more of the characteristics of an attitude. While my theory scales the heights and actually achieves the scientific removal of the man from the papal office, what others seem to want, and are dissatisfied not to find here, is for the man to be drilled into the earth, condemned, deposed, defrocked, found guilty, and proven to be the worst criminal of every sort, and even to be the Great Antichrist of Biblical Prophecy. I refuse to share that attitude. If that costs me readership or popularity, what of it? Finally, I address a couple objections:
Now someone might object by positing Canon 185 which states that a resignation obtained through fraud or trickery would not be valid, and there seems little reason to believe that Paul VI was cognizant of the fact that in signing Lumen Gentium he was therefore effecting his transfer out of the papacy and into a new office of his own creation, and so therefore this would be a resignation through trickery or fraud, which would be invalid. If this be the case, then who is the trickster? Who is it that, by such a "fraud" as this thereby obtained the office now (at least apparently) vacated? Trickery or fraud requires the trickster or the fraudulent con artist, and no such can be identified. Paul VI did this to himself.
Rather, it is like someone who owns a beautiful piece of countryside property, with trees, a river with a lovely waterfall, lakes, hills, valleys, and rare and beautiful wildlife, but who, for need of money sells the land. Perhaps he just assumed that the buyer would "of course" have the same respect for it as he and so he made no stipulations or conditions of sale. But then the buyer cuts down all the trees, transfers the river water to an underground pipe, builds up factories, skyscrapers, parking lots, and city streets (whose sewers all drain into the same underground pipe the river water flows through), and turns it into a total mess, ruining all that was there before. The original owner has no right to come along and say "I didn't mean for you to do that with the land!" The new owner can simply say, "It doesn't matter what you want; it's mine now, to do with as I please." The transfer is unfortunate, but it indisputably happened, and without such stipulations having been put in place there is no recourse, short of buying it back somehow. You cannot claim a case of fraud where the seller omitted the necessary stipulations due to his own neglect.
Others might put forth Canons 186 and 187 which discuss what it normally takes for a resignation to be valid, for example being in writing or orally before at least two witnesses, and that it must be accepted by some superior or at least given to him. However, Canon 221 specifically excludes the Pope from these restrictions when it states "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns, for the validity of this resignation, acceptance by a Cardinal or another is not necessary."
Given all this, the man, now not being pope, can therefore lawfully be the subject to a Tribunal. He CAN be judged. In all justice, such a Tribunal is still necessary before we can dismiss the man as a heretic. I realize how tempting it can be, especially in the heat of battle, to dispense with "due proccess," and perhaps to substitute instead "summary judgement," but that is simply NOT the Catholic way. The Tribunal simply MUST occur, and it must be in person and with all opportunity for the person to recant, not "in abstentia," and not of exhumed dead. What a hideous, and yet almost comic, scandal it was when Pope Stephen VI so tried Pope Formosus! We need to rise above that, if the Church is to regain any real credibility anytime soon.
More immediate to our situation, since such a Tribunal seems far away at this point, we now still have the benefit of not having to reconcile each crazy scandal with the parameters within which God has guaranteed that His popes must necessarily always function. We are not obligated to keep "defining down" just what papal infallibility means until we have it that a pope can just secretly decide not to use his gift for infallibility, or stop being pope, without telling us on the one hand, or else teach false doctrines, lead souls to Hell, and promulgate false and invalid "sacraments" on the other. Most of all we are not obliged to assume that all that has followed Lumen Gentium must somehow be (however admittedly narrowly) within the pale, but indeed all of Catholic history and the Universal and Historic Magisterium of the Church has already long condemned such an acceptance of all the Post-Conciliar nonsense.
This whole sequence of events has historically demonstrated yet another way for a pope to have resigned, namely by attempting to redefine the office of the papacy to something incompatible with that of the Papacy, and thereby legally transferring from the papacy to that new office of his creation. Interestingly, we also can now add a third item to the list of means by which an election can be invalid (as respects to creating a pope), namely by being to a different office altogether. This is not a new category as countless elections of all sorts have occurred throughout all of history and not resulting in a pope simply on account of being elections to any of a plethora of various other offices, sacred and secular alike. What IS new is the clever trick of dressing up one (or more) such elections as if they were elections to the papacy when in fact, legally, formally, visibly, and ontologically, they could not possibly have been elections to it. So now, to the list of resignations listed in Part 2, I now add:
Pope: Resigned for/to: Resigned by:
Paul VI No one Transfer to another Office
One other important result of this finding however is that so long as this Tribunal has not occured, those who have been able to keep their Faith while still subject to the man that nominally and visibly still holds the "lesser and different office from that of the Papacy" created by Lumen Gentium, and even mistaking him for "pope," are therefore no less Catholics for their material error. As I wrote back in Part one, the Indultarian/Motarian and Resistance/Remnant/SSPX approaches, as well as the sedevacantist approach, "though also each plainly deficient in various respects, at least have allowed various communities of individual Catholics to find some way to muddle through the present situation so far with their Catholicism intact" as long as they have a validly ordained priest.