Now, let us address, expose, and then dismiss a couple extremes. There are those who say that you still have to be a citizen of the Vatican nation in order to be a citizen of the Divine Nation. I have amply proven (in that other article series, along with many others I have written) that Vatican II itself quite expressly denies that. You cannot allocate salvific jurisdiction to Anglicans and Animists, Baptists and Buddhists, Mormons and Methodists, Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses, and so forth without also automatically allocating same to any and every Catholic cleric regardless of his canonical "status." In my opinion, nothing need be further said here regarding that extreme.
At the opposite extreme are those who claim that one cannot be a citizen of the Vatican nation while also being a citizen of the Divine Nation. Some sedevacantists have actually advanced such a claim, and doing so has only undermined their whole position, since it is in fact as with any extreme, patently absurd. Of course the Vatican leader is no Pope, in exactly the same sense that Barack Obama is no Pope. Even if Barack Obama were to repent of, well, practically his whole life, begin governing well and justly as any Catholic secular office-holder ought, and become a totally and staunchly orthodox traditional Roman Catholic tomorrow (and thereby pass from death to life), and even remain so to the end of his natural life (and thereby attain salvation), that still would not make him Pope, of course. So precisely it is with British royalty or Benedict XVI himself.
And anyway, picture a non-Catholic group of persons, electing a non-Catholic from among them, to a non-papal role within a non-Catholic organization. How could a real Catholic pope possibly emerge from such a scenario? Not even a miracle would be enough to make that happen. But the man's actual hold on a secular office of leadership being the case, it is not proper to deny the Vatican leader legitimacy as a national secular Head of State. That much he is.
It is trivial to prove that membership in the Vatican nation does not exclude one from being also a member of the Divine Nation. Recall that up until Lumen Gentium, the Vatican nation and the Divine Nation were exactly the same thing. To be willfully outside it was to be outside the Church, and very much in danger of damnation. Once the Sede Vacante condition was created (as described in my Anatomy of a Papal Resignation series Part One: The Procedure, Part Two: The Precedents and Part Three: The Proof), one could hardly have expected all the real Catholics to exit that organization, or that all those who failed to do so before dying would be damned.
If one wants to claim that the Vatican nation and the Divine Nation are absolutely mutually exclusive, then it becomes necessary to define at exactly what point this became so, and how it happened, and why no Catholics seemed to have noticed it at the time. For one finds no singular juncture, or event, that triggers an immediate and prompt exodus of all Catholics from the Vatican nation. One finds merely a steady stream of real Catholics pouring out of the Vatican nation continuously from the very moment that they were duly authorized to do so. I think by now one could claim that the majority of the Church now subsists outside the Vatican nation, and especially a majority of the hierarchy of the Church, but it is still quite another thing to claim that every last Catholic with a right to the name has already vacated the Vatican nation.
Mapping a true Theological Map Today
So now let's trace the Church. If a true and valid theological map were to be drawn today, what would it look like? What is the individual Catholic's place in the Church? What is the individual traditional cleric's place in the Church? Where is the Church, visibly and hierarchically speaking?
While the case with the Church in England becoming a new schismatic (secular arm) "Church of England" well illustrates the manner in which all the same priests and bishops in all the same parish churches and diocesan cathedrals could go from being the Visible Church to being some other visible entity having no valid ecclesiastical claim, there are nevertheless two fundamental differences between what happened back then versus what happened now. The two things are related to each other.
One is that the first occurred only in one single nation, while the far-off Pope in Rome, along with his Curia and Cardinals and other Roman clergy and Church throughout the whole rest of the world remained largely unaffected, whereas the second took place in Rome and thereby impacted every cleric in the whole world. The other difference is that, while signing the Declaration of Royal Supremacy caused any cleric signing it to be wholly removed from the status of a legitimate Catholic representative, the signing of Lumen Gentium accomplished only a redefinition of the offices held by both the clerics who signed it as well as those clerics subject to them. The man who had been pope (at least materially) up to that point lost universal jurisdiction and thereby ceased to be pope, but he did not thereby depart from the Church. He may very well have been spiritually outside it before, but physically he was still inside it. The bishops all now had two offices, one they continued to retain (but with some adjustments) despite their having signed Lumen Gentium, and a new one in the new doppelganger "church-nation" decreed into existence by it.
It is the subsequent abandonment of their previous Catholic duties that caused their departure from the Church's hierarchy, together with their subsequent descent into heresy and thereby departure from the Church that caused the classic episcopal sees around the world to be vacated. As we know, not all bishops abandoned that duty. A very few persisted, in one way or another, in continuing their Catholic duties as hierarchical members of the Church.
Their new office inherited most of the apparent "form" of the Church's offices, the physical plant (buildings, properties, material assets, etc.), the previous divvying up of the earth into territories ("dioceses"), their "canonical courts," "Rota," and so forth, even as the English clergy similarly inherited all the same things from the Church upon their defection.
Their old office however was transformed. Where before, as a Catholic bishop, their jurisdiction applied quite exclusively to one territory ("diocese"), now there could not be applied any such limitation to any bishop's physical boundaries, nor could any bishop exclude the activities of any other bishop. This is one of the rather obvious side-effects of jurisdiction being thrown to the four winds. The Catholic Church's entire diocesan structure was effectively dissolved. It had been designed and built up in the Third and Fourth Centuries and served it well (as it must one day serve it well again), and then dismantled in the Twentieth Century.
There are several reasons this should be so. For one thing, no one can deny that a diocesan territory can be supported by neighboring bishops when vacated, and we even have the historical precedent that during a prolonged papal vacancy some more than a dozen bishops were even chosen and consecrated for vacant dioceses by the bishops of neighboring dioceses. Obviously in that case their jurisdiction was not confined to their own dioceses in such a case. And again, as I stated before elsewhere, if the holy Bishop St. John Fisher of England (the one bishop of England who did not sign the Declaration) had not been trapped in the London Tower, he most certainly would have had the right and power to consecrate lawful bishops for all over England, if necessary.
And also again, we have Lumen Gentium itself openly allocating Catholic hierarchical jurisdiction and faculties to all "ministers" of any kind, with no regard to territorial considerations, which is now the true nature of the Visible and Mystical Body of Christ.
The Right Theological Map for Traditional Bishops
So remaining now is only the one eternal diocese, namely that of Rome, which now encompasses the whole world, geographically. We know our traditional bishops are legitimate on at least three different levels. One is that we know that in the dire situation of a prolonged papal vacancy the bishops have the authority to choose and consecrate their successors, and not merely to their own diocese but to others as well. And we know that our traditional bishops were chosen and consecrated by duly appointed and fully legal and legitimate bishops of the Church, however well or poor some individual choices may have proven out to be. Another is that we know that jurisdiction has been thrown to the winds, such that any qualified cleric (that is to say, one who is valid from a sacramental standpoint, and orthodox in his teaching) is awarded jurisdiction, albeit without any specific geographic territory allocated to him, thanks to Lumen Gentium. And finally, there always remains the bare fact that if our traditional bishops were not legitimate, then there could not remain anywhere on this earth so much as a single legitimate Catholic bishop, and the Catholic Church has truly ceased to exist.
So what exactly is their canonical status? What place do they have on the "map"? They are assistant bishops to the Diocese of Rome. If any were to be the "main" bishop of Rome, then that would be a pope, and he would be in charge of all the Church. But as we know, the Church is popeless, so the Diocese of Rome has no "main" bishop, only any number of "assistant" bishops. Assistant bishops have existed pretty much throughout all of Church history, especially once the diocesan structure of divvying up the world in to territories was developed. In the earliest days, assistant bishops simply attached themselves to other bishops, travelling wherever they travelled (e. g. Sts. Timothy, Mark, and Silus with St. Paul, or St. Mark with St. Barnabas), and when they were ready to act on their own, then ventured elsewhere or in some cases settled in some particular city (think of St. Mark who, after being assistant to Paul and then Barnabas in their perpetual travels, then settled in the City of Alexandria). In the subsequent diocesan structure, a diocese that grew particularly large and populous might either be split into two or more, or else its bishop simply given one or more assistants to help him out.
Does it matter that today's bishops do not have a titular diocese? Not at all, for in the beginning, no one had any diocese as the structure had not been set up as yet. At most some were assigned to particular cities while others roamed throughout the Church. A titular diocese is in fact an abandoned diocese, one that no longer exists. But in the beginning there was no such thing. Every diocese was too new to have become extinct as yet. Even once there were any, it still took some time before someone thought of allocating them to assistant bishops of other (extant) dioceses, and quite some further time before there were enough such extinct dioceses to go around for all the assistant bishops. If it wasn't essential back then, then it cannot be essential now, and isn't. It is a nice symbology and hopefully it will one day be restored when better times have returned, but now that is a luxury the Church must temporarily do without.
All right, so our traditional bishops are in fact canonically assistant bishops to the lone surviving Diocese of Rome. Does that make them cardinals? Previously I have shied away from that question, other than to mention it as a question worthy of some discussion. Since those days I have come to have some thoughts on the matter. I admit as I say this however that this does not reflect my having encountered any documentation to the effect of what I am venturing forth here (but surely there cannot exist any documentation against it - or if there were, that would be interesting on account of its being gravely unlikely).
It has always struck me as odd that so important a function as choosing the next pope of the Church should fall to some diffuse and ill-defined group of individuals whose only claim to worthiness to participate in such an action seems to have been their locality, namely being in or near Rome, a purely accidental circumstance. Here we have an example of a small and limited group of persons selecting a person to rule over the whole Church throughout the whole world. While establishing the "cardinalate" as it existed for about 900 years finally brought the list and nature of these individuals more into focus, the question remained, why these individuals, instead of the more obvious and logical choice of those most immediately ruled by the pope, namely the bishops from throughout the world.
But let me posit this scenario: Recall that the bishops are scattered geographically all around the world. It was not long before a bishop might be so far away from Rome that it could take weeks to travel there (and again to travel back), to say nothing of how long they might be obliged to remain in Rome while participating in the voting process. Such a prolonged period of time, so separated from their flocks, would effectively render the Church without local leadership all around the world every time a pope would die. In short it was not realistic or practical for the bishops to do this voting, admittedly for purely pragmatic reasons, despite their being theologically and hierarchically the most obvious and fit persons for such a task.
So perhaps this use of local Romans to do the electing may have been a matter of their being selected to serve as proxies to the bishops in their remote areas. There may even have been some fleeting period of time that these proxy delegations may well have been explicit, e. g. "I, the Bishop of Such-and-such, do hereby designate you to be my personal representative at the next papal election. My guidance for your voting is thus..." But then, this raises the question of what happens if one person is selected to serve as proxy for two or more bishops. Does he thereby get two or more votes? So before long there would naturally come the modification of letting the group of locals serve as a kind of collective proxy for all the bishops collectively around the world. And then thus it remained until the cardinalate itself was established, and this "proxy" function only at most a distant (and possibly forgotten) reference.
At the very least, this seems a very reasonable and likely historical sequence of events, though it might well have been completed by the end of the First Century, or even the Second or Third, when such things are not documented well if at all. If this is what happened (and I think I am quite safe in saying that evidence to the contrary would be most difficult to find, even if it ever existed at all), then what this would mean is that the papal electors are in at least some sense mere "proxies" of the bishops of the Church, and surely, wherever a person's proxy would be authorized to act, would not the person himself also be at least as much authorized?
What this comes down to is that if the traditional bishops, as assistant bishops to the Diocese of Rome, are not to be regarded as "Cardinals," then it would have to be because of their having, if anything, an even superior claim to the role of papal electors than cardinals would. Who should elect the pope? Surely not the non-Catholics of the modernist Vatican. And the laity, as always, even now, remain far too numerous to use for such a purpose. Perhaps priests could share in the role, at that point I must again defer to some future judgment or at least research or consideration. Again, I don't see anybody who would be qualified, either canonically or theologically, to elect a pope apart from our traditional bishops (unless their priests in addition to them). Even if what I posited here is wrong, the fact remains that there is no appreciable "Roman congregation" of any sort to do the electing, if indeed any more than the barest handful of qualified clerics from in and around the City of Rome could even be found.
So, as assistant bishops to the Diocese of Rome, as the most logical electors of the next true Catholic pope, our respective bishops in fact have much in common with the Abbots of particular religious orders, many of whom historically have been bishops, albeit with no diocese (or at most only a "titular" diocese). And yet their authority, at least over their respective flock, extends to all members of their order, their flock, in any and all parts of the world, wherever they are found. And just as there had been some competition (even some rather unpleasant competition at times) between the various religious orders, between Franciscans and Dominicans and Jesuits, for example - and just imagine how much worse those conflicts would have been without papal leadership to mediate between them and mandate their cooperation and mutual respect - we would have a situation quite similar to what we have today.
Enough of our bishops. Where do our priests stand, therefore? Every traditional priest should have a bishop, to whom he has recourse for confirmation of members of his congregation at the very least, and in fact should be subject to his bishop. If he finds his bishop behaving stupidly or scandalously or destructively he ought to transfer to a better one, but every priest should have a bishop. By doing that he gains his explicit and visible place and role within the Church.
It is known that there are some few traditional Catholic priests who go without any bishop. These are harder to explain, for in not finding a bishop to submit to they make themselves autocephalous, and this is not a good way to be, even if some few of these priests have been among our very best priests. Perhaps they might be seen as being like a priest who is between canonical assignments, legitimate, but unassigned, and of an uncertain canonical and legal position that "the Church supplies."
Though some independant traditional priests may fail to acknowledge it, it is the traditional bishops of the Church, taken together collectively, who represent the Church, who thereby do the "supplying" for such cases. For it makes no sense to say "the Church supplies" unless there is a Church to do the supplying. Either the traditional clergy are that Church that "supplies" or there can be no such Church and Christ has failed us. Take your pick, but I for one would far rather believe the Church exists, even in her weakened, divided, unselfconscious state that She exists in now, than that the whole of Christianity was nothing.
So now, as a member of some particular traditional priest's parish (it is proper to use the word parish, even though it is not within some "diocesan" territory, nor has any geographical or territorial "parish" boundaries either), that is your place in the Church, and your priest is a priest of the flock of the bishop So-and-so, assistant bishop to the Diocese of Rome, which in turn (temporarily) lacks universal and supreme leadership. That is our place in God's Mystical Body. To know our place is to know who we are and what God expects us to do. Other Catholics who have also found (or happen to be themselves) traditional clerics similarly belong to the Church in a simple and direct sense as any Catholic did in former eras. There is therefore nothing of anything more than disciplinary impact to all the various rankings and ratings and opinions about each other based on obscure and technical questions that have no basis in doctrine.
The mud has settled. The water has cleared. Knowing what we have now provides us with the means to take a good look around and assess the true state of the Church. We see first the obvious, that the Church is without a pope, but now we understand better what is meant by that. There is no one bishop in charge of all the traditional bishops around the world. That alone is what renders the Church without a pope, not the absurd behaviors and teachings of some fellow running an organization which isn't the Church at all.
The next thing we see is that the true size of the visible Church is between two and three orders of magnitude smaller than the Church was when Vatican II opened up. We can now see that true Catholic clergymen number barely a thousand, worldwide (and bishops barely a couple dozen or so), and that whole countries in other parts of the world are now presently without so much as a single Catholic cleric to see to the spiritual needs and guidance of their countrymen. We also see that the Church has been reduced to a condition quite similar to its initial presence back in the opening couple centuries of Christian history, with no official recognition, no official status, no notice taken of them at all by the secular authorities.
On the other hand, one sees a Church vitally alive, utterly without the taint of Modernism or any other heresy, comprised of people who understand their need to keep the Faith and live it in their own practical lives. One sees a Church that no one could have expected to survive such a cataclysm as Vatican II occasioned, and yet it does. In a time that the Church should have ceased to be, the Church actually thrives and grows again, albeit from almost nothing-hood. The Church still has everything it needs to pick up the pieces and begin again almost from the scratch of the very beginning. This truly is a miracle worth witnessing, and one to which my Resurrection book witnesses to in detail. The Church lives! Christ's Mystical Body lives! God lives!
But again, on the other hand, things are still far from perfect. One might have expected such a shake-out to eliminate all the bad apples and all the lukewarm and all the uncaring, but in that one would be wrong. As in every era, the Church has its true practitioners and its nominal "Catholic-in-name-onlys," along with badly behaved individuals, looters, and other opportunists who see in the Church's disaster an opportunity for their own gain. Without the universal leadership that is so very important to the functioning of the Church we now see just what would happen without a pope to unify us. Bishop turns against bishop and altar is raised against altar, and yet both rivals in these petty and pathetic feuds have an absolute right to our loyalties.
How does one be loyal to the Church as a whole when so many of its representatives require of one some sort of partisan choice among the rival clerics? How very like the time of the First Great Western Schism (The Church is now in the Second) during which every Catholic was obliged to choose which pope's "excommunication" he was going to live with. One would think history should teach our clerics to behave more responsibly this time around. I think the torment felt by individual Catholics faced with this sort of choice has gone a long way towards keeping the Church from bouncing back. Perhaps one may hope that some of the recent scandals with some certain clerics might be the imploding of all this criminal stupidity on the part of the Church's leadership and force them to cooperate as they always should have from the very beginning.
All of this brings up one other value that stems from having a theological map, especially the true and reliable one as I have provided here. It affords quite a perspective on all that happens, helps us to weigh the significance of the various things that occur, and of the actions and teachings of various individuals in their response to the present situation. It tells us who is visibly Catholic and who is not (for the Church is always visible), it tells us who is on the mark and who is only guessing, or worse still, actually fighting against the truth (whether intentionally or not). It also braces us for what is to come, for knowing the true situation we do not wait for the Vatican organization to mysteriously become "Catholic" again, for we know it need not, and in all likelihood most probably never will. We can also see the patent absurdity of putting the Church "on hold" until the Vatican organization decides to get its act together. With it we can see our clear and present duty, not only in general (for that is always the same), but also specifically for our present situation.
With this it should not be hard to see just what good it would do if only more (or far better still, all) of our traditional clerics also had the benefit of this theological map. I cannot help but believe that many would be far better behaved than they are now if only they knew the truth of where the Church is and of their relationship to it, one and all. The saints of course see it at once, but they already know how to behave. That the rest have not behaved well, or become any more sensible and responsible in their pastoral practice, despite this knowledge being "out there" now for quite some time, is something I find disturbing, to say the least. Personally, I have found having a solid and sound theological map of inestimable value. I think by now that so should you, dear reader.