April 19, 2010
vol 21, no. 110

Undoing the Double-Negative

Part 8 of a Series on the SSPX-published book, Sedevacantism - A False Solution To a Real Problem

The checks and balances of our Faith are like a battery which works in tandem with the ions of a negative charge to act as an electron donor to freely distribute its charges to the receptive positive ions to create a perfect balance in order to function fully. Nothing can run effectively on two negative charges though the SSPX authors seem to think it can be done by their own engine of "resisting and recognize", but, as is proven below, that is impossible and will always sputter and die, just as will the contraption known as the counterfeit church of conciliarism. The only way of undoing the double-negative is to replace the batteries, if you will, by discarding all elements of the newfangled Rube Goldberg invention created via Vatican II, which has complicated and confused with its miasma of modernist mazes that all wind up in dead-ends, and, in its place, reassert the simple original model which was never broke because it was perfect from the outset as promised by the One Who installed Her upon the Rock and guaranteed that His Church will go on, and on, and on "until the consummation of the world." Isn't it time to replace those batteries?

      "And what would be the 'practical consequences' of recognizing that the current Vatican leader is not a real Catholic pope? What it really means (in the realm of practical consequences) is simply that the Vatican leader cannot be recognized as the living regula of our Faith. In short, the practical consequences are no different from what the 'resist and recognize' camp has itself been already doing from the very beginning, namely not taking the Vatican leader as the regula of our Faith but instead having to 'sift' or 'filter' all his words, actions, commands, teachings, and mandates in the context of valid and established Catholic teaching, along with also having to continue the hierarchy of the Church without his direction or approval. In short, each of 'Paul VI' and his successors have been no more any living regula of our Faith for the 'resist and recognize' camp than they have been for the sedevacantist camp. The only real practical consequence of the Sede Vacante realization is simply what the SSPX (together with all other traditional Catholics) has already been doing. So while they preach in this book the allowance of sedevacantism only as some hypothesis with no practical impact, they, in their ecclesial life, live out the practical impact of the Sede Vacante finding while prohibiting any explicit declaration of its hypothesis!"

    With our discussion of the first and main part of the Appendix of the book, Sedevacantism - A False Solution To a Real Problem complete, we now return to its main body. Part 2 of this book continues with a discussion of the role of "Private Judgment" in the Cassiciacum thesis model of events. Summarizing this section, there appear to be three main points made, one being some mention of an illustration comparing the de facto and separate (and potentially different) de jure aspects of the current papal situation to an invalid marriage, the second being the difference between private judgment and canonical judgment, and the third being the question of whether the Cassiciacum scenario would bring one into a condition of perpetual private judgment for the whole Church.

    Let us take these three things one at a time, starting with the first and simplest. The SSPX book mentions that some Formaliter/Materialiter sedevacantists have used the illustration or comparison of an invalid marriage to our current papal situation. The comparison is apt, in such a case, though not without some limitations. In a nutshell, and as described in the book, it is

    "the comparison of the situation of John Paul II with that of an invalid marriage that the Church has not yet declared to be null. Although it has never existed, it is juridically and officially valid in the eyes of the Church (that is, so far as its social effects are concerned) as long as the competent authority in the Church does not pronounce on it. Thus their private judgment on John Paul II, although true and binding on the conscience and even assimilated to a public profession of faith, does not pretend to have any juridical value before the Church. It remains merely the judgment of average Catholics so long as the Church herself does not officially pronounce the same judgment."

    So in this scenario, the factual situation, though not in some sense juridically and formally or officially recognized, nevertheless exists, and must be accepted and dealt with accordingly by anyone who discerns the true factual situation. So, in the example, if a couple who formerly regarded themselves as married (and the Church so regards them still) were to discover some flaw in their sacrament of matrimony such that they are in fact not really husband and wife, they would from the moment of that realization onward be obliged to forego all prerogatives which belong exclusively to the marriage bond. From that time onward they do not have the excuse that "Well, the Church believes that we are married," so as to feel free to continue exercising all marital rights.

    In fact, it would behoove them to pursue an annulment (or else a regularization if the cause of the invalidity of the previous attempt at marriage can be repaired, or else no longer applies) in order that the true status of their relationship and the Church's understanding of that relationship may be in sync, as they truly ought to be, in all justice. But you can see that in such a case, it is plain that such a private judgment would have precedence (in the life of the affected couple) over official Church recognitions. This does not put the couple above the Church, but rather allows for a mistake (that must be remedied).

    So it is with the similarly "private judgment" by which any Catholic can readily discern that the recent and current Vatican leaders have not been popes, and so must not be followed, at the very least, into their errors, and perhaps ideally not at all in anything. In doing that he is not claiming to be superior to the pope in rank, nor substituting himself for the Church, rather he is only acting as necessary given the actual facts of a circumstance. The obligation to act accordingly comes immediately, and does not wait for some decision of the Church.

    Probably the key value to draw from this illustration is the fundamental wrongness of the SSPX book's repeated claim that such a discernment would become nonsense "from the moment that it wishes to express something more than a hypothesis without practical consequences." By that same token (if we were to follow that position of the book to its logical consequences), the realization on the part of a putatively married couple that they are in fact not married must not be allowed to affect the mode of their common life together nor have any other consequences, not even so much as attempting to see if they can regularize their putative marriage into a real one, or else seek an annulment! I am sure that the SSPX would not support that, in any actual case of a particular marriage. Yet in the case of the papacy they do and expect just that. Go figure!

    And what would be the "practical consequences" of recognizing that the current Vatican leader is not a real Catholic pope? What it really means (in the realm of practical consequences) is simply that the Vatican leader cannot be recognized as the living regula of our Faith. In short, the practical consequences are no different from what the "resist and recognize" camp has itself been already doing from the very beginning, namely not taking the Vatican leader as the regula of our Faith but instead having to "sift" or "filter" all his words, actions, commands, teachings, and mandates in the context of valid and established Catholic teaching, along with also having to continue the hierarchy of the Church without his direction or approval. In short, each of "Paul VI" and his successors have been no more any living regula of our Faith for the "resist and recognize" camp than they have been for the sedevacantist camp. The only real practical consequence of the Sede Vacante realization is simply what the SSPX (together with all other traditional Catholics) has already been doing. So while they preach in this book the allowance of sedevacantism only as some hypothesis with no practical impact, they, in their ecclesial life, live out the practical impact of the Sede Vacante finding while prohibiting any explicit declaration of its hypothesis!

    Getting back to the text of the book at this point, their immediate response to that illustration, as presented in the paragraphs immediately to follow its exposition, seems to be addressing rather a different question. They write:

This idea, at first sight brilliant, in reality has very grave consequences. To begin with, whoever follows the Cassiciacum thesis is implicitly obliged to systematically examine whatever John Paul II does or says in order to deduce when he may have lifted the obex and thus become a true pope. Those who follow this thesis are in a situation of permanent quasi-conclave, since John Paul II - or one of his successors - will be their pope when they themselves will have perceived it.

    Furthermore, even supposing that all the faithful who follow this have understood all of its intricacies, these same faithful must have the means to perform this discernment on their own and with certainty, since the faith of baptism must be sufficient. They indeed claim that it is by dint of simple and naked faith that they do not recognize the authority of John Paul II. But in reality such discernment is a difficult thing. Lacking the necessary tools for such a discernment, they are obliged to trust themselves to the judgment of a trusted person (perhaps a layman, since no one has jurisdiction), who is necessarily chosen on the basis of subjective criteria. We are not far from charismaticism.

    Frankly, what that has to do with the illustration of an invalid marriage I do not know. Going back to the true value, intent, and meaning of the illustration, is it mere "charismaticism" for a putatively married couple to realize (for example if a former spouse of one partner, legally pronounced dead and thus legally allowing them to be married again by the Church, now turns up alive and well) that their marriage is not valid? Is it really even all that difficult to discern? The writers of the book make that discernment some great and difficult thing to master, when in fact it is not.

    Admittedly however, as with any illustration, even this one does break down at a certain point, though in no way invalidating the point it nevertheless makes. It breaks down at the point at which, where in the case of merely an invalid marriage, one need only seek their priest who will answer their questions, explain what options (if any) are open to them given their particular circumstance, and perhaps even at least help them initiate the necessary proceedings. Obviously, in our present papal situation we have no such recourse since the very person who nominally should be looked to in order to resolve the problem is himself the cause of the problem (and, evidently so far, without any interest in resolving the problem he has chosen to make). But all that really does is compare to a situation of the putatively married couple having this problem while stranded on a desert island with no possible contact with the Church. The very person they would normally go to in order to resolve and remedy the situation is simply unavailable.

    Some paragraphs later on, after discussing other topics (which I will return to presently), it somewhat returns to the illustration with its one (somewhat) reference to this limitation:

    "In the case of a marriage that is de facto null one awaits the judgment of the competent authority, and, if and when a judgment is passed, such a marriage can also be null de jure. In the case of Paul VI and his successors, on the contrary, the thesis counsels that one should await a judgment, but only after having oneself authorized the competent authority."

    But that declaration is patently absurd (but hints of the third point of the section, to which we will get presently). It is not difficult, in fact quite easy. Let me give out a new illustration:

    You are a police officer who has just apprehended a person guilty of a certain crime. You just caught them red-handed in the very act. There is no real question as to their guilt as the evidence is conclusive, and yet while you interrogate the person he continues to insist upon his innocence. Again and again he professes his innocence and protests his arrest. But he is really guilty and you know it and he knows it. You also know that he knows his guilt, but he is banking on the possibility that you may anything-short-of-absolutely know of his guilt, that maybe, if he just continues insisting it loud and long enough, he might eventually fool you into considering or even accepting his claims of innocence.

    But since you know he is guilty you know he is lying, and merely wasting your time. One other thing you also know is that the one time to begin listening to him is when he finally breaks down and admits it, "Okay, I did it." Only now does he become worth listening to. Only now do you begin to get the truth from him. The recent and current Vatican leaders know as well as we that they are not popes, at least in the truly Catholic and Petrine sense of the word, and so long as they pretend otherwise they are no different than that apprehended person professing his innocence. Until one of them has the reality and honesty to stand up and say, "Okay, I admit it. I and my [this many several] predecessors have not been popes," nothing they say is anything more than some game they are playing. Only when they say that can we believe that we are at last getting the truth out of them. Only then do they become worth listening to.

    The next point regarding the distinction between private judgment and canonical judgment seems to be something more of a concept that fulminates quietly in the background rather than something directly addressed, except in one footnote which lays it out thus:

We can formulate our reflections on Guérardian private judgment in faciem Ecclesiæ with the following schema. The judgment can be:
    1) private, that is to say made by a subject without authority, lacking juridical and normative effects;

    2) canonical, that is by its nature public, with juridical consequences, pronounced by the competent authority.

    The first kind, even if it is expressed publicly, leaves the pope as pope insofar as it recognizes that it lacks the authority to reject him. The second kind, per absurdum (i. e. if it were possible) would utterly destroy the pontificate (rigorist sedevacantists). However the second kind of judgment cannot be applied to the pope.

    The private judgment "in faciem Excclesiæ" which produces a purely material pope is a tertium quid which non datur. Either it is a private judgment that, although publicly expressed, cannot have any practical consequence before the Church (because, if prima sedes a nemine judicatur, this can only be meant with respect to private judgment, since such a canonical judgment is impossible because of the lack of a competent authority), or it is a judgment which is for all practical purposes juridical. And in fact the Guérardian "private judgment" has, in the very rejection of the authority of John Paul II, eminently juridical effect. But such a judgment is impossible in the case of the person of the pope and leads to the same error as that of the rigorist sedevacantists.

    To summarize, the Cassiciacum thesis pretends to somehow demonstrate that from a judgment that call itself non-juridical devolve effects that are de facto juridical, having a normative value for the conduct of all the faithful.

    In a nutshell, the fundamental problem facing the Church is that of how to get from the level of (1) the private observation any Catholic can readily make that the recent and current Vatican leaders have not functioned as actual Catholic popes, to the level of (2) that canonical and official recognition of the actual status of both the man himself, and correspondingly of the organization he leads, which can have authoritative and juridical value before the Church as a Body, and all its members. In my observation however the Guérardians have not in fact quite attempted that leap.

    Basically, the Guérardian's position seems to be this: The fact of the man not being a real Catholic pope is obvious, utterly beyond any real valid dispute. There are any countless number of "smoking gun" evidences to this effect. That, therefore, is not what is really at issue. The problem is what to do with that piece of information. For starters, since I am cognizant of that fact, I must myself abide by it, in that I refuse to take the person as a living regula of my Catholic Faith.

    But what about everyone else. Since I am just an ordinary "Catholic of the line," and not any sort of "head honcho," I cannot just simply order everyone else to do as I do, as if they were all some sort of "chain of command" under my authority. But what I CAN do is point out to all the same facts and evidences that have persuaded me, and which would persuade every honest soul that is willing to investigate this with all "due diligence" that what I am doing is what must be done by all. And if not all choose to be persuaded by the facts, well then at least those from among us who have practiced that "due diligence" in pursuing this can know that those who have not can be personally identified by name as being those who care little about spiritual things, or at least less about spiritual things than they care about something else that means more to them, some idol, if you will.

    As to the two problems mentioned in that footnote, namely the first how the Church can get from (1) to (2), and the second how the Church can get around the "catch 22" that the very trial needed to determine that the man is no pope cannot even be legally started until he has already been determined to not be a pope, these are problems that I have discussed elsewhere (in the "Anatomy of a Papal Resignation" series in Part One: The Procedure; Part Two: The Precedents, and Part Three: The Proof) and therefore do not repeat them here. But those are not parts of the Cassiciacum thesis, but rather, parts of my thesis. The book however is at this point concerned with the Cassiciacum thesis, and it is that to which I respond to here. And one can see from what I just presented that the Cassiciacum thesis clearly stops short of making any juridical claims. The Guérardians make the strong and utterly valid point that whenever the "official view of things" is seriously out of sync with the truth, it is the truth to which we must all give precedence and allegiance, until such time if any as the "official view of things" can be brought into line with the truth, at which point this distinction can again recede into insignificance.

    Which brings us to the third and (in my opinion) main intended point of this section of the SSPX book. To me, and I suspect, to all sedevacantists who knowingly use "private judgment" in this manner, it seems obvious that once the condition necessitating the exercise of this private judgment ceases to be, then the private judgment itself can also merely cease and is thereafter simply removed from the loop. But as for the authors of this book, they seem to think that the termination of this necessity itself presents some sort of new problem. They word it thus:

Let us illustrate the matter with an example. Let's suppose that on March 23, 2019, the second successor of John Paul II, John Paul IV (fifth pope in the material line) begins to put the Council in question. The Guérardians will naturally have to ask themselves if he has lifted the obex. Let us further admit that they are all in agreement to recognize him as the true pope ... . Such a judgment could only be private. Whoever would act on this basis to recognize John Paul IV as the standard of their faith will be able to do so only on the basis of a private judgment by which he will choose "his" regula on the basis of a private judgment. In this way the Guérardians condemn themselves to never having a certain pope. In fact, from the moment they want to make their own private judgment a judgment with standing within and before the Church they will have to make a leap, attributing to their new private "observation" an official standing before the Church. Thus they will be substituting themselves for the Church herself, which alone gives and recognizes a pope. Thus they will be operating like that same abusive judge they accuse the other sedevacantists of being.

    The meaning of the last part of this quote is clarified a little bit more in part of a footnote tied to that paragraph:

Applied to the judgment by which they may one day recognize a true pope, this subterfuge will appear perfectly functional for performing the necessary leap of transforming a judgment that is intrinsically private into a judgment that will in practice have to substitute for that of the Church. This will manifest that same abuse for which the Guérardians reprove the rigorist sedevacantists (in their wanting to declare John Paul II a heretic before the Church) but applied in a positive sense - with the purpose of recognizing the authority of a pope rather than rejecting it. As far as whether or not it is possible to recognize the authority of a pope through the simple exercise of faith - the only solution from the Guérardian point of view - we have already expressed our view in the section entitled "The Election of Paul VI."

    Perhaps they see it something like this: Picture a man, tired of reality, who then therefore puts a virtual reality helmet on his head, thus causing him to see and hear (and perhaps otherwise sense using all senses, if the virtual reality helmet is made well enough) whatever is programmed in it as an alternate "reality" for him to participate in instead of the real reality. Then perhaps after a while, tiring of his virtual reality he removes his virtual reality helmet and returns to the real reality to find whatever he finds. Or so it seems, for unbeknownst to him, his removal of the virtual reality helmet itself was not actual but merely simulated within the virtual reality and he has instead merely entered another phase of his virtual reality, and the helmet, in actuality, remains on his head while he thinks he has removed it.

    This sort of theme is seen in many science fiction stories and even films. How can one know if he has really departed from a simulated reality if the simulation is perfect enough to simulate such a departure? But this sort of scenario (clearly in the back of the mind(s) of the SSPX writers of the section of the book) really has no bearing on our present situation.

    In grammar, it really is a lot simpler. When you get the double negative situation, the correct thing is simply to cancel out that double negative with a positive. If I cannot not do something, then what that really means is that I must do the something, and in fact the former is bad grammar, a "double negative." Or in arithmetic, "minus a minus one" is simply equal to "adding one." If a situation calls for an emergency response, then when the situation changes and no longer calls for the emergency response, how could that ever be, in any real thing (such as that in consideration before us) anything other than a reversion to what the situation was precisely before the emergency arose in the first place? We have a scenario in which a private judgment would be called for, and then when the situation changes such that the private judgment is no longer called for, then the private judgment itself can merely cease and all is as it was before.

    Going back to the "virtual reality helmet" scenario, the truth of the situation is more like this: Our longstanding ability to simply trust those in apparent authority as being actually in authority and fully trustworthy is itself the "virtual reality helmet" which in most times can be safely and harmlessly worn. But now a situation has arisen in which the truth is seriously out of sync with that apparent "reality," and so we are temporarily forced to remove our "virtual reality helmet" and take a good and honest look around. Once the apparent situation should again be in sync with the apparent reality of the "virtual reality helmet," we can then safely return it to our heads as we once again can truly trust that "Father knows best." And that is all it takes to undo the double negative presented in this section of the book.

    Looking closely at the last quoted paragraphs one does however find a most glancing mention of yet a fourth point alluded to within this section, namely that of the question of "substituting oneself for the Church," but as this is developed in much more depth in the next section of the SSPX book, it will be addressed in the next installment of this series, Authority by Default?

Griff L. Ruby

        Griff's book is available from Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.

Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF Monday, April 19, 2010, Volume 21, no. 110