The conclusion of this book (positioned at the completion of Part 2) attempts to summarize the finding of its authors, and along the way also manages to summarize the nature of the underlying mistake made by all of those who will not find the answers and who will end up having little (beside numbers of devout followers) to contribute to the solution. However, before we get to that and to our own concluding comments, there remains the final part of the Appendix, which apparently consists of a translation of an extract from the book Marcel Lefebvre: Una vie by His Excellency Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, discussing Archbishop Lefebvre's thoughts on the Sede Vacante situation of the Church.
"Let us pass now to a second but no less important subject: does the Church have a true Pope or an impostor on the throne of St. Peter? Happy are those who have lived and died without having to pose such a question! One must indeed recognize that the pontificate of Paul VI poses and continues to pose a serious problem of conscience for the faithful. Without reference to his culpability for the terrible demolition of the Church which took place under his pontificate, one cannot but recognize that he hastened the causes of that decline in every domain. One can fairly ask oneself how it was possible that a successor of Peter can in so little time have caused more damage to the Church than the French Revolution." - Archbishop Lefebvre
Culpability aside, the big problem has been to account for how Paul VI could possibly have carried off such a disaster and been so minimally questioned or challenged in his own day. Archbishop Lefebvre fleetingly hints at the central issue: "The pontificate of Paul VI poses and continues to pose a serious problem of conscience for the faithful." The real question? Where was the Holy Ghost throughout the disaster created by Paul VI (and especially as this was greatly multiplied by the fact that far too few persons even suspected that perhaps he might not have really been a real Roman Catholic Pope as he did his monstrous things)?
Clearly, the Holy Ghost was with all of those who resisted the work of Paul VI, who opposed it and him, and most of all with those who, as Catholics suspected, doubted, or even ruled out his absurd seeming claims to the papacy. But why was the Holy Ghost not with all the rest? How many of these "all the rest" would have gone along with the changes, even working to help implement them, if only they had realized that not only could no real Catholic pope command such nonsense, but furthermore that Paul VI was patently no pope at all? Power is measured simply by the number of people who can be made to follow it. Paul VI obviously had immense power, obviously way more than one should expect God to allow to rest in any individual so clearly messed up, confused, and even deceitful.
The goal of sedevacantists was never to divest the recent and current Vatican leaders of authority, but of power, for they have no (relevant) authority to lose. They have divested themselves of papal authority, as everyone can sense. On December 2, 1999, the Editor and Board of The DailyCatholic while still very much in its Novus Ordo days, in writing about the life of "TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY Countdown - Number 10: Pope Paul VI," wrote that:
Paul VI's papacy was wrought with controversy. Many accused him of being too liberal while others labeled him out-of-touch and way too conservative. The former charge came from those who saw the radical changes in the liturgy and relaxed attitude of the Church as a "compromise" to appease non-Catholics. The latter indictment resulted from the Holy Father's landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968 which dealt with his no-holds-barred condemnation of artificial birth control. This shocked many because a majority of those named to the pontifical commission in 1963 had reported back to him in favor of certain contraceptions in some cases. But the Pope rejected their claims and took the lonely road of proclaiming contraception, except for the rhythm method, wrong. His decision was met with world-wide rejection both by non-Catholics - including the Anglican bishops who disavowed it at the Lambeth Conference on August 6, 1968 - and Catholics everywhere, especially in America where a new independent attitude had taken over. [editor's note: "1958" was in the 1999 DailyCatholic original. It was a typo for 1968 was the intended reference for the Lambeth Conference.] No non-married old man was going to tell young American couples how to live their life...no matter that he was the Vicar of Christ on earth. Wave after wave of Catholics abandoned the teachings of the Church, either leaving the Faith completely in favor of an "easier" Protestant sect that, they rationalized, would allow them to continue to live the way they had become accustomed to or even continue the facade within the Church with little regard to what the Pope said. Thus "cafeteria catholicism" was spawned where many baptized in the Faith decided they knew best [better than the "Pope," you see, ironically in the one brief moment Paul VI actually managed to say something a real Pope could say] and would pick and choose that which suited them and reject teachings and doctrine that didn't fit with their modern way of thinking. [Strong Emphasis mine]
Now why in the world should so many supposedly numerous and devout Catholics be so willing to have resort to easier Protestant sects, or at least their teachings and ways (while still pretending to be Catholics - albeit only "cafeteria catholics"), unless Vatican II had taught that Protestant sects and other religions are also the official means of God's grace in the world and also the means for God to bring souls to Heaven? For as long as the Protestants were regarded as "heretics" and their teachings merely as deception, who among the Catholics cared what they taught? But now that salvation can be obtained through these Protestant sects as well as by "the Catholic way," how could any specifically Catholic detail of morality, especially if found inconvenient, be viewed as anything more than some asinine and provincial rule of no universal merit?
From the moment people who called themselves "Catholics" began to label the "Pope" as being "wrong" (for they knew "best," remember?) they have necessarily been using the word in a sense quite different from that of what the Church teaches that it means for a man to be a Roman Catholic Pope. Meanwhile, real Catholics, even before having articulated in their own minds the logical conclusion that a "pope" who cannot be followed in good faith and who is no regula of the Faith, is therefore obviously no pope at all, also reacted in a similar way, but here in the interest of Truth and in preserving the true and authentic Catholic Church, whereas the "cafeteria catholics" did what they did in the interest of personal ease and convenience.
The real reason so many went along was that there were all of those who hoped for change in the areas of particular interest of them, individually. What better way to pave the way for contraception, abortion, homosexual "marriages," priestesses, permissions to sell out one's fellow man by joining criminal conspiracies (such as the Masons), and so forth, than by smashing the altars today, destroying the Mass and Sacraments tomorrow, and the Catechisms and Code of Canon Law the day after that? And all the while one could pretend "obedience" to one they already disobeyed regarding anything else they found inconvenient or uncomfortable. How else does one explain such massive and widespread destructive energy as was seen from the early-mid 1960's onward?
Naturally Archbishop Lefebvre had to at least consider the probability (from what limited amount he could understand) that the Vatican leaders were no popes. And he did, for he posited, "Perhaps one day, in thirty or forty years, a session of cardinals called by a future pope will study and judge the reign of Paul VI; perhaps they will say that some things should have jumped out at the eyes of his contemporaries, affirmations of this pope completely contrary to Tradition," or again, "Do we really have a pope or an intruder seated on the seat of Peter? Blessed are those who lived and died without having to pose themselves such a question!"
It is evident however that, despite the tight, direct, and unassailable (which the book dismisses as "simple and comfortable") logic that plainly has pointed to a papal vacancy, Archbishop Lefebvre found himself confused by quite an array of questions that the finding seemed to raise: "But can one, practically speaking, maintain the formal heresy of a pope? Who will have the authority for that? Who will give the necessary warnings to the pope that it might be recognized? Furthermore, this line of reasoning in practice 'puts the Church in an inextricable position. Who will tell us where the future pope is? How can he be designated, since there are no cardinals,' because the pope is not pope?"
Plainly, all of these seemingly deep questions were too much for him to even think of taking on so obviously near the end of his life. I don't see that he so much ruled against the Sede Vacante finding as merely chose to ignore it, to do all the things that sedevacantists would do, but to find non-sedevacantist reasons for each of them, so that regardless of what finding the Church would make on the question, he will have acted prudently, in preserving a well-trained and formed priesthood, in preserving the episcopal succession in an unassailably valid line, in continuing to present the Gospel to those of the Novus Ordo organization with an eye to snatching at least some few of them out of the fire.
So, while the sedevacantist clergy openly sustain the Episcopal succession in the recognized absence of a pope, Archbishop Lefebvre and company do the same claiming only some less well-defined "emergency," that it should have been granted, that it is granted in their new 1983 Code (far looser and laxer Code of Canon Law, though technically even the old Code would have permitted it in similar circumstances, though more narrowly and precisely defined - could they have actually arisen within the Church), that it wasn't actually quite outright forbidden, and that permission to do so had been granted, at least in principle, if not quite in fact, and so forth. But the action is the same, accomplishes the same, and is viewed as being of equal merit by the Court of Heaven as well as by the judgment of future Church history.
The same goes for all other actions of SSPX and sedevacantist clergy alike. They both do the same things, setting up seminaries and religious orders and houses, training, forming and ordaining priests to serve in the various parish communities, sending them as missionaries to all parts of the world, holding and teaching all of the Catholic Faith in authentic catechisms, liturgy, sacraments and sacramentals, blessings, and all preaching in the public forum, ruling in their jurisdiction to absolve sins and recognize marriages and even grant annulments, and finally by continuing the episcopal succession. They both endeavor to explain the truth to the Vatican personnel, one being diplomatically polite and the other brusquely forthright (shades of "good cop, bad cop"? - deal with the SSPX now while you still can, ye Vatican, for in the next 30 years or so we sedevacantists will come to significantly outnumber those of the SSPX and it will be us that you shall have to deal with!).
Clearly, Archbishop Lefebvre was sedevacantist in practice, though not in any official public capacity, and that, together with his early rise back in 1970 (while the sedevacantist orders and groups got their equivalent starts in the 1980's and 1990's) is what made for a truly successful and powerful message with a powerful and wide appeal. He fought for Tradition while remaining relatively uncontroversial (at least in comparison to his sedevacantist confreres, what very few he had at the earliest days), and provided a real bridge out of Novus Ordoism and into the Church.
But at the same time the question, which no doubt tormented his nights as he pondered it in those dark moments when one questions one's whole life, remained as to the veracity or validity of the Sede Vacante finding. On the one hand it is so obviously true that he could blame no one who embraced it, but at the same time it was such a contentious question, and one with so many open further questions it brings about, that at the same time neither could he come out and endorse it publicly. In his speeches and sermons he revisited it quite some number of times, and each time just a little bit differently, as though having seen how his previous attempt at addressing it had failed in the eyes of someone or another. When the 1986 Assisi scandal was announced he outright threatened it, but when the thing happened he failed to carry out his threat.
But if one has been following all the installments of this series, one should readily be able to see that part of his problem had been the inadequate manner in which sedevacantists of note have presented the whole case - namely as if it were one of accusation of guilt and removal by trial instead of discovery of a simple and verifiable neutral fact that accuses no one of anything but demonstrates the true nature of the whole situation. If only the Sede Vacante case could have been carefully and formally presented to Archbishop Lefebvre personally in his own day in the manner that I have here in this series and in my other writings that have touched upon the subject. For then he would have seen the answers to all the questions that so intimidated him at the time, and perhaps he could have at least taken an even stronger stance, for example by not accepting doubtfully ordained clergy or recognizing all annulments no matter how patently invalid, or even understanding the nature and extent of what lawful jurisdiction he did have and how it could be used (and how it couldn't).
Basically, the real problem was that the sedevacantists of his day unintentionally mis-framed whole question. It was not a matter of Popes teaching heresy, but of persons mistaken for popes (even while they teach heresy) who are not popes, and to whom papal infallibility simply would not and evidently does not apply at all. The Sede Vacante finding is true, but not for the reasons many sedevacantists adduce, but for other reasons that not only explain all of what has been going on, but also provide answers to many of those further questions that Archbishop Lefebvre had found so intimidating. Sedevacantism really is a "true solution to a false problem" in that the real problem is the lack of universal (papal) jurisdiction on the part of the Vatican leaders. That finishes all that I have to say about the Appendix to the SSPX book. Let us step through some of the book's concluding thoughts:
"Having arrived at the conclusion of our reflections one may ask where lies the final solution to the "true problem," with the recognition of which we began. Our excursus has only confirmed the necessity of leaving the Church herself the task of giving a definitive response as to the current status of authority in her bosom."
Let's stop there. Obviously, the book is first of all having to admit that it has no real answers to the problem, and furthermore neither does the SSPX (apart from their pragmatic "what to do" to sustain a living Faith example in their proto-sedevacantist congregations). But of course from the beginning it was never their intention to provide an answer, only to attempt to maneuver the reader into rejecting any answer. The second sentence sets up the fundamental fallacy that lies at the heart of the inability of the SSPX, Archbishop Lefebvre, or the writers of this book (or any other SSPX book) to provide this much needed answer. It is indeed for the Church to provide the definitive answer to this question (which the Church already did in Lumen Gentium and continues to do in the more (most) informed sedevacantists to this day). However, it is not the Catholic Church that they intend to refer to in that sentence, but rather the Novus Ordo organization (it isn't exactly a church, technically) which, as an organization, has no more claim to ecclesiastical authority than the United States of America Federal Government (though like that secular nation there are nevertheless still some few individual Catholics therein). The third sentence makes explicit this fallacy:
"We cannot substitute ourselves for [the Church]," not merely because that would be bad, but in fact because that would be physically impossible. Being the Church, we could never be mere "substitutes" for ourselves. I believe it was Watchman Nee who once said, "Can you imagine the frustration of trying to get into a room that you are already in?" The point, though made by an outsider, is so very apropos to our present status. As members of the household of Faith (Catholic traditionalists one and all), we are already in the Church, and as such a member and a part. This really amounts to our being IN Christ, as the Bible speaks of (e. g. 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 15:22, Colossians 1:13-14 and 2:10-11, and Ephesians 1:3-14). As such it is neither fair nor right that we should see the Church as some other entity "out there" (e. g. the present fallen Vatican State or anything else), as if we real and authentic Catholics, the only ones worthy of the title, are all here "outside" or even "on the sidelines." We are THE Church, and the solution will come through and from us, and not from the Vatican. One could hardly expect the fox in a henhouse to arrest himself! But we, to whom God has delegated the whole chicken coop to, most certainly CAN arrest the fox ourselves.
"Since we cannot substitute ourselves for her, we can only take heed of the necessity of the existence of a hierarchy with authority, and of the general recognition of the authority of John Paul II on the part of the Church dispersed throughout the world."
The book ends with
"The Faith itself, founding the Church on Peter and his prerogatives, assures us that from him and him alone will one day appear the definitive solution to this question."
To hear from Peter we must first come, once again after so long an absence, to have Peter amongst us. So long as we look to anything outside ourselves, outside the Church, to provide us with him, we wait in vain, for God has placed that duty in our hands, frightful and awesome as it is. Let us no longer waste time allowing a patent non-Catholic to plug up that vacancy, whether we grant him such a title as pope, or only material pope, or legal pope, or what have you. We are the only players on the field. Imagine how poorly a team on the field would play if they, mistakenly believing themselves to be mere spectators on the sidelines, merely sat and watched as the opposing team moved in and took over.
Obviously, Providence instead has intended that Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX would serve in an intermediary capacity, providing life through the Sacraments and teaching, but also remaining more accessible and comprehensible to those yet still just starting out on their own personal learning curve from Novus Ordoism to Catholicism. As the years go by however and fewer and fewer persons within the Novus Ordo remain who are old enough to remember what the Church was like (and thus be able to recognize it in the living example of any traditionalist congregation), the need for a specific bridge out of the Novus Ordo declines and we the Church might do well to begin focusing more on converting the remainder of the world. So it was at the beginning of the Gospel era in which the ancient Jewish nation could only give the first and most principal group to the Church, but in time most of the greater numbers would have to come from the Gentiles and only the barest trickle still coming from the Jews.
We should continue proselytizing the Novus Ordo even as we still proselytize the Jews, but with only (proportionately) small expectations since most of those in the Novus Ordo today have been in it so long that they really have no awareness of the discontinuity between the historic Catholic Church and themselves. The young (and now most middle-aged as well) generations therein never saw the real Church in the days when it could be found in everyone's local neighborhood parish church instead of at some tiny chapel situation far away. What appeal we can have now can only be the same as that we must also have for anyone of any sect or religion whatsoever. The SSPX appeals most to those who, in a transitional period of their life (hopefully from irreligion to Faith), still find it difficult to accept the fullness of the Truth about where the Church is today. But experience shows that even a simple living out in practice of the Truth will often, in time, open one up to being at least gradually being able to accept the wholeness of the hard sayings.
The front door of the SSPX is principally the Novus Ordo, from which it draws nearly all of its converts, but the back door of the SSPX is similarly principally the path to sedevacantism and to the fullness of understanding our present situation, and of practicing our Faith whole and entire, without compromise. The sooner the SSPX recognizes we sedevacantists as their most advanced members instead of as mere outcasts, the better for all concerned. Their attempt to close up that back door (by such books as this that I have been reviewing and discussing - for that is the real object of its production), while understandable with an eye towards increasing membership by retaining those already gained as long as possible, nevertheless serves no worthy purpose.
Had they only attempted an honest discussion and exchange (and dialog even? - between Catholics that should always be allowable), far more good could have emerged from it, though much value has nevertheless been drawn from it in the course of this series. For that reason I would like to thank Fr. Michel Simoulin and those working with him for having provided such an occasion to discuss at least some important concepts pertinent to the relations of Catholics, sedevacantist and not. I look forward to any replies from them or any opportunities for further discussion.