The same section of part 2 of the book, Sedevacantism - A False Solution To a Real Problem, which was discussed in the previous part of this series gives way to another section on another topic, to be picked up later on this series. However before we can leave off from discussing this particular portion of the SSPX book that contains the book's pièce de résistance, it is important to note that this section is further extended at the back of the book in the form of an Appendix. Things that are portrayed one way in the section itself are portrayed in quite another in the Appendix, and which the casual reader might fail to pick up on if he reads the book sequentially from start to finish, as most probably would.
But as the Appendix is specifically pointed to from the particular section in the middle of the book, and is itself clearly meant to be an extension of it, building on it, I therefore address it here before moving on with the continuation of the main body of the work.
Let us briefly pick up the threads from where we were with the relevant section from the main body of the work. The biggest sounding point made in the entire book (and the one its authors obviously seem to think to have been the most devastating argument in their favor) was a point brought out by a particular theologian known as Louis Cardinal Billot in the earlier part of the 20th Century to the effect that universal acceptance of a man as pope would automatically render him to be pope even despite some serious deficiencies in the manner of his election or other considerations of his background, training, spiritual qualifications, etc. Namely, if the whole Church thinks a non-pope to be pope, does that not ruin the whole visibility of the Church and mean that the whole Church has followed a false regula (rule of faith), an apparent absurdity in Catholic theology?
In the section of the main body of the work, this idea is correctly introduced as purely the idea of Billot himself, something he was first (and remains only) to articulate and elucidate explicitly. But in the Appendix, this opinion goes from something ascribed to merely this one single theologian of interest to being some sort of "common position" of "all" theologians (Pope Paul IV and St. Bellarmine somehow not counting at all), and as some sort of magisterially established dogmatic truth.
Furthermore, not only is Billot's actual position of this "acclamation" being able to rule out questions regarding some doubtful pope, now being ascribed some sort of dogmatic weight, but even a number of obvious absurdities, if one takes such a position to ludicrous extremes that Billot himself could not possibly have ever intended, are also being given this dogmatic weight as well. As I indicated in the previous installment, Billot's idea does seem quite reasonable as to the scenario of resolving what might otherwise be a rather ambiguous case, e. g. the example given then about a man elected pope on a significantly small minority of votes (major election irregularity) but still being accepted by the Church as pope. While I know of no other theologian who has ever agreed to the same position, I do feel it safe to say that no other theologian would ever question or challenge it, were the idea of it to have been proposed to them.
But as I also indicated, this sort of thing must nevertheless possess certain limitations. Universal acclamation of the Church really can, I believe, resolve an ambiguous condition where there might otherwise be a legitimate doubt or question as to a particular man's claim to the papacy. But I also believe that it most certainly cannot make a pope of someone who is specifically disqualified to be pope. At the time, I listed the possible scenarios of the pope-elect being a woman, or someone who isn't baptized and who also refuses to be baptized, or a married man who refuses to leave his wife. Obviously, a blatant and unrepentant heretic would also be similarly disqualified. To put this in a less emotionally charged context (though I can imagine other circles where this example would only be even more emotionally charged), let us illustrate it with the example of the person elected and accepted to the papacy being a woman.
Perhaps some may remember the anti-Catholic legend of "Pope Joan," a silly story about a woman who concealed her gender, possessed great learning, and on the strength of that learning, somehow got elected to be pope and served as such for some season before dying unexpectedly of childbirth while riding a horse. We all know that this story is a pure fabrication since whoever concocted it didn't even bother to look up the actual papal historical records so as to insert this "Popess" at some believable point, chronologically, to say nothing of the extraordinary lack of contemporary evidence dating from any of the possible times that this is supposed to have occurred. Be all that as it may however, the position ascribed to Billot in the SSPX book actually amounts to saying that were such a thing actually to happen, the woman involved really, literally, and actually, WOULD be Pope, complete with all the other powers of the episcopacy and priesthood, and infallibility, power of the keys, and so forth. Never mind the clear theological reasons why a woman could no more be a priest (of any rank) than a man naturally give birth to and suckle a human baby.
So now, let us start stepping through this Appendix, and watch out for this (and for quite a few more such "poodle-bombs"). That general respect for theology and theologians (particularly those who are sedevacantists and those of times past who most discussed these sorts of questions) often (though not always) seen in the rest of the book is wholly lacking in this Appendix, which appears to have been screened with a whole lot less effort than the rest of the book. The very first few sentences pronounce the very absurdity I have just discussed. It begins, "In the section entitled 'The Election of Paul VI' we took note of the significance of the universal and peaceable recognition of a new pope on the part of the whole Church. It is an absolutely certain dogmatic fact - admitted by all theologians and based directly on the promise of Jesus Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church - that, in such a case, he is certainly pope. Applied to Paul VI this principle entails obvious consequences that undermine sedevacantism in radice." Hello, Popess Joan!
It then sets out to address two basic objections not mentioned in the main body of the work, one being the possibility of a validly elected and accepted Pope subsequently losing the office, and the other being Pope Paul IV's Apostolic Constitution, Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio. For the case of the subsequent loss of office, the chief reference is St. Robert Bellarmine's famous treatise, here glibly dismissed as a mere "speculation," in a manner quite similar to the manner in which Feeneyite writers summarily dismiss any Scripture's, Father's, Doctor's, Pope's, Council's, Catechism's, Saint's, or Roman Theologian's mention of Baptism of Blood and/or Desire as mere "private speculation." Of course, the last thing the book's authors want to have happen is for the reader to have on hand a text of Bellarmine's treatise (or for that matter, the full text of Billot's work which they patently misapply).
But before even getting into the specifics of either of these objections, the book actually attempts to pit them one against the other. Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio would be of value to demonstrate the election of Paul VI to have been invalid, but Bellarmine's Treatise (and especially its "fifth position" that he personally advocates) seems more useful for demonstrating a possible mechanism for a subsequent loss of the papacy. As we know, for each of these recent and current Vatican non-popes, he either never obtained the papacy in the first place, or else having obtained it he subsequently lost it. And obviously, if one is true in a given case, the other is not true for that given case.
Somehow, this seems to the book's writers to be some sort of a real problem for the sedevacantists. They write, "It is noteworthy that the two arguments exclude one another, in the sense that if one applies, the other cannot be applied. For example, if the election of Paul VI is maintained to be have been null [sic - I did mention this Appendix had not been as carefully screened, and as we can see here, even for simple typographical errors], it cannot also be maintained that he lost his authority after having received it. Nevertheless the two arguments are often juxtaposed in demonstration of rigorist sedevacantism, as if to reciprocally augment their probative power." And all I can say in response to this strange sort of "complaint" would be, "and your point is...?"
Let us structure out what it is they are actually hinting at (what they want their reader to "reason" out inarticulately and intuitively in his mind):
1) IF Paul VI lost his authority subsequent to his being validly elected,
Taking statements (2) and (4) together, they conclude that therefore Paul VI was validly elected in the first place and never subsequently lost his authority, and so must have been and remained a true pope to the end of his days. Q. E. D.
2) THEN Paul VI had to have been validly elected in the first place, but
3) IF Paul VI was never validly elected in the first place,
4) THEN Paul VI could never have subsequently lost his authority.
I don't even know what to call this strange new kind of logical fallacy. To illustrate, suppose a burglar enters a man's house while he was alone in his house and while in the house, the burglar shoots the man dead. Now the burglar is on trial for the man's murder, and while motive and opportunity have been sufficiently established by the prosecution to be past any response, his defense lawyer, seeing some technicality with which to spring his client, now focuses on the means of the murder, namely the murder weapon. There is only one gun here of concern, namely the one that matches the bullet that killed the man and which was found in the suspect's possession when he was caught. The problem is, it cannot be established where the gun came from, or how long the burglar had it in his physical possession. Imagine this defense lawyer attempting to persuade the jury thus:
1) IF my client already had the gun with him while breaking and entering,
Therefore, taking (2) and (4) here I conclude that since my client did not find the gun anywhere in the house and did not bring it in with him, he never handled the gun at all, and so could not have murdered the man of the house, is innocent, and should be allowed to go free. Q. E. D.
2) THEN my client could not possibly have merely found this gun in the house, but
3) IF my client merely found the gun while rummaging around in the house,
4) THEN my client could not possibly have had it with him when he broke in and entered.
Obviously, if one is false the other is necessarily true, and vice versa, and that goes for the clear lack of any valid hold on the papacy on the part of the recent and current Vatican leaders as well. THAT the man did not possess the papacy while imposing his heretical nonsense is beyond any valid dispute, but precisely HOW and WHEN he came to fail to possess it remains to be disputed, just as HOW and WHEN the burglar obtained the gun is really not relevant to the fact that he had it and used it to murder the man of the house. And yet the book actually concludes this little fallacy with saying, "This is itself an indication of the intrinsic weakness of such demonstrations."
That the writers of this volume really intend to impose such a fallacy upon the readers is even more explicitly evidenced in that towards the end of this Appendix this "point" is mentioned again as one of its summation bullets: "The mixture of two arguments which reciprocally exclude one another seems particularly significant and indicative of the argumentative insufficiency of both of them. If in fact the argument based on the bull of Paul IV resolves the matter, it is difficult to understand why the second argument was devised, an argument that does not complement the first one but rather presupposes its inutility. If the second argument (that which interprets the initial position of those who resisted conciliar errors as an implicit declaration of the vacancy of the Apostolic See) were truly certain, probitive, and sufficient, one wonders why an argument that renders it useless should be juxtaposed to it. This approach is comparable to what rigorist sedevacantism does in expediently crossing the bull of Paul IV with the hypothesis of Bellarmine: two arguments which, as we have pointed out, reciprocally exclude one another." In other words, our doubt as to whether the burglar brought the gun in with him or found it in the house constitutes proof positive that he never had the gun in his possession at all. Adapting the words of the books writers to address the case of this absurdly fallacious demonstration of theirs, "this is itself an indication of the intrinsic weakness of such anti-sedevacantist demonstrations."
Next, it finally begins addressing St. Bellarmine's treatise, again merely dismissing it "as the theoretical analysis of a pure hypothesis. They consider it impossible in practice, because of the promise of Our Lord to St. Peter." Only a few paragraphs later (perhaps another author having chimed in), it states, "While some theologians, following St. Robert [Bellarmine], have taken into consideration the possibility that a pope could profess heresy, they have always had in mind not the error of a pope as such but as a private person." Obviously, whoever wrote that is plainly banking on the reader not being the least bit acquainted with Bellarmine's work at all, for the sainted Doctor was writing not of privately held or shared heresies of a man who happens to be pope but in this is acting as merely a private person, but rather of a pope ceasing to be pope altogether once his heresy is manifest through official and public acts. So which is it the book's writers would have us believe as to what Bellarmine's treatise was all about? Is it talking about some "pure hypothesis" that is "impossible in practice" or some mere private opinion wherein a pope, such as the historically established example of John XXII, could actually be wrong in practice, and obviously without losing his pontificate?
The book's only "solution," if you will, is to posit that a man who was pope would be protected from falling into heresy, as God seems to have promised. But maybe the true import of St. Bellarmine may have been misunderstood, or perhaps not having been ever faced with the situation and knowing of no historical period in which the Church was ever actually faced with it as an example, he (Bellarmine) may have failed to picture the situation correctly. I suspect he really did picture a scenario similar to that posited by certain sedevacantists that a true and validly elected pope one day decides to teach a heresy and thereby in that moment would lose his papacy, even in advance of any declarative statement by the Church.
In a certain deep sense, I suspect "fifth position" is really little more than a re-expression of his "first position," namely that a pope, as pope, cannot fall into heresy, as guaranteed by God. So, since a pope can never be a heretic, ergo a heretic is no pope. Personally, I believe that from his heavenly station, were Cardinal Robert Francis Romulus Bellarmine to look down upon this earth today and see what we are all going through, and see also all the various solutions proposed (including mine), would, if he could, reword his "fifth position" thusly:
"An evident heretic is no pope; ergo it would behoove the Church to explore why and how it is that someone who is not and never was pope should be mistaken for one, or else how a true pope (if he had ever been one) has subsequently lost his office, and thereby lost the protections and promises that formerly prevented him from falling into such heresy. I just have to trust Providence to guarantee that the answers to these questions, if seriously sought, should never be difficult to find." Well, that's all nice 20-20 hindsight. It would have been nice for St. Bellarmine to have had the present situation before him in his own time so as to have written about it in more and better detail. For now however, and for many, the confusion remains, and the book is in no way done in spreading its own layer of confusion.
After only one paragraph dismissing Bellarmine, the second issue to address is altogether neglected, as the book moves straight into a bulleted list of all the things supposedly "wrong" with the sedevacantist finding. But I am not letting them get away with that. There is still, after all, Paul IV's Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio which expressly contradicts the absurd extension to Billot's teaching that the authors of this book would actually put forth here. For the principle is quite clearly founded in Divine revelation, and as such cannot be revoked even were the document revoked, namely that it is (theoretically) possible that a man could be elected as pope, accepted by all, and yet still be no pope, as directly expressed therein:
"if ever at any time it shall appear that any Bishop, even ... the Roman Pontiff, prior to his promotion or his elevation as ... Roman Pontiff, has deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy, the promotion or elevation, even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous assent of all ..., shall be null, void and worthless, [and] it shall not be possible for it to acquire validity ... through the acceptance of the office, of consecration, of subsequent authority, nor through possession of administration, nor through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff, or Veneration, or obedience accorded to such by all, nor through the lapse of any period of time in the foregoing situation."
Again I ask, did Billot actually claim (as the book insinuates) that mere universal acclamation alone would make a pope no matter what? Clearly, Pope Paul IV believed (and taught) that the opposite was at least possible, and expressly worth protecting against explicitly. If Billot were actually to have claimed that, then he would stand absolutely alone among all the serious theologians with a most maverick opinion that none others could ever share. Far more likely however is that Billot has in fact been most gravely ill-used by the SSPX authors who have misrepresented his teaching by extending it to absurd scenarios that could not possibly have been held by any credible theologian whatsoever.
Now to the listed bullets: The first points out the Bellarmine had no practical suggestions for what to do should the case arise, for as I have already pointed out, he knew of no historical circumstance in which such a thing had ever become necessary, and as such had no known or living examples to use for analysis. Valid point, but what of it? That doesn't prove sedevacantism wrong, only that more is going to be needed to understand and analyze the current situation so as to see our way out of it and restore all things in Christ, than what Bellarmine has provided. He said what he said, so far so good, so far as it goes, but we need now to go beyond him, for unlike in his day we now have the situation before us to deal with somehow.
The second bullet is simply that which was mentioned above in which a differing author misrepresented Bellarmine as speaking about private heresies of a pope. The third and fourth bullets bear some discussion so let us first give them in full:
That Paul VI was indeed a heretic, even if only unconsciously and without pertinacity, is not taken as a point of fact even within the traditionalist world. Not all traditionalists recognize his teachings as "heretical." For example, some who themselves reject religious liberty for reasons of faith consider this teaching nevertheless as favens haeresi (favoring heresy) and not heretical sic et simpliciter.
Paul VI does not seem to have been regarded as a notorious heretic in the eyes of the universal Church even when he promulgated Dignitatis Humanae. But this document is still the principle text used by rigorous sedevacantism demonstrate the notorious heresy of Paul VI. Furthermore, the same universal recognition of his authority, as already demonstrated, continued even when he promulgated the Council. Thus Billot's argument remains applicable in 1965 and subsequent years.
Obviously, there most certainly are quite a number of individual Catholics (and whole categories of Catholic practice) today that, despite managing to retain the true and authentic and historic regula (rule of faith) of the Church (and thereby remain as true and valid and lawful Catholics in good standing with the Church and with God), have not embraced the Sede Vacante finding as the fact that it necessarily is. Why is that? In the case of many, the whole thing can be put down to a mere case of "learning curve." It takes a lot of theological knowledge and training to know the full and exact parameters within which a Catholic pope must necessarily and always function within. And it takes a lot of very unpleasant reading of what the Vatican has been up to and "teaching" (or is it merely their "learning") to ascertain the fullest depth of just how far outside those parameters the recent and current Vatican leaders have been. It is a lot to learn, and many simply never have the time to go through it all, and who can blame them?
Then again, there are those who see such questions as being "above our pay grade," not realizing that, given the infinite nature of the pay grade actually being offered to us, namely eternal Heaven (versus eternal Hell), nothing of importance to our faith can ever be truly regarded as being "above our pay grade." Many of the SSPX, including Archbishop Lefebvre himself, seem to have been in this category, though the writers of the book obviously think otherwise.
Finally, the a priori assumption, taken (seemingly) as though it were somehow axiomatic, that Paul VI necessarily WAS a pope, cause many who see the abominations he caused and taught in as merciful a light as possible, or even far more merciful than ever actually validly possible. It goes like this: "He is a pope, therefore whatever he says must necessarily be within the pale, no matter how blatantly outrageous it seems to me and to everyone who has ever examined it. So therefore I am going to do everything I can to try to excuse it and explain it all away and (somehow) reconcile it all with authentic tradition (what little I know). And of course it goes without saying that I will avoid learning any more about what authentic tradition teaches lest my little theories to explain it all come up against express traditional teachings that nullify them."
But now, to be truly fair and objective, imagine any other person being on trial for heresy, having taught such things. And imagine the suspect's Advocate attempting to explain away his client's heresies with all the same manner of bizarre and creative mental gymnastics, special pleading, and logical fallacies that actually have been used in supposed "defense" of the recent and current Vatican leaders. I think we all know that were it not for the "suspect" being axiomatically taken as pope no matter what he does or what evidences can be brought to bear against him, no court would ever buy it.
And as to the document(s) promulgated at at Vatican II, practically no one read it carefully all the way through, let alone made out their full import at the time, and yet we are supposed to glean from the fact that of so few having read them or understood them that they were (and are) to be accepted? And again, we see not Billot's actual position, but the caricature of it used throughout this book.
The next bullet cites the very problems that I have already analyzed in my Procedure piece (and sequels), namely the lack of any legal procedure by which a pope suspected of heresy can be put on trial and deposed if found guilty. Granted, that has been long a stymie that has tripped up most sedevacantists, but it is surmountable, and in that series I demonstrate precisely how to surmount it definitively. Yes, it is very difficult to prove any accusation against anyone, because the whole of legal justice presupposes innocence until guilt is proven "beyond any reasonable doubt." But if one takes it out of the realm of accusation and trial and judgment of individuals, and into simple brute and verifiable fact, accusing no one of anything, the whole playing field is leveled and one at last has a fair chance to get at the actual nature of the situation, and of the actual standing of all of us in it.
I must confess the next bullet makes no sense to me at all. I cannot figure out what point the authors intend here. Let us take a look at it:
Proof that the hypothesis in question is a mere theological opinion is given by the fact that other comparable hypothesis are not found.
Huh? There is so much wrong here I don't know where to begin. For one thing, only a very few paragraphs previous the book was pitting "He-never-got-it" against "He-lost-it" explanations against each other. Several chapters earlier, the book similarly pitted the Cassiciacum thesis against rigorous sedevacantism, making for several alternative, and comparable hypothesis. And now all of a sudden all these alternatives have collapsed into one single unified whole, such that there is nothing like it? When did this happen? And for that matter, how does one define a "comparable hypothesis" and what does it matter whether out of all the infinite multitude of all possible hypotheses about everything possible under the sun it should turn out that none of them is in some sense "comparable" to the one at hand? Again, I have to throw up my hands and say "I really don't get it." Maybe they just wanted some more bullets to make it seem as if there were more reasons against the Sede Vacante finding than they can actually muster.
And for their final bullet they point out the divisions that have occurred among the sedevacantist community, as though there were something about all these people knowing the truth that somehow stops them from being able to get along with each other. It is far more sensible to ascribe it to the mere bad behavior on the part of certain individual sedevacantists themselves. For a certainty, if only we acted as high and noble as our principles, none of all that divisiveness would ever occur.
One has sometimes heard the expression of someone who is "better than his principles." But the principles of the sedevacantist are merely and purely the principles of historic Roman Catholicism, of Holy Mother Church, of God Himself. It is impossible for any of us to be "better than our principles." Indeed, given our sinful and fallen condition, it is impossible that all of us should everywhere and at all times fully even just live up to our principles. But it is a fair question: Need we really live so far below our principles as certain prominent sedevacantists have? What really has gone wrong here?
I would venture that (obviously) we sedevacantists need to be far better behaved, and that once we simply decide and commit to do so much more that what we have already been blessed with shall follow. So what really is needed? I think it is a paradigm shift regarding the whole nature of our relationship to the Sede Vacante finding itself. Let us start with the basics:
The Sede Vacante finding itself is true. Therefore, being true it is a unifying principle, which can only serve to bring together those who recognize it while those who reject it are necessarily bound to scatter. And scatter they have! Even within the one SSPX book several rival positions have been put forth, that we have only one hypothesis incomparable to any other hypotheses, that we have many competing hypothesis comparable to each other (even if to nothing else, and very probably many other things that simply do not occur to us at this point, nor really matter), that the Cassiciacum thesis is false, that it is true (but hidden under another name while they misrepresent "our version" of it), that the whole thing can be put down to the psychology of a man who leads a "church" that does not teach but merely "learns," and so forth. Then there are the many other attackers we have faced, the divisiveness between the SSPX and the Tradition In Action (TIA) group who have their own attack on us (which I already addressed previously in Thinking Inside the Church and Outside the Conciliar Box), between the resistance-based traditionalism of the SSPX and TIA alike as against the more softlining and compromising Indult/Motu position, and then all traditional-Mass groups as against the Conservative Novus Ordo EWTN/CUF/Wanderer crowd, and finally all conservative/traditionalist groups as against the outright liberals who actually want contraception, abortion, homosexual "unions" recognized, priestesses, and so forth.
Next to all of those major league big ticket divisions, our own differences must seem (at least to outsiders) like debating the actual number of angels dancing on the head of a particular pin. Still, can't we do better? I think we can. Certainly, we have provided to us the necessary graces to behave better, so we might start by simply availing ourselves of that grace, as found in the true Mass and Sacraments and teaching. But let's review the nature of our sedevacantism.
I have said this before and I say it again, how many of us spend much too much time proving where the Church is not to be found and way further too little time proving where the Church IS to be found? We already know (at least sense inarticulately and instinctively) that we traditionalists one and all comprise the entire Church as it stands today. How hard can that be to prove to ourselves intellectually? I found it to be almost trivial, as indeed such a thing truly ought to be.
Another thing: I recall one Michael Cuneo's dreadful volume The Smoke of Satan, in which we sedevacantists (it wasn't clear whether any other traditionalists, such as SSPX or TIA-like minded individuals were being lumped together with us) were all blatantly mislabeled "separatists." Now of course we know we are not that, and the Church has never been one of "separatists," but might we have accidently picked up something amiss by mistake? Do we measure our faithfulness in terms of separation from all the heretics, or in terms of our union with the Church?
Our intuitive sensus Catholicus tells us where the Church is (namely with all Catholic traditionalists, and nowhere else), even if, in the case of some of us who may still have a considerable learning curve before us, our minds may be too confused and befuddled to explain that to ourselves intellectually, for to be truly Catholic one need not be right about all the thorny problems that vex us, only right about the established doctrines of the Church, and that we truly and simply live as Catholics. If we focus on uniting ourselves with that instead of disuniting ourselves from every possible sort of heretic, even those whose heresy consists of the fact that they merely disagree with us about some of the thorny problems, then and only then shall we be able to go forth into the whole world with an example fit to show to all the true means to get home.