January 11, 2010
vol 21, no. 11

The Screed of a Creed?

Part 5 of a Series on the SSPX-published book, Sedevacantism - A False Solution To a Real Problem

    Anti-sedevacantists are quick to say, "no one can judge the Pope." But who says sedevacantists are judging the Vicar of Christ? Not us. No, we must judge men who preach a different gospel than what which we have received as St. Paul tells us to to consider them anathema in Galatians 1: 8-9. Everyone judges via the fine-tuning of that barometer which is our inner compass telling us right from wrong. Yet, when many see a contradiction, too many stick their heads in the sand or give the lame excuse, "It's too high for my pay grade." Well, it's time to start earning your pay by paying attention to what is truly Catholic and what is not; what the Apostles' Creed means and why each person must adhere to those beliefs; what constitutes a loyal Catholic and what does not; and the fact that because one holds the position that the Chair is empty (sede vacante), it does not preclude one from being a good Catholic, even a holy one. In fact, if one truly knows their faith, they'd realize something has been terribly wrong for quite some time - as in 50 years - and would want to find out who, what, when, where, how and why! They would realize God's way is not a democracy. Mob rule doesn't rule. And it would be wise to remember St. Augustine's words, which basically state that right is right, even if no one is following the right way; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is following that path. That would apply so well to the mentality of the world today that no matter if the world does not know the "pope" is a heretic, God does. The SSPX should know better than to foist their false solutions on the gullible. Therein is the problem for the answer lies in honest solutions through true syllogisms of faith, not suppositions.

      "So could the Sede Vacante finding itself ever truly be such an integral component of our Faith, such that the Faith itself is incomplete and erroneous if it should lack that one declaration alone? Perhaps we should update the Apostle's Creed to now include an additional clause "and in the vacancy of the Papal See," amongst its basic teachings of which every Catholic must be able to say truly, "I believe…"! I know of no sedevacantist who would ever seriously propose such an addition to that or any other Creed of the Church. It is the Creed (any and all of them, as approved by Holy Mother Church) which comprises the Church's actual official and public profession of Faith. It was only the Novus Ordo which has ever altered the Creed by replacing the personally responsible "I believe…" with the communally and collectively responsible "We believe…" as if it were OK that one person believes only this part of it and another only that part, so long as every part gets believed by at least somebody in the crowd (or so we hope)."

    Part 2 of the book, Sedevacantism - A False Solution To a Real Problem continues with yet another misrepresentation of sedevacantism. The first few sentences of this continuation express their position most directly:

We have already evoked the apodictic character of the sedevacantist thesis. It makes of the vacancy of the Apostolic See a question of faith which cannot be freely disputed. This characterization, substantially applicable to both rigorist sedevacantism and the Cassiciacum thesis, demands some clarification.

    Indeed it does require some clarification. Their seeming attempts to do so however only spread confusion and misunderstanding. It is fully as if they think we sedevacantists hold the vacancy of the See to be some sort of article of the Faith itself, as if it were something that should be added to the Creed. Again, I quote from it:

Some sedevacantists who formerly belonged to the Society [SSPX] have portrayed their abandonment of it as an actual profession of faith, sometimes even accompanied by a public abjuration. … In accordance with this logic, which is certainly rigorous and beyond appeal - but derives from a flawed premise - particular condemnation is reserved for the position defined as "cryptosedevacantist." This is the position of those who do not interiorly believe in the authority of John Paul II [or Paul VI or John Paul I or Benedict XVI or whoever it happens to be in that role], but who abstain from speaking of it, because, for example, they consider it pointless or of secondary importance. This position is condemned as an extremely grave failure to profess the faith, since the subject has all the elements at hand to confess it publicly and completely. This condemnation may seem harsh, but it must be recognized as perfectly logical from the moment that public rejection of the authority of John Paul II is made necessary for profession of the faith. Indeed, a profession of faith by definition can only be public

    While some few sedevacantist works do mention cryptosedevacantism, even by name, and typically take a position critical of it, in no known instance is the criticism leveled against the cryptosedevacantist anywhere near so dramatic as these words would seem to imply. If anything, the most prominent sedevacantist works that mention cryptosedevacantism tend to treat it more with patronizing condescension rather than with vituperative denunciation. While even that attitude could be plenty annoying and irksome to some of those who actually ARE cryptosedevacantists, it hardly qualifies as some fundamental obligation to profess sedevacantism in order to profess Catholicism.

    This false impression is sown here of course to lead up to their main point for this portion of their book, namely that without someone openly professing sedevacantism, the Church has lacked an essential component of Her formal and public Profession of Faith. For whatever months or years from whatever time or point at which the Church ceased to have a pope anymore until that time that someone first stood up and announced to the world (or at least as many as they could gather within an earshot) their rejection of the papal claims of the then current Vatican leader, this book would have it, the Church existed without a valid profession of Her Faith, which is to say the Church simply did not exist at all during that span. As the book puts it, "It should also be observed that without an integral profession of the faith the Church herself would simply cease to exist."

    So could the Sede Vacante finding itself ever truly be such an integral component of our Faith, such that the Faith itself is incomplete and erroneous if it should lack that one declaration alone? Perhaps we should update the Apostle's Creed to now include an additional clause "and in the vacancy of the Papal See," amongst its basic teachings of which every Catholic must be able to say truly, "I believe…"! I know of no sedevacantist who would ever seriously propose such an addition to that or any other Creed of the Church. It is the Creed (any and all of them, as approved by Holy Mother Church) which comprises the Church's actual official and public profession of Faith. It was only the Novus Ordo which has ever altered the Creed by replacing the personally responsible "I believe…" with the communally and collectively responsible "We believe…" as if it were OK that one person believes only this part of it and another only that part, so long as every part gets believed by at least somebody in the crowd (or so we hope).

    So let us disabuse ourselves of the absurd notion that the Sede Vacante finding could itself ever be an integral component of the obligatory profession of Faith, as though it was really something that should be added to the Creed. But with what weight of authority could this finding ever hold, at most?

    There is nothing in the Creed that requires our belief in any particular man (by name) to be the pope, and indeed only some few of the much longer, later, and more complicated creeds even explicitly require a belief in the papacy itself (though that belief is implicit in the Apostle's Creed's clause, "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church"). And yet there is a duty to know who the current Pope is (whenever there is one), and to know that there is none (whenever there is no pope). Certainly that much is obligatory, and the Church cannot be unified within Herself if Her members cannot agree among themselves as to who (if anyone) is really and actually the Pope. The obligation is therefore a very strong one, albeit something short of our obligation to profess the Faith itself as expressed in the Creeds.

    Most significantly, the weight of this obligation can be mitigated by various circumstances in which there exists legitimate confusion as to who if anyone is the Pope. Ordinarily such a condition arises in the case of a disputed papal election, or else with the rise of some significant antipope. Our present situation provides the same ambiguity in that the elections that seem to have followed all due process and too long gone undisputed have nevertheless managed to provide us with a series of the most blatant heretics, and furthermore not merely having some past history of heresy, but even being able to persist in their heresy subsequent to their elections.

    Without knowing how such a situation could possibly arise, given the context of all the standard teachings of the Church regarding the infallibility of the Pope and the indefectibility of the Church, together with the promises of God, one has to regard it as legitimate that knowledgeable and erudite theologians would be divided amongst themselves as to the actual state of the Church, and of the apparent Vatican leader.

    In such a circumstance, failure to discern the actual truth that the Church must one day formulate (but only years or even decades later) cannot disqualify one as being a Catholic in good standing, and so long as one refuses all heresy, professing all that is held in the Creeds and in the standard Catechisms and theological works of the Church, one's profession of the Faith can truly be regarded as whole and integral in every sense. St. Vincent Ferrer was no less a saint for having guessed wrong as to which of the three claimants was the true pope, and for professing unity and submission to him. And I believe there are a smattering of other saints from that period (and other such periods) who made the mistake of following some antipope, and yet are no less canonized saints than he.

    Nevertheless, the gap still does create a problem that has to be addressed. For it is one thing for some portion of the Church, even a most large and vast one in comparison to the rest, to profess their attachment, unity, and submission to a false pope, so long as there are at least some few who adhere to the true pope, or (in a circumstance such as ours) acknowledge the Church's true lack of any pope. But it is quite another for there to be not so much as a single soul upon the entire face of the earth cognizant of who does or does not rule the Church from Peter's throne.

    From here of course leads to the book's pièce de résistance, what is by far their keystone centerpiece of their case against the sedevacantists, the supposed "universal acceptance" of the election (and papal claims) of Paul VI. First, let's have a little background. A Jesuit Thomistic theologian known as Louis Cardinal Billot (1846-1931) wrote a treatise titled De Ecclesia et de Roman Pontifice in which he posited the thesis that universal acceptance of a man as pope automatically renders him pope regardless of his qualifications or election. While there may well be some genuine merit to this papal "election by universal acclamation" theory, it really does not buy the SSPX anywhere near as much as the writers of this book obviously seem to think.

    For one thing, such a theory introduces a dangerous subjectivity into the whole equation of whether a man is pope or not. If a man can be made pope merely by having a lot of people believe that he is, then might not other realities be similarly created by having a lot of people believe in them as well? If enough people think fornication (or abortion or any other obvious grave sin) is harmless or even beneficial for example, could that ever make it truly harmless or beneficial?

    To some limited degree, such a thing might be possible, but clearly that which is wrong cannot be made right by such universal acceptance of the wrong as being right (nor can that which is clearly right be made wrong by such a universal acceptance of the right as being wrong make it actually wrong), there most certainly is room to accept that on lesser matters such a thing could work.

    One prime example of this that comes to mind is the universal acceptance of paper currency as bartering specie at its stated face value. In themselves, these little pieces of paper are mere paper and ink, inexpensive to produce and of extremely little intrinsic value. And yet these pieces of paper acquire value on account of everyone's universal acceptance of them as being worth their stated face value in Dollars (or Euros or Yen or whatever the monetary unit may be in any given area). So, by that rationale, a one hundred dollar bill is worth yea many ounces of silver or gold (give or take the current spot price of silver or gold), or worth yea many labor hours of a particular workman, or worth any produce or product priced at one hundred dollars.

    Of course such valuation is highly subject to the whims of the crowd, or to other events outside the control of the normal channels of commerce. Recall for example what happened to the value of the American "Continental" currency back in the years shortly during and after the American revolutionary war in which massive amounts of this paper currency were produced, not only by the Government in an inflationary sense, but also by foreign powers and also by private counterfeiters. A similar thing happened to the German Mark during the era of the Weimar Republic. In such a case a one hundred dollar bill might come to be worth only a few dollars, or even a few cents, or even be reduced to the intrinsic value of the paper itself. In such days, a wagonload of it was needed to buy a loaf of bread.

    It is mind-boggling to suppose that a theological opinion could render the papacy itself, the Rock of St. Peter, upon which the Church is meant to stand for all time, subject to such vagaries of human belief. So is such a rationale even possible in the case of the papacy? Let us look at an example where it very likely could so be.

    A man is elected pope in a conclave, but there were several serious irregularities in the manner of the election, such that a reasonable doubt could be raised as to its validity as an election, the manner in which the conclave was conducted. Perhaps after any number of votes no majority for any candidate could be obtained, and at length the cardinals went for accepting a man who only got 18% of the vote, definitely a minority yet larger than the votes for each and every other one of the many other candidates. Tired of the process they decide to accept that election and go home, accepting the man elected as pope. The man himself functions as pope adequately well, makes no great or momentous doctrinal decisions, pretty much avoids rocking the boat, and after some years ruling as pope with nary a soul bothering to challenge his papacy, he finally passes on, and another is elected. In all the years afterwards the Church never finds any reason to fault his functioning as pope and so he is universally accepted as having been pope, both during his reign as well as afterwards. So therefore it may well be quite safe to say that he truly was a pope, despite the irregularities, however severe, of his election.

    But can this bend indefinitely? What if instead of some irregularity in the voting process they instead elected a person patently unqualified to be pope, for example 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, or someone who openly professes to be "a Faithful Protestant" exactly as British kings and queens do. Or what if they did this while some previous pope is still alive and gloriously reigning? Will the circumstance of everyone accepting it without reservation or question nevertheless still make him (or her) pope? Obviously in such a case we run up against a wrong trying to be made into a right by having everybody so believe it to be.

    One question that obviously flows from that is just where to draw the line between where such a universal opinion could make a pope of someone and where it can't. If a man were a heretic, would that invalidate it? Even if he abjured his error? Even if as pope he denounced and opposed his own former heresy at every turn? How about if he didn't repent of his heresy, and instead used his seeming papacy to forward the cause of his heresy? And that is only one line to be drawn in the sand.

    Another is that of how many persons qualifies as "a lot," enough to count as though it were everyone. Or conversely, how many would it take disbelieving his papal claims to thereby deprive him of the papacy? Would one single humble but knowledgeable layman be enough? How about ten? How about thousands? Or even millions? Billions? How about better than half the entire laity of the Church worldwide? Or does it require some clergy? And again, how many, and of what grade or rank? Would a hundred priests count more than a single bishop, or would it be the other way around? No one knows. I don't see how anyone could even reasonably attempt any kind of stab at making an answer to that question without considerable room for debate.

    And then there is another aspect of all this. The book makes this big be-all end-all thing about once the man is peacefully accepted as pope by "the whole Church," whatever bare minimum would actually qualify as that, and then he must be pope, no matter what. Well excuse me, but history well bears out that "He who enters a conclave as a papabile emerges as a cardinal." This has been the way of Papal elections of the Church since the earliest days, and with only the very rarest of exceptions. The upshot of all that history is the fact that the man elected will almost without fail be a total Dark Horse candidate. No one knows a thing about him. "They elected Cardinal Who? I never heard of him!" And yet the whole Church, or at least some "sufficiently" significant proportion thereof, is supposed to immediately "just know" that the man elected cannot be pope for some fundamental invalidating reason (somehow missed by all the papal electors), as if by some revelation or infused knowledge. In short, such a criterion demands the impossible, and then seeing the impossible not be met, complains that the necessary conditions have not been met.

    What did Cardinal Billot really say, and what could he have possibly meant by it? He states, "the universal adhesion of the Church will always be, simply in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of the person of the pontiff and likewise of the existence of all the required conditions for his legitimacy." And on what does he base that astonishing conclusion? He can only make vague appeals to the doctrinal promises about the Gates of Hell and God being with His Church until the end of time to assert that "if the Church were to adhere to a false pontiff it would be as if as though she would adhere to a false rule of faith, since the pope is the living rule (regula) whom the Church must follow in its belief, and in fact always follows, as will clearly appear in that which we shall say later on." Regrettably, in the book we never get to hear what he would go on to say "later on." But does that really prove anything?

    I think not. Picture a man, seemingly being elected to the papacy, but some defect prevents him from actually acquiring the office, no matter how many people believe him to be pope. Because he is not truly pope he is not truly infallible, and in fact can be no true living rule of Faith. However, until he opens his mouth to utter some error or heresy he has in fact done precisely nothing to the Church's rule of Faith, which is therefore (until that point) still the true rule of Faith. Now he utters his error or heresy. Boom! Right away there will be those who begin at once entertaining doubts about the man, or at least about the teaching, mandating, or command that violated the Church's authentic rule of Faith. In the same moment that he ceases to function as a valid rule of faith, suspicion against him is aroused and it would not be proper to claim that the whole Church unconditionally regards him as pope.

    But are we suppose to believe that because the man restrained himself from expressing any heresy or error for some two weeks or so starting with the time of his supposed election (during which time the whole Church might indeed mistakenly adhere to him who is the false pope) has thereby finally obtained the papacy for real? I don't believe Cardinal Billot intended any such conclusion, but on the other hand I don't see what other conclusion could be made from his words that would make any sense. In fact I don't see that he even considered the possibility of a person patently incapable of being pope being accepted as such and thereby somehow magically becoming pope through the mere credulity of the crowds. Even in the quote given he speaks only of irregularities in the manner of election, as if there might simply be some doubt on the part of some, rather than some hard fact that renders it intrinsically impossible for the person to be pope no matter what. Did he even consider that last possibility? If ever he did the book most certainly makes no reference to it.

    The book, going somewhat beyond Cardinal Billot, declares that "God cannot permit a universal deception." Well excuse me again, but universal deceptions occur all over the place. Every perfect crime (which is to say each and every crime that goes unsolved for all time) is a universal deception. Mankind is pathetically easy to fool, and contrary to the tired old yarn, it really IS possible to fool all of the people all of the time. I have often considered writing a story titled "The Second Recompense" in which someone perpetrates the perfect murder and gets away with it, having truly covered up all of his tracks and never being caught, ever. He finally dies without ever having breathed his crime to a soul, and literally never a soul suspected him of the crime. He has successfully avoided the First Recompense completely, namely that which Mankind provides though the arm of the Law. But now that he is dead he faces God Who cannot be fooled, and thereby winds up in Hell, which is the Second Recompense, for what could be more damnable than to succeed at attempting a perfect crime?

    Ergo, I opine it is possible for even the entire Church to have adhered to someone as pope, who really is not a pope at all, at least until such a point as he does something that demonstrates him not to be a pope. Be all that as it may however, even if such a claim as Cardinal Billot's were to be held as true, I believe a great deal more doubt as to their papacy can be identified, and they really cannot be regarded as having been peacefully accepted by the entire Church.

    Indeed, such an argument can only be applied to John XXIII and all of his papal predecessors. During his entire reign not a soul questioned his hold on the papal chair, though there most certainly were those who felt he had acquired it through theft or conspiracy or what not, or that he was someone who should never be pope. Some, such as Dr. Elizabeth Gerstner, were aware of the dishonest shenanigans and Lodge activities that led up to the election of Roncalli in 1958. One finds much in her comments at the time to the effect that he had obtained the papal throne dishonestly and was an undeserving claimant. However, one does not find any denials that he HAD attained it, whether by hook or by crook. If a thief steals your car, you can properly deny that it is rightfully his, but until such time as he sells it to a fence or whoever, or else abandons it somewhere by the side of the road, one would never think of claiming that he does not possess it. He physically HAS it, and John XXIII was known even by his severest critics during his lifetime to HAVE the papal chair, no matter how much his critics may well have agreed amongst themselves that he ought not to have had it.

    As it is, I can find no basis to deny that John XXIII was materially a pope, however much room there may well be to question whether he was ever a formal pope. But if nary a soul thought to question that he was (at least materially) pope within his own lifetime, this cannot be so much attributed to the ambiguity of his "pontificate," as though it were more "borderline" than the patently non-papal nature of his successors in leading the Vatican apparatus, but to the simple failure of imagination on the part of all the members of the Church. No one had even thought of the idea that the man nominally elected and accepted as pope might in fact be no pope at all. The very concept itself was altogether unthought-of. Had anyone thought of it and applied the standard tests to John XXIII, would his reputation as pope survived? There is room to doubt it. But such doubt hardly qualifies as any yea verily assurance that he most certainly was not pope, at least materially.

    There can be no doubt that it was Paul VI's career that was so dramatically repugnant to Catholic sensibilities which allowed the question to come up for the first time during his reign. One cannot say that he was peacefully accepted as pope, for even within his own lifetime doubts as to his papacy were expressed, and that took place even without some other papal claimant being around, or any known conclave election irregularities. That has never happened before.

    "But," one can picture the authors of the book responding, "these questions as to his legitimacy as pope only arose well after Vatican II and even well after the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae. Certainly the Church's unconditional acceptance of Paul VI as pope all during that time constitutes an official recognition that these acts were papally approved and therefore morally binding, or at least not unacceptable to Catholics. Would you really have it that the whole Church followed a false rule of faith from the time of the introduction of these things clear until someone finally doubted his papacy?" Was it really "the whole Church"? Obviously not! During the original "time of the changes," there were many priests, and even many bishops who basically just disregarded the changes being foisted on them as being mere passing fads which they, for a time anyway, simply refused to entertain as they simply kept on doing what they had always done, and exactly the same way they had always done it.

    Though they continued to refer to Paul VI as "pope," plainly these "foot-draggers" among the clergy and laity were continuing to follow the Church's true and authentic rule of Faith, and not that alien "rule" being newly imposed by Paul VI. They may not have consciously figured out at first what to make of the man who promulgated the alien "rule," but they did know enough to reject that disorderly "rule" itself. As long as there have been Catholics adhering to the original and authentic rule of Faith as universally known before Vatican II and as faithfully preserved by all Catholic traditionalists during and ever since then, the Church lives on, and cannot be claimed to have followed a false rule of Faith.

    But still, there is that gap that comes between the time the Sede Vacante situation as it stands today first developed and that time that someone finally came to doubt the papal claims of the then current Vatican leader and proclaim the same. This must be addressed. In the book, the earliest voice suggesting such a concept comes in 1973 with the writings of Fr. Sáenz y Arriaga. That's quite a gap, enough to pose a most serious objection to the whole Sede Vacante finding itself.

    John Lane however, in a wonderful work being serialized in The Four Marks (beginning with the March 2009 Issue), documents that an issue of the American Ecclesiastical Review published in December 1965 features an article titled " What certainty have we that the reigning Pontiff is actually the primate of the universal Church?" which addressed that very point. Also that upon the close of the Council, noted author Frank Sheed felt compelled to write a book titled Is It the Same Church? (finally published 1968). Unfortunately, the works themselves were mere chloroform in print, meant merely to quiet the disturbed sensibilities of concerned Catholics and put them spiritually back to sleep, to deceive the elect, if at all possible.

    But John Lane makes the point that the bare fact that these questions were even being asked in these works show evidence of a rising tide of those who sensed that the new organization that emerged from the Vatican II Council was not the Catholic Church of history, and that its leader was no pope and had never led anyone towards the Catholic Faith. As I have already documented in other writings about the Council and its juridical impact, I can state without fear of contradiction that this Catholic sensing and suspicion about the Post-Vatican II "conciliar church" and its leader has a most solid canonical and ontological basis. It really IS a different organization, one with no historical continuity with the Roman Catholic Church of history. And the same goes for it's leader who, being one who thereby holds a different and irreconcilable office from that of the universal Catholic leader (pope), can therefore be no pope.

    And this perception clearly is now shown to date clear back to the time of the Council itself, the time when our present situation was actually created. In 1967, when Francis Schuckardt founded the Fatima Crusade and embarked upon the lecture circuit and rounding up the initial membership of what would eventually grow into the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, and preaching the vacancy of the papal chair, he wasn't telling his audiences something they didn't know, but merely articulating what they already intuitively suspected. And let's take one more look at this intuitive suspicion.

    I maintain that even most conciliar Novus Ordo believers, even clear back to the time of the Council, already know that they have no pope. The only problem is that that is not how very many of them would ever think to put it. Let me propose a simple test, a survey one could take, asking however many of these people one cares to ask, to show this to be true.

    Merely ask, "Do you believe that Benedict XVI [or Paul VI or John Paul I or John Paul II or whoever they may have to follow, but always naming whoever it currently is] can teach error in his ordinary and official capacity?" Use that exact set of words, and require either a yes or no answer. Anyone of the very few who would answer "no" really does believe Benedict XVI to be a pope. All the rest who answer "yes" do not. It really doesn't matter that nearly all of those who answer "yes" would nevertheless use the word "Pope" to describe him. In doing so they necessarily use the word "Pope" in a difference sense, one which does not refer to an infallible Successor to the Apostle Peter, but rather to some mere title a person might take to himself, with no more significance than if he had seen fit to call himself "President" or "First Citizen" or "Grand Poobah."

    Even where Benedict XVI may say something of genuine merit, most of the general run of those who would normally be counted as his followers sense no moral imperative to obey him or to be guided by him. Before Vatican II, if someone felt unwilling to live up to certain inconvenient teachings, for example wanting to use a contraceptive in their marriage, he would say of himself, "Well, I'm no saint." At least, that still admits the moral standard they are aware of as being true and binding, but also that they see it as far too stratospheric and quixotic for "ordinary Joes" like them, perhaps something more akin to a council of perfection. But now what such ones would say after Vatican II is "Well, the Pope is wrong." No, the Pope, if he were really a Pope in the Catholic sense of the word, would be infallible. He could never be wrong when teaching the Church on any such matter of Faith or Morals ex cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). What he is really saying is "Well, the Grand Poobah is wrong."

    I readily grant that such a stunning display of sedevacantism on the part of all these "cafeteria catholics" hardly qualifies any of them for sainthood. But this does demonstrate that, by and large, the conciliar church really DOES know of the Church's Sede Vacante situation, and has known this since the Council that put into effect such a state, despite their not having articulated it as we sedevacantists do here today. They KNOW. They don't need to be told, only their existing bias articulated for what it truly is.

    The rest of the current section of the book under this analysis trots out a nonsense attack barely worthy of a response. One proponent of the Cassiciacum thesis once wrote "The authority of the supreme pontiff is essentially supernatural. It is constituted by the usual special assistance promise by Jesus Christ to St. Peter and his successors. It is therefore in the light of faith that we recognize pontifical authority and adhere to it." This is a reasonable enough statement in itself, but the authors of the book see in it (and in the expansion of that thought that immediately followed) an opening for some sort of claim that the ability to recognize whether the claimant is a true pope or mere impostor is merely a matter of one's faith, as if minimizing the role played out by the fact of an election performed by the duly appointed papal electors.

    I suppose that could be considered a legitimate weakness of the Cassiciacum thesis. A man discerns no intent to rule and teach the Church on the part of one elected to be pope, and so concludes the man is not a formal pope. If another man fails to discern the same fact, or alternatively having also discerned it, fails for whatever reason to think it though and thereby reach the same conclusion, then before the Church we have little to go on, officially. It becomes one person's opinion versus another's. But then we have a prominent proponent of the Cassiciacum thesis going on to at least seem to say that every Catholic with a right to the name must as certainly recognize the non-papacy of the current Vatican leader as any Catholic during the reign of Pope Pius XII was obliged to recognize Pius XII as the Supreme Pontiff. That is of course the real reason all that misdirection about sedevacantism as an article of faith was brought in by the book in its immediately previous section. You have a prominent sedevacantist who really does seem to live up to the book's caricature of a sedevacantist as one who really would seek to alter the Creed to include the phrase "and in the Vacancy of the Papal See."

    That is, I must admit, something about the particular cleric against which this portion of the book is most principally aimed, that I have not understood. The Cassiciacum thesis itself, taken and applied fully and consistently as its own premises and logic must require, would allow a material but not formal pope to appoint (at least materially) bishops to dioceses, various Curial officers, and so forth, including Cardinals, along with any number of other non-teaching juridical acts. And yet this particular cleric expressly denies such a conclusion. He was in fact one of the very first (truly the very first of those coming from a respectable background) to claim that any and all attachments to the organization headed by the material but not formal pope, or anything done under the auspices of said organization is ipso facto alienated from God and abhorrent in His sight.

    It is as if the moment the man elected chooses to interpose some obex between himself and the formal occupancy of the papal chair to which he was elected, every single Catholic in the whole world worthy of the name was promptly expected to depart from all obedience to the man, effectively leaving the Church, or rather at least "the body" of the Church (and go where?), in order to remain continuously within the spirit of the Church. We all know THAT didn't ever happen. If ever any positive or useful point can be gleaned from this SSPX book, it is the folly of taking such extremes, especially when they have no foundation in the basic position taken by a person, in this case the position being the Cassiciacum thesis.

    This is a time for balance, sobriety, charity, and levelheadedness. Given the complexity of the present circumstance, though the bare fact of the Church's Sede Vacante situation is beyond all real dispute, that finding cannot be morally obliged upon everyone who would strive to be a Catholic in good standing. Our getting to Heaven does not require our figuring out every detail of the present situation, but it does require a full and rich practice of the Faith whole and entire, and that can be attained in any traditional community having a valid traditional priest. It is only our ability to be part of the restoration of the Church as a whole, and of all things in Christ, that requires our ability to articulate to ourselves the true Sede Vacante nature of our present situation which we already all unconsciously intuit, even the SSPX authors of the book.

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, January 11, 2010, Volume 21, no. 11