The debate between Mr. John Lane and Dr. Robert Sungenis on the issue of sedevacantism that was held at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Washington, on the evening of October 16, 2006, provided much evidence of the limitations of a debate format that precludes any direct cross-examination by the participants and precludes any questioning on the part of interlocutors.
For example, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line, which was broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System from 1966 to 1999, featured full-fledged debates several times a year. Each debate had a team of debaters who debated by the traditional rules of debating, which included cross-examination of the debaters by each other and by an interlocutor. Such a debate format permits a detailed examination of issues and the explosion of sophistries. Even debates featuring one advocate on either side of a particular issue have been known to feature cross-examination of the debaters by each other and by one or more interlocutors. This is the format with which I am most familiar, having debated on the issue of abortion and in my various campaigns for public office numerous times in the past thirty years or so. It is important for debaters to challenge each other and to be challenged by one or more interlocutors. A debate that is merely the exchange of views without any effective moderation becomes as unlikely to generate any real, sustained discussion of issues as a presidential debate.
Mr. John Lane attempted to include cross-examination as part of his recent debate with Dr. Robert Sungenis, only to be rebuffed by Dr. Sungenis. This was most regrettable. Dr. Sungenis believed at two points during the debate that he was being "insulted" by Mr. Lane, more or less demanding that I, serving as a merely utilitarian time-keeper moderator without any interlocutory function, insist that the perceived insults stop lest he, Dr. Sungenis, walk out of the debate. This required me to make an interjection to remind everyone in the audience, including Dr. Sungenis, that spirited debate is part of Catholic tradition, that very strong tracts were published by Catholics on every side of the divide during the Great Schism.
The perceived insults came in the third round of speaking when Mr. Lane was asking whether Dr. Sungenis had read any dogmatic manuals that commented on the meaning of the First Vatican Council's treatment of the issue of perpetual successors on the Throne of Saint Peter. Mr. Lane's questions were most legitimate. A period of cross-examination would have permitted those questions to have been answered by Dr. Sungenis without attempting to make it appear as though he was being insulted by Mr. Lane. It was my judgment at the time and remains my judgment at present that the lack of cross-examination of the debaters by each other and by interlocutors prevented a thorough, systematic and sustained review of the initial issues posed by Mr. Lane in his opening remarks, the substance of which I will discuss shortly.
As I noted in a brief introduction at the beginning of the debate, both Mr. Lane and Dr. Sungenis seek the good of Holy Mother Church. That two men who dissent not one whit from the Deposit of Faith that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has entrusted exclusively to the Catholic Church have to debate each other at all is a telltale sign of the confusion ushered in by the ethos of conciliarism, the sorry issue of Modernism. Our situation is what it is, however. Believing Catholics do disagree with each in these troubling times, and it is the case that such disagreements can devolve into ad hominem attacks and the casting of aspersion upon others who do not share our own particular convictions and judgments about the state of the Church. Such attacks were, I believe, avoided during the debate between Mr. Lane and Dr. Sungenis.
However, it is true that too many Catholics on every possible side of the ecclesiastical divide at present are far too ready to anathematize each other, refusing to accept the fact what we might see so clearly is not as easy for another to see or to accept. Those who disagree with a position we hold cannot be dismissed derisively as "schismatic" or "disloyal" or "crazy" or "neutralizers" or "compromisers" or "infiltrators" and other such odious invectives and slogans. We must treat each other in these times of apostasy and disarray with charity, keeping in mind, as I noted in Do You Believe in the Apostles' Creed? five months ago now, that each of us bears within his immortal soul the Divine impress and that there may very well come a day when the statists will arrest us all simply because we are believing Catholics, caring not one little bit for our our internicene battles and distinctions. It will be enough for the statists that we believe in the Apostles' Creed. We must never lose sight of the fact that we, while holding fast to a position we have come to believe is true, must respect those with whom we disagree and to will their good, both supernaturally and temporally, as we treat them as we would treat Our Lord Himself.
Apart from Dr. Sungenis's protestations concerning being insulted, which many attendees saw as posturing and as an attempt to intimidate Mr. Lane from questioning him too closely, it is my judgment that the two debaters engaged in a spirited debate that avoided the use of the ad hominem. Although I believe that Dr. Sungenis avoided the key issues raised by Mr. Lane and used a lot of emotional red herrings during the course of his three presentations, both speakers conducted themselves as Catholic gentlemen, presenting their remarks forcefully. And I will say also that the debate "listens" better than it views. That is, having listened to the debate on the three compact disks that were recorded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, I believe that the arguments are much clearer and sharper in the medium of the audio recording than they were when viewed live with all of the distractions of the moment. It is on the basis of listening to the audio recording of the debate that I can reverse my judgment of ten days that the debate was a theatrical "draw" and state that Mr. Lane had the better of the substance of the debate.
Having stated this, however, I do not know how many minds were changed one way or the other. So many factors into one's perception of debates that I have come to believe over the years that they are not the most propitious of facilitating an understanding of different positions on a given issue. We need to pray, to read and to reflect on the issues facing us at this present moment in the history of the Church. Sound-bites prove nothing. The truth of a position does not depend upon who wins or loses a debate. Truth is what it is. It exists independently of human acceptance of it. Two hours of debating cannot begin to even scratch the surface of the many issues facing us today as Catholics.
One of the reasons I wanted to link to Bishop Mark Pivarunas' excellent lecture delivered at the Fatima Conference on October 13, 2006, was that His Excellency covered each of the major objections to sedevacantism in a very systematic and organized manner. He did not caricature the position of those who reject sedevacantism. Bishop Pivarunas went through each argument, including those that were presented in a haphazard, disorganized manner by Dr. Sungenis (the meaning of the term "perpetual successors," the distinction between heresy as a sin against the Divine Law as opposed to the crime of heresy punished by ecclesiastical law, the applicability of Pope Paul IV's Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio as contrasted to Pope Pius XII's 1945 legislation on the election of a pope, the specific heresies promulgated by the Second Vatican Council and the conciliar church).
There are authors who have put forth the anti-sedevacantist argument in a sustained manner. There are sedevacantist authors who have rebutted those arguments. This is quite similar to the back-and-forth exchanges, some of them quite heated, that took place during the Great Schism (1378-1417). All well and good. It is important for those who engage in a colloquy to understand each other's terminology and to present fairly and accurately the position of those they oppose. This is what, for example, Bishop Pivarunas did when presenting the anti-sedevacantist arguments from original sources, doing so charitably before he rebutted them. He understood the arguments. Dr. Sungenis would have done well to have attended Bishop Pivarunas's lecture in order to see that each of the arguments he presented, albeit in a scattershot, superficial manner, had been addressed by His Excellency.
Although he did a very fine job of presenting many of the same arguments as Bishop Pivarunas, Mr. Lane was diverted now and again in making those arguments in as a sustained manner as His Excellency because of the red herrings raised by Dr. Sungenis (particularly his claim that sedevacantism is based on the belief that the Novus Ordo Missae is invalid, a real red herring as the Novus Ordo Missae is a symptom of the larger infection of Modernism that was infiltrating ecclesiastical circles long before the Second Vatican Council). Dr. Sungenis must thus be given credit for diverting his opponent into a discussion of side issues that have nothing to do with whether sedevacantism is admitted by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Dr. Sungenis was able to hold his own in the debate by the forceful manner with which he presented his comments. A close examination of those comments, however, reveals that Mr. Lane's assertion made during the debate is indeed correct: that Dr. Sungenis had not done his homework in examining the serious arguments raised by such prelates as Bishop Pivarunas and Bishop Donald Sanborn and priests such as Father Anthony Cekada and Father Martin Stepanich (who, at ninety-one years of age and a lifelong fan of the Saint Louis Cardinals, must be enjoying himself immensely as his team takes a three games to one advantage over the Detroit Tigers), among many others.
So much for a general overview of the debate. A review of the entire debate would take longer than any of us have. People can listen to it online at
or by purchasing the compact disks from
Recordings of the 2006 Fatima Conference Lectures. Without rearguing the substance of the entire debate, I do want to offer a few observations from the first round of the debate. Most of the initial arguments were revisited in the second and third rounds, making a point-by-point rebuttal superfluous and redundant.
Round One: John Lane
Each speaker had twenty-five minutes for an opening statement.
Mr. John Lane: As the advocate of the proposition that Benedict XVI is not the pope, Mr. Lane said that there are three distinct arguments proving that the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger cannot be the pope.
1) Benedict XVI is not a bishop and cannot be the Bishop of Rome and cannot be the Vicar of Christ.
2) Benedict XVI is a public heretic. Publicly professed adherence to doctrines that imply a doubt or denial of the Catholic Church disqualifies one from the holding of ecclesiastical office, including the papacy. Mr. Lane contended that there is hardly a single doctrine that he, Benedict, clearly professes. A heretic places himself outside of the Catholic Church. No one outside of the Church can hold office in the Church. Those who do hold such an office lose it once he becomes a public heretic.
3) If Benedict XVI was pope, then so were John Paul II and Paul VI. Mr. Lane stated that hen the general background argument comes into play, that one is obliged to believe that the Catholic Church can create a new liturgy from scratch that is not only not pleasing to God but fails to teach Catholic doctrine and results in a massive loss of Faith. The Second Vatican Council has borne evil fruit and has promulgated the errors of religious liberty and ecumenism
Mr. Lane went on to elaborate on each of these points, spending a considerable amount of time on the matter of the new rite of episcopal consecration, also noting that the Church cannot promulgate the errors associated with the Second Vatican Council, that the use of the term "pastoral council" is a "fig leaf" to convince ordinary Catholics to remain in the "revolutionary organization" that is the conciliar church. He cited a dogmatic theologian of the early Twentieth Century, Van Noort, that the Church's infallibility "extends to the general discipline of the Church, Christian worship and Christian living." The Catholic Church cannot be the author, Mr. Lane asserted, of such things as the distribution of Holy Communion to non-Catholics and that Jews may "remain faithful" the Mosaic covenant. We must refuse to believe that these evils come from the Catholic Church. The virtue of Faith in our souls cannot admit this.
Mr. Lane then went on to posit that there are ten silly arguments against sedevacantism. Editor's Note: This is the same ten questions Griff Ruby addressed in his column last month Ten Simple Answers to Ten Easy Questions
1) Sedevacantism is a denial that the Church is visible.
A bit of commentary on Mr. Lane's opening statement:
2) Sedevacantism is a denial that there are any true bishops with jurisdiction.
3) Sedevacantism is a belief that all non-sedevacantists are outside of the Church, that there are a few sedevacantists and no one else.
4) Sedevanctism leads naturally to conclavism (the election of other claimants to the papal throne).
5) Sedevacantism is actually an exercise in Pharisaical judgmentalism. Those who assert this, Mr. Lane said, "have not actually heard our case" that the obligation to avoid heretics is not judgmentalism at all. It is humility. Catholics, must flee from this danger posed by heretics, including those who are claimants to the See of Peter.
6) Sedevacantism is a non-Catholic view . Mr. Lane cited the fact that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X, stated publicly in 1986 that he might adopt this view. (See "I Am Not Inventing This Situation; I Do Not Want It")
7) God would never allow this. Mr. Lane called this an arrogant argument.
8) An antipope could never reign in Rome. Mr. Lane gave an example of how this is wrong.
9) A papal interregnum could not last long. Mr. Lane said that there is no Catholic principle one can cite for such a position.
10) Church history is filled with example of heretical popes. Mr. Lane said that this position is borrowed from Protestants and Gallicans.
Mr.Lane's opening statement was very effective. What he termed "silly argument number six" could have been enhanced by citing the late Mario Francesco Cardinal Pompedda's admission, reported on Zenit on February 8, 2006, that "It is true that the canonical doctrine states that the see would be vacant in the case of heresy." Cardinal Pompedda had been the head of Apostolic Signatura from 1997 to 2004. He was no friend of Tradition whatsoever. Nevertheless, he stated the canonical doctrine concerning the fact that the See of Peter would be vacant in the case of heresy. One can argue about what constitutes heresy and who determines it. Fine. The fact of the matter is that even a conciliarist admitted that heresy vacates the See of Peter.
Round One: Dr. Robert Sungenis
Dr. Sungenis started off by saying that he would be advancing no silly arguments. One serious argument that he did not address at all during the course of the debate, however, was Mr. Lane's rather detailed explanation of the differences between the episocpal rite of consecration before 1968 and the one instituted by Paul VI in that year. Dr. Sungenis never once addressed the issue of the new rite of episcopal consecration, one of three points that Mr. Lane said in his opening remarks that Dr. Sungenis would have to defeat in order to be considered the winner of the debate. Dr. Sungenis did not defeat the contention. He did not address it.
Responding to Mr. Lane's comment that he had changed his position concerning Tradition, Dr. Sungenis issued what he termed a clarification of his position, stating that while had allied himself or a time with some in the Traditional camp he had made it clear from the beginning that he did not assent to the beliefs of the Society of Saint Pius X and believed that Archbishop Lefebvre (whose name he mispronounced as "Lefever") was wrong to consecrate bishops without a papal mandate on June 30, 1988. Dr. Sungenis stated that he believed that the Society of Saint Pius X was in schism. Thus, his recently issued statement on his Catholic Apologetics International website was but a clarification of the positions he has always held, telling the audience that he had not changed his position at all, that he had seen dangerous tendencies in the direction of what he termed "extremism" in the traditional movement, including sedevacantism. He wanted to make sure that his own patrons and supporters knew that he did not support this "extremism."
Dr. Sungenis then launched into a discussion of Mr. Lane's statement that the Second Vatican Council had produced bad fruits, explaining that one could apply that line of reasoning to the Creation and man's fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden. According to Mr. Lane's reasoning, Dr. Sungenis assert, the Fall should never have happened. Evil came out of good, namely, the Creation. This became the basis for a colloquy between the two debaters at several points in the remainder of the debate.
Dr. Sungenis launched into the substance of his argument by stating that he thought that a lot of the objections of sedevacantists center around the alleged invalidity of the Novus Ordo Mass. He said he would welcome the opportunity for a debate on that issue, going on to say that he found it intriguing that the recently concluded Fatima Conference at Mount Saint Michael, sponsored by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, should ignore the fact that the very emblem of Fatima, Sister Lucia, went to the Novus Ordo Mass and was obedient to the Novus Ordo Church. This is an example, Dr. Sungenis, stated, of how sedevacantists "pick and choose" what they want to accept and what they do not want to accepted.
Dr. Sungenis then discussed his reasons for believing in the validity of the Novus Ordo, taking issue with the book "The Robber Barons" published by Mr. Lane's father-in-law, Patrick Henry Omlor, that the full words (Hic est calix sanguinis Mei, novi et aeterni testament, mysterium fidei: qui pro vobis et pro multis, Effundetur in remissionem peccatorum] of the Consecration of the wine in the Chalice are necessary for validity. Citing Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Dr. Sungenis contended that all that is necessary for the validity of the Consecration of the wine in the Chalice into the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the following: "This is My Blood." "Omlor missed it and Bellarmine and Liguori saw it." Dr. Sungenis also said that "there should not be such a fuss" over the words "for all" and "for many" as the Offertory of the Mass of Tradition makes reference to "all," that the words are interchanged in Scripture itself. He also cited changes in the Mass from the time of Justin the Martyr to Innocent to Pope Gregory I to demonstrate that liturgical change is possible.
Dr. Sungenis stated that no one has proved that Vatican II has erred on Faith and morals. The Church must have been in full apostasy before Vatican II to cause over 2300 bishops to sign the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He also mentioned the thesis held by some sedevacantists that the late Giuseppe Cardinal Siri was elected to the papacy in 1958, using this thesis as the context in which to raise the issue of Vatican I's assurance that Peter will have perpetual successors. Vatican I "tried to head off movements just like this," Dr. Sungenis stated. And despite his assurance that he would not raise any of the silly arguments listed by Mr. Lane, Dr. Sungenis did discuss conclavism, that is, that small groups of sedevacantists have elected their own "popes" in the past few decades. A mention was also made of some comments posted on Mr. Lane's website concerning Mr. Lane's contention that there must be at least one bishop in the world with jurisdiction.
Dr. Sungenis asked if a pope can fall into heresy or publicly defect from the Faith, stating that the Church has never made an official declaration on this matter He reviewed the case of Pope Honorius and stated what he said were the arguments of Saint Robert Bellarmine in this regard. No one can judge the Holy See, Dr. Sungenis, said, certainly not a group of people who make up only .00001 percent of Catholics in the world. Citing the proclamation of the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and of Our Lady's Assumption body and soul into Heaven, Dr. Sungenis said that these doctrines were proclaimed on the basis of the consensus of the faithful, and that the overwhelming consensus of the faithful today is that the recent popes, including Benedict XVI, were true popes.
Finally, Dr. Sungenis dealt with Pope Paul IV's Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, asking how do we determine who has fallen into heresy, that only a canonical court do so. He raised the issue of Pope Pius XII's 1945 legislation stating that those otherwise impeded by canonical censure could participate both actively and passively in a papal election. Dr. Sungenis also said that Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, which was merely disciplinary and could be and was reversed, never applied to a reigning pontiff. How do we determine. "We could object to what the pope says and does if we feel that it is going against our conscience" He quoted from Saint Thomas Aquinas, that it is licit to resist a sovereign pontiff who is trying to destroy the Church. Only the death of a pope vacates the See of Peter, Dr. Sungenis stated.
A bit of commentary on Dr. Sungenis's opening statement, which are applicable to his statements in rounds two and three:
Listen to Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas:
All of the necessary rebuttal arguments are contained in Bishop Pivarunas's lecture of October 13, 2006. Only a few points, made in a very detailed manner, mind you, will be made here:
First, the discussion of the status of the Society of Saint Pius X is very interesting. Dr. Sungenis should listen to Father Anthony Cekada's 07-09-2006 The Errors of the Society of St Pius Xand read Bishop Pivarunas's The Campos Defection, both of which discuss the Society of Saint Pius X's relationship with Modernist Rome. Dr. Sungenis might be correct in his assertions about the Society of Saint Pius X, but not for the reasons he cites.
Second, the whole business of equating the bad fruit of the Second Vatican Council with the Creation and Fall of man was, I am sorry, sophistry of the first order. The bad fruit of the Second Vatican Council was caused by the underlying Modernist suppositions that brought about the Council to begin with (as Mrs. Randy Engel demonstrates in The Rite of Sodomy and CMRI priest twins Fathers Dominic and Francisco Radecki point out in Tumultuous Times. The infestation of Modernists in the Church began long, long before the Second Vatican Council. Pope Saint Pius X himself knew that the Modernists he had driven underground would reemerge one day. Mr. Lane brought this point out in his second round of argumentation when reviewing the late Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton's description of the "open warfare" that was going on at the Second Vatican Council and that many of the bishops signed the documents under duress.
John Vennari's Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita: A Blueprint for the Subversion of the Catholic Church demonstrated that Pope Pius XI was warned by Francis Cardinal Billot, S.J., not to convene a general council of the Church in 1923:
A little-known drama that unfolded during the reign of Pope Pius XI demonstrates that the underground current of Modernist thought was alive and well in the immediate post-Pius X period.
Father Raymond Dulac relates that at the secret consistory of May 23, 1923, Pope Pius XI questioned the thirty Cardinals of the Curia on the timeliness of summoning an ecumenical council. In attendance were such illustrious prelates as Cardinals Merry del Val, De Lai, Gasparri, Boggiani and Billot. The Cardinals advised against it.
Cardinal Billot warned, "The existence of profound differences in the midst of the episcopacy itself cannot be concealed . . . [They] run the risk of giving place to discussions that will be prolonged indefinitely."
Boggiani recalled the Modernist theories from which, he said, a part of the clergy and of the bishops were not exempt. "This mentality can incline certain Fathers to present motions, to introduce methods incompatible with Catholic traditions."
Billot was even more precise. He expressed his fear of seeing the council "maneuvered" by the worst enemies of the Church, the Modernists, who are already getting ready, as certain indications show, to bring forth the revolution in the Church, a new 1789."
In discouraging the idea of a council for such reasons, these Cardinals showed themselves more apt at recognizing the "signs of the times" than all the post-Vatican II theologians combined. Yet their caution may have been rooted in something deeper. They may also have been haunted by the writings of the infamous illumine, the excommunicated Canon Roca (1830-1893), who preached revolution and Church "reform" and who predicted a subversion of the Church that would be brought about by a council. [John Vennari, The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita: A Masonic Blueprint for the Subversion of the Catholic Church, pp. 15-16.]
While it is certainly not the case that all of the bishops who signed the documents of the Second Vatican Council had defected from the Catholic Faith, as Mr. Lane noted in the second round of the debate, it is very much true that Modernists were working to undermine the Faith in the decades that led up to the putative election of Angelo Roncalli as John XXIII on October 28, 1958, whose "flash of lightning from the sky" to call for the Second Vatican Council was nothing of the sort. Father Hans Kung said that a general council would be called and then proceeded to give a detailed account of the exact agenda that would be followed by the council four days before merry old Angelo's "flash of lightning" "revelation." No serious Catholic can contend that the Modernists were not eager to "bring for the revolution in the Church, a new 1789." Oh, and who was it, precisely, who said that the Second Vatican Council represented the Catholic Church's "official reconciliation" with the "principles of 1789"? I think it might have been a chap named Ratzinger, and I mean Joseph, not Georg. The bad fruit of the Second Vatican Council is the result of the underlying Modernist presuppositions that brought it about in the first place.
Mr. Lane brought this point out in his second round of argumentation when reviewing the late Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton's description of the "open warfare" that was going on at the Second Vatican Council and that many of the bishops signed the documents under duress.
Third, Dr. Sungenis's discussion of the Novus Ordo Missae was entirely beside the point of the evening and collapsed complex arguments into what he believed to be definitive, authoritative sound bites for the audience. The validity or invalidity is not at the heart of the sedevacantist argument. The undeniable harm of the Novus Ordo Missae has been discussed by any number of scholars, something that I pointed out a few days ago in Defecting from Faith and Worship. As harmful as it is, however, the Novus Ordo Missae is but a symptom of the underlying Modernism of Giovanni Montini and Annibale Bugnini and the members of the Consilium. That Sister Lucia, if indeed the member of the Carmelite order in Coimbra, Portugal, who is said to have died on February 13, 2005, was in fact the real Lucia dos Santos, went to the Novus Ordo Missae is a red herring and completely irrelevant to the doctrinal principles at work in the issue of sedevacantism. As His Excellency Bishop Daniel Dolan wrote to me when I asked him about Sister Lucia:
About visionaries, there seems to be two trains of thought. Some look for a lasting pipeline to Heaven (I thought the Magisterium was supposed to be that) and others, like St. Bernadette, understood they were "brooms, to be swept with, and then put behind the door."
Fourth, Dr. Sungenis states that no one has proved that there were any doctrinal errors in the Second Vatican Council. He stated later that no one can cite any statement made by Benedict XVI as pope that prove any defection from the Faith.
I will cite two from Benedict during his pontificate and then summarize the basic errors of the Second Vatican Council:
Benedict stated in Cologne, Germany, on August 19, 2005, that he does not believe in the "theology of the return" of Protestants (or of the Orthodox) to the Catholic Church. Benedict thus rejects the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church that those who have separated from her maternal bosom must return to the One Sheepfold of Christ. This teaching was reiterated in no uncertain terms by Pope Pius IX in Iam Vos Omnes, September 13, 1868, by Pope Leo XIII in Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae, June 20, 1894, and in Satis Cognitum, December 8, 1896 (and also in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, January 22, 1899, and in Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus, November 1, 1900), and by Pope Pius XI in Mortalium Animos, January 6, 1928. Benedict XVI rejects these calls for an absolute return of non-Catholic Christians to the Catholic Church. He defects from the Catholic Faith in doing so.
Benedict has also stated on numerous occasions--as the ostensibly reigning supreme pontiff--that the Catholic Church endorses the secular state and that she does not seek any return to the confessional state, placing his "papal" imprimatur on his long-held view in support of the separation of Church and State, a heresy that has been condemned repeatedly by one pope after another as they reaffirmed the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church that the civil state has an obligation to recognize the true religion and to subordinate itself in matters that pertain to the good of souls to her guidance. As Pope Saint Pius X stated unequivocally in Vehementer Nos, February 6, 1906:
That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man's eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course. But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man's supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, but must aid us in effecting it. The same thesis also upsets the order providentially established by God in the world, which demands a harmonious agreement between the two societies. Both of them, the civil and the religious society, although each exercises in its own sphere its authority over them. It follows necessarily that there are many things belonging to them in common in which both societies must have relations with one another. Remove the agreement between Church and State, and the result will be that from these common matters will spring the seeds of disputes which will become acute on both sides; it will become more difficult to see where the truth lies, and great confusion is certain to arise. Finally, this thesis inflicts great injury on society itself, for it cannot either prosper or last long when due place is not left for religion, which is the supreme rule and the sovereign mistress in all questions touching the rights and the duties of men. Hence the Roman Pontiffs have never ceased, as circumstances required, to refute and condemn the doctrine of the separation of Church and State. Our illustrious predecessor, Leo XIII, especially, has frequently and magnificently expounded Catholic teaching on the relations which should subsist between the two societies. "Between them," he says, "there must necessarily be a suitable union, which may not improperly be compared with that existing between body and soul.-"Quaedam intercedat necesse est ordinata colligatio (inter illas) quae quidem conjunctioni non immerito comparatur, per quam anima et corpus in homine copulantur." He proceeds: "Human societies cannot, without becoming criminal, act as if God did not exist or refuse to concern themselves with religion, as though it were something foreign to them, or of no purpose to them.... As for the Church, which has God Himself for its author, to exclude her from the active life of the nation, from the laws, the education of the young, the family, is to commit a great and pernicious error. -- "Civitates non possunt, citra scellus, gerere se tamquam si Deus omnino non esset, aut curam religionis velut alienam nihilque profuturam abjicere.... Ecclesiam vero, quam Deus ipse constituit, ab actione vitae excludere, a legibus, ab institutione adolescentium, a societate domestica, magnus et perniciousus est error."
Pope Saint Pius X was reiterating a teaching that is part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church and thus protected by the charism of infallibility. There is an interesting irony in this fact when one notes that this condemnation of the separation of Church and State by the Catholic Church had been taught always and everywhere and had been believed by everyone prior to the advent of Modernism. Dr. Sungenis used this precise argument when stating that the conciliar popes must be popes because only the most minutest fraction of Catholics placed into doubt their legitimacy. Well, the "consensus of the Faith" on the matter of the separation of Church and State was most clear prior to the attempt on the part of Modernists to endorse this heresy. Can something be proclaimed by a Roman Pontiff as "absolutely false, a most pernicious error" in 1906 and then be contradicted one hundred years later by a putative successor? Truth--and thus God Himself, Who is the Author of all truth--must be mutable if this is the case.
Ah, but this is at the heart of the problem with Benedict XVI: his Hegelianism. All of the efforts of Benedict's defenders to try exculpate him on this point or that must be undertaken by deliberately ignoring Benedict's belief that the Church's understanding of dogmatically defined truths can change in such radical manner as to appear to represent a "discontinuity" with the past. The former Joseph Ratzinger stated on numerous occasions prior to his ostensible election as the successor of John Paul II on April 19, 2005, that past dogmatic pronouncements and/or papal encyclical letters, especially those of Popes Pius IX and St. Pius X, represent anchors where the Church had moored at one point in time before "moving on" to adapt herself to some new developments.
Mr. James Larson, who is a staunch critic of sedevacantism and is thus not part of the "tiny minority" that finds problems in Benedict's theology, wrote the following in the May, 2006, issue of Christian Order (see: Christian Order - Read - Features - May 2006) in light of Benedict's December 22, 2005, address to the Roman Curia:
Extremely revealing in the Pope’s speech is his statement that all these sectors of "new relationships" constitute "a single problem." The "single problem" common to all these sectors is, of course, the problem of how to redefine all these particular areas of traditional doctrine in order to make possible an "openness" and "new relationship" with the world.
I believe that we make a mistake if we simply label all of this as "extreme" Modernism, and assume that what is aimed at is the blatant and immediate dismantling of all Catholic doctrine. The Pope sincerely does want to save what he can, and what he considers "essential." What is being proposed by Benedict is something much more subtle than radical Modernism. Those who have read my article Point of Departure may remember Cardinal Ratzinger’s proposals for "essentializing" the Faith. This program is further elaborated in the following passage from the Pope’s speech:
"It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity [with previous Church doctrine] might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.
"It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves [the reader might try to imagine informing Pius IX or Pius X that their condemnations of Liberalism and Modernism were "contingent" and no longer applicable], precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.
"On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change."
I believe that the entire passage quoted above should be broadcast in bold print. This appears to be the dominant agenda, or possibly we should say modus operandi, for effecting a new doctrinal "relationship" with the modern world. As stated by the Pope, it is this distinction between "principle" and "contingency" (or between "form" and "content" in the realm of scriptural hermeneutics) which then becomes the primary vehicle for "redefining our relationship" to defined doctrine.
It enabled Cardinal Ratzinger to come to a new relationship with the doctrine of Transubstantiation, a relationship which retained the "principle" of the Real Presence, while rejecting the "contingent" Thomistic and Tridentine explanation of this doctrine.
It facilitated a new understanding of the "principle" of Original Sin, while discarding the "contingent" notion of it being contracted through generation. This, in turn, allegedly allows us to come to a new relationship with the Sacrament of Baptism, a relationship which retains the "essential" concept of incorporation in Christ, while devaluing the "contingent" idea of sanctifying grace, and the necessity of its possession for salvation (see my article Point of Departure).
As we have noted, this category of "contingent teaching" has also been directed by the Pope with special vehemence against the voluminous battery of anti-Liberal and anti-Modernist condemnations promulgated by previous Popes. The result of this is that the whole concept of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ has been, for all practical purposes, eradicated from Catholic consciousness. And despite this obvious reversal of the teachings of such Popes as Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X, we are supposed to be able to make the "essential" (but, practically speaking, non-substantive) affirmation that Christ is King. In other words, we are not here dealing with "essentialization", but with capitulation and duplicity, and all this in the name of an aggiornamento to the world.
Catholic Bastions Demolished
This communio with the world which is at the heart of the New Theology, and which is supposed to be at the heart of this new "incarnation" of Christ’s love, necessitates the destruction of the Church’s traditional bastions against Liberalism, Modernism, and Indifferentism. As Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his book Principles of Catholic Theology:
"The task is not, therefore, to suppress the Council
[Vatican II] but to discover the real Council and to deepen its true intention in the light of present experience. That means there can be no return to the Syllabus, which may have marked the first stage in the confrontation with liberalism and a newly conceived Marxism but cannot be the last stage…. The fact is, as Hans Urs von Balthasar pointed out as early as 1952, that the ‘demolition of the bastions’ is a long-overdue task.
"The Church cannot choose the times in which she will live…. She must relinquish many of the things that have hitherto spelled security for her and that she has taken for granted. She must demolish longstanding bastions and trust solely to the shield of faith."
This demolition has been largely accomplished. Von Balthasar and de Lubac may be seen as the primary architects most responsible for the philosophy and theology behind this agenda. Among the living, however, no man has been more influential in its coming to fruition than Joseph Ratzinger.
The darkness deepens. During the Papacy of John Paul II we witnessed an extraordinary amount of hetero-praxis and a good deal of fuzziness in thinking. With the Papacy of Benedict XVI, however, we are faced with what appears to be a direct assault upon essential elements of Magisterial teaching. Pope Benedict claims to be able to establish continuity with traditional doctrines while denying part of the very substance of these doctrines. In this effort there is, in fact, the most profound discontinuity, a discontinuity that seems to attack the non-contradictory nature of Truth itself.
Dr. Sungenis is being very disingenuous when he states that it is only the tiny minority of people who embrace sedevacantism who see problems with the underlying theology of Benedict XVI, which is founded on the very things cited by Pope Saint Pius X in Pascendi Dominci Gregis, September 8, 1907, as the underpinnings of Modernism:
It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, it is abundantly clear how great and how eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten. They wish philosophy to be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical seminaries. They wish the scholastic philosophy to be relegated to the history of philosophy and to be classed among absolute systems, and the young men to be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited to the times in which we live. They desire the reform of theology: rational theology is to have modern philosophy for its foundation, and positive theology is to be founded on the history of dogma. As for history, it must be written and taught only according to their methods and modern principles. Dogmas and their evolution, they affirm, are to be harmonized with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to he reduced, and steps must be taken to prevent their further increase, though, indeed, some of the admirers of symbolism are disposed to be more indulgent on this head. They cry out that ecclesiastical government requires to be reformed in all its branches, but especially in its disciplinary and dogmatic departments They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity and authority which is too much concentrated should be decentralized The Roman Congregations and especially the index and the Holy Office, must be likewise modified The ecclesiastical authority must alter its line of conduct in the social and political world; while keeping outside political organizations it must adapt itself to them in order to penetrate them with its spirit.
Benedict is a critic of scholastic philosophy. He desires modern philosophy (Von Balthasar, de Lubac, et al.) to be taught in seminaries. He believes that dogmas must be harmonized with science and history. He insists that the ecclesiastical authority must alter "its line of conduct in the social and political world; while keeping outside political organizations it must adapt itself to them in order to penetrate them with its spirit." In other words, Benedict's whole underlying theology has been condemned by Pope Saint Pius X in Pascendi and by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, August 12, 1950. Anyone who seeks to exculpate Benedict and his novelties must willfully ignore all of this. And there was nothing uttered by Dr. Sungenis in his debate with Mr. Lane on October 16, 2006, that indicated he is willing to concede these facts and to recognize that they explain Benedict's predilections in the direction of embracing one proposition after another has been condemned by dogmatic councils and by the preconciliar popes.
No honest observer can reconcile Benedict's belief that dogma evolves in ways that represent an apparent "discontinuity" with the past with the solemn pronouncement of the First Vatican Council:
The doctrine of faith which God has revealed is not proposed like a theory of philosophy which is to elaborated by the human understanding, but as a divine deposit delivered to the Spouse of Christ to be be faithfully guarded and infallibly declared. . . . That sense of the sacred dogmas is to be faithfully kept which Holy Mother Church has once declared, and is not to be departed from under the specious pretext of a more profound understanding."
If Dr. Sungenis wants a cogent summary of Benedict's own view in this regard he needs to look no further than the aforementioned December 22, 2005, address to the Roman Curia.
Insofar as the principle doctrinal errors of the Second Vatican Council are concerned, four stand out immediately:
1) The belief that the Catholic Church is not coextensive with the Church of Christ and that other religions have "elements of truth" through which Our Lord may work to effect the salvation of their adherents. Unity is said to be lacking in the Church of Christ at present, meaning that there is a defect in the Divine Constitution of the Catholic Church. (See: His Excellency Bishop Donald Sanborn's The New Ecclesiology: An Overview and The New Ecclesiology: Documentation.)
2) The belief that the Catholic Church must engage in inter-religious "dialogue" with other religions, thereby once again implying that the entirety of truth does not reside exclusively in the Catholic Church and must be sought in "partnership" with adherents of other religions. This is the foundation of ecumenism. The influence of Hans von Balthasar's heresy of "universal salvation" is at the heart of ecumenism and plays a major role in the whole outlook of Benedict XVI, which is why he believes that the Catholic Church does not have a mission to seek with urgency the conversion of all non-Catholics to her maternal bosom. (See also: His Excellency Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas's Contrasting St. Patrick's Missionary Spirit with Vatican II and The End of the World / False Ecumenism / Vatican Council II.
3) The error of religious liberty, which contends that false religions have the right to propagate their beliefs in civil society and that those ideas can "contribute" to the bettering nations and the world. This is blasphemous and heretical. (See: His Excellency Bishop Mark Pivarunas's A Study of the Doctrinal Errors of Dignitatis Humanae. Benedict XVI endorses this error and distorts the meaning of Our Lord's very life and words to do so. This is what Benedict said in Verona, Italy, on October 18, 2006:
Jesus Christ "brought a novelty to relations between religion and politics, which has opened the way to a more human and free world, through mutual distinction and autonomy between the state and the Church, between what is Caesar's and what is God's," Benedict XVI noted.
Religious freedom itself, "which we experience as a universal value, particularly necessary in today's world, has its historical root here," he added. "Hence, the Church is not and does not seek to be a political agent. At the same time, she is profoundly concerned for the good of the political community, whose soul is justice."
In this connection, the Pontiff explained, the Church offers a decisive contribution.
"Christian faith purifies reason and helps it to be itself," he said. "With its social doctrine, argued from what is in conformity with the human being's nature, the Church contributes to make that which is just to be effectively recognized and then also realized.
"Indispensable for this objective are the spiritual and moral energies that allow the demands of justice to be placed above personal interests, or a social category, or even a state."
The Holy Father added: "The immediate task of action in the political field, to build a just order in society, does not correspond to the Church as such, but to the lay faithful, who act as citizens on their own responsibility."
There are a few problems in this exercise of positivism, chief among them being the simple fact that no pope prior to the advent of the "pontificate" of John XXIII ever taught any of this as being in accord with the Catholic Faith. Indeed, quite to the contrary, the legitimate popes of the Catholic Church have condemned the notions that underlie Benedict's comments above, which he has believed throughout the course of his priesthood, expressed very clearly in Principles of Catholic Theology and reiterated in Deus Caritas Est earlier this year. If Benedict is correct, you see, then a believing Catholic has to ask how all of the popes prior to 1958 "missed" the "truths" he posits as stemming from Our Lord Himself. How is this possible? Is it not possible. No pope prior to 1958 would have contended that false religions have any civil rights to propagate themselves and that their false beliefs can contribute to a "better" world.
Indeed, Pope Pius XII himself condemned religious liberty in an allocution to Catholic lawyers, Ci Riesce, December 6, 1953:
It must be clearly affirmed that no human authority, no State, no Community of States, of whatever religious character, can give a positive mandate or a positive authorization to teach or to do that which would be contrary to religious truth or moral good. . . Whatever does not respond to truth and the moral law has objectively no right to existence, nor to propaganda, nor to action." (As quoted in "The Doctrinal Errors of the Second Vatican Council," by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI)
Contrast this with Dignitatis Humanae itself, December 7, 1965:
Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one's right and a violation of the right of others. In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious communities should not be prohibited from. freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.
The constant teaching of the Church concerning the subordination of the civil state to the Catholic Church in all that pertains to the good of souls cannot be contravened by a "pastoral council" and then reiterated as a constituent element of the Faith by three successive claimants to the See of Peter. To contract the constant teaching of the Catholic Church is a serious defection from the Faith, no matter that there is no attempt to "define" the matter solemnly. It is not possible for Successor of Saint Peter to give us false teachings that contravene that which is contained in the Church's Ordinary Magisterium.
It is blasphemous to assert that the God-Man desires false religions to have their place alongside Catholicism in the "building up" of the "more just" society. Blasphemous. Such an assertion flies in the face of the binding precepts of the First Commandment and has been condemned without exception through the centuries by legitimate Roman Pontiffs prior to the advent of the counterfeit religion represented by conciliarism. The martyrs of the first centuries of the Catholic Church shed their blood rather than admit that false worship can be placed on a level of equality with the true Faith. These martyrs refused to participate in any worship of the false gods or to eat any meat that had been offered to the representations of those false goods. Religious freedom is a heresy.
4) The very notion of the separation of Church and State as discussed above with respect to Benedict's own views.
These matters are irreconcilable with the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church.
Dr. Sungenis also contended that a plain reading of the text of the First Vatican Council concerning the perpetual successors of Saint Peter precludes a vacancy in a case other than the death of the Roman Pontiff. Bishop Pivarunas cited the following commentary from Father Edmund James O' Reilly, S.J. a dogmatic manual (the sort of work that Mr. Lane had asked Dr. Sungenis if he had familiarized himself with, rousing Dr. Sungenis to indignation that he should be questioned about such a thing):
In regard to this confused state of affairs in the Church during the Great Western Schism, there is a most interesting theological point found among the teachings of Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly, S.J. He was one of the leading theologians of his time, having been theologian to Cardinal Cullen of Armagh at the Synod of Thurles; theologian to Bishop Brown at the Synod of Shrewsbury; theologian to Bishop Furlong at the synod of Maynooth; and having been named professor of the Catholic University in Dublin. In 1882, Fr. O’Reilly published a book entitled The Relations of the Church to Society in which he asserted that a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time cannot be considered incompatible with the promises of Christ and the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church:
“We may here stop to inquire what is to be said of the position, at that time, of the three claimants, and their rights with regard to the Papacy. In the first place, there was all throughout, from the death of Gregory Xl in 1378, a Pope — with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”
In a letter dated to Father John Peek on June 20, 2006, Bishop Pivarunas cited the following from a dogmatic manual (again, the sort of work that Mr. Lane had asked Dr. Sungenis if he had familiarized himself with prior to the debate rousing Dr. Sungenis to indignation that he should be questioned about such a thing), Institutiones Theologicae Fundamentalis, by A. Dorsch, 1928:
"The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, or even for many years, from remaining deprived of her head, [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituto manet.] Her monarchical form also remains intact in this state . . .
"Thus the Church is then indeed a headless body . . . Her monarchical form of government remains, though then in a different way--that is, it remains incomplete and to b completed. The ordering of the whole to submission to her Primate is present, even though actual submission is not . . .
"For this reason, the See of Rome is rightly said to remain after the person sitting in it has died--for the See of Rome consists essentially in the rights of the Primate.
"These rights are an essential and necessary element of the Church. With them, moreover, the Primacy then continues, at least morally. The perennial physical presence of the head, however [perennitas autem physica personis princips] is not so strictly necessary." (de Ecclesia 2: 196-7)
Bishop Pivarunas then addressed the question of electing a valid pope, a point that was raised also by Dr. Sungenis, citing Monsignor Charles Journet's quotation of Cardinal Cajetan in The Chuch of the Incarnate Word:
"During a vacancy of the Apostolic See, neither the Church nor the Council can contravene the provisions already laid down to determine the valid mode of election (Cardinal Cajetan, O.P., in De Comparata, cap. xiii, no. 202). However, in case of permission (for example if the Pope has provided nothing against it), or in the case of ambiguity (for example, if it is unknown who the true Cardinals are or who the true Pope is, as was the case at the time of the Great Schism), the power 'of applying the Papacy to such and such a person' devolves on the universal Church, the Church of God."
Mr. Lane handled this issue very well in the second round of the debate, starting with the pointed questions he asked of Dr. Sungenis as to whether he had actually read any dogmatic manuals that treat of the issue of perpetual succession as defined by the First Vatican Council. Mr. Lane's point was this: one needs to familiarize himself with the sources that are being used to justify the sedevacantist position before being able to discuss it thoroughly and in context. A mere review of the words of the First Vatican Council without referencing the actual sources (see, for example, Father Martin Stepanich, An Objection to Sedevacantism: 'Perpetual Successors' to Peter, and Father Anthony Cekada's Resisting the Pope and Sedevacantism and Frankenchurch) leads to a pointless exercise in debaters debating past one another, which is what happened on October 16, 2006, in Spokane, Washington.
Dr. Sungenis seemed to be baffled throughout the course of the debate on the proper distinctions Mr. Lane made between the heresy as a sin against the Divine Law and the crime of heresy punishable by ecclesiastical law. As did Mr. Lane, Bishop Pivarunas carefully made this distinction in his lecture, part of which is included in a monograph entitled, "On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See." The pertinent passage from that monograph follows:
One objection raised against our position of the vacancy of the Apostolic See is that heresy is principally a crime ("delictum") against canon law-and a pope, as supreme legislator for canon law, is not himself subject to it.
However, the case of a heretical pope, rather, pertains to heresy as a sin against the divine law--for the canonists clearly state that it is divine law that precludes a heretic from obtaining or retaining papal authority:
"Heretics and schismatics are barred from the Supreme Pontificate by the Divine Law itself, because although by divine law they are not considered incapable of participating a certain type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, nevertheless, they must certainly be regarded as excluded from occupying the throne of the Apostolic See, which is the infallible teacher of the truth of the faith and the center of ecclesiastical unity." (Marato, Institutiones Iuris Caonici  2:784).
"Appointment to the Office of the Primacy: 1. What is required by divine law for this appointment . . . Also required for validity is that the one elected be a member of the Church; hence, heretics and apostates (at least public ones) are excluded. . . ."
"If indeed such a situation would happen, he [the Roman Pontiff] would, by divine law, fall from office without any sentence, indeed, without even a declaratory one. He who openly professes heresy places himself outside the Church, and it is not likely that Christ would preserve the Primacy of His Church in one so unworthy. Wherefore, if the Roman Pontiff were to profess heresy, before any condemnatory sentence (which would be impossible anyway) he would lose his authority." (Coronata, Institutiones Iuris Canonici  1:312, 316)
Given the hypothesis of a heretical pope, says Cardinal Billot, such a pope would automatically lose his power because he would be cast outside the body of the Church "by his own will." (De Ecclesia Christi, 5th ed.,  1:632)
It is not a crime against canon law, that deposes a heretical pope, but his public sin against divine law.
The final argument made by Dr. Sungenis throughout the course of the debate involved his stating repeatedly that only a tiny, infinitesimally small fraction of Catholics object to the legitimacy of the conciliar popes. In responding to Father Brian Harrison's contention in a letter in a letter to The Remnant, June 30, 2001, that only a tiny minority of Catholics believed the conciliar popes to be guilty of heresy and that this would not "constitute 'public' heresy or defection from the faith," Father Anthony Cekada wrote:
This is also incorrect
First, no special number of witnesses is required for heresy to qualify as "public." The canonist Naz says simply: "External heresy is public if it is manifested before a sufficient number of witnesses. It is occult if it is manifested without witnesses, or before a small number of discreet persons." (Dictionnaire du Droit Canonique, Paris: 153), 5:1105).
Second, even a few witnesses would suffice. "[I]f even only a few loquacious persons witnessed the defection from the faith, ... the delict [crime] would be public in the sense of canon 2197.1." [McDevitt, The Renunciation of an Ecclesiastical Office, CU Canon Law Studies, 218, [Washington: 1946], 139.)
Third, if the Vatican Press Office hands out your heretical declarations, it is reasonable to assume that your heresy is public.
There is another, much more practical side to Dr. Sungenis's approach to the fact that 99.99999% of Catholics in the world accept the legitimacy of Benedict XVI's pontificate. Although Dr. Sungenis is attempting to demonstrate a legitimate point about the "consensus of the Faith," he opens himself up to a lot of boomerangs (sorry, Mr. Lane, no offense to my friends "down under" is intended).
First, as Father Cekada noted the tiny minority who recognize heresy and thus refuse to recognize a heretic as a Successor of Saint Peter could be correct.
Second, Dr. Sungenis failed to make distinctions that I am sure he would have wanted to have made if he had thought about the fact that it is the "consensus" of the Catholic faithful in the United States of America today that Our Lord is not truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Over seventy percent of baptized Catholics do not believe in Our Lord's Real Presence, a little gift of the ethos of the Novus Ordo Missae and of the conciliar pontiffs' complete toleration of the promotion of disbelief in the Real Presence by alleged theologians and teachers in Catholic institutions of "learning," including seminaries. Does this "consensus of the faithful" bind the Catholic Church? Oh, I am not going to stop here. Oh, no.
What percentage of Catholic married couples practice contraception and remain Catholics in "good standing?" What percentage of Catholic priests counsel married couples to use contraception while themselves remaining priests in "good standing?" What percentage of Catholics believe in divorce and remarriage without a decree of nullity? What percentage of Catholics believe that women should be ordained to the priesthood? What percentage of Catholics, including the conciliar bishops, believe that pro-abortion Catholic public officials should not be denied Holy Communion? What percentage of Catholics agree with the idea that "gay couples" should receive at least some of the benefits accorded men and women who are joined together in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony? Dr. Sungenis might want to sharpen his argument in this regard if a possible debate with Mr. Gerry Matatics on the subject of sedevacantism takes place.
Saint Basil the Great said the following when questioned by an Arian bishop why he, Basil, had not signed the Arian profession of faith even though most of the world's bishops had done so: "Perhaps you've not met a Catholic bishop before." Indeed, perhaps the tiny minority now, like the tiny minority of Catholics during the Arian heresy and like the tiny minority of Catholics who remained faithful to the Catholic Church in England during the Protestant Revolt are correct. Just perhaps. Maybe. The numbers argument is one that Dr. Sungenis ought to rethink. It does not prove his point at all.
Indeed, the numbers argument can really come back to bite Dr. Sungenis in a very personal way. He has done outstanding work defending the Special Creation of man by God as recounted in The Book of Genesis. How many Catholics agree with his work in this regard? Dr. Sungenis has also made a reputation for himself by stating his belief in geocentrism, showing on his website a few years ago that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses the geocentric model to guide manned spacecraft back to earth. He issued a challenge in 2002 whereby he stated that would pay out the sum of $1,000 to anyone who can disprove geocentrism. I don't think that he could count Benedict XVI or too many other conciliar figures as believers in a literal interpretation of The Book of Genesis or as believers in geocentrism. Does the truth of Dr. Sungenis's work depend upon the "consensus" of the faithful?
Ken Jones, who is not a sedevacantist, wrote a book three years ago entitled, The Leading Index of Catholic Indicators. Mr. Jones documented the steep decline in priestly and religious vocations and Mass attendance (which was at around 78 to 80% before the Second Vatican Council and is now around 25% as a national average in the United States alone, far, far less in Europe). Some would contend that this is due to cultural factors having nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council. Others, including some non-sedevacantist traditionalists, would point out that it was indeed the Mass of Tradition that was the bulwark against the corrosive influences of popular culture and that the Novus Ordo's and conciliarism's glorification of popular culture helped to empty the pews of Catholic churches and to empty the true faith from the souls of ordinary Catholics.
Too harsh? Too rash. Well, all I know is that I saw the wreckage of souls who were deprived of the fullness of the Catholic Faith throughout the thirty years of my formal career as a college professor of political science. Even though I was a "conservative" Novus Ordo Catholic in the 1970s and 1980s, I understood that young Catholics were not being taught the Faith. Indeed, they were being taught to doubt the Faith. They were being taught by teachers who denied articles contained in the Deposit of Faith and who remained Catholics in good standing. The bishops who stood by as these teaches spread mass apostasy and ruined so many souls were retained and/or promoted by the conciliar popes despite entreaties being made by priests, such as the late Father John A. Hardon, S.J., and ordinary lay Catholics to Roman authorities that this madness must be stopped. It is impossible to count the number of hard news stories (as apart from editorials or commentaries) that I wrote during my eight years with The Wanderer (1992 to 2000) that documented how Catholic bishops and their appointees were undermining the Faith without a word of reprimand from Rome.
Indeed, a priest from Australia told a gathering of people from the Christian Law Institute conference in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday, November 24, 1996, that he had information delivered to then Monsignor Stanislaus Dziwisz, the Secretary to John Paul II and now the conciliar cardinal archbishop of Krakow, Poland, that proved the heterodox views of a bishop who was about to be elevated to the College of Cardinals at a consistory in 1988. He confirmed that Monsignor Dziwisz had received the information and that it had been shown to John Paul II. The bishop got his red hat. The facts of the total abandonment of the Catholic Faith as it has been handed down to us over the centuries under the infallible guidance of the Holy Ghost from the time of the Apostles are there for all to see.
Souls are at sake. The souls for whom Our Lord shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood. Who is seeking to evangelize and to bring into the Catholic Church the lost souls we meet in our travels across this country? Not Benedict. Not his cardinals. Not his bishops. Yes, a few priests here and there in the conciliar structures have done so, such as the now retired Father Daniel Johnson, who was ordained in 1954 and served souls zealously until he was forced into retirement twenty-nine months ago, and such as the late Monsignor Charles Moss of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. The "consensus" of Catholic priests today, however, is that there is no need to seek out the "lost sheep." Everyone is fine just where they are. Then why did Our Lord tell the Eleven to into the world and to make disciples of all men and of all nations? Priests who do not seek out the lost sheep today are simply doing what the conciliar popes have told them to do: that is, not to proselytize the Catholic Faith. No one, including Dr. Sungenis, can state that an order from anyone, including an ostensible pope, to refrain from seeking converts to the Catholic Faith comes from God. Such an order comes from the devil and leads souls quite possibly to Hell for all eternity.
Never once in the course of the debate on October 16, 2006, did Dr. Robert Sungenis give the slightest indication that he realizes and accepts all of this as being true. Mind you, he might realize and accept it. He simply conceded nothing concerning the truth of what has been wrought by the Second Vatican Council and reaffirmed by the conciliar popes and bishops and theologians and teachers. As one who has taught throughout this country and who traveled extensively even in my Novus Ordo days and had to endure abominable outrages in the context of what purported to be offerings of Holy Mass, I have too much first-hand experience to refrain from rebutting in the most strenuous manner possible the contention of anyone who asserts that we are doing souls any service at all by attempting to minimize or, worse yet, to deny the widespread loss of Faith that has resulted from the specific errors of conciliarism and from the ethos it has generated as a result of those errors.
Catholicism is indeed incompatible with conciliarism. Mr. Lane made this point quite well during his debate with Dr. Sungenis. There are doctrinal issues that must be addressed in debates of this sort in a systematic way by people who have familiarized themselves with all of the counter-arguments that can be raised against their own positions. Dr. Sungenis seemed more interested in making "debating points" with the audience than with attempting to understand that Mr. Lane was not inventing his arguments out of whole cloth and that there are indeed dogmatic manuals that have reviewed the doctrinal principles that sedevacantists use to advance their position.
As Pope Leo XIII noted in Satis Cognitum, December 8, 1896:
The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavour than she has displayed in guarding the integrity of the faith. Hence she regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own. The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians, did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a certain portion of it. Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages. "There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition" (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).
The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium. Epiphanius, Augustine, Theodore :, drew up a long list of the heresies of their times. St. Augustine notes that other heresies may spring up, to a single one of which, should any one give his assent, he is by the very fact cut off from Catholic unity. "No one who merely disbelieves in all (these heresies) can for that reason regard himself as a Catholic or call himself one. For there may be or may arise some other heresies, which are not set out in this work of ours, and, if any one holds to one single one of these he is not a Catholic" (S. Augustinus, De Haeresibus, n. 88).
The need of this divinely instituted means for the preservation of unity, about which we speak is urged by St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians. In this he first admonishes them to preserve with every care concord of minds: "Solicitous to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. iv., 3, et seq.). And as souls cannot be perfectly united in charity unless minds agree in faith, he wishes all to hold the same faith: "One Lord, one faith," and this so perfectly one as to prevent all danger of error: "that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. iv., 14): and this he teaches is to be observed, not for a time only - "but until we all meet in the unity of faith...unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ" (13). But, in what has Christ placed the primary principle, and the means of preserving this unity? In that - "He gave some Apostles - and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (11-12).
Although it is true that traditional Catholics who are sedevacantists have differences with each other on various matters of discipline and canon law, none of them dissents from anything contained in the Deposit of Faith. There is a unity of Faith, the Faith of our Fathers, that unites them. As Mr. Lane noted so very well during his third presentation on October 16, 2006, what sort of unity of Faith unites those in the Novus Ordo? Those who are clearly dissenters from the Deposit of Faith cannot, as Mr. Lane pointed out, even agree with each other about which things in the Deposit of Faith they reject! There is disunity of belief in practically every conciliar parish. It is not the case that the hallmark of Catholicism, unity on Faith and morals, is present in conciliar parishes. Catholics in the conciliar structures can hold, express and act upon beliefs that are in absolute defiance of the Deposit of Faith that Our Lord has entrusted to Holy Mother Church. No, the unity of Faith is not to be found in the conciliar church. Not at all.
Mr. John Lane noted in his opening remarks that we must bear with each other charitably in these troubling, confusing times. He is quite right. I disagree very much with Dr. Robert Sungenis on a number of points. I do so, however, without any malice whatsoever. As I noted during the debate when I had to make an interjection, there is indeed a long tradition in the Catholic Faith of strenuous disagreements during "tumultuous" times such as these. A Catholic who wants to engage in public debate must be willing "take his medicine" in debates and offer it up to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, continuing to pray most fervently--and by name--for those with whom he disagrees The Supernatural Virtue of Charity requires us to will the good of all men, especially those God places in our own path during our life's journey in this vale of tears as an absolute precondition of even hoping to enjoy the glory of the Beatific Vision with them for all eternity. No believing Catholic is the "villain of the piece" at our time in Church history. We must bear with each other charitably as we disagree with each other strenuously.
We must also will the good of the villains, that is, the Modernists. God wants them in Heaven for all eternity.
I remember being struck when a man who was supposed to be praying Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary during a protest at the parade of perverts down Fifth Avenue in the Borough of Manhattan in the City of New York on June 24, 1990, yelled out, "Kill yourselves!" I yelled out, "God loves these people. He died for them on the wood of the Holy Cross. He wants them in Heaven with Him for all eternity. We must pray for their conversion and make reparation for our sins as well as for theirs. God does not want them to kill themselves." And God wants those promoting Modernism in the conciliar church, including those who believe they are actually promoting a "new understanding" of the Catholic Faith, in Heaven with Him for all eternity. We must pray for them and to will their eternal good. We must oppose them and expose their Modernism without malice and by making sure we spend plenty of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer every day in order to plant the seeds for the restoration of the true Faith in their hearts and souls before they die.
I do, though, think that the time has come for those of us in the laity to refrain from the sorts of public debates that took place on October 16, 2006, in Spokane, Washington. The issues, both pro and con, associated with sedevacantism--and the issues concerning the defections of the Faith represented by conciliarism--have been explored by laymen in various publications and in public forums. Perhaps the time has come, however, for us armchair theologians to stand aside and to let learned prelates, such as Bishops Pivarunas, Dolan and Sanborn, and priests, such as Father Cekada and Fathers Casimir Puskorius and Benedict Hughes of the CMRI, discuss these issues with non-sedevacantist bishops, such as those in the Society of Saint Pius X, and traditional priests over the course of several days, permitting time for protracted, sustained discussion and reflection. Yes, such an exercise might produce as little ostensible fruit as debates among laymen. True. However, I think such an sustained exercise conducted by men with the grace of state of Holy Orders might lend itself to a more thorough, sustained and reflective treatment of the matter than that which has heretofore been attempted.
Mind you, this is just a suggestion. Each of us certainly needs to pray more and to fast more and to take more penances upon ourselves as the consecrated slaves of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart in order to be of a greater service to souls, starting with ourselves and our own family members. We know that Our Lady's Immaculate Heart will triumph in the end. How about resolving to put aside all animus and invectives and slogans and recriminations as we follow our consciences and as we disagree with each other in these tumultuous times and as we implore Our Lady to help us to see the truth of our situation clearly so that we can better instruments of cooperating with the graces won for us by the shedding of every single drop of her Divine Son's Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross to bring about the restoration of Tradition in the Church and Christendom in the world?