There is one other source of the denial of our bishop's authority, and that is the Materialiter/Formaliter position, otherwise known as the Cassiciacum thesis. Those of that position hold that the Vatican organization, somehow, despite its heretical foundation and formal declared purpose of ruining souls, must as yet still retain some vestige of physical or "material" legitimacy, such that any solution to the present Church crisis will have to come from them, that it's up to their material cardinals, or at least some subset of them as may be willing to repent of the errors and begin to function in the Truth, to provide the Church with a true Pope.
I think it is Bishop Donald Sanborn who expressed this incorrect implicit assumption most succinctly, when he wrote, "Because of the thesis of Cassiciacum; because there is no legal discontinuity between the Novus Ordo and the Pre-Vatican II Church. There is only a discontinuity of religion and of faith, so there is no burned legal bridge that they have to cross. That is all still intact. What is not intact is their faith or their profession and what they believe. That is not intact and must be corrected. Once that is corrected, they are full-fledged Catholics" (emphasis mine).
"No legal discontinuity," that's what he said. "No burned legal bridge"! If that were really the case, then the Vatican organization, such as it is, really would be still exactly identical to the Church, in fact it would itself literally BE the Church, despite its being so obviously and readily able to do all the things God promised His Church could never do under any circumstances.
That is the myth that lies at the heart of the Formaliter/Materialiter (Cassiciacum) thesis today, and which excuses those clerics unhappily clinging to the claim of such a state of affairs being the case now from ever taking any real positive action to restore the Church. In a number of recent past articles of mine, I have defended the theoretical possibility of a Materialiter/Formaliter position, doing what I can to explain how it could work to those who somehow find it too complicated. With regards to the reign of John XXIII and the first year and a half of Paul VI, up until his signing of Lumen Gentium, that continues to stand.
But as of that point on November 21 1964 when Paul VI signed that document, he formally and publicly resigned even whatever material claims he formerly might have been able to make to the papacy by public and peaceful acceptance of a different and incompatible office, namely one which is over a separate and parallel organization, and which furthermore declares its lack of jurisdiction over portions of the earthly portion of the Mystical Body of Christ, and finally reduces the rank of its leader to something more akin to a mere president of a parliament.
But now it becomes clearer. This claim, explicit in the Formaliter/Materialiter community, seems to have been implicitly and unconsciously picked up even by most absolute sedevacantists, and the insistence upon the existence of "Bishop X" contains an echo of that false and mistaken assumption. What canonical claim could our "Bishop X" possibly lay out as a basis for being anything more than our present traditional clerics? That he once held, and despite his ongoing and easy fellowship with such rank heretics as comprise all the ranking members of the Vatican apparatus today, somehow yet still holds, an "office" in the Church? As if the Church itself still held any offices beyond the divinely instituted offices of Pope, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon (and so on down to tonsured cleric), Monk, Nun, and Laity!
I can understand the Motuarian or the SSPX or other "Resistance" groups, and of course even the Formaliter/Materialiter groups all being incapable of coming to any real grasp of the present ecclesial situation owing to their open and stated fixation on the Vatican apparatus as though it would still be "the Church" in any sense at all (while they one and all act otherwise). But when absolute sedevacantists somehow get caught up into such irrationality, of them I can only say that they must be suffering from "Vatican on the Brain." The irony that strikes me here is that they know and understand and preach that the Vatican apparatus really and truly is nothing to the Church, is not the Church in any sense, and some even go so far (further than I do) as to treat even mere membership of the most tangential sort in that organization as being morally on par with membership in a Masonic Lodge, i. e. worthy of excommunication, and utterly outside the Church.
And yet, though they one and all utterly know and accept and believe all that, nevertheless there still remains some sort of unconscious continuance to "recognize" the Vatican apparatus has having at least "something," some valid role or place of some vague and unknown sort of ecclesial significance. They don't even notice that they are doing this, yet there they go walking around or ducking under the elephant in the room they claim they don't see. They won't admit to believing that the Vatican organization is "materially" the Church since they have rejected the whole "Formaliter/Materialiter" thesis, but there still must be something of some vague and inarticulate sense they see as being yet still attached to it.
For example, ask if the Vatican leader would become a pope if he (1) repented of and recanted all his heresies and all the heresies of Vatican II and promulgated since and truly became a full and authentically traditional Catholic in belief, and (2) got himself validly (for a surety) consecrated to the episcopacy. Many or even most (perhaps even nearly all) would say yes. (Granted, most would probably withhold submission to him for at least some season so as test him out and allow him to earn their trust, but assuming that trust comes to be earned and that all seems to goes well, they would eventually submit to him.) But really, this would be no different than if the President of the United States, or the King of England, or Chairman of the Board of Ford Motor Company, or President of the Southern Baptist Convention, were to do exactly the same two things. And I am sure we all know that would not make any of them pope! What makes one different from the other? They cannot say. That's a shining example of what I call having "Vatican on the Brain."
Or again, I have seen in the forums of such absolute sedevacantists many of them actually speculating over the possibility of the Vatican leader (calling him "antipope" or "false pope," though technically neither title is accurate), assigning some newly-consecrated bishop to some now-vacant diocesan See (and allowing that the man really was of genuinely Catholic faith and sense and sentiment, and validly consecrated a bishop). So then this man, so "appointed," really somehow becomes a "regular" catholic bishop with some sort of superior status to that of our familiar traditional bishops? As if he had a Papal Mandate? (And from what pope?) Now there is some serious "Vatican on the Brain."
Well, I suppose they might object that such a bishop's legitimacy and jurisdiction would stem far and much more from their office, some formerly long-established Catholic diocesan See, than from the appointment itself, or from the man making it. Well excuse me, but how in God's name can a clear and evident heretic obtain or keep such control of that sort over a Catholic office, such that his appointment of a man thereto (independent what merit the man appointed may well have) would have even the least bit more value than if it were made by the shadiest schismatic bishop or priest one could find? And yet it is as if to them that Paul VI, say in 1967 when he is no longer pope but valid bishops can still routinely be made, would have some mysterious power to assign a particular man to a particular office of the Church. And this is even while we must and do know (consciously) that any such juridical action of such a heretic would not have had anything of value, legally or canonically or materially or "whatever" that made him even the least bit of more "official ecclesiastical status," than if Bishop Schmoe of the Arnold Mathew Old Catholic line were to attempt the same. Again, it's all just "Vatican on the Brain."
It is meaningless to speak of any of the many Episcopal Sees as existed on the eve of the Council, as existing today in any sense but the most utterly titular. And neither can there be any real obligation for any real authorized and legitimate Roman Catholic bishop to hold even so much as a titular See as there is no one to hand them out and won't be for decades, at least. And remember, there were no titular sees for the first however many centuries of Church history, meaning that such a title, whatever symbolic meaning it may well have, was never intrinsic to the office of Bishop. A titular diocese (where title to a real diocese is not held), is only of ceremonial value, much on par with wearing the papal tiara, and not at all intrinsic to the office of Bishop. In those earlier centuries, many bishops had no See of their own, at least at first, but served for some season as auxiliaries to some other bishop who did have a See, and within whose See they also functioned as assistants and helpers to he who actually possessed the See.
So what "office" can "Bishop X" even lay claim to, other than some "office" within the heretical Vatican apparatus? His membership in the Vatican apparatus really is the only superiority he could claim over our traditional bishops. Or to put it conversely, are we to deny our traditional bishops their rightful authority merely because they possess no "office" within the present heretical Vatican apparatus? As if it were still somehow up to THEM to impart legitimacy? Are we to suppose that God has actually permitted all those heretics to somehow retain control over any and all actual offices within the Church, despite their vastly self-evident lack of any right to such control?
Uglier still, look at what such a criminally mistaken assumption, this having "Vatican on the Brain," would make all of us traditional Catholics out to be. If we are to look to the Vatican apparatus as being the only possible source of "legitimacy" or "duly constituted ecclesiastical authority," then does that not reduce us, who are the Church and alone visibly possess the Catholic Faith, to the role of some mere "parasite" within the "host" of a mere heretical organization? As if we need them, and can only exist because they exist? What, really, is the real Church (we traditional Catholics) today, the "tapeworm" of God? As if the only reason God still exists is that Satan hasn't pulled the plug on Him yet? As if, without Satan, God Himself could not exist? As if Satan himself could exist just fine without God?
I most dearly hope you find such ideas as repugnant as I, but even more importantly, I even more dearly hope you can at least begin to see how such a repugnant viewpoint follows directly and inescapably from allowing oneself to have "Vatican on the Brain," from making any attempt of any kind whatsoever to look to those of the heretical Vatican apparatus to impart any shred of "legitimacy" or "authority" of any kind whatsoever, even from what few isolated bits and corners of it might as yet still retain the Catholic Faith.
No, "Bishop X," if he still literally exists in some isolated part of the world, is at most and at best exactly the canonical equal of, and on par with, our traditional bishops, even were he personally chosen and consecrated by His Holiness Pope Pius XII. Even should he rise up from his present obscurity and seek to do everything he can to restore the Church, all he really can do is repeat what Archbishops Thục and Lefebvre and Bishops de Castro-Meyer and Mendez have already done, namely select, appoint, and consecrate successors, imparting his Apostolic mission to them precisely as they all already did.
So, the Church hierarchical, with all authority to teach, rule, and govern, really is comprised of our traditional clerics, such as they are, and it is therefore to them we laity must all look for the necessary administrative actions needed to restore the Church.
But now, I am going to dig yet deeper still. The condition of having "Vatican on the Brain," of having an at most criminally mistaken and wrong assumption, carries with it yet one further "picture" in the minds of many of my fellow sedevacantists, which may further account not only for their inability to grasp the point of my Lumen Gentium thesis, but also some judgmental attitudes that have proven most counter-productive to the cause in many ways.
To describe the false picture in picturesque terms, picture shelves on a wall, some higher than others, and upon which various pottery and bric-a-bracs are displayed. On the top shelf is the most important item, which stands there alone, for that represents the papacy. On the various lower shelves are further such items representing bishops, priests, religious, and laity. But now the item on the top shelf proves unworthy, and so is to be removed (or removes itself) from that shelf. Picture some long object being used to knock the object off the top shelf. Now the top shelf is empty. Other items on other shelves also similarly prove themselves unworthy and also get knocked off, until nearly all shelves are empty, apart from maybe one or two small items from the lowest shelf or two.
Is that not how most sedevacantists, absolute and Formaliter/Materialiter alike, see the Sede Vacante situation as being? As if the only thing that deprives any of the Vatican group of real and official Church offices is their own personal and doctrinal unfitness. As if with nothing more than some return to authentically Catholic sense and sensibility (or maybe add to that only valid Catholic orders where applicable), and any and every one of them could (at least pretty much) just climb right back up to their former position on whatever shelf they formerly occupied prior to their loss of it through unfitness, or could have already occupied if only it weren't for their unfitness.
As long as one mistakenly pictures the present Church crisis in such a picture, they will never comprehend what has really happened. It posits what really is a dead end to the Church, a true defection. With the top shelf vacant (no pope), and the next shelf also vacant (no bishops, or at least there really will be none once the last "Bishop X" dies off, no doubt quite soon if not already), there is no one left who is authorized to repopulate the Episcopal and Papal shelves. And once the last priest ordained by some "Bishop X" passes away, that shelf too becomes permanently empty, with no one empowered or authorized to populate that one either. And so it goes, until all that we have left of the Church is mere laity, all having to struggle entirely on their own, each functioning as his own private "pope," and generally failing to be able to pass on anything of the Church to their heirs at all, until the Church truly ceases to exist at any and all levels.
It is a seriously and even heretically abridged "ecclesiology" to be capable of believing that the Church can just stop, and that is all, or that the Holy Ghost would ever just walk away, abandoning all further influence in this world even for those of us who eagerly seek His presence. Yet this seems to be what many absolute sedevacantists believe, and which the home-aloners cannot escape having concluded. No, whatever event that would have deprived the Vatican apparatus of its former identity with the visible Roman Catholic Church would have also, "in the same breath" as it were, provided some basis for some other visible group to continue as the duly authorized officers of Holy Mother Church, protected by God from error and from extinction.
For example, the Siri hypothesis, if only it were true, would do this, in that the true succession and all Catholic authority in living officers of the Church would continue in the true pope elected first, and in those who attach themselves to him, and papally in those who succeed him, as elected by cardinals chosen by him or any of his predecessors. Such a theory of things would also explain why the present Vatican apparatus would be false and unable to hold to Catholic doctrine and belief and practice and discipline, since it would have no real apostolic authority, that authority being held by the true (albeit exiled and concealed) pope and his successors and congregation. My Lumen Gentium thesis also provides that, but no other theory or thesis out there of current applicability does this. (The "Paul VI double" theory also did this but has no applicability today since any imprisoned "real Paul VI" would certainly be dead by now.)
Even worse, since (in that scenario) the only thing that deprives any of them of any Church offices is their own unfitness, then their unfitness becomes our leading obligation to prove to as many as we can get to listen to us. Our whole focus then becomes proving just how fantastically unfit for any ecclesiastical office they truly are. This then presses us (however reluctantly, at least at first) into the unfortunate role of accusers. But that done, they, as the accused, now possess all the "rights of the accused," while we still possess no real or legitimate forum within which to try the case. And then, with us becoming so skilled as accusers, and perhaps a bit overly accustomed to making accusations of others (overcoming our initial reluctance), we may even come to accuse our fellow traditional Catholics. And there the whole situation lies, what a dead end!
But can you not see how some vestigial "belief in there being no legal discontinuity between the Novus Ordo and the Pre-Vatican II Church" lies (and really does "lie" in the sense of "telling lies") at the back of that whole picture? It makes those of the Vatican out to be, in whatever sense however vestigial, the holders and controllers of all legitimate Church offices. And where does that put our traditional clergy? Apparently as real outsiders, with no claim to anything but valid orders, in other words, mere sacrament machines at best. That is no way for the Church to operate.
This is why I recently described some of my respected fellow absolute sedevacantists of being closet Guérardians within a certain forum, which some of them deeply resented, but see here the sense of what I meant, and the truth of what I said. Not that any of them considered the Materialiter/Formaliter thesis tenable, or even understandable, or consciously agree with it in any way, but behind it all, in the psychology of it all, it is that same false assumption that lies at the back of both, and prevents both Materialiter/Formaliter and absolute sedevacantists from seeing the true nature of the Church's actual Sede Vacante situation. It's all just "Vatican on the Brain" again.
So now, what is the right picture? Go back to the shelves, with all the various objects resting on them. But now, suddenly, opposite and facing this wall with shelves on it, is another wall, upon which matching shelves have also been constructed. A new and parallel organization was decreed into existence with Lumen Gentium. At the moment the shelves from the opposing walls are at the same heights and almost reach each other, such that an object on one can be easily and freely transferred to the shelf held up by the opposite wall (just slides right on over, barely noticing the gap it passes over). Some objects remain on the original shelf (which is the Church) while others, sadly way too many others, transfer to the other shelf (which is the new parallel doppelganger organization within some portions of which some portions of the Church are still said to "subsist." (To apply that "subsistence" to this model, additionally posit that these shelves, though solid enough to hold up the object they carry, are nevertheless capable of occupying the same physical space, such that if a small corner of the rival wall of bookshelves is pressed closer to the "Church" wall, some objects would in effect end up resting on both shelves simultaneously, but only in that one area while most others must reside on one shelf or the other but not both.) On occasion, some objects transfer back and forth several times, as if they cannot make up their minds. Some individuals waver between the Truth and the new directions.
At the top, something else has also happened. An empty cardboard box has been placed on the top shelf of the real Church side, emptily occupying all space there, and forcing the object on the top shelf to transfer entirely to the opposing shelf on the parallel organization shelf. This is also declared by Lumen Gentium in that it is decreed that not all the Church can reside within a single organization, and as such, no bishop is henceforth to be permitted to possess universal jurisdiction over all Catholics, not even he who might have formerly possessed it. Only a revocation of Lumen Gentium, performed by all bishops acting together in a collegial fashion, can remove that empty cardboard box and again enable any object to occupy that top shelf.
So the Vatican leader is now entirely transferred over to the parallel organization, and even if he were to try to return to the Catholic organization, he can possess no rank that is any higher than that of any other routine bishop (assuming he himself is even so much as that, a true and valid bishop), that is, to transfer back to the real Church side he would have to take a spot on a lower shelf not occupied by the empty cardboard box. In their pride, none of them do this since they would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.
The wall and shelves representing the parallel organization is not fixed to the floor as is the wall and shelves representing the Church, but situated on rollers, so after most immediate transfers have mostly settled, it is then rolled away and goes off in whatever schismatic or heretical trajectory of outright apostasy it pleases. Furthermore, its shelves can be moved around, up and down, at will, and are so moved time and time again. That, my friends, is the Vatican organization as it exists today. Whatever "offices" it may well possess within itself one and all have absolutely no relevance to any offices of the true Church.
At this point, the whole need for judgments of individuals just vanishes. The Vatican leader simply and directly fails to be pope, not out of any personal or doctrinal failing (or at least independent of any personal or doctrinal failing of the man), but on account of his occupancy of a different office. For one thing, he is fully and exclusively in charge of an organization which is explicitly by its own definition not to be identified with the Roman Catholic Church. For another, the official definition of his office, as decreed at Lumen Gentium, specifically excludes the ability to hold authority over the entirety of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the actual and authentic Roman Catholic Church of all history. And there are other, lesser, objections as well. His new office also lacks the monarchial unity with the office of the Vicar of Christ in its structure modeled on a president with a parliament to answer to. It is an altogether different office, and it's occupant's failure to be pope has no relationship to the merit or lack thereof of the man himself. He fails to be pope for precisely the same reason the President of the United States or the Chairman of the Board of Ford Motor Company fail to be pope.
And so much more becomes clear once one can see this. Now we know why no successor of Paul VI has managed to be a pope, namely that they succeed him in this different office, and not in the papacy. But far more important than that we can get at the most basic root of the whole "mystery" of the Church's present circumstance, namely why the Holy Ghost does nothing to protect their Vatican organization from error or from any and every other sort of decay and degeneration. It is because that separate and parallel organization is not the Church but merely some human-created organization, and as such, like all other merely human-created organizations, has no special promise of God attached to it. The Holy Ghost has absolutely no more (or less, for that matter) stake in its future as an organization than He has in the future of any other mere man-made organizations, from the littlest kid's clubs to the greatest empires and nations. So of course it can fall into all manner of errors and heresies and apostasy and so forth, all without the least resistance from the Heavenly quarter.
And where does this place the Holy Ghost and His divine intervention and activity? Where He is always to be found, namely with His Church, with the wall that doesn't move, and with the original shelves, upon which only a few remain. Despite our being few and often scattered and geographically distant from each other and some of us behaving quite badly, we have nevertheless been stunningly protected from heresy and error to an astonishing degree, even while violently disagreeing about speculative questions and peripheral details within which we all know the Church is free to rule in any of many directions. The failure of the human element from among so many of us traditionalists who alone comprise the entirety of the Church only makes the dramatic preservation of all infallibly defined doctrines all the more stunning and evidence of a Divine miracle. The Holy Ghost is with us, alone, pure and simple. Whatever attention He may bestow upon those of the Vatican in no way differs from whatever attention He may bestow upon any other heathen. Mystery solved.
But yet more was done. Formerly, on any shelf other than the top one where the Pope would reside, there were bookend-like separators that divvied up the roles of bishop, priest, and so forth on down, into a variety of various offices. The separators served to distinguish each office, each diocesan See, each curial post, each Seminary post, and so forth, from every other such office at a given level (shelf). There were also some "lifters" like small hollow boxes which enables some items on a shelf to hold a somewhat higher position while still basically on the same shelf, such as "monsignor," "nuncio," "legate," "cardinal," and so forth. At the initial creation of the parallel organization, all the bookends and lifters were transferred over to that parallel organization. The object was to separate the exterior "visible" legal aspects of the Church from the interior "subjective" invisible aspects of the Church, which could then (presumably) be extended to heretics or moved anywhere else at will). So all of the details, apart from what God divinely instituted (which was merely copied in the parallel organization) was transferred over to it, leaving the Church with only those most basic offices, of Pope, of Bishop, of Priest, and so on that She started out with.
Offices of an organization only exist insofar as the organization itself exists. All particular offices, other than the Divinely created offices of Pope, Bishop, Priest, and so forth on down, were created by the Church, and as such can be (and were, by Lumen Gentium) destroyed by the Church, such as "cardinal" "patriarch" "metropolitan" "abbot" "abbess" "nuncio" "legate" "monsignor" and "vicar" (other than the Vicar of Christ, the Pope), as well as every particular territorial See, the Curia, all seminary posts, committees and commissions. None of these offices exist in the Church anymore in any real sense (though the numerous diocesan and other sees below the Papal See might well still be theoretically permitted to continue to exist in a "titular" sense) and will not until the Church can grow enough to staff them, and until a pope can be elected to reestablish each of them officially, commencing with appointments of their first new officers thereto.
Perhaps that is just as well (funny how Providence works things out, even our adversities), since now only the tiniest number of objects remained faithfully on the right shelves. Where before thousands of bishops occupied thousands of Sees worldwide (separated by thousands of bookend-like separators), now a dozen or less bishops have found themselves having to try to occupy the whole width of a truly vast shelf, and all of those numerous former divisions can have no practical meaning now anyway. The same goes for the lower shelves as well.
So, as this one faithful wall, with its divinely established shelves, and what few objects occupy all shelves save that top one occupied by an empty cardboard box, is truly what comprises the real Church today. Our bishops are real bishops; our priests are real priests, and our Faithful are real Faithful, truly and visibly attached to our real and visible Church hierarchy in the collective "person" of our traditional clerics taken together. It matters not what the Vatican organization does or where it wanders. We need nothing from it. We have all that is needed, legally and canonically speaking, to restore the Church, and have lacked only the will to do it, at least so far.
So now there is hope. And more, there is no need to accuse anyone. Those of the Vatican organization have no Catholic offices, not on account of any heresies they may or may not entertain themselves with, but on account of being functionaries of a different, separate, and rival organization. It is absolutely no different than if they were one and all to have transferred over to the Southern Baptist Convention or the Mormon Church. We don't often go after those guys much, despite their heretical ideas, and even though their heresies are nevertheless quite destructive. With all justice it really should be the same with those of the Vatican organization. All of this also points up quite dramatically the theological sloppiness of those who claim that "we have a heretic sitting in the Chair of Peter." No we don't! No one at all is sitting in the Chair of Peter, or even pretending to it (apart from the products of failed lay "conclaves"), and as for the heresies of the Vatican leadership (or the leadership of any other merely human organization), what has that got to do with any of us Catholics? Nothing.
And now we can even put things in a better perspective. We traditional Catholics, alone, are and comprise the entirety of the historic Roman Catholic Church today. Our priests and bishops alone possess the hierarchical jurisdiction and apostolic authority to act and guide and rule in the name of Holy Mother Church. They of the Vatican organization possess precisely nothing, ecclesiastically speaking. For any of those to come into possession of any jurisdiction of apostolic mission, they must first become Catholics (repent of all Novus Ordo and any other heresies), and then having done that, they must approach our traditionalist clerics for authority and jurisdiction, should any of our clerics be willing to impart that to any of their repentant members. So now this puts the whole perspective right. They of the Vatican are the malignant parasite, and we traditional Catholics the loving and providing host. They could no more pull the plug on us than Satan pull the plug on God. Or as I have said before in other places, we don't need them; they need us.
That is all a nice and pretty picture, and it does place us in a well-deserved place of strength, but can it be proved? While I have amply demonstrated that those who deny the authority of our traditional clergy have in no way ever proven their case, but instead must rely upon false assumptions planted deep within the subconscious and never directly to be faced or acknowledged or articulated by those who fall victim to them, that is not the same thing as proving the yea verily present apostolic authority of our traditional clerics. I shall proceed to do that now.
There are two facts that are essential to that proof. One fact is the infallibly confirmed doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church, which not only guarantees that the Church shall never teach error or mislead souls into perdition, but also that the Church shall never cease to exist as the hierarchical organization that God created it to be. You should be easily able to see and realize how either a fall into error or a fall into nonexistence would constitute a defection of the Church, and as such is to be dogmatically ruled out from the start.
For the second fact, if you are even the least bit interested in what I have been saying in my writings, then it is because you have observed the fact that the present Vatican apparatus is most definitely NOT the real and historic and authentic Roman Catholic Church. Surely, you would have to know that at least on the strength of the dramatically repugnant heresies and modernism and liberalism that has destroyed it, and even more basic, the stunning absence throughout it of any hint of the Holy Ghost's influence. Obviously, it is not the Church. And if you have been able to follow my Lumen Gentium Theory regarding what happens ontologically to an organization that so seriously redefines itself in its own new most serious and foundational constitution, then you also know the precise point at which the legal discontinuity exists between the Catholic Church of history and the present Vatican apparatus, then you would have the additional benefit of knowing precisely why it is not the Church, and why the Holy Ghost provides it with no protections of any kind.
The Vatican apparatus has acquired much of what the Catholic Church formerly owned in terms of material properties and personnel, but it really is something else, quite other and alien from the actual Catholic Church itself. It is, in point of fact, no different than any ordinary secular power, and furthermore, a secular power with its own officially instituted non-Catholic religion, as its central and driving and defining purpose. That being the case, its presence or absence, or decrees or excommunications, or blessings and cursings, are one and all moot, null and void, as such. As such, it has absolutely no more relevance to the authentic and actual and historic and eternal Roman Catholic Church than does the Southern Baptist Convention or the Mormon Church ("Latter-Day Saints").
Those two facts alone deductively establish that SOMETHING else, other than the Vatican apparatus, "out there" somewhere, categorically MUST be the Catholic Church, legally, visibly, ontologically, canonically, and so forth, as such, as a visible institution. Let us nail down the parameters for our search. For one thing, the Catholic Church cannot be comprised of heretics (which is certainly one reason, though not the only one, that all real Catholics can know for certain that the present-day Vatican apparatus is not to be identified in any way with the authentic and historic Roman Catholic Church), as this would also similarly bar all classically condemned modes of heresy and schism. So, the failure of the Vatican apparatus cannot confer this status of being the Church upon the Samaritans, the Jews, the East Orthodox, the Protestants, the Muslims, the Mormons, or the Baha'is, etc. The Catholic Church can only be comprised of Catholics.
Now, the only Catholics with any real claim to the title (not mistakenly claiming it, even if erring in good faith, but holding it actually) in these days are the traditional Catholics, whether of the Latin Rite (using the Tridentine Mass) or of any other classical traditionally Catholic and historically authorized Rite, such as the Uniate Eastern Rites, or other various alternate historically authorized Rites, in their corresponding Pre-Vatican II uncorrupted forms. Could it possibly include anybody else? I don't think so; I think I have there included everyone capable of qualifying as actual visible members in good standing with the real Roman Catholic Church. And do also bear in mind that this has nothing to do with the question of who outside the Catholic Faith (and Church, wherever it is) might nevertheless be of good faith and intention, such that God's mercy might extend to them and allow some few of them to be ultimately saved.
Furthermore, as we know, the Church, as a visible institution, cannot be comprised entirely of mere laity alone, or even together with some consecrated religious or priests; there positively MUST be at least one true bishop, and most likely more than one, along with priests and the rest. Again, for there to be not so much as a single truly authorized, validly consecrated, and duly trained and qualified bishop anywhere on the face of the earth, would truly equal the defection of the Church (by ceasing to exist) and the invalidation of all of Christianity itself. For without so much as one authorized bishop, a validly authorized and apostolic mission cannot ever again be conveyed, for there is no one left to convey it. A person cannot give what they do not have, and what no one has, no one can give. Not only a valid succession of bishops, but also a valid chain of lawful authority must always exist down through all time. Neither one alone would be enough, as the presence of either men or women alone would not be enough to propagate the human race. Both are needed for the propagation of the Church into all future eras.
Do you see this? Are you with me so far?
Now, I suppose one could validly make the case that perhaps SOME of those clerics hanging out their shingles as "traditional Catholic priests" or "bishops" might indeed not qualify as being sufficiently and duly authorized. That is possible, and perhaps even probable. But the bare ability for this distinction to exist and to have any meaning and reality implies that at least SOME must indeed truly qualify as duly and properly authorized office-holding clerics of the Roman Catholic Church, regardless of whether or not certain others might somehow fail to qualify.
Granted, Catholic authority does not come to anyone merely "by default," and I have already addressed this exact point in my article, "Authority by Default?". However, the "default" argument does have some value, namely that it is simple to understand, direct, deductive, irrefutable, and therefore demonstrates "yea verily" beyond all doubts reasonable or not that at least SOMEONE, some identifiable bishop or bishops, some identifiable priest or priests, and some identifiable others (consecrated religious, laity), must indeed possess the status of being the Catholic Church, as bishop(s), priest(s), religious, and laity.
What that simple and direct "default" argument cannot do of course is identify from among the possible claimants, which of them would possess that property of being the Catholic Church (and particularly, office-holding members of the Teaching Church), and which would not, and why. Hence, the groundwork for that is discussed here and in that article, and various other places.
But it really does indeed follow that "bishops and priests who retain the Catholic faith receive the legitimate authority to teach, sanctify, and govern Catholics" for if they do not posses that authority, then who does? Who else ever could? Only CATHOLIC bishops and priests (those who hold and teach the Catholic Faith) are capable of holding such authority, no one else. Ergo, it is within such community of bishops and priests that this authority is indeed to be found. For such authority not to be found there is to say that such authority no longer exists and never again can, short of Jesus coming again to be crucified and starting the Church all over again. If a person really believed in Catholic authority at all, they should seek it out, for in all times it can always be easily found, "Seek and ye shall find." The real cause of our home-aloners not finding any living authority today among our traditional Catholic bishops and priests is that they do not seek it.
But then comes the question of the behavior of some of our prominent traditional Catholic clerics. Some have undeniably acted in scandalous and destructive ways, raising doubt in some regarding their authority, and making others feel pressed to make choices clearly outside their competence as laity. Surely, the nearest possible thing to any real "refutation" of my thesis would have to be the sometimes outright reprehensible behavior of certain traditional Catholic clerics themselves. In a follow-up, to be titled "Accepting Responsibility," I will address that.