In the Society of St Pius X’s “hot summer” of 1976, after Paul VI “suspended” Archbishop Lefebvre for ordaining 14 priests for Tradition, the clash between Pope and Catholic Tradition was so sharp that one of the two moments occurred that August when the Archbishop most seriously considered whether the See of Rome might be vacant. As can be heard from the recording of words he then spoke, he was agonizing over that clash: how possibly could a true Vicar of Christ be so destroying the Church? The Archbishop never finally adopted the sedevacantist solution, but let us see how clearly he stated the problem, and then offer once more a line of solution which he may have been too sane in mind to think of. Here is a summary of his words in August of 1976:—
People ask me what I think of the Pope [Paul VI]. It is an incredible mystery. The true Pope is the unity of the Church, inspired by the Holy Ghost, and protected by the promise of Our Lord in upholding the Faith. But in the aftermath of Vatican II, Paul VI is systematically destroying the Church. Nothing is spared: catechism, universities, Congregations, seminaries, schools. Everything Catholic is being destroyed. One looks for a solution.
A series of false solutions can be dismissed out of hand, e.g. Paul VI is a prisoner, drugged, victim of his underlings, etc. For when he blessed the Charismatics or kissed the feet of the Orthodox Patriarch, did he have a revolver at his head? I have watched him in public audiences, speaking with the skill, presence of mind, pertinence and intelligence of a man in full possession of his faculties. Cardinal Benelli told me that it was the Pope himself who wrote those letters to me [crushing Tradition], that he is fully informed, that he knows exactly what he is doing, it is his will, they are his decisions. The Cardinal said that he reported to the Pope every day, and would do so again, straight after our own conversation.
Then can Paul VI be not a true Pope? That is one possible hypothesis. Theologians have studied the problem. I do not know. Do not put words in my mouth. But the problem seems theologically insoluble.
The Archbishop spoke of Paul VI, but the problem is essentially the same for all six Conciliar Popes (except perhaps John-Paul I). Let us divide the problem in two: how can the true God allow such destruction of his Church? How can his true Vicars be the main destroyers?
As for Almighty God, firstly the destruction will be still worse at world’s end (Lk. XVIII, 8). Secondly, God may easily be purifying his Church to prepare for the Triumph of his Mother’s Immaculate Heart. Thirdly, God did protect Paul VI from utterly destroying the Church, when for instance he arranged for the “chance” discovery to Paul VI of a plan to dissolve the Papacy by the text of Lumen Gentium. This enabled the Pope to block the plan by adding the Nota Praevia.
As for the Vicars, Archbishop Lefebvre never seems to have considered the solution which follows, which may be why in that August even he seems to have been nearly impaled on the horns of the sedevacantist-or-liberal dilemma. But if with each year liberalism comes closer to confusing the mind of every man on earth, how should the Popes escape the universal malady of being “sincerely” wrong? Because they are educated men? But liberalism reigns especially in the schools and universities. So if the miseducated Conciliar Popes are “sincerely” convinced that “truth” evolves, they will not even by their grave errors be pertinaciously denying what they know to be defined Catholic Truth, because even defined Truth, if it is to be for them “truth,” evolves in their direction.