Tag: sedevacantism

Anti-Lefebvrism – II

Anti-Lefebvrism – II posted in Eleison Comments on April 14, 2018

Is there a reason why NM (see last week’s “Comments”), in order to deal with the problem of the Conciliar Popes, resorts to the dramatic solution of declaring that they have not been Popes at all? There would seem to be. The Catholic Church is both human (a society of human beings) and divine (specially animated by the Holy Ghost), and it is important not to confuse the two. Human beings as such are all fallible. God alone is infallible. The mistake of Catholics resorting to the dramatic solution of NM is that they are attributing to the human Popes too much of the infallibility that can come from God alone. Let us take an illustration from any modern home.

When I put an electric plug into a socket in the wall, the electric current does not come from the plug, it comes from the power station through the wall and socket into the plug and whatever appliance needs the electric current. The power station is God. The wall and socket are the Church. The current is the Church’s infallibility, coming from God. The plug is the four conditions which the Pope alone can insert into the socket. Those conditions are of course that he 1) speaks as Pope 2) in order to fix once and for all 3) a point of faith or morals 4) with the intention of binding all Catholics to accept it. Through the Pope’s engaging the four conditions, he and he alone has guaranteed access as a human being to the Church’s divine infallibility. The four conditions are the Pope’s to engage. The infallibility is God’s to engage.

Also of course, this particular socket, known as the Church’s Extraordinary Magisterium (EM), is not the only access of human beings to the Church’s infallibility. They accede to it much more by the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium (OM), which is Catholic Tradition, or, what all the Church’s teachers, Popes and Bishops in particular, have taught all over the world ever since Jesus Christ as God deposited that Deposit of the Faith with His Church, confirmed infallibly in the Apostles at Pentecost and handed down infallibly by them until the last of them died. From then on that doctrine was in the hands of fallible human beings, to whom God left their free-will to teach error if they chose to do so. But if ever human error made doubtful what belonged to the infallible doctrine and what did not, God gave to His Church also the Extraordinary Magisterium, precisely to fix once and for all what does and what does not belong to the Ordinary Magisterium. Thus OM is to EM as dog to tail, and not as tail to dog!

The problem of Catholics without number ever since the solemn definition in 1870 of the Church’s infallibility is that since the access of the EM to the Church’s infallibility is automatically guaranteed in a way in which the access of the OM is not, then the EM seems superior, and Catholics tend to exaggerate the EM and to transfer to the Pope personally that infallibility which in reality belongs automatically only to the Church. This means that if the Pope makes serious errors like those of the Conciliar Popes, then the only possible explanation is that they are not Popes. Or, if they are Popes, then one must follow their errors. The logic is good, but the premise is false. Popes are not as infallible as all that. They can make serious errors, as Vatican II and its Conciliar Popes have shown, as never before in all Church history! But the Church remains infallible, and therefore I know that Catholic Tradition will last to the end of the world despite the very worst that any poor Popes may try to do between now and then.

But how do I know that to the Pope as Pope belongs only the privileged access (four conditions) to the electric current (infallibility), and not the current itself which belongs to the wall (the Church)? Because the very definition of infallibility in 1870 says so! I need only read:—when the Pope engages the four conditions (mentioned above), then he “is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals.”

So Catholic Popes are free to make terrible mistakes without the Church being any less infallible.

Kyrie eleison.

Anti-”Lefebvrist” Argument – I

Anti-”Lefebvrist” Argument – I posted in Eleison Comments on April 7, 2018

To attack the French Dominican priests of Avrillé for their “Lefebvrism,” i.e. for their refusal to accept that the Conciliar Popes since Paul VI have not been Popes at all, a French layman – Mr. N.M. – has just written an article accusing the Dominicans of rejecting three Catholic dogmas: that the Pope has primacy of jurisdiction over the Universal Church; that the Church’s Universal Ordinary Magisterium is infallible; that it is the Church’s living Magisterium which determines what Catholics must believe. Normally such questions of doctrine may be best left to the experts in doctrine, but ours are not normal times. Today Catholics can have to rely on their own Catholic good sense to decide such questions for themselves.

Let us look at all three questions in a simple and practical way. If I want to accept that the Popes have been true Popes since Paul VI, why should I have to deny firstly that the Pope is head of the Church, secondly that the Church’s normal teaching is infallible and thirdly that the living Pope tells me what I should believe? Let us look at N.M.’s arguments, one by one.

As to the first point, NM quotes the thoroughly anti-liberal Council of Vatican I (1870–1871) to the effect that the Pope is the direct and immediate head of every diocese, every priest and every Catholic. If then like all Lefebvrists, I refuse to obey him, I am implicitly denying that he is my head as a Catholic, so I am denying that the Pope is what Vatican I defined him to be. Answer: I am not at all denying that the Conciliar Popes have the authority to command me as a Catholic, I am only saying that their Catholic authority does not include the authority to make me turn myself into a Protestant, as I will do if I follow their commands in line with Vatican II.

Secondly, NM argues that Vatican I also stated that the everyday teaching of Pope and bishops is infallible. Now if ever we had serious teaching of Pope and Bishops together, it was at Vatican II. If then I refuse that teaching, I am implicitly denying that the Church’s Universal Ordinary Magisterium is infallible. Answer, no, I am not. I fully recognise that when a doctrine has been taught in the Church nearly everywhere, at all times and by all Popes and Bishops, it is infallible, but if it has been taught only

in modern times by the 20th century Popes and Bishops of Vatican II, then it is contrary to what was taught by Popes and Bishops at all other times of the Church, and I do not consider myself bound to accept it. As I accept the heavyweight UOM of all time, so I reject the lightweight UOM of today, contradicting it.

Thirdly, NM argues that the true Pope has the living authority to tell me as a Catholic what I must today believe. If then I refuse to believe what the Conciliar Popes have told me to believe, I am rejecting their living authority as arbiters of the Faith. Answer: no, I am not. I am using my eyes to read, and my God-given brain to judge, that what the Conciliar Popes tell me contradicts what all previous Popes back to St Peter tell me, and I prefer to follow the heavy weight of 261 Popes telling me what to believe against the light weight of six Conciliar Popes. “But then you are rejecting the living authority of the living Pope as arbiter of the Faith!” Only because I am following, obeying and submitting to 261 Popes as arbiters of that Faith which my eyes and my brain tell me that the Conciliar Popes are not following. “But then you are backing your own eyes and brain against the Catholic Pope!” God gave me eyes and a brain which function, and when I come before Him to be judged, I shall answer for the use I made of them.

It is clear that NM’s own answer to the problem of Popes protestantising, modernising and Conciliar, is to deny that they ever were Popes. It should be equally clear that to that problem, which is very real, I am not obliged to adopt NM’s drastic solution. Nor, if I refuse to adopt it, am I obliged to deny three Church dogmas. Peace be to NM.

Kyrie eleison.

Sedevacantism Again – II

Sedevacantism Again – II posted in Eleison Comments on October 8, 2016

For any Catholic soul realizing today the gravity of the crisis in the Church and agonizing over it, the simplicity of sedevacantism dismissing as invalid the Church and Popes of Vatican II can become a serious temptation. Worse, the seeming logic of the ecclesiavacantists’ and sedevacantists’ arguments can turn that temptation into a mental trap which can at worst lead a Catholic to lose his faith altogether. That is why these “Comments” will return in more detail to the main argument of the scattershot of arguments laid out in the article by BpS from 1991 mentioned here last week. Here again is that argument:—

Major: the Catholic Church is absolutely indefectible (it has God’s own guarantee that it will last to the end of the world – cf. Mt XXVIII, 20). Minor: But the Conciliar or Novus Ordo Church, overwhelmed by neo-modernism and liberalism, represents an absolute defection. Conclusion: the Novus Ordo Church is absolutely not Catholic and its Popes are absolutely not Popes. In other words the Church is absolutely white while the Newchurch is absolutely black, so Church and Newchurch are absolutely different. To minds which like to think in black and white with nothing in between, this argument has much appeal. But to minds which recognize that in real life things are often grey, or a mixture of black and white (without black ceasing to be black or white ceasing to be white), the argument is too absolute to be true. Thus in the Major there is an exaggeration of the Church’s indefectibility, and in the Minor there is an exaggeration of the Newchurch’s defection. Theory can be absolute, but reality rarely is absolute. Let us look at indefectibility and the Conciliar defection as they are in reality.

As for the Major, sedevacantists frequently exaggerate the Church’s indefectibility, just as they frequently exaggerate the Popes’ infallibility, because that is what they need to support their emotional horror at what has become of the Catholic Church since the Council. But in reality just as that infallibility does not exclude great errors of some Popes in Church history and only applies when the Pope is either, Ordinarily, saying what the Church has always said, or, Extraordinarily, is engaging all four conditions of the 1870 definition, so the Church’s indefectibility does not absolutely exclude some huge defections at given moments of Church history, such as the triumphs of Islam or Protestantism or of the Antichrist (Lk. XVIII, 8), it only excludes absolutely a total defection, or total failure (Mt. XXVIII, 20). Thus indefectibility is not as absolute as BpS pretends.

As for the Minor, it is true that the defection of Conciliarism is considerably more grave than that of either Islam or Protestantism because it strikes at the head and heart of the Church in Rome, which they did not do. Nevertheless even half a century of Conciliarism (1965 to 2016) has not made the Church totally defect, or fail. For instance Archbishop Lefebvre – and he was not alone – held high the Faith from 1970 to 1991, his successors did the same, more or less, from 1991 to 2012, and the embattled “Resistance” upholds his line still, and before the Church humanly collapses in a not too distant future, unquestionably its indefectibility will be divinely saved, just as before world’s end – Mt. XXIV, 21–22. Thus Conciliarism as a defection of the Church is not as absolute as BpS pretends, either.

So his syllogism needs to be recast – Major: the Church’s indefectibility does not exclude huge defections but only a total defection. Minor: Vatican II was a huge but not total defection of the Church (even if Catholics aware of its danger must totally avoid it, for fear of contamination). Conclusion: the Church’s indefectibility does not exclude Vatican II. In brief, God’s own Church is bigger than all the wickedness of Devil or man, even Vatican II. The Conciliar defection may well be of an unprecedented gravity in all Church history, but the Church’s indefectibility and the Popes’ infallibility come from God and not from men. Like liberals, the sedevacantists are thinking humanly, all too humanly.

Kyrie eleison.

Again, Sedevacantism – I

Again, Sedevacantism – I posted in Eleison Comments on October 1, 2016

It may irk a number of readers of these “Comments” if they return once more to the theme of the Conciliar Popes not being Popes at all, but the recent translation into French of an article from 1991 in English shows how the arguments for sedevacantism need repeatedly to be demonstrated as being not so conclusive as they may appear. Liberals need no such demonstration, because for them sedevacantism is no temptation. However there are select Catholic souls drawn by the grace of God out of liberalism towards Catholic Tradition for whom sedevacantism becomes positively dangerous. The Devil does not care whether we lose our balance to the right or to the left, so long as we lose our balance.

For indeed the error of sedevacantism may in theory be an error neither as deep nor as grave as the universal mind-rot of liberalism, but in practice how often one observes that minds snap shut with sedevacantism, and that what started out as an acceptable opinion (what Catholic can say that the words and deeds of Pope Francis are Catholic?), tends to become an unacceptable dogmatic certainty (what Catholic can judge with certainty of such a question?), and from there to impose itself as the dogma of dogmas, as though a person’s Catholicity is to be judged by whether or not he believes in our having had no real Pope since, say, Pius XII.

One reason offered by previous “Comments” for this often observed internal dynamic of sedevacantism may be the Gordian-knot simplicity with which it slices through an agonizing and faith-threatening problem: “How can these destroyers of the Church be true Catholic Popes?” Answer, they are not Popes at all. “Oh, what a relief! I need no longer agonize.” The mind snaps shut, sedevacantism is to be shared as though it were the Gospel with whoever will listen (or not listen), and at worst it can be extended from the Popes to all cardinals, bishops and priests, so that a once believing Catholic turns into a “home-aloner” who gives up attending Mass altogether. Will he succeed in keeping the Faith? And his children? Here is the danger.

Therefore to keep our Catholic Faith in balance and to avoid the traps laid today to its right as to its left, let us look at the arguments of BpS in the 15-page article mentioned above. (“BpS” is an abbreviation which many readers will identify at once, but it need not be spelled out here because we are more concerned with his arguments than with his person.) In his article at least he does think, and he does have a Catholic’s faith in the Papacy, otherwise the Conciliar Popes would be no problem for him. This logic and faith are what is best in sedevacantists, but neither BpS nor they are working from the whole picture: God cannot let go of his Church, but he can let go of his churchmen.

For here is his argument in a nutshell – Major: the Church is indefectible. Minor: at Vatican II the Church went liberal, which was a major defection. Conclusion: the Conciliar Church is not the real Church, which means that the Conciliar Popes who led or followed Vatican II cannot have been real Popes.

The argument looks good. However, from the very same Major and Minor can come a liberal Conclusion: the Church is indefectible, the Church went liberal, so I too, as a Catholic, must go liberal. That sedevacantism thus shares its roots with liberalism should make any sedevacantist think twice. BpS notices the common roots, and calls them “ironic,” but they are much more than that. They point to liberals and sedevacantists making the same error, which must be in the Major. Indeed both alike misunderstand the Church’s indefectibility, as they mistake the Popes’ infallibility. See these “Comments” next week for a more detailed analysis of BpS’s argument.

Kyrie eleison.

Vacancy Sense – II

Vacancy Sense – II posted in Eleison Comments on May 2, 2015

Concerning the deposition of a heretical Pope, the Traditional Dominicans of Avrillé in France have done us a great favour by publishing not only the classic considerations of John of St Thomas (cf. EC 405), but also those of other outstanding theologians. In brief, the best minds of the Church teach that a simple and popular argument today, namely that a heretical Pope cannot be a member of the Church and therefore all the less its head, is a little too simple. In brief, there is more to the Pope than just the individual Catholic who by falling into heresy loses the faith and with it his membership of the Church. For the Church, the Pope is much more than just an individual Catholic.

For clarity, let us present these theologians’ arguments in the form of question and answer:—

First of all, is it possible for a Pope to fall into heresy?

If he engages all four conditions of his Extraordinary Magisterium, he cannot teach heresy, but that he can personally fall into heresy is the more probable opinion at least of older theologians.

Then if he does fall into heresy, does that not make him cease to be a member of the Church?

As an individual Catholic person, yes, but as Pope, not necessarily, because the Pope is much more than just an individual Catholic. As Augustine said, the priest is Catholic for himself, but he is priest for others. The Pope is Pope for the entire Church.

But supposing that the great majority of Catholics can see that he is a heretic, because it is obvious. Would not his heresy in that case make it impossible for him to be Pope any longer?

No, because even if his heresy were obvious, still many Catholics might deny it, for instance out of “piety” towards the Pope, and therefore to prevent confusion from arising throughout the Church, an official declaration of the Pope’s heresy would be necessary to bind Catholics to stay united. Such a declaration would have to come from a Church Council, assembled for that purpose.

But if the heresy were public and obvious, surely that would be enough to depose him?

No, because firstly every heretic must be officially warned before being deposed, in case he would retract his heresy. And secondly, in Church or State every high official is serving the common good, and for the common good he must stay in office until he is officially deposed. So just as a bishop stays in office until he is deposed by the Pope, so the Pope stays in office until the official declaration of his heresy by a Church Council enables Christ to depose him (cf. EC 405).

But if a heretic is not a member of the Church, how can he be its head, the most important member?

Because his personal membership is a different thing from his official headship. By his personal membership he receives sanctification from the Church. By his official headship he gives official government to the Church. So by falling into heresy, he ceases to be a living member of the Church, that is true, but he does not thereby cease being able, even as a dead member, to govern the Church. His membership of the Church by faith and charity is incompatible with heresy, but his governing of the Church by his official jurisdiction, not requiring faith or charity, is compatible with heresy.

But by his heresy a former Pope has thrown away his Papacy!

Personally and in private that is true, but that is not true officially and in public until a Church Council has made not only public but also official his heresy. Until then the Pope must be treated as Pope, because for the Church’s tranquillity and common good, Christ maintains his jurisdiction.

Kyrie eleison.

Emotional Arguing

Emotional Arguing posted in Eleison Comments on March 21, 2015

An old-fashioned comparison has the advantage of being very clear: on the back of a mule a heavy pack can be difficult to balance. If it shifts to the left, one must push it to the right. If it tilts to the right, it must be pushed to the left. But such double pushing is not contrary – it has the single purpose of keeping the pack balanced. Similarly, for these “Comments” to argue repeatedly against sedevacantism is not to push towards liberalism, nor is it to suggest that sedevacantism is as bad as liberalism. It is merely to recognize that the outrageous words and deeds of the present occupant of the Holy See are tempting many good Catholics to renounce their reason and to judge of reality by their emotions. That is a common practice today, but it is not Catholic.

For instance sedevacantist arguments are, upon examination, never as strong as they can seem. Let us look at two that have crossed my desk recently, both from devout Catholics, strong in the Faith. Here is the first: Conciliar Popes, especially Francis, have not confirmed their brethren in the Faith. But it is of the essence of a Pope to do that. Therefore the Conciliar Popes are not essentially Popes. In reply one must distinguish a Pope in his being from a Pope in his action. A Pope becomes essentially Pope in his being by his valid election in a Conclave of Cardinals, or by his election, if it was invalid in itself, being convalidated by his subsequent acceptance as Pope by the Universal Church (which may have been the case for more than one Conciliar Pope, God knows). On the contrary, by confirming his brethren in the Faith a Pope is essentially Pope in his action. The two things are different and can be separated. Therefore a Pope can fail in action without necessarily ceasing to be a Pope in his being. That is surely the case of several, if not all, the Conciliar Popes.

And here is the second argument: for the individual and fallible Catholic to set himself up as judge of error by the Church’s infallible Magisterium is ridiculous. Faced then by obvious error (e.g. Conciliarism) by that Magisterium (e.g. the Conciliar Popes), he can only conclude that they have not been true Popes. But, in reply, the Pope is not necessarily the Church’s infallible Magisterium. If he neither engages all four strict conditions of the Extraordinary Magisterium, nor teaches in accordance with the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium, then he is fallible, and if he contradicts that Ordinary Magisterium then he is certainly in error, and can be judged to be such by any Catholic (or non-Catholic!) making the right use of his God-given mind. Otherwise how could Our Lord have warned us to beware of false prophets and of wolves in sheeps’ clothing (Mt. VII, 15–20)?

In fact both arguments can come from an emotional rejection of the Conciliar Popes: “They have so maltreated the Church that I simply cannot accept that they were Popes!” But what if I had been a bystander watching the original Way of the Cross? – “This is such maltreatment of Jesus that I simply cannot accept any longer that he is the Son of God!” Would not my emotional rejection of the maltreatment have been right, and yet my conclusion wrong? There is a mystery involved in the Conciliar Popes which sedevacantism passes by.

Now it may be, when the Church one day comes back to her senses, that the alone competent authority will declare that the Conciliar Popes were not Popes, but between now and then the arguments so far brought forward to prove the See of Rome to be vacant are not as conclusive as they can be made to appear.

Kyrie eleison.