sedevacantism

Balance Proposed

Balance Proposed posted in Eleison Comments on April 19, 2014

“Keep therefore and do the things which the Lord God hath commanded you: you shall not go aside neither to the right hand nor to the left.” This instruction from the Lord God to be passed on by Moses to the Israelites (Deut.V, 32) is certainly valid for God’s Chosen People of the New Testament (Rom. IX, 25–26), but it is not so easy to apply in our own time when the Shepherd of the New Testament is struck, and we sheep are scattered (Zech.XIII, 7). Is the Pope so lightly struck that Catholics need not take care how they obey him? Or is he so seriously struck that he cannot be Pope? In any case the sheep are scattered and will remain so, until Russia is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart.

Meanwhile, as it seems to me, a letter published in the latest issue of the Angelus, official magazine of the Society of St Pius X in the USA, goes astray to the left. Fr. S. has several reasons for urging the SSPX to put itself “in the hands . . .of the Pope as soon as possible.” Firstly, to think that the Roman churchmen are intentional destroyers of the Church is implicit sedevacantism. But I need be no sedevacantist, implicit or explicit, to recall that their subjective intentions no way lessen the objective damage that they have done to the Church, and would do to the SSPX, if it came under their control. Secondly, for the SSPX to wait until the Romans’ full doctrinal conversion to put itself into their hands, is unrealistic. But one heresy is enough to make an enemy of the Faith, and modernism is an all-embracing heresy (Pascendi, Pius X). Too much contact with the Romans has already seduced the SSPX’s leaders.

Thirdly, the SSPX must give back to Rome as soon as possible the doctrine and practice of the true Faith. But if Rome were still only half modernist, such a giving back would be to throw pearls before swine (Mt.VII, 6). Fourthly, the SSPX has for so long kept its distance from Rome that it risks losing all Catholic sense of hierarchy, obedience and authority. But the true Faith must be kept at a safe distance from all-embracing heresy. If the heresy is not my fault, God can look after my Catholic senses, so long as I am faithful to him, for 40 years or more in the desert, just as he looked after the faithful Israelites (Exod. – Deut.). And fifthly, the so-called “Resistance” is dividing and weakening the SSPX’s true resistance to Conciliar Rome. But unity around any non-doctrinal understanding with modernists will be unity around error, fatal for Archbishop Lefebvre’s SSPX. In brief, Fr. S. has lost sight of just how seductive and deadly for the Faith is the error of modernism.

On the other hand, as it seems to me, a priest now refusing any longer to mention the Pope’s name in the Canon of the Mass is in danger of going astray to the right. If I see the deadly danger of modernism to the Faith, certainly I see the enormous objective damage done to the Church by Conciliar Popes. But can I truthfully say that there is nothing at all still Catholic left in them? For example, as Fr. S. would say, do they not still have at least good subjective intentions? Have they not all at least meant to serve the Church? In which case can I not celebrate Mass in union with whatever is still Catholic in them? The mainstream Church may be sick unto death, but I for one could not maintain that there is nothing Catholic whatsoever still happening within it. It is not yet completely dead.

“In things certain, unity. In things doubtful, liberty. In all things, charity.”

Kyrie eleison.

Fatal Humanising

Fatal Humanising posted in Eleison Comments on February 22, 2014

Some Catholics who hold that the Apostolic See is vacant protest strongly against recent issues of these “Comments” which seem to put the universal heresy of liberalism on an equal footing with the particular opinion of sedevacantism. But whereas these “Comments” constantly excoriate the plague of liberalism, surely they have recently done no more than argue that nobody is obliged to be a sedevacantist, which, considering what a sterilising trap sedevacantism proves in some cases to be, is surely a very moderate position to take.

However, the “Comments” do hold that sedevacantism, while admirable as an effort to combat liberalism, is at best an inadequate means of doing so, because it shares with liberals one of their basic errors, namely the exaggeration of papal infallibility. In its full depth this error takes us to the heart of today’s unprecedented crisis of the Church, which is why the “Comments” will insist on the question, while begging pardon of any readers unduly bored or offended. The whole Church is at stake, and not just the sensibilities of these or those of its members.

That full depth is mankind’s slow but steady turning away over the last 700 years from God, from his Son and from his Church. At the height of the Middle Ages Catholics had a clear and strong faith, grasping the oneness and exclusivity of the objective God and his non-contradictory Truth. Dante had no problem putting Popes in his Inferno. But as down the centuries man put himself more and more at the centre of things, so God lost his absolute transcendence above all creatures, and truth became more and more relative, no longer to God’s authority but instead to man’s.

Within the Church, take for example the 13th of the 17 “Rules for thinking with the Church” from St Ignatius of Loyola’s famous book of the Spiritual Exercises, praised by countless Popes ever since, and no doubt responsible for helping to save millions of souls. Ignatius writes: “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”Such a position might support the churchmen’s authority in the short run, but did it not run a serious risk of detaching it from truth in the long run?

Indeed by the late 19th century liberalism had become so strong that the Church had to support its own authority by the Definition in 1870 of its Magisterium when operating at full power, namely whenever 1) a Pope 2) defines 3) a point of Faith or morals 4) so as to bind the whole Church. But thinking too humanly since then, too many Catholics, instead of relating this Extraordinary Magisterium to God and to the unchanging truth of the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium, have tended to lend to the human person of the Pope an infallibility coming from, and belonging to, God alone. This humanising process generated a creeping infallibility which almost inevitably resulted in the preposterous claim of Paul VI to be able to remould the Church’s Tradition in the name of a “Solemn Ordinary Magisterium.” The great majority of Catholics allowed him to get away with it, and to this day a mass of them are becoming day by day liberals as they follow the Conciliar Popes, while a small minority of Catholics are driven to denying that those responsible for the Conciliar nonsense can be Popes at all.

In brief, I personally have respect for many sedevacantists, insofar as they believe in the Church and are desperate for a solution to an infinitely serious problem of the Church., but in my opinion they need to look higher and deeper – the infinite height and depth of God himself.

Kyrie eleison.

Church’s Infallibility – II

Church’s Infallibility – II posted in Eleison Comments on February 15, 2014

Much needs to be said about the Church’s infallibility, especially to correct illusions arising (by mistake) from the Definition of Papal infallibility in 1870. Today for instance sedevacantists and liberals think that their positions are wholly opposed, but do they stop for a moment to see how similarly they think?—Major: Popes are infallible. Minor: Conciliar Popes are liberal. Liberal Conclusion: we must become liberal. Sedevacantist Conclusion: they cannot be Popes. The error is neither in the logic, nor in the Minor. It can only be in a misunderstanding on both their parts of infallibility in the Major. Once again, modern men put authority above truth.

Eternal God is Truth itself, absolutely infallible. In created time, through his Incarnate Son, he instituted his Church with a doctrine for the salvation of human souls. Coming from him that doctrine could only be inerrant, but to keep it free from the errors of the human churchmen to whom he would entrust it, his Son promised them the “spirit of truth” to guide them “for ever” (Jn. XIV, 16). For indeed without some such guarantee, how could God require of men, on pain of eternal damnation, to believe in his Son, in his doctrine and in his Church (Mk.XVI, 16)?

Yet even from churchmen God will not take away that free-will to err which he gave them. And he will allow that freedom to go as far as they wish, short of their making his Truth inaccessible to men. That reaches far, and it includes a number of highly defective Popes, but God’s reach is still farther than the wickedness of men (Isaiah LIX, 1,2). At Vatican II for instance, Church error went a long way, without however God’s allowing his Church to be wholly defectible in its presentation to men of the inerrant Truth coming from his own infallibility. Even the Conciliar Popes have told many Catholic truths alongside their Conciliar errors.

But how then can I, a simple soul, tell the difference between their truths and their errors? Firstly, if I am truly looking for God with an upright heart, he will guide me to him, as the Bible says in many places. And secondly, God’s doctrine being as unchangeable as God, it must be the doctrine that I find (nearly) all his churchmen to have taught and handed down in (nearly) all places and at (nearly) all times, best known as Tradition. From the beginning of the Church, that handing down has been the surest test of what Our Lord himself taught. Down the ages inerrant Tradition has been the work of millions of churchmen. It has been that for which God endowed his Church as a whole, and not just the Popes, with the guidance of the infallible Holy Ghost.

Here is, so to speak, the cake of Church infallibility upon which the Popes’ solemn Definitions are merely the icing, precious and necessary, the peak of the Church’s infallibility, but not its mountain bulk. Notice firstly that Definitions by the Popes’ Extraordinary Magisterium existed not only from 1870 but from the beginning of the Church, and they existed not to make Tradition true but merely to make certain what belonged to Tradition and what did not, whenever the erring of men had made that uncertain. Sensing truth, Archbishop Lefebvre rightly preferred inerrant Tradition to gravely erring Popes. Never having understood him, like all modern liberals not sensing truth, his successors are in the process of preferring erring Popes to inerrant Tradition. Underestimating truth and overestimating the Popes, sedevacantists wholly repudiate the erring Popes and can be tempted to quit the Church altogether. Lord, have mercy!

Kyrie eleison.

Church’s Infallibility – I

Church’s Infallibility – I posted in Eleison Comments on February 8, 2014

Probably sedevacantists’ main problem is the Church’s infallibility (Conciliar Popes are horribly fallible, so how can they be Popes?). However, infallibility needs to be looked at for more than just to alleviate sedevacantism. The modern problem of preferring authority to truth is vast.

“Infallibility” means inability to err, or to fall into error. The First Vatican Council defined in 1870 that the pope cannot err when four conditions are present: he must (1) be speaking as Pope, (2) on a question of Faith or morals, (3) in a definitive fashion, and (4) with the clear intention of binding the whole Church. Any such teaching belongs to what is called his “Extraordinary” Magisterium, because on the one hand Popes rarely engage all four conditions, and on the other hand he teaches many other truths which cannot err or be wrong because they have always been taught by the Church, and therefore they belong to what Vatican I called the Church’s “Ordinary Universal Magisterium,” also infallible. The question is, how does the Pope’s Extraordinary Magisterium relate to the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium?

Mother Church teaches that the Deposit of Faith, or public Revelation, was complete at the death of the last Apostle alive, say, around 105 AD. Since then no further truth has been added, or could be added, to that Deposit, or body of revealed truths. Then no “extraordinary” definition can add one iota of truth to that Deposit, it only adds, for the sake of believers, certainty to some truth already belonging to the Deposit, but whose belonging had not been clear enough beforehand. In a fourfold order comes firstly, an objective REALITY, independent of any human mind, such as the historical fact of the Mother of God’s having been conceived without original sin. Secondly comes TRUTH in any mind conforming itself to that reality. Only thirdly comes an infallible DEFINITION when a Pope engages all four conditions to define that truth. And fourthly arises from that definition CERTAINTY for believers as to that truth. Thus whereas reality generates the truth, a Definition merely creates certainty as to that truth.

But the reality and its truth already belonged to the Ordinary Magisterium, because there is no question of any Pope defining infallibly a truth outside of the Deposit of Faith. Therefore the Ordinary Magisterium is to the Extraordinary Magisterium as dog is to tail, and not as tail to dog! The problem is that the Definitiom of 1870 gave such prestige to the Extraordinary Magisterium that the Ordinary Magisterium began to pale in comparison, to the point that Catholics, even theologians, scratch around to fabricate for it an infallibility like that of the Extraordinary Magisterium. But that is foolishness. The Extraordinary presupposes the Ordinary Magisterium, existing only to give certainty (4) to a truth (2) already taught by the Ordinary Magisterium.

Let the point be illustrated from a snow-capped mountain. The mountain in no way depends on the snow, except for it to be made even more visible than it already is. On the contrary the snow depends completely on the mountain to be where it, the snow, is. Similarly the Extraordinary Magisterium does no more for the Ordinary Magisterium than to make it more clearly or certainly visible. As winter closes in, so the snowline descends. As charity grows cold in modern times, so more definitions of the Extraordinary Magisterium may become necessary, but that does not make them the perfection of the Church’s Magisterium. On the contrary, they signal a weakness of believers’ grasp of the truths of their Faith. The healthier a man is, the fewer pills he needs. Next week, the application both to sedevacantism and to the present crisis of the SSPX.

Kyrie eleison.

Sedevacantist Anxiety – II

Sedevacantist Anxiety – II posted in Eleison Comments on February 1, 2014

1 Either one recognizes the Conciliar Popes all the way (like the liberals – God forbid!), or one refuses them all the way (like the sedevacantists). To recognize them partly, and partly not, is to pick and choose what one will recognize, as did Luther, as do all heretics (in Greek, “choosers”). That is true if one picks and chooses according to one’s own personal choice, but it is not true if, like Archbishop Lefebvre, one judges in accordance with Catholic Tradition, which can be found in 2000 years’ worth of Church documents. In that case one is judging with 260 Popes against a mere six, but that does not prove the invalidity of these six.

2 But the Conciliar Popes have poisoned the Faith and endangered the eternal salvation of millions upon millions of Catholics. That is contrary to the Church’s indefectibility. In the Arian crisis of the 4th century, Pope Liberius endangered the Faith by condemning St Athanasius and by backing Arian bishops in the East. For a few moments the Church’s indefectibility went not through the Pope but through his seeming adversary. However that meant neither that Liberius was not Pope nor that Athanasius was Pope. Similarly the indefectibility of the Church today goes through the faithful followers of the line taken by Archbishop Lefebvre, but that need not mean that Paul VI was not Pope.

3 What the bishops of the world teach, in union with the Pope, is the Church’s Ordinary Universal Magisterium, which is infallible. Now for the last 50 years the world’s bishops in union with the Conciliar Popes have taught Conciliar nonsense. Therefore these Popes cannot have been true Popes.If the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium were to go outside Tradition, it would no longer be “Ordinary,” but most extraordinary, because Church doctrine admits of no novelties, the “Universal” being in time as well as space. Now Conciliar doctrine goes way outside Tradition (e.g. religious liberty and ecumenism). Therefore doctrine proper to the Council does not come under the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, and it cannot serve to prove that the Conciliar Popes were not Popes.

4 Modernism is “the synthesis of all heresies”(Pius X). But the Conciliar Popes have all been “public and manifest” modernists, i.e. heretics of such a kind as St Robert Bellarmine declared cannot be members of the Church, let alone its head.See last week’s “Comments.” Things were much more clear, or “public and manifest,” in Bellarmine’s day, than they are amidst today’s confusion of minds and hearts. The objective heresy of the Concilar Popes (i.e. what they say) is public and manifest, but not their subjective or formal heresy (i.e. their conscious and resolute intention to deny what they know to be unchangeable Catholic dogma). And to prove their formal heresy could only be done by a confrontation with the Church’s doctrinal authority, e.g. the Inquisition or the Holy Office, call it what one will (“A rose by any name would smell as sweet,” says Shakespeare). But the Pope is himself the Church’s highest doctrinal authority, above and behind today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. How then can he be proved to be that kind of heretic that is incapable of being head of the Church?

5 But in that case the Church is in a hopeless mess!Again, see last week’s “Comments.” Men’s minds are today so universally messed up that God alone can straighten out the mess. But this objection may prove rather that he must intervene (and soon!) than that the messed up Popes are not Popes. Patience. God is putting us to the trial, as he has every right to do.

Kyrie eleison.

Sedevacantist Anxiety – I

Sedevacantist Anxiety – I posted in Eleison Comments on January 25, 2014

The words and deeds of Pope Francis since his election earlier last year have been so little Catholic and so outrageous, that the idea that recent popes have not really been Popes (“sedevacantism”) has been given a new lease of life. Notice that Pope Francis merely expresses more blatantly than his five predecessors the madness of Vatican II. The question remains whether any of the six Conciliar Popes (with the possible exception of John-Paul I) can really have been Vicars of Christ.

The question is not of prime importance. If they have not been Popes, still the Catholic Faith and morals by which I must “work out my salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil. II, 12) have not changed one iota. And if they have been Popes, still I cannot obey them whenever they have departed from that Faith and those morals, because “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts, V, 29). However I believe in offering answers to some of the sedevacantists’ arguments, because there are sedevacantists who seem to wish to make the vacant See of Rome into a dogma which Catholics must believe. In my opinion it is no such thing. “In things doubtful, liberty” (Augustine).

I think that the key to the problem of which sedevacantism is merely one expression is that Vatican II was a disaster without precedent in all the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, while at the same time it was the logical conclusion of a long decadence of the Catholic churchmen reaching back to the late Middle Ages. On the one hand the divine nature of the Catholic Church and the principles governing any of its crises, including the Conciliar crisis, cannot change. On the other hand the application of those principles must take into account the ever changing human circumstances within which those principles operate. The degree of human corruption today has no precedent.

Now two of the unchanging principles are that on the one hand the Church is indefectible because Our Lord promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Mt.XVI, 18). On the other hand Our Lord also asked if he would find faith on earth at his Second Coming (Lk. XVIII, 8), an important quotation because it clearly suggests that the Church will almost completely have defected at the end of the world, just as it seems to be almost completely defecting in 2014. For indeed if we are not today living through the end of the world, we are surely living through the dress rehearsal for that end of the world, as Our Lady of La Salette, the Venerable Holzhauser and Cardinal Billot all suggest.

Therefore today, as at world’s end, the defection can go very far. It cannot reach beyond the power of Almighty God to guarantee that his Church will never altogether disappear or fail, but it can reach as far as God will allow, in other words nothing need stop his Church from defecting almost completely. And just how far is that “almost completely”? God alone knows, and so time alone can tell, because none of us men are in the mind of God, and only the facts can reveal to us after the event the contents of the divine mind. But God does partly reveal his mind in Scripture.

Now as to the end of the world, many interpreters of Chapter XIII, 11–17 of the Apocalypsethink that the lamb-like Second Beast serving the Antichrist is the authorities of the Church, because if those authorities resisted the Antichrist he could never prevail, as Scripture says he will. Then is it so extraordinary if in the dress rehearsal for the end of the world the Vicars of Christ talk and behave like enemies of Christ? Against this necessary background, next week’s “Comments” will propose answers to some of the sedevacantists’ main arguments.

Kyrie eleison.