The Pope, The Professor, And Dr Strangelove: Reflections On Sedevacantism.
I continue to not understand the confusion and disorientation of many Catholics – even readers of this blog – when confronted with the horrible deeds of Pope Francis. It is as if they realised that they have a horrible Pope, and found the fact unprecedented and very difficult to cope with.
The crude reality is that Catholicism has already seen it all. A Pope openly siding with heresy, to the point of excommunicating Athanasius and forbidding the Creed in Church? Check. A Pope declared a heretic by no less than an ecumenical council? Check. A Pope openly espousing obviously and gravely heretical ideas? Check. A Pope announcing that he is minded to make of his heretical ideas a dogma of the Church? Check. Popes who were fornicators, thieves, gluttons, corrupts, or curruptors? Check, check, check, check, and check.
We must realise that the protection given by the Holy Ghost to the Church is of limited nature, and is meant to safeguard nothing more than the core of her activity, without which she would not be able to fulfill her function. It is to the clergy and the laity to provide for many vocations of sound quality and a diffused expectation of sound clergymen, in order for the Church to grow and prosper. But there is no guarantee of growth, of prosperity, even of continued existence in your particular country or even continent.
Whilst the comparison has the limits of all comparisons, you can make a parallel between a Pope and a history professor. History has an awful lot of incontrovertible historical facts. Facts can't be changed, or interpreted away. If a professor starts teaching that Abraham Lincoln was born in Ghana, and Jesus in Rome, does it mean that he is not a professor? No, he is still one. He will, bar further episodes, for the moment still have the same job, with the same title, the same job description, and the same wage. But his pupils will understand that he is a horrible professor; one who, in fact, is unworthy of the job and should never have been allowed to teach in a primary school, much less a university.
Does the teaching of the stupid, ignorant, arrogant professor change the facts? Of course not. Can you say “either his statements are right, or he is not a professor”? No. Can you deny the acts that he puts in place in his quality as professor? No.
What you have there is an ugly professor, nothing more and nothing less.
Now, the Holy Ghost merely guarantees that a Pope will not proclaim a heretical dogma, something a professor can't do even with an orthodox one. Every rubbish a teacher can produce, a Pope can, too; but he will, of course, not be able to change truth; no more than a professor could change historical facts, or mathematical rules, or laws of physics.
Truths are things. They are, in fact, far more solid than them, because they will be there when the entire universe has been dissolved in a spark. Can Popes make universes? No? Well, then….
Then there is the other question: what's the big difference between saying that we have a rubbish Pope, and saying that we have no Pope? The difference is simply immeasurable.
Bad Popes are as much a part of the fabric of the world as bad people. Popes are people. Some Popes will be bad, or very bad. Unpleasant, but physiological. Like having to walk near a field in the time of dunging.
Sedevacantism, on the other hand, is a way to the abyss. If the Pope is no Pope, his Cardinals aren't Cardinals. Therefore, his successor is also an impostor. And at this point there is no way to say how – bar having Angels coming down from Heaven – the legitimate office of legitimate popes and cardinals can be restored. It is every bit like shooting yourself in the head because you have a severe headache, and thinking that God, in His mercy, will restore your brains to full functionality punctually by tea time, when the headache has gone.
The implications of Sedevacantism, the wheels that the thinking would set in motion if thought to the end – which most Sedes accurately avoid – are absolutely immense. They are tantamount to destroying the visible Church out of love for the visible Church. It is Dr Strangelove's approach to the crisis in the Church.
And as we are there, allow me two words on the Western Schism.
There never were two Popes, or three. There always was only one, and Rome always knew and said who he was. There can never be two Popes, or three, in charge. This is why Benedict is merely a Pope Emeritus, one who used to have the office of the Pope; but now only keeps the title, without the function, like every professor emeritus does. It's also not so that at some point all those popes resigned, paving the way for the end of the schism. Only one Pope has resigned. The others were not Popes, period.
It's not complicated, or confusing, in the least. The confusion only begins when the faithful start to attribute some kind of almost magical power, or alternatively an almost magical divine protection, to the Pope; making of him a man who can't ever be heretical, not even a material heretic, without their own understanding of the Papacy crumbling.
Of course a Pope can be a material heretic. History teaches this as an incontrovertible fact, that is not for me or you to accept or refuse, but merely to acknowledge in its hard reality of crude historic event.
Learn to cope with the events, and Catholic teaching will make wonderful sense exactly concerning papal infallibility and the Indefectibility of the Church. Take refuge in a fantasy world where no Pope ever behaves theologically badly, and you are on your way to Dr Strangelove's solution.