I am asked how I reconcile my refusal of Sedevacantism with my often-repeated statement that I would recognise the See vacant if the SSPX said so. The matter seems pretty obvious to me; but hey, let's have a blog post, as it can be a useful reading to refresh a thing or two.
I do not have a crystal ball. Sedevacantism as it is peddled nowadays seems utterly absurd to me for the reasons explained in many blog posts. Still, it is obvious – and this issue has been also dealt with frequently on this blog – that Sedevacantism per se was never an absurdity, but actually a very real possibility at various times in the history of the Church.
If, for example, John XXII had dared to proclaim a wrong dogma, I cannot imagine any other solution than the See being declared vacant by at least a number of Cardinals (plus theologians, prestigious religious, & Co.) It is also obvious that theologians like St Roberto Bellarmino dealt with the issue because they considered it a possibility, not merely a pastime for rainy winter afternoons.
Unfortunately – and this has, also, been stated often on this blog – we are now in one of those times in which Sedevacantism starts to appear on the horizon as a possibility. Why is that? Because Francis is such a pothead that there is literally no limit to where his arrogance, ignorance and breathtaking faithlessness could lead him.
Can, therefore, Sedevacantism become a reality? Of course it can. This was, in theory, always the case. But this time, the possibility is far less remote than in usual times.
How can we, then, recognise when such a point has come? You, who know better than me, will certainly be able to decide for yourself. But I, who am terrified of dying and being reproached of having wanted to decide who is and is not the Vicar of Christ, will defer the matter to the superior authority of those to whom I would, when in doubt, always entrust my salvation in preference to an idiot like Francis; those I consider the purest sanctuary of Catholic orthodoxy and to whom I can, therefore, entrust a decision, and die in the fear of the Lord but able to say, on that fateful day, “confronted with unprecedented scandal, I chose the side of your most faithful allies”.
Do I need to be a theologian to make such a decision? No. What I need is to realise that now, as in other times in the past, when we seek orthodoxy we must look to Athanasius rather than Liberius; without saying that Liberius is not the Pope, as long as Athanasius thinks Liberius is; but following Athanasius rather than Liberius if the modern Athanasius (the SSPX) were to declare the See vacant, and Liberius an imposter.
The above should be sufficient to make the rather banal point. But as I am by the argument, I will say two words more.
There are many shades of gray between the white of an orthodox Pope and the black of a vacant See. A Pope can position himself at very many points in the Saint-to-Idiot scale without the See being vacant. Pope John XXII was certainly a heretic, albeit a material one. Honorius was officially condemned. Liberius was weak, at the very least, to the point of being an accomplice of the gravest heresy, and vastly below the required standard. But even a materially heretical Pope does not a vacant See make, which is why Bishop Fellay calls Francis a Modernist, but still sees in him the Pope.
The See is not vacant. More prosaically, a total ass is in charge. There is no saying what kind of stupid things this ass may not do. Therefore, Sedevacantism is a possibility. We, who care for our salvation, do not assume that we can decide for ourselves whether there is a Pope; rather, we defer to the best Catholic authority we can pick around to orientate ourselves; then we may not be the finest theologians, but we know enough to choose between Athanasius and Liberius, and know that a bad Pope can be extremely bad and even heretic, and still be the Pope.
That's it, really. It's not complicated. It should not have needed an extra blog post, but I thought it could be a useful reminder anyway.
We offer this mass for him [Benedict XVI], so that the Lord be with him, confort him, and give him great consolation. … The Council was a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. Think of Pope John: he looked like a good parish priest, and he was obedient to the Holy Spirit, and he did that. But, after 50 years, have we done everything that the Holy Spirit told us in the Council? In the continuity of the growth of the Church that the Council was? No. We celebrate this anniversary, we make a monument, but do not bother. We do not want to change. And there is more: there are calls [voci, also ‘voices’] wanting to move back. This is called being stubborn, this is called wanting to tame the Holy Spirit, this is called becoming fools and slow of heart.
Daily mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae – homily
April 16, 2013
This is part of a short homily, not translated in its entirety, and therefore the context is not entirely clear.
It’s already everywhere, so I will spend two words of comment.
“Have we done everything that the Holy Spirit told us in the council”?
There are two unwarranted assumptions here:
1) that the Holy Spirit told “us” anything at the Council (possibly, “shut up”. Or “for shame”. Or “I will make sure your arrogance is punished”. Or “There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth”. I am not sure, though. Probably he just didn’t say anything…), and
2) that we must also do “everything” the Holy Spirit told us. Now let me check the list: we have the butter, salt, milk, can you see if we also need the flour?
Up to here, it’s madness of the Seventies at its worst, and it shows once again why we have every reason to be scared this Pope will make a lot of damage.
But truly, apart from the reference to the “Holy Ghost” giving one the homework there isn’t much here. One can’t say it is addressed at the SSPX, or at the Traditionalists, at all. Actually, one can exactly in the same way think it is addressed to the LCWR, who would “go back” to the “revolutionary” nu-church of the Seventies and refuse the “continuity” with the pre-conciliar Church.
The LCWR had a big smackdown yesterday, this might well have been in the Pope’s mind.
This Pope generally hasn’t a problem in telling what he thinks, again yesterday’s slap in the LCWR’s face was eloquent enough. When he wants to criticise the SSPX, I am sure he will do them the courtesy of doing it openly. He will also get from them, absolutely free of charge, a good lesson in Catholic doctrine and liturgy, so I am not surprised he is silent about them at least for now.
I invite my three readers to worry more about the very real liturgical abuses of this Pope than of every possible interpretation of his words in a partial translation of a short homily.
Still, this is one who thinks the Holy Ghost left him a “to do” list after the Council. Unless he means the list was titled “dismantle absolutely everything and don’t even think of doing it again”, he can certainly use our prayers.
In case you think it never happened before that a Pope goes around spreading heretical messages or beliefs (though not proclaiming them dogmatically; we are not there yet), this is a sobering reading from the always great priests of the SSPX.
You may want to take the time to read the SSPX “Letter to Friends and Benefactors” No. 78, of April 2011 in its entirety. You find the text in its original setting here. Please note this letter, in part, quotes an older text, which is why then Cardinal Ratzinger is called “your Eminence”.
I have allowed myself to reproduce here the parts which I think are relevant for today’s post. Emphasis in the original.
[…] On Sunday, December 11, 1983, the Pope preached in a Protestant church of Rome after having more or less invited himself to do so. […]
[…] On May 10, 1984, the Pope visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand; he took off his shoes and sat down at the feet of a Buddhist bonze, who himself was sitting in front of the altar on which there was a large statue of the Buddha. […]
[…] In his book The Ratzinger Report (1985), Cardinal Ratzinger claims that in extreme cases the other religions are “extraordinary” means of salvation. No, your Eminence: Jesus Christ and He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody comes to the Father but by Him! [..]
[…] In August of 1985, the Holy Father proclaimed to young Muslims in Casablanca that we Christians adore the same God as they do—as though there is a Most Holy Trinity and an Incarnation of God in Islam! […]
[…] A few days later, he went with some animist priests and their escorts to the outskirts of Lohomay, to a cult in the “holy forest” where “the force of water” and the divinized souls of the ancestors are invoked. And at least two times at Kara and Togoville—at Kara just before celebrating Holy Mass!—he poured water and cast corn flour into a dried-out cucumber skin, a gesture professing a false religious belief. […].
[…] And now on January 25, 1986, he called upon all religions to gather together in Assisi to pray for peace. According to the newspapers, the date of October 24, the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, might be chosen. “What God are people going to pray to, who explicitly deny the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ? Truly the devil came up with that idea,” commented Archbishop Lefebvre. […]
[…] Lastly, in the course of his journey to India, the Pope spoke only of dialogue and mutual comprehension between religions in order that they promote together human brotherhood and social well-being. […]
We could, of course, go further back in history and find other examples of Popes just as bad. Pope Liberius excommunicated Athanasius, Pope Honorius was declared a heretic by the Third Council of Constantinople with the following words:
“And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to [Patriarch] Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”
It is, therefore, clear the concept of Papal Infallibility does not cover everything that a Pope teaches. This was clearly recognised during the First Vatican Council, when Papal Infallibility was given strict and well-defined boundaries.
How is, then, a faithful Catholic to react to the antics of bad, or very bad, or outright heretical Popes? The above mentioned Letter gives us a clear, perfectly Catholic answer to this (emphasis mine):
Do you think, my dear friends, that to lay out these things gives us joy? It fills us with grief to write them down, our sole concern being the welfare of Mother Church. Similarly, we are far from wishing to judge the Pope—we gladly leave this delicate task to a later judgment of the Church. We do not belong to those who hastily declare that the Papal See is vacant, but we let ourselves be led by the history of the Church. Pope Honorius was anathematized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council because of his false teachings, but no one has ever claimed that Honorius was not Pope. However, it is impossible for us to close our eyes in front of the facts.
Being a good Catholic does not consist in becoming blind, and stupid. Things are what they are. If we have to live with a bad Pope, well we have to live with a bad Pope. It does not help anyone (not the Church; not the Pope; not one’s own chances of salvation) to stick one’s head in the sand and pretend scandal is not happening. The Pope is not above scandal. In fact, no one is so much not above scandal as the Pope.
But to refuse to stick one’s head in the sand does not mean to cry that the end is near, the sky is falling, or the See is vacant. Honorius was Pope, and we do refuse to close our eyes in front of the facts.
As always, proper knowledge of history helps us to put things in the proper perspective. Unsurprisingly, as this generation neglects history it falls pray of the opposite errors of Papolatry and Sedevacantism.
You, my dear readers, will do nothing of all this. You will remain steadfast in your faith in our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church no matter what should happen. You know that no generation of Christians has not been challenged, and those who have been challenged the most have created a solid foundation for the faith in the centuries to come.
No panic, no desperation, and no Sedevacantism. This will be, very probably, a rough ride.
Il buon giorno si vede dal mattino, says the wise Italian: one sees the beautiful day from the morning. What kind of morning we had in the last weeks is too evident for me to waste words.
Let us be prepared for a bleak day, and pray the Lord that we may – if it pleases Him – be spared the worst punishment. If it should happen that the day is not so bleak after all, so much the better. Still, it’s wise to be prepared, and I think it’s fair to say the day of this Pontificate has no real chances of ever becoming the buon giorno we were hoping for before that fateful 13 March.
On the upper right hand side of this page is a link to an interactive Rosary, just one of the many ways you can join countless Catholics in this most beautiful devotion.
Let the Rosary by our sword against heresies and bad doctrines. We are only wretched sinners, and can do but little. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to help us in this difficult hour.
A good Easter Monday to you all.
If you click here you should be directed to the March 2012 edition of the SSPX magazine for the German Speaking countries.
Alas, I am not able to present only a part of it as I do not know how to cut .pdf documents, but if you slide down to page 40 there is a very interesting “special” concerning the Kirchensteuer, with a detailed instruction as to what to do and even ready declarations to give to your local priest.
Just as an aside, I notice the SSPX has prospered in Germany for decades now without one Pfennig (or Cent, as the case may be) of Kirchensteuer.
Why I do not agree with everything they write (they seem to mean the Kirchensteuer would be right if it was used correctly as everyone has the duty to contribute to the church’s maintenance; which is wrong or at least very badly expressed, as charity must not be imposed as a forced contribution, however good the intent) they provide the reader with a complete guide to the emancipation from the Kirchensteuer.
I suggest to my German readers they do proceed to the Austritt and give their donation money, if they feel this is the best use for it, in large part to the SSPX instead.
There is no doubt Bishop Williamson is an embarrassment, to himself and to others. Whilst the video you see above seems to be not “official” in any way, considering the Williamson’s camp is widely suspected for the leaks of the past months it doesn’t take a genius to understand that if one goes on ranting against Fellay & Co, sooner or later this will be on the internet. In this case, it appears to me the event had to be rather sooner.
Now, apart from the contradictions of a man not entirely lucid in his reasoning (he says that only a miracle could help the Society to get rid of Fellay & Co, but goes on saying that many of them will leave anyway, leaving the SSPX purified; with which he should rather hope that no miracle happens), I wonder whether the calls to kick the man out are justified.
First of all, he is clearly talking in little circles and among friends or students; we do it all the time, and when we are in private our words are also not always the most chosen. The video on youtube gives what might have been a momentary rant an air of definitiveness that might not have been wanted. Old men will have their rants, though the bishop’s audience should certainly be asked to keep smartphones out of sight (or switched off) whenever he feels like ranting.
Secondly, by all embarrassment I cannot avoid seeing in this man’s rants the fear of one who, as it seems to me, loves the Church and the SSPX tenderly and is afraid – seeing conspiracies everywhere, as many old men do – that the organisation might be on its way to be infiltrated and go to the dogs. I wish we had, in the Conciliar church, more bishops as attached to the cause as bishop Williamson.
Thirdly, I would still prefer this man to the Nicholses, Schoenborns, Woelkis and Muellers of the world without any hesitation as he is at least, and with all his shortcomings, a sincere Catholic. If he were, say, at the head of the CDF he would still put Archbishop Mueller to shame for doctrinal integrity. Not difficult, I am sure, but still he would do it in a grand way.
Having said that: an embarrassment, and someone should talk to him in private and tell him he does not do himself any favour by not measuring his words and not insisting more on the necessity that the perhaps unavoidable rant remains in camera caritatis.