In the comments section to my post two weeks ago (5/30/16), a certain truculent reader derided Traditionalists as "delusional." This reminds me of the Communist regimes who label as "insane" anyone who doesn't agree with Marxism, consigning them to asylums. I challenged him to prove his assertion (I'm always up for a civilized debate). However, he wanted me to divulge my identity, which I refuse to do as I remain anonymous (a) so as not to expose my family and friends to repercussions from the enemies of the Faith in the world, and (b) because I have no ego--whatever good this blog may do, I give all glory to Christ, to Whom it rightfully belongs. Moreover, an argument stands or falls on its own merits. A sound, valid argument can be made by anyone, as can a fallacious argument. Therefore, my identity (and his) are of no consequence to the merits of sedevacantism.
The one telling remark he made, so common among Vatican II sect apologists, is that I was called by God to "this important work [i.e.my blog] for the invisible Roman Catholic Church anywhere except Rome." This is the argument that without a pope actually sitting on St. Peter's Chair in Rome, the Church loses Her visibility, which means sedevacantism cannot be true. While it is correct that the pope is the visible Head of the Church, even as Christ is Her invisible Head, it is false that the Church is 'invisible" without a pope to fill the Divinely established office of the papacy.
First, some preliminary remarks about the papacy are in order. According to theologian Dorsch, "The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, OR EVEN FOR MANY YEARS, from remaining deprived of her head. [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituta manet]. Her monarchical form also remains intact in this state.…
Thus the Church is then indeed a headless body.… Her monarchical form of government remains, though then in a different way — that is, it remains incomplete and to be completed. The ordering of the whole to submission to her Primate is present, even though actual submission is not…
For this reason, the See of Rome is rightly said to remain after the person sitting in it has died — for the See of Rome consists essentially in the rights of the Primate.
These rights are an essential and necessary element of the Church. With them, moreover, the Primacy then continues, at least morally. The perennial physical presence of the person of the head, however, [perennitas autem physica personis principis] is not so strictly necessary." (de Ecclesia 2:196–7; Emphasis mine)
Second, according to theologian Salaverri, instead of being a "primary foundation… without which the Church could not exist," the pope is a "secondary foundation," "ministerial," who exercises his power as someone else’s (Christ’s) representative. (See De Ecclesia 1:448)
The Vatican Council (1870) On The Papacy
The next mistake made by the defenders of the Vatican II sect is to distort the infallible teaching of the (real) Vatican Council of 1870, in its decree Pastor Aeternus which decrees:" Therefore,if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord Himself (that is to say, by Divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema." This has been wrongly interpreted by some as follows:
"The Visibility of the Church is directly linked to the Roman Pontiff. And while during an interregnum the church is "Popeless," for a short period of time, this is not a part of the ordinary constitution of the Church and must necessarily be of short duration. The longest interregnum in the Church to date is less than three years. If the sedevacantists are right, then the present interregnum is ten times greater than that one. Thus the visibility of the Church, embodied in the person of the Roman Pontiff is non-extant. In this awful scenario, the only true Church is constituted of individual priests and bishops in their respective chapels, none of whom have valid jurisdiction, and none of whom report to anyone higher than themselves as authorities. This is not a visible Church; it is a Protestant Church."
(Brother Andre Marie M.I.C.M--as approvingly quoted by Vatican II apologist I. Shawn McElhinney in his online "treatise" entitled A Prescription Against Traditionalism at http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/shawn.html ) I find it supremely ironic that McElhinney quotes a Vatican II Fenneyite, Bro. Andre Marie, who gets Catholic theology wrong at every turn in defense of his thesis that sedevacantism is a "heresy" because of the Vatican Council's 1870 decree.
The (1870) Vatican Council's definition was directed against heretics who contended that (1) the Primacy was an extraordinary power Christ gave to St. Peter alone, (2) Christ did not intend it to be passed along in perpetuity to his successors, and (3) this power either died with Peter, or was passed along to the Church or episcopal college. (See Dorsch, de Ecclesia, 2:191-2) The definition therefore means, "a primacy of true jurisdiction, together with a full scope of rights and duties would continue in the Church, and this in virtue of the will of Christ or by divine law." (Dorsch, Ibid 2:191)
Moreover, there was a de facto interregnum for 51 years during the Great Western Schism from 1378 until 1429, when Pope Martin V became the universally recognized pontiff. Prior to this, there were up to three claimants to the papal throne, all with arguments for their legitimacy. Only one (or none) could be the true pope. Which one was it? Mutual excommunications, appointing bishops and cardinals; to whom do you submit? Was the Church a "three headed monster" during this time? If you chose wrongly (in an age of limited education with no Internet or daily papers) are you "schismatic" and damned to Hell? There was no discernible pope, so according to the pope= visibility theory, the Church would have defected--an impossibility. That the Church is Indefectible is a dogma of the Faith.
Let's not forget the Great Apostasy foretold in the Bible, and taught by the Church. According to theologian Berry, "The prophesies of the Apocalypse show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition of the Church of Christ. Antichrist will assume the role of Messias; his prophet will act the part of pope, and there will be imitations of the Sacraments of the Church. There will also be lying wonders in imitation of the miracles wrought in the Church." (See Berry, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise , , pg.119; Emphasis in original) This is not incompatible with the visibility of the Church even though there most likely will be no real pope in hiding.
The real nail in the coffin was delivered by theologian Fr. Edmund James O'Reilly, one of the most orthodox and erudite theologians of the 19th century. He wrote a book in 1882 (a scant twelve years after the Vatican Council), entitled The Relations of the Church to Society — Theological Essays. On page 287, he writes in reference to the Great Western Schism:
"There had been anti-popes before from time to time, but never for such a continuance... nor ever with such a following...
The great schism of the West suggests to me a reflection which I take the liberty of expressing here. If this schism had not occurred, the hypothesis of such a thing happening would appear to many chimerical. They would say it could not be; God would not permit the Church to come into so unhappy a situation. Heresies might spring up and spread and last painfully long, through the fault and to the perdition of their authors and abettors, to the great distress too of the faithful, increased by actual persecution in many places where the heretics were dominant. But that the true Church should remain between thirty and forty years without a thoroughly ascertained Head, and representative of Christ on earth, this would not be. Yet it has been; and we have no guarantee that it will not be again, though we may fervently hope otherwise. What I would infer is, that we must not be too ready to pronounce on what God may permit. We know with absolute certainty that He will fulfill His promises; not allow anything to occur at variance with them; that He will sustain His Church and enable her to triumph over all enemies and difficulties; that He will give to each of the faithful those graces which are needed for each one’s service of Him and attainment of salvation, as He did during the great schism we have been considering, and in all the sufferings and trials which the Church has passed through from the beginning. We may also trust He will do a great deal more than what He has bound Himself to by His promises. We may look forward with a cheering probability to exemption for the future from some of the troubles and misfortunes that have befallen in the past. But we, or our successors in future generations of Christians, shall perhaps see stranger evils than have yet been experienced, even before the immediate approach of that great winding up of all things on earth that will precede the day of judgment. I am not setting up for a prophet, nor pretending to see unhappy wonders, of which I have no knowledge whatever. All I mean to convey is that contingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree." (Emphasis mine).
Summary and Conclusion
- The visibility of the Church is not bound to an actual, living pope on the throne of St. Peter.
- The Vatican Council's 1870 decree on the papacy has been misconstrued. The institution of the papacy is perpetual; there is no need nor guarantee of actual men to fill that See.
- The Great Western Schism sets historical precedent for a de facto interregnum of 51 years.
- The teaching of the theologians clearly shows a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time. Such a vacancy cannot be pronounced to be incompatible with the promises of Christ as to the Indefectibility of the Church.
- It is also taught by the theologians that it would be exceedingly rash to set any prejudged limits as to what God will be prepared to allow to happen to the Holy See, except for that which would be contrary to Divine Law (such as an "heretical pope"--an oxymoron)
My pugnacious antagonist in the comments section of 5/30/16 is like many members of the Vatican II sect whom wrongfully think the Mystical Body of Christ must have an actual pope to fill the See of Peter or the Church is "invisible." In the words of Bro. Andre Marie, if the Church is not visible by having a true and recognizable pope the True Church is really "a Protestant Church (sic)." What's really invisible to them is the Truth. "Do you have such hard hearts? ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’...(Our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in St. Mark 8: 17-18)