I finished reading a small book by the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) entitled, Sedevacantism: A False Solution to a Real Problem published by the Society's Angelus Press. It's rife with truths, half-truths and outright falsehoods, all nicely interwoven to give an aura of dogmatic certitude to the Society's position that sedevacantism is an "error."
I will now focus on some of the major points which misrepresent sedevacantism, and attempt to reinforce the SSPX's theological errors.
- The book categorizes sedevacantists as either “Rigerous, “Conclavist” or followers of the Cassiciacum thesis. Let us first of all consider the latter, which can be superficially characterized as holding that we have a pope who has no authority, but whose authority would return if he returned to the faith. Now while this latter position is advocated by some highly intelligent individuals – Guerard des Lauriers, Bishop McKenna, Bishop Sanborn--just to name a few--the average "garden variety" sedevacantist does not know about this thesis or adhere to it. All they know is the theological truth that a heretic can't be pope. How we get a pope back; divine intervention, an imperfect general council, or the material/formal pope of the Cassiciacum thesis is up for grabs at this point. Technically speaking, the Cassiciacum thesis is known as sedeprivationism, meaning that the seat of Peter is deprived of it's power and the "pope" is a material pope, not a formal one. It's like the President of the United States who declares himself temporarily incapable of performing the authority of his office. Pursuant to the 25th Amendment, he retains the office, but with none of its powers which will be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President until the disability is removed. (This happened on July 15, 1985 when President Reagan needed surgery. For four hours, VP Bush was Acting President Bush until Reagan came out of anesthesia.) In sedeprivationism, the "pope" holds the office, but with none of its power unless and until he publicly abjures the heresy of Modernism as contained in the documents of Vatican II.
- .While it is true that there are a moderate number of “conclavists” and a veritable host of “popes,” (either self elected or followed by relatively small groups of people), the fact remains that the sedevacantist position is in no way tied to such groups. While it is regrettable that we do not have a true pope able to direct the activities of the Church, it should be clear that there is nothing that prevents any Catholic from being Catholic. Such has always been the case during periods characterized as being “inter-regnum.” As Catherine Emerick said, if there is only one Catholic in whom the faith exists, the Church resides in him.
- To call sedevacantists "rigorous" implies a kind of fanaticism, when in fact it's founded on very sane theological principles taught by all pre-Vatican II theologians.
- The sedevacantists are accused of holding that the "teaching Church no longer exists." This is false. The Church can exist without a live pope to sit on the throne. We may have to wait for the Restoration of the Visible Head of the Church, but the alternative is heretical; namely the Ordinary Universal Magisterium can teach error which contradicts the dogma of the Indefectibility of the Church. Ironically, the author accuses sedevacantists (i.e. Traditionalists) of denying the Indefectibility of the Church since he confuses the Church proper with indefectibility of the teaching hierarchy; the latter of which CAN happen.
- The author casts doubts on the validity of the Thuc consecrations on the grounds that he consecrated some individuals who were in one way or another unqualified. This is a red herring. First, it has nothing to do with disproving sedevacantism. Second, plenty of bishops have ordained/ consecrated unworthy individuals. As long as they applied due diligence, you can't blame them for the bad actions of others. Third, validity and worthiness are two separate issues. The proper principles of sacramental theology were not applied. A worthy candidate can be invalidly ordained/consecrated, and an unworthy candidate can be validly ordained/consecrated.
- In conclusion, the book never lets us face the reality that to follow the post-Conciliar “popes” requires that we become apostates as they have. The choice is clear. Either we obey the post-Conciliar "popes", or we declare that the current pseudo-pope and the bishops in union with him are themselves not in the One True Church. The SSPX gives a false solution to a real problem. If they do not soon adopt the true Traditionalist position of sedevacantism, they have no solutions to offer and, in effect, become part of the problem itself.