Bishop Richard Williamson, recently expelled from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), is thinking of consecrating a new bishop for the Society of St. Pius X of the Strict Observance (SSPX-SO). Bp. Williamson's new organization will go the way of the SSPX under Bishop Fellay only slower. Chalk it up to his near pathological refusal to realize that the post-Vatican II "popes" are heretics who cannot be the Vicar of Christ. In his most recent e-letter (entitled "Eleison Comments"), he discusses the same old worn out disproven arguments against sedevacantism.
Under the banner of "Sedevacantist Anxiety II," Bp. Williamson makes straw-man arguments of the sedevacantist position which he then "refutes." He presents four (4) such caricatures which I will summarize with my comments below in red.
- You must either recognize the Vatican II so-called popes "all the way" (like the "liberals") or you must refuse them "all the way" like sedevacantists. This is not true. One must adopt the middle course of Archbishop Lefebvre which is not picking and choosing like a heretic, but picking and choosing according to Tradition.
In a lengthy article, the pre-Vatican II theologian G. Bardy demolished this theory, because the right "to fix and define authentic tradition... belongs to the Church, as inheritor of apostolic succession." Without this, St. Vincent's dictum (i.e. to teach the same as was taught "everywhere, always and by everyone") "appears to leave each individual free to seek out which dogmas are accepted everywhere, always and by everyone," thus leaving "to personal choice the right to judge in the last resort."
This, Canon Bardy noted, was the error of the Gallicans and of the proto-modernist Döllinger (later excommunicated), who opposed papal infallibility at Vatican I. (Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique 15:3051) So if you have a true pope you CAN'T decide according to Tradition, because only the competent authority can do that; sedevacantists recognize that there is no such authority and hold on to the Faith as it was prior to the defection of the hierarchy.
2. Popes in the past have "poisoned" the Faith, like Pope Liberius, yet he was still the pope, and St. Athanasius was the prototype of Archbishop Lefebvre in leading the true remnant Church.
Hero worship at its worst combined with ignorance of both Church history and theology. Opinions differ on whether or not Pope Liberius signed a statement detrimental to the Faith. Most importantly, he was imprisoned and threatened with death, which is no excuse for not standing up boldly for the Truth, nevertheless means the statement was coerced and not of his own free will which is necessary for the pope to be a heretic.
3. The Ordinary Magisterium of the Church is infallible. Vatican II is part of that Ordinary Magisterium and has taught "nonsense," therefore, the post-Vatican II popes were not popes. However, if something goes "way outside" of what the Church has always taught (e.g. ecumenism, religious liberty, etc.). then it's not part of the Ordinary Magisterium and does nothing to prove the post-Vatican II popes as antipopes.
If something goes outside the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium ("way outside" or just plain "outside"), then it is EVIL and could NOT have come from the Church.
"The Church’s infallibility extends to… ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living.… But the Church is infallible in issuing a doctrinal decree as intimated above — and to such an extent that it can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls.…If the Church should make a mistake in the manner alleged when it legislated for the general discipline, it would no longer be either a loyal guardian of revealed doctrine or a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. It would not be a guardian of revealed doctrine, for the imposition of a vicious law would be, for all practical purposes, tantamount to an erroneous definition of doctrine; everyone would naturally conclude that what the Church had commanded squared with sound doctrine. It would not be a teacher of the Christian way of life, for by its laws it would induce corruption into the practice of religious life." [Van Noort, Dogmatic Theology. 2:91. His emphasis.]
4. Lastly, Modernism is the "synthesis of all heresies" as taught by Pope St. Pius X. The post-Vatican II popes are Modernists and therefore "public and manifest" heretics who can not be popes. However, because of the "confusion of minds and hearts" that exists today, there is a difference between objective and subjective heresy. Objectively, what they say is heretical, but we don't know if it's subjectively heretical since we can't read their minds, and there is no ecclesiastical court that can judge the pope.
Really? As to the need for an ecclesiastical court, when canonists and theologians say that “heresy” automatically deprives a pope of his office, they are referring to the sin of heresy, not to the canonical crime of heresy. Secondly, you don't need to be a mind reader to know the man claiming to be pope is a heretic and therefore does not hold the office.
As to "reading minds," the canonist Michel writes:“Because the act of heresy is an erroneous judgment of intelligence to commit the sin of heresy it suffices to knowingly and willingly express this erroneous judgment in opposition to the Church’s magisterium. From the moment that one sufficiently knows the existence of the rule of the faith in the Church and that, on any point whatsoever, for whatever motive and in whatever form, one refuses to submit to it, formal heresy is complete.” (“Héresie, Héretique,” Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique [Paris: Letouzey 1913–1950] 6:2222)
There is a fifth objection that the Church is a "hopeless mess" which I will not even address, since no serious sedevacantist holds out such an argument. Unless Bishop Williamson gets a healthy dose of reality and forever rejects Antipope Francis, his organization will rot away with creeping Modernism; as does every organization that wants to recognize a heretic and escape the inevitable tendency to want to be united with him. As true Traditionalists (i.e. sedevacantists) we have good reason to be anxious, because we see the incredible evil taking over the world since Vatican II and we know that it could never come from the Church, but apostates who occupy formally Catholic buildings. Be afraid, Bishop Williamson, be very afraid.