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Sedevacantist

Sedevacantism

'Heretical Popes'

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I am a cradle Catholic... I attended the true Latin Mass most of childhood before V2 came in. I could not stand the 'new mass' from the get go. I love your site and come to it daily to immerse myself in traditional prayers and teachings. I have no where else to go. But having been educated myself, I wonder why you still support the 'popes.' They are not true popes if they do not conform and/or teach dogma and tradition. I say this with all charity. On what grounds do you support them? ... The 'Novus Ordo' popes are not teaching the true faith and are leading millions to the gates of hell. We need sites to tell the truth about the what happened to the Church..."

 

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Thank you for contacting us. First, please let me say that we most definitely understand your concern with changes in the Church. Some thoughts on these changes can be found on our site in these locations... (click links to view)

* 'Tridentine' Mass vs. Novus Ordo Mass

* Changes Since Vatican II

* Vatican II and its Fruits

* False Ecumenism (Q & A)

* Etc.

Secondly, we would like to point out that have likewise been scandalized by actions of recent popes. It's probably needless to point out examples, but there have been many actions / statements / omissions / etc. in the recent past that have troubled us. We have not shied away from publishing material on our site that touches on these matters (hopefully as respectfully as possible). Nevertheless, despite these facts, we cannot agree with the sedevacantist position. Reasons we cannot agree with this position include the following...

* Popes in question were validly elected.

* Various pre-Vatican II popes also did not have 'spotless' records, but they clearly remained popes until their death.

* As mere lay people, we cannot set ourselves up as judge and jury over a supreme pontiff and formally declare him a heretic. Like it or not, this is simply not within the power of lay persons. And clearly it seems impossible that the all-wise God could have put in place a system where His lawful vicar could 'invisibly' lose his essential office upon an action that could be private and unknown to the general public for decades (e.g. secretly holding a heretical position).

* From a practical perspective, it would be difficult/impossible if the retention of a the papal office were subject to the individual judgment of the laity or if popes could 'invisibly' lose their office. Think seriously for a while over the implications of this.

* Surely the removal of a pope would have to require more than the (fallible) judgment of lay persons – lay persons do not have jurisdiction over the pope, nor would many/most people have the competence to deal with such matters (not to mention the fact that they would not have the protection of the Holy Spirit). If the supposed removal of office was automatic upon a prelate's adoption of heresy, how could we ever know the pope was no longer the pope? Who would make the determination? By what authority? And how could they do this without the protection of infallibility? And if the people determined a man was no longer pope, this would require election of a new pope, yet lay persons have no authority to elect a new pope.

* The sedevacantist position would completely destroy all certainty concerning our leaders. If persons could lose their positions automatically by adopting a heretical position, how could we ever be certain with regard to any prelate? There really could be no certainty because we don't know a prelate's thoughts on all matters. It's perfectly possible that a trusted and apparently orthodox pope secretly holds a heretical position on some matter. Besides the pope, lay persons also do not have authority/power over bishops or priests, yet it is known that various prelates have taught outright heresy. To be consistent, one adopting the sedevacantist position would also have to reject erring bishops & priests based on their own judgment (and likewise various sacraments of those bishops & priests). One would be permitted to think there could be no one left in the Church if this was taken to its logical conclusion with every lay person (orthodox or not) having an 'equal right' to reject a prelate upon their recognition of supposed (or actual) heresy. How could Christ's promise concerning the gates of hell ever be maintained with this type of 'private judgment' system? How could you have any certainty over your Confirmation? Your confessions? The Holy Eucharist at any given parish? How could you ever be sure that any given prelate didn't hold a single heretical position? Have you thoroughly questioned any single priest or bishop about the Catholic faith?

* Much of the trouble concerning post-conciliar popes' actions may ultimately be tied to a misunderstanding of infallibility. Infallibility is actually very limited (for more on infallibility, see here). One can make mistakes and still be pope, just like a mother/father can err without thereby losing their right to parentage over their children.

* We can (and should) reject any false teaching in accordance with scriptural instructions (e.g. see Gal. 1:8), but that fact alone does not give us the power or authority to remove/reject the lawful holder of an office. Lay persons don't have the power to confer an office automatically to someone who is orthodox, nor do we have the power or authority determine that someone has automatically lost their office by failing to be orthodox (small 'o', of course).

* The sedevacantist position employs rather simplistic logic that is not supported by scripture or tradition. Where in scripture or history does an erring prelate automatically lose his office? Were not rather the office holders' positions respected even while they were in error? (For example, see Matthew Chapter 23)

* Even Sr. Lucy, a Fatima seer (visionary of the Mother of God!), recognized post-conciliar popes as popes.

With the sedevacantist position, people must necessarily recognize different popes / bishops / priests. They can have no real certainty or tranquility. They must rely on individuals' fallible private judgment (individuals who, using sedevacantist logic, may "no longer be Catholic" because they held to some heresy). They surely must usurp authority not belonging to them (e.g. to 'elect a new pope'). They adhere to a 'parallel hierarchy' and may consider themselves the only "true Catholics". They disagree amongst each other. They have no realistic means out of their situation as long as they hold onto this position. They disagree with nearly all Catholics and even a visionary of the Mother of God.

For other arguments against sedevacantism, you could try online. You should find a number of articles that worthily refute the sedevacantist position.

In any event, we believe the solution to today's crisis (from a mere human perspective) is for Catholics to work from within the Church and to lead holy lives. We must also pray daily for the Church and for the pope and do what we can to help. Christ loves His Church and we must trust in Him and in His promises. While we cannot not blindly follow or accept scandalous actions of our leaders, we also cannot simply depose/reject them on our own authority. The sedevacantist position seems to me like a case of 'throwing the baby out with the bath water'. The office of the pope is too important for it to be lost invisibly or for it to be subject to the private judgment of individuals. Rather, it is a divinely protected office, that is exercised by human beings who may occasionally err. Christ did not promise us absolute perfection from our leaders, but rather infallibility is a limited protection. As the Church has stated...

"...with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not from the consensus of the Church, are irreformable." (Vatican Council I)

Outside of these limits, the popes unfortunately can & do make mistakes.


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