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Sedevacantism: A Quick Primer

Links to essential reading, updated October 2014

by Rev. Anthony Cekada

imagesSINCE THE ELECTION of Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) by the March 2013 conclave, more and more Catholics have started to wonder whether the sedevacantist explanation for the state of affairs in the post-Vatican II church might not indeed be the correct one. After all, how can you reconcile the countless outrageous public statements that Bergoglio has made (no Catholic God, who am I to judge, doctrinal security is not possible, proselytism is nonsense, etc.) with the claim that he is indeed the true Successor of Peter? On the face of it, you can’t.

The only explanation that makes any sense alongside the Catholic (pre-V2) theology of the Church and the papacy is sedevacantism. Bergoglio is not a real pope, and the papal office is therefore objectively vacant (sede vacante = the Holy See is vacant). The man who deposited a beach ball on the altar of a Roman basilica, donned a clown nose, and told Protestants he wasn’t interested in converting them is not, thank God a real pope, despite the fact that he wanders around in a white cassock.

Because of the upsurge in interest in sedevacantism, therefore, I decided to put together a quick primer to give newcomers an overview.

1. The Sedevacantist Argument in Brief

We have published this little summary of the argument many times over the past decades, and it will be helpful to do so again here. The argument is essentially the same for all the post-Vatican II “popes,” even though its force has become much more evident with the arrival of Bergoglio.

  1. Officially-sanctioned Vatican II and post-Vatican II teachings and laws embody errors and/or promote evil.
  2. Because the Church is indefectible, her teaching cannot change, and because she is infallible, her laws cannot give evil.
  3. It is therefore impossible that the errors and evils officially sanctioned in Vatican II and post-Vatican II teachings and laws could have proceeded from the authority of the Church.
  4. Those who promulgate such errors and evils must somehow lack real authority in the Church.
  5. Canonists and theologians teach that defection from the faith, once it becomes manifest, brings with it automatic loss of ecclesiastical office (authority). They apply this principle even to a pope who, in his personal capacity, somehow becomes a heretic.
  6. Canonists and theologians also teach that a public heretic, by divine law, is incapable of being validly elected pope or obtaining papal authority.
  7. Even popes have acknowledged the possibility that a heretic could one day end up on the throne of Peter. In 1559 Pope Paul IV decreed that the election of a heretic to the papacy would be invalid, and that the man elected would lack all authority.
  8. Since the Church cannot defect, the best explanation for the post-Vatican II errors and evils we repeatedly encounter is that they proceed from individuals who, despite their occupation of the Vatican and of various diocesan cathedrals, publicly defected from the faith, and therefore do not objectively possess canonical authority.

For a rather easy-to-digest explanation of this argument, I suggest my short video, Sedevacantism: How to Tell Aunt Helen.

 

TradsInfallCover2. Links to Essential Reading

For those inclined to investigate further, here are links to articles that provide a deeper explanation of the foregoing argument, together with citations to the writings of popes, theologians, canon law experts, and saints whose writings provide the unassailable basis for the sedevacantist argument in Catholic teaching. The first three articles are from the pre-Francis era:

  • Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope. Rev. Anthony Cekada. A clear and concise survey of the sedevacantist argument, based on the teachings of pre-Vatican II canonists, dogmatic theologians and popes. First published in 1995 as a booklet, and revised in 2006 to address various objections, Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope has enjoyed a world-wide circulation. Despite its continuing popularity, it is the one major treatise on sedevacantism that the Society of St. Pius X has never even attempted to answer. We are happy to make it available here on-line for the first time in its 2006 edition.
  • Resistance and Indefectibility. Most Rev. Donald J. Sanborn. The authority of the Church cannot give evil. The positions of the Fraternity of St. Peter/Indult, SSPX, and sedevacantists on the Vatican II changes, analyzed in light of this principle. (Sacerdotium 1, Autumn 1991)
  • Resisting the Pope, Sedevacantism and Frankenchurch. Rev. Anthony Cekada. A short case for sedevacantism. Can one recognize and then ‘resist’ a true pope? The nature of heresy. Ratzinger’s ‘Frankenchurch’ heresy that denies an article of the Creed: I believe in one Church. (Remnant, November 2005)

The fourth article zeroes in on how these principles apply to Francis:

  • Bergoglio’s Got Nothing to Lose. Rev. Anthony Cekada. Theologians and canonists teach that a man who is a public heretic cannot become a true pope, and that the rule is a matter of divine law. Since Bergoglio is a public heretic, the conclusion is clear and self-evident: he cannot be a true pope. He was never a real pope in the first place. This principle also sweeps away a host of common objections to sedevacantism that one heard from traditionalists in the SSPX and R&R camps in the past. (Quidlibet, May 2014)

For still more reading on the topic, I recommend that you work your way through the Sedevacantism section on the Articles Page of traditionalmass.org.

3. Responses to Some Typical Objections

Naturally, apologists for Vatican II groups and traditionalist organizations like the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) have tried to raise various objections to sedevacantism. Here are some typical objections put forth over the years and links to articles that answer them:

Also of interest for those who have come across various SSPX polemics against sedevacantism: a collection of quotes from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre that favor the sedevacantist position:

NOWatchLogo4. Bergoglio News Updates

The foregoing sections provide material that lays out the general theological arguments for sedevacantism. It is necessary for the well-informed traditional Catholic, however, to keep current on events as they actually unfold in the Vatican from day to day. This will provide lots of material for discussion with Catholics who are vaguely unsettled by Bergoglio’s antics, but fuzzy on a lot of the details.

For this, there is no better source than Novus Ordo Watch. It provides pithy summaries what Bergoglio and company are up to, as well as longer analytical articles. It also provides a handy page of quotes from Catholic sources that are most pertinent to the current crisis.

5. Updated List of Articles on Bergoglio

We have periodically published articles here on Quidlibet analyzing the major themes that have emerged so far in Bergoglio era. Here is a list that we will try to update as new articles are posted:

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THIS MATERIAL, we hope, will provide a good primer for Catholics curious about sedevacantism, as well as refresher course on the main points for those who have already adopted the position.

Remember: All traditional Catholics are in fact sedevacantists — it’s just that not all of them realize it yet!

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