Bear Growls: Sedevacantism



Saint Corbinian’s Bear takes a look at Sedevacantism:


If you look at the Church post-Pius XII, you can’t deny the sedevacantists have plenty of evidence to support, how shall we put it, not so much a sickness in the Church, nor even an injury, but brutal and sustained torture. Only “the tortured Church” captures the malice, cruelty, danger and grief we have experienced over the last fifty years.

The Church has changed. Better, the Church has been afflicted by a multitude of changes, vandalized by wrong-headed and malicious people. Under Pope Francis, the changes have come at a dizzying rate, and they are not for the better.

So why, then, is the Bear not a sedevacantist?

Simply put, the Bear believes we can have destructive popes, men who are, for all their folly and mischief, still pope. The Church can be tortured, yet survive. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it, but beyond that there are no guarantees. The Bear cannot bring himself to accept that God would allow the Catholic “brand” to be taken over by anti-popes for half a century with no end in sight. A billion-plus souls look to Rome and Peter. Looking to Peter, even with his flaws, if only as a marker of legitimacy and unity, is the Catholic thing to do.

The final reason the Bear is not a sedevacantist is that is just doesn’t feel right. When looking at sedevacantist websites, the Bear has the same gut feeling as when he looks at 9-11 truther websites. Yes, the individual facts seem like they could be right, but the whole thing lacks balance. The evidence to the contrary is not considered. Ultimately, asking someone to believe everything they know is wrong is asking a lot.

Go here to read the rest.  A traditional maxim of English law is that the King can do no wrong.  In Catholicism an exaggerated view of the Pope became popular in the 19th Century.  Sedevacantism is a cry from the heart of those who can see that Popes can be very ill-advised and their actions disastrous.  It is a way of arguing that no true Pope could be guilty of such things.  Alas, Catholicism is replete with examples of papal misteps and worse.  Papal Infallibility as defined at Vatican I does not guard against foolish Popes, malicious Popes, even evil Popes. To pretend otherwise puts Catholics eventually in either the role of the Ostrich, or down a Sedevacantist path, unless their faith is shattered and they leave the Church as a result.  A Catholic who is familiar with the turbulent history of the Church, and realizes that the Church is a much greater institution than the particular Pope of the day, can withstand such temptations to despair or irrationality.

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  1. The trouble with the Sedevacantist position is that it really does not explain why, for example, those who anathematized Nestorius come to be regarded as “Catholics” rather than those who still accept his doctrines.
    As Mgr Ronald Knox puts it, “If you ask “Who are the Orthodox?” you will be told “The people who hold the Orthodox Faith.” If you ask them how they know it is the Orthodox Faith they say “Because it is held by the Orthodox Church.” And the Nestorians will say exactly the same of themselves and who is to choose between them?”
    By contrast, “[I]f you ask a Catholic “What is the Catholic Faith? ” and are told it is that held by the Catholic Church; if you persevere, and ask what is the Catholic Church, you are no longer met with the irritatingly circular definition “the Church which holds the Catholic Faith “; you are told it is the Church which is in communion with the Bishop of Rome.” It is a test and not a mere tautology.
    It is also a test remarkably easy of application; just what one would expect of the criterion of a divine message, intended for all, regardless of learning, capacity or circumstances.

  2. “It is a test and not a mere tautology.”

    If it is a test it is a two pronged one: to hold with the Catholic Faith and to be in communion with Rome. It does little good to follow the Pope if one does not hold the Catholic Faith, and the Faith is more than following every word uttered by the Pope of the day.

  3. The Catholic Church is the communion of saints with Jesus Christ as their head, the triumphant in heaven, the militant on earth and the poor suffering souls in purgatory. The ecclessial structure of the church with Jesus Christ as their head is Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ, and every bishop, who are still members of the church militant here on earth. If the Catholic Church adores and worship Jesus Christ in the Real Presence on the altar, Jesus Christ will guide and lead us to heaven. The separating of the members of the church and the Magisterium, the teaching members of the church, is very debilitating, since the Magisterium are members of the church militant on earth. This goes to say that the German Bishops who are changing the church’s teaching on who may and may not receive Holy Communion may not be present to God in heaven and may find themselves in hell with the souls who were condemned for receiving Jesus unworthily and in contempt. Their pomp becomes pompous, pompousness and pomposity. It is all right there in the Baltimore Catechism and in the Nicene Creed.

  4. Donald R McClarey wrote, “If it is a test it is a two pronged one: to hold with the Catholic Faith and to be in communion with Rome…”
    No, it is not. The “Catholic Faith” means “the belief of Catholics.” If the test is to be a real one, the term “Catholics” must have a definite meaning in extension, as the logicians say and “Catholics” means “the people in Communion with Rome.”
    Of course, the Faith does not mean “every word uttered by the Pope of the day,” for no pope has ever excluded from his communion everyone who disagrees with his mere opinions.
    Certainly, as Knox notes, “those in communion with Rome” means “the people who are so orthodox that Rome has seen no reason to excommunicate them, so that unity and orthodoxy still react upon one another. But the fact remains that the Roman theory does give a test for defining the fideles without the question-begging preliminary of ascertaining who the fideles are, from an examination of their tenets.”

  5. “No, it is not.”

    Yes, it most certainly is. For example, it was not necessary for Catholics to agree with Pio Nono on his Syllabus of Errors in order for them to be Catholics in good standing, although quite a few Catholics at the time, probably including Pio Nono, would have heartily disagreed. Now how can I safely say this? Because subsequent Popes have disagreed with most of the Syllabus of Errors. Pio Nono was obviously raising contentions in the Syllabus that time have established were not essential parts of the Faith. Popes often have had favored hobby horses that they have attempted to lend the prestige of the Faith to. Papal rule of the Papal states was an obvious example of this, a subject dear to the heart of Pio Nono, and a subject he dwelt upon in the Syllabus of Errors. Time has proven that the secular role of the Pope is not an essential part of the Faith. The Faith and its doctrines are different from the statements of the Pope of the day except for ex cathedra statements. Certainly that is the casual way most Popes deal with the actions and statements of their predecessors with which they disagree.

  6. Donald R McClarey,
    The Syllabus is an excellent test case. One has only to read the devastating criticism of it in Bl John Henry Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, reminiscent of his treatment of the XXXIX Articles in Tract XC. No censure from Rome was forthcoming. The Syllabus was something about which Catholics could disagree without breaking communion.
    The “Catholic Faith” is simply the body of belief that Catholics hold in common, as revealed by God. Much of it is implicit and we refer to it as Tradition. Newman describes it thus, “It is latent, but it lives. It is silent, like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it. It is the Church’s unconscious habit of opinion and sentiment; which she reflects upon, masters, and expresses, according to the emergency. We see then the mistake of asking for a complete collection of the Roman Traditions; as well might we ask for a full catalogue of a man’s tastes and thoughts on a given subject. Tradition in its fullness is necessarily unwritten; it is the mode in which a society has felt or acted during a certain period, and it cannot be circumscribed any more than a man’s countenance and manner can be conveyed to strangers in any set of propositions.”
    Now, this “Church,” this “society,” of which Newman speaks, is composed, both inclusively and exclusively, of those in visible communion with Rome. Only in this way can it be identified or ascertained.

  7. “Foolish popes, malicious popes, even evil popes…”

    I am not a “sedes”, but I sure wonder often what the inferno is going on with the Pope.

    If he doesn’t care enough to take care of the Church and the Faith, we will have to do what we can to form up and hold ground at Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge and hope that Pickett doesn’t break through this time. Mind the “fish-hook”, boys!

  8. This article reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s statement endorsing Christianity as the belief system that results in the healthiest mental state. Sedevacantism, not so much.

  9. (3) Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike. – St. Vincent of Lerins: The “Vincentian Canon”, AD 434 – Source.

    Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna – St. Ambrose of Milan.

  10. @FMShyanguya wrote, “Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.”
    That, of course, was the great maxim of the Tractarians of the Oxford Movement in the 19th century, beautifully satirised by Bl John Henry Newman, when he imagines a Tractarian of the school of Keble or Pusey saying:-
    “I read the Fathers, and I have determined what works are genuine, and what are not; which of them apply to all times, which are occasional; which historical, and which doctrinal; what opinions are private, what authoritative; what they only seem to hold, what they ought to hold; what are fundamental, what ornamental. Having thus measured and cut and put together my creed by my own proper intellect, by my own lucubrations, and differing from the whole world in my results, I distinctly bid you, I solemnly warn you, not to do as I have done, but to accept what I have found, to revere that, to use that, to believe that, for it is the teaching of the old Fathers, and of your Mother the Church of England. Take my word for it, that this is the very truth of Christ; deny your own reason, for I know better than you, and it is as clear as day that some moral fault in you is the cause of your differing from me. It is pride, or vanity, or self-reliance, or fullness of bread. You require some medicine for your soul; you must fast; you must make a general confession; and look very sharp to yourself, for you are already next door to a rationalist or an infidel.”

    That is why Newman came to embrace the maxim of St Ambose that you cite.

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