Thursday, December 19, 2013


Many of you will be aware of a theory that posits the Apostolic See in Rome has not been occupied by a genuine incumbent since at least the mid-1960s (some think Paul VI may have been Pope and forfeited his office during Vatican II) while most agree that the seat has been vacant since the death of Pius XII in 1958. Adherents to this theory, called sedevacantism, are tiny in number, even among traditionalists, because the idea is understandably odd or unusual to Catholic ears. What are the origins of this movement? What are its merits? Does it have theological or historical precedent? In a short period of time we shall try to answer some of these questions.
Note to sedevacantists: I will be referring to John XXIII, Paul VI, the two John Pauls, Benedict XVI, and Francis as popes because—as National Review journalist and sedevacantist Mary Martinez pointed out—we ought to discuss these men as the world knows them.


At first sedevacantism was not so much a movement or group within the traditionalist Catholic world as much as it was a private opinion. In the early days of the Society of St. Pius X the fraternity's efforts incorporated their own clergy—some of whom were sedevacantists—and diocesan clergy willing to work for the older rites and traditional teaching methods. In France the SSPX used the 1962 Missal. At Econe, according to a former postulant, they used 1965 with some modifications. The United States used "pre-1955," suggesting big bad Bugnini was the turning point in the liturgy and not his employer. And the rest of the world, both SSPX and diocesan, used liturgies pre-dating the papacy of Pius XII. A general chapter of the SSPX, held in 1977, confirmed recognition of these local usages and resolved to leave them alone.
Newly cassock'd Anthony Cekada
with Msgr. Lefebvre
All of this began to change in the early 1980s. The few sedevacantists in the SSPX, between nine and a dozen, held the Popes after Pius XII to be dubious in their authority and the 1968 rite of episcopal consecration to be outright invalid, consequently making ordinations of priests invalid. Around 1982, cognizant of his age and the growth of his canonically troubled apostolate, and desirous of legitimizing his work and consecrating a successor, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre began a six year long process of normalizing his relationship with Rome and Pope John Paul II. In order to give a good report of himself to Rome Lefebvre imposed liturgical uniformity on his Society in the form of the 1962 Missal and 1961 Divine Office. Moreover, he accepted into his Society priests ordained in the new rite and by bishops consecrated in the new rite. He even made his priests accept the local diocesan tribunal's decisions with regard to annulments. His point? To operate as closely to canonical norms as possible.
For his sedevacantist clergy accepting supposed non-priests, flimsy annulments, and a Missal published by an anti-Pope would not be possible. Lefebvre himself, a man given to changing his mind, at first thought the new ordination rites invalid, but eventually revised his opinion. Nine firmly believing sedevacantists published a letter to Lefebvre denouncing his perceived misdeeds, a missive that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Depending on one's perspective, the nine either left on their own accord or suffered expulsion from the Society. The nine, almost entirely American, decided to hang onto the Society's real estate in the United States, resulting in a law suit which allowed the Society to keep about half of its holdings while the nine get out with the rest, giving the sedevacantists a platform to launch their activities and hitting the restart button for the SSPX in America.
"How about Oyster Bay and St. Gertrude's for the rest of the Midwest?
The salmon's great, by the way!"
The newly formed Society of St. Pius V eventually split, with Frs. Sanborn, Cekada, and Dolan heading out West while Fr. Kelly and his followers remained in the northeastern United States. Kelley obtained episcopal consecration from Alfredo Méndez-Gonzalez, retired from his see in Puerto Rico, while Sanborn and Dolan found episcopal orders from descendants of Archbishop Thuc, retired ordinary of Vietnam who consecrated anything with a pulse and who could never quite decided if he too was a sedevacantist. The SSPV is not officially sedevacantist and gives Communion to other hardline traditionalists such as laity who attend Mass with the SSPX (although the SSPX does not necessarily reciprocate). The Dolan/Sanborn/Cekada group, in union with the CMRI on the West coast, excludes non-sedevacantists from its Sacraments and is, generally, more in line with the sedevacantist mainstream. The SSPV, scandalized by some of Thuc's choices for consecration, holds the validity of Sacraments descended from Thuc-ite bishops and priests to be dubious and hence discourages its followers from attending CMRI chapels or churches run by the Sanborn/Dolan/Cekada apostolate.
Bishop Dolan begins to consecrated holy oils according to the
un-reformed rites on Mandy Thursday.
Liturgically they are a mixed bag. The SSPV and Sanborn/Dolan/Cekada use the mythical "pre-1955" rites while CMRI, holding Pius XII to be the last Pope and his laws still "on the books," uses the liturgy as it existed in 1958. St. Gertrude's in Ohio, the main church in bishop Dolan's network, is possibly the most liturgically competent community in the world which follows the older Roman liturgy.

Who Are They?

With no statistics on hand, and none likely recorded, the following will be entirely anecdotal, but honest from the Rad Trad's perspective.
Sedevacantism is more or less an American phenomenon with small pockets in the French speaking world and in Mexico. These tend to be places where Catholic culture was very strong prior to Vatican II. The Church in America was expanding like the rabbit population in the Spring. France, although beleaguered by the Revolution, still had a strong Catholic culture in the countryside. Mexico's Catholic culture went deeper than either. When the Masonic president of Mexico, Calles, imposed violent anti-Catholic regulations the laity, athwart the laxity of the clergy, rose up in armed revolt and achieved complete victory over army and Calles government before Cardinal Gasparri convinced Pius XI to sue for peace and have the "Cristeros" surrender un-conditionally. While the Rad Trad cannot speak of the specifics of Mexico and France he can say that the places where sedevacantism thrives in the United States, particularly in Long Island, NY and in West Chester county, Ohio are areas that remain demographically conservative, white, and wealthy. In short, they are well suited to maintain the America of 1958.

Their Claims

Sedevacantists claim that the documents of the Second Vatican Council contain heresies and deviations from the accepted teaching of the Catholic Church. Additionally they claim that the new ordination rites are invalid as well as the Mass Paul VI promulgated in 1969. The Rad Trad has already voiced his opinion on the validity and legality of the Pauline Missal here and will not rehash old material now. Because the Pope is infallible and because the Church cannot be defective these heresies and vain rites cannot be part of the Church, reasons the sedevacantist. Therefor the men who brought about these errors cannot be true Popes. Ergo, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II—despite being validly consecrated bishops by sedevacantist standards—never obtained the Papal Office. Similarly Josef Ratzinger is only a priest and Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps not even a deacon.
They see the Second Vatican Council as the product of "modernism" which had crept about in obscure places for decades before finally manifesting itself in St. Peter's Basilica between 1962 and 1965 under the leadership of anti-Popes bent on creating a new and ecumenical religion. Because the Council was so arrantly un-Catholic and because the Pope cannot be wrong in matters of faith or morals, the Council is invalid and the Popes who put their seal on the Council were not Popes.
Bishop Rifan, ordinary of the Administration of
St. John Vianney in Campos, Brazil.
A secondary consequence of their view is that the Church hierarchy no longer exists. With no bishops outside of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches valid Holy Orders are only to be found in sedevacantist communities, the SSPX, and in Campos, Brazil. Eastern Catholics are in union with Rome, making them adherents to the new religion; the Orthodox are schismatic; the SSPX are schismatic from the sedevacantist perspective and exercise the detestable "recognize and resist" method; and the same problem with the Eastern Catholics applies to the priests under bishop Rifan. In short, it is sedevacantism or nothing. Authority has disappeared.
The last claim, and equally as serious as the others, is that the Popes after Pius XII could not possibly have been Popes because in his Cum ex apostolatus Paul IV forbade heretics, even furtive ones, from validly assuming ecclesiastical office. John XXIII and Paul Vi were obviously heretics and hence could not be elected to the Papacy.

Evaluating the Claims I: Validity of the New Ordination Rites

The central point of contention, before Cum ex apostolatus, is that the Pope cannot be the source of evil done to the faith. One would be hard pressed to find a graver evil than an absence of Sacraments, which is precisely what sedevacantists allege the Council and new liturgy accomplished. The new rite for ordaining priests, they argue, is doubtful and the new episcopal consecration is certainly invalid. Why? Because they fail the tests of Sacramentum Ordinis (Pius XII 1947) and Apostolicae Curae (Leo XIII 1896).
The first bull, by Pius XII, defines the exact formula for the consecration of a bishop according to the pre-1968 episcopal rites. He found the formula to be: "Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing" (S O 5). Of course were Paul VI not Pope the new rite could not be valid in contrast to the older rite merely because it is not the Roman rite. Then again neither is the Maronite rite. What would the new rite be to a sedevacantist? A schismatic rite of course. When was the last time a Pope judged the validity of a schismatic rite? When in 1896 Leo XIII declared ordinations done according to the ordinal of Edward VI invalid in his Apostolicae Curae. In this document Pope Leo determines that the form can be judged based upon what it means to say rather than its historical precedent. The intention of Anglican clergy was not to ordain priests and bishops in the Catholic sense, using the terms as euphemisms for other ideas and invalidating the rites on the grounds of form and intent (AC 33). More plainly: "A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do (intendisse) what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament."
What does the new rite of episcopal consecration say? "So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name." What is wrong with it? According to Fr. Cekada, working off of Pius XII directly and Leo XIII indirectly, a rite needs the explicit statement of what it confers and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Does the new rite have this? Fr. Cekada says no. The Rad Trad says yes!
Indeed, while the older rite is far more beautiful with its talk of perfection and fulfillment it is not on its own very clear and is given context by the examination before the Mass, by the anointing rites during the ceremony, by the enthronement, and by the blessing of the people (all things retained in revision in the new pontifical books). The newer rite is actually clearer on both counts. The much disputed "governing Spirit" term refers both to the Holy Spirit, Who came at Pentecost and is passed on in ordinations and consecrations, and the authority to teach and govern God's Church that He brings. Indeed, if Fr. Cekada is right and context does not save an iffy form then must we not conclude that the old rite, not the new, is invalid? This would be ridiculous of course, as would be declaring the new rite invalid.

Evaluating the Claims II: the Heresies of Vatican II

The Council is every traditional Catholic's compass for evaluating the state of the modern Roman Catholic Church. Religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), the relationship between the Church and non-Catholic religions (Lumen Gentium), and the relationship between the Church and the modern world (Gaudium et Spes) are the most controversial issues discussed at Vatican II and the most enduring problems flowing from the Council. Sedevacantists interpret these documents, or parts of them, to be a either a wholesale or subtle departure from the perennial "Magisterium" of the Church. This is far too great a claim to judge or consider in a single blog post, so we will  only ask a few questions and consider a few items for readers' private reflection.
Was the Church's teaching on religious liberty—something condemned by Gregory XVI, Pii IX-XI, and Leo XIII—beyond reform or just the teachings of the 19th and 20th century Popes? This is a very serious question. The theology of "Christ the King" is certainly very important and Our Lord deserves public respect and His Church deserves public recognition. But is the extent of this, such as a Catholic state, an actual dogma or just the Church's historical experience integrated into her theology? One would be hard pressed to dogmatize an idea not explicitly discussed prior to the 19th century. There is really little on the topic at all, if anything, in the Church Fathers. After Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire the Byzantine Church developed a theology of the Emperor as the living icon of God, a theological tradition that endured until 1453. The Roman Church was far more practical. The Pope would favor whichever monarchs helped the Church and the Papal States. It was not until the Europe built by Ss. Benedict and Gregory the Great out of the broken foundations of the Roman Empire began to collapse that a stronger relationship between Church and State entered common and explicit teaching. Given the anti-clerical, revolutionary, and secular dreams of the new European governments the Papal reaction was understandable and even laudable. What do we make of Dignitatis Humanae then? When the Rad Trad first read this [very] short document he was struck not only by the vague and un-directed articles of the document, which call for nothing specific and define nothing in particular, he was also struck by the recurrence of the word "coercion." In context we understand that DH was directed against Spain, where dictator Francisco Franco used Catholicism as a means of cultural consolidation. The lack of any particular directives, probably intentionally, gave the impression of a new teaching. The Rad Trad, for one, thinks the writers of the document intended this while the bishops mostly thought about disestablishment in Spain. This makes the document a break with the teachings of the Popes from Gregory XVI until Pius XI, but not necessarily heretical.

Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ
Patron saint of Americanism
Another point of contention is the belief proffered in Lumen Gentium that non-Catholic religions enjoy some degree of truth or communion with the Catholic Church. Is this not true with the Orthodox, who have valid Sacraments, a hierarchy dating to Apostolic times, and a genuine theological tradition dating back to the Desert Fathers, the Greek Fathers, and the Byzantine era? Sure, the separation from Rome is no small matter, but there is a world of difference between being Orthodox and being a lapsed Buddhist, is there not? This relationship breaks down greatly when discussing Protestantism; it breaks down even further in considering non-Christian groups; and entirely disappears in considering non-theistic religions.
Vatican II's great problem does not always seem to be ambiguity, but authority and ownership. What does Dignitatis Humanae really mean? What the periti wanted it to mean or what the bishops thought it meant at the time?—oddly John Paul II, Cardinal Dolan, and Archbishop Chaput all seem to favor the former. Does one have to believe in what was said in Lumen Gentium about non-Catholic religions? Is there any note binding Catholics to its words? This is especially troublesome because it departs from the approach of previous teaching, but in no part forces itself upon the faithful. And yet, despite its seemingly novel approach, does what it says not have some very narrow applicability? Questions, questions.

These questions could even be asked of Pope Pius XII's Mystici Corporis, a favorite of the FSSP/SSPX segment of the traditionalist world. MC, although it has good footnoting and is well grounded in the Fathers, promotes an organic and—dare we say—oriental view of the Church which at the time of its introduction was quite foreign. Readers of MC, mostly clergy, would have been accustomed to an organizational understanding of the Church or the "Church as a perfect society." While MC was not unprecedented it was certainly a break from the teachings of Pius XII's more immediate predecessors. Avery Dulles admitted as much.

Evaluating the Claims III: Cum ex apostolatus

Cum ex apostolatus by Pope Paul IV in article II excludes heretics and schismatics from obtaining office under the laws of the Church. It must be emphasized that this is a canonical pronouncement, not a religious one. The election of the Bishop of Rome is an act of business, not—as many wrongly believe—an act of God. People, according to the existing laws, vote for someone who, should he accept election and be a bishop, becomes the Pope of Rome. Cum ex apostolatus sets down administrative and canonical rules as to who can participate or be elected in that process.
There are three problems with using this criterion against the Popes from John XXIII onward:
  1. Heresy and schism are public acts against the Church's authority and teachings. Article 5 suggests in its first line that such deviations must be publically known before a cleric can lose his standing. Angelo Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Montini, Albino Luciani, and the rest did not incur the public judgment of the Church prior to their elevations. Indeed they all advanced greatly at the behest of Pius XII, the last man sedevacantists accept as Pope.
  2. When the law and the reality no longer agree the law is irrelevant. Did anyone really dispute the legitimacy of the Popes "elected" during the eras of Byzantine and Frankish dominion over the Papacy? No, even though, in principle, the people of Rome elected their bishop. A validly consecrated bishop was accepted by the laity and clergy of Rome, and by the Church abroad, as the Bishop of Rome and without any rival claimants. How could this man not be Pope?
  3. Was the bull superseded or voided with the introduction of the 1917 Code of Canon Law by Benedict XV? Certainly Pius XII's alterations make the longevity of the Pauline bull doubtful (see AAS 1946, 36).
Contrary to the sedevacantist view the general outlook of those who considered the matter seems to favor the legitimacy of a given incumbent of the Petrine See, even if the incumbent is a spiritually dangerous figure. St. Robert Bellarmine and Cajetan pondered this issue. Cajetan did not believe a heretical Pope incurs ipso facto deposition. Nor did Bellarmine, although Bellarmine did believe that a Pope obdurate in heresy after being accosted by the Church twice would lose his office (De Romano Pontifice II). As a possible proof that a public heretic can be elected Pope, the Rad Trad offers the example of Vigilius who, as a deacon, furthered the aims and ambitions of monphysite aristocracy in Rome and in Constantinople. Although he reverted to the orthodox position after his elevation and suffered tremendously for it, here, if anywhere, is a historical example of a man who appears to be a public heretic assuming the highest office in Christendom.

Historical Experience of the Church

Despite what opponents of sedevacantism would like to think, there are actually many historical precedents for the position, all of them on the wrong side of history.
The most consistent place for judging a Pope, real or potential, is in the setting of an ecumenical Council. Honorius I, who may not have even been a heretic, was anathematized by an ecumenical council after he died for his word choices in a letter decades earlier. Pope Innocent III in De consuetudine states that a Pope opposed to the customs and teachings of the Church need not be followed, not that he is not Pope. The robber-Council of Pisa comes the closest to sedevacantism and occurred at a time when, by sedevacantist standards, valid Holy Orders and a hierarchy still existed. Pisa, through the inspiring words of Simon de Cramaud, who announced that Pope Gregory XII and rival Benedict XIII
"are recognised as schismatics, the approvers and makers of schism, notorious heretics, guilty of perjury and violation of solemn promises, and openly scandalising the universal Church. In consequence, they are declared unworthy of the Sovereign Pontificate, and are ipso facto deposed from their functions and dignities, and even driven out of the Church. It is forbidded to them henceforward to consider themselves to be Sovereign Pontiffs, and all proceedings and promotions made by them are annulled. The Holy See is declared vacant and the faithful are set free from their promise of obedience,"
 proceeded to elect a credible anti-Pope named Alexander V, in turn succeeded by John XXIII. Pisa failed and the schism continued, but it did pave the way for a genuine Council at Constance a few years later, which deposed all three claimants to the Papacy and elected Martin V, a portly pontiff. Interestingly the Great Western Schism began after a dispute over the legality of a conclave's decision. Many holy men, including St. Vincent Ferrer, sided with the anti-Pope over the genuine one.

Where to Go from Here?

Sedevacantism, the theory's proponents will say, leaves one in mystery, but not in contradiction. Having spent the above words questioning whether recognition of Francis and his predecessors really does leave one in contradiction, the Rad Trad heartily agrees that the theory leaves one shrouded in mystery. Without cardinals, a hierarchy of bishops, diocesan clergy in Rome, a Frankish overlord, or a Byzantine emperor how can a new Pope be elected? A conclave is out. An ecumenical council is out. The only real options are a miracle from above or converting the people or Rome to sedevacantist Catholicism and having them elect a Pope as a mob, as was done in the first millennium. Given Europe's religious trends, Rome is more likely to embrace Jupiter or Saturn than it is to convert to sedevacantism.

Are They Catholic?

The Rad Trad, unlike other conservative or traditional persons, readily considers sedevacantists Catholics and not because he thinks their theory is a valid one. These men, like St. Vincent Ferrer, adhere in principle to the Apostolic See but make an error in judgment concerning the man who upon it. They do not deny the authority. They mistakenly deny the person who exercises it. This is not a minor error, yet it has precedent even among the saints.

Getting the Narrative Wrong

Conspiracy at work?
The most confusing point in the Rad Trad's mind is the choice of Pius XII as the last true Pope among sedevacantists. Pius XII, more than anyone, is responsible for the current state of the Catholic Church. It was during his Papacy that the new relationship between the Church and other religions and between Church and secular society was fostered. It was during his Papacy and under his very interested and watchful eye that the new liturgy was formulated and slowly introduced. It was during his Papacy that preliminary studies concerning an ecumenical Council were made. It was during his Papacy that the "Novus Ordo Popes" and their enablers rose through the hierarchy and gained positions of power. Paul VI was intended, if anything, to complete the work of Pius XII. In this he did not entirely succeed, but that was the goal, as Cardinal Heenan recounts in his autobiography.
So did not all these "errors" and "evils" really originate during the years of Pope Pius? Why not go after Benedict XV, who used very humanistic language in his writings about international affairs during World War I and who presided over a liberalization of the seminaries in Rome and Louvain which produced most of the world's bishops? John XXIII, a very quiet man who signed not one document of Vatican II, is an utterly absurd choice for an anti-Pope.

Understanding of Infallibility and Indefectibility

By conflating various issues—massive loss of faith, the introduction of new rites, instability, bad teaching—sedevacantists assume that should the recent Popes indeed be Popes then Our Lord Jesus Christ's promise that the "gates of hell would not prevail" against the Church would be violated. This is a narrow understanding of the Papacy grounded in the affairs and interests of the Popes in the 19th and early 20th century, an understanding which neglects the Church's historical experience in preserving her teaching and in judging its visible leaders. The decree Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I is far more conservative and light handed than most Ultramontanists, be they sedevacantists or Francis-ists, would like to admit. PA lays down the primacy of the Pope, the necessity of communion with him, and his infallibility when he defines a doctrine to be held by all Christians. In their eagerness to make infallible the encyclicals and decisions of the Popes from Gregory XVI until Pius XII sedevacantists lose sight of just how specific and limited infallibility really is. Too much infallibility, the kind Pius IX wanted to have, would logically lead one to sedevacantism. The promise of Christ to Peter and the teaching of Vatican I encompass very little. When viewed through the history of the Catholic Church and especially through the history of the Papacy one sees how little is actually promised to the Roman See, but also how firmly upheld that promise has been.

Quick Conclusion

Sedevacantism is a negative reaction to confuse and disorder that engulfed the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s. As a theory it misses critical distinctions and a broad theological and historical view necessary to comprehend the current affairs in the Church, instead discounting and discarding them in favor of Catholicism as it was known at a certain point in the past.
The Rad Trad hopes he was able to provide some reflections and insights into this phenomenon that readers have not found in the conventional traditionalist tracts concerning this matter.


  1. It is interesting that you refer to Mystici Corporis, Mary Martinez (to whom you refer) blames this for much of the mischief that followed in the 1960s and in THE UNDERMINING OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, describes its theology as revolutionary. But what about St Pauls' epistles ?

    1. Alan, thank you for reading. As I said above, I do not think Mystici Corporis is novel—as Ms Martinez did—although I do think it was a break from the self-understanding of the Church that prevailed during the Counter-Reformation and through the pontificate of Pius XI. The teaching is grounded in St Paul and in the Greek Fathers (they count, too!). Ms. Martinez is right is pointing out that the teaching was introduced as a way of transitioning to a looser understanding of what constitutes the Church (that word "subsist" never ceases to cause questions).

  2. Dear Rad Trad. Thanks for such an excellent summary. I really appreciate your ability to deflate some of the claims men like me have, wrongly, made in the past.

    Oncet, I was thinking about throwing-in with the Sedes but I could never bring myself to do it for the very reasons you note - with no Bishops and/or Cardinals, how will a valid Pope ascend to the Throne?

    Maybe letting Fr Cekada and Bishop Dolan have a duel, using swords, with the winner being declared Pope and the loser being declared a Saint by the winner us the way to go.

    I'll keep an eye out for such a suggestion to be advanced by Novus Ordo Watch.

    1. "Maybe letting Fr Cekada and Bishop Dolan have a duel, using swords, with the winner being declared Pope and the loser being declared a Saint by the winner"

      Would such an election be a public event?

  3. As to your caption "How about Oyster Bay...the salmon's great!", perhaps if they had stayed for the meatloaf! Joking aside, it does seem that the SVs are kicking into high gear now in the reign of Francis, and their allure can be quite tempting, especially as you rightly indicate that St. Gertrude's is a liturgical powerhouse (did you see their Christmas schedule?).

    One thing you didn't mention is the more nuanced subset of SVism called "Sede-privationism". I believe Bp. Sanborn, digressing from Cekada and Dolan, holds this position. Essentially it states that a valid election has taken place at each conclave since 1958, but the person elected is incapable of assuming the Papacy either because of being a heretic and/or not being a validly consecrated bishop in their estimation (i.e. Benedict XVI and Francis). I am to understand that if Francis were to adjure his "heresy" and received Orders from a bishop consecrated before 1968 that Bp. Sanborn would acknowledge him as the Pope. I suppose this position at least tries to provide an answer to the question of future conclaves in that somehow the clergy of Rome materially still exists, though all are in "heresy", to form a conclave. I fail to see how this position is more logically reasonable than the "recognize and resist" position of the SSPX.

  4. Interesting article, I am going to have to give at least another read. For some reason I had never really looked at the ambiguity of the "essential form" in the old rite of consecration. This is very interesting; what I wonder is why Cekada in his principal article on the matter claims:

    "For conferring the episcopacy, Pius XII designated as the sacramental form a sentence in the traditional Rite of Episcopal Consecration that unequivocally expresses the power of the order that a bishop receives and the grace of the Holy Ghost."

    When it isn't unequivocal at all by the standards he applies. What's more puzzling, this issue doesn't appear in the main objections he addresses. I'd be interested to see what he would make of this -- he actually comments around on the internet quite a bit, it's not unimaginable that he will see this.

  5. As a criticism it does seem that you glide over what seems to me to be the strongest sedevacantist arguments, the objections to the new ecclesiology taught in Vatican II. Is there actually any evidence that this new teaching in "no part forces itself upon the faithful"? It seems to be clearly an act of authentic ordinary magisterium.

    1. Hereward, thank you for your feedback. I did not go too far into the ecclesiology (only offering a few points for reflection) because of the vastness of the topic and because I only intended to give an overview opinion here. You are right in that the newer ecclesiology might purport to be an "ordinary magisterium" teaching; I said it does not *force* itself upon the faithful because it contains no explicit language at any point: "we declare" "we define" "we hold" "we teach" or "anathema sit." The extent of the Council's ability to bind is ambiguous and will remain so until a Pope or future council makes explicit statements of interpretation.

    2. Amen, and Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger refused Bishop Athanasius' request for a new syllabus defining what is and isn't binding in the council so we Christian Catholics must simply be faithful and patient and wait on the Lord.

  6. Have you ever thought about engaging the hosts and/or guests on the True Restoration Radio Network? Sometimes informative, more times entertaining (can't say I mind Fr. Cekada's sense of humor), very frequently peddling the SV position, either directly or indirectly. According to them, if you have a brain and don't subcontract it out to clergy (be it SSPX or otherwise), SVism is the one logical conclusion at which one can arrive.

  7. I appreciate and largely agree with your overview of sedevacantism. It comes at a fortuitous time for me, since I've recently been reading quite a lot about it online, pro and con, in an effort to get a bead on what they're about. My conclusion is that I'm a sedevacantist in theory, but a recognize-and-resist trad in practice. I believe that in a couple of hundred years, Catholic historians will look back on 1960-20xx and conclude that Vatican II really did create a new church, opposed to the true faith and given over to modernist heresy. However, I also believe that no good can come of maintaining that the See is actually vacant - only that it is currently occupied by benighted enemies for whom we must pray constantly.

    Having said that, I have an inquiry and a complaint. In your first paragraph under "Origins," you... well, look at that. All of a sudden, the word "mythical" has vanished from before "pre-1955." You must have been reading my mind. However, you do have scare quotes around "pre-1955," so you still must think that there's something fishy about the concept of liturgy before that year, and I'd appreciate it if you'd flesh that out.

    Now for the complaint: Two words later, we find "big bad Bugnini," an unmistakable sneer at his critics. It reminds me of how liberals sigh in exasperation over how conservatives are "still complaining" about the liberal slant in the media, as if the amount of time that's passed since that slant was first noticed has somehow rendered it obsolete. Yes, Pius XII approved Bugnini's Holy Week revisions, but he wouldn't have been able to do so if Bugnini hadn't proposed them in the first place. And of course, Bugnini's later career under other employers was, in the words of Lady Bracknell, "crowded with incident." Exactly how was Bugnini not big, and exactly how was Bugnini not bad?

  8. Oh sorry! "Mythical" is still there, just not in the place I thought it was. Okay, so how are the pre-1955 rites mythical? Thanks.

    1. cyrillist:

      I am poking a bit of fun at the idea of "pre-1955" because of the common reasoning behind the use of those books. As I stated, most traditionalists avoided *anything* published by Pius XII onward outside the SSPX. Sedevacantists, particularly the Cekada/Dolan/Sanborn congregation, and also independent clergy usually use whatever was in place in 1954 because they want to avoid the new Holy Week and create an elaborate legal argument about the longevity of the laws behind those rites in order to justify what they do. My own take on the matter would be to avoid anything from 1939 onward. Why? No legal reasons, no concerns for heresy, and not because Bugnini's involvement somehow diseases the rites. No, I say just use something earlier because the earlier books are plainly better and more in line with the Roman tradition. There are posts of mine on how the reforms of the Roman rite came about and also about the un-reformed Holy Week (check posts in March, April, and May) if you want my full thoughts on the matter. In short I am poking fun at their legalistic approach which is focused on Msgr Bugnini when they ought to be focused on what better glorifies God along the lines of Roman tradition.

      With regards to Bugnini, Pius XII went out of his way to hire him, and other disciples of Josef Jungmann, after reading a reform oriented essay by then-Fr Bugnini in Ephemerides. Pius, even in declining health and unable to receive visitors, still kept a careful watch over his liturgical committee's work and encouraged it. He also changed the primary liturgical axiom of the Catholic Church in his Mediator Dei. Indeed, Paul VI, in his bull Missale Romanum, quite plainly stated that he was only completing his mentor's work. Those interested in matters liturgical at the time knew major change was on its way and they also knew Pope Pius XII was the primary agent of that change. Blaming Bugnini is blaming the king's counsel rather than blaming the king.

      Thank you for reading my blog anyway and do check out those posts on the Reform of the Roman rite and on the old Holy Week!

    2. Thanks again - I'll have a look at your earlier posts. My reading thus far had left me with the idea that Pius XII:Bugnini::Theoden:Wormtongue, and if the bottom of the matter is further down than that, I definitely want to know about it.

    3. cyrillist, I take it Pius XII was Wormtongue and Bugnini Theoden? IMO it is peculiar to regard Pius XII as a 'true pope' in such a theology. If that was a 'true pope' I think I'd prefer an anti-pope any day.

    4. @Rubricarius: No, much of what I've read online portrays Pius XII as a failing Theoden, with Bugnini as a deceitful Wormtongue whispering in his ear. That way, Pius would appear to bear less responsibility for Bugnini's liturgical changes, even though he signed off on them.

  9. Dear Rad Trad. This is not germane to this post but I wanted to comment here and not in your previous posts in your series on reform.

    I really appreciate your summary and your points and I noted quite a bit of similarity between your assertions about local liturgy and similar points made by Fr Robert Taft.

    Did he have any influence on your ideas?

    Are you considering publishing your series as a pamphlet or book ?

    You ought consider doing so for you address many questions many soi disant trads have and you, knowingly or not, correct many misapprehensions many of those same men have.

  10. Dear Rad Trad. Ignore my question. I was just rereading your series and this time I was reading the commentary also and I saw you reference Fr Taft.

  11. First things first.
    The new rite of episcopal consecration.
    You say that it's valid, and that's it. Where's the argument? Oh wait..."The newer rite is actually clearer on both counts." And that's the whole argument.
    What's needed for form to signify is grace of the Holy Spirit and the Order received or it's specific power. Spiritum Principalem signifies Holy Ghost. But Holy Ghost is received in baptism and confirmation, hence it is not specific to Holy Orders. New Rite obscures and protestantizes the role of bishop and his powers. If you actually had researched this stuff you'd know that. Also if you had read the Order of Melchisedech by Michael Davies you'd know that the situation is almost the same with the rite of priestly ordination where Davies says that it parallels Cranmer's reform and that if this new rite is valid then Apostolicae Curae holds water no longer. Interesting remark indeed.

    Secondly, DH contradicts previous statements and condemnations because it speaks that religious liberty should become a law in every state and that public worship(no distinctions made) should be right of every man.

    About LG and degree's of communion with Church. All who aren't Catholics, aren't Catholic. It's that simple. It doesn't matter if the Orthodox have valid sacraments - most of them receive them to their own damnation(as st. Thomas teaches about reception of sacraments). Mystici Corporis and Satis Cognitum are clear on what separates a man from the Church. Heresy, schism and apostasy. It is the same separation which happens from different causes. MC and SC teach the same. MC maybe breaks in "style" but not in doctrine.

    Although Cum Ex speaks of ecclesiastical law, it is divine law that a heretic is not a member of the Church and thus cannot be it's head.

    Don't lie about Bellarmine: "Therefore, the true opinion is the fifth, according to which the Pope who is manifestly a heretic ceases by himself to be Pope and head, in the same way as he ceases to be a Christian and a member of the body of the Church; and for this reason he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the opinion of all the ancient Fathers, who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction, and outstandingly that of St. Cyprian (lib. 4, epist. 2) who speaks as follows of Novatian, who was Pope [i.e. antipope] in the schism which occurred during the pontificate of St. Cornelius: 'He would not be able to retain the episcopate [i.e. of Rome], and, if he was made bishop before, he separated himself from the body of those who were, like him, bishops, and from the unity of the Church.". He mentions the twofold admonition only in the begining of this chapter: " For, in the first place, it is proven with arguments from authority and from reason that the manifest heretic is "ipso facto" deposed. The argument from authority is based on St. Paul (Titus, c. 3), who orders that the heretic be avoided after two warnings, that is, after showing himself to be manifestly obstinate - which means before any excommunication or judicial sentence.". Do not misinform the people.

    1. About Vigilius from Catholic Encyclopedia: " It is true that there is an alleged letter from the pope to the deposed Monophysite patriarchs, Anthimus, Severus, and Theodosius, in which the pope agrees with the views of the Monophysites. This letter, however, is not regarded as genuine by most investigators and bears all the marks of forgery (cf. Duchesne in Revue des quest. histor. (1884), II, 373; Chamard, ibid., I (1885), 557; Grisar in Analecta romana, I, 55 sqq.; Savio in Civilta Catt., II (1910), 413-422]. The pope did not restore Anthimus to his office.". So yeah...Also one could apply the sedeprivationist thesis here - which you didn't mention at all. Very dishonest of you.

      About Pius XII and John XXIII you should read a bit more. There is a whole lot more to it. Pacem in terris and Mater et magistra were praised by freemasons and socialists as embodiments of their doctrines. And there is the argument that Pius XII liturgical changes were transitory. Also you should know that he condemned the nouvelle theologiennes and their doctrines in Humani Generis. I suggest researching more on those topics.
      Honorius wasn't a public heretic.
      And about the next Pope - well there's the sedeprivationism. Also there are more other views. Bellarmine speculated about Pope and cardinals dying of pleague simultaneously. He said that the authority to elect a Pope would be trasfered into the hands of clergy of Rome and the bishops of the neighbouring dioceses.
      Who are we to know what is likely or not? What if a miracle really happens? Who does know the ways of God.

    2. About the infallibility and indefectibility - you really didn't say anything.
      Dei Filius says the following: "Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed
      which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition,
      and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed,
      whether by her solemn judgment
      ***or in her ordinary and universal magisterium***." Ponder on this.

      About indefectibility: Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople, 553: “… we bear in mind what was promised about the holy Church and Him who said the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (by these we understand the death-dealing tongues of heretics)". So the gates of Hell is defined as heresy. Church has an "automatic self defense mechanism" which automatically cuts the heretic from Her and thus keeps Her pure from heresies. No matter how high-ranking the pronouncement; heresy is heresy. No matter if it is in a book, sermon, or encyclical. It has to be public(a book suffices). Also, according to 1917 CIC clerics don't enjoy the benefit of the doubt, and also for all delinquents malice is presumed if the delict is practiced in the external forum. You should read on that too.

      I suggest you stick with commentary on liturgy.

    3. Marko, what exactly did you intend to do by ignoring the article and copy/pasting Sedevacantism 101? Perhaps you'd like to try again?

    4. I didn't copy paste anything except for quotes from documents.

      Also about Pius XII i wanted to add the following. Although it is true that under his watch all those rampant liturgical innovations began, he wasn't a heretic. And the speak of the Church as a Mystical Body isn't at all innovative.

  12. The Sedevacantists are very right... and simultaneously very wrong. The reason is that Catholics on both sides of the divide must argue from a false premise. See this recently published book "THE SEDEVACANTIST DELUSION: WHY VATICAN II'S CLASH WITH SEDEVACANTISM SUPPORTS EASTERN ORTHODOXY" for a detailed explanation for Vatican II and the Sedevacantist movement.

    1. An excellent book that saved me and my family from the limbo of papism.

      Laying our pride aside and seeking the truth of Church history is eye opening... Years of research and inner struggles were finally healed. Cbrist preserved his Church and it remains a moving target for the Devil that can never be overcome... Contrary to the Roman claims I once praised.

      John C. Pontrello's book cannot be refuted.. even by the most invested stalwart sedavacantists like my former self.

      Personally I have made the journey to Orthodoxy.. and can never and will never look back.

  13. Frankly speaking, the NO liturgical device is so flagrantly protestant and so ritually abused that it cannot possibly be Roman Catholic. It is a subversive vehicle for liberal modernist philosophies and ecumenical deviation. It embodies liturgical revolt with subsequent deconstruction of Roman Catholic praxis. In its Lex Supplicandi it has produced a Lex Provendi of ecclesiastical chaos and religious indifference. Thus, how could any genuine Roman Catholic ever consider this noxious format valid.

  14. Rad trad your summary is provacative. Marko"s critique of the validity of the new episcopal form is right on. The old form clearly indicates a bishop in the phrases complete priest, and highest ministries. Spiritum pricipalim is ambiguous, can refer to any sacrament or to a civil authority, and its provience,trad. of hyppolytus is fake. Nor is it supported from eastern rites as its heretic author montini claims.A simple comparison to eastern rites proves conclusive. It is openly a fraud. My first impression on your analysis of Vat.2 documents that they had little or not binding authority they were balancing the 19th c. over reactionary also non binding teaching, that the church and its infallible and indefectible limits were are very narrow seemed good points. On reflection what I take is that Vat I and II and the intervening clarifications are worthless modernists gobledegook. No one knows what anything means. You admit and strongly imply that Vat2 and its church is modernist,therefore heresy of heresies, that Chaput, and jp2 are trads. really?? Who are you? Your Rad tradism is modernist in sheep clothing and thus worse than openly heretical Wuerl and Cupich. Resist and rcognize is completely ridiculous. You are Like many of my trad friends who loudly protest Jorge's new proclamation that the jewish covenant has not been revoked, (I believe actually first proclaimed by Paul vi.)but then deny the subvert heresy of Vat.2 now manifest and overt after 50years of destructive fruits. The faithful have been duped. When are you gonna get your head out of the sand? And really who are you??
    Thanks Larry

    PS My thanks,for every objection of sedevacantism Ive read helps confirm my position the new church is apostate proven by disunity of the faith and the faithful have be fooled, duped and in many cases do not even care. Glaring proof, I cannot think of any saints who would hold truck with the new church, And by saint i exclude, montini, wojtyla, and roncali, and juan diego.How low to turn a pius myth into a saint.

  15. An excellent and informative essay, punctuated by careful theological reflection.

    Of course this is not going to convince the fanatics already confirmed in their error-like Larry above. However, your analysis will help open up the hearts of many to the grace of healing and reconciliation. Keep up the good work!

  16. I grew up in the Novus Ordo during the 70's/80's.
    The NO has created 3 generations of sexually liberated atheists.
    Churches,seminary's,convents,etc.are closing & being sold to Muslims.
    The NO "liturgy" is a complete joke.People balance their finances while "mass" is happening.Women dress like complete street walkers and men dress like beach bum slobs.Children play and have no interest in "Mass".
    The kids instinctively know that nothing is happening on the "altar".
    The "priests" and "Bishops" are effeminate marxists who hate true catholicism.
    Muslims Jews Homosexuals etc are to be considered our "brothers & sisters."
    Our former Catholic families have converted to atheism,protestantism,Islam,
    Hinduism,and laugh/mock/ridicule the catholic way of life pre-1950's.(I say 1950's because this was the last decade of strong Catholic identity.. Not because of a deluded devotion to Pius XII.I agree P XII was a lousy Pope after 1950.Our chapel ignores the liturgical changes after 1950.No its not Dolan or Sanborn)
    If Almighty God's grace was present in these "new rites",half of these tragedies wouldn't be happening on a global scale.
    Just look at your present day country and what a complete sick nightmare we currently inhabit.
    You truly think the "New Order" is consistent with Jesus Christ and the deposit of faith?
    "Catholic women" march in lesbian parades and denounce the "patriarchy".The majority of Novus Ordo folks are just fine with legal abortion and "same sex marriage".
    You truly think grace is flowing from the Novus Ordo "priests" and "bishops"???
    If holding the sedevacantist opinion makes me wrong according to John Salsa,then call me wrong.
    I have to answer to Jesus Christ, not Bp.Fellay or John Salza.
    Thank you for your efforts regarding liturgy.I have learned a great deal from this blog.
    God bless you all.

    1. You may want to consider that in the [very Catholic] middle ages and Renaissance many "Massing" priests effectively sold the Sacraments without right to do so, the 15th century popes behaved like atheists, and sexual liberation reflected that of the late '60s in some Italian cities. Finding the moronic behavior of clergy and popes scandalous doesn't really equate to the validity or invalidity of Sacraments, although it might affect whether or not it is disrespectful to attend services where a disregard for holiness is arrant.

      Pius XII was the worst pope since Alexander VI, far worse than his "Conciliar" successors.

    2. I AGREE with you about Pius XII,re-read my comment.
      I stand by everything I originally stated.
      God bless you!!

    3. Paul VI gives Pius XII a run for his money.

  17. I liked your article very much, primarily because I found it very fair and non-inflammatory. Below are my thoughts on inaccuracies and strengths about it which occurred to me. Writing them down helped me clarify my own thoughts, but hopefully others will find my notes useful also. Full Disclosure: I'm a convert from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism, and I am Sedevacantist.

    ## New Ordination
    Original formula: "Perfect in Thy priest the fullness of thy ministry and, clothing him in all the ornaments of spiritual glorification, sanctify him with the Heavenly anointing"

    New formula: "So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name."

    You seem to agree that, "a rite needs the explicit statement of what it confers". If this right confers priesthood of some kind, shouldn't it mention "priest" somewhere? That's merely my own critique of the new rite, so I may not accurately represent Cekada or the SV movement as a whole.

    ## Heresies of Vatican II
    This goes back to the interpretation of infallibility as defined in Vatican I. If interpreted "broadly", then there are "infallible" Vatican II documents which directly contradict equally infallible pre-Vatican II documents. Thus, I think touch on the heart of the matter here: "Too much infallibility, the kind Pius IX wanted to have, would logically lead one to sedevacantism." I have frequently heard SV clergy emphasize that infallibility is broader in its scope than the post-V2 church will allow, so I think this is the key point of the entire SV position.

    ## Cum ex apostolatus
    I don't think SV's rely on Cum ex apostolatus to invalidate the post-V2 papal elections as heavily as you appear to believe. As John R suggested, some very prominent SV thinkers accept the validity of the post-V2 elections, yet deny the validity of these elected Popes because, as Marko stated (quoting Bellarmine): "...the Pope who is manifestly a heretic ceases by himself to be Pope and head, in the same way as he ceases to be a Christian and a member of the body of the Church; and for this reason he can be judged and punished by the Church." Note that Bellarmine states "Pope" (thus requiring valid election) and "can be judged" (thus making ecclesiastical judgement optional). Concerning Vigilius, even if he were a heretic at the time of his election, he would still have been valid according to the above theory expressed by Bellarmine and most, if not all, SV Catholics. Neither Honorius I nor the Western Schism provide examples of a Pope publicly professing belief in heresy.

    ## Where to Go from Here?
    I believe this is the strongest argument against the SV position for most people, as noted by "I am not Spartacus" above. As you both humorously and accurately point out, there is no SV Pope on the foreseeable horizon. The most realistic scenario, in my opinion, is that the election of an SV Pope is many decades or centuries in the future. There is nothing incongruous with prior theologians about this according to SV thought, though it is completely unprecedented.

    ## Getting the Narrative Wrong
    "The most confusing point in the Rad Trad's mind is the choice of Pius XII as the last true Pope among sedevacantists." Pius XII is the last Pope who neither professed nor taught heresy. John XXIII is confusing, I admit. Some SV's claim he *was* a true Pope (if I'm not mistaken), while others (most?) do not. In either case, his pontificate was so short as to make it virtually impossible to decide and almost certainly moot in the first place.

  18. "Pour out on this chosen one that power..." Which power? Holy Orders has several levels. Each level gives the ordinand powers associated to that level. This formula neglects to mention the powers to be poured out. The old Rite perfects the ministry. That is clear and indicates the fullness of Holy Orders which is a Bishop. The new rite is ambigious and forces the faithful to assume "the governing spirit" implies a bishop. Maybe it does, but maybe it doesn't. Can we even be sure that is a proper translation? You may hold the opinion that the new rite confers the episcopacy, but to say it is less ambigious than the old Rite is outlandish.