Sadly, the recent crisis in the Fraternity has produced a new text attacking sedevacantism. This time it's in the form of an editorial by Abbé Renaud de la Motte.http://www.laportelatine.org/district/p ... stol61.pdf
We have just last week been reassured that the main focus of the opposition to Bishop Fellay, that is, Bishop Richard Williamson, is definitively against the sedevacantist position. Now the Fraternity is asserting through one of its leaders that it too is firmly against the same theological opinion. So the battle within the Fraternity is anti-sedevacantist versus anti-sedevacantist. It is curious, in such circumstances, that both sides feel the need to eschew sedevacantism. I hope that now that they have done so, and having agreed that sedevacantism is irrelevant to the recent troubles in the Fraternity, they can move on and leave the subject alone.
At least these recent affirmations against our view suggest one long-standing reality - "sedevacantism" is attractive to traditional Catholics, and must be actively combatted if it is to be prevented from convincing many more of us.
Let's perform a quick review of the arguments presented in this latest salvo.
First, we are reminded of the parable of the wheat and the tares. St. Augustine's commentary is invoked, and we are told that this parable answers the sedevacantist position. How so? Because God will remove the tares in His good time, and not we mere men. The implication is that sedevacantists are guilty of impatience, and of usurping the sovereign rights of God. These are grave charges indeed.
However these accusations rest upon a complete misconception of St. Augustine's thought, and a misunderstanding of the parable. If it were accurate, it would condemn the Catholic Church in her excommunication of heretics and certain types of sinners. It would condemn her likewise in her calls upon the civil power to repress heresy and certain types of sin. Indeed, the parable refers to the Day of Judgement, when Christ will order the tares to be gathered into bundles and burned. Was Our Lord condemning all application of justice in this world, by the Church and by the civil power taught by the Church? Obviously not, and it would be heretical to assert it.
St. Thomas explains, "the meaning of Our Lord's words, 'Suffer both to grow until the harvest,' must be gathered from those which precede, 'lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root the wheat also together with it.' For, Augustine says (Contra Ep. Parmen. iii, 2) 'these words show that when this is not to be feared, that is to say, when a man's crime is so publicly known, and so hateful to all, that he has no defenders, or none such as might cause a schism, the severity of discipline should not slacken.'" (S. Th. II-II, Q. 10, Art. 8, Reply Obj. 1).
Further on, St. Thomas, answering the question, "Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?" presents the following objection: "Obj. 3: Further, the Master commanded his servants (Mt. 13:30) to suffer the cockle 'to grow until the harvest,' i.e. the end of the world, as a gloss explains it. Now holy men explain that the cockle denotes heretics. Therefore heretics should be tolerated." And he replies: "According to Decret. (xxiv, qu. iii, can. Notandum), 'to be excommunicated is not to be uprooted.' A man is excommunicated, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 5:5) that his 'spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord.' Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord's command, which is to be understood as referring to the case when the cockle cannot be plucked up without plucking up the wheat, as we explained above (Q. 10, Art. 8, ad 1), when treating of unbelievers in general."
Clearly, the injunction is not against the uprooting of evil men, as such. It is qualified, and the Church has certainly always understood it in that manner.
So much for the terrible (actually, Protestant and anti-Thomistic) interpretation of this parable presented to the faithful by Abbé de la Motte.
There is, of course, a lesson for all traditional Catholics in the parable of the wheat and the tares, since the situation in the Church is so thoroughly confused and mysterious, that many men of good will are caught up in the false worship of the Novus Ordo Missae
, for example. If anybody is inclined to judge his neighbour unnecessarily, let him take heed. If anyone accuses of heresy those who are merely confused, without obvious pertinacity, let him take heed. If anybody is so perverse as to prefer his own opinions to the unity of the faithful, let him consider the instruction of Our Lord in this parable.
And there is a lesson in St. Thomas's commentary. Manifest heretics are not in the category of those who, if uprooted, might take the wheat with them. The contrary is true. If not
uprooted, heretics remain a clear and present danger to the faithful. The present doleful situation provides more proof of this reality than any reasonable man could demand.
Why is there no danger that in dealing with such heretics firmly, the wheat will be uprooted? Precisely because they are, as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and many other fathers affirm, outside the Church by their own act. They are not tares mixed with the wheat. They have gone out from us, because they were not of us. They have left the Church by their own act, separating themselves from the unity of faith.
The only legitimate argument along the lines suggested in this editorial, against the sedevacantist position, is that the post-conciliar popes have not been manifest
heretics; that in fact the sedevacantists are mistaken
in so identifying them. Such an argument would respect the doctrine of the Church, and restrict itself to the question of fact. This is how Archbishop Lefebvre approached the matter.
Second, the editorial asserts that "all forums" "often injure charity and lie in their statements." Not this one, where exactness in doctrine and fact is expected as a minimum standard of participation. Ironically, this sedevacantist
forum is one only two traditional Catholic Internet fora (Angelqueen is the other) which have defended Bishop Fellay from the terrible injustices of which he has been accused. The chief offenders against both charity and justice in the English-speaking world are both run by sedeplenists, and both restrict discussions of sedevacantism. The bitterness is chiefly between sedeplenists. It would be greatly appreciated if they could leave the question of sedevacantism out of it.
Third, the editorial compares sedevacantists to the Scribes and Pharisees who condemned the woman taken in adultery. Comment: Abbé de la Motte appears anxious to proclaim that "I
am not like those Pharisees