Catholic Family News some months ago published an article in which the following passage occurs:
<< Stage 5 - Public Fact/Ecclesiavacantism: The final phase is the logical conclusion to the previous. In this phase, the person has lost faith in the entire visible Church. Once a person arrives at this state, he considers the Church itself as an entirely false Church, and viciously attacks the Church with the goal of discrediting it. In this phase, which usually goes hand-in-hand with the previous phase, the errors of churchmen are not exposed for the purpose of defending the Faith, but for the purpose of mocking and discrediting the Church itself. Those in this phase will declare that one may have nothing to do with the visible Church, since they believe it is a false Church. They also usually (but not always) declare that it is forbidden even to assist at an "una cum" Mass - that is, a Mass in which the Pope's name is mentioned. Clearly, the top Sedevacantist apologists fall into this category (Fr. Cekada, Bp. Dolan, Bp. Sanborn, Mario Derksen, John Lane, Gerry Matatics, the Dimond brothers).>>
In this paragraph there are two controversial assertions:
1. That John Daly and I fall into "Stage 5 sedevacantism"
2. That John Daly and I "usually (but not always)" forbid assistance at "una cum" masses.
As a result of this second assertion, some people thought that I must have changed position on the "una cum" and consequently I wrote to the publisher and demanded a correction. I have been unable to secure that retraction.
Therefore, for the record, I assert that it is entirely lawful to assist at so-called "una cum" masses. I also assert that the Church is the Church, and has not defected, and further, that the sedevacantist position exists precisely in order to avoid believing that the Church has defected, which is a heretical notion. How much of the hierarchy remains intact is a problematical question, precisely because so many of the putative bishops are open heretics, but in order to say that they were all heretics and not Catholics, one would need either to form a judgement about every single one of them, an impossible task, or apply some universally applicable principle by which it would be clear that none of them can be Catholic bishops. I am not aware of any such principle, except the notion that a false pope cannot validly appoint anybody to an office. This principle does not apply, and I have energetically refuted its application to our circumstances countless times, as my regular readers would know. I will comment further on this below.
In the Catholic Family News text, the adverb "usually" modifies the verb "declare" and that is why the natural reading of it (the unconscious but certain effect on the reader) is to bring him to think that all the named men forbid assistance at "una cum" masses, with the odd-sounding qualification that they "usually but not always" declare this.
In order to defend the text at all, it is necessary to make the adverb "usually" modify the nouns "John Daly" and/or "John Lane." Obviously this is not a valid procedure.
If the author meant to say that some
but not all
of the men listed belong to the category defined, he failed. His grammar, in that case, is incorrect, and the unfortunate effect is to mislead the reader.
Finally, on this, even if the author meant to say that some, but not all, of the men listed belong to the category he has defined, but employed bad grammar, then his text remains intrinsically unjust, for it creates a situation in which men who are diametrically opposed on something are mixed together in a way that it is impossible for the reader to disentangle. If the reader thinks that Fr. Cekada possibly approves of assistance at “una cum” masses, then that is an injustice to Fr. Cekada, who finds the very thought horrifying. If the reader thinks that I possibly agree with Fr. Cekada on this, then that is an injustice to me, and the same is true if you swap my name for that of John Daly.
The second erroneous assertion is in one sense more grievous, but I didn't demand a retraction, because I have no evidence that anybody has been misled by it, and because I have been accused of heresy so many times by non-sedes (and sedes, actually) that it washes over without effect.
I have argued for so long, and so emphatically, that the entire hierarchy has NOT defected that it would be a very simple matter to verify. For example, this discussion:viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1552&start=0
<< It's a matter of Christian doctrine, actually. The importance of it today is precisely that trads - especially sedes - display a dangerous tendency (i.e. truly dangerous, doctrinally) to regard their bishops as Successors of the Apostles, and you have Fr. Cekada for example saying publicly that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of Bishop Dolan and the other (un-named) traditional bishops. This is gravely erroneous, but it's just a clear statement of what many trads, however vaguely, actually think. The Catholic Church has a hierarchy. Any theory of the crisis has to be able to say where it is. >>
Or here: viewtopic.php?p=12277#p12277
<< As for the disappearance of the hierarchy, that's impossible, so if your theory implies that or even perceives it to be possible, it needs radical reformation in order to bring it into harmony with sacred doctrine. >>
Anyway, this is all a matter of public record, easily verifiable, and if Catholic Family News doesn’t know what I have said, then it ought not to be naming me as holding any position at all.
Returning to the question of the hierarchy, according to canon law jurisdiction is supplied under condition of common error, and this is true even for papal actions which would not otherwise be valid by reason of a lack of jurisdiction. Consequently, the assertion that the only valid bishops possibly remaining are those appointed by Pius XII, on the hypothesis that he was the most recent pope, is simply wrong.
When we turn from the validity of appointments to the question of the unity of social charity, and the unity of the profession of faith, we immediately think of the East. For in the East, the bishops didn't impose a new, synthetic, liturgy, and drive the faithful from their buildings, creating a giant schism, as happened in the West. Likewise, the flood of heresy has not been anywhere near as universal in the East as it has been in the West.
Even with respect to the West, I'm on record saying that Cardinal Burke, for example, seems manifestly to be a Catholic and I've challenged others to say why he isn't. I’ve received no reply. I also posed the example of Archbishop Chaput, although his case seems less clear, given his various positions.
The situation in the Church is incredibly confused, but if we adopt as our theory the notion that all nominal
Catholics are truly members of the Mystical Body, we've destroyed its visible unity in faith and charity. So that's not a workable hypothesis.
The over-all principle, which explains why I don't recognise this allegation that we have lost faith in the Church, or that we regard the entire "official church" to have defected, etc., is that there are two possibilities, both easily able to be found in the manuals.
1. There's a pope reigning. The infallibility of the Church depends upon him as the keystone. With him, she brings infallibly the same faith and the same means of salvation to all men at all times. A bishop can err, but the vast bulk of them certainly cannot - when there's a pope. The pope supervises the bishops, ensures doctrinal orthodoxy and peace, and guides the entire Church with complete safety. He may make errors of prudence, but he cannot openly permit heterodoxy, and of course, he cannot replace the mass with a synthetic substitute designed to achieve the approval of Protestants.
2. There's no pope reigning. The bishops can go off in all manner of ways, and a good example is the Council of Rimini. The pope existed, but was not present. The bishops disappeared into heresy. The pope, when he heard, demanded a retraction from each and every one, on pain of losing their sees permanently. Another example is the Great Western Schism. Even if, as many say, there was a true pope all through (and that's my view too), he wasn't effectively present to all, only to some. Consequently, disunity flourished.
See this text by Cardinal Franzelin for some insights into the differences in the state of the Church when a pope is reigning, and when one is not: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1816
The point is that under either hypothesis, we're talking about the same Church, the same body, the same group of men, considered collectively, but with exceptions, more or less numerous. Saying that Francis isn't pope doesn't imply that all of the bishops are not the bishops of the Catholic Church, any more than saying that Benedict XIII wasn't pope implies that St. Vincent Ferrer wasn't a Catholic - or even a papal legate, actually. The whole point of taking the pope out of the picture is to save the Church from implications that are incompatible with her divinely guaranteed constitution. I could say - I won't, because unlike our opponents, I have sufficient imagination to see their perspective - that THEY have lost faith in the Church, precisely because they have demolished any real meaning of infallibility, of the Church as the secure ark of salvation, as our true and certain guide to eternal life, as our proximate rule of faith, etc. If the Church can give an evil mass, permit all manner of heresy to be taught to her children, persecute those who hold fast to the traditions we have received, etc., and is only infallible once per century under extraordinary conditions, then she's not the Church described by the Fathers and Doctors.
This crisis is an ecclesiological problem, par excellence, and sedevacantism is faith seeking understanding. Some people seem think that if they discredit sedevacantists as persons, they'll kill sedevacantism. They won't, because they have mis-diagnosed the cause. They think people like me are out there promoting sedevacantism and that's why it's a "threat". Nonsense. I mean, total silliness. They could string me up in a tree and they wouldn't make our view disappear, because the moment anybody seriously ponders the state of the Church he will keep coming back to the possibility that Paul VI et al have not been true popes.
Once this mis-diagnosis of the cause of sedevacantism is grasped, it becomes clear why the entire approach of certain campaigners is ad hominem
, and also why that kind of campaign won't have any long-term effect.
In the mean time, we will have plenty to suffer, which is a gift, of course.