I have identified four categories of belief regarding the whereabouts/identity/existence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy today:
1. Vatican organization retains hierarchical claim,
2. Hierarchy has utterly vanished,
3. Phantom (or totally concealed) hierarchy, and
4. Traditional clergy retain hierarchical claim.
Number 2 is heretical. Number 4 is contrary to all known authorities.
The author of the article in question seems to be of good will and recognizes the problematic nature of the stance espoused in therein, writing: "I realize that this position raises a couple questions as to the exact canonical mechanism of their authority in the Church and how they are meant to function together today."
The author goes on to write, "But, unlike the other three alternatives, the problems raised by this alternative are only disciplinary, not doctrinal."
I am afraid it is not as simple as it seems. There theological subtleties and nuances inherent in such a stance have profound ramifications that the following generations of Catholics who endeavor to resist the Johannine-Pauline anti-Church will have to countenance. Not anyone amongst us can claim the requisite training―much less the competence and authority―to form a theological opinion, stricte dicitur
regarding these complex matters.
The exigencies of the spiritual welfare of the faithful demand of the clergy of the anti-modernist resistance to apply themselves with utmost piety and industry to the study of the sacred sciences the knowledge of which their hallowed vocation demands: but their problematic Canonical predicament―lacking missio
and jurisdiction―demands that they humbly acknowledge not only the insufficiency of human frailty (the difficulties of which even the most devout clergy of happier ages faced) but also the juridical insufficiency whereby they can claim no authority to preach, teach, administer the holy Sacraments, offer the Holy Sacrifice upon the sacred Altars, &c., without that jurisdiction which Holy Mother Church supplies for those precises instances and only for the duration thereof, no matter how many times such instances are multiplied.
In the article cited, the author claims:
With our traditional clerics duly recognized as the Teaching Church and the Vatican heretics as mere sectarians visibly outside the Church, one need not reconcile the Modernist ecumenism with the teaching that there is only one true God and one true Church. One need not reconcile the indefectibility of the Church with the evident defection of the Vatican organization during and since Vatican II. One need not go sifting through the teachings of any putative “pope” whom we cannot rely upon to be a valid point of reference for our Faith. And one need not judge the man who leads the Modernist sect.
Indeed, the sensus Catholicus
recoils at having to reconcile the "Œconomia nova" of the modernists who occupy the Johannine-Pauline structures and the depositum fidei
of the Church of Christ. However, identifying the acephalous and vagrant clergy of the anti-modernist resistance with the duly appointed hierarchy of the Church of Christ only complicates things. In order for the sedevacantists to logically posit their self-appointed clergy as constituting the Ecclesia docens
, they must first demonstrate and prove:
(1) precisely how
the occupants of the Johannine-Pauline structures cannot claim to constitute the Ecclesia docens
(2) precisely how
the occupants of the Johannine-Pauline structures lapsed away from the Catholic and divine faith into formal heresy, properly so-called;
(3) what precisely in the documents of the Johannine-Pauline council can be said to constitute the "Œconomia nova" of the modernists, by identifying the heresies and errors thereof and demonstrating what theological label is to designate these propositions (according to the methodology of the eminent theologians whom Holy Mother Church has proposed to us as our teachers and guides in these matters);
(4) they must demonstrate the theological, moral and Canonical ramifications of the deliberate and contumacious adherence of these propositions of the Johannine-Pauline council, both as regards to the Bishops of the time and to the laity and clergy who remain materially adhered to the structures that were brought forth by the Johannine-Pauline council and its modernist proponents;
(5) how exactly are we to contextualize these occurrences to the doctrines of Holy Mother Church as set forth in the Encyclical letters of the Roman Pontiffs, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the approved theologians of the illustrious schools; and
(6) why does it necessitate positing the conglomerate and acephalous clerics of the anti-modernist resistance as constituting the Ecclesia docens
, and what are the criteria whereby the faithful may readily identify who exactly amongst these same clerics to be ascribed the "hierarchical claim" and how these clerics are to "exercise" such a claim (for example, what prevents one from ascribing such "hierarchical claim" to Bp. Pivarunas, but denying it to Bp. Slupski, or how can the faithful determine who are the charlatans and frauds, such as Ryan "St. Anne" Scott?).
Numbers one through five have been done by individual apologists (whether clerical or lay), or groups thereof, but not in a systematic manner, much less according to the strict scholastic methods of inquiry as seen in how theologians such as Franzelin, Van Noort, Scheeben, Garrigou-Lagrange, Tanquerey, Fenton, &c., present sacred doctrine in their manuals and commentaries. As one sedevacantist has written:
There is no "complete" published sedevacantist theory except the Guerardian one (and even that has not been published in any language than French, and even in French it was not put into a systematic form and published in a volume, but rather it appeared scattered throughout issues of a journal). Yet non-sedevacantists are attacked for failing to adopt "sedevacantism". This only needs to be stated for its absurdity to be immediately apparent. Can any reasonable and just man condemn another for refusing to accept a theory which, as far as he can see, involves the denial that the Church has a hierarchy? Can anybody really be condemned for not adopting a theory which nobody has even bothered to present in a professional and complete form?
Number six essentially constitutes the controversy in question, and it has become a public controversy now because of the contumacy of certain polemicists who have made novel theories in prejudice to sound theology.
In order for either the aforementioned polemicists or for such sedevacantists as the author of the cited article to evade the censure of theological error or of being "rash," they have to methodically and systematically present the predicament of the Church in the present day according to the teachings and methods of Thomistic philosophy and theology. They cannot just pretend the Johannine-Pauline structures do not exist or have relevance, because millions of Catholics adhere to them in good faith, and immune from danger of formal heresy according to the promise of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima in the third portion of the great "Secret."
For to posit that the conglomerate of acephalous and vagrant clergy in the anti-modernist resistance is to be identified as the Ecclesia docens
is equivalent to stating categorically and unequivocally that the "traditionalist movement" is
the Church (not just a portion thereof), and that the Johannine-Pauline structures necessarily impute the guilt of formal heresy unto those who adhere to them, without due consideration of the great obfuscation of the present age whereby millions of Catholics yet remain deluded and led astray without guilt of their own.
The author of the article continues, writing:
In the context of this view, it clear that we traditional Catholics, together with our clerical leaders, are not on the sidelines but straight front and center responsible for the state and future of the Church. It means that we — together with, and under the guidance of, our traditional Catholic priests and bishops — can and must continue the apostolic mission that our Lord Jesus Christ imparted to our forebears to preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, confident in God’s Divine help, and in our ability and authority to do so.
This statement, without any qualifying remarks, has disastrous implications, of which many Catholic may be unaware.
Positing that the the conglomerate of acephalous and vagrant clergy in the anti-modernist resistance is to be identified as the Ecclesia docens
would indeed invest them with "executive responsibility" for what has been happening with the Church for the past decades: including everything from the Johannine-Pauline council, to the sex abuse scandals and the conspiracy to conceal these crimes, to the immorality rampant and encouraged at such events as the "Youth Days" or whatever they are called, &c.
For, if these clerics have been "sent" by some sort of missio extraordinaria
, and have been endowed with the necessary power and jurisdiction: why would Christ make this hierarchy (sic) of His Church so powerless, divided, and enfeebled so as to allow the damnation of millions upon millions of Catholics who have defected into modernism or lapsed away from the faith in the Johannine-Pauline structures?
Or is the responsibility of these clerics limited to the faithful who attend their chapels and give them stipends? If so, how can their missio
be universal and pertain to the entirety of the Church of Christ (both the Latin Occident and the Churches of the Orient)?
This is how problematic the so-called "hierarchical claim" of the traditionalist clerics truly is. It is not helping the anti-modernist resistance, nor does it vindicate sedevacantism in any way, as the author of the above-cited article writes: "It is the perfect antidote to those who charge that sedevacantism is merely some inexplicable negative finding that seems to deny the practical existence of the Church." On the contrary, it is inherently subversive not only to sedevacantism, but to the entire resistance against the Johannine-Pauline structures.
For in positing these ecclesiological errors, sedevacantists such as Mr. Ruby incur the censure of Cajetan as cited by Msgr. Journet
The Church of the Word Incarnate: An Essay of Speculative Theology[/i] (trans. A.H.C. Downes; London: Sheed and Ward, 1954), pg. 411n]
During a vacancy of the Apostolic See, says Cajetan, the universal Church is in an imperfect state; she is like an amputated body, not an integral body. "The Church is acephalous, deprived of her highest part and power. Whoever contests that falls into the error of John Hus―who denied the need of a visible ruler for the Church―condemned in advance by St. Thomas, then by Martin V at the Council of Constance. And to say that the Church in this state holds her power immediately from Christ and that the General Council represents her, is to err intolerably" (De Comparatione etc., cap. vi., 74). Here are the seventh and the twenty-seventh propositions of John Hus condemned at the Council of Constance: "Peter neither is nor ever was the head of the Holy Catholic Church"; "There is nothing whatsoever to show that the spiritual order demands a head who shall continue to live and endure with the Church Militant" (Denz. 633 and 653).
The anti-sedevacantists could make the argument that such polemicists as those in question expose "sedevacantism" as theologically untenable by subscribing to the condemned twenty-seventh proposition of John Hus.
Moreover, the twenty-eighth proposition seems to be blueprint of the so-called "Apostolic Church" that these sedevacantists have devised: "Christ through His true disciples scattered through the world would rule His Church better without such monstrous heads," Christus sine talibus monstruosis capitibus per suos veraces discipulos sparsos per orbem terrarum melius suam Ecclesiam regularet
" (Denz., no. 654). And there have been sedevacantists who have lamented the dogmatic definition of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff by the Vatican Council (Session IV, 18 July 1870) in the Constitution Pastor aeternus
as the "preparation" for the present day ecclesiastical crisis; ironically echoing the Jansenists and Gallicanists that preceded them.
Ultimately, this renders such sedevacantists' opinion the very "sedevacantism" (to speak anachronistically) that John Hus himself professed, as his twentieth proposition seems to show: "If the Pope is wicked and especially if he is foreknown, then as Judas, the Apostle, he is of the devil, a thief, and a son of perdition, and he is not the head of the holy militant Church, since he is not a member of it," "Si Papa est malus et praesetim, si est praescitus, tunc ut Iudas apostolus est diaboli, fur, et filius perditionis, et non est caput sanctae militantis Ecclesiae, cum nec sit membrum eius
" (Denz., no. 646). For if these so-called apologists of the sedevacantist camp adopt an ecclesiology that hearkens to the errors of John Hus, there may be a legitimate objection that posits the possibility that "sedevacantism" as interpreted by these polemicists is ultimately a revival of the Hussite heresies.
In making the acephalous and vagrant clergy the Ecclesia docens
, such theorists are devising an "Œconomia nova" of their own, wherein this sort of "sedevacantism" brings forth a new abominatio in desolationem
(cf. Dan. cap. xi., 31, cap. xii., 11), or, rather, a new abominatio desolationis
(cf. Dan. cap. ix., 27, S. Matt. cap. xxiv., 15, S. Marc. cap. xiii., 14): not only a Church without a Pope, but a Church that has no need of a Pope to have a hierarchy that can claim Apostolic succession formaliter
and ordinary jurisdiction. A new and vile form of fideicide
that brings about scandal and error in a manner analogous to the Hegelian historicist "dogmatics" of the modernists and their Johannine-Pauline structures.
I hope the author of the above-cited article reconsiders his positions carefully in light of these principles.
"Qui legit, intelligat
" (S. Matt. cap. xxiv., 15).