Author Topic: Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?  (Read 4043 times)

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Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
« on: June 11, 2015, 12:25:47 PM »
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  • http://www.traditionalmass.org/articles/article.php?id=42&catname=10#_edn15

    IN EARLY 1995 I published Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope, a short, non-polemical booklet setting forth the case for sedevacantism.[1]

          An explanation of the term “sedevacantism” may be in order. Traditional Catholics have tried to explain in various ways how the errors and evils of the officially-sanctioned Vatican II changes could come from what appears to be the authority of an infallible Church. The sedevacantist position maintains that the only coherent explanation for this state of affairs is to conclude that, since error and evil cannot come from the authority of an indefectible and infallible Church, the ecclesiastics who promulgated these changes — from pope on down — at some point lost their office and authority through personal heresy.[2]

          The last point may surprise many Catholics. But an impressive list of pre-Vatican II theologians and canonists, as well as at least two popes (Innocent III and Paul IV) admit the principle behind it: That a pope, in his personal capacity, can defect from the faith or become a heretic. When the fact of his defection becomes manifest, such a pope automatically (ipso facto) loses his office and authority.

          I cited numerous passages on this point in Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope. To my surprise, the booklet proved extremely popular and continues to receive a wide distribution throughout the world.

          In October 1995 the Society of St. Pius X’s official U.S. publication, The Angelus, printed an article by Lazlo Szijarto entitled “Pope-Sifting: Difficulties with Sedevacantism.”

          Mr. Szijarto wrote “Pope-Sifting”[3] in response to my booklet. Since the Society has been promoting Mr. Szijarto’s article as sort of a definitive refutation of my study, and since Mr. Szijarto himself asked me to comment, a public reply is in order.

          The average layman who reads Mr. Szijarto’s article may find it impressive, or at least intimidating. The main text is peppered with Latin quotes — and who’s a simple layman to argue with Latin quotes? Grand-sounding general principles are confidently asserted. The footnotes, complex sentences, high-toned words (“criteriologically,” “ontologically”) and seemingly erudite quibbling (e.g., hand-wringing over how to translate “quoad nos”) create an ambiance that the man in the pew associates with learned intellectual discourse.

          But the layman should not be cowed by all this. Latin quotes, footnotes and high-toned jargon are sometimes just camouflage for what, upon close examination, turns out to be not simply a bad argument, but nonsense on stilts.

          Mr. Szijarto’s offenses are legion: he misrepresents opponents’ positions, piles up utterly gratuitous assertions about various points of church law and ecclesiology, mistranslates and misapplies his sources’ statements, provides inaccurate and unverifiable citations,[4] tosses in sanctimonious personal attacks, tries to tar all sedevacantists with ridiculous opinions held by only a handful, and “puffs” (exaggerates) the authority of an opinion held by the theologian John of St. Thomas.

          Mr. Szijarto’s capital sin is a series of principles which he enunciates at the beginning of his article and which he makes the basis for his entire argument. Mr. Szijarto has not only aimed these principles at a sedevacantist straw man of his own devising, but also has created them on his own from an out-of-context quote which he has both misapplied and mistranslated. This alone is utterly fatal to the rest of Mr. Szijarto’s argument.

          Since his article does, however, contain a number of other major errors, we will address four points here: (1) The false first principles Mr. Szijarto lays down about the “determination” that a pope has fallen from office. (2) His misapplication of the theologians’ teachings on “dogmatic facts.” (3) His manufacture of a non-existent conflict between sedevacantism and the doctrine of the Church’s indefectibility. (4) His puffing of John of St. Thomas.

     

    I.  False First Principles

    IN THE FIRST paragraph of his article, Mr. Szijarto concedes that it is common teaching among theologians that a pope who defects from the faith or becomes a heretic, once the fact becomes manifest, automatically loses his office.[5] He then adds:

    Catholics, however, do not have the right to make a determination on their own as to the fact of whether a deposition has actually taken place in this manner.

    Although manifest heresy would ontologically effect deposition ipso facto, a determination would have to be made by the Universal Church about that very fact embodied in the expression ipso facto — most probably through the declaration of a General Council — before individual Catholics could arrive at such a conclusion criteriologically.…

    [The Church] would have to do so before Catholics could make that determination for themselves. [His emphasis]

    These assertions, so confidently delivered, are hogwash.

     

    A. The “Determination” Straw  Man

          Mr. Szijarto, first of all, has set up a straw man by applying an equivocal term — “determination” — to two entirely different things, which he then falsely equates: (1) an individual sedevacantist’s conclusion that the Holy See is vacant, and (2) a General Council’s formal legal declaration that the Holy See is vacant.

          It’s a clever sleight-of-hand, but a fundamentally dishonest argument — particularly so, given the pains I took at the end of my article to assure readers that a firm personal conclusion about the vacancy of the Holy See was not, and could not be, the same thing as an authoritative declaration from the Church.

     

    B. Gratuitous Assertions

          The first two of Mr. Szijarto’s statements quoted above are gratuitous. Where, for instance, is the list of authorities who support his sweeping universal statement that Catholics “have no right” to “determine” (i.e., conclude) that a deposition has taken place? Where are all the canonists who have said with Mr. Szijarto that a “determination” from the Universal Church would have to come before an individual Catholic could arrive at the conclusion “criteriologically”? — whatever that means.

     

    C. A Misapplied Mistranslation

          For the third assertion quoted above, Mr. Szijarto cites the theologian Hervé in a footnote, providing the Latin original and an English translation.

          Even at first glance, the Hervé quote in the footnote appears irrelevant to the statement in Mr. Szijarto’s main text. Mr. Szijarto is speaking about who supposedly makes “determinations.” Hervé, on the other hand, appears to be addressing the canonical technicality of how an office illegitimately occupied must first be officially declared vacant before proceeding to an election — apples and oranges, in other words.

          This alone is bad enough. Comparing Mr. Szijarto’s translation to the Latin and locating it in the original work, however, reveals that Mr. Szijarto has lifted the quote out of context, misapplied it and then mistranslated it.

          The passage from Hervé is not, as Mr. Szijarto’s article implies, from a discussion about who has the right to “determine” that a pope has fallen from office. Rather it is from the theologian’s lengthy refutation of the arguments for conciliarism — the heresy that a General Council of the Church is superior to a pope.

          The context in Hervé’s work is as follows:[6] (I) Refutation of the heretics’ general claim for conciliar superiority. (II) Refutation of their misrepresentation of the Council of Constance. (III) Whether a Council, independent of a pope, can determine anything about the person of a pope regarding: (1) his election, or (2) his deposition.

          Regarding deposition, Hervé enunciates the general principle that a General Council can in no way and for no reason depose a pope. In some detail, Hervé explains specifically why a Council cannot do this on grounds of a pope’s (a) moral depravity, (b) heresy or (c) doubtful election.

          Regarding heresy, Hervé recaps the standard teaching of theologians quoted in so many sedevacantist tracts — by heresy a pope puts himself outside the Church, and ipso facto loses his office. Hervé then returns to explain the role of a General Council in all this:

    In that case, a Council (the Church) would have only the right to declare his see vacant so that the usual electors could safely proceed to an election.

    A General Council, in other words, can do no more vis-à-vis a heretical pope than declare his see vacant. In context, Hervé offers this statement as part of a refutation of conciliarism.

          Mr. Szijarto, however, mistranslates the Latin, and puts the “only” with the wrong word,[7] thus completely changing the meaning of the passage to the following:

    In that case, only a Council (the Church) would have the right to declare his see vacant so that the usual electors could safely proceed to an election.

          There’s a world of difference, obviously, between saying “only a Council” has the right to declare the see vacant, and saying that a Council “would have only the right” to declare it vacant.

          The starting point for Mr. Szijarto’s whole argument — “making determinations” — is thus based on a mistranslation.

     

    II. DOGMATIC FACTS

    THE SECOND PRINCIPLE Mr. Szijarto invokes against sedevacantism concerns “dogmatic facts.”

          Broadly speaking, a dogmatic fact is some fact so closely connected with a dogma that it is necessary for establishing or correctly explaining that dogma.[8]

          Theologians classify the legitimacy of a pope or a General Council among dogmatic facts, because only a legitimate pope or council can establish a dogma.

          Theologians also teach that the Church is infallible when she has determined that a particular pope or General Council are legitimate. If it were otherwise, dogmas would be endangered.

          To question, for instance, the legitimacy of Pius IX would imperil the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which he solemnly defined. Similarly, to impugn the legitimacy of the Council of Trent would undermine the dogmas it defined on the Sacrifice of the Mass.

          Mr. Szijarto paints sedevacantism as running afoul of this. Infallibility about dogmatic facts, he says, guarantees a pope’s legitimacy beforehand. Sedevacantists reason backwards from a perceived “false” teaching to the non-legitimacy of a pope, making it possible for one to impugn the legitimacy of any pope, post- or pre-Vatican II. This renders any notion of infallibility impossible.

     

    A. Apples and Oranges

          Mr. Szijarto here is guilty of what logicians call the fallacy of ignorantia elenchi — arguing against apples when everyone else is talking about oranges.

          His argument assumes that sedevacantists predicate their position on retroactively impugning the legitimacy of Paul VI’s election. This is not really the case.

          Montini may indeed have been legitimately elected pope; I myself have not seen any truly convincing arguments to the contrary. For me, as for most sedevacantists, the problems with Paul VI’s legitimacy do not so much concern his election as his loss of office after election.

          This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with infallibility and dogmatic facts.

     

    B. A Missing Ingredient

          Mr. Szijarto quotes the following passage from Hervé in an attempt to drive home his point about dogmatic facts:

    What good would it be to profess the infallible authority of Ecumenical Councils or Roman Pontiffs in the abstract if it were permitted to entertain doubts about the legitimacy of any given Council or Pontiff?[9]

          Again Mr. Szijarto is picking something out of context. Two sentences before the foregoing passage, Hervé notes that a dogmatic fact concerning the legitimacy of a council or a pope is “principally historical.”[10] The Church’s infallibility in this respect precludes challenging the legitimacy of past General Councils or pontificates that the Church has always accepted as legitimate.

          In 1965, for example, no Catholic could have claimed that Pius IX had been illegitimately elected or that the Council of Trent had been illegitimately convoked, and that the pronouncements of either were therefore somehow null. The Church’s infallibility regarding these historical facts, connected as they are with her dogmas, prevented any error about legitimacy.

          But the story in 1965 for Paul VI was different. While a dead pope can’t “lose” legitimacy (i.e., lose his office) a living one most surely can. He does so if he defects from the Catholic faith and that defection becomes manifest. This is what sedevacantists maintain happened to Paul VI.

          The principle is, as Mr. Szijarto himself admitted, the common teaching of theologians. Yet he complains sedevacantists apply it a posteriori (from after the fact). Of course we do — that’s how all the authorities say it’s supposed to work.

          If Mr. Szijarto thinks that the principle of automatic loss of office for heresy somehow undermines the Church’s infallibility regarding dogmatic facts, his quarrel is not with sedevacantists, but with the big-gun canonists and theologians such as St. Antoninus, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Alphonsus, Wilhelm, Badii, Prümmer, Wernz-Vidal, Beste, Vermeersch-Creusen, Maroto, Coronata and Regatillo.[11] All we sedevacantists do is apply their teachings to Paul VI.

     

    C. Crossed-Out Popes

          Based on his faulty understanding of the nature of a dogmatic fact, Mr. Szijarto argues that sedevacantism makes it possible to impugn the legitimacy of any pope in history (e.g., Pius XII, Pius XI, Benedict XV, Pius IX, even St. Peter), not just the post-Vatican II ones.

          But since the dogmatic fact of legitimacy is (as we have seen) principally historical, the position of Pius XII and his predecessors is unassailable. At the same time, the Church’s infallibility regarding the legitimacy of past popes does not preclude one from maintaining that a living pope has fallen from office — as sedevacantists did during the time of Paul VI.

          On the positive side, Mr. Szijarto’s error at least made for some amusing graphics[12] in the terminally somber Angelus, where most of the humor tends to be unintentional.

     

    D. Which Dogma is in Peril?

          One reason why the Church is infallible with dogmatic facts touching upon legitimacy is, as we have said, that Catholic dogmas would be imperiled otherwise.

          What “Catholic dogmas” proclaimed by Paul VI and John Paul II are imperiled by impugning their legitimacy? That non-Catholic sects are means of salvation? That all men are saved? That liberty of conscience is divinely revealed?

          It would be interesting to hear the answer. Mr. Szijarto?

     

    III. indefectibility

    THE THIRD PRINCIPLE Mr. Szijarto appeals to is the indefectibility of the Church.

          His argument runs as follows: Only the universal Church can make infallible judgments about a pope’s legitimacy. A doubtful pope would be no pope only if the whole Church seceded from him. Sedevacantism poses serious difficulties for the Church’s indefectibility, which prevents the whole Church from either adhering to a false one or rejecting a true one. The Church enjoys infallibility with regard to the legitimacy of a pope. This leaves two alternatives: Either the Vatican II popes are legitimate or the Catholic Church resides only in sedevacantist groups.

     

    A. Two Contradictory Principles

          Mr. Szijarto’s argument contains two propositions which implicitly contradict each other:

          1. Only if the whole Church secedes from a pope is he a false pope. (= All must reject him.)

          2. The whole Church cannot adhere to a false pope. (= Part can reject him, part can accept him.)

          The first proposition implies that part of the Church cannot continue to adhere to someone who is a false pope; the second implies that part of the Church can.

          Both propositions obviously cannot be true. The origin of this contradiction in Mr. Szijarto’s argument can be traced to…

     

    B. More Misapplied Quotes

          The nexus of any discussion about sedevacantism is the issue of a heretical pope: Is such a thing possible? If so, what principles apply? Could Paul VI or John Paul be classified as such? etc.

          But Mr. Szijarto, once again, offers quotes about apples to refute arguments about oranges.

          Looking up the context of Mr. Szijarto’s first two quotes (from Franzelin and Hervé) reveals that the authors are dealing not with the topic of a heretical pope (papa haereticus), but rather with that of a doubtful pope (papa dubius) — issues the ecclesiology textbooks treat separately.

          In both cases the authors are discussing schism, specifically the Great Western Schism (ca. 1378–1417), when several rival popes, each supported by his own faction, tried to claim the throne of Peter. The “doubt” did not concern the claimants’ personal orthodoxy, but the canonical issue of which of them was in fact the successor of Peter.

          In the paragraph immediately preceding the passage Mr. Szijarto quotes, both Franzelin and Hervé do discuss the question of a heretical pope. Both admit that a heretical pope loses his office.[13]

          Mr. Szijarto’s third quote cannot be verified (the second instance of this) because he provides an inaccurate citation.[14] In any event, since the quote appears to be dealing with dogmatic facts, it is (based on what we have said in section II) likewise irrelevant to the discussion.

     

    C. False Alternatives

          At the end of his section on indefectibility, Mr. Szijarto presents two alternatives as his conclusion: Either the Vatican II popes are legitimate or the Catholic Church resides only in sedevacantist groups.

          Since Mr. Szijarto has based these alternatives on contradictory principles and irrelevant citations, the choice he has constructed is completely false.

         

    IV. john of St. Thomas

    THE FOURTH MAIN section of Mr. Szijarto’s article is devoted to reproducing passages from the Spanish Dominican theologian John of St. Thomas (1589–1644).

          The excerpts Mr. Szijarto quotes propose in essence that a heretical pope juridically remains head of the Church until a General Council declares the fact of his heresy. Until then, all the acts of such a pope are valid.

          Mr. Szijarto praises this to the heavens. John of St. Thomas has dealt with the issue “brilliantly” and “ingeniously.” Thus, says Mr. Szijarto, “ontologically manifest” reality is reconciled with “juridically visible reality, i.e., criteriologically manifest — manifest in the true sense of the term.”(?)

     

    A. An Abandoned Position

          In Appendix 1 of Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope, I reproduced quotes from twelve canonists and theologians who taught that a manifestly heretical pope automatically falls from office.[15] Six of them further specified that this loss of office takes place without the need for any declaration or sentence. This authors characterize as “the common opinion” or even “the more common opinion.”

          In his treatment of John of St. Thomas, Mr. Szijarto is merely promoting a minority opinion which later writers subsequently abandoned. It is absurd for him to portray it as a master-stroke which destroys the sedevacantist position. If canonists rejected, abandoned or ignored the position there must have been a reason.

          It is possible that an explanation for this may be found in the two following points.

     

    B. A Papal Law Contradicted

          In 1559, in order to preclude the possibility of a heretic usurping the throne of Peter, Pope Paul IV issued the Bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio. Paul IV decreed that if anyone elected pope had beforehand deviated from the Catholic faith or fallen into any heresy, among other things, his election would be invalid, his appointments would be invalid, and he would automatically lose his office without the need to make any further declaration. (I reproduced the pertinent passages in my booklet.)

          The opinion of John of St. Thomas that a declaration is needed before a pope loses office, obviously, cannot be defended in the face of a papal law which decreed emphatically and repeatedly that such a declaration is not required.

     

    C. A Juridical Absurdity

          While it may have been justifiable for John of St. Thomas to propose his solution under some provision of church law in force in the 17th century, it would be neither reasonable nor possible to propose it now.

          Both the 1917 Code of Canon Law[16] and John Paul II’s 1983 Code[17] (which I assume Mr. Szijarto accepts) specify that only the Pope can convoke a General (Ecumenical) Council. Under both codes, moreover, the pope sets the agenda, can dissolve the Council, and must confirm and promulgate its decrees for them to have binding force.

          If one were to insist (as Mr. Szijarto does) that a heretical pope loses office only after a General Council declares him to be such, the law would require, to effect his deposition, that the heretical pope convoke a Council against himself, place the issue of his own deposition on the agenda, and then confirm and promulgate the Council’s decrees declaring his own deposition.

          This sort of cooperation would probably be too much to expect, even in the age of ecumenism.

          The application of the principle Mr. Szijarto puts forward thus results in a juridical absurdity.

    •          •          •          •          •

    MR. SZIJARTO, like many an apologist for the Society of St. Pius X’s current position, deals with sedevacantism by distorting it and then attempting to refute the distortion. We have identified four main problems in his particular critique:

          1. The underlying principle for Mr. Szijarto’s argument (regarding “determination”) is aimed at a straw man, and is based on a passage that Mr. Szijarto has both misapplied and mistranslated.

          2. Mr. Szijarto misrepresents the nature of the “dogmatic fact” of legitimacy.

          3. Mr. Szijarto bases his arguments regarding indefectibility upon quotes which in their original context refer to a doubtful pope, an issue irrelevant to a discussion of sedevacantism, which principally concerns the possibility of a heretical pope.

          4. The opinion of John of St. Thomas, so highly praised by Mr. Szijarto, is an abandoned or (at best) minority position, which contradicts legislation solemnly promulgated in a papal bull, and which would produce the juridical absurdity of a heretical pope convoking a council against himself.

          When I was a seminarian in Ecône, I heard Archbishop Lefebvre say many times that Paul VI’s New Mass was a “spiritual poison that destroys the Catholic faith” — a proposition virtually all traditional Catholics would accept. But the authority of Christ’s Church, infallible in promulgating universal disciplinary laws, cannot give a rite which destroys the faith. The only way to reconcile infallibility with such soul-destroying evil is to conclude that those who perpetrated it at some point defected from the faith, lost their authority before God, and hence were no popes at all.

    (Sacerdotium 16, Spring 1996).


    [1] Single copies are available free from St. Gertrude the Great Church, 11144 Reading Rd., Cincinnati OH 45241.

    [2] The term “sedevacantist” comes from the Latin phrase sede vacante, the technical term for interregnum between popes when the papal see is vacant. In English, it is generally pronounced: SAY-day-va-CAHN-tist.

    [3] The curious title is a dig at sedevacantists, who objected to the St. Pius X Society’s stated policy of “sifting” all the words and deeds of Paul VI and his successors, and then obeying only what the Society’s superiors decided was “in accord with tradition.”

    [4] E.g., footnote 10 cites to Hervé, Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae (1943) I.514, where the passage Mr. Szijarto quoted is nowhere to be found.

    [5] The  editors of The Angelus, it should be noted, excised this concession when they printed Mr. Szijarto’s article, probably because it undercuts the Society’s party line. His original begins: “Theologians commonly hold…” The edited version begins: “Some theologians hold…”

    [6] See Hervé, I.498–501.

    [7] The Latin, Hervé I.501, reads as follows: “Tunc Concilium [Ecclesia] ius tantum haberet sedem vacantem declarandi, ut ad electionem tuto procedere possent consueti electores.” The tantum (only, merely) modifies the verb haberet (would have). If the passage meant what Mr. Szijarto claims it does, the tantum would be next to Concilium (a Council), and would begin: “Tunc Concilium tantum [Ecclesia] jus haberet…”

    [8] Various theologians give slightly different definitions for the term.

    [9] Citing Hervé, I.514.

    [10] Hervé I.514: “Factum autem istud triplex distingui potest: 1) principaliter historicum, quo agnoscitur regula fidei, v.g., legitimitas concilii alicujus oecumenici aut Pontificis :… De duobus ultimis tantum loquimur in praesenti, cum infallibilitas Ecclesiae circa primum sponte defluat ex supradictis de concilio, de Pontifice et de ipsa Ecclesiae indefectibilitate.” His emphasis.

    [11] For which, see my original article.

    [12] A picture chart of the popes with some crossed out.

    [13] J.B. Franzelin, De Ecclesia Christi (1907), 231: “…vel spontanea defectione ab Ecclesia per manifestam et contumacem haeresim…” Franzelin adds that doubting whether, due to Christ’s promises, this could actually ever come about is “not without reason.” Mr. Szijarto reproduced the quote from Hervé I.501 in the passage he mistranslated.

    [14] Footnote 13 cites to A. Tanquerey Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae (1921) I.84, where the passage quoted is nowhere to be found.

    [15] Some even though they thought it unlikely that God would ever permit such a thing to happen.

    [16] See Canon 222ff.

    [17] See Canon 338ff.
    "I receive Thee, redeeming Prince of my soul. Out of love for Thee have I studied, watched through many nights, and exerted myself: Thee did I preach and teach. I have never said aught against Thee. Nor do I persist stubbornly in my views. If I have ever expressed myself erroneously on this Sacrament, I submit to the judgement of the Holy Roman Church, in obedience of which I now part from this world." Saint Thomas Aquinas the greatest Doctor of the Church

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #1 on: June 11, 2015, 12:52:42 PM »
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  • This response, to which I never bothered to submit a rebuttal, illustrates what an utter buffoon Father Cekada is.  I can attempt to address everything in here, but the only ACTUAL argument he has (once you get past all his rhetoric, insults, and ad hominems) is the following:

    Quote
    Again Mr. Szijarto is picking something out of context. Two sentences before the foregoing passage, Hervé notes that a dogmatic fact concerning the legitimacy of a council or a pope is “principally historical.”[10] The Church’s infallibility in this respect precludes challenging the legitimacy of past General Councils or pontificates that the Church has always accepted as legitimate.

          In 1965, for example, no Catholic could have claimed that Pius IX had been illegitimately elected or that the Council of Trent had been illegitimately convoked, and that the pronouncements of either were therefore somehow null. The Church’s infallibility regarding these historical facts, connected as they are with her dogmas, prevented any error about legitimacy.

          But the story in 1965 for Paul VI was different. While a dead pope can’t “lose” legitimacy (i.e., lose his office) a living one most surely can. He does so if he defects from the Catholic faith and that defection becomes manifest. This is what sedevacantists maintain happened to Paul VI.


    Father Cekada should be absolutely humiliated by this and is utterly discredited as having the least bit of competence in the realm of theology (as if he hasn't already been so in many other areas).

    Cekada completely butchers the term "historical" as meaning "past" ... something which only someone with little comprehension of language could do.

    "Historical" is used to distinguish EVENTS and FACTS from doctrinal propositions ... in the context of dogmatic fact and has absolutely nothing to do with "past".  That's why Cardinal Zubizaretta, writing at the time of Pius XII, said it would be HERETICAL to reject the (present) legitimacy of Pius XII.



    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #2 on: June 11, 2015, 01:01:15 PM »
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  • Quote from: Lover of Truth
    In October 1995 the Society of St. Pius X’s official U.S. publication, The Angelus, printed an article by Lazlo Szijarto entitled “Pope-Sifting: Difficulties with Sedevacantism.”

          Mr. Szijarto wrote “Pope-Sifting”[3] in response to my booklet. Since the Society has been promoting Mr. Szijarto’s article as sort of a definitive refutation of my study, and since Mr. Szijarto himself asked me to comment, a public reply is in order.


    What The Angelus published was NOT an "article".  Nor was it any "refutation" of Father Cekada's booklet.  It wasn't even a direct response.  I had a friend come up to me and tell me that he had read Father Cekada's booklet and had found it to be persuasive.  Knowing that I had backtracked from SVism myself, he asked me to explain WHY I had backed away from it.  I make NO direct references whatsoever to Father Cekada's pamphlet but was just explaining to MY FRIEND why I had back away from SVism.  This little essay wasn't polished, wasn't edited by me, nor did it constitute anything but an informally and hastily-compiled rough-draft letter to my friend.

    Evidently my friend passed it around until it made its way to The Angelus.  The Angelus edited it, inserted many/most of the translations from Latin, and even SPELLED MY NAME WRONG.  It's Laszlo, not Lazlo.  I didn't even PUT MY NAME on this thing.  They never once contacted me before publishing it.  I founded out only after a different friend came up to me and "congratulated" me for the article.  I asked, "Huh?  What article?"  At no point did they contact me or get my permission to publish (and edit) it, and they KNEW where I was living at the time.

    So that's the complete history of this thing from my end.

    Offline Clemens Maria

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #3 on: June 11, 2015, 04:10:54 PM »
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  • Quote from: Ladislaus
    This response, to which I never bothered to submit a rebuttal,...


    http://www.the-pope.com/szijarto.html

    Quote

    Pope-Sifting Revisited

    Rebuttal to "Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?"

    {work in progress: Last Revised 7/25/99}

    please direct any questions, comments, or criticisms to Laszlo Szijarto

    e-Mail: *******

    I appreciate any suggestions you may have to improve the content, style, and readability of my text -- since I am genrally not a very polished writer. Thank you.

    Preamble:

    In what follows, to make the discussion easier to follow, the text of Fr. Cekada appears in normal typeface while my comments can be distinguished as bold. By adopting this convention, I do not mean to imply that my comments, per se, have more weight or cogency than his. To avoid tedium, moreover, I shall omit the phrases "in my opinion" or "I believe" which I intended to have conjoined with every statement I make in the ensuing argument that has not been defined by the authority of the Holy Catholic Church. Please mentally insert those phrases, according to my virtual intention, wherever they may apply.

    Part 1: Status Quaestionis (State of the Question)

    FR. CEKADA:

    An explanation of the term "sedevacantism" may be in order. Traditional Catholics have tried to explain in various ways how the errors and evils of the officially-sanctioned Vatican II changes could come from what appears to be the authority of an infallible Church. The sedevacantist position maintains that the only coherent explanation for this state of affairs is to conclude that, since error and evil cannot come from the authority of an indefectible and infallible Church, the ecclesiastics who promulgated these changes--from pope on down--at some point lost their office and authority.

    The last point may surprise Catholics. But an impressive list of pre-Vatican II theologians and canonists, as well as at least two popes (Innocent III and Paul IV) admit the principle behind it:

    That a pope, in his personal capacity, can defect from the faith or become a heretic. When the fact of his defection becomes manifest such a pope automatically (ipso facto) loses his office and authority. I cited numerous passages on this point in Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope. …

    At this point, for the sake of clarity and in order to set the stage for the ensuing discussion, I need to elaborate somewhat on the terms of debate. Fr. Cekada intertwines and, in the process, confuses two distinct and separate lines of argument. In point of fact, some sedevacantists join argument from principles of magisterium, others from the personal illegitimacy of John Paul II (whether it be that Karol Wojtyla defected from faith or was not legitimately elected to the papacy). There remains, moreover, a third school of sedevacantism--proponents of the material-formal pope distinction--but these, as I shall point out, effectively reduce to one of the aforementioned two positions.

    First, as I stated, some sedevacantists argue, to use Fr. Cekada's words from above, that, since error and evil cannot come from the authority of an indefectible and infallible Church, the ecclesiastics who promulgated these changes--from pope on down--at some point lost their office and authority. Basically, this form of argument can be classified, in terms of logical principles, as modus tollens or modus tollentis. In simple terms, if A implies B, then not B implies not A. Here, A would be a legitimate pope exercising teaching aurhority and B an infallible (or inerrant) doctrine (or law). Sedevacantists of this school hold that a legitimate pope who exercises teaching authority must produce a doctrine or law free of any error or harm to the Church. But John Paul II (and other Vatican II popes) have taught doctrines and enacted decress that either embody error or cause harm to the Church. Consequently, John Paul II cannot be a legitimate pope.

    Here's where the distinction I made earlier comes into play. On its own, this argument does not establish that John Paul II has defect[ed] from the faith or become a heretic. It can only conclude that John Paul II, by whatever means, could not have been a legitimate pope at the time of promulgating the erroneous (or harmful) doctrines (or decrees)--whether that means had been defection from the faith or an illegitimate election of some kind.

    Let me express the argument in symbolic terms.

    A ® B

    where A is a legitimate pope exercising teaching authority and B an infallible or inerrant doctrine or decree. According to this line of sedevacantist argument,

    A ® B

    but not B

    therefore not A

    underlying principle:

    if A ® B then not B ® not A

    In my earlier paper, I had referred to this mode of argument simply as a posteriori reasoning, i.e., reasoning backwards from the not B to the not A. Put more simply, if a pope cannot teach error to the Church, then, if error has been taught to the Church, said individual who taught error cannot really be a pope.

    Certainly, this argument embodies and, in some way, addresses the problem that confronts all Traditional Catholics. Traditional Catholics, by definition, are those who deny or reject some teachings or decrees of the Vatican II hierarchy as incompatible with the Traditional teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. Basically, Catholics cannot just go around rejecting B (as referenced above)--since that would dissolve anything that separates Catholics from all else who call themselves Christians. If we reject B, we're in real trouble unless we can demonstrate compelling reasons, based on Catholics princples, about why we have and can, in some circumstances, do so. How can we justify our rejecting B? Let's continue for now, but we'll come back to this burning question. Sedevacantists propose that they do not reject B because what they reject are not really B at all. What do other Traditionalists say?

    First of all, if you look closesly at the argument, A really consists of two parts. Not everything a pope says should be considered an infallible pronouncement. If a pope says something to a friend whereby he expresses an opinion on Catholics doctrine, that statement cannot be construed as teaching to the Church. According to Vatican I, the pope must be teaching ex cathedra, i.e., in his official capacity as pope. Interpretations differ as to when a pope should be understood as teaching in this capacity, but, suffice it to say, for now, that a pope must not only be a legitimate pope, but must also be teaching as pope, before his teaching would be construed as infallible pronouncements. Going back now to our diagram,

    (A + B) ® C

    where A is legimiate pope

    B is his teaching as pope

    C is infallible teaching/pronouncement

    or, another way to look at it would be

    A ® (B or C)

    where A is legimiate pope

    B is infallible teaching

    C is non-infallible teaching

    In other words, a legimate pope can produce infallible teachings or non-infallible teachings, depending upon whether or not he acts in his official teaching capacity. Non-Sedevacantists Traditionalists argue that what they reject fall under the category of C (immediately above) and not B. Sedevacantists, however, criticized this approach as a "sifting" of the magisterium. In other words, the process by which we determine whether any given teaching is B or C relies upon the private judgment of individuals who, in this scenario, become empowered to decide which teachings they must accept and which ones they are free to reject (under certain circumstances). In my paper, "Pope-Sifting: Difficulties with Sedevacantism," I turned the criticism back on them by arguing that not only do sedevacantists employ private judgment in determining which teachings to reject or accept, but they further extend this judgment (through their method of argument) to determining which popes they can reject or accept, i.e., that they "sift" not only teaching pronouncements but even popes.



    Offline Clemens Maria

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #4 on: June 11, 2015, 04:13:29 PM »
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  • Quote from: Bellator Dei
    Quote from: Ladislaus
    So that's the complete history of this thing from my end.


    Wow...  Ol' Father Cekada throttled you pretty good Ladislaus.

    I don't agree with Father Cekada about a lot of things, but this refutation seems pretty solid to me.  I'd really like to see your rebuttal to his remarks.  It's never good to have only one side of the story.


    Agreed.  Fr. Cekada has really given Mr. Szijarto a whipping.


    Offline Stubborn

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #5 on: June 12, 2015, 05:12:11 AM »
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  • Quote from: Bellator Dei
    Quote from: Ladislaus
    So that's the complete history of this thing from my end.


    Wow...  Ol' Father Cekada throttled you pretty good Ladislaus.

    I don't agree with Father Cekada about a lot of things, but this refutation seems pretty solid to me.  I'd really like to see your rebuttal to his remarks.  It's never good to have only one side of the story.


    I disagree. I see Fr. Cekada's rebuttal as coming from a viewpoint of one who is non or only partially Catholic - not sure how to explain that. It is as though Fr. Cekada has himself defected from the faith.


    Quote from: Fr. Cekada
    I.  False First Principles

    IN THE FIRST paragraph of his article, Mr. Szijarto concedes that it is common teaching among theologians that a pope who defects from the faith or becomes a heretic, once the fact becomes manifest, automatically loses his office.[5] He then adds:

    Catholics, however, do not have the right to make a determination on their own as to the fact of whether a deposition has actually taken place in this manner.

    Although manifest heresy would ontologically effect deposition ipso facto, a determination would have to be made by the Universal Church about that very fact embodied in the expression ipso facto — most probably through the declaration of a General Council — before individual Catholics could arrive at such a conclusion criteriologically.…

    [The Church] would have to do so before Catholics could make that determination for themselves. [His emphasis]

    These assertions, so confidently delivered, are hogwash.


    The assertions are Not "hogwash". To a Protestant they are "hogwash", to a Jew they are "hogwash", to Ibranyi, to Fr. Cekada and apparently to SVs they are "hogwash" - and to whomever else out there thinks that these assertions are "hogwash", provide a teaching from Holy Mother the Church permitting us to depose a priest, bishop, cardinal or (of all people) the pope -  without a pope or pope and council or at least some Church Tribunal *first* making such a determination and I will become a card carrying member of the Sedevacantists.  

    Honestly, who does he think he is? An authority higher than Holy Mother the  Church? I am asking a serious question here.

    The Highest Principle in the Church: "We are first of all under obedience to God, and only then under obedience to man." - Fr. Hesse

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #6 on: June 12, 2015, 08:48:52 AM »
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  • Quote from: Bellator Dei
    Quote from: Ladislaus
    So that's the complete history of this thing from my end.


    Wow...  Ol' Father Cekada throttled you pretty good Ladislaus.

    I don't agree with Father Cekada about a lot of things, but this refutation seems pretty solid to me.


    Not particularly.  Father Cekada did a good job of stirring things around and slinging a lot of mud, hoping that some of it would stick, but he never addressed the central thesis of the paper.

    Basically, the core argument is that Catholics can't go around claiming that the See is vacant based on private judgment, that the authority of the Church is required.  That's the missing ingredient.  And the only time Father Cekada tried to address the core argument is when he made the blunder about confusing "historical" with "past".

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #7 on: June 12, 2015, 08:50:01 AM »
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  • Quote from: Stubborn
    Honestly, who does he think he is? An authority higher than Holy Mother the  Church? I am asking a serious question here.


    That's exactly the core problem with SVism and Father Cekada never actually touches this.


    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #8 on: June 12, 2015, 08:54:57 AM »
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  • Quote from: Clemens Maria
    Quote from: Ladislaus
    This response, to which I never bothered to submit a rebuttal,...


    http://www.the-pope.com/szijarto.html

    Quote

    Pope-Sifting Revisited

    Rebuttal to "Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?"

    {work in progress: Last Revised 7/25/99}


    This too was nothing more than an incomplete sketch.  I never published this anywhere and it was put up on this website without permission.  As you can see, it's very incomplete; I just jotted these notes out in an afternoon when I (nearly four years later) decided that I MIGHT be inclined to write a formal rebuttal.  But then I decided that it wasn't worth the trouble, that the SVs who simply WANT to believe what Father Cekada wrote are not going to be persuaded no matter what I wrote.  That's the bottom line; most SVs refuse to actually reconsider their position when presented with arguments from the other side.

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #9 on: June 12, 2015, 09:06:23 AM »
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  • Quote from: Lover of Truth
    A. The “Determination” Straw  Man

          Mr. Szijarto, first of all, has set up a straw man by applying an equivocal term — “determination” — to two entirely different things, which he then falsely equates: (1) an individual sedevacantist’s conclusion that the Holy See is vacant, and (2) a General Council’s formal legal declaration that the Holy See is vacant.

          It’s a clever sleight-of-hand, but a fundamentally dishonest argument — particularly so, given the pains I took at the end of my article to assure readers that a firm personal conclusion about the vacancy of the Holy See was not, and could not be, the same thing as an authoritative declaration from the Church.


    I'll take these one by one as I have the time or inclination.

    No, I used the term "determination" quite deliberately (and unequivocally) to refer to (1) as opposed to (2) -- which would be termed a "declaration".  I am in fact arguing that (1) is unacceptable.  I NEVER claimed or even implied that these were the same thing, thereby using the term equivocally.  In fact, the central argument of the ENTIRE essay is that we are not allowed to do (1) WITHOUT (2).  Idiotic.  As I address these one by one, it's clear that this refutation is absurdly stupid from top to bottom.

    My argument is that, if I'm living at the time of Pius XII, I CANNOT DECIDE that Pius XII is not the pope.  That, according to the theologians I cited, would be HERETICAL.  Why would that be heretical, Father Cekada?  He completely side-stepped that question.  I explained why it's heretical; his only comeback was in claiming that the principle applied only to PAST popes, confounding the term "historical" with "past".  This despite the fact that I cited a theologian writing at the time of Pius XII who said that considering (making the "determination") Pius XII to be illegitimate would constitute HERESY.

    Of course, no one disputed John XIII while he was alive, so Father Cekada must accept him as a legitimate pope.  And if a legitimate pope, and Father Cekada keeps saying that nothing bad can ever emanate from the Church, Father Cekada has zero grounds in rejecting John XXIII's Tridentine Missal ... not to mention Pius XII's Holy Week Rites.  Father Cekada claims that these latter are defective, despite his principle that nothing defective by way of liturgy can ever emanate from a legitimate pope.

    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #10 on: June 12, 2015, 09:09:41 AM »
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  • Quote from: Lover of Truth
    B. Gratuitous Assertions

          The first two of Mr. Szijarto’s statements quoted above are gratuitous. Where, for instance, is the list of authorities who support his sweeping universal statement that Catholics “have no right” to “determine” (i.e., conclude) that a deposition has taken place? Where are all the canonists who have said with Mr. Szijarto that a “determination” from the Universal Church would have to come before an individual Catholic could arrive at the conclusion “criteriologically”? — whatever that means.


    Yet another moronic statement.  I'm actually dumbfounded by this lack of basic intelligence (or complete dishonesty).  I opened the ESSAY with a SUMMARY of the thesis.  Uhm, aren't we taught in composition class to summarize the paper up front and then elaborate in the body?  In point of fact, the ENTIRE body of the ESSAY is dedicated to making arguments and citing authorities in order to back up this central thesis.


    Offline Ladislaus

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #11 on: June 12, 2015, 09:31:54 AM »
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  • I see that I get two automatic downthumbs from the rabid SVs with every post.  Why not try to actually address each point, eh?

    Offline TKGS

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #12 on: June 12, 2015, 09:37:02 AM »
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  • Quote from: Ladislaus
    This despite the fact that I cited a theologian writing at the time of Pius XII who said that considering (making the "determination") Pius XII to be illegitimate would constitute HERESY.


    I would still be interested in knowing who was questioning the validity of Pope Pius XII during his reign, who this cardinal was (you only provided who you "thought" it might have been), and where the condemnation was actually published in the 1950s.  

    It's just that I would think such a document would have been highly publicized by now as it seems to be devastating to the sedevacantist thesis, and it just seems strange that the only person, seemingly, in the world that has ever read the document is our very own Ladislaus.

    By the way, you have never cited this theologian's writings.  You have made a vague reference to this theological treatise that you say you remember reading which no other anti-sedevacantist apologist has read.  I don't doubt your sincerity that you truly believe what you are saying, but I do doubt that such a document, written in the 1950s, actually exists or, if it does exist, actually says, in context, exactly what you read into it.  

    Please do not claim to have "cited" something unless you actually provide a citation.

    Offline TKGS

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #13 on: June 12, 2015, 10:13:25 AM »
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  • Quote from: Bellator Dei
    When you constantly refer to sedevacantists as "rabid, foaming at the mouth" people, you shouldn't be surprised about the down thumbs.  However, I would much prefer to see folks contribute to the conversation as opposed to the ol' hit n' run down thumb.  


    I see this kind of thought expressed quite often on CathInfo.  Where do so many people get the idea that those who clicks the "Thumbs Down" never contribute to the conversation?  I never hear anyone complain that people who click the "Thumbs Up" didn't contribute their thoughts.

    By the way, I generally click the "Thumbs Down" on posts I see complaining about getting a "Thumbs Down".

    Offline Clemens Maria

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    Is Sedevacantism Pope-Sifting?
    « Reply #14 on: June 12, 2015, 10:36:06 AM »
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  • The down thumbs might be due to the calumny of a Catholic priest.  Calling Fr. Cekada, a Catholic priest, a "buffoon", "idiotic", "moronic", "lack of basic intelligence (or complete dishonesty)" is unjust.  He is in fact extremely intelligent.  We might not agree with everything he says or does but he is none of the things you accuse him of.  I did not down thumb anything in this thread, yet, but maybe I should.  I hate the anonymous thumbing feature.  It is the source of a lot of anger and misunderstanding.  I try only to use the up thumb and I only use the down thumb to mark extremely unjust or uncharitable comments.  I make it a point not to use the thumb feature simply to disagree with someone.

    By the way, you can ask Griff Ruby to take down your incomplete rebuttal.  He is a reasonable and charitable guy.  If you explain to him that you did not give permission to post it, I'm sure he will take it down.

     

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