A Refutation of Sedevacantism

The Visibility of the Church is directly linked to the Roman Pontiff. And while during an interregnum the church is "Popeless," for a short period of time, this is not a part of the ordinary constitution of the Church and must necessarily be of short duration. The longest interregnum in the Church to date is less than three years. If the sedevacantists are right, then the present interregnum is ten times greater than that one. Thus the visibility of the Church, embodied in the person of the Roman Pontiff is non-extant. In this awful scenario, the only true Church is constituted of individual priests and bishops in their respective chapels, none of whom have valid jurisdiction, and none of whom report to anyone higher than themselves as authorities. This is not a visible Church; it is a Protestant Church. [Brother Andre Marie M.I.C.M]
While this author has more than a few problems with the flawed theology of Saint Benedict's Center, the above statement by the SBC's Brother Andre Marie is on the money. The necessity of the Roman pontiff was noted by Vatican II in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium which declared that:
The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.(30) [1]
Footnote 30 of the Dogmatic Constitution notes that this teaching was a reaffirmation of an earlier teaching from Vatican I:
30. Cfr. Conc. Vat. I, Const. Dogm. Pastor aeternus: Denz. 1821 (3050 s.) [2]
Therefore, both Vatican Councils taught the perminence and the source of unity of the Church and its visible foundation depended on the perpetual existence of the Roman Pontiff. Most of this treatise has been devoted to refuting 'traditionalism' as manifested in its majority opinions. And the majority of self-styled 'traditionalists' take the position that there is a valid pope today in Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) regardless of what they personally think about him. However, not all 'traditionalists' take this stance. A more consistent strand of 'traditionalists' styling themselves as "sedevacantists" hold a minority position in the movement but one that is nonetheless necessary to address since this is the logical outgrowth of 'traditionalist' philosophy. (Much as agnosticism is the natural outgrowth of religious skepticism in general.) Therefore, this section will be devoted to refuting the heresy of sedevacantism.

To address the sedevacantists claim (that the See of Peter is vacant), we will start by reflecting upon what Our Lord did in his time when amongst the wicked leaders of Israel. This is not a claim that the popes since John XXIII have been wicked of course. But let us grant the sedevacantist their premise briefly to therefore refute their foolishness. Let us look at how Our Lord handled Himself in the days of the Pharisees. Now Our Lord theologically was of the Pharisaic movement himself - being of the more conservative school of Hillel. (As was the Apostle Paul.) When speaking of the authority of the Scribes and the Pharisees shortly before issuing scathing rebukes against them, consider how He approach the authority that they claimed to wield. According to the Douay-Rheims Bible, He commanded obedience to the Scribes and Pharisees when they are seated on Moses' Seat (Matt. 23:1-3). Since he castigated them for personal failing and for following their own traditions in numerous places of the New Testament (see Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13), it is strange that He did not claim that through their errors that they had "forfeited" their positions of authority to teach. But maybe the sedevacantists do not use a translation mirroring the Douay-Rheims Bible. Perhaps in the "Holy Bible: Revised Sedevacantist Version" Jesus addressed the problem in the following manner:

Matthew 23
1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; unless you think they are teaching erroneously upon which ye may depose them for their seat is thus vacanted. 4 (Upon such a vacancy you must adhere to the teachings of the Pharisees of "the Eternal Sanhedren" which you should have no problem determining for yourselves even if your level of theological knowledge be no more than that of a small child's.) [3]
Yes the actions of Our Lord at the time must have been endorsing a deposing of the High Priest and declaring the Seat of Moses vacant. There is a lesson here that needs to be taken into account and it is this: if Jesus did not usurp the lawful authority of the very high priest who had Him put to death (Matt. 26:57-64), if He counselled the Jews to obey the teaching of the Scribes and the Pharisees, then the reader needs to ask how these sedevacantists get off thinking that they can disobey Church authority and be in like with the teachings of Christ. How can they "hear the Church" or "if they refuse to heed the Church be treated as the heathen and the publican" if the individual can decide when and under what conditions they will be faithful??? The answer is they cannot but instead the same error of private judgment that so ensnared the Jansenists and the Protestants - and even the majority of self-styled 'traditionalists' - is magnified in the case of the sedevacantist. And it is magnified to the point that what is a defacto heresy for others constitutes actual heresy objectively speaking for the sedevacantist. Let us start from Chapter I in the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus which to the knowledge of this author is from a Council that even the sedevacantists recognize as a valid Ecumenical synod.

In Pastor Aeternus, the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ promulgated at Vatican I, we are taught about the indefectibility and perpetual visibility of the Catholic Church. These two principles are intertwined in a Dogmatic Constitution of a General Council for a reason. Note carefully the context please:

Session 4: 18 July 1870 First dogmatic constitution on the church of Christ
Pius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record.
The Eternal Shepherd and Guardian of our souls {I Pet. 2:25}, in order to render the saving work of redemption lasting, decided to establish His holy Church that in it, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful might be held together by the bond of one faith and one love. For this reason, before He was glorified, He prayed to the Father not for the Apostles only, but for those also who would believe in him on their testimony, that all might be one as the Son and the Father are one {John 17:20}. Therefore, just as He sent the Apostles, whom He had chosen for Himself out of the world, as He Himself was sent by the Father {John 20:21}, so also He wished shepherds and teachers to be in His Church until the consummation of the world {Matt. 28:20}. Indeed, He placed St. Peter at the head of the other apostles that the episcopate might be one and undivided, and that the whole multitude of believers might be preserved in unity of faith and communion by means of a well-organized priesthood. He made Peter a perpetual principle of this two-fold unity and a visible foundation, that on his strength an everlasting temple might be erected and on the firmness of his faith a Church might arise whose pinnacle was to reach into heaven. But the gates of hell, with a hatred that grows greater each day, are rising up everywhere against its divinely established foundation with the intention of overthrowing the Church, if this were possible. We, therefore, judge it necessary for the protection, the safety, and the increase of the Catholic flock to pronounce with the approval of the sacred council the true doctrine concerning the establishment, the perpetuity, and the nature of the apostolic primacy. In this primacy, all the efficacy and all the strength of the Church are placed. [4]
The perpetual principle of the Roman Pontiff is tied into the visible foundation of the Church. Likewise the canon following the first chapter which solemnly reaffirms the following:
Therefore, if anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted by Christ the Lord as the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant, or that he received immediately and directly from Jesus Christ our Lord only a primacy of honor and not a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction:  let him be anathema. [5]
Chapter I and its accompanying canon declare that the Pope is the visible head of a visible Church, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her. This last phrase forms the basis of the attribute of indefectibility that the Church possesses - an indefectibility that sedevacantism denies by logical extension. This means that the Church as a visible organization will stay a visible organization to the end of time. Consequently, she will have a visible head of the Church leading her to the end of time. This is a defined doctrine of the faith which is denied by sedevacantist theology. Therefore, they are by this reason heretics unless they cease being contumacious in their denial of the above doctrine both de facto as well as de jure. But that would mean ceasing to be a sedevacantist of course.

Chapter II of Pastor Aeternus is about the perpetual primacy and succession of the See of Peter. Here is the text of additional points fatal to the sedevacantist position:

That which our Lord Jesus Christ, the prince of shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, established in the Blessed Apostle Peter, for the continual salvation and permanent benefit of the Church, must of necessity remain for ever, by Christ's authority, in the church which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end of time {See Mt 7, 25; Lk 6, 48}.

For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the catholic church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the saviour and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the holy Roman see, which he founded and consecrated with his blood {From the speech of Philip, the Roman legate, at the 3rd session of the council of Ephesus (D no. 112)}.

Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the church which he once received {Leo 1, Serm. (Sermons), 3 (elsewhere 2), ch. 3 (PL 54, 146)}.

For this reason it has always been necessary for every church--that is to say the faithful throughout the world--to be in agreement with the Roman church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body {Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. (Against Heresies) 1113 (PG 7, 849), Council of Aquilea (381), to be found among: Ambrose, Epistolae (Letters), 11 (PL 16, 946)}.

Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that Blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema. [6]

To culpably deny this solemn recapitulation of Chapter II of the Dogmatic Constitution is to espouse formal heresy. Vatican I said so; ergo, the sedevacantist must either repudiate Vatican I or selectively choose which parts they will accept. Either choice sets them outside the Catholic Church since the visibility of the Catholic Church is tied to the visible foundation of the Roman Pontiff. Sedevacantists deny this explicitly in claiming that the Papacy has, de facto disappeared for 25 years, 45 years, or whatever arbitrary period they choose. Therefore, to be a sedevacantist is to renounce the Catholic faith. Quid pro quo.

There have been four elections to the Chair of Peter since 1958 which have been accepted both by the Catholic Church as well as the world at large. Sedevacantists declare them to be invalid elections. This author asks them then to point out who has held the papal chair since 1958 if not for Roncalli, Montini, Luciano, and Wojtyla. To be a Catholic one must affirm the permanence of the primacy of the Roman pontiff: a prerogative impossible to do under the sedevacantist theology. Since the sedevacantist seems to consider themselves and their allies as competent judges of what is and is not orthodox we must ask them this question: who has the responsibility of saying that the pope's election was doubtful??? As there has been no answer definitively set forth by the Church, no one is obligated to believe that an election is invalid simply because a little sliver of theologically inept dissidents feel as if somehow they have been vested with supreme theological acuity to see what the Magisterium of the Church supposedly does not see. In this treatise, the author dealt in detail with numerous so-called "errors" of Vatican II. Not one single example properly looked at in context withstands scrutiny. In fact, the only way that Vatican II or the post Pius XII popes can be shown to have "erred" is a process that Protestant apologists use consistently with popes and Councils of the pre-Pius XII period.

It is just as easy to prove that Constance "contradicted" Vatican I or that Trent "contradicted Florence" as it is to prove that Vatican II contradicted any doctrine of previous popes. Anyone can prooftext. Yet proof-texting without taking into account the sitz im leben of a document is to play the role of a self-anointed Protestant pope. This is one reason 'traditionalism' in this treatise is so often referred to with derision as "Protestantism of the right" because it is. Its practitioners practice the very private judgment that Fr. Luther used at the Diet of Worms and that the Jansenists used in opposing themselves to the "Humanist influenced" Council of Trent. Yes, just as Vatican II has been labeled by so-called 'traditionalists' as "Modernist-influenced", so too was Trent labeled as "Humanist-influenced" by the Jansenists (whom we dealt with earlier in detail). They were the originators of the idea that they could determine when the Pope was infallible and (if they declared he was not), they sought to justify ignoring his authority and decrees. A sedevacantist is no less a heretic than Calvin and company if they stubbornly persist in promulgating the sedevacantist lie in the face of at least 2 solemn de fide declarations of the Church.

The sedevacantist may claim that the four popes elected since Pius XII were (and are) invalid because the person elected was not a legitimate candidate for the office. (The lie about Pope John XXIII being a freemason comes to mind.) But for argument's sake, let us concede the argument that Papa John was a freemason. First of all, by the very Apostolic Constitition Vacante Sede Apostolis issued by Pope Pius XII in 1945 it was made quite clear that even freemasons would be eligible for election not only to the College of Cardinals but also in the conclave they could be validly elected as pope:

None of the Cardinals may in any way, or by pretext or reason of any excommunication, suspension, or interdict whatsoever, or of any other ecclesiastical impediment, be excluded from the active and passive election of the Supreme Pontiff. We hereby suspend such censures solely for the purposes of the said election; at other times they are to remain in vigor. [7]

"Active" in this context would seem to mean that such a Cardinal can vote in the election, while "passive" would seem to mean that he himself can be elected. This type of provision has been substantially the same in all papal conclave legislation for the past few centuries. And by all accounts it would be unavoidable that the governing Constitution of the 1958 Conclave - even if Papa John was a freemason - would have allowed him to be a validly elected pope. And in such a circumstance, he would have full authority and jurisdiction as any other pope. He would not govern licitly of course; however he would govern validly. And as a validly elected pope, he would have the authority not only in disciplinary and governmental faculties (such as the appointing of Cardinals such as Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan) but ratifying as binding magisterial teaching on the Church. With regards to Pope John XXIII it is not as much him that the sedevacantists seek to deny but the binding authority of the constitutions, declarations, and decrees of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. (Solemnly promulgated by John XXIII's successor Pope Paul VI.) This is what sedevacantists seek to deny with their claims of a "vacant seat" in Rome. If they spent more time taking a fully orbed understanding of the Catholic faith (and not limiting themselves to the overly-juridical Western Aristotelian tradition common to the second millennium) they might see the Eastern mysticism that permeated many parts of Vatican II. (This is most notably in the Dogmatic Constitutions Lumen Gentium/Dei Verbum, and the Constitutions Sacrosanctum Concilium/Gaudium et Spes.) Some of this was touched on in this treatise and while more could be noted; nonetheless what was covered was sufficient to demonstrate the amateur manner in which self-styled 'traditionalists' read and properly comprehend magisterial documents. But there is more:

That the Primacy is to be perpetuated in the successors of Peter is, indeed, not expressly stated in the words of the promise and conferring of the Primacy by Our Lord, but if flows as an inference from the nature and purpose of the primacy itself. As the function of the Primacy is to preserve the unity and solidarity of the Church; and as the Church, according to the will of her Divine Founder, is to continue substantially unchanged until the end of time for the perpetuation of the work of salvation, the Primacy also must be perpetuated. But Peter, like every other human being, was subject to death (John 21, 19), consequently his office must be transmitted to others. The structure of the Church cannot continue without the foundation which supports it (Mt. 16, 18): Christ's flock cannot exist without shepherds (John 21, 15-17). [8]

It is impossible to embrace sedevacantism and not to be a heretic. Peter has perpetual successors in his primacy for all time according to Vatican I. Where are they??? If Roncalli, Montini, Luciano, and Wojtyla are not the valid successors than the sedevacantist has just conceded that Christ Jesus was a liar and that Vatican I erred. The Fathers and Scholastics and post-Scholastics would have condemned as heretical or at least savouring of heresy someone who dared to controvert the decrees of a General Council as self-styled 'traditionalists' so often do.

Even the earliest of Fathers in the era of the General Councils declared that controverting a General Council was a crime (the very word used by St. Athanasius the Great). Thus, though Vatican II stands controverted by the self-styled 'traditionalist' who rejects its teachings, due to the lack of promulgated dogmas of faith, a charge of heresy cannot be levied for this except indirectly. (Since denying the authority of the Second Vatican Council is to reject the indefectibility of the universal church.) Thus while rejecting Vatican II can be at most schismatic and proximate to heresy, denying the dogmas outlined above which were taught by the First Vatican Council is perfect grounds for a censure of heresy. That is really all that is needed to refute sedevacantism as a viable alternative. For as (i) Vatican I defined as divinely revealed not only the universal jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff (ii)  his perpetual necessity by Divine design, there is no ground left that is solid for the sedevacantist to stand on. So (iii) there is no need to entertain their foolishness any longer.

The inevitable play of human passions, interfering in the election of the Vicar of Christ, may perchance for a while render uncertain the transmission of spiritual power. But when it is proved that the Church, still holding, or once more put in possession of, her liberty, acknowledges in the person of a certain Pope, until then doubtful, the true Sovereign Pontiff, this her very recognition is a proof that, from that moment at least, the occupant of the Apostolic See is as such invested by God himself. (Abbot Guéranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, Vol XII, pg. 188)

[1] Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" §23 (November 21, 1964)

[2] Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" §23, footnote 30 (November 21, 1964)

[3] Matthew 23:1-4 (Revised Sedevacantist Version). Credit for the concept goes to Gary Hoge who developed this theme into a "Holy Bible: Revised Protestant Version" parody back in 1999.

[4] Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution "Pastor Aeternus" §1 (July 18, 1870)
[5] Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution "Pastor Aeternus" §1 (July 18, 1870)

[6] Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution "Pastor Aeternus" §2 (July 18, 1870)

[7] Pope Pius XII: Apostolic Constitution "Vacante Sede Apostolis" §34  (December 8, 1945)

[8] Dr. Ludwig Ott: "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" pg. 282 (c. 1960)

Additional Notes:

The citations from the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" were obtained at the
following link: http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/lumen.gen

The citations from the First Vatican Council were obtained at the following link:  http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM

The author originally read Pope Pius XII's Apostolic Constitution "Vacante Sede Apostolis" online back in early 2000 but has since been unable to find it again. The citation from that work referenced in this section was therefore obtained at the following link: http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt87.html

The citation from Dr. Ludwig Ott was taken from his theology manual "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", Tan Books Fourth Edition (c. 1960)

Protocols and Paranoia

Almost all the different sects of heretics admit that there is one God; but then, by their pernicious doctrines, they change [this truth into error], even as the Gentiles do through idolatry - thus proving themselves ungrateful to Him that created them. Moreover, they despise the workmanship of God, speaking against their own salvation, becoming their own bitterest accusers, and being false witnesses [against themselves]. Yet, reluctant as they may be, these men shall one day rise again in the flesh, to confess the power of Him who raises them from the dead; but they shall not be numbered among the righteous on account of their unbelief. Since, therefore, it is a complex and multiform task to detect and convict all the heretics, and since our design is to reply to them all according to their special characters, we have judged it necessary, first of all, to give an account of their source and root, in order that, by thus, thou mayest understand the nature of the tree which has produced such fruits. [St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Adversus Haereses Book I §22,2 (circa 180 AD)]
It would not hurt to mention in brief before this treatise is summarized that the 'traditionalist' movement is home to every kooky fringe theory that you can possibly imagine. There is a whole cornucopia of them from Masons running the Vatican to Jews running the world to Holocaust denial and of course those "Modernists" seeking to hunt the 'traditionalists' down. Many examples could be given but in the interest of brevity just one will be the focus here: Bishop Richard N. Williamson. This excommunicated SSPX Bishop (whose "jurisdiction" is supposedly the North American continent) has been known to quote the discredited Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in his Winona Newsletters. For those who are unaware of what this document/book is, its advocates wave it around as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. It is supposedly the blueprints of a systematic totalitarian takeover of the world by an elite cabal of Jews. A few of the "predictions" from this work have come to fruition in the past 100 years based in no small part to those who know history well can spot the parallels from the past common in any declining culture. This is of course not a good enough explanation for the paranoid 'traditionalist' who sees this as "proof" that the document is genuine. It is another example of what those with a bit of information can do to hoodwink the masses who find bliss in their ignorance. In this light the metaphor of Our Lord as a Shepherd is dead-on accurate: the bulk of humanity are mindless sheep.

Now while this author admittedly subscribes more to the conspiracy side of history than the accidental side (because it is human nature to conspire and little happens by accident in world affairs), the extent to which some people will go with this theme is quite frightening. In essence it is trying to do with politics and world events what Protestant Fundamentalism seeks to do with science and theology. The essence of Fundamentalism (and indeed some wings of Evangelicalism) is very much akin to that of the radical conspiracy theorist. In both cases it involves applying an Docetic/Arian (*) simplicity to events which are far more complex than can be set forth in the few simplistic words or phrases that people of this ilk desire. To people of this mode of thinking, any degree of mystery or the unexplained (or a realm of comprehension or information that they are unaware of or cannot explain) must be wrong if it does not fit into their narrowly defined parameters of "correct" or "incorrect." Thus to the Atheist there is no God much as to the Muslims and Jews the Trinity is a false doctrine. Many Evangelicals consider the possibility of long creation days to be anathema because they read ancient biblical literary forms in nineteenth-twentieth century literal terms and not in the manner that those of the ancient cultures understood them in. The majority of Protestants deny the Real Presence - speaking in an almost Gnostic-like disbelief about the very concept. To the economically undereducated, the concept of a complex capitalistic system simply must be the "Anti-Christ" or the "Beast" rather than a potentially good concept that is often perverted by evil men. Numerous other examples could be brought forward but the point being made here is evident. Simplistic thinking can be very dangerous and unfortunately most of its practitioners are unaware of the destructive range of this "weapon" if you will.

This is not an attempt to imply that there is not genuine secular humanism, Modernism, or indeed evil out there (there is plenty of evil in the world). The only point in bringing this up is that this same simplicity leads to often the most brash posturing about "facts" which are based on a generalized observation and often covered over with ignorance and bigotry. Until recently, this was frequently applied explicitly to people based on race, heredity, or even religion (and still is today albeit in less explicit ways). One of the groups often maligned historically in this manner is the Jewish people. In bringing up the Jewish people, we come once again full circle to the Protocols document mentioned earlier. It is very important to highlight how narrow minded and implicit bigotry manifests itself in the sort of extreme 'traditionalism' of which many in the Society can be properly classified. (People such as the aforementioned Bishop Richard N. Williamson.)

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion document was shown to be a hoax over eighty years ago. It was a known forgery even in the early 1920's. (The authorship has been established to have been someone or a group within the Tzar's secret police.) It was written at the earliest in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and based on a French satire. (About two thirds of the work is directly plagiarized from a work first published in the 1860's.) Bishop Williamson would undoubtedly (since he quotes it authoritatively) claim that the work is authentic specifically because it is widely claimed to be a forgery. For to someone of the simplistic "Docetic/Arian" mindset, any refutation of evidence from an avowed "foe" (regardless of its merits) is ignored or demeaned because control is best fostered in an environment of despair. If you frighten anyone enough, they will look for a solution - any solution - and that is when the cultists provide one. This is why anyone who dares to tell Chicken Little that the sky is not falling becomes the target of demonization and must be discredited. This is the fundamental philosophy behind all forms of mind control and the essence of a cultic mindset: a mindset that is not at all uncommon in the 'traditionalist' movement.

(*) Docetism was a heresy that denied the humanity of Our Lord. Arianism was the exact opposite of Docetism in that it denied the divinity of Our Lord.

Summary of Treatise

Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing. On those whose purpose it was to teach differently, lay the necessity of differently arranging the instruments of doctrine. They could not possibly have effected their diversity of teaching in any other way than by  having a difference in the means whereby they taught. As in their case, corruption in doctrine could not possibly have succeeded without a corruption also of its instruments, so to ourselves also integrity of doctrine could not have accrued, without integrity in those means by which doctrine is managed...One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition. [1]
[T]he Catholic Church alone is the body of Christ, of which He is the Head and Saviour of His body. Outside this body the Holy Spirit giveth life to no one seeing that, as the apostle says himself, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us;" but he is not a partaker of the divine love who is the enemy of unity. Therefore they have not the Holy Ghost who are outside the Church; for it is written of them, "They separate themselves being sensual, having not the Spirit."  But neither does he receive it who is insincerely in the Church, since this is also the intent of what is written: "For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit." If any one, therefore, wishes to receive the Holy Spirit, let him beware of continuing in alienation from the Church, let him beware of entering it in the spirit of dissimulation; or if he has already entered it in such wise, let him beware of persisting in such dissimulation, in order that he may truly and indeed become united with the tree of life. [2]
Because of the nature of a treatise like this, it is not at all uncommon to come across as condemning of the individuals espousing a certain philosophy when it is the philosophy itself being condemned and not the individuals holding it. The intention during this presentation has been to emphasize many times that this treatise is aimed at refuting ideas but not people. However, if at any time this perception has not successfully been conveyed than an apology is extended to you the reader. Many things were said that are undoubtedly a source of grave scandal for illegitimate 'traditionalist' groups (be they lay faithful or clergy). Most priests trained in the seminaries sponsored by these kinds of groups - despite going in with the best of intentions - come out with a rather stunted view of Church history, Tradition, and the nature of the Magisterium. (Not to mention what is and is not proper obedience.)  Though more could be said on this subject, what is covered in this treatise is more then ample to point out the profound deficiencies in this philosophical outlook.

The intention of this treatise was to set out to demonstrate 7 systematic refutations of the movement that calls itself  'traditionalism' on points that are key to the sustaining of their philosophy. Those points (and the sections devoted to refuting them) were as follows:

To the clergy of 'traditionalist' organizations who are reading this, please consider Tridentine communities in communion with the Holy See so that you are working for the Church and not against her. To aid in this endeavour, the Fraternal Society of St. Peter can be contacted along with other organizations such as the Society of St. John  and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest: all of which are in communion with the Pope and who are working for the Church rather than against her.

Another even more excellent form of service would be to become proficient in both rites as some Church priests are so that you can provide the greatest service possible to the Church - especially in this current period of slower vocational propagation to the priesthood and other ministries. Even in the best of times there is never enough workers to help with the harvest and these are hardly the "best of times." Please come home to Rome and "submit to the Bishop [of Rome] as you would to Jesus Christ" (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch).  This is the true mark of a Catholic not the pseudo-judgmental private interpretations of Protestantism or playing the role of a modern day Jansenist and judging the Magisterium by previous conciliar/papal documents privately interpreted by those without proper Magisterial authority (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Please review the sections of this treatise and be honest with yourself. You may become anguished at that which the evidence clearly (and without a shadow of doubt) reveals. A feeling of betrayal at this time is not irregular and you are not the first to travel that road. You are not the first to have fallen for this massive pseudo-'traditionalist' confidence trick and you certainly will not be the last for many people have believed the fabrications exposed in this project for many years. Most who came out of this movement with the grace of God were like the author of this treatise: very wishy-washy in some of these areas for much of that time as well when they had justification (or so they thought) to forgo investigating these matters. It is an easy state to fall into when you are being told what you want to believe but truth is not determined by what you want to believe because that makes truth arbitrary. The nature of truth is that it is unifying not divisive. It is capable of development (Mark 4:26-33; John 14:16-18, 16:13) but is unchanging in essence; antiquated yet forever fresh and young.

These kinds of groups groups are cut off from the vine (John 15:6), they are cut off from communion with the Church of the Living God (1 Tim. 3:15). We know this because the only authority who can make this determination (or who is indeed empowered to from God) is His Holiness Pope John Paul II (Matt. 16:18-19). This was covered in the section on schism but it bears repeating here because this is crucial: the Holy Father's word is final and there is no appeal to his judgment. (See Vatican I Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Can. 333 §3, and Can. 1404-1406§2.) Your only recourse to avoid "making shipwreck of the Faith" (cf. St. Athanasius the Great) is to submit to the Holy Father and come home to Rome. The Church needs people who are passionate about their faith but put your zeal to work inside the Church and not outside of her. n no way is such a transition going to come without its difficulties of course but Catholicism following the example of the Apostle preaches a crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:1-2) and the importance of taking up one's cross and following the Lord (Matt. 10:38). The bottom line is this and there is no escaping it:

Any form of 'traditionalism' that is not in communion with the Church: that disparages the Church, the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, the authority of the Popes, etc. is a false Gospel (Gal. 1:8-9). This are the facts of the case and as this treatise demonstrates, they are beyond dispute.


[1] Tertullian: Demurrer Against the Heretics §38 (c. 200 AD)
[2] St. Augustine of Hippo: A Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists §50 (c. 400 AD)
Additional Notes:
The citation from Tertullian's masterpiece "A Prescription Against Heretics" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0311.htm

The citation from St. Augustine of Hippo's "Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1410.htm

The Meaning of Being Catholic

Contrary to the attempts of being indirect and focusing on facts, there is an emotional side to this which the author sought to leave out of this treatise as much as possible. Since it is important to take all factors into account, that aspect will be addressed now by dropping the indirect references and focusing this discourse on a personal level.

The initial problem I had in making the move away from 'traditionalism' was that which will undoubtedly plague many 'traditionalists' who examine the underlying philosophies of this movement honestly. The treatise you are reading did not sugar things over for a reason: these are serious issues being discussed. What those who style themselves as 'traditionalists' will find if they are honest with themselves is that there will be a reflexive action involved. The evidence in this treatise is conclusive and this is a factor that the reader must deal with if they are honest in adhering to God's will. The intellectual aspect of it is easiest perhaps but emotionally the problems run deeper.

Though I touched on the psychological elements of this earlier in this work (at the end of url 5), it is worth noting here again because those who are honest with themselves will at some point resist emotionally what their head tells them is necessary. There will be a period of struggle as they will seek to find any excuse to adhere to schism or remain in communion with sciismatics or those proximate to heresy. (Or in the case of the sedevacantist, to adhere to blatant heresy.) The reason is because of personal preferences, which will inexorably come at the expense of one's immortal soul. I personally had this problem in spades where I found myself --- despite having difficulties with the organization of SSPX, their philosophies, etc.--- wanting to find any excuse to avoid having to go to the Pauline Mass. In hindsight, the words of Greg Krehbiel (in writing about his journeys from Atheism to Evangelicalism to Reformed Protestantism to the Catholic Church) struck a chord with me although I did not read his work until after I left the so-called 'traditionalist' movement:

I tried not to be a Roman Catholic. Very hard. But my convictions gave me no rest...I met with a priest and talked things over, and things seemed to be moving along smoothly until I asked Dr. Scott Hahn to sponsor me. Of course he was overjoyed that we had finally decided to join the Church, but he knew that I still had reservations about some Catholic teachings, and couldn't sponsor me under those circumstances. He said there's all the difference in the world between coming to believe Roman Catholic doctrines on my own and believing them because the church says so.

I also learned that at my reception into the Church I would have to recite a statement that I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches. If I was bitter and frustrated before, I was just plain angry now.... Who did the pope think he was, requiring me to make such a statement?...I couldn't be a Protestant any longer, and now it looked like I wasn't going to be a Catholic either. I was stopped at the door, held hostage by this tyrannical decree: our way or the highway. And then, right in the middle of my anger and frustration, God broke through and pointed me in the right direction...All roads pointed to Rome, but not exactly -- not perfectly. I needed to trust the mapmaker.

I don't really believe that God speaks to me, but I imagine that if He did, He'd have said something like this. Yes, this is God's Church, and yes, I do know what I'm doing, and yes, this is the key to Catholic faith: belief that I lead and guide the Church. That, I discovered, is the basic difference between Catholic faith and all other Christian faiths -- the belief that God preserves His Church in the truth. There isn't some vague, will-o-wisp church that pops up here, fades away and then apostacizes only to reappears over there under new management, but a specific church, founded by Christ upon Peter.

That was the missing element in all my searching and pondering. I knew the Church taught that, of course, but it always seemed like an annoying detail. Now I saw it as the ecclesiological pearl of great price. It was the one thing that tied together all my concerns and complaints and theories. We submit to this one church because God guides it into the truth. Dispense with that, and everything unravels. It's not good enough to agree with the church's doctrine. You have to believe that the God is at work in the church, leading it into all truth. Scott dared to be a true friend and speak the truth in love, and that brought about the final conversion...

At first I had very mixed feelings about becoming Roman Catholic. I decided to swallow my bad feelings and follow my convictions, but I really didn't like it. I resigned myself to my fate -- Kum-Ba-Ya and Barney liturgies, holding hands during prayer and similar touchy feely stuff. But good feelings or not, the conclusion is this. It doesn't matter how good the Bible studies and worship music is in Jeroboam's Israel, I have to plug my nose and put up with Rehoboam's Judah, where the temple, the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices are done according to the law.

The Roman Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ. Its ministers are authorized by God to administer Christ's sacraments, and in the mass I participate in the heavenly liturgy and receive a foretaste of the world to come. No, the music and the preaching is not as good as I'd like, and I certainly hope things get better. But is that really the bottom line? I suspect that lots of men are better fishermen than my dad and lots of women are better cooks than my mom. But guess who I'd rather fish with, and guess where I go for Thanksgiving? [Greg Krehbiel: The Cheshire Christ ]

I too found myself seduced by the beauty and the solemnity of the Tridentine Mass but it was being offered in "Jeroboam's Israel." The Catholic Church (for all of the problems she has today) is still Rehoboam's Judah: the only acceptable sacrifices are the ones in communion with Rome or "according to the law." Notice also the theme of an active principle that Greg spoke of. The Church's authority over us must be an active authority or it is no authority at all. The self-styled 'traditionalist' or the schismatically minded of the Indult Catholics who decides to judge the Magisterial documents for themselves and decide which they will or will not obey is no better then the "reformers" were in rejecting the authority of the Church. For that is what the self-styled 'traditionalist or the schismatically minded of the Indult Catholics do and this is beyond a shadow of doubt the way they act. You either hear the Church as you would hear Christ or you reject the Church and in doing so reject Christ (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20). There is no halfway, no 'traditionalist' attempts to weasel out of it. You obey God or you obey men (Acts 5:29). And no matter how well intentioned that most 'traditionalists' are in their positions, they are objectively no better then the Protestant who is equally well intentioned who does the exact same thing. The only difference is that our Protestant brethren are more consistent in this regard then the so-called 'traditionalists' and the schismatically minded of the Indult Catholics are.

However, rather then guess at the status of the groups you are attending as to their legitimacy, go to the following link and see if your organization is posted there. If it is then they are not authentically Catholic and will not be until they submit to the Vicar of Christ. If they are not at that link, then just to make sure ask for verification of their status. Even if you receive it, double check with the Local Ordinaries of the Dioceses where you attend Mass:


This is imperative because the Council of Trent issued a decree on this subject which has never been revoked and it reads as follows:

It shall not be lawful for any bishop, under the plea of any privilege soever, to exercise pontifical functions in the dioceses of another, save by the express permission of the Ordinary of the place, and in regard to those persons only who are subject to that same Ordinary: if the contrary shall have been done, the bishop shall be ipso facto suspended from the exercise of episcopal functions, and those so ordained (be similarly suspended) from the exercise of their orders. [Council of Trent: Session VI (Decree on Reformation)]
Therefore, either the self-styled 'traditionalists' who are affiliated with non-diocesan bishops can either (i) assert the heresy of sedevacantism and deny that there is a reigning pope at the present time or (ii) accept the validity of the reigning pope and thereby recognize that such bishops who act in this manner - no matter what their pretense of privilege is - are lawfully suspended from the exercise of their orders. (And thus if they exercise their orders they are involving themselves in open acts of schism against the Apostolic see.)

I can only recommend groups I know are legitimate as it has been demonstrated beyond any degree of reasonable doubt in this treatise that 'traditionalism' apart from the living magisterium is an internally incoherent philosophy. It is no different from any other dissent movement in history and is eerily similar to the Protestants and the Jansenists - especially the latter. Please take note of it, pray on the matter, and leave this movement. If the Fraternal Society of St. Peter has chapel in your town go there. If not then get in touch with FSSP and see if there are other similar apostolates in your area such as the Society of St. John or the Institute of Christ the King. If there are not then return to the Catholic Church and find a church to attend where the Mass is said in a reasonably acceptable manner. From there, write your bishop and raise a ruckus. However, do not use this as an excuse to remain in league with schismatics and those who are proximate to heresy. Do not involve yourself in any way with the groups listed here. No matter your personal feelings on the matter you have to remember this cold sobering truth:

The most aesthetically pleasing of Masses is not worth spending an eternity separated from the Lord of Hosts because you chose to rebel against His will and tell Him how you were going to worship Him. He expects you to hear His Church (Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16, John 13:20). Refusal to do this will not bode well for you at the Judgment. You either deal in personal opinions or follow God's way which may well include a Cross to bear (Matt. 10:38). As a Catholic, I should not have to tell you which is the way of life and which is the way of death.

©2003, 2000, "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (Part 14), written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may bedownloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published,
electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.


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