THE ADVANCE OF THE SEDEVACANTISTS
For a moment, imagine yourself not knowing anything of what you have read in the earlier chapters of this book, particularly regarding the Second Vatican Council, namely how the Vatican institution was legally detached from the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps you were in such a state before you started reading this book. Picture yourself facing a most painful mystery. You see "the Church," once solidly founded on the Rock of St. Peter now cast adrift with nothing but shifting sand to grab on to. Desperate to reconcile such phrases as "the Mystical Body of Christ," or "the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic" with what you see happening in your local diocesan parish, how could you help but be willing to latch on to almost any theory, no matter how crazy or far out, which could possibly explain what had happened to the Catholic Church?
With such a large number of beautiful, devout, Catholic parishes practically all at once going to seed, losing members, financial support, sanctity, and even that Catholic atmosphere or ethos or mind-set or character, hundreds of millions of Catholics all around the world, like yourself in such a case, are at a loss to explain or understand how all of that can be. Clearly, something has gone gravely wrong, and with so many people being personally confronted with things that are going wrong, you will find a tremendous diversity of theories to explain it. Not understanding what happened to Catholic authority back in Vatican II, the following list is just a tiny sampling of some of the theories you might have felt inclined to believe.
There is the "prisoner in the Vatican" theory which claims that "the pope" everyone sees is actually an impostor while the real pope is held captive in some Vatican dungeon. The impostor, being not really the pope, is therefore not infallible, but quite able to foist his heresies on the naive and unknowing Church. That is one of the more wild and wacky theories which cannot be taken seriously and would not have been taken seriously by anyone had only everyone understood what happened at Vatican II. While that theory does not in and of itself require a non-Catholic mind set, many of those who have embraced it either went off into the Palmar de Troya sect or followed the thoroughly discredited Bayside apparitions, or else went off in comparable directions.
Another wild and wacky notion is sometimes called the "Cardinal Siri Theory," a claim that Cardinal Siri was actually the one elected to be Pope in either of the 1958 or 1963 conclaves, and that he has secretly functioned as Pope Gregory XVII until his death in 1989. Unfortunately, Cardinal Siri has seldom if ever shown any support for the traditional Faith or Mass, and now that he is dead, the followers no longer have any living pope to whom they can point to as their leader, or pray in union with, when saying the Mass.
There is the "End of the World" theory which claims that we have entered some special period of time known as the "End Times," or the "Three Days of Darkness." There are many prophecies both in Scripture as well as in the Private Revelations of the saints regarding a major apostasy just before the End of the World. One therefore explains the fall of the Church in terms of that last great apostasy. Again, this theory need not apply now that the real cause of the disaster has been located, and it may be a cause for disappointment for some people when they find out that this is not the End of the World after all. The result of embracing this theory is often that one ends up becoming a home-aloner and thereby being deprived of the sacraments and Catholic fellowship.
While one can readily see that the first three theories are fallacious, and even (particularly in the case of the first two) rather silly, at least they each permit one to keep a Catholic frame of mind. There is therefore no guilt or doctrinal error on the part of those who have resorted to those theories, providing they have avoided the heretical Palmar de Troya sect, the Bayside (or other false) apparitions, and not become a home-aloner.
There is another theory which poses somewhat more of a threat to one's faith, but which can be rendered at least doctrinally harmless, if coupled with some other theory. This is the conspiracy theory, namely that the Church hierarchy has been taken over by subversives of various kinds, whether Freemasons, Masonic Jews, Communists, Illuminati, or other typical archvillains that the conspiracy theory enthusiasts often go on about. One must grant that some sort of conspiracy has been at work bringing about the Second Vatican Council and all of the damage it has brought to the Church. However, without the benefit of some other theory to explain why God has allowed this conspiracy to succeed, where all others throughout Church history have failed, those who embrace this theory are in danger of falling into the heresy of believing that some extra bit of cleverness on the part of Satan would have the power to repeal God's promises regarding the indefectibility of the Church.
Still another similarly serious theory, but less controversial, is the thought that sociological and/or historical changes, particularly in the United States and Europe, have caused many clerics to become soft and to have enough time on their hands to concoct the novelties of Vatican II. Indeed, the abuses have been worst in these areas, and it was their easy financial prosperity that gave them unwarranted clout at Vatican II, but again, to put the doctrinal rectitude of the Church at the mercy of such mindless and random sociological or historical forces is to deny the role of God in protecting His Church. Whether by planned conspiracy or by unplanned sociological/historical pressures, this theory requires another theory to supplement it in order to explain things without denying God's promises to His Church. The next three theories are much more serious because they intrinsically involve actual damage to one's faith.
There is the "maybe Vatican I was wrong" theory which leads one to suppose that maybe the Old Catholics or even the East Orthodox or some other dissenters are the "real" Catholics. Aside from the evident loss of faith such a position entails, it even causes a person to identify with dissent which is where the fall of the Vatican institution actually came from in the first place. Keep in mind that the subversive Liturgical Movement is made up of the same sort of dissenters with the same heresies as the Old Catholics or the East Orthodox which this theory leads one to join. It is as if one jumps out of the frying pan into the fire.
Then, there is the "maybe Catholicism is wrong" theory which is the position which lies at the heart of all of those who left the Church when "the changes" came along, regardless of whether they became Protestant, Jewish, New Age, or just lost all apparent interest in religion. Seeing something, which could never be changed, suddenly get changed quite understandably destroyed the faith of many in the Catholic Church. Were it really possible that the Catholic Church could ever be changed the way the Vatican institution has changed, then that would have conclusively proved that all of Christianity was a hoax and a fraud from the very start. It was the separation between the Catholic Church and the Vatican institution which allowed the latter to fall, and it is the recognition of that separation (even on an unconscious level) which has made and will make it possible for the Church to continue today and tomorrow as the traditional Catholic movement.
Finally, there is the "Truth has changed" theory. This is by far the most widespread theory. Every active member of the Novus Ordo Church of the People of God has on at least some level (even if only an unconscious one) embraced this theory. In this case one follows the leadership of the Vatican institution no matter what they teach, and no matter what they contradict. Maybe religious liberty and indifferentism used to be sinful but God has since changed His mind and so they are no longer sinful. Perhaps next year God will change His mind again and decide that 2 + 2 = 5, or that the speed of light is 55 miles per hour, or that one must commit adultery to get to Heaven, or that tabernacles must be moved (again) to birdhouses across the street, or that all crucifixes should be torn down and replaced with Satanic pentagrams, or that Paul VI was a saint! Who knows what will be "The Truth" tomorrow?
A very unusual and clever theory which never got much headway despite its interesting features and its attractiveness is the "Western Patriarch" theory. This theory operates on the basis that Paul VI only changed the Western (Latin) Rite, and so therefore was doing so not as Pope but merely as Western Patriarch. One can at least see in this theory a small germ of the truth because the Novus Ordo religion does, by even its own definition, lack universal jurisdiction. Alas, the one great weakness of that theory as presented here is that it lacks any explanation for the Novus Ordo teachings on ecumenism and religious liberty or indifferentism. Unlike the other theories, there are no groups or priests who support this theory. It is the following theories which are of the most serious merit and therefore of real interest to all true Catholics:
There is the "authority has been gravely abused" theory which is that the pope and the bishops are abusing their authority. Many who take this position believe that such abuses ought not be followed. This is the approach taken by most members of the SSPX. It is based on the belief that the areas in which the Vatican hierarchy have erred are all strictly in the realm of discipline, which has never been guaranteed to be infallible.
Many others who believe the "abuse of authority" theory are not clearly aware of the contradiction between the new disciplines on the one hand and Faith and Morals on the other. All they know is that they don't like the new disciplines and so they request to be excused from them. Sometimes their request is granted and they receive an Indult. Only then do these people get to keep their Catholic Faith and Worship. Certainly, in the case where they are granted their Indult, they do keep their Catholic Faith and Worship. But what will they do if their Indult is revoked?
Since many of the unfortunate new disciplines contradict Faith or Morals, they ought not be obeyed. Discipline is by its very nature inferior to Faith and Morals (and Revelation) and so no discipline which contradicts Faith or Morals can ever have any moral force of Law. The priests and members of the SSPX, and those Catholics practicing their faith under the Indult, are as yet unaware of the legal detachment of the Vatican institution from the Roman Catholic Church and so therefore find themselves unwilling to admit that authority has been lost, hence their opinion that rightful authority is being wrongfully abused by the persons who hold it, whether as a result of ignorance, fear, or malice. At least such Catholics as either have an Indult or else align themselves with the SSPX or comparable clergy have kept their Catholic Faith.
In some ways, the "abuse of authority" might be more properly considered a refusal to admit to any explanation, particularly on the part of the SSPX. Their policy is to avoid any real attempt to explain what has happened to the Church. After all, any explanation capable of holding any water would be almost certain to destroy their diplomatic position and render them unable to assist in the potential rehabilitation of the Vatican institution, for that (aside from aiding the souls in their care) is their true mission from God. Admitting that they lack the ecclesiastical competence to pronounce that the Conciliar and post-Conciliar popes are not popes at all, the SSPX treats them as much like popes as they can, and try to encourage them to behave more like the popes that they ought to be.
And finally, there is the "the ostensible hierarchy has lost authority" theory (whether partially or totally), now commonly referred to as sedevacantism. We got a brief glimpse of that in the last chapter. Let us now take a closer and more detailed look at what sedevacantism actually means. Although the term "sedevacantism" and the discussions regarding this theory often focus on the person of the pope or the papacy, it far more pointedly applies to most of that hierarchy which the man (whatever he may properly be called) is ostensibly leading.
Sedevacantism faces opposition from two directions. The Vatican hierarchy, including John Paul II himself, are terrified at the prospect of this theory gaining widespread attention. Such a fear is quite understandable, perhaps even justified: For every "illicitly" consecrated bishop who takes a sedevacantist position owing to the fact that John Paul II is not Catholic enough for him, there are hundreds of Novus Ordo "bishops" who would be quite happy to adopt a "sedevacantist" position simply because John Paul II is still too Catholic for them. Yet it is in reality those non-Catholic Novus Ordo "bishops" who most directly stand accused of having vacated their Sees, far more so in most ways than John Paul II (and the other doubtful popes) themselves.
The other source of opposition has been a theological one. The basic argument of the case for sedevacantism goes like this: If a man who is pope decides to embrace some heresy (thereby making himself a heretic) and to teach heresy, he no longer has the Faith, is therefore automatically excommunicated, and since he is no longer a Catholic he can no longer be regarded as being the leader of the Catholic Church. He would therefore lose his office and his chair is empty (hence "sedevacantism"). There does exist a strong consensus of Canonists and Doctors of the Church such as Matthaeus Conte a Coronata, Wernz-Vidal, or St. Robert Bellarmine, that WERE a pope to become a heretic, THEN he could no longer be pope and it would therefore be time for another papal conclave. That much has been established beyond all doubts, so far so good.
The theological difficulty enters in on two accounts. For one, virtually all of these same Canonists and Doctors opine that such a thing is not possible since the Holy Spirit protects him from becoming a heretic even if he wishes to become one. Granted that is only their expert opinion and as such they themselves admit that it could be wrong, but the other theological difficulty has been by far the weakest link in the sedevacantist's argument:
No one but God can ever rightly judge the pope. Even in the above described example as discussed by the Canonists and Doctors, the pope is not excommunicated by anyone else since he lacks any lawful superior in the earthly realm, but incurs an automatic excommunication. The part of the bishops and cardinals in this case is merely to ascertain that the pope has excommunicated himself (and so they elect his successor), not to excommunicate the pope. How much less then, is it our role as ordinary private Catholics to excommunicate the pope. For any of us to decide for ourselves that John Paul II (or whoever) is not a pope certainly seems very much like a private judgment, and as devout and informed Catholics we all know how little that is worth!
Fortunately it is not quite so bad as all that. For a person to say "I think I know better than the Pope," is clearly an untenable position, and any "sedevacantist" who takes that position is simply not a Catholic. That is categorically NOT what the Catholic sedevacantists I am writing about here have done. It is the reliable popes of the Church, who have taught her doctrines in the most forceful language they could muster, who have already condemned the false beliefs promulgated as a result of Vatican II. It is they who said that if anyone teaches such-and-such then that person is a heretic. Catholic sedevacantists are merely those who relay the teaching of the reliable popes when they say of a Conciliar or post-Conciliar pope that he is a heretic because he teaches such-and-such, the same exact "such-and-such" the reliable popes have condemned as heresy.
Just as it is not Catholic to decide that the leader of the Vatican institution is not a pope on one's own private authority, or because that leader should happen to disagree with one's personal pet theory or political agenda, it is also not Catholic for one to claim on their own authority that everyone MUST believe that the current leader of the Vatican institution is not the pope. Some of the earlier Thục-line bishops, Musey and Vezelis among them, jumped the gun a bit and made that mistake.
As a Catholic, one has always been free to publish and publicly quote at length the teachings of the reliable popes, to show what the great Canonists and Doctors of the Church have written regarding what is to happen if a pope becomes a heretic, or even juxtapose the true teachings of the reliable popes and councils with the contrary teachings resulting from Vatican II. Having said that much they can only leave the conclusions to their audiences. Until reliable authority (in the person of the next reliable pope) should emerge, the Church and everyone in it can go no further.
The big problem with that is that it forced the sedevacantist to speculate on the interior disposition of the leadership of the Vatican institution. Such speculations are by their very nature extremely subjective and therefore quite fallible. We Catholics have long had the circumstantial evidence that something had gone wrong. For all we knew it might have been a loss of Catholic authority, but there were many other theories which seemed at least as plausible to many of the faithful. Could such a loss of Catholic authority have happened secretly? Without knowing precisely what, when, or how that authority had been lost, sedevacantists were logically forced to opine that it could, even though it is almost but not quite a de fide teaching of the Church that it cannot. Even worse, having to resort to such speculations carries with it the temptation of committing character assassination, i. e. thinking or teaching that John Paul II (or whoever) must be an evil man who is deliberately and with criminal intent resisting the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, or even that he is the Antichrist (of Biblical prophecy).
Now that the true legal and juridical impact of Vatican II is known, the subjective and circumstantial evidence (which had for so long hinted at the loss of authority) has now become merely corroborative evidence of the partial loss of authority decreed back at Vatican II. As far as this writer is concerned, that big problem has now been solved. Those brave souls who managed to march straight ahead, as if it would one day be solved, are at last proven to have behaved correctly in this crisis! Moreover, it is no longer necessary to claim that John Paul II is some sort of evil man or Antichrist, a claim which is impossible to sustain in the presence of the man's evident benignity. The man is almost certainly unaware of the fact that by affirming Vatican II he is affirming his own lack of both universal jurisdiction and absolute authority. It is a de fide Catholic teaching that such infallibility is exclusively reserved to the bishop who has universal jurisdiction and absolute authority, or those bishops in total union with him during the time that they serve as a College of bishops in an Ecumenical Council.
Even though the Canonists and Doctors opined that the Holy Spirit would almost certainly protect a pope from becoming a heretic and thereby losing his office, they nevertheless have discussed in their writings what the Church should do in the event their opinion is wrong and some pope does some day vanish into heresy. Classically, the Fathers and Doctors (most notably St. Robert Bellarmine) who discussed this question narrowed it down to five basic alternatives:
Unfortunately, many of their discussions focus on the scenario of a pope all by himself somehow vanishing into heresy while a basically sound bishopric or cardinalate still exists capable of discerning that fact and of taking the appropriate action. Many, particularly those within the SSPX and like groups, seem to favor the fourth alternative, but that is the position most adversely affected by the fact that what we now have is almost the other way around. Almost the entire hierarchy of bishops, archbishops, and cardinals is so far off base out in left field as to make their somewhat questionable leader John Paul II actually look quite good by comparison. This writer could never trust them to depose John Paul II validly since they would only do it so as to install someone more to their liking and I shudder to think what sort that person would be. Some of these types have already been pushing for John Paul II's resignation.
Among the ranks of the SSPX, it has always been policy not to discuss such things, or at the very least to restrict such discussions to the level of very private conversations among priests. Indeed, their "position" has been to avoid taking any position even on such basic questions as "Has the Vatican institution lost authority?" Over time, many of the priests and seminarians at Ecône and other SSPX seminaries had come to be exposed to a number of theories about the current Church crisis. Owing to differences of temperament and background and the particular teachers and associates to whom they were personally exposed, a few different camps emerged.
The main camps, based on schools of thought, which emerged were the hardliners, the softliners, and those who, for lack of a better phrase, have been sometimes called the Lefebvre-liners. Everyone in the SSPX was (and is) obliged to proceed as much as morally possible on the premise that John Paul II is a pope until proven otherwise by the formal declaration of some reliable pope yet to come. A hardliner is one who believes that John Paul II will one day be deleted from the list of successors of St. Peter while a softliner is one who believes that John Paul II will always be kept on the list of successors of St. Peter. A Lefebvre-liner is one who refuses to entertain any opinion on the question, one way or the other, even in the most private corners of his mind, but who goes with whatever Abp. Lefebvre (or those who succeeded him) direct.
As long as everyone agreed to do the same thing, regardless of their private opinions, things went along smoothly enough within the SSPX. It was the separation of the North-East and South-West districts in the United States which invited trouble. As it happened, those priests who took a hardliner approach tended to gravitate to the North-East district while those priests who took a softliner approach tended to gravitate to the South-West district. The Lefebvre-liners were more or less equally found in both the North-East and South-West districts. Many of the priests of the North-East district had been with Lefebvre at Ecône during the wretched confrontations between Abp. Lefebvre and Paul VI. Understandably, many of those who had a ringside seat to those ugly confrontations would have trouble believing that Paul VI was a pope at all. The American seminary was placed under the care of the North-East district and it was a certain professor there, a medical doctor, who ventured the theory that the Vatican leadership had somehow lost their authority.
Over the course of the 1970's, Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy, a surgeon and psychiatrist trained at New York University College of Medicine and who had served in a medical capacity with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, had some rather considerable correspondence with her regarding certain issues he had come across in his private studies of Church history and canon law. In the beginning, she had insisted that he agree to have all of this correspondence published, but as she increasingly found herself out of her depth and unable to defend the Novus Ordo religion, she changed her mind and asked him not to publish their correspondence. Out of respect for her wishes, he has never published any of her letters to him. However he did gather up copies of his own letters to her (minus any references clearly addressing her) into a book entitled The Destruction of The Christian Tradition which he published in 1981.
By that time he had already signed on as a professor at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary at Ridgefield, the SSPX seminary in Connecticut under the auspices of the North-East district, teaching (rather predictably) Ecclesiastical History. Under his tutelage, the priests of the North-East district acquired a very hard-line position against the papacy of the Post-Conciliar popes. Even the good Doctor's book subtly advocated the sedevacantist position, with such phrases as "Pope Leo XIII" on the one hand, but "'pope' Paul VI" on the other. Being very untrusting of the Conciliar and post-Conciliar Vatican leadership, they strictly adhered to the Missal as used during the reign of the last reliable pope, Pius XII. They refused to have anything to do with any later liturgies, even the relatively small changes made during the reign of John XXIII.
Lefebvre, suspicious that something of the sort might be going on in the North-East district, sent (then) Fr. Richard Williamson in to investigate the matter. Another event somewhat relevant to this was the promulgation of a new Code of Canon Law by John Paul II in January of 1983. In spite of his criticisms of the new Code, Abp. Lefebvre felt bound to recognize this new Code as being the Law of the Church. The priests of the North-East district, however, did not. With that, they revealed their true appraisal of John Paul II's status.
Tensions continued to mount between the North-East and the South-West districts as the hardliner position of the North-East district and the softliner position of the South-West district became more and more manifest. Each of their publications, The Roman Catholic, and The Angelus respectively, published substantially different quotes from Abp. Lefebvre, presenting two very different portrayals of his position. Eager to take the moral high ground, (then) Fr. Kelly, who was the District Superior of the North-East district, took Fr. Bolduc, who was the District Superior of the South-West district, to task for having allowed two Old Catholic priests to serve in a few SSPX chapels temporarily until better priests could be obtained, and for various other liturgical and pastoral concerns. (In all fairness to Fr. Bolduc, the two Old Catholic priests had abjured their error of Old Catholicism.) The two Old Catholic priests were promptly removed by Lefebvre, but they simply went to Florida where they still pretend to be SSPX priests even though their chapels are never listed in the official SSPX directory.
On account of that, Fr. Bolduc's career as District Superior did not last very much longer, despite his otherwise sterling career as District Superior during which he (together with the saintly Franciscan Fr. Carl Pulvermacher who did most of the actual manual labor of printing and assembling the literature) founded Angelus Press, led the entire South-West district (including the University in St. Mary's, Kansas), and took care of his own parish in Dickinson, Texas.
Finally, in April 1983, matters came to a head. Abp. Lefebvre, greatly concerned over the news sent to him by Fr. Williamson, came over to Oyster Bay Cove in order to deal with this matter personally. He asked Fr. Thomas Zapp, one of three young priests he had ordained for the North-East district only the previous November, to say the mass from the 1962 Missal. Fr. Zapp refused. Eight other priests and twelve seminarians stood in solidarity with Fr. Zapp. Those eight priests were Fathers Donald Sanborn who was then rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Clarence Kelly the District Superior, Anthony Cekada the District Bursar, Joseph Collins who was the Headmaster of the University in St. Mary's, Eugene Berry who was his assistant, Martin Skierka who was another of the three priests ordained by Lefebvre the previous November, Daniel Dolan, and William Jenkins.
On the 27th of April, Abp. Lefebvre ejected all nine of these priests from his society along with some seminarians who were sympathetic to them. Almost immediately, the nine formed the Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV). Fr. Williamson replaced Fr. Kelly as the superior of the North-East district, and also took over control of the seminary at Ridgefield. Dr. Coomaraswamy also resigned from his teaching post at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.
A number of legal battles over the properties started shortly thereafter. It is a fair legal question however. Should the properties go to the side who had formed, trained, and ordained those priests, and under whose auspices they worked and collected funds, or to the side of those priests themselves who had done the real work by laboring in the fields bringing the sacraments and sound Catholic teaching to the hungry souls? The nine priests of the SSPV presented a united front throughout those property disputes. In time that would change somewhat, but not until the property disputes were all settled and certain other events transpired.
The priests of the SSPV lost ownership of the seminary, and most of the church properties, but retained ownership of a few church properties (including the one in Oyster Bay Cove) which they had previously taken the precaution of transferring to a trust owned by them, just in case something of this sort should happen. They also retained control of their journal, "The Roman Catholic" which continues to be the official publication of the SSPV to this day. In May, 1984, Lefebvre came to his newly reorganized North-East district and ordained four more priests. Three of them promptly took their valid ordination and placed themselves at the service of the SSPV, namely Frs. Daniel Ahern, Thomas Mroczka, and Denis McMahon. After that, Lefebvre was a great deal more cautious as to whom he ordained.
The (now twelve) priests of the SSPV gathered in June, 1984, at their chapel in Oyster Bay Cove and prepared a statement of their principles by which they operated as a religious society:
1. The changes following the Second Vatican Council have proven so damaging to the Roman Catholic Religion and so detrimental to the sanctification of souls that one can easily discern that "an enemy has done this." This Council marked the culmination of the first phase of a liberal and modernist intrusion into the Roman Catholic Church, which intrusion had already begun in the nineteenth century and to which St. Pius X alerted the Church in 1907. In his Encyclical "Pascendi" he states: "The partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church's open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are ... thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church." This intrusion was made possible because men influenced by modernist ideas gained positions of authority, thereby permitting confirmed heretics and enemies of the Church to overtake our Catholic institutions.
2. The aforesaid intruders have embraced and promoted the modernist and liberal program of the reform of the Church, condemned by the Roman Pontiffs, particularly by Pius VI, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII.
3. These intruders have attempted to promulgate, in the name of the Roman Catholic Church, abominable novelties in every aspect of her life, i. e., in the areas of doctrine, morals, liturgy, canon law, pastoral practices, seminary education and religious life.
4. The intrusion of the liberals and Modernists into positions of control has caused the widespread destruction of Catholic Faith, morals and worship and the creation of a new religion - - the so-called conciliar religion which is not the Catholic Religion. It should be apparent to all that this new religion is not the Catholic Religion because since its introduction into our Catholic institutions, these institutions no longer manifest the four marks of the true Church, the marks of unity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicity. Thus, those who promote the doctrines and reforms of the conciliar religion do not represent the Roman Catholic Church, which is absolutely and exclusively identified with the Mystical Body of Christ and which is known by its four marks.
5. The Catholic Church was established by Our Lord Jesus Christ for the purpose of teaching, ruling and sanctifying the faithful in His name. The members of its hierarchy are true successors of the Apostles, and the Pope, who as the head of the Catholic hierarchy, is the successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth. A Roman Pontiff consequently has universal and immediate jurisdiction over all the faithful.
6. To this Catholic hierarchy throughout the ages have been addressed the words of Christ to the Apostles: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21). By virtue of its divine institution, therefore, the hierarchy, by its very nature, exercises an authority over the faithful which is the very authority of Christ.
7. To exercise authority over the Church one must externally be a member of the Church. To be a member of the Church one must profess the Catholic Faith. Public abandonment of the Faith severs one from the Church and causes one to lose any position of authority one may have had. For this reason, theologians of all time have held and taught, and Canon Law confirms in canon 1325, no. 2, that anyone who publicly and notoriously defects from the Faith by obstinately denying or doubting any article of Divine and Catholic Faith is a heretic. It is evident that such a person could not possibly rule the faithful, for by analogy to a physical body, it would be impossible to be the head of a body of which one is not even a member.
8. Thus Canon Law equally provides for the tacit resignation from positions of authority of those who defect publicly from the Catholic Faith (Canon 188, no. 4).
9. But those who presently are thought to be occupying hierarchical positions in the Catholic Church are acting, for the most part, as if they do not have the Faith, according to all human means of judging.
10. Among Catholics who are presently adhering to tradition, bishops, priests, and laity alike, we observe a marked difference of opinion concerning the legitimacy of the present hierarchy. We hold that there is certain and sufficient evidence to assert, as a legitimate theological opinion, that anyone who publicly professes the conciliar religion does not legitimately hold any position of authority in the Catholic Church for the reasons stated in paragraph seven. While we do not claim the authority to settle this question definitively, we believe that the legitimacy of this theological opinion is dictated by logic and a correct application of Catholic theological principles. We recognize that the definitive and authoritative resolution to such theological questions rests ultimately with the magisterium of the Church. We thus deplore the attempt of some to settle this question by acting as though they had the authority to bind the consciences of the faithful in matters which have not been definitively settled by the Church.
11. The secondary object of the infallibility of the Church is her rites and disciplines. Because of this secondary infallibility, it is impossible for her to prescribe for the universal Church a law which is harmful or evil. But the Modernists have promulgated, purportedly in the name of the Church, rites and disciplines which are poisonous, evil and harmful to souls. It is therefore certain that these rites and disciplines do not come from the Roman Catholic Church.
12. Since the Second Vatican Council, the sacraments of the Catholic Church have been radically altered by the Modernists. These alterations contain substantial changes with regard to the ceremonies of the sacraments. In addition, they have effected changes in the very matter and form of the sacraments, thus rendering some of them doubtful or invalid.
13. In any case, therefore, in which the form or matter of the sacraments has been altered, we hold them thereby to be invalid if the change is substantial, or doubtfully valid where the matter or form is not certain, depending on the nature of the alteration effected. A clear example of such an alteration is the approval of grape juice as the matter for the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by the Modernists operating for the Congregation for Divine Worship.
14. Sacraments in the new religion are further rendered doubtful or invalid (1) by a defect of intention on the part of the minister in certain cases and (2) by the deviations, undertaken by the ministers, in individual cases which corrupt form and/or matter.
15. In the practical order, in the course of our pastoral activity, the Church obliges us to require the reiteration according to the traditional rites, either conditionally or absolutely, as the case may be, of any sacrament conferred in a doubtful or invalid manner. We refer the final determination of the validity or invalidity of the doubtful sacraments to the judgment of the Church when a normal state of affairs shall be restored.
The Sacred Liturgy
16. The Modernists have destroyed the sacred liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church in nearly all of her holy places. The process which brought about this destruction was begun well before the Second Vatican Council and achieved its ultimate expression in the impious New Order of the Mass promulgated by Paul VI in 1969. This destruction was effected by applying to the liturgy the principle of conforming the Church to the modern world. The end result was the New Mass and the many liturgical aberrations produced by it, thereby changing the liturgy from a treasury of Catholic doctrine and piety into a cesspool of protestantism, modernism, ecumenism, pantheism, and virtually every error condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.
17. We consequently reject this New Mass as an evil ceremony, since it is a purveyor of sacrilege, error, and heresy rather than the beacon of Catholic light and truth. We equally reject all the sacramental rites and ceremonies reformed in accordance with modernist principles. In the light of the foregoing, we must conclude that it is objectively a mortal sin to take part in the New Mass.
18. Since the very authors of the New Mass admit themselves that their destructive activity began before the Second Vatican Council, we logically reject the first steps before the Council which led to the general reform of Vatican II, particularly those produced by Annibale Bugnini in his work as Secretary of the Commission for Liturgical Reform. We do not presume to bind others to this rejection of all the pre-conciliar reforms, but we believe it is both right and expedient for the good of the Church to adhere to the Missal of Saint Pius V, reformed by Clement VIII, Urban VIII, and Saint Pius X. While it is possible that there could be differences of opinion concerning the acceptability of the pre-Conciliar reforms, the principle remains the same: that we should follow a determined set of rules used by the Church at some time before the Council.
The New Code of Canon Law
19. We utterly reject and condemn the New Code of Canon Law for the sole reason that it is a legal expression of the modernist distortion of the Roman Catholic Church. Its non-Catholic nature is recognizable by the blasphemous, sacrilegious, and impious practices which it condones and mandates concerning the Holy Eucharist, whereby it sanctions the giving of the Body and Blood of Christ to heretics and schismatics, and the receiving of Communion from heretical and schismatic sects.
20. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Modernists have been granting, purportedly in the name of the Church, annulments to married couples for reasons which have no foundation either in the traditional Canon Law of the Church or in the Roman Catholic doctrine concerning matrimony.
21. We consequently deplore this contempt for the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony commonly found among the Modernists operating the diocesan marriage tribunals and the Rota itself. In the practical order, therefore, we refuse to recognize any annulments coming forth from the aforesaid courts unless it can be demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the marriage bond of the annulled marriage did not exist in the first place. For, according to canon 1014 of the Code of Canon Law: "Marriage enjoys the favor of the law, consequently, in doubt, the validity of the marriage must be maintained until the contrary is proved."
22. In the light of the forgoing, we see no other practical course to follow than (1) to adhere with the certitude of the Faith to all of the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church; (2) to continue the work of the Church for the salvation of souls, and fulfill our duties as priests by providing the Catholic faithful with integral Catholic doctrine and unquestionably valid sacraments, using the faculties which the Church provides for such critical situations, for "jurisdiction is not granted a man for his own benefit, but for the good of the people and for the glory of God." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q.8, A.5) Therefore, "since necessity knows no law, in cases of necessity the ordinance of the Church does not hinder." (ibid. Q.8, A.6); (3) to reject the destructive modernist alteration of the Catholic liturgy and discipline; (4) to condemn, reprove and reject the poisonous errors of the Modernists, refusing the Catholic name to their tenets, worship, and discipline and thereby rejecting ecclesial communion with them. Mindful of the words of Saint Ephraem, Doctor of the Church, bidding us "not to sit with heretics nor associate with apostates," and that "it would be better to teach demons than try to convince heretics," we deplore every initiative that would seek to make compatible, in one Church, Roman Catholicism and Modernism.
23. These things we declare, mindful of St. Paul's injunction to the Ephesians to "have not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" and in fulfillment of his command to "reprove them." (5:11) These things we do in the firm certitude of adhering to the indestructible and supernatural unity of the Roman Catholic Church, which extends, unaltered and pure, from her foundation by Our Lord Jesus Christ to His Second Coming, from one end of the earth to the other, from the Church Triumphant in Heaven, to the Church Militant on earth, to the Church Suffering in Purgatory, as one unadulterated Church and Faith.
Rev. Clarence Kelly
Rev. Donald J. Sanborn
Rev. Daniel L. Dolan
Rev. Anthony Cekada
Rev. William Jenkins
Rev. Joseph Collins
Rev. Eugene R. Berry
Rev. Thomas Zapp
Rev. Martin Skierka
Rev. Thomas Mroczka
Rev. Daniel Ahern
Rev. Denis McMahon
Octave of the Ascension June 7, 1984
I have included this rather lengthy statement in full in order that the reader may see the eminently reasonable and proper form which the SSPV has given to the position of sedevacantism. On this very sound and solid foundation they were able to march forward in total union with the Church while having nothing to do with the Modernists who labored to ruin the Church.
While they clearly maintain that the sedevacantist position is a reasonable one, and one which they personally hold, they also denounce those who dogmatically attempt to impose that position on the consciences of others (namely Bps. Musey and Vezelis and others like them). One also sees in their words the rationale for using the liturgy of the Mass as it existed prior to the reign of John XXIII. At the same time they are not forbidding the use of the John XXIII liturgy on the part of others (such as the SSPX or the Indult for whom that is their official version of the Mass).
Over the next five years, things went along smoothly enough for the SSPV while they finished off their property disputes against the SSPX and saw to the needs of their parishioners. Lacking a bishop they were unable to ordain any priests, however a few elderly and saintly priests, such as Fr. Roy Randolph, did align themselves with the SSPV. They also founded a congregation of female religious called the Daughters of Mary, and several Catholic schools. The spiritual and academic standards of these schools were (and are) so high that on several occasions, pupils of those schools have written brilliant, prize-winning essays against the evils of abortion.
If it was the duty of the priests of the SSPV to lend credibility and theological stature to the sedevacantist theory, it has been every bit as much the duty of the other sedevacantist groups to provide the sheer numbers of lay parishioners, religious vocations, and even the preservation of numerous local customs. While there were many sedevacantist groups around the world including the Mexican groups headed by Bps. Carmona and Zamora and the French groups headed by Bp. des Lauriers and Fr. Noel Barbara, this writer prefers to focus on the story of the group founded by Francis Konrad Shuckardt, otherwise known as the Congregatio Mariae Reginae Immaculatae (which means Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen), or CMRI for short.
While the SSPV had always been undeniably the best off sedevacantist group, the CMRI is clearly the opposite extreme. Under the thumb of Francis Shuckardt the CMRI endured far more degradation than any other sedevacantist group. Where the SSPV is a demonstration of how well and smoothly run sedevacantist groups can be, the story of the CMRI is a case where a healthy Catholic sentiment on the part of a large number of people would come to be exploited by a power-hungry and egotistical man, but because of their being part of the Roman Catholic Church such a state of affairs was not allowed to last, and the recovery they have made towards a proper Catholic functioning borders on the miraculous. All other sedevacantist groups all around the world fall somewhere between these two extremes.
After an early period of upset and some degree of instability owing to their not knowing if there were any other Catholic groups than themselves, and not knowing who to trust, by 1987 nearly all sedevacantist groups were emerging as reputable Catholic societies. Such would be the story of the CMRI, but not without first going through quite a time of troubles. If you recall, we left off the story of this group after Shuckardt had been consecrated a bishop by the Old Catholic Daniel Brown, and had soon after that betrayed Brown, who then returned to the Old Catholics.
For a time, Shuckardt had remained quiet about where he got his Episcopal Orders, not wanting to reveal his association with Brown, who besides having received his Orders from the Old Catholics, was also married with two children. Under pressure, he was forced to reveal his association with Brown and all of who Brown was. He did, however successfully evade any substantive charge of being an Old Catholic himself in any way. He had nursed Brown through an abjuration of his Old Catholicism before being ordained and consecrated by him. His followers generally accepted his obtaining of his orders from the Old Catholic line on the basis that times had become just that desperate, Abps. Lefebvre and Thục being at that time unknown to them.
In 1977, the group had grown so large and prosperous that they were able to purchase an impressive facility just north of Spokane, Washington which had previously belonged to the Jesuits as their North-West seminary. Being physically located on a mountaintop with an impressive view of Spokane, and having been dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel by the Jesuits, the facility came to be called Mount Saint Michael, or MSM for short.
They have used this facility as a parish church, grade school and high school, seminary, monastery, convent, retreat center, print shop and bookstore, priory, and international headquarters of the Mount Saint Michael movement and also the Fatima Cell movement. Many of their nuns, with their distinctive blue habits, have gone on tour as "The Singing Nuns" and have had several commercial recordings released. Their official publications were Salve Regina and The Reign of Mary. For the next seven years, the movement continued to thrive and grow, sending priests to various parts of the world, especially Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.
There were however, certain problems brewing. Shuckardt, for all of his perception, initiative, insight, and eloquence, was not a very stable person, mentally. Being in his own mind and that of his followers "the last Catholic bishop that we know of," the power he wielded over these people quickly went to his head and posed a catastrophic temptation for him. In addition, shortly after moving his operation to Spokane he began taking pain killers in massive quantities which further clouded his thinking.
As Mount Saint Michael gathered momentum and personnel, it also acquired a cultishness, not in any of its doctrines, but in the day-to-day operations of its leadership over its people. A large number of arbitrary rules were imposed, the effect of which was to isolate its followers from society in general, and particularly anyone who might be critical of MSM.
None of the weird practices imposed could be in any way categorized as against the faith, but many were definitely fanatical. For example, the dress code for women was unusually strict, even by traditional Catholic standards. Women were required to have their heads covered not only in church, but at all times. For a while, everyone was required to wear a rosary around their neck, over their clothes where everyone could see it.
They were expected to walk backwards out of church. The rationale for this was that our Lord, present in the sacrament, is a Royal Personage, entitled to be treated with honor as other royal personages, to whom no one ever turned their backs while in their presence. Nevertheless, no Catholic parish or religious order before or since has ever imposed such a rule. Information and books from the outside world were carefully censored.
If one member of a marriage wanted to move to Spokane or wherever to be ministered to by the MSM priests, and the other did not, there were some occasions where the first would be advised to leave their spouse and come anyway. This is what is commonly referred to as "marriage wrecking." Discipline of the children was very strict, and sometimes bordered on abuse, such as by shaving their heads, locking them in attics with no access to water, or stuffing jalapeno peppers down their throats.
The worst came when Shuckardt began attempting to seduce his seminarians and monks by having them swim naked in his presence and having "knee inspections." At first, his long-time friend Father Denis Chicoine stood by him, publicly denying all charges of homosexuality even to the point of accusing Father Clement Kubish of lying because Fr. Kubish had first gone public with charges of Shuckardt's homosexuality. Eventually it got so bad that even Father Chicoine had to denounce Shuckardt publicly in April, 1984.
Early next month, Shuckardt fled to Greenville, California. Denis Chicoine obtained a ruling from court barring Shuckardt from ever returning to MSM and also requiring Shuckardt to pay back about $250,000 which he had embezzled from MSM. In 1987, a SWAT team of 12 persons and a Highway Patrol helicopter conducted a raid on his priory to look for automatic weapons and found all sorts of illegal drugs along with precious metals in quantity, although there were only about eight handguns and rifles. With some small handful of followers, Shuckardt continues to grow weirder and weirder, and an attempt to reacquire MSM or at least some of its funds through a lawsuit in the civil courts failed in 1993, but his significance to this account ceased in 1984.
Out of all of this, the figure of Father Denis Chicoine emerges as a very real saint in the degree of his loyal and true friendship with the false bishop Shuckardt. Where Shuckardt had been scheming, conniving, and controlling, Chicoine had been simple, honest, and humble. When Chicoine would learn of some unsavory action of his friend Shuckardt, Shuckardt would apologize and promise not to do it again and ask Chicoine to please not talk of it to others. Chicoine, good friend that he was, would accept the apology, really believe that Shuckardt would try to do better next time, and cover his faults with silence.
It was only the long-continued weirdness of Shuckardt which finally forced Father Chicoine to turn his back on Shuckardt on behalf of the people in MSM. He had known Shuckardt since the earliest days of the Fatima Crusade, and had been crucial in contributing towards the growth of that traditional Catholic community. He had been ordained by Shuckardt, but just in case of any doubt which may hover over the validity of the Old Catholic orders, he was subsequently re-ordained conditionally by Bishop Musey. After many years of traveling and building up the Church, including several years serving in New Zealand, he died on August 10, 1995.
While one can be sorry that Shuckardt was not thrown over earlier, one can at least be thankful that they had not waited any longer to do so. Even more weirdness was on the way. Some of those who were close to him in the first part of 1984 were already privy to his next planned surprise: to announce himself to be Pope Hadrian VII. Those of the inner circle were already being trained to address him as such, at least in private. At the rate things were going, it wouldn't have been long before the MSM parishioners would have been almost as bad off as the parishioners of the Novus Ordo religion!
Meanwhile, what became of MSM and the CMRI now that Shuckardt was no longer in charge? After a year without a bishop, His Excellency George Musey, the Thục-line bishop from Texas who claimed jurisdiction over the Western half of the United States (plus Florida) accepted the post. Bishop Musey spent over a year with them trying to pick up the pieces. They still had a tremendous paranoia about other traditionalist groups, and some of the more tame practices instituted by Shuckardt were still habitual, but Musey did his best to try to bring them in line with the other traditionalist movements, his own especially.
The MSM parishioners and clergy were suspicious of Musey, but needing the sacraments which only a bishop could provide, they put up with him and the constant pressure he put on them to conform with the norms of Traditional Catholicism. Unfortunately, Musey, a priest whose training was by his own admission hardly adequate, found himself completely out of his depth in dealing with MSM.
While they had made considerable progress under his tutelage, by January 11, 1987, Bp. Musey found himself forced to leave and return to Texas. Musey's opinion of them is best expressed in his own words, "My mistake was thinking I was a good enough surgeon to handle it. I didn't realize the patient was going to bleed to death when I started operating." Father Chicoine's opinion of Musey had come to be equally low by that time as he said of Bishop Musey, "His credibility is zilch."
However much "the patient" may have bled, it was certainly not to the death. The next bishops to help them were Robert McKenna, Joseph Vida Elmer, and Oliver Oravec, Thục-line bishops who had much more of a "hands off" approach to running the MSM. They pretty much would just come, administer the sacraments, and leave. This allowed the Lord to work with MSM directly, bringing their hearts around to the truth. During this time they made considerable progress in their spiritual position as all the cultish ways instituted by Shuckardt faded away and real Catholicism, which the people never lost any affection for, made a comeback. The Jesuit facility they had purchased also came with the extensive library the Jesuits had kept there, and an extensive study of these books by the entire remaining MSM leadership went a long way to guide their theological development.
From the beginning, the fathers of the SSPV had nothing to do with any of the Thục bishops, but even more so, nothing to do with the CMRI and MSM which they regarded as terminally disreputable. In the days of Shuckardt, and especially the last six or seven years of his presence there, that had been quite an accurate assessment of their spiritual condition. The SSPV did not consider MSM's involvement with Musey much of an improvement, even though it really was.
The trouble with Musey, why he wasn't able to do as much good for MSM as he wished, and why the SSPV considered him almost nothing of an improvement over Shuckardt, was that he thought that he had regular jurisdiction, the exclusive authority of an ordinary diocesan bishop over his "diocese." If the priests, religious, or parishioners of MSM got a little recalcitrant, it was too easy for Bp. Musey to resort to saying "I am your lawful superior; you must obey me!" whenever things got too difficult for such a simple country priest to explain, even where he was right. This brings up the issue of jurisdiction, which for a time seemed to pose a problem for traditional Catholics.
While some sacraments, such as Baptism or the Eucharist, operate well enough independent of any jurisdiction of any kind, other sacraments, primarily Penance and Marriage, depend also on a quality known as jurisdiction, or "priestly faculties." Normally, jurisdiction comes from the pope through the regular diocesan bishops in union with him. Unfortunately, much of the Church today finds Herself obliged to function either in a seeming defiance of a pope who obstinately refuses to grant them regular faculties, or even in the complete absence of any living pope at all. Even that portion of the Church which has been granted regular faculties from their pope share those rather questionable "regular faculties" with the non-Catholics of the Novus Ordo religion.
How can a Catholic priest, operating outside the confines of the Vatican institution, absolve from sin or solemnize a marriage? Fortunately the Church has long ago provided the solution. There are several varieties of jurisdiction provided by the Church. The first and most important and common of these is ordinary jurisdiction which is granted by the pope to the diocesan bishops, and by the diocesan bishops to the priests of their diocese. There are some things which can only take place within the realm of ordinary jurisdiction, such as a formal condemnation of some new heresy, an excommunication, certain reserved absolutions, or the granting of an Imprimatur for a religious book. With the possible exception of some small scattered handful of elderly priests (no more such bishops are left, the last of those was forcibly retired in 1981) who were given permanent regular faculties and assignments by the Church before the changes, and who have faithfully served the true Catholics in their community in the name of their parish assignment, ordinary or regular jurisdiction has vanished off the face of the earth.
At the opposite end of the scale is what is called supplied jurisdiction. This jurisdiction comes about as a result of a need on the part of the faithful for the Sacraments which are not otherwise available. In Canon Law, the Latin expression Ecclesia supplet which translates, the Church supplies, is used to refer to this type of jurisdiction. In the Code of Canon Law (both old and new), several types of this jurisdiction are explicitly recognized including "common error," where for example a Catholic approaches a priest for confession not realizing that the priest is only visiting in that diocese and has no faculties there, "positive and probable doubt," where the benefit of the doubt is given to priests whose legal situation is too complex to know if he retains jurisdiction, and "danger of death," where a person is dying and desperately needs the Last Sacraments.
Another expression often used in reference to supplied jurisdiction is epikeia, Latin for equity, otherwise known as a sense of proportion, or common sense. If one's child is dreadfully ill and the only physician readily available is not licensed to practice medicine in that state, would a responsible parent refuse to allow that doctor to see the child merely because of his lack of an applicable medical license? Jesus said the same thing about healing on the Sabbath. Such laws were intended only to help us and where they fail to do so they no longer apply. Supplied jurisdiction then, is driven by the needs of the Catholic people, rather than by conventional juridical or authoritative mandates. Certainly at the very least, all traditional priests and bishops do indeed possess this form of jurisdiction as a lawful basis to perform their services.
Between those two types of jurisdiction, there is another type of jurisdiction known as delegated jurisdiction. It is given or delegated, either by a person who has ordinary jurisdiction, or in some cases by the law itself, to a person who otherwise would not have jurisdiction. For example a bishop may delegate faculties to a visiting priest who agrees to hear confessions in a parish in his diocese. Another example would be the jurisdiction given by a parish priest to a Catholic layman to run the parish's Catholic school as principal. Although this type of jurisdiction is seldom spoken of in the traditional community, I would venture the position that the traditional priests and bishops possess not only supplied jurisdiction, but delegated jurisdiction. There is every reason to believe that the same statements in Vatican II which created the legal detachment of the Vatican institution from the Catholic Church also by law granted delegated jurisdiction to all faithful priests and bishops who presently hold and teach the Catholic Faith. The claim in the Vatican II document (Lumen Gentium) that "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside [the] visible confines" of the Vatican institution, since no such exist outside the Roman Catholic Church (a de fide teaching), therefore constitutes a granting of such qualities to the newly created portion of the Church which is outside the visible confines of the Vatican institution. An "element of sanctification" cannot be merely a sanctified soul, but an agent or source of sanctification, i. e. a Catholic priest or bishop in union with Eternal Rome. Such union implies that jurisdiction has been delegated to them by the "Law" of Vatican II.
This delegated authority applies equally to all portions of the Church today, the Indult priests as well as Bp. Vezelis and whatever few priests are still aligned with him (despite their imaginings that they have ordinary jurisdiction), the SSPX, the SSPV, the CMRI, and in fact all priests and bishops all over the world who hold and teach the Catholic Faith. All of this is despite a variety of different theories regarding the nature of the current problems in "the Church" ranging from the abuse of authority position (whether they resist it or obtain an excuse from its non-Catholic demands) to the various sedevacantist positions, and even to some few who have gone to some of the really spacey theories as long as they have avoided non-Catholic associations such as Palmar de Troya, the other false popes, or the Bayside and other false apparitions, and who have also avoided becoming home-aloners.
Even sedevacantism comes in two basic flavors. There are the absolute sedevacantists such as the Mexican Thục-line bishops or Dr. Coomaraswamy who believe that through heresy the Vatican institution has lost all special claims whatsoever that it had once enjoyed as the Roman Catholic Church before Vatican II. To them, the loss of authority on the part of the Vatican leadership is complete and total. The other kind of sedevacantists are those of the materialiter/formaliter variety such as Bps. des Lauriers, McKenna, Sanborn, and Fr. Noel Barbara who believe that the leader of the Vatican institution is a material pope (he was validly elected), but not a formal pope (he never validly accepted or understood the office), thus granting the Vatican institution some special privileges particularly with regard to its potential to become once again the visible hierarchy of the Church, if only its leadership repents of its false new religion, retracts its false liturgical rites, abrogates Vatican II, and condemns the heresies of modernism, ecumenism, and religious liberty. To them, as to this writer, the loss of authority on the part of the Vatican leadership is partial, not total.
Just as the SSPX refuses to entertain or harbor any theories as to what happened to the Church, the SSPV correspondingly refuses to entertain or harbor any theories as to whether the loss of authority on the part of the Vatican leader means that he is a material pope or what. The CMRI, having been under the tutelage of Bp. Musey who was an absolute sedevacantist and then Bp. McKenna who was a materialiter/formaliter, has had to learn about these two different kinds of sedevacantism. Though the clergy of the CMRI are now all absolute sedevacantists, both kinds of sedevacantists remain to this day among the ranks of their attached lay faithful.
If the SSPV held a low opinion of the CMRI, not only because of their origins with Shuckardt but also because of their continued association with Thục-line bishops, the CMRI also had a low opinion of the SSPV, although they are far too polite to air that opinion publicly. In all the years that they had endured Shuckardt's egotism as "the last Catholic bishop that we know of," and then their Herculean efforts to rid themselves of Shuckardt and his influence and clean up their act they never received even one kind word of encouragement from the SSPV. It is hard to avoid seeing the stories of the SSPV and the CMRI as being very like the parable Jesus spoke about the man with two sons. The CMRI is so very like the prodigal son who wandered off in strange directions following that "rock-and-roll outlaw of Catholic traditionalism," Francis Shuckardt, but who came to himself in 1984 and then began the long journey back to the father. The SSPV is so very like the elder son who labored in the fields, never did any wrong (and to whom all the father's property will go), and yet who is envious that the father has welcomed back his prodigal brother. Thus exists one of the more painful divisions in the Church.
Despite their overall disapproval with the Thục-line bishops, the priests of the SSPV understood the need for bishops to continue the Church and had truly wished that Lefebvre would consecrate a bishop in order to continue the apostolic succession. Little did they realize how soon their wish would come true.
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