Catholic Answers

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To the Editor:

Thank you for your prompt response in sending your July/August 1995 issue with its article regarding sedevacantism. Although you do not charge me anything for it, I would like to compensate you for your effort, and also place an order for two other back issues which also pertain to this issue (namely March 1990 (m9003) and July 1991 (m9107)), and so therefore I enclose $15.00.

Alas, while the magazine is on the whole quite nice (The C. S. Lewis article stole the show), the article itself was, at least for me personally, rather disappointing. The only thing it told me that I didn't know was Gerry Matatics' and Bishop Mendez's peculiar affection for the heretical teaching of Fr. Leonard Feeney. The fact is that all three of the bishops discussed in the article (Mark Pivarunas, Daniel Dolan, Clarence Kelly) have each in turn formally denounced Feeney's heresy, namely that one has to be literally baptized in (or with) water in order to be saved. As an example of this I enclose two articles published in The Reign of Mary (a journal from Bishop Pivarunas' group) in which the position is made clear.

I think Gerry Matatics' refusal to address the issue of sedevacantism is a very wise course. In this way he is able to speak to (and on behalf of) traditional Catholics of every stripe and alliance. I attended the conference at Mount St. Michael last October where he was the keynote speaker (the topic of Feeneyism never came up during the conference), and was quite impressed, not only with his skill as a speaker, but with the articulate and masterful way in which he proved (in his talk entitled "Types of Mary In the Old testament") that the Old Testament has in fact a great deal to say about Mary, from which the Church has in fact derived much of her Mariology. If only this talk were to be condensed into an article you would find such an article eminently useful in your magazine. The point of all of that is that there is a great deal more to the traditional Catholic "movement" than the complex and convoluted question of whether we have a pope or not.

Back to the article, a sizeable portion is devoted to giving a thumbnail sketch of the history of some of the more prominent sedevacantist groups in America, with some (rather considerable and undue) attention being paid to Gerry Matatics and Richard Jamison. Gerry Matatics is irrelevant to this discussion since he is not a sedevacantist, but merely "open to that hypothesis," and he has never attempted to advance or defend sedevacantism. Also, as a Feeneyite, he takes a position unrepresentative of that taken by the sedevacantist bishops and groups written of in that article.

While Richard Jamison certainly does merit some mention as one of sedevacantism's most articulate defenders and the main force behind The Vacancy video, it is nowhere made clear that he is not the leader of, nor planning to start, yet another sedevacantist group distinct from those of Bishops Dolan, Pivarunas, and Kelly, but merely a prominent lay member of the Queen of Angels parish which is formally affiliated with Bishop Pivarunas and Mount St. Michael's. The case he presents about "mysterium fidei" and "pro multis" does not originate with himself but can be found explained in more detail in the books "The Ottaviani Intervention" translated by Fr. Cekada and "The Problems With The New Mass" by Dr. Coomaraswamy, respectively. Also germane to this discussion is the book "The Problems With The Prayers of the Modern Mass" by Fr. Cekada. (All three of these titles are available from TAN Books.)

In the telling of the story of those priests "expelled by Lefebvre," certain facts have been oversimplified to the point of distortion. For one thing, there was never a "faction" led by (then) Fr. Dolan against (then) Fr. Kelly. A more detailed and accurate account of events would go like this:

For some number of years, the SSPX had two districts in the United States, the South-West district headed by Fr. Hector Bolduc in Dickinson, Texas, and the North-East district headed by Fr. Clarence Kelly in Oyster Bay Cove, New York. While the priests of the South-West district followed Bp. Lefebvre very closely, and their publication, The Angelus, continued (and continues to this day) to be the official publication of the SSPX in America, the priests of the North-East district gradually grew distant from Bp. Lefebvre due to events which had been building up for some time.

Over the course of the 1970's, Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy, a surgeon and psychiatrist trained at Harvard Medical School and who had worked 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 an instructor at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary at Ridgefield, an SSPX seminary in Connecticut under the auspices of the North-East district, teaching (rather predictably) canon law and Church 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. John XIII had promulgated a mass in 1962 which removed certain prayers and which came to be regarded by the priests of the North-East district as being a prelude to the changes made over the course of the 1960's and finally the Novus ordo Missae promulgated in 1969.

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, Bp. 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 break with John Paul II.

Finally, in April 1983, matters came to a head. Bp. 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, Clarence Kelly, Anthony Cekada, Daniel Dolan, William Jenkins, Eugene Berry, Joseph Collins, and Martin Skierka. On the 27th of April, Bp. Lefebvre ejected all nine of these priests from his society along with some seminarians who were sympathetic to them. Almost immediately, they nine formed the Society of Saint Pius V. Fr. Williamson replaced Fr. Kelly as the superior of the North-East district, and also took over control of the seminary at Ridgefield. Around the same time, Dr. Coomaraswamy was removed from his teaching post at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary.

It is at this point that your article gets inaccurate. The property disputes were not fought between Fathers Dolan and Kelly, but between Lefebvre, Fr. Williamson, and the SSPX on the one hand, versus the nine priests of the SSPV on the other who presented a united front throughout those property disputes. 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 over their journal, "The Roman Catholic" which continues to be the official publication of the SSPV to this day.

While the supposed rivalry between Dolan and Kelly makes great press, it has no founding in reality. For one thing, all nine priests remained united in purpose and organization for fully six years after their expulsion from the SSPX, in the last five of which years they were also joined by three other newly-ordained priests in 1984, namely Daniel Ahern, Thomas Mroczka, and Denis McMahon. The events which led to the separation between Fathers Dolan and Kelly were actually based on a dispute between Fathers Cekada and Kelly. Father Dolan simply left with his close friend Father Cekada in August of 1989. What followed over the next four years was not so much a schism as a brain drain as various fathers, more or less one-by-one, departed from the SSPV, starting with Fr. Cekada in 1989 and ending with Fr. Zapp in 1993. Dr. Coomaraswamy also left, somewhere in the summer of 1990. Dr. Coomaraswamy and many of these priests have recoalesced outside the SSPV into a loose-knit association.

The dispute between Fathers Cekada and Kelly was this: Some years previously, Fathers Cekada and Sanborn decided, purely as an academic exercise and in the interest of good scholarship, to look into the difficult question of whether the episcopal consecrations of Bp. Thuc were valid or not. At that time, the idea of turning to Thuc-line bishops for confirmations and ordinations and other episcopal functions was abhorrent to all 12 priests of the SSPV. Neither had they expected to find that the consecrations would in fact be valid. Validity alone was the issue, namely would Bp. Moises Carmona for example, who was consecrated by Thuc in 1981 really be a bishop with the powers to perform the duties of a bishop, or is he merely an ordinary man wearing a funny costume? Fathers Sanborn and Cekada spent several years digging into this question by doing intensive research in libraries in various parts of the world and even consulting with several bishops (including de Castro-Mayer of Campos, Brazil).

In the Summer of 1989, the results of this research were presented to Fr. Kelly, who was and still is the superior in charge of the SSPV, to discuss the dissemination of the surprising fact that the Thuc consecrations are in fact valid. Father Cekada wanted this information to be widely available since it was the truth and in the interest of avoiding the sin of calumny against the Thuc-line bishops. It is one thing to say that they have done some very stupid or scandalous things which some of them have, but it is something far more serious to accuse them of not being bishops when in fact they are. Father Kelly felt that such findings should be suppressed lest his priests or lay parishioners defect to some other group affiliated with any of the Thuc-line bishops. Already some parishioners had turned to Bp. Williamson to have their children confirmed, and it was felt that this was making some of them leave the SSPV chapels. Others would certainly have gone to Bp. McKenna or Bp. Oravec for the same thing. Fr. Cekada was thinking doctrinally and made a sound doctrinal decision while Fr. Kelly was thinking organizationally and made a sound organizational decision. When they could not agree, they parted company. Fr. Sanborn, who had done the bulk of the research, remained loyal to his friend Fr. Kelly by sitting tight on what he knew and remaining with the SSPV for another two years.

It is only with the episcopal consecrations of Dolan and Kelly that anything approaching a sort of rivalry could have in any way started between them. Also, the difference between them is very much comparable to the difference between Paul and Barnabas. The disagreement was not over any matters of faith, worship, or morals, but simply over the matter of the status and nature of a third party (John Mark in the case of Paul and Barnabas, Ngo Dinh Thuc in the case of Kelly and Dolan). The seeming feud between these men is not therefore very important in the overall scheme of things, but may provide the basis of a very healthy competition which has already given to the Church two more fine traditional seminaries and many vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

After another section discussing one of these seminaries (again focusing far too much attention on Gerry Matatics who appears to have not even accepted the seminary post after all), it finally arrives at the meat of the discussion, namely the sedevacantist rationale. While the several pages of preceding narrative material might be of some interest to those unfamiliar with current events in the Church, it is never admitted that, were there really to be no pope and no hierarchy owing to their abdication through either resignation or heresy, then the way these bishops (Pivarunas, Dolan, and Kelly) have acted, apart from their personality clashes, has in fact been precisely what the behavior of faithful Catholic bishops should be in such a case. They have not claimed regular jurisdiction; they have not set themselves up as mini-popes. What they have done is preserve the Catholic faith as last known to exist through the training and formation of priests and the saving of souls through the administering of sacraments, and the advancement of the Catholic faith through the preaching and teaching of a solid and utterly reliable catechism based solidly on all of the established catechisms and teaching of the Church. The only question one can reasonably ask is whether sedevacantism is true or not. If sedevacantism is true (i. e. there is no pope) then these men are doing as they ought. Otherwise if it is false then that, and only that, is their one big mistake.

Now, to the meat itself: Father Sanborn has found a number of contradictions between the Pre- and Post-Conciliar documents. While a short list of things taught is given as quoted from Fr. Sanborn's essay, it is nowhere made clear. Do you deny that John Paul II said these things, or do you deny that they are heretical? Instead, you just move on. You claim that it is a weak argument to say that one should adhere to what is taught first. It is never explained what is weak about it. On the other hand, I am quite prepared to explain just what is strong about that argument. Proof by contradiction: let us suppose that the opposite is true, namely that newly promulgated truths must take precedence over previously promulgated truths. In that case, the Church becomes simply whatever the current authority figure decides on a whim. If the next pope decides to proclaim herself to be the fourth person of the trinity and Satan to be the fifth, then that becomes the truth. And every time some pope invents some new doctrine, God (or Goddess as the case could become at any point in such a scheme) has to go out and remake the entire Universe in accordance with the pope's new whim. Truth would therefore cease to have any meaning beyond the pope's own skull and total anarchy and chaos would prevail. Such a position therefore becomes so absurd and ridiculous as to be unworthy of any further refutation, hence the opposite (namely that previous teachings must hold precedence) must be true. Q. E. D.

The only objection you raise is simply the question of whether or not there is any contradiction. You ask where John Paul II said "All men are saved." Fr. Cekada, in his booklet Traditionalists, Infallibility & the Pope gives the answer on page 6. It is to be found in the May 6, 1980 issue of the Osservatore Romano, presumably in some papal speech or letter. Not having access to that publication and not being able to read Italian (or is it in Latin?), I have no way to verify whether such a statement is there and if so in what context. If you were to look it up and find that it is not there, then you will have performed an admirable piece of detective work, precisely the sort of thing apologists are called to do. If it is there, the context might reveal something as to what was meant by it. What I wonder is what you would do in the event you find that it really is there and in a context which clearly establishes that John Paul II really does intend to teach that all men are saved? Would you ink out all references to the fact that there is a Hell and some people go there from all of your Catechisms and Bibles? Or would you try to come to grips with the fact that sedevacantism is in fact a viable theory? I am very curious to see what you find and what you do when you look it up.

You next tell the reader to "Follow Sanborn's logic." Anyone who does that will become a sedevacantist. Is that what you want? I thought you were going to refute it, not advocate it. You mention that Sanborn "does not really grapple with" a notion that the contradiction might somehow be "merely apparent and not real." Perhaps he doesn't, and neither have you, but I will. I admit that I have not personally encountered any absolute contradiction between any official conciliar or post-conciliar document and Catholic doctrine, but there are a number of places where they are only the barest fraction of a degree from being diametrically opposed, and an attempt at reconciliation between them would require a rather considerable amount of mental gymnastics and logic stretching. My suspicion is however that once one sees just precisely what logic-twisting such a reconciliation requires, that may end up becoming an even more damning indictment of the new teachings than merely juxtapositioning the conciliar statement with the authoritative and "apparently" contrary teaching of the Church.

For this, I choose the example of the statement in the schema on Religious Liberty at which point Bp. Lefebvre balked and ceased signing any more documents in that council (Gaudium et Spes was the only other document he hadn't signed so far and there were no more to come). That is the statement which said, "This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits." This passage itself is highly suggestive of at least several heretical notions, for example if no individual or group of any sort has a right to coerce another person in religious matters, does that not seem to imply that parents have absolutely no right to demand that their minor and dependant children go to Church or behave themselves while there or avoid stealing candy or obey any other of the ten commandments? The particular notion in this passage which I intend to take on is the notion that everyone of any belief has the absolute right to express their beliefs in the public forum, even for the purpose of proselytization to their false religion. As brought out quite clearly in the booklet Archbishop Lefebvre and Religious Liberty by Michael Davies, this is the exact notion which Bp. Lefebvre found just too heretical to sign his name to. Numerous popes and councils and all of Church tradition have all universally affirmed that "error has no rights" and heretics must not be allowed to confuse the public by being allowed to spread their heresies through the public forum. It is this notion I will attempt to reconcile.

How can this be reconciled? On the one hand, Church tradition teaches that something is a manifest evil, and on the other hand this document seems to teach that the identical self-same thing is a manifest good. First of all I am not talking about Religious Tolerance which deals with the nature of some compromise accepted by the Church in this or that society simply because it's the best it can get there, or which is politically feasible, but what is spoken of in that document as an absolute right on the part of the heretic, independent of any social or political conditions. A little analysis would help clarify the issue. There is in this situation a conflict between two goods, namely the good for the heretic who is after all a soul to be saved, and the good of the public, or society at large. For the first is the principle that the conscience of an individual ought not be violated, even when malformed through upbringing in a false religion. What the Church must seek to do is to reform the conscience to bring it in line with reality as made and described to us by God. To violate a conscience is to destroy it, to sear it, as it were, with a branding iron, thus making it insensitive or nonexistent.

There are many cases where the Church can respect this first principle without violating the second, such as in the case of the Jews who do not go out making proselytes and haven't throughout most of Church history. Since they kept to themselves, married amongst themselves, didn't bother anyone else, and made absolutely no attempt to convert anyone who did not actively seek them out, the Church has had no problem with allowing them to live within a Catholic society. On the other hand, a Protestant fundamentalist may believe that he is morally obliged to go out and make converts and publicly deny Catholic doctrines such as the Real Presence or purgatory or the sinlessness of Mary. At this point, the second principle kicks in. A heretic can do a large amount of harm to society (i. e. a great many other souls) by teaching his errors publicly, and must therefore be stopped, both in the interest of social order as well as the eternal welfare of those who could lose their souls from listening to him.

Classically, the Church has always subordinated the first principle to the second since the second concerned not only the great many more souls in society, but also the future of that society and of the Church in that society, whereas the first only concerns a single soul of an individual who may very likely have already passed that point of no return and who would in that case have no ability to repent anyway. The ideal thing would have been to silence the heretic, except in public debates between the heretic and a qualified doctor of the faith who would also happen to have debating skills at least on par with the debating skills of the heretic, so that everyone in the community can see for himself that the heretic is completely off base and laugh him out of town. Brute practical necessity has usually forced the Church to try first to explain the truth to the heretic, and if that fails, to order the heretic to remain silent under the threat of dire consequences, or if that fails, to have him permanently removed from society and disposed of by whatever means the secular prince sees fit. Unfortunately, many secular princes would have the heretic publicly put to death by slow torture which then made them all into false martyrs.

With all of this in mind, I now tackle the Vatican II document. It is unfortunate that the document itself regrettably does not in any way make it clear that the principle of respect for an individual's malformed conscience is and must still be the lesser of the two principles, and concern for society at large the greater principle. One could (and indeed must, if this notion is to be reconciled with Catholic doctrine at all) take it as an assumed that the lesser principle is still subject to the greater, and that this document is merely concerned with seeing to it that the greater principle does not simply negate the lesser, but that, without surrendering the greater principle, one nevertheless does their level best to accommodate the needs of the lesser principle as well. In the case of the Protestant fundamentalist heretic who feels obliged in conscience to preach his errors publicly, I maintain that society must be protected, but if the Church is truly all that interested in respecting the malformed conscience of the heretic, I see no reason why they could not arrange for providing some contrived situation in which the heretic can be fooled into thinking he has discharged his duty to propagate error while in fact he has not. Allow him to preach his errors to an audience who cannot hear him or who are otherwise known to be incapable of believing his errors, but hired to act as though they are very interested to hear what he has to say.

I realize this sounds very far-fetched, and furthermore I know of no instance where it ever has taken place, but the theoretical possibility of such a scenario quite literally represents the only way such an objectionable notion as that in the Vatican II document could ever be served in a truly Catholic way. "Error has no rights," but sincerely erroneous people do, as long as others can be protected from their errors. Actually, I am one step more merciful than this principle. I accord to error exactly one, and only one, right, namely the right to be answered with the truth. Either you must accept that admittedly ludicrous and absurd attempt at a reconciliation, or else you are constrained to agree that Vatican II has in fact propagated religious error and cannot be regarded as part of the authoritative and infallible magisterium of the Church. There are no other options.

After giving a very condensed summary of Fr. Sanborn's logic, you finally begin your first attempt at a refutation. Citing a reference in Sanborn's writing to "contradictions of Vatican II in its doctrines, worship, and discipline," you latch on to the word "discipline" and launch into some disquisition about how it is all right for later discipline to contradict earlier discipline (true enough, but with a certain reservation I will get to presently) while leaving the contradictions in doctrine and worship (i. e. faith) entirely unaddressed. Granted, a later discipline could contradict an earlier discipline and that should not be a problem for the Church. For example, if they should decide to allow married men to be priests, the rule forbidding that is after all only a disciplinary rule which was not in force in the opening centuries of the Church and is still not the rule in the Eastern Rites, so such a change would have been acceptable. On the other hand, a "mere" disciplinary rule could be a serious problem if it contradicted some particle of faith or morals. An example of that would be a case where the local bishop mandates, simply as a local and temporary disciplinary measure of course, that all married couples in his diocese must use birth control. At least, such a rule which is contrary to good morals would be at once null and void, and at most it would be grounds for the removal of that bishop. The fact is that the huge shrinking of the Church in every place, except for in those few places such as Campos Brazil up until 1982 where the traditional faith was maintained, is proof positive that SOMETHING in and amongst all of the post-conciliar changes HAS in fact "[struck] at the heart of the faith."

While the example of the founding, closing, and restoration of the Jesuit order is an excellent example of changes which can quite reasonably take place in the realm of Church discipline, the form of the rite of the mass is not a matter of discipline. It is a part of Worship, which is encompassed by the categories of Faith and Morals and therefore comes under the protection of the Church's infallibility. This requires some discussion and clarification. It is true that there are some very superficial aspects of worship which do in fact fall merely into the category of discipline, such as what language is to be used or which particular saints will be honored in which geographical areas, but everything much deeper than these examples actually belongs to faith or morals.

I realize that that proposition may require proof. I shall now supply that. When the books of the Bible were being canonized, the criteria of this canonization was not only so much a matter of whether a book was written by this or that person or in this or that time, but whether the book had a good effect on the faith of those who were listening to it being read as part of the Liturgy. Several books which were prominent in the early Church and of indisputable authenticity, such as the Epistle of Barnabas or the Revelation to Peter, were rejected from the canon for that reason.

An excellent clue to just what happened to these and other rejected books is provided in the Muratorian Fragment which happens to be the oldest known attempt at producing a list of books for what would come to be known as the New Testament. It mentions the Revelation to Peter as being received by the Church but which some persons would prefer not to have read in Church. Anyone familiar with the contents of the Revelation to Peter would see at once why some persons did not wish it to be read in Church, namely that it contains extremely graphic depictions of the end of the world and Hell, right down to specific details of the tortures of Hell. Some were understandably concerned that such depictions would unnecessarily frighten small children, while others might argue over whether or not the said tortures were to be understood as being literal. Even though Peter undeniably wrote the Revelation to Peter, it was excluded from the canon of the Bible because it was decided that readings from it were unsuitable for use in the Mass of the Catechumens (in those days everyone not baptized was still expected to leave after that portion of Christian worship, while the baptized remained for the Mass of the Faithful).

The point of that bit of Church history is this: The books of the Bible were chosen for their usefulness in Christian Liturgy. All of the things said in the course of Christian Liturgy (other than the Homily and any special announcements) fall into one of only three categories. There are prayers, such as the Canon of the Mass, which are always prayed at every Mass and which were pretty much fixed by the fifth century after they had been honed and refined to perfection under centuries of persecution; there were prayers associated with particular saints or feasts which were written when these saints were canonized and these feasts were added to the calendar; and finally there was scripture which was read in the course of the Mass of the Catechumens. The Bible is therefore merely a part of Christian Liturgy. It is therefore only a part of a larger corpus of works which, collected and taken in their entirety, constitute the entire Liturgy, of which any actual Liturgy used in any actual time and place must be a proper subset.

The Bible falls under the category of "Scripture," and the rest of the Liturgy, since it was only orally transmitted in the beginning and committed to writing later, is a prominent portion (along with the writings of the Church Fathers) of what is called "Tradition," which the Protestants fault us Catholics for "adding" to Scripture. The very phrase, "the Canon of the Mass," implies a group of prayers which in themselves constitute a rule, a standard of perfection, against which any prayer must be identical to (by being the exact same prayer), or inferior to (by being anything else). It is therefore every bit as absurd to introduce new "Canons" of the Mass as it would be to introduce new "Canons" of Scripture. As a final evidence that the prayers of the Liturgy like the Bible must never be changed, virtually all of the great Church Doctors and theologians have argued from details, even in the very turn of phrase of various Liturgical prayers, as from Scripture, something one would not do if those prayers could be changed at the whim and will of any Church authority.

There is a place for discipline in all of this, and that pertains to the selection of a particular subset of the totality of Liturgy which is to be used in this or that time and place. A good example of this would be the Gospel reading for Good Friday. It is a matter of Church discipline that the reading for the Passion should be taken from the Gospel of John instead of Matthew or Mark or Luke, but it is certainly not within the domain of Church discipline to rewrite the Passion as given in John or Matthew or Mark or Luke, nor to substitute for it an excerpt from a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Likewise, it is a matter of Church discipline to choose which (if any) saint is to be honored on a given day shared by two or more, but it is beyond the domain of discipline to rewrite the distinctive prayers used to honor any of those saints. One more example: It is a matter of discipline as to whether or not the Gospel of John is to be read at the end of the Mass, but it is beyond the domain of discipline to rewrite John or to replace it with a reading from Shirley MacLaine.

The new Mass as promulgated by Paul VI therefore goes well beyond the domain of Church discipline. It literally changed and negated a large portion of the Revelation given to us by God, and therefore constitutes in itself a change of doctrine, which is Faith. The alternative "Canons" of the Mass it introduced are all incapable of being anything but inferior to the true and Catholic Canon of the Mass. The Preface which was intended to be always used with the fourth "canon" in its original form (thankfully revised and corrected, but not until 1985) explicitly referred to the Father as being "alone" the true God, thus formally advocating the arian heresy. The present situation is no different than if Paul VI were to decree that readings from the Bible shall no longer be used, but instead that all readings would be from The Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

Continuing, you say that "Sanborn is strongest when discussing ... doctrines," but if he is so strong in discussing the most serious aspect of the conciliar fiasco, why don't we get to hear his "strongest" arguments? Instead, we get a pale reiteration of the claim that the contradictions are somehow only apparent, followed by an altogether irrelevant contrast between an opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas versus a definitively infallible statement of Pope Pius IX. True, the Angelic Doctor opined that Mary was not immaculately conceived, but is this opinion of his contained in the Summa Theologiae which the council of Trent placed on the altar next to the Bible, or merely in some other work of his? Not all of his works have made it past the censors. Without having made any case at all, you proceed on as if you have by directing Fr. Sanborn to the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties and finally claiming that it all necessarily falls in the same category as the genealogies of Matthew and Luke. It is clear to me that it is you, and not Fr. Sanborn, who "may be missing some important distinctions."

Next, "Sanborn alleges that sedevacantists are not in schism." Before getting to one argument he has used to illustrate the position of the sedevacantists, some clarification of the true nature and position of the sedevacantists is in order. There does in fact exist a schism between those who adhere to John Paul II and those who don't. By all reliable indicators, this schism is exactly the parallel of the First Great Western Schism back in the 1300's. Whenever a "pope" in Avignon died, those who adhered to that pope, such as St. Vincent Ferrer, believed that there was no pope, even while a pope in Rome was alive and well. Likewise, whenever a pope in Rome died, those who adhered to that pope believed that there was no pope, even while a "pope" in Avignon was alive and well. In each of these cases, part of the Church is sedevacantist and part is not, and there was a schism between them, but only later did it become clear who was right and who was wrong.

We are in exactly the same position today. We are now in the Second Great Western Schism, and those who argue either for or against the papacy of John Paul II can only argue as partisans of some particular faction or another. Every priest and bishop must take a side because when he say Mass, either he says it "one with" John Paul II or else he does not. Just as in the case of the First Great Western Schism, individual laymen (such as myself) are most properly advised to go along with the position currently held by their local traditional Catholic priest or pastor, at least until the matter is resolved at the next Church council. The only (rather slight) difference is that John Paul II's rival is not a living man but an empty office waiting to be filled by a worthy successor to pope Pius XII. The sedevacantists have not elected a pope because they are waiting for more of the traditional community (i. e. all real Catholics) to be open to that eventuality, or else should the Vatican institution ever be rehabilitated the crisis would be over and they could join it and say "Habemus papam!"

As to Fr. Sanborn's use of Wernz-Vidal, the fact is that sedevacantists do in fact "hold his person suspect," at least in the metaphorical sense that they do believe that the "man purporting to be pope is no pope at all, but an impostor." I think that is exactly what they have been saying about John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, namely that they are not popes at all but merely impostors. There are more ways to impersonate a pope than to be his identical twin brother and put on a papal costume. One of those ways is to continue to simulate a papal role after one has formally resigned from a lawfully elected papacy. The sedevacantists do, therefore, fall quite neatly into that category as described by Wernz-Vidal, contrary to your facile denial of same. And that ends your entire argument.

The article continues however, with a little more narrative regarding Bp. Kelly and some seeming feud between him and Fr. Sanborn, which is about as relevant as listening to the argument between Paul and Barnabas, and then deciding that Christianity is a joke. It is regrettable that these otherwise fine clergymen should air their differences in public, but perhaps if they didn't, people would idolize them too much. "We have this treasure in clay pots..." The solution is not to claim that they are wrong about everything they say, but merely that they are wrong to oppose each other publicly. You then once again take up the vacuous theme of the theatrical (but false) rivalry between bishops Dolan and Kelly, concluding with a ridiculous joke about which one of them will be the next pope. I regard it as highly unfortunate that neither of these men is contemplating such a move, since the fact is that either one of them would be a vast improvement over Karol Wojtyla.

At no place in this article has there been any real attempt to prove that John Paul II really is the pope. All you have done is attack some of those who say he is not. Even if you could somehow "prove" that all of these sedevacantists are just absolutely horrible, horrible people, worthy of Hell's lowest pit, you would still have done absolutely nothing to verify the claim that John Paul II and his three predecessors are popes. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Granted, at the next council when it comes time to decide who is and is not a pope, the burden of proof lies with the sedevacantists, but meanwhile in the public forum you do have the duty to prove they are popes. If ever you should attempt to do so, I would find that extremely interesting.

To summarize, I find the article worse than unconvincing. I wrote to you hoping to hear an "expert" attempt to refute sedevacantism, and instead I found an argument that was not only gravely inferior to my own, but so weak as to cause any educated Catholic reader to say, "My God! I thought there would be a much better case for John Paul II than this!" Such a poor article does not deserve a lawsuit from the sedevacantists. I think you deserve their thanks because your article will do more to further their cause than anything they themselves can do. The reputation of traditionalists, whether sedevacantists or not, is not in any way at stake. It is the reputation before God (salvation) of those who are not traditional which is very much at stake, and which can only go down unless they repent and return to the traditional Catholic Faith, the only faith worthy of the martyrdom of the saints.

I really am very disappointed, since I have long been an admirer of your fine works exposing the errors of fundamentalism and other popular errors, and defending many Catholic truths. I remember being very pleased to see copies of your "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" for sale in the bookstore at Mount St. Michael's. Yours is the only outfit (other than the SSPX) in union with John Paul II which opposes error and defends Catholic truth. In doing so, you have in fact rebelled against the ecumenical "Spirit of Vatican II" which has everyone else in the Vatican institution bending over backwards to hide anything Catholic about themselves and always apologizing for all of the "terrible" things the Catholic Church did "way back when." The arguments you have used to expose the errors of Protestantism and Mormonism and so forth apply every bit as much against the heretical Novus ordo religion which is merely a sort of "Roman Protestantism." I pray that the Lord may move you to adopt a more consistent position.

One other piece of advice: The "book about fringe groups within the Traditionalist movement" you plan to write would be an extremely bad idea. Not merely because of the possibility of lawsuit (which they, in justice, truly ought to do) but because of the grave likelihood that you might be committing the sin of calumny, particularly if the "research" going into it is as poor as that which went into your article. While there certainly do exist "fringe" groups such as those who follow the (even worse, if such is imaginable) "popes" in Canada or Spain or Kansas, or various false apparitions such as Bayside or Medjugorje, such groups cannot in any sense be regarded as being in the Traditionalist movement. Say what you like about those, but when it comes to traditional Catholics, whether sedevacantist or not, you frankly don't know just what you are up against. For the sake of your soul, I pray you don't end up having to find out the hard way, as Pharaoh did.

The entire Traditional "movement" (which really is simply the Catholic Church today), whether FSSP or SSPX or SSPV or CMRI or any other faithful priests, bishops, religious, and lay faithful (such as myself), is not a "fringe group" but in fact the "cutting edge" of modern (but not "modernist") Catholicism. It is we who are right at the center of the heart and soul of what the Catholic Church is and has always been all about. You say otherwise at the peril of your immortal soul. Join us; return to the Catholic Church which Jesus Christ Himself established and which cannot be destroyed, even though the entire hierarchy from pope to parish priest should defect and a mother destroy her own child. If you do not, the only alternative is to go (quite literally) to Hell.

Thank you for your quick response.



Griff Ruby

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