All around the Internet one can find lively debates about whether the Chair of Peter is vacant or not, the claim being that recent "occupants" are formal heretics, therefore, no longer Catholic, therefore, no longer Pope, the visible head of the Church. The arguments usually go along the lines, "Well, if I was walking in the forest and came across a dead body, I would not need a MD to judge that the individual in question was dead. The same is true of heresy." Of course, in the former circumstance, only the One and Triune God knows for sure if that person's soul has left his or her body.
The same is true of heresy. As I cited in a previous post, not even the Church claims to know with absolute certainty if someone is truly a heretic or not; such judgments are canonical in nature, and as occurred in the Condemnation Trial of Saint Jehanne la Pucelle, completely reformable, even posthumously. Therefore, no one except possibly an ecumenical Council could ever judge and/or depose a sitting Pope. Even during an interregnum, a man is still Pope, even if that fact is known to the Holy Spirit alone. Likewise, even if a Pope falls into heresy during his Pontificate, it stands to reason that he could recover from his errors through the Sacrament of Penance and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as "all sins can be forgiven."
Just as the Church (the Council of Trent, in particular) teaches that only if the Sacrament of Baptism is impossible for a person to receive can his/her vow ( "intention and determination") suffice, the Church also teaches that a Pope loses his office if he becomes a heretic. Of course, if the Holy Spirit can prevent the latter (i.e., a Pope falling into heresy), then He can certainly prevent the former (i.e., a person being unable to receive Sacramental Baptism in Water.)
Since we are not obligated to believe that sedevacantism is ever a possibility, neither are we obligated to believe that Baptism of Desire and/or Blood, in the complete absence of Sacrament Baptism in Water, is a possibility, either. Can a person be saved without Baptism of Water? Yes, absolutely. Are there people in Heaven who have died without Baptism of Water. No, absolutely not. Just as the Church teaches that people can go to Heaven without Sacramental Baptism of Water, the Church also teaches that a sitting Pope can excommunicate himself, thereby, losing his office. However, as the Church, clearly, teaches both possibilities, neither, I believe, will ever happen in reality. While this is not an official teaching of the Church, it is, nonetheless, an inference from Her Ordinary Magisterium.
Or consider the case of the Thuc bishops. Archbishop Thuc allegedly ordained certain individuals to the episcopate; then, he claimed that he, in fact, had withheld intent during those men's ordinations, making the ordinations, of course, invalid. If true, the men in question were never validly ordained as Catholic bishops.
Let's say that there was an evil bishop who lived during the 3rd-century who did the exact same thing -- he withheld all intent for all of his episcopal ordinations. This would mean that all of the "bishops" that he "ordained" lacked valid orders, which means that all of the "bishops" that they "ordained" lack valid orders (even if they had used valid matter, form, and intent), also, and so forth. If true, how can we, as Catholics, living 1700 years later be sure that we have a valid episcopate?
We can be sure because the Holy Spirit would never allow such a thing to happen; we know this to be true based upon inference from our Lord's words. The same is true of Sacramental Baptism in Water "not occurring" for someone who truly desires it.
The Pope is judged by no one, except the One and Triune God alone.
Even assuming that the recent Popes have fallen into formal heresy, such a fact, even if it is true, can never be established let alone proved by any faithful son or daughter of the Catholic Church. Just as Pope Bonfiace infallibly declared the absolute necessity of final perseverance in the Holy Roman & Apostolic Catholic Church who's Head is the Roman Pontiff, so also he explicitly taught that the Pope has no earthly judge:
Therefore if the earthly power err, it shall be judged by the spiritual power; but if the lesser spiritual power err, by the greater. But if the greatest, it can be judged by God alone, not by man, the Apostle hearing witness. A spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one. This authority, moreover, even though it is given to man and exercised through man, is not human but rather divine, being given by divine lips to Peter and founded on a rock for him and his successors through Christ Himself whom He has confessed; the Lord Himself saying to Peter: “Whatsoever thou shalt bind,” etc. Whoever, therefore, resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordination of God, unless he makes believe, like the Manichean, that there are two beginnings. This we consider false and heretical, since by the testimony of Moses, not “in the beginnings,” but “in the beginning” God created the heavens and the earth.
Indeed we declare, say, pronounce, and define that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.One cannot quote Unam Sanctam while at the same time professing parts of it to be false. Likewise, Pope Paul IV, in Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, states the same dogma:
In assessing Our duty and the situation now prevailing, We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this kind [i.e. error in respect of the Faith] is so grave and so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff,who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fulness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith. Remembering also that, where danger is greater, it must more fully and more diligently be counteracted, We have been concerned lest false prophets or others, even if they have only secular jurisdiction, should wretchedly ensnare the souls of the simple, and drag with them into perdition, destruction and damnation countless peoples committed to their care and rule, either in spiritual or in temporal matters; and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place. In view of this, Our desire has been to fulfill our Pastoral duty, insofar as, with the help of God, We are able, so as to arrest the foxes who are occupying themselves in the destruction of the vineyard of the Lord and to keep the wolves from the sheepfolds, lest We seem to be dumb watchdogs that cannot bark and lest We perish with the wicked husbandman and be compared with the hireling.The sedevacantist position, even if it is "correct," is D.O.A.
I suppose that everyone has "their limits." I think that I have reached mine. In any case, I do not believe that I have judged the sedevacantist position fairly. So, "judge for yourself":
In any case, I am going to leave my original essay as it is. Perhaps my original thoughts are correct. "Pope" Francis, if he is not a heretic, then, well, "he must play one on TV". Consider what position you would hold to when the modernists in the Catholic Church (who are, in fact, outside of the Church) start saying the following:
- The Assumption of Mary was allegorical. It was not an historical event and Pope Pius XII never intended it as such, but Mary's ascent into Heaven was "in the minds" of those who knew and loved her. Ditto for the Resurrection of our Lord.
- Jesus is my pastor and teacher. He was just a man who was, perhaps, "close to God." In this sense,he was God, but so are we. The Incarnation is present in all of us.
- Hell does not exist. It was just a literary figure used by the Church to teach us about evil but a God of infinite mercy would never send any creature to such a place.
- Moral truths develop just as scientific truths do. There is no morality beyond the good of the human individual. It is to the human individual alone who must decide what his/her own moral truths are, as long as that person does not trespass on the rights of others to do the same.
- The Catholic faith is immutable. The Catholic faith is simply the One and Triune God's revelation to His Creation, we descendants of Adam & Eve, through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ, which He confided to His Church, the Roman Catholic Church. This revelation from the omnipotent God, a Perfect Being, is, like Him, absolutely perfect and immutable. It is only our understanding of it which can deepen over time but only without contradiction.
- Truth cannot contradict Truth. What the Catholic Church believes, professes, and teaches in one generation cannot contradict that which is taught in a later or earlier generation. Only in the realm of theological opinion is there, perhaps, room for growth and understanding. That which the Church has proclaimed as being infallible cannot, at later date, become "uninfallible". That would be like saying that 2+2 can, at a later date, equal some value other than 4!
- A Catholics severs himself from the Church through the sin of heresy. It is absurd to say that a Pope could govern the Church from whom he has severed himself due to heresy. If he can lose his soul to eternal Hell, it stands to reason that he could lose his office as well.
- Popes have fallen into heresy before. We have the case of Pope Honorius I, who was posthumously declared to have been a heretic by the Third Council of Constantinople. The neo-cons can't have their "Papal cake and eat it, too!" Either Pope Honorius taught heresy or the Third Council of Constantinople embraced heresy in declaring him to be a heretic.
- Sedevacantism is not the same as conclavism. That the Chair is vacant is the omnipotent Triune God's problem, not ours. We need to save our own souls by continuing in the One True Faith.
- Heresy is like cancer. It often starts out small and sometimes goes unrecognized, but gradually, it spreads before, ultimately, overtaking the entire individual. "By their fruits you will know them."
The error is, perhaps, mine. In any case, judge for yourself and make your own decisions. Perhaps sedeprivationism is the correct conclusion here:
Some quotes on sedevacantism.
Sedevacantism or its variants cannot be considered to be heretical, because distinguished churchmen held to this possibility:
|St. Robert Bellarmine (1610):|
|“A Pope who is a manifest heretic automatically ceases to be a Pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church.”|
|St. Antoninus (1459):|
|“In the case in which the Pope would become a heretic, he would find himself, by that very fact alone and without any other sentence, separated from the Church. A head separated from a body cannot, as long as it remains separated, be head of the same body from which it was cut off.”|
|St. Francis de Sales (1622):|
|“Now when the Pope is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church ...”|
Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor (1696-1787):
“If, however, God were to permit a pope to become a notorious and contumacious heretic, he would by such a fact cease to be pope, and the apostolic chair would be vacant.” (Verita della Fede, III, VIII. 9-10.)
St. Francis de Sales (1598):
Now when he [a pope] is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church and the Church must either deprive him, or, as some say, declare him deprived, of his Apostolic See, and must say as St. Peter did: 'Let another take his bishopric.' (St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, pg. 306)
In any case, I would continue to choose a SSPX or a Resistance chapel over a SSPV or CMRI one.