Is Gerry Matatics a ''sedevacantist''?
Gerry Replies (slightly revised November 21, 2007):
I'm a Catholic, pure and simple (though hopefuly not too simple) -- and have been, ever since my conversion from Protestantism 21 years ago, by a miracle of God's grace. I love the Catholic Faith and wish only to profess it in all its purity and fullness. I love the Catholic Church and wish only and always to be a faithful member of Her, since She has repeatedly and solemnly defined as a dogma that there is no salvation outside of her.
Every Catholic -- however he or she might prefer to be positive in his presentation of the Faith -- must necessarily oppose and reject all those persons and things that are incompatible with Catholicism.
"Sedevacantism" has become the unfortunate (and inaccurate) nickname for the conviction of those Catholics who are persuaded that adherence to the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church in our time necessarily entails rejection of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I & II, and Benedict XVI as heretics and therefore antipopes (see argument below). This in turn necessarily entails a complete rejection of those "reforms" illicitly promulgated by these men: Vatican II, the New Mass and new sacraments, the New Code of Canon Law, the New Catechism, the new canonizations (e.g., of Msgr. Escriva, Mother Theresa, et al), and so forth.
It is an indisputable FACT that Catholics, at many critical moments of their Church's history, have had to reject both antipopes (every Church historian agrees that there have been over 40 of them -- many of them ruling right from Rome itself) and "robber councils" (over 17 of them falsely purporting to be valid councils).
Though it has become the accepted label for such Catholics, in my estimation the term "sedevacantist" is not a helpful one, for several reasons:
1. The term is unnecessary. It could mislead others into thinking that "sedevacantism" is some "ism" distinguishable from "Catholicism." It is not. The "sedevacantist" only wishes to be a Catholic, nothing more: to believe what Catholics have always believed, worship as Catholics have always worshiped, live as Catholics have always lived. No additional nickname is therefore necessary.
2. The term is unauthorized. Popes in the past have instructed Catholics not to use additional nicknames, but simply to identify themselves as "Catholics." In this regard I have on my website a pertinent quote from Pope Benedict XV (note: not XVI!), from his encyclical letter Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914), where he says:
"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself."
3. The term is dismissive. By labeling this position an "ism," those who profess to be Catholic but reject this position ("sedevacantism") imply, at best, that they (the rejectors of "sedevacantism") can still affirm the fullness of the Catholic Faith -- an implication which those of us who hold the "sedevacantist" position dispute. At worst, the rejectors imply that "sedevacantists" are not Catholics. Labeling those who hold this position as "sedevacantists" is therefore an attempt at least to relativize the implications of this position, or, at worst, to demonize them.
4. The term is prejudicial. Although my research into the origin of the term "sedevacantist" is ongoing, my suspicion is that it was a term of abuse coined by the opponents of the position, not by its adherents - just as Arians labeled upholders of Nicene orthodoxy as "Athanasianites" rather than simply "Catholics," and misappropriated to themselves (the Arians) the title of being "Catholics."
5. The term is inaccurate. In canon law, when a pope dies and everyone agrees there is a need for a conclave to elect a successor, a state of sede vacante ("the seat [being] vacant") is declared by the Church. A completely different situation obtains, however, when a man who is not the properly elected pope sits, or purports to sit, upon the See of Peter, and who thereby "impedes" a true pope from sitting thereupon. The canonical term for this scenario is not sede vacante but sede impedite, so if a nickname were necessary (which it is not; see above) for those rejecting Benedict XVI et al, it would be "sede-impeditist," not "sedevacantist."
6. The term claims too much. As a reasonable man, I reject as rather ridiculous (on the face of it) the claims of the self-appointed pseudo-popes of our time (e.g., "Pope" Pius XIII, "Pope" Gregory XVII, "Pope" Michael I, et al) to be successors of St. Peter. (Though, to be fair, I don't find the claims of Ratzinger and his four predecessors to be Catholics, and therefore popes, any less laughable. Pius XIII and company at least seem to be orthodox Catholics, however flimsy ad far-fetched the legal pretensions of the "conclaves" that elected them.)
However, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that, in fulfillment of many prophecies (documented in such books as Yves Dupont, Catholic Prophecy; Fr. Gerald Culleton, The Prophets and Our Times; Edward Connor, Prophecy for Today, all published by TAN Books) there could be, somehow, a "hidden" pope that God will bring forth at the predestined moment to bring an end to our current crisis.
I, therefore, object to the term "sedevacantist" on the grounds that it seems to require me to omnisciently assert that there is no valid pope anywhere in the world, something I am not competent to do. I prefer to content myself with the far more modest assertion that, whether or not some such pope might now or might in the future exist, I can be sure, by the strict application of Catholic principles to the current visible claimant (i.e., Benedict XVI), that he definitely cannot be the pope (see the syllogisms at the end of this essay).
7. The term focuses on too little. While in point 6 I suggested that the term "sedevacantist" claims too much, here I suggest that, paradoxically, the term seems at the same time to claim too little - to reduce the current crisis down to the "papal question," i.e., the question of whether Benedict XVI is or isn't the pope.
The fact is, everyone who hold the position nicknamed "sedevacantism" believes that there is much more that is wrong with the current state of affairs than simply an antipope sitting upon the See of Peter, as though the crisis would be completely resolved if tomorrow an orthodox Catholic were seated upon the throne. Though the crisis could then be resolved in principle, there would be much work to be done, for the sedevacantist believes, not just that there is a false pope currently claiming to be a true one, but that there is a false Mass, false sacraments, a false catechism, a false code of canon law - in sum, a false "church" claiming to be the true Catholic Church.
To ignore these larger issues and fixate merely on the orthodoxy or lack thereof of Joseph Ratzinger is therefore misleadingly reductionistic.
8. The term embraces too many people. Another aspect of the above mentioned reductionism is the fact that the rejection of Ratzinger as a false pope is NOT the principle of unity of all true Catholics: the possession and profession of the Catholic Faith is.
Just because someone rejects Ratzinger as a usurper, therefore, does not automatically make him a Catholic; on the contrary, if he rejects, not only Ratzinger, but such politically incorrect dogmas as extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church"), then he is not a Catholic. A rejecter of Ratzinger, therefore, doesn't automatically belong to the supernatural society of all those who, by God's grace, truly profess and possess the Catholic Faith.
This observation goes a long way to describing the lack of unity among so-called "sedevacantists," a lack of unity to which anti-sedevacantists often gleefully point as though vindicating their non-sedevacatism. (It does not: non-sedevacantists demonstrate a far wider spectrum of disunity than do sedevacantists, on an innumerable host of far more fundamental issues, issues on which even squabbling "sedevacantists" all completely agree.)
9. The term is "accidental". It does not describe the internal essence of such a Catholic's faith, merely the extrinsic historical "accident" (in the philosophical sense of that term) that the man who happens to be sitting on the throne at that moment of history is not, in the estimation of that Catholic, a valid pope. If the very next day this antipope were to die and a valid pope were to be elected, the faith, behavior, and worship of the Catholic in question would not be thereby altered one iota. Yet the day before he would be labeled a "sedevacantist" and the next day he would not be! How helpful, therefore, in defining the content of such a Catholic's faith is a term that would describe him one day and not the next, when the content of his faith and worship and moral life is unvarying? The term actually describes nothing in him, only something about the state of affairs outside of him, i.e., whether a valid pope sits on the throne or not. Yet every Catholic historian agrees that when in fact antipopes did usurp authority over the Church, the faith of true Catholics was not thereby altered.
Having admitted all the above, in concession to the prevailing custom I will nevertheless grudgingly agree to use the term "sedevacantism" - however undesirable, unfair, and unhelpful - as a "shorthand" for the position of those (like me) who profess the Catholic Faith and feel constrained, as a necessary aspect of professing the Faith in the current circumstances, to reject as unCatholic, not only the men claiming to be popes since the death of Pius XII in 1958, but as well all the changes those men have claimed to make to the faith, liturgical life, and morality of Catholics during the years subsequent to Pius XII's death.
The case for "sedevacantism" can be succinctly stated in three separate syllogistic arguments. Any one of these three arguments is sufficient in itself to demonstrate that Benedict XVI cannot possibly be pope and is as likely a candidate as we'll perhaps ever see for the prophecy of the "German antipope" of the last days who will lead many astray (see abovementioned anthologies of Catholic prophecies). But the combination of all three composes quite a formidable case. The syllogisms are as follows:
Syllogism #1: No true bishop, no true pope
1) Major premise: A man who is not a validly ordained bishop cannot function as the bishop of Rome, i.e., as the pope. [Note: a non-bishop -- even a layman -- can be, and sometimes has been, elected to the papacy, but in every case he had to receive the necessary ordination(s) to ascend, however quickly, up through the required ranks of the clergy before he began to reign as pope.]
2) Minor premise: But Joseph Ratzinger is not a validly ordained bishop, having received (in May 1977) the demonstrably invalid episcopal ordination rite promulgated in June 1968 by antipope Paul VI. (For a devastating demonstration of the fact that the new rite is invalid, read the brilliant 12-page article by Fr. Anthony Cekada, or at least the less technical two-page summary.
3) Conclusion: Therefore Joseph Ratzinger cannot be a true pope.
Syllogism #2: No true orthodoxy, no true pope
1) Major premise: A manifest heretic cannot be a true pope.
[See Canon 188.4 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Paul IV's 1559 Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio (the English translation of which is posted on this website in the "Library of Key Documents" section), the unanimous consent of the Fathers and doctors of the Church, as documented in articles by Fr. Cekada on sedevacantism on his website, http://www.traditionalmass.org/, as well as articles on http://www.strobertbellarmine.net/.)
2) Minor premise: But Joseph Ratzinger is a manifest heretic, as can be amply demonstrated from his numerous writings and addresses both before and since his "papal" election. (See articles on Ratzinger on http://www.traditionalmass.org/, http://www.novusordowatch.org/, or http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/.)
3) Conclusion: Therefore Joseph Ratzinger cannot be a true pope.
Syllogism #3: No true Church, no true pope
1) Major premise: A head of a non-Catholic church cannot simultaneously be the head of the Catholic Church, i.e., the pope.
2) Minor premise: But Joseph Ratzinger is the head of a non-Catholic Church, namely the Vatican II or postconciliar Church, the non-Catholic nature of whose doctrines, sacraments and worship, and laws can be readily demonstrated by comparing them to the perennial doctrines, sacraments and worship, and laws of the Catholic Church down through the ages. (See articles on above-mentioned websites.)
3) Conclusion: Therefore Joseph Ratzinger cannot be the head of the Catholic Church, i.e., the pope.
An astute observer might notice that the order in which I have presented these syllogisms, moving from the simpler to the more challenging: each of the above three syllogisms demands less material to be surveyed and studied, less of a mental effort, and less of a radical conclusion than the syllogism that follows it.
There is more, much more that can be said on this issue, and we hope by God's grace to say it all in the days, weeks, months, and years (if need be) to come. Look for more elaboration and analysis of these "sedevacantist" syllogisms, and their inescapably logical (albeit unsettling and unpopular) conclusions, here on this website in the coming days. In the meantime browsing the many useful articles on the aforementioned websites should prove most illuminating to anyone willing to read them with an open mind.
It goes without saying that I do not necessarily agree with or endorse every detail of every article on these other websites, especially on other matters. Particularly is this true with regard to their various views on the hotly-debated dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside the Church no salvation"). Some of these websites take too unacceptably liberal a view of this dogma, holding, for example, that those who do not profess the Catholic Faith could still be saved -- despite the clear teaching of the Athanasian Creed and infallible papal pronouncements to the contrary.
Others of these websites, such as that of the Dimond brothers, take too unacceptably rigorist a view of this dogma, uncharitably and unjustly anathematizing as hell-bound heretics those who today might hold -- as did St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, and in fact every single doctor of the Church and every catechism and theological manual used by the Church for the last millennium -- to the remote possibility of salvation for Catholic catechumens who hold the Catholic Faith and who possess perfect charity and perfect contrition for their sins, and thus might qualify to receive the grace of the sacrament of baptism when they are unable, through no fault of their own, to receive the sacrament itself -- especially if these spiritual qualities are evidenced by their martyrdom for the Catholic Faith. Such a rare occurrence would still require the existence of the sacrament of baptism and derive its efficacy from the sacrament, thus arguably not negating John 3:5 and similar papal statements. This would be the classic doctrine -- not the modern liberal version thereof -- of "baptism by desire" and "baptism by blood," admittedly never dogmatically defined by any pope or council, but equally admittedly never explicitly condemned by any pope or council either. At best this teaching is a tolerable theological opinion within the parameters of Catholic orthodoxy, certainly not de fide but arguably proximate to faith. At worst it is an error, as yet uncondemned by the magisterium, but certainly not a heresy, since saints and doctors held and taught it (seemingly with the full approval of Rome) and died without abjuring it (so far as we know), and yet were canonized and officially declared trustworthy Doctors of the Faith.
The Dimond brothers, be it noted, have, among their other demonstrable errors -- such as having declared John Paul II (while he was still alive) to be "the final Antichrist"(!) -- persisted, even after I have corrected them, in libelously misrepresenting me as having "sold out" to those who teach the liberal view that one can be saved in other religions, which is a damnable lie, since I have never at any time held to this heresy, nor have I for a single moment ever considered to be a Catholic anyone holding to this heresy. Their outrageous and mortally sinful calumny that I am a supporter of this heresy nevertheless remains prominently featured in the "Beware (groups and individuals who teach heresy)" section of their website.
Caveat lector: let the readers of non-magisterial websites (including my own!) therefore beware. And obviously the only site whose statements should be taken as reflecting in every way my own views is my own website,
St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!
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