Book Review of True or False Pope? by Fr. Therasian Babu
“It is never the case that one man out of sheer wickedness suddenly invents a false doctrine. (...) A movement begins, often very rightly, by a vigorous and extreme opposition to some patently false teaching. Then this way or looking at things crystallizes and hardens; it is taken up enthusiastically by some school, it becomes a point of honour with a certain party to insist upon it... At last, someone gets hold of the theory, oversteps every limit in his defence of it, and is eagerly supported by the rest of the party. And then he finds himself condemned by the Church”.
Sedevacantism is not a major threat in our country, but it is becoming one and the day-to-day activities of the current Holy Father are accelerating the situation. It is truly ‘a false solution to a real problem’. This no one can deny. The situation in the Church is not helping a normal faithful to live his life normally. Nay rather, a heroic virtue of faith is expected of them. Yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?
Having said this, Sedevacantism is a major threat for very many traditional Catholics, esp. in the United States. While there is no dearth of material (usually online) available on pro-sedevacantism, the same cannot be said of ‘anti-sedevacantism: ‘A comprehensive and definitive refutation firmly grounded in ecclesiology, has been sorely needed’ (Bp. Fellay, foreword). And this exactly is what this book under review is all about. This brilliant ‘refutation of sedevacantism and other modern errors’ by John Salza and Robert Siscoe has done the difficult task remarkably well. To those trained in scholastic philosophy and desirous of getting an answer to this ‘neo-docetism’, this book may be an eye opener.
The fundamental theme of the book is this: If you follow Sedevacantist path, you will eventually abandon the saving faith on the Church. Chapter 1 and 2 deal with the Church and its attributes and its marks. Here the authors patiently analyze the thesis of various Sedevacantists and prove how they end up denying the basic notion of the Church, which is visible.
Chapter 3 – 12 is Sedevacantism in genere. Here they explain very many principles elegantly. Some chapter headings are provocative (like chap. 8: can a Pope fall into heresy?). Chapter 13-20 treats of Sedevacantism in specie. Here too, the authors show how sedevacantism is a false solution to a true problem. Chapter 21 is a “fruit – tasting session”. We can judge a tree by its fruits: The authors rightly give example from the mouth of Sedevacantists themselves about their ‘cult’. A certain Sedevacantist Mr. Lane writes “people who get interested in Sedevacantism become unstable in their spiritual lives (..) often destabilize others in their parish, and very often more broadly disturb the peace of the parish. I’ve observed all of this myself, and so often that I can’t answer. It’s true!” (p. 654). There is also an appendix chart on the ‘Theological opinions on the loss of office for a heretical Pope’. A bibliographical index and an index (unfortunately not a complete one) concludes the volume.
This conspectus on the ‘theology of Sedevacantism’ is quite the most remarkable of work of its kind available in English. It is outstanding not only for its exposition, but also for clarity in expression and in typographical presentation. Readers will definitely enjoy many concrete examples provided in each chapter and this just adds more weight to the argument (but the storey of ‘death of Fr. Hermann’s mother (p. 137) derives its strength from private revelation and it does slow down the tempo). And also, not everything will be accepted equally by theologians (like the essence of Eccl. Faith (p. 177), Valor of theological conclusions are still questiones disputatae). We can also notice one or two mistakes, on p. 203 it is Pope Pius IX (not Pius XI). A table explaining various ‘theological censures’ in chap. 7 could have been more useful. May be in the second edition, or if we may make our wish, in the second volume, it would be more profitable to treat of ‘Cassiacum thesis’ and ‘De Papatu Materiali’ extensively.
This ‘summa on Sedevacantism’ is an achievement. This is a book that may be warmly recommended to priests, seminarians and laity as well. It does require a slow reading and calm analysis but the effort made to penetrate the arguments will strengthen our faith without which it is impossible to please God.
All English trad- world owe a debt of gratitude to the authors and the publisher for giving us such a monumental work. May this ‘magnum opus’ render immense service to lead us ‘through the narrow gate that leads to life, erring neither to the left nor to the right’! (Bp. Fellay.)
________________________________________________________________Book review by the website "A Traditional Catholic Priest"
Book Review by Catholic Writer, Paul Folbrecht
I nearly skipped (or indefinitely deferred) this book. I'm so glad I did not.
If you are tempted to pass on True Or False Pope? because you think you understand the sedevacantist error well enough, the first thing you should know is that virtually all of the information and all the argumentation in the book is equally useful in responding to the errors of neo-Catholicism, an area that is actually of much larger practical import. This is because the root errors of both systems are the same, of course.
The book is far more than a veritable evisceration of the entire sedevacantist enterprise - though it is that, indeed. The tsunami of Church teaching (all of it thoroughly referenced) that Salza & Siscoe bring to bear against Cekada, Speray, Derksen, and the minor sede pontifical usurpers crashes with equal force and equal effect against the barricade of the head-in-the-sand, hear-no-evil, the-pope-is-always-right-cause-that's-what-mom-said crowd.
Apart, but related to that, the tome is useful as the theological manual of ecclesiology that it is. In particular, the chapters on the Ordinary Magisterium, Church Disciplines, and the Novus Ordo Rite of Mass each in themselves justify ownership, as each is a superb overview of the most pertinent points on each topic - again, with ample references, and in the latter case containing documented facts (relating to its non-existent promulgation) not widely known even among diehard, faithful Traditionalists.
And, of course, there is that evisceration of sedevacantism. This is not hyperbole. Having read probably every Traditionalist piece on the sede error, going back a decade or so, from Ferrera, this book's authors, and others, I was personally not prepared for just how thorough a routing they were going to take here. Make no mistake: No human being with a functioning intellect can read this book and in good conscience hold the dogmatic sedevacantist position. Period. There is no longer anywhere for them to hide, save behind their facade of sophism, sarcasm, and childish ad hominem.___________________________________________________________________
Review by a former Sedevacantist who wishes to remain anonymous
I have finally finished the book. To state that it exceeded my expectations would be putting it too lightly, for the book achieved far more than that. It presented profound and complex ecclesiological doctrines in a very clear, precise and effective manner that was easy to follow and yet did not "dumb it down." Nor did the book engage in the prurient school-yard rhetoric which is apparently so beloved by the extremist polemicists whose errors and heresies it efficaciously refutes. Chapter 21, wherein the authors could have understandably indulged in anathematizing true-to-life caricatures, was particularly salient in its reserve and calm objectivity, with the most scandalous crimes being passed over in silence. The sedevacantists' errors as exposed and refuted throughout the book provide embarrassment enough and they, together with the few things mentioned in Chapter 21 (which are but inexorably concomitant with these errors), sufficed to present to the honest inquirer the true picture of the sedevacantist sects.
However, the value of the book is not solely to be found in its masterful refutation of the sedevacantists' errors and disorders. The book also provides excellent answers to those conservatives, animated by an indiscreet zeal and myopic conditioning, who would denigrate traditionalist Catholics' endeavor to preserve sacred Tradition and the Deposit of the holy Faith. Questions regarding subjects such as the new Missal, the recent Canonizations, the status of the Second Vatican Council, &c., are discussed with radical honesty and in light of numerous authorities and other pertinent sources. To reject the authors' presentation of these questions would necessitate the rejection of the sound teaching and example of so many eminent theologians, canonists, Saints, &c.: teaching and example that would only guide and console us in these tumultuous times.
To be frank, the excesses and disorders of the sedevacantist sects (I had attended a CMRI "chapel") had caused me to embrace the theological orientation of the conservatives, and to excuse away the bedeviling perplexities presented by the Second Vatican Council and the post-Conciliar Papacy. I was very skeptical that the book would change my mind, but now I cannot but seriously consider the possibility that I may have been mistaken and that there is a balance between the extremisms of both sedevacantism and post-Conciliar conservatism.
As someone who has been on both extremes of the spectrum that has arisen over the ecclesiological questions occasioned by the turmoil of the Conciliar and post-Conciliar eras, I can say without hesitation that this book not only refutes these same extremes, but presents a doctrinal compendium that should be in the hands of every serious Catholic who professes zeal for sacred Tradition;especially clergymen, parents, educators, and all else who have the task of teaching others. The present generation of traditionalist Catholics owe an exceeding great debt to the authors, who have calmly and precisely vindicated their hallowed cause against modernists, sedevacantists and indiscreet conservatives.
“TRUE OR FALSE POPE?” — BOOK REVIEW
By Brother Alexis Bugnolo
In my many years, since college, I have rarely come upon a book written by a modern author, of which I can say, that its value will endure long after I am dead. There are books which are very well written and even those which refute current errors, but of few of them can it be said that they will have anything other than a timely usefulness. But of this new book by John Salza and Robert Siscoe, which deals not only with a timely issue — the moral and doctrinal error of Sedevacantism: the error of judging by one’s self, who is or is not a legitimate pope today — but does so in a perennial manner (by searching out the founts of Catholic Theology and Canon Law and applying them not only to the specific problems presented by the Sedevacantists, but by addressing the Catholic solution to those problems, in the same manner that Catholics have done for 2016 years), one can truly proclaim: “It shall endure the ages as a monument of Catholic Theology and be sought out by Catholic Librarians for centuries to come,” — so well written, researched and organized it is.
For this reason, “True or False Pope?” is a book which I believe merits to be on the bookshelves of every Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Religious, Theologian, and learned Layman, not just in the hands of those afflicted or attacked by, or tempted to the error of Sedevacantism and its adherents.
But even more so, due to the present crisis brought on the Church by Team Bergoglio and the Kasperian thesis it has intentionally, deceitfully and maliciously promoted in all its actions, “True or False Pope?” is a book which needs to be read by all Catholics and the perennial Catholic teaching which it contains, put into practice: not only by those who confront Sedevacantists, or who are tempted by that error, but by every Theologian, Religious, Deacon, Priest, yes even Bishop and Cardinal, who has a duty to represent, though in different manners, the true teaching of the Faith and the right praxis of it, on questions of “Can the Pope be a heretic or schismatic?” and “What the Church and Bishops ought to do about it, if it should happen.”
For this reason, I wholeheartedly recommend each Catholic buy this book and give as many copies of it as a present to other Catholics, as they can, as its good effect in all the Church is something which we can not only expect in our present age, but be certain of through the generations to come which have the blessing to find a copy.