Praise for TRUE OR FALSE POPE? - Refuting Sedevacantism
and other Modern Errors

Arnaldo Xavier de Salveira

In a famous text, Leo XIII thus referred to the Middle Ages:
            There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. (Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei,  November 1, 1885, #28).

Scholasticism stands among the immortal monuments of the Middle Ages right next to the cathedrals, castles, and the Christian social order. It ordained and solidified Catholic thought in an exceptional way, building a perennial philosophy and theology.

The golden era of Scholasticism was the thirteenth century, with great figures such as St. Albert the Great (1193-1280), St. Bonaventure (1218-1274), and especially St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 -1274), preceded in twelveth century by Peter Lombard (1100-1160).

The so-called Silver Age of Scholasticism had its heyday in the sixteenth century, with antecedents in the fifteenth century and extensions in the seventeenth century. During that period, Torquemada (1388-1468), Cajetan (1469-1534), St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Suarez (1548-1617), John of Saint Thomas (1589-1644), among others, delved deeper into the philosophical and theological principles of Scholasticism, thus forming a broad and solid body of doctrine.

The third great era of Scholasticism arose in the early decades of the nineteenth century, developed throughout the Church under the aegis of Leo XIII, and dominated the thinking of clergy and laity in great university centers and in the capillaries of Catholic public opinion. And thus it began to express the universal teaching of Holy Church with extraordinary force and rigor, in magnificent manuals of the various branches of theological science, in numerous specialized journals, and in works of all kinds. These manuals are extraordinarily valuable because they express with remarkable precision the true Catholic thought and the true Tradition of the Church. It is easy to censure them for some deficiency here or there, but only in progressivist lips does one find contempt for, or condemnation of neo-scholastic manuals. In this regard, on August 19, 2013, in an interview with the magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis said, “We must not confuse the genius of Thomas Aquinas with the age of decadent Thomist commentaries. Unfortunately, I studied philosophy from textbooks that came from decadent or largely bankrupt Thomism” (L'Osservatore Romano, daily edition, Anno CLIII, No. 216, Saturday, September 21, 2013). For those who have a rather summary notion of the history of Thomism, this statement constitutes, in its context, a condemnation of the magnificent neo-scholasticism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The book True or False Pope? is based above all on neo-scholastics, that is, on the great masters who taught before Vatican II up until the invasion of modernism. It is a landmark in the refutation of sedevacantism and a real Encyclopedia on this and other modern errors. In its more than seven hundred pages, it delves deep into the criticism of such doctrines, and gives readers extremely valuable arguments to keep the good doctrine.

The work by John Salza and Robert Siscoe is also notable for its development of numerous theses of the traditional doctrine of the Church that were either forgotten or cast aside from current teaching. Among these somehow new theses, all of them nevertheless founded on the best scholasticism, are the following:
·    There can be error and even heresy in pontifical and conciliar documents. I consider this thesis a premise to the refutation of sedevacantism and of primordial importance to avoid perplexities on the Papacy and the on the very divinity of the Church.
·    Nothing in Scripture or Tradition absolutely removes the possibility of a Pope falling into heresy or a heretic being elected to the Papacy.
·    In a rich and suggestive manner, the book applies the doctrine of the visible Church to the most diverse branches of Catholic thought.
·    Internal heresy entails neither the loss of the Papacy nor the loss of membership in the visible Church.
·    The infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium presupposes continuity in time.

Neo-scholasticism is not a school of funerary odor, but one dense with precious doctrinal developments such as these. For modernists, however, Scholasticism is a dead and petrified doctrine, incapable of producing new fruits. The numerous theses, highly relevant to our days, that the book True or False Pope? expands and develops are proof that biased notion is false.

The reading of this book by John Salza and Robert Siscoe reinforces the conviction that modernism, like other philosophies and theologies considered modern, is nothing but purulence flowing from diseased brains. The future of Catholic thought is in Scholasticism, whose coming glories and splendors we can only glimpse from afar – and perhaps not too far.

Could we take a brief look at the future of Scholasticism? At Fatima, Our Lady proclaimed: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!” Other private revelations concur. St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort emphatically announces the Reign of Mary that will come after the era of desolation in which we live. In these future times of glory for Holy Church, Scholasticism will certainly be reborn to a fourth flourishing age. And then the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas will bear new and abundant fruits, as John Salza and Robert Siscoe have shown they can.

    - Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira

Bishop Bernard Fellay

       “When we reflect on the crisis of faith in the Catholic Church, our heart cannot but ache for its countless victims, both lay and clerical. The victims who most readily come to mind are those of the “left.” Through unwitting obedience to recent Popes, these now profess and practice a faith unrecognizable to our forefathers. Nevertheless, even if smaller in number, those of the “right” must not be overlooked. So scandalized by the deviations of recent Popes, these overreact by denying the papacy to such men. Left or right, both extremes result from the same error—an exaggerated notion of papal infallibility. Charity demands that we show both factions the errors and the dangers in their respective paths.. … until now—at least in the English-speaking world—only articles and booklets have been published against Sedevacantism and its related errors.  A comprehensive and definitive refutation, firmly grounded in ecclesiology, has been sorely needed. We thus pray that True or False Pope? finds its way to many Catholics of good will, be they of perplexed mind at the moment. Mr. Salza and Mr. Siscoe’s book will surely afford much clarity to the reader.”
-His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Fellay


                                                    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 … 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.” (Source)
 -Brother Alexis Bugnolo


       “I read every page of this book with great interest. It is a thorough treatment of the questions raised by Sedevacantism, grounded in solid Catholic theology, on the Fathers, Doctors and Popes. It will give light to all its readers and be an invaluable help to dispel the confusions caused by the present crisis of the Church. May our Lady, Mother of the Church, obtain these graces of light and love of the Church to all its readers!”
Former U.S. District Superior,
Society of St. Pius X



       "For over a half century now, popes have been undermining the Catholic Faith to a greater or lesser extent. But never before have we been confronted by a pope who undermines Catholic Morality—most recently demonstrated at the Synod on the Family. If traditionally minded Catholics have not yet succumbed to Sedevacantism by reason of the former, they now may be strongly tempted thereto by reason of the latter.
        "While Catholics have a right to be scandalized, they must beware of hasty conclusions. The temporary darkness in the Church does not mean that the obstructed light no longer shines. An abuse of authority does not abolish that authority. We must respond to the crisis in the Church with the mind of the Church, not that of the Revolution.
         "True or False Pope? is that rare book that applies the mind of the Church to today’s crisis of authority. It authors respect the nuances of both the facts and sound theology. The book is scholarly but very readable, organized in such a way that the reader can draw much light even if he choose to read individual chapters only. No longer need he grope about in today’s darkness." 

Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona, MN, USA


       “True or False Pope? is simply luminous. This highly readable work of ecclesiology draws from the perennial Magisterium and practice of the Church the light of truth necessary to lay bare the myriad errors of Sedevacantism. Salza and Siscoe expose the common opinions of the greatest theologians in a way accessible to all. This clear exposé of Catholic doctrine will nourish the Faith of all Catholics of good will, while rendering the Sedevacantist thesis untenable. The authors moreover amply illustrate the principle of true Catholic obedience in today’s crisis - “Recognize and Resist.” This principle commands us to reverence the Vicar of Christ on Earth and obey him in all things lawful, but to refuse any of his directives at odds with the teaching of Christ as expressed in the constant and infallible Magisterium of the Church. Following the example of St. Peter, we are to obey God rather than man. Such a calm and scholarly treatment of such an impassioned and tangled controversy is long overdue. Covering a vast territory with unique clarity, it surpasses every work of its kind. True or False Pope? is arguably one of the most important books written on the post-conciliar crisis. Serving as a sort of North Star, the book indicates the true path of fidelity to the Church during these disorienting times. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Star, obtain for its reader this grace of fidelity.”


Professor, Natural Law Ethics

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona



    “At last, the English speaking world has in its hands a thoroughgoing refutation of the error of Sedevacantism. Salza and Siscoe did not leave a single stone face down in their seek and destroy mission, lopping off head after head of that hydra which tries in every which way to prove that the Church has no head. The exhaustive completeness of this book is alone sufficient to recommend it to traditionalists for a place on their shelves. With it in their possession, they will never be unprepared when encountering someone looking to shake their faith in Mother Church.
       “Moreover, in their desire to systematically skewer Sedevacantism, Salza and Siscoe communicate to their readers another great benefit: they patiently and clearly present the constant teaching of the Church on her own nature. Thus, readers are not just informed about the errors of sedes; they are also deepened considerably in their knowledge of the Catholic Faith, particularly in the area referred to as ecclesiology. And is it not precisely the lack of such knowledge that causes Sedevacantists themselves to fall into their despairing position?
       “As if these two advantages were not sufficient to recommend True or False Pope?, I must mention a third: a sobering example is presented in these pages of the grave danger of extreme reactions to the crisis in the Church. We are told by Our Lord to judge by fruits, and the fruits of sedevacantism are laid out in detail for us to inspect. Its adherents are caught time and again in the act of anathematizing and ridiculing one another, deposing centuries of Popes, creating parallel hierarchies, home-aloneing it, twisting quotes, and arguing sophistically. The impression becomes overwhelming that Sedevacantism is not healthy for the soul, and that this alone is sufficient motive to set it aside.
       “Let the reader, then, take up this book, expecting to find within its pages a refutation of every Sedevacantist argument that has ever been put forward, a user-friendly presentation of fundamental theology on the Church, and a case study of the effects of Sedevacantism on the soul. True or False Pope? would be worth a perusal for possessing only one of these attributes; let all three, then, call out for it purchase and careful reading.”

Professor of Dogmatic Theology

Holy Cross Seminary, Australia



       “This book appears at a very opportune moment, when increasing numbers of serious Catholics are openly expressing profound disenchantment with the liberalizing direction of the current pontificate. One harmful response to this crisis is Sedevacantism, which claims that the conciliar Popes have not been Popes at all. This book by John Salza and Robert Siscoe is the most detailed and scholarly rebuttal of Sedevacantism yet to appear. They show that while classical theologians and canonists agree that a Pope might fall into formal heresy and so lose his office, these authorities would unanimously reject the modern Sedevacantist approach, which leaves the decision as to whether this has happened – and, if so, what to do about it – to the private judgment of individual Catholics.     
       The last chapter, documenting Sedevacantists’ bitter, pride-filled – and inevitable – internal divisions is particularly revealing. Salza and Siscoe are themselves avowed Traditionalists who sharply criticize the revised Roman liturgy and certain Vatican II teachings. But one does not necessarily have to share that stance in order to appreciate their valuable and timely effort to prevent further infliction of wounds on the Church’s unity.”


Emeritus Professor of Theology Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto

       “The most devastating prosecution of the Sedevacantist thesis in print. Any Sedevacantist who reads this book with an open mind can no longer hold his position in good faith.”
President, American Catholic Lawyers Association


       “The most comprehensive, exhaustively documented, well-reasoned critique of Sedevacantism to date. A calm, objective treatment of what can often be an emotional topic. Outstanding work.”
Editor, Catholic Family News

       “With an ever deepening crisis in the Church, Sedevacantism poses a real danger because it offers an apparent solution to a real problem. It does so at the expense of fidelity to the perennial Magisterium of the Church. This masterful tome provides a detailed, well-researched, and persuasive argument against the many varieties of the Sedevacantist position. Salza and Siscoe start at the beginning, presenting a firm grounding in immutable doctrine about the nature of the Church. They proceed to demonstrate how every form of Sedevacantism leads to the denial or distortion of traditional ecclesiology. The authors use prominent Sedevacantists’ own words to refute their arguments. All of this vast material is written in an easy to read and understandable style. Anyone who is aware of the crisis in the Church must read this book, destined to become a classic.”

Associate Dean of Academics,
University of Oklahoma College of Law


       “This is the most thoroughly researched and articulately presented book of its kind. Whether you are a Sedevacantist, or researching the movement, this book is irreplaceable. Brilliant!”
Director of Apologetics and Evangelization
Catholic Answers


       “For 50 years we at The Remnant have fought against the false conclusions of the Sedevacantist thesis. We have insisted that, despite the revolution, the Church is still ours--our castle, our home, our mother and we cannot abandon her. Taking their lead from St. Athanasius during the Arian crisis, John Salza and Robert Siscoe have elevated the discourse of this pivotal debate to an entirely new level that encourages Catholics to keep the old Faith and fight for our Church under siege. This book serves notice to the occupiers of the Catholic Church: Traditional Catholics are not going anywhere. We’ll stay and we’ll fight until all of “our buildings” are in the hands of Catholics once again.”
Editor, The Remnant newspaper