Sedevacantist Watch…


Archbishop Lefebvre
       Fr. Anthony Cekada, and his Sedevacantist colleagues, have been scrambling in an attempt to counteract our book, “True or False Pope?”.  Before the book was even released, they began publishing article and producing videos in a desperate effort to refute a book they had not even read.  After Fr. Cekada finally receiving his copy, he released another video, which, quite interestingly, skipped over the first 650 pages of the book (the first 20 chapters), which contain all the theology that refutes the errors of Sedevacantism, and instead focused exclusively on chapter 21 (titled “The Bitter Fruits of Sedevacantism”), which is the only non-theological chapter in the entire book.  He then “argued” that this chapter – again, the only non-theological chapter in the entire book – did not refute the Sedevacantist theological arguments.  In his own words:

      “The SSPX and R&R Camp’s claim, therefore, that these supposed bitter fruits of Sedevacantism somehow defeat its theological arguments is founded on ignorance of history and hypocrisy.”

       Now think about this for a moment. Fr. Cekada skips over 20 chapters which are full of very weighty theological arguments against Sedevacantism, addresses the only chapter in the entire book that was not intended to be theological, and then argues that this chapter does not refute the theological arguments of Sedevacantism. Can one think of a more obvious red-herring than that?

       The second video he released after reading the book was another evident red-herring. In this video, Cekada once again does not even attempt to counter the theological arguments, but instead tries to defend himself by accusing Archbishop Lefebvre of being a Sedevacantist, and then blames the Archbishop for leading him and some of his colleagues into Sedevacantism when they were seminarians! You read that correctly. Rather than defend his position theologically, his latest tactic is to give all the credit for his Sedevacantism to Archbishop Lefebvre – even though the Archbishop was never a Sedevacantist and even expelled priests from the Society for publicly embracing the position!

       What these videos demonstrate is that Fr. Cekada is getting desperate and many Catholics are realizing it.  We have been particularly inundated with emails about his latest video from those who are outraged that he would accused the Archbishop of being a Sedevacantist, and of being responsible for him embracing the error.  Instead of simply admitting that he has been wrong, he resorts to dodges and distractions, while simultaneously dressing up his videos with his customary juvenile attempts at humor, no doubt hoping that he will be able to keep his audience entertained and diverted from the real, theological issues which he is avoiding. Unfortunately, the more videos Cekada produces, the more damage he does to his own position and credibility. 

       But his recent video does provide some very revealing information about why he became a Sedevacantist, which helps to explain why he is unable to defend his position theologically. Specifically, in the video, Fr. Cekada admits that as a young seminarian he embraced Sedevacantism as an emotional, not a theological, response to the crisis in the Church; he even readily admits that he could not explain his decision in “formal, theological terms,” even though the question of why (or if), a man who has been elected Pope by the Church is not a legitimate pope, involves very complex theological question.  So, why did Cekada believe Paul VI was not a true Pope?  In the video, he
explains that he arrived at this position because he did not think Paul VI acted like a Pope should act, and therefore sensed that he was not a true Pope. It was because of this internal “sense” (not theological arguments) that he embraced the Sedevacantist position while still a young Seminarian (he admits that he did not recite Paul VI’s name in the canon of his very first Mass).  Now, basing one’s intellectual belief on an internal “sense” is precisely how the Modernists operate, which would indicate that the many years Fr. Cekada spent in formation at St. Francis Seminary College, which is one of the most Modernists (and morally corrupt) seminaries in the United States, had more of an effect on him than he realizes.

       One wonders what Fr. Cekada’s internal sense would have told him had he lived at the time of Pope John XII, a teenage Pope who “was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest”[1] and for which he was “summoned in writing to defend himself;”[2] or at the time of John XXII, a doctrinally confused Pope who was dividing the Church by preaching a false doctrine which would be formally condemned as a heresy by his immediately successor. Would Fr. Cekada have sensed that these men were not acting like a Popes, and declared them anti-popes as well?  If so, he would have been quite mistaken.

       We will delve deeper into Fr. Cekada’s root error (relating to how he became a Sedevacantist) in an upcoming article. For now, we wish to dispose of his false accusation that Archbishop Lefebvre was a Sedevacantist.

Archbishop Lefebvre Was Never Sedevacantist

       Anyone even remotely familiar with Archbishop Lefebvre’s position on the crisis in the Church can only grimace at Fr. Cekada’s accusation that he was a Sedevacantist.  It seems that Fr. Cekada’s desperation is reaching the point where the truth and even his own reputation are irrelevant to him, as he attempts to defend what he “senses” at all costs. As the record clearly demonstrates, Archbishop Lefebvre was never a Sedevacantist, even though, at times, he did publicly raise questions about the legitimacy of Paul VI and John Paul II.

The Five Stages

       To help us understand the Archbishop’s position and his many statements on the crisis in the Church, we believe it is important to explain the steps that one logically takes before becoming a Sedevacantist. There are five clear stages that one goes through, with the last stage ending not only in a rejection of the Pope, but also a rejection of the entire visible Church over which he reigns. In explaining these stages, we will demonstrate that Archbishop Lefebvre never went beyond the first stage, which is simply questioning whether it was possible for the conciliar Popes to be illegitimate Popes. This first step is one that many Traditional Catholics (ourselves including, as we mention in our book) have taken - but most never move past it to the second stage.

Stage 1 - Questioning Phase: This first phase is one in which many Traditional Catholics have been at one time or another. Rightly scandalized by the words and actions of the recent Popes and the dire situation in the Church, they wonder if perhaps the answer is that these men have not been true Popes at all (some may even raise the question publicly, but without forming a judgment on the matter). We both entered this phase, by at least privately raising the question to ourselves, which is what led us to researching the Sedevacantist position. Following the shocking resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis, who has done much damage to the Church in a very short time, even many conservative Catholics are now in this questioning phase. In light of the continuous papal scandals coming from the Vatican, this phase is understandable, and there is certainly nothing wrong or sinful about it. For those in this stage, our book is a must read.

Stage 2 - Private Opinion: The next phase is when one personally concludes (the intellect arrives at a judgment and the will embraces it) that the Pope is not the true Pope. Some priests who have arrived at this stage refuse to include the Pope’s name in the canon of the Mass. We would call this person a private Sedevacantist.

Stage 3 - Public Opinion: The next phase is when the person publicly professes their opinion that the Pope is not the true Pope.  He may even seek to persuade others to embrace the position, but would not attempt to force his opinion on others.

Stage 4 - Public Fact/Sedevacantism: The next phase is when the person presents Sedevacantism as if it were an undisputed fact.  They promote it vigorously, and proclaim that all others must accept their position as a fact, lest they cease to be Catholic, at least in the objective order. These people are known as “dogmatic” Sedevacantists.

Stage 5 - Public Fact/Ecclesiavacantism: The final phase is the logical conclusion to the previous. In this phase, the person has lost faith in the entire visible Church. Once a person arrives at this stage, he considers the Church itself to be an entirely false Church, and viciously attacks the Church with the goal of discrediting it. In this phase, which usually goes hand-in-hand with the previous, the errors of churchmen are not exposed for the purpose of defending the Faith, but for the purpose of mocking and discrediting the Church itself. Those in this phase will declare that one may have nothing to do with the visible Church, since they believe it is a false Church. They also usually (but not always) declare that it is forbidden even to assist at an “una cum” Mass – that is, a Mass in which the Pope’s name is mentioned. Clearly, the leading Sedevacantist apologists of our day fall into this category.  Interestingly, due to a misunderstanding of the “Conciliar Church,” vis-à-vis the Catholic Church, some have fallen into the fifth stage, even though they reject states 2 through 4.
       With an understanding of these stages, we will be able to more clearly see how Fr. Cekada has completely mischaracterized the position of Archbishop Lefebvre, who never advanced his inquiry past the First Stage.

Fr. Cekada’s Protestant Ploy: Taking Quotes Out of Context to Serve His Pretext

       True to his method of appealing to the emotions, and hence the will of his audience (rather than the intellect), Fr. Cekada begins his video by playing the pity card, claiming that the purpose of True or False Pope? was to paint Sedevacantists “as totally, totally, wicked,” and as having “lost faith in the Church.” Of course, the purpose of the book is to refute, on theological grounds, the many errors of Sedevacantism, and to demonstrate that the error does indeed lead to a loss of faith in the Church (Fifth Stage). And how can Fr. Cekada believe he has not lost faith in the Church, when he maintains that the entire hierarchy has defected, and claims that the visible social unit (the true Church) morphed into a new Church? His fellow Sedevacantist, Bishop Donald Sanborn, goes so far as to forbid his seminarians from holding that there are any bishops today with jurisdiction. But if Bishop Sanborn is correct, it means there is no longer be a legitimate hierarchy of the Church, since a “legitimate hierarchy” requires not only validly consecrated bishops, but validly consecrated bishops with jurisdiction (which is only be given to the bishops by the Pope). If a legitimate hierarchy no longer exists, as Bishop Sanborn claims, it means the indefectible Church has defected.[3]

       Fr. Cekada then goes on to ask: “How did we end up so evil? Who led us down this dark road?” After accusing us of calling Sedevacantists “the enemies of Christ” (even though we referred to the Jews of the Old Testament as the enemies of Christ, whose footsteps Sedevacantists follow by being persecutors of Christ’s Mystical Body), the video then fades to a big picture of Archbishop Lefebvre, followed by Fr. Cekada saying:

“It was the founder of the Society of St. Pius X himself, Marcel Lefebvre, titular archbishop of Synnada in Phrygia, and Sedevacantist! [Here Cekada plays the introduction to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, for special effects.] And that is why it is pure idiocy for SSPX priests to endorse Salza and Siscoe’s 700 pages of anti-Sedevacantist hyperventilations. If you want to call Sedevacantists like me an enemy of Christ, you better call your founder, Archbishop Lefebvre one too. Where do you think we got the idea in the first place?”

       It is pure revisionist history for Fr. Cekada to now accuse Lefebvre of being a Sedevacantist, who “led so many of us to Sedevacantism,” when, as everyone knows, the Archbishop emphatically rejected the Sedevacantist position. And what is true “idiocy” is for Fr. Cekada to dismissing the theology in our 700-page book by referring to it as “anti-Sedevacantist hyperventilations.” If it is mere “hyperventilations” (suggesting that it has no theological substance), then why has he failed to directly address the theological arguments, after he assured his audience that he would (before he read it), and after we responded by repeatedly challenging him to do so?  And why has Fr. Cekada instead chosen to besmirch the good name of Archbishop Lefebvre, by accusing him of leading him into the Sedevacantist error?

       In an effort to back up his false claim that Lefebvre was a Sedevacantist, Fr. Cekada goes on to provide “in the form of a catechism” (his words) “some of the Archbishop’s statements favoring Sedevacantism.” Favoring Sedevacantism? How does one “favor” a position he explicitly rejects? Cekada doesn’t say. He then proceeds to display questions that he himself crafted for the video (e.g., What are we to think of Vatican II’s errors? If the Pope adheres to the Conciliar Church, what is the effect?, etc.), which he then follows with a screen shot of a partial quotation from Archbishop Lefebvre, as if the Archbishop is directly answering Cekada’s made-up questions!

       In other words, Cekada manufactures a fictitious Q&A between himself and Archbishop Lefebvre, even addressing Lefebvre in the first person, as “Monsignor, tell us…” (as if Cekada is speaking with him!), and then completely wrenches the Lefebvre quotations out of context, that is, from the rest of the teaching tradition of the Archbishop and the priestly society he founded - which has always rejected the error of Sedevacantism! Fr. Cekada even appeals to a statement that the Archbishop allegedly made to him in 1979 (that’s quite a memory!) in a private conversation, which he also displays as a quotation, surrounded by a border and a photo of Lefebvre, as further “official evidence” for the Archbishop’s Sedevacantist stance (and which, even if it is a true statement, as with the other quotations proves nothing). Frankly, the entire presentation is a sad and disturbing spectacle to behold, especially because it comes from a priest.

       As anyone who watches the video can see, in none of the quotations that Cekada handpicked (and we assume he handpicked the “best” ones) does Archbishop Lefebvre adopt the Sedevacantist view. In none of them! The quotations merely show that the Archbishop, like most Traditional Catholics at one time or another, was in the questioning phase (the First Stage) of whether a true Pope could do the things that the conciliar Popes had done. But he never went past this stage, as Fr. Cekada surely knows. In fact, Fr. Cekada’s presentation is so ridiculous that he himself may have had a pang of conscience, since he was forced to admit at the end of the video that “it would be possible, of course, to assemble a collection of quotes entitled: Marcel Lefebvre: Anti-Sedevacantist, or Marcel Lefebvre: Recognize and Resister; and one would find an equal amount of material.” An “equal amount of material”?  Try “a far greater amount of material,” which would reflect his actual position.

       By making this incredible admission, Fr. Cekada openly concedes that the very evidence he marshals (the quotations) in an effort to prove his case, does not actually prove his case! Could a more damaging, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot, presentation be conceived? If a lawyer presented such a case in court, he would be laughed out of the courtroom and sued by his client for malpractice.

Archbishop Lefebvre Rejected the Sedevacantist Position

       As part of his presentation, Fr. Cekada criticizes us for not including his selected quotations from Lefebvre in our book, as if they would have had any impact on the book’s conclusion. But, in reality, we do present Archbishop Lefebvre’s position at the very beginning of our book, in the Preface. In fact, we even refer to Archbishop Lefebvre’s most damning indictment of John Paul II, in which Lefebvre speculated in 1986 that if the Pope continued with his interreligious worship (like at Assisi 1986), he could possibly be considered a public heretic (which Fr. Cekada, of course, included in his video).

       We then pointed out that Archbishop Lefebvre lived to see John Paul II’s continued and ongoing participation in pagan worship which took place in Kyoto (1987), Rome (1988), Warsaw (1989), Bari (1990) and Malta (1990), yet the Archbishop still refrained from declaring the Pope a public heretic (which Cekada also knows but completely omitted from his video). We also noted that Bishop Tissier (who was consecrated by Lefebvre and was much better acquainted with the Archbishop’s theology than is Cekada) clearly articulated the Archbishop’s position:

“But for himself, he preferred to consider them as popes. This supposes that he did not feel that he possessed sufficient knowledge of the pertinent facts nor the necessary power for making such a judgment. This is of critical importance to bear in mind."[4]

       This only confirms that the Archbishop never went past the first stage (the questioning stage), since the second stage requires a judgment, which, as Bishop Tissier said, the Archbishop did not feel competent to render. And this is indeed of critical importance to bear in mind, especially for those like Fr. Cekada, who have no shame in recklessly accusing the late Archbishop of holding a position that he explicitly rejected, and which the Church itself, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, essentially condemned (by attaching an excommunication to those who formally separate from their Patriarch, based on an alleged crime, before the Church itself had rendered a judgment – see: canon 10). Fr. Cekada’s assertions are clearly not honest, especially since he knows that the Archbishop required all the seminarians at Ecône to sign a “statement of position” affirming that they were not Sedevacantists before he would ordain them. The reason he took this measure was because some of those he ordained were secret, (“Stage 2”) Sedevacantists who only came out of the closet, so to speak (“Stage 3”), after they were ordained; a practice that Lefebvre wanted to put an end to, once and for all.

       Fr. Cekada also knows that the Archbishop suppressed those within the Society who publicly promoted the Sedevacantist position, and even dismissed Fr. Guerard des Lauriers (in 1977), and Bernard Lucien (in 1979), for their promotion of Sedevacantism. Where were these facts in the Cekada video? The Archbishop also refused to ordain members of Fr. Olivier de Blignières’ religious community who were openly Sedevacantist. Again, where were these facts in Cekada’s video? They were omitted, of course, because Cekada’s video is not meant to convey the truth, but to pull a fast one on his viewers by passing the buck to Archbishop Lefebvre as being the cause of him embracing the Sedevacantist position (and which, we suspect, he is now beginning to realize is false). Our book, on the other hand, faithfully presents the Archbishop’s position. If anything, we could be questioned for not including the many anti-Sedevacantist quotes from Lefebvre, which we deliberately excluded so as to rest our case upon the Popes, Councils and classical theologians of the Church.

       Following the release of Fr. Cekada’s video, we received the following email from a former Sedevacantist:

“I just got an email from a sedevacantist friend … [Fr. Cekada] is now attacking the book using the memory of Abp. Lefebvre, manipulating quotes and de-contextualizing them. As if that has any relevance to the question at hand. The fact that they are employing yet another red-herring is further proof that they cannot answer your refutation of their absurd errors and heresies.

“The strategy, however, is not surprising. Cekada has successfully demonized the SSPX in the eyes of his cohorts: it is easy for him to distract these bamboozled folk from the formidable arguments of the book by manipulating them with atavistic lore. …

“As someone who has read the book, the reason I see why Abp. Lefebvre was not cited in regards to sedevacantism was because the authors were concerned only with those authorities that all Catholics and the sedevacantists would have to acknowledge. The sedevacantists would not have taken the book seriously if it had relied on Abp. Lefebvre regarding this matter, since the Archbishop would not have fared better with these people, seeing that even Cardinal Billot and St. Robert Bellarmine have suffered abuse at their hands. If the Archbishop would have been cited, then Cekada would have exclaimed frantically, "Ha! That's proof that the book is SSPX propaganda!" … It is really pathetic to see a self-professed Catholic Priest spending Lent, the most sacred season of the Liturgical year, making inane videos. It is disedifying to say the least.”

       To demonstrate just how untruthful Fr. Cekada is about the position of the Archbishop vis-à-vis Sedevacantism, he actually has an article on his website, written by his fellow Sedevacantist apologist John Daly, in which Daly explicitly states that Archbishop Lefebvre was never a Sedevacantist. That’s right. After an opening introduction by Fr. Cekada himself, we read the following from Daly:

“So far as we know, Archbishop Lefebvre never formed a definite judgment that John-Paul II was not a true pope. So if we divide the ecclesiastical spectrum into two categories, those for whom the see is legally vacant and those for whom it is legally occupied, Archbishop Lefebvre will be in the non-sedevacantist camp."[5]

       But let’s not take Sedevacantist John Daly’s word for it. As Fr. Cekada recommended in the video before he displayed his handpicked quotations, let’s have Archbishop Lefebvre “speak for himself.” We will do just that by providing a quotation from the Archbishop, which he gave several years before Fr. Cekada and eight of his colleagues were expelled from the Society. The following quotation is from November 1979, which is the time period that Cekada alleges Lefebvre was a Sedevacantist and “leading others to Sedevacantism.” Let us see if Fr. Cekada’s accusation corresponds to reality:

“Can a Pope be Liberal and remain Pope? The Church has always severely reprimanded Liberal Catholics, but she has not always excommunicated them. Here, too, we must continue in the spirit of the Church. We must refuse Liberalism from whatever source it comes because the Church has always condemned it. She has done so because it is contrary, in the social realm especially, to the Kingship of Our Lord.

"Does not the exclusion of the cardinals of over eighty years of ages, and the secret meetings which preceded and prepared the last two Conclaves, render them invalid? Invalid: no, that is saying too much. Doubtful at the time: perhaps. But in any case, the subsequent unanimous acceptance of the election by the Cardinals and the Roman clergy suffices to validate it. That is the teaching of the theologians.

"The visibility of the Church is too necessary to its existence for it to be possible that God would allow that visibility to disappear for decades. The reasoning of those who deny that we have a Pope puts the Church in an inextricable situation. Who will tell us who the future Pope is to be? How, as there are no Cardinals, is he to be chosen? This spirit is a schismatical one for at least the majority of those who attach themselves to certainly schismatical sects like Palmar de Troya, the Eglise Latine de Toulouse, and others. Our Fraternity absolutely refuses to enter into such reasonings. We wish to remain attached to Rome and to the Successor of Peter, while refusing his Liberalism through fidelity to his predecessors. We are not afraid to speak to him, respectfully but firmly, as did St. Paul with St. Peter.

"And so, far from refusing to pray for the Pope, we redouble our prayers and supplications that the Holy Ghost will grant him light and strength in his affirmations and defense of the Faith.

"Thus, I have never refused to go to Rome at his request or that of his representatives. The Truth must be affirmed at Rome above all other places. It is of God, and He will assure its ultimate triumph.

"Consequently, the Society of St. Pius X, its priests, brothers, sisters, and oblates, cannot tolerate among its members those who refuse to pray for the Pope or affirm that the Novus Ordo Missae is per se invalid. Certainly, we suffer from this continual incoherence which consists in praising all the Liberal orientations of Vatican II and at the same time straining to mitigate its effects. But all of this must incite us to prayer and to the firm maintenance of Tradition rather than to the affirmation that the Pope is not the Pope."[6]

       Here we have the true thinking of the Archbishop regarding Sedevacantism and the visible Church itself. He rejected the “schismatical spirit” of Sedevacantism (which is certainly where it leads), and “refused” to “tolerate” those who embraced the position.  Yet Fr. Cekada, in his video, has the temerity to declare: “For Archbishop Lefebvre, Sedevacantism was a tenable position for a Catholic to hold.” This is nothing but revisionist history intended to excuse himself, and shift the blame for his error to the Archbishop. 

       Interestingly, at the end of Fr. Cekada’s video, the perceptive viewer will notice that he unwittingly admits he wasn’t really out to prove Archbishop Lefebvre was a Sedevacantist (he can’t, of course). Rather, Cekada reveals that the video’s real purpose was to get people to stop listening to us (Salza and Siscoe), by painting us as the “bad guys,” while he and his comrades (including Archbishop Lefebvre!) are the “good guys.” He says the video and his handpicked quotations “suffice for our one purpose here: To shoot the hot air out of the Society of St. Pius X’s cynical attempt, through Messrs. Salza and Siscoe, to demonize Sedevacantism, and to paint those who adhere to it as the spawn of Luther. Don’t believe it, folks!”

       In other words, by his own admission, the sole purpose of Cekada’s video was a full-out, unmitigated act of damage control. Don’t believe it, folks! Don’t listen to the demonizers, Salza and Siscoe. And most of all, don’t read their book!  Of course, Fr. Cekada has good reason to worry that “folks” are “believing” what we have been arguing, since he has been unable to offer a single theological rebuttal to the book or our feature articles exposing his many errors and dishonesty, and people are beginning to take notice.

       What we fully expect from Fr. Cekada and his Sedevacantist colleagues are more red-herrings, directing attention to irrelevant issues that side-step the direct theological arguments contained in the book, which is a tactic they have mastered. Unfortunately, with each new article they write and video they produce in an attempt to counter our book, it becomes more evident that the Sedevacantist apologists are simply out to defend their position at any cost, and are not being truthful with themselves or their readers.

(Revised 3/20/16)

[1] Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII (New York, Robert Appleton Co, 1913), p. 426
[2] Ibid.
[3] “The Indefectibility of the Teaching Body [i.e., the legitimate hierarchy] is at the same time a condition and a consequence of the Indefectibility of the Church. … the Teaching Body as a whole could not die or fail without irreparably destroying the continuity of authentic testimony” Wilhelm, Joseph and Scannell, Thomas, A Manual of Catholic Theology, vol. 1, 3rd Edition (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benzinger Bros., 1906), pp. 45-46.
[4] Fideliter, 1988 (emphasis added).
[6] Text of Archbishop Lefebvre, “The New Mass and the Pope,” cited by Michael Davies, in Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Volume 2, Chapter XL.