~ The Church and Its Attributes ~
The Sedevacantist thesis begins by affirming that there is no Pope, and ends in a rejection of the Church itself. Because of this, we will begin our treatment of Sedevacantism by considering what the Church is, how Our Lord Jesus Christ constituted His Church, and the permanent qualities with which He endowed it. We will see that these permanent qualities enable us to know not only that there is one true Church, but also where the Church is at all times - even in extraordinary times, such as the Modernist crisis and diabolical disorientation of our day.
In this first chapter, we will consider the Church’s attributes; in Chapter 2 we will discuss the Church’s marks. Although the material in the first two chapters is related and, in many ways, interconnected, we have chosen to discuss the marks and attributes separately, as far as possible. These first two chapters will demonstrate that the Sedevacantist thesis is not tenable and, in fact, leads directly to heresy. The chapters that follow will provide a systematic treatment and refutation of the erroneous arguments used to defend Sedevacantism, and which have been used to draw individuals into their sects. All of the arguments and objections presented in defense of Sedevacantism will be addressed directly and treated thoroughly.
At the outset, it is important to make a distinction between two different but related errors: First, there is the simple error that the post-Vatican II Popes have not been true Popes and that, consequently, the Papal See is vacant (sede vacante). The second error, which follows almost immediately, is that the entire Church over which the post-Vatican II Popes have reigned is a false Church. Virtually all who embrace the first error quickly fall into the second. Throughout the book, both of these errors are referred to under the name “Sedevacantism,” which is not only a rejection of the recent Popes, but also a rejection of the visible Church founded by Christ, over which the recent Popes have reigned. As we will demonstrate, when one loses faith in the Church (the second error), he ends by adhering to a definition of the Church that is virtually identical to that professed by Protestantism, whose founders, coincidentally, also lost faith in the Church.
While most Sedevacantists claim to believe in the Catholic Church, and in the permanent qualities (the attributes and the marks) that constitute and identify the true Church, their refusal or inability to see them in the crucified Church of our day results in a practical denial of their existence (which results in a practical or explicit denial of several articles of Faith). Because the Sedevacantists cannot see these enduring qualities in the post-Vatican II Church (which they claim is a false Church), and further cannot point to a Church that does possess them, they end by reducing the meaning of “Church” to the Protestant concept of a scattered body of “true believers” (rather than a visible institution).
As we will demonstrate throughout this chapter and the next, the unavoidable consequence of their stated position is that “the gates of hell” have indeed prevailed against the visible Church founded by Christ. We know, however, based on the promises of Christ, that this cannot be the case. No heresy – not even the “Synthesis of all Heresies” - will ever destroy the Church or take away any of her essential and permanent qualities. Nor will the faithful have to question where she is, for as Our Lord said about the Church: “A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid” (Mt. 5:14).
This is not to say, however, that the human elements of the Church will never disfigure her, in the eyes of men, by their sin and errors. Just as Christ suffered and died in plain view on the mountain of Calvary (bloody and disfigured in His human nature), so too, the Church today, seated on the mountain of Christ, is suffering her own bitter Passion in plain view for all to see. Just as Jesus warned His Apostles, “all of you shall be scandalized in me this night” (Mt. 26:31), so too are many today scandalized as they witness the Church going through her own bitter Passion. And if the Apostles (three of whom having just witnessed the Transfiguration) lost the faith in Christ during His Passion, it should be no surprise that many today have lost the faith in the Church as she undergoes her Passion. But, as with Christ during His Passion, the Church’s divine nature remains unchanged, and her marks and attributes are still intact, and recognizable by the faithful – that is, not by those who have been so scandalized that they fled, but by those who have remained in faith at the foot of her cross, believing that Christ will remain with His suffering Church “even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20).
We will now discuss what the Church is, and then consider the attributes that perfect her nature. Although some of the material that follows may seem basic for some, it is necessary to lay the foundation so that the errors that will be addressed at the end of the chapter and throughout the rest of the book will be more clearly understood. We will close the chapter by addressing what is known as the “Siri Theory.”
What is the Church?
The Roman Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ on Earth, the supernatural and supranational society founded by Our Lord for the salvation of mankind. The Church of Christ is not an invisible society of true believers known to God alone. It does not consist only of the just (as Luther taught) or only the predestined (as Calvin held). Nor does the Church exclude sinners, for it consists of both good seed and bad (Mt. 13:30). The Church was not established by a group of individuals who, professing belief in Christ as the Messiah, came together to form a community; nor was the Church indirectly founded by Christ through the agency of men with whom He entrusted the task.
The Church of Christ was instituted personally and directly by the Incarnate Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a visible hierarchical society. It was established upon the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets before them, with Our Lord as its cornerstone (Eph. 2:20-21) and St. Peter its visible head (Mt. 16:18-19). Blessed Peter, and his perpetual successors, serve as the principle of unity and the visible foundation of the Church. As Vicar of Christ, the Pope receives his authority directly from Christ, and visibly represents Him, who is the true but invisible Head of the visible society.
Christ Establishes the Papacy
The divine institution of the papacy is revealed in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 16, when Christ declared to Simon:
That Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Mt. 16:18)
The primacy of St. Peter, as head of the universal Church, was a personal prerogative of St. Peter alone, insofar as it was not given to the other Apostles; but it was not personal in the sense that it was to die with him. The Primacy is part of the divine constitution of the Church. Just as the Church will remain as Christ founded it until the Second Coming, so too will the Primacy of St. Peter continue perpetually through his successors. And, as history confirms, there has been a continuous succession of Popes occupying the Chair of St. Peter since the beginning.
In a letter written against the Donatist schism, St. Augustine provided a list of St. Peter’s successors up to his day. He wrote:
For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: ‘Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!’ Matthew 16:18. The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these:— Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. (St. Augustine, Letters 53:1:2, A.D. 412)
It is an article of Faith, defined by the First Vatican Council, that Blessed Peter will have a continuous line of successors:
For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. …
Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord Himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors (perpetuos successores) in the primacy over the whole Church; or (aut) that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.
Two articles of Faith must be affirmed according to the above teaching: 1) By Divine law, St. Peter will have perpetual successors in the primacy, and 2) the Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter in this primacy. Notice that the two clauses in the above quotation are separated by “or” (Latin, aut) to distinguish that St. Peter will have “perpetual successors in the primacy” from the dogma that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter. The Vatican Council makes a clear distinction between the primacy of the papal office, which will continue until the end of time, and the individual Popes – the “perpetual successors” - who fill the office. Thus, they are each dogmas in their own right (the former refutes the errors of Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy while the latter refutes Sedevacantism). This means the Church will always be able to elect a new Pope to fill the chair of St. Peter after the death or resignation of the former Pope.
Now, because Sedevacantists claim we have not had a successor of St. Peter for the past six decades (or longer), some will attempt to limit the council’s teaching to meaning only the office of Peter will continue until the end of time (i.e., that the primacy didn’t die out when Peter died), but their position requires them to deny the council’s plain teaching that there will be a perpetual line of successors until the end.
For example, in response to a questioner during one of his talks, the Sedevacantist preacher, Gerry Matatics, demonstrates how he and his colleagues are forced to deny the teaching of the First Vatican Council:
Questioner: Concerning an article in Vatican I. People against Sedevacantism state that in Vatican I, there is an anathema that says those who believe that there will not be a pope until the end of time, let him be anathema. So what do you say…?
Matatics: OK, very good … doesn’t Vatican I exclude Sedevacantism when it says that Peter will always have perpetual successors until the end of time, and anathematizes those who say otherwise? (…) Vatican I does not say that Peter will always have successors, in the sense that there will always be a pope at any given time (…). In the Latin it is in the present tense, it says ‘Peter has successors,’ in other words, the office of Peter is not an office that died with him. There are successors to it; that’s all that Vatican I is stating – that the papacy is an office that does continue in the Church. It didn’t die when Peter died.
So, Mr. Matatics claims that the First Vatican Council’s teaching concerning “perpetual successors in the primacy,” only means that the office of the papacy will continue, but not that there will be a perpetual line of successors who fill the office. In his answer, Mr. Matatics not only conveniently omitted the word “perpetual” from his quotation of the canon from Vatican I, but he also erred in claiming that the verb “has” is in the present tense (“Peter has successors”), meaning the present indicative. No, the Latin verb habeat is in the present subjunctive which means that the sentence expresses the idea of an efficacious purpose or intention, looking to the future (Christ established that St. Peter would have perpetual successors) rather than a simple statement of what currently happens to be the case (St. Peter has a successor).
Unfortunately, in addition to his omission of “perpetual” and erroneous understanding of the Latin, Mr. Matatics does not quote a single authority to support his assertion that Vatican I’s use of “perpetual successors in the primacy” means only that the office will continue, and not that there will be a continuous line of successors who fill the office. This is because Mr. Matatics’ view directly contradicts what the Church and her approved theologians teach regarding the matter.
During the same talk, Mr. Matatics told his audience that one of his “favorite authors is Fr. E. Sylvester Berry, professor of Scripture at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary… in the 1920s and 30s.” He then referred to Fr. Berry’s “wonderful book called The Church of Christ.” (Sedevacantists always praise pre-Vatican II theologians in order to give their audience the impression that they agree with their teachings – which is very often not the case.) Since Mr. Matatics claims to hold Fr. Berry in such high esteem, let’s listen to what he teaches in the very book that Mr. Matatics praised. Commenting on the above teaching from the First Vatican Council, Fr. Berry explains that “the primacy with all its powers and privileges is transmitted to the successors of St. Peter, who form an unbroken line of supreme pastors to rule the Church in its continued existence.” A little later, he adds: “the Church must ever have a custodian, a supreme law-giver and judge, if she is to continue as Christ founded her.” So one of Mr. Matatics’ “favorite authors” teaches that “the Church must ever have a custodian,” whereas Mr. Matatics claims that the Church hasn’t had a custodian for two or three generations.
Msgr. Van Noort teaches the same as Fr. Berry. He wrote: “it is a fact beyond question that the Church can never fail to have a successor to Peter…” Commenting further on the same point, he wrote: “Since Christ decreed that Peter should have a never-ending line of successors in the primacy, there must always have been and there must still be someone in the Church who wields his primacy.”
Contrary to what Mr. Matatics claims, the First Vatican Council not only affirmed that the Pope holds the primacy of St. Peter (and that the office is perpetual), but also that St. Peter will always have perpetual successors to rule the Church. Needless to say, this poses an insurmountable problem for Sedevacantists who claim that the Church has been unable to elect a Pope for generations. While it is true that there is a temporary vacancy during an interregnum following the death of one Pope and the election of another, as the Vatican Council Fathers were obviously aware, there is a moral union between the two papal reigns, since the subjects remain the same. Needless to say, no such moral union would exist if, as the Sedevacantists claim, there has been no Pope for six decades.
Furthermore, if Mr. Matatics and his fellow Sedevacantits were right, it would now be impossible for the Church to elect a Pope according to the laws governing papal elections. Why? Because the laws established by Pius XII (the last Pope they accept) require that a Pope be elected by the Cardinals (as do the current laws), and all of the Cardinals appointed by Pius XII are long since dead. Do you see where the Sedevacantist errors lead?
The truth of the matter is that the teaching of Vatican I has not failed during the past six decades; for following the death (or resignation) of each Pope during the post-conciliar era, a Conclave has been convened and a Pope has been lawfully elected. He may not have been an ideal Pope, but a true Pope was nevertheless elected to fill the Chair of St. Peter – just as Vatican I affirmed would be the case.
The Divine and Human Aspects of the Church
The Church is at once human and divine, natural and supernatural. Christ, her Divine Founder, is the true Head of the Church. The Church is a supernatural society in her origin, constitution and purpose, as well as in her authority and means of sanctification. But the Church is also a human society, insofar as it consists of human members. Pope Leo XIII wrote:
God indeed even made the Church a society far more perfect than any other. For the end for which the Church exists is as much higher than the end of other societies as divine grace is above nature, as immortal blessings are above the transitory things on the earth. Therefore the Church is a society divine in its origin, supernatural in its end and in means proximately adapted to the attainment of that end; but it is a human community, inasmuch as it is composed of men.
As a divinely instituted society, the Church is also a “perfect society,” which means it is complete in and of itself, and not dependent upon any other society for its existence or for the attainment of its end. Yet, because the Church consists of human members subject to sin and error, her divine nature can, at times, be obscured by her human nature. But even in those times in which her divine nature seems to be eclipsed by her weak and wavering human members, she will never disappear or be destroyed, and in her divine nature there will be “no change, nor shadow of alteration” (Jam. 1:17).
The Life of the Church
The life and existence of the Church Militant will reflect the earthly life of its Head. Just as Christ suffered, so too will the Church suffer. As Our Lord endured a Passion at the end of His life, so too will the Church undergo a Passion before the Second Coming. But, like Christ the King, she too will rise again. In the words of Pope Pius XII:
[T]he society established by the Redeemer of the human race resembles its divine Founder, who was persecuted, calumniated and tortured by those very men whom He had undertaken to save.
Persecution (whether externally or internally) has been called a quasi-mark of the true Church. Fr. Sylvester Berry, in his book The Church of Christ, elaborated on this point. He wrote:
Persecution may serve as a quasi-mark of the Church … Christ has foretold that His Church must suffer unrelenting hatred and persecution: ‘If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you…As Christ was hated, despised, calumniated, and persecuted in His natural body, so also shall He be in His mystical body, the Church. Therefore a Church that is not thus despised and persecuted, can scarcely be the one which Christ had in mind when He uttered the words quoted above. It is always consoling to realize that those who calumniate the Church and stir up persecution against her, are fulfilling the prophecies of Christ and thus unwittingly prove her divine character. Thus does “He that dwelleth in Heaven laugh at them; and the Lord derided them” (Psalm 2:4).
The Church’s Properties
The Church’s properties are those qualities that flow from her very essence and which are necessarily a part of her nature. Although authors sometimes differ in their enumeration of these properties, the difference is primarily one of method and terminology rather than the subject matter itself. The properties of the Church can be aptly broken out into seven distinct qualities: four marks and three attributes.
The marks of the Church are distinctive characteristics that render the Church recognizable to all, and clearly distinguish it from every other religious society. The Baltimore Catechism defines the marks as “clear signs by which all men can recognize it as the true Church founded by Jesus Christ.” The four marks of the Church are, as we profess in the Nicene Creed, that she is “one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic.” These will be discussed at length in the next chapter.
The attributes are those inherent qualities of the Church that perfect her nature. The three attributes can be listed as perpetual-indefectibility, visibility, and infallibility.
In spite of all the trials that God may permit His Church to suffer throughout the course of her existence, she will always retain these properties, precisely because they are essential to her true nature. Consequently, there will not be a moment in time when the Church will lack a single one of them; for the Church’s organic constitution is immutable.
The Church is Visible
The Catholic Church was constituted by Christ as a visible society. For this reason, it is described in Scripture as a city seated on a mountain or hill:
“[T]he Church, as a city seated on a mountain, shall ever be visible. “Neither the sun nor the sun’s light is so plain as the Church: for the house of the Lord is on top of the mountains,” says St. John Chrysostom. “There is no safeguard of unity,” wrote St. Augustine, “save from the Church made known by the promises of Christ – a Church which being seated on a hill, cannot be hid. Hence it is known to all parts of the world.”
Now, no one denies that the members of the Church are visible, but the visibility of its members alone is not what is meant by the visible Church. Protestants erroneously profess an invisible Church (“an invisible society of true believers known to God alone”), but they do not deny that the members of the Church are visible. As we will see, the Sedevacantists, having lost the faith in the Church, have come to profess the same Protestant error, which reduces the notion of the “visible Church” to “visible members” who profess the true Faith.
Both Protestants and Sedevacantists err by not realizing that the Church is a permanent visible, hierarchical society – a visible social unit – composed of a divinely instituted hierarchy (a Pope, bishops, priests, deacons) and laity. This is what will always exist, because it is the visible society, as such, to which the promises of Christ apply: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” and “I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” etc. According to the promises of Christ, the visible society can never be substantially altered or transformed into a false Church; nor can it be reduced to an invisible society loosely composed of merely visible members.
Commenting on the visible character of the Church, Van Noort wrote:
That the Church is visible follows necessarily from the fact that it is a real society, for there can be no genuine society in the world of men unless it be visible. (…) No one denies that the Church’s members are visible, for they are flesh and blood people; but some do question whether, by the institution of Christ Himself, these members are bound together by external bonds so as to form a society that can be perceived by the senses, a society of such a nature that one readily discerns who belongs to it and who does not.
In Chapter 3, we will discuss in detail the internal and external bonds that unite a person to the visible society. For now, it is important to emphasize, once again, that it is this visible society as such (and not individual “true believers”) to which the promises of Christ apply. Van Noort affirms:
Once one proves that the one and only Church which Christ founded is visible from its very nature, then it necessarily follows: (a) that an invisible Church such as that to which Protestants appeal is a pure fiction, and (b) that all the promises which Christ made to His Church refer to a visible Church.
The great twentieth century theologian Cardinal Louis Billot confirms that the visibility of the Church “is in reference to the social body as a whole, and not in respect to each of its members taken singly.” He further explains, as Van Noort did above, that the promises of Christ pertain to the visible Church:
The Church of Christ, by the revelation and institution of Christ himself, is essentially visible; and this visible Church is the Church to which his promises pertain; promises, namely, that she would be perennial and indefectible, and that in her and by her men would find sanctity and salvation.
The Nature of Visibility
Visibility signifies two things: 1) that the thing can be seen; and 2) that it can be known for what it is. The material aspect of visibility is the object of the senses (what the senses perceive); the formal aspect of visibility is the object of the intellect (the quiddity – or the “whatness” of the thing).
In his comprehensive book, The Creed Explained (1897), Fr. A. Devine explains the distinction between formal and material visibility:
Material visibility is that which we see in a thing, when we attend only to its corporeal aspect. In this sense a man, as to his body, is visible. Formal visibility is when the external signs, or that which is seen by the eye, conveys to the mind the invisible or interior qualities of a thing.
The following example will help to illustrate this point:
A person may see an animal (a deer, for example) running through the woods, but be unable to tell what it is he sees. The senses perceive something running, but the intellect does not yet know what it is. If the animal runs into a clearing, or comes close enough, the intellect will be able to judge, and hence know what it is that the senses perceived. This example helps to illustrate the twofold visible character of material beings: the material visibility, which is the external visible qualities (what is perceived by the senses) and the formal visibility, which is the quiddity (what the thing is). The senses perceive something, but it is the job of the intellect to know what it is.
Now, a religious society also possesses a formal and material visibility. The material visibility is its members, its rites and ceremonies, the places where its members meet, etc. By perceiving (with the senses) the external characteristics, the intellect can apprehend that it is: 1) a religious society and, with further abstraction: 2) what particular religion it is. In other words, the intellect is not only able to apprehend that a particular group (Jews, Muslims, or Protestants) is some kind of religious society, but it can also deduce which religious society it happens to be. Let us listen to Fr. Devine:
A Society is said to be visible in a material sense, when it is made up of men assembled together in a congregation, without attending to the object or ends that binds them together in one body. … The formal visibility of a society is that by which we regard it, not merely as an assembly of men, but an assembly of men united together for some specific object …. When we speak of the visibility of the Church, we have to understand that it is not only visible in the material sense, that is, a society of men who are visible to their fellow-creatures, but in a formal sense, that is, that she can be seen as the society of the faithful, and that she manifests conspicuously the characters of her divinity. … The Church is visible in this two-fold sense.
In light of the above explanation, we can better understand what is meant by the visible character of the Church. It does not merely refer to its members being visible; nor does its visibility simply imply that it can be known as a religious society. The visibility of the Catholic Church is such that it can be known to be the true Church established by Jesus Christ. It is known as such by the four marks which the true Church possesses, and will always possess, namely, she is one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic. Van Noort explains the visibility of the Church as follows:
The visible form of the Church, which is the subject of this present discussion, must not be confused with what is strictly its knowability. It is one thing to ask whether the Church which Christ founded is a public society, and quite another to ask whether that society can be recognized as the true Church of Christ by certain distinguishing marks. Its being formally recognizable presupposes its being [materially] visible, but the two are not identical.
In his book, The Church of Christ, Fr. Berry wrote the following about the visible character of the Church:
When we say that the Church of Christ is visible, we mean, primarily, that it is a society of men with external rites and ceremonies and all the external machinery of government by which it can easily be recognized as a true society. But we further maintain that the Church of Christ also has certain marks by which it may be recognized as the one true Church founded by Christ when He commissioned the apostles to convert all nations. In other words, we maintain that the Church of Christ is formally visible, not only as a society known as a Christian Church, but also as the one true Church of Christ.
Elaborating further, he adds:
The Church of Christ is formally visible, not only as a Church, but also as the true Church of Christ. This is an article of faith, having been defined by the [First] Vatican Council in the following words: ‘God established a Church through His only begotten Son, and endowed it with manifest marks of its institution, that it might be known by all [formal visibility] as the guardian and teacher of the revealed word.’ This is a clear and comprehensive definition of formal visibility. The Church has certain evident marks by which it can be recognized as the true Church of Christ, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word.
The thesis contains two propositions: (a) the Church is an external society that can be recognized as such by all, - and its formal visibility as a religious society or Church; (b) This society has certain marks by which it may be distinguished from all other churches and recognized as the true Church, - it is formally visible as the true Church… it has been amply proved that Christ established His Church under the form of an external visible society.
In his book, The Pillar and Ground of Truth, published in 1900, Fr. Thomas E. Cox explained that “the Church which Christ established is a visible, tangible institution, capable of being known and pointed out.” He then added:
The visibility of the Church follows of necessity if there exists an obligation to enter the Church. God could not command me to hear a Church that could not be known, nor to enter a Church that could not be found.
Cardinal Billot describes the twofold visibility in terms of the Church’s extrinsic nature and her revealed nature:
[W]e profess that by the institution of Christ the Body of the Church is endowed with a twofold visibility. First, the visibility of her intrinsic nature, insofar as she is a certain social structure that can be known in her own individuality through the medium of the external senses, both in regard to the distinction of her constituent orders, and in regard to the hierarchy by which she is governed, as well as the multitude subject to her. Secondly, the visibility of her revealed nature, insofar as this distinct and individual religious body becomes known, through the evident marks with which she is adorned, as that religious body to which divine revelation attributes the means of supernatural life as her unique possession, together with promises of perpetual assistance for the sake of attaining eternal life.
We can see that the Catholic Church is an external visible society that can be known, by the light of reason alone (by her four marks), to be the true Church founded two millennia ago by Jesus Christ. This is what is meant by the visibility of the Church.
The Church also possesses the inherent qualities of indefectibility and perpetuity, which are closely related one to another, and often combined into one single attribute. Fr. Berry defines indefectibility as “the inability to fail, to fall short, to perish.” He continues: “Applied to the Church it means that she cannot be deprived of any essential power or quality, so long as she continues to exist.” In short, indefectibility guarantees that the Church will always possess the four marks and three attributes. Perpetuity means the Church will continue to exist until the end of the world. Comparing these two qualities of the Church and their relation to one another, Fr. Berry wrote:
Perpetuity is indefectibility in existence. Strictly speaking, indefectibility pertains to the essential qualities of the Church, perpetuity to her existence. These two qualities, although distinct, are so closely related that it is difficult to treat them separately. … the two attributes may be combined as perpetual indefectibility.
When combined, these attributes tell us that the visible society founded by Christ must continue to exist until the end of time, exactly as He founded her, with all of her qualities – that is, with her marks and attributes. “If the Church is indefectible in her essential qualities and perpetual in her existence,” wrote Fr. Berry, “she must be perpetually indefectible in all essential qualities.”
The Church may be persecuted from without, and Our Lord may even permit it to be infiltrated and persecuted from within for a time, but it will never be destroyed. St. Jerome said:
We know that the Church will be harassed by persecution until the end of the world, but it cannot be destroyed; it shall be tried, but not overcome, for such is the promise of an omnipotent God whose word is as a law of nature.
Referring to the Church’s perpetuity, Msgr. Van Noort wrote:
The present question has to do with the perpetuity of that Church which alone was founded by Christ, the visible Church. Any society can fail in either of two ways: it can simply cease to be, or it can become unfit for the carrying out of its avowed aim through a substantial corruption. The Church cannot fail in either way.
Bellarmine defends the indefectibility of the visible Church at length in De Ecclesia Militante.
Now that this true and visible Church cannot defect can be easily proven. Moreover it must be observed that many waste their time when they try to show that the Church cannot defect absolutely, for Calvin and the other heretics concede that, but they say it ought to be understood about the invisible Church. Therefore, we mean to show the visible Church cannot defect, and by the name Church, we do not understand one thing or another, but the multitude gathered together, in which there are Prelates and subjects.
1) It is shown from the Scriptures where the Church is clearly named, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16) What is said in 1 Timothy is similar to this, “That you might know how you ought to live in the house of God which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and firmament of truth.” (1 Tim 3) In both it is a question of the visible Church, as we see and still hear the very truth asserted that the gates of hell are not going to prevail against that Church.
2) The promise is clear from other passages without the name Church, such as in the last chapter of Matthew: “Behold I am with you even to the consummation of the age.” Such words were spoken to a visible Church, evidently to the Apostles and the remaining disciples, whom the Lord spoke to on the day of his ascension. And since these men were not going to remain in the body even to the end of the world, it was necessary to say this promise pertained to their successors. Therefore St. Leo I and Leo II understand this on the perpetual duration of the Church. (…) it is [further] proven from the Scriptures, which speak on the reign of Christ. The Psalmist says, “His throne is as the sun in my sight, and just as the moon completed forever, and a faithful witness in the sky . . . and I will place his seed in age upon age and his thrown as a day of heaven.” (Psalm 88) “In the days of those kingdoms God will raise the kingdom of heaven which will never be destroyed: and his kingdom will be handed to another people.” (Daniel 2) “And for his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1) These passages cannot be understood except about the fact that the true and visible Church of Christ is not going perish. For the Kingdom of Christ, without a doubt, is his true Church. One cannot call a few secret men dispersed and separated from each other a kingdom, where one does not know the other such as the invisible Church of the Lutherans. For the kingdom is a multitude of men gathered who know one another. (…)
On that verse in the Canticles, “I held him, nor will I let him go until I lead him into the house of my mother,” St. Bernard explains, “Then and thereafter the Christian race is not going to defect, neither faith from the earth nor charity from the Church; the rivers came, the winds blew and dashed against her, and she did not fall, to the extent that she was founded upon the rock, and the rock was Christ. Therefore neither the verbosity of the philosophers nor the jeering of heretics nor the swords of persecutors could or will be able to separate her from the love of God.” (Serm. 79 in Cant.) These cannot be understood on the invisible Church, for the swords of tyrants will not pursue her, nor the verbosity of Philosophers or the jeering of heretics; therefore, the visible Church does not defect. Vincent of Lérin agrees, who rebukes the opinion of Nestorius as a grave error that taught the whole Church erred in the mystery of the Incarnation, to the extent that it followed blind Doctors. (Commonitorium) Lastly, it is proved by natural reason. Firstly, if at some time only an invisible Church remained in the world, then at sometime salvation was impossible for those who are outside the Church, since they cannot be saved unless they enter the Church just as in the time of Noah they necessarily perished who were not added to the ark; but they could not enter a Church that they were ignorant of, therefore they have no remedy. Besides that, it is also shown from the plan of the one true Church that it is visible, therefore if the visible Church were to perish then no true Church would remain.
Cardinal Billot expounds on the indefectibility of the visible society of the Church as follows:
Jesus, having returned to life, says to the eleven: ‘All power is given me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them…, behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.’ And in these words He spoke unambiguously about the true and genuine Church, clearly indicating that until the end of time she would retain visible continuity, without any rupture or interpolation, with the Church that would soon be begun by his Apostles. (…) Indeed, the Church with which He promised that he would remain, and which for this reason is said to be the true Church of Christ, was to see no end in this world, until she should see the end of this world. (…) Moreover, this sort of continuity must be taken in the strict sense, as excluding the possibility of any rupture or interpolation whatsoever. For, by saying, I am with you all days, He precludes any interruption at all, no matter how slight, even of one day or one instant; He has left no gap for innovators [e.g., Sedevacantists] to legitimize the founding of their sects. Again, this continuity is visible, both because it begins with visible, designated individuals, and also because it is established among men and for the sake of men, who can hardly judge the continuity of a society except in the way that they judge the continuity of a river, whose successive parts are visibly connected; finally, it is visible because it must be in agreement with the nature of the Church herself, which, as we have demonstrated above (Question 1, Thesis II), is both materially and formally visible by the institution of Christ. Finally, this visible continuity carries with itself all the properties of the true Church, since with this continuity comes the assistance of Christ. The assistance of Christ means absolute indefectibility…
As we have seen, due to her promise of perpetual indefectibility, the visible society of the Church will continue to exist, with her hierarchical constitution established by Christ, until the end of the world. Even during those times in which God permits her to suffer through internal and external persecution, which disfigures her human nature and eclipses her divine nature, the Church will remain “without any essential change.” This is the divine promise of Jesus Christ.
The infallibility of the Church means that she teaches without error when she uses the fullness of her authority to define an article of faith. This charism can be exercised by the Pope personally, or by an ecumenical council. The charism of infallibility is not to be confused with revelation (the communication of some truth by God through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature) or inspiration (the act by which God moves a human agent to write or speak what He wills). Nor is it to be confused with impeccability, which is the inability to sin.
Infallibility is merely a negative charism that prevents the possibility of error when the necessary conditions are present. By saying “when the necessary conditions are present” is meant to show that the charism is not always active. It is engaged only when the conditions (as the Church has defined them) have been satisfied. We will address infallibility in detail in Chapters 8, 13 and 14, and thus only briefly mention it here. The reason it will be treated more thoroughly in subsequent chapters is because, as we noted in the Preface, a fundamental misunderstanding of infallibility is one of the principle causes of the Sedevacantist error.
An Introduction to Sedevacantist Errors
As was mentioned previously, the error of Sedevacantism (the belief that the recent Popes have not been true Popes) quickly leads to a loss of faith in the Church itself. It ends by denying that the Catholic Church of today is, in fact, the same Catholic Church that existed before the election of John XXIII in 1958. Sedevacantists claim that the Church after 1958 not only lacks true Popes, but also lacks the attributes that the true Church will always possess – namely, visibility, indefectibility and infallibility. But if the Church from 1958 onward (“the Vatican II Church”) does not possess these three attributes, then they must exist in another Church, since the true Church (which itself will always exist), will always possess them. But in what Church do they exist? In what visible social unit are they to be found? And where is that visible Church, exactly? That is the question the Sedevacantists cannot answer.
Because the Sedevacantist sects do not possess these attributes, they cannot be considered “the Church,” as some of them imagine themselves to be. And if they cannot point to a visible society that does possess these attributes (and they can’t), it means the Church, as founded by Christ, no longer exists - but this would mean that the indefectible Church has defected, which is not possible.
Donald Sanborn, a Sedevacantist bishop, recognized this difficulty with the Sedevacantist thesis. In his article “Resistance and Indefectibility,” he correctly frames the issue when he writes: “At the root of nearly all of the disputes is the question of the Church. Where is the Church?” After asking again, “where is the visible Church?,” Sanborn responds by saying “It is realized in those who publicly adhere to the Catholic Faith, and who at the same time look forward to the election of a Roman Pontiff.”
Notice what the bishop just did. He reduced the Church to the Protestant concept of a loose association of individuals who profess the true faith, yet who are not united under a divinely established hierarchy. This is what he erroneously calls the “visible Church.” This is essentially the same notion of the “visible Church” professed by Protestantism. For example, the Protestant Westminster Confession says:
The visible Church, which is also called Catholic or universal under the gospel, consists of all those throughout the world who profess the true religion, and their children.
This false notion of the visible Church, as professed by Bishop Sanborn and the Westminster Confession, is most certainly not what is meant by the visible Church. As we have seen, the visible Church is not just individuals, but rather a visible and hierarchical society.
The Sedevacantist preacher, and ex-Protestant minister, Gerry Matatics, similarly reduces the “visible Church” to the visibility of her individual members (rather than a visible society). In his Compact Disc talk entitled, “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” he says:
People will say ‘Where is the Catholic Church in our day?’ It’s not that the Church is invisible. That is a Protestant heresy. The Church is always visible – it’s made of visible people, people like you and me.
Did you catch that? Like the Protestants, Matatics defines the visible Church as “visible people.” This explanation, of course, is virtually identical to the definition of the Church in the Westminster Confession - a definition Mr. Matatics surely learned at the Westminster Theological Seminary where he studied. Perhaps realizing that what he just said would gladden the hearts of the most Modernist of Protestants, Mr. Matatics went on to add the words “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic,” to his Protestant definition, no doubt in the hope of making it sound more Catholic. Unfortunately, it didn’t help. In fact, his second attempt was even worse than his first. Matatics continues:
The Church of Jesus Christ – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – is still here. It’s found in the hearts and minds and the lives and in the families and the prayers of all those who believe what the Popes have taught us to believe.
So Mr. Matatics would have us believe that the visible Church exists in the “hearts and minds” of the faithful. Clearly, Mr. Matatics’ definition of the Church is a denial of the attribute of visibility. The reason Mr. Matatics is forced to embrace this error is because he believes, and publicly states, that the hierarchy of the Church – which is part of the Church’s divine constitution - no longer exists. He asserts that “there is no living voice of the Magisterium. It doesn’t mean we’re lost; it doesn’t mean we’re abandoned, because we’ve got the Magisterium of the past.”
As we will see in the next chapter, it is de fide (of the faith) that the Magisterium (composed of validly ordained bishops with jurisdiction) will always exist. This is one of the most essential marks of the Church - the one that most clearly distinguishes the true Church from all the sects and false churches. Unfortunately, by embracing the error of Sedevacantism, Mr. Matatics has reverted back to his erroneous Protestant view that the “visible Church” means only that she consists of visible members. The difference is that his current opinion affirms that there was a Magisterium from 33 A.D. to 1958 A.D, which he did not acknowledge while a Protestant. One can’t help but see the irony of the Sedevacantists’ rejection of the last six Popes, on the basis that they allegedly professed heresy, while they themselves publicly profess the Protestant heresy of the invisible Church, consisting of “visible members.”
As we saw earlier, Christ’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the Church, refers and applies to the visible, hierarchical society. It does not simply mean there will always exist in the world “true believers.” But what does Mr. Matatics teach about this? In the same CD series, “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” he once again departs from “consistent Catholicism” by presenting the following “counterfeit” teaching. He says:
Our Lord promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, that there would always be true believers until the end of time.
Compare the above teaching of Mr. Matatics with the following taken from the eighteenth century anti-Catholic book, A Preservative Against Popery, which is a defense of the English Reformation. See if you find any similarities between their explanation of indefectibility, and that of Matatics. After denying the teaching of the “Roman Church” which insists that the promise of indefectibility applies to the visible society, the anti-Catholic author writes:
Our Savior promised, ‘That the Gates of Hell should not prevail against it.’ A Promise… that there should never want a Succession of true Believers in the World, not to any particular organized Church. … When Our Savior says, that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against his Church, we may consider it either as a Promise, or a prophecy, or both, that there always shall be found some orthodox Believers in the World…
Notice that this definition of indefectibility is identical to that professed by Mr. Matatics – “the gates of hell shall not prevail,” only means there will be true believers in the world until the end of time. The reason Mr. Matatics holds the Protestant notion of indefectibility is because, having lost his faith in the institutional Church, he has embraced the Protestant notion of “visibility” (visible people, rather than a visible institution). If the visible Church is nothing but “true believers” who can be seen (with the eyes), rather than a divine institution that can be known, then the indefectibility of the Church must mean there will “always be true believers until the end of time,” which is precisely what Matatics now claims. Considering that Mr. Matatics publicly professes such errors in the name of Catholicism, perhaps he should have shortened the title of his CD set to simply read “Counterfeit Catholicism,” as this would have more accurately described the content of his message.
The late Sedevacantist apologist, Rama Coomaraswamy, further demonstrates that the Sedevacantist apologists are unable to provide a cogent answer to the objection that their position is incompatible with the indefectibility of the visible Church. For example, in responding to the book Sedevacantism: A False Solution to a Real Problem, Mr. Coomaraswamy wrote:
The author holds that the sedevacantist denies the indefectibility of the Church. This is to put it mildly, nonsense. Anyone who is not as blind as the proverbial bat can see that ‘the Pope and the Bishops in union with him’ have defected from the true Church. … It should be clear – indeed obvious – that it is not the Church which has defected for such is impossible. It is the new and post-Conciliar organization which has defected from the true Church which still continues to exist and against which the Gates of Hell cannot not prevail.
But this statement in no way helps Mr. Coomaraswamy’s position, since he doesn’t tell us where the true Church is; only where, in his opinion, it is not. He does the same in his book, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition. In the chapter dedicated to the marks of the Church, he goes on for several pages arguing why, in his opinion, the Catholic Church of today does not possess the marks, but then fails to tell us in what Church today they can be found. All he can say is, “the Church that teaches and worships in the manner that he (Christ) taught,” and “has added or subtracted nothing from the original content… is, as the earliest of Creeds attest, the ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.’” Mr. Coomaraswamy would have a difficult time finding an anti-Catholic Protestant who would disagree with his definition of the Church. Another problem for Mr. Coomaraswamy is that any “Church” that professes what he himself believes – namely, that the visible society of the Church, with its hierarchy, morphed into a new Church - will not fit his own definition of the true Church (i.e., a Church that has “added or subtracted nothing from the original content”). Why? Because, whether he realizes it or not, Mr. Coomaraswamy has “subtracted from the original content” by effectively denying the indefectibility of the Church, which itself is an apostolic doctrine (i.e., part of the “original content”) founded on the promise of Christ.
In The Destruction of the Christian Tradition, Mr. Coomaraswamy admits that the Church established by Christ is indeed “a visible Church,” and a “hierarchical institution.” So far so good. He even refers to the visible, hierarchical institution before Vatican II and after Vatican II as the Catholic Church. Yet, at the same time, he claims that the Church before Vatican II and the Church after Vatican II are two separate entities – one entity is the true Church and the other a false Church. He writes:
No one disputres the fact that after Vatican II, the Catholic Church was different. The fundamental question is whether the changes introduced were mere “window dressing,” or whether they involved fundamental points of doctrines and practice. If the latter is the case, one would be forced to concluded that the post-Concliar Church [the Church after Vatican II] is no longer the same as its pre-Vatican I counterpart. … it can be stated that traditional Catholics [i.e., Sedevacantists], claim it is not [the same Church].
So, according to Coomaraswamy, the visible, hierarchical institution before Vatican II was the true Church, whereas after Vatican II, the same visible society, with the same hierarchy and same membership, was a new Church, which was “different from its pre-Vatican II counterpart.” And the transition from the true Church to a false Church was so seamless that the entire Magisterium, every diocese and religious order, as well as at least 99.999 percent of the lay faithful, all became members of this New Church without realizing it. Needless to say, if this were the case, then the gates of hell would have prevailed against the visible, juridical society, which is the Catholic Church. There is no escape from this conclusion when the doctrine of indefectibility is properly understood, yet the conclusion itself is contrary to the promise of Christ. Furthermore, if the visible entity seamlessly morphed into a new Church and then defected, while a true “underground Church” remained “visible” (as Mr. Coomaraswamy claims), then where is it? And why are Sedevacantists now forced to profess a Protestant definition of the visible Church to defend their position?
As is evident from the teachings of Sanborn, Matatics, Coomaraswamy and others, the adherents of Sedevacantism not only believe there is no Pope, but also maintain that the visible social unit became a New Church. Their error is rooted primarily in an erroneous notion of infallibility (a very common error today), which forces them to conclude that the Magisterium, following the election of John XXIII in 1958, has done things that are infallibility should have prevented. The only way they can reconcile this in their mind is to conclude that Church they believe violated infallibility is a New Church, and not the true Church. How did this take place? Here’s how they explain it.
They say that in 1958 the true Church elected a false Pope (John XXIII), and quickly morphed into a New Church. Bishop Sanborn argues that the reason he was a false Pope is because he had the hidden intention to call a council to undermine the faith, and anyone with that intention cannot be a true Pope.
It is this New Church, they say, and not the True Church, that defected from the Faith, leaving the true Church behind and intact. But when they are asked to point to the true visible Church that was “left behind,” and that exists today, they can’t do it. And when they are asked to explain how the visible, hierarchical society that existed on October 27, 1958 (prior to the election of John XXIII), could have been a different visible, hierarchical society after his election the next day, even though the membership of the society was identical, they have no answer. All they can say is it is a “mystery” or, as Sanborn and Matatics do, that the true Church now exists “in the hearts and minds” of true Catholic believers, that is, “those who publicly adhere to the Catholic Faith.” But this explanation is not satisfactory, since, as we have shown, the promise of indefectibility pertains to the visible society – the hierarchical institution - itself, and not to individual believers. And it is a fact that the visible society that existed on October 27, 1958 is the same visible society that existed on October 28, 1958 and in the years and decades that followed.
That visible society includes the Cardinals who elected John XXIII and the rest of the Church who accepted him as Pope. Likewise, the visible society that existed in November of 1965 (before the documents of Vatican II were ratified), remained the same visible society that existed in January of 1966 (after the close of Vatican II). This means that a person cannot maintain, as many Sedevacantists do, that the “New Church” was born when Vatican II was ratified – that is, without necessarily denying the indefectibility of the Church, or reducing it, as Mr. Matatics has done, to the Protestant notion of “true believers” existing “until the end of time.”
Others claim that the defection did not happen at one event (such as the election of John XXIII or ratification of Vatican II). They admit that it is untenable to maintain that an instant defection occurred. Instead, they insist that the defection happened gradually, as if this in any way helps their case. For example, the Sedevacantist apologist, John Lane, wrote:
The Catholic Church didn't cease to exist, or to have a hierarchy, in an instant in, say, 1958 or 1965. Such a view would be not merely nutty, but manifestly unorthodox. It’s sufficiently clear that what happened was a process of apostasy…
Someone should inform Mr. Lane that there is no essential difference between claiming the Church defected overnight, and claiming it happened gradually over a period of months, or perhaps years, since any defection of the Church (either overnight or by a “process”) would violate its attribute of indefectibility. And Mr. Lane seems curiously aware of the difficulties that his position necessarily entails, since he concedes that reconciling it with the Catholic Faith is “an extraordinarily difficult task” - so much so, he concedes, that those who attempt it usually end “with some kind of unorthodoxy.” This is what he says: “Explaining this process in terms properly orthodox is an extraordinarily difficult task. Most commentators won’t even attempt to do so. Those who have tried, usually end with some kind of unorthodoxy or at least folly.”
In other words, Mr. Lane cannot explain how the Church defected, and yet he chooses to hold the position anyway.  Of course, the reason Sedevacantists “usually” (read: “always”) end in “unorthodoxy” in attempting to explain their position is because their position is false: they begin with an erroneous premise and then try to explain something that did not occur. The remedy for their unorthodoxy is to realize that the true Church did not morph into a New Church, either in an “instant” or by a “process of apostasy.” Rather, the true Church has been infiltrated by Modernists who are attacking it from within, and, as a result, it is currently undergoing a Passion similar to that of Christ, while remaining the same visible, hierarchical institution, just as Christ remained the same Divine Person during His Passion.
Can the True Church Elect and Follow a False Pope?
The Sedevacantists cannot avoid the inescapable conclusion of their position, namely, that the true Church defected, simply by claiming that it was not a true Pope and the true Church that defected, but rather a false Pope who gave birth to a New Church that defected. The reason this theory does not hold is because it requires that the true Church (not a false Church) elected and followed a false Pope. This, in and of itself, is contrary to the promise of perpetual indefectibility of the visible Church, irrespective of whether the alleged false Pope, who was elected, subsequently taught heresy.
Cardinal Billot explains that if the entire Church accepted a false Pope as the true Pope, it would mean the gates of hell had prevailed against the Church (the visible society). He wrote:
Finally, whatever you still think about the possibility or impossibility of the aforementioned hypothesis [of the Pope falling into heresy], at least one point must be considered absolutely incontrovertible and placed firmly above any doubt whatever: the adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff, and therefore also of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy itself. It is not necessary to look far for the proof of this, but we find it immediately in the promise and the infallible providence of Christ: ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ and ‘Behold I shall be with you all days.’ For the adhesion of the Church to a false Pontiff would be the same as its adhesion to a false rule of faith… As will become even more clear by what we shall say later, God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.
Notice that the adhesion of the Church to a Pope is an infallible sign of his legitimacy. And for those who have been led to reject or doubt the legitimacy of one or more of the recent Popes on the basis that they had an impediment that prevented them from being validly elected (e.g., they were a “public heretic” or Freemason, etc.), there is not room for doubt; for the adhesion of the Church to him as Pope proves with infallible certitude, not only that he is a true Pope, but that all of the necessary conditions for him to become Pope, were met.
The brilliant Dominican, John of St. Thomas, explained this point at length, and noted that it would be contrary to the special Providence of God for a man, who does not meet the required conditions, to be accepted as Pope by the Church. He wrote:
[I]t is not merely a pious belief, but a theological conclusion (as we have stated), that God will not permit one to be elected and peacefully accepted by the Church who in fact does not meet the conditions required; this would be contrary to the special providence that God exercises over the Church and the assistance that she receives from the Holy Ghost.
Cardinal Billot teaches the same:
[T]he infallible providence of God will prevent it from ever happening that the whole Church adhere to a false head; consequently, no one will ever be accepted as supreme pontiff who does not meet all the conditions necessary to be a member, whatever those conditions may be. That visibility, therefore, by which the true Church is recognizable as such, is in no way imperiled.
As we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 12, to claim that the entire Church has adhered to a false Pope is itself to deny the Church’s promise of infallibility. Hence, those who hold to the Sedevacantist thesis are forced to deny, not only the visibility and indefectibility of the Church, but also the Church’s infallibility (all three attributes).
Like the Apostles who lost faith in Christ during His Passion, by witnessing first hand what Our Lord permitted His enemies to do to Him; so too, the Sedevacantists have lost faith in the Church, by painfully living through what God is permitting His enemies to do to His Church. As a consequence of their loss of faith in the Church, they end by denying the attributes and are forced to profess the Protestant definition of the Church, as existing in the “hearts and minds” of those individuals “who publicly adhere to the Catholic Faith.” What this shows is that, as we noted at the beginning of the chapter, the Sedevacantist thesis necessarily entails that the gates of hell have prevailed against the visible Church, something the Sedevacantists themselves either don’t realize, or else refuse to admit.
The Sedevacantist Delusion
A former Sedevacantist apologist and seminarian recently published a book titled The Sedevacantist Delusion, which demonstrates this very point. Due to the Sedevacantist errors he had embraced, he was eventually forced to admit that what he had come to believe and professed “proved” that the Catholic Church – not another Church, but the Catholic Church – had defected. Although he is quite mistaken on this point, nevertheless, when he realized what his Sedevacantist errors “proved,” he ended by concluding that the Catholic Church is not infallible, nor indefectible, as she claims to be. He now publicly rejects these dogmas. Having lost his faith in the Church, he formally joined a schismatic Eastern Orthodox sect. Here are a few excerpts from the book he published after leaving the Sedevacantist sect and joining an orthodox sect:
…all Sedevacantists deny the possibility of a defection of the Church, while simultaneously proving that a defection has occurred in fact. … That’s why the Sedevacantists had to base their argument upon a theory of two Churches: an apostate Church in Rome and themselves.
An earnest search for an infallible and indefectible Catholic Church turns up contradictions on all sides. Today I have no doubt that the reason is that such a Church never existed.
My objective in this work is to prove that Sedevacantism violates fundamental doctrines of the Church and is therefore a heretical theory. In addition, I will propose an alternative explanation to the doctrinal problems the Church has created that does not necessitate espousing contradictions … This will entail entertaining the following five premises about the Catholic Church that I hold and upon which this work is based:
1.) The Sedevacantists have successfully proven the defection of the Catholic Church at or subsequent to Vatican II.
2.) The Church can defect and remain the Church.
3.) The post-Vatican II Church is the real Catholic Church, and Francis is the real pope.
4.) Infallibility is a myth.
5.) The papacy is not the original foundation of the Roman Church…”
…the Sedevacantists have in fact proven the defection of the Catholic Church [which is] precisely why Sedevacantism is so devastating to Roman Catholicism and at the same time supportive of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Pope Francis is a true Catholic pope, but only because the Catholic Church can defect and still remain the same institution down through the ages.”
I believe that the divine prerogatives of the Papacy are false...
The logical deductions of this author, albeit from very false premises (that he learned while a Sedevacantist), confirm exactly what we have said, namely, that the errors of Sedevacantism logically and necessarily lead to a denial of the attributes of the Church, to a loss of faith in the Church herself, and finally to heresy.
The Siri Theory
Before concluding this chapter, we will briefly address another theory that has been used to explain the current crisis in the Church. While this book examines the mainstream Sedevacantist thesis that the post-Vatican II Church has been deprived of having true Popes, some present another theory. This theory maintains that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri (1906-1989), the former Archbishop of Genoa, was elected Pope in 1958 in the Conclave that eventually elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII), but was forced to resign during the Conclave. They maintain that the forced resignation was invalid and that Cardinal Siri (to whom they attribute the name Pope Gregory XVII) remained the true Pope until his death in 1989. Some go further by claiming that he has since been succeeded by hidden Popes. Thus, they “get to have their cake and eat it too”: a true Pope was elected while a false Pope led the Church into heresy.
The Siri Theory does not hold for a number of obvious reasons: First, as we have seen and will further explain, it is not possible for the entire Church to follow a false Pope (in this case, John XXIII). Second, the claim that Siri was elected and forced to resign behind closed doors is pure speculation (by people who were not behind those closed doors). It has not been corroborated by any proven facts; nor is the theory even provable, given that the Cardinal electors are oath-bound not to reveal the confidential happenings of the Conclave under pain of excommunication. Would it not be extremely rash and contrary to the Catholic sense for us to have to base our faith, our eternal salvation for that matter, on speculation? Third, if Siri were the true Pope, he would not have been bound by the secret of the Conclave (since the Pope is not bound by positive ecclesiastical law), and therefore could have revealed the truth to the Church. Fourth, Siri not only gave no indication that he was the true Pope, but he himself publicly accepted John XXIII as Pope. Fifth (and most damaging to the theory), Siri remained a member of “the Vatican II Church,” and went along with all of the changes that followed the council, which would mean he was part of the alleged mass defection.
Of course, if Siri’s acquiescence, to the novelties of the past fifty years, could be excused for such reasons as threats, undue influence, or whatever other creative explanation Sedevacantists may come up with to explain how Siri could be a member of the “New Church” and still be Pope of the true Church, then the same mitigating reasons could also be applied to the conciliar Popes. For this reason, some have claimed that even if Siri were the true Pope for a time, he lost his office when he went along with the errors.
Needless to say, this theory raises the same objections concerning the disappearance of the visible Church. Furthermore, as we have seen, we have infallible certitude that Siri was not the true Pope due to the fact that John XXIII was universally and peaceably accepted as Pope by the entire Church, which proves that he was the Pope at the time. As Cardinal Billot explains, the acceptance of a Pope by the universal Church not only provides infallible certitude of his legitimacy, but it also heals in the root any defect in the election. This means that even if there was an irregularity during the Conclave (which may well have been the case), the acceptance of John XXIII, by the Church, removes any doubt about the validity of his election. It also, logically, provides infallible certitude that the conditions necessary for him to have become Pope were satisfied, as we saw earlier. Regarding this point, Cardinal Billot wrote:
From the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy. For the aforementioned adhesion of the Church heals in the root all fault in the election and proves infallibly the existence of all the required conditions.
Even the Sedevantist apologist, John Lane, admits this doctrine. When asked why he accepts the legitimacy of Pope John XXIII, he made the following devastating concession:
Because the theologians say that the adherence of the whole Church to any given claimant is in itself a proof that all of the necessary requisites for validity are present. The reason for this is the indefectibility of the Church, which cannot adhere to a false visible head. It would in some ways be more convenient if this doctrine did not exist, but it does.
By the way, I think that this doctrine is chiefly what Archbishop Lefebvre had in view when he commented in the late '70s that the See of Rome could not be vacant because of the necessary visibility of the Church. In any case, it is certainly a powerful argument for sedeplenism [i.e. that the recent Popes have all been true Popes], which is perhaps why most sedevacantists never mention it.
The obvious problem with Mr. Lane’s admission is that it applies equally to Pope Paul VI, who was also accepted as Pope by the entire Church, yet whose papacy Mr. Lane publicly rejects (and has persuaded others to publicly reject), along with that of the other conciliar Popes.
In Chapter 12, we will see how the Sedevacantist bishop, Donald Sanborn, attempts to get around this teaching by claiming that the peaceful and universal acceptance only guarantees that the election was valid, and not that the man who was elected actually became the true Pope, when the exact opposite is true: universal acceptance guarantees that elected Pope is, in fact, the true Pope, even if there were irregularities, conspiracies, or fraud in the election itself.
In his Doctrinal Dissertation, “Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209,” Francis Miaskiewicz explained that even “if a Pope were invalidly elected, once he were regarded by the world as Pope all of his jurisdictional acts would be valid.” St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches the same:
“It is of no importance that in past centuries some Pontiff was illegitimately elected or took possession of the Pontificate by fraud; it is enough that he was accepted afterwards by the whole Church as Pope, since by such acceptance he would have become the true Pontiff.”
The notion that the true Church elected and universally accepted a false Pope cannot be held without denying the infallibility and indefectibility of the visible Church – that is to say, without falling into heresy.
As noted, Chapter 12 covers the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope at length, and from every angle, providing material which, to our knowledge, has never before been transated into English. For now, it suffices to close this introductory chapter by noting that the Sedevacantist thesis results in a practical denial of the three attributes of the Church: perpetual-indefectibility, visibility and infallibility. By claiming that the Church (the visible, hierarchical society) morphed into a New Church, and then reducing the notion of the visible Church to “visible persons” who have the true faith in their “hearts and minds,” the Sedevacantists have effectively embraced the Protestant heresy of the invisible Church. The inescapable conclusion of their position is that the indefectible Church defected, and consequently that the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church, which is contrary to the promise of Christ. In the next chapter, we will examine the four marks of the Church, and in so doing, further expose the errors of the Sedevacantist thesis.
~ The Church and Its Marks ~
In Chapter 1, we saw that the Church is an indefectible visible society. We also saw that the Church has certain distinguishing marks, which enable it to be known, not only as a religious society, but as the true Church founded by Christ. In this chapter, we will consider each of these marks individually, and, in so doing, will see: 1) that the Sedevacantist sects lack these marks; and 2) the only Church that even claims to possess them is the Catholic Church – that is, the visible, social entity that everyone except the Sedevacantists recognizes as the Catholic Church. Because these marks must be with the true Church until the end of time, if the Catholic Church (the visible society) were to lose a single one of them (which the Sedevacantists claim to be the case), it would mean “the gates of hell” had prevailed against the Church, which is not possible (Mt. 16:19).
Although we will address all four marks in this chapter, we will focus special attention on the fourth mark, apostolicity, since this is acknowledged by the Church’s theologians as being the most important of the four marks, in the sense that it is the one that most clearly distinguishes the true Church from false churches and heretical sects. At the end of the chapter, we will see the difficulty that apostolicity poses for the Sedevacantist apologists, as it does for apologists of other non-Catholic sects. We will close the chapter by briefly addressing some of the “end times” prophecies used by the Sedevacantist apologists to defend the Sedevacantist thesis.
The Marks of the Church
In Chapter 1, we discussed the material and formal visibility of the true Church, which is known by her four marks. The marks (or “notes”) of the Church are her unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity (unam, sanctam, catholicam, apostolicam). In the Aristotelian tradition, there are four causes of a thing. If we apply this terminology to the Church and her marks, the unity of the Church is the formal cause; the holiness is the final cause, catholicity is the material cause, and apostolicity (which includes authority) is the efficient cause. The true Church founded by Christ is that which possesses these four causes. Hence, any church that lacks a single one of them cannot be the Church founded by Christ. Just as the error of Sedevacantism ends by denying the three attributes (as we saw in the previous chapter), so too do the adherents of the sect effectively deny these four marks, since they cannot point to any Church today that possesses them. Because these marks are not found in any of the Sedevacantist sects (nor in the “hearts and minds” of “true believers”), the result is that the Sedevacantists are again forced to deny that the visible Church exists, since the marks are those things by which the visible Church is formally known. Let us now examine each of these four marks.
The Church is One (Formal Cause)
The first mark of the Church is its oneness, or unity. The unity of the Church is found in its threefold unity of doctrine, worship and government. The unity of doctrine is professed in her Creed, and is found in her definitive teachings, which all Catholics are required to believe with the assent of divine Faith. The Church is also unified in her sacraments and worship; this aspect of unity is not compromised by the differences found in the various rites of the Church. Lastly, the Church is one because it is united under one and the same hierarchy – the bishops and the Pope. According to the promise of Christ, the Church will always possess this threefold unity of doctrine, worship and government.
Due to the imperfection of the human condition, it is possible for there to be material divisions within the Church in doctrine or government due to an error of fact. A material division in government occurred, for example, during the Great Western Schism (1378-1417), when there were two and eventually three claimants to the papal throne, and it was unclear which of the claimants was the true Pope. But as Van Noort explains, this material division within the membership of the visible society did not cause a rupture in formal unity. He explained that “at the time of the Western Schism, when for forty years two or three men claimed to be the sovereign pontiff,” unity “was only materially, not formally, interrupted.”
Due to those extraordinary circumstances, in which it was difficult for the faithful to ascertain which of the alleged Popes was, in fact, the true Pope, “those who through no fault of their own gave allegiance to an illegitimate pope would no more be schismatic than a person would be a heretic who, desirous of following the preaching of the Church, would admit a false doctrine because he was under the impression that it was taught by the Church.” Later in this chapter, we will address material division in doctrine, such as what occurred during the Arian crisis of the fourth century. We will see how there can be a material doctrinal division within the membership of the Church, during a time of doctrinal crisis, without there being a formal rupture in doctrinal unity.
The Church is Holy (Final Cause)
Holiness consists in union with God, the Supreme Good and Source of all holiness. Strictly speaking, holiness can be applied to rational creatures alone. However, it can be predicated analogously upon irrational things, such as Church buildings, altars, sacramentals, etc., inasmuch as they are set apart and used for the worship of God.
The Church is holy, firstly, because it was founded by Jesus Christ, who is All-Holy. It is holy because it is dedicated and set apart by God, and because of the mission it received from Christ, which is the glory of God and salvation of souls. It is holy in the doctrines that it teaches, in its special gifts or charisms, and it is externally holy in many of its holy members. Commenting on the mark of holiness, Van Noort wrote:
Christ’s Church is holy on several counts: e.g., because of its Founder and Head, who is the only-begotten Son of God; because of its purpose, which is the glory of God and the sanctification of mankind; about these there is no difficulty. Catholic teaching states in addition that the Church, by the institution of Christ and therefore necessarily and irrevocably, is adorned with a threefold external and visible holiness: that of its means of sanctification, that of its members, and that of its charisms.
The charisms that the Church will always possess refer to the miraculous gifts and miracles that will always be found in the Church. While there will be more miracles in some ages than others, “in every age” the Church will “be enriched with certain miraculous gifts through which God manifest its holiness.”
Regarding the holiness of its members, this does not exclude there being “chaff” mixed with the “wheat” in the field of the Church. The Church’s members retain the effects of Original Sin and possess free will. Consequently, they are capable of living a life out of conformity with the Church’s doctrines and moral precepts that they profess. The reason the chaff are “chaff,” rather than “wheat,” is precisely because they fail to live up to the teachings they profess. The holiness of its members is found in those who, by the help of grace, do sanctify themselves by partaking of the sacraments and living in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Ordinary holiness consists of living in the habitual state of sanctifying grace, which entails being free from mortal sin (very difficult without the sacraments, but very attainable with them); outstanding holiness is found in those members whose extraordinary interior sanctity manifests itself in a life of shining heroic virtue.
We also find the miraculous charisms in the post-Vatican II Church. Padre Pio, for example (who remained a member of the modern Church and accepted Paul VI as Pope until his death in 1968), performed countless miracles throughout his life. He possessed the miraculous gift of reading hearts, which he did daily in the confessional. He also miraculously bore the wounds of Christ (the “stigmata”) which he suffered until his death. This is just one example of the charisms present in the Church since Vatican II.
The Church is Catholic or Universal (Material Cause)
The next mark of the Church is catholicity. Now, the Church has been called by the name Catholic since the earliest years of her existence. The Apostles’ Creed says “I believe in … the Holy Catholic Church.” The Nicene Creed says the same: “I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” We also find the Church being called by the name Catholic in the writings of the earliest Church Fathers, such as the Bishop of Antioch and martyr, St. Ignatius, who is commonly believed to have been ordained by St. Peter. On his way to Rome where he was to be martyred, St. Ignatius wrote an epistle to the Smyrnaeans (in 107 A.D.) in which he said: “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Since the first centuries, the name Catholic has been used as the proper name for the Church founded by Christ.
But the mark of “catholicity” does not refer simply to the name of the Church, but to its true universality. Universality means that the Church is not confined to one period of time, or to one nation, but is spread throughout the entire world. The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains:
The third mark of the Church is that she is Catholic, that is, universal. And justly is she called Catholic, because, as St. Augustine says: ‘She is diffused by the splendor of one faith from the rising to the setting sun.’ Unlike republics of human institution, or the sects of heretics, she is not confined to any one country or class of men, but embraces within the amplitude of her love all mankind, whether barbarians or Scythians, slaves or freemen, male or female. Therefore, it is written: ‘Thou…hast redeemed us to God in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God, a kingdom’ (Apoc. 5:9,10).
Cardinal Billot also wrote:
In his letter to Catholics against the Donatists, St. Augustine says: “The question under discussion is, Where is the Church? With us, or with them? There is but one Church, which our predecessors have named Catholic, so that they might demonstrate by her very name that she is “throughout the whole” (per totum); for this is what the Greek term καθ᾽ ὃλον (cath-holon) means.” Therefore, catholicity by the very meaning of the term signifies a certain universality, and in the present instance is taken to mean the universal diffusion (diffusio) of the Church throughout all the regions of the world and all nationalities of men.
This catholicity, which consists by its very nature in a visible fact, is proposed everywhere by the authority both of the Old and of the New Testament as a most distinctive sign of the Messianic Kingdom, and was always considered by the Fathers as a token of the true Church of Christ and a visible note by which she is easily discerned from the spurious sects of heretics and schismatics.
The Church’s theologians make a distinction between catholicity by right, and catholicity in fact. Catholicity by right means the Church “has the aptitude to spread over the whole world because there is nothing in its structural principles which bind it to one nation.” Catholicity in fact refers to,
The actual spread of the Church throughout the world. If the actual diffusion extends to all people, it is called absolute catholicity; if it reaches only a great number of people, it is called moral catholicity.
Van Noort explains that once the Church obtained moral catholicity in fact (which it did in the decades following its founding), this characteristic became a perpetual and necessary quality of the Church – a perpetual quality of the mark of catholicity:
The Church is endowed with moral catholicity: Christ’s Church, after its beginning, should always be conspicuous for its morally universal diffusion. …
To satisfy the requirements of moral catholicity in fact – a quality belonging to Christ’s Church perpetually and necessarily – we stated there was required: “a great number of men from many different nations.” … Such diffusion, obviously, cannot be had without a really large number of adherents.
Because moral catholicity in fact requires “a great number of men,” the visible society can never be reduced to only a small remnant. If this were to occur, the mark of catholicity would disappear and hence the Church would no longer be truly “Catholic.”
Objection of “Pope Michael” Refuted
Following the publication of the first edition of this book, it became apparent that the Church’s teaching concerning moral catholicity was a real stumbling block for various Sedevacantist apologists who attempted to answer our book. This is not surprising given the fact that they all lack “a great number of men from many different nations,” and hence lack the mark of catholicity, which the true Church will always possess.
For example, the Sedevacantist antipope, David Bawden (a.k.a. Pope Michael), objected to our presentation of this teaching by arguing that citing one authority (Van Noort) was not sufficient to demonstrate that moral catholicity is an accepted doctrine of the Church. He quoted the Compendium of Moral Theology, by Pierre Gury, S.J., who says that an “opinion is regarded as certainly more probable … which is held absolutely as true by five or six theologians…. (pp. 22-23, IV.)” In response to this objection, we will quote five additional authorities, one of whom lists numerous other theologians who hold to this teaching on moral catholicity; another we will cite explains that moral catholicity is “the established view of the majority of theologians.”
We will begin with Cardinal Billot who distinguishes between catholicity of right and of fact, and, like Van Noort, observes that the mark of catholicity requires “an enormous number of faithful” and “encompasses all nationalities of men.” In his celebrated book, De Ecclesia, he writes:
Now, this catholicity is twofold: of right, and of fact. Catholicity of right (juris), which is the mission and power of the Church to spread herself universally, is understood to pertain to the very essence of the Church, and was found in her from the very beginning, even when she was yet confined to the narrow limits of the cenacle. But catholicity of fact, which is her actual extension throughout lands and nations, depends on human means of propagation (under the divine assistance) and therefore implies a certain successive growth from the inception of the Church until the end of the world.
He elaborates further on this in the next chapter:
The Church of Christ is essentially catholic with a catholicity of right (juris), that is, by the universality of her destination and the mission that she has received from her Founder. Catholicity of fact, which follows from this as a necessary property, consists in two things: first, in a permanent and simultaneous diffusion throughout the world, by which it comes to pass that the true Church always retains in her bosom an enormous (ingentem) number of faithful from a plurality of nations; secondly, in the successive growth by which she must propagate herself more and more until the end of the world, so that she extends throughout all places of the earth without exception and encompasses all nationalities of men. (…) once that short space of time had elapsed during which it was necessary, by the command of Christ himself, that the dissemination of the Word be confined to Judea and Samaria, catholicity of fact, consisting in the simultaneous and constant extension of the Church throughout the entire known world, and among the inhabitants thereof, became an inseparable character of the true Church of Christ.
In his classic book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Dr. Ludwig Van Ott also teaches that moral catholicity is a perpetual characteristic of the true Church:
In the Apostles Creed the Church confesses: Credo in … sanctam Ecclesia catholicum [I believe in the the Holy Catholic Church].
Moral Catholicity suffices for the concept of Catholicity. … According to the established view of the majority of theologians, moral Catholicity demands that the Church extend over the whole earth simultaneously. Thus after a certain time of development this moral Catholicity will be realized and from that time on be perpetuated. … Catholicity is a quality which, according to the will of her Founder… is therefore a characteristic of the true Church of Christ.
In his classic book, On Revelation, the brilliant twentieth-century Thomist, Fr. Reginal Garrigou-Lagrange, writes:
Christ instituted his Church as a visible society, in which authority is exercised in a visible manner (…) Christ willed that his Church be universal or catholic, that is, extended throughout all the nations. — Catholicity (καθ᾽ ὅλον) in general signifies universality or totality. As it applies to the Church, catholicity of right, or virtual catholicity, is the right and aptitude of the Church for spreading herself througout all nations; catholicity de facto, or actual catholicity, is the progressive, visible extension by which a notable number of men belonging to the principal nations gradually become members of the Church. This progressive catholicity is called formal inasmuch as it is joined with unity.
Now, Christ manifested by many declarations that he wished his Church to be universal, not only de jure, but also de facto. This note belongs to her principally in respect to her members, just as the former two did in respect to her form and her end. De jure Christ indeed intended to give the Church a doctrine and means of salvation apt and sufficient for all men…But Christ also willed his Church to have a progressive de facto universality… 
In A Manual of Catholic Theology, when discussing the mark of catholicity, Wilhelm and Scannell explain that the Church “is truly Catholic, because …. Her numbers greatly surpass those of any heretical sect or schismatic body – nay they probably surpass the numbers of all the non-Catholic sects put together.” 
Fr. Joachim Salaverri elaborates further on this mark of the Church in his influential work, On the Church of Christ (1955):
Catholicity is a necessary property of the Church. Catholicity in the strict sense is the vast extension of one Church throughout the world, with a conspicuous multitude of members. (…)
Catholicity of right is the power, or right and duty, divinely given to the Church of gathering to herself all men from all parts of the world. Catholicity of fact is an actual great number of Church members to be found in every part of the world.
Catholicity of fact is manifold: (a) it would be physical if it were to include all men everywhere; (b) it is moral if it includes a multitude of men in diverse places. Moral catholicity is (c) simultaneous if at one time the Church extends to all men and all places; (d) successive, if it reaches all men and all places only over the course of time. Simultaneous moral catholicity is called (e) temporary, if it shall endure for some period of time; (f) perpetual, if once acquired it shall always perdure in its essentials. — Again, moral catholicity of fact is (g) absolute if it belongs to the Church as such, without regard for other sects; (h) relative if the Church has greater universality in comparison to the other Christian sects.
Thesis. — We assert that the Church has a full and perfect catholicity of right; also a catholicity of fact, not physical, but moral; this moral catholicity is both absolute and relative, simultaneous and perpetual.
The opinions of Catholics concerning non-essential details: (a) Catholicity of fact is asserted: (1) from the time of the Apostles, by Murray, Billot, Van Laak, and others; (2) from the time of St. Irenæus in the 2nd century, by Bellarmine, Suarez, Mazzella, and others; (3) from the 3rd century, by Hurter and others; (4) from the reign of Constantine I in the 4th century, by Wilmers and others; (5) an imperfect catholicity of fact from the time of the Apostles, a perfect one from the time of St. Augustine, by Mendive.
Theological Note. — With the Church, we hold as a matter of Catholic faith (de fide catholica) that the Church has a full and perfect catholicity of right and a true moral catholicity of fact. (…)
Note that Salaverri qualifies “moral catholicity of fact” as de fide catholica, which means the rejection of this doctrine – a doctrine that is rejected by virtually all Sedevacantits – is heresy in the first degree. He continues:
Proof of Catholicity of Fact: — Catholicity of fact is an actual great number of Church members, morally ubiquitous, simultaneous, and perpetual. But God has attested that such a great number of members belongs to the Church. Therefore the Church must be catholic with a catholicity of fact. —
The major premise is the definition of catholicity of fact, together with its properties. The minor premise is proven, first of all, (A) from the parable of the cockle found in Mt. 13,24-30.36-43. There is a great number, because the Church is likened to a dense plantation growing in a field. She is everywhere, because the field is the world. She has a moral universality, because the cockle grows up along with the wheat. She has a simultaneous universality, because she is likened to a single plantation. Her universality is perpetual, because the harvest marks the end of the world.
As we have seen, moral catholicity is a necessary aspect of the mark of catholicity. If the Church did not possess a large number of members from many different nations, she would not be truly catholic, and hence would cease to be the true Church founded by Christ, which will remain One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic until the end of the world.
There may come a time when the internal virtue of faith is only present in a small number of the many members of the visible Church. But, as we will see in Chapter 3, the loss of interior faith does not, in and of itself, legally separate a man from the visible Church. Hence, the loss of faith in the end times, which is alluded to by Christ (Luke 18:8) and St. Paul (2 Thes. 2:3), does not contradict the teaching that the Church will always possess, as Van Noort said, “a great number of men from many different nations.” But the de fide doctrine of moral catholicity does directly refute the Sedevacantist claim that the true Church has been reduced to a small number of “true believers.”
Fr. Paul Kramer’s Rejection
of the de Fide Doctrine
of Moral Catholicity (and Visibility)
of the de Fide Doctrine
of Moral Catholicity (and Visibility)
Fr. Paul Leonard Kramer, the former traditionalist priest who embraced the errors of Sedevacantism following the election of Pope Francis, publicly holds the position that the visible Church will become an apostate Church, and that the true Church will become invisible. He wrote: “The visible entity will be APOSTATE. The true Church will be a remnant in hiding. The Church will be briefly INVISIBLE…” He also rejects the Church’s teaching on moral catholicity by claiming that the “invisible Church” will be reduced to a small number. He writes:
Salza & Siscoe take issue with my entirely orthodox comment that, “The visible entity will be APOSTATE. The true Church will be a remnant in hiding. The Church will be briefly INVISIBLE, as the Fathers teach.” According to their grotesquely distorted and fundamentalistic notion of the Church, that which has been clearly foretold in scripture and expounded by the Fathers and by ecclesiastical writers through the ages of Catholicism, constitutes a denial of the indefectibility visibility of the Church. However… it is Salza & Siscoe who deny Catholic doctrine by maintaining that the Church will not be reduced to a small number...”
Needless to say, the Fathers do not teach that the “visible entity” will become “apostate,” as Fr. Kramer claims. For just as one cannot separate the infallible Church from the true Church, or the indefectible Church from the true Church, neither can one separate the visible Church (or “visible entity”) from the true Church. As we have seen, infallibility, indefectibility and visibility are inherent qualities of the true Church; they are not separate and distinct “entities” that can exist apart from her. Furthermore, if the Church lost any of these inherent qualities – which would happen if it briefly became an “invisible” Church - it would cease to be the true Church, and hence the true Church would no longer exist. Bellarmine explains this very point in De Ecclesia Militante, in the chapter titled “The Visible Church Cannot Defect,” when he writes: “if the visible Church were to perish then no true Church would remain.” In the same chapter, he refutes the error of Calvin and the other Protestants who held indefectibility does not prevent the “visible entity” (i.e., the institutional Church) from apostatizing, but only means that an “invisible Church” will always remain. He writes:
Now, that this true and visible Church cannot defect is easily proven. Moreover, it must be observed that many waste their time when they try to show that the Church cannot defect absolutely, for Calvin and the other heretics concede that, but they say it ought to be understood about the invisible Church.
Like Fr. Kramer, these early Protestants taught that the visible entity could (and did) become “apostate” and that the true Church became invisible. Similarly, the Donatist schismatics claimed that “the whole visible Church had perished,” and all that remained was a remnant in Africa (i.e., their sect). Bellarmine refuted these errors with many passages from both the Old and New Testament, as well as numerous quotations from the Fathers, proving that “the visible Church does not defect.” And, needless to say, this includes during the time of Antichrist, for “the visible Church is never going to perish, but will remain visible even to the Day of judgment.”
Hence, Fr. Kramer’s explicit teaching that the “visible entity” will become “apostate,” and that the true Church will become “invisible,” is clearly erroneous, if not formally heretical.
Let us now see how Fr. Kramer defends his equally erroneous teaching that the Church will “be reduced to a small number,” which, as we have seen, is directly contrary to the Church’s teaching on moral catholicity. To support his position, Fr. Kramer cites the following alleged quotation from St. Athanasius, which is supposedly taken from the famous Letter of St. Athanasius to his Flock.
Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones that are the true Church of Christ. (Coll. Selecta SS.Eccl.Patrum, Caillau and Guillou, Vol. 32, pp. 411-14).
This alleged quotation that Fr. Kramer cites to justify his rejection of the Church’s teaching on moral catholicity is fraudulent. It was apparently added to the end of a lengthy quote by an unknown translator and posted on the internet, where Fr. Kramer evidently discovered it and attempted to use it to justify his errant ecclesiology.
The following is the entire Letter from Athanasius to his Flock, in the original Latin, taken from the source document provided by Fr. Kramer:
Deus quidem vos consoletur, novi autem quia non hoc solum vos contristat; sed contristat et illud, quia Ecclesias quidem alii per violentiam tenuerunt, vos autem interim foris estis a locis illi enim loca, vos vero habetis apostolicam fidem. Illi in locis existentes, a vera fide sunt foris: vos vero a locis quidem foris estis , fides vero intus. Discutiamus quid sit majus, locus an fides. claret utique quia vera fides. Quis ergo amplius perdidit, vel quis amplius habet, qui locum tenet, an qui fidem? Bonus quidem locus est, quando illic apostolica fides praedicatur: sanctus est, si ibi habitat sanctus. Et post pauca: Vos autem beati, qui fide in Ecclesia estis, in fidei fundamentis habitatis, et sufficientem satisfactionem habetis, fidei summitatem, quse in vobis permanet inconcussa, ex apostolica enim traditione pervenit ad vos, et frequenter eam execranda invidia voluit commovere, nec valuit: magis autem per ea quae commoverunt sunt abscissi. Hoc est enim quod scriptum est: « Tu es Filius Dei vivi » Petro per revelationem Patris confesso, et audiente: « Beatus es Simon Barjona , quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus qui in coelis est, » et caetera. Nemo igitur unquam vestrae fidei praevalebit, dilectissimi fratres: si enim aliquando Ecclesias reddiderit Deus, credimus enim hoc, verum tamen ne tanta Ecclesiarum redditionem sufficit nobis fides.
Et ne forte sine Scripturis loquens violentia dicam, bonum est vos ad Scripturarum testimonia trahere. Commemoramini enim quia templum quidem erat Hierusalem: templum non erat in eremo, alienigenae invaserant. Ex quo et templum vero Hierusalem, illi ejecti Babylonia descenderunt, judicio probantis, sive etiam corrigentis Dei, manifestantis vero inimicorum sanguinem vorantium poenas ignaris. Et locum quidem habebant alienigenae; loci vero Dominum nesciebant. In tantum vero quia nec responsa dabat, nec loquebatur, sed a veritate desolati fuerunt. Quid igitur eos juvat locus? Ecce enim locum habentes accusantur a diligentibus Deum, quia eum fecerunt speluncam latronum, et domum negotiationis et domum veli locum sanctum fecerunt amentes sibi, quos illic non licebat intrare. Audivimus enim, dilectissimi, discentes ab his qui inde venerunt haec et deteriora his. Quanto igitur labore videntur Ecclesiam tenere, tanto magis ejecti sunt. Et putantur esse intra veritatem, expulsi sunt autem et capti, et nullum lucrum sola Ecclesia quia rarum, veritas judicatur. (and they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and gain no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged.)
The bolded sentence at the end was removed by the original translator and replaced by the fraudulent quotation that Fr. Kramer marshaled to justify his rejection of the Church’s teaching of moral catholicity.
The following is an English translation of the Letter of St. Athanasius to His Flock, taken from The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (1892):
Here begins a letter of S. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, to his children. May God comfort you. I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider which is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith. Who then has lost more, or who possesses more? He who holds the place, or he who holds the Faith? Good indeed is the place, when the Apostolic Faith is preached there, holy is it if the Holy One dwell there. (After a little:) But ye are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from Apostolic tradition, and frequently has accursed envy wished to unsettle it, but has not been able. On the contrary, they have rather been cut off by their attempts to do so. For this is it that is written, ‘Thou art the Son of the Living God,’ Peter confessing it by revelation of the Father, and being told, ‘Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to thee,’ but ‘My Father Who is in heaven,’ and the rest. No one therefore will ever prevail against your Faith, most beloved brethren. For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth. What profit then is the Place to them?
For behold they that hold the Place are charged by them that love God with making it a den of thieves, and with madly making the Holy Place a house of merchandise, and a house of judicial business for themselves to whom it was unlawful to enter there. For this and worse than this is what we have heard, most beloved, from those who are come from thence. However really, then, they seem to hold the church, so much the more truly are they cast out. And they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and [gain] no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged.”
Once again, we see that the alleged quotation is not found in the original work, which further confirms that it is indeed a fabrication.
After this was presented to Fr. Kramer, he was eventually forced to concede that the quotation he was spreading around the internet to support his errant theology was fraudulent. But in his customary arrogance, he then justified himself by saying: “St. Thomas also cited spurious quotes.” If the Angelic Doctor ever did accidentally refer to a spurious quotation or two, we can rest assured that he didn’t do so in order to justify his rejection of a doctrine that was de fide catholica, which is how Salaverri qualified the doctrine of moral catholicity that Fr. Kramer rejects.
The Church is Apostolic (Secondary Efficent Cause)
The final mark of the true Church is apostolicity. Apostolicity is the most important of the four marks, not only because it implicitly contains the others, but also because it most clearly distinguishes the true Church from false churches and heretical sects. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
Apostolicity is the mark by which the Church of today is recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. It is of great importance because it is the surest indication of the true Church of Christ, it is most easily examined, and it virtually contains the other three marks, namely, Unity, Sanctity, and Catholicity.
All of the non-Catholic “churches” and sects that profess to be Christian acknowledge the mark of apostolicity in some sense, but their definition always “misses the mark” (pun intended) in one way or another. For example, Van Noort explains that “Protestants usually mean by apostolicity, apostolicity of doctrine. That is all that is required, they say, and it suffices.” He then adds: “But Greek schismatics and Anglicans – at least a large number of them – require in addition to apostolicity of doctrine, some sort of apostolicity of government. They do not, however, specify legitimacy of the mode of succession.” Van Noort then gives the true understanding of this mark, as taught by the Catholic Church: “According to Catholic teaching, Christ’s Church essentially and necessarily enjoys a triple sort of apostolicity: apostolicity of doctrine, government, and membership.”
The principal difference between the teaching of the Catholic Church and that of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox sects regarding the mark of apostolicity, is apostolicity in government. This is because they lack legitimate apostolic succession (formal apostolic succession), which is also lacking in the Sedevacantist sects. In fact, it is apostolicity in government (the clearest mark of the true Church) that gives the Sedevacantist apologists the most difficulties. Their position forces them to openly depart from the teaching of the Church, or else invent wild theories to keep from having to reject what they know the Church teaches. We will address this thoroughly in a moment, but before doing so, we will first address apostolicity in doctrine, and apostolicity in membership.
Apostolicity in Doctrine
Apostolicity in doctrine means the Church will always retain the same doctrines that it received from the Apostles. The attribute of infallibility guarantees that the Church will never impose a heresy upon the faithful to be believed with the assent of faith. This is the biggest sticking point today for the Sedevacantists, since they believe that unity of doctrine no longer exists, and infallibility has been violated. About this, however, they are mistaken.
As history shows, apostolicity in doctrine will survive, even in a severe doctrinal crisis within the Church itself, such as the Arian heresy of the fourth century. During the Arian crisis, the faith of many was shaken and a majority of bishops knowingly, or unknowingly, drifted into heresy (about the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, no less). Fr. Jurgens, who edited the book The Faith of the Early Fathers, estimated that between 97 and 99 percent of the bishops in charge of the Church’s dioceses drifted into heresy, yet the Church never definitively taught heresy (by imposing it upon the faithful), and the true Faith continued to be professed by a majority of the laity.
While it may have seemed “impossible” for the bishops to have wavered in the faith to such an extent, it happened (and it is also worth noting that the Church has never taught that these 97 to 99 percent of bishops lost their office ipso facto, at the time). This historical precedent serves as a useful reminder for our own times, by showing us what can and indeed has happened in the true Church. During the Passion of the Church, we can expect that God will allow the Church to endure everything that can be permitted without any of His promises being violated. Therefore, in times such as ours, it is always helpful to consider what has occurred in the Church, in order to know what can occur without the gates of hell prevailing.
Cardinal Newman, who studied the Arian crisis in depth, estimated the percentage of bishops who fell into heresy to be closer to 80 percent. He explains what transpired during this extraordinary crisis:
There was the temporary suspense of the function of Ecclesia Docens [the teaching Church – the hierarchy] as about 80 percent of the bishops fell into heresy. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith... The episcopate, whose action was so prompt and concordant at Nicaea on the rise of Arianism, did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part in the troubles consequent upon the Council; and the laity did. The Catholic people, in the length and breadth of Christendom, were the obstinate champions of Catholic truth, and the bishops were not. Of course, there were great and illustrious exceptions; first, Athanasius, Hilary, the Latin Eusebius, and Phoebadius; and after them, Basil, the two Gregories, and Ambrose; there are others, too, who suffered, if they did nothing else.
Earlier we mentioned that the Church never declared that the bishops who adhered to the Arian heresy lost their office ipso facto, which is what the Sedevacantists claim. Sedevacantists argue that because these bishops no longer “professed the true faith,” they were “manifest heretics”; and, as Bellarmine explains, all the Fathers of the Church held that manifest heretics “are ipso facto deprived of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dignity.” Therefore, they conclude, the bishops who subscribed to the Arian heresy automatically lost their office. While Sedevecantists disagree amongst themselves about many things, this is one point about which they are in perfect agreement.
In light of this, they will no doubt be surprised to learn that Bellarmine, whose teaching they rely on to justify their conclusion, does not agree with them. Bellarmine did not believe that the bishops who subscribed to the Arian heresy were “manifest heretics.” On the contrary, he defended “the multitude of Bishops” who publicly subscribed to the Arian heresy on the basis that they did so through ignorance. Here is what Bellarmine wrote in response to the famous quote from St. Jerome, who said “the whole world woke up and groaned to find itself Arian”:
To that passage of Jerome, I respond … he improperly calls ‘Arians’ those who subscribed to heresy through ignorance. He speaks of the multitude of Bishops throughout the world who agreed with [the heretic] Arminimus, and being deceived by the Arians decreed that the term homoousios (i.e., consubstantial) must be abolished, even though they did not know what it meant. Certainly, they were not heretics, but only erred materially, just as if some Catholic might advance a blasphemous opinion with the tongue thinking it is a pious prayer.
Notice, even though Bellarmine admits that “the multitude of Bishops” were deceived by the Arians and subscribed to the heresy, he does not consider them “manifest heretics.” Instead he seeks to excuse them due to ignorance, even though he provides no justification for such an excuse. What this shows is that Bellarmine’s judgment concerning who is and who is not a manifest heretic differs greatly from that of the Sedevacantists.
Returning to Cardinal Newman’s commentary on the Arian crisis, after admitting that some of the laity unfortunately followed their bishops into error, he went on to explain that most held fast to the faith:
And again, in speaking of the laity … on the whole, taking a wide view of the history, we are obliged to say that the governing body of the Church came short, and the governed [the laity] were pre-eminent in faith, zeal, courage, and constancy. This is a very remarkable fact; but there is a moral in it. Perhaps it was permitted in order to impress upon the Church at that very time passing out of her state of persecution to her long temporal ascendancy, the greatest evangelical lesson, that, not the wise and powerful, but the obscure, the unlearned, and the weak constitute her real strength. It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown; it was by the faithful people, under the lead of Athanasius and the Egyptian bishops, and in some places supported by their Bishops or priests, that the worst of heresies was withstood and stamped out of the sacred territory.
The Arian crisis is a parallel of the situation in which we find ourselves today, when vast numbers of Catholic bishops have been infected with the heresy of Modernism, just as the majority of the bishops in the fourth century were infected with the heresy of Arianism. But, in spite of the doctrinal crisis currently afflicting the Church’s hierarchy, the true Faith is still professed with clarity by countless traditional-minded Catholics throughout the world (priests and laity alike), just as it was during the time of the Arian crisis.
There can be a material division in the membership of the Church due to errors of fact, without there being a formal division. As was noted previously, this occurred during the Great Western Schism, when the Church was divided (materially) into three major camps (Rome, Pisa and Avignon), due to there being multiple claimants to the papacy, combined with sufficient uncertainty as to who was the true Pope. This material division was due to an error of fact (who is the true Pope?).
Just as there can be an error of fact in government, so too can there be an error of fact in doctrine – that is, an error in knowing what is to be assented to by faith. Those who adhere to the Magisterium as the rule of faith, yet profess a false doctrine, or refuse to accept a true doctrine, because they mistakenly believe that what they profess or reject is in accord with the teaching of the Church, are not truly in heresy. Cardinal Billot explains that heresy consists in rejecting the Magisterium as the rule of faith, not simply in adhering to an error because one mistakenly believes it is taught by the Church. In discussing formal and material heresy, the Cardinal said, “the nature of heresy consists in withdrawal from the rule of the ecclesiastical Magisterium, which does not take place” if there is “a simple error of fact concerning what the rule dictates [i.e., what the Church teaches].”
One of the characteristics of Modernism is ambiguity, confusion and doublespeak, which obscures the Faith itself, resulting in confusion for the faithful in knowing what, precisely, the Church teaches. During the Modernist crisis of our day, the object of Faith (what must be believed) has been obscured by error and ambiguity - at the hands of the very leaders of the Church, no less (just as in the Arian crisis). But in spite of this crisis in the Faith that God has permitted, none of the recent Popes have definitively imposed any heretical doctrines upon the Church as matters of faith (which the charism of infallibility would not permit). As we will show in more detail in Chapter 13, none of the novelties, ambiguous formulations, or apparent errors of Vatican II (which have contributed greatly to the confusion and material divisions we see today) were proposed as doctrines that require the assent of faith. Therefore, there has been no formal rupture in the Faith – neither in what has been proposed as a matter of Faith, nor what must be assented to by faith.
To further clarify, a formal division occurs when there is a break in a principle of unity, and not when this or that member (or group of members) is discontinuous in some way with the whole. A formal doctrinal division in the faith would occur, for example, if the Pope imposed an error or heresy to be believed by all the faithful with the assent of faith. Not every doctrinal teaching of a Pope, catechism, or even a council is proposed as an object of faith. Only those doctrines that have been proposed infallibly are to be assented to with the assent of faith. Doctrines that are not proposed infallibly are only adhered to with a religious assent, which is an assent of obedience, and not of faith. This is why a formal division in the Faith would only occur if the Church infallibly taught an error (which is a contradiction), since only that which has been proposed infallibly is assented to with the assent of faith. As we will demonstrate in future chapters, this has not occurred, and cannot occur by virtue of the negative protection of infallibility. Therefore, the errors and novelties that have spread throughout the membership of the Church cannot be said to have caused a formal rupture in the Faith, even though there is a material doctrinal division within the membership of the Church.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Modernist prelates have blurred certain teachings by an ambiguity that lends itself to an erroneous, and at times even heretical understanding, all Catholics still profess the same Creed on Sunday, and no errors or heresies have been infallibly proposed and imposed upon the Church, which means the Church today continues to be united (objectively) in what must be assented to by Faith. It is important to note, however, that the Church’s unity in doctrine is not conditioned upon how many people actually adhere to what the Church officially teaches, much less how correctly each person understands every aspect of the faith; rather apostolicity in doctrines means that the doctrines officially taught by the Church and imposed upon all as a matter of faith, have been believed by the Church, at least implicitly, since the beginning.
Let us turn again to the Arian crisis to see what parallels we can find between that doctrinal crisis and the one we face today. St. Basil, one of the relatively few stalwart bishops who lived during the Arian crisis, describes what he and the faithful endured during that period in which the Church appeared to be almost entirely overtaken by heresy:
The danger is not confined to one Church...This evil of heresy spreads itself. The doctrines of Godliness are overturned; the rules of the Church are in confusion; the ambition of the unprincipled seizes upon places of authority; and the chief seat is now openly proposed as a reward for impiety; so that he whose blasphemies are the more shocking, is more eligible for the oversight of the people. Priestly gravity has perished; there are none left to feed the Lord’s flock with knowledge; ambitious men are ever spending, in purposes of self-indulgence and bribery, possessions which they hold in trust for the poor. The accurate observation of the canons are no more; there is no restraint upon sin. Unbelievers laugh at what they see, and the weak are unsettled; faith is doubtful, ignorance is poured over their souls, because the adulterators of the word in wickedness imitate the truth. Religious people keep silence, but every blaspheming tongue is let loose. Sacred things are profaned; those of the laity who are sound in faith avoid the places of worship, as schools of impiety, and raise their hands in solitude with groans and tears to the Lord in heaven. … What is most melancholy of all, even the portion among us which seems to be sound [in faith], is divided in itself, so that calamities beset us like those which came upon Jerusalem when it was besieged.
The Arian crisis is an historical example of how the Church suffered a very severe material division in doctrine; a majority of the bishops drifted into heresy, and the Pope himself signed a semi-Arian (ambiguous) profession of faith. The Church was shaken to its core, just like today. Yet, the Pope did not impose the Arian heresy upon the Church. For this reason, the Arian crisis serves as a near identical parallel of today’s crisis. Those who remained strong in the faith refused to attend Mass at churches infected with Arianism, just as many Catholics today, who have remained strong in the faith, refuse to attend Mass at churches infected with Modernism. St. Basil further explained what the faithful endured:
Matters have come to this pass: the people have left their houses of prayer, and assembled in the deserts, - a pitiable sight, women and children, old men, and men otherwise infirm, wretchedly faring in the open air, amid the most profuse rains and snowstorms … To this they submit, because they will have no part in the wicked Arian leaven.
Those poisoned with the Arian heresy referred to these faithful Catholics by the derogatory term of “country-Christian,” which became a badge of honor to those who remained firm in the faith. In an exact parallel of today, St. Basil described the one “offense” that was not tolerated by those infected with the Arian heresy, which just happens to be the same offense that is not tolerated today by the Modernists: “Only one offense is now vigorously punished,” wrote St. Basil, “an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions.”
St. Athanasius, one of the greatest defenders of the Faith during the crisis, was banned from his diocese five times, spent seventeen years in exile, and suffered an unjust excommunication from the Pope. By all appearances, St. Athanasius was an excommunicated schismatic, but in reality he was one of the greatest defenders of the Faith the Church would ever know.
The Arian heresy shows us what God can permit His Church and the faithful to endure, without the gates of hell prevailing, and without the apostolicity of doctrine being lost. By serving as a precedent for today, we can see how God draws good out of the evils that afflict the Church. If our current crisis is a foreshadowing of the great apostasy (as many believe), it will also serve as a useful precedent for those who live during that time. And, no doubt, the crisis during the final apostasy, and reign of antichrist, will be much more difficult than the Arian crisis of yesterday and the Modernist crisis of today.
Apostolicity of Government and Membership
The Church is a monarchical society by divine institution. A monarchy is an unequal society in which some members govern and other members are governed. The bishops together with the Pope constitute the Ecclesia docens (the “Church teaching”); the faithful represent the Ecclesia discens (the “Church taught”). The division between the teaching Church and the taught Church (the hierarchy and the laity) is not one of two separate societies, or even two halves of the same society with two distinct sets of members. Rather, the division is between those with the power, assisted by Christ, to define speculative and practical truth, on the one hand, and those who recognize this power, on the other. Although the hierarchy alone represents the teaching Church, because the bishops themselves must believe what the Church teaches, they, too, along with the laity, make up part of the believing Church.
Apostolicity of membership is sometimes referred to as apostolic in origin. It means that the Church as a whole remains numerically one and the same visible society as that which existed during the days of the Apostles. The hierarchy, which is the principal part of the Church (instituted directly by Christ), will remain numerically one with the apostolic college. In fact, the bishops collectively (the college of bishops) form “one and the same juridical person with the apostolic college,” just as the entire Church, as a whole, is one and the same moral body with the Church from the time of the Apostles. Individual members are “born” into the Church and then die, being replaced by others, so forth and so on, throughout the ages, but the moral body itself remains one. Regarding the numerical oneness of the Church, Van Noort wrote:
A moral body, despite the fact that it constantly undergoes change and renovation in its personnel, remains numerically the same moral body so long as it retains the same social structure and the same authority. … Please note the word, numerically the same society. A mere specific likeness would never satisfy the requirements of apostolicity.
Just as the indefectibility of the visible society refutes the Sedevacantist claim that the Church in 1958 morphed into a New Church after electing John XXIII (as we saw in the last chapter), so too does the numerical oneness of the Church refute this error. This is because the Church of October 27, 1958 (before electing John XXIII) is numerically one and the same Church as that which existed on October 28, 1958 (after electing John XXIII), and the Church of 1958 is numerically one with the Church that existed in January of 1966. Likewise, the Church of 1966 is numerically one with the Church of the Apostles, as well as with the Church of today. In other words, the Church that everyone, except the Sedevacantists, recognizes as the Catholic Church is numerically one with the Church of the Apostles. This demonstrates that the Catholic Church of today cannot be a New Church, as the Sedevacantists claim.
Furthermore, the Sedevacantist sects did not originate until the mid to late 1970s. If the true Church defected in 1958, and there were no Sedevacantist sects until 20 years later, where was the true Church during the two intervening decades? If this visible Church ceased to exist for a time (or morphed into a New Church during or after 1958), the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Church, which is contrary to the promise of Christ.
Apostolicity of Government
Apostolicity of government (mission or authority) is not only the most distinguishing mark of the true Church, and the most important of the unities, but it also represents the greatest difficulty for the Sedevacantists. Their position forces them to openly reject what the Church teaches, or else invent novel theories (based on no verifiable facts) in an attempt to justify their thesis.
Apostolicity in government means that “the Church is always ruled by pastors who form one same juridical person with the apostles. In other words, it is always ruled by pastors who are the apostles’ legitimate successors.” As we have seen, just as the Church itself is numerically one with the apostolic Church, so likewise her hierarchy is numerically one with the apostolic hierarchy, which will always consist of legitimate successors of the Apostles. At this point, an important question arises: what makes a person a legitimate successor of the apostles? To answer this question, it is necessary to make a distinction between the power of Orders and the power of jurisdiction.
The Power of Order and Jurisdiction
The members of the teaching Church (the hierarchy) participate in the threefold office of Christ (who is Prophet, Priest, and King) by teaching, sanctifying and governing the members of the Church. To accomplish these duties, the members of the hierarchy possess the twofold power of order and jurisdiction.
The power of order corresponds to the office of sanctifying. The power is conferred by ordination to the diaconate, priesthood, or bishopric, and imprints an indelible character on the man’s soul that can never be taken away. Even the reprobate clergy retain this permanent character as they are punished in hell. Holy Orders are concerned primarily with the worship of God and the sanctification of souls. The indelible character gives certain powers to the ordained, which are not possessed by laymen. For example, one who has been consecrated (ordained) a bishop is able to validly ordain another man to the priesthood or bishopric, even if the ordaining bishop has apostatized and left the Church. Similarly, a man ordained as a priest will always be capable of saying a valid Mass, even if he has been formally excommunicated. In such a case, the Mass he celebrated would be illicit (illegal), but it would nevertheless be valid due to the permanent indelible character received at ordination.
Jurisdiction pertains to the office of teaching and governing in the Church, and can only be given by a legitimate superior. Jurisdiction does not imprint an indelible character, neither is it a permanent quality that can never be revoked. Some sacraments (e.g., Penance and Matrimony) require jurisdiction to be valid. The sacrament of Penance requires both Orders (at least that of a priest) and jurisdiction.
In his Dogmatic Manual, Christ’s Church, Van Noort writes the following about the power of order and jurisdiction:
The power of orders is the same as that of the priesthood. It has as its immediate object the worship (in the strict sense) of God, and also the internal sanctification of souls through the infusion of grace. It takes its name from the sacrament of orders or sacred ordination, by which it is conferred on a person.
The power of jurisdiction is the moral power to place others under obligation, to bind and to loose, and comprises at once the two powers of teaching and ruling. It has as its immediate object the governing of the people in the realm of belief (through doctrinal decrees), and conduct (through disciplinary laws, juridical sentences, penalties). Finally, it directs the faithful in acquiring holiness through their own personal efforts. This power is conferred on a person when a superior imposes it, or when the person is given a legitimate mission. (…)
They differ in their basic nature. The power of orders is merely instrumental or ministerial. Since God alone can produce grace as its principal, efficient Cause, the official personnel of the Church… act merely as God’s instruments, or, since they are rational beings, as His ministers. …
The power of jurisdiction, on the other hand, involves not merely instrumental, but real principal causality.
With this distinction in mind between the power of orders and the power of jurisdiction, we will now discuss apostolic succession and then see what is required for a person to be a legitimate successor of the Apostles.
Apostolic succession is the unbroken line of succession beginning with the Apostles, who were ordained by Christ (Mk. 3:14), down to the bishops of today. Because a bishop can only be ordained (consecrated) by the laying on of hands by one who is already a bishop, there is an unbroken physical connection between the Apostles (the first bishops) and those whom they consecrated down to our present day. The laying on of hands, during the ordination (or episcopal consecration), confers the power of orders on the ordained.
We see this succession beginning just after Pentecost, when the Apostles selected Matthias to succeed Judas Iscariot: “And praying they said: Thou, Lord, who knoweth the hearts of all men, show which of these two thou hast chosen, to take the place of this ministry and apostleship from which Judas hath by transgression fallen... And they gave them lots, and the lots fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24-26). Later, we see Sts. Paul and Barnabas (both of whom are referred to as Apostles) being consecrated bishops by the laying on of hands, when the Holy Ghost said: “Separate me Saul and Barnabas, for the work whereunto I have taken them. Then they, fasting and praying, and imposing their hands upon them, sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3). Having been consecrated bishops, St. Paul and the other Apostles would go on to consecrate other men to the bishopric. This succession has continued in the Church founded by Christ to our present day, without interruption.
Although valid orders makes a man a physical successor of the Apostles, they do not, in and of themselves, make a man a legitimate successor of the Apostles. This is clear from the fact that the character received at ordination remains even if a bishop were to apostatize and leave the Church, or be publicly excommunicated by the Church. In such a case, the character received at ordination, and the powers that go with it, remain. If a validly consecrated bishop left the Church and founded a new religion, he would still retain the power to consecrate bishops who would be physical successors of the Apostles (they would possess valid orders), but they would not be legitimate successors of the Apostles. To be a legitimate successor of the Apostles, one must possess the authority of the Apostles, and this authority comes with jurisdiction.
Legitimate Apostolic Succession
Episcopal orders (i.e., consecration to the bishopric) is the material aspect of apostolic succession; jurisdiction, which is the power to teach and govern in the Church, constitutes the formal aspect. Even bishops of a schismatic group, such as one of the Orthodox or Sedevacantist sects, may possess material apostolic succession, but this does not make them legitimate successors of the Apostles. Fr. Berry explains:
[S]ome knowledge of succession is necessary for a proper conception of apostolicity of ministry. Succession, as used in this connection, is the following of one person after another in an official position, and may be either legitimate or illegitimate. Theologians call the one formal succession; the other, material. A material successor is one who assumes the official position of another contrary to the laws or constitution of the society in question. He may be called a successor in as much as he actually holds the position, but he has no authority, and his acts have no official value, even though he be ignorant of the illegal tenure of his office. A formal, or legitimate, successor not only succeeds to the place of his predecessor, but also receives due authority to exercise the functions of his office with binding force in the society. It is evident that authority can be transmitted only by legitimate succession; therefore, the Church must have a legitimate, or formal, succession of pastors to transmit the apostolic authority from age to age.
R. P. Herrmann, in his book, Theologiæ Dogmaticæ Institutiones, elaborates on the same point:
Succession may be material or formal. Material succession consists in the fact that there have never been lacking persons who have continuously been substituted for the Apostles; formal succession consists in the fact that these substituted persons truly enjoy authority derived from the Apostles and received from him who is able to communicate it. For someone to be made a successor of the Apostles and pastor of the Church, the power of order — which is always validly conferred by virtue of ordination — is not enough; the power of jurisdiction is also required, and this is conferred not by virtue of ordination but by virtue of a mission received from him to whom Christ has entrusted the supreme power over the universal Church.
Van Noort posed the question: “How can you be sure that this or that bishop should be counted as a legitimate successor of the apostles?” He responded as follows:
Obviously a man does not become a genuine successor to the Apostles merely by arrogating to himself the title of ‘bishop,’ or by carrying on in some fashion a function once performed by the Apostles. Neither is it enough for a man merely to possess some one, individual power, say for example, the power of orders. – The power of orders can be acquired even illicitly, and once acquired can never be lost. – What is required for genuine apostolic succession is that a man enjoy the complete powers (i.e., ordinary powers, not extraordinary) of an apostle. He must, then, in addition to the power of orders, possess also the power of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means the power to teach and govern.
In another place, he wrote:
In another place, he wrote:
Any man, then, who boasts of apostolic succession but is not united to the Roman pontiff, may indeed actually possess the power of orders; he may even by purely physical succession occupy a chair formerly occupied by an apostle - at least he could do so - but he would not be a genuine successor of the apostles in their pastoral office.
It is a dogma of the Faith that the Church will always possess legitimate successors of the Apostles – that is, validly ordained bishops who also possess jurisdiction in the Church. These men are not only the physical successors of the Apostles (material succession), but must have also received their apostolic authority (formal succession) to continue Christ’s divine mission through His one true Church. Formal apostolic succession is the surest mark of the true Church because it distinguishes it from all others. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
Apostolicity is the mark by which the Church of today is recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. It is of great importance because it is the surest indication of the true Church of Christ. (…) This Apostolic succession must be both material and formal; the material consisting in the actual succession in the Church, through a series of persons from the Apostolic age to the present; the formal adding the element of authority [jurisdiction] in the transmission of power. It consists in the legitimate transmission of the ministerial power conferred by Christ upon His Apostles. … any concept of Apostolicity that excludes authoritative union with the Apostolic mission robs the ministry of its Divine character. Apostolicity, or Apostolic succession, then, means that the mission conferred by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles must pass from them to their legitimate successors, in an unbroken line, until the end of the world.
Bishops Receive Their Authority from the Pope
From whom do the bishops receive the power of jurisdiction (authority), by which they become legitimate successors of the Apostles? They receive it directly from the Pope, and only from the Pope. Jurisdiction comes from a superior. Because the Church is by divine institution a monarchical society, only the head of this society – the Pope – receives his authority immediately and directly from Christ. The other bishops, as Pope Pius XII taught in Mystici Corporis Christi, “are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff; and although their jurisdiction is inherent in the office, yet they receive it directly from the Supreme Pontiff.”
Cajetan likewise affirms that all authority in the Church comes through the Roman Pontiff. He explains that this is the teaching of St. Thomas and “all the Catholic doctors” who hold that:
All jurisdiction flowed and flows from Peter into all the rest of the Church’s body, according to Pope Leo’s saying in c. Dominus (D. 19 c. 7): “The Lord so wished the sacrament of this gift to belong to the office of all the apostles that He placed it principally in most blessed Peter, the chief of all the apostles, so that from him, as from a head, He might pour out His gifts, as it were, upon the whole body.”
As noted above, Pope Pius XII settled this issue in Mystici Corporis Christi, when he taught that bishops receive their authority directly from the Pope. In an article published in the American Ecclesiastica Review in 1949, Fr. Joseph Clifford Fenton commented at length on the teaching of Pius XII, and provided many citations from Popes and theologians, to demonstrate the traditional character of what Pius XII taught. He writes:
One of the most important contributions to sacred theology in recent years is to be found in the Holy Father's teaching about the immediate source of episcopal jurisdiction within the Catholic Church. In his great encyclical letter Mystici corporis, issued June 29, 1943, Pope Pius XII spoke of the ordinary power of jurisdiction of the other Catholic bishops as something "bestowed upon them immediately" by the Sovereign Pontiff. More than a year before the publication of the Mystici corporis the Holy Father brought out the same truth in his pastoral allocution to the parish priests and the Lenten preachers of Rome. In this address he taught that the Vicar of Christ on earth is the one from whom all the other pastors in the Catholic Church "receive immediately their jurisdiction and their mission."
In the latest edition of his classic work, Institutiones iuris publici ecclesiastici, Msgr. Alfredo Ottaviani declares that this teaching, which was previously considered as "probabilior" or even as "communis," must now be held as entirely certain by reason of what Pope Pius XII has said. The thesis which must be accepted and taught as certain is an extremely valuable element in the Christian teaching about the nature of the true Church. Denial or even neglect of this thesis will inevitably prevent anything like an accurate and adequate theological understanding of Our Lord's function as the Head of the Church and of the visible unity of the kingdom of God on earth. Thus, in giving this doctrine the status of a definitely certain statement, the Holy Father has greatly benefited the work of sacred theology.
The thesis that bishops derive their power of jurisdiction immediately from the Sovereign Pontiff is by no means a new teaching. In his Brief Super soliditate, issued, Nov. 28, 1786, and directed against the teachings of the canonist Joseph Valentine Eybel, Pope Pius VI bitterly censured Eybel for that writer's insolent attacks on the men who taught that the Roman Pontiff is the one "from whom the bishops themselves derive their authority." Pope Leo XIII, in His encyclical Satis cognitum, dated June 29, 1896, brought out a fundamental point in this teaching when he restated, with reverence to those powers which the other rulers of the Church hold in common with St. Peter, the teaching of Pope St. Leo I that whatever God had given to these others He had given through the Prince of the Apostles.
That teaching has been enunciated explicitly in a communication of the Roman Church by Pope St. Innocent I, in his letter to the African bishops, issued Jan. 27, 417. This great Pontiff stated that "the episcopate itself and all the power of this name" come from St. Peter. (…) During the last years of the fourth century Pope St. Siricius had asserted the Petrine origin of the episcopate in his letter, Cum in unum, when he designated the Prince of the Apostles as the one "From whom both the apostolate and episcopate in Christ derived their origin." He introduced this concept into his writing as something with which those to whom his epistle was addressed were perfectly familiar. It was and it remained the traditional and common teaching of the Catholic Church.
The thesis that bishops derive their power of jurisdiction immediately from the Roman Pontiff rather than immediately from Our Lord Himself has had a long and tremendously interesting history in the field of scholastic theology. St. Thomas Aquinas propounded it in his writings, without, however, dealing with it at any great length. (…) During the century following the Council of Trent, three of the classical scholastic theologians wrote magnificent explanations and proofs of the thesis that episcopal authority in the Church of God is derived immediately from the Vicar of Christ on earth. St. Robert Bellarmine treated the question with his accustomed clarity and sureness, using an approach somewhat different from that employed by Turrecremata and Laynez and closer to that of Cajetan. Francis Suarez dealt with the thesis "in extenso" in his Tractatus de legibus, and set forth certain explanations which completed the teaching of Laynez himself. (…) Pope Benedict XIV included an excellent treatment of this thesis in his great work De synodo diocesana. (…) The most important opposition to the thesis, as might be expected, came from the Gallican theologians.
Fr. Fenton goes on to address a point that is raised by some Sedevacantists as the basis for rejecting the teaching of Pius XII. They claim that what Pius XII taught is manifestly wrong, since it is contradicted by the practice of the early Church, when the Pope did not directly appoint all the bishops. Fr. Fenton explains that a direct papal appointment is not required, but that a consent and tacit approval suffices. What this means that a direct appointment is not necessary for a bishop to receive his authority directly from the Pope. Being appointed with the tacit approval of the Pope suffices for him to receive his authority directly from the Supreme Pontiff. Fr. Fenton also notes, however, that a bishop who is not in union with the Pope (which is the case for all the Sedevacantist bishops) possesses no authority:
The teaching of Pope Pius XII on the origin of episcopal jurisdiction definitely is not a claim that St. Peter and his successors in the Roman See have always appointed directly every other bishop within the Church of Jesus Christ. It does mean, however, that every other bishop who is the ordinary of a diocese holds his position by the consent and at least the tacit approval of the Holy See. Furthermore, it means that the Bishop of Rome can, according to the divine constitution of the Church itself, remove particular cases from the jurisdiction of the bishops and transfer them to his own jurisdiction. Finally it signifies that any bishop not in union with the Holy Father has no authority over the faithful.
This teaching in no way involved a denial of the fact that the Catholic Church is essentially hierarchical as well as monarchical in its construction. It does not conflict with the truth that the residential bishops have ordinary jurisdiction, rather than merely delegated jurisdiction; in their own Churches. … It means that the power of jurisdiction of these men comes to them from Our Lord, but through His Vicar on earth, in whom alone the Church finds its visible center of unity in this world.
Fr. Berry teaches the same in The Church of Christ. We should note that when a Pope dies, the bishops retain the jurisdiction they received, which is inherent in their office; but they cannot first obtain it without being appointed to the office by the Pope, either directly, or with his tacit approval.
The Church Must Always Possess a Legitimate Hierarchy
Formal apostolic succession, which is possessed by the body of legitimate bishops, is a perpetual and permanent quality of the true Church. Van Noort explains:
Proposition: It was Christ’s will that the sacred ruling power which had begun in the apostolic college should continue forever.
This proposition is concerned with the same threefold power which we have proved to have been given to the apostles [i.e., to teach, function as priests, and govern]. It asserts that this power was granted by Christ with the following stipulation: that it be handed on to an endless line of successors. We are not concerned at the moment with the subordinate co-workers of the apostles. The only point to be proven here is that it was Christ’s will that the apostolic college should continue forever, in such a way that there would always be in the Church a body of men invested with the threefold power which the apostles enjoyed [which requires jurisdiction]. This thesis is a dogma of faith, as we know, e.g., from the Council of Trent, Sess. 23, c. 4 (DB 960).
He went on to say:
The Church depends essentially on the teaching, priestly, and ruling power of the apostles. … When our Lord gave the apostles their definitive mission to teach, sanctify, and rule, He went on to say, in the clearest terms: ‘And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’(Mt 28:20). But how could He possibly be forever present to the apostolic college, in the work of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling, unless that college itself were to last forever, unless the apostles were to have a never-ending line of successors in their work as teachers, priests, and rulers?
To be a successor of the Apostles in the office of teacher and ruler requires authority, or jurisdiction.
While it is possible for there to be a time when there is no Pope (i.e., a temporary interregnum following the death of one Pope and before the election of another), there can never be a time in which the Teaching Body itself (the Magisterium) ceases to exist. As Van Noort explained, this is a dogma of the Faith, and therefore cannot be denied without falling into heresy.
In the magnificent book, Manual of Dogmatic Theology (1906), by Wilhelm and Scannell, we read:
The Indefectibility of the Teaching Body is at the same time a condition and a consequence of the Indefectibility of the Church. A distinction must, however, be drawn between the Indefectibility of the Head [Pope], and the Indefectibility of the subordinate members [Bishops]. The individual who is the Head may die, but the authority of the Head does not die with him – it is transmitted to his successor. On the other hand, the Teaching Body as a whole could not die or fail without irreparably destroying the continuity of authentic testimony. Again, the Pope’s authority would not be injured if, when not exercising it (extra judicium), he professed a false doctrine, whereas the authenticity of the episcopal testimony would be destroyed if under any circumstances the whole body fell into heresy.
This is yet another proverbial nail in the Sedevacantist coffin, since they claim that the Teaching Body as a whole fell into heresy, lost their jurisdiction, and ceased to be part of the Church (becoming, instead, members of the “New Church”). But if this would have occurred, the Church would have defected, since the indefectibility of the Teaching Body is linked to the indefectibility of the Church. What this shows is that the Sedevacantists don’t merely profess a Church without a Pope, but also a Church without a legitimate Teaching Body (the Magisterium), which is not possible. As Fr. Tranquillo points out:
According to today’s Sedevacantists, not only is the Chair of Peter vacant, but also all of the episcopal sees. Thus, one who wants to apply those theses to the current situation must recall that he is not putting forward a Church ‘without Pope’ (which happens on the occasion of every conclave), but a Church without any hierarchy on this earth, without a residential episcopate, and thus without the presence of ordinary jurisdiction.
As we saw in Chapter 1, the Sedevacantist preacher, Gerry Matatics, publicly teaches that the Magisterium no longer exists. According to Mr. Matatics, all we have today are the writings of the Magisterium from the time when it did exist. He says: “there is no living voice of the Magisterium,” but that “doesn’t mean we’re lost; it doesn’t mean we’re abandoned, because we’ve got the Magisterium of the past.”
A “Magisterium of the past” does not suffice. Contrary to what Mr. Matatics publicly preaches in the name of Catholicism, it is a dogma of faith that the Church will always possess a college of bishops – that is, legitimate successors of the Apostles - who possess both the power of orders (material succession) and jurisdiction (formal succession). This is not something of the past; but a necessary reality of the present. And the apostolic hierarchy must be visible and conspicuous, as Cardinal Billot explains: “by the will, institution, and special protection of Christ, the Church’s apostolic continuity must always be visible and conspicuous.”
Needless to say, the only Church that even claims to have bishops who have received jurisdiction from the Pope is the Church that everyone except Mr. Matatics and his Sedevacantist colleagues recognizes as the Catholic Church.
Now, because only a Pope can grant jurisdiction, if Pius XII were the last true Pope (as most Sedevacantists claim), then there are no longer any bishops, at all, currently in charge of dioceses, who possess jurisdiction. This would mean that legitimate apostolic succession would not even be found in the one and only Church that claims to possess bishops who received their jurisdiction from a Pope.
“Bishop in the Woods” Theory
Faced with the reality that the Sedevacantist position leads to a denial of the indefectibility of the Teaching Body (the Magisterium), the lay Sedevacantist apologist, John Lane, came up with a creative but unsuccessful attempt to solve the difficulty. He began by noting that a bishop cannot retire unless the resignation is accepted by the Pope. He then argued that if all the Popes from John XXIII forward were antipopes, it would mean that the resignation given by a bishop to one of these false Popes would not have been a valid resignation. Consequently, he reasoned, if any bishops were still alive who had received jurisdiction from Pius XII, they would continue to possess true jurisdiction today, even if they didn’t know about it.
Mr. Lane presented this argument as a way to explain how it is possible for there to be a true Teaching Body (a bishop or two with jurisdiction) in existence today. He imagines that this theory (which is obviously built upon the false premise that we have not had a true Pope since 1958 to accept the bishops’ resignations) allows Sedevacantists to reject all the conciliar Popes without having to admit that there are no bishops left with ordinary jurisdiction. Lane came up with this wild theory to avoid the obvious classification of his own position as heretical, which he knows it would be if no such bishops exist. Fr. Cekada, realizing how ridiculous Lane’s theory is, referred to it as the “Bishop in the Woods” thesis. Mocking the theory invented by his fellow Sedevacantist, Fr. Cekada wrote:
Mr. Lane’s Bishop in the Woods thesis, in fact, DEFEATS the two things about the Church it is supposed to save:
a. Visibility - because no one can see this bishop.
b. Apostolicity - for how can the Church be RECOGNIZED by the mark of apostolicity if no one can FIND the one bishop who is supposed to continue and embody it?
In addition to the devastating objections Fr. Cekada raised, John Lane’s theory creates a burden of proof that he cannot meet. Theorizing that there could be a bishop or two still living who were appointed by Pius XII, almost six decades ago, is not the same thing as proving that they do, in fact, exist. And presenting the “Bishop in the Woods” as a mere “possibility” necessarily admits of the possibility that they don’t exist at all – and, thus, that there are no legitimate bishops left. In fact, Mr. Lane actually admits that if there are no bishops left with ordinary jurisdiction, then the Sedevacantist thesis is false. But he attempts to escape the conclusion by shifting the burden of proof to his opponents. Here’s what he says:
From this we conclude that the Church must always possess at least one bishop with ordinary jurisdiction or she would not be the Church. Now, if there is no such bishop, then either the proposition is not true – that is, we misunderstood the doctrinal point – or the Sedevacantist solution is wrong. Of course, until it is demonstrated that the Church does not possess even one bishop with ordinary jurisdiction, then there is no concrete problem. The problem is not just theoretical, but hypothetical.
Notice that Mr. Lane puts the burden of proof on others to demonstrate that there is not a Pius XII bishop with jurisdiction. It’s quite convenient for Mr. Lane to declare, on his own authority, that all the bishops currently in charge of the episcopal sees lack ordinary jurisdiction, and then tell his opponents that they must disprove his own theory by demonstrating that a Pius XII “Bishop in the Woods” does not exist.
Mr. Lane is guilty here of the logical fallacy known as Shifting the Burden of Proof. Since it is Lane who is making the claim (that a Pius XII bishop with ordinary jurisdiction exists somewhere in the world), the burden of proof lies with him to demonstrate it, and is not up to anyone else to disprove it (how Lane would not be aware of such a rudimentary element of debate is quite surprising).
To illustrate the fallacy of Lane’s reasoning, these authors claim that there are green men on Mars, and “until it is demonstrated” by Mr. Lane that Mars “does not possess even one” green man, “then there is no concrete problem,” and we can assume green men on Mars exist. Unfortunately for Mr. Lane, the burden remains with him to prove a Pius XII bishop with ordinary jurisdiction exists, not on others to disprove it. But the problem with his “Bishop in the Woods” thesis doesn’t end there.
Even if Lane were to prove the existence of a Pius XII bishop, he would still have the burden of proving that the bishop rejected “the Vatican II Church,” and its Popes. In other words, he would have to find a Sedevacantist “Bishop in the Woods” who was never a member of the “New Church” (what the Sedevacantists call the Catholic Church after 1958). Why never a member of New Church? Because, according to the Sedevacantists’ own position, the Vatican II Church is a false Church; and, according to their favorite canon from the 1917 Code, if a cleric publicly adheres to a non-Catholic sect (a false Church), he automatically vacates his office (Canon 188, §4), and hence loses his jurisdiction (which means the bishop’s resignation would not have to be accepted by a true Pope). This would mean that if the Pius XII “Bishop in the Woods” adhered to the New Church that allegedly came into existence in 1958 (or 1965), even for a short time, he would have lost his jurisdiction ipso facto, according to their own logic and arguments.
Now, dear reader, what seems more likely, that John Lane will prove that there is a Pius XII Bishop (consecrated six decades ago, which would put him well into his 90s if not over 100 years old), who is both a Sedevacantist and who was never a member of the “New Church,” or that the Sedevacantist position is wrong?
Moreover, “the problem” of legitimate apostolic succession is not “hypothetical” as Mr. Lane claims, but actual, with actual (not hypothetical) consequences – no less than the defection of the Catholic Church founded by Christ. If John Lane cannot prove his case, then, in his own words, “the Sedevacantist solution is wrong,” since the proposition that there must always be legitimate successors of the Apostles is de fide. Indeed, Sedevacantism is wrong; and the real solution for Lane’s difficulty is that the bishops of our day, currently in charge of the dioceses throughout the world, are the legitimate successors of the Apostles with ordinary jurisdiction - a reality that is staring Lane and his colleagues right in the face.
Fr. Cekada’s “Solution”
Fr. Cekada evidently recognizes that the Sedevacantists bear this burden of proof that they cannot meet, which is why he coined and ridiculed Mr. Lane’s “Bishop in the Woods” theory. But what is Fr. Cekada’s solution to the problem? His “solution” is perhaps worse. His way around the problem is to explicitly reject the teaching of the Church (as expressed by Pius XII) by claiming that bishops today receive their “mission” (which requires jurisdiction) at ordination immediately from Christ, and not from the Pope, hich is precisely what the Eastern schismatic bishops declared a millennium ago. In Fr. Cekada’s own words:
If there is no true pope, as a sede like me would maintain, the provisions of ecclesiastical law pertaining to legitimacy of mission and apostolic succession can no longer be said to apply strictly. Nevertheless, this mission and command Our Lord gave to the apostles and those who would succeed them still applies as a matter of divine law, because the divine law endures for all time, even when the provisions of human-ecclesiastical [law] can no longer be followed. Traditional bishops and priests received the obligation to continue this apostolic mission from Christ in virtue of their consecrations and ordinations.
Notice, Fr. Cekada claims that “apostolic mission” (which requires jurisdiction) comes directly to Sedevacantist bishops and priests, by virtue of their ordination. He continues:
Despite the fact that their mission and succession did not come to them through the provisions of human-ecclesiastical law, their mission and succession is indeed apostolic as regards the divine law because it is identical with the mission Christ gave to the Church.
We see that the only way Fr. Cekada can defend his Sedevacantist position is to reject the teaching of Pius XII that bishops receive their jurisdiction (mission) “directly from the Supreme Pontiff.” For Fr. Cekada, there is apparently no longer a distinction between the reception of orders and the reception of jurisdiction (a dogmatic distinction that is rooted in divine revelation and taught by the Church since the very beginning) because, well, he doesn’t think we have a valid Pope. And Fr. Cekada cannot claim ignorance concerning this matter, since in an earlier article that dealt with a different topic, he not only admitted that jurisdiction comes from the Pope, but even admitted that “no one in the traditional movement [i.e., no Sedevacantist] possesses ordinary jurisdiction.” But if they don’t possess ordinary jurisdiction, they do not have a true mission, since the latter requires the former. What this shows is that just as Catholic truth builds upon truth, so the Sedevacantist error breeds more errors, as the rejection of one truth logically and necessarily leads to the rejection of the others.
John Lane, who is guilty of his own fallacious reasoning on the question of jurisdiction (as we saw earlier), rightly criticized Fr. Cekada’s un-Catholic position in no uncertain terms. After saying Fr. Cekada’s position “just reeks of Protestantism,” Lane went on to say:
Private judgement erecting ministers of Christ. No public authority involved. This is worse than Anglicanism, which at least replaced the authority of the Church with secular authority. It’s one thing to defend another who is under attack when the police cannot be found; it’s entirely another thing to don a uniform and pose as a cop. Who’s the judge of the fitness of a potential bishop? The potential bishop (and his sidekick, perhaps)? What’s the authority of a bishop without a mission from the Church? His own declarations to the effect that his Gospel is the true one? How does this differ from Protestantism? Does not every apologetics manual condemn this kind of theory on every second page? Fr. Cekada tells us, ‘As regards hierarchy, mission and apostolicity, the short answer is this:...’ He needs to give the long answer, ASAP. His short answer just opens the door to countless heresies, if it isn’t heretical itself.
Another one of Fr. Cekada’s fellow Sedevacantists said “it is not true that the power to teach and govern comes through consecration. This is against the specific teaching of Pius XII, as everybody knows,” and then added: “With defenders like Fr. Cekada, Sedevacantism doesn’t need enemies...”
As Lane rightly observed, Fr. Cekada’s teaching “opens the door to countless heresies, if it isn’t heretical itself,” but the same is true with the Sedevacantist thesis as a whole. For it not only denies that the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope is an infallible sign of his legitimacy, as Cardinal Billot explained (as we saw in Chapter 1), but it also denies the indefectibility of the visible Church by claiming that the visible hierarchical society, with its members, morphed into a New Church, with the same hierarchy and members. We also have the public profession of heresy by those who claim that the true Church today exists “in the hearts and minds” of true believers, who “profess the true Faith,” and who are somehow spiritually united together without a Pope or hierarchy. Their loss of faith in the Church has caused them to deny the marks and attributes of the Church. They have been led right into the error of Protestantism, which substitutes visible members for the material and formal visibility of the Church of Jesus Christ.
When John Lane first discovered that Fr. Cekada explicitly denies that there are any bishops left with ordinary jurisdiction, he said: “I myself was shocked to discover that Fr. Cekada’s ‘sedevacantism’ involves the explicit denial that the Apostles have any Successors at all today. This assertion is directly opposed to Tradition, as formulated at Vatican I.” Lane went on to say:
I have spent more than fifteen years combatting what I thought was an entirely unjust allegation against ‘sedevacantism’ - viz., that we hold that the hierarchy is extinct - only to discover that this is exactly what Fr. Cekada believes. Not only that, I found out also that he has held this view for many years. So the SSPX has not been unjustly defaming ‘sedevacantism’ - they have been justly and accurately opposing an heretical theory held by the most prominent ‘sedevacantist’ proponent in the English-speaking world.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lane, while Fr. Cekada holds to a “heretical theory” about episcopal jurisdiction, Lane falls into a related heresy (which denies a visible hierarchy with legitimate apostolic succession), unless he can prove that there is a Pius XII bishop somewhere out there with ordinary jurisdiction (contrary to the assessment of Fr. Cekada), and who was never a member of the modern Church. Of course, even if there were such a bishop in existence, it would still mean the entire visible hierarchy defected, and this is itself contrary to the indefectibility of the Church, since the visible Church will always have a visible hierarchy. Therefore, Mr. Lane’s “solution” is false and also likely heretical.
Fr. Cekada should realize the implications that his theory (that there are no bishops left with ordinary jurisdiction) has on supplied jurisdiction, which he and all his parishioners depend upon for the validity of the sacrament of Penance and Matrimony. In a recent article published in the Courrier de Rome, Fr. Tranquillo explains that supplied jurisdiction presupposes habitual (ordinary) jurisdiction in the Church. Because all jurisdiction comes to the Church through the Pope, if there is no Pope, and if there are no more bishops who received jurisdiction from a valid Pope, “then jurisdiction delegated in extraordinary fashion [i.e., supplied jurisdiction] would also no longer exist.”
If Fr. Tranquillo’s conclusion is correct (supplied jurisdiction is delegated by those with ordinary jurisdiction), then this would mean that those Sedevacantist priests, such as Fr. Cekada, who deny there are any bishops left who received their jurisdiction from the Pope are, according to their own position, giving their flock invalid absolutions in the confessional (and Fr. Cekada’s error that priests receive jurisdiction directly from Christ does not solve the problem, since his subjective error on this point of doctrine has no effect on objective reality).
If Fr. Tranquillo’s conclusion is incorrect (and supplied jurisdiction is delegated by Church law, without the need for ordinary jurisdiction), Sedevacantists would still not benefit from the sacraments because they are in schism (they reject the Pope and the Church over which he rules). This Catch-22 is a classic case of being “damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” because whether supplied jurisdiction is available or not, members of the Sedevacantist sect will not thereby profit, since outside the Church there is neither salvation, nor remission of sin.
Some Sedevacantists, who are well aware that none of the Sedevacantist bishops or priests possess jurisdiction, and therefore have no true “mission” from the Church, claim it is forbidden to receive the sacraments administered by Sedevacantist clergy (which is at least being consistent in their position). Yet these individuals also claim it is forbidden to receive the sacraments from a priest in union with “the Vatican II Church,” or even from traditionalist clergy (like those of the S.S.P.X.). Obviously this doesn’t leave many options for receiving the sacraments. In fact, it leaves no options.
For those in whom the disease of Sedevacantism has fully metastasized, all post-Vatican II clergy (including Eastern Rite and traditional clergy) and even the Sedevacantist clergy, are “unauthorized shepherds,” who “true Catholics” must avoid. These Sedevacantists (who are known as “home-aloners”) refuse to receive the sacraments at all, thereby depriving themselves and their families of the ordinary means of salvation - all because of the erroneous theory they have come up with to explain the crisis in the Church. These souls stay home on Sundays, reading their missal and attempting to elicit acts of perfect contrition, in the hope that God will directly absolve them of their grave sins (again, just like Protestants).
Mr. Matatics, who has embraced and publicly defends this position, recently explained how he fulfills his Sunday obligation. He wrote:
I unite myself and my family — as we do every Sunday and every holy day, and in fact every single day of the year as we gather for family worship — with all true Catholics around the world and down through the ages who by God’s grace, accept all of the Church’s teachings and strive to abide by all her laws.
This is where the error of Sedevacantism logically leads: a complete withdrawal from the visible social unit of the Church and the God-given means of sanctification, by staying at home on Sundays, uniting in spirit “with all true Catholics around the word” (translation: those who also stay at home on Sundays), while imagining themselves to represent the true Church, which exists in “their heart and mind”. In other words, an invisible Church of true believers known to God alone, which, as we have seen, is the Protestant definition of the “true Church.”
But what is most inexcusable is not that these individuals have erred in their private judgment about the crisis in the Church, and ended by going to such absurd extremes; but rather that some of them, who have not been “sent,” nevertheless send their message across the world wide web, and even themselves personally across the country on speaking tours, in an attempt to persuade others that they, too, must follow their example by completely avoiding Mass and the sacraments. In true Protestant fashion, these lay preachers and self-appointed missionaries (who themselves have no mission), “preach” to already-scandalized and confused souls, which only causes greater confusion. And when the clergy warn their faithful to ignore these unbalanced individuals, they play the part of the victim who is being persecuted – like the prophets of old – for doing nothing more than preaching the truth.
What is truly puzzling is that these lay preachers don’t seem at all concerned that their private opinion (which they publicly proclaim to be “the truth”) has continuously changed over the years (today directly contradicting what they taught yesterday). This realization does not seem to hinder them in their efforts, nor does it cause them to think that if what they are preaching today is true, it means they were leading souls into error, schism, and heresy yesterday. But if, according to their own standard, they were leading souls into error, heresy and schism yesterday, how can they be sure they are not doing the same today?
For example, the Sedevacantis preacher, Gerry Matatics, has gone from being an ordained Presbyterian minister, to a Novus Ordo Catholic, to a Traditional Catholic (attending both S.S.P.X. and Indult parishes), to an “independent chapel” Catholic, to a Sedevacantist “Catholic” (e.g., S.S.P.V., C.M.R.I.), and, finally, to a “home-aloner.” He used to teach that it was necessary to belong to the post-Vatican II Church; today he declares it to be a false Church. He used to promote the F.S.S.P.; now he claims their orders are invalid and they belong to a false Church. He used to preach that attendance at the S.S.P.X. was acceptable; now he says they are in schism. He used to teach that one should receive the sacraments from Sedevacantist clergy; now he claims they are “unlawful shepherds”. According to what he currently preaches, he has been leading souls into error, schism and heresy almost his entire adult life. Only now, he assures them, is he preaching the “truth.”
Perhaps those, such as Mr. Matatics, who have spent nearly their entire adult life leading people astray were not cut out to be lay preachers of the Gospel, as they imagine themselves to be, but should instead keep their continuously changing position to themselves to avoid further harming souls. But, evidently, intellectual pride is not easily swayed by such thoughts, which only goes to show that the “diabolical disorientation” Lucia of Fatima referred to is not only found in the upper hierarchy, but in the lower ranks of the laity as well.
In one of his talks, Mr. Matatics, who, as we have seen, teaches that there is “no longer a voice of the Magisterium” (which is a denial of the indefectibility of the Church), and that all clergy are “unauthorized shepherds” who cannot be approached for the sacraments, informed his audience that his faith in the Church is completely unshaken by the current crisis. The obvious question is: What Church? What visible, hierarchical Church with four marks and three attributes is Mr. Matatics referring to? And if it exists, why doesn’t he attend it for the sacraments, or recommend that others attend it? The obvious answer is that there is currently no visible, institutional Church in which Mr. Matatics believes. He professes faith in a “church” that he believes no longer exists, and hasn’t existed since the time of Pius XII.
Nevertheless, Mr. Matatics went on to inform his audience that, in his opinion, the only way people will be able to retain their faith in the Church in the current crisis is if they embrace what he teaches. In the following quotation, notice how Mr. Matatics begins, according to his usual methodology, by boasting that he accepts everything the Fathers, the Doctors, the Popes and the councils have taught. He confidently informs his audience that what he is teaching is simply what the Church herself teaches, the obvious implication being that if they disagree with his teaching, they are really disagreeing with the Church herself. In his own words:
Nevertheless, Mr. Matatics went on to inform his audience that, in his opinion, the only way people will be able to retain their faith in the Church in the current crisis is if they embrace what he teaches. In the following quotation, notice how Mr. Matatics begins, according to his usual methodology, by boasting that he accepts everything the Fathers, the Doctors, the Popes and the councils have taught. He confidently informs his audience that what he is teaching is simply what the Church herself teaches, the obvious implication being that if they disagree with his teaching, they are really disagreeing with the Church herself. In his own words:
I accept every single syllable of Sacred Scripture, everything the Fathers of the Church and the doctors of the Church have taught; everything the Popes and councils have taught. What I am presenting to you today is what the Catholic Church has to say about itself and about the current crisis. And, by the grace of God, I do not find my faith in the Catholic Church in any way diminished by what we are going through. On the contrary, I would argue that if someone does not come to the conclusion that I will be sharing with you [i.e., that every Pope since Pius XII is a false Pope and the visible, institutional Church has defected], it is only then that your faith is going to be weakened … is going to be compromised.
Let Mr. Matatics tell that to the former Sedevacantist seminarian that we quoted at the end of the last chapter, who, as a direct result of the Sedevacantist errors he had embraced (and which Matatics teaches), ended by 1) publicly rejecting each and every attribute of the Church; 2) declaring that the Catholic Church had defected; and 3) joining an Eastern orthodox sect. And one truly wonders how Mr. Matatics can imagine that he has retained his faith in the Church – the visible, hierarchical society, that is numerically one with the Church that existed at the time of Pius XII - when he is unable to point to the currently existing Church to which he claims to belong, all the while he stays at home on Sundays, and publicly preaches that there are no longer any “lawful shepherds” that can be approached for the sacraments. Regardless of what mental gymnastics and errant theology he uses to convince himself that he has not lost his faith in the Church, the facts prove otherwise. What else is proven from the case of Gerry Matatics and those who follow him is that there are many victims in the current crisis of the Church, and they are by no means all on the Left.
Whatever brand of Sedevacantism one embraces, the question they must answer is: Where is the visible, institutional Church that is numerically one with the Church that existed at the time of the last “true Pope”? For those who follow the opinion of the Sedevacantist preacher, Gerry Matatics, the practical answer is that it no longer exists, no matter how they wish to spin it. The fact that they cannot point to a visible, hierarchical Church with a legitimate hierarchy, but instead refer back to a Church that existed six decades ago (at the time of Pius XII), proves, without a doubt, that they have lost their faith in the Church as she suffers her Passion, just as the disciples lost their faith in Christ during His Passion. Therefore, it is not at all surprising to hear them publicly profess the heresy of the Protestants – who also lost their faith in the Church – by claiming the true Church exists “in the hearts and minds” of true believers.
Analogies and End Times Prophecies:
More Grasping at Straws
Unable to point to a visible hierarchy with ordinary jurisdiction, Sedevacantists often resort to using analogies to defend their position. For example, they will say that just as Christ’s dead Body was not visible to those outside His tomb (but was still visible in itself), so too could the alleged Pius XII “Bishop in the Woods” not be visible to the public, yet still exist. The analogy of the tomb, of course, could be twisted to mean many different things; and the physical Body of Christ in the tomb does not have a one-to-one correspondence with the promises Christ made to His Mystical Body, the Church. Furthermore, while Christ’s Body may not have been visible to those outside the tomb, the faithful knew exactly where His Body was. Such is not the case with the alleged “Bishop in the Woods,” since Sedevacantists don’t even know if any such bishop exists, much less where he can be found.
An analogy that can be drawn between the Body of Christ in the tomb, and that of the Church today, is that, although the Body of Christ was separated from the soul, and, in fact, dead; nevertheless, it remained hypostatically united to the Word of God. At that time, who, other than the Blessed Mother, would have possessed the faith to proclaim that the tortured, disfigured and dead Body of Christ was the Body of the Messiah and Son of God? To profess such a thing would have been considered blasphemous, yet that dead and disfigured Body was truly and inseparably united to the Word of God. Similarly, in the Passion of the Church today, although the Church is disfigured and apparently dying, it remains the true Mystical Body and Bride of Christ – united to the Word of God, who is Christ Himself, the Bridegroom. Just as the Body that laid in the tomb rose again, so too will the visible, post-conciliar Church along with its members rise again at the time appointed by God.
Sedevacantists will also refer to Our Lady’s prophecy at La Salette, when She said “The Church will be in eclipse.” Based on these mysterious words, they reason that just as the Church will be hidden by a foreign body (as the sun is hidden by the moon during an eclipse), so too the true hierarchy will be hidden during the crisis. But this analogy also does not follow, since during an eclipse we know (and not just speculate) that the sun exists, and we also know where it is (behind the moon), just as the faithful knew the exact place of Christ’s Body, in the tomb.
The Church of Christ today is eclipsed by the moral filth and doctrinal and liturgical aberrations caused by her bad members, which hides the beauty of her moral and doctrinal teachings. But just as it was during the Passion of Christ, the divine nature of the Church (her binding doctrinal and moral teachings) remains unchanged. Furthermore, during an eclipse, the light of the sun can be seen along the fringes, just as the light of the Church today is still seen today along the “fringes” (where tradition has been maintained).
Of course, such is not the case with the alleged “Pius XII bishops who never embraced the New Church” since no one knows if any exist, much less where they can be found. And in none of Our Lady’s many prophecies about the ecclesiastical crisis of our times does She ever suggest the practical disappearance of the hierarchy or the reign of antipopes. On the contrary, according to Sister Lucia of Fatima, She says that there will be a “diabolical disorientation of the upper hierarchy,” not a defection of the upper hierarchy. Her prophecy at La Salette is consistent with the reality that the true Church, rather than being reduced to an unidentifiable remnant of “true believers,” will continue to exist exactly as she always has (like the sun during an eclipse), even though her brilliance will be obscured for a time. This is similar to what occurred during the Arian crisis, when, as Bellarmine explains, “the Church was obscured by a multitude of scandals.” Nevertheless, even then “it stood out in its most loyal members … Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius Vervellensis … Ambrose, Basil, Gregory Nanziens and many others who were steadfast pillars of the Church.” Our goal today should be to strive to be like the “steadfast pillars” of the Church during the Arian crisis, which is not the case for those who fall into the errors and heresies of the Sedevacantist sect.
Because their thesis reduces the visible Church to a mere remnant of “true believers” and a hierarchy that is no where to be found, most Sedevacantists also attempt to justify their position by arguing that we are currently living in the end times, when it is predicted that very few people will have the true faith. They point to biblical and extra-biblical prophecies about how the faith will be nearly extinct right before the Second Coming of Christ. As Our Lord said, “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth”? (Lk. 18:8).
For example, in his CD talk “Counterfeit Catholicism,” Gerry Matatics compares the current crisis of the Church to the time of the Flood when eight people were saved, that is, those who were inside the ark, which he argues is a type of the Church in the end times. Matatics plainly admits he believes we are living in the end times, as he applies the following words of Our Lord to our day: “And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mt. 24:37). He also mentions St. Peter’s reference to the nominal quota of the saved during the time of Noe - “wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water” (1Pet. 3:19-20).
In his talk, Matatics also refers to the Exodus where only two people (Josue and Caleb) out of two million were allowed to enter the Promised Land (cf. 1Cor. 10:1-5). He likewise argues that these Israelites are another type of the Church in the end times, when most souls will be lost. St. Paul alludes to these Old Testament typologies and their importance in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1Cor. 10:11). Based upon these and other similar passages, as well as extra-biblical revelations about apostasy in the Church in the last days, Matatics and other Sedevacantists argue that the Church in the end times will be reduced to just a few, and that we are living in those days now. This is how they rationalize that the true Church has all but disappeared in our day, but not defected.
Now, assuming the number of the saved who are living during the end times will be small (which is likely, for Jesus said God will shorten the days of apostasy to save His remaining Elect; Mt. 24:22), it does not follow that the members of the visible society will be reduced to only a few, since not all members of the visible society are necessarily saved. In fact, this is confirmed by 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, which Matatics cites in defense of his position. The passage in question speaks of a great number (an estimated 2 million) who belonged to the visible society – all of whom had been baptized “in the cloud, and in the sea” (v.2). They all “did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink” (v.4). This large visible society that St. Paul speaks of, whose members are all partaking of the same spiritual food (i.e., the sacraments), is a type of the Catholic Church. St. Paul tells us, however, that with most of those in this visible society, “God was not well pleased” (v.5), and consequently they did not arrive at the Promise Land (Heaven).
This passage simply confirms that not all the members of the visible society are pleasing to God, nor will all be saved. That is the point St. Paul was making with the analogy, which is why he said: “Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things … Neither become ye idolaters … Neither let us commit fornication … Neither let us tempt Christ: Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall” (1Cor 10:6-12).
St. Paul was instructing the Corinthians (who were members of the Church) not to behave like the Israelites did during the days of Moses, lest the same thing happen to them. But this reference to the Israelites in no way helps Matatics’ case, since he himself has withdrawn from the visible society and no longer “eats the same spiritual food,” nor “drinks the same spiritual drink” as do those who have retained their faith in the visible Church during the current crisis. This analogy applies to the visible society of the Church from which Matatics has publicly separated, and out of which he seeks to lead others. Neither does the analogy of the eight souls saved by water at the time of Noah help Mr. Matatics’ case, since these souls were saved by remaining in the ark (representing the Church) which he has publicly left.
Job Prefigures the Passion of the Church
The Fathers of the Church, and especially Pope St. Gregory the Great, have seen in Job a type of the Passion of Christ and of His Church. The Scriptures reveal that Job was an upright, God fearing man, who avoided evil. He had great wealth and possessions, and was considered one of the greatest of “all the people of the east.” Yet God permitted the devil to strip him of all his possessions and reduce him to the most miserable condition. The same happened to Christ during His Passion, and is now happening to the Church as she undergoes her own. Just as Christ was bloody, disfigured and virtually unrecognizable during His own Passion – and considered by the masses to be amongst the worst of sinners, so too would the Church, during her own Passion, become disfigured in her humanity, virtually unrecognizable, and considered amongst the worst of sinners (e.g., rampant clerical sodomy and pederasty).
In one of his talks, the Sedevacantist preacher, Gerry Matatics, rightly explained to his audience that the story of Job prefigures the Passion of the Church; yet, due to his errant ecclesiology - i.e., that the Church is not a visible institutional society, but instead exists “in the hearts and minds of true believers” – he ended by drawing a completely false conclusion. Instead of concluding that Job prefigures the visible, institutional Church, which is being stripped and humiliated in the eyes of the world, Mr. Matatics imagines that the visible, institutional Church has become another Church - a false Church – and that this false Church is discrediting the true Church, which he believes consists of the individuals “who will always hold fast to the faith of their Fathers.” We will quote Mr. Matatics directly:
The Passion of the Church has been prefigured [by] many types in the Old Testament. (…) I’ll mention just one... The book of Job.
Job is a wealthy, respected, powerful man, with many, many children. And the devil comes before God in the book of Job and says to him: “Have you seen my servant Job? Isn’t that pretty impressive?” “Ah [replies the devil] he worships you only because of all that you’ve given him. But if you took all this away from him he would curse you to your face. He is only in it for the money, for what he gets out of it.’ And God said: “Go ahead. I permit you: I give you Divine permission to test Job. Strip him of everything he’s got.” (…) You know the book of Job, I’m not going to take the time to go through it all. Read it on your own, and see it the way the Church Fathers saw it as a type of the Church in the last days. Job loses his children; a hurricane flattens the house … he loses his wealth; he loses his possessions … his standing in the community; he loses his health. He is sitting in the fireplace with puss oozing out of his sores and scraping himself. … And his wife says to him, “what kind of quality of life is this? Just curse God and die ... he’ll put you out of your misery.” … And he [Job] says: “that’s ridiculous, that’s foolish. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” But Satan is allowed to strip him of everything he’s got, and yet Job remains a believer in God. I submit to you that Job, and the book of Job, was given to us by God, in advance, to show us the circumstances to which the Church would pass in her last days. Once upon a time the Church was riding high. The most respected and envied institution in the world. General Motors would hold leadership seminars in Detroit and say: ‘we are going to copy the most efficient, the most effectively controlled institution on the face of the earth … the Roman Catholic Church. We are going to study her and how she gets things done … as a model for business efficiency and prosperity for ourselves. Those days are gone. The Church had children all over the world, magnificent buildings, cathedrals, shrines, colleges, universities, seminaries, works of art and music, and in the last 50 years the devil’s been permitted to vandalize the Catholic Church… the Church has seemingly lost nearly all of her children … her buildings, her glory, her reputation in the eyes of the world. She’s become a buffoon in the thinking of the people…
Before continuing, notice that Mr. Matatics’ rightly describes the Church as an institution, and not simply as individual “true believers.” He even states that the story of Job was given to us by God to show us what will happen to the Church (i.e., the institution) at the end, when she too will be stripped of her possessions and humiliated in the eyes of the world. Yet, somehow, he fails to realize that the Church that is being humiliated today is the same “institution” that existed in 1958 - the true Church, not a false Church; just as the person who was attacked by the devil in the book of Job was Job himself, the same Job of prosperity and honor, and not a false Job. Yet Mr. Matatics completely misses this point, and concludes as following:
She’s become a buffoon in the thinking of the people who look at the Vatican II Church, and the sex scandals and so forth, and think that is the Catholic Church. It has discredited Catholicism in the eyes of virtually everyone in the world. The book of Job predicted it all. (track 13-14)
How Mr. Matatics could begin by saying that Job’s suffering and humiliation prefigures the Passion of the true Church, and then conclude by saying that the Church today, which is undergoing what Job prefigured, is not that true Church, but a false Church, is a blatant and elementary contradiction.
Matatics’ inability to spot the error in his conclusion is partially rooted in his erroneous ecclesiology. As we have shown, like the early Protestants, Mr. Matatics believes that the true Church exists “in the hearts and minds of the true believers,” and that Christ’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” only means there will always be “true believers” in the world. Therefore, based on these errors, there is nothing in Mr. Matatics’ mind to prevent the visible Church from defecting and morphing into a false Church, which will then discredit, in the eyes of the word, the “true Church” (i.e. true believers). Mr. Matatics’ error was clearly revealed in his explanation of how Job prefigures the Church; for after explaining that what purports to be the Church is actually a false Church, he said: “And yet the Church will always be here by God’s sustaining grace; there are those who will always hold fast to the faith of their Fathers.” Unfortunately for Mr. Matatics, not only is his definition of the Church erroneous, but he himself cannot be considered a part of it, since those who “hold fast to the faith of their Fathers” believe that the Church is a visible, juridical institution that cannot defect.
Are We In the End Times?
For those who believe we are currently in the end times - that is, the time that immediately precedes the Second Coming of Christ - there are some important factors to consider. For one, Our Lady’s prophecies at Fatima reveal that a period of peace in the world must intervene between our current time, and the final apostasy and the reign of antichrist. These prophecies, confirmed by numerous miracles, reveal that the Pope will consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart, Russia will convert to the Catholic Faith, and a period of peace will be granted to the world (whether this happens after a great chastisement, presumably revealed in the Third Secret, remains to be seen).
Setting aside the speculative question of how long the period of peace will last, the bottom line is that these events (the consecration of Russia, Russia’s conversion, a period of world peace) have not yet taken place. To argue that the final apostasy and reign of antichrist precedes the period of peace and conversion of Russia (as the Sedevacantists, who still believe in Fatima, must do) also contradicts the unanimous consent of the early Church Fathers and Doctors, including St. Thomas Aquinas, all of whom held that the final apostasy and appearance of antichrist comes right before the end of the world. We further note that there has been no significant, universal conversion of the Jews, to which Scripture alludes and many Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach must take place before the end of the world.
It is also worthwhile to consider that traditional Catholic commentaries make a distinction between the internal subversion of the Church (which we are currently experiencing through the Vatican II revolution) and the external persecution of the Church which will lead to the final apostasy of the end times (which the Sedevacantists claim is happening now). For example, in his classic commentary The Apocalypse of St. John published in 1921, Fr. E. Sylvester Berry says:
Satan will first attempt to destroy the power of the Papacy and bring about the downfall of the Church through heresies, schisms and persecutions that must surely follow [internal subversion]. Failing in this he will then attack the Church from without [external persecution]. For this purpose he will raise up Antichrist and his prophet to lead the faithful into error and destroy those who remain steadfast.
Fr. Berry further explains that Satan will attempt to destroy the Church from without by raising up antichrist, after he realizes, during the reign of peace, that he cannot destroy the Church from within (by Modernism, homosexuality, etc). Fr. Berry says “Satan now realizes that victory will be difficult. His first attempt failed miserably. In this second conflict new tactics must be employed. He will now seek to lead the faithful astray by a false Messias whom he will raise up in the person of Antichrist.” Fr. Berry’s opinion is that the end times apostasy comes after the internal subversion of the Church and the reign of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima.
In fact, Fr. Berry says that the vacancy of the papal office and reign of antipope(s) will occur, not during the period of internal subversion (the Vatican II revolution) which precedes the period of peace, but rather during the external persecution of the Church which follows the period of peace. The vacancy of the papal office will possibly be the result of the martyrdom of the true Pope and the difficulty the Church will have in electing a successor during this time of external persecution. Again, this reign of a false Pope (or Popes) is said to occur in the last days of the Church, during the time of antichrist and the final apostasy. Wrote Fr. Berry:
It is now the hour for the powers of darkness. The new-born Son of the Church [the Pope] is taken ‘to God and to His throne.’ Scarcely has the newly elected Pope been enthroned when he is snatched away by martyrdom. The ‘mystery of iniquity’ gradually developing through the centuries, cannot be fully consummated while the power of the Papacy endures, but now he [the Pope] that ‘withholding is taken out of the way’ [martyrdom of the Pope]. During the interregnum ‘that wicked one [the antichrist] shall be revealed’ in his fury against the Church.
Fr. Berry’s analysis is consistent with many other prophecies which predict the martyrdom of the true Pope and the reign of an antipope (presumably the antichrist or his false prophet) during the last days, before St. Michael the Archangel destroys the antichrist and Christ comes in His glory to judge the living and the dead at the end of the world. While we don’t wish to engage in endless speculation about these matters, the foregoing strongly suggests that we are not currently in the end times and the final apostasy. And even if we were in those days, it would in no way help the Sedevacantist thesis, since the visible Church will never be overcome by the gates of hell – not even during the reign of antichrist.
As we have seen in these first two chapters, the Church is an indefectible visible society possessing four marks and three attributes. The visible society is numerically one with the Church of the Apostles; it is a single moral body that will always remain the Church of Christ, in spite of any trials God wills to permit it to suffer. If this visible society had elected a false Pope and then morphed into a New Church in 1958 (or 1965, etc.) as the Sedevacantists claim, the Church would have defected. This, however, is contrary to the nature of the Church and the promises of Christ, her Divine Founder.
Furthermore, Sedevacantists not only fail to point to a Church in our time that has the marks and attributes that the true Church will always possess, but their own “communities” have none of them – not one! Thus, it is impossible for their sects to be “the true Catholic Church” as they claim, or even part of the Church, since they cannot point to the visible and infallible Church of which they are part. And, as should be evident, it is impossible for them to claim that the true Church merely indwells in a remnant of true believers, without embracing the Protestant understanding of the Church, which is precisely what they have done. As we have shown, the only Church that even claims to possess these marks and attributes is the Church that everyone in the world but the Sedevacantists recognizes as the Catholic Church. This means that if this Church is not the true Church, the true Church founded by Jesus Christ no longer exists.
While much more material could be provided on these matters, these first two chapters, in and of themselves, sufficiently demonstrate that the Sedevacantist thesis is completely erroneous, and, in fact, cannot be held without at least logically falling into heresy. It is simply an overreaction to the current crisis, fueled, in large part, by a faulty understanding of the Church’s attributes of infallibility and indefectibility. This is combined with a lack of faith in the promises of Christ, a presumption of the limits of God’s permissive will, and the pride of private judgment.
 Pope Vigilius defined the “gates of hell” as the “death-dealing tongues of heretics” (Second Council of Constantinople, 553 A.D.) and Pope St. Leo IX similarly referred to them as “the disputations of heretics” (In terra pax hominibus, 1053 A.D.).
 This is the term Pope St. Pius X used to refer to the error of our times, known as Modernism (Pascendi, No. 39, September 8, 1907.)
 “’A city city seated on a mountain cannot be hid’. The city is the congregation of the faithful, namely, the very assembly of the Apostles… it is located on a mountain, namely Christ” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, translated by Rev. Paul M. Kimball (Doloroso Press, 2012), p. 165.
 The Oath Against Modernism: “With unshaken faith I believe that the Church was immediately and directly established by the real and historical Christ Himself while he was living in our midst.” (Denz., 2145).
 “Christ established the Church as a hierarchical society … This thesis is historically certain, it is theologically de fide” (Tanquery, Dogmatic Theology, Vol I. p. 107).
 Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, §1 (July 18, 1870).
 For further information, including extensive Scriptural and patristic testimony and analysis, see John Salza’s The Biblical Basis for the Papacy (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007) available at www.johnsalza.com.
 “Whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church.” (Vatican I: Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, §2).
 Philip Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. I (New York: Charles Scribner and Son’s, 1907), p. 298.
 First Vatican Council, Session IV, Ch. II, 1870 (emphasis added). The phrase “perpetual successors in the primacy” also confirms that those whom the Church elects to fill the vacancy are legitimate successors to St. Peter. Latin: “Si quis ergo dixerit, non esse ex ipsius Christi Domini institutione seu iure divino, ut beatus Petrus in primatu super universam Ecclesiam habeat perpetuos successores: aut Romanum Pontificem non esse beati Petri in eodem primatu successorem: anathema sit.” (Denz., 1825).
 Matatics, Compact Disc (“CD”) talk entitled, “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholisism,” Second Edition 2008 (Revised and Expanded), disc 4 of 6, track 15.
 Ibid., disc 4 track 9.
 Berry, The Church of Christ, (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2009, previously published by Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, 1955), pp. 196-197 (emphasis added).
 Van Noort, Christ’s Church, (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1961), p. 153 (emphasis added).
 Ibid., p. 75 (emphasis added).
 See also Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974), p. 282.
 Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (No. 10, June 29, 1896).
 Both the Church and the State are perfect societies. The end or purpose of the State is the temporal good; the end or purpose of the Church is the spiritual good and salvation of man. While the two societies are distinct, they should not be altogether separated, but should work together for the good of the whole man (for both his natural and supernatural ends), with the temporal society reflecting the moral law of God in its laws, and looking to the Church for guidance. Pope Leo XIII brilliantly explicated these principles in such encyclicals as Immortale Dei, No. 10, November, 1885 and Libertas, No. 18, June 20, 1888.
 Mystici Corporis Christi, No. 3, June 29, 1943.
 Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 89.
 “The true Church of Christ was established by Divine authority, and is known by a fourfold mark, which we assert in the Creed must be believed; each one of these marks so cling to the others that it cannot be separated from them.” (Letter of the Holy Office under Pius IX, September 18, 1864, Denz., 1686).
 The Baltimore Catechism, No. 3, Benzinger Brothers Inc. 3rd ed. (1949, 1952), reprinted by The Seraphim Company Inc. (Colorado Springs, Colorado: 1987 1991, 1995), q. 154, p. 87.
 In Mystici Corporis Christi, Pius XII adds a fifth mark: “If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ - which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression ‘the Mystical Body of Christ.’” (No. 13, June 29, 1943).
 Authority is sometimes listed as a chief attribute of the Church. For example, see The Baltimore Catechism, No. 3, Benzinger Brothers Inc. 3rd ed. (1949, 1952), q. 161, q. 162, p. 91, and Bishop Morrow’s catechism My Catholic Faith, No. 66, p. 133. We have chosen to include authority as an essential component of the mark of Apostolicity.
 “The Church can never lose a single one of them [her properties], nor fail in her existence. In other words, the Church founded by Christ must exist until the end of time without any essential change.” (Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 31).
 In his encyclical Lamentabili, Pope St. Pius X condemned the proposition of the Modernists who held that “the organic constitution of the Church is not immutable.” (Denz., 2053).
 Publications of the Catholic Truth Society, vol. 24, (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1895), pp. 8-9.
 “If anyone says that in the Catholic Church a hierarchy has not been instituted by divine ordinance, which consists of bishops, priests, and ministers, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Denz., 966).
 Christ’s Church, p. 12.
 We are citing Van Noort extensively, primarily because he is so highly respected among most Sedevacantists. In fact, after posting a portion of Msgr. Van Noort’s dogmatic manual on his website, the Sedevacantist apologist, John Lane, stated that no one is permitted to comment on the topic in question until they have read the material from Van Noort. He then added: “Nor is anybody permitted to disagree with Monsignor Van Noort unless they can quote another theologian doing so.” Thus, we will demonstrate the error of Sedevacantism based upon the teaching of their own favorite authorities (Van Noort, Bellarmine, etc.). Quotation from Mr. Lane found at http://www.strobert bellarmine .net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=124).
 Ibid., p. 13 (emphasis added).
 “Ista visibilitas afificit coetum in miiversali et non singulos distributive sumptos.” Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. 1, 3rd ed. 1927, p. 282.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. 1, 3rd ed. 1927, p. 101.
 The term quiddity is a philosophical term which means the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.
 Rev. A. Devine, The Creed Explained, an Exposition of Catholic Doctrine, 2nd ed. (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benzinger, Bros., 1897), p. 265.
 Ibid., pp. 265-266.
 Christ’s Church, p. 12 (emphasis added).
 The Church of Christ, p. 37 (emphasis added).
 Denz., 1793.
 The Church of Christ, pp. 39-40.
 Ibid., p. 40 (emphasis added)
 T. E. Cox, The Pillar and Ground of Truth, a Series of Lenten Lectures on the True Church, Its Marks and Attributes (Chicago: J. S. Hyland and Co., 1900), p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 37.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), bk. 1, pt 1, Thesis II.
 As Wernz and Vidal note in their commentary on canon law, arriving at the knowledge that the Catholic Church is, in fact, the true Church requires moral diligence. They wrote “the visibility of the Church consists in the fact that she possesses such signs and identifying marks that, when moral diligence is used, she can be recognized and discerned, especially on the part of her legitimate officers.” (Wernz-Vidal, Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. 454 Scholion.) Even in the midst of our current ecclesiastical crisis, the formal visibility of the Church can be known, although it may require greater moral diligence to arrive at the conclusion. This is especially true if the Church is viewed in light of her current condition (as she suffers her Passion), rather than simply from a historical perspective.
The Church of Christ, p. 29.
 Ibid., pp. 29-30.
 Ibid., p. 30.
 St. Jerome, ‘In Isaiam,’ iv, 6; P.L.,24,74, cited in Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 34.
 Christ’s Church, p. 25.
 In epist. 31 ad Pulcheriam Augustam.
 In epistula ad Constantinum Augustum.
 Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, bk III, ch. XIII, translated by Ryan Grant.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), book. 1, part 1, Thesis II.
 The Church of Christ (emphasis added), p. 31.
 The vast majority of Sedevacantists believe that the last six consecutive Popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis) are false Popes, although others go further back beyond John XXIII.
 The Sedevacantists usually refer to the Church from 1958 forward as the “Vatican II Church,” even though the Second Vatican Council began in 1962 and closed in 1965.
 The British Mellinial Harbinger, vol. VII, 3rd Series (London: A. Hall and Co., 1859), p. 349.
 “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” disc 4 of 6, track 15.
 Ibid., track 16.
 Ibid., track 15.
 Ibid., disc 3 of 6, track 10.
 Edmund Gibson, A Preservative Against Popery, vol. I (London, 1738) ch. I, TIT. III, p. 42 (emphasis added).
 Coomaraswamy, “The Society of Pius X, A False Solution to a Real Problem” (2004), http://www.the-pope.com/socpxsed.html.
 Coomaraswamy, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition (Bloomberg, Indiana: World Wisdom, Inc. 2006), p. 410
 Coomaraswamy, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition, p. 3.
 Coomaraswamy, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition, p. 2.
 “That the true Church is in a certain sense ‘underground,’ but by no means ‘invisible’ is a fact of our days” (Coomaraswamy, “The Society of Pius X, A False Solution to a Real Problem,” 2004).
 The term “New Church” (or “Conciliar church”) is sometimes used by traditional Catholics in a metaphorical sense, not to mean that the Catholic Church morphed into a new entity or that there are now two Churches (there is only one Church), but rather to describe either the “fifth column” within the one true Church (i.e., an organized body of men who have infiltrated the Church with the intent to subvert it); or to describe what has become of the Church (at least the Western Rite) over the past fifty years; to “the whole new orientation of the Church, which is no longer a Catholic orientation.” (Archbishop Lefebvre, Spiritual conference at Ecône, 13 March 1978). The Modernist Archbishop Giovanni Benelli first used the term “Conciliar Church” in his June 25, 1976 correspondence with Archbishop Lefebvre. Lefebvre then began using the term in a metaphorical sense to describe “the whole new orientation of the Church,” while rejecting the Sedevacantist thesis and continuing to recognize the visible, hierarchical Church as the true Church.
 To be fair, because Mr. Lane realizes that the entire Church cannot defect, he stops short of affirming that all of the bishops of the post-Vatican II Church lost their authority (jurisdiction). However, he is unable to support his position by pointing to any bishops alive today that he accepts as having retained his offce and authority. In private e-mail exchanges, the authors of this book pressed Lane on this issue, and he was unable to provide the name of a single bishop he believes has ordinary jurisdiction. The result is that he is forced to deny that a visible hierarchy exists; yet a visible hierarchy is an essential aspect of the Church’s indefectibiity. Therefore, although Mr. Lane denies in theory that the Church has defected, his errors require him to admit in practice that it did.
 We should note here that the personal opinions of a Pope do not constitute the rule of faith. The rule of faith consists of the definitive (infallible) teachings of the Church. “Since faith is Divine and infallible, the rule of faith must be also Divine and infallible.” Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. V, p. 766.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, pp. 612-613 (emphasis added).
 John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologici II-II, Tome, Q. 1-7 on Faith, Disp. 8, Art. 2.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, Q. 7: “On the Members of the Church.”
 John Pontrello, The Sedevacantist Delusion (North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform., 2015), pp. xx-xxi.
 Ibid., xviii.
 Ibid., xli.
 Ibid., p. 101.
 Ibid., back cover.
 Ibid., p 103.
 In this book, we use the term “theory” in a non-scientific manner, to mean an unsubstantiated explanation to support a conclusion.
 Some claim that Siri was also elected in the 1963 and 1978 Conclaves as well.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, pp. 612-613 (emphasis added).
 Miaskiewicz, “Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209” (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1940), p. 26.
 God is the First Efficient Cause of the Church; apostolicity is the second efficient cause. See, for example, Fr. Ripperger, Ph.D., Sermon II, Marks of the Church.
 Van Noort qualifies the unity of worship by saying that it “is absolutely necessary to the extent that the worship was determined by Christ Himself” and the adds: “However, liturgical unity is already included in other unities: in unity of faith, since faith includes also the revealed doctrine on the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments; in unity of communion, since this involves the sharing in the same spiritual benefits. This is perhaps the reason that neither the Vatican Council nor Leo XIII in his encyclical on the unity of the Church make any specific mention of liturgical unity.” (Christ’s Church, p. 131).
 Christ’s Church, p. 131.
 As we will see later, the doctrines definitively taught by the Church are not to be confused with error professed by her members, even if those members are high-ranking prelates.
 Christ’s Church, p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 139.
 It is a matter of public record that Padre Pio, shortly before his death, sent a letter to Pope Paul VI dated September 12, 1968, in which we read, in part: “Your Holiness: Availing myself of Your Holiness’ meeting with the Capitular Fathers, I united myself in spirit with my Brothers, and in a spirit of faith, love and obedience to the greatness of Him whom you represent on earth, offer my respect homage to Your August Person, humbly kneeling at Your feet…I thank your Holiness for the clear and decisive words you have spoken in the recent encyclical ‘Humane Vitae,’ and I reaffirm my own faith and my unconditional obedience to your inspired directives. https://www.ewtn.com/library /MARY/PIO POPE.HTM (emphases added).
 For example, John Malalas (491-578), the Greek chronicler from Antioch, said: “St. Peter ordained St. Ignatius after the death of Evodius.” The Dublin Review, vol. 123 (London: Burns & Oats, July – October, 1898), p. 283.
 The Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter VIII. St. Ignatius was the second successor of St. Peter as bishop of the Church at Antioch. Now, in the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that “at Antioch the disciples were first named Christians” (Acts 11:26). Perhaps at Antioch, Christians were also first called “Catholics” (the terms being synonymous at that time, unlike today), given the use of the name “Catholic Church” by St. Ignatius in this letter.
 The Church is universal in time because it includes all the faithful who have ever lived, “from Adam to the present day, or who shall exist.” The Catechism of the Council of Trent (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1982, p. 106).
 St. Augustine, serm. 131 & 181, de temp.
 The Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. 106.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, book. 1, part 1, Thesis VI, Q. V.
 Christ’s Church, p. 144.
 It is commonly held that absolute catholicity will be attained before the Second Coming. This will likely occur during the period of peace promised by various prophets, including the Queen of Prophets, Our Lady of Fatima.
 Christ’s Church, p. 144 (italics in original; underline added).
 Ibid., pp. 146-147.
 Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), book. 1, part 1, Thesis VI, Q. V.
 Ibid., book. 1, part 1, Thesis VI.
 Van Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Fourth Edition, May 1960 (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974), p. 357.
 Garrigou-Lagrange, On Revelation as Proposed by the Catholic Church, 2nd ed, 1921, bk 2, ch 5.
 Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas Scannell, A Manual of Catholic Theology, vol. I, 3rd ed. (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benzinger Bros., 1906), pp. 45-46.
 P. Murray, De Ecclesia 2,62; L. Billot, De Ecclesia q.5 th.6 §2; Van Laak, De ecclesia tractatus dogmaticus 262s. (2) St. Bellarmine, Controv. de Ecclesia l.4 c.7; Suarez, Def. fidei l.1 c.16 n.9, and following him Mazella, De Ecclesia n.698. (3) H. Hurter, Theol. Compend. 1,309. (4) G. Wilmers, th.92 n.329. (5) J. Mendive, Instit. Theol. 1 n.141.
 Salaverri, S. J., On the Church of Christ, 3rd ed., 1955, bk 3, ch 3, art 2.
 Fr. Kramer, “Reply to Salza & Siscoe: Conclusion to Part III.”
 Bellarmine, De Ecclesia Militante, bk. III, ch. XIII.
 Fr. Kramer’s error appears to be rooted in a misunderstanding of the teaching of the Fathers, who held that during the time of antichrist, the visible Church would be forced underground (and hence hidden from the world), as it was during the first three centuries, without, however, losing its attribute of visibility. The Fathers did not teach that the “visible entity will be APOSTATE,” since if this were to happen, the gates of hell would have prevailed against her. In his book, The Pope and the Antichrist, Cardinal Manning uses the word “invisible” to refer to the Church at the time of Antichrist, but the context makes it clear that by “invisible” he means hidden from the world (in the catacombs), and not that the true Church will become detached from the “visible entity” that apostatizes. He writes: “[At the time of Antichrist] the Church shall be scattered, driven into the wilderness, and shall be for a time, as it was in the beginning, invisible, hidden in catacombs, in dens, in mountains, in lurking-places; (…) Such is the universal testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries” (Cardinal Manning, The Pope and the Antichrist, Tradibooks, Mounet Sud, France, 2007, p. 74). Clearly, the Cardinal is referring to the visible Church being forced underground as it was during the early centuries, and not to future a separation between the true Church, which becomes invisible, and the “visible entity” that apostatizes.
 See: “Fr. Kramer Cites a Fraudulent Quote to Justify His Rejection of Traditional Catholic Theology,” which includes a screen shot of the post in which Fr. Kramer cited this quotation (along with the reference) on his Facebook page. http://www.trueorfalsepope.com /p/our-replies-to-fr-paul-kramer-part-i.html.
 Collectio Selecta Ss. Ecclesiae Patrum: Complectens Exquisitissima Opera Tum Dogmatica Et Moralia, Tum Apologetica Et Oratoria, vol. XXXII (Paris: Ant. Poilleux, 1830), ed. by Armand-Benjamin Caillau and Guillou (the letter of Athanasius is on pp. 411-412). The book can be viewed online at /n7/ mode/2up.
 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) p. 551.
 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) p. 551.
 When Fr. Kramer was notified publicly on his Facebook account that the first edition of True or False Pope? exposed the fraudulent nature of this quotation, he replied by claiming that the reason the authors deny that “the Church will be reduced to a small number, and revert to the catacombs, and for a short time become invisible” is because, he said, this teaching “doesn’t agree with [their] errant belief.” When the authors of this book responded by providing him with the source document that he himself cited as the reference for the alleged quote, he had no choice but to concede that it was fraudulent. Unfortunately, this public embarrassment apparently infuriated him, causing him to launch into an internet tirade against this book and its authors, which has not yet subsided. Rather than simply accept the traditional teaching concerning moral catholicity, and abandoning his current position that the visible Church has defected and been reduced to an “invisible” remnant, Fr. Kramer instead chose to declare that the authors of this book are heretics. He proceeded to post a series of articles on the internet (and do radio interviews) that entirely misrepresented the position held by these authors – often claiming they hold positions that are explicitly refuted in this book (for example, accusing them of rejecting the “recognize and resist” position which Chapter 20 is dedicated to defending). Although Fr. Kramer was notified multiple times that he was entirely misrepresenting their position and accusing the authors of heresy for holding positions they do not hold, he refused to issue any retraction or even remove the slanderous articles from the internet. He also adamantly refused to read this book that he was publicly declaring to be heretical. We mention this unfortunate situation to provide an example of the rotten fruits that so often characterize those who embrace the Sedevacantist errors.
 Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. I, p. 648. Note that The Catholic Encyclopedia (15 volume set; 1907-1912) was released in 1913 by Encyclopedia Press, Inc. as a new edition called the Original Catholic Encyclopedia (original 15 volumes plus a new Volume 16 which is an Index). For ease of reference, we will simply refer to this resource as the “Catholic Encyclopedia (1913).”
 Christ’s Church, p. 151.
 “At one point in the Church’s history, only a few years before Gregory [Nazianzen]’s present preaching (A.D. 380), perhaps the number of Catholic bishops in possession of sees, as opposed to Arian bishops in possession of sees, was no greater than something between 1% and 3% of the total. Had doctrine been determined by popularity, today we should all be deniers of Christ and opponents of the Spirit.” Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 2 (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1979), p. 39.
 This is one of the erroneous claims of the Sedevacantists.
 Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century, 5th ed. (London: Pickerins & Co, 1883), p. 445 (emphasis added).
 De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch. 30.
 Bellarmine, De Ecclesia Militante, bk. III, ch. XVI.
 Ibid., pp. 445-446 (emphasis added).
 Billot, De Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), p. 292 (translated by John Daly). The full quotation is provided in Chapter 4.
 As we will later see in Chapters 13 and 14, the teachings of Vatican II only require a “religious observance” which is not equivalent to an assent of faith. We we will also see that religious assent is not unconditional and may be suspended under certain circumstances.
 This point will be discussed at length in Chapter 13.
 St. Basil, Second Letter to the Bishops of Italy and Gaul, taken from Newman, The Church of the Fathers, (London: Buns, Oates, and Company, 1868), pp. 76-77.
 After a lengthy historical study of case of Pope Liberius, von Hefele wrote: “We therefore conclude without doubt that Liberius, yielding to force, and sinking under many years of confinement and exile, signed the so-called third Sirmian formula, that is, the collection of older formulas of faith accepted at the third Sirmian Synold of 358. He did not do this without scruples, for the Semi-Arian character and origin of these formulas were not unknown to him.” A History of the Councils of the Church: From the Original Documents, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, Scotland: T & T Clark, 1876), p. 245.
 Newman, Arians of the 4th Century (London: Pickering and Co., 1883), p. 459.
 “Clever and underhanded as they were, the Arians forgot about the laity, who gathered around loyal priests, kept the true faith and assembled for Mass outside the cities ... The derisive term, ‘country Christians,’ given them by the Arians became a badge of honor. The faithful laity and clergy kept the faith and, in 381, the Second Ecumenical Council was convened in Constantinople, the Creed completed and Arianism again condemned.” Count Neri Capponi, “Time of Crisis; Times for Faith.” /CANONLAW/CRIFAITH.HTM.
 Ibid. (emphasis added).
 “Some Catholic apologists have attempted to prove that Liberius neither confirmed the excommunication of Athanasius nor subscribed to one of the formulae of Sirmium [sic]. But Cardinal Newman has no doubt that the fall of Liberius is an historical fact. This is also the case with the two modern works of reference just cited and the celebrated Catholic Dictionary, edited by Addis and Arnold. The last named points out that there is ‘a fourfold cord of evidence not easily broken,’ i.e., the testimonies of St. Athanasius, St. Hilary, Sozomen, and St. Jerome. It also notes that ‘all the accounts are at once independent of and consistent with each other’.” Michael Davies, Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, (Kansas City, Missouri: Angelus Press, 1999), Appendix I.
 “Inasmuch as they are the depositaries and the organs of the power of jurisdiction, the Pope and the bishops constitute the Church teaching [Ecclesia docens]; but inasmuch as they too have souls to save, minds and hearts to be dedicated to God, they are parts of the Church believing [Ecclesia discens]… They are bound, like all other Christians, under pain of endangering their eternal salvation, to accept all utterances pertaining to the divine law, even when it falls to their lot to propose them solemnly to the world for the first time: thus, not to lose his faith. (…) As to decrees resting on ecclesiastical law that they themselves have promulgated, here again the hierarchy are [morally] bound to conform.” Cardinal Journet, Church of the Word Incarnate (London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955), pp. 25-26.
 The Church of Christ, p. 80.
 “Numerically one” means one and the same moral body, even though the individuals that make up the body will continuously be replaced by others over the course of time.
 Christ’s Church, p. 154.
 Due to a potential misunderstanding regarding the term college of bishops, we should note that individual bishops possess jurisdiction over their respective dioceses alone, while the Pope possesses supreme jurisdiction over the entire Church. The former is ordered to the good of a particular church; the latter to the good of the whole Church. Now, while the Pope alone possesses universal jurisdiction over the universal Church, he can exercise this authority singularly, or jointly with the other bishops at an ecumenical council. In the later case, the bishops are invited to participate with the Pope in the exercise of his universal jurisdiction. The bishops collectively do not constitute a second supreme authority in the Church (which is the error of “collegiality”), but only participate in the authority that belongs properly to the Pope when gathered at an ecumenical council. Cardinal Journet explains that “the power to rule the universal Church resides first of all in the Sovereign Pontiff, then in the episcopal college united with the Pontiff; and it can be exercised either singly by the Sovereign Pontiff, or jointly by the Pontiff and the episcopal college: the power of the Sovereign Pontiff singly and that of the Sovereign Pontiff united with the episcopal college constituting not two powers adequately distinct, but one sole supreme power...” (Journet, Church of the Word Incarnate, p. 412).
 Christ’s Church, p. 155 (emphasis added).
 There were some individuals who questioned or rejected the Popes prior to the mid- 1970s, but the Sedevacantist sects, as such, did not exist prior to that time.
 Contrary to what some Sedevacantist apologists have claimed, apostolicity in government includes mission and authority. Van Noort: “Apostolicity of government – or mission, or authority – means the Church is always ruled by pastors who form one same juridical person with the apostles. In other words, it is always ruled by pastors who are the apostles’ legitimate successors” (Christ’s Church, p. 151).
 “Unity of government is by far the most important of the unities, because without it no other form of unity could be maintained for any length of time” (Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 47).
 Christ’s Church, p. 151 (emphasis added).
 The power to teach “is the right and the duty to set forth Christian truth with an authority to which all are held to give internal and external obedience. The power to function as priest, or to minister is the power to offer sacrifice and to sanctify people through the instrumentality of outward rights. The power to rule or govern is the power to regulate the moral condition of one’s subjects. Since this power is exercised chiefly through legislation and then through judicial sentences and penalties, it comprises legislative, juridical and coercive powers.” (Van Noort, Christ’s Church, p. 33).
 Ibid., pp. 48, 49 (emphasis added).
 For example, In Titus 1:5, St. Paul writes to Titus: “For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldest ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee.” About this verse, St. John Chrysostom says, “here he [St. Paul] is speaking of bishops” since he says “as I also appointed thee” bishop. Chrysostom, Homilies on Titus, Homily II, Titus 1:5-6, Translated by the Rev. James Tweed, M.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; re-edited by the Rev. Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. See https://www.ewtn.com/library/PATRISTC/PNI13-11.TXT.
 Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 78.
 Herrmann, Theologiæ Dogmaticæ Institutiones, vol. I (Rome: Pacis Philippi Cuggiani, 1897), n. 282 (emphasis added).
 Christ’s Church, p. 152 (emphasis in original).
 Ibid., p. 153.
 “there will always be in the Church a body of men invested with that threefold power which the apostles enjoyed. This thesis is a dogma of faith…” (Van Noort, Christ’s Church, p. 37).
 Van Ott said: “In the unbroken succession of Bishops from the Apostles the apostolic character of the Church most clearly appears.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 308).
 Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. I, p. 648 (emphasis added).
 Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, No. 42 (emphasis added). For centuries there were two general opinions regarding how a bishop receives his authority. The minority opinion held that authority was given to the bishop immediately by Christ at his ordination, and that the Pope merely designated him to a particular diocese, or perhaps fulfilled some condition required before Christ would immediately and directly grant the jurisdiction. The majority opinion held that jurisdiction comes to the bishop directly through the Pope, and only indirectly by Christ. In Mystici Corporis Christi, Pius XII gave his judgment by explicitly teaching the majority opinion, i.e., that bishops receive their jurisdiction “directly from the Supreme Pontiff.”
 Cajetan, De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, ch. XIX.
 Cf. the NCWC edition, n. 42.
 Cf. Osservatore Romano, Feb. 18, 1942.
 Cf. Institutiones iuris publici ecclesiastici, 3rd edition (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1948), I, 413.
 Cf. DB, 1500.
 Cf. Codicis iuris canonici fontes, edited by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1933), III, 489 f. The statement of Pope St. Leo I is to be found in his fourth sermon, that on the second anniversary of his elevation to the papal office.
 DB, 100.
 Cf. Ep. V.
 St. Thomas taught in his Summa contra gentiles, Lib. IV, cap. 76, that, to conserve the unity of the Church, the power of the keys must be passed on, through Peter, to the other pastors of the Church. Subsequent writers also appealed to his teaching in the Summa theologica, in IIa-IIae, q. 39, art. 3, in his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter the Lombard, IV, dist. 20, art. 4, and in his Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in cap. 16, n. 2, in support of the thesis that bishops derive their power of jurisdiction immediately from the Sovereign Pontiff.
 Cf. De Romano Pontifice, Lib. IV, chapters 24 and 25.
 Cf. Lib IV, cap. 4, in Migne’s Theologiae cursus completus (MTCC) XII, 596 ff. Suarez touches upon this matter in his treatise De Summo Pontifice in his Opus de triplici virtute theologica, De fide, tract. X, section I.
 Cf. In Lib. I, cap. 4, n. 2 ff, in MTCC, XXV, 816 ff.
 Fenton, Episcopal Jurisdiction And The Roman See, American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. CXX, Jan.-Jun. 1949.
 The Church of Christ, pp. 78-79.
 Ibid., p. 37 (italics in original; underline added). The Council of Trent, On the Sacrament of Order, Canon VI.—“If any one saith, that, in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy by divine ordination instituted, consisting of bishops, priests, and ministers; let him be anathema.”
 The translation used in the original was replaced by the Douay Rheims translation.
 Christ’s Church, pp. 37-38 (emphasis added).
 To be clear, the Teaching Body consists of the bishops who possess jurisdiction received from a Pope.
 Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas Scannell, A Manual of Catholic Theology, vol. I, 3rd ed. (New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: Benzinger Bros., 1906), pp. 45-46.
 Tranquillo, “Permanence of the Papacy, Permanence of the Church.” Originally appeared in Italian in Tradizione Cattolica, n.1, 2014 (emphasis added).
 “Counterfeit Catholicism,” disc 4 of 6, track 15.
 “…ex Christi voluntate, instituto, et speciali providentia, semper visibilem ac conspicuam esse oportet Ecclesiae continuationem inde ab apostolic” (Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), book. 1, part 1, Thesis II, Q. VI).
 Because, according to the Sedevacantist thesis, the vacancies of the episcopal sees are lasting for generations and exceeding the average human lifespan, Sedevacantists are scrambling for new theories to buy more time. To give themselves more time beyond the death of Pius XII in 1958 to have valid bishops, we have seen that some Sedevacantists have begun to move the bar by suggesting that John XXIII may have been a valid Pope after all (since he didn’t ratify Vatican II) and thus his episcopal appointments, through 1963, remained valid. Similarly, some Sedevacantists have suggested that Paul VI was a valid Pope until he ratified Vatican II at the end of 1965, and thus his episcopal appointments prior to that were valid. Of course, these arguments fail to account for the indefectibility of the visible social unit, which is the Church. And the longer the current crisis goes on, the more improbable, nay, ridiculous, the “Bishop in the Woods” theory becomes.
 Lane’s comments are taken from his website at http://www.sedevacantist.com/ viewtopic.php?f=2&t=429 (emphasis added).
 “Shifting the burden of proof is a kind of logical fallacy in argumentation whereby the person who would ordinarily have the burden of proof in an argument attempts to switch that burden to the other person, e.g.: If you don’t think that the Invisible Pink Unicorn exists, then prove it!” See http://wiki.ironchariots.org/ index.php?title =Shifting_the_ burden_of_proof.
 Even if there did exist a Pius XII bishop or two in the woods with ordinary jurisdiction, this Sedevacantist “solution” would still constitute a violation of the Church’s indefectibility (since it maintains that the visible hierarchy fell away, causing the visible Church to morph into a New Church) and moral Catholicity (the Church can never be reduced to a small number of members), as we have seen.
 Fr. Cekada is fond of appealing to “divine law” to support his pet theories. As we will see in Chapter 5 and beyond, he also erroneously believes that a heretic loses his office for the sin of heresy under “divine law,” without the authorities of the Church being involved in the process.
 Fr. Cekada’s comments are taken from http://sedevacantist.com/viewtopic.php?f =2&t=1468.
 Fr. Cekada is being inconsistent in his own treatment of the power of orders and jurisdiction. As we will see in Chapter 18, Fr. Cekada claims that the form in the new rite of episcopal consecration is invalid because it does not univocally signify the grace of orders, only jurisdiction. But here he argues that the power of orders subsumes the power of jurisdiction as a matter of Divine law and the apostolic mission of Christ, at least during this time of crisis.
 The context of this statement concerned the validity of the “Thuc Consecrations” – that is, those performed by Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. Here is the entire quotation: “These officials enjoyed a legal power called ordinary jurisdiction — authority, deriving ultimately from the pope … Where does this leave the fact of the Thuc consecrations? In the same place it leaves my ordination, the Lefebvre consecrations and all sacraments traditional Catholic clergy confer: in a sort of legal limbo. Since no one in the traditional movement possesses ordinary jurisdiction, no one has the power to rule on the legal evidence that a particular sacrament was performed and then establish it as a fact before church law. That’s a function of church officials who have received their authority from a pope. (Fr. Anthony Cekada, “The Validity of the Thuc Consecrations,” Sacerdotium 3, Spring 1992).
 Church law teaches that in cases of necessity, clergy who do not possess faculties (i.e., ordinary jurisdiction delegated by a bishop), can still validly administer the sacraments that require jurisdiction (hearing confessions, witnessing Holy Matrimony). This is known as supplied jurisdiction, or ecclesia supplet (“the Church provides”). Supplied jurisdiction (foreseen in canon law), is based upon the highest law of the Church, which is the salvation of souls (Canon 1752, from the 1983 Code of Canon Law). If there are no priests available, or none who can be trusted (which, unfortunately, is often the case in today’s crisis), the faithful are permitted to approach traditional Catholic priests to receive the sacraments, even if these priests lack faculties (ordinary jurisdiction). According to canon law, these priests may validly administer the sacraments, not only in matters of grave necessity (e.g., a person is in danger of death), but even when the faithful request the sacraments from them for any just cause (avoiding Modernist priests who are leading souls into error and endangering their eternal salvation, is certainly a most just, and even necessary, cause). For example, in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 2261, §2 permits the faithful to even approach an excommunicated priest in time of necessity. It says that “… the faithful may for any just cause ask the sacraments or sacramentals of one who is excommunicated, especially if there is no one else to give them…” Many other canons in both the old and new Code recognize supplied jurisdiction in various circumstances, such as canons 207, 209, 882 and 2252 (1917 Code) and canons 144, 976 and 1357 (1983 Code).
 Fr. Tranquillo: “If ordinary jurisdiction were to disappear completely from the individuals living upon this earth … then jurisdiction delegated in extraordinary fashion would also no longer exist, because it is delegated by someone, in the terms of the law, and not by the ‘Church,’ as understood in the abstract. Certainly Canon Law makes use of the expression supplet Ecclesia, but theologically and metaphysically jurisdiction resides in men who have received it from the Pope (or from Christ, in the case of the Pope alone). It is not floating around in the air waiting for someone to grab it. … Now, if not only the Pope but also all of the local Bishops are missing, we must ask from whom a priest could receive jurisdiction, even if just to hear the confession of a dying person. The problem is thus not knowing if, in certain situations, the power can be delegated under extraordinary forms (this is completely beyond dispute), but by whom. If someone answers that one can receive it directly from Jesus Christ, he must know that, by doing so, he is creating an exception to the principle whereby all jurisdiction on this earth comes from the Pope, the only one who receives the power from Christ Himself.” (Tranquillo, “Permanence of the Papacy, Permanence of the Church.” Translated into French for the June 2014 issue of Courrier de Rome. Translated from French to English by Fr. Paul Robinson.)
 Even under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, schismatics incur latae sententiae excommunication (1364, §1), and excommunicated persons are forbidden from celebrating or receiving the sacraments (1331, §1, º2). We would make a distinction, however, in light of the “Five Stages” discussed in the Preface. Due to the confusion in the Church, and caused by the Sedevacantist apologists, one who questioned or even denied the legitimacy of the Pope in his heart, yet did not seek to defend his opinion, would likely not be guilty of the sin of schism, as would those in the Fourth and Fifth stages.
 Pope Boniface VIII: “With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation, nor remission of sin...” (Denz., 468).
 This is the title of a talk and CD set sold by Mr. Matatics. In his talk, Matatics claims that if one holds that a person can be saved in the post-Vatican II Church, then there is no true state of necessity, and therefore they cannot argue that the S.S.P.X. bishops and priests have supplied jurisdiction. This is another example of how Sedevacantists overgeneralize their argumentation. Matatics fails to distinguish between absolute and relative necessity. While it is not absolutely necessary to approach traditional priests for salvation, one may certainly argue it is a relative necessity in the current crisis, due to the danger of attending Mass at the average Novus Ordo parish. During the Arian crisis, it was certainly possible to save one’s soul by attending the Mass of a priest infected with the heresy, but it was dangerous to do so since the faithful usually end by believing what their priest teaches. For this reason, the faithful avoided the local churches and assembled in the desert, receiving the sacraments from Athanasius, an “excommunicated” priest who was apparently in schism (without ordinary jurisdiction). The statistics today show that a majority of Novus Ordo priests, and the vast majority of those who attend Novus Ordo parishes, reject the Church’s moral teaching (e.g., birth control) and her doctrinal teaching (e.g., the true presence; the Catholic Church is the only true Church, etc.). The fact that only a small percentage of Catholics in the Novus Ordo still believe all that the Church teaches is proof that a state of necessity exists, even if it is only a relative necessity.
 Matatics, “Home (but not alone)” August 15, 2015 (Parenthetical comments removed and emphasis added). http://www.gerrymatatics.org/20150815.html.
 C.D. “Counterfiet Catholicism” (2007), disc 1, track 3.
 It should also be pointed out that if Pius XII were the last true Pope, then the Church has no way of electing a Pope according to its current legislation. Why? Because according to the laws for electing a Pope, which were established by Pius XII in 1945: “The right of electing the Roman Pontiff pertains solely and exclusively to the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church” (Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, No. 32). But all the Cardinals appointed by Pius XII are dead. If all the Popes after Pius XII were antipopes, it means the “Cardinals” they appointed are not true Cardinals, and therefore cannot legally elect a Pope. Ironically, Sedevacantists will appeal to Cajetan, who teaches that the Church can provide the means to elect a Pope if it is impossible to follow the laws of election (e.g., no Cardinal-electors). Yet, Cajetan also explicitly held that a heretical Pope does not lose his office until he is deposed by the Church. This is another example of how Sedevacantists “sift” the teachings of theologians, to find something that appears to support their thesis, just like they “sift” the Popes.
 Bellarmine, On the Church Militant, bk. 3, ch. XVI.
 ”Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” disc 4 of 6.
 See, for example, Num. 14:30,38; 26:65; 32:12. Matatics also refers to the Fall of Adam and Eve as a type of the Church in the end times, when there was, in his words, “100 percent apostasy.”
 When Matatics addresses the salvation of the Elect (on disc 6 of 6), he accuses Archbishop Lefevbre of being “grossly liberal” in his interpretation of the dogma “No Salvation Outside the Church” because the Archbishop said people of false religions can be saved in their false religions but not by their false religions. Matatics even says that Lefebvre “may have been a heretic” for holding that position. And yet Matatics himself, in the very same talk, admits that a Catholic can be saved in the Novus Ordo Church, which he repeatedly claims is a false Church and a false religion. Thus, by his own standards (and yet another example of inconsistency and duplicity), Matatics is also “grossly liberal” in his interpretation of “No Salvation Outside the Church” and “may even be a heretic” for holding his position.
 See: Pope St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job.
 Gerry Matatics, “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” disc 3 of 6, tracks 13-14.
 Gerry Matatics, “Counterfeit Catholicism vs. Consistent Catholicism,” disc 3 of 6, track 14.
 Note that some of the verses cited by Mr. Matatics are not referring to the state of the Church in our day, but rather during the final apostasy that immediately precedes the Second Coming, at the end of time. We see this in Jesus’ own words, when, for example, in His reference to the Flood and the lack of faith on Earth, He explicitly refers to His Second Coming: “when he cometh” (Lk. 18:8), and “the coming of the Son of man” (Mt. 24:37).
 For a thorough yet easy-to-read treatment of Fatima, see John Salza’s A Catechism of Fatima – And the Related Crisis in the Church (2015), available at http://.
 Some prophets have even predicted that this will be a long period of peace, where a great Catholic king will reign and thwart the Church’s enemies (St. Cataldus of the fifth century; Monk Adso of the tenth century; Abbot Joachim Merlin of the thirteenth century; Monk Hilarion of the fifteenth century; Telesphorus of Cozensa of the sixteenth century; Venerable Holzhauser of the seventeenth century; David Poreaus of the seventeenth century; Brother Louis Rocco of the nineteenth century; and Melanie Calvat at La Salette in the nineteenth century, among others). See Yves Dupont, Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1970, 1973).
 It is likely that, during this time, the persecution of the Church will lead her to go “underground.” At this time, it would seem that Rome will become an enemy of the Church and be the seat of the antichrist as Our Lady revealed at La Salette. St. Paul says this final apostasy or “revolt” happens when “the man of sin [antichrist] is revealed, “who will “sitteth in the temple of God [the Church], shewing himself as if he were God” [an antipope] (2Thess 2:3-4). At this time, the true Pope is “taken out of the way,” presumably by martyrdom (v.7). Just as the Church was persecuted by the Romans and went underground at her very beginning, so she will suffer the same at the end of time, but then at the hands of the antichrist. Fr. Berry says: “Those shall be days of great persecution in which the Church will suffer all the horrors of the early ages…” Fr. E. Sylvester Berry, The Apocalypse of St. John (Columbus, Ohio: John W. Winterich, 1921), p. 126.
 Ibid., p. 120.
 Ibid., p. 128.
 Our Lord Himself seems to reveal the sequence of events in the Gospel of St. Matthew. He first describes the period of time in which we are currently living (the “beginning of sorrows”), which is during the internal subversion of the Church and the looming chastisements that await us if Russia is not timely consecrated: “And you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in places: Now all these are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mt. 24:6-8). Then Our Lord goes on to say: “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations [the period of peace], and then shall the consummation come” [the final apostasy and reign of antichrist] (Mt. 24:13-14).
 The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 124.
 For example, John of Vatiguerro (thirteenth century); John of the Cleft Rock (fourteenth century); a Capuchin Friar (eighteenth century); the Ecstatic of Tours (nineteenth century); Bl. Anna-Maria Taigi (nineteenth century); and St. Pius X (twentieth century), among others.