(Taken from my book “The Greatest Conspiracy Ever.)
The single most common argument used by Vatican 2 Catholics against sedevacantism is, “it is impossible to go 50 plus years without a pope because Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.” The typical Novus Ordo Catholic will accept this argument without any thought as to how anyone calling himself a Catholic could hold to sedevacantism.
One would think that sedevacantists must have thought about this before coming to this conclusion, right? Why on earth would sedevacantists not believe in Christ’s promise?
This argument is used in three ways:
a. The Church failed by the Vatican I declaration of perpetual successors. See also objection number 7.
b. The Church failed by not having a visible church with a visible head and apostolic authority. See also objection number 26.
c. True popes taught heresy and are heretics therefore the gates of hell prevailed because error is now in, through, and part of the Church.
However, this argument is a misunderstanding of Vatican I, the nature of the Church, and specifically indefectibility.
What are the gates of hell?
Pope Vigilius at the Second Council of Constantinople, in 553 called “the tongues of heretics” the “gates of hell.” Pope St. Leo IX, In terra pax hominibus, Sept. 2, 1053, said to Michael Cerularius that “the gates of Hell” are the “disputations of heretics.”
Based on Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail, Popes Vigilius and St. Leo statements imply that heretics and their heresies will never overcome the Church. The Church will always exist without error.
The very Scripture verse of Christ’s promise, used as the most common argument against sedevacantism, is precisely the verse on which sedevacantism rests.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church had to go underground because the last 5 claimants to the papacy have been those heretics with death-dealing tongues as they have led astray many of the faithful with their heresies and acts of apostasy.
The gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church but it has prevailed against particular churches such as Rome today as it did with England in the 16th century.
Rome is not “the” Church as the Vatican 2 Catholics would like to have us believe. It is only one part of the Church. No doubt, the pope is the head of the Church on earth, but Christ is always the Head of the Church. Every time a pope dies, the visible head is absent but Christ (the invisible Head) remains.
If the papacy could be filled with a death-dealing tongue of a heretic, then the head of the church would be counted along with the devil, the father of lies.
This is impossible since Christ with the pope is the Head of the Church. Christ is not in union with the devil, but a heretic is. Therefore, the pope cannot be a heretic nor formally teach heresy. This is what Christ meant when He said the gates of hell will not prevail.
Pope Leo XIII called the Roman Pontiffs “the Gates of the Church” in his 1894 encyclical letter Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae.
Therefore, the gates of the Church cannot be one and the same as the gates of hell.
By claiming that popes can be formal heretics, Vatican 2 apologists are actually claiming the Gates of Hell have indeed prevailed without realizing it. This also means they are calling Christ a liar and worse, they are saying this is the law of the Church given by the Holy Ghost.
Cardinal Manning of Rome said in 1861 that it is the universal testimony of the Church fathers that Rome will lose the faith in the end. He was speaking about the Great Apostasy, and we sedevacantists are following this universal testimony. If we sedevacantists don’t believe in Christ’s promise then neither did all the Church fathers. However, they knew what Christ meant when He said the gates of hell would not prevail.
As long as one person holds the faith, the church exists in that one person.
We know that the Church does not exist for the sake of the papacy or the rest of the hierarchy, but rather, it is the hierarchy that exists for the sake of the Church.
We have seen in history Catholics living for centuries without any hierarchy. Japan is a prime example. The Church can and will survive till the very end. This is the promise.
The Great Apostasy foretold in Scripture will surely be disastrous, and it happens around the time of the final antichrist just before the Second Coming.
Christ said, “I tell you that he will avenge them quickly. Yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the earth?”
We know He was using hyperbole, but He was clearly emphasizing that it will be so bad that very few will actually profess the true faith. Christ never promised a pope in every generation. When He built the Church on Peter, it was on him and his faith, not necessarily his office. The Church has never stated otherwise. All of Peter’s successors must be in union with Christ, Peter, and Peter’s Faith to be part of the Church.
There have been over 40 antipopes in history, and never were Catholics expected to be union with them just because these men claimed to be popes. Catholics had to make a judgment call whether or not these men were true popes or not. Some made the right call, some didn’t.
St. Vincent Ferrer made the wrong call if Benedict XIII were not a true pope. He even declared the papacy vacant because things were so confusing, it didn’t matter whether there was a true pope or not.
Today, it is not as confusing as in St. Vincent’s time. Never before in history has it been clearer than now. The last 5 claimants to the papacy are not true popes because of their extreme modernism and anti-Catholic practices.
They reject over 5 dogmas found right in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Benedict XVI has even criticized the Creed, but that should not come to any surprise since he doesn’t believe it, as it has historically been understood. Being an extreme modernist, he, like his 4 predecessors, understands the Creed precisely as the Protestants who profess the same Creed.
Anyway, the point is made that Christ’s promise is the reason for sedevacantism, not the proof against it.
I suspect there is two reasons psuedo-catholics keep using this straw-man argument.
The first reason is the belief in the nonexistent dogma that there must always be a pope in every generation.
Just like the nonexistent Scripture teaching that the Scriptures alone are the sole authority for Christians, the psuedo-catholic rejects the historic Catholic Faith by ignoring clear and unambiguous papal teachings on what constitutes Catholicism and the gates of hell.
Just as the Protestant will, in vain, give his personal interpretation of this and that Bible verse to demonstrate why Sola Scriptura is biblical, the psuedo-Catholic will, in vain, give his personal interpretation of this or that council and canon law to demonstrate how a papal interregnum cannot last more than a generation.
In the end, it always comes back to Christ’s promise.
The second reason is the good-ole-fashion bearing false witness against thy neighbor, because of the intense hatred of us Catholics who hold fast to the Catholic Faith.
Notice how Vatican 2 “Catholics” are so very kind, considerate and understanding with the Muslims, Jews, and Protestants, but when it comes to traditional Catholics, watch-out!
Those Vatican 2 “Catholics” are not so kind, considerate and understanding. They get downright nasty and look downward on the traditionalists.
It is not hard to figure out. After all, holding fast to Catholic Tradition means being more orthodox and conservative than those who like to call themselves “the orthodox and conservative Catholics” accepting every modernist novelty that comes down from Rome.
My opinion is envy and sloth is the root cause of this hatred. Envy because their lack in holiness compared to sedevacantists. For instance, the traditional Roman Mass is infinitely more beautiful than the Protestant look-alike novus ordo mass.
Also, sedevacantists follow the much more stricter 1917 Code of Law, with over 50 days of fasting throughout the year compared to 2 days in the Vatican 2 Novus Ordo Church. This is where the sloth comes in because the suffering that comes with changing to a much holier religion. Not to mention, there are very long travels for mass and the loss of family or friends comes with holding fast to traditional Catholicism.
We sedevacantists are just viewed as weird or loony because we are so completely counter-cultural.
Lastly, it would appear, contrary to their claim, psuedo-catholics don’t really believe in a Great Apostasy, antichrist, and Christ’s return.
Whenever that time should happen, there surely will be men warning the faithful about the antichrist and the Great Apostasy, as we sedevacantists are doing now and being ridiculed and persecuted for it.
However, pseudo-Catholics will keep disregarding the warning for it means the Second Coming would be imminent. The psuedo-catholic will take the Bible out of context and say, “no one knows the day or hour.”
The problem with this position is how can anyone be told and warned about the appearance of antichrist or the Great Apostasy? The psuedo-catholic position is illogical.
Sedevacantists don’t claim to know the hour or day of Christ’s return, but we do know that it must be imminent because we are now in that period of the Great Apostasy. We also know that whatever antichrist is reigning at the time of the Second Coming will be the one.
Right now, the current claimant to the papacy fulfills the prophecy of the final antichrist whether or not he is actually the one.
If not he, perhaps the next imposter pope will be the one.
Why would any Catholic think the antichrist would pose as a pope? It is precisely because the antichrist would need to deceive Catholics, since non-Catholics are already deceived in erroneous beliefs. Holy Scripture also seems to point in that direction.
II Thessalonians 1:3-4, “Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Some have argued that the temple of God will be the old Jewish temple rebuilt, but a Jewish temple that rejects Christ would not be the temple of God.
The Church Christ founded would fit as the temple of God and the head of that temple would be that of the papacy.