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The argument against sedevacantism about Papal law on the election of a pope is a straw-man and invalid.

The argument in a nutshell states that the law of Pope Pius XII requires that only cardinals can elect the pope. Since sedevacantism holds that the cardinal elect is extinct, then there can be no future papal election thus Vatican One’s declaration of perpetual successors fails. Therefore, the cardinal elect cannot become extinct.

Vatican 1 Canon stated: “if anyone then says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord Himself, or by Divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church . . . let him be anathema.”

Cardinal Billot stated: “When it would be necessary to proceed with the election, if it is impossible to follow the regulations of papal law, as was the case during the Great Western Schism, one can accept, without difficulty, that the power of election could be transferred to a General Council…Because natural law prescribes that, in such cases, the power of a superior is passed to the immediate inferior because this is absolutely necessary for the survival of the society and to avoid the tribulations of extreme need.” De Ecclesia Christi, Billot

His statement must be accepted for all time because no Church law or the inability to follow the law under normal circumstances can prohibit this Divine right.

It is by Divine right that Peter has perpetual successors even if the laws of the Church under normal conditions can’t be applied.

The rule of Pius XII will always apply unless a future pope overturns it, or if it can’t be applied.

The pope would elect new cardinals if they became extinct, but if they became extinct during an interregnum, then what?

Imagine if for some reason a pope suddenly died, and during the conclave, a Muslim terrorist bombed the Sistine Chapel and killed all the cardinals. Does this mean we can’t have a future pope since only cardinals can elect one? No, because Church law would only apply when there are cardinals. If they became extinct, then by Divine law, the rest of the Church, be that of bishops, priests, lay, etc. could still elect a future pope since as the Dogma of Vatican 1 says, it is by Divine right that Peter has successors. This Divine law of God would supply the rule of an election of a pope by non-cardinals in the extreme circumstances. To deny this is to deny the Dogma.

Rev. Brian Harrison, and even Patrick Madrid teach that it would be impossible for a terrorist to annihilate the cardinal elect. That such an event would make the Gates of Hell prevail. Where do they get this teaching? Low and behold, they base it on the law of Pius XII that only cardinals can elect a pope, thus they actually create a new doctrine and deny the dogma.

Pope Pius XII never intended for his law to be binding in the absolute sense under all conditions.

Anti-sedevacanters are looking for an argument against sedevacantism so that they don’t have to defend the apostasies of their popes.

Their hope is that if you can debunk sedevacantism with an argument that cardinals can’t become extinct, their position is automatically correct.

If you can really debunk sedevacantism, I submit that you can really debunk Christianity.


Steven Speray
All Saints Day, 2010

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