Last month I received an interesting email asking about a quote from St. Catherine of Siena and how to reconcile it with sedevacantism. Here’s the quote:
“Even if the Pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom. He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death, for that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope. I know very well that many defend themselves by boasting: “They are so corrupt, and work all manner of evil!” But God has commanded that, even if the priests, the pastors, and Christ-on-earth were incarnate devils, we be obedient and subject to them, not for their sakes, but for the sake of God, and out of obedience to Him.”
— Saint Catherine of Siena in St. Catherine of Siena, SCS, p. 201-202, p. 222.
St. Catherine is simply using hyperbole to emphasize a point. Popes, bishops, and priests may be wicked but that doesn’t necessarily make them non-popes/bishops/priests.
Notice that St. Catherine is referring to a pope, not an antipope. By Divine and Church law, heretics/apostates can’t be popes at all. Therefore, St. Catherine wasn’t referring to the oxymoron heretical pope.
Our position is that popes must be Catholic to be popes. Their holiness or wickedness has no bearing on the question as far as we’re concerned today. Therefore, St. Catherine’s statement has no bearing on sedevacantism except that her statement supports our position against the SSPX, which advocates disobeying popes.
That being said, St. Catherine’s contemporary, St. Vincent Ferrer gives us the historic precedent. I wrote about it here: The Sedevacantist Saint Vincent Ferrer
Keep in mind that the second mark of the Catholic Church is holiness. It’s an article of Faith that the Church is holy. That would include all of its teachings, laws, and practices. If a single teaching, law, or practice were not holy, then you know it’s not the Catholic Church.
So while a pope may be unholy, he could never promulgate an unholy teaching, law, or practice for the universal Church. Yet, the popes of Vatican 2 have already promulgated things the Church has condemned as unholy, such as a harmful liturgy. Benedict XVI even admitted in his autobiography that the new mass “provoked extremely serious damage to the Church” which is impossible for the true Church, especially in light of Pope Pius XII’s teaching that the liturgy is an untainted source. Altar girls have been condemned repeatedly, but John Paul II has approved them by canon law. Read here: Altar Girls are Impossible for the True Catholic Church
The Vatican 2 popes have promulgated several heresies and condemned practices, such as: the heresy of a formally divided Church of Christ, communicatio in sacris with non-Catholics, a civil right to religious liberty, Divine Revelation was completed at the Crucifixion, the Jews are not presented in Scripture as rejected or accursed, deficiencies in the formulation of Church teaching should be put right, etc. I could provide other things, but these suffice.
Either sedevacantism is true or the gates of hell have prevailed. Take your pick.
If St. Catherine of Siena lived today, she would be appalled to think any Catholic could believe that Francis I is pope. She would say the Devil is more qualified.
I’m posting this question and answer for others out there who’ve hesitated to embrace the fact that Francis isn’t pope based on St. Catherine’s quote.