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THE FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE TO JOHN SALZA’S WEBSITE AGAINST SEDEVACANTISM
7. What are we to think of the “Sedevacantists”?
J. Salza: Rich, “sedevacantists” should change their name to “capitavacantists” (empty heads) because their heads must be empty to argue that we have no pope. I don’t mean to denigrate these people, and I acknowledge that many of them are very intelligent. But I completely reject their position. They have overreacted to the crisis in the Church in a way that is Protestant, not Catholic. This is how I approach the subject.
Speray: That’s funny. Empty heads is how we call Vatican 2 supporters. Anyway, overreacting like a Protestant is ridiculous. There is no overreacting and not recognizing non-catholics as popes is totally Catholic.
J. Salza First, it was in connection with the appointment of Peter over the Church that Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail against her (Mt 16:18). Thus, if there is no Peter, there is no Church, and the gates of hell have prevailed. If the sedevacantists are right (that we have no pope and we don’t know where the next pope will come from), then this makes the Savior’s promise a lie and Christianity a false religion.
Speray: By this ridiculous accusation, the Church stopped existing each time a pope dies and the gates of hell prevailed. What is a lie, is the Vatican 2 Church is the Catholic Church which is assumed by Salza. All that is being done by Catholic sedevacantists is recognizing what is and isn’t the Catholic Church.
J. Salza Second, the First Vatican Council infallibly teaches that the Church endures always because Peter has “perpetual successors.” The Council makes it clear that the Church’s perpetuity exists, not because of the office of Peter, but because of the person of Peter, for the office would mean little without the person. Anyone who denies this teaching is anathema. Again, if the Sedevacantists argue that there is no person in Peter’s office, then the Church no longer exists because her perpetuity depends upon Peter’s successors. Such a position is anathema.
Speray: Sorry, but Salza misrepresents Catholicism here. The First Vatican Council does not say that the Church exists because there is a pope which is what Salza implies. If one were to follow Salza’s argument. The Church stopped existing when Peter died.
J. Salza Sedevacantists rebut by saying we can have a gap in papal successors because we have gaps (interregnums) in papal successors after a pope dies. But don’t you think Vatican I took this into account when it taught that there must be perpetual successors to Peter’s chair? Don’t you think the council knew about interregnums? Of course it did. The First Vatican Council has already dealt with the issue of Sedevacantism by infallibly declaring that Peter would always have perpetual successors, notwithstanding required interregnums after the death of a pope. Sedevacantists deny that the Church has perpetual successors because they claim we haven’t had a pope in 48 years and don’t know where the next pope is coming from.
Speray: As a matter of fact, the Church once went three and half years without a pope, and following Salza reasoning the Church no longer existed those long three and half years. The Church didn’t know then where the next pope was coming from, but the Church doesn’t need to know when, where or how the next pope is coming from. There is no Church teaching that says we must know. The Great Schism the Church couldn’t even tell who the true pope was for over 40 years. Again, who is the one with the empty head? Salza!
J. Salza No one is denying that a pope can lose his office if he becomes a formal heretic. Robert Bellarmine, a doctor of the Church, taught that a pope would lose his seat if he were to deny or doubt an article of divine and Catholic faith and obstinately persist in his belief. I am not aware of any reputable theologian who denies Bellarmine’s teaching. Note that the pope must not only deny Catholic truth, but he must also do it knowingly and pertinaciously. In other words, he must be confronted about his heretical beliefs still persist in his error. This means that the pope must be a formal (not just a material) heretic.
Speray: This is correct but this doesn’t apply since Roncalli through Ratzinger were heretics and or Masons before their respective elections. They never lost the papacy since they never had it.
J. Salza The issue is not whether a pope can lose his office for formal heresy; he can. The issue is how do we determine when the pope loses his office for formal heresy. How do we determine when this happens? This is the sole issue on the question of Sedevacantism.
Speray: Presuming Ratzinger was a true pope (even though he never was), then why not follow the rest of what St Bellarmine stated in the very document since he was referred as being correct here? St Bellarmine said any Catholic can make that determination.
J. Salza The Sedevacantists would have us believe that this determination can be made in an unofficial, informal capacity by a .00001 percent of the Catholic population in factious, grass roots efforts made up primarily of lay people. Not only is this illogical, but no where in the Church’s 2,000 year history is there any precedent for such a position.
Speray: Actually this is not correct. There have been antipopes before and the regular Catholic had to make that determination. It is true that never before has anything been like today, but that doesn’t make it an illogical position. Catholics must be able to recognize who and who is not a Catholic. What is illogical is to say that Catholics must accept men as true popes who don’t accept basic Catholic Doctrines and worship with pagans. What is worse, Salza is saying that a pope may actually be a heretic and ipso facto lose his office but the average Catholic must accept him as a true pope even though he is not. This is also illogical.
J. Salza Instead, the Church has indicated that such a determination would have to be made in a formal, official capacity such as the invocation of an ecumenical council. This is the teaching of Sts. Anthony of Florence and Alphonsus Liguori, the latter being a doctor of the Church. In fact, this has been the practice of the Church when investigating the heresy of a pope.
Speray: Again, the same rule applies. A council or something may be needed if the crime is uncertain. St Alphonsus Liguori also said a pope ipso facto loses his office by heresy, and never did he imply that such a person must be recognized as a pope until declared by a council or something.
J. Salza For example, when Pope John XXII in 1331 taught in a series of sermons that the holy souls do not see God until the Last Judgment, Cardinal Orsini called for a general council to declare the pope a heretic. As a result, the pope stated that he had not intended to bind the Church to his teaching and retracted his error the day before he died.
Speray: This misrepresents the facts on the issue, but to cut short my reply, John XXII didn’t reject any doctrine yet. The teaching came after the death of John. Popes can err in the realm of opinions and this is a clear case of such a thing. This is nothing compared to John Paul II rejecting that just men before Christ actually went to a place we call limbo of the just or hell. John Paul II said this statement in the Creed is a metaphor and even said that we all will descend into hell when we die. Benedict rejects the Resurrection of the body and says it is the whole person that is resurrected. This is major stuff.
J. Salza Similarly, when Pope Honorius (625-638) in an informal letter approved Sergius’ formula that Christ had one will, the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) posthumously condemned Honorius and Sergius for heresy. Pope Leo II affirmed the council’s condemnation (Honorius’ teaching was unofficial and thus did not invoke the Church’s charism of infallibility).
Speray: Again, Honorius was nothing like the position of today.
J. Salza These two examples demonstrate that when a pope is suspected of heresy (which could cause him to lose his office), the determination of whether the pope is in fact a heretic must be done in a formal and official capacity, presumably through a general council. Moreover, even though Honorius was condemned by a pope and an ecumenical council, he was never declared to be an anti-pope! Honorious was still considered the pope!
Speray: Suspect of heresy is nothing compared to absolutely knowing for sure. It doesn’t need to be done in some formal and official capacity when it is so clear and manifest as with Ratzinger. As for Honorius, he was not considered a pope after his heresy! The fact that he was at best doubtful afterwards, means he must be considered an antipope. So Honorius proves sedevacantism not disprove it. [Note: I received a phone call asking if I hold Honorius as an antipope because Salza recently wrote that I did. I do not hold that Honorius was an antipope but I do hold that he might have been and that possibility must be considered. In my poor grammar, the above statement makes it appear that he must be held as an antipope. In my book Papal Anomalies, I’m very clear that Honorius MIGHT have been an antipope after the so-called heresy, but leave the question open. The fact is Honorius was no heretic even though a later pope said he was. Because he was pope before his so-called heresy, he would still be held as a pope in history. Pope St. Agatho believed Honorius became a heretic, which means he believed Honorius lost his pontificate. Honorius technically didn’t reject any dogma since it was defined until after his death. However, it doesn’t matter. Catholics are free to believe what they want about Honorius. We have popes that the Church is still unsure of. Honorius has no bearing on the issue since the Vatican 2 popes have publicly and repeatedly rejected Catholic doctrine and Divine law. It’s a totally different issue. ]
J. Salza There is nothing in the Church’s tradition that says the determination of whether a pope is in heresy can be made by the public opinion of .00001 percent of the Catholic population, made up mostly of lay people who have no formal role within the Church’s official, ecclesiastical structure. Further, even where a pope is condemned for heresy (like Honorius) by a general council, the heresy must be formal (i.e., knowingly denying an article of Catholic faith) for the pope to lose his office. Such a situation, while possible, is quite unimaginable. Even Martin Luther, the psychotic alcoholic who called the Vicar of Christ an “ass-head,” was given a chance to explain himself before the Church condemned him. Shouldn’t the Holy Father get the same due process?
Speray: Lay people know the Creed and going against it constitutes formal heresy for a theologian since he knows better. Martin Luther didn’t need to be condemned. It was done for another purpose. To expose him in public. However, he was not a Catholic and guess what? Cardinal Cajetan called him a “formal” heretic long before the declaration. Since there is no Holy Father the question doesn’t apply. However, even if there were a true pope and did and said the things as Ratzinger, he would not need to be declared as one who lost his office.
J. Salza Sedevacantists rebut by saying that an official determination cannot be made since all (or most of) the Cardinals and bishops are imposters. This, of course, begs the question. Who made that determination? And if that were really true, then they dig themselves an even deeper hole. Not only are there no perpetual successors to the chair of Peter, there are no cardinals available to elect a new successor! This means that there is no more Catholic Church and the gates of hell have prevailed.
Speray: Theologians after Vatican I have said that in extraordinary conditions, if there are no cardinals, the bishops could vote in a pope. This argument of Salza doesn’t apply. The gates of hell have prevailed if heretics like Roncalli through Ratzinger are true popes.
J. Salza We should also point out the difference between judging the pope and resisting him. In the Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus (1559), Pope Paul IV declared that the pope is “judged by none in this world,” but “may nonetheless be contradicted (resisted) if he be found to have deviated from the faith.” Thus, there is a distinction between judging or deposing a pope, and resisting a pope. The esteemed 16th century theologian Francisco Suarez even taught that a pope could be a schismatic and hence resisted, but would still retain his office as successor to Peter. Indeed, there must be an official determination of formal heresy by the Church hierarchy before a pope can be deposed and lose his office.
Speray: It’s hard to believe Salza uses this argument. Pope Paul IV declared in his Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus that even if all the cardinals and the whole world recognizes a heretic as a true pope that you the informed Catholic must reject such a person as a true pope. Pope Paul IV gives the sedevacantists the best reason to be sedevacantists. Read the document and find out how Salza completely misrepresents it. As for Suarez, Salza doesn’t give you everything that he says. As for a an official determination, there is one, it comes from Pope Paul IV in the Bull cited, but Salza doesn’t want to accept it.
J. Salza In short, the Sedevacantist thesis rests entirely upon the private judgment of its own adherents. Sedevacantism is, in fact, nothing more that Protestantism by professing Catholics – a hodge-podge of private opinions by splintering factions without any internal controls. This is why various branches of sedevacantism have already elected about 20 different popes throughout the world! They are sure that we don’t have a true pope, but they cannot even agree on who the real pope is!
Speray: This is so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe he would make such a stupid statement. There are many antipopes for sure, and people believe them to be true just like those who accept Ratzinger. There is no real pope precisely because all of them were invalidly elected. This argument by Salza could be used by anybody. I could say Salza uses his private judgment that Ratzinger is pope. After all, everybody we’ve accepted as true popes thoughout the years is by private judgment. Sure, someone elected them, but we must ultimately accept them by our own judgment. True popes come from valid elections. If you follow Salza’s argument, the Church would have been obligated to follow several antipopes in history such as Anacletus II. He was an antipope and most of the cardinals recognized him. Benedict X was an antipope and reigned for 9 months. Follow Salza’s argument and you are expected to follow these antipopes, since you’re not allowed to follow your own private judgment that an antipope is an antipope.
J. Salza All this, of course, puts the cart before the horse. That is because the Sedevacantists have not proven that John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II or Benedict XVI have become formal heretics (nor do they have the authority to make such a determination). In fact, they have not even proven that these popes have taught formal heresy. I will admit that a few of Pope John Paul II’s words and actions have been ambiguous at times. The popes, just like the rest of us, succumb to weakness. But this does not prove heresy. And it certainly does not prove the personal sin of formal heresy for no individual is the pope’s judge.
Speray: This is an outrageous lie! These men have held many terrible heresies that would even make Martin Luther look like a good Catholic. It has been proven that they are formal heretics but Salza apparently doesn’t think rejecting the doctrines found right in the Creed are heresies.
J. Salza Moreover, none of the five popes mentioned above have bound Catholics to anything contrary to the faith.
Speray: The five antipopes do not have to bind anything, since they themselves are ipso facto outside the church by their manifest heresies. However, Vatican 2 has bound Catholics to follow, believe, and obey it.
J. Salza Although we are experiencing a liturgical and theological crisis in the Church, the fact is that Catholics are free to practice the faith as they always had before 1958.
Speray: Another outrageous lie. Since one is bound to Vatican 2, then there is no freedom to practice the faith as they always had before 1958. The New Mass was all anybody had for a long time. Salza is living in some kind of dreamland.
J. Salza Sedevacantists argue that true popes would not have allowed such harm to come to the Church. Says who? God Himself warned us that the Church would house wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Speray: Sedevacantists don’t say this. Sedevacantists say that popes must be Catholic.
J. Salza The Church’s esteemed theologians teach that a pope can indeed cause harm to the Church, and when he does so he must be resisted.
Speray: Not by heresy or a harmful or crippled discipline as found in the Vatican 2 Church.
J. Salza Sedevacantists should also look back to the Arian crisis when almost the entire Church – except for a handful of bishops – embraced the Arian heresy. Even the pope flirted with the heresy. But no one declared that the Church lacked a pope.
Speray: Another lie. It was majority of the bishops not the laymen that held to the heresy. The pope did not flirt with it nor did he hold it. That’s why no one declared that the Church lacked a pope.
J. Salza While I sympathize with their concerns, Sedevacantism is an over-reaction to the theological, liturgical and disciplinary crisis in the Church (which I heartily acknowledge exists). Just as Protestants criticize every wayward utterance of the pope to prove that the Catholic Church is false, Sedevacantists do the same thing to prove that the Catholic Church has no pope. They are both in grave error.
Speray: Wrong. Sedevacantism is the correct position. To say that there exists theological, liturgical and disciplinary crisis because of a true pope is a heresy. It admits that error is found in the Church theologically, liturgically and disciplinary which is impossible according to at least 5 popes. As for wayward utterances, Protestants are Protestants because they reject Catholic doctrine, not because of some wayward utterance. A true pope can just utter Catholic teachings and the Protestant will say the Church is false. John Paul II and Ratzinger have done way more than just give wayward utterances. They outright reject historic Catholicism found right in the Creeds. They worship with Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and even devil worshipers. Like I said, Salza is simply living in a dream world that doesn’t exist.