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The following study is taken from my 2009 book, The Greatest Conspiracy Ever.

The Accusation: Sedevacantism contradicts The First Vatican Council.

When asked how sedevacantism contradicts the passages of Vatican I, an immediate misrepresentation of sedevacantism and Vatican I is given. Straw-man arguments are common with anti-sedevacantists. Therefore, we will go through each point of Vatican I and explain how sedevacantism doesn’t contradict the council. The quotes from Vatican I will be in green and italics.

Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Sess. 4, July 18, 1870: “But, that the episcopacy itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of the faithful through priests closely connected with one another might be preserved in the unity of faith and communion, placing Peter over the other apostles He established in him the perpetual principle and visible foundation of both unities, upon whose strength the eternal temple might be erected, and the sublimity of the Church might rise in the firmness of this faith.”

Part 1 of Argument: [Since sedevacantism holds that the papacy has stopped, the perpetual principle and visible foundation failed.]

Answer: Sedevacantism is not a position that holds that the papacy has stopped. The context of Vatican I is that Peter is Head over the faithful as the faithful are in unity with him.

Does this mean or imply there must always be a pope? No. The office is what Christ established. The office of the papacy is perpetual and visible when it’s vacant. If it meant that there must always be one holding the office, then this Vatican I statement fails every time a pope dies. The papacy endures forever even if the Chair of Peter is vacant. Every time a pope dies, the Chair is vacant, but the papacy remains with the perpetual principle, as does the visible foundation.

Anti-sedevacantists falsely interpret this passage to mean that there must always be a pope, but if that were true, Vatican I failed with the death of Peter.

The perpetual principle means two things. The Chair of Peter was intended to be filled (not that it would be filled if Christ comes during an interregnum period) at some point after the death of the last pope, but no time limit was ever given and the ability to fill the office is always present. Also, the Office of Peter is perpetually over the Church regardless if it were filled. In other words, the teachings of past Popes remain as the primary authority of the Church along with Holy Scripture and Tradition. Never does a past teaching become equal to or less than a teaching from a mere bishop or some other person. However, perpetual principle does not mean there must always be a pope actually in the Chair. Therefore, sedevacantism is not contrary to this passage of Vatican I.

Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, Sess. 4, Chap. 2:

Chapter 2.
On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs

  1. “Moreover, what the Chief of pastors and the Great Pastor of sheep, the Lord Jesus, established in the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual salvation and perennial good of the Church, this by the same Author must endure always in the Church which was founded upon a rock and will endure firm until the end of time.”

Part 2 of Argument: [Sedevacantism does not believe the Chair of Peter will be successfully filled until the end of time.]

Answer: Vatican I is not saying that the Chair of Peter must be successfully filled until the end of time. It is saying the PRIMACY of Peter and his successors must remain until the end of time. Does this mean there will always be a pope? Absolutely not!

Does this mean there will always be a pope in office until the end of time? Absolutely not! Christ could return during an interregnum period. Therefore, the papal office need not always be filled till the end of time.

The line of argumentation by Vatican 2 apologists is faulty. If Christ came a year after Pope St. Marcellinus died, then Vatican I would have already have failed, since it was three and half years after St. Marcellinus died before St. Marcellus was elected. Perpetual does not mean always having a pope in office.

  1. “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 forever 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.”

Part 3 of Argument: [Sedevacantism cannot hold that Peter lives and resides forever if there is no forever.]

Answer: Sedevacantists do not believe there is no forever. This passage means that as long as there is a pope in office, Peter exercises judgment in him, and this is how He lives forever. This passage doesn’t even imply that there would always be a pope in office as it couldn’t without failing each time a pope dies or voluntary leaves his office.

  1. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received.

Part 4 of Argument: [Sedevacantism can’t hold that guidance and truth can be given to the whole Church since there may never be another pope.]

Answer: This argument doesn’t reflect the passage. Does this say there will always be a pope? No, it says that whoever succeeds the Chair of Peter has the same primacy as Peter did for the truth to remain.

  1. For this reason it has always been necessary for every Church–that is to say the faithful throughout the world–to be in agreement with the Roman Church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body.

Part 5 of Argument: [Sedevacantism can’t have a single body, since there may never be another pope.]

Answer: Every time a pope dies, the Church remains a single body. Even when the Church went three-and-a-half years without a pope, the Church remained. Does this passage mean there will always be a pope? No, it says that each individual church is to be in “agreement” with the See of Peter. It doesn’t imply that the Roman Church (everyone but the pope) has authority over individual churches when the Chair of Peter is empty since the “effective leadership” is in the pope who alone has supreme authority.

We are always to be in conformity with the Roman Church, not the counterfeit Roman Church.

  1. Sess. 4, Chap. 2, [Canon]: “Therefore, 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. or that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.”

Part 6 of Argument: [Sedevacantism doesn’t believe the Church has had perpetual successors.]

Answer: There are two ways of looking at this Canon. Both ways are harmonic with sedevacantism.

One way of understanding this passage is that there will always be successors to the papacy. We’ve had perpetual successors up to Pius XII. Now we are in an interregnum period still waiting for the next pope to be elected. Since Vatican I does not give a time limit on an interregnum period, it cannot be argued that sedevacantism is going against Vatican I.

Some Vatican 2 apologists argue that the interregnum period ends with the death of the last cardinal. However, several theologians, such as Cardinal Billot after Vatican I, have taught that the College of Cardinals could become extinct, and a new pope can still be placed in Peter’s Chair.

Another way of looking at this and perhaps the best way is there is perpetual successors IN THE PRIMACY because the Eastern Orthodox recognize that Peter has successors but not in the primacy. The pope is the successor of St. Peter in the primacy perpetually, meaning, every time there is a pope until the end of time, he is a successor in the same primacy with the same authority as St. Peter.

Now notice what follows, “or that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.”

This counters the Protestants that don’t believe that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Blessed Peter in this primacy.

The first part counters the Eastern Orthodox that recognize that Peter has successors but not in the primacy. The second part counters the Protestants.

This explanation flows with the overall statement because the first part is countering the argument that Peter’s successors have primacy, and the next part “or that the Roman pontiff” is countering the argument that popes are not Peter’s successors.

None of the Vatican I statements say there must always be a pope or else every time a pope dies, Vatican I statements would fail. This argument from Vatican I is a straw-man argument against sedevacantism and it is used over and over.

Part 7 of Argument: [Since sedevacantists say John XXIII through Francis I are not the successors of blessed Peter, they have anathematized themselves.]

Answer: This argument is placing “Benedict, JPII, etc” in place of the word “Roman pontiff” and therefore sedevacantists must be saying that whoever is presumed to be the Roman pontiff is not the successor because there must be a successor in the office until the end of time.

This is not what the statement is saying.

Sedevacantists believe the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Peter but don’t believe John XXIII through Francis are the Roman Pontiffs. Article 1 is referring to the “OFFICE” which does hold the primacy until the end of time regardless if one is actually holding the office. Vatican I never states that there will always be a pope in the office. It couldn’t say that or it fails every time a pope dies.

And just because someone is presumed to be pope doesn’t mean he actually is pope. Only a Catholic can be pope. If one is a public heretic, his election to papacy cannot be valid regardless if everybody thinks it is.

The “OFFICE” will always hold the primacy and this is what Catholics say when trying to convert Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. When sedevacantists attempt to convert them, they always tell them that they must accept the papacy and believe that it holds the primacy over the whole church, knowing that the office is vacant.  All sedevacantists believe Peter’s successors hold the primacy and always will till the end of time.

The entire argument against sedevacantism from Vatican I is adding words to Vatican I with a meaning other than the original intent.

Anti-sedevacantists use Vatican I to say that sedevacantists don’t believe in perpetual successors. This is a lie. Now, if Vatican I says there must be a pope every 4 years, then sedevacantists are in trouble. However, this would only prove the Gates of Hell have prevailed.

Of course, when valid elections take place, then there will be a pope in office perpetually. Heretics cannot vote. Heretics cannot be elected. Heretics cannot hold the office of papacy. This is the crisis today.

The next parts of the argument have been added this year 2019 because of arguments presented by the Eastern Orthodox.

Part 8 of Argument: [Concerning infallibility, it would be a useless doctrine if Rome could defect because perpetual succession would be lost.  ​NOTE: The Sedevacantists’ position that Rome defected, right or wrong, is the reason they lost perpetual succession and cannot elect a legitimate bishop of Rome.]

Answer: It is not the position of sedevacantism that Rome has defected in the technical sense. When we say Rome has defected or apostatized, we are referring to one aspect of Rome, viz., the vast majority that makes up the Roman Church. The argument, then, concerns indefectibility, which applies in two different ways, whether the Church can defect into heresy and/or the disappearance of the Church from the face of the earth. If the whole church defected into heresy, then it would effectively disappear from the face of the earth. The doctrine doesn’t include a particular church which could disappear either into heresy/apostasy or just die off.

The See of Rome or Roman Church is the only church where indefectibility is assured. All other churches can defect individually, however, I submit that not all could defect together. Just as the body can’t exist without a head, neither can the head exist without the body. Therefore, the Body of the Church must exist as much as the Head.

As long as there is a congregation in or connected to Rome that holds the Faith, the Church of Rome still exists in that remnant, and it just so happens that true Catholic congregations still exist in Rome today.

What’s unique about the Church of Rome is that the rest of the Church can provide its head but it could not provide a Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop of Canterbury, or Bishop of New York.

Therefore, perpetual succession is not lost despite the circumstances. The perpetual principle is still present and will continue to be present. Cardinals are not needed in extreme circumstances as experts such as Cardinal Billot taught. A general council could provide a pope or as theologian and as professor Francisco de Vitoria OP (1483 –1546) points out, “Even if St. Peter would have not determined anything, once he was dead, the Church had the power to substitute him and appoint a successor to him … If by any calamity, war or plague, all Cardinals would be lacking, we cannot doubt that the Church could provide for herself a Holy Father…Hence such an election should be carried out by all the Church and not by any particular Church. And this is because that power is common and it concerns the whole Church. So it must be the duty of the whole Church.” (De Potestate Ecclesiae)

Saints and the Fathers of the First Vatican Council discussed what would happen if the Pope defected into heresy. See Vatican I’s Declaration is Foundation for Sedevacantism

Defection into heresy by a pope doesn’t imply a defection of Rome since a defected pope is no longer part of Rome. In fact, the same can be applied to every particular church. When the Patriarch of Constantinople defected into heresy, he defected out of the Church, therefore, the office of patriarch didn’t actually defect. When Nestorius defected, as one example, he was called an imposter by Pope Pius VI. In other words, he was no longer the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Again, we are always to be in conformity with the Roman Church, not the counterfeit Roman Church.

Part 9 of Argument: [If an antipope or even antichrist rules the Roman Church, then the Roman Catholic Church defected.]

Answer: An antipope sitting in Rome doesn’t mean the Church has defected. Many antipopes have sat in Rome, but they aren’t sitting in the Chair of Peter. A proposed antichrist sitting in Rome is no different than an antipope sitting in Rome. An antichrist wouldn’t be ruling anymore than an antipope rules. The Catholic Church is never ruled by an antipope just as the Eastern Catholic Church was never ruled by Nestorius when he defected.

What we find in every argument above is someone looking for a reason to reject the Catholic position of sedevacantism and/or the Catholic Faith. They all fall short.

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“David and Goliath” by Gustave Doré (1832-83)

Click below to read the best defense for the position of sedevacantism

The Gates of Hell and the Gates of the Church

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Cincinnati Archbishop John Baptist Purcell
Addressed the issue on the papacy at the First Vatican Council

1. The First Vatican Council declared “this See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error.” [1]

The fathers of the First Vatican Council found forty papal errors before declaring the See of Peter always remains unimpaired by any error. The context of the council’s declaration concerns salvation by adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Faith, which includes theological conclusions, dogmatic facts, declarations, definitions, condemnations, laws, and disciplines. However, theological opinions are not part of the Catholic Faith and popes can err in opinions where the Church hasn’t made an official pronouncement.

For instance, in 1336 AD, Pope Benedict XII officially defined that the blessed souls of the dead “see the face of the triune God immediately after death.” However, in a homily five years earlier, Pope John XXII taught the blessed souls do not attain the Beatific Vision until after the General Judgment. This only constituted a theological opinion in his day because the particular judgment had not yet been defined. Therefore, Pope John XXII erred, but not against the Catholic Faith, which defined the teaching after Pope John’s death. The First Vatican Council certainly recognized how John’s erroneous theological opinion didn’t deny a formal Catholic teaching, thus John’s pontificate was truly unimpaired by any errors against the Catholic Faith.

Since popes always remain unimpaired by any error against the Faith, they need never to be judged, warned, or declared to have gone against the Faith. Those who argue that such a pope would need to be warned assume that a pope can be impaired by error in order to be warned. This theological opinion, found in the teachings of John of St. Thomas, Cajetan, and Suarez, is now considered heresy by the First Vatican Council’s declaration. If ever a pope should publicly go against the faith, he would lose his office at the moment of his error since he can’t err and remain pope at the same time. As seen in footnote [1], Vatican I taught in the address about the pope:The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.

Those who argue that a declaration is needed before the faithful are to ignore, resist, or reject the fallen pope assume either the faithful are to be in union with an antipope until a declaration, which is absurd, or that a defected pope remains pope until the declaration, which is a blunt denial of Vatican I and the Catholic Faith.

Since the Vatican 2 popes are impaired by errors against the Catholic Faith [2], they can’t be true popes, or the First Vatican Council is wrong and the Catholic Faith is just another false religion.

All so-called traditionalist Catholics, such as the SSPX, and their publications and websites, such as The Remnant, Catholic Family News, and Tradition in Action necessarily reject the Catholic Faith, and the infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council’s declaration that the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error.

————————————————————————————————————————–

 

[1] Vatican I declared, “For the fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following closely in the footsteps of their predecessors, made this solemn profession: ‘The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true Faith. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Who said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ (Matt. 16:18), should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied, and its teaching kept holy.’ …for they fully realized that this See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior made to the prince of his disciples, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou has turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32)

So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair, that they might administer their high duty for the salvation of all; that the entire flock of Christ, turned away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished on the sustenance of heavenly doctrine, that with the occasion of schism removed the whole Church might be saved as one, and relying on her foundation might stay firm against the gates of hell.”

The topic of a pope becoming a heretic was addressed at the First Vatican Council by Archbishop Purcell, of Cincinnati, Ohio: “The question was also raised by a Cardinal, ‘What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?’ It was answered that there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.

“If the Pope, for instance, were to say that the belief in God is false, you would not be obliged to believe him, or if he were to deny the rest of the creed, ‘I believe in Christ,’ etc. The supposition is injurious to the Holy Father in the very idea, but serves to show you the fullness with which the subject has been considered and the ample thought given to every possibility. If he denies any dogma of the Church held by every true believer, he is no more Pope than either you or I; and so in this respect the dogma of infallibility amounts to nothing as an article of temporal government or cover for heresy.” (The New Princeton Review, Volume 42 p. 648, also The Life and Life-work of Pope Leo XIII. By James Joseph McGovern p. 241)

 

[2] Many examples can be provided to establish the fact that Vatican 2 popes are impaired by errors against the Catholic Faith. However, the following two suffice:

[a.] The Church of Christ is not one in Faith…because the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church are not one and the same thing. False religions and their members form part of the Church of Christ in the external forum. For example: The 1993 Balamand Statement approved by John Paul II on May 25, 1995, in Ut Unum Sint, n. 59, declared:

13. In fact, especially since the panorthodox Conferences and the Second Vatican Council, the re- discovery and the giving again of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church – profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops – cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches.

14. It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavour of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27).

[b.] Communicatio in Sacris is condemned by Sacred Scripture and runs contrary to the divine law, which is why the Catholic Church has many times proscribed interreligious worship through law and decree as being an abomination (like Benedict XVI worshipping with Muslims in a Mosque and with Lutherans in Lutheran churches, John Paul II worshipping with a Zoroastrian priestesss in 1986, and Francis I worshipping with Jews, Muslims, Protestants, etc.). The Second Vatican Council, nevertheless, approves and encourages joint religious events, while the conciliar popes made ecumenism a priority of the highest order and took such great pains to showcase before the whole world events like Assisi I, II, and III. The latest Assisi Events in 2011 exhibited a Voodoo warlock singing to the goddess Olokun in front of an altar in a Catholic basilica. Following the customs of Voodoo possession, the warlock asked to be possessed by the goddess.

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