Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is This Seat Taken? Sedevacantism

The Logic of Sedevacantism

"Sedevacantism" is a word readers sometimes encounter on this blog, so the Bear thinks he should explain.

The word comes from the Latin words meaning "seat" and "vacant." It signifies a belief that the Chair of Peter is missing an occupant.

In other words, there is no pope.

Sedevacantism always occurs between the death of one pope and the installation of the next, but what we are talking about here is something much more dire and unnatural. Sedevacantists maintain the sitting pope is no pope at all. Most of them say the Roman Catholic Church has not had a pope since Pius XII died in 1958. St. John XXIII, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis are really antipopes. It follows that Vatican II is not, therefore, a real council.

The logic is simple:

(a) Popes are always prevented by God from teaching error.
(b) Every pope after Pius XII has taught error.
(c) Therefore no pope after Pius XII is a real pope.

One usually finds a heavy reliance on their own versions and interpretations of private revelations, as well as conspiracy theories involving Freemasons or other New World Order puppet masters. Some point to the white smoke during the 1958 conclave that was later declared a false alarm as proof that a pope other than St. John XXIII had been elected. That pope is usually identified as Cardinal Siri, a.k.a. Pope Gregory XVII, who, according to some, was pressured into rejecting the vote. (Unless he was acting as a "hidden pope," maintaining his own line of hyper-legitimate bishops, in which case his supporters would not technically be sedevacantists. At least until he died. It can get quite confusing.)

The mess the Church has been in since St. Pope John XXIII, and particularly since Vatican II, is exhibit A in the sedevacantist case.

"The madman is the man who has lost everything but his reason."

It's all very persuasive if one accepts the premises. But so are 9/11 truthers. It recalls what Chesterton sad about insanity.

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

And this is precisely why the Bear does not argue with Sedevacantists, 9/11 Truthers or people handing out Chick Tracts. He knows a broad and genial intellect is no match for the laser focus of the fanatic.

Sedevacantism Proves Too Much

The problem with sedevacantism is that it proves too much. It is not a question of multiple claimants in turbulent times that must be sorted out. It is half a century of one antipope after another without any significant challenge, with no end in sight. For sedevacantists seem to also believe that ordinations and therefore the sacraments administered by priests, are worthless, as well. Needless to say, an entire council is an anti-council and must be given the heave-ho.

The Church died in 1958 and that is that. The Bear would believe almost anything rather than that.

If the clock could be dialed back to 1957 without breaking it, no one would be happier than the Bear. But the chances of that happening are zero. Let's just raise a toast to The King Over the Water and wait for the Stuart restoration while we're at it.

Every religion has an esoteric element that is truer and holier than the recognized outfit. Orthodoxy is very rigorous, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of schismatic sectlets, each more "orthodox" than the last. (Half of them are casting the rest into Hell over which calendar to use, it seems.) If you decide not to follow the "evil Vatican II sect," what then? Which real pope are you going to throw in with? Sedevacantism is a rabbit hole that has no exit, and all the marks of a trap. Having been trapped more times than he cares to admit, the Bear likes to think he can recognize one when he sees it.

The Church can get sick. It can be driven into the ditch. It can have foolish popes. If one of them attempts to contradict previous infallible teaching, we know this is impossible. Does the nullification go to the the pope's very legitimacy (assuming the teaching is indeed bad, bad beyond all hope of salvaging it) or does it just go to the teaching?

Bears are not learned in such things. If you need an advanced degree in theology and a private investigator's license to find salvation, the Bear figures he's already hopelessly messed up on some other technicality. If, on the other hand, God wishes this poor old Bear to be saved, He is not going to sell out the brand, property, officers and faithful to Satan and sit back and laugh as a billion sincere Catholics are tricked into a false anti-Church.

With Dirty Feet and Mad With Love

The loose lips of Pope Francis and an ubiquitous media form a perfect storm to blow away faith, but only the faith of the most well-catechized and sincere Catholics. Pretty ingenious, if you think about it. The rest have been tested in other ways. This one is for us.

It is a serious waste of time to comb 19th century private revelations and promote a fantasy church that lies sleeping undefiled in a secret chamber deep within the internet. The real Church is like the girl in Song of Songs, whose gets her feet dirty and is arrested for her erratic behavior. (Song of Songs, 5.3-8)

So stay at your assigned post, even if it is the graveyard shift as a Bat Christian, and do not wonder, but shine your little Catholic hearts out!


  1. All of the popes since at least Vatican II(maybe even further back) are essentially carbon copies of each other. Might be time to consider that the Holy Spirit might have something to do with that.

  2. Certainly the Sedevacantists say that, Willard. It depends on your perception. Most people would not call John -- I mean Saint John XXIII and Pope Ben-- I mean Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI carbon copies. But if one's interest is in ordaining women, for example, sure, they're the same as far as that goes, and Even. Pius XII for good measure. I would respectfully disagree, although the Vatican II era popes have all accepted the council, so to that extent they are alike. But B16 did try to clarify issues and did try to make the TLM more available. (Sadly, nowhere near the Bear's Duchy of Zoar.) Pope Francis is unlike anything we've ever seen before in modern times. Good to see you again, W.


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