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What are we to think of the Sedevacantist Position?: by Raymond Taouk

The following video contains some revised excerpts from Raymond Taouk's article:

What are we to think of the Sedevacantist Position? A detailed look at some of the more common objections put forward by Sedevacantists.

Note: All references to Canon Law in this article / video are taken from the 1917 Code of Canon Law

Q: What is a Sedevacantist?

A:Sedevacantists are those who claim that that the "Conciliar Popes", that is to say Pope John XXIII and his successors, were heretics and therefore forfeited the papacy. Thus they claim that we have no Pope and that therefore the Holy See (the Chair of Peter) is vacant, sedes (seat) - vacante (vacant); which is why such people are referred to as "sedevacantists".

Q: Since all Popes since Pope Pius XII have publicly acted and spoken as heretics, and have ignored protests by Catholics against their heresy, are they rightly presumed to be formally guilty of heresy, and therefore incapable of being Popes?

A: One cannot defend a scandalous action committed by a Pope no matter what his intention may have been at the time. However, whether the Pope is orthodox in his personal theology is not the issue as the Church's Magisterium teaches us clearly that a Pope can personally stray from the truth; which, as Church History proves, has happened far more often than the average Catholic would believe.

Through the protection of God for His Church, some Popes were just barely kept from committing the ultimate error, since their error was personal (even though public), by their not formally and unequivocally "teaching error" in the name of the Church. It is undeniable, however, that several Popes came quite close to the edge.

Nevertheless, the only issue that needs consideration is the fact that none of the Pope's subjects possess the right to pass judgment on the Pope with respect to his office (Can. 1556), since he cannot be authoritatively admonished (Can. 1558), and thus deprived by a superior (since he has none) nor by any existing Canon Law:

"The Pope is superior to Canon Law and because of no Bishop exists who is not his inferior." - (Pope Benedict XLV, Constitution Magnae Nobis, 1748)

Q: Now if these new forms of worship, "laws and doctrines" which are evil, have been given to us by the Holy Church then She has defected and we are forced to the conclusion that these so-called "popes" were nothing of the sort, but were in fact impostors, masquerading as popes?

A: This is a huge / unjustified mental leap in thinking, since none of the Popes innovations in these matters have been guaranteed by the Churches infallibility. Vatican II, the New Mass, etc, are not instances where the Holy See has engaged Her infallibility.

Cardinal Newman affirms "a Pope is not infallible in his laws, nor in his commands, nor in his acts of state, nor in his administration, nor in his public policy." - Difficulties of Anglicans, London, 1876, pg. 256

As regards "bad" laws, Archbishop explained that "... ecclesiastic laws, if they command things contrary to the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, they are no longer (true) laws, and we cannot submit to them." - Against the Heresies, pg. 147

St. Francis De Sales states: "Everything the Pope says is not canon law or of legal obligation . . . And again we must not think that in everything his judgment is infallible, but only when he gives judgments on matters of faith in questions necessary to the whole Church." - The Catholic Controversy, pg. 307

Again, not even St. Athanasius took the view that Pope Liberius was an illegitimate Pope. St Athanasius did not set himself up against Pope Liberius nor do you hear of any of his statements condemning Pope Liberius as a heretic.

As Canon Law affirms that Bishops and Cardinals are NOT subject to ipso facto suspensions or interdicts (Can. 2227 § 2) and that they may ONLY be punished or declared so by the Pope (Can. 2227 § 1), we can see why it also affirms that the Primary See (the Pope) can be judged by no one (Can. 1556 Cf also Dz 330, Dz 352).

We may reject the personal opinions stated by a Pope, but we cannot reject his authority as Pope.

Q: The Conciliar Popes are heretics, even if only some recognize their heresy for what it is, being sufficiently alert and educated enough to deduce it. Is that then sufficient to constitute "manifest" or "public" heresy?

A: The problem with the heresy of Modernism is that it is disguised so well, their writings and works are ambiguous. So why do people not see it? As Pope St. Pius X said of the Modernists: "... in their books one finds some things which might well be approved by a Catholic, but on turning over the page one is confronted by other things which might well have been dictated by a rationalist." - Pascendi

Contrary to what some may want to assert this in no way means that we can justifiably hide the errors of the current pontiff and those who hold to the same novelties; but rather in the words of Pope St. Pius X:

"... we must interrupt a silence which it would be criminal to prolong, that we may point it out to the whole Church." - Pascendi Dominci Gregis

And we do that by unmasking and revealing modernism for what it really is (nothing but a novelty that leads to apostasy from God) while ourselves holding to:

"... that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. For this is truly and appropriately Catholic." - St.Vincent de Lerins Commonitorium

Heresy is a very "heavy" word to toss around and calling a person heretical should be done with extreme caution and hesitation: we should not be too quick to judge. We would not be so bold to say that the entire hierarchy of the Church is in heresy. But then we must admit that the vast majority of the hierarchy is in formal heresy in one form or another.

  • Formal heresy is a deliberate denial of a Catholic teaching.

  • Material heresy is that which is the outcome or result of ignorance. (Protestants are material heretics, because they are ignorant of the truth.)

Once exposed to the truth, and rejecting it with obstinacy, the heresy would become formal and then to them can be attributed the law in this regard.

However, when attempting to accuse the Pope of formal heresy one must keep in mind that such a canonical conclusion (the accusation of "Heretic") logically requires canonical terms and definitions. A heretic is not merely one who rejects anything related to the Catholic faith but one who "pertinaciously denies or doubts a truth of the divine and Catholic faith." (Canon 1325 § 2). Further pertinacity must be proven and not simply supposed. And it is for this reason that the church often has recourse to monitions (Can. 2223 § 4) and inquiries (Can. 1939) in order to first admonish those suspected of heresy.

"... A heretic who pertinaciously disbelieves one article is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all matters. If he is not pertinacious he is not in heresy, but only in error.” - St. Thomas Aquanis, Summa Theologica, 2a-2ae. V. 3)

Q: Since Canon Law (Can. 2200 § 2) presumes the guilt of an offender; then who needs to actually prove that these men are formally guilty in the internal forum (i.e. before God)?

"... When an external violation of the law has been committed, malice is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proven." - Canon 2200 § 2

A: Catholics must keep in mind that:

"... Law is not a mere contractual order of things, but a participation in the will of God or Divine Providence, and a breach of it therefore requires the intervention of the lawful custodian and guardian of the law ... Only the legitimate authority, as the founder of law and the representative of the supreme Ruler, is entitled to demand justice and inflict the necessary penalties on transgressors." - Augustine, Vol. 8, p. 69.

Hence, it is the Church, through the competent authority alone, that can issue a declaratory sentence. Further what necessity would there be for an infallible Magisterium if it could be replaced by the "opinions" of private theologians? John of St. Thomas (disp. II, art III 26) in summing up the teaching of St. Jerome on judging heresy affirms that:

"... ... in saying that a heretic departs on his own from the Body of Christ does not preclude the Church's judgment, especially in so grave a matter as is the deposition of a pope. He refers instead to the nature of that crime, which is such as to cut someone off from the Church on its own and without other censure in addition to it --- yet only so long as it should be declared by the Church. So long as he has not become declared to us juridically as an infidel or heretic, be he ever so manifestly heretical according to private judgment, he remains as far as we are concerned a member of the Church and consequently its head. Judgment is required by the Church. It is ONLY then that he ceases to be pope as far as we are concerned. And so Catholics must NOT take upon themselves a teaching authority, which does not belong to them."

In any case, according to Catholic principles "the condition of the possessor is better."

This principle teaches us that when there is a doubt as to who is the rightful possessor of something, the law favors the one who is in possession of the item. Thus a Pope is to be considered the rightful Pope for as long as the loss of his papacy cannot be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. And since the Church has never given a final decision in the case of a Pope favoring heresy, those who doubt this right to be Pope are obliged to acknowledge him as such until such time as the competent authority has passed a final judgment in the matter.


- Pax Tecum


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