Several weeks ago on Twitter, a gentleman by the name of Matthew (half of Monday Mornings with Matt and Kevin on the Catholic Family Podcast) lamented the degree to which “Novus Ordo commentators/SSPX apologists dominate the Catholic social media landscape.”
It’s a valid observation, especially considering the growing popularity of tradservative personalities and outlets that dwell somewhere in between. Matthew’s proposed solution was simple enough:
“We need more sedevacantist voices reaching the same mediums.”
More recently, a commenter on Twitter asked me if I am “officially a sedevacantist.”
My answer was (and by the grace of God always will be) that I am officially a Catholic.
Even though this response may have seemed sarcastic or perhaps even evasive, it was neither, and there is much more at play in this discussion than mere semantics.
The simple fact that there are numerous tribal sub-groups operating within a space that is generally considered Catholic, be it social media or otherwise – Novus Ordos, SSPXers, liberals, progressives, conservatives, traditionalists, etc. – is proof positive that the milieu in question isn’t truly Catholic. Rather, the tent under which all of these various groups live and move and have their being is the conciliar counterfeit church, one of the fundamental characteristics of which is an utter lack of Christian unity.
By unity, I am here referring very specifically to the bonds of faith and charity that perpetually exist among the members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Now, that is not to say that the counterfeit church sub-groups possess no unifying principles at all, they certainly do. Not surprisingly given their genesis in the counterfeit church, however, the “unity” that they enjoy is very much a mockery, or an inversion, of authentic Catholic unity.
For example, one observes that these groups share a certain unity of anti-charity, for lack of better terminology, an ethos defined in large measure by the animosity that each one harbors for the other. It is the absence of communion that forms the common ground upon which each one stands, and it is made manifest in various ways, perhaps most noteworthily in the wide variety of liturgies that they celebrate (e.g., traditional, charismatic, folk, rainbow, etc.)
More to the present point, these disparate groups also share what one might call a unity of anti-faith.
In this case, the common ground upon which each one stands – from the furthest reaches of the liberal left to the right-most fringes of the so-called “traditionalist movement,” including the SSPX – can be reduced to their rejection of two entirely basic, fundamental, and immutable Catholic doctrines: The identity and inerrancy of the Church (traditional Catholic ecclesiology, more broadly) and the nature and prerogatives of the papacy.
To any who may naïvely believe that the “less-than-full communion” status of the SSPX places them firmly in the perennial faith outside of the counterfeit church tent:
I challenge you to defend the Society’s posture toward Bergoglio’s Vatican by producing even one citation from the Sacred Magisterium warning the faithful to be on guard against poisonous errors authoritatively dispensed from Rome, the Holy Roman Pontiff, or a valid ecumenical council.
PRO TIP: Don’t waste your time. No such warnings exist.
Like it or not, the SSPX stands shoulder-to-shoulder with liberals, progressives, and conservatives who firmly believe that the Church and the Vicar of Christ can, have, and routinely do in our day, contradict what was previously taught throughout the centuries. While those on the left celebrate this rupture, those on the right (e.g., the SSPX and other so-called “traditionalists”) believe it is up to them to identify these errors and to resist them, a concept nowhere to be found in Catholic tradition.
So, where do so-called “sedevacantists” fit into this matrix?
I think it’s very clear to all that self-identified sedevacantists are not to be numbered among those camping out under the conciliar counterfeit tent. Even so, there is an elephant in the sedevacantist room that gets far too little attention, namely, the degree to which unity of faith and charity appears to be lacking even among their ranks.
One notes, for example, how often self-identified sedevacantists feel compelled to offer, “Not all sedevacantists believe this, or hold to that…”
An observer might even get the impression that this is the common ground upon which all who march under the sedevacantist banner stand. It’s essentially – by appearance only, as I will explain – a tacit admission that “we are not unified in faith.”
As for charity, while there does seem to exist a degree of communion among self-identified sedevacantists, there are also serious disagreements with respect to things like the “una cum” Mass and arguments over which Missal to use, just to name a few.
This apparent lack of unity is problematic and should trouble all who identify as “a sedevacantist,” if for no other reason than the message it sends, rightly or wrongly, to those in search of the one true Church, a society the members of which are ever united in the visible bonds of faith and charity.
At this, one might ask whether this problem is endemic to sedevacantism, or merely incidental. The good news, to my mind, is that it is the latter.
So, how did this situation come to be?
Like their secular counterparts, religious modernists are masters at manipulating language. All too often, those who stand in opposition to their diabolical agenda, rather than rejecting the deceptive lexicon of the left out of hand, make their own entries into it. In so doing, they inadvertently lend credence to the deception.
In the present case, whomever presents himself to others as if to say in some form or fashion, “Hello, I am a sedevacantist,” has unwittingly allowed the enemies of Christ to exercise influence over the narrative.
I would submit that to oppose the conciliar deception, with its plethora of disunified tribal affiliations, while also identifying oneself as “a sedevacantist” – as many people that I greatly respect routinely do – is similar to doing battle against the LGBT agenda, while at one and the same time referring to oneself as “a cisgender.”
Obviously, there is no such thing as a cisgender, a transgender, or a [plug-in your preferred prefix] gender; there are simply males and females.
Likewise, there is no such thing as a progressive Catholic, a conservative Catholic, or a traditionalist Catholic, nor is there any such thing as “a sedevacantist.”
There are simply Catholics and non-Catholics. Period.
And how do we know who is, and who is not, Catholic?
The Sacred Magisterium has never wavered concerning the requirements of membership in the Mystical Body of Christ: The external manifestation and profession of the true faith; the sharing in the sacred rites that have been handed down; participation in the same Holy Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws.
Among all of the persons and tribal sub-groups named in this article only one objectively meets those criteria, that is, the misnamed “sedevacantists.”
Every last one of the others have effectively rejected, at the very least, the previously mentioned tenets of Catholic ecclesiology and the doctrine of the Church concerning the divinely endowed prerogatives of the papacy.
St. Paul warned the Corinthians about falling into the identity trap:
For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:11-13)
There isn’t a self-described sedevacantist that I’ve ever encountered who would not insist, and reasonably so, “I am of Christ, therefore, I am Catholic.” And yet, their calling card very often reads differently.
As for “sedevacantist” and associated expressions, such names refer not to what a person is, but rather to a set of conclusions that a Catholic has drawn.
The examples of apparent disunity among so-called sedevacantists (the elephant in the room), are more properly understood as differences of opinion on matters open to legitimate debate among Catholics who remain united in faith and charity.
There are many such matters at hand in our day, and no one has all the answers, no one. That is not to say, as some suggest, that the entirety of the current ecclesial crisis is a mystery that allows for no concrete answers. Holy Mother Church has given us every answer that we truly need in order to be and to remain Catholic.
For example, according to the constant teaching of the Sacred Magisterium as presented in venerable catechisms, by numerous saints, holy popes and Doctors, the Catholic Church possesses “perfect and perpetual immunity from error and heresy” (cf Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas). As such, her authoritative teachings – even those that are not infallibly defined – provide the faithful with “an infallible security, insofar as they are safe for all to embrace.” (cf Cardinal Franzelin, De divina Traditione et Scriptura, Thes. XII, schol. 1).
Based upon this, a Catholic cannot but conclude that the religious society presently in occupation of the Vatican, insofar as it routinely dispenses doctrines that are dangerous to embrace, even in the text of a council claiming to be ecumenical, cannot be the Catholic Church. It must, therefore, be a counterfeit.
This is a gravely serious conclusion, one that can and should be examined and challenged by every sincere seeker of Catholic truth in order to determine whether or not it can withstand intense doctrinal scrutiny.
Unfortunately, however, conclusions such as this are largely dismissed with very little if any doctrinal scrutiny, even on the part of persons who expend a great deal of time and energy exploring and discussing matters theological.
For one thing, because all too often they are attributed to a commentator who identifies as “a sedevacantist.”
Is this fair? Reasonable? No, of course not, but the blame does not belong entirely to the tribes of the counterfeit church.
How can I say such a thing?
As discussed, tribalism is endemic to the counterfeit church, a largely anthropocentric society modeled after the secular world wherein tribalism is also endemic. Everywhere that tribalism exists, deriding and dismissing certain members of other tribes, in particular those comprised of a small controversial minority, is a common practice.
The plain truth is that self-identified Catholics in our day are overwhelmingly of the counterfeit church variety, which necessarily means that they are overwhelmingly tribal and thus prone to shunning those who openly identify as members of a different tribe, in particular one that is small and widely considered controversial.
This being so, when “sedevacantist” is effectively presented, and given to appear, even without deliberate intent, as a tribal identity, it plays right into the hands of the architects of the conciliar counterfeit church. Under such conditions, one practically invites, and should expect, to be dismissed without a fair hearing.
This is one of the reasons (among others that will be saved for another discussion) why, in my estimation, so-called “sedevacantist voices” (better understood as Catholic voices) struggle to increase their bandwidth on social media and elsewhere.
Admittedly, putting this toothpaste back in the tube will be difficult at best and perhaps even impossible, but even so, from this point forward, I urge all who are in the habit of identifying themselves as “a sedevacantist” to henceforth present a more accurate calling card:
Attempting to speak the truth, without regard for how well it will be received by friend or foe alike, is a terrible business model. If you benefit from our work, please help us continue.