Several months ago, John Salza and Robert Siscoe were kind enough to provide me with a preview taken from their new book, True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors. (NB: This book provides an outstanding treatment of numerous “modern errors,” each of which are of great importance for us to comprehend at this time of crisis in the Church.)
Knowing both men, I wasn’t surprised to find that the text was well written; with copious footnotes and outstanding references. I was most impressed, however, with the balance they were able to strike in treating topics of great depth thoroughly, but in a way that is truly approachable.
In any case, I’m very pleased (and honored) to provide here an extensive interview with Mr. Salza and Mr. Siscoe about their new book. I can assure you, it’s well worth the read, and their book, even more so.
Interview with John Salza and Robert Siscoe about their new book, True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors
Question: What motivated you to write the book?
Salza/Siscoe: We’ve both written articles against the errors of Sedevacantism over the years, but, due to the extent and depth of the errors within the movement, a more thorough treatment was necessary.
Question: What led you to addressing this topic in the first place?
Salza/Siscoe: At one time, we ourselves wondered if the Sedevacantist thesis was a possible explanation for the current crisis in the Church. When we each began investigating the position about 10 years ago, it was not initially to refute it, but to see if it was true. It was our research into the movement that demonstrated all of the errors and contradictions that are so pervasive in the writings of the Sedevacantist apologists. What those who have embraced the Sedevacantist position in good faith based on these writings don’t realize, is that they have been led into the error by partial quotations (which are often misunderstood), bad theology, and unscrupulous Sedevacantist apologists who, unfortunately, seem more concerned with “proving” their position than they are with the truth. Let’s face it, most people don’t have the time to do extensive research into the topic, to look up relevant original quotations from dependable sources (some of which are in Latin) and to verify that they have been given the full translation, in the correct context.
Question: Beyond the amount of research that was required to write this book, what were your greatest challenges?
Salza/Siscoe: One of the problems one encounters when writing about Sedevacantism is that the various Sedevacantist groups are divided amongst themselves over the issues. Due to the division within the movement, it is impossible to address all the arguments in a single article. Furthermore, each group has multiple arguments used to defend their position. When one argument is refuted, they simply appeal to a different argument, which is the same tactic one encounters when responding to the arguments of the Protestants. Some of the arguments presented by the Sedevacantists might appear good on the surface, but as you dig just below the surface, the errors and contradictions are quickly discovered. It is these errors, just below the surface, that results in all of the division and infighting within the movement. The more we examined the Sedevacantist thesis, the more clear it became that a thorough refutation of the position, and the fallacious and contradictory arguments used to defend it, was long overdue.
Question: Since there are various Sedevacantist camps with so many differing opinions, what approach did you take in addressing all of the arguments?
Siscoe/Salza: We began each chapter by laying a solid doctrinal foundation for the issue at hand, citing Popes, Doctors, saints and some of the Sedevacantists’ favorite theologians. Once a solid groundwork was laid, and the correct doctrine of the Church clearly presented, we then quoted the Sedevacantist apologists directly, named them personally, and then demonstrate how their errors depart from the correct doctrine that was just demonstrated at the beginning of the chapter. This is how we generally proceed. The chapters on the Church’s ecclesiology are particularly foundational for understanding the errors of Sedevacantism, which are directly refuted in the chapters that follow. These chapters provide much light and clarity that will assist those who are trying to make sense of what is happening in the Church.
Question: Can you mention some of the disagreements and contradictions within the movement?
Siscoe/Salza: We find disagreements and contradictions over the most basic question of all – namely, how a heretical Pope loses his office. There are multiple opinions and various camps, or sects, within Sedevacantism over this question. For example, one very well-known Sedevacantist priest claims that a Pope who commits the sin of heresy – a violation against Divine law – automatically loses his office. Another well-known Sedevacantist lay apologist, who has his own band of followers, publicly disagrees with the priest over this question. Instead, he holds to the position that a Pope would only lose his office if he were guilty of the public crime of heresy (which is actually correct). Where the latter individual errs is in not realizing that the crime of heresy would have to be established by the public judgment of the Church, not “discerned” by the private judgment of individual laymen in the pew. A well-known Sedevacantist bishop (who has evidently studied the subject in greater depth than his two colleagues mentioned above) realizes that a Pope would only lose his office if he were guilty of the crime of heresy (not merely the sin of heresy); and, believe it or not, he also acknowledges that the crime would have to be established by the Church, and preceded by two ecclesiastical warnings (which is also correct). Prior to the declaration of heresy by the Church, this bishop concedes that a heretical Pope (or bishop) would legally retain his office.
Question: But how can this bishop be a Sedevacantist if none of the recent Popes have been warned or declared heretics by the Church?
Salza/Siscoe: Very good question. This bishop is a different kind of Sedevacantist. He holds to the completely novel theory that a Pope or bishop can legally hold office, yet not possess the authority of the office he legally holds. He claims that if a prelate is guilty of heresy (judged, of course, by private judgment), his heresy prevents him from receiving jurisdiction (a power of those who legally hold offices in the Church). According to this theory, the recent Popes were validly and legally elected and remain legal occupants of the papal office, but, due to their alleged heresies, they did not receive papal jurisdiction (i.e., God did not unite the man – the “matter” – to the pontificate – the “form”). In other words, he claims that while the Church determines who legally holds office, private individuals can decide for themselves which legal occupants possess jurisdiction. This branch of Sedevacantism claims that the recent Popes are only “material Popes” rather than “formal Popes.” This bishop and his band of followers believe that the Pope and all of the bishops of the world, currently in charge of the episcopal sees, legally hold office, but all of them – every single one – lacks the authority of the office they legally hold.
Question: Can you pinpoint the specific error of this thesis?
Siscoe/Salza: The first problem is that it is based upon the private judgment of the Sedevacantist and not the public judgment of the Church. And note that this private judgment – that the Pope and every single bishop is a heretic – is being made by those (this Sedevacantist bishop and his followers) who couldn’t even name a small fraction of the bishops without looking them up, much less do they know what they believe about Catholic doctrine. In other words, their claim that every bishop is a heretic is a rash judgment, which is forbidden. Second, the position is founded upon the erroneous belief that there is a metaphysical incompatibility between undeclared heresy and jurisdiction. The Church has never taught this. It is a pure novelty (and novelty has always been considered a sure sign of heresy). In fact, the position that there is a metaphysical incompatibility between undeclared heresy and jurisdiction is directly contradicted by a number of authorities that we cite in the book, most notably the explicit teaching of Pope Alexander III. Jurisdiction is not like the state of grace, which is automatically lost when a person commits a mortal sin. There is a metaphysical incompatibility between grace and mortal sin, but no such incompatibility between undeclared heresy and jurisdiction – at least not for one who legally holds office in the Church.
Question: If this Sedevacantist bishop claims that the Pope legally holds the papal office, what does he say about those who attend an “una cum” Mass (a Mass in which the Pope’s name is mentioned).
Salza/Siscoe: That’s another great question. We address this in the book, and it really demonstrates the absurdity of the position he and his followers hold. This bishop claims that it is absolutely forbidden to attend a Traditional Mass in which the legal Pope’s name is included in the canon. He actually claims that doing so is an act of false worship, which is an objective mortal sin against the First commandment. Think about that for a minute: he concedes that the recent Popes have all been legal occupants of the papacy (since they were legally elected and never declared heretics by the Church’s authority), yet he claims it is forbidden – an act of false worship – to attend a Mass in which their name – the name of the legal Pope! – is included in the canon.
And the absurdity doesn’t stop there. This bishop publicly promotes what he calls the “definitive article” on the subject of the “una cum” Mass, written by a Sedevacantist priest (the one mentioned earlier), who happens to disagree with the bishop’s theory (this priest believes a Pope loses his office due to the “sin” of heresy and that the conciliar Popes are not legal Popes). In the so-called “definitive article,” the priest actually claims that if a person attends a Mass in which the Pope’s name is included in the canon, he will receive no sacramental grace. He and his followers claim that the only way you will fulfill your Sunday obligation and receive grace from the Mass, is by attending a Mass that excludes the legal Pope’s name. Needless to say, they cite no authorities whatsoever to support the absurd position. We can only imagine how these clerics browbeat their congregations with such nonsense. This Sedevacantist bishop and priest will no doubt be surprised to learn that an ecumenical council of the Church explicitly condemned the practice of excluding their Patriarch’s name (or Pope if the Patriarch of the West) from the Church’s liturgies before a formal judgment by the Church.
It is quite surprising when one considers the horrible arguments that these Sedevacantist prelates, and their lay supporters, have gotten away with over the years. In the book, we call them out on their fallacious arguments. These same individuals have used equally bad arguments in an attempt to refute previous articles we (and others) have written against the Sedevacantist thesis. In the book, we also address their attempted refutations of our previous articles. The readers will see just how fallacious and far-fetched their attempted refutations have been. Many will also be surprised to see the dishonest tactics that are used by these Sedevacantist apologists to defend their position.
Question: Can you give some examples of the dishonest tactics you’ve encountered?
Salza/Siscoe: What we discovered in our research is that the Sedevacantist apologists repeatedly remove information from quotations that contradict their position. They will sometimes cut sentences short, and sometimes eliminate entire sections. What happens next is that other Sedevacantists (who are probably sincere) will simply re-post the partial information on their own websites, without realizing that the first person removed key information. We provide many examples of these editorial tactics throughout our book, and summarize some of the more egregious examples in our last chapter, which is titled “The Bitter Fruits of Sedevacantism.” Since most of the materials they cite as “proof” for their position are translations from Latin (which most layman don’t read), the Sedevacantist priests are some of the worst culprits in removing information and citing quotations out of context. We cite one Sedevacantist bishop, for example, who removed an entire section (more than two paragraphs), and another sentence, from a long quotation – and didn’t even provide an ellipsis for his readers (three dots indicating something was removed). He just cut out the part that undermined the point he tried to make (on disciplinary infallibility) and didn’t tell anyone. And he conveniently failed to include a complete footnote with page number. Apparently, we are the first ones to have taken the time locate and verify this quotation. A Sedevacantist layman, who currently resides in France, also cut short a sentence – twice in the same article – that contained a key phrase that contradicted the main point of his article (also on infallibility). Other examples are also provided. When you run across these tactics as often as we did in our research, it becomes very difficult to believe that these Sedevacantists – who happen to be the most public and popular defenders of the movement – are being honest.
Another tactic they use is to simply dismiss authoritative quotations that contradict their position. Sometimes they will justify doing so by saying, believe it or not, that the quotation is from “the wrong theologian” (which is defined as “a theologian who disagrees with them”); or else they will find some other way to get around the quote, such as saying the quotation is dubious or inauthentic. When a certain lay Sedevacantist apologist from Australia was presented with a quotation that he couldn’t reconcile with his position, the tactic he used was to actually claim the quote was “invented.” Problem solved…or so he thought.
Question: Did this Sedevacantist provide any evidence that the quotation was invented?
Salza/Siscoe: Not a shred. He simply asserted that it was invented by the author of a book that was published in 1904, expecting his readers to swallow his assertion whole (which most, unfortunately, do). Then, in his typical haughty fashion, this Sedevacantist apologist ridiculed the non-Sedevacantists who have cited the quotation over the years, declaring them to be “complete charlatans without the slightest affection for the moral law or truth itself.” When a priest cited this quotation in an article, this lay apologist attempted to denigrate the priest’s good name by declaring that the priest had been “deceived by fraudulent quotes which he has carelessly lifted from some place unknown.” In other words, he claimed the priest was deceived due to his own carelessness.
We mention this incident in the book and then provide multiple references to the quotation from before 1904 (when this Sedevacantist claims it was “invented”). We even include a longer version of the quote, in the original Latin, taken from a book written 200 years before the 1904 book was published. After we completed our book, we also discovered that St. Bellarmine himself (this Sedevacantist apologist’s favorite theologian) referenced this same quotation in the early seventeenth century. We will see if the lay Sedevacantist apologist from Australia offers a public apology for his public detraction against those who have cited this authentic quote. If not, one might be tempted to believe that it is the public detractor himself who lacks “the slightest affection for the moral law or truth itself.” Time will tell.
Question: Do you mention any other tactics they use to disregard authoritative quotations?
Salza/Siscoe: Yes, another tactic that they use is to declare, on their own authority, that the teaching of the theologian is heretical. One example that comes to mind (which we deal with in the book) is from the same layman from Australia, who used this very tactic to discredit a quotation from Suarez, which directly contradicts his personal opinion on how a Pope loses his office. He claims that the teaching of Suarez cannot be held because it is supposedly contrary to a teaching from the First Vatican Council, and also contrary to the teaching of St. Bellarmine. We demonstrate that he is wrong on both accounts. In fact, he will be surprised to learn that Bellarmine himself taught the same thing as Suarez. The only difference is that the teaching of Bellarmine was much more explicit than that of Suarez. But this Sedevacantist wouldn’t know that Bellarmine taught this because this particular quotation from Bellarmine has not been posted on Sedevacantist websites, where he apparently gets his information. He will find the quote in our book, along with many others that he will never find on a Sedevacantist website.
Question: To be clear, you don’t mean to suggest that everyone who holds, or attempts to defend, a Sedevacantist position is dishonest, right?
Salza/Siscoe: That’s correct. When we speak of dishonest tactics, to be clear, we are not implying that all Sedevacantists are dishonest, or that they all engage in tactics similar to those of the arrogant layman from Australia. We know that many sincere people have embraced the position in good faith as an explanation for the crisis.
Question: So am I correct in saying that you believe that those who now hold a Sedevacantist position stand to benefit as much, or more, than anyone from this book?
Salza/Siscoe: Absolutely. It is our hope that the Sedevacantists of good faith will read our book with an open mind. If they do so, they will see that the position they have embraced is not the answer to the crisis in the Church. It is, instead, a very serious error in itself, which leads directly to heresy.
Question: Can you explain how Sedevacantism leads to heresy?
Salza/Siscoe: It leads to heresy because it ends by denying essential properties of the Church. In the book, we refer to two distinct errors of Sedevacantism. The first is the simple error that that Popes since Pius XII have not been true Popes. The second error, which immediately follows the first (and sometimes precedes it), is that the entire Church, over which the recent Popes have reigned, is a false Church. To be clear, the second error doesn’t merely maintain that there is “a diabolical disorientation of the upper hierarchy,” as Sister Lucia spoke of, but a complete defection of the upper hierarchy. Not simply an infiltration and subversion of the Church (bringing about a Passion of the Church similar to that which Christ endured on Calvary), but a complete destruction of the visible Church and its replacement by an entirely New Church. This position cannot be held without denying essential attributes of the Church, especially the attributes of visibility and indefectibility.
Question: Can you elaborate on how the concept of a New Church denies the attributes of visibility and indefectibility?
Salza/Siscoe: First, regarding the term New Church, if one uses the phrase to refer to an organized body of men within the Church (a fifth column) who are seeking to bring about its destruction; or in a metaphorical sense to describe the general post-Vatican II liberal tendency – or, as Archbishop Lefebvre said, “the whole new orientation of the Church, which is no longer a Catholic orientation” – there is no problem with the term. The problem is when the term is used to mean that the entire visible Church has become a new entity – an actual, formal, New Church.
Question: But how does the idea of an entirely New Church lead to a rejection of the attributes of visibility and indefectibility?
Salza/Siscoe: There are a few reasons. First, when Catholics profess that the Church is visible, we don’t mean that it merely has visible people, or visible rites and ceremonies. Protestant denominations also have this material visibility. When we say the Church is visible, we mean it is both materially and formally visible. The material visibility of the Church is the object of the senses; the formal visibility is the object of the intellect. Formal visibility means that the Church is a visible society – a visible social unit – that can be recognized as the true Church founded by Christ. It is recognized as being the true Church by its four marks (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic). While the Sedevacantists claim to believe in the marks of the Church, they are unable to point to any Church today that possesses all four marks. They argue that the Catholic Church of our day does not possess them, yet it is a fact (as we prove) that none of the Sedevacantist sects possess the four marks.
What this means is that, according to their own theory, there is no Church today that possesses the four marks – marks that will be with the true Church to the end of time. In fact, the only Church that even claims to possess all four marks is the Church that everyone in the world, except the Sedevacantists, identify as the Catholic Church. The inescapable conclusion of the Sedevacantist’s theory is that the gates of hell have prevailed against the visible Church, which is contrary to the promise of Christ and the attribute of indefectibility.
Second, it is important to realize that the promise of Christ, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail,” applies to the visible social unit (Pope, hierarchy, laity), and not to the individual members as such. Now, if the visible social unit had morphed into a New Church sometime following the death of Pius XII, it would mean that the gates of hell had prevailed against the Church (the visible social unit). Hence, it is not possible to hold the Sedevacantist position without denying at least one of the Church’s attributes, if not all three (visibility, indefectibility and infallibility). When you study the subject in depth, there is no escape from this conclusion. In fact, a former Sedevacantist seminarian released a book just a few months ago in which he explains that Sedevacantism logically led him to reject the indefectibility and infallibility of the Catholic Church (after which he joined a sect of the Eastern Orthodox). Indeed, the errors of Sedevacantism logically lead one right out of the true Church.
Question: If the Sedevacantists claim that the visible society and the hierarchy defected, where do they claim the Church exists today?
Salza/Siscoe: They will usually do their best to avoid this question. Some simply refuse to answer and call it a “mystery.” Others will retort by saying “Wherever it is, it’s not your New Church!” (which is an admission that they cannot answer the question). In fact, we quote a leading Sedevacantist apologist in the book who admits that most of his colleagues will not even attempt to answer this question, and that those who do usually fall into error. What we found is that those Sedevacantists who try to answer this question – i.e., where is the visible Church today? – end by professing the Protestant definition of the Church, which is that of an invisible Church with visible members. In our book, we quote them directly.
For example, one Sedevacantist bishop defines the Church as “those who adhere to the Catholic Faith.” In other words, the bishop reduces the Church to the Protestant concept of an association of visible members who profess the true faith, rather than a visible institution with a divinely established hierarchy that possesses divine authority. This is precisely the definition of the Protestant Westminster Confession, which says the Church consists of those who “profess the true religion.” A lay Sedevacantist preacher (and former Protestant minister), who we cite throughout the book, claims that the Church’s visibility means that the Church “is made up of visible people” and that the true Church today is found “in the hearts and minds” of true believers – which is a definition that would please the most anti-Catholic of Protestants. These quotations demonstrate that Sedevacantists have embraced the Protestant definition of the Church. Ironically, the Sedevacantists declare that the recent Popes are not true Popes because they have professed heresy, yet the Sedevacantists themselves publicly profess the Protestant heresy of an invisible Church consisting of “visible members.”
The Sedevacantist preacher, mentioned above, also claims the hierarchy of the Church (that is, the Magisterium) no longer exists. But he then rationalizes that “we are not lost” because, as he says, “we have the Magisterium of the past.” Needless to say, a “Magisterium of the past” does not suffice. As we show in the book, it is de fide that the Magisterium (composed of validly consecrated bishops with jurisdiction) will always exist. A visible legitimate hierarchy is linked directly to the indefectibility of the Church.
Question: Can you explain what you mean by a legitimate hierarchy?
Salza/Siscoe: A legitimate hierarchy is a hierarchy with both material and formal apostolic succession – that is, validly ordained bishops (the material element) who have received jurisdiction (the formal element) directly from the Pope, since only the Pope can grant jurisdiction to a bishop. If there have been no Popes since Pius XII, it means that all of the bishops currently in charge of the episcopal sees lack jurisdiction and, thus, are not legitimate successors to the Apostles.
Question: If there is no legitimate hierarchy, wouldn’t that mean the indefectible Church had defected?
Salza/Siscoe: Yes it would, as we clearly show in the book. And, as we also demonstrate, this poses an insurmountable problem for the Sedevacantist thesis, which Sedevacantists themselves struggle to explain. Most Sedevacantists know and admit that the true Church must always have legitimate apostolic succession (since this is an essential element of the mark of apostolicity). They readily admit that no Sedevacantist bishop possesses ordinary jurisdiction, yet they also claim the bishops of the Catholic Church (what they call the “New Church”) lack ordinary jurisdiction. They claim this because only a Pope can grant jurisdiction, and they deny that any of the recent Popes were true Popes. Therefore, according to their theory, none of the bishops in charge of the episcopal possess jurisdiction.
Question: But if they admit that their Sedevacantist bishops lack jurisdiction, and also claim that the bishops of the “New Church” lack jurisdiction, where is the legitimate hierarchy?
Salza/Siscoe: That is their dilemma, which they struggle in vain to explain. Our popular Sedevacantist apologist from Australia concocted the wild theory that a bishop appointed by Pius XII “must” exist somewhere. And since, according to his theory, there have been no valid Popes to accept this bishop’s resignation, it means that this unidentified “retired” bishop has retained his jurisdiction – even if he doesn’t know it! According to this theory, the unidentified theoretical bishop is the entire legitimate hierarchy of the Church.
But what is most telling is that this Sedevacantist apologist actually admits that if no such bishop exists, then “the Sedevacantist solution is wrong.” And how does our Sedevacantist friend “prove” that his theory is not wrong, and that a Pius XII bishop with jurisdiction still exists? He doesn’t. Instead, he puts the burden of proof on his opponents to demonstrate that such a bishop does not exist! That’s right. He engages in the logical fallacy of shifting the burden of proof. He claims (based on his private judgment) that all the bishops in charge of episcopal sees throughout the world lack jurisdiction. Then he claims that his opponents must disprove his novel theory by demonstrating that a Pius XII bishop does not exist!
To add to the problems with his theory, we should point out that even if a Pius XII bishop did exist somewhere in the world, the bishop would have to be a Sedevacantist who was never a member of the “New Church.” Why? Because, according to the Sedevacantists’ favorite canon from the 1917 Code (Canon 188.4), a bishop who “publicly defects from the faith” (which means publicly joins a false religion) automatically loses his office. In other words, the Pius XII bishop would have lost his jurisdiction automatically when he became a member of what the Sedevacantists call the “New Church” (in this case, his resignation would not have to be accepted by the Pope). And even if there were a hidden and unknown Sedevacantist Pius XII bishop somewhere in the world, such a fact would not save the theory from denying the formal visibility of the Church, that is, the existence of the visible social unit founded by Christ. This absurd theory just shows the lengths to which these desperate Sedevacantist apologists will go to defend their thesis. And remember, our Sedevacantist apologist admits that if no such bishop exists, the Sedevacantist thesis “is wrong.” And if his thesis is wrong (which it is, as this and other problems with the theory prove), it means he has been leading people into error and objective schism for many years.
Question: Do the Sedevacantists have any other theories to explain how a bishop with jurisdiction exists?
Salza/Siscoe: A flamboyant Sedevacantist priest who lives in the Cincinnati area, who recognized the absurdity of the layman from Australia’s theory (which he publicly ridicules as “The Bishop in the Woods Thesis”), came up with a different solution of his own to explain how there can be a bishop with jurisdiction. Unfortunately, this priest’s solution for the dilemma is perhaps even worse than “The Bishop in the Woods Thesis.” His solution is to explicitly reject the teaching of Pope Pius XII (a clear example of “recognizing” a Pope, while “resisting” his teaching) by claiming that bishops – and priests! – receive their jurisdiction, not from the Pope (as Pius XII taught), but rather directly from Christ! He claims that they receive jurisdiction at their ordination, and he does so by appealing to “Divine law” (this priest bases much of his erroneous argumentation on such nebulous appeals to “Divine law”). As we show in the book, this priest’s fellow Sedevacantists were horrified to learn about his erroneous position, which they realize is explicitly contrary to the teaching of Pius XII. And, as we also show in the book, this is not the only time that this Sedevacantist priest “resists” the teaching of one whom he “recognizes” as being a true Pope. Apparently, this priest, whose name is Fr. Anthony Cekada, doesn’t consider it to be rank hypocrisy when he ridicules and mocks true Catholics for recognizing and resisting Popes when he himself does the exact same thing. The difference, of course, is that Fr. Cekada is rejecting a traditional teaching of Pius XII, while those he criticizes are rejecting what he himself admits are novel teachings of the post-conciliar Popes. These sorts of contradictions are legion in Sedevacantism.
Question: In the book’s Foreword, Bishop Fellay mentions that the book addresses other errors of excess that depart from Tradition to the Right. Can you elaborate on this?
Salza/Siscoe: Yes. For the past five decades (and longer), Traditional Catholics have been fighting against the errors of Modernism and Liberalism which have infected the Church like a cancer. But, as usually happens, the reaction to these errors on the Left has caused some to overreact by going too far in the opposite direction. With the human condition as it is, such a pendulum swing is entirely to be expected. We address a number of these overreactions to the Right, which can be just as dangerous as the errors to the Left – especially for Traditional Catholics. The reason these errors are more dangerous for Traditional Catholics is because their sensus catholicus, which is flashing with lights and sirens in response to the errors on the Left, is less likely to alert them to errors of excess to the Right, since these can appear to be nothing but a refutation of a Liberal error on the Left. Because of this, it is easy for traditional-minded Catholics to inadvertently embrace an error of excess to the Right. The solution to the errors of excess in either direction is a firm adherence to Tradition, which, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, will never be led astray by any laying novelty – that is, by a lying novelty on the Left or on the Right. A sure sign that a Traditional Catholic is deviating too far to the Right is when he begins to reject the traditional teachings found in the older Catechisms and theological manuals. These doctrinal errors of excess to the Right are found quite commonly in Sedevacantism, but not only in Sedevacantism.
Question: What else is unique about this book?
Salza/Siscoe: Those who have endorsed the book have acknowledged that there is no other book quite like it, given the sheer breadth and depth of the material covered. For example, one seminary professor and rector has told us that the book contains the most thorough treatment of the doctrine, No Salvation Outside the Church, that he has seen in one single resource. The book also contains material on the deposition of a heretical Pope that you will not find elsewhere. This is the fruit of years of research, including a detailed analysis of translations from the original Latin texts from virtually all the theologians who have addressed the question of a heretical Pope over the last eight centuries.
During our research, we discovered something that we have never seen addressed before – that is, an interesting distinction between how the Jesuits and the Dominicans view precisely how a heretical Pope loses his office for heresy, which is a speculative question that the Church herself has never settled. These two opinions, and the differences between them, are addressed in precise, step-by-step detail. The reader will learn that the Jesuits (Bellarmine and Suarez) hold that a manifestly heretical Pope (determined by the Church’s judgment) loses his office automatically, with no further action by the Church. The Dominicans (Cajetan and John of St. Thomas), on the other hand, hold that the Church also plays a ministerial part in the deposition itself, by declaring the Pope vitandus (to be avoided). The precise details of each position, and the differences between them, are discussed at length.
It is critical to note that both opinions (whether one holds the Jesuit or Dominican opinion) maintain that the Church – and not private judgment – first establishes that the Pope is guilty of the crime of heresy, before the speculative question (Jesuit = ipso facto loss of office versus Dominican = vitandus declaration) is even reached. This material demonstrates that all Sedevacantists have misunderstood St. Robert Bellarmine who said “the manifest heretic is ipso facto deposed,” since Bellarmine here was giving his opinion on the speculative question, that is, what happens to the Pope after the Church determines the crime. Bellarmine was certainly not arguing that a Pope would automatically lose his office when a person privately judges him to be a heretic while the Church continues to recognize him as Pope (which is how the Sedevacantists have interpreted Bellarmine). As an aside, we should also note that the Sedevacantist bishop, mentioned earlier, who holds to the material/formal Pope thesis, agrees with our assertion that a Pope, who is judged a heretic by private judgment alone, will retain his office. We should also note that, to our knowledge, the material in our chapters that discuss the deposition of a heretical Pope will not be found in any other book in the English speaking world.
Question: You have received some incredible endorsements. A number of them mention something you alluded to earlier: that the book covers much more than just Sedevacantism.
Salza/Siscoe: Yes, it absolutely does. It really addresses all of the issues that are on the minds of tradition-minded Catholics today, and this is also why it has received praise from both ends of the Catholic spectrum. The Church is undergoing a Passion similar to what Christ Himself experienced. From all appearances, it seems that God is allowing His Church to suffer everything that it is possible for it to endure without any of His divine promises being violated. It represents a real trial for the faithful. Just as Christ was virtually unrecognizable as He hung dying upon the cross, so too the Church today, in many respects, is unrecognizable as it follows Christ through its own bitter Passion. In such an extraordinary time as this – when the Church itself appears to be dying – Catholics are trying to make sense of what they are witnessing, and they are searching for answers to explain it.
This unprecedented crisis in the Church raises many difficult questions. The book addresses virtually all of the questions that Catholics today are trying to sort out, and others they have not thought of. We answer them, not by emotion (e.g., anger and disgust over what is happening to the Church), but by consulting the teachings of the Church and her best theologians. If we form our judgments and allow ourselves to be guided by sound doctrine, rather than emotion, it is surprising how much clarity we can have – even in the midst of the chaos and darkness of the present time. The book does just that: it answers the difficult questions based on the sound doctrine of the Church, not by emotion. One seminary professor described the book as a “North Star” to help guide Catholics through the present darkness in the Church. Bishop Fellay, who wrote the Foreword to our book, and others who have reviewed it, have argued that it is one of the most important books ever written on the post-conciliar crisis. So yes, it really is more than just a refutation of Sedevacantism. It is a book that every serious Catholic needs to read and study. All Sedevacantists owe it to themselves to read the book, since they have no idea how they have been mislead. And they will not find the information we have in the book anywhere else.
Question: How can people order the book?
Salza/Siscoe: The easiest way is to order on our website, at www.trueorfalsepope.com. The official release date is just before Christmas. Those who order now will receive it on the first shipment. It would make a great Christmas present for any Sedevacantist or tradition-minded Catholic. It will also be available in Catholic bookstores and on Amazon after the first of the year 2016.