As some of you may know, I spend a lot of time reading other blogs. Most notably, I have spent over on Fr. Z.’s “What Does the Prayer Really Say?” (http://wdtprs.com/blog), where I have been known to comment every once in a while.
Recently, there was discussion of the SSPX due to Father’s posting of a excerpts from an interview given by Bishop Williamson (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/06/excommunicated-sspx-bp-williamson-speaks). Having spent my first year as a Catholic in such circles, it does not surprise me that there was such a virulent debate on whether the SSPX is schismatic or not. On the one hand, you have the SSPX saying that it isn’t and that it has been existing for as long as it has until Rome rights itself. On the other hand, we have the whole issue of valid but illicit Holy Orders and Sacraments being administered by priests and bishops, who are not in union with Rome in any way and yet claim that they believe in the Pope.
As I was reading through the debate earlier today, I found an interesting quote that I would like to share with all of you and which should turn the entire notion of sedevacantism on its head. The following is from the decrees that were issued during Vatican I in the 1870s during the pontificate of Pope Pius IX:
“[A] decision of the Apostolic See, whose authority has no superior, may be revised by no one, nor may anyone examine. judicially, its decision”
(Thank you to I am not Spartacus for posting this on wdtprs.)
This means that any decision made by the Holy See must be accepted and not questioned at all. This means that we must obey the Holy See and the Church in any legistlation that she may put forward and has put forward. This means that sedevacantists and other traditionalists are in schism with the Church because they believe they have a right to examine the decrees of the Vatican and then come up with their own conclusion.
First of all, the Vatican is the only authority in the Church. There is a reason why we have a Magisterium. It is there to teach and, therefore, is known as the Teaching Authority of the Church.
Secondly, the sedevacantists will have bishops consecrated and have their own Orders of nuns as well as parishes built without any consultation with the Vatican. This is in direct contravention to the Code of Canon Law. Indeed, it states that one cannot consecrate bishops without the express permission of the Holy See. The same goes for Orders and all the rest. If the Holy See does not in any way approve what is going on, then these organizations do not exist in the first place because they are in schism.
Here is something else that I think about when sedevacantists and their disobedience to the Pope comes up. Clearly, there is a paralell between this and the Protestant Reformation. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the doors of the castle church at Wittenberg, he was not meaning to leave the Church. What he wanted was the Church to address certain problems that had crept in during his time. As all of you know the rest of the story, Luther did eventually leave the Catholic Church and establish the Lutherans.
It is apparent to me that many sedevacantists and traditionalists saw the problems that the Church faced following Vatican II and decided that it was for the best if they left the Church. Therefore, these traditionalists immediately faced a problem of organization. How the heck are we supposed to maintain the Latin Mass if we don’t have priests or bishops?
In the early years, it was probably easy to find a priest who was resisting the Novus Ordo and to have him celebrate Mass at their small chapels. But these priests eventually died and, therefore, it was necessary to have new priests. How does one get new priests? Easy. If the organization is large enough, one establishes a seminary at which the seminarians are taught theology and philosophy as well as things about the changes that have occurred since Vatican II. Following their education, one finds a bishop that is willing to ordain them priests. If one cannot find such bishop, the head of the organization will ask for consecration from a bishop that belonged to a schismatic group. The list goes on and on.
Yet the problem with being outside of the Church is not simply that one has to resort to various comical means to have valid Masses and valid Holy Orders. It also means that the priests and bishops in these chapels are probably the leading authorities on what is being preached. This is because they have separated themselves from the Magisterium and because they have separated themselves from the Magisterium, they can interpret documents any way they want.
Anyway, I think that this post is getting a little long in the tooth. Therefore, I will post another one in the future to continue this discussion.
St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!