The following question was asked on a board elsewhere in the blogosphere. The following is my attempt to answer the question.
1. Schism: With regard to its disobedience to Christ’s Vicar on earth, the CMRI cannot be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. It does not matter if they have valid Sacraments and valid priests. The fact of the matter is that none of the Sacraments conferred in their churches and by Bishop Mark Pivarunas are considered licit in the eyes of the Vatican. If they were licit and the CMRI decided to follow that which they do not, then the story would be completely different. Unfortunately and regrettably, this is not the case. They are out there on their own as far as I am concerned.
Some people will say that they are not outside the fold of the Church. There is always that argument which always rears its head: “We didn’t leave the Catholic Church, but the Catholic Church left us.” The fact of the matter is that the Catholic Church would never leave and become a new Church. This goes directly against the doctrine of the Church’s indefectibility. Yes, past popes have made massive mistakes and we have had many that are remembered in history for what they didn’t do rather than what they did do, but that doesn’t mean that the Church is defective. If it was founded by Christ on the rock of St. Peter, it cannot be defective. No way, no how.
I would also like to note here that some people will say that the bishops consecrated by Bishop Mark Pivarunas as well as any priests ordained by him are valid. Yes, they are valid, but their ordinations were not permitted by the Vatican. If the Vatican does not permit consecrations or ordinations, they are illicit. It is also good to note here that such acts are met with extreme censure on the part of the Vatican. For example, when Archbishop Lefevbre consecrated bishops, he was excommunicated from the Church by Pope John Paul II. Whatever the SSPX may say about their position at the present time, they are also outside of the Roman Catholic Church.
For all of its well meaning, the CMRI’s doctrine of sedevacantism simply does not hold water. First of all, St. Robert Bellarmine’s idea was a hypothesis and as such must be proven via a scientific/empirical method. Either that or we would have needed a direct intervention of Divine Providence after the Second Vatican Council. Neither of those things have happened.
Another thing that is often overlooked by those who cite Bellarmine’s writings is that a majority of cardinals, clergy, and laity would have to rise up in defense of the Church if the Pope becomes a public heretic. I have seen nothing of the sort in years since Vatican II. The only people that have risen up are small, dissatisfied minorities. Has somebody been bamboozled about the current situation in the Church? Have we all been sleepwalking for the past forty years? I highly doubt that. Yes, the Church had problems after the Council but things are beginning to turn around. Just because they went hay wire thirty years ago does not mean that that same situation has continued into the present day or will continue into the foreseeable future.
2. The Martin Luther Paralell: Although the sedevacantists will talk about Martin Luther in terms of the Vatican, it is important that we look at him from the other perspective. Like many traditionalist Catholics, Martin Luther did not seek to overthrow the Roman Catholic Church. What he saw were a number of abuses that were taking place and that he wished to change. Due to various events, which I do not have the space to relate, Martin Luther did leave the Church and espoused his own doctrines and ideas that were contrary to the teaching of the Church and the Pope.
Similar things have happened in the traditionalist movement. In the beginning, of course, there were those that were rightly concerned about the problems that occurred following the Second Vatican Council. These people sought out priests that would still say the Tridentine Latin Mass and they continued to attend this Mass. But what would happen once these priests died? It is here that the various ordinations and consecrations began. Not one of these licit in the eyes of the Vatican. It is also worthy of note that these groups set up their own Magisteriums against the Church.
Isn’t it interesting that because there was no higher authority to interpret the laws of the Church that various bishops began to interpret it in their own right? The Protestants do exactly the same thing with the Bible. They will interpret it to suit their own ends. The same things have happened in much of the traditionalist movement. Yes, there is a great deal of good that has occurred there too, but look at the fruits. What has that movement done as far as evangelization and bringing people to the Lord? It’s just a question to mull over.
Anyway, I think that it is important for us to continue to pray for the reconciliation of the CMRI with the Roman Catholic Church.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!