I converted to the Roman Catholic Church in January, 2007 within the Octave of the Epiphany. At the time, I was attending a small independent sedevacantist chapel ten minutes from where I reside. The church itself was the size of a shoe box and probably could not hold more than 80 people. The parish priest was a rather rotund and balding man who reminded me of St. Thomas Aquinas because of his great intelligence and his fiery sermons. He received me into the Church and so I owe him a debt for gratitude as long as I shall live.
Like any convert, I went through a honeymoon period with sedevacantism. I tried to follow the teachings I heard in the pulpit and read the prodigious amount of literature that my parish priest distributed and published. I believed that the Novus Ordo was invalid and sinful, the priests ordained since Vatican II were not valid priests, and that Pope Benedict XVI was not a valid bishop. I believed all of this because it was what I had been told to believe. I did not question what I heard and I did not ask questions. I merely towed the party line.
As the months went on, I started having doubts. My first doubts came as a result of listening to the local EWTN affiliate. Over and over, the people on the radio were telling me that Pope Benedict XVI was the Pope and rightful successor to St. Peter. I then remembered Christ’s words that “the gate of hell would never prevail against her.” I realized suddenly that I needed to overhaul everything and start from Square One.
When I came to this realization, I began to covertly go to Mass at the local cathedral downtown. The cathedral’s Mass is a very reverent and conservative Novus Ordo. No altar girls, no liberal rubbish. I felt instantly at home, but I didn’t want to make the jump. I was scared to make the leap into the unknown and so I kept going to my old parish and another larger sede parish.
It was around this time that the group of nuns who would form the SMMC (Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church) were thrown out of their convent by Bishop Mark Anthony Pivarunas, CMRI. The even threw me for a loop, but I could sense a conviction growing. If the nuns believe in the authority of the Holy Father, then who was I to sit around and do nothing?
I began to spend more and more time away from my sede parishes. I went to local Catholic parishes, sometimes I even went to Confession. Of course, I still held on to the traditionalist mindset and I had to fight it more times that I want to recount. Yet I also firmly believed in the Papacy. What person in his right mind wouldn’t? The contradiction was there, but what could be done.
I kept dilly-dallying for a while until an act of God finally put me in my place. One day, I ended up in a car accident. My car was completely totaled. Since the distance between my house and the sede parishes was somewhere between 18 miles round trip, I found myself hard pressed to return to either of them. Indeed, it was an impossibility. It was at that time that I finally where God wanted me to be and that is where I have been since then.
Of course, what I have written above is the simple “Reader’s Digest” version of my story. There were a lot more twists and turns involved, but the conclusion was basically the same. God took me out of the sedevacantists by taking away my car and I have been the better for it.
Looking back on it now, I realize that the sedes have done what they say the fathers at Vatican II did: they threw out the baby with the bath water. How? By stating that the Pope was a heretic and never could claim a right to the Papacy, these priests and bishops set themselves up as the ultimate authorities. By doing so, they became “the contrary Magisterium” spoken of by Cardinal Hoyos in the letter written to the SSPX.
Without a Pope and a Magisterium, the sedes can take out encyclical letters and interpret them in whatever way they wish. The parish priest who received me gave a sermon on how Catholics are not to attend non-Catholic church services and to associate with non-Catholics. He quoted an encyclical letter from Pope Leo XIII. That day, I went back home and opened the encyclical he had preached on and was flabbergasted. Pope Leo XIII had said absolutely nothing about not associating with non-Catholics, he had merely strong warned against those who would participate in non-Catholic services. Had I not opened that book of encyclicals, I would not have known any better.
There are also other problems with the sedevacantists. When it comes to matters of education and vocations, most priests ordained for the sedevacantists are poorly educated unless they are of such an advanced age to have studied theology before the Council. In one seminary, run by a rogue bishop, the seminarians studied Canon Law and Dogmatic Theology by having the book read to them. Then the bishop would quiz his seminarians on what they had heard. Long after the bishop’s departure, the group’s seminarians take their examinations with open books. The sede bishops will advertise their seminaries as being the best in the world in order to attract vocations. Yet I wonder what I would have learned had I joined one. I probably would have learned Ecclesiastical History, Moral Theology, Ascetical Theology, Dogmatic Theology, Latin, Philosophy, and whatever else, but it would have been tainted by the sedevacantist viewpoint. No ground would have been left neutral. No stone would have been left unbroken.
Another problem with the sedevacantists lies in the faculties of their priests. According to Canon Law, any priest who is ordained schismatically does not have the faculty to hear confession. Hold it right there! That means that Fr. X over at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Anytown can’t hear your confession or absolve you. What is that? It’s really simple. Since the priest is outside of the Church and since he was ordained without orders from Rome, he has been suspended. If that does not make red flags go up, then I don’t know what will. It certainly was one for me.
Of course, there will be those readers who will argue with me about some of the points that I have made here. I’m sure that there will be those who will say that what I am saying is complete and total rubbish. Yet I assure you that what I’m writing here is based on my own experiences and those of others who have been on the other side of the fence.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!