A Little Catechism on Sedevacantism (2023)

What is sedevacantism?

Sedevacantism is the theory of those who think that the most recent popes, the popes of the Second Vatican Council, have not really been popes. Consequently, the See of Peter is not occupied. This is expressed in Latin by the formula sede vacante.

Where does this theory come from?

This theory has been conceived in reaction to the very grave crisis which the Church has been undergoing since the Council, a crisis that Archbishop Lefebvre justly called "the third world war." The main cause of the crisis has been the dereliction of the Roman Pontiffs, who teach or allow to be propagated serious errors on the subjects of ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, etc.

The sedevacantists think that real popes could not be responsible for such a crisis, and consequently they consider them not to be "real" popes.

Do the sedevacantists agree amongst themselves?

No, far from it. There are many different positions. Some think that, since the Chair of Peter is vacant, someone should occupy it, and so they have elected a "pope." Such is the case of the sect of Palmar in Spain, for example. Among those who do not go so far, there are different schools. Some think that the current pope is an anti-pope, others that he is only partly pope, a pope materialiter but not formaliter.

Some sedevacantists consider their position as a "likely opinion," and consent to receive the sacraments from non-sedevacantist priests, while others, called "ultra" by the Fr. Coache,[1] make it a matter of faith, and refuse to assist at Masses where the priest prays for the pope. But what is common to all the sedevacantists is that they think that the pope should not be prayed for in public.

What is meant by being pope materialiter?

(Video) The Errors of Sedevacantism

The main difficulty of sedevacantism is to explain how the Church can continue to exist in a visible manner (for she has received from the Lord the promise that she will endure until the end of the world) while being deprived of her head. The partisans of the so-called "Cassiciacum Thesis"[2] have come up with a very subtle solution: the current pope was validly designated as pope, but he did not receive the papal authority because there was an interior obstacle (heresy). So, according to the theory, he is able to act in some ways for the good of the Church, such as, for instance, appointing cardinals (who are cardinals materialiter), but he is not really pope.

What do you think of this solution?

For one thing, this solution is not based on Tradition. Theologians (Cajetan, St. Robert Bellarmine, John of St. Thomas, etc.) who have examined the possibility of a heretical pope, but no one prior to the Council every devised such a theory. Also, it does not resolve the main difficulty of sedevacantism, namely, how the Church can continue to be visible, for, if the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, etc., are deprived of their "form," then no visible Church hierarchy is left. Moreover, this theory has some serious philosophical defects because it supposes that a head can be head materialiter, that is, without authority.

What arguments do the sedevacantists adduce to prove their theories?

They use a theological argument and a canonical one. The theological argument consists of positing that a heretic cannot be head of the Church, but John Paul II is a heretic, therefore...

The legal argument consists of pointing out that the laws of the Church invalidate the election of a heretic; but Cardinal Wojtyla was a heretic at the time of his election, therefore...

But isn’t it true that a pope who becomes a heretic loses the pontificate?

St. Robert Bellarmine says that a pope who would formally and manifestly become a heretic would lose the pontificate. For that to apply to John Paul II, he would have to be a formal heretic, deliberately refusing the Church’s magisterium; and this formal heresy would have to be open and manifest. But if John Paul II often enough makes heretical affirmations or statements that lead to heresy, it cannot easily be shown that he is aware of rejecting any dogma of the Church. And as long as there is no sure proof, then it is more prudent to refrain from judging. This was Archbishop Lefebvre’s line of conduct.

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If a Catholic were convinced that John Paul II is a formal, manifest heretic, should he then conclude that he is no longer pope?

No, he should not, for according to the "common" opinion (Suarez), or even the "more common" opinion (Billuart), theologians think that even an heretical pope can continue to exercise the papacy. For him to lose his jurisdiction, the Catholic bishops (the only judges in matters of faith besides the pope, by Divine will) would have to make a declaration denouncing the pope’s heresy.

According to the more common opinion, the Christ, by a particular providence, for the common good and the tranquility of the Church, continues to give jurisdiction to an even manifestly heretical pontiff until such time as he should be declared a manifest heretic by the Church.[3]

Now, in so serious a matter, it is not prudent to go against the common opinion.

But how can a heretic, who is no longer a member of the Church, be its leader or head?

The Dominican Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, basing his reasoning on Billuart, explains in his treatise De Verbo Incarnato (p. 232) that an heretical pope, while no longer a member of the Church, can still be her head. For, what is impossible in the case of a physical head is possible (albeit abnormal) for a secondary moral head.

The reason is that, whereas a physical head cannot influence the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul, a moral head, as is the Roman Pontiff, can exercise jurisdiction over the Church even if he does not receive from the soul of the Church any influx of interior faith or charity.

In short, the pope is constituted a member of the Church by his personal faith, which he can lose, but he is head of the visible Church by the jurisdiction and authority which he received, and these can co-exist with his own heresy.

(Video) Is Taylor Marshall Sedevacantist as some have claimed?

How does their canonical argument fare?

The sedevacantists base their position on the apostolic constitution Cum ex Apostolatus of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559). But some good studies have shown that this constitution lost its legal force when the 1917 Code of Canon Law was promulgated. See, for example, the article of Fr. Albert, O.P., in Sel de la terre, Summer 2000, pp.67-78. What remains in effect from this constitution is its dogmatic teaching. And, consequently, it cannot be made to say more than the theological argument already examined.

Don’t the sedevacantists claim to find a confirmation of their theory in the errors of Vatican Council II and the harmful liturgical and canonical laws of the Conciliar Church?

Indeed, the sedevacantists think, in general, that the teaching of the Council should have been covered by the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium, and consequently should not contain any errors. But, since there are errors, for example, on religious liberty, they conclude that Paul VI had ceased to be pope at that moment.

Really, if one accepted this argument, then it would be necessary to say that the whole Catholic Church disappeared then, too, and that "the gates of hell had prevailed" against her. For the teaching of the ordinary, universal magisterium is that of the bishops, of the whole Church teaching.

It is simpler to think that the teaching of the Council and of the Conciliar Church is not covered by the infallibility of the ordinary, universal magisterium for the reasons explained in the article of Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P., on the authority of the Council that appeared in Sel de la terre, "L’autorite du Concile," pp.32-63.

One of the arguments set forth there consists in showing that the Council does not present its teaching as "necessary for salvation" (which is logical, since those who profess this believe that it is possible to be saved without the Catholic Faith). Since this teaching is not authoritatively imposed, it is not covered by the guarantee of infallibility. The same thing can be said about the liturgical laws (the New Mass) and the canonical laws (the 1983 Code of Canon Law) promulgated by the most recent popes: they are not covered by infallibility, although normally they would be.

Aren’t the sedevacantists right, though, in refusing to name the pope at Mass in order to show that they are not in communion with ("una cum") a heretic (at least materially) and his heresies?

(Video) Reviewing Gordon and Marshall's TnT Episode on Sedevacantism

The expression "una cum" in the Canon of the Mass does not mean that one affirms that he is "in communion" with the erroneous ideas of the pope, but rather that one wants to pray for the Church "and for" the pope, her visible head.

In order to be sure of this interpretation, in addition to reading the erudite studies that have been made on this point, it is enough to read the rubric of the missal for the occasion of a bishop celebrating Mass. In this case, the bishop must pray for the Church "una cum ...me indigno famulo tuo," which does not mean that he prays "in communion with...myself, your unworthy servant" (which does not make sense!), but that he prays "and for ...myself, your unworthy servant."

But doesn’t St. Thomas Aquinas say that in the Canon one should not pray for heretics?

St. Thomas Aquinas does not say that one should not pray for heretics (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 79, A. 7, ad 2), but merely observes that, in the prayers of the Canon of the Mass, one prays for those whose faith and devotion are known to the Lord (quorum tibi fides cognita est et nota devotio). For, he says, so that this sacrifice obtain its effect (effectum habet) those for whom one prays must be "united to the passion of Christ by faith and charity." He does not say that praying for heretics is forbidden. He only means that this prayer will not have the same efficacy as one for a Catholic, and is not provided for in the Canon.

All that can be concluded from this affirmation of St. Thomas is that, if the pope is a heretic (which remains to be proven), then the prayer for him will not have the foreseen effect, "non habet effectum."

In conclusion, what should we think of sedevacantism?

Sedevacantism is a theory that has not been proven speculatively, and that it is imprudent to hold practically (an imprudence that can have very serious consequences). That is why Archbishop Lefebvre never adopted this position, and even forbade the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to profess it. We should have confidence in his prudence and theological sense.

Fr. Munoz[4] points out that no saint in the Church’s history was ever a sedevacantist, while several openly and forcefully resisted a pope’s errors. Let us do likewise. (Translated from Sel de la terre, Spring 2001.)

(Video) Peter Dimond’s Sedevacantism (REBUTTED)


What is the meaning of Sedevacantist? ›

Sedevacantism (Latin: Sedevacantismus) is a doctrinal position within traditionalist Catholicism, which holds that the present occupier of the Holy See is not a valid pope due to the Pope's espousal of one or more heresies and that, for lack of a valid pope, the See of Rome is vacant.

Is Sspx a Sedevacantist? ›

Answer: No they are not, because sedevacantists believe there is no valid pope. The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) recognizes the validity of all legitimate popes, including Pope John II, under whom its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and the four bishops he unlawfully ordained were excommunicated in 1988.

Who invented Sedevacantism? ›

Early history. One of the earliest proponents of sedevacantism was the American Francis Schuckardt.

Is SSPX in communion with the Catholic Church? ›

This society was founded in 1970 by French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. For doctrinal rather than disciplinary reasons, the society has no canonical status in the Catholic Church.

Is Feeneyism a heresy? ›

Feeneyism opposes the doctrines of baptism of desire and baptism of blood as well as the view that non-Catholics can go to heaven. Feeneyism is considered a heresy by the Catholic Church; some Catholics refer to Feeneyism as the Boston heresy.

Does the pope recognize SSPX? ›

During the Year of Mercy, Francis made special provisions to recognize as valid the absolution offered by SSPX priests through the sacrament of confession. After the Holy Year ended, the pope extended that provision "lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the church's pardon."

Does the SSPX reject Vatican II? ›

No longer excommunicated, but not yet canonically re-integrated, the fraternity has made basic concessions but continues to reject important Vatican II documents.

Why is SSPX not in communion with Rome? ›

“Why the SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X) Is Not In Full Communion With the Catholic Church.” 1. The SSPX has discouraged its followers from attending even Tridentine Masses offered by priests in communion with Rome. They have nothing to do with local bishops unless it is in their favor.

Who was the first Catholic on earth? ›

According to Catholic tradition, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The New Testament records Jesus' activities and teaching, His appointment of the twelve Apostles, and His instructions to them to continue His work.

Has a pope ever had a son? ›

There are plenty of Popes in history who, despite their vow of celibacy, have broken this rule. These include popes who were married, had long-term partners, lovers, and even a few that had children. Some Popes in history have even been known to be the son of previous Popes, who had been moulded into taking over.

What is the problem with SSPX? ›

SSPX members in Kansas were accused of either perpetrating or covering up clerical sex abuse in the state. For many years, the SSPX St. Mary's Rectory in Kansas faced numerous sex abuse allegations.

What does Pope Francis say about SSPX? ›

Pope Francis has already declared that during the current Jubilee Year of Mercy, the faithful can validly and licitly receive absolution of their sins from priests of the SSPX.

Which church denominations does not practice Holy Communion? ›

With the exception of the Quakers and the Salvation Army (denominations that do not celebrate Holy Communion), the majority of Christian denominations agree with the general aspects of Communion as outlined in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.

What are the 3 heresies? ›

For convenience the heresies which arose in this period have been divided into three groups: Trinitarian/Christological; Gnostic; and other heresies.

What religion is heretical? ›

The term is used particularly in reference to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In certain historical Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures, among others, espousing ideas deemed heretical was (and in some cases still is) met with censure ranging from excommunication to the death penalty.

What did the church do to stop heresy? ›

In the 12th and 13th centuries, however, the Inquisition was established by the church to combat heresy; heretics who refused to recant after being tried by the church were handed over to the civil authorities for punishment, usually execution.

Does the pope support condoms? ›

When asked whether the Catholic Church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms, the Pope replied: "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a ...

What religion rejected the authority of the pope? ›

Reformation movement spread throughout western Europe

The reformers rejected the authority of the pope as well as many of the principles and practices of Catholicism of that time.

Is SSPX confession valid? ›

Because clergy of the SSPX were not in full communion with the pope, they essentially had the status of a suspended priest and thus did not have the faculty to validly hear confessions.

Which SSPX sacraments are valid? ›

For a sacrament to be “valid,” the only requirements are that a minister capable of conferring that sacrament applies the necessary form to the necessary matter, with the intention of “doing what the Church does.” To put it another way: minister + form + matter + intention = sacrament.

What did Pope Pius XI say about communism? ›

Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.

Why the SSPX is not in schism? ›

In any case, the SSPX has always recognized the papacy and the primacy of Rome. The reciprocal is also true, namely, that every Pope since foundation of the SSPX in the 1970s has recognized the validity of their sacraments. Thus, they do not fit the classic definition of “schism.” Not even by a long shot.

Is the Catholic Church banning the Latin Mass? ›

Pope Francis

Francis further clamped down on the Latin Mass later in 2021 by forbidding the celebration of some sacraments according to the ancient rite. In both instances, his directives were aimed at bishops and religious superiors.

Are SSPX marriages valid? ›

For all these reasons, the faithful find themselves in a situation of necessity that allows them to turn to the priests of Tradition. Under the laws of the Church, their marriage is certainly valid.

Why did Pope Francis limit the Latin Mass? ›

This de facto prohibition arises because these sacraments can only be celebrated in so-called personal parishes that were already in existence and dedicated to traditionalist communities. There are exceedingly few of these parishes around the world, and Francis barred the creation of new ones.

What was the name of the female pope? ›

Pope Joan (Ioannes Anglicus, 855–857) was, according to legend, a woman who reigned as pope for two years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe.

Who was Jesus first pope? ›

In Christian tradition, St. Peter was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. Roman Catholic tradition holds that Jesus established St. Peter as the first pope (Matthew 16:18).

What religion was Jesus? ›

Of course, Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues.

What is the oldest religion? ›

The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.

How many black Popes have there been? ›

In the history of the papacy, there has never been a black pope, while today the greatest number of Roman Catholics is actually in Africa.”

How many Popes had wives? ›

There have been at least four Popes who were legally married before taking Holy Orders: St Hormisdas (514–523), Adrian II (867–872), John XVII (1003) and Clement IV (1265–68) – though Hormisdas was already a widower by the time of his election.

When did celibacy start in the Catholic Church? ›

The universal requirement to celibacy was imposed upon the clergy with force in 1123 and again in 1139.

Why did pope Benedict resign? ›

In that announcement, citing a loss of stamina and his “advanced age” at 85, Benedict said he was stepping down freely and “for the good of the church.” The decision, surprising the faithful and the world at large, capped a papacy of almost eight years in which his efforts to re-energize the Roman Catholic Church were ...

Has there ever been a female pope? ›

The Vatican's official records state that all of the more than 260 Catholic popes have been men, but according to a medieval legend, a lady pontiff may have reigned for a brief period in the ninth century.

How many black popes have there been? ›

In the history of the papacy, there has never been a black pope, while today the greatest number of Roman Catholics is actually in Africa.”

Which pope stopped priests from marrying? ›

Pope Benedict VIII in 1018 formally forbade priestly marriages; the prohibition was solemnly extended by the First Lateran Council of 1123. The rule, however, was not easy to enforce.

Has a pope ever fought in a war? ›

Julius II personally led the Papal armed forces at the victorious Siege of Mirandola and, despite subsequent defeats and great losses at the Battle of Ravenna, he ultimately forced the French troops of Louis XII to retreat behind the Alps after the arrival of Swiss mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire.

Does the pope still speak Latin? ›

Italian is the lingua franca of the Vatican and replaced Latin as the official language of the Synod of Bishops in 2014.

What is Latin for pope? ›

The pope (Latin: papa, from Greek: πάππας, romanized: pappas, 'father'), also known as supreme pontiff (pontifex maximus or summus pontifex), Roman pontiff (Romanus pontifex) or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome (or historically the patriarch of Rome), head of the worldwide Catholic Church, and has also served ...

What is the real title of the pope? ›

The pope's proper title, according to the Vatican's website, is Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of ...

Why did Pope Benedict wear red shoes? ›

Why did Pope Benedict wear red shoes? For centuries, the Pope was known to wear red shoes meant to symbolize the passion, faith, and martyrdom of Jesus Christ and other persecuted Catholic figures.

How many popes have resigned in Catholic Church? ›

How many popes have resigned in history? In total, six popes have abdicated the position for definite. Notable examples include Benedict IX, who resigned three times including selling the title, and Gregory XII. Gregory was the pope during the western schism, lasting from 1378 to 1417.

What is Pope Benedict called now? ›

Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known as "Pope emeritus" upon his resignation, and he retained this title until his death in December 2022.


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