The election of a Pope seems to be a radical response to the crisis that came about especially through the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican and its perfidious spirit. The Spirit of Vatican II created a new religion, which now occupies the churches that were once Catholic. When this was recognized, concerned Catholics sought a way to preserve their Catholic Faith.
In 1965 in Oklahoma City, a group of concerned Catholic parents got together and started a catechism class for their children. Many of the mothers were teachers. A priest taught the High School class for several years, and was replaced by a learned Catholic man after that.
Then came the changes in the liturgy, which began after the liturgy decree was approved at the end of 1963 and culminated with the institution of the Novus Ordo Missae and the New Rites of the Sacraments between 1968 and 1972. Catholics were concerned about these new rites and their validity. These concerns heightened when Paul VI signed a decree in 1974, stating that his church had changed the essential rites of the Sacraments. Even Vatican II stated this was impossible, and yet this was done.
The first step was that priests departed the Conciliar Church founded in the spirit of Vatican II. These priests were approached by the faithful and proceeded to administer the Sacraments to the faithful in the late 1960’s and continued on until their deaths. Catholics were careful not to appear to usurp the authority of the Church. Instead of founding churches, which can only be done by a bishop in his diocese, they founded Mass-centers. Some Mass-centers had a priest in residence, while many more depended on the ministrations of a priest who might only come several times a year.
In the early 1970’s Catholics had come to the conclusion that John Baptist Montini (Paul VI) by his actions at and after Vatican II could not be Pope of the Catholic Church, because heretics depart from the Church by their acts of heresy, as provided in Canon Law. The position had not yet been named sedevacantism, although all Catholics were implicitly sedevacantists.
One of the main proponents of sedevacantism in the early days was Father Joachim Saenz-Arriaga, who wrote a book, Sede Vacante, to demonstrate the fact that Paul VI was actually an antipope, and not Pope of the Catholic Church. He also wrote The New Montinian Church, which was translated into English, although Sede Vacante was not. At the same time he went to Rome to approach the conservative Cardinals and ask them to unite, declare the papacy vacant, and elect a Pope who would govern the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, several seminarians approached a retired Archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, because of the heresies being taught in seminaries throughout the world. Lefebvre and these seminarians and a few other priests founded a pious union in the Conciliar Church in 1970, which is called the Apostles of Jesus and Mary, known under its public title as the Sacerdotal Fraternity of Saint Pius X. (SSPX) Although Lefebvre and the priests taught Catholic doctrine, they retained the Novus Ordo Missae, until one of the priests asked Lefebvre on Christmas Eve, 1971, why a traditional bishop would use an innovated Mass. Later that day, Lefebvre decided to return to the Latin Mass, starting what one seminarian who studied in the SSPX called reverse changes. Soon the SSPX had been given a place in the Rhone Valley and began building additions to house the many seminarians coming there to complete their priestly studies.
In the early days, men coming to study in the SSPX were given credit for their studies in other seminaries, often being ordained after two years, and in at least one case, only one year of traditional seminary training. These men were allowed to return to their own countries in order to found priories without the permission of the local Conciliar Bishops. The faithful accepted these priests, believing that Archbishop Lefebvre must know what he is doing. We are in a severe crisis in the Church, and it is reasonable that until the crisis is solved the faithful need new priests to replace the old, when they die.
In 1976, Archbishop Lefebvre made a world tour to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation and to visit two new seminaries started by his newly ordained priests. As part of this visit, Lefebvre went to Saint Jude’s Shrine in Stafford, Texas. On Saturday May 22nd, three priests came from Mexico in order to speak to Lefebvre. Father Saenz was one of them. None of these Mexican priests could speak English, but some of the faithful present could speak Spanish and spoke with the priests. These priests informed them about the discussion of electing a Pope, and soon this suburb of Houston was buzzing with speculation about the election of a Pope, and who might be elected. Father Carl Pulvermacher OFM had just returned from Austalia and was joining to assist the SSPX.
On Sunday August 29th, 1976 Archbishop Lefebvre celebrated a Mass in the city of Lille France. What was originally planned to be a small gathering of faithful turned into a large event, requiring the use of a sports stadium. In his sermon, Archbishop Lefebvre called the Novus Ordo Missae of Paul VI a bastard Mass. Catholics thought: “We have found our bishop.” Support for Lefebvre grew as did his Society of Saint Pius X. However, questions soon arose, when he visited the man he still considered to be Pope, Paul VI.
Soon discussions were begun about whether or not Paul VI was Pope or not and battle lines were drawn. The position all had held implicitly since they left the Novus Ordo was given a name, sede vacantism. Some SSPX priests were and always had been sede vacantists, including some running the seminary in the United States. Father Carl Pulvermacher in the early spring of 1977 gave a sede vacantist sermon in Oklahoma City at a weekday Mass, which was followed by a long conversation. During this conversation, Father Carl said: “Some day we are going to have to elect our own Pope.”
At the end of the 1970’s there were two basic groups: the SSPX and the independent priests. There were very few priests who had been ordained prior to Vatican II working with the SSPX. The SSPX was being run by those ordained in the SSPX by this time. And the divisions had begun for several reasons, only one of which was the question of the Pope.
By the end of the 1970’s there was no real fighting over territory, because there were so few priests available to set up Mass-centers. In only a few cases had an SSPX priest set up a Mass-center where an independent priest already had one. This would soon change.
The term Traditionalist was given to the resistance against Vatican II and its spirit in the late 1970’s. Before that we simply considered ourselves Catholics. Yes, we are faithful to Tradition, that is the teaching given by Jesus Christ to the Apostles and transmitted to us by the Catholic Church.
Lefebvre had set the precedent of ordaining priests outside of the laws of the Catholic Church, and this had been accepted. Concerned Traditionalists and independent priests became increasingly aware of the inconsistencies of the SSPX. They were not ready to make the radical step Francis Schuckardt had.
We should consider the organization founded by Francis Schuckardt and Dennis Chicoine in 1967 in the Conciliar Church. These two founded the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI) as laymen. In 1970 brothers Francis and Dennis went around the United States meeting with various Traditionalist groups, explaining that the Novus Ordo is evil and that Paul VI was not Pope. In the fall of 1971, an Old Catholic Bishop had joined with the CMRI. He suggested that Francis Schuckardt be ordained a priest and consecrated as Bishop in order to preserve the Church. This was accomplished around All Saints day of 1971, and the CMRI moved into the Mass Center business. Traditionalists in general would not accept these three radical moves for over a decade and a half. First Schuckardt broke the barrier of ordination outside of the laws of the Church and consecration as bishop in 1971. However, he received these Orders from a bishop who was not ordained and consecrated in the Catholic Church. Mainstream Traditionalists wanted a priest who had been ordained in the Catholic Church, as the Independent priests were. Then they accepted men ordained by a Bishop who had been a Bishop in the Catholic Church, such as Archbishop Lefebvre.
In 1981, two Catholic laymen in Germany made contact with Archbisop Peter Martin Ngo-Dinh Thuc. Archbishop Thuc had visited the SSPX seminary in Econe, Switzerland in the early 1970’s and been asked by Lefebvre to take the seminary over. In 1975, a visionary from Palmar de Troya, Spain, Clemente Dominguez-Gomez, had a vision that God wanted him to be ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop. He sent emissaries to Archbishop Lefebvre at Econe, Switzerland. Lefebvre said that he was too busy to go and suggested they go to Rome and get Archbishop Thuc. Archbishop Thuc went and ordained Clemente and several others and consecrated several of them as bishops. He then repented and asked forgiveness from Paul VI for this schismatic act.
The two laymen arranged first for the consecration of Father Guerard des Lauriers. Des Lauriers had written the Ottaviani Intervention which was given to Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, complaining of the doctrinal errors in the Novus Ordo Missae. He then joined Lefebvre and taught at Econe, until he was dismissed for his sede vacantist leanings in 1977 by Lefebvre. He was the priest who asked Lefebvre to stop saying the Novus Ordo Missae in 1971. In the spring of 1981, des Lauriers was consecrated a bishop by Archbishop Thuc. Later that year, two Mexican priests that had worked with Father Saenz were consecrated bishop by Archbishop Thuc.
The two Mexican bishops, Carmona and Zamora, were hosted by Bishop George Musey, who they had recently consecrated as bishop, in Dallas, Texas, in May of 1982. They discussed the vacancy of the Papacy and the election of a Pope with the independent priests in attendance. Another such meeting was held in Louisiana in early 1983 with Archbishop Thuc present.
With the consecration of bishops contrary to the laws of the Church, a new barrier was broken. The reasoning is that in this serious crisis in the Church, if we can ordain priests to bring us the Sacraments, we can also consecrate bishops for the purpose of ordaining more priests in the future.
Bishop Musey consecrated as bishop Father Louis Vezelis OFM in August of 1982. They then divided the United States into two dioceses, each taking charge of one of the newly created dioceses and demanding obedience from the independent priests in their dioceses. Very few of the independent priests submitted to these two new diocesan bishops, seeking instead a way of justifying their operation outside of the laws of the Catholic Church.
Beginning in the mid 1970’s, a few lay people decided that the Traditionalist Movement should not be having Masses and ordaining priests. They adopted the position, which was later named home alone, because they stayed home and prayed rather than going to Traditionalist Mass-Centers. One of the things that motivated these people to investigate further were the many scandals and in fighting between and among Traditionalist groups. How could this be the Catholic Church, if there is no unity? Most of these need not be considered, but one is so well known that it should be mentioned. In 1983, nine SPPX hand delivered a letter to Archbishop Lefebvre detailing their concerns about how the SSPX was being run. This led to their expulsion from the SSPX and the formation of the Society of Saint Pius V. This is shortly after they published an article, Two Bishops in Every Garage, against the consecration of bishops by Archbishop Thuc and those he had consecrated.
In the 1980’s, the idea of electing a Pope was considered by the Traditionalists, until the split between the Thuc Bishops and the Independent priests. Then only a few people carried on with this idea, mainly among those who stayed home alone.
By the late 1980’s Traditionalism had tried ordaining priests and consecrating bishops, and this did not bring about unity in Traditionalism, but division. To insure that the SSPX would have sacramental bishops, Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop de Castro Meyer consecrated four SSPX priests as bishops on June 30, 1988. This caused a split in the SSPX with one group of priests joining visibly with the Conciliar Church under John Paul II to form the Society of Saint Peter. At the other end of the spectrum the CMRI replaced Schuckardt and approached bishop Musey to conditionally reordain them and become their bishop. Thus for a time, they were part of Musey’s Western Diocese of the United States. The CMRI was now gaining credibility among the Traditionalists, building on the organization they had already built and could now expand.
In 1990 there were several basic Traditionalist groups. The SSPX was the largest. The SSPV was doing well. Several independent priests had found a way to become a Thuc bishop. The independent priests were beginning to die off, so Traditionalists had to find another priest from somewhere. The CMRI was gaining credibility and in 1991 would have a Thuc bishop of its own.
In 1987 several people came together to start working towards the election of Pope. About the same time an article circulated about the possibility that Joseph Cardinal Siri had been elected in 1963 and both 1978 conclaves, but had been prevented from stating whether or not he had accepted election. If this was true, then Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II were not Popes, because Siri’s claim to the papacy still existed. Father Saenz had contacted Siri in the early 1970’s as one of the conservative cardinals. Several of those promoting a papal election attempted to find out whether or not there was anything to this claim, making contact with those who had actually seen Siri. No solid evidence could be found that Siri had been elected, only circumstantial evidence.
The basic claim as presented from 1985 until Siri’s death on May 2nd, 1989 was the Siri was pope elect, not actually Pope. In other words, he had been elected Pope, but had not said whether or not he had accepted. The claim was that the Enemies of the Church had infiltrated the conclaves and put pressure on Siri to not accept election. Since force and fear invalidate an action, the claim is that this force placed on Siri invalidated his rejection of his election as Pope.
What Is the Purpose of the Traditionalist Movement?
Those of us who departed from the Conciliar Church after Vatican II did so in order to preserve our Catholic Faith. We had no plans to found a parallel church, but to retain the Catholic Faith whole and entire. Our only desire was to remain Catholic in the fullest sense of the word. We took action in order to remain Catholic our own selves and to encourage others to do the same thing. This is why we returned to the Baltimore Catechism in the mid 1960’s in the US, in order to learn and teach the same faith that had been taught to our parents, grandparents and our ancestors from the time of their conversion to the Catholic faith.
As Catholics, we desired to receive the Sacraments in a Catholic manner from priests and bishops who also retained the Catholic faith. We desired to live as Catholics in the fullest sense of that word. We heard that Saint John Vianney received Holy Communion in a barn, due to the persecution at that time in France. We heard of the priest-holds in England, during that persecution. We believed that persecution was soon coming to all of us. Antichrist might not be far off, because of the general departure from the Catholic Faith, which was happening everywhere, because of Vatican II and its perfidious spirit.
The ideals of those who founded the Traditionalist movement are admirable, but somewhere along the line the focus changed, and the movement was soon given a name. In the early 1970’s we did not call ourselves Traditionalists, but Catholics, then explained the difference between ourselves and the Conciliar Church founded by Vatican II. We would pull out Saint Athanasius’ letter to his flock where he said: “They may have the churches, but we have the faith.” It was truly the Catholic faith that mattered to us.
How Did Traditionalism Get Off Course?
By the late 1970’s, the focus of Traditionalists was not as much on the Catholic Faith, but obtaining the Sacraments. In fact, in the early 1980’s someone would write a piece, The Mass Only Theory, Exegesis of a Catch Word, bewailing the shift in focus from Catholicism to obtaining the Sacraments at any price, even the price of compromising the Faith.
We lost focus on the only ting important, the Catholic Faith, and began seeking the Sacraments from a valid source. The focus was on validity, not Catholicity. Some drew the line at the origin of the Orders of their priest. Some required their priest to derive their orders from a Catholic source, that is from a bishop that was in communion with the Catholic Church when the crisis began, such as Archbishops Lefebvre and Thuc and Bishops de Castro Meyer and Mendez. All four have one thing in common: they participated in Vatican II and made no public objection until years after the council closed. All signed most, if not all, of the documents, participating in the heresies contained therein. However, this is totally ignored.
Others were more broad-minded, accepting any valid source of Orders, such as the Orthodox and the Old Catholics. Given the depth of the crisis, why shouldn’t we seek orders from someone, who is technically outside of the Church, but is far more Catholic than the local Conciliar bishop? The bishop that ordained and consecrated Francis Schuckardt was ordained and consecrated in a line of bishops that were about ready to return to the Catholic Church shortly before Vatican II. One of these bishops stated in a gathering of Old Roman Catholic priests and bishops in 1957, that there was no difference between them and the Catholic Church and that they should return to full communion with the Catholic Church.
And what is the difference between Old Catholics and the Independent Sacramental Movement and the Traditionalists? Basically there is not real difference, if they hold the same faith, and many do. And the Traditionalists have accepted Old Catholics among their ranks. In 1978 Archbishop Lefebvre accepted an Old Catholic Bishop, Georg Schmitz as his successor bishop, announcing this fact publicly to the seminarians at Econe and admitting him to assist at the 1978 ordinations at Econe as a bishop. Some Traditionalists joined the CMRI in the early days, when Francis Schuckardt was head of the CMRI and a man consecrated bishop by an Old Roman Catholic.
In the mid 1970’s the focus shifted from the Catholic Faith to obtaining the Sacraments. Archbishop Lefebvre broke the barrier of ordaining outside of the Catholic Church by ordaining priests for his fledgling Society of Saint Pius X. With this barrier broken, the focus increased on finding valid Sacraments. Archbishop Thuc went a step further in 1981 by consecrating three priests as bishops for the Traditionalists, a step Lefebvre would imitate seven years later to preserve his sect, the Society of Saint Pius X.
All the while, two of the marks of the Catholic Church were ignored: Apostolicity and Unity. And it is these two marks as well as the attribute of authority that we need to focus on.
The bottom line of the Traditionalist attitude is that if it is valid, it is good and Catholic. And this includes the Old Catholics and the Orthodox, to which many Traditionalists have fled, when they became scandalized by the actions of the Traditionalists. Traditionalism is fissiparous, which means divisive. Protestantism is also fissiparous, in that it had divided into many sects since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg five centuries ago. We use this fact as one proof that the Protestant Revolt is just that, a revolt against the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
If Traditionalism is Catholic, then it would present a united front against the Conciliar Church, which in practice is just as fissiparous. One can find within the Conciliar Church those in full communion with Pope Francis that use the Latin Mass, to those who advocate for birth control and women priests.
Jesus prayed over the Apostles and His Church after the Last Supper: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) Unity is an essential mark of the Church as we read in Scripture and the Catechism and pray in the Nicene Creed.
If the solutions of Traditionalism were truly Catholic, they would have brought about unity, not disunity. A simple look at many major cities will find the existence of competing Traditionalist groups having churches there. Yes, they no longer call them Mass-centers, but churches, when only the Bishop of the diocese may erect a parish and permit the construction of a church. Traditionalists are now usurping the authority of the Bishop of the diocese, some even consecrating churches without permission of the Bishop of the diocese. Nothing justifies such a radical action, but instead shows Traditionalists lack of regard for the laws of the very Church they claim to be members of.
Ordaining priests and consecrating bishops has not brought about unity, but increased disunity. All Traditionalist sects have their own Sacramental bishop(s). Traditionalist bishop Daniel Dolan summarizes the need for sacramental bishops: “Some claim I left the Society of St. Pius V simply because I wanted to become a bishop at any price, but this is preposterous. The main reason I left was because of personal conflicts with Fr. Kelly. He exercised a strong cult-like leadership. He was a bit of a Francis Schuckardt type – very charismatic and manipulative. And not having a bishop in the Society made the situation especially taxing. But I certainly wasn’t looking to better myself by becoming a bishop. Bishop Pivarunas approached me first with the idea, and at first I had serious reservations about the Archbishop Thuc and Old Catholic background of the Mount St. Michael’s community. I don’t deny that there have been problems here, but we’re not living today under normal circumstances. We’re faced with a vacuum of authority; the papacy has been vacant for more than twenty years now, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Our people need to receive the sacraments, and for this they need priests, and it takes bishops to make priests. And this is precisely the role that Bishop Pivarunas and myself play. We don’t claim to possess any ordinary jurisdiction or the power of excommunication. We have moral authority, but we don’t boss people around. We’re sacramental bishops, and traditionalist communities simply can’t survive for very long without sacramental bishops.” The SSPX prepared a media brochure after Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of their bishops, which states that Lefebvre only consecrated them as sacramental bishops. Father Anthony Cekada argues that the Thuc bishops did not incur the excommunication placed in Canon Law by Pope Pius XII for consecrating a bishop without a mandate from the Pope, by stating that this excommunication was instituted to prevent the Chinese Communists from appointing men as bishops of the dioceses in Rome and having a bishop consecrate them. Under Church law, Cekada’s argument has merit, when one reads the decree in question. Of course, this does not address the fact that consecrating a bishop without a mandate from the Pope also causes all the bishops involved to be suspended, which law remains on the books.
In any case, what this proves is that Traditionalists priests and bishops have no real authority in the Catholic Church, which they readily admit in their own defense of the legitimacy of their functioning as priests and bishops in this time of crisis. Traditionalist priests and bishops are not our pastors, and they admit this. The rest of the Independent Sacramental Movement, set up their own jurisdictions, appointing a man as Archbishop or Bishop of this jurisdiction. This man, then appoints pastors of the parishes he founds. Any major city may have many such jurisdictions represented as well as the independent Traditionalist parishes.
Without authority, there cannot be any true unity.
It is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that the Apostles will have successors until the end of time, based on two Scriptures. “And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. ” (Matthew 28:18-20) This commission was given the the eleven Apostles, Judas having deserted on Good Friday.
“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19) This promise was given to Peter and his successors in the Papacy until the end of time.
The question is how is Apostolicity transmitted from one man to another? First of all, we need to define what apostolicity is. The Apostles will have successors to their doctrine, their mission, their authority and their orders until the end of time. Remove any one of these attributes from a man, and he is no longer a successor of the Apostles in the fullest sense of the term. If a bishop departs from the Catholic Faith, he resigns his office as Bishop in Christ’s Church by that very fact. The Apostolic Mission and Authority are attached to the Office of Bishop, that is, the office of Bishop of a defined territory called a diocese. Consecration as a bishop does not confer Apostolic Succession without the appointment to govern a diocese being attached, as several decrees from the Catholic Church prove.
The Independent Sacramental Movement appeals to a statement from Saint Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitory. At Vincent’s time, many bishops could trace their line back to one of the Apostles. However, Vincent said we needed to only consider one succession: that of the Bishops of Rome. As a result of this, they trace their consecrations back to a consecration performed by a Bishop of Rome of a bishop, who consecrated another man as bishop, etc. However, the succession of the Bishops of Rome is not one of Orders, but of office. In most cases one Bishop of Rome did not consecrate his successor as Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome dies, an election is assembled, and a man is elected as Bishop of Rome, and then ordained and consecrated, if he lacks these Orders. His predecessor cannot consecrate him, because he is already dead. For eight centuries, the man elected as Bishop of Rome was not a bishop at the time of election. He was a priest, and in many cases a high ranking deacon in the diocese of Rome at the time of his election. Laymen have been elected as Bishop of Rome. This succession is not one of Orders, but of Office.
Look up the terms deacon, priest, and bishop in Sacred Scripture and they are often linked with the term of Office. “My people have been silent, because they had no knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will reject thee, that thou shalt not do the office of priesthood to me: and thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children.” (Osee 4:6) An office can be lost, whereas an order is an indelible mark as is the mark of Baptism. Without the office of the priesthood, a man cannot legitimately function as a priest. And the same is true of a bishop. This is why all but the Traditionalist arm of the Independent Sacrament Movement sets up an office and appoints men to it, to give the appearance of having the Office of Priesthood or the Office of Bishop.
Pope Leo XIII in the fifteenth paragraph of his Encyclical on Church Unity, Satis Cognitum writes: “But the Episcopal order is rightly judged to be in communion with Peter, as Christ commanded, if it be subject to and obeys Peter; otherwise it necessarily becomes a lawless and disorderly crowd. It is not sufficient for the due preservation of the unity of the faith that the head should merely have been charged with the office of superintendent, or should have been invested solely with a power of direction”
Father Joachin Saenz-Arriaga proposed first that the papacy was vacant, then he proposed that we must elect a Pope to fill the vacancy. In the early 1970’s he proceeded to attempt to fill this vacancy, beginning with the conservative Cardinals in Rome, asking them to declare the vacancy and end it. When he failed at that he proceeded to seek conservative bishops, beginning with Archbishop Lefebvre. He traveled to Stafford, Texas with two other priests from Mexico where Archbishop Lefebvre had come to confirm children and adults. On May 22nd, 1976, these three priests met with Archbishop Lefebvre to discuss the election of a Pope. These three priests were open with those who could communicate with them about their mission, which caused the whole gathering of people from the south central part of the United States to begin discussing this solution. Father Saenz would die two months later. The other two priests would accept consecration as bishops at the hands of Archbishop Thuc in order to preserve Episcopal Orders until a Pope could be elected. If one reads Thuc’s own declaration from 1982 and the documents cited in support of it, the only logical conclusion is the election of a Pope. This was discussed with Traditionalist priests and bishops in the United States in May of 1982 and again in early 1983. Archbishop Thuc was present at the latter meeting.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches us: “It is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that this visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church. This St. Jerome clearly perceived and as clearly expressed when, in his work against Jovinian, he wrote: One is elected that, by the appointment of a head, all occasion of schism may be removed. In his letter to Pope Damasus the same holy Doctor writes: Away with envy, let the ambition of Roman grandeur cease! I speak to the successor of the fisherman, and to the disciple of the cross. Following no chief but Christ, I am united in communion with your Holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on that rock is built the Church. Whoever will eat the lamb outside this house is profane; whoever is not in the ark of Noah shall perish in the flood.” When the Fathers of the Church are in unanimous agreement on a subject, the Church considers their teaching to be infallibly true.
Let us return to Jesus’ prayer over the Apostles: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) Jesus founded His Church on a rock, changing Simon’s name to Rock. (Peter from Petrus in Latin, meaning Rock.)
We have seen that ordaining priests and consecrating bishops has not brought unity, but the election of a man as Pope has this ability. Pope Boniface VIII declared in the Bull Unam Sanctam: “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” There is only one Pope, and obedience to the Pope provides the necessary unity. It should be noted that one of the supporting documents to Archbishop Thuc’s 1982 declaration is Unam Sanctam. Thuc declared: “Therefore, in so far as I am a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, I judge that the Chair of the Roman Catholic Church is vacant; and it behooves me, as bishop, to do all that is needed so that the Roman Catholic Church will endure in its mission for the salvation of souls.”
Traditionalism is not subject to the Roman Pontiff in any manner. The sedeoccupantists, who believe that Francis is Pope, such as the Society of Saint Pius X and the break off under bishop Williamson, are not subject to Francis. When Francis declares something, instead of Rome has spoken the case is closed, it is Rome has spoken, the debate is on.
Another position is similar to sedeoccupantism, sedeprivationism. This is also called the Cassiciacum thesis or the material/formal proposition. It was authored by Father Guerard des Lauriers after he left the SSPX and before he was consecrated a bishop by Archbishop Thuc. It basically holds that Paul VI was materially Pope, but not formally, and therefore impeded the election of a Pope, much as Siri would have, if his claim was valid, but he has no authority as Pope. Des Lauriers also believed John Paul I and II were materially Pope, because validly created Cardinals participated in their elections. It is now known what he would have thought of Benedict or Francis, although the current proponents of this thesis hold them to also be materially, but not formally Pope. This position, unlike sedeoccupantism, does give some justification for their ignoring what flows from Conciliar Rome.
The final position, which is opposed to the two previous is sedevacantism, which holds that the claimants to the Papacy in Rome from John XXIII to Francis are in fact heretical Antipopes, being heretics prior to their apparent elections. As such, they totally ignore Rome, since a Catholic ignores heretics and Antipopes. However, sedevacantism does not move to the logical conclusion, which is now called Conclavism, which calls for an end to the vacancy and proceeds to do so by electing a Pope. If sedevacantism were the proper position, it would naturally bring about unity, but a look at the various sedevacantist bishops, priests and organizations shows their disunity. They are not working together, but competing for their share of the Traditionalist market place.
There is a small movement among former Traditionalists which rightly rejects the ministrations of the Traditionalist branch of the Independent Sacramental Movement. Proceeding from Sacred Scripture and Church Law, they have concluded that the Traditionalist priests and bishops have not been sent by Almighty God through the Church Jesus Christ founded to minister to Catholics. We have seen above that Traditionalists admit they do not have any Office in the Catholic Church. Saint Paul told the Romans (10:15): “And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!”
Jesus sent the Apostles after His resurrection: “Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.” (John 20:21) Notice this comes after their ordination as priests on Holy Thursday, and therefore this sending is not a part of ordination. Saint Robert Bellarmine holds that Jesus only consecrated Peter as a Bishop. After the Ascension, Peter in turn consecrated the other Apostles as Bishops. We know Peter had to consecrate Matthias, after his selection as an Apostle to replace Judas. Bellarmine holds this was done to show that all power in the Church flows ultimately from God the Father through Jesus Christ, who the Father sent, through Peter and his successors.
Let us return to the home-alone movement. Because of the scandals and infighting among the various Traditionalist sects, beginning in the late 1970’s, some departed from Traditionalism entirely. Some went to the mainstream Orthodox, because of their stability, while others departed Traditionalism considering it to be a group of non-Catholic sects.
Where the home-alone movement as it is now called fails is in rejecting the necessity of a living breathing Pope. Like sedevacantism, which many home-aloners also adhere to, they consider obedience to the Popes from Peter to Pius XII is sufficient to be subject to the Pope. Where home-aloners differ from the rest of sedevacantists is on the ordination of priests, consecration of bishops and administration of the Sacraments without authority in the Church. Mainstream sacramental sedevacantists believe that priests and bishops may administer all of the Sacraments, whereas home-aloners believe that they may not legitimately do so.
Election of the Pope
That the papacy is a central issue in the crisis in the Catholic Church, that began with the usurpation of the papacy in October of 1958, should be without question. All Traditionalists agree that the Roman claimant to the papacy is a problem. They may disagree on how he possesses the papacy, if he possesses it all, but all trace the problem to the head, as one Traditionalist often said: “The fish rots from the head.”
We should return to October of 1958. On October 9th Pope Pius XII died at Castel Gandolfo, the first Pope in history to die there. On October 25th the Cardinals assembled in conclave to elect a successor. In the early evening of October 26th white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave was assembled. It turned black about five minutes later. United Press International had announced that Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani had been elected Pope. From what could be observed, the commotion in and near the Sistine is such that occurs when a man has been elected Pope. Eventually an announcement was sent out by the Vatican that no Pope had been elected.
And this is where the conjecture comes in. We have already touched on the proposition that Giuseppe Cardinal Siri was elected in the 1963 and both 1978 conclaves as Pope, but was prevented from being elected. In 1985, three men approached and interviewed Cardinal Siri and related his answers, which tend to support this proposition. Siri never clearly stated that he had not been elected Pope, but when asked only said: “I am bound by the secret (of the conclave).” All participants in a conclave are bound to secrecy, which includes not only the Cardinals, but all who work in any capacity inside the conclave. The only one not bound is the Pope who is elected, and any he releases from the secrecy. If Siri was only Pope-elect, who would still be bound to the secret, which is why several reached the conclusion that he was Pope-elect.
In 1988, Father Peter Tran Van Khoat traveled to Rome and Genoa to meet with Cardinal Siri and inquire whether or not he was Pope. This much is certain. In late summer of 1989, Father Khoat met with Jim Condit and told Condit to look at 1958, then proceeded to claim that Siri had been elected in 1958. Other evidence has been produced that tends to confirm this. On June 3rd, 1990, Father Khoat publicly announced that Siri had been elected on October 26th, 1958 and had appointed secret cardinals and asked for help to find and assemble these men to elect a successor.
We know Siri died on May 2nd, 1989. With the exception of Father Khoat’s claim, Siri never claimed the Papacy. Church Law follows the principle of Scripture: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he die that is to be slain. Let no man be put to death, when only one beareth witness against him.” (Deuteronomy 17:6) Therefore Father Khoat’s testimony is insufficient, since no one else has confirmed that Siri was elected Pope and accepted the election. There is circumstantial evidence that Siri may have been elected, but no evidence he accepted, therefore he only had a claim to the papacy that had to be dealt with prior to electing a Pope. What someone should have done is approach Siri and asked him if he accepted election as Pope. He would either accept election, which would confirm he had indeed been elected, he would report he had already accept, or reject election or explain the whole story is false. No one did that.
Those of us preparing for the election of a Pope in the late 1980’s considered this and how to deal with it. However, when Siri died on May 2nd, 1989, the supporters of the Siri thesis were told that they were now sedevacantists in need of a Pope as much as the rest of us who questioned the thesis. They were invited to participate in the election in 1990.
What Father Khoat’s testimony proves is that the Papacy was certainly vacant on July 16, 1990, when Catholic gathered to elect a Pope, and elected David Bawden as Pope. Bawden took the name of Pope Michael, and commenced his reign, which continues to today. Pope Michael is entering his 29th year as Pope, only behind Pope Saint Peter (34 years) and Pope Pius IX (31 years 7 months). His reign has passed the reign of Antipope John Paul II the Great Deceiver (26 years, 5 months, 17 days), the longest reigning Antipope in history.