Sedevacantism describes the situation when the See of Peter is vacant. This happens during the interregnum once one Pope dies (or abdicates) and another is elected.
There exists a minority of Catholics who are convinced (in varying degrees) that since some date (which also varies) in the past, Papal Succession has ceased and that the See of Peter is vacant.
Put like that, to some, it may seem laughable, but it is no laughing matter. These Catholics have often reasoned their positions out very thoroughly, and have become so convinced that this is the case, that it is almost impossible for them to recant.
There is a lengthy article on Sedevacantism on Wikipedia, which is a good (if not lengthy) read. Always bear in mind, that with Wikipedia, you don’t know who the author is, or his authority on the matter.
Suffice to say Sedevacantism is a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. The main problem is around the liturgical reforms of the 20th Century and Vatican II. Goes like this:
- The liturgy and Church teaching was changed
- The liturgy and Church teaching should not have changed
- The Church can’t err (see my post on the Indefectability of the Church)
- Therefore the current visible Church is not the real Church (or a variation which says the Pope who is responsible is to blame, therefore, he is a manifest heretic and therefore there is no Pope)
Simple, clear reasoning. But they have omitted one very important factor; human beings. We’re not machines, it’s not black or white. We live in a world of shades of grey. The Church can’t err, but she can certainly, in her human aspect, forget. Like forgetting, that if anyone violates the truce of God (making War on any other day than Mondays to Wednesdays during Summer and Autumn) and after the third admonition does not make satisfaction, shall be anathematized (First Council of the Lateran)… well, so much for all the Catholics during every war that has ever happened since 1123…
Go ahead, look through the Ecumenical Councils that have been convoked, read their promulgations, see how much has been forgotten.
If a person forgets to leave his handbrake on and the car kills a child, the person will not be charged of murder. It is a terrible horrendous thing, but truthfully they are innocent (and likely to be their own judge, jury and punisher). To err, is to know one is doing something wrong, and to do it anyway. Just like any sin, it requires, matter, knowledge and forethought.
Some conspiracy theorists, posit that the Popes knew that messing around with the Liturgy was wrong and maliciously chose to do it with forethought. Well, if that was the case, there would be very serious implications for the person who occupies the office (not the office itself).
The problem, is that these conspiracy theorists are not psychic, they cannot prove the level of culpability of those they accuse (how much did they know, how much forethought was given, was there malicious intent? etc), and those that they accuse cannot defend themselves because they have gone to their Eternal Judgement. So based upon these two problems, we, as followers of Christ, we must adhere to “innocent until proven guilty” and de mortuis nil nisi bonum (“speak well of the dead or not at all”). Then we must wait until our lives are over to see who’s in heaven and who’s not. Only then will we know with certainty (bar the case of Miracles – more in another post another time).
Which means that the only position a Catholic can take in good conscience is that the See of Peter is occupied. Sure the Liturgical demolition and the loopy liberalisation which followed in “the spirit of the Vatican Council” were horrendous. And anyone who disagrees with that is suffering from some serious…
…to the facts. It’s been a disaster, of almost Protestant Reformation scale. But while it is an ontological tragedy, it is a very human disaster, deriving from very human mistakes.
Someone pointed out something which I believe is very insightful;
The majority of modern Popes have been treating their Pontificate like temporal despots, they can do as they will, create this, do that, go here, go there. They have lost the understanding that the Pontificate is a Stewardship, that they are charged to keep things, to look after them and not to act in a self-willed manner, for they are the steward of something which is not theirs. And not ours either, for that matter.
Consider the Papacy in the light of this Parable:
A certain man planted a vineyard and made a hedge about it, and dug a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen; and went into a far country.
The Holy Gospel according to St Mark (12:1-5)
Now imagine the Man comes home, and finds that the husbandmen have dug up the hedge, destroyed the winevat, taken down the tower, and made the vineyard into a dairy farm. It might be a great dairy farm, the lead Steward may be very proud of his work, “look how great a dairy farm I have made for you”. But the Man says “But I wanted a vineyard…”.
This is the world we live in, where people, ordinary human beings, no greater, no less, than you or I, think they know best. They are often unaware of the subtle voice which says “choose your own way” which I mentioned in the post Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost? is not the voice of God. Christ constantly calls us to be Stewards, to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded” (Mt 28:19-20).
The Liturgy is part of Sacred Tradition, not the Magesterium, the Magesterium is not called to innovate, discard, or lay waste to Sacred Tradition, the Magesterium is called to be a Steward of Sacred Tradition, and therefore also the Sacred Liturgy.
But just because the human occupants of the Magesterium of the Church, forget this mandate, and start doing things which they probably shouldn’t, it is not justification for accusing that the See of Peter is vacant.
Sedevacantism is bunk. Get back in the Ark and start helping to repair the holes, bail out the water and moor the Ark to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady.
Vision of St John Bosco of the Church
Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost?
Indefectibility of the Church