The serenity of sedevacantism: reflections on the 2013 “conclave”

During the 2005 "conclave" I was still solidly in the "Recognize-and-Resist" SSPX camp.  I was glued to the screen watching ballot after ballot and excitedly calling friends about Ratzinger and his solid chances to be "elected."  I had not really done my homework on him at the time; I just remembered glossy pictures in Latin Mass and excerpts from The Ratzinger Report I had read in my salad days of Traditional Catholicism.  I thought that he would definitely be more "traditional" than JPII, but would that be enough?

As the white smoke billowed my heart jumped, like the heart of any true Catholic who thinks he/she is witnessing the election of a true pope.  True Catholics have a tremendous attachment to the office and person of the Pope - an office given to us by Christ to hold His scepter over His Church.  To bind and loose - in His place - in our short time in this life.

I called two friends and we chatted excitedly about what this would mean.  The one friend, always (and still today) an Indult type, the other SSPX though "sedevacantist friendly."  While I was in the SSPX I was in the minority of people who considered sedevacantism a valid "alternative explanation" so I didn't have the time or inclination to demonize it as "non-Catholic" or label it with all the other insane labels R&R types have to put on an idea in order to emotionally pollute themselves from calmly looking at it.

But even in 2005 I felt disconnected from the Novus Ordo sect - the organization that appears to the outside world to be the visible Catholic Church but metaphysically is an impostor.  In 2005 I still saw with my eyes of flesh instead of my eyes of faith, and I had not confronted the one issue that to this day dominates every fiber of Joseph Ratzinger's being: Vatican II.

All the problems and issues we see and experience today go back to Vatican II and the question of the Pope.  Is Vatican II an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church or is it not?  Is it to be accepted as coming from Christ through His Church or is it not?

Standard R&R answers (keep in mind that typically these answers will come from the mouths of people - and sometimes clergy! - who have not even read one single document of Vatican II):

  • Pastoral council
  • Non-binding, and besides, there's no heresy anyway!

Sedevacantist responses (to the above points):

  • Please show us where in previous Catholic teaching a "pastoral council" is defined and what its authority is.  Church history shows us there are valid councils and invalid councils.  We don't have any "in-betweeners."
  • Nope.  Every single document ends with the same formulary as in Trent, with "I, Paul, Bishop of Rome, etc."  One can make the outrageous claim that it is non-binding, except for the fact that it has guided the Novus Ordo sect in every aspect for the last half-century.  You can claim all you want that it's not binding - but the Novus Ordo sect de-Catholicized every country which still recognized Jesus Christ as King (thanks Dignitatis Humanae - which by the way contains heresy directly contrary to the teachings of the pre-Vatican II popes).  The Novus Ordo sect destroyed the faith of millions by introducing the even-less-than-banal Novus Ordo Missae (thanks Sacrosanctum Concilium - which contains statements and propositions and attitudes condemned by Mediator Dei).  Saying it's "not binding" reminds me of Neville Chamberlain coming back to England waving a piece of paper he had signed with Hitler.  The facts weren't important...we had a piece of paper!

For the sedevacantist, life is fairly simple: Vatican II is an invalid council (we have precedent in Church history) implemented by anti-popes (we have precedent in Church history).  Given that "he who is not of the body cannot be the head" (St. Robert Bellarmine) we serenely await an intervention of Our Lord (we have precedent in the Great Western Schism, where Our Lord used human instruments to end the crisis) and in the meantime we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, attending Mass where we can and when we can't, saying the Rosary and trying to sanctify our lives.

We don't set up parallel churches or our own wedding tribunals (SSPX) or attempt to judge each and every action of the body we call "The Holy See" as orthodox or not by referencing our own judgment in reference to "Tradition"(that judgment being not guaranteed by anything).

For the conservative or the recognize-and-resister, life is pretty complicated.  Vatican II was a "bad, but certainly valid council" (an undefined idea in the Church with no precedent), implemented by valid popes (actions don't mean anything - a new period has been entered into in which we must know the hearts and minds of possible heretics before judging them as such - and that's a get-out-of-jail free card that only Martin Luther could have invented).

Given that you must have a valid Pope to consecrate Russia (because you live your life according to private revelation, while ignoring immediate doctrinal problems) you anxiously await the miracle of "the triumph of the Immaculate Heart" (while ignoring that Our Lady did not specify that the triumph would happen before the Final Judgement - oh, and you worship as a great "traditionalist" [Benedict XVI] a man who was complicit in the suppression of the Third Secret).

In the meantime, you resist whatever parts of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church, the latest version (2002) of the "Ordinary Form" (darkly humorous term) of the Mass, encyclicals, allocutions, and pretty much anything you want that would normally fall under the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and therefore would normally fall under the charism of the Church's INDEFECTIBILITY not under the charism of the Pope's INFALLIBILITY.  You resist, with your free will, these legal measures and documents from a man you call "Holy Father," who rules the juridical body you call "The Holy See," and is the man you view as the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. Yet, you fail to see how this is not protestant behavior.

2013 was very different for me.  I was able to watch the white smoke with the same sadness (yet serenity) that anyone who was alive during the Great Western Schism might have felt (if they had streaming internet back then, of course!).  I knew that something was not right but I knew that God, not I, would fix it.  I would not recognize a man as "Holy Father" who was blatantly not Catholic (Francis has celebrated Hanukkah with the Jews and has been prayed over by protestants - actions which would have earned him an excommunication and the title of apostate under any pre-Vatican II papacy).  I know the Church has had many anti-popes in her history and unlike all Catholics before my era in the Church I have access to over 2000 years of Church history so I know there is nothing new under the sun.  I'm not so arrogant as to believe the times of anti-popes have "passed."

To paraphrase St. Jerome, I live in an era in which the world has groaned, awoken, and marveled to find itself Modernist.  The Arian crisis afflicted 95% of the Church of its time.  The Modernist crisis has afflicted 99% of the Church of our time.  To those in the 99% who are looking at this joker who has balloons at his "Masses," and is not even certainly a priest (he was ordained in the 1969 ordinal), consider joining the 1%.  We don't have any crises of faith nor do we have to worry about all the anxiety and battles waged in the forums and websites of the neo-conservative and neo-trad Catholics.  We know the truth: we understand the metaphysical realities of the situation though everything conspires to make us believe otherwise.

We know that Our Lord promised to be with us always.  And we hold Him to that promise.  We wait on Him to fix the mess that men have made.  And we don't force our reality (habemus papam!) to fit our pre-made conclusions (sedevacantism can't be right!).  Like St. Thomas, we use reality to draw our conclusions.  And when all other options are inadequate to explain the situation, the remaining possibility, however uncertain to our eyes of flesh, must be the correct explanation, and will be seen by our eyes of faith.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen founded True Restoration in 2006 and served as its first President until 2023. He now lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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7 Responses

  1. What would be an example of an invalid past council? And how would you recognize a valid pope if one was elected? Who would elect him? During the past times of anti-popes weren't there at the same time true popes?

  2. Philomena

    Thanks for the questions though to be fair in the age of the Internet you can find these answers out for yourself 😉

    But to get you started…

    The pseudo-synod of Pistoia, the charter of Jansenism, was not condemned for 8 years until Pius VI did so in Auctorem Fidei.

    There's also the false Council of Hieria, the infamous pro-iconoclast council…

    As far as there always being a "true pope" in opposition to an anti-pope, this is also not true.

    Claimants named Christopher and Boniface VII, among others, were men claiming the papacy during periods in which there was no legitimate claimant.

    There was also Pope Leo VII who was a valid pope AND an anti pope. Check him out and the era known as the "saeculum obscurum."

    As for the election of Popes remember that the college of cardinals only electing members of its own body is fairly recent in Church history, probably coming into vogue after Trent.

    And this leads into your question of how you would recognize a valid pope…

    I don't know. As Father Anthony Cekada said in his interview with me on sedevacantism, sedevacantism may lead you into mystery but it won't lead you into contradiction.

    Imagine posing your question during the time of the Great Western Schism where there were three claimants, two of whom were backed by saints! Because they had no roadmap they had to come up with the solution of a council that asked for the resignations of two claimants, excommunicated the third who would not resign, and elected a new one. But the lack of an easy answer to your difficult question would not have changed the facts on the ground.

    I don't know what solution God has in mind for this crisis, but I don't look at the lack of a ready-made solution to an impossibly fouled up human situation as an impediment to my confronting two crystal clear facts:

    Vatican II issued documents that contained heresy and cannot be considered a valid council of the Catholic Church.

    A heretic cannot be the head of the Catholic Church. All claimants since Paul VI, in adhering to Vatican II, attach themselves to the heresy contained within.

    Until Vatican II is repudiated we will not be on the path to a true Roman Pontiff.

    Couple things for you to check out:

    Our show on Vatican II, the first of its kind, that went through 6 problematic Vatican II documents

    My interview with Fr Cekada, which deals with some of your questions

  3. Thanks for the quick reply Stephen. Honestly I wanted to ask you, whom I know to be pretty sharp and knowledgeable (although I am leery of sedevacantism), rather than the Internet, which is pretty much the bathroom wall of the universe. I'll check out your links for sure. A follow up question–if the claimant in Rome is not the true pope because of his adherence to VII, what about claimants such as "Pope" Michael over in Belvue? (At least I'm under the impression he rejects VII.)
    Stop in and see us sometime if you're ever near Manhattan. Anna

  4. Anna

    "Pope" Michael – who I think has since abdicated anyway – was not elected by the proper authorities.

    Next time I'm nearby I'll try to swing by, promise.

  5. 77Recognise and resist is illogical.If you recognise Benedict XVI a.k.a. Ratzinger as the Pope then you must submit to him.If you recognise the Novus Ordo Church as the Roman Catholic Church,then you must submit to it.However when your sedevacantist you can tell Ratzinger and all where to get of.Your not Roman Catholic,your not the Pope,and i dont recognise as you as Pope because your a apostate heretic.So easy.

  6. ambrosio says:

    Very good article Mr Heiner. Even though I'm a sede, I got a bit carried away in 2005 until saved by my wife who said: turn off that rubbish. Didn't bother at all this time around. The R&R crowd have got around Bergoglio's December 1969 ordination by saying that not only a layman can be elected pope, but even a married man…..Alleluia Amen!

  7. Unknown says:

    I wonder if it would be truthful to do an article titled: "The serenity of sedevacantism: reflections on the SSPX internal turmoil" ?

    On the internet we have some of the SSPX crowd accusing the sedevacantists of stirring up controversy over Fellay's recent actions, with a view to destroying that organization. Discount this evil doing by the sedes and all is quite well in that Society ….

    Ironically, it was Fr Chazal, one of the expelled dissidents of the SSPX, would rant and rave about the supposedly ever splintering sedevacantist movement!.

    Apart from a couple of so very civil articles by Fr Cekada, I dont recall seeing anything by other sedevacantist clergy concerning the current SSPX situation.

    Hopefully you will be able to piece together an article?