True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevacantism Book Summary

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Title: True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevacantism and other Modern Errors
Authors: John Salza and Robert Siscoe

TLDR: This book debunks Sedevacantism, the belief that recent Popes are illegitimate due to post-Vatican II changes, by exposing its flawed understanding of Church doctrine, especially papal infallibility. It defends the traditional Catholic position of recognizing the Pope while resisting his errors.

Chapter 1 – The Church and Its Attributes:

This chapter establishes a foundational understanding of the Church, defining it as a divinely instituted, visible, and hierarchical society established by Christ. It’s not merely an invisible collection of “true believers” as Sedevacantists and Protestants mistakenly suggest. The chapter then delves into the Church’s essential attributes: visibility, perpetual indefectibility, and infallibility.

Visibility is discussed in detail, distinguishing between material visibility (external elements like members, rites, etc.) and formal visibility (recognizing the true nature of the Church through its marks). The authors emphasize that the promises of Christ apply to the visible Church as a society, not simply to individual “true believers.” They counter Sedevacantist arguments that reduce the Church to an invisible entity composed solely of individuals who hold the “true faith.”

The concept of perpetual indefectibility is explored next, highlighting that the Church cannot cease to exist or become substantially corrupted. This attribute directly refutes Sedevacantist claims that the true Church defected in 1958 or morphed into a new entity following Vatican II. The authors argue that the present crisis, while severe, is not a defection, but a Passion of the Church, where its divine nature remains intact despite the disfigurement caused by its members.

Lastly, the chapter provides an introduction to the concept of infallibility, clarifying that it’s not a constant state, but a negative charism preventing error only under specific conditions. They expose the erroneous notion of infallibility held by Sedevacantists, demonstrating how it leads to their denial of the Church’s other attributes and ultimately to their heretical position.

Chapter 2 – The Church and Its Marks:

This chapter examines the four marks of the Church (One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic), which make it identifiable and distinguish it from false churches. The authors show how the Sedevacantist sects lack these marks, while the Church recognized by all except Sedevacantists continues to possess them.

The mark of “One” is discussed, distinguishing between material divisions (disputes over facts) and formal divisions (breaks in the principles of unity). The authors address how the Church has historically endured material divisions in doctrine and governance (e.g., the Arian crisis and the Great Western Schism) without compromising formal unity. They show how Sedevacantism, by claiming a defection, effectively denies the Church’s unity and ultimately leads to its own internal divisions.

The mark of “Holy” is addressed next, explaining that it encompasses the Church’s divine origin, purpose, doctrines, charisms, and holy members. The authors counter the Sedevacantist objection that the presence of “chaff” (sinful members) negates the Church’s holiness, clarifying that holiness is found in those members who, aided by grace, sanctify themselves. They also discuss the continued presence of charisms (e.g., Padre Pio) in the post-Vatican II Church.

The mark of “Catholic” (Universal) is explained, distinguishing between moral catholicity (extension to a great number of people from many nations) and absolute catholicity (reaching all nations, a condition believed to occur before the Second Coming). The authors refute Sedevacantist arguments that reduce the Church to a small remnant of “true believers,” affirming that the visible society of the Church will always be composed of “a great number of men from many different nations.”

The most important mark, “Apostolic,” is explored in depth, encompassing three aspects: apostolicity of doctrine, government, and membership. The authors show how the Church has always retained its apostolic doctrine, using the Arian crisis as an example of a severe doctrinal trial that did not compromise the Church’s teaching. They also discuss apostolicity of government, explaining the concepts of Orders (conferring the power of sanctification) and jurisdiction (the power to teach and govern).

They carefully distinguish between material apostolic succession (physical lineage through ordination) and formal apostolic succession (possession of jurisdiction received from the Pope, making a bishop a legitimate successor of the Apostles). The authors expose the problems this mark poses for Sedevacantists, who are forced to deny legitimate apostolic succession or invent dubious theories (e.g., the “Bishop in the Woods”) to justify their position.

Chapter 3 – Church Membership and Bonds of Unity:

This chapter discusses the internal and external bonds of unity within the Church. The external bonds are profession of the true faith, communion in the sacraments, and union with the Pope and the hierarchy. The internal bonds consist of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), sanctifying grace, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The authors show that while the internal bonds are necessary for salvation, only the external bonds are required for membership in the visible Church.

The authors cite St. Robert Bellarmine’s definition of the Church as the assembly of men united by these three visible bonds, emphasizing that these bonds make the Church a visible and knowable society. They refute Sedevacantist arguments that equate the profession of faith with a perfect and explicit adherence to all doctrines, demonstrating that it primarily means submitting to the Church’s teaching authority as the rule of faith. They also show that imperfect observance of the unities (e.g., drifting from the sacraments) does not automatically sever membership.

The authors then explore the internal bonds of union, explaining how the Holy Ghost infuses the soul with supernatural gifts at Baptism. They caution against the erroneous notion, popular in the twentieth century, that these internal bonds constitute a separate “invisible Church” distinct from the visible Church. They emphasize that the Body and Soul terminology, while useful in understanding different levels of union, should not be used to split the Church in two.

The chapter delves into the debate among theologians regarding whether interior faith is necessary for membership, ultimately favoring Bellarmine’s position that it is not. They argue that the external bonds alone suffice to determine membership in the visible society and that the loss of interior faith, while impacting one’s spiritual union with Christ, does not automatically sever membership in the Church.

Chapter 4 – Church Membership and Salvation:

This chapter addresses the dogma “No Salvation Outside the Church,” carefully explaining its meaning and refuting common misunderstandings, particularly the erroneous belief that only formal members of the Catholic Church can be saved. The authors demonstrate how those not formally incorporated into the Church can still be united to it by desire, a condition that suffices for salvation when informed by true faith and charity.

The chapter begins by discussing the necessity of supernatural faith for salvation, distinguishing between explicit and implicit belief in the articles of faith. It clarifies that explicit belief in all articles is not required for salvation, as long as one accepts the Church as the infallible rule of faith and is open to believing all that she teaches. This allows for the possibility of individuals possessing true faith without having explicit knowledge of the Church.

The authors then examine the concept of Baptism of Desire, explaining how it can supply for water baptism in cases of invincible ignorance or when one is prevented from receiving the sacrament through no fault of his own. They cite numerous authorities (Scripture, Popes, Doctors of the Church, and catechisms) to demonstrate that this doctrine is a part of the perennial teaching of the Church. They refute the erroneous interpretation of the Council of Trent by those who deny Baptism of Desire, showing how their position contradicts the Church’s own understanding of Trent’s teaching.

The chapter concludes with examples of how non-Catholics can be saved through implicit desire to join the Church, emphasizing the necessity of dying in a state of grace (possessing faith, hope, and charity). It clarifies that the possibility of salvation for non-members does not constitute an “exception” to the dogma, but rather emphasizes the absolute necessity of being united to the Church, either formally as a member or by an implicit or explicit desire to enter her ranks.

Chapter 5 – Sin of Heresy and Loss of Office:

This chapter delves into the topic of heresy, distinguishing between the sin of heresy (an internal act severing one from the Soul of the Church) and the crime of heresy (a public act separating one from the Body of the Church). The authors emphasize that the sin of heresy alone, while removing the virtue of faith and severing one from Christ, does not automatically result in the loss of office. They demonstrate how this crucial point is recognized by theologians, even those who hold that interior faith is necessary for membership in the Church.

The chapter begins by discussing the matter of heresy (a belief contrary to revealed doctrine) and the form of heresy (pertinacity, the obstinate adherence to a heretical proposition). The authors explain how the sin of heresy corrupts the virtue of faith completely, severing one from the internal bonds of union with the Church. They then emphasize the key distinction: while the sin of heresy severs a man from the Soul of the Church, it does not sever him from the Body of the Church, unless it becomes publicly manifest in the external forum.

The authors provide evidence from numerous theologians (including St. Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suarez) to support the position that the loss of interior faith alone does not cause a prelate to lose his office. They argue that if the sin of heresy were to cause loss of office automatically, the Church would be in a constant state of uncertainty regarding the legitimacy of her hierarchy, as no one can judge the internal forum of another. They further demonstrate how the traditional teaching on the distinction between “body” and “soul” applies to this question, explaining how a heretical Pope could retain his jurisdiction over the Body of the Church even while being separated from the Soul of the Church due to his loss of faith.

The chapter concludes by exposing the erroneous “sin of heresy” theory of Fr. Anthony Cekada, a leading Sedevacantist apologist. The authors demonstrate how Cekada misinterprets and misrepresents the writings of Bellarmine and other theologians, often quoting sentence fragments out of context to support his position. They emphasize the dangerous consequences of Cekada’s error, which leads to the false conclusion that individual Catholics can judge the internal forum of Popes and declare them deposed based on their own private judgment.

Chapter 6 – Suspicion of Heresy:

This chapter explores the concept of suspicion of heresy, emphasizing the Church’s prudence and patience before making a formal judgment of heresy. The authors highlight the distinction between suspicion of heresy (which does not sever one from the Church) and the canonical crime of heresy (which does). They provide numerous examples of individuals who were suspect of heresy, even those who publicly professed heretical doctrines, but who were not considered public heretics by the Church or their contemporaries.

The chapter begins by explaining the canonical definition of suspicion and its three degrees: light, vehement, and violent. They then list various activities, specified in canon law, that render a person suspect of heresy, including propagating heretical doctrines, participating in false worship with non-Catholics, baptizing and educating children in non-Catholic sects, desecrating the Eucharist, and joining anti-Catholic sects. The authors emphasize that even these objective mortal sins against the Faith only constitute suspicion of heresy and do not automatically result in loss of office.

The authors provide two historical examples of individuals who publicly professed errors and heresies yet were not considered public heretics by the Church: Archbishop Darboy and Erasmus of Rotterdam. They detail Darboy’s public denial of papal primacy, his refusal to retract his errors even after being warned by Pope Pius IX, and his eventual acceptance of the dogma years later. They also discuss Erasmus’ numerous public errors against the Faith, which included mocking indulgences, relics, and confession, and even denying the divinity of the Holy Ghost. Despite these errors, Erasmus was esteemed by Popes, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri did not consider him a heretic because he submitted his writings to the judgment of the Church.

The chapter concludes by contrasting the Church’s prudence and patience in judging heresy with the rashness of Sedevacantists who readily declare Popes to be public heretics based on their own private judgment. The authors emphasize the danger of making such judgments, especially when considering the Pope, who has no judge on Earth except God. They advocate a cautious approach, urging Catholics to trust in the Church’s judgment and avoid the error of judging the Pope based on their own personal opinions.

Chapter 7 – Theological Censures and “Hereticizing”:

This chapter examines the various theological censures used by the Church to qualify doctrines and modes of expression that deviate from Catholic truth. The authors highlight the distinction between heresy (a direct contradiction of a dogma of Faith) and lesser degrees of error that, while dangerous, do not constitute heresy properly so-called. They demonstrate how the conciliar Popes, while often guilty of “hereticizing” (using language that insinuates error), have not directly and explicitly contradicted defined dogmas of the Faith and therefore have not fallen into heresy.

The chapter begins by defining heresy as the pertinacious rejection of a dogma that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. The authors then discuss lesser degrees of error, including proximate heresy, smacking of heresy, suspect or savoring of heresy, and erroneous in theology. They explain how these errors, while not constituting heresy in the first degree, can still undermine the Faith and therefore merit censure by the Church.

The authors then address dangerous modes of expression, discussing ambiguous, captious, evil-sounding, offensive, and novel terminology. They provide examples of how the conciliar Popes have employed such language, using ambiguous phrases like “subsists” and “full communion” and making captious statements that seem to praise false religions. They highlight how this “hereticizing” tactic, while damaging to the Faith, intentionally avoids direct contradiction of dogma.

The chapter concludes by providing examples of prominent Modernists whose writings were censured by the Church but who were not declared heretics. They use the case of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose works were condemned for ambiguity and serious errors, but not for heresy. They emphasize that even when a proposition is materially heretical, pertinacity (obstinate adherence) must also be demonstrated to establish the crime of heresy. They conclude by contrasting the subtlety and ambiguity of Modernists with the explicit denial of dogma that characterizes true heresy.

Chapter 8 – Can a Pope Fall Into Heresy?:

This chapter addresses the question of whether a Pope can fall into heresy, concluding that it is the common opinion among theologians that he can. The authors provide evidence from papal pronouncements, the writings of Doctors of the Church, and theological manuals, all of which confirm that a Pope, as a private individual or even as Pope (when not defining doctrine), can err in matters of faith. They then discuss the case of Pope Honorius, who was formally condemned as a heretic by three ecumenical councils of the Church, demonstrating that a Pope can indeed teach heresy publicly, while still retaining his office.

The chapter begins by addressing the common misconception that papal infallibility prevents a Pope from falling into heresy. The authors emphasize that infallibility is a limited charism, preventing error only when a Pope defines doctrine for the universal Church. It does not protect him from erring when teaching as a private theologian or even when acting as Pope in a non-definitive manner. They provide evidence from the First Vatican Council, clarifying that the council did not intend to teach that a Pope cannot fall into heresy, contrary to the claims of some Sedevacantists.

The authors then provide historical examples of Popes who have taught errors, including Pope John XXII, who publicly promoted the erroneous doctrine that the souls of the just do not possess the Beatific Vision until after the Last Judgment. They detail how John XXII’s teaching was resisted by theologians, who even referred to it as heretical, and how it was formally condemned by his successor. They also discuss the case of Pope Honorius, who was condemned as a heretic for his support of Monothelitism. They refute Sedevacantist attempts to explain away or deny the condemnation of Honorius, demonstrating that he was indeed condemned as a heretic by the Church.

The chapter concludes by explaining how the cases of John XXII and Honorius do not contradict the dogma of papal infallibility, as they did not meet the necessary conditions for its exercise. The authors further emphasize the danger of extending infallibility beyond its defined limits, which leads to either the error of Sedevacantism or the opposite error of “papolatry” (blindly accepting everything a Pope teaches). They advocate a balanced approach, recognizing the Pope’s authority while resisting his errors in light of Tradition.

Chapter 9 – Proving the Crime of Heresy:

This chapter details how the Church establishes the crime of heresy, a condition necessary for a Pope to lose his office. The authors emphasize the importance of proving both the matter of heresy (a belief contrary to defined doctrine) and the form of heresy (pertinacity, the obstinate adherence to a heretical proposition) in the external forum. They demonstrate how the Church, in accordance with Divine law, uses canonical warnings to establish pertinacity, and they address the Sedevacantist objection that a Pope cannot be warned. They also discuss the difference between various kinds of heresy (occult, public, and notorious), concluding that the conciliar Popes cannot be classified as public and notorious heretics according to the canonical definition.

The chapter begins by examining the canonical definitions of heresy and explaining the difference between public and occult heresy. They show how both the matter and form of heresy must be public for a person to be considered guilty of the canonical crime of heresy. The authors then discuss the distinction between public and notorious crimes, highlighting the necessity of establishing moral imputability (guilt) for a crime to be notorious. They refute the Sedevacantist argument that the conciliar Popes have committed notorious heresy, explaining how their “pertinacity” or “guilt” has not been publicly recognized by the Church.

The authors then address the necessity of issuing canonical warnings to a heretical Pope. They demonstrate how the warnings serve to establish pertinacity in the external forum and remove any chance of invincible ignorance, thereby making the heresy manifest. They refute the Sedevacantist objection that a Pope cannot be warned, explaining how an inferior can warn a superior as an act of charity, as exemplified by St. Paul’s public rebuke of St. Peter. They cite St. Thomas Aquinas, who confirms that a subject can rebuke a superior when the faith is endangered, as is clearly the case in the present crisis.

The chapter concludes by discussing the difference between the crime of heresy and its punishment, explaining how the loss of office is a consequence of the crime and not the sin. They clarify that the crime of heresy itself is only an antecedent, or dispositive cause, paving the way for the divine punishment (loss of office) which is effected by an act of Christ. They emphasize that Christ would not secretly deprive a Pope of his office, and therefore the crime of heresy must be established and declared by the Church before a Pope will lose his jurisdiction.

Chapter 10 – The Church Must Judge the Crime:

This chapter explores in depth why the Church alone possesses the authority to judge the crime of papal heresy. The authors emphasize that the determination of whether a Pope has lost his office for heresy is a mixed question of fact and law, which cannot be resolved by private judgment. They refute the Sedevacantist position that individual Catholics can determine the crime by appealing to “Divine law,” demonstrating how this erroneous theory leads to the absurd conclusion that each Catholic must decide for himself who is a legitimate Pope.

The chapter begins by addressing the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that judgment belongs to public authority, and those who render judgments without proper authority are guilty of “judgment by usurpation.” They demonstrate how the Sedevacantists, who reject the public judgment of the Church, appoint themselves as the judges of the crime of heresy by appealing to their own private interpretation of “Divine law.” They explain why this position is untenable, noting that Sedevacantists have no authority to judge the internal forum (the sin of heresy) and that even if they could, the sin alone does not sever the Pope from the Body of the Church or cause him to lose jurisdiction.

The authors then expose the inherent contradictions in Sedevacantist arguments, showing how they claim canon law does not apply to the Pope while simultaneously appealing to canon law to defend their position. They emphasize that canon law interprets and applies Divine law and therefore the principles of canon law would still be followed in the case of a heretical Pope. They further highlight the fact that Sedevacantists, while denying the Church’s authority to judge, simultaneously claim the right to judge for themselves who is a legitimate Pope and who is not, thereby usurping the very authority they deny.

The chapter concludes by addressing the Sedevacantist attempt to reduce the complex question of papal heresy to a simple “question of fact,” ignoring the “questions of law” that have been debated by theologians for centuries. The authors demonstrate how the determination of papal heresy is, in fact, a mixed question of fact and law, involving not only the “fact” of whether the Pope has committed heresy, but also the “law” regarding who judges the fact, who renders a judgment, and how punishment is carried out. They emphasize that these fundamental questions of law cannot be resolved by private judgment but belong to the authority of the Church.

Chapter 11 – The Deposition of a Heretical Pope:

This chapter examines how a heretical Pope is deposed. It delves into the various theological opinions on the matter, carefully explaining how the Church can oversee the deposition without claiming authority over the Pope, thereby avoiding the heresy of Conciliarism. The authors focus on the distinction between the two main schools of thought, one maintaining that a heretical Pope is deposed ipso facto by an act of Christ, and the other teaching that the Church plays a ministerial role in the deposition. They demonstrate that both opinions agree that the Church must establish the crime of heresy before a Pope will lose his office.

The chapter begins by affirming the common opinion among theologians that a Pope can be deposed for heresy. The authors cite numerous authorities, including Popes, Doctors of the Church, and theological manuals, to support this position. They then address the question of who would oversee the deposition, concluding that only a general council has the authority to judge and declare the crime of heresy and issue a declaratory sentence. They distinguish between “perfect” councils, convened by a Pope, and “imperfect” councils, which can be convened without the Pope’s approval (or even against his will) in extraordinary circumstances such as papal heresy or a disputed papal election.

The chapter then explores the nuanced distinction between the two main opinions on how a Pope is deposed. The opinion of Bellarmine and Suarez is that, once the Church establishes and declares the crime of heresy, the Pope falls ipso facto from his office by a divine act, with no further action required on the part of the Church. The opinion of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas is that the Church plays a ministerial role in the deposition by issuing a juridical command for the faithful to avoid the heretical Pope, which then disposes him to lose his office by an act of Christ.

The chapter concludes by emphasizing that, according to both opinions, the Church must establish the crime of heresy before a Pope will lose his office. They highlight the importance of the Church’s judgment, noting that God will not secretly deprive a Pope of his office while he is still recognized as Pope by the Church. They further demonstrate how the case of Pope Liberius, who was replaced by Felix while still living, does not contradict this teaching, as Liberius was replaced in a situation of sede impedita (exile), which was considered a tacit resignation in the early Church.

Chapter 12 – Peaceful and Universal Acceptance of a Pope:

This chapter explains the dogma that a Pope who is peacefully and universally accepted by the Church is infallibly a true and valid Pope. The authors delve into the concept of dogmatic facts, demonstrating how the Church’s infallibility extends to certain facts that are inextricably linked to revealed truths. They refute Sedevacantist attempts to circumvent this teaching by distinguishing between a valid election and a valid Pope, arguing that universal acceptance guarantees that the man elected is, in fact, a true Pope, even if there were irregularities in his election.

The chapter begins by explaining how the Church teaches infallibly on both primary objects (revealed truths) and secondary objects (including dogmatic facts). They clarify that the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope falls under the category of a dogmatic fact, as it is so intimately connected to the truth of the Pope’s legitimacy that without certain knowledge of the fact, there would be no certain knowledge of the doctrines connected with it. They cite numerous authorities (St. Thomas Aquinas, Bellarmine, Van Noort) to support the teaching that the Church’s infallibility extends to dogmatic facts.

The authors then discuss the teaching of Cardinal Billot that the universal acceptance of a Pope is an infallible sign of his legitimacy and further explains how the universal acceptance heals any defect in the election. They refute the novel theory of Sedevacantist Bishop Donald Sanborn, who claims that universal acceptance guarantees only a valid election, but not a valid Pope. They demonstrate how Sanborn’s position contradicts the teaching of the Church and her theologians, who hold that universal acceptance provides infallible certitude that the man elected is the true Pope.

The chapter concludes by addressing the controversy surrounding the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis. The authors acknowledge the questions raised regarding the legitimacy of both events, noting the allegations of coercion, conspiracy, and a possible defect in Benedict’s resignation. However, they emphasize that the unprecedented nature of these events does not change the dogmatic fact that a Pope who is universally accepted by the Church is infallibly a true Pope. They further clarify that while the lack of a peaceful and universal acceptance does not necessarily mean the man elected is not a true Pope (as in the case of the Great Western Schism), if the Church were to later declare his election null, such an act would not violate the Church’s infallibility concerning dogmatic facts.

Chapter 13 – Vatican II and Conciliar Infallibility:

This chapter addresses the Sedevacantist claim that Vatican II met the conditions for conciliar infallibility and therefore its teachings should have been protected from error. The authors demonstrate that Vatican II intentionally avoided defining doctrines, a necessary condition for conciliar infallibility, and therefore the council’s teachings are not protected by the Church’s infallibility. They explain the difference between formally revealed truths (primary object of infallibility) and virtually revealed truths (secondary object of infallibility), noting that the novel teachings of Vatican II fall into neither category and therefore cannot be considered infallible.

The chapter begins by explaining the conditions required for conciliar infallibility, which include (a) the council being summoned by the Pope, (b) the council being truly ecumenical (representing the whole body of bishops), and (c) the council defining a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church. The authors demonstrate how Vatican II, while meeting the first two conditions, explicitly avoided defining doctrines, as confirmed by Pope Paul VI himself who stated that the council “avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.”

The authors then discuss the different levels of assent owed to Church teachings, distinguishing between the assent of faith (owed to infallible teachings) and religious assent (owed to non-infallible teachings). They explain how Vatican II, because it did not define doctrines, falls under the category of non-infallible teachings and therefore only requires a religious assent. They refute the Sedevacantist claim that Vatican II’s teachings must be accepted by faith, highlighting Paul VI’s own declaration that the council’s pronouncements were only to be “religiously observed” – the level of assent owed to non-infallible teachings.

The chapter concludes by addressing the error of “Monolithic Infallibility,” which is extending the charism of infallibility beyond its defined limits. The authors refute the erroneous notion held by some that a papal or conciliar teaching cannot contain errors simply because it may not be formally defined. They clarify that infallibility is not a permanent habit residing in the mind of the Pope or bishops, but rather a negative charism preventing error only when specific conditions are met. They emphasize that Vatican II, by explicitly avoiding defining doctrines, did not engage the charism of infallibility, and therefore errors in its pronouncements are possible.

Chapter 14 – Vatican II and the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium:

This chapter addresses another Sedevacantist argument, which attempts to show that Vatican II violated the Church’s infallibility, even though it did not define doctrines. The authors refute the novel theory of John Daly, who claims that Vatican II met the conditions for infallibility by virtue of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (OUM), even though it intentionally avoided defining doctrines. They demonstrate how Daly’s position misrepresents the teaching of the First Vatican Council, which specifies that the object of the infallibility of the OUM is revealed truth and that infallibility is engaged only when the Church definitively proposes such truths. They highlight the difference between formally revealed truth (primary object of infallibility) and virtually revealed truth (secondary object of infallibility) and explain how the OUM proposes revealed truths definitively through conformity to Tradition, which includes diachronic universality (universality in time).

The chapter begins by outlining the conditions for infallibility of the OUM as taught by the First Vatican Council, emphasizing that only formally revealed truths definitively proposed by the Church are protected by infallibility. The authors clarify that revealed truths are those found in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, excluding liturgical matters, novel pronouncements with no basis in Tradition (e.g. “ecumenism”), and theological conclusions. They show how Vatican II did not meet the condition of infallibility by definitively proposing revealed truths, since the council intentionally avoided proclaiming any dogmas, and its novel teachings are not contained in the Deposit of Faith.

The authors then address the Sedevacantist argument that Vatican II should have been infallible because it was an assembly of bishops in union with the Pope, ignoring the fact that even when a council defines doctrines, infallibility only protects the definitions themselves, not the entire document. They further refute John Daly’s claim that “universal” in the phrase Ordinary and Universal Magisterium means only a “universality in place” (synchronic), and not also a “universality in time” (diachronic), by providing ample evidence from the Church’s Magisterium (including the teachings of Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Journet) that diachronic universality – that is, a teaching’s conformity with the universal and constant tradition of the Church – is a necessary condition for the infallibility of the OUM. They also explain that if a doctrine is “unmistakably definitive” by virtue of being taught by the OUM, it would constitute a “solemn decree” and thus be protected by the infallibility of the Extraordinary Magisterium.

The chapter concludes by highlighting the distinction between divine and Catholic faith (owed to formally revealed truths) and ecclesiastical faith (owed to theological conclusions definitively proposed by the Church). The authors explain how this distinction further confirms that the scope of the infallibility of the OUM, as defined by Vatican I, is limited to revealed truth. They emphasize that religious assent (not the assent of faith) is owed to Vatican II’s novel pronouncements, since they do not constitute a definitive teaching of revealed truth.

Chapter 15 – Universal Disciplines and Infallibility:

This chapter tackles the Sedevacantist claim that certain post-conciliar disciplines violate the Church’s infallibility. The authors demonstrate that disciplinary infallibility, while a commonly held theological opinion, is a limited concept, protecting the Church only from imposing universal laws that directly contradict revealed truth (doctrinal judgment) and not from permitting imprudent or harmful practices (prudential judgment). They show how Sedevacantists mistakenly ascribe “Monolithic Infallibility” to the Magisterium, leading them to the erroneous conclusion that any perceived harmful disciplinary practice “proves” the Church has defected.

The chapter begins by clarifying the distinction between primary and secondary objects of infallibility, noting that while the primary object (divinely revealed truths) is certainly protected by infallibility, the extent to which infallibility embraces the secondary objects, including universal disciplines, is a question the Church has never definitively answered. The authors further explain that even assuming infallibility extends to universal disciplines, it only applies to the implicit doctrinal judgment contained within the law (whether it contradicts revealed truth) and not the prudential judgment (whether the law is prudent under the circumstances). They demonstrate this distinction by providing examples of laws that would violate the doctrinal judgment (e.g., permitting contraception) and laws that would not (e.g., permitting divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion under certain conditions).

The authors then address the Sedevacantist claim that the new rite of episcopal consecration and priestly ordination are invalid, noting that this is based upon the false premise that the Church is unable to change the form and matter of the sacraments. They demonstrate that, according to Pius XII, the Church can indeed change the specific form and matter of those sacraments that were instituted by Christ in genere, as long as the substance of the sacrament is preserved. They further explain how the change of a universal discipline is also permissible, as long as the new discipline is not directly contrary to a revealed truth.

The chapter then explores the issue of liturgical changes, particularly the Sedevacantist claim that the New Mass violates the Church’s infallibility. The authors begin by explaining that liturgical changes fall under the category of universal disciplines and therefore would only be protected by infallibility to the extent that they do not violate the doctrinal judgment. They demonstrate how St. Pius V’s Bull, Quo Primum, while promulgating a single Missal for the universal Church, did not institute a new rite of Mass but rather codified the Traditional Roman Rite. They further demonstrate how Paul VI, while publishing a new missal, did not legally promulgate the New Mass, nor did he abrogate Quo Primum, as confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI. They conclude by noting how, even if the New Mass is objectively evil (which is debated among Catholics), its introduction did not constitute a violation of disciplinary infallibility since it was never imposed on the Church as a universally binding law.

Chapter 16 – The New Mass and Infallibility:

This chapter focuses specifically on the question of whether the New Mass, promulgated by Paul VI, violated the Church’s infallibility. The authors demonstrate that Paul VI did not juridically promulgate the New Mass in his Apostolic Constitution, Missale Romanum, nor did he explicitly abrogate St. Pius V’s Bull, Quo Primum Tempore. They further expose the deliberate mistranslations and fabrications that were introduced into the vernacular versions of Missale Romanum, which were intended to give the impression that Paul VI had legally imposed the new rite on the Church.

The chapter begins by examining the language of Quo Primum, highlighting how St. Pius V promulgated the Traditional Missal “in perpetuity” and condemned anyone who would “presume” to alter it. The authors then carefully analyze Paul VI’s Missale Romanum, showing how it merely announces the publication of a new missal and introduces three new “Eucharistic prayers” as options. They highlight the absence of legal language imposing the New Mass as an obligation, refuting Fr. Cekada’s erroneous claim that Paul VI’s “hope” and “wish” for the new missal to be received by the faithful is equivalent to a formal promulgation.

The authors then discuss the findings of the commission of nine Cardinals appointed by John Paul II in 1986 to determine if Paul VI legally abrogated the Traditional Mass. They explain how the commission concluded that the Old Mass was never suppressed, a fact later confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. The authors further analyze the deceptive tactics employed by conciliar revolutionaries, including the deliberate mistranslation of a key sentence in Missale Romanum to make it appear that Paul VI was imposing the New Mass as law. They cite the research of Michael Davies and Abbé George de Nantes, who exposed the mistranslations and fabrications in the vernacular translations of Missale Romanum.

The chapter concludes by analyzing Fr. Cekada’s attempt to defend his position that Paul VI legally abrogated Quo Primum. The authors demonstrate the flaws in Cekada’s arguments, highlighting how his position contradicts the Church’s legal requirements for the promulgation of universal laws and relies on a strained interpretation of a single sentence in Missale Romanum. They also expose Cekada’s hypocrisy in rejecting the liturgical reforms of Pius XII while simultaneously claiming it is impossible for a true Pope to introduce harmful liturgical laws.

Chapter 17 – Canonizations of Saints and Infallibility:

This chapter addresses the question of whether canonizations are protected by the Church’s infallibility. The authors explore the traditional teaching on this matter, noting that while canonizations are commonly considered infallible by pre-Vatican II theologians, the Church has never definitively taught this. They examine the new, less rigorous procedures introduced by John Paul II in 1983, arguing that they call into question the infallibility of recent canonizations. They further clarify that even assuming infallibility extends to canonizations, the object of the infallible judgment is only whether the person is in Heaven, not whether they lived a life of heroic virtue.

The chapter begins by highlighting the changes to the canonization process introduced by John Paul II, including the elimination of the Devil’s Advocate and the shift from a formal legal proceeding to an academic model. The authors discuss the concerns raised by these changes, noting the lack of rigor and the possibility of questionable candidates being canonized. They provide the example of the canonization of Josemaria Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, detailing the numerous objections raised by former members of Opus Dei which were ignored during the process.

The authors then address the canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II, noting the unprecedented nature of these events and the controversy surrounding their pontificates. They discuss the article by John Salza questioning the validity of these canonizations, which argues that John XXIII and John Paul II taught errors that would have barred them from canonization under the Church’s traditional norms. They highlight the irony that the principle of collegiality, embraced by John XXIII and John Paul II, effectively removes any assurance of infallibility from their own canonizations, as the local bishops who oversee the initial stages of the process do not possess the charism of infallibility.

The chapter then delves into the traditional teaching on the infallibility of canonizations, noting that it is considered a secondary object of infallibility. The authors cite the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, which explains that canonizations are only “commonly and rightly held” to be infallible when conducted according to the traditional process. They then question whether the infallibility of canonizations can still be considered the “common opinion” following the implementation of the new procedures, which delegate the essential aspects of the investigation to fallible bishops.

The chapter concludes by analyzing the object of the infallible judgment in canonizations, concluding that it is only whether the person is in Heaven, not whether they lived a life of heroic virtue. The authors cite numerous theologians to support this position, including the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, which states that “nothing else is defined than that the person canonized is in heaven.” They emphasize that even a hardened sinner can be saved by a single act of perfect contrition at the moment of death and therefore the canonization of a seemingly problematic candidate does not constitute a violation of infallibility.

Chapter 18 – The New Rite of Episcopal Consecration:

This chapter addresses the Sedevacantist claim that the new rite of episcopal consecration, introduced by Paul VI in 1968, is invalid. The authors meticulously refute the arguments presented against the new rite, demonstrating that it sufficiently signifies the sacramental effect and is rooted in the ancient tradition of the Church. They expose Fr. Cekada’s flawed understanding of sacramental theology, particularly his erroneous insistence that a valid form must be “univocal” in the secular sense (excluding any other possible meaning) rather than in the ecclesiastical sense (accepted and used by the Church in a particular way).

The chapter begins by explaining the requirements for a valid sacrament, including the four causes (matter, form, minister, and intention). The authors then discuss the difference between those sacraments instituted by Christ in specie (with specific form and matter) and those instituted in genere (leaving the determination of the precise form and matter to the Church). They show how the Church possesses the authority to alter the specific matter and form of those sacraments instituted in genere, as evidenced by Pius XII’s abrogation of the traditio instrumentorum as an essential part of priestly ordination, a teaching previously affirmed by the Council of Florence.

The authors then analyze the form of the new rite of episcopal consecration, which asks God to “pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit (Spiritus principalis).” They refute Fr. Cekada’s claim that the phrase “governing Spirit” does not univocally signify the office of bishop, demonstrating how the words, when understood according to the Church’s usage, clearly refer to the episcopal order. They further explain how the surrounding prayers and ceremonies (significatio ex adjunctis) provide additional clarity, leaving no doubt that the form intends to confer the episcopacy.

The authors then address the Sedevacantist attempts to cast doubt upon the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, from which the new form is taken. They refute Fr. Cekada’s irrelevant inquiries into the authorship, origin, age, and manuscript authority of the Hippolytus rite, showing how they are based on a misunderstanding of the Church’s sacramental theology and her ability to recognize authentic tradition. They further demonstrate how the new form is virtually identical to the forms used in the Maronite and Coptic rites, which have always been accepted as valid by the Church.

The chapter concludes by highlighting the approval of the new rite by Cardinal Ottaviani, a staunch defender of Tradition who later condemned the New Mass as a departure from the Council of Trent. The authors argue that Ottaviani’s approval, along with the approval of numerous other theologians and prelates, should remove any doubt for Sedevacantists regarding the validity of the new rite. They emphasize that the new form, far from being “absolutely null and utterly void,” sufficiently signifies the sacramental effect and is rooted in the ancient tradition of the Church.

Chapter 19 – The New Rite of Ordination for Priests:

This chapter examines the new rite of ordination for priests, also introduced by Paul VI in 1968. The authors demonstrate how the new form differs from the traditional form only by a single Latin word (“ut” – “so that”), a change that has absolutely no impact on the validity of the rite. They refute the Sedevacantist attempts to attack the “intention” of the new rite by highlighting alleged omissions in the surrounding prayers, demonstrating how the new rite, contrary to their claims, explicitly mentions the priest’s power to offer sacrifice and forgive sins.

The chapter begins by comparing the forms of the traditional rite and the new rite, showing how the only difference is the omission of the conjunction “ut.” The authors explain how this immaterial change does not affect the univocal signification of the form, as the essential elements signifying the sacramental effect (the “dignity of the priesthood” and the “office of the second rank”) remain intact. They refute the Dimond brothers’ claim that the omission of “ut” constitutes a “relaxation of meaning,” explaining how the Church understands both forms as conferring the priesthood.

The authors then address the Sedevacantist attempts to attack the “intention” of the new rite by alleging that it removes all mention of the sacrificial priesthood. They refute this claim by quoting directly from the new rite, which explicitly states that the priest is “called to share in the priesthood of the bishops,” to be “molded into the likeness of Christ, the supreme and eternal Priest,” and to “celebrate the liturgy, above all, the Lord’s sacrifice.” They demonstrate how the Dimond brothers’ claims regarding omissions in the new rite are demonstrably false, exposing their dishonest attempts to cast doubt upon the validity of the new rite.

The chapter concludes by discussing the case of Fr. Daniel Dolan, a Sedevacantist priest who was accused by his fellow Sedevacantists of being “doubtfully ordained” due to a perceived defect in the matter of his ordination. The authors highlight the hypocrisy of Dolan, who defended himself by rightly asserting that only the Church can determine the validity of ordinations, even though he himself rejects the Church’s judgment regarding the legitimacy of the conciliar Popes. They further show how Dolan exposed the dishonest research tactics of his fellow Sedevacantists, noting how they often misrepresent their sources and make false allegations based on their own flawed interpretations.

Chapter 20 – We Recognize and Resist:

This chapter addresses the Sedevacantist claim that it is forbidden to recognize a Pope as holding his office while simultaneously resisting his commands and teachings. The authors demonstrate that resisting novel papal teachings, which depart from Tradition, is in fact rooted in Catholic tradition and supported by numerous authorities, including Popes, saints, and Doctors of the Church. They clarify the difference between obedience to God and obedience to man, explaining how the former should always take precedence. They further highlight the distinction between formal and material separation, showing how Traditional Catholics who resist a Pope are not formally separating from the Church, but rather engaging in a legitimate material separation to avoid spiritual harm.

The chapter begins by discussing the virtue of obedience, emphasizing that obedience should be directed primarily to God and only secondarily to human authorities. They cite St. Thomas Aquinas who explains that unjust laws do not bind in conscience, particularly those laws that contradict the Divine law. The authors provide numerous examples of when obedience to human laws and commands is not required, including when a command is sinful, contrary to the common good, or repugnant to the Faith.

The authors then address the possibility of a Pope trying to destroy the Church, noting the unanimous teaching of theologians that such a Pope must be resisted. They cite Cajetan and other theologians who explain how resistance to an evil Pope can be undertaken without denying his authority to rule. They further emphasize the distinction between resisting the exercise of authority and rejecting the authority itself, highlighting the example of St. Paul who “resisted” St. Peter “in the exercise of authority” but did not deny his authority to rule.

The chapter concludes by discussing the distinction between formal separation (rejecting a lawful superior’s authority altogether) and material separation (avoiding a dangerous situation while continuing to recognize the superior’s authority). The authors explain how Traditional Catholics who resist a Pope are engaging in a licit material separation, while Sedevacantists have formally separated from the Church by denying the Pope’s authority altogether. They emphasize that resistance to papal errors, when done in accordance with Tradition and with proper respect for the papal office, does not constitute schism, but rather reflects a true Catholic spirit and a fidelity to the Faith.

Chapter 21 – The Bitter Fruits of Sedevacantism:

This final chapter exposes the evil fruits of Sedevacantism, using examples of the infighting, division, detraction, and condemnations that are rampant within the movement. The authors demonstrate how Sedevacantism, by embracing the Protestant principle of private judgment, has naturally produced the same bitter fruits as Protestantism itself. They contrast the spiritual disorders of the Sedevacantists with the sufferings of Traditional Catholics who remain within the Church, drawing a parallel between the Passion of Christ and the Passion of the Church.

The chapter begins by citing Sedevacantists themselves who acknowledge the bitter fruits of their movement. The authors quote John Lane, who admits that those who embrace Sedevacantism often become “unstable in their spiritual lives” and “disturb the peace of the parish.” They also quote Laszlo Szijarto, a former Sedevacantist, who describes the “great bitterness and lack of charity” that he witnessed within the movement.

The authors then provide numerous examples of the infighting and condemnations that are pervasive within Sedevacantism. They highlight the Dimond brothers’ vitriolic attacks on fellow Sedevacantists, their condemnation of traditional theologians, and their public denouncements of recently deceased Catholics, including Fr. Nicholas Gruner. They also discuss the mutual condemnations and excommunications between the various Sedevacantist sects, noting how each group declares the others to be heretics and schismatics.

The chapter then examines the phenomenon of Conclavism, where Sedevacantists elect their own rival Popes, and the rise of individuals claiming to have received mystical revelations appointing them Pope. The authors provide a list of over a dozen “Popes” elected or proclaimed by various Sedevacantist factions, exposing the absurdity and inherent instability of a movement rooted in private judgment. They compare the divisions and confusions of Sedevacantism to the same disorders that plagued the Protestant revolt, noting how Luther himself lamented the “greatest confusion” that resulted from his doctrine of private judgment.

The chapter concludes by reiterating the teaching of Our Lord that a good tree brings forth good fruit and an evil tree brings forth evil fruit. The authors argue that the poisonous fruits of Sedevacantism are clear evidence of its evil character and its origin in the devil. They contrast the destructive nature of Sedevacantism with the suffering love of Traditional Catholics who remain faithful to the Church during her Passion. They encourage Sedevacantists to renounce their errors, to trust in the promises of Christ, and to return to the fold of the Church.

These summaries provide a detailed overview of each chapter in “True or False Pope?” The book serves as an invaluable resource for understanding and refuting the errors of Sedevacantism and other modern errors that have arisen in reaction to the current crisis in the Church. It is a must-read for anyone seeking to navigate the complexities of our times while remaining faithful to the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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