SSPX news & events

Sedevacantism refuted in "True or False Pope?"

January 20, 2016

Though not yet published, the forthcoming and most comprehensive book against the sedevacantist error has already garnered criticism... and a defense.

Now available for pre-order is a new book, True or False Pope: Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors, by John Salza and Robert Siscoe.

As remarked by Bishop Fellay in his Foreword for this new title:

...until now—at least in the English-speaking world—only articles and booklets have been published against Sedevacantism and its related errors. A comprehensive and definitive refutation, firmly grounded in ecclesiology, has been sorely needed. We thus pray that True or False Pope? finds its way to many Catholics of good will, be they of perplexed mind at the moment. Mr. Salza and Mr. Siscoe’s book will surely afford much clarity to the reader..."

The announcement of the forthcoming publication of this comprehensive book on sedevacantism, has caused at least one sedevacantist doyen to criticize it (even without having first read the book) while claiming traditionalists are "afraid" of sedevacantism.

In response to this critique, Brian McCall published an article in The Remnant entitled, "Why Traditionalists are not Afraid of Sedevacantism".

The first criticism of the new book was its length, a point Mr. McCall easily tackles:

...[the book] it is quite long but this is because the book is extremely comprehensive. The authors not only dedicate significant space in the book to explaining and refuting the arguments of the Sedevacantists opinion in general but they present significant information on the theological positions of some of the greatest theologians in Church history who have discussed the possibility of a heretical pope, especially Francisco Suarez and St. Robert Bellarmine. The authors present evidence from these writings which to my knowledge have not been analyzed in the debates over this topic in the past few decades.

At a minimum this new book does the service of presenting new historical information to the discussion. In my opinion, a trite argument lacking depth of research is more to be feared than a well-researched and documented argument, although the latter may be a bit intimidating to modern audiences drunk on the 30-second sound bite and 140-character Twitter limit...

The second critique concerned the texts on the book's back cover:

...I agree that some of the colorful description of the Sedevacantist opinion on the back cover of the book may be a bit exaggerated in tone. Yet, this style is not uncommon on book covers. Importantly, although they use rather strong language about the Sedevacantist argument the authors in no way insult or personally attack any persons holding the Sedevacantist opinion."

But the refutation of Mr. McCall (who is a professor of law) primarly focused on how the new book addresses the problem of sedevacantism, especially on the subject of rightful obedience to authority:

Starting from the premise that all authority comes from God, Catholic theology and philosophy have always held that the binding nature of a command comes not from the human agent who utters it but solely from the authority of God. As St. Thomas explains, the command of a Man holding an office vested with authority binds only to the extent that a command conforms to the Natural and Divine Law. When that Man, be he a pope, king or president, issues a command contrary to the higher law it does not bind in conscience and if it compels violation of higher law it must be refused.


The analogy [of the "bad Dad"—another critique] is merely meant to illustrate a corollary to the above defined principle. When a Man in authority issues an illegitimate command the command lacks the quality of authority requiring obedience but the fact of attempting to bind in conscience erroneously does not in and of itself depose the Man from the office which if used correctly could result in commands that require obedience. There are certainly many distinctions between a father and a pope but the analogy is merely meant to illustrate the principle.

However, Mr. McCall's most direct response to the critique pointed the "finger of fear" back to the sedevacantists themselves:

Rather than Traditionalists fearing Sedevacantism, it seems that those holding the opinion rather fear the complexity of the crisis God has willed to permit His Church undergo. Rather than the arduous work of sifting through the confusion that has been coming out of the Vatican and chanceries for decades and applying certain Catholic principles to make proper distinctions between legitimate commands and those that lack authority, the opinion of Sedevacantism proposes an alluring simple black and white solution that avoids this difficult work of discernment.

Indeed, as some "sedes" themselves admit, sedevacantism does not even offer a solution to the post-conciliar crisis:

...Rather, it is those holding the Sedevacantist opinion who should fear the state of affairs they hold to be true. If it were true that no pope has reigned since John XXIII... [T]here would be no method for continuing the Roman Church or the election of a new pope.

And in this vein, sedevacantists (whether they realize this or not), actually deny the veracity of Our Lord's promise that "the gates of hell shall never prevail" against the Catholic Church, for while:

God is certainly not bound absolutely by the structures of the Church He created... yet having chosen to make use of the structures of the Church, He would not allow those structures to vanish through a complete lapse of a hierarchy for so long that the means of its own preservation have all become extinct. The Church is a perfect society and as such must always be self-sufficient in pursuing its perfect end.

Rather than fearing the misuse of God’s authority that requires subjects to apply the principles of higher law, those holding the Sedevacantist opinion should fear that with every passing year they implicitly deny the indefectibility of the Church."

We are grateful to Mr. McCall for his defense of the forthcoming book, True of False Pope?, which hopefully will be a compass for many confused Catholics and thereby lead them away from the sedevacantist error.