Fr. Schmidberger gives some clear explanations about the papacy, its institution by Jesus Christ, its purpose and history, some examples on how the post-conciliar popes should continue to be respected, as well as philosophical arguments against the error of sedevacantism.
This conference was given by Fr. Franz Schmidberger on January 27, 2005 in Kansas City, Missouri.
I. The papacy
It is an institution by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Simon, son of Jona, originally from Bethsaida in Galilee, later lived in Capharnaum at the lake of Genesareth. One day his brother Andrew, who was also a fisherman “brought him to Jesus, who looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona, thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter [i.e., the rock]” (John I, 42). Now we know from all sacred history that when God imposes a special name on someone, He imposes with it a special mission connected with this name. Our Blessed Lord has so chosen Peter to be the rock on which He would build His Church, and while looking on him in this first meeting He saw the whole row of popes throughout the history of Christianity.
In all lists of the apostles Simon Peter always holds the first place. Our Lord visited his house in Carpharnaum, where He healed his mother-in-law from a fever. We read about no other visit of Jesus to the house of another Apostle. One day He preached from a ship, it was the ship of Peter. We understand this ship to be the symbol of the Church, and so does Our Lord preach the enlightening faith and saving doctrine in and from the Church of Peter, from no other “church”.
We see later on, how Our Lord promised to Peter the apostolic primacy, to be His vicar on earth. We are in the quarters of Cesarea Philippi where Jesus:
asks His disciples saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and others say Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. But Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven."
By divine inspiration, you have said Who I am. By My divine word, I will tell you who you are:
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 on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven." (Matth. XVI, 13-19).
The Church of the Incarnate Word would be built on Peter, the Rock, and Peter will have the keys of heaven, that is to say, supreme power in the house of God.
There is another significant event for Peter: Our Lord prayed in a very special manner for him:
And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren." (Luke XXII, 31).
Nowhere in the Holy Scripture do we read that Our Lord has prayed in such a way for any other of His twelve Apostles; also, we must have in mind that the prayer of Our Lord High Priest is always efficient. Already here, Our Lord speaks about a conversion of Peter, and that he would then have the mission to confirm the Apostles and the faithful in the Faith.
After His resurrection Jesus instituted Peter as the supreme shepherd of His flock (John XXI, 15ff). We see some of the disciples of Jesus going fishing, and after a fruitless night in the morning Our Lord standing at the shore gave them the order to cast once again the net which then was filled with a multitude of big fish. After the breakfast, Jesus said to Peter:
Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith to Him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? He saith to Him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved, because He had said to him the third time: Lovest thou Me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep."
So here the Divine Redeemer realized what He promised in the quarters of Cesarea Philippi and instituted Peter as shepherd of the sheep and supreme shepherd of the shepherds.
Going through the gospel we see the faithfulness, the devotion, still more a profound faith and a burning love of this man for the Divine Master. He is even ready to go to prison and to death with Him (Luke XXII, 33).
But this man also has his weaknesses. Just after the promise to Peter that later on he would be the rock of the Church, Jesus foretold His Passion to His disciples:
From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and ascribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. And Peter taking Him, began to rebuke Him, saying: 'Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto Thee'" (Matth. XVI, 21-22).
So he wanted to hinder the Divine Savior from fulfilling the mission His Father entrusted to Him, that is to say, to redeem us by His painful Passion on the cross. Peter expected, as most of the Jews, a more temporal redeemer, he had not yet understood the way of Calvary. Jesus corrected him with words very astonishing for the one to whom He had just promised the keys of heaven: “Go behind me, Satan! Thou art a scandal unto Me because thou savours are not the things that are of God but the things that are of men” (v. 23). Isn’t it surprising, very surprising, that Jesus calls the first pope a Satan?
In the night of the Passion Peter, having testified his faithfulness with words, then denied his Master three times swearing and cursing that he knew not the man (Matth. XXVI, 74). During three years he had heard all the heavenly preaching, saw all the miracles, was warned several times about this hour of passion—and he became weak, very weak, but when the cock crew and the sight of Our Lord fell on him, he understood his big sin and going forth he wept bitterly.
Now we could say that these weaknesses were in Peter before the sending of the Holy Ghost by which the Apostles were confirmed in sanctifying grace, confirmed in the apostolic mission. But even after Pentecost we hear about another weakness of Peter. There were two sorts of Christians in the early Church: converted Jews and converted heathens, and the Apostles had well established that these converted heathens are not bound to the law of Moses, but they were of the same dignity as the converted Jews, faith having purified their hearts. Peter living in Antioch was in communion with both parts until some of the converted Jews from Jerusalem came to Antioch. Then Peter withdrew and separated himself from the converted pagans by fear of the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem.
St. Paul tells us the story in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians:
But when Cephas was to come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that some came from James [bishop of Jerusalem], he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separates himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented, so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Gal. II, 11-14).
St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, bishop according to his rank, withstood Peter, the Pope, publicly to the face, because he walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel! What a lesson for the history of the Church!
And still another event is quite remarkable for our consideration: We already heard about the miraculous catch of fish after the resurrection of Our Lord at the lake of Genesareth. When John, who was in the ship with Peter, realized the miracle, he recognized immediately the author comprehending this person on the shore to be the Lord Himself. Peter did not draw this conclusion, he did not understand. John is the bishop, Peter is the pope. It is John who makes Peter aware: “It is the Lord” (John XXI,7). There might be situations in the Church when a bishop has to tell the pope: “It is the Lord”. Buddha is not the true God, nor is Mohammed the true prophet, neither will Assisi meetings bring peace to earth; there is only one true God, the Holy Trinity, there is only one true mediator between God and man, Our Lord Jesus Christ, God made man, and there can be no peace on earth beside Him, Prince of peace. “Dominus est! ”—“It is the Lord!”
Later on Peter died in Rome as a martyr being crucified with the head downwards, after having founded the local Church in Antioch and the Apostolic See in Rome; that is why the office of the supreme shepherd of the Church for all times will be linked to the bishop of Rome; the pope can take his residence for a certain time or even for a long time outside of Rome, but always and only the bishop of Rome will be the Vicar of Christ on earth. That is why the roman local Church is the first of all local churches in the whole world, she is Mater and Magistra, mother and teacher of all the others. This very fact makes us understand the importance of the Roman Church for our being a Catholic.
In fact Divine Providence which guides all things has prepared the Roman Empire with its capital for the Incarnation of the Son of God and the spreading of His Gospel. When Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, Judea was under Roman domination, and the Roman Empire with all its links of culture and trade covered practically the whole then known world. Roman families, among them many from nobility, supported the Apostles, put their houses to the disposal for the celebration of the Holy Mass which later on were very often converted into churches, and many of them not only gave their goods for the Church but even their lives. Archbishop Lefebvre in his Spiritual Journey (p. 71-73; written in 1989) has written some wonderful pages about “The providential choice of Rome as the seat of Peter, and the blessings of this choice for the growth of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Excerpt from Spiritual Journey
3. The providential choice of Rome as the Seat of Peter, and the blessings of this choice for the growth of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe I must add some words to draw the attention of our priests and our seminarians to the indisputable fact of the Roman influences on our spirituality, on our liturgy, and even on our theology.
One cannot deny that this is a providential fact. God, Who leads all things, has in His infinite wisdom prepared Rome to become the Seat of Peter and center for the radiation of the Gospel. Hence the adage: Unde Christo e Romano.
Dom Gueranger, in his Histoire de sainte Cecile, recounts the great part which members of great Roman families played in the foundation of the Church, giving their goods and their blood for the victory and the reign of Jesus Christ. Our Roman liturgy is the faithful witness of this.
"Romanitas" is not a vain word. The Latin language is an important example. It has brought the expression of the Faith and of Catholic worship to the ends of the world. And the converted people were proud to sing their Faith in this language, a real symbol of the unity of the Catholic Faith.
Schisms and heresies are often begun by a rupture with Romanitas, a rupture with the Roman liturgy, with Latin, with the theology of the Latin and Roman Fathers and theologians.
It is this force of the Catholic Faith rooted in Romanitas that Freemasonry wished to eliminate by occupying the pontifical States and enclosing Catholic Rome in Vatican City. This occupation of Rome by the Masons permitted infiltration of the Church by Modernism and the destruction of Catholic Rome by Modernist clergy and popes who hasten to destroy every vestige of Romanitas: the Latin language, the Roman liturgy. The Slavic Pope is the most determined to change the little which was kept by the Lateran Treaty and the Concordat. Rome is no longer a sacred city. He encourages the establishing of false religions in Rome itself, accomplishing there scandalous ecumenical meetings. He everywhere pushes for the inculturation in the liturgy, destroying the last vestiges of the Roman liturgy. He has modified in practice the status of the Vatican State. He has renounced coronation, thus refusing to be a Head of State. This relentlessness against Romanitas is an infallible sign of rupture with the Catholic Faith that he no longer defends.
The Roman pontifical universities have become chairs of Modernist pestilence. The co-education of the Gregorian is a perpetual scandal.
All must be restored in Christo Domino, in Christ the Lord, in Rome as elsewhere.
Let us love to see how the ways of Divine Providence and Wisdom pass by Rome. We will conclude that one cannot be Catholic without being Roman. This applies also to Catholics who have neither the Latin language nor the Roman liturgy. If they remain Catholic, it is because they remain Roman, like the Maronites, for example, by the ties to the Catholic and Roman-French culture which formed them.
It is, moreover, an error to speak of Roman culture as Western. The converts from Judaism brought with them from the Orient all that was Christian, all that which in the Old Testament was a preparation and could be a component of Christianity, all that which Our Lord had assumed and that the Holy Ghost had inspired the Apostles to adopt. How many times do the epistles of St. Paul teach us on this subject!
God willed that Christianity, cast in a certain way in the Roman mold, to receive from it a vigorous and exceptional expansion. All is grace in the divine plan and Our Divine Savior disposes all as the Romans are said to act, that is, "cum comilio et patientia or suaviter et fortiter”;—with counsel and patience, sweetly and mightily (Wis 8:1).
Ours is the duty to guard this Roman Tradition desired by Our Lord, as He wished us to have Mary as our Mother.
The line of St. Peter
Peter had his successor as bishop of Rome: Linus; Cletus followed him, then Clemens… till Benedict XVI in our days. The first 35 popes were all martyrs, men who offered their lives for the Catholic Faith. But we also see other wonderful personalities in the Apostolic See: St. Leo the Great with his wonderful theological sermons and the strength with which he drove away Attila; St. Gregory the Great, sending St. Augustine and his monks to the Anglo-Saxons to convert them; Gregory VII, who withstood to the face the German emperor Henry IV and fought for the liberty of the Church. St. Pius V who appealed for a crusade against the Turks, the Pope of Lepanto, the Rosary and our Roman Missal; Bl. Pius IX, the Pope of the Immaculata and of the first Vatican Council. St. Pius X, the great pope in his fight against modernism and the enemies of Christianity; Bl. Pius XII, with his wonderful statements concerning all the problems of the social area. They are all the true heirs of St. Peter.
But we also see popes with astonishing weaknesses, sometimes in their private life, like for example Alexander VI, sometimes in their government like the popes in the tenth century called the “Saeculum obscurum”—the dark century, sometimes even weak in the defense of the faith like Pope Liberius who approved of a synod which excommunicated the great defender of the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ: St. Athanasius.
And what must we say about Pope Honorius who held the Apostolic See from 625 to 638 and was condemned by the following third Council of Constantinople and even by the following Pope Leo II because he was weak in his defense of the Catholic truth teaching us that there are two natures in Our Lord, the divine nature and the human nature with the true human will. After his death Honorius was excommunicated by the mentioned Council, Leo II approved of this, but he never was declared not to have been the pope. He was not declared directly an heretic but favoring heresy.
So we see that not only the faithfulness and the love of Peter for his Divine Master passed over to his successors, but also some of his weaknesses.
II. Archbishop Lefebvre and the Council Popes
After this rather long introduction let us see the attitude of the archbishop towards the popes of the Council, that is to say John XXIII and Paul VI and the faithful executor of the Council decrees John Paul II.
Already in 1927 Archbishop Lefebvre had gone through a trial for his devotion to the Roman Pontiff. What happened? Pope Pius XI condemned the Action Francaise which fought for a certain renewal of the French nation; but its leader Charles Maurras was at least in this moment not a declared Catholic, was more of an agnostic. The pope, misguided by bad information, thought that Fr. Le Floch, rector of the French Seminary in Rome, was an adept of the Action Francaise and insisted that he should be dismissed from his function. For the young seminarian Lefebvre who had a profound devotion for the Pope and in the same time a profound veneration for Fr. Le Floch, as a son has for his father, this was a difficult situation. But this did not change or diminish his spirit of Romanitas.
When John XXIII convoked the Council, the archbishop who was appointed a member of the central commission for its preparation realized the danger and tried in this preparatory work and still more in the Council itself, to eliminate the liberal influences as far as he could. He succeeded in many points, but the Rhine-alliance of the liberal Council Fathers and experts was almost almighty having the sympathy of John XXIII and Paul VI. The archbishop fought as much as he could against decrees like “Religious Liberty” (Dignitatis humanae) or “The Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes); he was the motor of the Coetus internationalis partum, a group of about 250 conservative Council fathers. He could not hinder the application of these documents, but his devotion for the Pope was too profound to attack him personally.
A new situation came about when in 1969 the new missal, the Novus Ordo Missae was published and even imposed. The archbishop had taken over some previous reforms, but would not celebrate this new Mass, he just continued with the old one. This same year he gathers some young people around him in Fribourg, Switzerland sending them to the university for their philosophical and theological studies; the year after he opened the seminary of Econe with the ecclesiastical approval.
But the battle was pre-programmed: In 1974 two prelates from Rome are ordered to make a canonical visit to Econe, giving during this visit very strange statements about the eternal truths, the physical resurrection of Our Lord, celibacy and others; the archbishop was then forced to take a public stand, which includes, not explicitly but implicitly also statements against the orientation of Paul VI. This is his famous declaration of November 21, 1974, which is still very actual today and our guideline, even in the present talks with Rome.
The Declaration of Archbishop Lefebvre: November 21, 1974
We hold fast, with all our heart and with all our soul, to Catholic Rome, Guardian of the Catholic faith and of the traditions necessary to preserve this faith, to Eternal Rome, Mistress of wisdom and truth.
We refuse, on the other hand, and have always refused to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which were clearly evident in the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it.
All these reforms, indeed, have contributed and are still contributing to the destruction of the Church, to the ruin of the priesthood, to the abolition of the Sacrifice of the Mass and of the sacraments, to the disappearance of religious life, to a naturalist and Teilhardian teaching in universities, seminaries and catechistics; a teaching derived from Liberalism and Protestantism, many times condemned by the solemn Magisterium of the Church.
No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church's Magisterium for nineteen centuries.
"But though we," says St. Paul, "or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8).
Is it not this that the Holy Father is repeating to us today? And if we can discern a certain contradiction in his words and deeds, as well as in those of the dicasteries, well we choose what was always taught and we turn a deaf ear to the novelties destroying the Church.
It is impossible to modify profoundly the lex orandi without modifying the lex credendi. To the Novus Ordo Missae correspond a new catechism, a new priesthood, new seminaries, a charismatic Pentecostal Church—all things opposed to orthodoxy and the perennial teaching of the Church.
This Reformation, born of Liberalism and Modernism, is poisoned through and through; it derives from heresy and ends in heresy, even if all its acts are not formally heretical. It is therefore impossible for any conscientious and faithful Catholic to espouse this Reformation or to submit to it in any way whatsoever.
The only attitude of faithfulness to the Church and Catholic doctrine, in view of our salvation, is a categorical refusal to accept this Reformation.
That is why, without any spirit of rebellion, bitterness or resentment, we pursue our work of forming priests, with the timeless Magisterium as our guide. We are persuaded that we can render no greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign Pontiff and to posterity.
That is why we hold fast to all that has been believed and practiced in the faith, morals, liturgy, teaching of the catechism, formation of the priest and institution of the Church, by the Church of all time; to all these things as codified in those books which saw day before the Modernist influence of the Council. This we shall do until such time that the true light of Tradition dissipates the darkness obscuring the sky of Eternal Rome.
By doing this, with the grace of God and the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that of St. Joseph and St. Pius X, we are assured of remaining faithful to the Roman Catholic Church and to all the successors of Peter, and of being the faithful dispensers of the mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Archbishop Lefebvre's continual adherence to the papacy
During time there were, here and there, priests like Fr. De Nantes in France, little groups in Europe and America who declared the pope to be an heretic, or who even say that he has lost papacy or has never become the pope. Archbishop Lefebvre wrote to Fr. De Nantes, who invited him to break with Rome, with these remarkable words: “If there is one bishop who will not break with Rome, I am this bishop.” Nevertheless the archbishop put more and more the question to himself: “How is it possible that the vicar of Christ supports the liberal forces, introducing a protestantisizing liturgy, that he works for the laicisation of the Catholic States? Is he really the pope?”
Paul VI died on August 6, 1978. Archbishop Lefebvre for one moment doubted the legitimacy of the election of his successor since the cardinals over eighty years were excluded from the conclave. But when he saw that the whole Church and especially the Roman Church accepted the election he no longer had any doubts about the new Pope John Paul I. Unfortunately the new Pontiff did not want a crowning ceremony, he also defended religious liberty saying that he changed his opinion on this subject during the Council, and when he was patriarch in Venice he persecuted priests who said the traditional Mass. His pontificate was a very short one: he died after 33 days. His successor was John Paul II from Poland who granted an audience to Archbishop Lefebvre only one month after his election.
In this meeting John Paul II brought up three points:
1. “It is said that you are against the pope.” The archbishop clarified his position saying that he accepts fully the first Vatican Council with the dogmatical constitution Pastor Aeternus. The pope seemed to be satisfied.
2. “It is said that you are against the Council.” The archbishop answered that he accepts the Council interpreted in the light of the tradition as the pope himself had declared shortly before. Once again the pope was satisfied.
3.”It is said that you are against the new liturgy.” The archbishop explained that in fact he has maintained the old liturgy having reserves towards the new one. The pope said that this was a question of discipline, and that he should settle this with Cardinal Seper whom he called immediately. Cardinal Seper came in with these words: “Holy Father, they make a banner of the old Mass, we can not grant what they ask for like this.” The pope himself left the meeting excusing himself by other obligations. Cardinal Seper told the archbishop that he would call him later on to come to see him in Rome; but the conversations and exchanges of letters showed no result. In 1981 he died, and Cardinal Ratzinger, whom the archbishop had already met together with the other cardinals who were eager to find a solution, took the office as the head of the Congregation of Faith, as successor of Cardinal Seper. He was also entrusted with the task to be the intermediary between the archbishop and the Holy See.
So immediately there were letters exchanged which always touched the same subjects: The Council and the Novus Ordo Missae. If the Archbishop would accept the first one and accept the orthodoxy of the second one, even celebrating it from time to time, there could be possible permission for the reintroducing the Latin Tridentine Mass. But all these proposals were unacceptable for the archbishop and the Society. In 1983 a new canon law was published which is the precise juridical transcription of the Second Vatican Council and its spirit. The Archbishop once again manifested his serious reserves. The same year the pope visited a Protestant church in Rome.
The archbishop presented the Dubias, that is to say, questions concerning religious liberty, to the Holy See; he was invited by Cardinal Ratzinger to do so. These Dubias received a very poor answer which was in no way satisfactory. The Conciliar Church seemed to be really rooted in a new doctrine.
The pope visited the synagogue in Rome and announced a meeting of all religious leaders of the different Christian denominations and world religions in Assisi for October of that year. Archbishop Lefebvre saw in such a meeting a public attack to the first article of our Creed and the first Commandment of the Decalogue and so, withstood the Pope publicly in sermons on Holy Thursday and on Easter in his Pontifical Masses. He had no hope any longer for a quick return of the Roman authorities to the traditional teaching, discipline and liturgy of the Church.
So then, after the canonical visitation of Cardinal Gagnon in 1987 and some negotiations in April and May 1988 he finally consecrated four auxiliary bishops on the 30th of June that year, who were to continue his action in the Society St. Pius X, namely, to give the holy orders to the seminarians and the sacrament of confirmation to the faithful. He never had the intention to give to these bishops a regular jurisdiction or to break with Rome; on the contrary, by this action he wanted to help the Roman authorities to find the way back to what they have left in the Council and after the Council.
He acted out of the state of necessity, not of the Society St. Pius X, but of that of the Church. The Roman authorities declared him to be excommunicated in spite of the fact that the new canon law of 1983 foresees no censors at all or at least only a minor punishment for those who act out of necessity, even if they are objectively wrong. Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991 without regretting anything, being convinced that with his heroic action of June 30, 1988 he had rendered the best service to the popes, the bishops and the whole Church.
III. Are the Council popes true popes?
Archbishop Lefebvre, after some questions to himself on this subject and after some hesitations when he heard about the Assisi meeting, nevertheless always considered that the Council popes are canonically true popes, even if they have a very liberal spirit and have done and do harm to the Church. He even expressed the opinion that one day the Church might gather a tribunal in order to examine how far these popes have damaged the Church and could come to a condemnation like the third Council of Constantinople or Pope Leo II concerning Pope Honorius. Nevertheless he always prayed for the pope publicly and asked his priests to do so.
Now let us give the philosophical and theological arguments proving that the conciliar popes are true popes in the canonical sense, even if they are filled up with false philosophical and theological principals and have done and do a lot of harm to the Church.
1. According to Our Lord’s own words related in Matthew XVI, 18, His Church is built on Peter; so this is a Divine Institution which nobody can change at any time. In every construction the foundations are central for the construction itself; there can be just provisional pillars, holding the construction for a short time; if we stay with this picture we could say that this is the case after the death of a pope till the election of a new one; but this is never a long and stable situation.
2. For every human society authority, a head is essential; it is the causa efficiens which holds it together. This is still more true for the Church with one billion of members in all parts of the world.
3. The vacancy of the Holy See would be an extraordinary event and situation in the Church, and every well-meaning faithful Catholic would recognize this state of things since the Church is a visible body. But those who claim that the Holy See is vacant are far in agreement about the date when this happened. Some say that after the death of Pius XII there was no longer any legitimate pope; others say that with the approval of the Council Paul VI fell into heresy and so that the Apostolic See is vacant since 1965; others say that the determinant event was the publication of the Novus Ordo Missae; once again others say that it was the Assisi-meeting by which the pope ceased to be pope. If there is no unity among these sedevacantists in this important question it is the best proof that the event itself never happened, otherwise everybody would agree that from this or that concrete date we have no pope.
4. If the pope is not pope, all the bishops he appointed might be true bishops according to the order, but they would not be legitimate bishops with jurisdiction. Now there is no longer any resident bishop in the world who was not appointed by the conciliar popes, and so there would be no longer any legitimate bishop in the whole world, which is absolute contrary to the constitution of the Church itself, to her indefectibility promised by Our Lord Himself: “The gates of hell will not prevail against her.”
5. Not only there would be no longer any legitimate residential bishops but also all the cardinals are all now appointed by Paul VI or John Paul II, so now they would not be true cardinals. But the cardinals are the electors and the only electors of a new pope. How then can a new pope be elected at any time? Now the Church is a perfect society which means that it can at any time reach its aim by its own means. To have a pope as head is essential for the Church; but if the cardinals are not cardinals it cannot reach this aim by its own means and so this state of things would be in contradiction with the Divine Constitution of the Church as a perfect society. For the sedevacantist groups, only a direct intervention of God would be a possible exit of the crisis.
6. It is not up to the faithful and even not to priests and bishops to judge the pope “Prima Sedes a nemine judicatur” says canon 1556 of the canon law of 1917; but it is up to us to maintain the faith at any cost if the pope has a good Catholic spirit or if he is a liberal.
7. What are the fruits of those sedevacantist groups and persons? They are all divided amongst themselves and their main activity is to criticize those who believe that John Paul II was and that Benedict XVI is a true pope. Moreover in their own logic some of these groups have elected their own pope and so we have in this moment about fifteen of them: Peter II, Gregory XVII (who died recently), Linus II, Pius XIII, etc. You see how such a position ends in a sectarian spirit.
8. The liberal mentality of the Council popes explains perfectly and sufficiently the drama of the papacy in our days, and we have not the right to look for stronger explanations if those are sufficient to explain the situation. In a very famous sermon delivered at the occasion of the priestly ordinations in 1982 in Econe, Archbishop Lefebvre compared the Church and the drama of our days with Our Lord and His Passion. He said the following:
We see Our Lord humiliated and annihilated to a certain point and ask ourselves how this is possible for Him, being true God and true man. Now one part of the people say: Since this humiliation to such a point is a reality He can not be true God because for God this is impossible.—These are the Arians, followers of Arians who denied the Divinity of Christ. Others say: Since He is true God His annihilation can not be real, His Passion certainly was only in appearance, He only had taken a body in appearance but He was not really man."
And the Archbishop made the application to the Church.
“There are people who are seeing the passion of the Church and the tragedy of papacy and so they conclude that such a degradation of papacy is not possible and so the pope can not be the pope. Others draw the contrary conclusion saying: Since the pope is pope, all the reforms coming from Rome must be good, it is only an appearance of bad and so they swallow the poison."
The Archbishop Lefebvre concluded:
We are certainly in front of a mystery. Nobody in the time of Pius XII would have believed that the Church one day would undergo such a passion, and even it would be absolutely impossible for her to go through such a passion. But we have to face the reality, and so we have to maintain the Divine Institution of Peter on the one side and on the other side we cannot deny that these reforms coming from Rome are destroying the Church."
And that is why we are holding with all our hearts to these words of the Archbishop: “Neither liberal nor modernist on the one side, nor schismatic on the other side, but Catholic, Roman Catholic.” We want preserve and maintain the Catholic Faith, and by no means do we want to fall into the conciliar and post-conciliar errors, but on the other side we want to stay attached to the Holy See once and forever. Our way is like a walk on the top of a high mountain with two abysses on each side.
On the occasion of the episcopal consecrations Archbishop Lefebvre prophesized that one day Rome will recognize our attitude and thank us for our action. This is already becoming reality: In the audience of August 29, 2005 given by Pope Benedict XVI to our Superior General, Bishop Fellay, the pope spoke about this “venerable Archbishop Lefebvre, this great man of the Universal Church”. Apart for the terrible damage done to the souls and Christian Institutions like the Catholic family, the parishes, the seminaries, the monasteries and the Catholic States by this liberal spirit there is certainly also the danger of a schismatic spirit which ends also very badly as we see for the Greeks, the Russians, England or the Old Catholics.
IV. Conclusions; our expectations
The new Pope Benedict XVI will certainly not be the great reformer of the Church as has been Gregory VII or St. Pius X. He is a man full of the ideas of the Council to which he contributed as an expert, and he continues and will continue in this line. Moreover he is not a strong leader and a man of government, but more a cultivated artist, a university professor. We must realize that if he would really like to bring about a reform, then he would meet a lot of objections and resistance by the liberal forces in the Church. And finally if you want to bring about a reform you need the men who realize it in their function, in their place. But where are these men today? Where are the saints and where are the great theologians?
What we can expect of the new pope is some sympathy for the more conservative forces in the Church and certain favors for the traditional Mass. Moreover he might make the one or other good appointments in the Roman Curia and on the bishop seats even among bad ones. Concerning the present ecumenism, we should ask him to show himself to be the true successor of St. Peter who on the first feast of Pentecost told the Jews who ask him what they would have to do in order to be saved that there is a threefold condition: Regret your sins and convert yourself, believe in Jesus Christ and His Divinity and be baptized, otherwise there is no salvation and no hope for it. But we must all together pray for the pope, and pray a lot.
You remember that Peter was put to prison by King Herod who wanted to execute him as he had done with St. James, the first martyr of the Apostles. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the whole Church stayed in constant prayer for Peter who was delivered by an angel and so escaped from the hands of Herod. The Council popes and even Benedict XVI are today like in a spiritual prison, in the prison of the Council ideology, so we must pray for the Holy Father since the Church depends almost totally on the pope. A truly catholic pope is an enormous benediction, a liberal one is more like a punishment for the Church.
Let us not be discouraged or be of little faith seeing the passion of the Church, but let us neither have illusion about the state of things. The overcoming of the crises of the Church depends much also on each of us, it must be surmounted in ourselves first. We must persevere in our battle like Gedeon who fought a large army with only 300 courageous men, or like the Maccabees where one father with his five sons restored the religious order in Israel, or like Gregory VII who died in exile with these words on his lips: “I have loved justice and I have hated injustice; that is why I die in exile.” He himself did not see the fruits of his courageous action, but later on his reform bore its fruits and granted full freedom to the Church.
Virgo fidelis ora pro nobis—Virgin most faithful, pray for us.