In the same book, Bishop Graber also quoted the Paris journal of the Grand Orient de France, “L’Humanisme,”:
“When the traditional structures collapse, all that remains will follow. The Church did not foresee that it would be contested in this way and it is no longer anything like prepared to absorb and assimilate this revolutionary spirit . . . It is not the scaffold that is awaiting the Pope, it is the rise of local Churches organizing themselves democratically, rejecting the dividing line between clergy and laymen, creating their own dogma and living in complete autonomy of Rome.”
By sidestepping the need for the Church to make a determination, the sedevacantist position simply exchanges one set of problems for another by declaring that there is no pope.
Until recently we may have dismissed these words as pure fantasy, even if we consider John XXIII and his successors to be destroyers of the Church. But Francis himself seems to be dedicated to destroying the papacy: he rejects the traditional papal titles, has called the Synod on Synodality to completely restructure the Church in the way described by the L’Humanisme quote above, and generally accepts every religion other than actual Catholicism. He, more than anyone other than Satan, may take the most pleasure in seeing scores of faithful Catholics declare that he is not pope. He is making a chaotic situation even more chaotic, and he apparently delights in that.
Even though many people consider it self-evident that Francis is not pope, we cannot hope to make sense of this catastrophe if we neglect to see it in the context of what has happened in the Church since the end of Pius XII’s papacy. As with many aspects of the crisis facing the Church today, we do well to consider the thoughts of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, even if we disagree with decisions he made. In his 1979 article in the Society of St. Pius X’s newsletter, Cor Unum, Archbishop Lefebvre considered whether Paul VI was actually the pope:
“How has a successor of Peter been able, in so little time, to do more harm in the Church than the revolution of 1789? . . . Do we really have a pope or an intruder seated on the seat of Peter? Blessed are those who have lived and died without having to pose themselves such a question!”
In these few words we get a glimpse of how much the papacy of Paul VI afflicted the Church and those who gave their lives to serve it. We may abhor the thought of Francis as pope, but it was Paul VI who replaced the Tridentine Mass with the Novus Ordo and presided over the Council that set in motion almost every evil initiative we see from Francis. Today we choke on the sulfur fumes emanating from Rome, but it was Paul VI who declared in 1972 that “the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God through some crack: doubt, incertitude, dissension, worry, discontent, and conflict are plain to see.” He would have known because he devoted his papacy to producing that crack in the temple of God.
He left open the possibility that Paul VI was not pope but believed that he was not the one to make that determination.
While some Catholics insisted that Paul VI could not possibly be pope, Archbishop Lefebvre adopted a more modest approach:
“Perhaps one day, in thirty or forty years, a session of cardinals called by a future pope will study and judge the reign of Paul VI: perhaps they will say that some things should have jumped out at the eyes of his contemporaries, affirmations of this Pope completely contrary to Tradition. I prefer for the present to consider as pope him who, at least, is on the throne of Peter; and if one day it should be discovered for certain that this pope was not pope, I will still have done my duty. Outside of cases where he uses his charism of infallibility a pope can err. Why therefore should we be scandalized and say, ‘Then he is not the pope,’ as Arius was scandalized by the humiliations of Our Lord saying in his Passion ‘My Lord, why have you abandoned me?’ and reasoned, ‘Thus he is not God.’”
He left open the possibility that Paul VI was not pope but believed that he was not the one to make that determination. Archbishop Lefebvre, who had the grace of state as bishop, and who subsequently demonstrated the unparalleled wisdom and courage that preserved the Tridentine Mass for us today, deemed that he was not qualified to declare that Paul VI was not the pope.
If Archbishop Lefebvre did not consider himself qualified to declare that Paul VI and John Paul II were not popes — even though he was arguably the most qualified person of the twentieth century to make such a determination — who can make a reasonable argument that the laity today should have the wherewithal to determine that Francis is not the pope? Archbishop Lefebvre wrote that “a session of cardinals called by a future pope” is an appropriate body to make such a determination, but today it appears that not even a handful of bishops “in communion with Rome” would be willing to say that Francis is not the pope.
Supposing, however, that we ignore these fundamental problems, can we identify any net benefit that flows from individual Catholics declaring that Francis is not pope?
On whose authority, then, should traditional Catholics base their decision to declare that Francis is not the pope? If the answer is that they should simply trust the authority of the sedevacantist leadership, how would they know which of the competing sedevacantist groups to follow? Shall they reject Francis but accept the popes since Pius XII who paved the way for him? If they instead believe Benedict XVI is still the pope, is there any leadership to follow, keeping in mind that Benedict XVI himself appears to disagree with this position? Does it seem plausible that God would demand that simple faithful Catholics decide not only whether there is a pope but also which of the conflicting sedevacantist positions is correct?
Supposing, however, that we ignore these fundamental problems, can we identify any net benefit that flows from individual Catholics declaring that Francis is not pope? Certainly we would solve the problem of having to think of Francis as pope, but if that was the only issue at stake surely Archbishop Lefebvre could have found tremendous consolation in declaring that Paul VI and John Paul II were not popes. We can see the wisdom of requiring the Church to make the determination that there is no pope when we consider that the Church would also need to elect another pope. By sidestepping the need for the Church to make a determination, the sedevacantist position simply exchanges one set of problems for another by declaring that there is no pope. The leading sedevacantist groups today have not recognized a pope since 1958 and cannot posit any non-miraculous process by which the Church will ever get one. If a really bad (or even heretical) pope is a problem for the papacy, how is that solved by making it impossible (absent the intervention of God) to ever again have a pope?
So it seems that we cannot improve the current situation in the Church by simply declaring that Francis is not the pope. But, just as Archbishop Lefebvre wrote of Paul VI, it is possible that the Church will at some point determine that Francis is not the pope. Regardless of our stance on that question, we know with certainty that God is permitting Bergoglio — who is recognized by the world as Pope Francis — to ostensibly lead the Catholic Church and that He is permitting this tragic situation for a reason. We absolutely need to recognize that Francis is a problem, but that realization should prompt us to consider the deeper crisis in the Church that has allowed this situation to occur. As Paul VI said in 1972, “the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God through some crack.” The question, then, is what are we going to do about the demonic attack on the Catholic Church that began before Francis was even ordained a priest? Specifically, how do we petition God’s graces to deliver us from this great crisis?
Quito, La Salette, Fatima, and Akita. Each of these suggests an apostasy from the highest levels of the Church. Although it is by no means a dispositive verdict on the sedevacantist positions, none of these messages even remotely suggest that faithful Catholics will need to solve the crisis by declaring that the pope is not actually the pope.
As an initial matter, we can consider that most Catholics who seriously ponder the question of whether Francis is pope will also have some regard for the various Marian apparitions that speak of the great crisis in the Church, including those of Quito, La Salette, Fatima, and Akita. Each of these suggests an apostasy from the highest levels of the Church. Although it is by no means a dispositive verdict on the sedevacantist positions, none of these messages even remotely suggest that faithful Catholics will need to solve the crisis by declaring that the pope is not actually the pope. Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary insists on the need for prayer, penance, abandoning sin, and holding to what the Church has always taught. If enough Catholics were to truly dedicate themselves to these necessary actions, God would raise up the saints we need to guide us out of this crisis.
Along these same lines, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s wisdom on the subject of turmoil in the Church is assuredly correct:
“Whenever some major and deeply entrenched evil, such as freemasonry and its effects, must be fought, whenever evil manifests itself as truly satanic, then to appease God’s justice spiritual action no less profound must come forward under the immediate direction of her whom God set up as the terror of demons, Mary.” (The Love of God and the Cross of Jesus, volume 2)
Throughout salvation history we see this great need to turn to God in times of crisis. We must “appease God’s justice” with “spiritual action no less profound” than the evil. We have absolutely no claim on God’s mercy to rescue us from this crisis if we do not turn to Him, under the direction of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Regardless of whether Francis is pope, we need fully Catholic bishops to guide us.
Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange continued with specific remedies:
“Every apostle, even every fervent soul within the Church militant, should take some part in the contemplative life and its struggle, making a renewed offering of self daily at Holy Mass with increasing devotion to the consecration, the act of the Savior’s eternal priesthood, and continuing the same offering throughout the course of the day in difficulties and trials and in the more and more perfect accomplishment of the duties of our duty of state of life. When we accept supernaturally the daily trials sent to us by Providence, we should also ask God not for crosses but for the love of crosses which He Himself has laid upon us that we may be purified and become instruments for the salvation of our neighbor.”
These efforts to become saints may not win the graces necessary to solve the crisis in the Church, but they will help us save our own souls and those of others.
Moreover, we must recall that Jesus told us that some demons are “not cast out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20). If the demons now exerting so much influence over the papacy and the Church are not bad enough to inspire us to make use of these powerful remedies, how much worse and more powerful will the wicked enemies become before we decide to fight them in the way Our Lord has given us?
The bishops of Vatican II led us into this crisis, so it would be fitting for holy and orthodox bishops to lead us out.
Along with the spiritual warfare, we need our Catholic bishops to be truly Catholic bishops. Regardless of whether Francis is pope, we need fully Catholic bishops to guide us. The problem of an apparently heretical pope would not be as devastating if we had a genuinely Catholic episcopate. But how many bishops today still comprehend and believe the simple truths in St. Pius X’s Oath Against Modernism? Of those, how many have the courage to condemn the errors ravaging the Mystical Body of Christ? And of that minuscule group, how many are capable of working together to address the problem in the Church? We must pray that bishops open their eyes and hearts to the unadulterated Catholic Faith and resolve to fight for it without counting the cost.
If we reach a point at which we have enough genuinely Catholic bishops who can unite with the same great love of the Church that Archbishop Lefebvre had, perhaps God will grant them the grace to take more concrete steps to resolve the crisis. The bishops of Vatican II led us into this crisis, so it would be fitting for holy and orthodox bishops to lead us out.
In the meantime, we should heed the words of St. Robert Bellarmine, who described what Catholics must do when faced with a pope who seeks to destroy the Church:
“Just as it is licit to resist a pope who attacks the body, so also it is licit to resist him if he attacks souls or disturbs the civil order or, above all, if he tries to destroy the Church. I say it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will.”
St. Robert Bellarmine foresaw a situation in which a pope could seek to destroy the Church and yet still remain the pope. Following the great saint’s guidance, we must resist Francis, the destroyer, “by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will.” As any determined destroyer would do, though, Francis will attempt to inflict as much damage on the Church as possible without crossing a line of such obvious formal heresy that would prompt the current hierarchy of the Church to declare that he had lost the papacy. Accordingly, those who insist that Francis has “crossed the line” and is no longer pope marginalize themselves in the eyes of many confused Catholics who need help resisting the destroyer. Those who intend to deliver a crushing blow to our enemies by declaring that Francis is not the pope should therefore consider whether they instead commit a strategic (and theological) blunder that cedes crucial battleground to Francis, the globalists, and Satan.
If the crisis in the papacy and throughout the Church is to be solved through the process of making extraordinary decisions about the papacy, we have to trust that God will show us the way.
God is not limited by our failures to correspond with His grace, but throughout salvation history we see that God allows us to experience the consequences of our negligence and sin until we return to Him. The increasing evil from Rome is an ever louder call for us to return to God as saints who love Him more than our own comfort.
If the crisis in the papacy and throughout the Church is to be solved through the process of making extraordinary decisions about the papacy, we have to trust that God will show us the way. Until that happens, though, we are left with following and defending the immutable Catholic Fatih and trying to become saints, which is what all Catholics have always been called to do. If the crisis has given us greater reason to do that, Deo Gratias! If not, then we cannot possibly hope to improve our own spiritual life or the situation in the Church by declaring that Francis is not the pope.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
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