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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sede-Vacationism

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Sede-Vacationism

Until recently, “secession” wasn’t a word that had been bandied about much since Ft. Sumter. Disgruntled segments of the American electorate occasionally mounted secession referenda in fits of post-election pique, but those quickly died down and people went about their daily business soon enough.

That all changed with the coming of the culture wars. As one issue after another split the American public into opposing camps, our elections became all-out battles over a non-existent center, until now, in 2018, the losing side is carrying out a slow coup against the winning side, and the country is seriously, soberly wondering whether shooting might not break out over something as pedestrian as a judicial appointment. Marbury v. Madison was high drama, but with the Brett Kavanaugh saga we saw the Wicked Witch of the West Coast call in her swarms of flying monkeys to try to tear the republic into pieces.

 

Secession is thus an increasingly popular remedy. There is no more middle ground anywhere, and one side or another is going to have to win the whole game at some point, or else balk and quit the premises before the land war commences. California’s bid to split into three separate states was at least a plan for an orderly retreat. Once Civil War II breaks out, we are going to wish we had just let everyone go their separate ways in peace.

But if “secession” is a jarring term to hear in public discussion, then “sedevacantism” is enough to knock one clean out of one’s easy chair.

Before 2013, “sedevacantism” was whispered mainly in the fever swamps of the conspiracy theorists. The See of St. Peter is really empty, one sometimes heard mentioned in hushed tones. The real pope is in hiding in Monaco, or is working undercover at a gas station in Monterrey. Whoever the fellow in the white hat walking around the Vatican is, he isn’t the legitimate successor of the Apostle.

Well, OK. Whatever floats your boat.

But whether one subscribes to the sedevacantist position or not, one has to admit that the word is being used a lot more these days than just five years ago. Serious theologians (and, yes, by “serious theologians” I exclude all Jesuits) and Church historians are wondering what, exactly, one is supposed to do when a papacy has gone off the rails, plowed through the town, knocked over the water tower, blown up the power plant, sent a whole flock of chickens skedaddling in a tizzy of feathers and frenzied clucking, and plunged over the cliff in a spectacular, elegant free fall down, down into the icy deep below.

We may not want to admit it yet, but the Francis Papacy is an unqualified disaster. If we had elected Bart Simpson as pontifex maximus we would not be experiencing nearly the level of five-alarm calamity that greets us every time Jorge Mario Bergoglio speaks into a nearby microphone. Sedevacantism sure would be easier than dealing with a man who apparently learned theology from Bazooka gum wrappers and organizational management from Don Corleone.

As much as we might like to complain about the American system, it has one big advantage over the papacy (besides not having to borrow an Alitalia plane): if we don’t like the person using our White House, we can chuck him to the curb and have someone else do the presidenting for us.

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For example, let’s suppose—and this is purely hypothetical—that we had elected a serial rapist from Arkansas who spent most of his time in the Oval Office molesting interns. Or a madrassa student who let Americans die in, say, Libya and then lied about what had happened in order to avoid discomfiting his Muslim allies. Not that Americans would ever choose such lowlifes, mind you. But if they did, then our crack team of “journalists” in the media would be on the story like hounds on a skunk trail, and before long the truth would be revealed and we would never, ever give such people a second round in office.

The papacy is different, though. It’s like buying a car in Cuba. If you don’t like your purchase, well, sorry, but there’s nothing else. Have a nice day. You don’t get to redo papal elections, and there’s no Vatican Bureau of Investigation whose members are on-call 24/7 to stage a Bogota-style in-house takedown so the Deep State skullduggery can go on as before. Once you elect a pope, you have him. There is no papal farm league whither you can send a dud pontiff and have him work on his motu proprios and his changeups until he’s ready for the big leagues again.

Which brings us to Francis. Francis is the Milli Vanilli of the apostolic succession. We thought we were getting one thing, but it turns out it was all a charade. We thought Francis was a Catholic. Nope. He’s just a Soros globalist who happens to enjoy wearing long white smocks. Girl, you know it’s true. Francis is a walking bill of goods. And now that we’ve got him, we can’t send him back.

The obvious solution to all this is just to invoke sedevacantism and say that Francis is a usurper. (Politely left unsaid in this is that we are just waiting for the old man to die so we can get our do-over and try to elect someone halfway competent next time.)

But this creates all kinds of problems. Let’s sum up the bad things in one word: Avignon. Enough said.

However, this just brings us right back where we started. If we balk at sedevacantism, then St. Peter’s is still under the thrall of a man who is about as papabile as Big Bird. What do we do?

I propose here a new, hipper form of sedevacantism: sedevacationism. It’s like sedevacantism, only that it conceptually splits the pope from his pronouncements. Doing so allows us to cancel the papacy at whatever point the pope announces his firm and considered adherence to heresy. Once he does this, then, yes, he is still pope, but in permanent lame duck mode. Everything he says and does from the moment he affixes his seal to heresy is null and void, written on the wind, written on the running waves.

A sedevacationist pope still gets to meet with Bono and Michael Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio, still gets to invite Jeffrey Sachs to the Vatican to talk about how sterilizing Africans and Asians is somehow neither horrific nor racist, still gets to tool around in the popemobile, and still gets the folks in the funny-colored, billowing clown getups to guard him when he makes the rounds of St. Peter’s, blessing the atheistic Chinese tourists who got visas to Europe because they weren’t Catholic, unlike the Chinese Catholics whom Francis condemned to imprisonment with his latest papal “deal”. Still pope in outer appearance, in other words. Still the guy who gets his picture on the cover of Time magazine.

But from the moment a pope makes clear that it is his considered will to remain in heresy, he is theological and pontifical toast. Nothing he says, signs, or decrees has any weight with any practicing Catholic. In fact, to listen to a man who is both a heretic and a pope is blasphemy, so Francis would have to be renamed Pope Pyrrhic I. His station is empty. He’s still on the See of Peter, but in substance he is on extended leave. Not sedevacantism, sedevacationism. The king’s two bodies, the pope’s two selves. Problem solved.

All that remains is the detail of when Francis finally and firmly indicated that he intended to persist in heresy. I leave this to the good readers of the Remnant to decide. There could even be an ecclesiastical trial to establish, for all candid minds to review, the moment when Francis objectively fell into heresy. (This will later be known as The Great Theological Turkey Shoot of 2018.) Whatever the proven date and time, from thence on, and until Francis relents and revokes all heretical statements, he is pope in name only.

Sedevacantism is a recipe for out-and-out schism, ecclesial civil war. Sedevacationism lets us throw the division back onto its source, Bergoglio, saving the Church while muting the screeching sound of our ongoing papal train wreck. ■

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Last modified on Thursday, November 8, 2018
Jason Morgan | Remnant Columnist

Jason Morgan is an assistant professor at Reitaku University in Chiba, Japan, where he teaches language, history, and philosophy. He specializes in Japanese legal history. He’s published four books in Japanese and two book-length Japanese-to-English translations. His work has also appeared at Japan Forward, New Oxford Review, Crisis, Modern Age, University BookmanChronicles, and Clarion Review.