During the 2005 "conclave" I was still solidly in the "Recognize-and-Resist" SSPX camp. I was glued to the screen watching ballot after ballot and excitedly calling friends about Ratzinger and his solid chances to be "elected." I had not really done my homework on him at the time; I just remembered glossy pictures in Latin Mass and excerpts from The Ratzinger Report I had read in my salad days of Traditional Catholicism. I thought that he would definitely be more "traditional" than JPII, but would that be enough?
As the white smoke billowed my heart jumped, like the heart of any true Catholic who thinks he/she is witnessing the election of a true pope. True Catholics have a tremendous attachment to the office and person of the Pope - an office given to us by Christ to hold His scepter over His Church. To bind and loose - in His place - in our short time in this life.
I called two friends and we chatted excitedly about what this would mean. The one friend, always (and still today) an Indult type, the other SSPX though "sedevacantist friendly." While I was in the SSPX I was in the minority of people who considered sedevacantism a valid "alternative explanation" so I didn't have the time or inclination to demonize it as "non-Catholic" or label it with all the other insane labels R&R types have to put on an idea in order to emotionally pollute themselves from calmly looking at it.
But even in 2005 I felt disconnected from the Novus Ordo sect - the organization that appears to the outside world to be the visible Catholic Church but metaphysically is an impostor. In 2005 I still saw with my eyes of flesh instead of my eyes of faith, and I had not confronted the one issue that to this day dominates every fiber of Joseph Ratzinger's being: Vatican II.
All the problems and issues we see and experience today go back to Vatican II and the question of the Pope. Is Vatican II an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church or is it not? Is it to be accepted as coming from Christ through His Church or is it not?
Standard R&R answers (keep in mind that typically these answers will come from the mouths of people - and sometimes clergy! - who have not even read one single document of Vatican II):
- Pastoral council
- Non-binding, and besides, there's no heresy anyway!
Sedevacantist responses (to the above points):
- Please show us where in previous Catholic teaching a "pastoral council" is defined and what its authority is. Church history shows us there are valid councils and invalid councils. We don't have any "in-betweeners."
- Nope. Every single document ends with the same formulary as in Trent, with "I, Paul, Bishop of Rome, etc." One can make the outrageous claim that it is non-binding, except for the fact that it has guided the Novus Ordo sect in every aspect for the last half-century. You can claim all you want that it's not binding - but the Novus Ordo sect de-Catholicized every country which still recognized Jesus Christ as King (thanks Dignitatis Humanae - which by the way contains heresy directly contrary to the teachings of the pre-Vatican II popes). The Novus Ordo sect destroyed the faith of millions by introducing the even-less-than-banal Novus Ordo Missae (thanks Sacrosanctum Concilium - which contains statements and propositions and attitudes condemned by Mediator Dei). Saying it's "not binding" reminds me of Neville Chamberlain coming back to England waving a piece of paper he had signed with Hitler. The facts weren't important...we had a piece of paper!
For the sedevacantist, life is fairly simple: Vatican II is an invalid council (we have precedent in Church history) implemented by anti-popes (we have precedent in Church history). Given that "he who is not of the body cannot be the head" (St. Robert Bellarmine) we serenely await an intervention of Our Lord (we have precedent in the Great Western Schism, where Our Lord used human instruments to end the crisis) and in the meantime we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, attending Mass where we can and when we can't, saying the Rosary and trying to sanctify our lives.
We don't set up parallel churches or our own wedding tribunals (SSPX) or attempt to judge each and every action of the body we call "The Holy See" as orthodox or not by referencing our own judgment in reference to "Tradition"(that judgment being not guaranteed by anything).
For the conservative or the recognize-and-resister, life is pretty complicated. Vatican II was a "bad, but certainly valid council" (an undefined idea in the Church with no precedent), implemented by valid popes (actions don't mean anything - a new period has been entered into in which we must know the hearts and minds of possible heretics before judging them as such - and that's a get-out-of-jail free card that only Martin Luther could have invented).
Given that you must have a valid Pope to consecrate Russia (because you live your life according to private revelation, while ignoring immediate doctrinal problems) you anxiously await the miracle of "the triumph of the Immaculate Heart" (while ignoring that Our Lady did not specify that the triumph would happen before the Final Judgement - oh, and you worship as a great "traditionalist" [Benedict XVI] a man who was complicit in the suppression of the Third Secret).
In the meantime, you resist whatever parts of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church, the latest version (2002) of the "Ordinary Form" (darkly humorous term) of the Mass, encyclicals, allocutions, and pretty much anything you want that would normally fall under the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church and therefore would normally fall under the charism of the Church's INDEFECTIBILITY not under the charism of the Pope's INFALLIBILITY. You resist, with your free will, these legal measures and documents from a man you call "Holy Father," who rules the juridical body you call "The Holy See," and is the man you view as the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth. Yet, you fail to see how this is not protestant behavior.
2013 was very different for me. I was able to watch the white smoke with the same sadness (yet serenity) that anyone who was alive during the Great Western Schism might have felt (if they had streaming internet back then, of course!). I knew that something was not right but I knew that God, not I, would fix it. I would not recognize a man as "Holy Father" who was blatantly not Catholic (Francis has celebrated Hanukkah with the Jews and has been prayed over by protestants - actions which would have earned him an excommunication and the title of apostate under any pre-Vatican II papacy). I know the Church has had many anti-popes in her history and unlike all Catholics before my era in the Church I have access to over 2000 years of Church history so I know there is nothing new under the sun. I'm not so arrogant as to believe the times of anti-popes have "passed."
To paraphrase St. Jerome, I live in an era in which the world has groaned, awoken, and marveled to find itself Modernist. The Arian crisis afflicted 95% of the Church of its time. The Modernist crisis has afflicted 99% of the Church of our time. To those in the 99% who are looking at this joker who has balloons at his "Masses," and is not even certainly a priest (he was ordained in the 1969 ordinal), consider joining the 1%. We don't have any crises of faith nor do we have to worry about all the anxiety and battles waged in the forums and websites of the neo-conservative and neo-trad Catholics. We know the truth: we understand the metaphysical realities of the situation though everything conspires to make us believe otherwise.
We know that Our Lord promised to be with us always. And we hold Him to that promise. We wait on Him to fix the mess that men have made. And we don't force our reality (habemus papam!) to fit our pre-made conclusions (sedevacantism can't be right!). Like St. Thomas, we use reality to draw our conclusions. And when all other options are inadequate to explain the situation, the remaining possibility, however uncertain to our eyes of flesh, must be the correct explanation, and will be seen by our eyes of faith.