Recently I’ve come accross many claims made by Sedevactantist groups. While I know enough to know that I don’t agree with this movement, I struggle to answer their claims. One such example are the claims that the Catholic Church reversed on its position of no salvation outside the church; this seems to be bolstered with quotes from multiple church councils. How would you answer such a claim? Also, what are some good resources on Sedevacantism?
Try reading the documents of the Second Vatican Council. That said, I would personally steer clear of Sedevacantists especially if you are not skilled in apologetics. One might come to have doubts about the Catholic Church if you read their documents and such. Such heretics have ways of deceiving that can be pretty clever.
The best way that I can explain is, first of all to point out that “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church” is a defined Dogma of the Catholic Church and must be affirmed by all who claim to be Catholic.
But, there are some questions that may be asked:
- What IS the Catholic Church?
- How would one become “outside”?
- Who may be “inside”?
There is an old example - the Bushman in the Kalahari desert who has never heard of the Catholic Church or the necessity of being “inside” or “outside”; who knows anything about Baptism. Is it possible for him to attain Salvation?
The Church assures us that it is possible - if he follows his conscience and lives a good life. The judgement of his souls (and by extension the souls of protestants and atheists) is entirely God’s.
What we can be sure of is that - WHOEVER is in Heaven (irrespective of whether in life he was a Catholic, protestant, pagan - or whatever - if he is in Heaven he has attained Salvation in virtue of being “inside the Catholic Church” at the point of Judgement.
If Sedevacantists do not “like” that - they ought follow St Augustine’s advice not to look at the sins of others, but to concentrate on their own sins.
Obedience, like chastity, works each and every time it is tried.
Disobedience never works.
Sedes are trying less to master themselves, which is our spiritual work for life, and more to to master the Church.
I very rarely encounter them, which is good for me.
Jimmy Akin wrote an article on the difficulty of refuting sedevacantists that is worth reading:
Sedevacantists can be smart and fine people and I think it’s silly to encourage people to stay away from them (as persons). Christ didn’t call us to shun anyone and we don’t act that way toward Anglicans.
I have sedevacantist friends. I think the best advice is really try to respect each other and talk about things you have in common (i.e. the rosary, respect for the Eucharist) and avoid saying things you know will hurt each other. Basically, treat Sedevecantists as you would anyone else you disagree with when it comes to religion. There may be a point where you can have an open dialogue about your differences, but you really shouldn’t force it.
As to someone worried about Sedevacantist ideas:
- If the Protestant error is *sola scriptura *, the Sedevacantist error is sola traditio. Protestants will pick through passages of the Bible and declare the Bible declares something is so and anyone who disagrees is against the Bible. Sedevacantists (and many traditionalists) will pick through passages from old encyclicals or the canons of the Lateran Council and declare that the Church says something is so and anyone who disagrees is against the Church.
The error that both Protestants and Sedevacantists make is that we don’t get to interpret scripture or tradition. The meaning of both scripture and tradition is not always obvious. This is why we rely on the Pope to interpret tradition and scripture. If a Catholic were using scripture the way a Sedevacantist does it would be obvious that they don’t have the authority to interpret scripture in a way that contradicts the Pope.
Specifically regarding “outside the Church there is no salvation” if you are dealing with a hardline group that denies baptism of desire, even most Sedevacantists reject this extreme position (of rejecting Baptism of Desire) as it would suggest that all Popes since the 1500s were heretics.
Christ’s ministry focused on an illiterate population and for most of the Church’s history it’s members have tended to be poor and downtrodden. I find it hard to believe that at this moment to figure out the faith you need to start researching all the rulings of the ecclesiastical councils and start reading obscure theologians to find the Catholic Church. It’s just way too complicated and there is no way an illiterate person could figure it out on their own.
Refer them to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and tell them to read the sections on scripture and tradition. The Catechism is loaded with references and footnotes if they want original documents.
I’ve recently limited my attempts at apologetics to telling people where to find information. If they are honestly seeking the truth, they will go there and find the information themselves. If, however, they merely have an axe to grind, I’m at least passing on good information, and saving my time and energy to attend to my duties in my state of life. If I encounter them again, I might ask them if they got a chance to look it up in the catechism.
That suggestion was made to me by my spiritual director a couple of years ago, and I recently started to apply it. You know what–Father was absolutely correct!
In other words, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. You’re just wasting your time if the horse is crazy enough to think that he doesn’t like water. Just put the pail next to him, tell him how good it is, and then leave him alone.
I must live in a bubble. I have never even met a sedevacantist let alone talked to one. I have read some of their stuff on the internet and find most of it ridiculous and laughable. From what I see on this board though they must be all over the place:eek: because so many people have conversations with them, are challenged by them or otherwise run into them.
But I would say why even deal with them? You are more than likely not going to change their minds so don’t worry about it.
I struggle to wrap my head around why sedevacantism could be convincing. :shrug:
Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. And yet, we have had five anti-popes in the past 50+ years with no actual pope and nary a whisper of protest from any bishop? It defies common sense.
What seems more likely: (a) that all priests, bishops and papal claimants veered off into heresy unbeknownst to themselves and 99.9% of Catholics the world over; or (b) I don’t know theology as well as I think I do.
It’s a tough one, but I think I’ll have to swallow my pride and go with option B.
To me, this is the best “answer”. Quibbling over cherry-picked quotes from centuries old encyclicals is not generally going to be a fruitful discussion.
I’ve never met one in real life either. I think the internet has a way of greatly exaggerating their presence.
Especially in today’s world where good faithful Catholics spend most of their time fighting attacks on the Church from the liberal left, I agree that many Catholics may be unprepared to defend against an attack coming from the right.
To build on what Holly was saying, though, I do think that we have to be able to get to the point where we can defend our faith in all situations. Partly because satan is going to find a way to exploit any weak-spots in our understanding of the faith regardless of how hard we try to hide it from him. But also because members of these schism groups still deserve to be given the Truth and have the best possible chances of getting to heaven (it’s out of our control whether we can actually change their minds, but at least we can tell God on judgment day that we tried out best!)
I heard this is a decent book to read on the subject, although I have not read it:
As a general rule, what I have seen of sedevacantism (and all related schools of thought) is that they have misunderstood what the more recent Church documents say. I read a funny thing somewhere: both the urltra-Trads (as I call them) and the modernistic priests have interpreted the V 2 documents in the same modernist way; it’s just that their reactions differed.
AFAICT, a lot of ultra-Trads are reacting to *truly horrible *abuses which occurred after V2. I’m not talking about the felt banners; I’m talking about vicious and heartless treatment of priests and people who were unhappy about changes, esp those in the Mass.
But C794, I will be honest with you: I investigated sedevacantism for 4 years, luckily with support from good Catholics. I had a reason for doing that.
I totally do not recommend it. It really messed with my spiritual life as I became confused and suspicious.
I have read each of the V2 documents I have found accused of heresy, and each one, if read as Pope Paul VI read “in the light of Tradition” corresponds with Church teaching. Unfortunately, it seems that the ultra-Trads were so overwhelmed by the modernist interpretations that they were unable to see that. When I read the documents, I saw they did not say what they say they say.
A lot of bad stuff happened in the years of and following the Council. Now things are settling down and he best thing to do for the ultra-Trads is to pray for them.
It’s a funny thing: Pope John Paul II said that the Eastern and Western churches were like two lungs (referring, I think, to the two different theologies). To me, the Protestants have and enthusiasm we could use, and the ultra-Trads have a vigor and love for Tradition and tradition we could use, so all this separation is like a wound which I hope can be healed.
I wouldn’t even get into discussing anything with them because they go from one thing to another quickly and, unless you are Brother Jay, you will get confused and frustrated quite easily.
Simply tell them that you prefer to follow the Holy Father and trust in the promises of Our Lord when He said He would always be with His Church.
Pray for them.
Regarding salvation “outside” the Church. See this document from the Holy Office (now the CDF) under Pius XII, who sedevacantists usually accept as a real Pope. It explains the issue nicely:
Then, see this allocution by Bl. John Paul II, which explicitly affirms those Council and papal definitions on this topic and explains what is meant by this dogma:
Also this quote from an old Council sums up the problem with sedevacantists and their rejection of Vatican II and those who adhere to its decisions:
Q. Is it a great sin to refuse submission to a general Council?
A. It is the greatest act of criminal pride and presumption, accompanied by the awful guilt of heresy or schism, or both. We call it extremely criminal, as well as irrational; because the man who will not submit, prefers his own single opinion*—and this in a matter, regarding which he is neither qualified nor authorized to judge—*to the deliberately formed decision of an immense assemblage of the best qualified, and most competently authorized, legitimate judges.
That wouldn’t surprise me a bit. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to find that a lot of these sedevacantist threads are started just to stir things up and really have nothing whatsoever to do with the real issue of sedevacantism.
I have thought the same thing. There seems to be a few of them lately.
Besides, isn’t it a banned topic?
This, imo, is one of the biggest problems in dealing with Sedes: Catholics need to understand that 99% of the time Sedevacantism is not a matter of failure vis-a-vis obedience but a matter of failure vis-a-vis faith.
Sedevacantism is well outside the category of disobedience and belongs to another category - and it did from the get-go. Disobedience is a rather trivial offence in comparison. Sedevacantism does not arise from a desire to rid oneself of obligation or obedience. It arises out of a doubt. Doubt is in the order of faith, and consequently it is a largely intellectual matter.
Another mistake commonly made is Catholic apologists as it were super-impose their apologetic experience with Protestants or atheists onto Sedevacantism in a sort of copy-and-paste/apply the same strategy/medicine procedure, as if Sedes themselves don’t do the same thing vis-a-vis Protestantism and atheism, for example; consequently, the Catholic apologist finds himself shut-down rather swiftly - even masterfully or impressively (Sede apologists are used to this approach by Catholics- they anticipate it and turn it against the Catholic) and, very likely, might have their own faith scandalized (this is directly connected as a consequence to the serious mistake of considering Sedevacantism an issue of obedience, which (disobedience) is only a logical consequence of the real problem ).
Sedes are not atheists or Protestants. In Sedevacantism a Catholic apologist is perhaps for the first time dealing with his first true heresy and heretic; and if he is unprepared or weak in faith he might well fall victim to it. Like all major heresies and their followers - who were and are alway predominantly originally Catholics - it usually requires a rather gifted, God-given genius in the Church to masterfully dissect and expose the errors of a heresy - carefully sifting out the truth from the error, the wheat from the tares - and so, as it were, taking the wind out of the sails of a heresy. Average-joe Catholic apologist is rarely equipped or prepared to properly tackle such a threat because he doesn’t realise that all heresies are meant and in a way directed to entice him. The heresy, as it were, knows its audience: Catholics, and means to destroy its average front-line soldiers/defenders; and this can only be done using novel tactics (novel arguments, usually) that the defenders have no training for. Thus heresies usually have an initial dynamism and success.
So heresies are comparable to warfare in that a long-standing country’s ordinary defence/army is used to fighting an old, typical enemy using certain conventional weapons, tactics. So the enemy must reinvent his tactics to negate the advantages of the hitherto unbreakable defenders and enjoys an initial surge of dizzying success. Finally, some gifted person reaches the top-brass, - and he either already is or is elevated to - a general, and begins to turn the tide. Sedevacantism right now is not seen as a serious issue or threat by the “top brass” but it is on their radar. In time they will begin to deploy new resources if they feel that this new threat reaches a certain breaking-point of seriousness or gravity to the Army of Christ.
Like all major heresies and their followers - who were and are alway predominantly originally Catholics - it usually requires a rather gifted, God-given genius in the Church to masterfully dissect and expose the errors of a heresy - carefully sifting out the truth from the error, the wheat from the tares - and so, as it were, taking the wind out of the sails of a heresy. Average-joe Catholic apologist is rarely equipped or prepared to properly tackle such a threat because he doesn’t realise that all heresies are meant and in a way directed to entice him. The heresy, as it were, knows its audience: Catholics, and means to destroy its front-line ranks. This can only be done using novel tactics (novel arguments, usually) that the defenders have no training for. Thus heresies usually have an initial dynamism and success.
Good points. Yet, doubt has its roots in the spiritual realm. It is one of the devil’s two main weapons. It feeds an ego that is either poorly controlled or not under control. A disordered ego is often seen in heretics, dissenters and schismatics. Ego (pride) opposes the virtue of humility, and the evil one needs nothing more than a disordered ego to plant the seeds of division. For example, all of the faithful (everyone, in fact) are subject to doubts All Catholics have doubts and lack faith at times - each of us is subject to such spiritual attacks. But, despite the doubts, we do not seek to oppose the Church. In the average case, one simply drifts away from their faith. But, those who actively resist the faith are lead by their egos. Ego lead to the fall. Egos are obvious even to us, so the devil has zero problem identifying and feeding them. This is actually part of the human condition, whether one has faith or not. Clicking on this list of virtues and vices, there are possibly several vices involved in such movements.