John C. Pontrello
john c pontrello
January 9, 2020
I was recently forwarded a correspondence between a man and a popular Sedevacantist sect. The correspondence began with a phone call to the sect for the purpose of obtaining advice and guidance concerning the recent death of a family member who died in the Vatican II Catholic Church (Novus Ordo) under Pope Francis. Specifically, the man wanted to know if it was permissible for his family to attend the funeral, to pray for the soul of the departed family member, and to have reason to hope for God’s mercy upon the deceased. The cult agent who handled the initial phone call and subsequent written correspondence consulted with his superior and replied with their answers. In short, the cult’s answer was "NO" across the board. That is to say that the caller was told he may not attend the funeral (which the family did do), he may not pray for God’s mercy on the departed soul, and he may not have hope for that soul’s salvation. The reason given? Brother says… the departed soul is in hell.
Here is a portion of the response the Sedevacantist sect gave to the family of the deceased:
This is Brother XXXX of XXXXXXXXXXXXX. I spoke to you earlier today on the phone. I wanted to let you know that I spoke to Brother XXXX about the issue you’ve had with about the death of your father-in-law and what to believe about it. This is what he basically explained to me. He said that based upon the fact that XXXX died as a person (a) who attended the New Mass (especially during the 1990s and 2000s which really was a sign of XXXX’S bad will), (b) who actually worked on Sundays, (c) who didn’t show evidence that he rejected the Novus Ordo, (d) who probably believed that you don’t have to be a Catholic to be saved, (e) who was someone that didn’t seem to be a person who cared enough to pray or say the Rosary, etc., it is something that we cannot presume that XXXX could have been saved or that he died as a Traditional Catholic. And, in fact, even if we just consider the issue that your son mentioned about XXXX working on Sundays when he wasn’t supposed to, that was actually mortally sinful and is sufficient proof to presume he went to Hell since there is no evidence in the external forum to say so otherwise. He also said that because there is no evidence in the external forum that he ever rejected the Novus Ordo and to have died as a Traditional Catholic, one is not allowed to presume nor have any hope that XXXX could have been saved. Therefore, in charity, Brother XXXX stated that you’ll need to mention this in confession (i.e., that a person who was not a Catholic and did not practice the Catholic Faith could have been saved). In this case, your son was in the right. Brother XXXX also stated that it was a mortal sin to have attended the funeral or whatever it was where a ceremony was done for XXXX, and that it was not something your wife should have done by taking flowers to his grave (which she would need to make a confession as well). The position of “I don’t know” in this case would actually be heretical because based upon the evidence, XXXX did not die as a Traditional Catholic.
So, in more simple terms, when you said in our conversation that your son told you he cannot consider you as a true Catholic until you change your position that XXXX was in Hell based upon the evidence we know of his life (before his memory loss), it really does comes down to that, and thus, the correct position is that, unfortunately, he was not saved. To hold otherwise would actually be heretical. And just because he was a family member or close friend does not change the facts about how he ended up in Hell. Ultimately, XXXX chose to not save his soul based on the available evidence that we have of him. All we are doing is stating a fact and applying Catholic principles: 1) it is a dogma that all heretics and mortal sinners go to Hell, 2) XXXX is presumed to have died as a heretic and a mortal sinner based upon the facts before he lost his memory because of his illness, 3) ergo, XXXX went to Hell.
Not quite sitting right with the man, he questioned these answers and sought further clarification. The cult agent responded with the following two quotes for his proof:
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Q. 71, A. 5: “Gregory says (Moral xxxiv. 19): There is the same reason for not praying then (namely after the judgment day) for men condemned to everlasting fire, as there is now for not praying for the devil and has angels who are sentenced to eternal punishment, and for this reason the saints do not pray for dead unbelieving and wicked men, because, forsooth, knowing them to be already condemned to eternal punishment, they shrink from pleading for them by the merit of their prayers before they are summoned to the presence of the Judge.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Q. 71, A. 5: “Further, the text (iv. Sent. D. 45) quotes the words of Augustine (De Verb. Apost. Serm. Xxxii): ‘If a man depart this life without the faith that worketh by charity and its sacraments, in vain do his friends have recourse to such acts of kindness [prayers and suffrages for him].’ Now all the damned come under that head. Therefore suffrages profit them not.”
With no more than a cursory glance these quotes might seem to support the cult agent’s responses, so I decided to investigate further. Here is what I found. These quotes are from Thomas Aquina’s Summa Theologica Question 71: The Suffrages For the Dead, which can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/5071.htm More specifically, the quotes are under Article 5: Do suffrages profit those who are in hell? Why is that significant? Because quoting Article 5 whether suffrages profit those who are in hell presupposes something that this cult agent cannot possibly know or determine- which particular souls are there. In reality, this soul is or isn’t in hell but as we will soon see the Catholic Church does not presume to know this. It should go without saying that if the church herself does not presume to know this then neither should individual laymen.
What the unsuspecting family of the deceased did not quite realize when they turned to this cult for spiritual help is that the Catholic Church does not judge individuals who depart this life. The church teaches that hell is real and souls end up there but with the exception of Judas Iscariot, she does not specify which particular souls are actually there. There is a reason for that. The Catholic Church understands that only God judges the dead, not individual laymen and especially not schismatic cult agents who think they can deduce the final state of souls by building a case from check-lists and proof-texts and taking it to a trial in which they preside as judges. This is not the business of the Catholic Church. The church will only go so far as to refuse public prayer services, funerals, and masses for certain people, but she does not impose restrictions on the same if done privately (I’ll come back to this later).
In this example, the Sedevacantist sect begins from a false premise that they can know or determine the state of that particular soul. But they cannot. Regardless of what this cult agent and his grandiose superior thinks of their own abilities the Catholic Church does not support him and absolutely no one of sound mind ought to believe him. But this doesn’t stop end-times Sedevacantists, especially the ones affiliated with this sect, from judging both the living and the dead. This one wrote:
“One can say truly that it was her father who ultimately ended up in the situation he is in: a dammed soul.”
With good reason did this not sit well with the family- it’s not what the Catholic Church teaches. Now I will back it up. In the Catholic Encyclopedia under “Prayers for the Dead” we read the following:
For whom and how far are they efficacious?
To those who die in willful, unrepented mortal sin, which implies a deliberate turning away from God as the last end and ultimate good of man, Catholic teaching holds out no hope of eventual salvation by a course of probation after death. Eternal exile from the face of God is, by their own choice, the fate of such unhappy souls, and prayers are unavailing to reverse that awful doom. This was the explicit teaching of Christ, the meek and merciful Saviour, and the Church can but repeat the Master's teaching (see HELL).
Now pay close attention to what immediately follows next:
But the Church does not presume to judge individuals, even those for whom, on other grounds, she refuses to offer her Sacrifice and her prayers, while it may happen, on the contrary, that some of those for whom her oblations are made are among the number of the damned. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04653a.htm
There it is. The church does not presume to judge individuals. And as we just read, she can even be wrong despite known evidence. Besides canonizations which require, among other things, verifiable miracles, the Catholic Church is not commissioned by God to know these things with certitude. Therefore it is not the business of the Catholic Church to judge which souls are in hell.
Having now seen that the church cannot judge the final destination of a particular soul, I will now briefly address the proof-texts provided by the sect. The first of the two texts says that the “saints in heaven do not pray for dead unbelieving … because … knowing them to be already condemned to eternal punishment…” Aquinas says the blessed in heaven can make this judgment but obviously Aquinas did not mean to imply that the living can do the same. As already established, “the Catholic Church does not presume to judge individuals.”
The context of the 2nd quote, like the first, also pertains to souls in hell. All they convey is that prayers and suffrages for those already condemned to hell cannot profit them. That’s it. Neither of the quotes authorizes the living to determine which souls are in hell and neither prohibits them from offering prayers and suffrages on their behalf (which I will show next). It is my opinion that the sede cult agent and/or his superior wanted this family to believe that these quotes contravene their good intentions so they could fulfill what the devil inspired them to do- rebuke a grieving Catholic family, kill hope, and teach them to do the same in their future encounters with others (i.e., spread the Sede Virus).
It’s bad enough when religious cults judge the dead but this one doesn’t stop there. Earlier we saw that this cult invents sins, at least one of them mortal, and impugns them on the family. One of these even goes so far as to include the act of bringing flowers to the grave. Here are the three alleged sins…
Alleged mortal sin # 1: Attending the funeral
“Brother XXXX also stated that it was a mortal sin to have attended the funeral or whatever it was where a ceremony was done for her…”
The cult agent says it is a mortal sin but the Roman Catholic Church’s 1917 Code of Canon Law says this:
§1. It is not licit for the faithful in any manner to assist actively or to have a part in the sacred rites of non-Catholics.
§2. Passive or merely material presence can be tolerated for the sake of honor or civil office, for grave reason approved by the bishop in case of doubt, at the funerals, weddings, and similar solemnities of non-Catholics, provided danger of perversion and scandal is absent.
Note that this is the code that the Sede sect presently upholds. More importantly, though not the subject of this piece, this exception in the 1917 Code is inapplicable to this situation as it falsely presupposes “Novus Ordo” funerals are not Roman Catholic funerals. Of course Sedevacantists will argue this point but think of it like this: if or when the Holy See in Rome says something is Catholic and a schismatic layman like “Brother” XXXX disagrees, who wins that argument?
Alleged sin #2: Hoping for God’s mercy on the departed
“Brother XXXX also said that because there is no evidence in the external forum that he ever rejected the Novus Ordo and to have died as a Traditional Catholic, one is not allowed to presume nor have any hope that XXXX could have been saved. Therefore, in charity, Brother XXXX stated that you’ll need to mention this in confession (i.e., that a person who was not a Catholic and did not practice the Catholic Faith could have been saved).
This so-called sin is bogus. I already quoted the Catholic Encyclopedia above to prove that the Church does not presume to judge individuals, even those for whom, on other grounds, she refuses to offer her sacrifice and prayers. Here is what else it has to say:
Church laws regarding public offices for the dead
There is no restriction by Divine or ecclesiastical law as to those of the dead for whom private prayer may be offered — except that they may not be offered formally either for the blessed in heaven or for the damned. Not only for the faithful who have died in external communion with the Church, but for deceased non-Catholics, even the unbaptized, who may have died in the state of grace, one is free to offer his personal prayers and good works; nor does the Church's prohibition of her public offices for those who have died out of external communion with her affect the strictly personal element in her minister's acts. For all such she prohibits the public offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass (and of other liturgical offices); http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04653a.htm
So we see that the sede cult agent and his “religious” superior are contradicted once again by the Catholic Church. Indeed Catholics may pray for the dead unbelieving. Even private masses offered for such souls are permissible. Obviously the church would never permit these things if it were her prerogative to determine that an individual soul was in hell.
Alleged sin #3: Bringing flowers to the grave
“Brother XXXX also stated that it was a mortal sin … and that it was not something your wife should have done by taking flowers to his grave which she would need to make a confession as well.”
This so-called sin is nonsense that smacks of cult mind control and indoctrination. With sede cults there is no recognized authority so this opens the door for countless abuses such as charging sins where there are none (e.g., showing affection, honor, or respect to parents). Obviously, if the church permits private personal prayers and good works for departed souls, even those refused public services, the family can bring flowers to the grave.
In conclusion, I wanted to write this piece for the benefit of the people struggling against the ever present temptations of schism, especially sedevacantism, which I believe is the most dangerous for reasons that go far beyond what I have said here. In this story, the good family made a serious mistake- they bought into the lie that the Roman Catholic Church was no longer the Roman Catholic Church and they turned to an end-times schismatic cult for the spiritual help they needed at a difficult time. This only happens because Catholics are forbidden to believe the Catholic Church can defect and fail, even when they can see that it has actually happened. In their minds, if the church in Rome defected then it must be somewhere else and therein lays the danger. End-times Sede cult opportunists are just waiting to snatch them up and fill their heads with grandiose ideas that they are the “elect” commissioned to “Resurrect the Roman Catholic Church.” The Rev. Thomas E. Cox wrote "The world never produced a fool that could not find another to follow him."
Interestingly, the departed soul in this story managed to withstand the clever manipulations and temptations of a schismatic end-times cult agent who tried to lure him out of his church and reject his faith at a critical moment- when he was about to face the Lord and render account of his life. This story should serve as an example of why no one should ever seek out a Sedevacantist’s (or any radical traditionalist’s) advice or counsel on any matter pertaining to the RCC, especially salvation. The answers and instructions this good family received are the kind one should expect to receive from end-times cults who prey on confusion, uncertainty, and your worst fears, especially in the aftermath of V2. I am not even a Catholic but I know what the church teaches. One is not a Catholic who is not in communion with the Roman see, which includes its actual living members. When Catholics want spiritual help from their church they always go to the one united to the pope in Rome, never schismatics and their cult agents. A good starting place is the church’s catechism which covers most of these issues.
Lastly, let the reader understand that I am not advocating for the Roman Catholic Church. I am warning against falling into the numerous cults the Roman Catholic Church has created on account of its infidelity to the faith of the Fathers. What this means is that if a Catholic cannot accept Vatican II, the new catechism, or the current hierarchy in Rome under Pope Francis, he needs to get honest with himself and admit that he doesn’t really believe anymore and move on. This was a road I myself had to take and it was not easy. Nevertheless I did it and it was the right decision. Any Catholic who ignores the moral of this story is just looking for trouble, and as this family learned, trouble he shall find.