John C. Pontrello
December 31, 2018
john c. pontrello
Like a good politician, prior to the council, Pio Nono checked on the position of every archbishop and bishop. He used pressure, flattery, and deception to achieve his objective. When the Archbishop of Bologna complained that church tradition in Europe argued against infallibility, Pius roared, "I am tradition!" and immediately reassigned the archbishop to a monastery. Not wanting to spend the rest of his life as a monk washing dishes, the archbishop quickly relented.
Recently, I was perusing subjects of interest when I stumbled upon a quote produced by a traditional Catholic defending Recognize & Resist (R&R) traditional Catholics, presumably against their bitter rivals in the Sedevacantist sects. The quote came from a papal encyclical by Pope Pius IX in 1873 - Etsi Multa and it was directed at the schismatic Old Catholics. The Old Catholics are a sect that broke from the Holy See after the First Vatican Council in 1870. Specifically, they accused the council of heresy for declaring the dogma on papal infallibility. Consequently, the Roman Church condemned and excommunicated the Old Catholics.
Isolated, the quote seemed problematic for the Sedevacantist thesis and that peaked my interest so I read the encyclical for myself. I found that this encyclical unequivocally corroborates the premise of my 2015 book, The Sedevacantist Delusion. For those who have not read my book, my position is that the Sedevacantists are both schismatics and heretics. They are heretics for rejecting the indefectibility of the Catholic Church. They are schismatic for breaking from the Holy See. Moreover, many Sedevacantists have stolen episcopal consecrations and set up chapels and congregations in opposition to the Holy See. The Church calls their bishops and priests thieves and robbers for circumventing the papacy in order to do these things. Of course the Sedes have written extensively in defense of their positions and actions but as we are about to see, Pope Pius IX delivered the kill shot to Sedevacantists more than 100 years prior to the sect’s emergence with Etsi Multa.
While Sedevacantists are a sect never seen before in the Catholic Church’s history, accusing the Roman See of heresy is not something new. Let's see how the Church has dealt with this problem in the recent past. Here are the relevant selections of Etsi Multa’s condemnation of the Old Catholics.
22. And surely what these sons of perdition intend is quite clear from their other writings, especially that impious and most imprudent one which has only recently been published by the person whom they recently constituted as a pseudo-bishop. For these writings attack and pervert the true power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, who are the successors of blessed Peter and the apostles; they transfer it instead to the people, or, as they say, to the community. They obstinately reject and oppose the infallible magisterium both of the Roman Pontiff and of the whole Church in teaching matters. Incredibly, they boldly affirm that the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops, the priests and the people conjoined with him in the unity of faith and communion fell into heresy when they approved and professed the definitions of the Ecumenical Vatican Council. Therefore they deny also the indefectibility of the Church and blasphemously declare that it has perished throughout the world and that its visible Head and the bishops have erred. They assert the necessity of restoring a legitimate episcopacy in the person of their pseudo-bishop, who has entered not by the gate but from elsewhere like a thief or robber and calls the damnation of Christ upon his head.
23. These unhappy men undermine the foundations of religion, overturn all its marks and properties, and invent so many foul errors, or rather, draw forth from the ancient store of heretics and gather them together and publish them. Yet they do not blush to call themselves Catholics and Old Catholics, while in their doctrine, novelty, and number they show themselves in no way to be either old or Catholic. Certainly the Church rises up with greater right against them than it once did through Augustine against the Donatists. Diffused among all people, the Church was built by Christ the Son of the living God upon the rock, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail, and with which He Himself, to Whom all power in heaven and on earth is given, said He would be with until the consummation of the world. “The Church cries to her Spouse: Why do certain men withdrawing from me murmur against me? Why do these lost men claim that I have perished? Announce to me the length of my days, how long I will be in this world? Tell me on account of those who say: it was and is no longer; on account of those who say: the scriptures have been fulfilled, all nations have believed, but the Church has apostatized and perished from all nations. And He announced and the voice was not vain. What did He announce? ‘Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.’ Moved by your voices and your false opinions, it asked of God that He announce to it the length of its days and it found that God said ‘Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.’ Here you will say: He spoke about us; we are as we will be until the end of the world. Christ Himself is asked; He says ‘and this gospel will be preached in the whole world, in testimony to all nations, and then will come the end.’ Therefore the Church will be among all nations until the end of the world. Let heretics perish as they are, and let them find that they become what they are not.”
Pius IX’s fierce condemnation of the Old Catholics for boldly affirming that the Roman Pontiff and all the bishops, the priests and the people conjoined with him in the unity of faith and communion fell into heresy when they approved of an Ecumenical Council of the Church undoubtedly applies to today’s Sedevacantists for their Vatican II schism. Moreover, Pius IX confirms precisely what I have been writing for years; that by doing so “they (Old Catholics) deny the indefectibility of the Church.” And so it is for the Sedevacantists.
I have warned those inclined towards the Sedevacantist trap that it does not matter to what degree their positions are correct; they share the same fate as the Old Catholics and many others before them. Henceforth, the Sedevacantists will always be remembered as just another schismatic sect that broke with the Holy Roman See.
The following selections of Etsi Multa are also relevant to the Sedevacantists as they are essentially today’s Old Catholics repackaged under a new name. Just insert a favorite Sede bishop’s name in place of Old Catholic bishop Joseph Hubert Reinken.
24. But these men having progressed more boldly in the ways of wickedness and destruction, as happens to heretical sects from God’s just judgment, have wished to create a hierarchy also for themselves, as we have intimated. They have chosen and set up a pseudo-bishop, a certain notorious apostate from the Catholic faith, Joseph Hubert Reinkens. So that nothing be lacking in their impudence, for his consecration they have had refuge to those very Jansenists of Utrecht, whom they themselves, before they separated from the Church, considered as heretics and schismatics, as do all other Catholics. However, this Joseph Hubert dares to say that he is a bishop, and, what passes belief, he is recognized and named in an explicit decree by the most serene Emperor of Germany and is proposed to all his subjects as a lawful bishop. But as even the rudiments of Catholic faith declare, no one can be considered a bishop who is not linked in communion of faith and love with Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ; who does not adhere to the supreme Pastor to whom the sheep of Christ are committed to be pastured; and who is not bound to the confirmer of fraternity which is in the world. And indeed “the Lord spoke to Peter; to one person therefore, so that He might found unity from one”; to Peter, “the divine dignity granted a great and wonderful consortium of his power, and if He wished anything to be common with him and the rest of the princes, He never gave, except through him, what He did not deny to the others.” Hence it is from this Apostolic See, where blessed Peter “lives and presides and grants the truth of faith to those seeking it,” that the rights of venerable communion flow to all”; and this same See “for the Churches spread throughout the whole world is certainly the head, as it were, of their members, from which if one cuts himself off, he becomes an exile from the Christian religion, as soon as he begins not to belong to its structure.”
25. Therefore the holy martyr Cyprian, writing about schism, denied to the pseudobishop Novatian even the title of Christian, on the grounds that he was cut off and separated from the Church of Christ. “Whoever he is,” he says, “and whatever sort he is, he is not a Christian who is not in the Church of Christ. Let him boast and preach his philosophy and eloquence with a proud voice; he who does not have fraternal charity and does not retain ecclesiastical unity, loses also what he previously had. Since by Christ one Church was founded divided into many members throughout the world, so likewise one episcopate, diffused in the harmonious multiplicity of many bishops. Subsequent to the teaching of God and the conjoined unity of the Catholic Church, he attempts to build a human church. Therefore, he who does not retain unity of spirit nor communion of peace and thus separates himself from the bond of the Church and the college of the priesthood cannot have the power nor the honor of a bishop because he kept the unity or the peace of the episcopacy.
26. We have been undeservingly placed on this supreme seat of Peter to preserve the Catholic faith and the unity of the universal Church. Therefore following the custom and example of Our Predecessors and of holy legislation, by the power granted to Us from heaven, We declare the election of the said Joseph Hubert Reinkens, performed against the sanctions of the holy canons to be illicit, null, and void. We furthermore declare his consecration sacrilegious. Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, We excommunicate and hold as anathema Joseph Hubert himself and all those who attempted to choose him, and who aided in his sacrilegious consecration. We additionally excommunicate whoever has adhered to them and belonging to their party has furnished help, favor, aid, or consent. We declare, proclaim, and command that they are separated from the communion of the Church. They are to be considered among those with whom all faithful Christians are forbidden by the Apostle to associate and have social exchange to such an extent that, as he plainly states, they may not even be greeted.
Etsi Multa can be read in its entirety here: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius09/p9etsimu.htm