John C. Pontrello
One subject I covered in my book that seems to confuse readers is Rome. What perplexes some traditionalists is my insistence that Rome is an integral component of the papacy as well as the whole Roman Church institution. My article “Devolution of the Papacy” was based upon my correct understanding of the necessity of Rome to the papal system and the consequence of Rome’s hypothetical nuclear annihilation to the doctrine of indefectibility of the Church. This article drew criticism from at least one political blogger who also dabbles in Sedevacantism on the side. He disagreed with my position that the complete destruction of Rome by a nuke would result in the end of the papacy. The blogger’s main argument was that the papacy is really not different than the presidency of the United States. He says that if Rome were wiped off the map, it wouldn’t mean the papacy goes away just as the assassination of the entire presidential line (president, v.p., speaker of the house, etc.) wouldn’t make the presidency go away. His point is that the coming and going of occupants of these respective offices is insignificant to the survival of the offices themselves. OK, but the subject of my original article was not vacancies of offices; it was the annihilation of the foundation of those offices which would render them non-existent. What is the foundation of which I am referring? It is Rome.
Because the primacy is bound to Rome and because popes must be Roman Pontiffs by divine law, an obvious problem occurs if Rome itself is annihilated. Theologian Van Noort attempted to address this foundational problem by proposing the physical transportation of the inhabitants of the Roman Church without their base- Rome. I call this theory “Papal Castling” in that the Church of Rome can suddenly *be anywhere* provided that the pope and a band of his followers from the Roman diocese relocate. The Sedevacantists have pounced on the idea of Papal Castling but they also conceal parts of Van Noort’s theory that are problematic. The Van Noort quote is found in "Devolution of the Papacy."
Back to the confused political blogger. If Washington D.C., the seat of the US government were nuked, the people could re-establish it elsewhere. This is possible for a few reasons. First, the founding fathers did not bind the government to a specific city. Nor did they require that only a mayor or governor of that city could hold the office of the presidency. But for argument’s sake let us suppose they did. What if the US presidency were bound to a city? What would happen if that city were nuked? In that case the people could simply amend the constitution. Problem solved.
Unfortunately for the political / Sede blogger who misconstrues US government with Roman Catholicism, you cannot change the divine constitution of the Roman Catholic Church. The papacy is purported to be a divinely established monarchy, not a constitutional republic or democracy. Accordingly, the papacy derives its power from God whereas in a democracy the power of government derives from the people. Huge difference, which makes this blogger’s comparative argument one of apples and oranges. A more accurate comparison would be the government of the United States to the actual United States. If the United States were completely destroyed the United States government would cease to exist. And so it is with the Roman papacy’s alleged primacy that is bound in perpetuity to Rome by Divine Law. No one can amend the papacy, not even a pope or council. If Rome could be destroyed, as some theologians believed possible, then somebody messed up and I am pretty sure it wasn’t Jesus.
Discussions of this nature must ensue when a perishable or otherwise incorrect foundation is claimed of any church society. Unlike the Roman Papacy, Jesus can’t defect and He can’t be nuked into oblivion. Christ is always sustaining his Church on earth. We most certainly cannot say the same thing for the Church of Rome in light of Vatican II, whereby the Church of Rome failed and left the people with the impossible task of carrying on without it. Nuclear annihilation aside, nothing illustrates the folly of the papal system better than Vatican II’s clash with the Sedevacantists where we find that the Sedevacantists were forced to break communion with their own divinely laid foundation on account of a defection. Really, what kind of foundation is that? Papal Castling was a nice try but it can’t help them. An important point not to be overlooked is that if the people feel they have to re-create or restore the papacy, as all traditional Catholics do believe, it can only be because it defected or perished in some manner, whether by the espousal of heresy, schism, or nuclear annihilation. It is de fide that the Church of Rome is indefectible and it is also imperishable. None of the aforementioned evils are supposed to be possible. Wake up!
Today, all traditional Catholics remain stranded in schism. Sure they mostly profess the traditional faith and retain the traditional sacraments but these things are not the foundation of Roman Catholicism. The only hope for coming out of schism is capitulation to Rome in some capacity. If you are a Sedevacantist that means signing up under the Socialist Pope Francis Bergoglio or possibly the R & R trads depending on the current regime in Rome which has historically flip-flopped on its official position of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). How does a little Salza, R & R, Novus Ordo cookie, and a big ecumenical group hug sound? Maybe, just maybe, Orthodox Christianity doesn’t look so bad after all.