Sunday, August 10, 2014

Introducing The Katholic Krazies 2

I mentioned in my previous blog about sedevacantism and I want to explore this idea a bit more because it represents Katholic Wingnuts at their most extreme.  Sedevacantism is an idea that emerged in the years after the Second Vatican Council when various parties rejected the Council and its ideas—in particular ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, and freedom of conscience (freedom of religion) because these ideas reversed (contradicted) previous Church teaching.  Underlying this conflict is the argument over the development of doctrine vs. doctrine as stasis.
So, let’s start to unpack this, first Development of Doctrine or Doctrine as stasis (unchanging.)  In the nineteenth century Blessed John Henry Newman, at the time still an Anglican, demonstrated the idea in his book The Arians of the Fourth Century that Catholic doctrine is not static and unchanging, but continues to develop through history.  To a historian this idea is self-evident but the idea had grown, especially among the neo-scholastics of the period, that all doctrine was fully known at the time of the Apostles.  In other words, many theologians believed that the Apostles knew about the Immaculate Conception, Transubstantiation, Papal Infallibility, the Assumption of the Virgin, original sin, etc.  Maybe they never wrote this stuff down, maybe it only got committed to paper in the eighth or eleventh or whatever century, but the deposit of faith was known in its entirety from the time of the death of the last Apostle and the consequent “close” of revelation. 
As I said, to a historian this is like flat-earth theory.  Historians can demonstrate from the historical material and texts that these doctrines were gradual elaborations upon the earlier truths known from Scripture and Tradition but were not themselves known in their entirety until specific points in history.  Truth does not change but our knowledge of the Truth can evolve.    
Of course, if doctrine can develop it can change.  Truth does not change but our appreciation of Truth can increase, our ability to articulate Truth is refreshed in each subsequent generation, and indeed as our appreciation of Truth grows and develops we may understand Truth in radically different ways than previous generations had.  Moreover, we may see that the articulation of Truth (aka doctrine/dogma) as put forth in an earlier generation utterly fails to convey Truth in ours.  Let me give an example.  Even in the scriptures, slavery was seen as a morally permissible condition, but over the centuries until Gregory XVI in the nineteenth and then later popes in the nineteenth and twentieth, the Church has come to see slavery as an absolute evil—equivalent to abortion in its univocal moral character as evil—never morally permissible.    In a reverse situation, the Church at one time taught the loaning money at interest was morally reprehensible, but in the thirteenth centuries theologians and then later the magisterium began to justify those situations under which money could be lent at interest.   Truth does not change but our understanding and application of it can. 
The Second Vatican Council marked not only superficial changes such as Latin to the vernacular language for the Liturgy, but several doctrinal developments as well.  As recently as 1928 Pope Pius XI had condemned Catholic participation in the Ecumenical Movement in the encyclical letter, Mortalium Animos.   Even more strongly condemned was any sort of inter-faith prayer or collaboration with non-Christians.  (Ecumenism refers to dialogue and collaboration with non-Catholic Christians; “Interfaith” refers to the same with non-Christian religions such as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.)  In addition to this, the Catholic Church held as a matter of faith and taught that the Civil Law should only permit Catholic Worship and practice and that “freedom of religion” was in fact evil because it permitted false worship.  As late as the 1950’s Catholics were instructed by Rome that when we became a political majority in the United States our Constitution had to be changed to establish Catholicism as the official religion and to restrict other religious practices.  Just a few years before Vatican II, the Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, was silenced by Rome and forbidden to publish or teach that the American Constitutional settlement guaranteeing freedom of religious practice was acceptable to Catholics.
Well, a lot of things happened at Vatican II.  There was an entire decree on Ecumenism encouraging the Ecumenical dialogues and friendly collaboration with Orthodox and Protestant Christians.  The Church also had positive things to say about the other great world religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism including:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.  

Moreover in Dignitas Humanae the Church calls for freedom of conscience so that all can be permitted to Worship God according to the lights of their own conscience.
This is a total about-face from pre-Conciliar Catholicism and it represents how our appreciation of the Truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition can develop in some remarkable ways, but for those who regard doctrine as static, this is a contradiction of previously taught doctrines and thus is heresy.  The Second Vatican Council to them is not a true Council of the Church but had fallen into heresy.  And the Popes who presided over the Council and who insisted on implementing its teachings after the Council are heretics. 
Now, the problem is this—there is a long tradition traceable back at least to Innocent III (Pope from 1198-1216) and including such illustrious figures as Saint Antoninus, Saint Robert Bellarmine (Doctor of the Church),  Saint Alphonus Liguori, and numerous non-saint theologians that when a person lapses into heresy they cut themselves off from the Church and thus when a Pope falls into heresy he is no longer a member of the Church and thus loses his papal office as visible head of the Church.
It all makes sense and it is all logical.  But the question is: Did Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis fall into heresy?  Are the teachings of the Council heretical?  Yes, they represent a dramatic shift from pre-Conciliar teaching, but does that make them heretical?
One of my favorite quotes and I used it in the last post is Saint Augustine’s: securus judicat orbis terrarum: “Secure in the judgment of the entire world.”  Sometimes this is translated “When the Whole world judges, it judges aright.”  In other words, while we won’t say that the Church runs on majority opinion because it doesn’t, we must say that the sensus fidelium, the faith of the faithful, is validating and determinative.  That the Council and its teaching was accepted by all but a handful of bishops, that it has not only been accepted but welcomed by the overwhelming mass of the faithful, assures us of the soundness of its teaching.   
Indeed, if anyone is cut off from the Church it is that small group of people who refuse to accept the Council.  And there are such groups.  One of the first to espouse this idea that the Council and its Popes have fallen into heresy, leaving the See of Peter vacant (sede vacante) was Francis Konrad Schuckardt whom we mentioned in our previous post as towards the end of his life he began to tell people that he was the true pope.  Schuckardt was in a seminary for less than a year before being dismissed.  He began a very active ministry promoting the message of Our Lady at Fatima and, with the permission of his bishop, established a religious community.  But by 1968 Schuckardt was convinced that the Church had lapsed into heresy and Pope Paul VI had lost the papal office due to his heretical teachings.  His community: The Congregation of Mary Immaculate, Queen and his lay followers who styled themselves the Tridentine Latin Rite   Catholic Church broke with Rome—which they refer to as the post Vatican II Church—and purchasing a disused Jesuit novitiate in Washington State called Mount Saint Michael, established their own variety of Catholicism.  Schuckhardt had himself ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop by one Daniel Quilter Brown whose own episcopal consecration goes back to Arnold Harris Mathew, one of the founders of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, a conglomerate of disaffected Roman Catholics, Anglicans with scruples about the validity of Anglican Orders, and schizophrenics.  One can more or less purchase episcopal consecration from a variety of episcopi vagantes in the various Old Catholic lineages that trace back to the Utrecht schism of the eighteenth century.  We will have to do a posting or two on that at some point.  In 1984 Schuckhardt was accused, falsely or truly depends on with whom you speak, of financial malfeasance and sexual misconduct by his chief aide, one Dennis Chicoine and, along with a handful of his disciples, driven out of the Mount St Michael’s sedevacantist group.  Chicoine was a fromer US marine and a bricklayer.  Chicoine was ordained a priest by the same bishop who had ordained and consecrated Schuckhardt, though he later went through a second conditional ordination by Bishop George Musey whose orders are in the lineage of one Archbishop  Ngô Đình Thục, brother of the deposed (and murdered) dictator of South Viet Nam, Ngô Đình Diệm.  The Archbishop is another topic with which we will have to deal as many of the various sedevacantist and schismatic groups trace their ordinations back to him.  Suffice it for the present to say that the Archbishop was the Catholic Archbishop of Hue in Viet Nam who several times was excommunicate for consecrating bishops without papal license and several times was reconciled to the Church.  Chicoine never advanced himself to the episcopate, however, remaining a priest until his  death in 1995.  Since his death, the Mount Saint Michael sect has been led by one Bishop Mark Pivarunas who was consecrated a bishop by Moisés Carmona, an episcopus vagans in the Ngô Đình Thục lineage.  Pivarunas and his followers hold, as had Schuckardt and Chicoine before him, that the Holy See is vacant due to the heresy of the Vatican II Popes. 
The next posting will probably pick up with this theme of the sedevacantists among the Katholic Krazies.  The Mount Saint Michael group, at least under Pivarunas’ leadership is off track theologically but not nearly as flamboyantly bizarre as some of the other—and smaller—sedevacantists. 


  1. Careful! You placed Pivarunas in the lineage of Ngô Đình Diệm the dictator! :-D

    1. Thanks for catching that. I was able to correct it. I meant, of course, in the lineage of the dictator's brother. Archbishop Thuc.

    2. How much more interesting if it were the other way 'round, though.

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