Sedevacantism and the Alleged Loss of the Four Marks

A pivotal point in the Sedevacantist debate is the question of the Four Marks of the Church. Sedevacantists assert that, while the previous six popes have all been anti-popes, there are no valid bishops left in the world, and the whole sensus fidelium has fallen into heresy, yet somehow the Church has retained its Four Marks. It is definitive Catholic teaching from the Apostles Creed on that the Church perfectly possesses these Four Marks, and to say they are lost or not present is to say that the Church is no longer the Church. Thus the Sedevacantist must maintain that the Church preserves the Four Marks despite lacking a Successor to Peter, while the orthodox Catholic must prove that such a scenario would mean the Marks had been lost. This article originally appeared on the Traditionalist blog Athanasius Contra Mundum on September 3rd, 2009. The dispute is between Mr. Ryan Grant representing the Catholic position and one of the Dimond Brothers, Sedevecantists.


To pick up where we left off, the Sedevacantist interlocutor begins by referencing the Four Marks of the Church. Our protagonist, Mr. Grant, has made the point in previous articles that to uphold the Sedevacantist position implies a positive denial of the Four Marks of the Church (unam, sanctam, catholicam, apostolicam), since without a pope, the principle of unity, the Church cannot possess the unity, and hence neither of catholicity. Our Sede interlocutor tries to argue that its is the Novus Ordo and the post-Conciliar popes who have destroyed the Marks of the Church:

SEDE: "It is again simply ironic that you mention the loss of the Marks of the Church in an attempt to disprove Sedevacantism, because it is easily proven that the Novus Ordo, Vatican II, and that last five antipopes, deny several of the Marks of the Church which are an article of the Creed: "I believe in ONE Church...", that the Church is Apostolic, they deny Her Catholicity, Her Universality, Her Visibility, etc. This is just another area out of the many that one could get into to prove the sedevacantist position."

If you want, we could get into a debate specifically about this issue, but you're not a qualified person, so you would immediately perish in such a debate, and it would be a loss of time for me, but if you do want, we could do it."

MR. GRANT
: Please, by all means bring it. Based on what we’ve seen thus far you would be easily vanquished, and the fact that you don’t even venture to try shows this is nothing more than a drive by comment. That debate would easily be won if the arguments you would advance would be as lame and full of logical fallacies and half truths as what you’ve presented so far. You don’t even understand what the Church’s Apostolicity is, or else you would not be a Sedevacantist. However this is just a cute way to avoid serious discussion of the points in the original, because there is no material on Sede sites for you to plagiarize.

Let us however make a slight segue here, since you are so confident that the last 5 POPES were heretics. In one of your e-mails you said:

"If that's the case, salvation for so-called "invincibly ignorants" [sic] is heretical. Even St. Thomas rejected it. Do you even know the Athanasian Creed? "Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity." - Athanasian Creed

You also obviously believe in Salvation outside the Church and for non-Catholics, you are thus a bold heretic who is not even inside the Church.

Why do you "quote" what Pope Boniface VIII declared in Unam Sanctam? Know you not that that Bull is dogmatic? Do you even know that that there is no salvation outside the Church, for non-Catholics, or for anyone at all without exceptions, is a dogma???

Lastly, Pope Pius IX did not teach salvation for "invincibly ignorants" [sic]; that's a separate issue that we could get into, but we're not talking about that."

Pius IX did not teach the possibility of salvation for the invincibly ignorant? Unfortunately for your position, Bl. Pope Pius IX said the following:

"It is likewise certain that those who are in ignorance of the true religion are not accountable for any guilt in the matter before God if the ignorance be invincible.” (DZ 1647). [And again], “It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance concerning our most holy religion can attain eternal life by the power of divine light and grace.” (Quanto Conficiamus Moerore, DZ1677)


If what you wrote, and what Trailer Park monastery maintains is true, that the teaching of Boniface VIII can be understood in no other sense but that each man must have water baptism to be saved, then Bl. Pope Pius IX was a heretic, and by your same teaching lost his office, since by being a heretic he could not be the head of the Church. Do you accept Bl. Pius IX as a true and valid Pope? If so then you must admit that your teaching on salvation is private judgment; if not, then why do you accept Vatican I since it would have been promulgated by an anti-Pope?

Just more examples of why you are obviously not even Catholic, and have no grasp of the Church's teaching on grace, or even membership. If one is saved extra-sacramentally they will be in the communion of saints as a Catholic, which means that they are "within the Church".

The interlocutor goes on:

SEDE: "During the entire course of you article, you said:

"Without a visible head, the principle of unity would in fact be lost." "Perpetuity is purposely emphasized because its meaning is obvious. Forever. Both Trent and Vatican I are clearly teaching that the Popes will reign perpetually." "What happens if that principle of Unity is removed? There can be no true visible head, which is contrary to all of Catholic teaching." "The Church teaches us infallibly at Vatican I there will be a continual succession of Popes, Peter's reign is perpetual." But then at the end you proceed to contradict all this and prove the sedevacantist position! "Thus during a Papal inter-regnum (when a sede vacante is possible) ordinary jurisdiction continues through the Church herself. The longest Papal interregnum in history is 2 and 1/2 years."

Huh? Didn't you say that we would have a Pope sitting in St. Peter's Chair "forever"?; Didn't you say that there would always be a Pope reigning "perpetually"? Didn't you say that without a visible head the unity would in fact be "lost"? Didn't you say that if the principle of unity would be removed that there would be no true visible head, which is contrary to all Catholic teaching? Doesn't an interregnum (a period without a Pope) contradict Vatican I's "perpetual" decree? Wouldn't a 3 1/2 year interregnum contradict this decree? The obvious answer, which I have already shown, is that you "traditionalists" have got it all wrong and that Vatican I didn't teach what you say it did."

MR. GRANT
: I’ve already completely rebutted that, as we saw last time. The Potestas docendi and the Potestas regendi reside in both the Church and the Pope. Thus in between the election of Popes the Church maintains these powers. There is no contradiction. The primacy goes to Peter alone. I have already clarified many times the distinction between an simple interregnum and 51 years with no valid Pope and every diocese in the world not having a lawful occupant and a loss of Jurisdiction. THAT IS NOT AN INTERREGNUM. That is the end of the Church. Get that through your skull. If the scenario you propose is correct, both Church and Pope have defected from the Catholic faith. Where then is the Church? Where then is jurisdiction? Where then is the teaching Church? Hint: It is not in Cincinnati, and it is not in Trailer Park Monastery.

SEDE: "Here's a question for you: has the Church ever said how long a papal interregnum should last? Has the Church ever said how much a Papal interregnum should last, before it is considered to violate the "perpetuity" decree? The theologians Salaverri and Dorsch further shed more light on this issue and refute all of these errouneous assertions: Instead of being a “primary foundation…without which the Church could not exist,” the pope is a “secondary foundation,” “ministerial,” who exercises his power as someone else’s (Christ’s) representative. (See De Ecclesia 1:448) “The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, or even for many years, from remaining deprived of her head. [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituta manet]. Her monarchical form also remains intact in this state.…

“Thus the Church is then indeed a headless body.… Her monarchical form of government remains, though then in a different way — that is, it remains incomplete and to be completed. The ordering of the whole to submission to her Primate is present, even though actual submission is not…

“For this reason, the See of Rome is rightly said to remain after the person sitting in it has died — for the See of Rome consists essentially in the rights of the Primate.

“These rights are an essential and necessary element of the Church. With them, moreover, the Primacy then continues, at least morally. The perennial physical presence of the person of the head, however, [perennitas autem physica personis principis] is not so strictly necessary.” (de Ecclesia 2:196–7)

MR. GRANT: Again, this simply doesn’t cut it. You are applying the teaching of two theologians on the powers of the Church’s Potestas Regendi to the question of the complete loss of Ordinary Jurisdiction. Not only did these theologians not foresee the present situation, they make no account of the question of the full body of Bishops, and the sensus fidelium all falling into complete heresy. If the complete body of the Church remained without a Pope crystalized as it were in 1958, then one could argue that the Magisterium was sufficiently intact to elect a valid Pope. None of these writers considered a situation where the whole Church accepts five anti-Popes as true Popes and gives them submission when they had no right to it, and gave submission to men in all the sees of the world that had no right to them. They never foresaw a situation where the Church’s tradition had no Magisterium to hand it on to the faithful. With 51 years of no Pope, no Bishops, no teaching Church you have a break in the tradition. If that is the case then the reign of Peter’s successors is not perpetual, and the perpetual principle of unity would have failed, contrary to Vatican I’s teaching. The only way around this is to claim that Sedevacantist bishops are now the Magisterium which is equally problematic for the same reason (among many others which I will treat in a future installment, namely that there is no right to consecrate the said Bishops). Bishop Thuc did not consecrate the first Sedevacantist Bishop until 1976. Until then he himself had waxed and waned in his opinions, even reconciling with Rome at one point. He did not even declare a Sedevacantist position until 1982. That means from 1958-1976 there was not one Bishop not in submission to the alleged “anti-Popes”. This means, after what you call the defections of the Bishops of the world from the Catholic faith, there was not one Bishop present to carry on the teaching of the Apostles. That means again for nearly 20 years there was NO MAGISTERIUM.

It was not until three years after the Council (1968) that a single priest had professed sedevacantism. This means all Masses said in the world “una cum”, that is in union with Pope John XXIII were in fact displeasing to God, and for 10 years no Masses on the planet were at all pleasing. This is completely contrary to what the saints tell us, in the oft repeated statement: “The Earth could survive better without the sun than without the Mass."

Sedevacantism is a false teaching which not only leads to the vacant seat of Peter, but to an empty Church whose marks have been lost and hose visible link of unity, both in terms of the Perpetual principle of Unity and the link to it through the local Bishop, have been lost to the faithful. That means that Christ’s promise was completely false, which we know is blasphemous.

Contrary to this, we learn from Van Noort:

Apostolicity of government- or mission, or authority- means the Church is always ruled by pastors who form one same juridical person with the apostles. In other words it is always ruled by pastors who are the apostles legitimate successors. It has already been proved that Christ Himself founded a living organization, a visible Church. Granted that fact, it should be obvious that an essential part of that Church’s structure is apostolicity of government. For on no one but the Apostolic College, under the headship of Peter, did Christ confer the power of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling the faithful until the end of the world. This triple power, therefore necessarily belongs, and can only belong, to those who form one moral person with the apostles: their legitimate successors.”

How can we know that a Bishop is indeed a successor to the apostles?.... The second method is quite brief. First one locates the legitimate successor of the man whom Christ Himself established as the head and leader of the entire apostolic college. Once that has been done we can find out whether the particular bishop under scrutiny is united to Peter’s successor and is acknowledged by him as a genuine successor in the apostolic office. It is easy enough to investigate these two points; it is also a perfectly satisfactory method of procedure.

It is certainly not a backbreaking job to find the legitimate successor of St. Peter. First, it is a fact beyond question that the Church can never fail to have a successor to Peter... Any man, then, who boasts of apostolic succession but is not united to the Roman pontiff, may indeed actually possess the power of orders; he may even by purely physical succession occupy a chair formerly occupied by an apostle-at least he could do so- but he would not be a genuine successor of the apostles in their pastoral office. He would be a usurper.” (Christ’s Church, pg. 151-153)

That concludes this installment. There will be more responses to other objections raised to last week’s response, but those will be done in the future when time allows. Although with rants like this, I'm not sure how much more I'm willing to bother:

SEDE: "I'm done talking with you moronic, blind, brute, schismatic, heretical, modernist, neanderthal false "traditionalists", so if you want don't even post my reply, because this is the last email that I send to you. Don't even bother in responding to this email. I won't keep wasting my time with neanderthals like you."

MR. GRANT
: Music to my ears. It is probably worth noting that he wasn't really done, I got 5 more after that to about the same effect. By their fruits you shall know them.