From Academic Kids

Sedevacantism is the belief that since the time of Pope John XXIII (who called the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s) the office of pope of the Roman Catholic Church has not been legitimately held by the persons widely acknowledged as pope, sitting in the Vatican. The term sede vacante is Latin for empty chair. In standard Catholic Church usage, it refers to the vacancy in the papal office between the death or resignation of the pope and the election of his successor. Most sedevacantists hold that the office has been vacant since 1958, the year when Pope John XXIII was elected. Some Sedevacantists have elected "legitimate" pontiffs, generally held to be antipopes. These are known as Conclavists, see below.



Generally, Sedevacantists consider themselves traditional Catholics who oppose the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the replacement of the Latin language Tridentine Roman Missal and its order of Mass with a new one which allows the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular. They insist that the men who have occupied the Vatican palace since the latter part of the 20th century are heretics for promulgating those changes. Other traditionalists maintain that the popes since Pope Pius XII, although they may have personally held many of what some traditionalists perceive as scandalous heretical beliefs, nevertheless were true popes who never tried to use their infallible power (which is only used exceptionally) to promulgate a heresy, which all Catholics believe would be impossible.

The Sedevacantist view is often based in part on the decree on Papal Infallibility of the First Vatican Council. If a pope promulgates heresy, they reason, he lacks infallibility and thus cannot be the Pope. Alternatively, a pope falls from office if he embraces heresy and even if he does not explicitly promulgate heretical teachings by doing so. Sedevacantists also cite Paul IV's 1559 Bull Cum ex apostolatus officio, which teaches that a heretic cannot be elected pope.

Sedevacantists also argue that recent occupants of the Vatican palace have performed actions that they believe could not be carried out by true popes, often pointing to Pope Paul VI's (reigned: 1963-1978) refusal to wear the papal tiara, the traditional symbol of the papacy. Sedevacantists also note that Pope John Paul I (reigned: August-September 1978), Pope John Paul II (reigned: 1978-2005), and the current Pope Benedict XVI abandoned the traditional Papal Coronation and all three men declined to take the Papal oath.

Sedevacantists are a tiny group, with a membership of only a few thousand, compared to the mainstream of Catholicism. However, they assert that unity, sanctity, catholicity and apostolicity are the characteristics that make theirs the legitimate Catholic Church, and not the size of their membership.

Some sedevacantists in England prefer to be called recusants instead.


Some groups have put forward their own popes in opposition to those in Rome, making them "conclavists" rather than "sedevacantists" in the strict sense of the word. The Palmar de Troya movement asserts that Christ appeared to Clemente Domínguez y Gómez, a Spaniard, and told him that he was to assume the papacy on Pope Paul VI's death. This claimant, known as "Pope Gregory XVII", died in March 2005. One of his followers, Manuel Corral, succeeded him as "Pope Peter II."

The United States-based true Catholic Church elected a traditionalist priest to be Pope Pius XIII in the late 1990s, claiming that all popes following the death of Pope Pius XII (reigned: 1939-1958) were invalidly elected or disqualified by virtue of their excommunication. This group claims that Pope John XXIII (reigned: 1958-1963) joined the freemasons in 1935, an act that, if true, would have earned automatic excommunication and so made him ineligible for the papacy. "Pius XIII", however, in an interesting wrinkle, admits to having divined with a pendulum since his seminary days, an act which carries a similar penalty of automatic excommunication, and would therefore result in his own ineligibility for the Papacy.

One group of conclavists believe that Karol Wojtyła was a heretical antipope, but also accept the Catholic doctrine that there will be a perpetual line of successors in the Papacy. These conclavists elected David Bawden as Pope Michael on July 16, 1990. Bawden has declared Pope Benedict XVI an antipope. Others have rejected this pope in favor of other conclaves that have elected Victor von Pentz (Pope Linus II) and Lucian Pulvermacher (Pope Pius XIII). For a full list of rival popes elected by sedevacantist groups, see the article Antipope.

Objections to Sedevacantist criticism of mainstream Catholicism

Many mainstream Catholics (that is, Catholics in communion with the Church led by Pope Benedict XVI) obviously reject the claims of Sedevacantism, and on the following grounds:

Sedevacantism is not United (Oneness)

Sedevacantist claims of unity are accused by mainstream Catholics of being mere partisan rhetoric, as there are many groups of sedevancantists and conclavists, each with either their own Pope or no Pope at all and few or no formal ties to each other (and members of these groups are seen to fall into schism from each other virtually at the drop of a hat). The claims to unity of the Sedevacantists, say mainstream Catholics, are specious as each group has its own religious hierarchy and claims exclusive rights to the name of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Sedevacantism is not Holy (Holiness)

Holiness, say mainstream Catholics, can be seen to be absent as every conclavist group somehow "happened" to elect its principal organizer, regardless of prior ordination or lack of connection with the historic episcopate, Pope. This causes Sedevacantist groups to be clustered around a small number of like-minded individuals for the promulgation of their own views, and not necessarily for the glory of God.

Sedevacantism is not Universal (Catholicity)

Mainstream Catholics argue that the Church's catholicity (universality) means precisely that: The true Catholic Church is universal (for all people) and visible.

Sedevacantists (or conclavists), to the contrary, argue that the true nature of the Catholic Church has been successfully hidden from the world for nearly fifty years and that only they have uncovered it, against a plot (usually Masonic or Jewish in origin) to destroy the Church. Some of mainstream Catholicism considers this a heretical position, and that in accordance with the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ, adopted at the First Vatican Council in 1870, the visible Church must have a visible Head, and that visible Head is the Vicar of Jesus Christ (Vicarius Christi), the Roman Pontiff. However, such anti-sedevacantists forget that there has always been a period of time between popes when there is no visible Head, after the death of one and before the selection of another. Thus, 50+ years would simply be an extended period of such a status.

Sedevacantism is not Apostolic

Another claim is that no Sedevacantist bishop exists who has been consecrated both licitly and validly. The few that exist have been consecrated by the hands of bishops who themselves have either acted illicitly (such as Peter Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc) or who were consecrated under circumstances of dubious or outright lacking validity (such as Lucian Pulvermacher and Gordon "Cardinal" Bateman). The absence of Apostolicity, therefore, is seen through the aforementioned lack of connection to the historic episcopate, breaking the line of Apostolic succession which is vital to Catholic worship.

Other criticism

Typically, sedevacantists are accused of citing as infallible documents such as Papal encyclicals, bulls, homilies and other sources traditionally held not to be sources of infallible teachings. It is argued by mainstream Catholics that the traditional use of Latin and especially the Tridentine Order of Mass set down by the Council of Trent (1545-1563) is not an infallible dogmatic teaching but simply a "small-t" tradition, and can be revised or reformed by a General Council of the Church at any time. Further, sedevacantists are accused of indulging in the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc (coincidental correlation) by confusing the general decrease in religiosity in the Western world for a failing of the Church in particular. Mainstream Catholics further note that the prooftexting logic which sedevacantists use to "prove" that the Holy See is vacant is the same that is used by Protestant anti-Catholic evangelists to "prove" that the Catholic Church is non-Christian or Satanic.

Mainstream arguments against Sedevacantism also apply to Conclavism.

Main sedevacanist and conclavist groups

See also

External links

Sedevcantist sites

Criticism of Sedevacantism

pl:Sedewakantyzm sv:Sedevakantister zh:宗座缺出论


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