Rama P. Coomaraswamy, M.D.


Father Gruner and his associate Christopher Ferrara have presumed to inform the faithful that sedevacantism  is not a legitimate position for Catholics to take and that indeed all Catholics must accept the post-Conciliar “popes” as true and valid Popes.


Mr. Ferrara tells us that if the changes of Vatican II were imposed de jure, he would find the Sedevacantist position more understandable. This presumably refers to the position that these “popes” have declared the Council to be “pastoral” in nature. Lest one accept this seeming saving statement, we must start by showing that the opinion that JP-II never used his infallibility and hence could not be guilty of heresy is false. While Mr. Ferrara does not allude to this directly, it should be clear that JP II has frequently used his supposed “powers of infallibility” – for example, every canonization is considered an infallible statement. While it may be true in that he never spoke with the authority of Christ, he certainly has used the infallibility of his office to promulgate error.


Now returning to the question of Vatican II, allow me to share with you what Paul VI told Archbishop Lefebvre who wished to interpret the documents of Vatican II “in accordance with tradition.”


"You have no right any more to bring up the distinction between the doctrinal and the pastoral that you use to support your acceptance of certain texts of Vatican Council II and your rejection of others. It is true that the matters decided in any Council do not all call for an assent of the same quality; only what the Council affirms in its 'definitions' as a truth of faith or as bound up with faith requires the assent of faith. Nevertheless, the  rest also form a part of the SOLEMN MAGISTERIUM of the Church, to be trustingly accepted and sincerely put into practice by every Catholic."(Epistle Cum te, Oct 11,1976 Notitia #12, 1976)


Just for the record, the Ordinary Magisterium is binding on our conscience and to declare the entire content of the documents of Vatican II to be part of the SOLEMN MAGISTERIUM and clearly such a statement carries with it – if Paul VI was pope – all the marks of infallibility.  Similarly, John Paul II held:


John Paul II has expressed his full agreement with Paul VI whom he considers as his "spiritual father", and has further stated that the Council was "inspired by the Holy Spirit", and that "obedience to the Council is obedience to the Holy Spirit."[1]  Still elsewhere he has stated that the Council is "the authentic teaching of the Church." Clearly in his eyes to refuse to give our assent to the Council is equivalent to "sinning against the Holy Ghost."



What confuses me about the Anti-Sedevacantists is their claim to be Catholic. Let us consider how the Church considers the function of a true Pope. According to the theologians he is “one hierarchical person with our Lord.” This being so, when he speaks within his function, it is our Lord who speaks – teaches, governs and sanctifies. These are the areas of his authority, the basis of his triple crown, and to say he has not used them is absurd. In so far as he appoints his Bishops and provides Jurisdiction, he is governing. Similarly, in declaring the Novus Ordo Missae to be the “normative” mass, he is sanctifying. And in declaring the documents of Vatican II to be the Supreme form of the Magisterium, he is teaching.


It is quite beyond my understanding how individuals who recognize the post-Conciliar “popes” to be a true and valid Popes, have no problem in disobeying them when they say things we do not like or agree with. Paul VI also told Archbishop Lefebvre that it was his task – not Lefebvre’s to determine what was and was not traditioinal. But people like Ferrara and Gruner are happy to guide us as to when we do and do not have to follow the teachings of these seeming papal individuals. The number of groups willing to guide us down what is essentially a Protestant path are legion.


What Father Gruner and Mr. Ferrara do not seem to understand is that the post-Conciliar Church (a name they chose for themselves) is a new and different religion. It is not the Catholic religion. The argument put forth that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” is indeed true. For the true Catholic Church is true and as such can never be destroyed – and God will be with it “unto the consummation of the world.” But we know that in the “end times” only a Remnant will remain Catholic, and obviously, it is with this remnant that God will remain. These Scriptural statements are verified by the fact that throughout the world there are a small but significant number of traditional Catholics who reject the post-Conciliar Church, and retain the true Catholic Faith As Catherine Emerick said, if there is only one Catholic left at the end, the Catholic Church will be found in him. To call this Remnant that has not changed their beliefs or practice “rebellious,” “schismatic” or subject to anathemas, is obviously absurd


The argument that the Remnant will always have a living Pope with it is has no basis in fact. It is a pure opinion – indeed as is the claim that if there is no pope, there is no Church. That the Church continues to exist despite the absence – temporary – of a pope in no way denies the statement of Vatican I. Indeed the saints tell us that at some time in the future Sts. Peter and Paul will return and inform us as to who the real pope is.


Christopher Ferrara informs us that were a Pope to be a manifest heretic he would ipso facto cease to be pope. Now ipso facto means just that. It doesn’t require a council to decide the facts. The pope, like all of us, is endowed with free will and he can walk away from the Church without the help of a council. Now apparently Mr. Ferrara doesn’t think these post-Conciliar popes have ever denied an article of the Catholic faith with pertinacity. It seems clear that Mr. Ferrara doesn’t know how to recognize heresy when it hits him in the eye. Of course he will claim that these “popes” never used their infallibility and so what they had to say on a multiplicity of issues is quite beside the point. Or he suggests a host of excuses – he even seems to postulate that perhaps he has lost his mind, or made some awful mistake in his choice of words, or been subject to some compulsion such as a threat to his life. Moreover, he suggests the need for a general council to declare a given pope to be heretical. Of course, it might be argued that we are hardly qualified to judge the doctrine of a pope. But surely we have the obligation to recognize error – if not why would we not all be Protestants or communists?


Much is made by anti-Sedevacantists about their freedom to “resist” a Pope. Resisting is very different from refusing to accept a Pope’s teaching when couched in infallible terms – that is to say, when he speaks within his function as “one hierarchical person with our Lord,” or as the theologians often put it, “from the chair of Peter.”


An example of resisting the Pope is provided by Bishop Grosseteste who refused to provide a prebund for a cousin of the Pope because the cousin didn’t know English. The Pope in question was angry but could do nothing about it. This is very different from  

refusing to accept the teaching of a Pope when he speaks within his function as the spokesperson for Christ. Such is clearly a rejection of Christ’s teaching – that is if the Pope concerned is a true Pope, and is the worst form of disobedience, for it is a rejection of the truth.


Mr. Ferrara raises the issue of Vatican I’s declaration on the Papacy. Let it be quite clear, Sedevacantists fully accept this teaching. We are not attacking the Papacy – indeed, it is because we love the Papacy that we refuse to admit these pretenders have any true authority. Most traditional priests in saying Mass do so “in union with the Apostolic See.” They do not say in union with the post-Conciliar popes, for such would be to declare their apostasy.


Father Gruner in a separate epistle goes so far as to warn sede-vacantists that “the devil is Ready to snare you,” and that “sedevacantism could ultimately lead to the loss of [their] souls in hell.” One wonders where he gets his theology – perhaps from Vatican II. In any event, he is not the judge of souls, and such threats on the part of one who is in intimate union with the post-Conciliar “popes” borders on the absurd.


 Now one thing is clear. If we as Catholics believe we have an obligation of obey the pope, then we face a dilemma. If we obey these popes we must give up our Catholic Faith. Hence it is that all sorts of solutions are considered – solutions that avoid recognizing the real issue. The bottom line is one cannot obey these individuals and remain Catholic. Hence it is that one must declare that they have no authority – that they do not speak as one hierarchical person with Christ. It matters little how one labels them – anti-popes, usurpers, materialiter popes, or no popes at all. The bottom line is that they have no authority to speak in Christ’s name. [For myself, if I thought they spoke in Christ’s name, I would never go to any mass but the novus ordo (quod absit), and I would accept all the errors of Vatican II.]


(I have not raised the issue of the legitimacy of their elections. Obviously, one cannot elect a non-Catholic to the Papacy. But this issue of before, during or after is not the crux of the matter.)


©2005 Rama P. Coomaraswamy, M.D., F.A.C.S. +

[1]   Redemptor Hominis and Speech to the Sacred College reported in Documentation Catholique (Paris), 1975, pp. 1002-3.