Catholic Candle note: Catholic Candle normally examines particular issues thoroughly, at length, using the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church. By contrast, our feature CC in Brief, gives an extremely short answer to a reader’s question. We invite readers to submit their own questions.
A sedevacantist’s question
Q: Isn’t it true that the post-Vatican II “popes” [sic] cannot be real popes because Our Lord founded His Church and made it simple enough to be recognizable by anyone who is prepared to use his ordinary common sense. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise – it would amount to the infinitely just God being guilty of injustice in practice. It wouldn’t be fair for people’s salvation to depend partly on their level of intelligence and learning.
A: You are mistaken in your notion of fairness, for three reasons:
1. If the True Church were recognizable by anyone with common sense, then joining the Catholic Church would only be a matter of common sense and good human judgment. Instead, though, joining the Church requires the supernatural Catholic Faith, which is a free, undeserved gift of God. In matters of the true religion, there are many things that a person will not understand (despite using human common sense) unless he has the Faith, as St. Thomas teaches. Lectures on St. John’s Gospel, §995.
So, salvation does not depend “on their level of intelligence or learning” but on the free gift and election of God. This free, undeserved gift of God is called “Predestination”, which is God’s foreknowledge of what He Himself will do. God foreknows where each man will spend Eternity. But He only predestines the elect, not the damned, since God’s gifts are His work, which is essential to the salvation of the elect.
2. Grace is a free gift of God, as is the Catholic Faith. God does not give those gifts to everyone and that is not unfair. For example, He does not give them to unbaptized babies who die before the age of reason. They have no chance to be part of the True Church and they do not go to heaven. But that is in no way unfair. We recommend this article to clarify the Catholic position for you:
3. God does not damn persons for failing to have the gift of the Catholic Faith that He never gave them. He damns persons (or, in a way, you could say the persons damn themselves) for sins they committed for which they are culpable. So, for persons who only have the Natural Law, then they go to hell for sins they commit against the Natural Law, not against Church law, and also not because they do not have the Catholic Faith and grace. Hypothetically, if a person were to live his whole life without grace and without sinning, then he would go to the Limbo of the babies.
God gives the Catholic Faith, wisdom, and grace to whom He wills, whether or not they can read. St. Catherine of Sienna was correct about who the pope was during the Great Western Schism, whereas certain more learned men – also saints – on the other side of the dispute, were wrong. Formal schism is a mortal sin which separates a person from the Catholic Church. But these learned men and saints who were mistaken about who was pope during the Great Western Schism, were in material schism (making an innocent mistake), and were not in formal schism.
It is no more unjust for God to permit the deception of a Catholic by the conciliar hierarchy, than it is for Him to not give that person any grace or Faith in the first place. God chooses how to dispense His free gifts.
Some of the horrors existing in the current human element of the Church have precedent in history. But even where the horrors differ, this is a matter of God electing (predestining) whom He wishes. Notice also, that a lot of what is going on, e.g., unnatural impurity, is against the Natural Law and so it is written in the heart of man what he should do and think, regardless of what the hierarchy says or does not say.
It seems that a person born into conciliar surroundings or into any den of unnatural impurity (or whatever vice), is not worse off than a person born into the surroundings of Aztec cannibalism, human sacrifice, and paganism. Even in those surroundings, the Natural Law is written in man’s heart. And grace and the true Faith are undeserved gifts for anyone who receives them.
So, it is not “unfair” for God to allow a great many people to be misled by conciliar error, just like it is not unfair for God to allow people to live their entire lives in pagan surroundings with no mention of the true God and His true Church.
Your “fairness” argument does not show that Pope Francis and his post-conciliar predecessors are (were) not true popes. Despite their extreme dereliction of duty and their promotion of the conciliar Revolution, it is impossible that their sins and scandals would prevent God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the elect. That is, He will not lose a single soul that was predestined to heaven, in spite of His shepherds’ miserable failures.
Catholic Candle postscript: Sedevacantism is a pernicious error. To learn more why this error is wrong and why it is schism, read Sedevacantism: Material or Formal Schism, which is available:
Ø Here as a free e-book: or
Ø Here from Amazon, at cost: