Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Sede Vacantism - A Modernist Heresy

Sede vacantism is a movement that claims that the papal see has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, or in some cases, since the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963. Sede vacantists reject the popes who have followed them, accusing them of being modernists and heretics who have departed from the true Catholic faith. 

Sede vacantists also reject the Second Vatican Council and its reforms, especially those concerning ecumenism and religious liberty. They believe that these changes contradict the previous teachings of the Church and undermine its unique role as the only true religion.

However, sede vacantism is incompatible with Catholicism for several reasons. First, it contradicts the doctrine of papal infallibility, which states that the pope cannot err when he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church. The popes who have followed Pius XII or John XXIII have exercised this authority on several occasions, such as when they canonized saints, defined dogmas, or issued encyclicals. To deny their legitimacy is to deny their infallibility, and thus to deny a dogma of the Catholic faith.

Second, sede vacantism contradicts the doctrine of the perpetual visibility and indefectibility of the Church, which states that the Church will always be visible to the world and will never fall away from the truth. The Church is not only a spiritual reality, but also a visible society, with a hierarchy, a liturgy, and a teaching authority. The pope is the visible head of this society, and without him, the Church would lose its unity and identity. To claim that the papal see has been vacant for decades is to claim that the Church has been invisible and defective for decades, and thus to deny another dogma of the Catholic faith.

Third, sede vacantism contradicts the doctrine of the providence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who protects and assists the Church in fulfilling its mission. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, and he inspires and directs its leaders, especially the Pope, in governing and teaching the faithful. The Holy Spirit also guarantees that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and that it will always remain faithful to Christ and his gospel. To claim that the Holy Spirit has abandoned the Church and allowed it to be overtaken by heretics and apostates is to blaspheme against him and to distrust his promises.  It is a sin against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32).

One of the most common arguments used by sedevacantists to justify their position that the See of Peter is vacant is that a pope who falls into heresy automatically loses his office. They often appeal to the authority of St. Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church and a renowned theologian, who wrote extensively on the question of the possibility and consequences of a heretical pope. However, a careful reading of St. Bellarmine's works reveals that he does not say that a pope ceases to be pope by the fact of his heresy alone, but only by the declaration of the Church.

St. Bellarmine considered five different opinions on the question of a heretical pope, and he rejected four of them as either false or improbable. The first opinion was that a heretical pope cannot be deposed by anyone, and must be tolerated until his death or conversion. The second opinion was that a heretical pope could be deposed by the Church, but only after a trial and conviction. The third opinion was that a heretical pope can be deposed by the Church, even without a trial, as soon as his heresy becomes manifest. The fourth opinion was that a heretical pope ceases to be pope ipso facto, by the very fact of his heresy, without any declaration or sentence from the Church.

He rejected these four opinions for various reasons, and he favored the fifth opinion, which he considered to be the most probable and safe. The fifth opinion was that a heretical pope does not lose his office immediately and automatically by his heresy, but only after he is declared to be a heretic by the Church. St. Bellarmine explained that this opinion is based on two principles: first, that a manifest heretic is not a member of the Church, and therefore cannot be its head; and second, that the Church has the power to judge and depose its head, if he becomes a manifest heretic.

St. Bellarmine argued that the first principle is certain and de fide, but the second principle is not so clear and certain and therefore requires some explanation. He said that the Church has the power to judge and depose its head, not by a superior authority, but by a ministerial authority, as an executor of the divine law that excludes heretics from the Church. He also said that this power is not ordinary and habitual, but extraordinary and rare, and can only be exercised in cases of extreme necessity when the common good of the Church requires it.

The scholarly saint gave several examples from history and Scripture to illustrate how the Church can judge and depose its head in cases of manifest heresy. He cited the case of Pope Marcellinus, who was accused of apostasy during the persecution of Diocletian, and who was summoned to a council by the clergy and people of Rome to give an account of his faith. He also cited the case of Pope Liberius, who was excommunicated by St. Athanasius and other bishops for signing an Arian creed, and who was later restored to communion after he renounced his error. He also cited the case of Pope Honorius I, who was anathematized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council for supporting the Monothelite heresy, and whose anathema was confirmed by his successors.

St. Bellarmine concluded that these examples show that the Church can judge and depose its head in cases of manifest heresy, but only after he is declared to be a heretic by a legitimate authority, such as a council or a college of cardinals. He said that this declaration is necessary for two reasons: first, to avoid confusion and schism in the Church; and second, to give the pope an opportunity to defend himself and to repent of his error.

Therefore, St. Bellarmine does not say that a pope ceases to be a pope by his heresy alone, but only by the declaration of the Church. This is important to understand because it means that we cannot presume to judge or depose a pope on our own authority or private opinion, but we must respect his office and submit to his authority until he is lawfully declared to be a heretic by the Church.

No one can judge the pope or the first see.  This is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that has been affirmed by many popes and councils throughout history. 

The pope, as the successor of St. Peter, has supreme authority over the whole Church, and no human power can depose him or question his decisions. 

The first see, or the diocese of Rome, is also exempt from any judgment by other bishops or ecclesiastical courts. This is because the first see is the source and foundation of the unity and communion of the whole Church. Canon law states: 

Can. 1404 The First See is judged by no one.


The first see is the term used to refer to the diocese of Rome, where the pope resides and exercises his ministry. The term comes from the Latin word sedes, which means seat or throne. The first see is also called the Apostolic See because it was founded by the apostles Peter and Paul, who were martyred in Rome. The first see is considered to have a special dignity and authority among all the other dioceses of the Church because it is the seat of the pope, who is the visible head of the Church and the successor of St. Peter.  

The Church needs to have a pope.  Sede Vacantism is just not feasible.  Vatican I was clear.

Some of the references that support this doctrine are:

- The First Vatican Council (1869-1870), which declared that "the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church." (Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4)

- The Code of Canon Law (1983), which states that "the First See is judged by no one" (Canon 1404) and that "cases concerning the Roman Pontiff are reserved to him alone" (Canon 1405).

- The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), which teaches that "the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." (Paragraph 882)

These are just some of the many sources that confirm the doctrine that no one can judge the pope or the first see. It is a doctrine that expresses the primacy and infallibility of the pope as the head of the Church and the guardian of the faith. It is also a doctrine that safeguards the unity and communion of the Church under one shepherd. 

Decretum Gratiani states: "Let no mortal man presumes to rebuke [the pope] for his faults, for, it being incumbent upon him to judge all, he should be judged by no one, unless he is suddenly caught deviating from the faith." 

The latter part "caught deviating from the faith" is what St. Ballermine was referencing in his opinions.  We need a pope because we need a visible head of the Church, a vicar of Christ on earth, a successor of Peter who holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven. We need a pope because we need a supreme teacher of faith and morals, a supreme legislator and judge, and a supreme pastor and father. We need a pope because we need a sign of unity and a source of authority in the Church. We need a pope because we need someone who can confirm us in our faith, who can strengthen us in our love, and who can lead us in our hope. This is what Christ wanted (Matthew 16:18). Peter is the 'rock' upon which Christ built the Catholic Church.  If you take the foundation out, the rest will collapse.  Therefore, the Church needs to have her 'rock.' 

Sede vacantism is a Modernist Heresy because it takes on the innovative idea that things are subjective and subject to man's reasoning. It adopts a relativistic take on the papacy and Catholic religion. The papacy becomes a democratic social construct like the United States presidency where a sitting president can be impeached.  This is not how the Catholic Church operates.  This is not what the Catholic faith teaches.  Simon Peter was a huge coward. He denied Jesus Christ three times (Matthew 26:34, Matthew 26:69–75). 

Here we have the first pope whom Jesus literally handpicked only to later deny Jesus three times!  What bigger heresy is this?  Despite this, Peter was still the first; he was still the Vicar of Christ and the first pope.  So we see that sin and heresy do not automatically depose a pope. To a sede vacantist like a relativist, words do not matter, tradition does not matter, and the law does not matter; it is just someone who wants to interpret things that matter on their own authority creating their "own truth." The Catholic faith becomes a woke sentiment.  This is why those who subscribe to sede vacantism can pick and choose who is the Pope, which sacraments are valid, and which councils to follow.  It is just absurd and not part of the Catholic faith.  It is an extension of the Modernist Heresy.

Therefore, sede vacantism is not only a false and schismatic position but also a dangerous and sinful one; a modernist heresy. It leads to pride, judgmentalism, division, and despair. It cuts off its adherents from the communion of saints, from the sacraments of salvation, and from the magisterium of the Church. It deprives them of the guidance and grace that they need to grow in holiness and reach their eternal destiny.

Futhermore, SedeVacantists simply do not seem to understand or refuse to understand that sede vacantism is not supported by the Church's teaching. 

  1. There has to be a sitting pontiff.  The Church has to have Peter, the Rock. She has to have a chief shepherd, a visible head representing Jesus Christ as the Vicar of Christ.  Without a pope, the Church becomes a collection of denominations like the Eastern Non-Catholic Churches or Protestant communities run by their local pastors. 
  2. Lay people and so on cannot judge him nor declare a Catholic a heretic. This is done by the Church, the College of Cardinals, and bishops in unison.  Declaring one a formal heretic usually occurs after death. So it makes sense that a pope cannot be declared a heretic until he has died and his life and errors are fully examined.  
  3. No Church teaching says that a pope ceases being a pope even when in heresy.  There exists no doctrine or dogma that allows for a pope to be removed when he is in heresy. St. Bellarmine and others have opined on the matter, but this is just what this is, an opinion. It has no weight in the Catholic Church or its legal processes. Not everything a pope, theologian, or saint says is magisterium, becomes it or becomes law.   

In all honesty, Sede vacantism is a psychopathological disorder. When one lives in a delusion and rejects the truth, he or she needs psychiatric treatment. It is Protestantism lite and must be avoided and rejected at all costs.

What do you think? Post your comments below on Disqus. Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can be posted.


- Sedevacantism - Wikipedia 

- Sedevacantism - New World Encyclopedia 

- Sedevacantism – CMRI: Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen

- Papal infallibility - Wikipedia 

- Papal infallibility | Description, History, & Controversy | Britannica 

- What Is Papal Infallibility and When Does It Apply? 

- Matthew 16:18 

- Matthew 16:19 

: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History VII.29

: Athanasius, Apologia contra Arianos 35

: Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History IV.13

: Council of Constantinople III (680-681), Act XIII

: Pope Leo II (682-683), Letter 1

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