The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Stephen Heiner, founder of True Restoration (which proclaims itself as a “Catholic content company” found himself in some hot holy water after keyboarding what may be honestly called a hit piece. The article written back in January was originally entitled “Why the CMRI Are Not an Option for Serious Catholics,” but Heiner has since changed that hard-lined headline to the softer, almost soothing “What Serious Catholics Should Know About the CMRI.”

The article dealt with two issues Heiner has with the CMRI: the clergy allowing congregants to attend una cum masses and the granting of marriage annulments, or at least passing judgment on marriage cases. Heiner here is absolutely correct in pointing out the non-Catholic position of the CMRI on these issues. He is absolutely correct, for instance when he says, “Assistance at an una cum Mass is objective participation in the modernist Novus Ordo. There’s simply no getting around this.”

Now, for those of you who may not know what an una cum mass is, it is simply a traditional Roman rite mass in which the priest offers up the mass in unity with the reigning pontiff, and mentions him by name. Now, it is very curious for the CMRI, being a sedevacantist group, to allow its congregants to attend such masses. Setting aside the fact that it is a sin to pray with heretics, by hypothesis, there wouldn’t be a pope to name, if the Holy See was indeed empty, right? So why the mixed messages? The most probable answer to that question is sin, which tends to make one stupid.  

But what is ironic here is that Heiner, who promotes the asinine material-formal, or Cassiciacum thesis, otherwise known as sedeprivationism—the theological brainchild of the very late Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers—goes out of his way to write against the CMRI which allows people to pray with the currently reigning pope they as a congregation don’t actually believe exists. Why ironic? Because, according to the theory, there is a legally elected roman pontiff, it’s just you can’t mention him in your prayers at mass because he is only a material pope, not a formal pope, which is to say the Antichrists from Roncalli to Francis were all quite literally merely paper popes, legally designated to be pope, and would be formally, if only they abjured their Antichrist-like ways.

So, in point of fact, Heiner and Most Holy Trinity Seminary (the outfit Sanborn heads up), are not really sedevacantists at all. So, what we have here is Heiner not allowing the sedevacantist CMRI to mention a pope they don’t believe exists, while at the same time believing himself that a pope does exist, if only materially or legally, but cannot be named during the mass. This is simply a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black. Heiner will not allow Pivarunas (the pseudo-bishop heading up the CMRI) to pray with a non-existent pope, but does allow himself not to pray with a pope he does believe exists—if only materially. What bizarre and bewildering hypocrisy!

The next issue Heiner has with the CMRI is that they take it upon themselves to say who is and isn’t married, according to the marriage laws of the Church. Heiner objects to this on the grounds that the CMRI clergy have no right to exercise anything in the way of a legal function of the Church. To do that one would need jurisdiction and authority, which Heiner points out (quite rightly) the CMRI clergy do not have. Heiner concludes, “…the best our clergy can do is investigate to give someone some sense of probability, but no more than that.” 

Let me just pause on this point about probability, if only to illustrate just how far gone Heiner’s mind is, before I address the overarching hypocrisy of it all. Why would a priest be permitted to investigate the probability of a marriage contract’s validity, but not determine whether it is or is not valid? Do such entities as law or legal norms admit of probability? (Hint: No.) One really would like to know, based upon the books, whether such and such a man is guilty of murder or just manslaughter, or whether the man in question was completely innocent. Who could possibly settle for or even tolerate a ruling of  “guilty of murder—probably.” What good would it do the victim’s family? What justice would be worked in such a case as that? In a word, what would be the point in passing judgment at all if one were confined only to what was probably so? As it is with murder so it is with marriage. It is just stupid to say one can say a conclusion of fact and law is probable but cannot say it is actual. On what grounds would one say a marriage was probable, if not on the same grounds which determine its actuality, its having existed at all, whether such facts which the law provides for actually took place? But I digress.   

Now, if Heiner’s holding the prohibition on una cum masses—while holding to the material-formal thesis—is a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black, this issue about marriage annulments and lack of authority and jurisdiction is something akin to the black witch calling her cauldron black. It is simply wickedly preposterous, whatever one’s depth of understanding about the legal functions of the Church, to insist that one group cannot adjudicate marriage contracts for lack of jurisdictional authority, but another group may call its mass center a parish (a legal designation of a jurisdictional territory in the Church), open other mass centers throughout the world, operate a seminary, absolve sins in the tribunal of the confessional, and, perhaps what’s most preposterous, determine who is legally pope! So, in other words, the CMRI determining whether their congregants are adulterers is bad business but Sanborn&Co. can open sacramental shops worldwide, determine who is and is not absolved of sin, screen candidates for the priesthood (and supposedly educate and train them in canon law, sacred theology and sacred liturgical rites), and finally adjudicate who are cardinal electors and consequently who is in possession of a legitimate papal election. How could Heiner believe such rot, let alone type it out for the world to see? The most probable answer to that question is sin, which tends to make one stupid.  

Perhaps what’s most hypocritical is Heiner’s censuring the CMRI’s tolerance of una cum mass attendance with a quote from Pope Pius VI, but which may equally be applied to the Most Holy Trinity clergy: “Keep away from all intruders, whether called archbishops, bishops, or parish priests; do not hold communion with them especially in divine worship.”