An Analogy and Apology
I begin this refutation of “Where the Shepherds and Teachers Are—The Problem with the ‘Home-Alone’ Position—Part III” with an apology to Steve Speray. I am sorry that, in attempting to explain the circumstances at present affecting the Body of Christ, and the problems facing the Kingdom our Lord has established here on Earth, it is necessary to make an analogical appeal to the most popular literary achievement and subsequently most popular cinematic achievement ever, or one might just say generally, the most popular artistic achievement ever. I am speaking, of course, of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), and the film adaptations of Peter Jackson. As an aside, it might also be of interest that Amazon has just started to air what may turn out to be the greatest achievement in series-based cinema, called Rings of Power, the first two episodes of which blew my hair back, and made me ponder the mysteries and beauties of Middle-Earth and Tolkien lore for the rest of the evening, bathed as it was (fittingly) in hues of golden sunset signaling the coming ember days of autumn. Very Elvin. Very Catholic.
And that is perhaps the beginning point of the analogy I wish to draw, between the LOTR and the crisis facing earth today. The parallels are so very near the case, that analogy almost breaks down, because there is no analogy between two things essentially the same. The only difference between the fictional epic and the story it tells and what is going on now in the world is that the one is fictional and the other is not.
The LOTR is not a novel because nothing like it has ever been achieved. It is more like a novel-novel epic. But even the epics of old, The Aeneid, The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, etc. do not compare with it, either in literary scope, or world-creation and fandom. It is entirely different. The only thing that is comparable in literary achievement to the LOTR is the Bible, which comparison isn’t even fair, because the Bible was written by God and LOTR by man.
But let me develop the analogy, with all apologies to Steve Speray. You see, Steve’s position is so very much on the wrong side of the story, that it really is embarrassing to have to point out the fact to him. The main LOTR story line is that there exists a Ring of Power which must be destroyed and cannot be wielded by anyone, be he wizard, elf, dwarf, or man—the only one who really can “wield” it is Tom Bombadil, but that is only because he is a prelapsarian Adam figure preserved from temptation to evil. As Jospeh Pearce, a renowned Tolkien scholar, puts it in a lecture series he has on the LOTR:
“Tolkien also describes his work as an allegory of “power usurped for domination” – a theme which is all the more important to examine in our modern world. Characters throughout The Lord of the Rings are tempted by power and the urge to seize it and wield it for personal gain and unlawful control. Throughout the journey of the Fellowship, various characters face the temptation of the One Ring – the wizard Gandalf, through whom the Ring would wield a terrible power; human man Boromir, who would use it to save his people; elf queen Galadriel, weary from fighting the “long defeat” against evil. Among the characters who do usurp power for domination are Saruman, the white wizard who succumbs to evil, whose machinations at Isengard only bring more evil into Middle-earth.”
As I have argued before on the CE Log, the powers of Holy Orders are real powers. If I could liken a priest to any Middle-Earth character, I would say a priest is most like a wizard—the most powerful characters in bodily form in Middle-Earth. Granted, then, that the sacramental and jurisdictional powers of Holy Orders are in fact powers, then it is evident that the Sedevacantist clergy go against the whole moral of the myth of LOTR.
In this argument from analogy I must pause and answer an objection which some may be entertaining at this point. Is it even reasonable to make an analogy from fictional literature (however seemingly inspired it is, if not by God Almighty, then surely by the Muses), to answer what seems to be a question in theology? How can such this argument be taken seriously?
The answer to the objection is simple enough. This isn’t about theology. If it were, the Home Alone position would win every time, because the arguments for it in theology are so strong and self-evident as to be dogmatic. Canonical mission is so much required to exercise the powers one receives in Holy Orders that to deny this truth is heresy. Steve recognizes this as fact. He just makes a distinction between the dogma in ordinary times versus those in which we are find ourselves now, which, everyone agrees, are extraordinary times. As Steve writes:
“In ordinary times, the clergy are sent out by being placed in offices. This is how bishops attain full apostolic succession. The sedevacantist clergy are sent, but not in ordinary fashion, because of the extraordinary circumstances of the Church’s existence. All the normal rules and teachings from the theological manuals only address the Church within the framework of pre-apostasy times.”
So we agree on the theology. The only difference is, whereas Home Alone Catholics dare not disturb the law and usurp the powers which are not proper to them, Sedevacantists—going against the clear warnings of the LOTR—do not think twice to usurp those powers and try to use them to fight the evil in this world. You cannot fight evil with evil. You cannot create order and law by disorder and lawlessness. You cannot sanctify through profanation.
It is not my intent only to level Tolkien against Sedevacantists, as if that would satisfy any intellectually rigorous mind on the question of whether one should attend their chapels and missions for sacraments. As convincing as the analogy is in itself, it only goes so far, since it is an argument, not so much for the head as it is for the heart. Now I must descend into the realm of the intellect, and, if not point by point, at least head by head, demolish the absurd claims Steve Speray makes in defense of his indefensible position of usurpation of holy orders.
THE NECESSITY OF HAVING SHEPHERDS AND TEACHERS
In this section, Steve claims that the Vatican Council (there is only one council of the Vatican, since the other council was illegitimately convoked by a false pope), teaches there must be shepherds and teachers until the end of time. Steve quotes:
“‘So then, just as he sent apostles, whom he chose out of the world , even as he had been sent by the Father , in like manner it was his will that in his Church there should be shepherds and teachers until the end of time.’”
This quote does not teach that there must be (necessary mode) pastors until the end of time. Rather, it teaches that God willed (volitive mode) that there should be pastors until the end of time. Steve argues from the volitive mode to a necessary mode, which is fallacious. The argument fails, because it assumes a quality in the conclusion (necessity) that is not in the premises.
The arguments on the absolute necessity of the sacraments has already been disproved elsewhere on this website. But suffice it to say that the sacraments are not in themselves absolutely necessary for salvation, and to insist otherwise is actually a form of Feeneyism, which insists that at least one sacrament, baptism, is absolutely necessary as such for salvation, which the Church has taught time and again to be false and ridiculous.
So Steve’s argument of the necessity of pastors in the Church does not stand from the words taken from the Vatican Council, because it was not written in the necessary mode, nor an argument for the necessity of the sacraments, because the sacraments are not absolutely necessary.
WHERE THE SHEPHERDS AND TEACHERS MUST BE FOUND
In this section, Steve attempts to get around the necessity of canonical mission by broadening the definition of pastors (shepherds and teachers) claiming insofar as Sedevacantists administer sacraments, they are shepherds and teachers, or pastors. Steve concludes:
“Imagine if Christ sent out the Apostles only to be immediately imprisoned so the Church could never take off. What would be the point of sending them out? How would it benefit the Church? Vatican I is saying that shepherds and teachers will exist till the end of time precisely for the same reason Christ sent out the Apostles, to actually be effective and benefit the Church. Again, the gates of hell have prevailed if the Church is totally incapacitated.”
The problem with this is that it rests on the refuted interpretation of the Vatican Council, and the absolute necessity of the sacraments. Further, it is ironic that Steve talks of the Apostles being sent out. That is precisely what Home Alone Catholics deny about the Sedevacantists. If they had been sent by God, then of course we must submit to them. Since they have come in their own name, we must refuse them submission, as they are anathema, as the Council of Trent teaches and commands:
CANON VI.–If any one saith…that those who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.
Those who insist that we should go to ministers who have not been sent by the Church but are nevertheless lawful, run afoul of this canon, and are the true heretics. Which brings me to the next section in Speray’s tediously argued refutation.
THE LAWFULNESS OF SEDEVACANTIST CLERGY
“Because Christ wills that there shall be shepherds and teachers till the end of time, they must exist by divine right. No human ecclesiastical law can prevent this right. It is absolutely necessary that shepherds and teachers exist for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ, which is why Jesus wills their existence.”
Now, not only must pastors exist until the end of time, but they exist by divine right, which, Steve argues, no “ecclesiastical law” can prevent. Well, as it happens, canonical mission is a matter of divine law, not human, so that’s strike one. The second strike already happened when it was disproved that there must be pastors until the end of time. And Steve strikes out with the third error in asserting that Sedevacantists are pastors, because a pastor is one with holy orders who has been sent by canonical power, not any Joe off the street who happens to have stolen holy orders.
Then Steve proposes the asinine argument that Sedevacantists, though they do not have ordinary mission, have extraordinary mission, because the Church supposedly needs them to. Steve opines:
“Our sedevacantist bishops and priests are not working in an extraordinary mission that works outside the framework of the Church where there exists a pope, his ordinary succession, and bishops with ordinary jurisdiction who are ready and willing to transmit valid orders. Rather, our clergy work in an extraordinary mission that continues the ordinary mission of the Church insofar as possible precisely because these things are wanting.”
But this runs counter, not only to the above canon, but also to what extraordinary mission is. As St. Francis de Sales teaches:
“THESE reasons are so strong that the most solid of your party have taken ground elsewhere than in the ordinary mission, and have said that they were sent extraordinarily by God because the ordinary mission had been ruined and abolished, with the true Church itself, under the tyranny of Antichrist. This is their most safe refuge, which, since it is common to all sorts of heretics, is worth attacking in good earnest and overthrowing completely. Let us then place our argument in order, to see if we can force this their last barricade.
First, I say then that no one should allege an extraordinary mission unless he prove it by miracles: for, I pray you, where should we be if this pretext of extraordinary mission was to be accepted without proof? Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries?”
I encourage those who have not read the book of St. Francis de Sales to do so, especially the first part which deals directly with actual necessity of canonical mission. Here Steve, along with the Sedevacantists, is no different than any other heretic or sect trying to reform the Church. “Would it not be a cloak for all sorts of reveries?” St. Francis asks. Of course it is, and has been for decades now, from private conclaves, to a stupendous theory asserting the heresiarch of the Novus Ordo sect is in a sense pope, to the innumerable independent mass centers and missions out there dotting the landscape, which have no mission at all, either ordinary or extraordinary. They are simply so many usurpers feigning to be Catholic clergy.
OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE HOME-ALONE POSITION
In this section, Steve has positively lost, if not his mind altogether, at least his commonsense and Sensus Catholicus. He makes this preposterous statement right out of the gate:
“Staying at home is the antithesis of Catholicism. The Church is sent out. We are sent out after Mass, Ite Missa Est. We don’t stay at home, we go out. If every Catholic stays home, there are no Sacraments except baptism and marriage FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. That’s the foundation of Protestantism,” (emphasis original).
I could argue and write probably ten thousand words, and proffer authority after authority to dismantle this claim, but for the fact that it already dismantles itself by its own interior contradictions. Steve says that we are sent out of Church. We don’t stay at home. When I first read that sentence, I really did laugh out loud. I was thinking to myself, where exactly does Steve go after mass on a Sunday anyway, if he doesn’t go home? I don’t know where Steve goes, but when I was attending mass, I would go home.
But this objection—if it can be construed as an objection and not the unhappy effect of a brain aneurysm—that “Staying at home is the antithesis of Catholics” needs further word. The reverse is so obviously the case, I do not know where to begin to set it aright, because I would need to talk about almost everything our Catholic faith touches on. There was a book written on the subject, The Christian Home: A Guide to Happiness in the Home,” by Celestinew Strub, which you can read in full here. Let me at least quote the concluding words of that holy instructional work on the Christian home by the author:
“Home, sweet home! What a multitude of tender thoughts and feelings are associated with the utterance of that sweet word! What a host of happy memories it conjures up of the innocent days of childhood, of the carefree days of youth, of the toilsome days of maturer age. The home is, indeed, the center of the sweetest and purest of all earthly joys, the starting point of all that is best and greatest in human history. Our Divine Savior Himself gave the home a special consecration by gracing the humble home of Nazareth with His presence during thirty long years; and He thereby gave us also the first and the supreme model of the truly Christian home. Yes, so sacred is the word home that it is commonly used to designate even that eternal dwelling place that God has prepared for those that love Him.
Love your home, then, dear reader, and try to make it worthy of that sacred name. You can adopt no surer means than to establish religion in your home by enthroning the Sacred Heart as its King and by conforming it as closely as possible to the home of the Holy Family. If the father seeks to imitate St. Joseph; if the mother emulates the loving care of Mary; if the children are docile and diligent after the example of the Child Jesus; and if all seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice,–be it ever so humble, yours will be a happy home. What, then, if those foes of your salvation, the devil and the wicked world, storm and rage without,–you and yours will be safe within the walls of your Christian home. For, built as it is on the rock of Faith, we may truly say of it what Our Blessed Savior said of those who hear His words and do them: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew; and they beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded on a rock” (Mt. 7, 25).”
One who would claim “Staying at home is the antithesis of Catholicism” either doesn’t have a brain in his skull or has a devil in his heart. I am sorry if I am coming down on Steve hard here, but the defense of the home today is so vastly more important than anything in existence, that I am inclined to say that the assault on the home is the one fight, the only fight, that ever there was, or will be. It is just as important as religion, even more so, because it is the necessary cause, the material cause of our religion, both in its origin and practice. In origin, God became Man, and dwelled, not among us, but among his mother and father, the Holy Family of the Holy Home. And Christ did so for thirty years, then went out according to Providence, and was treated as an enemy and murdered. That is what happens outside the home. And in practice, our religion is carried out on a daily basis in the home in earnest, and only superficially witnessed to in the world. We are not wholly ourselves at work or play. But at home, we relax into our personal habits and hobbies, and live out on a fundamental level who we are, and how we are with others, our children and spouse, and relatives. It is in the home that our Catholic faith is tested, because that is where we live for the greater majority, in childhood and then adulthood.
I could write a whole post on just this idea alone, but since a greater man than I has already written the book on it, I recommend you read that instead.
Steve goes on in this section of the problems with Home Alone to say that there is an implicit heretical denial of perpetual succession of the papacy, because the solution would require a Divine intervention. As I have argued before, that this idea of perpetuity denotes the essence of the papacy as it relates to the quality of continuity of time of the papacy itself, and does not imply the quality of extension of any given pope. Let me explain: I could say that there shall be a father as the head of a home in perpetuity. All this means is that, insofar as there is a home, there shall be a father which is its head, in order properly to be called a home. But the definition of the thing does not prove the existence of the thing, but only the essence of the thing. Steve thinks that because the Church teaches that the papacy will be perpetual, this means that there will always be popes. But this is utterly false even on the facts. There hasn’t been a pope in over a half a century! The principle of perpetual succession of the papacy simply means that there will always be the potential for there to be a pope, because the Church as such is a family with a Holy Father as its head.
The next so-called problem with Home Alone is, if not the stupidest objection is at least the most funny:
“Also, home-aloners admit that we are in the great apostasy. However, Holy Writ tells us that the great apostasy is part of the reign of Antichrist. The reign of Antichrist is short-lived due to Christ’s return. If we are indeed in the great apostasy, then we are not coming out of it. There’s not going to be anyone to fix the Church save Christ at His Return. Therefore, we can’t stay at home hoping that someone somewhere on earth can rectify this terrible crisis. We must do the best we can and the sedevacantist clergy did just that. They fulfilled having shepherds and teachers for the faithful for the whole Church as Christ willed.”
So, let me get this straight, Steve, you admit that we may be in the Great Apostasy and the reign of the Antichrist, and that the Second Coming may in fact be nigh upon us, but (and this is where it gets really funny) “we can’t stay at home hoping that someone somewhere on earth can rectify this terrible crisis”? So, does that count Jesus Christ, coming to judge the living and the dead? He’s not one we can rely on? Or do you mean, because—technically—Christ is coming on clouds in glory, he is not actually on the earth or from the earth? You bet on your usurping Sede clergy to fix things up. My chips are on the one like the son of man who comes with the clouds of heaven.
In this section Steve makes the argument that one is able to break the law when required to do so for survival. If ever there was a time to break the law, say, of the First Commandment, then surely the martyrs should have been dispensed from following the law to save their own lives. But let’s set that aside, because Steve seems to be arguing from spiritual survival of the Church and members of the Church. So the Church (or those who claim to be members of it) is allowed to break God’s law and ignore canonical mission for the sake of survival. But this argument relies upon an assumption, namely, that without the sacraments, the Church has defected. But that is not how the Church has defined indefectibility:
BC 544:…when we say the Church is indefectible, we mean that it will last forever and be infallible forever; that it will always remain as Our Lord founded it and never change the doctrines He taught.
Indefectibility is tied up with doctrinal soundness, not the availability of the sacraments. And the only Church which has the mark of indefectibility, by which the Church as a whole is indefectible, is the Holy See of Rome. No other see was granted the promise of indefectibility. The indefectible teachings of the Roman Pontiffs is preserved and we are living testament to its efficacy, because we adhere to the BC, and to other approved pre-1958 catechisms and works of religious instruction which teach us what to believe and what to do to save our souls, or, how to spiritually survive. Nowhere in any pre-1958 Catholic book is it taught that we should seek sacraments from those without canonical appointment, as even Steve admits:
“The books don’t cover the extraordinary mission of sedevacantism, but only condemn, and rightly so, those who assume authority apart from the authority of the pope and the ordinary transmission of the faith.”
Laura couldn’t stop laughing after she read this out loud while we were editing the article together, so I guess this quote takes the cake for the funniest thing Steve wrote, which we’ll let be an end-cap to this section.
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE HOME-ALONE POSITION CONDEMNED
In this section, Steve brings out what I suppose he thinks are the big guns against Home Alone, papal teachings against Old Catholics. But the quotations are actually very much applicable to Sedevacantists rather than Home Alone Catholics. Steve quotes Pius IX:
“’They assert the necessity of restoring a legitimate episcopacy in the person of their pseudo-bishop, who has entered not by the gate but from elsewhere like a thief or robber and calls the damnation of Christ upon his head.’”
That pretty much sums up Sedevacantists.
The other papal quotes Steve uses speaks of the Church as carrying on the mission and mandate Christ received from the Father, to teach all nations the ways of God and to baptize them. This mission, Steve believes, is only carried out by the Sedevacantists. The only problem with this is that the Sedevacantists have no mission, as is evidenced by their lack of miracles. But the other objection is that, insofar as we who keep the faith at home, baptizing and educating our children by our approved catechism, and other books of instruction, and praying the mass, offering up spiritual acts of communion, and abiding by all the laws of the Church, not just those we think are convenient to keep, we who hold the Home Alone position, not Sedevacantists, are the ones who are carrying on the mission of the Savior.
The problem is, Steve has a problem with what it means to be a Catholic during the Apocalypse. He would rather bend and break Divine law, stretch and tear divine teaching of ecumenical councils, than live according to the standards that Catholics have always lived by and always will, no matter how tough it gets under the Antichrist. I really do pity Steve in his ignorance, for his lack of Catholic sense, and for his being too immersed in the false sect to see the forest for the trees. Perhaps he really should just stay home, and meditate and pray and be still, instead of running out his door in search of an adventure or whatever he is seeking outside his home.
Hobbits as the Heroes of the Story
I began with an analogy taken from LOTR characters, and reasoned that the Sedevacantists are those who are tempted to usurp the power of holy orders just as characters in the book and movies were so tempted by the Ring of Power. The fictional characters who were so tempted either perished or were doomed to walk the roads of the world in utter destitution–Sharky as Saruman. So much for the antagonistic characters of the Sedevacantists in this epic we are living out. What about the heroes of this story? I would humbly submit to your judgment, that the heroes of this story are the Hobbits who only want to live in peace at home, who do not grasp for power beyond a good walking stick:
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
For most of us Home Alone Hobbits, we have journeyed far from home for long enough, thank you. We have seen the “horrors in the halls of stone” of the Novus Ordo, and have dwelt with the dragon long enough. Perhaps Steve and his fellow Sedevacantists find the home a cramped vision and space for the Church, that evangelization and carrying on the mission of Christ is better served on the roads of the world which go ever on and on, instead of at rest at a happy hearth and home. But that is not what I have found. I have been on journeys halfway across this wide world, and had my adventures on land and sea, and tried to evangelize those I met on the way, but to no avail. So now I focus on evangelizing my children, teaching them the ways of God from what I have received from Church teachings in the catechism. In this story, I am not the large-scale hero who goes out and conquers with power and might and skill, like Gandalf or Aragorn, nor yet even like Frodo, who bore the burden of the temptation to power unto the cracks of Mt. Doom, where the evil of the Ring finally destroyed itself through the temptation of Gollum. Of all the characters of Tolkien’s imagination, I’d say Home Alone Catholics are most like Hobbits, Samwise Gamgee in particular, who was simple, humble and home-loving, and who was, according to author himself, the true hero of the story.