The foothills of sedevacantism

Elsewhere, it was suggested that priests ordained in the postconciliar Rite of Ordination might need be “conditionally [re-]ordained (ordained in the Traditional Rite), taking the Oath against modernism … Were they ordained in the true Traditional Rite or the new rite? It makes a world of difference as the form (words) were completely changed in the new rite of ordination! … Every prayer in the Traditional Rite which stated specifically the essential role of a priest as a man ordained to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the living and dead has been removed.”

I agree that the Oath against Modernism should be reinstated, and I agree that the postconciliar revisions to the form promulgated by Paul VI in Pontificalis Romani are unfortunate, but  to the extent that the validity of the revised form is questioned, rather than its felicity, we are, literally, in the foothills of sedevacantism.

My interlocutor expressly denied being a sedevacantist, but this is a train that has only one destination. If the new rites of ordination and consecration are invalid, Jorge Bergoglio’s ordination in March 1969 was perforce invalid, and his consecration as a bishop in June 1992 was also invalid—ergo (long story short) he cannot today be the legitimate Bishop of Rome. 1 It inexorably follows from the denial of the validity of the postconciliar Rite of Ordination that Jorge Bergoglio is not today the legitimate incumbent of the Roman See.

And the tear won’t stop there: If Bergoglio isn’t, either someone else is, or the See is vacant. The last person elected to the papacy before Bergoglio was Joseph Card. Ratzinger, but he can’t have been a legitimate pope either: He was ordained under the old rite, but consecrated a bishop in March 1977, which, if invalid, means that he was a priest when elected to the Roman See, and thus was never the legitimate Bishop of Rome absent a re-consecration which didn’t happen. 2 So we go back further. The last person elected to the papacy before Ratzinger was Karol Card. Wojtyla, pope John Paul II, who was both ordained (November 1946) and consecrated (September 1958) under the old rite, and who was therefore a bishop when elected to the Roman See, and thus did not require reconsecration and was thus legitimately the Bishop of Rome. But he’s dead. If the last person to be elected to and to legitimately hold the Roman See is dead, perforce the See is vacant—which is the very definition of sede vacante-ism.

If one’s theory produces the result that there is not currently a legitimate pope, even if that is not the focus of the argument for which the theory is advanced, I am at a loss to see how that’s not sedevacantism.

The “priesthood is a constitutive element of the Church,” 3 and it follows that it’s impossible for her to prescribe an invalid form of ordination. (And that’s assuming arguendo that it’s possible for her to prescribe an invalid form for any sacrament.) That act must participate in the ecclesial charisms because if God permitted her to get that wrong, one generation could cut the throat of all subsequent generations by breaking the apostolic succession, thereby permitting the gates of hell to prevail against the Church. 4 Whatever concerns we may harbor about the new ordination rite, it must be valid, because if it is not, virtually every priest and bishop walking around today was invalidly ordained, millions of Christ’s faithful have been led into inadvertent idolatry, and, as the numbers of priests ordained and bishops consecrated under the old rite dwindle, the valid celebration of the sacraments and the apostolic succession itself disappears into the twilight.

It’s important to look at the theory that underlies one’s argument, to understand where that theory goes, and to realize that you can’t ride the theory only so far as you want your argument to go. This theory has disturbing implications that should make one think twice.


  1. The long version might go something like this. I am aware of no prerequisite in ecclesiology that a man must be a bishop when he is elected Pope, and there is (unhappy) precedent for that happening in Urban V, Celestine V, and Leo VIII. But since it is obvious that the bishop of Rome must be a bishop, it is obvious that a layman, deacon, or priest elected to the Roman See must be consecrated (and ordained, if a layman or deacon). Therefore, if Bergoglio’s original ordination and consecration were invalid, he was a layman when elected to the Roman See, and while that election is not invalid, he must be (legitimately) ordained and consecrated before he can legitimately assume the Cathedra Petri. Which, of course, he has not been, and will not now submit to, which means that he is not today the legitimate Bishop of Rome.
  2. His appointment as cardinal was also canonically illicit, because while a pope can waive the requirement imposed by John XXIII that a cardinal be a bishop, as was done with Avery Card. Dulles, John Paul II didn’t waive that requirement in Fr. Ratzinger’s case, for the good and sufficient reason that he thought (mistakenly, of course) that Ratzinger was a bishop. Do you see how far one can tumble down the insane rabbithole of sedevacantist logic, and how fast?
  3. Simon Dodd, Straight Talk on Altar Girls, 1 MPA __ (2011).
  4. I should note that it is conceivable that such an act could be done in the Last Days: If the second coming is imminent, it follows that there is no need for a continuing, valid priesthood. I am generally skeptical of arguments premised on the rapture happening before teatime.