Editor's Note: We received the following email just before Easter and thought it deserved a public response from the Readers (N.B. we've shortened it somewhat):
I don't always agree with your methods but at least you back up whatever you write ... I, for one, am grateful for some of what you have revealed ... I will not say you are fair, yet you seem intellectually honest ... Therefore I propose a bargain ... I grant that Father Cekada made huge errors in WWW [= Work of Human Hands, Ed.] and in his pamphlet on the conferral of priestly orders with one hand. Also, I will admit his translation of Pius XII's words is "perverse," as you incessantly harp ... Can you in turn be equally honest and admit that Father Cekada's article against attending una cum Masses [We believe our correspondent is referring to "The Grain of Incense," Ed.] is so well done that he makes fools of you when you talk about "that una cum nonsense"? It is certainly his cleanest and best work. His argument and scholarship are impeccable ... Is that why you have never attacked it?... What do you propose in place of it? The SSPX's recognize and resist policy? ... I am expecting a straightforward answer, if that is possible from you smart alecks.And that you'll get, though you won't like it or the fact that your challenge has obliged us to pick at the scabs of Checkie's leprous work to expose more of his unscholarly sloppiness.
First, we grant that, in this case, the Blunderer's effort is marginally better than all his other error-laden trivialities. That's probably because, as it seems to us, Big Don Sanborn did most of the conceptual frame-working for "una-cum" way back in 1993 and 2002. We're not too terribly impressed with Big Don, as you know from our many demonstrations of his own howling errors, but in comparison with Tony Baloney, the rector's a mighty prodigy of learning.
As for Cheeseball's article's being "clean," we strongly disagree. We need only mention that on p. 3, B. 1, the translation of Ex Quo differs from that given on papalencyclicals.net and in print by only one word, yet the Blunderer doesn't acknowledge the translator (or the source). And if you need more instances of far less forgivable carelessness, then, on p. 4, footnote 13, there is the nonsensical misprint cominis instead of the correct nominis. Furthermore, in footnote 14, he prints an acute accent instead of a grave (Prières, Tony, not Priéres!), and on p. 8, footnote 37, we find the slovenly "catholic communio" instead of "catholica communio." And how about p. 8, footnote 30, where the Latin-challenged nincompoop prints the dative or ablative "Carthaginensi" instead of the correct genitive "Carthaginensis"?
So, then, the same-old, same-old careless shoddiness and bad Latin appear alive and well in this "clean" article. LOL.
But our reasons for ignoring this piece of self-serving propaganda have nothing to do with its scholarly flaws. From our viewpoint, it looks like a blatant attempt to keep the faithful sedated and strapped to the cult, blind to the complex spiritual reality of the crisis in the Church. Not everyone who assists at a sede Mass is a dyed-in-the-wool sedevacantist; we'd guess that a sizable number are folks who just want the Tridentine rite and aren't interested in all the mind-numbing polemics.
For that reason, we'll admit that if you're a lobotomized naïf who wrongly believes that sedevacantism is a declared dogma of the Church, then you must never attend an una-cum Mass and at the same time must also vilify others who do. However, if you're not, if you're a faithful Catholic in search of valid sacraments administered in accordance with tradition and you couldn't care a fig for speculations contrived by poorly trained, clerical entrepreneurs (some of whom once said and enforced una-cum Masses), then you won't have a problem attending an SSPX Mass. (And that's what the cult masters don't want: you'll probably take your money and leave when you get a chance to compare them to priests with a sound formation in real seminaries.)
Inasmuch as our frontal lobes are intact and we know better, we should not be persuaded, even if a formally trained, genuine intellect had penned the article. We could only acquiesce to the argument if we knew for certain we were in the sede vacante. But we don't. Nobody does. It's merely a thought-provoking thesis, no matter how well it may seem to save appearances. In fact, to be completely frank as our correspondent has asked, the very attractiveness of the sede hypothesis gives us pause: it's too neat.
Now if the cult masters openly admitted that the proposition was only probable then we would praise them, because that's what Pistrina's sedevacantists affirm. However, many Trads have been led to believe that the sede thesis is Gospel truth with no other explanation being tenable. To oppose such childish narrow-mindedness amid so much uncertainty, Pistrina has adopted, as its editorial posture, aliquid-pravism -- something's horribly wrong with Rome, and anyone who affirms that proposition is our colleague.
As we have written to others, the weakness of all the current theories lies in their failure to account for the enormity -- the utter historical incomparability -- of the crisis Catholics have endured for the last half century. The aliquid-pravi position affirms the ultimate incomprehensibility of the divine reasons for and the eventual outcome of the Vatican II catastrophe, for it acknowledges the inadequacy of rational attempts to scrutinize the will of God in a matter beyond the reach of human understanding.
Aliquid-pravism posits that, as a result of grace, many Catholics of all stripes know that something is deeply, deeply wrong with the Vatican establishment, particularly today under the pernicious Jorge Bergoglio. Anyone who shares the simple affirmation that the faith has been altered is our brother or sister in the faith. Our job is to seek our salvation by our best lights in conformance with pre-conciliar Catholic theology and leave all other conjectures aside until the Restoration. (Today, theologizing lies in nobody's remit.) In other words, an aliquid-pravist has the courage and the humility to surrender to the mystery and trust in God, Whose guidance saved him from the Modernist horror.
(More to the point, and this is an entirely personal perspective, but we find it impossible to consider that God in His infinite wisdom would entrust the stewardship of His remnant Church to the likes of the malformed American clergy of Tradistan. Yes, we believe that with God all things are possible, but it taxes our intellect to imagine He would play such a cruel, cosmic joke on faithful Catholics by raising up these ill-trained, lucre-loving mediocrities, with all the baggage that has weighed them down for so long. Such an affirmation would require the same monstrous act of assent that Borges's fictional theologian Nils Runeberg made when he madly concluded that God chose Judas Iscariot as the Redeemer of all mankind.)
Setting aside our personal contempt for the poorly educated, mammonite oracles of Cultilandia, the argument the rector and his ape advance is still worthy of every traditionalist's attention because it's internally consistent. (Although, we must note, the attachment of their names to the proposition is a definite impediment to its tenability -- the cult masters don't have any intellectual credibility outside their disturbed cult circle. Sometimes, you know, you have to consider the source.) Nevertheless, the other sides of the debate -- and there are several -- also demand an attentive hearing, notably the opinion of Robert Siscoe here, here, and here. Further complicating the dispute is the absence of the informed voices of formally trained, universally recognized Catholic theologians: imperiti certant et adhuc sub judice lis est (with apologies to Horace's shades.)*
We don't know which opinion is right and which is wrong. No one will until the day the Church decides the matter. We took a poll among ourselves, and most of us agree that some form of sedevacantism or sedeprivationism might come close, but no one would censure fellow traditional Catholics for thinking otherwise or deny others the sacraments. Whichever side anyone chooses -- and each of the Readers has chosen one of the opinions as a modus vivendi -- may not, in the end, prove to be the answer the Church may someday reveal.
Divine Providence could disclose something altogether different.
In the meantime, the right-thinking Catholic -- layman or cleric -- who adopts in good conscience the sede-vacante thesis with all its implications, will not in good conscience assist at an una-cum Mass, but he also won't condemn -- or deny sacraments to -- other Catholics whose informed consciences counsel otherwise and who, therefore, assist at SSPX Masses or do not embrace as de fide the sede hypothesis with the una-cum proscription.
That's why we make common cause with all who love the traditional faith and witness that what has happened over the last half century or so is gravely wrong. We stand opposed to those clerics who use sedevacantism as a religious test to determine to whom they will administer the sacraments. Insofar as sedevacantism is, at best, a plausible theory, the sacraments should be available to anyone who professes the true Catholic faith by his petition thereof. Period.
As to the question of assisting at Mass, we leave that to individual conscience, not to the suspect pronouncements of malformed, agenda-driven clergy who appear more interested in keeping control of people and their money than in the cure of souls. Their real policy seems to favor binding consciences in order to keep the flock from leaving Tradistan's parched desert for a place of pasture where they will find the water of refreshment. Besides, if we are to wage the ongoing battle against Modernism and the evil heresiarch Bergoglio, we'll need more foot soldiers than the diminishing ranks that discredited Tradistan can supply.
* What's sorely needed is a non-polemical, comprehensive study (by a formally trained disciplinary master, preferably writing in Latin) of all the Latin-language canonico-theological literature related to the discussion of the defection of a pope from the faith. Tradistan, naturally, cannot produce such an individual, nor is it possible that a credentialed author will ever come from the United States. There are scholars in South America and Europe now, who are capable of the undertaking. (The Italian universities are particularly rich in a lay professoriate with all the required training, skills, and brains.)
The current literature on the subject published in the U.S. offers us only amateur efforts, at best. Without a sober, professional, coherent assessment -- an assessment that weighs the data offered by the sedes and the recognize-and-resisters -- we don't have the basis upon which to form a solid probable opinion about the status of the conciliar popes. Until we have a reputable, expert, historically centered analysis of the question of a heretical pope who has not been formally condemned by the Church, then all we can say is that Vatican II is evil and not condemn others who share that belief but hold a differing interpretation.
We don't expect this necessary work to begin until after European and/or South American academics complete their demonstration that Vatican II represents a rupture from the past. In the meantime, let every traditional Catholic practice his faith according to his conscience without self-interested fatwās from the badly educated Mad Mullahs of Tradistan, who hold no monopoly on the truth.