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Not Just Wicked Shepherds but a Heretical Church: A Sedevacantist Reply to Joshua Charles

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Critical review of “The Catholic Response to Corrupt Cardinals”

Not Just Wicked Shepherds but a Heretical Church:
A Sedevacantist Reply to Joshua Charles

On May 31, 2022, an article appeared on One Peter Five entitled “The Catholic Response to Corrupt Cardinals”. Its author is Joshua Charles, who, according to his biographical note, is a convert from Protestantism.

Given that it is published on a web site that is well-known for its firm adherence to and promotion of the recognize-and-resist position — Eric Sammons, Kennedy Hall, and Peter Kwasniewski are contributing editors at One Peter Five, and T. S. Flanders is the editor-in-chief — it is reasonable to assume that Charles takes the same position.

In fact, he seems to confirm that he does in several of his paragraphs, yet while at the same time also offering ideas inconsistent with that:

One of the most common objections against the Catholic Church is that it is corrupt and full of wicked shepherds. This supposedly justified the Protestant revolt, and people leaving the Church to this day. Whether through immoral living, or teaching bad doctrine, the Catholic Church may have been the original “mother church,” but it is now hopelessly corrupt, and the only way to respond to this problem is to separate from it.

Our Lord predicted false prophets who would come in like wolves (Mt. 7:15), and they would deceive many, even (if possible) the elect (Mt. 24:24). St. Paul prophesied there would be heresies that would arise among Christians in order to prove those who were genuine (I. Cor. 11:19). He warned that wolves would infiltrate the flock (Acts 20:29), and that many will follow teachers who suit their own likings (II Tim. 4:3-4).

…But just as unfaithful Israelites did not make Israel any less Israel, unfaithful Catholics do not make the Catholic Church any less the one true Church established by Christ. Scripture makes abundantly clear there is only one Body of Christ—which is the Church—and there is only one Church preaching only one Faith [??].

(underlining added)

The most serious problem the Vatican II Church has is not that of corrupt or otherwise immoral clergy; it is that of having a false magisterium.

The doctrines, laws, worship, sacramental rites, and canonized saints of the Vatican II Church are tainted by heresy or other pernicious error, impiety, blasphemy, sacrilege, and other things harmful to souls and detrimental to God’s glory. By divine law, that is impossible, because the Catholic Church has been founded as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and Ark of Salvation, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

Even if the Pope — any true Pope — were the most wicked man alive, the divine assistance God has promised to His Church would never allow him to pervert the Church’s magisterium, invalidate the sacraments, impose impious laws, or declare public sinners as Catholic saints to be venerated by the faithful. In short, it would be impossible for him to turn the Ark of Salvation into an ark of damnation:

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

(Pope Pius XII, Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

…Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members. Certainly the loving Mother is spotless in the Sacraments, by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary graces through which, with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors. But it cannot be laid to her charge if some members fall, weak or wounded.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 66; underlining added.)

This is not just a pious belief; it is Catholic dogma and confirmed by Church history. In fact, it is particularly evident in the case of Pope John XII (r. 955-963), perhaps the worst of all the bad Popes:

Nothing in his life marked him for this office, and everything should have kept him from it. He was rarely seen in church. His days and nights were spent in the company of young men and of disreputable women, in the pleasures of the table and of amusements and of the hunt, or in even more sinful sensual enjoyments. It is related that sometimes, in the midst of dissolute revelry, the prince had been seen to drink to the health of the devil. Raised to the papal office, Octavian changed his name and took the name of John XII. He was the first pope thus to assume a new name. But his new dignity brought about no change in his morals, and merely added the guilt of sacrilege.

Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy. There is not a heretic or a schismatic who has not endeavored to legitimate his own conduct dogmatically: Photius tried to justify his pride, Luther his sensual passions, Calvin his cold cruelty. Neither Sergius III nor John XII nor Benedict IX nor Alexander VI, supreme pontiffs, definers of the faith, certain of being heard and obeyed by the whole Church, uttered, from the height of their apostolic pulpit, a single word that could be an approval of their disorders.

At times John XII even became the defender of the threatened social order, of offended canon law, and of the religious life exposed to danger.

(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, Vol. 3 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], pp. 510-511; underlining added.)

There is, then, all the difference in the world between a Catholic who is a great sinner, and a public Non-Catholic:

Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. It is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 23; underlining added.)

A Pope need not be holy to be a true Pope; but he must be a Catholic. That is, even though his soul does not have to be in the state of sanctifying grace for him to be the Church’s genuine Supreme Pontiff, he certainly must be a member of the Church, and this membership requires him to profess the true Catholic Faith: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed” (Mystici Corporis, n. 22).

That is what distinguishes the Vatican II Church from the Catholic Church: It does not teach the Catholic Faith but a hodgepodge of Modernism, indifferentism, liberalism, Gallicanism, and Protestantism. It imposes impious laws. It perverts the worship of God. It corrupts the Sacred Liturgy, to the point that some of its sacramental rites are downright invalid. It solemnly declares unworthy men and women to have been saints with heroic virtue (perhaps the most egregious example is “Saint” Paul VI).

In short: In its official acts — regardless of the personal holiness of its clergy — the Vatican II Church leads souls to spiritual ruin.

Ironically, Charles refutes himself at the very end of his write-up, where he quotes St. Augustine (Epistle 208) as follows:

In order, therefore, that we may remain in the unity of the faith, and not, stumbling at the offenses occasioned by the chaff, desert the threshing-floor of the Lord, but rather remain as wheat till the final winnowing, [Matt. 3:12] and by the love which imparts stability to us bear with the beaten straw, our great Shepherd in the gospel admonishes us concerning the good shepherds, that we should not, on account of their good works, place our hope in them, but glorify our heavenly Father for making them such; and concerning the bad shepherds (whom He designed to point out under the name of Scribes and Pharisees), He reminds us that they teach that which is good though they do that which is evil. [Matt. 3:12]…

(underlining added)

That is precisely the point: The Catholic Church may have countless great sinners among her ranks, but she will always teach the true doctrine, not “bad doctrine”, as Charles called it at the beginning of his article. Does the Vatican II Church teach true doctrine? If so, what is there to “resist”? And if not, how is this church to be distinguished from any other sect that teaches false doctrine?

Our latest podcast, TRADCAST EXPRESS 155, contains a critique of Joshua Charles’ “The Catholic Response to Corrupt Cardinals” that explores these issues in greater depth. You can listen to it here (the podcast also includes other topics, but the critical review of Charles begins at the 3:50 mark):

The problem, then, is not one of corrupt cardinals or a corrupt Pope. It is that of a heretical church, a false church with a non-Catholic magisterium.

The fact that Joshua Charles does not take this fundamental and utterly crucial distinction into consideration, vitiates his entire essay.

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