Sede Vacantism: An Attack On the Church’s Authority Principle, by Dr. Jeff Mirus

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Guide to Turning Away from False Goods & False Gods, by Dr. Kevin Vost
November 22, 2019
Abp Viganò Decries Pope-Approved Plan to Build ‘Abrahamic’ Religious Site With Muslims, Jews, by Diane Montagna 
November 22, 2019

By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, Nov 21, 2019

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

Sede vacantism is the theory that the See of Peter is vacant, and that this explains current problems in the papacy and the Church. The attraction of the theory is that it relieves us of the burden of obedience to the alleged pope, who (according to the theory) is not really a pope at all.

I thought I had treated this thoroughly in the past, but when I looked back, I found I had only touched the surface of the problem in my 2013 essay, Sede Vacantism: A Conspiracy to Waste Your Time. Since the theory has cropped up again in certain circles—for the fifth time in my lifetime alone!—perhaps I should apply the coup de grace. For not only is sede vacantism a theory typically advanced with genuinely foolish arguments (which was my main point 2013) but it also strikes a serious blow against what makes the Catholic Church special. It attacks what we call the Authority Principle.

The Principle of Authority in Religion

The question of spiritual authority plagues (or ought to plague) all religions. In the first place, the problem of authority causes intelligent observers to reject immediately the reliability of any religion which does not claim to be revealed by God. If we confine ourselves, then, to those religions which do claim to be revealed by God, we run into a second problem with authority. Even if the initiating Revelation is credible—that is, attested by signs and wonders that can come only from God—how do we know that the religion or church which claims to carry on this revelation can be trusted to elucidate and interpret it correctly over time? ….