"We're vindicated," Say Sedevacantists.
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SSPX Refuses to Acknowledge Pope's Death
Not bound by Vatican rulings, says Bishop.
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Little-Known Papal Claimant Calls for Unity
Excommunicates SSPX and Sedevacantists
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Observers Wonder if Church Can
Survive Total Loss of Membership
(NOTZENIT) -- The world of the Roman Catholic faithful has been rocked by the death of John Paul II, who some observers say was holding the Church together with public-relations smoke and mirrors.
Citing differences of doctrine, culture, and discipline, officials of the Society of St. Pius X have refused to acknowledge the death of Pope John Paul II, opening the possibility that the group's separation from the mainline Roman Catholic Church will continue.
"There is no prudent reason to believe that Pope John Paul II has died," reportedly remarked Bishop Vorhang als Heib, Superior General of the SSPX, which broke away form the mainline Catholic Church in the 1970s. Society members believe that after the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church became too liberal in its theological views.
"Sacred Catholic tradition requires that the death of a Pope be verified by tapping his forehead three times with a silver mallet and calling out his baptismal name," said an adviser close to Heib. "That practice, like everything which is an unalterable part of the true Gospel, was abandoned by the Church after the Second Vatican Council."
Without the mallet-tapping, he said, "true Catholics cannot be sure the Pope is dead."
The official, speaking from the Society's headquarters at Schloss Speckandegg, Switzerland, noted that while John Paul II had received the last rites, such rites can't prove that he died, or was even gravely ill. "Under the new Novus Ordo religion," he said,"the so-called ‘last rites' can be given to anyone who is ill, even with a head cold!"
Asked about the apparent contradiction in the Society's stance formed by reports of a state funeral for the Pope, including the public viewing of his body in the Vatican palace, Society spokesmen declined to comment.
"Things can be made to appear which are not, in fact, the case," said one close adviser to the Society's leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "After all, John Paul II had the appearance of being our Pope since the Society's founding."
Society leaders vowed to continue opposition to Pope John Paul II's pontificate. His policies were controversial for many Catholics who felt the Church was deviating from traditional norms and becoming too modern.
"We can't allow false quibbles to impede our loyalty to the true religion," said the SSPX official. "Facts are facts. It is a fact that the Catholic Church is in disarray, riven with modernism, and that only the Society's clear vision of the faith can save her."
Other ultra-traditionalists, however, disagree with the Society's position. On Tuesday the Sedevacantist movement met for a special mass to pray for the election of a "devout pope, who will defend the faith."
In the company of breakaway Bishop Thuc U, the Temporary Rotating Ad Hoc Chairman of the Very Loose Association of Sedevacantists, worshipers met in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, formerly a JC Penney store in the Billington Heights Mall in Sedona, California. The congregation listened enthusiastically as Bishop Thuc lectured on the current state of affairs.
"The Vatican's bureaucrats have at last admitted," said Bishop Thuc, "that we have been right all along, that the See of Peter is vacant." Sedevacantists take their name from two Latin words meaning that the seat of Peter is unoccupied and that there is no present pope. Thuc's remarks generated a round of applause from the crowd, estimated to be at least nineteen people, many of them unaware that the JC Penney had closed its doors.
Thuc, 198, also said that the upcoming papal election will likely not produce a true pope who would gain a following in the Sedevacantist movement. "An article of faith it is," he said, "that the Church is sede vacante, without a Pope. Facts are facts. Allow theological quibbles about mallet-tapping to obscure the truth, we cannot. The Church in disarray is, only the clear vision of those wise enough to tell that there is no Pope can save her. Thinking of saved Church, brings warm feelings to my heart."
Both groups, however, have rejected an appeal from a current claimant of the papal throne for unity. Elected Pope in a conclave held by his parents, a John Deere service technician, and some prison pen-pals, Michael I recently exhorted both the Society of St. Pius X and the VLAS to accept him as Pope.
"With the death of the usurper calling himself John Paul II, the path is clear, my young Padwans," said Michael, addressing a lawn-jockey via portable loudspeaker on the outskirts of Delia, Kansas. "Facts are facts. We can't allow theological quibbles about mallett-tapping or catalogue stores to obscure the truth, that the Church is in disarray and only I can save her! I do not take this action lightly. I love the Church. I love orthodoxy. Rest assured that the power you give me I will lay down when this crisis is over."
His call was rejected by leaders of both groups. "We cannot, as faithful Catholics, be certain that John Paul II is dead," said als Heib, "we certainly cannot take seriously a man who is not only not dead, but who calls his followers ‘Padwans,' which is a language unknown to Tradition and more in keeping with the New-Age paganism of the current Pope."
Bishop Thuc U, who was reportedly last seen near the Orange Julius kiosk, could not be found for comment. Several persons claiming to be temporary associates of VLAS, however, confirmed that they disagreed with one another and would not submit to the "yoke of a Sedevacantist Pope."
Informed observers say that the divisions between groups are representative of the Catholic Church's amazing decline over the past few years.
"The disintegration of the Church is apparent, and due primarily to the Church's refusal to accept estrogen as proper matter for the Eucharist," said Church expert Fr. Richard McCryin of Notre Lame University.
Fr. Andrew Weesly, another Church expert, traced the Church's impending death to its primitive sexual taboos and rigid authoritarian structure.
"No Catholic can doubt that the Church was constituted by Jesus Christ," he said, "but if we are to have a Church in future we must question whether Jesus Christ was as smart as He's made out to be by disciplinarian bishops hand-picked for their unswerving loyalty to primitive sexual taboos."
The controversy comes at a time when the Catholic Church is experiencing a constant trickle, stream, river, torrent, apocalyptic tidal-wave of disaffection among everyone. No one in the world thinks Church teaching is relevant to their lives, and many believe that the recent sex-scandals involving every Catholic priest and every Catholic child in every parish in every part of the world have seriously weakened the Church's ability to hold the attention of a methamphetamine addict with ADD, let alone serve as the moral focus of modern, right-thinking society.
"It's time for change," said Mike Emetic, spokesperson for Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization representing the views of nearly every Catholic layman in the world. "We've had enough of Bishops, Popes, and all that medieval stuff. It caused the sex-abuse scandal. The sex abuse scandal. Did I mention it caused the sex-abuse scandal? Why isn't estrogen part of the Eucharist? Isn't it time we joined the twenty-first century? Why can't we be more like mainline Protestant denominations? They have an entirely neutered and decadent leadership, and their membership is growing daily."
A key indicator of the crisis' severity is Rome's inability to effectively reach out to Catholics at the membership level. The Church hierarchy seems increasingly out of touch and unwilling to address members' concerns.
A call placed by this reporter to the Vatican at 8:00 o'clock p.m. local time went unanswered for several minutes. Finally a Vatican spokesman identifying himself as Guido Albignoni was reached. After admiting to being a high-ranking part of the Vatican staff, Albignoni hastily terminated the interview when questioned about the Church's unwillingness to ordain transgendered hamsters to the priesthood.
"They all gone, cheerin' a new pappa," he claimed, "I gotta get the crew. Gonna be lots of paper and such out in'a da Santo Petro square. No time for you, fella."
Only time will tell if the Catholic Church can recover her former prestige and influence.