The Capuchin Fr Thomas Weinandy, last Warden of Greyfriars in this University, who, last year, issued a fine critique of the current pontificate, has returned to the fray (lecture, Sidney, February 24, Settimo Cielo 22 February). The emphases in the short extract which follows are my own.
After discussing the ecclesiology clearly expressed in the Epistles of S Ignatius, Fr Tom writes:
"Ignatius may have been in the envious position of never having encountered a heretical bishop, but if he ever did chance upon one, he would have had a ready response at hand. He would clearly have argued ... [that were] a bishop to espouse heretical teaching, whether concerning doctrine, morals or pastoral and sacramental practice which bears upon doctrine and morals ... such a bishop no longer was in union with the catholic ecclesial community for he no longer professed the one apostolic faith of the Church and thus rendered himself incapable of exercising fully his office as bishop. He could no longer teach and govern as an authentic successor of the Apostles, nor could he preside over the eucharistic liturgy in a manner that bore witness to and enriched the oneness of the holy catholic Church. Simply put, such a heretical bishop would no longer bear within himself as a bishop the four defining marks of the Church and, therefore, he could no longer justifiably act as an ecclesial member within the Church. He may continue to act outside the Church, or even within the Church, but his actions would lack a genuine ecclesial character, for the essential and indispensable four marks of the Church would be absent within his specious ministry. Such, I believe, would be Ignatius' rejoinder to a heretical bishop. And an argument I similarly employ in the face of our contemporary ecclesial crisis."
Frankly, this is the closest a mainstream writer, commenting on the legacy of Amoris laetitia, has, to my knowledge, come to expressing an attitude which could appear to a hasty or incautious reader to be tending towards Sedevacantism. (The words I have highlighted apply, of course, to the occupant of the Roman See just as much as they do to the Bishop of any other Particular Church. Just because the Roman Church is the Mother and Mistress of all the Churches, she does not cease herself to be a Particular Church, equipped with a bishop.)
But Weinandy's argument is most certainly not Sedevacantist. Far from it.
Fr Weinandy is in fact arguing in a way very close to that of Blessed John Henry Newman when he discussed the Arian Crisis. Newman used phrases like suspense of the Magisterium, that is, of the teaching Office within the Church. He did not claim that the Pope or the other errant bishops had by heresy ceased to be occupants of their sees; and neither does Fr Weinandy. Newman held that their status was unchanged and that their Magisterium remained intact, de jure in full force; but that de facto ... as a matter of real-world fact ... they had ceased to employ it and to discharge its functions. In such a situation, as Weinandy mercilessly but (I very much fear) accurately puts it, the actions of their 'specious' ministry 'lack a genuine ecclesial character'.
It may seem to some readers difficult to imagine how this conclusion can lack practical consequences, but I am completely unqualified to spell such details out.
In the unprecedented crisis currently facing the Church Militant, I believe we need appropriate terminology to describe a complex situation. Otherwise, there is the risk that good people, souls for whom Christ died, who have already suffered enough under this cruel pontificate, may be driven into the snares laid by Sedevacantism.
And I believe that Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman has supplied that terminology, and given it the authority of his own reputation.
And we are indebted to Fr Weinandy for again advancing theological dialogue about the current crisis.
NOTES: Additionally, of course, the name of Newman (combined with the mantra 'Development') springs to the lips of the Bergoglians whenever they reach for some specious and gauzy drapes wherewith to conceal their libido nuda innovandi.
Later today, a little more on Newman's teaching.