After spending some time watching several on-line videos (debates, interviews, and sermons) from so-called “sedevacantist” Roman Catholics I am again reminded how the devil works to destroy Christ’s Church by division and isolation. For those unfamiliar with what sedevacantism is, it is the teaching that the Papal See and throne (The Office of the Pope) is vacant and is only being occupied by a non-legitimate anti-pope. Sedevacantists believe that the last legitimate Godly Pope was Pius XII (1939 - 1958). They seriously and rigorously maintain that John XXIII (1958 - 1963), Paul VI (1963 - 1978), John-Paul I (1978), John-Paul II (1978 - 2005), and Benedict XVI (2005 - ) are all anti-popes.
Without going any further into their theology and historical reasonings, I do understand (and to a real degree--sympathize with) the ordered logic of their position as well as the passionate heart-felt betrayal they feel over the loss of pre-Vatican II Romanism and the centuries old Latin Mass. It is tantamount, at some level, to the feelings we traditionalist Lutherans have when the Common Service (centuries old itself) is jetisoned for banal and protestant contempary worship and Arminian gimicks.
But looking at the tragedy of these ad hominem attacks on Rome and the American Curia, not to mention the constant internecine warfare between competing sedevacantist camps, Lutheranism’s own history of breakaway micro-synods is both charming and positively cozy. We may have our Herman Ottens, Jack Casciones, one-man parishes (for infallibly pure pastors sometimes even ex-communicate their wives for doctrinal slackness :) ) cyber bully-bloggers and chat-groups, that split and fissure so often into tinier factions that to call them sectarian is almost an insult to sectarians, but we've got nothing like some of the nut-jobs one can find over at YouTube calling Pope Benedict "rat man," heretic, and bastard.
One of the things that struck me most (which I already knew) was that in the arguments and attacks, almost ALL the supporting documentation and evidence comes from Roman Canon Law. Appeals to history and tradition too are ubiquitous while appeals to Holy Scripture are slim to none. The Church of the West in its Roman Catholic persona, even down to its own dissenters and sedevacantists, remains ever a church of Scholasticism, Aristotelianism, and monarchial corporatism. If one thought "wading through" the CTCR and CCM opinions of the LCMS was tough sledding, try listening to two logomaticians quibbling over 500 years of arcane Romanist Canon Law. Our synodical constitution and bylaws would be a mere prefatory paragraph in the CFR-sized (Code of Federal Regulations of the US) library of Canon Law. Aquinas himself is almost a tad too laconic and terse when compared to the volumes and volumes Romanists take refuge in during their disputations.
And if Rome, at least the public and official Rome of Pope Benedict XVI, can’t have peace and harmony with its own scattered groups of “traditionalists” what hope is there that an eventual rapprochement between Rome and Wittenberg could ever be accomplished. What hope is there that even the warring camps within the LC-MS itself will ever come to true concord and consensus? Rejecting all authority and true Biblical models of episcopal conciliarity; dividing, splitting away, and forming ever more tiny conclaves seems to be the way of nature. And for us, that nature is “Old Adam” sinful and unclean.
While “small” is not bad, indeed, too large fosters the very conditions which led and bred the hydra-headed Roman medieval church. The larger a group of believers becomes, the greater the temptation to “ape” and mimic large secular institutions, be they Constantine’s Court, the Pentagon, or the Coca Cola boardroom.
I have no answers of my own other than the Holy Word of God and the interceding power of the Paraclete to guide us into the mind and heart of The God made flesh. Jesus’ own high priestly prayer [Jn. 17. 1-26] is our sanctified reality when we cling to Him and Him alone for all our unity and community. The family model of brothers and sisters in loving service to each other; gathered around the family table in obedience to the loving Father, is to be our aspiration...NOT a socio-political religious nation-state with flow charts and lawyers (always busy "incorporating" and trade-marking this or that).
And I am truly gratified, giving thanks to God, that, our own smaller American synods (WELS, ELS, ELDoNA and others) are shining paragons of civility and charity towards both the Missourians (who they do see as “errorists”) and even the protestants when compared to the bile and vitriol exhibited by so many traditionalist Roman Catholics.
The devil’s lie (“did God say?”) and its progeny may have been a cluster-bomb at the heart of Edenic organic unity - - forever blowing apart the total united family of faith, at least this side of the Parsousia; but The Word and the Sacrament of Christ Jesus remains now and forever the only salvific solution—the magnetic lodestone of Truth and Righteousness which pulls all of His predestined and elect Saints to the altar, pulpit, font, and Table of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.