How can the “four camps” in the Church be reconciled? 

Today at Crisis (aptly named) editor Eric Sammons argues that there are four camps (roughly speaking) in the Church today – perhaps the Latin Church in the Northern Hemisphere.  Can they be reconciled?  Do they constitute different religions?

The core:

In summary: the hyperpapalists want a Catholicism that is only the current pope; the sedevacantists want a Catholicism that only has a perfect pope; the liberals want a Catholicism where the zeitgeist is the pope; and the restorationists want a Catholicism that includes all the popes, past and present.

How can these four camps be reconciled? To be blunt, they can’t. They are, in practice, four different religions, currently contained within one visible Church. When the very rule of faith is different, then so is the religion. This is a situation that cannot hold; eventually, the veneer of unity will wear thin and disappear. And, if we are being honest, none of the above camps can exist for the long-term.

Go and have a look.

Is he right?

Frankly, I think, as you know, that as the demographic sinkhole opens under the Church there will be a few strong currents left which will have to co-mingle: charismatics (who aren’t like charismatics used to be), converts from Evangelical communities and others with zeal, and “trads” or “restorationists”.  They will overlap.  I know former/present charismatics strongly attached to the TLM.  The same with converts.

There will be frictions, but there will also be a co-mingling, out of which something really interesting – and genuinely Catholic – will develop.

It will not include hyperpapalism.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Adam Piggott says:

    “the sedevacantists want a Catholicism that only has a perfect pope”

    Incorrect. Sedevacantists want a Catholicism that has an actual valid pope.

    Perfection is found in God only.

  2. Bthompson says:

    Camps 1-3 are facially absurd.
    2 and 3 more than 1, though. 2 and 3 are essentially not even Catholic in the first place.

    Restorationism or continuity is the one that makes sense and can ultimately withstand honest and sane scrutiny, sure, but I could see hyperpapalism at least making a halfway cogent argument before it is revealed as vacuous and untenable. They would claim the Holy Spirit actively leads the Church where he wants, and thus current leadership should be deferred to here and now; past teachings were binding and good in their time, but this is not that time. That’s nonsense, of course, but is an idea that must be confronted seriously before it is dismantled and discarded (and what little truth and insight it had salvaged).

  3. APX says:

    Can’t I just be Catholic? Why do I have to be part of a camp?

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    What will happen is what happened in mainline Protestantism — the institutionalists will wind up with the property. This isn’t a problem when the institutionalists are orthodox but is when they are not. While this begs the question of “who really should have the property?”, it is a distraction from orthodox Catholics not having the property at the current moment and making no real moves to insure that the property is in their hands.

    One of the things that needs to happen for the various orthodox groups to merge is that they need to focus on local issues and not be distracted by things going on in high places beyond their control. No one is paying attention to what is going on in the local chancery, what shenanigans the local presbytery council is up to, or what the local bishop is preaching. If we are all distracted by things out of our control, there will be just bickering and strife, but if the focus is on things in our control, then there can be discussion and brotherly charity and working towards a shared goal.

  5. Vir Qui Timet Dominum says:

    “ liberals want a Catholicism where the zeitgeist is the pope” and “ the hyperpapalists want a Catholicism that is only the current pope” seem to me to be the exact same thing.

  6. summorumpontificum777 says:

    APX: “Can’t I just be Catholic? Why do I have to be part of a camp?”

    Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you.”

  7. jwcraig11 says:

    “The restorationists want a Catholicism that includes all the popes, past and present”

    No, only all the popes through Pius XII. [NO! This is 100% wrong.]

  8. APX says:

    So far my Diocese wants to start the 40 Hour Adoration Devotion throughout the Diocese to pray for vocations and our Latin Mass is still going strong. The parish we share with now has a pastor assigned who actually likes us and makes us feel welcome. Even referred to the Latin Mass as “the venerable traditional Latin Mass.”

  9. tm117 says:

    We have one of the greatest tools for getting organized in the history of mankind…the internet. It is time for orthodox Catholics to stop playing along with heretics. The game is rigged.

    We need to begin organizing among ourselves and preparing for being outside of the legal diocesan structure in most places. We will lose/have lost control the churches and cathedrals…so our descendants will build new ones, or purchase the old ones after the mainstream church collapses in a century or so.

    Most bishops do not like orthodox Catholics, some do. Promote/support those that do and ignore those who don’t. This includes the current bishop of Rome. If they do not want us, kick the dust off and move on.

    It is time to quit wasting time and start building again. We want the Catholic faith. We want the Catholic sacraments. Do whatever it takes to get them, even if those who control the institutions hate you for it. Even if it means going outside of the regular paths, if necessary. We have nothing else to lose.

  10. TheCavalierHatherly says:


    “Can’t I just be Catholic? Why do I have to be part of a camp?”

    If you’re in a Diocese that permits this, consider yourself lucky. Thank God for it daily.

    And remember that many of our brethren are not so felicitous.

  11. Christina D says:

    I’m not sure that I’d categorize things quite as Mr. Sammons did, but he makes some good observations. What you said about co-mingling is certainly happening among people I know. There is a pool of strongly faithful Catholics who don’t like liturgical innovation/abuse, find the current pontiff problematic, and recognize there is a crisis in the church. Many of them are at least somewhat friendly towards the TLM, and if it were imposed on them tomorrow, they wouldn’t complain much. That pool of people is growing larger every year.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    APX says: “Can’t I just be Catholic? Why do I have to be part of a camp?”

    I agree 110%.

  13. ProfessorCover says:

    Like most articles that divide people into asinine groups, the author presents no evidence that these distinct groups actually exist. Personally, I am in the group that wants the Pope to be irrelevant—this only happens when he sees his job as maintaining the deposit of faith handed to us by the Apostles. The more it matters who the Pope is, the worse things are.

  14. Cornelius says:

    “the sedevacantists want a Catholicism that only has a perfect pope”

    Adam Piggot is right, this is a caricature of Sedevacantists and it is both unjust and uncharitable. Sedes want a Pope who defends and propagates the faith of our Fathers, the millennia-old faith.

    The Sedes are always the ones we feel we can slander and abuse with impunity. Instead of Catholics deeply wounded by the post-VII aberrations, we see kooks and nuts. Shame on us, and shame on Eric Sammons.

  15. TonyO says:

    “the sedevacantists want a Catholicism that only has a perfect pope”

    As with Cornelius, I think this is false: In principle, Sedes started out wanting a pope who is not a heretic. That goal would be easy to mark and fairly easy to actually get, as long as you have popes who never say ANYTHING the least bit controversial, i.e. who repeat (verbatim) only what what popes at least 200 years ago said, or what a Council said. But of course popes don’t (and shouldn’t) limit themselves strictly to what is completely uncontroversial – Pope Peter sure didn’t. Under the reign of modernism in the seminaries and in the priesthood, (which started WELL before VII), it was almost inevitable that popes would get to saying things that sounded weird.

    and the restorationists want a Catholicism that includes all the popes, past and present.

    This is a poor way of encapsulating the restorationists. Focusing on “wanting all the popes” is not the point, and it is immaterial to their real desires. They want the pope and the bishops to teach what “the Church” has always taught.

    Those who lean toward Sedes in theory and restorationists could end up aligned if it were possible for the Church rule (officially, directly, and explicitly, at an ecumenical council, with a solemn definition) on the theories about whether a pope can teach heresy outside of ex cathedra teaching. Unfortunately, with modernist popes and bishops, no such event is possible.

    Finally, Sammons wrongly lumps the restorationists in with the others as if it were “a movement” that also must pass away. When (not if) the restorationists get what they have been praying for, they WILL BE the mainstream Church (as they were before), and they will not be “resist[ing] the current direction of the highest officials in the Church” nor ” still battling with the hierarchy over the same issues as today”, and casting them as if their essence resides in “resisting” is just wrong. The notion that they must stop resisting at some point or other EVEN IF the hierarchy is still just as wrong as now is nutty. Sammons has over-wound his hypotheses into silliness, there.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear Cornelius,

    Sedes want a Pope who defends and propagates the faith of our Fathers, the millennia-old faith.

    The thing is that while they are right in wishing for such a Pope, they are just wrong about whether a Pope who (let’s grant for the sake of the argument) doesn’t fall into the category is still Pope. He is.

    Also, they historically tend to be confused about what constitutes “the faith of our Fathers, the millenia-old faith”. (Has anyone ever seen a sedevacantist for whom the supposed vacancy begins on February 28th, 2013? Note that the, equally demonstrably bogus, claim that Pope Benedict were still Pope does not even fall under the definition of “sedevacantist”.) The inherited liturgy, however wrong it was for Pope St. Paul VI to try to ban it in favor of the new one created on his direction (and it was very wrong), is not “the faith”.

    The Sedes are always the ones we feel we can slander and abuse with impunity.

    It’s not slander to point out that people are wrong, and it’s only natural to do so with particular vehemence when it concerns the error which is perhaps nearest to the side of truth and which we ourselves would be most in danger of falling to*, but which is still erroneous.

    And certainly nothing to be ashamed for.

    [* Though not, I believe, me personally – for the same reason which made James Joyce reply to the woman who complimented him on becoming Anglican when she had heard he had fallen from Catholicism: “Madam, I have lost my faith, but I have not lost my reason.”]

  17. JonPatrick says:

    I guess I’m a little confused about hyperpapalists. If say the current pope dies and is replaced by Pope Leo XIV who banishes the Novus Ordo, decrees all masses must be in Latin and ad Orientem using the pre 1955 liturgy, do these hyperpapalists then say Rome has spoken and immediately change their beliefs to support the new Pope, or do they continue to believe in what Pope Francis teaches which would essentially make them the same as the liberals?

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Actually, the situation is a tad bit more complicated, as there are at least five subdivisions. The person who has done the most experimental study on what differences emerge between liberals and conservatives regarding morality (let’s face it, this is the spectrum Sammons is talking obliquely referencing) is the psychologist, Johnathan Haidt. His TED talk is a useful starting point:

    The Chicken

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