People tend to have the idea that Catholics are a monolithic, and largely conservative, entity. And they are totally not – there are all sorts of little groups mixed in there, like the religious orders you’ve heard of (Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits like Pope Francis) and lots of other little zany fringe groups, ranging from the super-liberal group that made Sinead O’Connor a priest to super-conservative groups with conspiracy theories that would make Dan Brown say “….dude. Y’all gotta calm down.”
One group – which is actually pretty big – is the Sedevacantists. Sedevacantism was founded in the wake of Vatican II, the series of papal-sponsored conferences meant to modernize the Catholic church a little. A lot of the old Catholic traditions – fast days, meatless Fridays, speaking the Mass in Latin – were relaxed, or wholly done away with.
It is human nature, though, that whenever any group of people makes a huge change, there are people who preferred things the way they were before. “Traditionalist Catholics” reserved the right to keep the old customs; and as far as the Vatican was concerned, no problem. If there’s a parish somewhere where there’s enough call for a Latin Mass at noon on Sundays, after the English one in the morning, and the priest knows Latin, then great. Traditionalist Catholics still aren’t crazy about the changes to the church, but they’re sort of grumbling to themselves about them.
The Sedevacantists, meanwhile, go beyond simply grumbling. The term comes from the Latin sede vacante, or “empty seat” – and refers to the Sedevacantist position that Pope John XXIII’s even calling for the Second Vatican Council made him a heretic, and therefore none of the popes that have come after him since 1963 have counted. As far as they’re concerned, the Papacy has just been empty all this time. A couple of small parishes have gone a step further and elected their own popes; there’s one guy in Oklahoma City, Pope Michael, who was canonized by his parents in 1990. (I am not making this up.)
…I say all of this to describe the strange sort of shrugging disregard I find that I’m giving to the election now. Not that I am shrugging about the whole thing – I’m writing a couple of activism letters, I’m looking into volunteering at a writing program here in the city, and my friend Sue is talking me into going to the women’s March on Washington in January. But the reason I’m doing all of that is…because I’ve just decided to disregard the existence of the President altogether. I have to step up and take action to protect people because the Oval Office will be an empy office for four years.