If we are going to take the Church seriously as an authority (and if we are not, then we are certainly wasting our time), then we must take the whole Church and not pick and choose certain parts as it pleases us. Now this seems easy in principle—but what happens when we come up against an apparent contradiction in the tradition itself? What happens if the Church seems to “change its mind” or becomes “a house divided against itself?” Does this not force us to choose between one part of the church against another, whether we have in mind sects or historical periods? Such a situation is difficult, but it is the position of this book that no such contradictions exist in actuality, allowing the reader to rest knowing that he is not faced with a conundrum of this magnitude.
Controversy has arisen in the history of the Church—we should not be surprised at this, for it is said that scandal must come—and these controversies demand explanation, especially since certain groups have used these moments of discord to divide the flock. The most recent controversy of this type is the debate surrounding the Second Vatican Council (“Vatican II”). Because of this controversy, any study of CST that tries to ignore the disagreements which followed Vatican II will doom its readers to confusion and frustration. We would not wish this trouble upon our readers, and so we will reconcile this debate without pausing on it any longer than is necessary. We will show that the division in question is only apparent, that the Tradition of the Church remains intact, and that the reader need not choose between the Church of Yesterday and the Church of Tomorrow, but can be at peace within the Church Eternal.
Admittedly the debates surrounding the Second Vatican Council have been the greatest threat to Catholic unity in the last century. Those who participate in the battle tend to take one of two positions which are, in our opinion, equally superficial: either Vatican II was an illegitimate compromise with the modernist heresy, and therefore all post-conciliar popes are “pretenders” and heretics themselves; or else the Council represents a “coming around” of the Church to modern ways, which it had until then been obstinately and wrongly opposed.
Both of these views share one thing, and that is a pessimistic attitude toward the Church as a competent authority. Both believe that Vatican II represents a departure from and a rejection of the previous teachings of the Church. They only differ on whether or not the change was good or bad.
Moreover, both positions foster division. The first view requires the believer to stand against the Church as he finds it today, while the second requires the believer to stand against the Church as it was for a thousand years prior. This is why, although we may find respectable persons on either side of this debate, we ought to have no respect at all for the debate itself. In what follows, we will attempt to guide the reader around this tangled mess so that he can avoid such an unnecessary snare.
 Mt 12:25
 Mt 18:7.
 This is the position of the “sedevacantists,” whose name derives from the Latin sede vacante which means “the seat is vacant.” The sedevacantists usually insist that the last legitimate pope was Pius XII, and that the seat has been vacant since his death in 1958.