Does “Universal Acceptance” Guarantee a True Pope?
Posted by John Defensor
In the following quotation, Msgr. Van Noort further explains the infallibility of dogmatic facts. He also explains that the infallibility of dogmatic facts is qualified as “theologically certain.” Those who depart from tradition by rejecting a doctrine that is qualified as theologically certain are guilty of a mortal sin
“Assertion 2: The Church’s infallibility extends to dogmatic facts. This proposition is theologically certain. A dogmatic fact is a fact not contained in the sources of revelation, [but] on the admission of which depends the knowledge or certainty of a dogma or of a revealed truth. The following questions are concerned with dogmatic facts: ‘Was the [First] Vatican Council a legitimate ecumenical council? Is the Latin Vulgate a substantially faithful translation of the original books of the Bible? Was [past tense] Pius XII legitimately elected Bishop of Rome? One can readily see that on these facts hang the questions of whether the decrees of the [First] Vatican Council are infallible, whether the Vulgate is truly Sacred Scripture, whether Pius XII is to be [present tense] recognized as supreme ruler of the universal Church.” (Christ’s Church, p. 112)
What they omit two pages later is telling. From Van Noort, “Of course whatever the Church declares directly must be maintained by everyone, e.g., that the Vulgate contains the Word of God; that Pius XII is the head of the Church;that the doctrine of this or that book is heretical. It arrived at these decisions in the following manner: every faithful translation of the inspired books contains the words of God; but the Vulgate is a faithful translation; therefore…Anyone legitimately elected bishop of Rome is the head of the Church; but Pius XII was legitimately elected; therefore…Any book containing this doctrine is heretical; but such and such a book contains this doctrine; therefore…” (See Christ’s Church, pg. 114; Ellipses in original). The dogmatic fact is deduced through a true reasoning process.
There is a true revealed major premise: “Anyone legitimately elected bishop of Rome is the head of the Church.” The minor premise is conditional. Hence, “but Francis was NOT legitimately elected; therefore…”
That is why theologian Szal tells us, “Nor is there any schism if one merely transgresses a Papal law for the reason that one considers it too difficult, or if one suspects the person of the pope or the validity of his election, or if one resists him as the civil head of a state.” (See The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, , pg. 3; Emphasis mine). How could someone suspect the validity of a putative pope’s election and not incur the sin of schism if all it takes to assure his validity is a group of heretical “cardinals” to declare one of their own “elected pope”? Note also that Szal is talking about all members of the Church having the excuse of suspecting the validity of a pope’s election, not only Cardinals or other clerics.
It’s also ironic that Van Noort states on pages 114-115, “The Church’s infallibility also extends to the general discipline of the Church. This proposition is theologically certain. By the term “general discipline of the Church” are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living...[the Church] can never sanction a universal law which would be at odds with faith or morality or would be by its very nature conducive to the injury of souls. (Emphasis in original) Let’s get this straight. Salza and Siscoe want us to accept the heretical pretenders since Roncalli up to Bergoglio as “pope.” Yet, they then proceed to reject their pope’s ecclesiastical laws for the direction of Christian worship. Do they not reject the Novus Bogus “mass” because it is conducive to the injury of souls? However, the very theologian they cite (as well as the unanimous consent of all other theologians) teaches this is an impossibility. Nor can they escape the charge of a schismatic mentality, in choosing what laws to obey and which to toss aside. Consistency, wherefore art thou? It’s not to be found among the R&R.
Now, I turn to their citation of theologian Berry:
The following, taken from Fr. Sylvester Berry’s Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, The Church of Christ, further explains these principles:
…”DOGMATIC FACTS. A dogmatic fact is one that has not been revealed, yet is so intimately connected with a doctrine of faith that without certain knowledge of the fact there can be no certain knowledge of the doctrine. For example, was the [First] Vatican Council truly ecumenical? Was Pius IX a legitimate pope? Was the election of Pius XI valid? Such questions must be decided with certainty before decrees issued by any council or pope can be accepted as infallibly true or binding on the Church. It is evident, then, that the Church must be infallible in judging of such facts, and since the Church is infallible in believing as well as in teaching, it follows that the practically unanimous consent of the bishops and faithful in accepting a council as ecumenical, or a Roman Pontiff as legitimately elected, gives absolute and infallible certainty of the fact.” (The Church of Christ, pp. 288, 289, 290)
Notice the term “practically unanimous,” which is distinct from “mathematically unanimous.” A practically unanimous acceptance does not require acceptance by 100 percent of professing Catholics; it is rather a morally unanimous acceptance, which represents the “one mind” of the Church. As we will see later, the fact that individual Catholics reject the legitimacy of a Pope does not mean he has not been accepted by a morally unanimous consent.
Seems like a pretty air-tight argument they’ve got going, right? Here’s what theologian Berry tells us on page 229 of the exact same theology manual (and conveniently omitted by Salza and Siscoe):
“A DOUBTFUL POPE. When there is a prudent doubt about the validity of an election to any official position, there is also a similar doubt whether the person so elected really has authority or not. In such a case, no one is bound to believe him, for it is an axiom that a doubtful law begets no obligation—lex dubia non obligat. But a superior whom no one is bound to obey is in reality no superior at all. Hence the saying of Bellarmine: a doubtful pope is no pope at all.‘Therefore,’ continues the Cardinal, ‘if a papal election is really doubtful for any reason, the one elected should resign, so that a new election may be held. But if he refuses to resign, it becomes the duty of the bishops to adjust the matter, for although the bishops without the pope cannot define dogmas nor make laws for the universal Church, they can and ought to decide, when occasion demands, who is the legitimate pope; and if the matter be doubtful, they should provide for the Church by having a legitimate and undoubted pastor elected. That is what the Council of Constance rightly did.” (Emphasis mine)
How can there be a doubtful pope if he is peacefully and universally accepted? Didn’t theologian Berry know what he was writing in his own manual? I can hear the objection of Salza already, “Berry was talking about a case where there was not practically unanimous consent.” Objection overruled.
1. At no point does theologian Berry explain exactly, or in what manner, “practically unanimous consent” is achieved. The majority of Cardinals and members of the Church accepted Antipope Anacletus II, and a minority of cardinals and members of the Church accepted Pope Innocent II until St. Bernard of Clairvaux convinced the majority to change position (which he did on his own initiative). Again, what constitutes the “practical unanimous consent”? Salza counters that the election was “contested” and therefore did not acquire “peaceful and universal acceptance.” He defines the concept as: The ‘peaceful’ aspect refers to the election not at once being contested; the ‘universal’ aspect refers to the entire Church learning of the election and not at once contesting it. Says who? Salza and Siscoe! Citing to theologian Billot, they extrapolate the principle that: The universal acceptance is considered to exist when the election becomes known and is not contested by the Church, and is accepted by the prelates. It continues: In John of St. Thomas’ day, such acceptance would happen gradually as the news spread throughout the Church and the word. But in our day, when news spreads throughout the world almost immediately, the universal acceptance would be manifest very quickly. This means (it is alleged) that if the legitimacy of someone declared as elected to the papacy is not contested almost immediately, his legitimacy is infallibly certain. So if you’re not quick to protest the “papacy” of one who celebrates Chanukah and participates in Protestant false worship by immediately posting something on Instagram and Twitter, he’s the “pope”–to whom you must submit (but only when you feel like it).
Theologian Doyle explains: “The Church is a visible society with a visible Ruler. If there can be any doubt about who that visible Ruler is, he is not visible, and hence, where there is any doubt about whether a person has been legitimately elected Pope, that doubt must be removed before he can become the visible head of Christ’s Church. Blessed Bellarmine, S.J., says: ‘A doubtful Pope must be considered as not Pope’; and Suarez, S.J., says: ‘At the time of the Council of Constance there were three men claiming to be Pope…. Hence, it could have been that not one of them was the true Pope, and in that case, there was no Pope at all….” (See The Defense of the Catholic Church, , pg. 124) It is therefore possible that the entire membership of the Church could have accepted one of those men who was not pope, as the Vicar of Christ.
Ad arguendo, if this manufactured definition regarding “peaceful and universal acceptance”of Salza and Siscoe were accepted, there is also the problem of who must contest this election, and how quickly.Salza and Siscoe would have us believe that the moment a group of heretical “Cardinals” elects one of their own, he immediately achieves “peaceful and universal acceptance.” This is their own made up definition, as there is no unanimous consent of the theologians, nor official Church decree declaring such to be the case. If Siscoe and Salza’s version of the “facts” is accepted: Who needs to contest the election? Cardinals? Bishops? How many Cardinals or bishops would have to “contest” the election? If one sufficient? At what numerical point does the “contesting” become enough? How is this contesting to be done? In writing? Publicly? Privately to the one elected in the prescience of witnesses?
Another big problem for them: Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio. This is the decree of Pope Paul IV of 1559. The pontiff decreed that if ever it should ever appear that someone who was elected Roman Pontiff had beforehand “deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into any heresy,” his election, even with the agreement and unanimous consent of all the cardinals would be “null, legally invalid and void.” Salza and Siscoe respond with four points:
- The decree is “manifestly unjust and problematic.” No. It’s simply restating the Divine Law which Canon Law states and all canonists teach; “For the validity of the election as regards the person elected, it suffices only that he not be barred from the office by divine law — that is, any male Christian, even a layman. The following are therefore excluded: women, those who lack the use of reason, infidels, and those who are at least public non-Catholics.” ( See theologian Cocchi, Commentarium in C.J.C, 2:151)
- Cum ex Apostolatus has been derogated and hence is no longer in force. No need to rebut that contention as the decree simply reiterates DIVINE LAW, which admits no exceptions
- It can be merely hypothetical that the situation of a heretic being universally accepted could happen. Yeah. Right. Sure. Popes don’t make decrees for hypothetical situations incapable of being fulfilled. It’s analogous to a papal decree declaring what to do should the pope fall into error when speaking ex cathedra. It can’t happen, so no pope would waste his time writing such nonsense
- Lastly, the legitimacy of a Pope who has been universally accepted is qualified as “theologically certain.” This would not be the case if the Church interpreted the aforementioned teaching of the problematic, and now obrogated, papal bull, Cum ex Apostolatus, as meaning an illegitimate Pope can be universally accepted as Pope by the Church. It is also theologically certain that Divine Law prevents heretics from obtaining the papacy, so it’s Sicoe and Salza who get “universal acceptance” wrong. Re-read theologian Van Noort in context; it’s theologically certain if and only if the election comports with Divine Law. We have moral certainty that the sacraments we receive are valid if they are performed with the requirements of Divine Law, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, making it dubious because, e.g., the priest was heard leaving out essential words of the form. So too, we can have moral certainty that the pope is legitimately elected unless we have proof to the contrary, which we do
2. There is strong evidence that theologian Berry was discussing the Church in normal times, not during the Great Apostasy, of which he writes in the same manual cited: “The prophesies of the Apocalypse show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind; he will set up a church of Satan in opposition of the Church of Christ. Antichrist will assume the role of Messias; his prophet will act the part of pope, and there will be imitations of the Sacraments of the Church. There will also be lying wonders in imitation of the miracles wrought in the Church…there seems to be no reason why a false Church might not become universal, even more universal than the true one, at least for a time.” (See Berry, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, , pgs.65-66; Emphasis in original). A Church of Satan with false sacraments and the false prophet playing the part of the pope, with “more universality” than the True Church? How could there be such a false pope if he had “practically unanimous consent”? Its obvious that the term is not concretely applied by theologian Berry, and in any case, would not apply in the time of Great Apostasy. Are we to expect apostates from the Vatican II sect to try and sort things out for us?
3. Finally, theologian Berry does not give a different definition to dogmatic facts than theologian Van Noort.
Hence, we argue, “Anyone legitimately elected bishop of Rome is the head of the Church.” The minor premise is conditional. Hence, “but Francis was NOT legitimately elected; therefore…”
- Appeals to authorities before 1870. Salza and Siscoe are fond of citing theologians prior to the Vatican Council (1869-1870). That’s when there was a lot of Catholic doctrine settled regarding the papacy and made it untenable to hold a number of theories that had still been permissible to hold up until that time. Citations to theologians Cajetan, Suarez, and John of St. Thomas are therefore plentiful. citations to post-1870 theologians and canonists are conspicuously absent or twisted out of context as demonstrated above with Van Noort and Berry
- False definition of a public heretic. They claim that a “public heretic” was not, and could not be elected by the Church, since a public heretic is “a public member of a heretical sect (e.g. a member of the Baptist Church), not a Catholic…who is guilty of the sin of heresy.” Wrong. According to theologian McDevitt, “A cleric, then, if he is to occasion the tacit renunciation of his office, must have defected from the faith by heresy or apostasy in a public manner…” Further, “It is to be noted immediately that adherence to or inscription in a non-Catholic sect is not required to constitute the publicity that the canon  demands.” Finally, “..even if only a few loquacious persons witnessed the defection from the Faith…the delict would be public in the sense of canon 2197, n. 1” (The Renunciation of An Ecclesiastical Office: An Historical Synopsis and Commentary, , pgs. 136-140; Emphasis mine).
- An incredible implication. Do members of the R&R celebrate Chanukah with Jews? Do they participate in false worship with Protestants and kneel before a so-called “bishop” to receive a “blessing”? To do so would be the mortal sin of communicatio in sacris and a denial of the One True Church. Consider also, ” As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he authorized the “curas villeros,” the priests sent to the peripheries, to give communion to all, although four fifths of the couples were not even married. And as pope, by telephone or letter he is not afraid of encouraging some of the faithful who have remarried to receive communion without worrying about it, right away, even without those ‘penitential paths under the guidance of the diocesan bishop’ projected by some at the synod, and without issuing any denials when the news of his actions comes out.” (See http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350910bdc4.html?eng=y) Participating in these ecumenical services with Protestants and Jews is, in the words of Pope Pius XI, “altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.” (See Mortalium Animos para. #2) Yet, somehow if such a “cardinal” is pronounced “pope” without public abjuration of heresy, how does he attain the papacy? Does the “universal acceptance” somehow “undo” his heresy? Or does it mean his actions, contrary to all Church teaching pre-Vatican II, was not heretical? No attempt at an explanation of this is made.
About John DefensorNa tapetu su teme koje govore o povrataku pravovjerja i normalanom razvoju crkvene hijerarhije i katoličkog laikata. Posebna pozornost posvećena je najvećoj pošasti: novoj krivovjernoj religiji koja se formirala II. vatikanskim saborom: Novus Ordo Crkva. Katolicizam bez kompromisa nastao je iz pravovjerja Tradicije Duha Božjega u Jednoj, Svetoj, Katoličkoj i Apostolskoj Crkvi. Prazna Sveta Stolica u Vatikanu od preminuća Pape Pija XII.,1958.
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