Monthly Archives: Rujan 2019

Dogmatic Theology, (Volume II), Christ’s Church

Dogmatic Theology, Volume II, Christ’s Church,
by Monsignor G. Van Noort, S.T.D. 

The Properties of the Church

The Church’s properties are those qualities which flow from its very essence and are a necessary part of it. Authors differ somewhat in enumerating these properties; and some distinguish between properties and endowments. But the difference seems to concern method and terminology rather than the matter itself. Seven properties, then, can be listed: visibility, indestructibility, infallibility, unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. Since visibility and indestructibility have already been considered, there remain for discussion only the last five.

Article I


1. Meaning of the Term

The word infallibility itself indicates a necessary immunity from error. When one speaks of the Church’s infallibility, one means that the Church can neither deceive nor be deceived in matters of faith and morals, It is a prerogative of the whole Church; but it belongs in one way to those who fulfill the office of teaching and in another way to those who are taught. Hence the distinction between active infallibility, by which the Church’s rulers are rendered immune from error when they teach; and passive infallibility, by which all of Christ’s faithful are preserved from error in their beliefs.
Passive infallibility depends on and is caused by active infallibility: for the faithful are kept free from error in religious matters only by loyally following their rulers. Consequently, it is limited by the same restrictions as is active infallibility, and it will therefore suffice to treat only the latter. Active infallibility may be defined as follows: the privilege by which the teaching office of the Church, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, is preserved immune from error when it defines a doctrine of faith or morals.

The words through the assistance of the Holy Spirit indicate that this freedom from error is something derived; the words when it defines a doctrine of faith or morals limit this inerrancy to definite subject matter.

II. Errors

1. Protestants in general ascribe infallibility to no church, at least to no visible church. The Puseyists were willing to grant it to some sort of ideal Church made up of the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Anglican communions. The Pistoians asserted that infallibility, like all sacred power, had been given principally and directly to the whole body of the faithful, but to rulers only as agents of that body. The Jansenists of Holland seem to follow the same opinion, since they demand for an infallible decree: (a) that delegates or representatives of the whole “Church” be gathered together for a ecumenical council; (b) that these delegates agree that the doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith and that it has always been accepted by the whole Church; (c) that their judgment be ratified universally by the Church throughout the world.

2. Modernists, since they acknowledge not even a divinely established teaching office, naturally do not admit that the privilege of infallibility was granted this office. The doctrinal or dogmatic authority which they themselves grant the Church’s rulers means only this: that these rulers are to be watchfully alert for what may, at any given period, be going on in the Christian consciousness, so that they may give it apt formulation. Of course the formulae must be modified as soon as they no longer correspond with the new mentality and the evolution of religious consciousness. In fact, in the Modernist system, the duty of doctrinal authority is not to see to it that there is never any change in the believing or in the understanding of the absolute and immutable truth preached from the beginning by the apostles. This authority is rather to take care that that be maintained which may seem best adapted to the cultural level of each generation. (1)

The first step in the treatment to follow will be a demonstration of the fact of infallibility. Next in order will be a study of its object or extent, and finally an investigation into its nature. The special discussion of the subject of infallibility fits more conveniently into the second section of this treatise. Suffice it to mention here, in anticipation of the fuller discussion, that that subject is both the body of the Church’s rulers together with its head, in other words, the Roman Catholic college of bishops, and the supreme ruler of the whole Church, the Roman pontiff.

Ill. The Fact of Infallibility (2)

PROPOSITION: When the teaching office of the Church hands down decisions on matters of faith and morals in such a way as to require of everyone full and absolute assent, it is infallible.

This is a dogma of faith.

The teaching office of the Church or, as they say, “the teaching Church,” is made up of those to whom God entrusted the right and the duty to teach the Christian religion authoritatively. The words “in matters of faith and morals in such a way as to require of everyone full and absolute assent” are included in the proposition because, according to Catholic teaching, the Church’s rulers are infallible not in any and every exercise of their teaching power; but only when, using all the fulness of their authority, they clearly intend to bind everyone to absolute assent or, as common parlance puts it, when they “define” something in matters pertaining to the Christian religion. That is why all theologians distinguish in the dogmatic decrees of the councils or of the popes between those things set forth therein by way of definition and those used simply by way of illustration or argumentation. For the intention of binding all affects only the definition, and not the historical observations, reasons for the definition, and so forth. And if in some particular instances the intention of giving a definitive decision were not made sufficiently clear, then no one would be held by virtue of such definitions, to give the assent of faith: a doubtful law is no law at all.

Although this proposition has never been defined in the precise form in which it is here stated, it is a dogma of faith by reason of the universal teaching of the Church. Moreover, the Vatican Council did define that the Roman pontiff “enjoys that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished His Church to be equipped in defining a doctrine of faith or morals.” (3)


1. From the promises of Christ. (a) Christ said to the apostles in the Last Supper discourse, “And I will ask the Father, and he will grant you another Advocate to be with you for all time to come, the Spirit of Truth … he will make his permanent stay with you and in you … but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and refresh your memory of everything I have told you” (John 14:16-17, 26). “But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will conduct you through the whole range of truth” (John 16:13). Then, after His Resurrection, He added, “…you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence … you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the very ends of the earth” (Acts 1:5, 8).

Two things are promised in these texts: the Holy Spirit, as the Teacher of truth (a) will come upon the apostles to imbue them with an exceedingly rich knowledge of the Christian religion; (b) He will remain with them forever. The purpose and the result of both these aids is that the apostles will preach Christ’s religion pure and unabridged “even to the very ends of the earth.”

The former promise has in view especially the first communication of the Christian religion and, furthermore, at least in the strict and full sense, refers to the apostles alone. The latter promise, which is concerned more directly with the practice and preservation of this religion, cannot, in view of the words themselves(4) and of the purpose intended, be limited to the apostles personally; but embraces the apostolic college as it is to continue forever. But if the Holy Spirit is to remain with the successors of the apostles forever, and is to be in them that they may be witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth, He will doubtless keep them from error when they define Christian doctrine. For would they really be witnesses of Christ if they corrupted His doctrine in even one point and unjustifiably demanded the assent of all to a falsehood?

(b) “Absolute authority in heaven and on earth has been conferred upon me. Go, therefore, and initiate all nations in discipleship … and teach them to observe all the commandments I have given you. And mark: I am with you at all times as long as the world will last” (Matt. 28:20). These words contain a promise to the apostolic college, as to a perpetual institution, of continuous and effective aid in teaching all nations the religion of Christ (see no. 20). But this aid certainly includes infallibility, for if they could err at times in defining Christian doctrine, the purpose of the aid would not be realized.

Furthermore, the force of Christ’s promise is highlighted in an extraordinary manner by the obligation enjoined on all men to accept the doctrine preached by the apostles and by their successors throughout all ages: “He that believes … will be saved, but he that does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Could our Lord have imposed this obligation without any limitation or restriction, and under the threat of eternal damnation, if He had left to posterity a teaching authority which was liable to error?

2. From the testimony of the Apostle. St. Paul: I write these instructions to you, so that … you may know what your conduct should be in the house of God which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Tim. 3:14-15). Truth purely and simply is the whole body of truth leading to eternal salvation: Christian doctrine in its entirety. The Church considered absolutely, i.e., the universal Church, is called a thoroughly solid pillar of this truth,(5) because it bears and supports the truth as an unshakably solid pillar supports a building. But it would not be the pillar and bulwark of the truth if it could shift from the truth in even one matter. Therefore we have here a direct statement of the infallibility of the Church as a whole; but one can immediately deduce from this the infallibility of the teaching office, since the whole Church depends on this office for its knowledge and profession of the truth.

3. From the testimony of the early fathers. They have left, in unmistakably clear or at least equivalent terms, testimony to their belief in the infallibility of the teaching office or, what actually comes down to the same thing, of the Church itself.

St. Ignatius:

Live in harmony with the mind of God. Surely, Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, for His part in the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, though appointed throughout the vast, wide earth, represent for their part the mind of Jesus Christ.—Epistula ad Ephesios 3. 2; ACW translation.

Now, if those who do this to gratify the flesh are liable to death, how much more a man who by evil doctrine ruins the faith in God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a filthy creature will go into the unquenchable fire, as will anyone who listens to him. The Lord permitted myrrh to be poured on His head that He might breathe incorruption upon the Church. Do not let yourselves be anointed with the malodorous doctrine of the Prince of this world.—Ibid. 16. 2-17. 1; ACW translation.

St. Irenaeus:

One should obey the presbyters [bishops] of the Church, for they are the successors of the apostles and along with episcopal succession have received the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father.(6)

Tertullian makes sport of the thesis that

the Holy Ghost sent by Christ and asked of the Father for this very purpose, viz., to teach the truth, neglected His duty by allowing the Church to understand and to believe otherwise than what He Himself taught the apostles. — De praescriptione 28.

St. Athanasius: “The only words you need for answering those [paradoxes of the heretics] are the following: ‘This is not the teaching of the Catholic Church’” (Epistula ad Epictetum 3).

St. Jerome: “I was able to dry up all the rivulets of false assertions with the one sun of the Church” (Altercatio luciferiani et orthodoxi 28).

St. Augustine:

Many tongues and various heresies speak in opposition … hasten to the tabernacle of God, hold fast to the Catholic Church, depart not from the rule of truth, and you will find in this tabernacle asylum from the tongues which wag in opposition. — Enarrationes in Psalmos 30. 3. 8.

The Catholic Church wages war against all heresies. It can give battle, but it can never be vanquished. All heresies have gone forth from it [the Church] like useless branches pruned from a vine; but it remains itself firmly fixed in its roots, in its vine, in its love. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. (7)

4. Theological argument. The Church, according to Christ’s promises, is indestructible (no. 19); but it would fail through corruption if it strayed from the true teaching of Christ; and it would so stray, indeed inevitably, if its teaching authority were to err at any time in defining points of doctrine.


Since even in the Old Testament period the revealed religion was to be piously safeguarded, theologians usually bring up at this juncture the question of the infallibility of the Synagogue. Opinions vary, but, here, in sum, is that of Cardinal Franzelin.(8) (a) The Aaronic priests undoubtedly exercised authoritative teaching power in sacred matters; but there is no sufficient proof that the charism of infallibility was granted this ordinary teaching body. However, (b) even at that time God was watching over the preservation of sacred doctrine, and He did so in a manner suited to the special character of that stage of religious development, when revelation was not only to be safeguarded but also to be steadily increased. He effected this increase through new revelations made to the prophets, whose mission, however, was directed no less to the safeguarding of already promulgated revelation than to its further unfolding. Consequently the teaching office of the Old Testament comprised two elements, the ordinary teaching office of the priests and the extraordinary teaching office of the prophets; and so, considered in its entirety, it guarded the deposit of faith with infallible sureness, inasmuch as the prophets corrected any mistakes which the ordinary teachers might possibly have made.

IV. The Object of Infallibility

In the definition given above the object of infallibility was expressed in these words borrowed from the Vatican Council: “when it defines a doctrine of faith or morals.” It remains now to fix more accurately the meaning and the scope of this formula. This will be done on the basis of the words of Christ and of the apostles cited in the course of the proof; and on the basis, too, of the purpose for which the privilege of infallibility was granted.

It is important to pay attention above all to the word doctrine; for infallibility concerns the teaching office and so has as its special object doctrines, or at least doctrinal decisions by which some truth is presented to be believed or maintained by everyone.

The formula, “a doctrine of faith or morals,” comprises all doctrines the knowledge of which is of vital concern to people if they are to believe aright and to live uprightly in accordance with the religion of Christ. Now doctrines of this sort have either been revealed themselves or are so closely allied with revelation that they cannot be neglected without doing harm to the latter. Consequently the object of infallibility is twofold: there is a primary and a secondary object.

PROPOSITION 1: The primary object of infallibility is each and every religious truth contained formally in the sources of revelation.

By a religious truth is meant anything (doctrine or fact) which pertains to religion, i.e., to faith and morals, and insofar as it does pertain to it. The various ways in which a truth can be formally contained in the sources of revelation will be explained in the treatise on Faith. According to all Catholics, the present proposition is a dogma of faith.

Proof: That religious truths contained formally in the sources of revelation are the object of infallibility calls for no explicit demonstration.

That infallibility extends to each and every one of these truths, whether they be matters of intellectual concern or of practical action, is clear: (1) from the words of Christ, who promised His assistance to the apostles and sent them forth to teach the nations “to observe all the commandments I have given you,” and who promised them the Spirit of truth who “will teach you everything.” (2) from the express purpose of infallibility. If the latter did not embrace all these truths, one could be doubtful about almost any single truth; for where could one find a criterion for distinguishing fundamental from not-so-fundamental truths?


To the primary object of infallibility belong specifically:
1. Decisions on the canon, or the material extent, of Sacred Scripture, or on its true meaning in passages dealing with faith or morals.
2. Decisions acknowledging and explaining the records of divine tradition.
3. Decisions on the selection of terms in which revealed truth is to be presented for belief (dogmatic terminology, creeds, dogmatic decrees).
4. Decisions on doctrines directly opposed to revealed truth (condemnation of heresies). For he who knows with infallible certainty the truth of a proposition knows with the same infallibility the falseness of a contradictory or contrary proposition.

PROPOSITION 2: The secondary object of infallibility comprises all those matters which are so closely connected with the revealed deposit that revelation itself would be imperilled unless an absolutely certain decision could he made about them.

The charism of infallibility was bestowed upon the Church so that the latter could piously safeguard and confidently explain the deposit of Christian revelation, and thus could be in all ages the teacher of Christian truth and of the Christian way of life. But if the Church is to fulfill this purpose, it must be infallible in its judgment of doctrines and facts which, even though not revealed, are so intimately connected with revelation that any error or doubt about them would constitute a peril to the faith. Furthermore, the Church must be infallible not only when it issues a formal decree, but also when it performs some action which, for all practical purposes, is the equivalent of a doctrinal definition.

One can easily see why matters connected with revelation are called the secondary object of infallibility. Doctrinal authority and infallibility were given to the Church’s rulers that they might safeguard and confidently explain the deposit of Christian revelation. That is why the chief object of infallibility, that, namely, which by its very nature falls within the scope of infallibility, includes only the truths contained in the actual deposit of revelation. Allied matters, on the other hand, which are not in the actual deposit, but contribute to its safeguarding and security, come within the purview of infallibility not by their very nature, but rather by reason of the revealed truth to which they are annexed. As a result, infallibility embraces them only secondarily. It follows that when the Church passes judgment on matters of this sort, it is infallible only insofar as they are connected with revelation.

When theologians go on to break up the general statement of this thesis into its component parts, they teach that the following individual matters belong to the secondary object of infallibility: 1. theological conclusions; 2. dogmatic facts; 3. the general discipline of the Church; 4. approval of religious orders; 5. canonization of saints.

Assertion 1: The Church’s infallibility extends to theological conclusions. 
This proposition is theologically certain.

theological conclusion is a proposition which by genuinely discursive reasoning is deduced with certainty from two premises, one of which is formally revealed, the other known with natural certitude. It can be strictly a matter of intellectual knowledge, like the fact that the Son proceeds from the Father by a process of intellectual generation; or it can be a matter of practical knowledge, like the fact that one may not directly abort a foetus to save the life of the mother. To assert that the Church is infallible in decreeing these conclusions is to affirm implicitly that it is infallible in rejecting errors opposed thereto; the principle is the same for both.


1. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church is infallible in matters so closely connected with revelation that any error in these matters would constitute a peril to the faith. But theological conclusions are matters of this type. The conclusion is obvious.

It is evident from Christ’s promises that the teaching office of the Church was endowed with infallibility so that it might be able to carry out its mission properly: to safeguard reverently, explain confidently, and defend effectively the deposit of faith. But the realization of this purpose demands the extension of infallibility to related matters, in the sense explained above. Here is the reason. The security of the deposit requires the effective warding off or elimination of all error which may be opposed to it, even though only indirectly. This would be simply impossible without infallibility in related matters. If the Church were infallible only in the field of revealed truth and not in that of matters annexed thereto, it would be like a general who was assigned to defend a city but was given no authority to build up defenses or to destroy the material which the enemy had assembled. It would be like a caretaker to whom the master of the house had said, “Take care that my house doesn’t burn down; but don’t put out any flames as long as they remain merely nearby”!

Minor. Every conclusion is so connected with its premises that a denial of the conclusion involves necessarily the denial of at least one of those premises. Now one of the premises upon which every theological conclusion rests is a truth evident from reason, and since no one can very well deny such a premise, there is danger that an error in the conclusion may give rise to an error about the revealed premise.

2. From the mind of the Church. The Church surely makes no mistake when it determines the force and extent of its infallibility, for the greatest of harm would result if the Church, by stretching infallibility beyond its limits, could force everyone to give unqualified assent to a matter about which it is liable to be mistaken. But the fact is that the Church has often and openly expressed its conviction of being infallible in the matter of theological conclusions. It has expressed this conviction at least in an active, practical way, by irrevocably repudiating doctrines which, while not directly opposed to revealed truths, are opposed to theological conclusions. See, e.g., DB 602, 679, 1542, 1748.

Assertion 2: The Church’s infallibility extends to dogmatic facts.

This proposition is theologically certain.

dogmatic fact is a fact not contained in the sources of revelation, 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 Vatican Council a legitimate ecumenical council? Is the Latin Vulgate a substantially faithful translation of the original books of the Bible? Was Pius XII legitimately elected bishop of Rome?” One can readily see that on these facts hang the questions of whether the decrees of the Vatican Council are infallible, whether the Vulgate is truly Sacred Scripture, whether Piux XII is to be recognized as supreme ruler of the universal Church.

From the time of the Jansenist controversies, theologians have understood by the term “dogmatic fact” especially the following question: “Is such and such a doctrine (orthodox or heretical) really contained in such and such a book?” The Jansenists in fact admitted the Church’s infallibility in a question of right or of dogma, i.e., the Church could decide whether this or that doctrine (considered in itself and prescinding from the book in which it was said to be expressed) was heretical. But at the same time they denied its infallibility in a question of fact, e.g., whether this (heretical) doctrine was really stated in such and such a book, as, e.g., Jansen’s Augustinus.(9) One can readily see that a determination of this fact would determine whether one could or could not maintain and defend the doctrine of this book.


1. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church is infallible in those related matters in which an error would constitute a danger to the faith. But dogmatic facts are matters of this kind. The reason should be obvious from the examples alleged above. What good would it do to proclaim in theory the infallible authority of ecumenical councils if one could licitly doubt the legitimacy of a specific council? What good would it do to acknowledge the inspiration of the Sacred Books in their original forms — forms long ago extinct — if one could not definitively establish the substantial fidelity of copies of the original, and of the translations which the Church has to use? Could Christians be effectively protected against errors in their faith if the Church could not warn them against poisonous fare, such as are books which contain heresy or errors in religious matters?

2. From the practice of the Church, which (a) often resolutely and officially repudiated heretical writings as e.g., the Thalia of Arius in the Council of Nicaea and the works of Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus; (b) declared the Vulgate to be authentic at the Council of Trent,(10) and the Canon of the Mass to be free of any error; (11) (c) asserted specifically in the case of Jansen that “reverent silence” about a dogmatic fact is not at all adequate, “but that all faithful Christians must condemn as heretical in their hearts as well as with their lips the opinions [which the Church has] condemned in the five aforementioned propositions of Jansen’s book, opinions which the very words of those propositions quite clearly state.” (12)

A famous objection is that concerned with the Three Chapters (Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia and his works; some of the works of Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, and the letter of Ibas, a priest of Edessa, to Mans of Persia, all of which works favored Nestorianism). The Council of Chalcedon is said to have approved these works and the Second Council of Constantinople and Pope Vigilius subsequently to have condemned them. Consequently, they say, at least one of them was in error about a dogmatic fact. But this conclusion is not justified, for although the fathers of Chalcedon, after having expressly condemned Nestorianism, accepted Theodore and Ibas as members of the Council, they passed no explicit decision regarding the Three Chapters.(13)


The Church does not usually pass judgment directly on the dogmatic fact itself; but on the proposition which, through the medium of a dogmatic fact, is deduced from a revealed premise (either through a true reasoning process or through a merely explanatory syllogism). 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 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 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, … Since then, the Church’s decision is concerned more directly with the conclusion deduced from revelation with the help of a dogmatic fact, rather than with the dogmatic fact itself (which is assumed in the decision rather than directly affirmed), dogmatic facts can rightly be called not only secondary but also indirect objects of infallibility.

It may help to mention that several theologians treat this question a bit differently. For they understand by the term “dogmatic fact” not a premise drawn from history, on which the conclusion would depend, as in the examples above, but the conclusion itself, e.g., that the Vulgate contains the word of God or that such and such a book is heretical. If one prefers this view of the matter, he will then define a dogmatic fact, in the words of the illustrious de Groot, as “a fact in which a doctrine is expressed.” (14)

One may wonder what name is to be given the conclusion, following the view proposed above. To answer that, a distinction is necessary. If the conclusion is the result of a real reasoning process, it is to be called a theological conclusion. But if the syllogism is merely explanatory, then it expresses a truth formally but implicitly revealed. The precise meaning of this distinction will be explained in the treatise on Faith (no. 200).

Assertion 3: The Church’s infallibility 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. Note the italicized words: ecclesiastical laws, passed for the universal Church.

The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church’s rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a twofold judgment: 1. “This law squares with the Church’s doctrine of faith and morals”; that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. (15) This amounts to a doctrinal decree. 2. “This law, considering all the circumstances, is most opportune.” This is a decree of practical judgment.

Although it would he rash to cast aspersions on the timeliness of a law, especially at the very moment when the Church imposes or expressly reaffirms it, still the Church does not claim to he infallible in issuing a decree of practical judgment. For the Church’s rulers were never promised the highest degree of prudence for the conduct of affairs. But the Church is infallible in issuing a doctrinal decree as intimated above — and to such an extent that it 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.

The Church’s infallibility in disciplinary matters, when understood in this way, harmonizes beautifully with the mutability of even universal laws. For a law, even though it be thoroughly consonant with revealed truth, can, given a change in circumstances, become less timely or even useless, so that prudence may dictate its abrogation or modification.


1. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church was endowed with infallibility that it might safeguard the whole of Christ’s doctrine and be for all men a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. But if the Church could make a mistake in the manner alleged when it legislated for the general discipline, it would no longer be either a loyal guardian of revealed doctrine or a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. It would not be a guardian of revealed doctrine, for the imposition of a vicious law would be, for all practical purposes, tantamount to an erroneous definition of doctrine; everyone would naturally conclude that what the Church had commanded squared with sound doctrine. It would not be a teacher of the Christian way of life, for by its laws it would induce corruption into the practice of religious life.

2. From the official statement of the Church, which stigmatized as “at least erroneous” the hypothesis “that the Church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism. (16)


The well-known axiom, Lex orandi est lex credendi (The law of prayer is the law of belief), is a special application of the doctrine of the Church’s infallibility in disciplinary matters. This axiom says in effect that formulae of prayer approved for public use in the universal Church cannot contain errors against faith or morals. But it would be quite wrong to conclude from this that all the historical facts which are recorded here and there in the lessons of the Roman Breviary, or all the explanations of scriptural passages which are used in the homilies of the Breviary must be taken as infallibly true.(17) As far as the former are concerned, those particular facts are not an object of infallibility since they have no necessary connection with revelation. As for the latter, the Church orders their recitation not because they are certainly true, but because they are edifying.

Assertion 4: The Church’s infallibility extends to the approval of religious orders. This proposition is theologically certain.

The religious state is essentially the observance, under obligation of a vow, of the evangelical counsels recommended by our Lord Himself. But every congregation or order follows its own constitution, its own laws for living the evangelical counsels and for attaining its own special purposes. The present discussion, therefore, has to do with the approval of this constitution, and furthermore, with that solemn and definitive approval which is reserved for the sovereign pontiff and by which a congregation is established as a religious order in the strict sense of the word.(18)

Practically the same thing is to be said about the approval of orders as was said about the general discipline of the Church: it is an indirect object of infallibility by reason of the doctrinal judgment which it implies. No one claims that the Church is infallible in the decree of practical judgment — as, for instance, whether, in view of the circumstances, it would be expedient to allow the foundation of the new order — but only in the doctrinal judgment — as, for instance, whether such and such a constitution is an apt instrument for the acquiring of Christian perfection.


1. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church was endowed with infallibility that it might be forever a trustworthy teacher of Christian truth and perfection. But it would certainly not be, if it could approve, by a definitive decision, a constitution opposed to the gospel or to the natural law. It is useless to object that an error in this sort of affair would harm not the universal Church, but only the members of this particular order. Of course it would harm the latter immediately and most of all, but indirectly it would affect the whole Church; for when an order is solemnly approved, it is recommended to the whole Church as a fit means for acquiring perfection, so that no one may licitly impugn it from this point of view.

2. From the solid conviction of the Church, which, when approving orders, expresses itself in such a way as to make it sufficiently clear that it considers decisions of this type to be infallible. For an example of such a decision, see Pesch, Praelectiones dogmaticae, I, 545.

Assertion 5: The Church’s infallibility extends to the canonization of saints. This is the common opinion today. (19)

Canonization (formal) is the final and definitive decree by which the sovereign pontiff declares that someone has been admitted to heaven and is to be venerated by everyone, at least in the sense that all the faithful are held to consider the person a saint worthy of public veneration. It differs from beatification, which is a provisional rather than a definitive decree, by which veneration is only permitted, or at least is not universally prescribed. Infallibility is claimed for canonization only; (20) a decree of beatification, which in the eyes of the Church is not definitive but may still be rescinded, is to be considered morally certain indeed, but not infallible. Still, there are some theologians who take a different view of the matter.


1. From the solid conviction of the Church. When the popes canonize, they use terminology which makes it quite evident that they consider decrees of canonization infallible. Here is, in sum, the formula they use: “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the apostles Peter and Paul and by our own authority, we declare that N. has been admitted to heaven, and we decree and define that he is to be venerated in public and in private as a saint.”

2. From the purpose of infallibility. The Church is infallible so that it may be a trustworthy teacher of the Christian religion and of the Christian way of life. But it would not be such if it could err in the canonization of saints. Would not religion be sullied if a person in hell were, by a definitive decree, offered to everyone as an object of religious veneration? Would not the moral law be at least weakened to some extent, if a protégé of the devil could be irrevocably set up as a model of virtue for all to imitate and for all to invoke? But it cannot be inferred: therefore the Church must also be infallible in authenticating the relics of the saints; for (a) the Church never issues so solemn a decree about relics; and (b) the cases are not parallel, for in the case of relics, it is a question of relative cult, while in that of the saints it is one of absolute cult.(21)


Several considerations urge the conclusion that the Church’s infallibility extends also to equivalent canonization, formerly quite common. By this means, without any formal decree of canonization, a deceased person gradually came to be venerated by the universal Church. However, formal and equivalent canonizations arc not at all on the same plane; in the latter the consent of the supreme pontiff can be taken as purely permissive, in much the same way as the veneration of a beatified person is sometimes permitted the universal Church. Some scholars are led by this observation to think that it is not absolutely impossible that someone who is not a saint might appear among those who, without being formally canonized, have a commemoration or even a full office in the Breviary. The papal approval of the Breviary, they say, as far as they who have not been formally canonized are concerned, amounts to nothing more than an order that no change be made therein. This is not a definitive decree, but rather permission to continue the traditional cult.(22)

Scholion: Is the fact of the Church’s infallibility in matters related to revealed truth itself a revealed truth?

In each instance we have proved the infallibility of the Church’s teaching office in matters related to the deposit of revelation from the express purpose of infallibility and from the mind of the Church. It is, consequently, clear that this infallibility is at least a conclusion from revelation; indeed a conclusion whose validity the Church itself has sanctioned at least by its practical attitude and mode of action. But serious reasons incline us to state that this extension of infallibility — not of course to each of the items considered individually above, but to related matters in general — is a formally revealed truth. There is no doubt that our Lord promised His Church the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), who would teach “the whole range of truth” (John 16:13); the apostle calls the Church the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Tim. 3:15).(23) What, then, does the word “truth” or the phrase “the whole range of truth” mean in these texts: just revealed truth, or all the truth which the Church, in view of its special purpose, must know with certainty? The answer seems to be that since the terms are general, and the purpose of the Church militates against their being restricted to revealed truths, they must doubtless be understood as referring to all doctrines which concern Christian faith and morality either directly or indirectly. In other words, they must include also matters connected with revealed truth.

This is why Cardinal Franzelin could in the following way describe the general proposition of infallibility in related matters: this assertion, “as all theologians agree, is so certain that its denial would be an error, or even, in the opinion of many, a heresy, even though it has not as yet been explicitly condemned as heretical.”(24)

V. The Nature of Infallibility

1. The privilege of infallibility is not merely actual absence of error, but the impossibility of erring. It is of course a supernatural gift, and since it works not to the advantage of the recipients themselves but to that of the whole Church, it is a gratia gratis data or charism. It is often called “the charism of truth.”

2. Infallibility must not be thought of as a habit permanently residing in the minds of the Church’s officio! teachers, a habit which would express itself in the making of a dogmatic definition, as e.g., the habit of faith expresses itself in an act of supernatural faith. It is rather a privilege which depends for its exercise on some objective external help. This privilege can be called habitual in the sense that it was promised by a definite divine decree. But it is in actual existence only when something is being defined.

3. The efficient cause of infallibility is the assistance of God or of the Holy Spirit. This assistance:

a. is a help inferior in nature to revelation and inspiration; furthermore,
b. it can involve any kind of influence which God may choose to use in order to turn away the teacher’s mind from what is false and to lead him to a sure knowledge of the truth.

As for a: this assistance differs from revelation, through which some new doctrine is received from God. “For,” says the Vatican Council,(25) “the Holy Spirit was promised to Peter’s successors [and the same holds good for the Roman Catholic episcopate] not that they might, as a result of His revelation, make known a new doctrine, but that with His assistance they might reverently safeguard and faithfully explain the revelation handed down by the apostles, i.e., the deposit of faith.”

It is different from inspiration, through which a document is written in such fashion as to be the Word of God and comes from the mouth of God in such a way that God is its principal author and man the instrumental author only. A decree issued under divine assistance, however, is the word of the Church, and its principal author is the pope or a council. It is a question here of inspiration in the strict sense, such as that which the sacred authors enjoyed; any divine assistance could be loosely referred to as inspiration.

As for b: God assists at least negatively by preventing an arrival at an erroneous definition. But it seems that we must go further and say that whenever, and to the extent that it is necessary, God also positively guides the Church’s teachers to a correct knowledge and presentation of the truth He has entrusted to the Church. The means, natural or supernatural, which divine Providence selects for this purpose, can be quite varied, and can operate internally or externally.(26)

4. The divine assistance does not render at all superfluous the hard work and study of men, the investigation of the sources of revelation, etc.; it rather supposes and includes these elements. In actual practice, the usual preamble to doctrinal definitions includes not only the request for divine light, but also the most careful theological research. Consequently, those who object that the promise of divine assistance fosters indolence do so without justification. However, infallibility (or the inability to err) does not depend formally on human industry, but on divine assistance. And so no one can spurn a definition of the Church on the pretext that it is not backed up by adequate research; when a definition has once been issued, one can be sure that the Church’s official teacher did not act precipitously, but did all the necessary preliminary research; or else, if he did act rashly, that his rashness did not adversely affect at least the truth of the definition. All this is, of course, only a supposition, for it seems much more reasonable to hold that the Holy Spirit would never allow the Church’s rulers to act rashly in issuing doctrinal definitions.

5. The assistance promised the Church’s rulers extends to the threefold function which they must fulfill with regard to religious truth. (a) They are infallible witnesses of revelation, in that they always reverently safeguard the deposit entrusted to the Church; (b) they are infallible teachers of religious truth, in that they always faithfully interpret and explain revealed doctrine; (c) they are infallible arbiters of controversies, in that they always decide without error questions which have arisen on matters of religion.


The rule of faith. It seems timely to add here a few remarks on the rule of faith. This term signifies the standard or norm according to which each individual Christian must determine what is the material object of his faith.
Protestants claim that the written Word of God, Holy Scripture, and that alone, is the one rule of faith. Catholics, on the other hand, even though they, too, admit that our faith must be regulated in the final analysis by the Word of God — including tradition as well as Scripture — hold that the proximate and immediate rule of faith — that rule to which each of the faithful and each generation of the faithful must look directly — is the preaching of the Church. And so, according to Catholics, there exists a twofold rule of faith: one remote and one proximate. The remote rule of faith is the Word of God (handed down in writing or orally), which was directly entrusted to the Church’s rulers that from it they might teach and guide the faithful. The proximate rule of faith, from which the faithful, one and all, are bound to accept their faith and in accordance with which they are to regulate it, is the preaching of the ecclesiastical magisterium.(27) The following assertions concern the proximate rule of faith.
1. The Church’s preaching was established by Christ Himself as the rule of faith. This can be proved from Matthew 28:19—20 and Mark 16:15—16; the command to teach all nations certainly implies a corresponding duty on the part of the nations to believe whatever the apostles and their successors teach, On the other hand, there is no notice anywhere of Christ’s having commanded the apostles to give the people the doctrine of salvation in writing, and never did He command the faithful as a whole to seek their faith in the Bible.(28)
2. The Church’s preaching is a rule of faith which is nicely accommodated to people’s needs. For (a) it is an easy rule, one that can be observed by all alike, even the uneducated and unlettered. What could be easier than to give ear to a magisterium that is always at hand and always preaching? (b) It is a safe rule, for the Church’s teaching office is infallible in safeguarding and presenting Christ’s doctrine. (c) It is a living rule, in accordance with which it is possible in any age to explain the meaning of doctrines and to put an end to controversies.


1. See the decree Lamentabili, propositions 6, 62-64; encyclical Pascendi (DB 2093); Oath against Modernism (DB 2147).
2. See J. C. Fenton, “The Church and Catholic Dogma,” AER, 120 (1949), 123 ff.
3. Constitution Dc ecclesia, chap. 4,
4. It is with utter improbability that some have tried to interpret the words of John 14:16, “for all time to come” and those of Matt. 28:20, “as long as the world shall last” — as “to the end of this age,” i.e., the apostolic age.
5. In vain some Protestants, basing themselves on no good reasons, but forced by the need to holster their position, have tried to refer the words “the pillar and bulwark of truth” either to Timothy or to the mystery of the Incarnation. They would read as follows: “… the Church of the living God. The pillar and bulwark of truth and something clearly great is the sacrament of piety which has been manifested in the flesh.”
6. Adversus haereses iv. 26. 2; see iii. 24. 1.
7. De symbolo ad catechumenos 1. 6.
8. De ecclesia, Thesis 3, 2.
9. It was, then, not a question of this fact, viz., whether the five condemned propositions (DB 1092 ff.) can be found verbatim in the book Augustinus; much less whether Jansen maintained in the secret of his soul and intended to teach the doctrine expressed in the five propositions. Obviously the “mind of the author” which is condemned is nothing other than the meaning which the words of the author objectively express according to the usual norms of interpretation.
10, Session 4.
11. Session 22, chap. 4; and canon 6.
12. Constitution Vineam Domini of Clement XI (DB 1350).
13. See Hefele, Conciliengeschichte (2nd ed.), II, 798 if.; Hergenrother-Kirsch, Kirchengeschichte, I, 602 if. See P. Hughes, op. cit., I, 342 ff.; H. M. Diepen, O.S.B., Les trois chapitres au Concile de Chalcédoine (Oosterhout, 1953).
14. De ecclesia (3rd ed.), p. 318.
15. An example may help to clarify the matter. If the whole Christ were not present under the appearances of bread alone, the law forbidding lay people to drink from the chalice would offend against the faith. Or if the words increase and multiply (Gen. 1:28) constituted an ordinance binding every individual man, then the law of celibacy would be opposed to right morals. The same conclusion would hold if virginal purity were morally impossible for men.
16. The bull Auctorem fidei (DB 1578).
17. See Benedict XIV, De servorum Dei beatificatione, lib. IV, pars II, chap. 13, nos. 7-8. Very many bishops asked the Vatican Council for an appropriate revision of the Breviary on some points “which seem not at all square with established historical fact and sound scriptural exegesis” (Coll. Lac., VII, 874; see VII, 844, 882). There should be nothing surprising about this. At the time the Roman Breviary was edited, the critical apparatus now our disposal was simply not available.
18. On a lower plane than this solemn approbation, there are also: (a) episcopal approbation; (b) permissive papal approbation; (c) commendatory papal approbation. These are all treated in works on canon law.
19. See N. Scheid, “Die Unfehlbarkeit des Papstes bei der Heiligsprechung,” ZkTh (1890), p. 599; F. Spedalieri, Dc Ecclesiae infallibilitate in canonizatione sanctorum quaestiones selectae (Rome, 1949); for a critique of latter work see TS, 12 (1951), 249.
20. The names of canonized saints are inserted in the Roman Martyrology, but this work contains other names besides. That is why scholars, following the lead of Benedict XIV, warn us that the presence of a person’s name in the Martyrology is not conclusive proof that that person is enjoying the bliss of heaven. See N. Paulus, “Martyrologium und Brevier als historische Quellen,” Der Katholik, I (1900), 355.
21. Absolute cult or worship is directed to a person; relative cult is directed to some object or other, not because it possesses any intrinsic worth in itself, as a person would, but because it is connected in some way with a sainted person. See A. Aldama, S.J., Sacrae theologiae Summa, III (Madrid, 1953), 469.
22. See N. Paulus, art. cit., p. 359; A. Spaldak, “Zur geplanten Emendation des romischen Breviers,” Der Katholik, I (1905), 290; Bainvel, De magisterio, p. 111.
23. See J. C. Fenton, “New Testament Designations of the Church and of its Members,” CBQ, 9 (1947), 286.
24. De Traditione et Scriptura (3rd ed.), p. 123.
25. Constitution De ecclesia, chap. 4.
26. See Heinrich, Dogmat. Theol. II, par. 90.
27. The Symbols (Creeds, i.e., those formulae in which the Church’s teaching authority sums up the chief points of its preaching in view of the needs of different ages), are also called rules of faith. But they are material rules of faith, while the formal rule of faith is the preaching itself.
28. An appeal to John 5:39 is in vain: (a) from the context, the verb ereunate seems to be the indicative rather than the imperative (Kleist-Lilly: You have the Scriptures at your finger ends; Confrat. NT: You search the Scriptures); (b) even granting that it is the imperative, the text still proves nothing. From the fact that Christ refers the unbelieving Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees, to the sacred books of the Old Testament that they may learn therein of his divine mission, it does not at all follow that He intends every individual Christian to draw his faith directly from the Scriptures.

(Monsignor G. Van Noort, S.T.D., Dogmatic Theology, Volume II, Christ’s Church, Translated and Revised by John J. Castelot, S.S., S.T.D., S.S.L. & William R. Murphy, S.S., S.T.D., The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1957. pp 102-124.)

The “Heretical” Popes (Part 1): Adrian VI

Setting the Record straight…

The “Heretical” Popes
Part 1: Adrian VI

[UPDATE 07-APR-2015: The First Vatican Council on the Question of a Heretical Pope]

There are two major lines of argument used by people who are rabidly anti-sedevacantist; that is, those who oppose the position of Sedevacantism not on account of evidence, real or imagined, but on account of a desire to see the position opposed for some other motive.

The first line of argumentation is to downplay the problems with the Vatican II “Popes” to make them seem less serious than they are. The second line of argumentation is to exaggerate the problems with some true Popes of the past to make them seem comparable to the situation we find ourselves in today, when outright apostates are claiming the papal office, especially Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Paul VI.

As the heresies of Francis are so much out in the open now that anyone who wishes to retain some respectability and credibility can no longer deny them, it is the second line of argumentation that is now receiving renewed emphasis. On various blogs, forums, and web sites, claims are being made by some to the effect that “we’ve always had heretical Popes” — an outrageous and theologically as well as historically erroneous statement that is being uttered with a nonchalantness that could put Hans Kung to shame.

Boiling it down to the basics: The reason it is impossible for the Church to have a publicly heretical Pope is that this would destroy the unity of the Church, one of the hallmarks of her nature. The Church is necessarily united in Faith; if her head publicly held a different faith, she would cease to be one and be no better than the local Protestant church down the street, where each believer may disagree with any other, even with the pastor, about what the truth really is.

Already in Holy Scripture, St. Paul the Apostle refers to Holy Mother Church as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and teaches that our Lord instituted the sacred hierarchy so that “we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ; that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:13-14).

Furthermore, the Catholic Magisterium has consistently taught that all Catholics must be subject to the papacy as a student is subject to his teacher:

“The vigilance and the pastoral solicitude of the Roman Pontiff … according to the duties of his office, are principally and above all manifested in maintaining and conserving the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God. They strive also to the end that the faithful of Christ, not being like irresolute children, or carried about by every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men [Eph 4:14], may all come to the unity of faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God to form the perfect man, that they may not harm one another or offend against one another in the community and the society of this present life, but that rather, united in the bond of charity like members of a single body having Christ for head, and under the authority of his Vicar on earth, the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Blessed Peter, from whom is derived the unity of the entire Church, they may increase in number for the edification of the body, and with the assistance of divine grace, they may so enjoy tranquility in this life as to enjoy future beatitude.”

(Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolic Constitution Pastoralis Romani Pontificis, March 30, 1741; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 31; underlining added.)


The Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have primacy in the entire world. The Roman Pontiff is the Successor of Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, true Vicar of Christ, Head of the whole Church, Father and Teacher of all Christians.”

(Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolic Constitution Etsi Pastoralis, May 26, 1742; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 32; under-lining added.)


“Our desire is to maintain unity in the bond of peace; and We have no other motive, in exposing the deceits of those who abuse the names of the [Church] Fathers to give false meaning to their words. Let all understand that there is no teaching which the Fathers have more at heart than that all should be kept in unity, attached to this Chair [of St. Peter] which alone Christ has made mother and mistress of all the others.”

(Pope Pius VI, Decree Super Soliditate, Nov. 28, 1786; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 60; underlining added.)


To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.”

(Pope Leo XIII, Letter Epistola Tua to Cardinal Guibert, June 17, 1885; underlining added.)


“Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

(Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302; under-lining added.)


“Now, whoever will carefully examine and reflect upon the condition of the various religious societies, divided among themselves, and separated from the Catholic Church, which, from the days of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles has never ceased to exercise, by its lawful pastors, and still continues to exercise, the divine power committed to it by this same Lord; cannot fail to satisfy himself that neither any one of these societies by itself, nor all of them together, can in any manner constitute and be that One Catholic Church which Christ our Lord built, and established, and willed should continue; and that they cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity.

“For, whereas such societies are destitute of that living authority established by God, which especially teaches men what is of Faith, and what the rule of morals, and directs and guides them in all those things which pertain to eternal salvation, so they have continually varied in their doctrines, and this change and variation is ceaselessly going on among them. Every one must perfectly understand, and clearly and evidently see, that such a state of things is directly opposed to the nature of the Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ; for in that Church truth must always continue firm and ever inaccessible to all change, as a deposit given to that Church to be guarded in its integrity, for the guardianship of which the presence and aid of the Holy Ghost have been promised to the Church for ever. No one, moreover, can be ignorant that from these discordant doctrines and opinions social schisms have arisen, and that these again have given birth to sects and communions without number, which spread themselves continually, to the increasing injury of Christian and civil society.”

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes [1868]; underlining added.)

These quotes speak for themselves, and they are obviously incompatible with the idea that a Pope could be a heretic, and that when he is, each of the faithful needs to determine this for himself and “resist” him accordingly, lest he be led astray and be punished eternally.

If a true Pope could be a heretic and still remain Pope, then the Church would have no need of a Pope — then he would not differ in essence from the leaders of the Anglican sect, or of the Eastern Orthodox churches, or of the Protestant faith communities. He would just become a ceremonial head whose tasks might include that of guiding, directing, and inspecting, but who ultimately holds no genuine authority, in virtue of his office, to teach the Faith and whose teaching demands assent for the mere fact that he, the Pope, is the one who is teaching (cf. Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 20).

The one ecumenical council that dealt extensively with the dogmatic teaching on the papacy and the nature and authority of the Catholic Magisterium was the Vatican Council of 1870 (aka the “First” Vatican Council). Listen attentively to what the council teaches so eloquently:

To satisfy this pastoral duty, our predecessors always gave tireless attention that the saving doctrine of Christ be spread among all the peoples of the earth, and with equal care they watched that, wherever it was received, it was preserved sound and pure. Therefore, the bishops of the whole world, now individually, now gathered in Synods, following a long custom of the churches and the formula of the ancient rule, referred to this Holy See those dangers particularly which emerged in the affairs of faith, that there especially the damages to faith might be repaired where faith cannot experience a failure. The Roman Pontiffs, moreover, according as the condition of the times and affairs advised, sometimes by calling ecumenical Councils or by examining the opinion of the Church spread throughout the world; sometimes by particular synods, sometimes by employing other helps which divine Providence supplied, have defined that those matters must be held which with God’s help they have recognized as in agreement with Sacred Scripture and apostolic tradition. For, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth. Indeed, all the venerable fathers have embraced their apostolic doctrine, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed it, knowing full well that the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” [Luke 22:32].

So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair, that they might administer their high duty for the salvation of all; that the entire flock of Christ, turned away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished on the sustenance of heavenly doctrine, that with the occasion of schism removed the whole Church might be saved as one, and relying on her foundation might stay firm against the gates of hell.

(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; Denz. 1836-1837; underlining added.)

It should be obvious to all that this teaching cannot be squared with the idea of a Pope who is also a public heretic, that is, one who publicly professes a faith that contradicts the faith of the Catholic Church as received from the Apostles. Quite simply, if a Pope could be a public heretic, then Vatican I’s teaching was false. But this is impossible. Therefore, we know that a Pope cannot be a public heretic.

Nevertheless, time and again assertions are made by anti-sedevacantists that several Popes in the Church’s history were public heretics — the sole objective being, of course, to lend support to the argument that if these “heretical Popes” were still true Popes, then so must we consider Francis and his five predecessors of infelicitous memory likewise to be true Popes, at least until some future Pope should declare otherwise (in which case one would then have to ask why anyone should pay attention to that future Pope if the contemporary ones need not be heeded, since what applies to one Pope necessarily applies to all of them). The position is entirely driven by the desire to justify accepting the Vatican II “Popes” while not having to assent to their teaching or having to submit to their rule.

The names of the alleged “heretical Popes” in Catholic history are usually the following, in chronological order (though others pop up occasionally as well): Liberius, Honorius I, Stephen VII, John XII, and John XXII. We will examine each case one by one, and perhaps a few others, in several installments, of which the current post is but the first, although we must begin with a different name altogether: that of Adrian VI.

Although no one has accused Pope Adrian VI of heresy, we will begin our blog post series on the “heretical Popes” with his case because he is sometimes invoked as having taught and believed that Popes can be heretics. In fact, the infamous quote, “Many Roman Pontiffs were heretics, the last of them being John XXII”, is ascribed to Pope Adrian, and some eager anti-sedevacantists have been quick to circulate this suspicious quote on the internet because, if true, it would help their case tremendously. Yet, this attitude of “Let’s make a claim first and ask questions later” is not acceptable with regard to such a serious and important matter as the orthodoxy of the Vicars of Christ and Catholic teaching on the papacy in general, which is the most august office in the world.

So, let’s pose the question directly: Did Pope Adrian VI truly utter or even teach these words, and what is their source?

The fact is that Pope Adrian did no such thing. Rather, the words were uttered by the theologian Adrianus Florentius, who later became Pope Adrian VI (he retained his baptismal name, Adrian, even as Pope). The book in which Adrianus makes this assertion is his Commentary on the Fourth Book of Sentences of Peter Lombard, published in 1516 (and in other editions even before then). Adrian did not became Pope until 1522 and died the following year. The authenticity of the quote can be verified by consulting an original copy of the book, which is available online. We are producing here a snapshot of the paragraph that contains the passage in question:

Source: Hadrianus Florentius, Quaestiones in quartum sententiarum praesertim circa sacramenta (Louvain, Belgium: 1516), fol. XXIII [screenshot of p. 52 of PDF file provided by Google Books]

There is no doubt that this quote and its source are authentic. We see, for example, other Catholic theologians writing at the time of Adrianus Florentius or after — but before the Vatican Council of 1870, we curiously note — referring to Adrian’s quote. For example, Bp. Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet of Meaux, France, uses the controversial quotation in Chapter 28 of his monograph Gallia Orthodoxa (1682).

Though in many ways recognized as a great theologian, Bossuet was also a proponent of Gallicanism and opposed the infallibility of the Pope, which was later defined as a dogma by the First Vatican Council, where this tenet of the Gallican school was condemned as heretical. At the time of Bossuet, however, a number of Gallican positions later condemned were still permitted theological opinions, or at least ones that were tolerated. This explains why Bossuet was able to hold this particular idea without being condemned at the time.

Gallicanism was a conglomeration of errors concerning the authority of the Pope mostly found in 17th and 18th-century France, though its origins go back to the 14th century. Over time, various Gallican propositions were condemned by the Church, most notably by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690 and Pope Pius VI in 1794, and most recently by the First Vatican Council in 1870, so that Gallicanism “is now professed only by the heretical sect of the Old Catholics” (Donald Attwater, ed., A Catholic Dictionary, s.v. “Gallicanism”) — note well! It is perhaps no accident that a lot of the errors held and promoted by the Society of St. Pius X resemble those of Gallicanism, as their founder, Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, was French.

Back to Bossuet. In the above-mentioned work, he approvingly cites Adrianus Florentius — who, at the time, was a theology professor in Louvain, Belgium — concerning the allegation that “many Roman Pontiffs were heretics”, though he admits that Adrianus wrote this not as Pope but as a theologian before he was raised to the Supreme Pontificate. Nevertheless, Bossuet argues, after Adrian had become Pope, he never retracted his original claim and even published his writings in Rome in 1522, that is, after becoming Pope. This is also the argument made by the rabidly anti-sedevacantist French blog La Question, which features an article on the topic here:

So, this seems like a slam dunk for the anti-sedevacantists, doesn’t it?

Well, not so fast. We need to be careful to distinguish evidence and facts from assumptions and conjecture. Let’s take a step back and list what we know and what we can reasonably infer:

  • Though not clearly proven, it is reasonably established that Adrianus Florentius made the claim that many Popes were heretics — unless the document was a forgery, which, however, would have to be proven
  • It is known that this was Adrianus’ belief before becoming Pope — he uttered it as a theology professor at Louvain
  • This belief, though erroneous, was allowed to be held at the time, or at least tolerated, as we can see from the fact that other theologians who held it, not only Adrianus Florentius but also Bossuet, for example, were not censured at the time (something that St. Robert Bellarmine points out, as we will see below)
  • It has not been directly proven, but merely inferred (albeit reasonably), that the edition of Adrianus’ writing after he became Pope still contains the claim that many Roman Pontiffs were heretics
  • The position taken by Adrianus and seconded by Bossuet was adhered to before the dogmatic teaching on the papacy by the Vatican Council of 1870
  • Even if we were to concede that it is possible for a Pope to become a public heretic and still remain a valid Pope, it is clear that Adrianus’ assertion that “many” Popes were heretics is definitely false
  • The only “Catholic” book we know of that still used the Adrianus quote after the First Vatican Council is Paul Viollet’s 1904 work L’Infaillibilité du Pape et le Syllabus [“The Infallibility of the Pope and the Syllabus”], where the author tries to back up his position that Popes can be heretics. This book, however, was subsequently examined by the Vatican and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books under Pope St. Pius X in 1908

Can you imagine what the anti-sedevacantists would say to us if as “proof” of our position we used a statement written by a Pope before he was Pope on the grounds that he did not retract it after becoming Pope and ordered (or simply didn’t prevent) the publication of his book during his pontificate? We’re talking here about people who do not think they are bound by teachings in papal encyclicals, by papal canonizations, by decrees of ecumenical councils, by universal church law, etc. Why would they care about what a Pope said before he became Pope — even if he allowed the document to be published once more after ascending the papal throne — about 350 years before the First Vatican Council?

It’s really funny how these anti-sedevacantists always demand nothing short of an ex cathedra pronouncement of us to prove our position, but somehow their position is definitively proved by every hiss or sneeze of anyone who wasn’t burned at the stake. The double standard is glaring and quite telling. Apparently, their arguments are determined not by what is true and reasonable, but solely by what helps support their desired conclusion.

But let’s look at some more evidence concerning the position taken by Adrianus Florentius, which he may also have held privately as Pope Adrian VI (we say “privately” because he certainly never made it part of his pontifical Magisterium). It’s not like no Catholic theologian or historian has ever written about this other than Bp. Bossuet and Paul Viollet. In fact, even St. Robert Bellarmine mentioned Adrian VI, as we will see later.

The famous French manual Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique [“Dictionary of Catholic Theology”] has an entry on Adrian VI, and devotes one paragraph in particular to the issue at hand:

In Quaestiones in IVum Sententiarum, the statement that the pope can err, even in something which touches upon the faith has been noted. But it is altogether wrong that certain adversaries of infallibility have seen in this a serious argument in their favor, or that even in our days, certain others pretend to be scandalized by it. Adrian wrote the book from which the citation is taken long before his elevation to the chair of Peter, and it obviously does not participate in any way in the authority of pontifical acts. There is, moreover, no proof that in the mind of its author the assertion applies to ex cathedra definitions; consequently, [the statement] is nothing more than a reproduction of a theological opinion we encounter many times before the sixteenth century, either from the pen of popes themselves or in documents they approved. Thus Innocent III wrote: ‘Faith is so necessary to me that, if for every other fault I am subject to the judgment of God alone, it is only for a sin I commit in a matter of faith that I become subject to judgment of the tribunal of the Church.’ And already even before this, one reads in the Decree of Gratian (dist. XL, c. vi) these words of Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz: ‘No mortal man should pretend to reproach [the Roman Pontiff] for his faults. For, established as the judge of all, he recognizes no judge over himself, at least as long as he does not commit an error against the faith.’ In these texts and many others like it, the pope is obviously spoken of as a private doctor.

(J. Forget, “Adrian VI”, in Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique [Paris: Letouzey, 1913-50], vol. I, c. 461; our translation; some italics removed.)

So, in short, the key take-away here is that what Adrianus said, even if we grant that he ordered it reprinted while he was Pope, is nothing but a “theological opinion” which, at that point in time, was still permissible to hold, but which was certainly no longer acceptable since the First Vatican Council, whose teaching is irreconcilable with the idea that the Pope could be a heretic. Hence it is easy to see why Paul Viollet’s book was put on the Index, even though it actually carried an imprimatur from the local ordinary, Abp. Fulbert Petit (ouch!).

The argument about Adrianus Florentius on the “heretical Popes” is also made by the excommunicated “Old Catholic” heretic Johann von Döllinger in his condemned work Der Papst und das Concil [in English translation as The Pope and the Council (Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers, 1870), p. 306], which he wrote under his pseudonym Janus. The work was also put on the Index of Forbidden Books and was refuted by Cardinal Joseph Hergenröther in his 1870 book Anti-Janus.

Next, let’s go to an Italian resource. The Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-Ecclesiastica [“Dictionary of Historical-Ecclesiastical Erudition”] says regarding Pope Adrian VI:

Adrian VI, Pope 228, formerly Adriano Florenzio, son of the craftsman Florenzio, was born on March 2, 1459 in Utrecht, Netherlands, and not in Sanzano in the diocese of Brescia, as stated without any good reason by the capuchin Mattia Bellintani (Storia di Salò, 1586). He received his degree in Leuven, and after that founded a college in that university which bears his name, which was later also named “Pontifical”. Someone noted that Adrian wrote (in 4 sent. de confirmatione): plures Pontifices fuerunt heretici (multiple Popes were heretics). Lodovico Vincenzo Goti excellently answers this accusation (tom. I verae eccles. cap II. n. 6): Adrian stated this while he was a theologian in Leuven; therefore, if his works were reprinted after he became Pope, without the removal of these words, one cannot say that he, as Pope, would support such a statement. How many times are works not reprinted without the author being aware of it, or with the author not being the last to make amendments? Later, Adrian received the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Leuven, then became dean of the cathedral, and finally vice-chancellor of the university. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, appointed him as preceptor of Charles, his grandson, also sending him as ambassador to Ferdinand, the King of Spain, who appointed him as bishop of Tortosa, in that kingdom. When Charles ascended to the throne, the king gave to Adrian full powers over all the aspects of his monarchy and, since Adrian had already been made Cardinal of Saints John and Paul by [Pope] Leo X after an inquiry of Maximilian, he left him as general inquisitor and governor of Spain for the whole time, before going to Germany and taking possession of that empire under the name of Charles V.

(Gaetano Moroni Romano, ed., Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-Ecclesiastica [Venice: Tipografia Emiliana, 1840], s.v. “Adriano VI”, p. 104; our translation; some italics changed.)

Ah, so maybe the whole matter isn’t as clear-cut as some anti-sedevacantists would have us believe. Viollet, in his condemned work, mentions this reference and even quotes it (see p. 21, fn. 1) but claims it is improbable that Pope Adrian modified his work before being reprinted, or that it was reprinted without his knowledge or permission. All right, so now we’re down to arguing probabilities. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but let’s not act as though we had a clear-cut case here. In addition, let’s not forget that Viollet’s opinion appears in a book that has been condemned by the Church. So, which position had we rather side with?

At the end of the day, however, as already indicated, it does not really matter whether Pope Adrian had this work reprinted with or without this error, for the following two reasons:

  • The error was a permitted theological opinion at the time
  • The error in no wise became a part of his papal Magisterium

St. Robert Bellarmine himself in fact addresses the thesis of Adrianus Florentius in his monumental work De Romano Pontifice, first published by this name in the 17th century. He calls the opinion that the Pope can be a heretic and of himself (though not when making a definition at a council) teach heresy an opinion that “we dare not call properly heretical, for we still see those who maintain this position tolerated by the Church; yet it does seem completely erroneous and proximate to heresy and can rightly be judged heretical by the Church” (St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book 4, Ch. 2, in Opera Omnia, Book 1 [Naples: J. Giuliano, 1856], p. 478; now available in complete English translation here: On the Roman Pontiff).

Now notice one very important thing: St. Robert is writing in the 17th century, over 250 years before the First Vatican Council issued its dogmas on the papacy. This corroborates exactly what we’ve asserted in this post, namely, that before Vatican I, these matters were still being disputed among theologians, especially back in the 1500’s and 1600’s, when Adrianus and Bossuet were writing, and therefore some positions were then either allowed or at least “tolerated” (St. Robert’s word) that can no longer be held today, over 140 years after Vatican I. In fact, St. Robert — who, as of 1931, is a Doctor of the Church, we might add — already says in the 1600s that the position taken by Adrianus and many anti-sedevacantists today could with justice be condemned as heretical in the future. This had not yet been done back then, so the people who held it were not heretics, but it is significant that St. Robert says that it deserves to be condemned as heretical. No wonder books during and after Vatican I who maintainted this position were put on the Index.

Another point that ought to be brought up, even if just for the sake of historical accuracy, is that when Adrianus Florentius wrote that “many Roman Pontiffs were heretics” in his Quaestiones in Quartum Sententiarum, he said it merely in passing and not as part of a treatise on papal authority or the unity of the Church. Rather, the context was dismissing an argument made by a theological opponent regarding the sacrament of confirmation. The opponent had cited St. Gregory the Great to substantiate his point about priests being able to administer confirmations, and Adrianus, disagreeing, said that Gregory had been wrong, and besides (so the theologian Adrianus claimed), “many Roman Pontiffs were heretics”. That is the context of the controversial saying to begin with. This does not, of course, negate what he said, but it is important to keep in mind that Adrianus’ remark was incidental to a discussion on a completely different topic; it was an obiter dictum. In addition to that, we note that he was wrong, not only with regard to confirmation, but also with regard to the question of whether many Popes were heretics. This is something that tends to be glossed over: Adrianus’ assertion is false.

And thus we have demolished yet another misleading anti-sedevacantist argument. As you can see, it takes real research to properly understand such issues, and we Sedevacantists are greatly outnumbered by the (often paid) apologists of the much more popular and convenient “resistance” position, in which you can have all the advantages of the sedevacantist position without any of its disadvantages.

Alas, our critics have the “bully pulpit”. They have the prestige, the positions of authority, the applause of the majority, the fancy broadcasting equipment, and the money and the time to disseminate their position to a wide audience. But there is one thing we have that they do not: the truth. If you would like to help the mission of Novus Ordo Watch, we have listed 12 specific ways you can do so; and no, they do not have to involve money.

A few more closing comments are in order.

In the debate about Sedevacantism, whether the Chair of St. Peter has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, a lot of things are asserted by people who do not really understand the subject matter or who do not take the time to do real research. As we can see in the case of Pope Adrian VI here, it is very disappointing and troublesome to see anti-sedevacantists mindlessly recycle a quote of which they have no real knowledge other than someone having discovered it in a book put on the Index. They use the quote because it helps their case, regardless of what the truth of the matter may be. Such “research” and argumentation are reprehensible, and look at the consequences: They have now put in people’s minds the impious idea that a Pope does not even have to profess the true Faith in order to be Pope, in order to be the bulwark of truth and the principle of unity in the Church. The matter is absurd.

What’s also quite interesting is that these arguments and quotes brought forth by the anti-sedevacantists about the “heretical Popes” tend to be brought up, since 1870, only by people who argued against Vatican I. The only two “Catholic” books we know of since that council that use the case of Adrian VI to argue that Popes can be heretics are Dollinger’s and Viollet’s, and both were put on the Index. Not exactly a positive omen for our critics.

That’s why it is no surprise to see that, in general, any “resistance” quotes brought up by anti-sedevacantists are always from sources before 1870, when the First Vatican Council settled a number of teachings regarding the Papacy and the Magisterium. (Our TRADCAST 003 podcast deals with this matter at length.) Why will they not quote theologians after the council to justify their “recognize-and-resist” stance? Quite simply, because they cannot find any who teach such a thing, that’s why.

In Sacred Theology throughout history, you will always find positions at one time permitted and held that are later condemned or abandoned. This is to be expected, as the task of the theologian is to explain Catholic teaching and show its source in and harmony with Divine Revelation. Over hundreds of years, as theologians debate various issues, there will always be positions accepted that are later rejected by the Church as untenable, erroneous, or even heretical, and the history of the Church is full of precisely that, as the famous doctrinal document collection Denzinger (“The Sources of Catholic Dogma”) attests.

As we have insisted on numerous occasions in the past, it is absolutely essential to distinguish “heretical” Popes from immoral or “bad” Popes. The former is an impossibility, whereas the latter is, unfortunately, not unheard of in the history of the Church. The following resources we have produced will clarify this important distinction and explain the reasons why one is impossible and the other isn’t:

The Vatican II Sect and the resistance position of the Society of St. Pius X have done immeasurable damage to people’s understanding of Catholicism, especially the papacy. People are now accustomed to accusing real Popes (including the fake ones, inasmuch as they believe them to be real) of heresy without batting an eye. Yet notice how, even hundreds of years before Vatican I, St. Robert Bellarmine went out of his way to argue that such a thing was not even possible. If only St. Robert had had the wisdom of today’s resistance bloggers! He had no idea that the history of the Church is filled with “heretical Popes”, and neither did the fathers of the First Vatican Council! Martin Luther would be proud.

In truth, the situation is absurd. In their insatiable desire to see the Novus Ordo “Popes” as true Popes, while rejecting anything and everything from them that they find objectionable, the “resisters” have injected into people’s minds ideas that are entirely at odds with sound Catholic teaching, perverting their Faith to the point that they would never think of applying the clear teachings of the Catholic Magisterium on the papacy to Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, or Paul VI. They would never do so because they know that if they did, it would turn them into heretics. But you cannot fight heresy with more heresy, nor with schism. It is simply impossible to accept Francis and his five predecessors as true Popes (with all that entails, not just the verbal acknowledgment) and still be a Catholic. So, what follows? They cannot have been true Popes. It is a necessary conclusion.

Thus far our first post in our ongoing series The “Heretical” Popes. Others will follow in due time. As you can see, it is very easy to disseminate a quote one has picked up somewhere without knowing the background, and to accuse Popes of the past of having been heretics. But it takes real, painstaking research to disentangle the whole mess and find out what the truth of the matter really is.


in Novus Ordo Wire    

Bishop Fellay’s interview

Bp. Bernard Fellay

Bp. Bernard Fellay

Bishop Fellay, who has been, until recently, the head of the Society of Saint Pius X for the past twenty-four years, gave an interview to Tagespost in which he said a few things which deserve attention.

The first is this: “We have never said that the Council directly taught any heresies. But it took away the wall of protection from error, and thereby permitted error to show itself.”

Is this an accurate statement? Did Vatican II merely expose the Church to error? Or did it actually contain heresies? Answer: It contained heresies.

The first heresy of Vatican II: ecumenism. The document Unitatis Redintegratio, or the Decree on Ecumenism, contains a glaring heresy against the Catholic dogma which teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation. The Council states:

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church. [Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 3] [Emphasis added].

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma — it was called a “most well-known Catholic dogma” by Pius IX — that outside the Church there is no salvation. The Council states the precise contradictory of the Catholic dogma, namely that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church, that these non-Catholic religions can deliver salvation to their adherents, and are indeed the means by which they are saved. This is heresy.

The second heresy of Vatican II: religious liberty. The Catholic Church, professing to be the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ, and outside of which there is no salvation, understands religious liberty to be the liberty of the Catholic Church to carry out its mission in the world, to establish itself everywhere, to function freely as an entity distinct from the State. It also claims the liberty of its adherents to profess and practice their Catholic faith without harassment or molestation.

It condemns the idea, as being contrary to Sacred Scripture, that all religions have these same liberties and these same rights. For to assert such a thing would be the same as saying that a person or organization would have a right to do something wrong. But this is contrary to the natural law, and therefore contrary to the Church’s teaching. You can have a right only to do something right, and never a right to do something wrong.

Liberty is the power of electing the good. License is the freedom falsely accorded to the will to elect evil. In order that there be the exercise of true liberty, it is necessary that it not detract from any duty. For liberty does not exist for evil, but for the good. Therefore, for as often as man abuses liberty for the purpose of committing evil, it should not be called liberty but instead license.

Liberty of conscience is absolutely impious. For man is by a most strict duty bound to think correctly about God, and concerning those things which regard both speculative and practical religion. But to go against a most strict duty of nature is license, not liberty. If we are talking about a voluntary transgression of our duty toward God, the aforesaid license is impiety. Because, therefore, through liberty of conscience the right is given to man to think concerning God however he pleases, this liberty, this right, is truly an impiety.

The liberty of religions, considered in itself, is absurd. This proposition is proven by what has been already said. For the liberty of religions is inferred only from the liberty of conscience. Because liberty of conscience is absurd, it follows also that the liberty of religions is absurd. But more must be said. If one concedes the liberty of religions, one takes away from God the power of imposing a determined worship upon men, and one imposes upon God a certain obligation of accepting or at least of approving any form of worship shown to Him by human reason. But God has commanded a form of worship — the Catholic religion. Consequently He is not obliged to accept just any form of worship that human beings give Him. It follows that men cannot, without obvious irreligion and impiety reject the precepts of God, and be the arbiters of their own worship. On the other hand, it is an impiety to deny to God the faculty of determining worship, and to impose some kind of duty upon Him of approving all forms of worship indiscriminately. Therefore the liberty of religions is absurd.

Vatican II, however, teaches that liberty of religion for the individual and for religious organizations is a right which flows from the notion of human dignity. Furthermore, it says that this teaching concerning human dignity is contained in revelation, but gives no reference where in revelation God guarantees the right to believe and practice whatever religion you want.

Vatican II teaches in Dignitatis Humanæ, no. 2:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Some try to defend the Council by saying that the only thing it means is that no one should be converted to Catholicism by the sword. The Church has always taught that conversion should not take place in such a manner, and has condemned any attempt to do so. That this is not the intention of the Council can be seen from the paragraphs subsequent to the one cited above:

The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

Provided the just demands of public order are observed, religious communities rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their religious principles.

Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transfer-ral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties.
Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word.

Those of us who have lived in a country such as the United States, where the religious liberty described in these paragraphs is considered a normal, even sacred, civil right, fail to see the malice of these words. If we substitute “abortion” for “religion,” the point might become clearer: “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to an abortion.” “Abortion clinics are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of abortion itself.” “Provided the just demands of public order are observed, abortion clinics rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, publicly perform abortions, assist their members in the practice of abortion, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their abortion principles.”

Need I go on? It should be pointed out here that, as heinous a crime as abortion is, the profession of a false religion is far more heinous in God’s sight, being directly contrary to His solemn rights. It is not to be forgotten that in Exodus (chapter 32) God ordered the slaying of all those who had participated in the worship of the golden calf, and who had not repented of it. The number of those slain was 23,000. This momentous event was to demonstrate to the Hebrew people the necessity of adhering to the true religion, and of shunning false religions. According to Vatican II, Moses should have proclaimed religious liberty for all of the calf-worshippers.

Religious liberty, as it is taught by Vatican II, is in-deed a heresy. It is solemnly condemned by Pope Pius IX as being against the Scriptures. Furthermore, Archbishop Lefebvre considered religious liberty to be a heresy. He said exactly this to Fr. Cekada in a dinner conversation at Oyster Bay.

The third heresy of Vatican II: The new ecclesiology. By ecclesiology we mean the Church’s doctrine concerning its own nature, that is, its essence and characteristics. Vatican II teaches a heretical ecclesiology. It is contained in Lumen Gentium.

The traditional dogma of the Catholic Church is that the Catholic Church, and it alone, is the one true Church of Christ, and that therefore any entity outside of itself is a false religion. This includes even those schismatic religions of the East which may have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments. If you are cut off from the center — the pope — you are nothing but a dead branch that has fallen off the vine.

Vatican II altered this doctrine in order to include other Christian denominations in the Church of Christ, saying that the Church of Christ, as an organized body, subsists in the Catholic Church.

What does it mean to subsist in? Subsistence is a perfection of a thing whereby it exists on its own, and not in something else. For example, a color cannot exist on its own, but must always exist in something else, e.g., paint, a flower, a cloth. That “something else” must have its own subsistence.

Applying this to ecclesiology, if the Church of Christ does not subsist on its own, but must subsist in something else, it means that the Church of Christ is really distinct from what it subsists in, namely that they are by nature two different things. It means that the Church of Christ is not the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ. If they were by nature not two different things, then they would be the same thing, and it would be necessary to say the the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, which is precisely the dogma of the Catholic Church.

The “subsists in” doctrine also means that the Church of Christ could subsist in something else, like the Lutheran Church, for example.

While this doctrine does wonders for the heresy of ecumenism and religious liberty, it destroys the Church’s teaching that the Catholic Church is exclusively the Church of Christ, and vice versa. The Church of Christ and the Catholic Church are one and the same, and exclusively so, meaning that no other “Christian” organization can call itself the Church of Christ in any way whatsoever. The only appropriate name for them is a heretical or schismatic sect.

The fourth heresy of Vatican II: Collegiality. This doctrine, also contained in Lumen Gentium, holds that the subject (possessor) of supreme power in the Church is the college of bishops. Listen to the Council:

The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.

This is heresy. For the Catholic Church teaches that the Roman Pontiff is the head of the Catholic Church. Listen to the Council of Florence: “We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world, and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of Blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true Vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that the full power was given to him in Blessed Peter by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons.” (Decree for the Greeks, July 6, 1439)

Pope Pius VI condemned this doctrine: “All the bishops together and in one body govern the same Church, each one with full power.”

Some try to save Vatican II from heresy by saying that the Council states that the pope is the head of the college, and that it cannot act without him. But this does not save it from heresy, because the pope in that case simply becomes another member of the college of bishops, and merely a condition of their power, but not the source of their power.

Others try to save the Council by pointing out that the document asserts that the Pope is the head of the Church: “In virtue of his office, that is, as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church.” This is a futile attempt, however. No organization can have two heads, two supreme legislators. For example, it is impossible that both king and parliament be the supreme legislator. One must have the last word, to whom the other is subservient. King Charles I of England lost his head by upholding the supremacy of the king over parliament.

Yet others try to save the Council by citing the Preliminary Note of Explanation (the Nota Prævia), but this is worthless, since it is not part of the document accepted by the bishops. The modernist theologian Yves Congar was swift to point this out when he was a peritus at the Council. Besides, there is nothing in the Nota Prævia which cancels out the conciliarist heresy in the document.

The Catholic doctrine is that the pope, as supreme head of the Church, may invite the bishops into a general council, in which, by his consent, they participate in his power to rule the Church. Apart from these general councils, the authority of bishops is confined to their dioceses. The power to rule the diocese is from Christ, but comes to them through the Roman Pontiff, who may remove the power from them whenever he will. Pope Pius XII taught in the Encyclical Mystici Corporis: “Yet in exercising this office they [the bishops] are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff.” (no. 42)

Bishop Fellay sells out to the Modernists on the Council. About a year ago, the Vatican told the Society of Saint Pius X that there could be no hope of reconciliation unless the SSPX accepts Vatican II and the post-Vatican II magisterium. By saying that there is no heresy in Vatican II, Bishop Fellay is saying that Vatican II is orthodox, that is, Catholic, and is not offensive to the Catholic Faith.

If that be so, then what have we been doing for the past fifty years?

Bishop Fellay also sells out on the question of the New Mass. Bishop Fellay makes this remark-able statement: “Not every New Mass is a scandal directly, but the repeated celebration of the New Mass leads to a weakening or even a loss of faith.”

Question: how could it not be a scandal if it leads to a loss of faith? How could an infallible and indefectible Church, the Church of Christ, assisted by the Holy Ghost, the pillar and ground of truth, as St.Paul calls it, promulgate to the whole world a rite which leads to the loss of faith? Bishop Fellay’s statement falls under the anathema of the Council of Trent: “If anyone says that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, which the Catholic Church uses in the celebration of Masses, are incentives to impiety rather than the services of piety, let him be anathema.”

Bishop Fellay states in this same interview that the traditional Mass is like a silver trumpet, whereas the New Mass is like a brass trumpet:

I say only that if you are receiving a head of State, and you have the choice between a silver trumpet and a brass trumpet, would you choose the brass trumpet? It would be an insult. You would not do it. Even the best New Masses are like trumpets of brass, in comparison to the traditional liturgy. For God, we would choose what is better.

The only conclusion to draw from this statement is that the New Mass is a Catholic Mass but it is merely inferior to the traditional Mass. After all, they are both trumpets! The silver one is merely nicer than the brass one. I think a better analogy would have been to compare the New Mass not to a brass trumpet, but to a giant elephant passing gas.

Bishop Fellay, until recently, was the head of the organization which purports to be the bulwark of tradition, the single hope of the Catholic faithful who want to be protected from Vatican II and its reforms. Yet he is all mixed up in regard to the highest guiding principles of resistance to Vatican II. On the one hand he says that the New Mass weakens or destroys your faith — which means that it is poison — and then a few lines later says that it is a brass trumpet and not a silver one, indicating that there is merely a difference of quality between the two Masses.

It is for this reason that we rejoice over our separation from the SSPX in 1983. We saw the seeds of this utter theological confusion, this theology à la Maxine Waters, and wanted no part of it.

We may be small in comparison to the SSPX, but we are not mixed up. As Garrigou-Lagrange put it: “A thousand idiots do not equal one genius.” Likewise a thousand mixed up priests do not equal one priest with his head screwed on right.

Bishop Fellay’s interview

Recognize-and-OBEY is the Traditional Catholic Teaching

Not ‘recognize-and-resist’…

Recognize-and-OBEY is the Traditional Catholic Teaching

The sedevacantist blogger Steven Speray has recently released an important blog post we are happy to republish on this web site, with his permission. It concerns the foundational belief of those who try to be traditional Catholics while believing the “Popes” after Pius XII to be valid and true Vicars of Christ — the so-called “recognize-and-resist” position (R&R).

Pope Pius XI Squashes the Recognize-and-Resist Position

by Steve Speray (Aug. 27, 2019)

Can the faithful recognize and resist the pope? I dealt with this question in a 2015 article. However, I recently stumbled upon some teachings from Pope Pius XI that castigate the recognize-and-resist theology. I’ve highlighted the relevant parts within the context that contradicts R&R-ism.

In Mortalium Animos – On Religious Unity, Jan. 6, 1928, Pope Pius XI declared:

#5 Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil; for We are confident that by the writings and words of each one of you the people will more easily get to know and understand those principles and arguments which We are about to set forth, and from which Catholics will learn how they are to think and act when there is question of those undertakings which have for their end the union in one body, whatsoever be the manner, of all who call themselves Christians…

#7…There are some, indeed, who recognize and affirm that Protestantism, as they call it, has rejected, with a great lack of consideration, certain articles of faith and some external ceremonies, which are, in fact, pleasing and useful, and which the Roman Church still retains. They soon, however, go on to say that that Church also has erred, and corrupted the original religion by adding and proposing for belief certain doctrines which are not only alien to the Gospel, but even repugnant to it.

#11…Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors. Did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls?

The words “recognize and obey” are exactly opposite to “recognize and resist.”  The R&R crowd doesn’t obey those they call the legitimate successors of Peter. They ignore them, resist them, and reject their teachings. They are most certainly trying to stand in the way of the Vatican II popes and implementing Vatican II and the Novus Ordo. Of course, the R&R crowd is correct in rejecting the Modernism of the Vatican II “popes”, but their justification for doing so in opposition to what is recognized as the papal authority, is heretical, blasphemous, and just plain stupid.

The underlying principle of Mortalium Animos is rejected by the R&R crowd. But then again, every papal document is an instance of the Roman Pontiff putting forth his papal authority for the faithful to obey, not to resist.

On Dec. 31, 1929, Pope Pius XI declared in Divini Illius Magistri – On Christian Education:

18. Hence it is that in this proper object of her mission, that is, “in faith and morals, God Himself has made the Church sharer in the divine magisterium and, by a special privilege, granted her immunity from error; hence she is the mistress of men, supreme and absolutely sure, and she has inherent in herself an inviolable right to freedom in teaching.’…

20.The Church does not say that morality belongs purely, in the sense of exclusively, to her; but that it belongs wholly to her.…

25. The extent of the Church’s mission in the field of education is such as to embrace every nation, without exception, according to the command of Christ: “Teach ye all nations;” and there is no power on earth that may lawfully oppose her or stand in her way. In the first place, it extends over all the Faithful, of whom she has anxious care as a tender mother.

The whole document is about the importance of getting a good, holy, and true Christian education, which can only come about by following and obeying the teachings of the Roman Pontiff and following his rules for this education. What’s the point if the Catholic Church is propagating error like every other religion, as the R&R proponents essentially claim?

The position of the R&R crowd makes the Catholic Church out to be the biggest hypocritical organization in the world. It would mean that the Catholic Church is more or less permitted to lead people astray with error, while all other religions are condemned by the Catholic Church for doing the same thing. It would mean only the Catholic Church gets to be heretical, while Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy are condemned by the Catholic Church as false religions when they do so.

That’s why the R&R position is heretical, blasphemous, and stupid.

On Dec. 31, 1930, Pope Pius XI promulgated Casti Connubii – On Christian Marriage. Once again, the pope emphasizes his authority over all the faithful. He declares in #104:

Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.

The approach of the R&R crowd is to resist, dismiss, and disdain every papal teaching that they think comes short of proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas protected by infallibility. In principle, the R&R crowd is really no different than the liberals who reject the teaching of Casti Connubii on the authority of the Roman Pontiff as much as they do — they just apply it to a different issue (that of contraception; see #54).

The pick-and-choose mentality of the R&R crowd is what makes them the worst of hypocrites. They profess to be obedient and faithful Catholics but are neither.

Jesus told us where hypocrites go in Matt. 24:51 — and it’s not paradise.

Minor edits have been made to this post to enhance readability and consistency, with the author’s permission. The original can be found here.


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que preserva de las seducciones del error” (II Tesal. II-10).

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homoseksualizacija društva - politička korektnost - totalitarizam - za roditelje: prevencija homoseksualnosti - svjedočanstva izlaska iz homoseksualnosti

¿Quis ut Deus? Veritas Vincit

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

¿Quis ut Deus? Stat Veritas

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Traditional Catholic Education

A Traditional Catholic(Sedevacantist) Site.

Call Me Jorge...

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans


que preserva de las seducciones del error” (II Tesal. II-10).

Ecclesia Militans

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

St. Gertrude the Great

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Speray's Catholicism in a Nutshell

Apologia for Sedevacantism and Catholic Doctrine


Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

St. Anthony of Padua - Hammer of Heretics

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Introibo Ad Altare Dei

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

: Quidlibet :

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans Articles

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

TRADITIO.COM: The Traditional Roman Catholic Network

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

True Restoration

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans


homoseksualizacija društva - politička korektnost - totalitarizam - za roditelje: prevencija homoseksualnosti - svjedočanstva izlaska iz homoseksualnosti

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