Category Archives: Tradicionalni Katolicizam

Why would Anybody be a Sedevacantist?! A Calm and Insightful Explanation

Seriously now…

Why would Anybody be a Sedevacantist?! 

Despite over seven years of the walking disaster that is Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), there are still people in the world who seriously wonder why anybody would be a sedevacantist; and decades of misinformation (usually propagated by critics of the position) and poor education (often due to scarce resources) certainly haven’t helped things.

Novus Ordo Watch tries to offer a much-needed corrective to this lamentable state of affairs, and in that spirit we would like to draw everyone’s attention to the following video interview with the well-known sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada, who passed away just last month.

Produced by True Restoration in 2011, it is a calm and insightful conversation in which Fr. Cekada explains very simply why only the sedevacantist position is the truly Catholic position to take with regard to the Vatican II Church and the apostasy it has engendered, and how we can know this for certain. As a former member of the Novus Ordo Church and also the Society of St. Pius X, Father narrates his own personal conversion from his original “conservative Novus Ordo” position all the way to Sedevacantism. He also addresses many common questions and objections, including:

  • All will be fine if we’re only loyal to the “Holy Father”
  • If Vatican II is interpreted in light of Tradition, there is no problem
  • It’s safer to just “recognize and resist” the Vatican II Popes
  • We can’t judge the Pope, but we can resist errors and heresy
  • St. Paul resisted St. Peter, he didn’t declare him a non-Pope
  • A bad father is still a father, so a bad Pope is still Pope
  • We will have to wait for a future Pope to decide the sede vacante issue
  • So then why don’t you just have a conclave and elect a new Pope?
  • If you can’t have a conclave, how will you ever have a true Pope again?
  • What about Fatima? Our Lady said the Holy Father would consecrate Russia!

Be sure to watch this video, because even if you don’t agree, at least you will understand Sedevacantism and why more and more people are beginning to embrace it.

Recorded before Francis’ 2013 election, the video has the advantage of making the case for Sedevacantism apart from any of Bergoglio’s shenanigans. Many people labor under the very erroneous notion that the trouble didn’t really start until Francis came along, but nothing could be further from the truth.

For more — much more — information about Sedevacantism and how to refute a myriad of objections and supposed refutations, please see our topical page on Sedevacantism here.

And please say a Hail Mary for the repose of Father’s soul.

Collaboration of Stephen Heiner and Fr. Anthony Cekada

By Stephen Heiner

When I first called St. Gertrude the Great Catholic Church in 2006, I could not possibly have imagined the beginning of a relationship that would not only deeply impact my life, but the lives of many others.  I had just interviewed Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, an SSPX bishop; in this interview the bishop had referred to Benedict XVI as a heretic multiple times and in fact had taken control of the interview even as I had tried to end it by giving numerous references to the “heresies” of Benedict XVI.  I called a close friend that same day, expressing my shock, and went on to call Fr. Anthony Cekada.  While I had been attending the Masses of the Society of St Pius X for nearly a decade at that point, everyone knew Fr. Cekada to be an authority on sedevacantism.  I wanted to hear how sedevacantists would treat the question of papal heresy, as no one in the SSPX in the modern era had ever publicly referred to the man they call the Pope as a heretic.  Fr. Cekada was friendly from our very first conversation.  I told him that I wasn’t a sedevacantist, but in the interests of understanding the Bishop’s comments, I wanted his take and was willing to publish it on what at that point was simply the fairly new True Restoration blog.  Father obliged by producing a short piece calling attention to some problems in Bp. Tissier’s position.  That would be the first of many times that Father would say “yes” when I asked for his help.

Interviewing Bishop Tissier intellectually opened the door to sedevacantism for me.  If an SSPX bishop told me to my face over and over that Benedict XVI was a heretic, what did that mean?  Fr. Cekada was there for me by email and telephone for about a year and a half as I puzzled through it.  I perhaps knew the truth of things instinctively when I first heard Bp. Tissier’s accusations, but sedevacantism in the SSPX is painted as “extreme” and when you’re in that environment you’re often less interested in understanding an extreme position than in keeping the status quo.  But Fr. Cekada wasn’t extreme.  That summer I made sure to visit him in person and see St. Gertrude’s.  I met Bishop Dolan.  I met parishioners.  They were regular Catholics, but far more up to speed on the matters of Vatican II and the question of the pope than I was.  A group of us who had recently started Catholic blogs were in contact and we started taking a look at the Vatican II documents, trying to reconcile them with Catholicism.  None of them were particularly enthusiastic about my new interest in the articles at TraditionalMass.org.  But I didn’t care.  I was “catching up” on years of information, as quickly as I could get through the articles.  Some key milestones included:

  • The Letter of the Nine (to this day I consider this the document that exposes the inherent flaws in the SSPX position: it has never been answered). I was four years old when this document was authored by the then-Fr. Clarence Kelly.
  • Father’s “Frankenchurch” articles.  Part of why the anything-but-sedevacantism folks at the Remnant were willing to work with Fr. Cekada were the same reasons I felt comfortable with him the very first time I spoke with him: he was genial and funny and genuinely interested in intellectual debate.
  • The Letter of Fr. Robert Neville to Bishop Fellay.  This letter, mostly authored by Bishop Donald Sanborn, was an updated take on the Letter of the Nine, after almost 15 years had passed.

Father also mailed me free copies of Traditionalists, Infallibility, and the Pope, as well as Welcome to the Traditional Latin Mass, informative little pamphlets that were perfect for those who, like me, didn’t really have a clue about the sedevacantist position (You can still request these by writing to St. Gertrude’s).

By early 2008, if not sooner, I was morally certain that sedevacantism was the only coherent way a Catholic could understand the catastrophe that was Vatican II and all the disasters that followed: the New Mass, the New Code, and the New Sacraments.

But there was still more to learn.  I continued to attend SSPX Masses and started to become “disruptive” at coffee and donuts with my questions about Vatican II.  I didn’t want to blow a trumpet that I was a sedevacantist, in part because that would make me persona non grata with the Recognize-and-Resist crowd and I still very much believed in trying to take them on this journey with me.  I then started to look at the Una Cum question.

Father’s article, Grain of Incense, laid out a convincing case.  But my emotions stayed my hand.  Surely, I wasn’t going to go without Mass every Sunday?  The closest regular sedevacantist Mass was a three-hour one-way drive away.  I told Father Cekada I was struggling with this issue.  He told me to keep researching and praying about it, and that he would keep me in his prayers.  I remember telling him years later that I marveled at his patience with what must have seemed like great obtuseness on my part.  He would respond at that time, “These things take time.”

Part of me was saying, “Well, Father can’t be right, because that means I can’t go to Mass conveniently anymore.”  Father framed this as “geography determining theology.”  He was right.  As I called sedevacantist laymen around the world to get their takes, they could only offer me a rather relaxed view on attending una cum Masses; none could offer backing for their positions from Church teaching and precedent.  Even a sedevacantist bishop told me it was “understandable” that I was attending an SSPX Mass.  In the end, after a year of wrestling with the topic, I stopped attending SSPX Masses, much to the chagrin and disgust of my family, who I had led to the SSPX when I was 17.

While I was coming to the sedevacantist position and the non-una cum position, I had also been publishing the books of Bishop Richard Williamson, who had been a great influence on me because of his takes on cultural issues.  He attacked the money men, modern clothing, and the modern way of life.  At the time I really had no idea about all the ways that he and Fr. Cekada had interacted over the years, and Fr. Cekada would clue me in on some of those interactions when I called to let him know about some of the things that the Bishop had shared on a recent interview that surprised me.

Bishop Williamson knew that I was a sedevacantist almost as soon as I did, but he didn’t see that as an obstacle to working together.  But I was puzzled by his “Ratzinger doesn’t know what he’s doing” defense which he tried to use on me whenever we would (rarely) discuss the Pope issue.  I relayed his objections to Fr. Cekada who told me that this was not a new position of the Bishop and that Fr. Cekada had coined it “mentevacantism” years ago.  I asked Father if he might not write a piece refuting the Bishop’s position to help other young men like myself who admired Bishop Williamson and were wondering about these ideas.

A few weeks later, Father obliged by producing Bishop Williamson’s Mentevacantist Error.  I remember explicitly telling the Bishop that if he could refute Father’s piece, I’d give it a fair read.  Some months later, Bishop Williamson told me, “I’ve tried several times to answer it, but I’ve simply given up.”  When I shared this with Fr. Cekada he didn’t use this as an opportunity to tell me to stop working with Bishop Williamson (I later would, for other reasons), but only to draw the line that on these theological issues, he wasn’t just a little wrong, but grossly off the mark.

I also asked Father to address the “theft” question that was constantly circulated in SSPX circles.  It started to be repeated to me constantly once it was clear that True Restoration had “gone sedevacantist” that I was working with priests who had “stolen” chapels.  I asked Father about it and he told me this was an old accusation and that he had all the legal paperwork in a box somewhere and he meant to do a write-up about it sometime in the future.  “Could you do one now?” I gently asked.  In what had already started to become routine in our working relationship, within weeks Father produced the goods.  This time it was We Resist You to Your Face, which was an answer to the spurious allegations of “theft” leveled by the SSPX for years.  Once again Father produced a piece that was never answered, and one more brick in our coherent intellectual superstructure was added.

I didn’t fully realize it in those early days as I understand now what great working partners Father and I were.  We shared a choleric temperament and were good at setting deadlines and accomplishing tasks together.  He found in me a willing promoter of his positions (because I found them convincing) and I found in him someone who constantly taught me to “look it up” instead of just taking his word for it.

But after I had come to a correct understanding regarding the una cum question, and I had started to document my curiosity by articles and interviews with clergy, Fr. Cekada suggested that I meet Bishop Donald Sanborn in Florida.  Fr. Cekada would go once a month to teach classes and I arranged to be at the seminary during a week he was there as well.  I met Bishop Sanborn and did my first interview with him.  As with Fr. Cekada, I had no idea of the collaborations that lay ahead.  I had come to know Bishop Sanborn through some of his articles from years ago.  Key reads included:

During this same period, Fr. Cekada penned the Motu Mass Trap.  Father was always on the cutting edge of developments from the Vatican II sect and this time was no different.  As an interesting aside, one takes for granted all the terms that Fr. Cekada invented.  Apart from coining the “Motu Mass” he also gave a name to the strange pharisees known as “Home Aloners” and stuck “Recognize and Resist” so firmly as a label to its adherents that they wear it as a badge of honor, not realizing what an ecclesiological contradiction such a position is.

Father also laid out the reasons why many sedevacantists do not observe the Pius XII liturgical changes.  Father’s case, as always, was a coherent part of a larger understanding of what had been happening to the liturgy even before Vatican II, something that was collecting as material for his biggest project yet.  Key reads include:

I’m reminded of a comment Bishop Sanborn once made when I was asking about who would work on different projects with me and he said, “Think of us like a department store.  Father Cekada is in the canon law and liturgy department, Bishop Dolan handles pastoral issues, devotions, and saints, and I’m in charge of condemnations.”  A secret weapon of Father’s was his jovial nature.  That made him easy to work with and was why he collaborated so long and so fruitfully with these clergy.  Those clerical relationships are the main reason that we have a healthy and functioning seminary at Most Holy Trinity (a seminary which Fr. Cekada encouraged Bp. Sanborn to found).

You might laugh to hear me say yet again, “while this was going on,” but it was true.  While these articles were being published Father continued to work on a project I and a few others were privy to: a book on the New Mass.  He called it “Work of Human Hands” but told me to keep the title under wraps for the moment.  Father had been gathering information about the changes in the liturgy since the 1970s, and some of that had been compiled into a jewel of a booklet, Problems With the Prayers of the Modern Mass.  Our small team edited and proofread the manuscript over and over and over. True Restoration bought the (surprisingly expensive given how ugly the vestments are) stock photo that adorns the cover of the book as a contribution to Father’s efforts.  When the book was finally published the four dozen autographed copies we bought for the TR bookstore sold out thirty minutes after they were put on sale!

In Bishop Dolan’s moving eulogy of Fr. Cekada, he referred to Work of Human Hands as Father’s greatest legacy, and I agree (for more context, read just a few of the reviews of the book on Amazon).  Yet, knowing how much work it had taken Father to put together that book, within months of its publication I asked him to consider a four-volume work I was proposing, which was the compiling of all the articles on TraditionalMass.org into a topically arranged series of books.  He agreed and we spent some time together dividing the texts and before too long we shot a video to promote the book via crowdfunding.  This was something else that I really appreciated about Father.  He was always willing to try new technology and this paid off handsomely, as the Anti-Modernist Reader Volume I appeared in 2014.  When I visited Father in Summer 2019 we made some final additions to what will be the forthcoming Volume II.

Yet, Father still continued to work.  For those unfamiliar with St. Gertrude’s, it has so many moving parts.  I’ve spent more than two months there in all the years I’ve worked with Father and Bishop Dolan and Father continued to play the organ (you can watch him observing/assisting one of his young charges with a fugue after Mass), compose music, keep the accounting, handle maintenance issues, encourage and foster the YAG, create TradCircle, and oh, yes, still attend to all the duties of priesthood: saying Mass, hearing confessions, and making sick calls.  While other clergy occasionally turned me down when I asked for help with a project, Fr. Cekada never said no to me.  We just kept working on project after project together.

One of those projects included HD videos of Father answering some of the classic objections to our positions.  One of these first videos was inspired by an article Father wrote in the 1990s, entitled: Sedevacantism: How To Tell Aunt Helen.  It’s a classic Fr. Cekada title with an intriguing introduction:

Early in 1995 I carried on a cordial correspondence over the issue of sedevacantism with a Catholic priest who operates an independent traditional chapel. In one letter he allowed that while many of the sedevacantist arguments seemed reasonable, the “pastoral” side of the issue bothered him. He worried that such a position would shock parishioners, both current and potential, and possibly drive them into the arms of compromise groups such as the Fraternity of St. Peter. How would simpler people react, he wondered. And what would my Aunt Helen think? Herewith my reply.

I couldn’t resist a video revisiting these issues, and at the time of this article, more than 44,000 people have viewed Fr. Cekada’s How to Tell Aunt Helen video on YouTube.  Father and I shot a number of videos over a few days each time I visited. Many of those videos are available on YouTube, including:

I also convinced Father that there were some who might be persuaded to read some of his more serious articles by way of a video introduction, which we did for these articles:

We also shot a video on the Legal Status of the Traditional Latin Mass (refuting the thesis that Paul VI had not promulgated the New Mass correctly so it “didn’t count”) as well as an HD video of Father celebrating Low Mass.

Father, ever the autodidact, decided to create “Cekadawood Studios” to create his own video work.  He made, among other videos:

  • A beautiful chapter-by-chapter overview of Work of Human Hands
  • Hilarious takedowns of the incompetent True or False Pope book, by self-appointed lay theologians with zero theological training, which he recorded while undergoing chemotherapy!  If you appreciate music Father has quite a few inside jokes in these videos.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Father also found time to create a website, Quidlibet, for dealing with shorter topics.

In 2012, together with a few others, I founded Restoration Radio as a complement to the work True Restoration was doing in video and publishing.  Once again, Father said, “Yes” when I asked him to work with me.  Some of the radio work he did included:

When asked over the years why I was so keen to do all this work, I often replied that Fr. Cekada, and the other clergy who, like him, lived in a fully functional Catholic Church, were our last link to that time.  One day these clergy will pass on and we will have no one who had ever lived during a “normal” period of the Church and so I said we were running a high speed “mining” operation to take out every useful and helpful bit of information to guide us when they were no longer with us.

As I look at just some of the work Father and I did over the last 14 years, I’m so grateful that Our Lord gave us this time together to collaborate.  It was such a pleasure to work with Father and it’s a great blessing that what could have been simply private conversations, of which Father had dozens of every week all these years, have gone on to become publicly accessible testaments.  Have a question?  “Fr. C” (as he often referred to himself) has probably answered it.  All you have to do is “look it up.”  Each time you view any of these works, be they in print, audio, or video form, I ask you to say a prayer for the repose of his soul.  He deserves nothing less from us, who are so indebted to his faithful service as a priest of Jesus Christ.

Rest In Peace, Fr. Cekada: auf Wiedersehen.

Father Anthony Cekada, R.I.P.

Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly, S.J.: On the Idea of a Long-Term Vacancy of the Holy See

Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly, S.J.: On the Idea of a Long-Term Vacancy of the Holy See

By John Daly

Revised and edited by John Lane, October 1999

In 1882 a book was published in England called The Relations of the Church to Society — Theological Essays, comprising 29 essays by Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly S.J., one of the leading theologians of his time. The book expresses with wonderful clarity and succinctness many important theological truths and insights on subjects indirectly as well as directly related to its main theme. For our purposes the book has in one respect an even greater relevance than it did at the time of publication, for in it Fr. O’Reilly asserts with the full weight of such authority as he possesses, the following opinions:

  1. that a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time cannot be pronounced to be incompatible with the promises of Christ as to the indefectibility of the Church; and
  2. that it would be exceedingly rash to set any prejudged limits as to what God will be prepared to allow to happen to the Holy See (other, of course, than that a true pope will never fall into heresy, nor in any way err).

Of course Fr. O’Reilly does not have the status of pope or Doctor of the Church; but, that said, he was certainly no negligible authority. Some idea of the esteem in which he was held can be obtained from the following facts:

  • Cardinal Cullen, then Bishop of Armagh, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Thurles in 1850. Dr. Brown, bishop of Shrewsbury, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Shrewsbury.
  • Dr. Furlong, bishop of Ferns and his former colleague as professor of theology at Maynooth, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Maynooth.
  • He was named professor of theology at the Catholic University in Dublin on its foundation. The General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Beckx, proposed to appoint him professor of theology at the Roman College in Rome, though as it turned out circumstances unrelated to Fr. O’Reilly intervened to prevent that appointment.
  • At a conference held regarding the philosophical and theological studies in the Society of Jesus, he was chosen to represent all the English-speaking “provinces” of the Society — that is, Ireland, England, Maryland, and the other divisions of the United States.

In short Fr. O’Reilly was widely recognized as one of the most erudite and important theologians of his time.

Finally, the following quotation by Dr. Ward in the justly renowned Dublin Review (January 1876 issue) is worth quoting (emphasis added):

“Whatever is written by so able and solidly learned a theologian — one so docile to the Church and so fixed in the ancient theological paths — cannot but be of signal benefit to the Catholic reader in these anxious and perilous times.”

Dr. Ward thought his times were anxious and perilous! Well, let us now see what “signal benefit” we, a little more than a century later, can derive from some of Fr. O’Reilly’s writing.

We open with a brief passage from an early chapter of the book, called “The Pastoral Office of the Church”. On page 33 Fr. O’Reilly says this (emphases added):

“If we inquire how ecclesiastical jurisdiction… has been continued, the answer is that… it in part came and comes immediately from God on the fulfillment of certain conditions regarding the persons. Priests having jurisdiction derive it from bishops or the pope. The pope has it immediately from God, on his legitimate election. The legitimacy of his election depends on the observance of the rules established by previous popes regarding such election.”

Thus, if papal jurisdiction depends on a person’s legitimate election, which certainly is not verified in the case of the purported election of a formal heretic to the Chair of Peter, it follows that, in the absence of legitimate election, no jurisdiction whatever is granted, neither “de jure” nor, despite what some have tried to maintain, “de facto.”

Fr. O’Reilly makes the following remark later in his book (page 287 — our emphases added):

“A doubtful pope may be really invested with the requisite power; but he has not practically in relation to the Church the same right as a certain pope — he is not entitled to be acknowledged as Head of the Church, and may be legitimately compelled to desist from his claim.”

This extract comes from one of two chapters devoted by Fr. O’Reilly to the Council of Constance of 1414. It may be remembered that the Council of Constance was held to put an end to the disastrous schism which had begun thirty-six years earlier, and which by that time involved no fewer than three claimants to the Papacy, each of whom had a considerable following.

Back to Fr. O’Reilly:

“The Council assembled in 1414…

“We may here stop to inquire what is to be said of the position, at that time, of the three claimants, and their rights with regard to the Papacy. In the first place, there was all through, from the death of Gregory XI in 1378, a Pope — with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”

Thus one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, writing subsequently to the 1870 Vatican Council, tells us that it is “by no means manifest” that a thirty-six year interregnum would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ. And we can therefore legitimately ask: at what stage, if any, would such be manifest? After thirty-seven years? Or forty-seven years? Clearly, once it is established in principle that a long interregnum is not incompatible with the promises of Christ, the question of degree — how long — cannot enter into the question. That is up to God to decide, and who can know what astonishing things He may in fact decide.

And, indeed, as Fr. O’Reilly proceeds further in this remarkable chapter, written over a hundred years ago but surely fashioned by Divine Providence much more expressly for our day than for his, he makes this very point about what it can and cannot be assumed that God will permit. From page 287 (all emphases added):

“There had been anti-popes before from time to time, but never for such a continuance… nor ever with such a following…

“The great schism of the West suggests to me a reflection which I take the liberty of expressing here. If this schism had not occurred, the hypothesis of such a thing happening would appear to many chimerical. They would say it could not be; God would not permit the Church to come into so unhappy a situation. Heresies might spring up and spread and last painfully long, through the fault and to the perdition of their authors and abettors, to the great distress too of the faithful, increased by actual persecution in many places where the heretics were dominant. But that the true Church should remain between thirty and forty years without a thoroughly ascertained Head, and representative of Christ on earth, this would not be. Yet it has been; and we have no guarantee that it will not be again, though we may fervently hope otherwise. What I would infer is, that we must not be too ready to pronounce on what God may permit. We know with absolute certainty that He will fulfil His promises; not allow anything to occur at variance with them; that He will sustain His Church and enable her to triumph over all enemies and difficulties; that He will give to each of the faithful those graces which are needed for each one’s service of Him and attainment of salvation, as He did during the great schism we have been considering, and in all the sufferings and trials which the Church has passed through from the beginning. We may also trust He will do a great deal more than what He has bound Himself to by His promises. We may look forward with a cheering probability to exemption for the future from some of the troubles and misfortunes that have befallen in the past. But we, or our successors in future generations of Christians, shall perhaps see stranger evils than have yet been experienced, even before the immediate approach of that great winding up of all things on earth that will precede the day of judgment. I am not setting up for a prophet, nor pretending to see unhappy wonders, of which I have no knowledge whatever. All I mean to convey is that contingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree.

While Fr. O’Reilly himself disclaims any status as a prophet, nevertheless a true prophecy is clearly exactly what this passage amounts to. Moreover it is the kind of prophecy which, provided it is advancedconditionally, as in this case, both can and should be made in the light of the evidence on which he is concentrating his gaze. In respect of much that lies in the future there is no need for special revelations in order that we may know it. As Fr. O’Reilly indicates, except where God has specifically told us that something will not occur, any assumptions concerning what He will not permit are rash; and of course such assumptions will have the disastrous result that people will be misled if the events in question dooccur. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaias 55:8)

 

Viganò’s Theological Vortex: A Critical Commentary (Part 1)

A whirlwind of error and confusion…

Viganò’s Theological Vortex: A Critical Commentary
(PART 1)

In recent weeks, the now well-known former Vatican nuncio to the United States, “Abp.” Carlo Maria Viganò, has spoken at great length again about his position on the Second Vatican Council and the “conciliar sect” (his words) that emerged from it. On Sep. 1 and 3, respectively, the recognize-and-resist paper Catholic Family News published two of his latest monographs on its web site. They can be found in the following posts:

Upon reading these texts, we decided that a critical commentary on them would be fitting. Readers who may be a bit wary about reading sedevacantist criticism of Fr. Vigano, are encouraged to recall that we do give credit where it’s due: Vigano’s Jun 9, 2020 condemnation of Vatican II and the post-conciliar errors was outstanding, and we acknowledged as much. Unfortunately, Vigano has not drawn the logically necessary conclusion from his findings, with the inevitable result that he has now enmeshed himself in a theological quagmire from which he cannot escape except by recognizing that the “Popes” of Vatican II and the post-conciliar religion are not true Vicars of Christ.

Comments on Viganò’s Response to Stephen Kokx

Vigano’s letter of Sep. 1, 2020, is in reply to Stephen Kokx, a contributor to Catholic Family News, who had sent him a few questions about what, in his opinion, Catholics ought to do now. Since Vigano had suggested that Catholics separate from the Conciliar Church, Mr. Kokx inquired as to what such separation would look like — considering that Vigano acknowledges Francis as the lawful Roman Pontiff and so clearly isn’t telling people to abandon the notion that he is the Pope.

Vigano responded as follows:

While it is clear that no admixture is possible with those who propose adulterated doctrines of the conciliar ideological manifesto, it should be noted that the simple fact of being baptized and of being living members of the Church of Christ does not imply adherence to the conciliar team; this is true above all for the simple faithful and also for secular and regular clerics who, for various reasons, sincerely consider themselves Catholics and recognize the Hierarchy.

Instead, what needs to be clarified is the position of those who, declaring themselves Catholic, embrace the heterodox doctrines that have spread over these decades, with the awareness that these represent a rupture with the preceding Magisterium. In this case it is licit to doubt their real adherence to the Catholic Church, in which however they hold official roles that confer authority on them. It is an illicitly exercised authority, if its purpose is to force the faithful to accept the revolution imposed since the Council.

Once this point has been clarified, it is evident that it is not the traditional faithful – that is, true Catholics, in the words of Saint Pius X – that must abandon the Church in which they have the full right to remain and from which it would be unfortunate to separate; but rather the Modernists who usurp the Catholic name, precisely because it is only the bureaucratic element that permits them not to be considered on a par with any heretical sect. This claim of theirs serves in fact to prevent them from ending up among the hundreds of heretical movements that over the course of the centuries have believed to be able to reform the Church at their own pleasure, placing their pride ahead of humbly guarding the teaching of Our Lord. But just as it is not possible to claim citizenship in a homeland in which one does not know its language, law, faith and tradition; so it is impossible that those who do not share the faith, morals, liturgy, and discipline of the Catholic Church can arrogate to themselves the right to remain within her and even to ascend the levels of the hierarchy.

Therefore let us not give in to the temptation to abandon – albeit with justified indignation – the Catholic Church, on the pretext that it has been invaded by heretics and fornicators: it is they who must be expelled from the sacred enclosure, in a work of purification and penance that must begin with each one of us.

(“Abp.” Carlo M. Viganò, Letter to Stephen Kokx, Sep. 1, 2020; italics given.)

What Vigano proposes here is an utter ecclesiological train wreck. Let’s try to disentangle this so we can see more clearly the absurdity of what the retired nuncio is saying, namely:

  1. The establishment headquartered in Vatican City, and of which Pope Francis is the head, is the Catholic Church
  2. Catholics cannot mix with Conciliarists
  3. Conciliarists are those who, retaining the name of Catholic, publicly embrace and teach the errors and heresies of the Second Vatican Council, knowing them to be contrary to the prior Magisterium
  4. Those who adhere to the errors and heresies of Vatican II not realizing them to be contrary to the prior Magisterium, are Catholics, not Conciliarists
  5. Conciliarists are members of the Catholic Church, from which they should be expelled
  6. Some Conciliarists are members of the hierarchy
  7. Catholics are not permitted to abandon the Catholic Church

Is your head spinning yet?

This response clarifies nothing; rather, it makes it glaringly obvious that “Abp.” Vigano is making it up as he goes along and/or is looking to reconcile the irreconcilable, which he is forced to do if he wants to avoid Sedevacantism: Vigano maintains that Catholics cannot mix with Conciliarists, yet he also maintains at the same time that Catholics are mixed with Conciliarists in the same (Catholic) Church.

His response clearly does not square with traditional Roman Catholic ecclesiology, which is rather straightforward:

Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22)

Most men feel that the Church’s supreme head and shepherd should decide who are Catholics and who are not.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 15)

In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle teaches that Christ established [the] ecclesiastical power for the benefit of unity. And what is this unity unless one person is placed in charge of the whole Church who protects it and joins all its members in the one profession of faith and unites them in the one bond of love and communion? The wisdom of the Divine Lawgiver ordered that a visible head be placed over a visible body so that “once so established, the opportunity for division might be removed.”

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10)

Vigano is telling his followers that they must determine, on their own authority and — note well! — against the judgment of the (supposedly) legitimate Pope and the Holy See, what magisterial teachings are erroneous and heretical and therefore must be rejected. Furthermore, Vigano wants his followers to determine for themselves who is in good faith and who is in bad faith about the false conciliar and post-conciliar doctrines, and then somehow separate from those they have identified as being in bad faith, even if they happen to be their lawful pastors, and even though they are in full communion with the Pope and enjoy his approval!

Stated bluntly, Vigano is essentially saying that the Catholic Church can teach a truckload of Modernist garbage in her Magisterium — those who recognize that it is garbage and therefore refuse to submit, are Catholics; those who submit by accident because they’ve been deceived and don’t realize it, but wouldn’t submit if they did realize it, are Catholics as well; but those who recognize that it is garbage but submit to it anyway are not Catholics but heretics. In other words, the mere submission to the Roman Pontiff and acceptance of his Magisterium does not guarantee one is a Catholic at all, and in fact may even indicate that one is not a Catholic. That is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Pope Pius IX that “one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff” (Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17).

Clearly, what Fr. Vigano is proposing is a colossal theological train wreck. In fact, it includes or implies the very concept of schism he disclaims: Pope Pius IX warned that “the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all” (Quartus Supra, n. 12); and the 1917 Code of Canon Law makes clear that he who “refuses to be under the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church subject to him, … is a schismatic” (Canon 1325 §2; Peters translation). That is precisely what Vigano is advocating.

The fact that he accepts Francis as the lawful Pope does not get him off the hook — if anything, it aggravates the matter:

What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X [1877], pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434.)

Vigano might reply that his position is one of paramount obedience to the true Faith, made necessary by the fact that the lawful prelates, not excepting the Pope himself, have betrayed the Deposit of Faith. Yet such a rejoinder, too, is contrary to the traditional Catholic position and rebuffed by Pius IX and Leo XIII:

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)

We congratulate you, therefore, on the fact that although you suffer, doubtless, at the defection of your brothers, separated from you by the breath of perfidious teaching, you are not troubled for all that, and are even being stimulated by their error to receive with greater willingness and to follow with more zeal not only the orders, but even all the directives of the Apostolic See; and by so doing you are certain that you cannot be deceived or betrayed.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Didicimus Non Sine; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 439.)

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24)

The traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy is as beautiful as it is clear: It is precisely by clinging to the Pope of Rome, to the Magisterium of the Apostolic See, that one’s orthodoxy cannot suffer shipwreck. Unlike all the other dioceses in the world — including Astana in Kazakhstan, we must point out to Athanasius Schneider admirers — it is the Roman See alone that has the divine guarantee of never defecting from the true Faith, because its head is the successor of St. Peter, to whom was promised an unfailing Faith by Christ the Lord (see Lk 22:32):

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; underlining added.)

Hence Pope Leo XIII taught: “Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic …. ‘You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held’” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13).

What Vigano is trying to do is split Catholic Truth from the Roman Church. And that is theologically fatal and by no means a safe alternative to Sedevacantism, although it is, alas, a popular one. What drives him to commit such theological suicide? It is the absurd recognition of Jorge Bergoglio as a true Pope, along with his five predecessors. That is what throws a monkey wrench into the clear and straightforward Catholic teaching, because it is impossible to reconcile the Catholic doctrine about the Papacy as the unfailing bulwark of the Faith with the idea that Popes can teach heresy and other errors in their magisterium. Such an attempt to square the circle cannot but result in further confusion, absurdity, and error.

The recognition of a public apostate like Bergoglio as the rightful Roman Pontiff is the linchpin that keeps the entire recognize-and-resist madhouse together. Remove that pin, and the traditional Catholic theology will fall into place.

How is Vigano’s idea of the Catholic Church much different from a Protestant church? What good is a hierarchy and magisterium that can teach heresy and other soul-endangering errors? And how does he claim that Vatican II contains errors and heresies (see his June 9, 2020 monograph) when his own “Pope” and almost the entire “Catholic hierarchy” tell him otherwise? Why would any potential convert from Protestantism be drawn to such a church as the only true Church established by Christ?

Holy Scripture calls the Catholic Church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Is that an apt description of the Vatican II Sect? Would not a more fitting term be the “operation of error” St. Paul warns about in the last days (2 Thess 2:10), or “the great harlot” St. John speaks of in the Apocalypse (17:1)? Why is it that the recognize-and-resist adherents seem to understand that virtually everything about the Vatican II Church is false — false doctrines, false saints, false Mass, false sacraments, false annulments, etc. — except the Pope? Why is he always genuine? Does it not stand to reason that a counterfeit church can emerge only from counterfeit authorities, that is, from false popes?

Vigano’s position does great damage to the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding the unity of the Church: The Catholic Church is one in Faith, worship, and government; whereas the church about which Vigano speaks is divided in faith, worship, and government. Keep in mind that in his response to Stephen Kokx, Vigano maintains that the Conciliarists “do not share the faith, morals, liturgy, and discipline of the Catholic Church” — and yet he claims they are part of the Catholic Church!

All the strength and the beauty of this mystical body [the Church] results from the firm and constant union of all the members of the Church in the same faith, in the same sacraments, in the same bonds of mutual charity, in submission and obedience to the Head of the Church.

(Pope Pius VII, Apostolic Constitution Ecclesia Christi, n. 1. English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 134.)

In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle teaches that Christ established [the] ecclesiastical power for the benefit of unity. And what is this unity unless one person is placed in charge of the whole Church who protects it and joins all its members in the one profession of faith and unites them in the one bond of love and communion? The wisdom of the Divine Lawgiver ordered that a visible head be placed over a visible body so that “once so established, the opportunity for division might be removed.”

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10; underlining added.)

Our most beloved Redeemer, Christ the Lord, willed as you well know, venerable brothers, to deliver all men from the captivity of the devil, free them from the yoke of sin, call them from darkness into his wonderful light and be their salvation. When he had blotted out the handwriting of the decree against us, fastening it to the cross, he formed and established the Catholic Church, won by his blood, as the one “Church of the living God,” the one “kingdom of heaven,” “the city set on a hill,” “one flock,” and “one body” steadfast and alive with “one Spirit,” one faith, one hope, one love joined and firmly held together by the same bonds of sacraments, religion and doctrine. He further provided his Church with leaders whom he chose and called. In addition, he decreed that the Church will endure as long as the world, embrace all peoples and nations of the whole world, and that whoever accepts his divine religion and grace and perseveres to the end will attain the glory of eternal salvation.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Amantissimus, n. 1; underlining added.)

Indeed no true and perfect human society can be conceived which is not governed by some supreme authority. Christ therefore must have given to His Church a supreme authority to which all Christians must render obedience. For this reason, as the unity of the faith is of necessity required for the unity of the church, inasmuch as it is the body of the faithful, so also for this same unity, inasmuch as the Church is a divinely constituted society, unity of government, which effects and involves unity of communion, is necessary jure divino [by divine right].

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 10; italics given; underlining added.)

If these teachings are true — and they are — then it is absolutely impossible for the Vatican II Church to be the Roman Catholic Church.

Somehow, Vigano himself seems to realize this. For that reason, further on in his response to Kokx he speaks of a “conciliar sect”, “a strange and extgravagant Church” which “coexists, like wheat with the tare, in the Roman Curia, in dioceses, in parishes.” Although we have no problem agreeing that there is indeed a strange New Church around that falsely passes itself off as the Catholic Church, any attempt to locate that False Church as somehow present in and existing together with the True Church is necessarily dead on arrival, theologically. This kind of thinking, although no doubt very appealing to many semi-traditionalists, conflates Christ with Satan, truth with lies, salvation with damnation — all of which it locates in one and the same divine institution, even in the very same people at different times and in different senses. It makes the Immaculate Bride of Christ into a whore!

According to what Vigano is proposing, then, Francis would be the Holy Father and Vicar of Christ when he condemns abortion, canonizes a true saint, or extends faculties for confession and marriages to the Society of St. Pius X. Yet the same Francis would then turn into infernal Head of the Conciliar Sect when he teaches the moral licitness of adultery under certain circumstances, signs an apostate declaration on human fraternity, or declares that proselytism is solemn nonsense. It is a kind of theological version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now imagine all of those things set forth in one and the same “papal” document!

Vigano’s mystifying ecclesiology would mean the complete disintegration of the Church into a hopeless free-for-all of more or less arbitrary resistance, perpetually. Is a certain episcopal appointment to a diocese an instance of the False Church or the True Church acting? You decide. Is the latest encyclical safe to read and embrace? Maybe ask Vigano first. Should this or that mandated liturgical change be implemented or not? Let’s see what “Bp.” Athanasius Schneider thinks about it. Is the newest canonized ‘saint’ a true one to be accepted, venerated, and imitated — or a dangerous charlatan to be cast aside? Check with ‘The Remnant’. Oh, and what about those newly-introduced criteria for declaring a marriage null? That depends — have you gotten along with your spouse lately? (wink, wink). Clearly, this is absurdity on stilts!

A False Church coexisting with the True Church would also create a practical impossibility: From the former, Viganò says, one is required to separate, whereas from the latter, one is not permitted to. Good luck with that!

In truth, Vigano’s idea of a coexisting Antichurch inhabiting the True Church is a clever intellectual fig leaf covering the naked truth that the establishment he recognizes as the Catholic Church is a heretical sect. It does not — and could not possibly — coexist with the True Church, any more than our Blessed Lord would share His Throne with Lucifer (cf. 2 Cor 6:14-16). Ironically, Vigano’s curious Church-Antichurch amalgamation bears a striking resemblance to Vatican II ecclesiology — it’s just not clear exactly how many elements of the one can exist in the other!

How does the former Vatican nuncio think his temerarious idea squares with the pronouncement by Pope Leo XIII that the Church of our Blessed Lord “makes no terms with error, but remains faithful to the commands which it has received to carry the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the uttermost limits of the world and to the end of time and to protect it in its inviolable integrity (Apostolic Letter Annum Ingressi)? Or with this beautiful truth enunciated by St. Cyprian and confirmed by Pope Pius XI: “The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 10)? As St. Paul asked rhetorically, although in a slightly different context: “Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (1 Cor 6:15).

The motive behind Vigano’s disastrous theological position is clear, of course: Since he will not consider Sedevacantism as even a possibility, he must somehow force the square peg of the heretical Vatican II Sect into the round hole of the Catholic Church. But, as Pope St. Leo IX put it, “we confess the one Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside which we believe that no one is saved” (Apostolic Letter Ejus ExemploDenz. 423; underlining added).

That the Church Jesus Christ established is not a church of heretics, should hardly be surprising, inasmuch as Our Blessed Lord’s promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [His Church]” (Mt 16:18) means precisely that the Church will never be overcome by heresy:

The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Mt 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Lk 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?

(Pope St. Leo IX, Apostolic Letter In Terra PaxDenz. 351; underlining added.)

All of this shows that people must choose between the Vatican II Church on the one hand, and Catholic truth on the other. The two simply cannot be reconciled, and that is why all attempts to be Catholic in it ultimately always end in failure and frustration.

The solution is obvious: We must affirm Catholic truth and therefore reject Bergoglio and his equally fake predecessors.

To be continued in Part 2. 

Father Anthony Cekada, R.I.P. (1951-2020)

September 11, 2020

Sedevacantist pioneer has died…

Father Anthony Cekada, R.I.P. (1951-2020)

The sedevacantist priest, author, and seminary professor Fr. Anthony Cekada has died at his parish residence in West Chester, Ohio. This was announced moments ago on Twitter by Bp. Daniel Dolan, pastor of St. Gertrude’s Church:

Fr Cekada died peacefully this morning, surrounded by prayer, and well fortified by the Sacraments of the Church. Please remember this good and generous priestly soul in your prayers. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday morning, with the wake Wednesday evening.

(source)

Fr. Cekada had been suffering from complications after a series of strokes. Years earlier he had received treatment for cancer. He was 69.

This post is only an announcement of his passing, asking everyone to offer prayers for the repose of his soul. There will be a tribute to Father’s contributions to the true Catholic cause in a future post.

Funeral arrangements with precise date, time, and location will be posted in the combox below.

Every death is an important reminder that one day God will call us to judgment too, and it may be sooner than we think (see 1 Th 5:2).

Réquiem aetérnam dona ei, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

 

A friendly call to Catholic perseverance by true traditional Catholics

Saint Athanasius the Great

Dear Fellow Traditional Catholic,

In the 4th Century A.D., the Catholic Church was severely persecuted by the Arian heretics. St. Athanasius clearly identified and combated these enemies of Truth (The Arians) who had iniquitously usurped Holy Mother Churches buildings, and “set up shop” to exact tribute. Church Historians estimate that 97% to 99% of the “Bishops” at that time, were Arian heretics.

A sin against Faith is the most grievous of all sins. St. Thomas Aquinas, teaches in regards to evil heretics:

“In a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith, no faith remains, either informed or uninformed.” (II-II, q. 5, a. 3.)

Hence, so although these reprobate/heretical Arian “Bishops” dressed like and pretended to be “Bishops”, they infallibly could not be [Bishops], as they did not possess de fide [The Catholic Faith].

They were really- impotent, impious, imposters who had, through their own prideful error, severed themselves from Christ’s Mystical Body [the] Catholic Church by their sin against The Faith. Logically, since they could not be Catholic, they could not hold *ecclesiastical office [i.e. be lawful Bishops] and of course they could not retain any authority from Christ to govern His Catholic Church as they were not members of it.

[*1917 Code of Canon Law (C. 188. 4.): “There are certain causes which effect the tacit resignation of an office, which resignation is accepted in advance by operation of law, and hence is effective without any declaration. These causes are: … (4) if he has publicly defected (fallen away) from the Catholic faith.”]

St. Athanasius, a Holy Catholic Bishop and True Sacrificing Shepherd, in order to encourage his small flock of True Catholics still remaining to persevere in The Faith during that terrible Arian persecution, wrote the following letter, which sadly is even more applicable today (2020 A.D.) i.e. during this dreadful time of [The] Apostasy:

Letter of Saint Athanasius to His Flock (4th Century A.D.)
May God console you! … What saddens you … is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises — but you have the Apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the Faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the Faith? The true Faith, obviously. Who has lost and who has won in the struggle — the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the Faith?
True, the premises are good when the Apostolic Faith is preached there; they are holy if everything takes place there in a holy way …

You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis.

No one, ever, will prevail against your Faith, beloved Brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day.

Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray.

Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ. (Coll. selecta SS. Eccl. Patrum, Caillau and Guillou, Vol. 32, pp. 411-412)

Fellow Traditional Catholic, thus, against all odds, yet still thoroughly animated by the Virtue of Hope, St. Athanasius “rallied the troops” (The Church Militant) in his day and defeated the enemies of The Faith. Today’s dire situation, where people either do not want to think anymore, or are not able to think (reason) and draw the necessary conclusions, is truly the darkest time in Church History.

Nonetheless, to give in to despair is to not be without sin. The pius Fr. Titus Joslin wrote,

“The days are evil;”*… but opportunities of exercising charity are always at hand, and “charity covers a multitude of sins.” As others are less fervent, it is our part to be more fervent; and the more of evil we see around us, the more to be stimulated to do good works ourselves. “God is charity, and he who remains in charity abides in God, and God in him.” -1 John, iv
Therfeore, please pray fervently for the restoration of the True Faith to it’s ancient luster and for all True Catholics to do good and defeat evil.

Blessed be Our Lady Conqueror of all Heresies!

 

Suarez on the Question of a Heretical Pope

Why Suarez’s position cannot be held today 

 

The Opinion of Francisco Suarez on the Question of a Heretical Pope

As Neo-Traditionalists John Salza and Robert Siscoe begin to ship the first copies of their new book against Sedevacantism to their hapless recipients, we continue to rain on their parade by refuting some of the errors we expect to see in their work, which have been around for decades. The following is an excerpt from John Daly’s book against the pseudo-traditionalist pioneer and SSPX apologist Michael Davies (1936-2004), whose research and argumentation has long been the bedrock for probably most of the English-speaking world on traditionalist issues, including Sedevacantism. The excerpt below is being reprinted with the kind permission of the author, from his exhaustive critique of Mr. Davies first published in 1989 and revised and expanded in 2015 (get it free here).

——————————————

The following is an excerpt from the Appendix to Chapter 3 of the book Michael Davies: An Evaluation by John S. Daly (2015). The book is available for free download electronically here, and it can be purchased as a hardcopy in paperback here.

[From Appendix to Chapter 3: The Opinion of Suarez on the Question of a Heretical Pope]

Writing in The Remnant on 15th February 1987, Davies summarized his position on the consequences of a pope’s falling into heresy as follows:

And what of the Pope himself? Does what I have written imply that the Pope could never be a heretic and forfeit his office? Of course it does not. Such a possibility exists, but it would have to be manifest and so notorious a heresy that no doubt of its existence could remain in the minds of the faithful. Reputable canonists and theologians also teach that high authorities in the Church would have to make [sic] a declaratory sentence that the Pope had lost his office through heresy. The Pope would not be deposed as a result of this sentence. No one in the Church has the right to judge or depose the Pope. They [i.e., presumably, the “high authorities”] would simply be declaring what had been manifest through his own actions.

Davies gives the impression, perhaps accidentally, that the doctrine he is putting forward is held by all “reputable canonists and theologians”, which is very far from being the case. He neither gives references to any of the canonists and theologians in question, nor lets his readers into the secret that in every era of the Church there has been a much stronger contrary opinion holding that by formal public heresy a pope would lose his office ipso facto (automatically), prior to and irrespective of any declarations to this effect which might or might not be made by “high authorities in the Church”. As readers will be aware, the different schools of theological opinion on this subject (of which St. Robert Bellarmine enumerated five) are no longer of practical interest, because ecclesiastical authority has decided the entire question by the terms of Pope Paul IV’s definition on the subject contained in his bull Cum Ex Apostolatus (1559) and by Canon 188§4 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law [39]. However, it is true that there have been theologians and canonists (including several not without eminence) who have at some point in history maintained a position similar to that outlined by Davies in the quotation above, and to do his case justice it seems appropriate to examine this position briefly.

As representative of this opinion, I have chosen the theologian whom I believe to have been its most illustrious and competent defender, the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) [40] who came from a converted Jewish family and was praised by Pope Paul V as “a pious and eminent theologian”. His consideration of this topic is found in his work De Fide, Spe et Charitate, tr. 1, disp. x, sect. vi, and covers about five closely printed and argued pages of Latin of folio size.

Does it appear rash, it is worth asking before going any further, to embark upon what amounts to an attempt by a layman without formal theological training to refute the teaching of a holy and extremely erudite theologian? There are, in fact, two solid reasons why no apology is due on this score:

  • (i) The opinions of a theologian are not, and cannot be, of any greater weight, as such, than the arguments which he adduces in their favour, and such opinions may always be disputed by anyone sufficiently informed on the topic in question to understand the theology involved.
  • (ii) Those of us who decline to accept Suarez’s opinion have a number of very distinguished predecessors. To mention but one, St. Robert Bellarmine characterizes it as an opinion which in his judgement “cannot be defended”. (De Romano Pontifice, Cap. XXX)

I turn now to what Fr. Suarez has to say. To begin with, it must be made clear that he is not in agreement with Davies on everything. In fact he does not accept at all that a pope can fall into heresy, whereas Davies maintains that this is possible. Suarez considers the question only because his opinion that the eventuality is inconceivable was, though “more pious and more probable” and even “to be held”, not absolutely certain. As I also subscribe to the view that a true pope cannot fall into heresy even in his private acts, it is evidently a part of my position that all of the Conciliar “popes” forfeited their offices by falling into heresy long before their putative elections — making these elections null and void (a possibility which Suarez expressly recognizes). Nonetheless, it is obviously logical that the consequences of a pope’s falling into heresy after election (if that be possible) should be the same as if he had been a heretic prior to his election, for either it is possible for a public heretic validly to occupy the office of pope or it is not. Hence this question has at least indirect relevance to the situation existing today.

Another difference between Suarez and Davies is that, while Davies appears to hold the position that a manifestly heretical claimant to the Holy See would cease ipso facto to be pope, but that the faithful could not be allowed to act on this fact by withdrawing their allegiance from him until a general council had notified them of it, Suarez apparently opines that the public heretic actually remains pope until the general council takes official cognizance of his heresy, at which point he ceases to be pope. [41] Where they are in agreement, however, is on the principal point that one is not entitled to withdraw one’s allegiance from a Roman pontiff until he has been officially declared a heretic.

Suarez recognizes that the main position conflicting with his is that of the school which holds that a heretical pope would be deposed ipso facto without need of any declaration. Considering, for reasons which I shall shortly examine, that the opinion of this school is untenable, he adopts the view which I have outlined above as his, but he did not adopt it, it must be emphasized, because there is any direct authority for it. His reason was simply that “it cannot be believed that Christ left the Church without any remedy in such a great danger [i.e. the danger arising from a heretical pope],” and that his own explanation is the only reasonable alternative to the ipso facto deposition, which he believes to be impossible.

Not surprisingly, Suarez recognizes that there are considerable difficulties associated with his position, and he does his best to resolve them as follows:

To the difficulty of who would be competent to declare the pope a formal heretic, he replies, persuasively, that nobody except a general council of all the bishops could be competent to do this, but he is forced to admit that there is no express warrant in Divine or human law authorizing even a general council to make such a declaration. He then continues as follows:

Next, however, a second problem arises, namely how such a council could legitimately be assembled; for only the pope can legitimately summon one.

Once again he has no authority to answer this query, but reasons that there are two available solutions:

  • (a) That a series of provincial councils throughout the world all agreeing in the same conclusion would be tantamount to a general council without the difficulty involved in summoning all the bishops to one place. This theory, however, is evidently:
    • (i) impractical, since the organisation of such a series of provincial councils would probably be exceedingly difficult if not impossible;
    • (ii) false, because a series of provincial councils is not tantamount to a general council, since at the latter all the bishops can hear one another’s views, and this does not apply to the former;
    • (iii) unreasonable, since it would leave the path open to countless disagreements, e.g. about what percentage of the bishops need to be agreed before the pope could be condemned; and
    • (iv) of no value, because, as it is no more than a conjecture, it would be impossible to know that the theory was correct and constituted sufficient grounds for the faithful to withdraw their allegiance from the pontiff.
  • (b) That “perhaps … for this business specially concerning the pontiff himself, which is, in a sense, in opposition to him, a general council might be legitimately assembled either by the college of cardinals or by the consent of the bishops; and if the pontiff attempted to prevent such assembly he would have to be disobeyed because he would be abusing the supreme power contrary to justice and the common good.” This is once again quite useless, because, being only a hypothesis, the deliberations of such a questionable council could never have binding force. Moreover, the hypothesis has been officially rejected by the Church since 1917; the Code of Canon Law declares that “An Ecumenical Council not summoned by the Roman pontiff is an impossibility [‘dari nequit’],” (Canon 222§1) and that “the decrees of a council do not have definitive obligatory force unless they have been confirmed by the Roman pontiff and promulgated by his command.” (Canon 227)

The third difficulty which Suarez tries to solve is this:

By what right can a pope be judged by an assembly of which he is the superior?

Let us first remind ourselves of Davies’s solution to this obvious and grave question. He simply maintains that the maxim “prima sedes a nemine judicatur” (“the first see is judged by no one”) does not apply. Because the pope has already forfeited his office automatically when his heresy was made public, the council is not deposing its superior, but declaring that he who seems to be its superior is in fact not so because he is bereft of all authority. This solution, of course, concedes that the pope actually forfeits his office ipso facto on being publicly guilty of heresy, and therefore leaves no grounds whatever for Davies’s insistence that those who are aware of this fact prior to its being officially declared are obliged to continue to submit to a non-pope as if he were the Vicar of Christ.

Now let us turn back to Fr. Suarez. As I have indicated, he differs from Davies on this point, holding that it is only as a result of the council’s condemnatory sentence that the pope loses his office.

He too addresses himself to the problem of how a council could condemn its own superior who “can be judged by none”, and in doing so he refutes a specious argument which has been used by the theologian Cajetan to cope with this difficulty.

Cajetan’s argument was that the council would not be condemning the pope as pope but as a private individual. But this theory, as Suarez convincingly points out, cannot be accepted. If it were accepted, it would be possible for anyone presumptuous enough to judge a pope simply to claim that he was judging him in his private rather than his public capacity, an interpretation which would negate the very principle which the maxim is intended to safeguard: that the pope is not to be judged. The solution which Suarez proposes, and which he considers to be, unlike Cajetan’s, not only sufficient to account for the deposition of a heretical pope, but also reconcilable with the principle that the pope must not be judged, is as follows:

So should the Church depose a heretical pope, she would not do this as a superior, but by the consent of Christ the Lord she would juridically declare him to be a heretic and hence utterly unworthy of the pontifical dignity; thereupon he would be deposed immediately by Christ and, having been deposed, would then be inferior and could be punished as such.

But I fear that in reality he comes no closer to solving the difficulty than Cajetan did. If the judgement of a general council that the pope is a heretic were to be considered binding even against the pope’s own judgement that he was not a heretic, this could only be on the bases:

  • (a) that appeal is made from the pope’s judgement to a council, an action which incurs automatic excommunication under Canon 2332, and
  • (b) that a council can be the pope’s superior, at least for some purposes — a proposition which is heretical.

Anyhow, once again the hypothesis is of no value precisely because, being hypothetical, there could be no certainty that it is correct, and indeed, as I have shown, since 1917 at the latest it has been certain that it is not correct.

Thus, Suarez’s opinion that a heretical pope would forfeit his office, not automatically, but only by virtue of condemnation by a council, involved its author in insoluble doctrinal difficulties, owing to its incompatibility with other doctrines. This incompatibility alone would compel us to reject Suarez’s opinion concerning heretical popes, but perhaps more important still is the fact that Suarez makes it clear that he has adopted his theory, not because of its intrinsic merit, but because it is the most reasonable alternative he can see to the rival view that offices are lost automatically by virtue of public heresy, a view which he found unacceptable. Hence, if it is possible to show that Suarez’s reasons for rejecting this latter opinion are definitely mistaken, because they have been denied by the Church’s authorities, we may conclude that Suarez lends no support at all to Davies’s thesis. Indeed we may be certain that its author would himself have rejected it had he been alive today, owing to the fact that his only reasons for not accepting the doctrines of Bellarmine and others have been repudiated by the Church whose docile son he was.

But to establish this bold claim that Suarez is really a negative witness against Davies, the objections which Suarez makes to the theory that a heretical pope would lose his office automatically must be carefully examined. This theory, which Davies rejects but which I maintain is today inescapably certain for all Catholics, was evidently well known to Suarez, for he devotes careful attention to it. After outlining his own theory of how to cope with a heretical pope, he refers to the view of others that such a pope “is immediately deposed by God Himself without regard to any human judgement.” He then sets out what he considers to be the four best arguments used by the defenders of this view and gives, in each case, his reasons for not being convinced by them. First he shows — to his own satisfaction, if to no one else’s — that the thesis in question is not compellingly true; then he adds further reasons for thinking that it is not only doubtful but in fact definitely wrong.

My next task is therefore to examine Suarez’s stated reasons for rejecting the position I am defending.

I shall begin my examination by considering his refutation of the arguments in favour of my position and I shall do this with a view to showing (a) that they are of no force, and (b) that they are no longer opinions that a Catholic is entitled to maintain.

  • (i) The first of his four best arguments against his own thesis (and in favour of that of writers like his contemporary and confrère St. Robert Bellarmine) is stated by Suarez as follows:

‘All the jurisdiction of the Church is founded upon faith,’ so those who have no faith cannot have jurisdiction.

In answer to this reasoning Suarez denies the fact, pointing out that the power of Order is superior to that of jurisdiction but that it is a dogma that Holy Orders are not lost if faith is lost and that, moreover, faith can be lost without exterior indication whereas the opinion that even occult heretics [42] forfeit their offices has not “a shadow of probability”.

My response to this refutation is that it would lose its force entirely if he had stated the argument more correctly, and had said instead that external profession of the true faith is a necessary foundation of ordinary jurisdiction. Suarez’s comparison with the power of Order is inconclusive because, although Order is admittedly a greater power than jurisdiction, it is also a different kind of power, and there is thus no reason for thinking that what applies to one will necessarily apply to the other.

  • (ii) Moving on to the second argument against him which he tackles, Suarez admits that: “The Fathers often indicate that no one who lacks faith can have jurisdiction in the Church [he then gives references to SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Popes Gelasius and Alexander II].” But his only response to this is that there are (also) “Fathers who… consider that a heretic deserves to be deprived of all dignity and jurisdiction,” thus implying that such heretics are not already ipso facto deprived thereof.

On this subject Suarez’s credibility is open to serious question, for his contemporary St. Robert Bellarmine, who was thoroughly familiar with the whole of patristic literature, assures us in his own consideration of this subject [43] that “the Fathers are unanimous in teaching, not only that heretics are outside the Church, but also that they are ‘ipso facto’ deprived of all jurisdiction and ecclesiastical rank.” Certainly, the single instance adduced by Suarez in support of his statement shortly after the words quoted above does nothing to weaken St. Robert’s assurance, for Suarez’s claim that some Fathers differed from the view he rightly attributes to SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, etc., is, he says, gathered from the first epistle of Clement I [the fourth pope, writing to the Corinthians in the closing years of the first century] which says, according to Suarez, that St. Peter taught that a heretical pope is to be deposed (rather than automatically deposed). And yet the fact is that St. Clement nowhere represents St. Peter as having said anything of the kind, as readers can confirm by reference to any of the translations of this epistle available in good libraries. The nearest St. Clement approaches to the subject is his statement that “our Apostles”, i.e. SS. Peter and Paul, “knew that there would be contention concerning the name of the episcopacy” and consequently left instructions “in what manner, when they [bishops and deacons] should die, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry (Chapter 44).” It is of little consequence whether Suarez was trusting an unreliable secondary source, or a corrupt primary text, or whether he has just made a mistake ; what cannot be denied is that his position is based on a misrepresentation of the teaching of the Fathers.

In passing, it should perhaps also be mentioned that, if any of the Fathers did assert that heretics deserve to be deprived of their dignity, this would not necessarily imply that they had not forfeited their office ipso facto, because it could equally refer to their de facto possession of the external trappings of the office. [44]

  • (iii) In his examination of the third argument against him, Suarez says that the position against which he is arguing

… is reinforced by a popular [‘vulgari’] argument to the effect that a heretic is not a member of the Church and cannot therefore be its head.

His response to this argument involves a subtle distinction, so I cite it in full:

It is replied [i.e. Suarez himself replies] that a heretical pope is not a member of the Church as to the substance and form by which the members of the Church are made such, but that he is nonetheless its head as to office and influence [‘influxum’]; which should cause no surprise as he is not the first and main head acting by his own power, but, as it were, the instrumental head and vicar of the first head who is able to convey His spiritual influence to His members through any secondary head whatsoever; for in a similar way He sometimes baptizes and on occasion even absolves through heretics.

This distinction seems exaggerated, for the pope is evidently more than a merely passive instrument of Christ. Certainly a heretic can validly baptize and in some circumstances even validly absolve, for he is then truly a “mere” instrument through whom Christ acts. But the manner in which the popes govern the Church and exercise jurisdiction is quite different, for it is their own intellects which they use to make the numerous decisions that have to be made, and a pope is therefore visible head of the Church in a much more than instrumental sense. It is one thing for Our Lord in rare cases to use enemies of the Church for the specific purpose of validly administering certain sacraments; it is quite another for Him unconditionally to delegate His Divine authority to such an enemy for the purpose of governing the Church. Hence Suarez’s distinction seems quite unjustified and a wholly inadequate response to his opponents.

  • (iv) The last argument against himself that he puts forward is:

Likewise a heretic must not be greeted, but entirely avoided, as is taught by Paul in Titus 3 and by John in his second epistle; so much less must he be obeyed.

To this objection Suarez answers that “heretics are to be avoided as much as possible [‘quoad fieri potest’]” and that this does not contradict his theory but merely makes it imperative to proceed to depose the pontiff at the earliest opportunity.

I would suggest that it certainly does contradict both his theory and Davies’s. If they are right, it means that in the inevitable interim period before a heretical pope could be deposed — a period which might be long in duration — the faithful would be subject to, and required to obey, a man whom they are Divinely commanded to shun. And here we do not need to rely solely on logic, clear though the position is, for St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, has given short shrift to Suarez’s opinion, enquiring:

How can we be asked to avoid our own head? How could we separate ourselves from a member who is attached to us? [45]

These four arguments, as I have said, constitute Suarez’s response to his opponents’ position. Next, he gives his grounds for thinking that the view he offers as an alternative to that of his opponents is the correct one, and these grounds must now be considered. I shall allow Suarez to state his case before assessing its validity, and I shall do my best to allow him to do so in his own words, although the length of the original text and its desultoriness make it impossible to achieve this except by placing in sequence extracts which do not occur consecutively in the original — a method which I believe to be justified in the circumstances, as it in no way misrepresents or weakens its author’s case:

The main question is whether he [a pope] can be deprived against his own will…. There does not seem to be anyone by whom he can be deprived. In the case of heresy [some] say that he is deposed immediately by God himself.Against this opinion I say that… in no case, even of heresy, is the pontiff deprived of his dignity and power by God without the previous judgement and sentence of men…. And later in considering the other punishments of heretics …we show that no one at all is deprived by Divine law of ecclesiastical dignity and jurisdiction because he is guilty of heresy. (Emphasis added)Because it is a very grave punishment, for it to be incurred ‘ipso facto’ it would have to be expressed in the Divine law; but no such law is found laying down this rule about all heretics in general or about bishops in particular or with special reference to the pope; nor is there a certain tradition on the matter.Nor can the pope fall from his dignity ‘ipso facto’ because of a human law, because this would have been passed either by his inferior [i.e. someone below the rank of pope] … or by his equal [i.e. some previous pope] —  … but neither a previous pope nor anyone inferior to the pope is… able to punish the pope actually reigning, given that the reigning pope will be equal to the latter and superior to the former.

So the nub of Suarez’s argument is that neither Holy Writ nor sacred tradition contains any Divine law according to which heretics are ipso facto deprived of their offices, and indeed it is his view they are not deprived of their offices except by the legitimate intervention of ecclesiastical authority; that there is no human law on the subject either, but that even if there were, this would not bind a pope because he is necessarily superior to all human law.

Suarez goes on to consider the objection that a human law on the subject could bind the pope if it were interpretative of a Divine law. This he rejects as an idle hypothesis (“commentitium”) because no such Divine law exists, nor any human law interpreting it.

He also asserts that the absence of such a Divine law “is confirmed by the fact that such a law would be pernicious to the Church,” a view which he supports by the consideration that, if occult [i.e. secret] heretics were automatically deprived of their offices, no one could be certain that a jurisdictional act was valid, whereas if only manifest heretics were thus deprived ipso facto, “greater troubles would follow, as we should be doubtful about how notorious the fact had to be for it to be considered that [the pope] had fallen from his dignity, so schisms would arise in consequence and everything would become perplexed …. ”

Now these last two confirmatory objections can be dismissed at once, because the exact meaning of the terms “occult”, “public” and “notorious” have now been determined authoritatively for us by the Church in Canon 2197 and there is no doubt that it is only of public heretics that anyone seriously maintains the automatic loss of office. Moreover, it is not apparent that a theory can legitimately be rejected on the grounds that it could give rise to disputes and perplexities, because there is no Divine guarantee that the Church will be free of disputes and perplexities, as indeed is solidly proven by the fact that her history is full of them. Nor is there any basis for thinking that the doctrine according to which a general council or a series of provincial ones could indirectly depose the pope by judging him to be a heretic would be any less fecund in troubles, schisms and perplexities.

So we are left with Suarez’s argument that popes, like other clerics, retain their office in case of heresy until a judicial declaration of their heresy is made for the reason that there is no Divine law to the contrary. And this one remaining base on which Suarez’s position stands is totally annihilated by the fact that, notwithstanding the dignity it once had of being a respected though minority opinion, it is today known to be certainly false. I quote from De Processu CriminaliEcclesiastico by Dr. Francis Heiner [46] (Emphasis added):

Ancient authors disputed whether the penalty of privation of benefices [incurred by heretics] is incurred ‘ipso facto’ or after judicial sentence. But owing to the provisions of subsequent laws the matter is no longer doubtful. In the constitution Noverit Universitas of Pope Nicholas III dated 5th March 1280, for instance, it is said: ‘But heretics… are to be admitted to no ecclesiastical benefice or office; and if the contrary should have occurred, We decree that it is null and void; for, from now, We deprive the aforesaid of their benefices, wishing them to have none perpetually and in no wise to be admitted to the like in the future.’ Now the words ‘from now We deprive’ are equivalent to the words ‘ipso iure’ [by the law itself], as is taught by Suarez [De Legibus, Bk. 5, c. 7, n. 7] [47] and other canonists. Pope Paul IV says the same thing even more clearly in his constitution Cum Ex Apostolatus dated 15th February 1559, in which, after confirming the penalties established by his predecessors against heretics, he says in express words: ‘Of those who in any way knowingly shall have presumed to receive, defend, favour or believe those so apprehended, confessed or convicted [i.e. heretics] or to teach their doctrines, … each and every cleric … is by that very fact deprived… of all ecclesiastical office and benefices.’ Hence it cannot be doubted that clerics are deprived of their benefices ipso facto for the crime of heresy.

It will doubtless already have occurred to readers that Suarez’s position is anyhow untenable, because it conflicts with Cum Ex Apostolatus which expressly extends its provisions to the case of heretics elected to the Holy See. The fact is that, as I have already mentioned and as is clear beyond any doubt from the reasoning from his De Fide, Spe et Charitate that I have quoted, Suarez must have been unaware of that bull. And this of course destroys any possible credibility that his hypothesis could ever have had. One cannot possibly even begin to have a case if one is not in a position to deal with one of the most authoritative and compelling arguments against it.

And since Suarez’s time there has been an additional decree on the subject from the Holy See: Canon 188§4 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which provides that:

If any cleric … publicly defects from the Catholic Faith… all of his offices become vacant ‘ipso facto’ and without any declaration, by tacit resignation accepted by the law itself.

It is interesting to note that the last words of this canon effectively introduce a nicety which had evidently not occurred to Suarez in his argument that human law cannot deprive one who is equal or superior in authority to its promulgator — namely that the automatic loss of office incurred by heretics is not, strictly a privation, which is the act of a superior, but an act of resignation on the part of the heretics themselves. This is so even if they do not directly wish to resign, because by choosing a role radically incompatible with holding office in the Church (i.e. the role of heretic) they have externally expressed, at least interpretatively, the will to resign; and so the law itself interprets their action, and their office automatically falls vacant.

Finally, it should be noted that Suarez’s contention that there is no Divine law whereby heretics are automatically deprived of their offices is not correct. The words of St. Paul and St. John forbidding communication between the faithful and heretics (as quoted by Suarez himself) constitute just such a law, [48] as the unanimous teaching of the Fathers to the same effect, vouched for by St. Robert Bellarmine, proves beyond question. Consequently the automatic exclusion of even uncondemned heretics from all ecclesiastical offices pronounced by Cum Ex Apostolatusand in recent times by Canon 188§4 do indeed “bind the pope”, because although promulgated by his equal, they are interpretative of Divine law.

It is thus certain that the premises upon which Suarez bases his hypothesis — namely the absence of any Divine law or human law applicable to a pope who falls into heresy, as well as the view that even non-papal heretics retain their offices until officially deposed — are entirely unfounded and in conflict with explicit judgements of the Church’s highest authority. The corollary of this fact is that it is not open to Catholics today to recognize Suarez’s view even as a legitimate opinion. The opposite opinion, taught by St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Alphonsus Liguori and countless others, is the official view of the Church herself. All heretics, including a heretic elected to the Holy See or a pope who, if such a catastrophe be possible, became a heretic after being validly elected, lose their offices ipso facto, and that both by Divine and by human law.

____________
Footnotes:

[39] While the pope is not directly subject to penal law, it is notable that Canon 188§4 is not a penal Canon. It does not deprive clerics of their offices for heresy; it interprets public defection from the faith as an act of tacit resignation from those offices, to which it gives immediate effect. In practice the theological debate about the loss of the papacy following pubic heresy closely parallels the debate (now closed) as to the loss of lesser ecclesiastical offices under the same circumstances.

[40] The fact that he wrote after the promulgation of Cum Ex Apostolatus in no way contradicts my assertion that this bull makes his position untenable, for, as will be shown later in this appendix, he was clearly not aware of the Bull’s contents.

[41] To both views, however, the words of St. Robert Bellarmine are equally apposite: “The condition of the Church would be most wretched if it were obliged to recognize a manifestly ravening wolf for its pastor.”

[42] I.e. those who fall into heresy but give no exterior indication of having done so.

[43] De Romano Pontifice, a part of his famous Controversies.

[44] This would appear to be supported by the nearest instance I know to a statement by a Father of the Church that heretics deserve to be deprived of their dignity. Pope St. Celestine I (422-432) in his letter to John of Antioch preserved in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus (Vol. 1, cap. 19), says: “If anyone has been excommunicated or deprived either of episcopal or clerical dignity by bishop Nestorius and his followers since the time that they began to preach those things, it is manifest that he has persevered and continues to persevere in communion with us; nor do we judge him to have been removed, because one who has already shown that he ought himself to be removed [‘se iam praebuerat ipse removendum] cannot by his own judgement remove another.” Here it is evident that in referring to Nestorius and his supporters as “removendi” — “those who ought to be removed” — St. Celestine does not mean that they retain their offices until deposed. That is precluded by the fact that he expressly judges their authoritative acts to have been null even prior to their deposition. His meaning is evidently that they ought to be removed physically from the accoutrements of the office which they had already ipso facto forfeited. See also the same pontiff’s letter to the clergy of Constantinople.

[45] De Romano Pontifice, XXX.

[46] The author of this work, published at Rome in 1862, was an auditor of the Holy Roman Rota.

[47] Heiner is not suggesting that Suarez agrees with him as to the ipso facto deprivation of heretics, but only to the equivalence of certain phrases to ipso iure or ipso facto, which is the subject of the chapter of Suarez to which he refers.

[48] Although the law is implicit rather than explicit in the Apostles’ words, it is nonetheless inescapable, as it would certainly not be compatible with these apostolic injunctions to recognize a heretic as having authority in the Catholic Church. Many other laws recognized to be Divine in origin — such as that prescribing the seal of confession — are deduced from passages of Scripture in which they are even more implicit, but nonetheless certain.

——————————————

This was an excerpt from pp. 148-162 of John Daly’s book Michael Davies: An Evaluation (2nd ed., 2015). Italics in original.

The entire book is available for free electronically or for purchase in hardcopy:

We express our gratitude to Mr. Daly for kindly permitting us to provide this excerpt and for making the electronic version of his book available to the public for free.

 

Just “Child’s Play”? Refutation of a Historian who says Vatican II Church will “Bounce Back” from Bergoglian Chaos

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Nothing to see here – move along?

Just “Child’s Play”? Refutation of a Historian who says Vatican II Church will “Bounce Back” from Bergoglian Chaos

Every so often, perhaps because they are exhausted by all the cognitive dissonance adhering to the Novus Ordo Sect while trying to be Catholic brings, certain conservative and semi-traditionalist writers and pundits will push the idea that despite the current morass, things really aren’t quite so bad after all. Compared to other periods of Church history, they contend, the present situation is not nearly so troublesome, or at least it is certainly not without equal precedent. In short: Relax, folks, we’ve weathered other storms before!

In 2018, for example, semi-trad apologist Paul Folbrecht made an argument to that effect as part of a lengthy attempt to refute Sedevacantism. We responded accordingly:

Others, who perhaps do not have the resources to look into Church history, do not even bother making a historical argument at all. They simply tell themselves that, despite initial appearances, nothing that has happened since the death of Pope Pius XII is anything the Church cannot do.

For example, take a look at what James D. at Camp of Saints posted recently. There we have a blogger who, apparently tired of fighting, decided to come off the fence — and jumped onto Bergoglio’s turf. Although acknowledging that he has “doctrinal differences” (!) with the man he believes to be the Pope of the Catholic Church, he conveniently decided that “[m]uch of what has changed in the Church since 1958 has been unwise. None of it has been illegal.” Apparently things like worshipping a pagan fertility goddess in the Vatican Gardens or making the declaration that God has willed a diversity of religions counts as merely “unwise” rather than “illegal” — terms that really have no meaning with regard to doctrine to begin with. In which case one wonders, of course, why the blogger has doctrinal differences with his “Holy Father”, if everything is but a matter of prudence or permission.

In any case, the “it’s really not so bad” argument does rear its unreasonable head now and again, and on Jan. 22, 2020, we saw such an example on a major news and commentary site, namely, that of the so-called National Catholic Register, where Vatican reporter Edward Pentin published an interview he had conducted with Dr. Carlos Eire, a distinguished history professor at Yale University with a Ph.D. from the same (1979).

In this post we will look at some excerpts from the interview and dissect them critically. Ed Pentin’s questions are italicized and in bold; Prof. Eire’s responses are in regular typeface:

Having studied the history of popes, do you think the grace of the office will overcome any challenges and controversies?

Oh, definitely. This is nothing compared to previous crises or previous popes. This is child’s play.

(Edward Pentin, “Church Historian Discusses the Papacy, Past and Present”National Catholic Register, Jan. 22, 2020)

With all due respect to the professor: Even if he takes a different overall view on the matter than we do here, to call the current post-1958 catastrophe “child’s play” is simply indefensible. It may perhaps seem like child’s play to a secularist, one who has no understanding of the Catholic Faith at all and only looks at externals, but to a Catholic or someone who means to be one, this comment is totally off the mark.

Yes, there have been very difficult periods for the Catholic Church in the past, but none comes close to what we presently experience, even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Vatican II Sect is the true Roman Catholic Church and its heads have been true Roman Pontiffs, as Eire obviously believes.

What periods in Church history does the professor have in mind when he claims that today’s madness doesn’t even compare? He will tell us later on in the interview, so we will wait until then.

As for his claim that the grace of the papal office will ultimately prevail, one must point out rather matter-of-factly that a true Pope is always divinely aided in the exercise of his office — in accordance with the promises of Christ — and not only “ultimately”: “Mother Church … possesses in the primacy of Peter and of his legitimate successors the assurance, guaranteed by the divine promises, of keeping and transmitting inviolate and in all its integrity through centuries and millennia to the very end of time”, Pope Pius XII said in his Allocution to the Consistory of June 2, 1944. He made no mention of the Popes getting it right only eventually, with intermittent defection from the Faith.

The divine assistance promised to St. Peter and his successors prevents any Pope from creating precisely the kind of apostate chaos Francis and his five predecessors have unleashed. The grace of the papal office is attached to the office, after all, and so it makes no sense to say that it will work out only eventually. Of what use would the divine protection of the Papacy be if it only worked sometimes or ultimately, when, “because our lifespans are short”, as Eire himself points out later on in the same conversation, “an individual might never see it”?

Continuing with the interview:

But critics say Pope Francis has impinged on doctrine, such as Amoris Laetitia.

Yes, but whenever there’s been any kind of doctrinal conflict or there has been any kind of logjam, it has come, it has gone, sometimes there’s a fallout, but it’s resolved. As with the Old Catholic church after Vatican I, there’s always some fallout, but the Church has survived the crisis.

This makes no sense. Yes, there was a “fallout” after Vatican I, but the crucial difference Eire misses is that it was the so-called “Old Catholics” who had “impinged on doctrine”, not the Pope! If there is “any kind of doctrinal conflict or … logjam”, then a Catholic must be on the Pope’s side, who is always guaranteed to be the safe bulwark of orthodoxy. That is the whole point of the Papacy, the very reason why Christ instituted it to begin with: “This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful…”, Pope Pius IX declared in his encyclical Inter Multiplices (n. 1).

The Church survived all crises in the past because of the Papacy, not in spite of it.

Continuing with Dr. Eire’s response:

In my Catholic intellectual tradition course, which I co-teach with two colleagues, we’ve tried to get the students to realize that crisis is constant. The details of the crises might be different, and the intensity of the crises might vary, but for heaven’s sake, 70 years in Avignon — and then all the following years of the Great Schism of 1378 where you had not two, but at one point three rival popes — and the Church survived. Conciliarists deposed two popes and elected a new pope, but that only resulted in three popes.

If you were to cross the English Channel during that schism, if you crossed from England to France, you were immediately excommunicated. If you crossed from France to England, it would go the other way, because England recognized the pope in Rome, and France, of course, recognized the pope in Avignon and so there was a mutual excommunication.

It would be even more shocking because there at least you have to get into a ship and cross the water, but on the continent, you just go a few kilometers this way and there was another pope being recognized, and vice versa. So, we shouldn’t really get too concerned, because it will resolve itself.

Here the professor touches upon two anomalies in Church history: the Avignon papacy and the Great Western Schism. Both of these supposedly make the current nightmare look like child’s play by comparison. But do they really?

The “Avignon papacy” is the term used to refer to the time period from 1309-1376, when a series of Popes did not live in Rome but in Avignon, France. It was certainly a turbulent time for the Church, but if the main problem with Bergoglio today were that he resides in Paris, Berlin, or Buenos Aires instead of the Vatican, that could be considered child’s play by comparison to what we are truly witnessing.

The aftermath of the Avignon papacy resulted in the

In his interview with Pentin, Eire resorts to dangerously imprecise language: He speaks of “three rival popes”, of “two popes”, and again of “three popes”, when he knows fully well that there cannot be more than one legitimate pope at a time — any other

There is no denying the great evil that was the Great Western Schism. However, to say it makes the post-Vatican II catastrophe look like child’s play is simply not accurate.

For one thing, none of the papal claimants from 1378-1417 were apostates, as the Modernist Vatican II “popes” are, none more conspicuously than Francis. Secondly, although the problem of rival papal claimants can be resolved fairly easily by all claimants resigning voluntarily, the situation we find ourselves in today is of a different caliber altogether:

  • supposing, for the sake of argument, Francis to be Pope and the Vatican II Sect to be the Catholic Church, as Dr. Eire holds, this would leave us with a defected magisterium, a defected papacy, a defected church;
  • even with the reality of sede vacante since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, the situation is intolerable: a human remedy to the problem seems (seems!) beyond all possibility; confusion and disagreement reign everywhere, even among all those who acknowledge the true nature of the ecclesial situation

But no matter which of these two positions any particular reader of this blog takes, it is simply preposterous to say that it pales in comparison with the evil of the Great Western Schism. Far from it! If anything, the reverse is true.

As far as Eire’s claims of mutual excommunications go, certainly excommunication is no light matter. However, this does not really add anything of substance to the difficulty already acknowledged, for it goes without saying that no matter what claimant you accepted as the true Pope during the Western Schism, there was always at least one other claimant insisting that you had picked the wrong man and were worthy of anathema. Even a miracle worker as holy as St. Vincent Ferrer

Finding himself threatened with excommunication from all sides back then, a Catholic could take refuge in knowing that in the face of a perplexed conscience, if all alternatives seem to be equally sinful, and a choice must be made, then any of them may be chosen without sinning: “If the two alternatives appear equally wrong, and one must be chosen, either may be chosen without sin, for the agent is not free” (Fr. Henry Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Sheed and Ward, 1935], p. 72, fn. 1; italics added).

As agonizing and scandalous as that turbulent period of Church history was, what we have today is certainly not any less so, and in fact much worse, for we are not merely facing uncertainty with regard to who (if anyone) the Pope is, but with a colossal apostasy throughout the world, a magisterium that teaches heresy and other error, and a church that establishes evil liturgical and disciplinary laws and canonizes public sinners as saints. Would that the only problem were the true Pope living outside of Rome, or that there merely be a quarrel about which of three Catholics claiming to be Pope is the true one!

Returning now to the interview with Dr. Eire:

What is your opinion on cases where a pope has been accused of unorthodoxy or perhaps even heresy?

It is very rare. But again, there is no really big trouble unless Vatican I is invoked, unless infallibility is invoked. That’s where things would get hairy. Being a heretic and not speaking ex cathedra

Once again Prof. Eire shows himself dangerously misinformed on Catholic theology. His remarks reveal that he believes that unless a Pope proclaims heresy ex cathedra — which is impossible, anyway — then there isn’t really anything to worry about. This contention assumes, incorrectly, that Catholics only have an obligation to assent to ex cathedra statements. It also assumes, just as incorrectly, that whenever a Pope is not infallible, he could be heretical. But fallibility is merely the possibility of erring, not the possibility of erring heretically. An erroneous teaching is one thing; a heresy is something else altogether, as it constitutes a rejection of Divine Revelation.

The following two posts demonstrate, using pre-Vatican II Catholic sources, how the Papal Magisterium teaches the faithful and what kind of assent is owed to it:

If the Pope were capable of proposing heresy in his non-infallible Magisterium, then the entire Catholic doctrine on the Papacy would collapse, the Church would be deprived of all credibility, and the Papacy would not only not be a guarantor of orthodoxy but be a positively harmful institution constituting a danger to the salvation of souls. This is not only absurd but also directly contrary to Catholic teaching, which holds that “the teaching authority of the Church … in the divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might remain intact for ever, and that they might be brought with ease and security to the knowledge of men…” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 9).

The question of the possibility of a heretical Pope came up at Vatican I, of course, and was presented to the Deputation of the Faith for a response. Abp. John Purcell of Cincinnati, Ohio, who attended the assembly, relates the answer the council’s theological experts gave:

The question was also raised by a Cardinal, “What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?” It was answered that there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.

If the Pope, for instance, were to say that the belief in God is false, you would not be obliged to believe him, or if he were to deny the rest of the creed, “I believe in Christ,” etc. The supposition is injurious to the Holy Father in the very idea, but serves to show you the fullness with which the subject has been considered and the ample thought given to every possibility. If he denies any dogma of the Church held by every true believer, he is no more Pope than either you or I; and so in this respect the dogma of infallibility amounts to nothing as an article of temporal government or cover for heresy.

(Abp. John B. Purcell, quoted in Rev. James J. McGovern, Life and Life Work of Pope Leo XIII [Chicago, IL: Allied Printing, 1903], p. 241; imprimatur by Abp. James Quigley of Chicago; underlining added.)

This stands in stark contrast to the fairly nonchalant remarks made by Dr. Eire. (More on the Vatican I “heretical Pope” question can be read here.)

Getting back to the interview, Eire’s response continues:

And actually, most Catholics don’t know about the famous case that was invoked during the First Vatican Council, which was the case of Pope Honorius I, who in conversations with the patriarch of Constantinople expressed agreement with the heretical proposition about Christ — Monotheletism — the idea that the Christ had only one will, the divine will. Pope Honorius said, “Sounds right to me.” So, during Vatican I this was brought up as an example of popes not being infallible. But this is where the ex-cathedra cloud comes in: Honorius was not speaking ex cathedra. That was a private conversation.

The case of Pope Honorius I was debated up and down before, during, and after the First Vatican Council. The facts are not quite as the Yale historian presents them. Some years ago we published an exclusive translation of a series of lectures by Fr. Louis-Nazaire Bégin on the Honorius question, first printed in 1873. The author, a doctor of Sacred Theology who was later appointed Archbishop of Quebec by Pope Leo XIII (1898) and created cardinal by Pope St. Pius X (1914), shows that Pope Honorius “did not fall into heresy, and that the Sixth [Ecumenical] Council [i.e. the Third Council of Constantinople] did not condemn him as a formal heretic, but only as guilty of negligence.”

Here are some of the conclusions Fr. Begin reached after an exhaustive study of the subject matter:

We come now to a very serious question, one which touches the very heart of our subject. This is the question: Did Pope Honorius fall into the heresy of Monotheletism? I answer, “No!” Here I find myself to have for adversaries a throng of writers hostile to the Catholic Church. On the other hand, I am supported by men who are the most eminent for their knowledge and erudition.

In his first letter [to Sergius, Pope Honorius] repeats several times that “the Scriptures demonstrate clearly that Jesus Christ is the same Who operates in things divine and in things human;” that “Jesus Christ operates in the two natures, divinely and humanly.” Nothing could be clearer or more obvious! The heresy is right away knocked down. It is thus evident that Honorius confesses in Jesus Christ not only two natures, but also two wills and two operations. Thus, this Pontiff professes in his letters the Catholic truth; he rejects only the being used to express it, and this for reasons of prudence, in order not to appear to favor Nestorianism or Eutychianism, and also because Sergius astutely portrayed these new expressions as a cause of troubles in the Church and an obstacle to the return of Monosphysites to orthodoxy.

John, secretary to Honorius, who wrote the letter to Sergius and who must have known better than any other the thoughts of the Pontiff, said on this matter: “When we spoke of a single will in the Lord, we did not have in view His double nature, divine and human, but His humanity only…. We meant that Jesus Christ did not have two contrary wills, that is to say one of the flesh and one of the spirit, as we ourselves have on account of sin, but that, with regard to His humanity, He had but one natural will.”

Pope John IV gave to Honorius’s words absolutely the same sense. It is therefore quite evident that the doctrine of Honorius in his letters to Sergius is irreproachable from the point of view of sound theology, because in addition to the divine will, which no one has denied, he confesses the human will in all its perfection.

…[Honorius’] unique goal, and certainly a very praiseworthy one, was to maintain peace in the Church by preventing the introduction of new words and removing all obstacles to the return of heretics to the true doctrine.

Readers interested in the full text of Fr. Begin’s study of Pope Honorius can find it here:

Writing after Vatican I, the author had the benefit of being able to draw from all the research done in preparation for the council, from the acts of the council, and from its teachings. The book in which his treatment of the Honorius issue is included bears the required imprimatur of the Archbishop of Quebec, Canada. It is clear, therefore, that Fr. Begin’s study is a most reliable source — both in terms of assessing the facts of history and of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy — for unraveling the confusing case of Pope Honorius according to the mind of the Church. It is unfortunate that Dr. Eire has apparently never come across it.

The interview continues:

That was very rare.

It’s very rare, but they did dig up his remains and throw them into the Tiber so it’s that rare. It’s been that rare. But for heaven’s sake, all the disagreements about the Immaculate Conception before it was pronounced a dogma — people fell on both sides, including the popes. But this pope is probably skating on the thinnest ice that anyone — not just living, but dead or watching — is. And they probably are [watching]. It must be that surprising.

Pope Honorius’ remains were thrown into the Tiber? Does Eire have a source to back that up, or is he confusing Pope Honorius with Pope Formosus (r. 891-896), whose corpse was dug up for the infamous Cadaver Synod and later thrown into the Tiber?

As the Catholic Encyclopedia relates:

… [Pope] Stephen VI lent himself to the revolting scene of sitting in judgment on his predecessor, Formosus. At the synod convened for that purpose, he occupied the chair; the corpse, clad in papal vestments, was withdrawn from the sarcophagus and seated on a throne; close by stood a deacon to answer in its name, all the old charges formulated against Formosus under John VIII being revived. The decision was that the deceased had been unworthy of the pontificate, which he could not have validly received since he was bishop of another see. All his measures and acts were annulled, and all the orders conferred by him were declared invalid. The papal vestments were torn from his body; the three fingers which the dead pope had used in consecrations were severed from his right hand; the corpse was cast into a grave in the cemetery for strangers, to be removed after a few days and consigned to the Tiber.

(Catholic Encyclopedias.v. “Formosus, Pope”)

We will not dwell further on the Pope Formosus case here, since it is incidental to the Pentin-Eire interview. It is clearly a vivid anomaly in the history of the Church, but one which neither disproves the Papacy nor Sedevacantism. St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, addressed the strange case in his De Romano Pontifice (Book IV, Chapter 12), in the portion of the book in which he answers objections concerning the orthodoxy of specific Popes.

The final portion of the interview we will look at is the following:

Could one argue that even if a pope changed the whole essence of the papacy, because the office is steered by Christ and the Holy Spirit, that in the long run it really wouldn’t matter? The pope could change it radically and it would still survive.

Oh yes, definitely. We have many examples, not just the popes, but councils that voted the wrong way and then it took some years, but things were corrected. It happens. But what’s always surprised me, both as a historian and a believer, is sort of the… let’s call it “the bounce-back principle,” an effect which you don’t normally see with human institutions. And that’s what I think is one of the more remarkable facets of the history of the Catholic Church.

Several things must be said here.

First, no Pope could change “the whole essence of the Papacy” because then the Papacy would be destroyed. Changing the essence of a thing means changing what that thing is, in consequence of which what the thing was before is no longer in existence. Such an essential or substantial change of the Papacy is impossible and absolutely precluded by the promises of Christ. Substantially changing the Papacy would mean substantially changing the Church, and that would mean defection from the Faith, defection from Christ.

This much should have been clear to Pentin but even more so to Eire. Let’s briefly review the Catholic doctrine on the matter. Pope Pius IX spoke of “the Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ”, in which “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” (

The same Pope also taught very clearly:

To preserve forever in his Church the unity and doctrine of this faith, Christ chose one of his apostles, Peter, whom he appointed the Prince of his Apostles, his Vicar on earth, and impregnable foundation and head of his Church. Surpassing all others with every dignity of extraordinary authority, power and jurisdiction, he was to feed the Lord’s flock, strengthen his brothers, rule and govern the universal Church. Christ not only desired that his Church remain as one and immaculate to the end of the world, and that its unity in faith, doctrine and form of government remain inviolate. He also willed that the fullness of dignity, power and jurisdiction, integrity and stability of faith given to Peter be handed down in its entirety to the Roman Pontiffs, the successors of this same Peter, who have been placed on this Chair of Peter in Rome, and to whom has been divinely committed the supreme care of the Lord’s entire flock and the supreme rule of the Universal Church.

(Pius IX, Encyclical Amantissimus, n. 2; underlining added.)

His successor, Pope St. Pius X, likewise taught that “in spite of a great number of pernicious opinions and great variety of errors (as well as the vast army of rebels) the Church remains immutable and constant, ‘as the pillar and foundation of truth’, in professing one identical doctrine, in receiving the same Sacraments, in her divine constitution, government, and morality…” (Encyclical Editae Saepe, n. 8).

Clearly, then, a change in the essence of the Papacy is absolutely ruled out a priori by Catholic doctrine. Such a change, if it were possible, would mean a different papacy, just as a change in the essence of the Church would mean a different church. The latter, incidentally, is precisely what the Second Vatican Council engendered, thus exposing itself as a false council, ratified by a false pope: “…[T]he Church succeeded, during the second Vatican Council, in re-defining her own nature”, proclaimed “Cardinal” Karol Wojtyla, the future “Pope Saint” John Paul II, in his book Sign of Contradiction (New York, NY: The Seabury Press, 1979), p. 17; see scan of page here.

Instead of accepting the Catholic teaching on all these things, however, Prof. Eire believes in and promotes the “bounce-back principle”, by which he seems to mean that the Church founded by Christ can defect into heresy at any point but in the future will right herself again and so “bounce back” into orthodoxy — “eventually”! It’s just too bad if one happens to die before the Great Bouncing Back and so, following Eire’s logic, has to either defect into heresy with the Pope or else refuse him submission and thus become a schismatic in the meantime.

Don’t worry, it’ll bounce back!

No, the “bounce-back church” of Carlos Eire is definitely not the Roman Catholic Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, in which, as we just saw, “truth must always continue firm and ever inaccessible to all change” (Pius IX). The Roman Catholic Church is infallible, not inflatable. It does not need to “bounce back” from heresy because it can never be in heresy to begin with.

She is, after all, “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

 

in Novus Ordo Wire     0

A Challenge to Recognize-and-Resist Apologists: Is it a Mortal Sin to adhere to Francis’ Teachings?

In light of Catholic teaching on the Papacy, that is…

A Challenge to Recognize-and-Resist Apologists: Is it a Mortal Sin to adhere to Francis’ Teachings?

The altar of the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican

Day in and day out we hear from the recognizing-and-resisting semi-traditionalists that this or that error of Vatican II or the post-conciliar magisterium is “not binding.” In a recent live interview on YouTube, semi-trad darling John Salza repeated it once again.

For the sake of argument, we will accept that claim precisely as stated: Certain papal teaching is not binding. That means, of course, that it is optional to embrace — take it or leave it. If it’s optional, however, one naturally wonders why they are so busy resisting it. We know the answer, of course: because they believe it is more than just not binding — it is, in fact, not permissible to adhere to because it is spiritual poison and contradicts what the Church taught for two millennia, often even the very Deposit of Faith directly.

Now of course the semi-trads don’t only resist their supposed Popes but also recognize them, meaning that they are just as certain that the men whose teachings they have decided are definitely not safe to embrace, are nevertheless definitely true Popes. These self-styled traditionalists also tell us that they adhere only to “what the Church has always taught”, and that is not optional.

To sum up, their position is:

  • what the Church “has always taught” is binding on Catholics
  • papal novelties, incl. errors and heresies, are not binding and not permissible to hold because they contradict “what the Church has always taught”
  • Francis is definitely the Pope

OK then. Since these people acknowledge that what the Church has always taught is not only true and correct but is binding on the Catholic conscience, let’s see what the Church has always taught about the Papacy, shall we? Once we’ve looked at that, we’ll apply it to the man whom the recognize-and-resisters are telling us is definitely — some even say infallibly — the current true Pope.

So first, let’s lay out the traditional doctrine.

We’ll begin with Pope Pius IX, who reigned for 32 years — longer than any other Pope in history — and issued plenty of magisterial documents. Among his rich teaching we find this:

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7)

Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

(Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)

Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3)

However it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness.

…For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church. As a result, that man is already a schismatic and a sinner who establishes a see in opposition to the unique See of the blessed Peter from which the rights of sacred communion derive for all men.

…All these traditions dictate that whoever the Roman Pontiff judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.

But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867, answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is. For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all.

…Most men feel that the Church’s supreme head and shepherd should decide who are Catholics and who are not.

(Encyclical Quartus Supra, nn. 7-9,12,15)

But you, dearly beloved Sons, remember that in all that concerns the faith, morals, and government of the Church, the words which Christ said of Himself: “he that gathereth not with me scattereth” [Mt 12:30], can be applied to the Roman Pontiff who holds the place of God on earth. Ground your whole wisdom therefore, in an absolute obedience and a joyous and constant adherence to this Chair of Peter. Thus, animated by the same spirit of faith, you will all be perfect in one manner of thinking and judging, you will strengthen this unity which we must oppose to the enemies of the Church….

(Apostolic Letter Per Tristissima; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 419)

Now we come to Pope Leo XIII, who, not surprisingly, taught the same things:

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.

(Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

If in the difficult times in which Our lot is cast, Catholics will give ear to Us, as it behooves them to do, they will readily see what are the duties of each one in matters of opinion as well as action. As regards opinion, whatever the Roman Pontiffs have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter teach, must be held with a firm grasp of mind, and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed.

(Encyclical Immortale Dei, n. 41)

In defining the limits of the obedience owed to the pastors of souls, but most of all to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, it must not be supposed that it is only to be yielded in relation to dogmas of which the obstinate denial cannot be disjoined from the crime of heresy. Nay, further, it is not enough sincerely and firmly to assent to doctrines which, though not defined by any solemn pronouncement of the Church, are by her proposed to belief, as divinely revealed, in her common and universal teaching, and which the [First] Vatican Council declared are to be believed “with Catholic and divine faith.” But this likewise must be reckoned amongst the duties of Christians, that they allow themselves to be ruled and directed by the authority and leadership of bishops, and, above all, of the Apostolic See.

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24)

Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own.

Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic …. “You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held.”

(Encyclical Satis Cognitum, nn. 9,13)

This is Our last lesson to you: receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God’s commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church; the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.

(Allocution for the 25th Anniversary of his Election, Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 653)

Pope St. Pius X echoed his predecessors as well because their teachings were precisely “what the Church had always taught”:

They [the Modernists] will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher [as Cardinal John Henry Newman]: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.

(Apostolic Letter Tuum Illud)

And this is why, when we love the Pope, we do not dispute whether he commands or requires a thing, or seek to know where the strict obligation of obedience lies, or in what matter we must obey; when we love the Pope we do not say that he has not yet spoken clearly — as if he were required to speak his will in every man’s ear, and to utter it not only by word of mouth but in letters and other public documents as well. Nor do we cast doubt on his orders, alleging the pretext which comes easily to the man who does not want to obey, that it is not the Pope who is commanding, but someone in his entourage. We do not limit the field in which he can and ought to exercise his authority; we do not oppose to the Pope’s authority that of other persons — no matter how learned — who differ from the Pope. For whatever may be their learning, they are not holy, for where there is holiness there cannot be disagreement with the Pope.

(Address to the Priests of the Apostolic Union, Nov. 18, 1912; in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 4 [1912], p. 695; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 752)

We’re not done yet. “What the Church has always taught” was also laid out by Pope Benedict XV:

All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

(Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 22)

The same can be said of Pope Pius XI:

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.

(Encyclical Casti Connubii, n. 104)

Finally, we come to the last (known) true Pope, Pius XII. Again we find that his teaching was no different either:

They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.

(Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 41)

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

(Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

…[T]his sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith — Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition — to be preserved, guarded and interpreted…. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me” [Lk 10:16]; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.

(Encyclical Humani Generis, nn. 18, 20)

These are quite a few examples, and yet they are by no means exhaustive (you can find more here).

Now we’ll apply these teachings to Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), the man we are told over and over again by the mainstream traditionalists is the true Pope. We will do that by replacing any mention of “Roman Pontiff”, “Pope”, “Vicar of Christ”, etc., with the phrase “Pope Francis” and/or make any other appropriate adjustments, indicated in bold red font.

This is how the above teachings read then:

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to Pope Francis. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See of Pope Francis. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make Pope Francis’ See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

********************

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against Pope Francis’ Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while Pope Francis’ Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this See of Pope Francis, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

********************

Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See of Pope Francis, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

********************

Since Pope Francis, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the apostolic see of Pope Francis (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of Pope Francis to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to Pope Francis.

********************

However it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness.

…For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of Pope Francis of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Pope Francis can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church. As a result, that man is already a schismatic and a sinner who establishes a see in opposition to the unique See of Pope Francis from which the rights of sacred communion derive for all men.

…All these traditions dictate that whoever Pope Francis judges to be a schismatic for not expressly admitting and reverencing his power must stop calling himself Catholic.

But the neo-schismatics say that it was not a case of doctrine but of discipline, so the name and prerogatives of Catholics cannot be denied to those who object. Our Constitution Reversurus, published on July 12, 1867, answers this objection. We do not doubt that you know well how vain and worthless this evasion is. For the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all, Pope Francis.

…Most men feel that Pope Francis should decide who are Catholics and who are not.

********************

But you, dearly beloved Sons, remember that in all that concerns the faith, morals, and government of the Church, the words which Christ said of Himself: “he that gathereth not with me scattereth” [Mt 12:30], can be applied to Pope Francis, who holds the place of God on earth. Ground your whole wisdom therefore, in an absolute obedience and a joyous and constant adherence to this Chair of Pope Francis. Thus, animated by the same spirit of faith, you will all be perfect in one manner of thinking and judging, you will strengthen this unity which we must oppose to the enemies of the Church….

********************
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 Pope Francis.

********************

If in the difficult times in which Our lot is cast, Catholics will give ear to Us, as it behooves them to do, they will readily see what are the duties of each one in matters of opinion as well as action. As regards opinion, whatever Pope Francis has hitherto taught, or shall hereafter teach, must be held with a firm grasp of mind, and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed.

********************

In defining the limits of the obedience owed to the pastors of souls, but most of all to the authority of Pope Francis, it must not be supposed that it is only to be yielded in relation to dogmas of which the obstinate denial cannot be disjoined from the crime of heresy. Nay, further, it is not enough sincerely and firmly to assent to doctrines which, though not defined by any solemn pronouncement of the Church, are by her proposed to belief, as divinely revealed, in her common and universal teaching, and which the [First] Vatican Council declared are to be believed “with Catholic and divine faith.” But this likewise must be reckoned amongst the duties of Christians, that they allow themselves to be ruled and directed by the authority and leadership of bishops, and, above all, of the Apostolic See of Pope Francis.

Wherefore it belongs to Pope Francis to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

********************

Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, now exercised by Pope Francis, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own.

Union with Pope Francis is … always the public criterion of a Catholic …. “You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Pope Francis is to be held.”

********************

This is Our last lesson to you: receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God’s commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church; the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than Pope Francis’ Pontificate.

********************

They [the Modernists] will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher [as Cardinal John Henry Newman]: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey Pope Francis with the greatest faith.
********************

And this is why, when we love Pope Francis, we do not dispute whether he commands or requires a thing, or seek to know where the strict obligation of obedience lies, or in what matter we must obey; when we love Pope Francis we do not say that he has not yet spoken clearly — as if he were required to speak his will in every man’s ear, and to utter it not only by word of mouth but in letters and other public documents as well. Nor do we cast doubt on his orders, alleging the pretext which comes easily to the man who does not want to obey, that it is not Pope Francis who is commanding, but someone in his entourage. We do not limit the field in which he can and ought to exercise his authority; we do not oppose to Pope Francis’ authority that of other persons — no matter how learned — who differ from Pope Francis. For whatever may be their learning, they are not holy, for where there is holiness there cannot be disagreement with Pope Francis.

********************
All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: Pope Francis, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to Pope Francis reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

********************

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 Pope Francis, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.
********************
They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to Pope Francis. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.

********************

Pope Francis has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

********************

…[T]his sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith — Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition — to be preserved, guarded and interpreted…. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters Pope Francis does not exercise the supreme power of his Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me” [Lk 10:16]; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.

Well, dear recognize-and-resisters, how’s it going? Is your head spinning yet? Or do you perchance not believe in the Papacy?

Actually, though, we haven’t even gotten to the challenge yet. This was just the preparatory work to make semi-trads understand what the true doctrine on papal primacy is — you know, “what the Church has always taught” on that — and what it would mean if Francis were a true Pope.

Here, then, is our challenge to all recognize-and-resist traditionalists, especially those who like to proclaim that they will never be sedevacantists, whom they sillily claim to be schismatics and/or heretics:

Considering your firm belief that Francis is the Pope, in light of the traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy laid out above, is it objectively a mortal sin to adhere to the ideas promoted by Francis in his official documents and discourses?

In other words: How do you reconcile the traditional Catholic doctrine on the Papacy quoted above with the idea that Jorge Bergoglio is a valid Pope, when the traditional doctrine requires you under pain of mortal sin to adhere to everything the Pope teaches and yet you resist what Francis teaches because you know it is poison and therefore (objectively) a mortal sin to adhere to?

So, have at it, fellows: John Salza, Robert Siscoe, Christopher Ferrara, Michael Matt, Brian McCall, Steve Skojec, Eric Sammons, Eric Gajewski, Matt Gaspers… go ahead, answer the challenge.

As of late, more and more people have been opining that we must wait for a group of Novus Ordo cardinals or bishops to get together in a so-called imperfect council to determine if Francis is a heretic and/or a non-Pope. It is amusingly ironic that oftentimes they are the same people who didn’t care too much for the judgments of the last council that came around.

We sedevacantists believe in the Papacy. Recognize-and-resisters believe in Bergoglio.

Which do you believe in?

 

in Novus Ordo Wire     0

The “But we’ve had Bad Popes before” Objection

Is Francis a “bad father but still your father”?

The “But we’ve had Bad Popes before” Objection

With the recent idolatrous, heretical, and blasphemous circus surrounding the Amazon Synod, Novus Ordo and semi-traditionalist authorities and apologists are once again offering false solutions to their hapless followers, solutions aimed at mostly one thing: the continued acceptance of Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) as the Pope of the Catholic Church, no matter how absurd and indefensible the idea may be — for the only truly intolerable view for them is that of Sedevacantism.

One of the most common objections one hears against Sedevacantism is, “But we’ve had bad Popes before” or, “A bad father is still your father!” People who think that such arguments can legitimize Francis are either not familiar with, or incapable of grasping, the difference between, on the one hand, Catholics who lead immoral lives, and, on the other hand, heretics.

Francis isn’t a bad Catholic. He manifests day in and day out that he is a non-Catholic. That’s the crux. Therefore, saying that we’ve had bad Popes in the past and they were still valid Popes, is totally beside the point. A man who professes the Catholic Faith whole and entire, no matter how wicked he may be, remains a member of the Catholic Church. Even if he hate God. Even if he be a murderer. Even if he be a sodomite.

God forbid, of course! Such a man, if he does not repent, will have an eternity of suffering in hell. His Church membership will have profited him nothing; his Faith, entirely dead because without charity, will not save him in the least. His knowledge of the True Faith will merely add to his misery in hell because he will have sinned with full knowledge of the sinfulness of his deeds.

Yes, all this is true. But such a man, if elected to the papacy, would still be a valid Pope, because what keeps a man from being validly elected to the papacy is not a lack of holiness but the public profession of heresy (among other things). In other words, what keeps him from being a valid Pope is not the commission of sins against morals (otherwise no one could be Pope, since we are all sinners), no matter how many or how grievous, but the commission of certain sins against Faith.

That is standard Catholic teaching and not controversial. Pope Pius XII put it best when he taught authoritatively in his beautiful encyclical on the Church:

Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed….

Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. It is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, nn. 22-23; underlining added.)

Note well, ladies and gentlemen: The only sins that by their very nature sever a man from the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, are the sins of schism, heresy, and apostasy. What this means is that these sins are such that committing them renders one a non-Catholic. A heretic, after all, professes a different religion than a Catholic, and so he cannot be a member of the Church, because one cannot be a Catholic and a non-Catholic at the same time. (The same goes, even more so, for an apostate. Schism is slightly different because it is a sin against charity and not against Faith, but this need not concern us here.)

Therefore, a schismatic, a heretic, or an apostate could not be a valid Pope, for this would mean that a man who is not a member of the Mystical Body can nevertheless be the head of that Mystical Body, which is a contradiction. The Catholic Encyclopedia, compiled during the reign of Pope St. Pius X, states very plainly: “Of course, the election of a heretic, schismatic, or female would be null and void” (s.v. “Papal Elections”).

To appreciate how important and serious this difference is between bad Catholic and non-Catholic, let us take a look at one of the most immoral Catholic Popes in history: Pope John XII, who reigned from 955 to 963. Prince Octavian (his birth name) was only 16 years of age when elected, and he was a complete moral reprobate:

Nothing in his life marked him for this office, and everything should have kept him from it. He was rarely seen in church. His days and nights were spent in the company of young men and of disreputable women, in the pleasures of the table and of amusements and of the hunt, or in even more sinful sensual enjoyments. It is related that sometimes, in the midst of dissolute revelry, the prince had been seen to drink to the health of the devil. Raised to the papal office, Octavian changed his name and took the name of John XII. He was the first pope thus to assume a new name. But his new dignity brought about no change in his morals, and merely added the guilt of sacrilege.

Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy. There is not a heretic or a schismatic who has not endeavored to legitimate his own conduct dogmatically: Photius tried to justify his pride, Luther his sensual passions, Calvin his cold cruelty. Neither Sergius III nor John XII nor Benedict IX nor Alexander VI, supreme pontiffs, definers of the faith, certain of being heard and obeyed by the whole Church, uttered, from the height of their apostolic pulpit, a single word that could be an approval of their disorders.

At times John XII even became the defender of the threatened social order, of offended canon law, and of the religious life exposed to danger.

(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, Vol. 3 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], pp. 510-511; underlining added.)

BAM! Did you get that?

Yes, there can be bad Popes, indeed. But in the exercise of their office they will be as orthodox and as Catholic as any other. Christ promised as much: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). That is the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy, backed by God Himself:

…the Church has received from on high a promise which guarantees her against every human weakness. What does it matter that the helm of the symbolic barque has been entrusted to feeble hands, when the Divine Pilot stands on the bridge, where, though invisible, He is watching and ruling? Blessed be the strength of his arm and the multitude of his mercies!

(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, March 20, 1900; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 349.)

The Pope has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved.

(Pope Pius XII, Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

Thus, if one were to say that Francis is the Pope, one would have to conclude that all the Catholic teaching on the Papacy applies to him and that its guarantees are verified in him. To see how Bergoglio measures up, we have put together a handy little tool:

Unlike what so many prominent “traditionalists” have been spouting for decades, the Church is not guaranteed to have a Pope at all times; but when she has one, she is guaranteed to have one who’s Catholic. This is evident also because the Pope is the principle of unity in the Church and the proximate rule of Faith; he is the guarantor of orthodoxy and to him all must submit as a condition of their salvation (see Denz. 469). The idea that a public heretic could be Pope and teach in accordance with his heresies, would throw all of this completely out of sync.

Thus St. Robert Bellarmine, the Doctor of the Papacy, taught:

The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.

Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.

On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.

(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; Grant translation; underlining added.)

Whereas certain self-appointed recognize-and-resist traditionalists want to “unite the clans” so as to mount a unified defense against their “Pope’s” open heterodoxy, the Catholic Magisterium is quite clear that the only principle that can produce the unity of the flock is the Pope, who alone possesses authority over all Christians and who cannot lead the flock astray in matters of Faith and morals:

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; 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, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua to Cardinal Guibert; 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)

Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic…. ‘You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held.’

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13; underlining added.)

…[T]he strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.

(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution of Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 353)

What? You haven’t heard these things lately from your favorite semi-trad newspaper, blog, or clergyman? You don’t say! Try applying the above quotes to the Vatican II Sect and its “Popes”, and you realize very quickly that their goose is cooked. Is Francis, even in his official acts, “the strong and effective instrument of salvation”? Hardly! If there’s anything he’s strong and effective in, it’s causing loss of Faith and thus damnation.

Take a good look also at the dogmatic teaching of the First Vatican Council on the connection between the Papacy and the True Faith, a connection which is not merely incidental but essential and necessary:

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 traditionFor, 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].

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

It’s time to change the channel, folks. It’s time to stop imbibing the semi-traditionalist propaganda produced by The Remnant and its theological cousins.

As Catholics, we can take a debauched but Catholic Pope John XII over a “nice” but heretical Francis any day. Pope Pius IX reminds us of this once more:

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair [of St. Peter]; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7; underlining added.)

But the supposed “Chair of St. Peter” in the Vatican II Sect has tottered and fallen; it therefore cannot be the true and genuine Chair of St. Peter.

Where, then, is the true Pope? We do not know. For all we know, we do not have a Pope. The See of Peter has been either vacant or impeded since 1958. It has most definitely not been validly occupied by the impostors of the Vatican II Church (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Francis).

But keep in mind: Though the Church may not always have a Pope, she will always have the True Faith. And for this reason alone we know that the Vatican II Sect cannot be the Catholic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So… now what, you ask? Now go and be a real Catholic.

 

Pope St. Pius X on Cardinal John Henry Newman

October 12, 2019

Was Newman a Modernist?

Pope St. Pius X on Cardinal John Henry Newman

 

Tomorrow, Oct. 13, Antipope Francis will pretend to declare Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90) a saint. He cannot actually declare him a saint since such a privilege is reserved to the Pope, and if there’s one thing that lousy Modernist Jorge Bergoglio is not, it’s Pope of the Catholic Church.

In any case, the Novus Ordo Modernists have long hijacked Cardinal Newman for their own nefarious ends, spinning him into a forerunner of the Second Vatican Council, and consequently they have no objection to his canonization. Even long before the council, however, the original Modernists were already claiming to have a friend in Cardinal Newman, as we will see momentarily.

The impending worthless canonization of Newman by the Vatican II Sect is thus a golden opportunity to demonstrate that the celebrated convert from Anglicanism was certainly a Catholic. We need not undertake any lengthy in-depth study of his thought in order to be assured of this, for we can turn to the one man who, more than any others in the history of the Church, had the greatest authority, competence, and credibility to speak on the matter: We have in mind none other than Pope Pius X (reigned 1903-1914), the powerful progenitor of the Church’s anti-Modernist campaign, himself declared a saint on May 29, 1954, by Pope Pius XII.

On Sep. 8, 1907, St. Pius X released his landmark encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis against the doctrines of the Modernists. The following year, the local ordinary of Limerick, Ireland, Bp. Edward Thomas O’Dwyer (1842-1917), published a little 44-page book entitled Cardinal Newman and the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (a paperback copy may be purchased here). What occasioned the publication of the latter was the fact that some of the partisans of the Modernism the Pope had just condemned were appealing to the celebrated name of Cardinal Newman in their defense.

Bp. O’Dwyer wrote:

…I observe that some of the persons who feel the severity of the Pope’s condemnation try to shield themselves under the venerable name of Newman. They would make believe that, in his writings, they can find, if not in express terms, at least in germ and embryo, the very doctrines for which they are now condemned, and they seem to hope that, in England, the name of Newman will be more authoritative on Catholic doctrine than the teaching of the Holy See. It is an uncatholic position, in principle, but it is as untrue to fact as it is unsound in faith. There is nothing in Newman to sustain, or extenuate, or suggest a particle of their wild and absurd theories. Newman was a Catholic to the tips of his fingers.

(Most Rev. Edward T. O’Dwyer, Cardinal Newman and the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis: An Essay [London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908], p. 5; paragraph breaks removed.)

The remainder of the work is the author’s defense of the illustrious convert, showing that Modernists can lay no claim to the name of Newman.

On Mar. 10, 1908, Pope St. Pius X wrote a letter to Bp. O’Dwyer, commending him for his fine work defending the good cardinal and endorsing it wholeheartedly. The papal document was published in the Acta Sanctae Sedis, and we reproduce an English translation of it below for the benefit of our readers (taken from Michael Davies’ book Lead Kindly Light):

LETTER
In which Pope Pius X approves the work of the Bishop of Limerick
on the writings of Cardinal Newman.
To his Venerable Brother
Edward Thomas Bishop of Limerick

Venerable Brother, greetings and Our Apostolic blessing. We hereby inform you that your essay, in which you show that the writings of Cardinal Newman, far from being in disagreement with Our Encyclical Letter Pascendi, are very much in harmony with it, has been emphatically approved by Us: for you could not have better served both the truth and the dignity of man.

It is clear that those people whose errors We have condemned in that Document had decided among themselves to produce something of their own invention with which to seek the commendation of a distinguished person. And so they everywhere assert with confidence that they have taken these things from the very source and summit of authority, and that therefore We cannot censure their teachings, but rather that We had even previously gone so far as to condemn what such a great author had taught.

Incredible though it may appear, although it is not always realised, there are to be found those who are so puffed up with pride that it is enough to overwhelm the mind, and who are convinced that they are Catholics and pass themselves off as such, while in matters concerning the inner discipline of religion they prefer the authority of their own private teaching to the pre-eminent authority of the Magisterium of the Apostolic See. Not only do you fully demonstrate their obstinacy but you also show clearly their deceitfulness.

For, if in the things he had written before his profession of the Catholic faith one can justly detect something which may have a kind of similarity with certain Modernist formulas, you are correct in saying that this is not relevant to his later works. Moreover, as far as that matter is concerned, his way of thinking has been expressed in very different ways, both in the spoken word and in his published writings, and the author himself, on his admission into the Catholic Church, forwarded all his writings to the authority of the same Church so that any corrections might be made, if judged appropriate.

Regarding the large number of books of great importance and influence which he wrote as a Catholic, it is hardly necessary to exonerate them from any connection with this present heresy. And indeed, in the domain of England, it is common knowledge that Henry Newman pleaded the cause of the Catholic faith in his prolific literary output so effectively that his work was both highly beneficial to its citizens and greatly appreciated by Our Predecessors: and so he is held worthy of office whom Leo XIII, undoubtedly a shrewd judge of men and affairs, appointed Cardinal; indeed he was very highly regarded by him at every stage of his career, and deservedly so.

Truly, there is something about such a large quantity of work and his long hours of labour lasting far into the night that seems foreign to the usual way of theologians: nothing can be found to bring any suspicion about his faith. You correctly state that it is entirely to be expected that where no new signs of heresy were apparent he has perhaps used an off-guard manner of speaking to some people in certain places, but that what the Modernists do is to falsely and deceitfully take those words out of the whole context of what he meant to say and twist them to suit their own meaning. We therefore congratulate you for having, through your knowledge of all his writings, brilliantly vindicated the memory of this eminently upright and wise man from injustice: and also for having, to the best of your ability, brought your influence to bear among your fellow-countrymen, but particularly among the English people, so that those who were accustomed to abusing his name and deceiving the ignorant should henceforth cease doing so.

Would that they should follow Newman the author faithfully by studying his books without, to be sure, being addicted to their own prejudices, and let them not with wicked cunning conjure anything up from them or declare that their own opinions are confirmed in them; but instead let them understand his pure and whole principles, his lessons and inspiration which they contain. They will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.

To you, therefore, Venerable Brother, and to your clergy and people, We give Our heartfelt thanks for having taken the trouble to help Us in Our reduced circumstances by sending your communal gift of financial aid: and in order to gain for you all, but first and foremost for yourself, the gifts of God’s goodness, and as a testimony of Our benevolence, We affectionately bestow Our Apostolic blessing.

Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, on 10 March 1908, in the fifth year of Our Pontificate.
Pius PP. X

(Pope St. Pius X, Apostolic Letter Tuum Illud; original in Acta Sanctae Sedis XLI [1908], pp. 200-202; underlining and paragraph breaks added.)

This should definitively put to rest the suspicion that Newman was putting forward Modernist ideas. Obviously he had held many errors before his conversion, as an Anglican, but that cannot be laid to the charge of the Catholic Newman. Cardinal Henry Edward Manning (1808-92), likewise a convert from Anglicanism but so different from Newman, declared at the latter’s passing: “We have lost our greatest witness for the Faith” (source).

Newman converted in 1845. He was ordained a Catholic priest on May 30, 1847. He never became a bishop, but Pope Leo XIII raised him to the rank of cardinal on May 12, 1879. (The rule that all cardinals had to be bishops was introduced by Antipope John XXIII in the early 1960s.) One of the reasons why Newman at times gives rise to confusion is that he employed his own peculiar vocabulary, he was not a systematic theologian, and he was not a Thomist or a scholastic. None of this should be too surprising, however, considering that the great Neo-Thomist revival of the 19th century did not begin until long after his conversion, with Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris, in 1879. [Correction: We have been informed since that the Thomist revival was already underway before, but mostly confined to Dominican schools, and that Leo XIII merely gave this movement papal impetus.]

People who are interested in investigating Newman’s theology in-depth and seeing its orthodoxy vindicated, are encouraged to consult, in addition to Bp. O’Dwyer’s book linked above, Fr. Edmond D. Benard’s work A Preface to Newman’s Theology (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1945). We had intended to make this work available as a free PDF download; however, we were not able to obtain the copyright as the publisher is going to re-release it into print in the near future.

A succint preview of what the reader can expect is found on the inside flap of the dust jacket of the original 1945 edition: “A PREFACE TO NEWMAN’S THEOLOGY is a close study of the great man’s Catholic orthodoxy. Was Newman a Modernist or did he have Modernist leanings? If so, he would be an unsafe guide. This question is here discussed with scholarly acumen. Some writers have criticized Newman’s teaching on the development of Christian doctrine. The arguments on this question also are carefully sifted and scrutinized….”

The author, Fr. Benard, was an incredibly gifted young priest who was just rising to prominence as a Newman scholar. He died a premature death in his study at the Catholic University of America, during a fire on Feb. 4, 1961, presumably of smoke inhalation. However, knowing all the evils that would afflict the Church and society afterwards, we can see what a great mercy of Almighty God it was to call him to judgment when He did. Fr. Benard died at the young age of 46, but he lived long enough to leave to posterity this magnificent vindication of Newman’s orthodoxy.

Traditional Catholics, then, should not allow the Modernists to claim Newman as one of their own, for he most certainly wasn’t. Not only learned authorities such as Bp. O’Dwyer and Fr. Benard but even Pope St. Pius X himself assure us of this.

 

in Novus Ordo Wire     0

In Brief: The Facts on Pope John XXII

Historical Precedent for a “Heretical” Pope?

In Brief: The Facts on Pope John XXII

At a time when countless supposed “traditional Catholics” don’t think twice about accusing an unquestionably true Pope of the past of teaching heresy or at least grave doctrinal error, it behooves us to remind everyone that instead of simply believing whatever you see posted on a blog somewhere, the safer course is to simply look the stuff up. It’s not like these questions never came up before or that no clear answer was ever put forward.

Where to look it up? Look it up where any Catholic priest would have looked it up before Vatican II: in the most recent dogmatic theology manuals approved by the Church. Why most recent? Because the most recent Church-approved manuals will include the most recent doctrinal pronouncements and clarifications from the Magisterium and also take into consideration any of the latest historical research to shed light on questions pertaining to Church history insofar as it relates to doctrinal matters.

In this post, we will take a brief look at the famous case of Pope John XXII (reigned 1316-1334), who is accused of teaching that the souls of those who die in the state of sanctifying grace cannot see God in the fullness of the Beatific Vision until after the Last Judgment.

In the future we are going to post a carefully-researched essay on this with detailed documentation. For now, however, we will have to content ourselves simply with a brief overview of the facts of the case since the issue is continually brought up to discredit the sedevacantist position and “legitimize”, as it were, Francis’ claim to the Papacy.

The following succinct summary of the John XXII controversy comes from the treatise On the Last Things (De Novissimis) of vol. 4 of the extensive Jesuit dogmatic theology compilation Sacrae Theologiae Summa, which was originally published in Latin in 1956 and was recently released in English for the first time.

St. Bernard [Doctor of the Church, 1090-1153] often taught that deceased just persons immediately after death will obtain immense happiness, but not the beatific vision until the resurrection [of their bodies].

John XXII, the Supreme Pontiff, followed him almost to the letter, and the Friars Minor followed him, as is generally reported. He held that immediately after death some reward is given to the just, like seeing already the humanity of Christ in heaven, and that the wicked are punished in hell in some way; but before the final judgment that neither the face-to-face vision of God is granted to the blessed nor the punishment of fire to the damned.

However, he taught this as a private teacher, not as Pontiff, and he held it theoretically or for the sake of debate, thinking that he could be deceived in these matters and permitting others to think differently until the question should be decided authoritatively. Hence he took care to have the matter studied by the Doctors, and frequently summoning debates in his presence on this point, he was prepared to abandon his opinion if it was shown to be against the faith. Indeed, on the day before his death he ordered a declaration of the true doctrine in the presence of all the Cardinals, etc. He said that previously he thought differently about this matter by pondering it and speaking about it. In this way he prepared the way for his successor, Benedict XII, to proclaim a definition of the true teaching [see Denz. 530-531].

(Fr. Joseph F. Sagüés, S.J., Sacrae Theologiae Summa IVB: On the Last Things, trans. by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. [original Latin published by BAC, 1956; English published by Keep the Faith, 2016], n. 30; italics given; underlining added.)

Pope Benedict XII’s ex cathedra definition of the true doctrine concerning the fate of the departed was issued on Jan. 29, 1336:

By this edict which will prevail forever, with apostolic authority we declare: that according to the common arrangement of God, souls of all the saints who departed from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ; also of the holy apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, virgins, and the other faithful who died after the holy baptism of Christ had been received by them, in whom nothing was to be purged, when they departed, nor will there be when they shall depart also in the future; or if then there was or there will be anything to be purged in these when after their death they have been purged; and the souls of children departing before the use of free will, reborn and baptized in that same baptism of Christ, when all have been baptized, immediately after their death and that aforesaid purgation in those who were in need of a purgation of this kind, even before the resumption of their bodies and the general judgment after the ascension of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, into heaven, have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the kingdom of heaven and in celestial paradise with Christ, united in the company of the holy angels, and after the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ have seen and see the divine essence by intuitive vision, and even face to face, with no mediating creature, serving in the capacity of an object seen, but divine essence immediately revealing itself plainly, clearly, and openly, to them, and seeing thus they enjoy the same divine essence, and also that from such vision and enjoyment their souls, which now have departed, are truly blessed and they have eternal life and rest; and also [the souls] of those who afterwards will depart, will see that same divine essence, and will enjoy it before the general judgment; and that such vision of the divine essence and its enjoyment makes void the acts of faith and hope in them, inasmuch as faith and hope are proper theological virtues; and that after there has begun or will be such intuitive and face-to-face vision and enjoyment in these, the same vision and enjoyment without any interruption [intermission] or departure of the aforesaid vision and enjoyment exist continuously and will continue even up to the last judgment and from then even unto eternity.

Moreover, we declare that according to the common arrangement of God, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin immediately after their death descend to hell where they are tortured by infernal punishments, and that nevertheless on the day of judgment all men with their bodies will make themselves ready to render an account of their own deeds before the tribunal of Christ, “so that everyone may receive the proper things of the body according as he has done whether it be good or evil” [ 2 Cor. 5:10].

(Pope Benedict XII, Apostolic Constitution Benedictus DeusDenz. 530-531)

Thus we can see that the case of Pope John XXII is in no way comparable to that of “Pope” Francis:

Pope John spoke (1) as a private teacher (2) on a matter not yet settled (3) in order to ascertain the truth of the matter so it could be defined, (4) meanwhile permitting others to differ from him. In other words, the Pope did not exercise his Magisterium; he did not commit heresy; and although his view was erroneous, it was permissible for him to hold at the time. The Church historian Fr. Reuben Parsons explicitly states that in holding his theory, Pope John was “in the full exercise of his right” (Studies in Church History, vol. 2, 2nd ed. [Fr. Pustet & Co., 1896], p. 500).

Contrast this with the apostasy of “Pope” Francis, who (1) issues magisterial documents (such as Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia) and has explicitly stated that he intends to speak magisterially even in interviews; (2) therefore as (putative) Pope; (3) on matters long settled and defined, even directly revealed by God (cf. Ex 20:14); (4) for the sake of changing established church teaching and practice.

On Dec. 3, 1334 — one day before he was to die — Pope John XXII issued a formal retraction of any errors he may have held, in the bull Ne Super His, which was published by his successor, Pope Benedict XII:

In order that those things often said — both by Us and by certain others in Our presence — on the subject of the purified souls separated from the body (whether before the resurrection of the bodies they can see the divine essence with that vision which the apostle calls face to face) — by citing Sacred Scripture and the original sayings of the saints or other modes of reasoning — should not impress the ears of the faithful otherwise than as was said or understood by Us or as is being said and understood [by Us], so We now earnestly declare as follows, in the context of the present [writings] Our opinion that We, together with the holy Catholic Church, have and have had regarding this matter.

We therefore confess and believe that the purified souls separated from the body are gathered together in heaven, in paradise and the kingdom of the heaven [sic], with Christ in the company of the angels, and that they, according to the common precept, clearly see God and the divine essence face to face, insofar as the state and the condition of the separated soul allows.

But if, in any way, other things may have been said, or [said] in another manner, by Us on this subject, We have said them in the disposition of the Catholic faith, and We affirm to have said them thus in discoursing and discussing, and We wish to have said [them] thus. Furthermore, if We, in what pertains to the Catholic faith, Sacred Scripture, or good morals, have said other things in preaching, discoursing, formulating a doctrine, teaching, or in any other way, these, insofar as they are in conformity with the Catholic faith, the Church’s way of thinking, Sacred Scripture, and good morals, We approve; other things, however, We wish to consider as though they were not said, and We do not in any way approve them; rather, insofar as these might not have been in accord with what We have mentioned — the Catholic faith, the Church’s way of thinking, Sacred Scripture, or good morals or any of these — We reject them; and likewise We submit to the judgment of the Church and Our successors all that We have said or written on any subjects wherever and in whatever place and in whatever situation We have or may have had up until now.

(Pope John XXII, Bull Ne Super HisDenzinger-Hünermann 990-991; available online in Latin here.)

Let no one, then, appeal to the case of Pope John XXII as historical precedent permitting refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff. The traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy remains as true today as it was when enunciated by Pope Pius IX in 1853: “Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees” (Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7).

Those “traditional Catholics” of our day who think they can find precedent in the Church’s past for resisting the Magisterium of a “heretical” Pope, forget that all these issues were debated extensively at the time of the First Vatican Council (1869-70) as the Pope and the bishops were preparing a dogmatic constitution on the primacy of the Pope and the extent of the infallibility of his Magisterium. The following anecdote was related by Abp. John Purcell of Cincinnati, who had attended the council:

The question was also raised by a Cardinal, “What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?” It was answered that there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.

(Abp. John B. Purcell, quoted in Rev. James J. McGovern, Life and Life Work of Pope Leo XIII [Chicago, IL: Allied Printing, 1903], p. 241; underlining added.)

Further information on the supposed “heretical” Popes of the past can be found in the following posts:

Historically, those accusing Popes of magisterial error or heresy have typically been the enemies of the Church and of the Papacy (specifically Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Gallicans, and Modernists), whereas those who have defended the Popes from such charges have enjoyed a great reputation for orthodoxy. Of the latter group we need but name a few: Pope Pius IX, St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Joseph Hergenröther, Cardinal Louis-Nazaire Bégin, Dom Prosper Gueranger, and many others. Bellarmine even wrote a little compendium answering charges against a number of very specific Popes:

Those who deride the defenders of the integrity of the papal Magisterium as “Ultramontanists” apparently do not realize how foolish their charge is, because Ultramontanism is Catholicism: “For Catholics it would be superfluous to ask whether Ultramontanism and Catholicism are the same thing: assuredly, those who combat Ultramontanism are in fact combating Catholicism, even when they disclaim the desire to oppose it” (Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Ultramontanism”).

The only reason why accusing Popes of the past of heresy or other magisterial aberrations is very popular these days among those who mean to be traditional Catholics, is, of course, the simple fact that Francis’ manifest apostasy combined with an irrational but dogmatic refusal of Sedevacantism leaves such people no other choice but to seek some kind of similar case in history to which they can point and say, “See, this Pope was just as heretical as Francis is, and the faithful resisted him, and no one said he wasn’t the Pope.” Such dishonorable efforts, however, are guaranteed to fail because they aim at finding in Church history a theological absurdity, an utter impossibility.

As we have pointed out many times on this web site before, insisting that Jorge Bergoglio is a valid Roman Pontiff does incalculable damage to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Papacy:

It is tragic to see how many would sooner jettison the true Catholic teaching on the Papacy than recognize that Jorge Bergoglio isn’t a valid occupant of the office.

Alas, people have ironically preferred having a Pope to the very meaning of the Papacy itself. For them, it is more important to have the papal office occupied than to preserve the correct understanding of what the papal office is. And so they have traded the Papacy for a Pope, as it were.

The just punishment of this Faustian bargain is that they now have neither: They have no true Pope, and they no longer have the correct understanding of the Papacy either.

See, then, how dire the consequences are to accepting Francis as a true Pope.

 

in Novus Ordo Wire     9

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Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Introibo Ad Altare Dei

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

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Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

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Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

TRADITIO.COM: The Traditional Roman Catholic Network

Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

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Defensor Blog ⚜️ Traditional Catholicism ⚜️ Apostolica Sedes Vacans

Homunizam

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

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