|Abbe de Nantes in Rome|
Following on my previous post regarding the question of Pope Francis being "deposed" for schism and heresy, in essence NOT being Pope Francis, but rather Cardinal Bergoglio etc., it is important to clarify for Catholics my modest claims. Firstly, the claims I make are not my own. I am merely repeating what the Church has always taught. Nothing new, nothing different. Catholics seem to be conflating two separate issues, either due to confusion, or deliberately, due to a schismatic intent. In other words, some are legitimately (and who can blame them) confused, given a Pope who is scandalizing the faithful through his words and actions, to those who already in secretum have broken Catholic unity, and are working backwards to "prove" the Pope is an Antipope, and hence justify their bad break with the Church.
|The Abbe de Nantes|
Let us now review a possible solution to the crisis in the Church. The Abbe de Nantes, who was suspended a divinis in the mid sixties, for his opposition to the innovations at the Council, had a horror of schism and heresy. He saw no need for a Catholic to fall into these twin evils just because the Pope and most of the bishops had gone out of their Catholic minds. The Abbe fought equally against those who had entered into sedevacantism and schismatic dissent, as he fought the modernist innovators. His motto was "neither heretics nor schismatics, we remain Catholic". I reproduce the part on what Catholics can do when the Pope engages in heresy, schism or scandal.
The Abbe warned Catholics years ago:
The successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Jesus Christ is reiterating the perfidy of Caiaphas, with a view to perpetrating the new deicide foretold by the Scriptures, that of man dethroning Jesus Christ in his own temple to enthrone himself there instead and so receive the world’s adoration of himself as God and Saviour.The full essay can be read here.
III. WHAT ACTION CAN BE TAKEN
AGAINST PAPAL HERESY, SCHISM, OR SCANDAL?
1. IMPRACTICABLE SOLUTIONBellarmine put forward a solution that sounds extremely drastic, but we must remember that he regarded the possibility – and hence presumably the solution – as merely academic. “ PAPA HAERETICUS DEPOSITUS EST… A heretical Pope is deposed ”. The reason is simple. Heresy being a form of spiritual death, a Pope who should fall into it would be spiritually dead and cut off from the Church, thus ceasing to be her Head.
Such reasoning, however excellent it may be in theory, does not take into account the psychological and sociological aspects of the situation. We have seen over these past ten years that such a solution is inapplicable in practice. To be effective, it would require two preliminary conditions which are, today, inconceivable. The Pope would, in the first place, have to have a clear understanding that he was renouncing the Faith in favour of heresy, and to be doing so deliberately and in consciousness of the mortal sin involved. Secondly, the priests and faithful would have to grasp fully the heresy in the papal teaching and to be unanimously agreed that the Pope was in fact a heretic. Today, however, the heretic sees himself as one ahead of his time, not a rebel but a prophet who is to save the Church! The priests and faithful, for their part, no longer have a clear idea where lies heresy and where the true Faith, or indeed if there is any contradiction between the two...
Thus we have today a situation where a Pope can be guilty of heresy, schism and scandal while believing himself to be engaged in founding Christianity anew, and where he is able to convince the great mass of priests and people into following him, just as they followed the greatest and holiest Popes of the past!
To admit the idea of the automatic deposition of the Pope on account of heresy would entail two possible consequences, the one disastrous and the other absurd. Either we should be left without any possibility at all of ridding ourselves of such a Pope, because the masses would continue to follow him regardless, or else any Tom, Dick or Harry who happened to have some grievance against the Pope could declare, on any ground whatsoever, and claiming for himself the justification of St Robert Bellarmine, that the Pope was a heretic and deposed on this account!
2. OPEN SOLUTIONThe solution which we regard as a practicable one is that proposed by Cajetan, followed by John of St Thomas and others: “ PAPA HAERETICUS DEPONENDUS EST… A heretical Pope must be deposed ”. This implies not only that a heretical Pope must be deposed from his office, but equally that anyone who feels impelled to bring a charge of heresy against the Pope has an obligation to take the necessary steps towards a judicial process of deposition. He has no right to raise his personal judgement into a legal verdict.
There remain, however, unanswered questions regarding the manner of bringing about such a deposition. Who is to depose the Pope? The Church, evidently. But has the Church the competence to pass judgement on him who is the Head and Sovereign Judge of all? Cajetan maintains that in undertaking such a process of deposition the Church is not in fact passing a verdict on the offender, but only bringing before God’s own Tribunal the evidence required.
It is God Himself alone from whom the process of deposition can emanate. It is hard to see just what Cajetan had in mind and at this point his discussion becomes somewhat nebulous. We are left only with the idea that any ecclesiastical tribunal would be competent merely to institute proceedings, but not to pass sentence.
The Libellus fidei addressed by Adrian II to the Eighth Council of Constantinople gives us some further guidance. In it he reminds the faithful, in connection with Honorius, that they have the right to resist a Pope who errs against the Faith and to refuse the directives of superiors who are in heresy. He adds that even in such a case, no patriarch or bishop would have any right to pass a sentence (of anathema) except with the consent of the Sovereign Pontiff himself. “ Cuipiam de eo quamlibet fas fuerit proferendum sententiam, nisi ejusdem primae sedis pontificis consensus praecessisset auctoritas. ” When Adrian II said that the consent of the Pope was necessary before a condemnation could be issued in such a case, he was thinking, evidently, of a posthumous sentence. But why should we not follow a similar argument and apply it within the lifetime of the Pope concerned? When souls are in danger, there is no case for waiting until death takes its course.
3. MODERN SOLUTIONThe solution that we are putting forward takes account of the dogma of Papal Infallibility as it was defined by the Vatican Council over 100 years ago. Indeed, though strange at first-sight, this application of the dogma could well seem to future historians a providential one. For the dogma of Infallibility shows us that the only person able to pass judgement on a Pope guilty of heresy, schism, or scandal, is none other than the Pope himself, speaking with the authority of his infallible Magisterium.
The Church must therefore make AN APPEAL TO THE POPE CONCERNING THE POPE. This is precisely what I have been asking for over the past six years – but public opinion is as yet so little prepared for such a solution that I am constantly being accused of having “ condemned ” the Pope, or of having passed “ judgement without appeal ” on him, when I have rather been calling upon him to pass such a judgement, and limited myself to the role of accuser. For the proposed solution is the only one that would do justice to the Pope. Whether his accusers are right or wrong – whether he is guilty or innocent – a Pope whose orthodoxy has thus been called into question cannot honourably extricate himself except through a process in which everything is set out with precision.
Who is to bring the charge? We can have no doubt but that any Catholic, any member of the Church, is entitled to do so. If there should be found a Prince or Emperor to take on the task, so much the better, for his standing would give it added weight. History shows that though force may be a dangerous tool for settling an argument, it has sometimes been used in the service of the Faith. Better still would be a Saint, and we can only regret the passing of the ages of faith when there would come forward Saints who not only expressed their reprimands with the greatest boldness, but followed them up with prophecies and miracles, showing that they were indeed inspired by God. The next best would be a member of the Hierarchy – the higher his rank, the better.
But failing a Saint or a Prince, a Curial Cardinal or even a Bishop, the last and least among Catholics is entitled to bring his charge against the Pope and therefore, for want of anyone better qualified, I decided to undertake the task myself.
If the Pope’s accuser should be in the wrong, he will suffer for it, and that would only serve him right. But, as long he is inwardly convinced that the Pope is in heresy, there remains on him the moral obligation to say so openly. In remaining silent while he is in a state of inward rebellion against the Pope he puts himself into peril of damnation for, if he should be wrong, he is cutting himself off from the Pope and hence from the Church. If he is right, he fails in his obligation of charity by not warning his brethren.
Before which tribunal? The only tribunal competent in matters of Faith is the CHURCH herself, by virtue of her authority as the SPOUSE of the LORD. Her judgement is infallible. The “ believing Church ” owes her faith to and retains her “ sensus fidei ” through the constant help and support given by the “ teaching Church ”. The Process would have to be instituted before the eyes of the whole Church, either by representative members of the Hierarchy, or by a tribunal consisting of ordinary theologians, whose brief would consist merely in establishing whether or not the teaching and acts of the Pontiff were compatible with the Catholic Faith and the Tradition of the Church. Their decision would be subject to the verdict passed by the Pope himself speaking infallibly.
It would fall to the Pope himself to pick the members of the tribunal charged with instructing the Process in all freedom and impartiality. It would seem to me preferable if the members were simple theologians rather than bishops and cardinals who might be tempted to set themselves up into a Council and claim for themselves the right to pass judgement upon the Pope – thus coming back full circle to the erroneous theory of Conciliar supremacy.
Who will be the Sovereign Judge? The Church, of course, but she would have to be represented by one man – the only man – competent to speak in her name, the same who is the lawful Head of every Conciliar Assembly – the Pope himself. He would be called upon, forced, to pass judgement on himself. Here we have the updated solution of the ancient problem – the Pope, speaking ex cathedra, is assured of the help of the Holy Spirit and cannot err either from ignorance or malice. Even if he were a “ demon in his very soul ”, to use the words of Cajetan, he would nevertheless be “ holy by virtue of his office ”. And everything will be saved by God!
What could be the possible outcome of such a Process?
Three alternatives spring to mind:
- A new definition of belief. This would be the most glorious way for the Pope to show that he had been wrongfully accused, and to rebut his accuser. The Pope would repeat, this time in the form of a solemn pronouncement, what he had said before in the ordinary way and the orthodoxy of which had been challenged. His opponent and the followers of the latter would have to submit and recant under pain of excommunication for formal heresy.Let us illustrate this by an example: Paul VI had authorised the giving of Holy Communion to a Presbyterian. The opponent claims that such an act was against the Faith and the Church’s God-given Law. The tribunal would have to establish that the facts had been correctly stated, that it was not a misunderstanding or some other accidental confusion but a genuine conflict between two different interpretations of the revealed Faith. It would be for the Pope to show that his interpretation had a sound theological basis, founded in Divine Revelation, and to make an ex cathedra pronouncement justifying intercommunion as compatible with the Faith. In that case, we should have to bow before his decision.
- A recantation by the Pope. “ But that is surely impossible ”, is what you may well say. In that case, you are either speaking without reflection or else you are lacking in faith. For if a Pope who has been guilty of serious error is faced with the alternatives of either affirming the Catholic teaching – which would involve admitting his own error – or denying it in order to persist in his own view, it is surely to be expected that he would recant. The five Popes who were guilty of heresy in the past all recanted!This should remind us that, while there is an obligation to take steps against a Pope guilty of heresy, it is also vital to pray for him as well as for the Church. It would be a glorious termination of such a Process against a Pope guilty of heresy, schism, and scandal, it he were to make an act of humility and submission to the will of God, for His greater glory and the inestimable benefit of the Church.
- The formal establishment of the Pope’s defection. The Pope might refuse to listen to his accuser. “ Does he have to present himself here? Close the doors; I will have nothing to do with him. “ So the case might drag on until others take up the charges. One day the priests of the Pope’s own diocese might come and demand a reply. “ No, I do not wish to reply ”. In such a case, the Church of Rome would have to draw up an acknowledgement of this refusal and this abuse of authority: the Pope is not willing to exercise his supreme Magistrature!But perhaps the process will commence with a series of procrastinations. The Pope shilly-shallies. He is pressed by his very own Church, the Church of Rome, which is particularly qualified to exercise this role. He is summoned to abandon his calculated inertia: “ The world is waiting for you to settle this question. You cannot stay silent, you must assume your role as Supreme Judge ”. If he again refuses to listen to his Church, further decisions will have to be envisaged.
Then, once again, the memory of a heretical Pope would fade from people’s minds