|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.
Catholics should be aware that there were at least five Popes who were heretics at one time or another during their papacy. Liberius, Vigilius, Honorius, Boniface IV, John XX and perhaps Alexander VI. There have also been in recent years strange and confusing statements and actions by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Bizarre and outrageous actions and words which could easily be argued were scandalous, if not heretical. However, NONE of these men were ever excluded from the List of Popes. All men mentioned remain, to this day, listed as Popes. In fact two of them have been canonized. Yes, a sinner can repent and die in the state of Grace. If you do not believe me, go and look it up. As such we historically have had heretics on the Throne of Peter, and these same heretics, remained Popes during their heresy, and these same Popes, following their deaths, were retained by their successors as legitimate Popes.
|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 SOLUTION
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...
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 SOLUTION
The 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
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 SOLUTION
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
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.
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
Who will be the Sovereign Judge?
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
The Church of Rome would then have to threaten
the Pope with deposition. In such a summons, it would be the Pope's own
act, his repeated refusal to exercise his responsibilities, that would
constitute a resignation. His deposition by the Church would be only a
consequence of this. The sentence of deposition would thus be the
canonical conclusion of this acknowledgement of the Pope’s resignation.
The Church of Rome would then declare the Apostolic See vacant and she
would call a conclave for the election of his Successor. For she owes it
to herself to have a Head who will teach with authority, judge and
punish, and uphold the peace and unity of the Church. She cannot remain
for any length of time – to use the term applied to the Republic by
Marcel Sembat – “ a woman without a head ”.
Then, once again, the memory of a heretical Pope would fade from people’s minds