|The Abbe de Nantes|
“ The official Church ”, they said, “ has now fallen into apostasy. We
are the only ones left. We must continue the Church, we must ensure her
survival and her future. ”
With those words, in 1969, the Abbe de Nantes describes the position held by Catholic priests who had taken it upon themselves (private judgment) to declare the See of Peter vacant. The position of these priests was to "...say Mass, hear confessions, baptize, and preside at marriages
universally, without asking anyone's permission and without worrying
about submission to the bishops or about jurisdiction". The Abbe relates that these schismatically priests were then joined by Fr. Guérard des Lauriers (who would eventually fall into schism). The priest's argument was as follows:
– “ I consider ”, replied Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, “ that the
hierarchy, in the person of the Pope and of the bishops, has
– “ It is not sufficient, my Reverend Father, to say
that the hierarchy has collapsed. Supposing you are right, it will still
be necessary to get the rest of the Church to admit this. ”
– “ It is self-evident ”, interrupted the other, “ self-evident ! ”
position of Fr. Guérard was instant, unambiguous, definite. The
hierarchy had disappeared. No more Pope ! No more bishops ! Since they
were heretics, they were spiritually dead and therefore cut off ipso facto from the Church.
It is important to relate this 1969 drama to 2020, as it is replaying itself - but in a more virulent form - in these past few years. Even laymen are making the same protestant declarations that only a few priests made 50 years ago. These confused laymen on innumerable occasions declare (without any authority) that Pope Francis has fallen into notorious heresy, and ipso facto (without a declarative judgement by the Church) is no longer Pope. Or, so another argument goes, he never was Pope to begin with, thus justifying their disobedience and bad break with the visible, hierarchical Church.
Such beliefs also carry very serious consequences: attending illicit Masses and receiving invalid sacraments by priests without faculties (e.g. concubinage justified as "matrimony"). Similarly, hiding the bad break by duplicitous attendance at Mass in union with an "Antipope" is a very serious mortal sin. No matter how you cut it, if you believe that Francis is not Pope, you CANNOT attend any Mass by a priest in communion with him, nor confess to said priest (except in the danger of death), for you are giving according to your conscience, witness to a lie. And you will be judged by God accordingly.
The logic of Francis not being the Pope is the collapse of the visible, hierarchical Church. The claim that Bishop Ratzinger is the Pope, is just a fudge to excuse a bad break. Arguably the world's greatest living canon lawyer believes Bishop Jorge Bergoglio is Pope. Is he infallible? No. But the odds are that he is right, and others are wrong. And don't tell me theology is easy. Actually it is one of the most difficult sciences to master. That is why Christ established a Hierarchy to teach. I'd rather follow Burke, than my own prideful self.
Douthat: You believe Francis is a legitimate pope?
Burke: Yes, yes. I’ve had people present to me all kinds of arguments calling into question the election of Pope Francis. But I name him every time I offer the Holy Mass, I call him Pope Francis, it’s not an empty speech on my part. I believe that he is the pope. And I try to say that consistently to people, because you’re correct — according to my perception also, people are getting more and more extreme in their response to what’s going on in the church.
Let us return back to 1969, to the drama that unfolded at Maison Staint-Joseph, when the Abbe de Nantes was being tempted by ill-informed and emotional priests to join them in rebellion against the divinely established order of the Catholic Church.
Our contemporary, self-declared theologians, also proclaim Francis' "heresies" as "self-evident". To the "self-evident" argument put forward by the wayward priest the Abbe de Nantes replied:
– “I can well understand ”, explained Fr. de Nantes, “ that it is
evident to you, even self-evident. But you are not infallible. ”
The drama continued to unfold, where the Abbe de Nantes refuted the "self-evident" argument, beginning with the proposition that what is "self-evident" may in fact be error:
“ Suppose that you live at the top of a block of flats. Someone warns
you that your car is burning in the street. Looking out of the window,
you notice that your car really has caught fire. You are quite sure
about it… and yet it is not your car ! You believed you recognised it,
but you were wrong ! ” He then returned to the question of Paul VI's
heresy : “ You may reason, prove, and argue as much as you like in
formulating an accusation of heresy against Paul VI. But as long as the
magisterium of the Church has not passed a dogmatic sentence, your
thinking will be nothing more than the opinion of a theologian who could
be wrong. Therefore, it is essential to obtain a judgement. Even if the
Pope has fallen from office by virtue of having promulgated a heretical
and invalid Mass, it is still necessary that the whole Church should
recognise and acknowledge this. If you are alone in proclaiming this, it
does not count. ” The conversation then turned to Bellarmine's thesis
concerning the case of a heretical Pope. According to Fr. de Nantes,
Cajetan's thesis was more penetrating, and he concluded thus : “ A
judgement by the Church is needed if Pope Paul VI [or Pope Francis] is to be deposed. ”
One of the dissenting priests did not take kindly to the Abbe's logical reasoning, but reacted in a typically emotional and angry manner. A manner that is once again, sad to say, very prevalent in the Church today. Renouncing our reason, and allowing ourselves to be ruled by emotion because of outrageous and scandalous words or activities coming from Rome is a pitiful excuse for sinning ourselves.
Emotions can be "right" but our conclusions wrong. Emotions told those at the foot of the Cross how could this man be the Son of God? Following emotions, the conclusion would have been to reject Jesus. After all, how could God allow Himself to be nailed up naked on a Cross and suffer this horrible, torturous death, while the crowds mocked Him? Emotion over reason is not Catholic. Yet, we see emotion causing one disastrous conclusion after another. In such an un-Catholic and emotional manner, a dissenting priest, Fr Coache responded to the Abbe:
“ Are you still harping on about that ! To expect the official Church
to pass a judgement deposing the Pope is quite ridiculous. It could
never happen ! The whole Church has foundered. How could she possibly
issue such a judgement ? ” It was evident that Fr. Coache no longer had
any faith in the Church.
The Abbe de Nantes, shortly after these confrontations wrote the following warning:
“ To declare that the teaching Church had been deposed would be to fall
into the snare of the adversary and, believing oneself to have gone one
better than the hierarchy in their faltering faith, to fall oneself into
unbelief. No ! These appearances only deceive the impatient whose minds
are blinded by pride.”
In 1967 two years before these dissenters had declared their intent to break with the Church, the Abbe was already warning about the temptation to schism:
“ We do not have the right – nor is it something we have ever desired or
even dreamed of – to declare that we alone constitute the true Church,
rejecting this reformed postconciliar Church as schismatic and heretical
as though in our eyes it had become the accursed great Babylon of the
Apocalypse. This solution, the most stupid and most criminal possible,
may have excited the imagination of certain unfortunates who were
looking for an adventure. But it will never be our solution. One does
not throw oneself into schism when one has never woken up on a single
morning of one's life, over the last forty years, without smiling with
joy at the radiant, virginal and maternal face of the Church, and
without going to sleep at night filled with her immense wisdom and her
salutary blessings. There is nothing in me, absolutely nothing, which I
have not inherited from Her or which is not in accord with her holy
thoughts and desires. Let us not overlook the sordid side of our nature
and our sins, which are known to Her alone, since She has purified them.
Can I then deny, strike and abandon my Mother ? God forbid !
Once again, we must take extreme care about private judgment. I do not have the right or authority to declare so and so a heretic. Nor do you. The Catholic Church decides who is, and who is not a heretic. It comes back to what the Abbe de Nantes had noticed in the dissenting schismatical priests: they had lost faith in the Church, and therefore in Christ. We see this loss in the supernatural in those who go along with the complete boarding up of our churches during the coronavirus pandemic. You will notice that Cardinal Burke advocates churches remaining open within reason and good science. Not hysteria. As such, for the vast majority of parishes (unless the area be a hotspot, such as New York City), social distancing is very, very easy. Much more so, than your supermarket, your hardware store, your liquor and beer store, and the local pot shop.
But I digress; let us return to the drama of contemporary schism.
There is also the fact that we have moved far beyond 1969, where liberalism, modernism, protestantism, and other errors have so infiltrated mens' minds, that they are no longer able to discern truth from error. There is such confusion, that the rot has not only infected Modernists, but also Integrists; who, reacting with emotion, and abandoning Catholic reason, join the Modernists in attacking the spotless Bride of Christ.
Neither schism nor heresy. I shall remain Catholic. Pope Francis is the Pope until the Church declares otherwise.
Part Two: "We do not Answer Schism with Schism"