The True Meaning of Bellarmine’s Ipso Facto Loss of Papacy


By: Robert Siscoe and John Salza

The True Meaning of Bellarmine’s Ipso Facto Loss of Office Theory for a Heretical Pope

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is hefty and will require genuine effort to read and digest. I encourage you to take your time and persevere, confident that the discourse that will ensue will, God willing, help all sincere seekers draw closer to a truly Catholic understanding of current ecclesial crisis and our duties in light of it. – LV]

In light of the ongoing crisis in the Church and papacy, many Catholics are questioning whether the man in charge – Pope Francis – is truly the Pope and, if so, how he could be removed from office. Some have and even gone as far as embracing the error of Sedevacantism, by concluding that he must be a false Pope.[1] Those who attempt an excursion into the theology of a heretical Pope invariably encounter the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine, who taught that a manifest heretic automatically ceases to be Pope, by the fact (“ipso facto”) of his heresy, before any excommunication or sentence of a judge.

Many have interpreted Bellarmine as teaching that a Pope who falls into heresy is necessarilyipso facto deposed” without requiring any form of legitimate judgment by bishops at a council as a condition for the loss of office to take place. In their mind, this interpretation is further supported by the canonical principle, “Prima sedes a nemine judicator” (“The First See is judged by no one”),[2] which they assume proves that the Church could only render a legal judgment that the Pope is a heretic after he has fallen from the pontificate. Moreover, they point out that Bellarmine himself said “the reason” a heretical Pope “can be judged and punished by the Church,” is because he has already ceased by himself to be Pope (De Romano Pontifice, lib. ii cap. xxx). For these reasons, they conclude that Bellarmine must have meant that a heretical Pope is secretly deposed by God prior to any intervention or judgment on the part of the Church (e.g., bishops at a council).

In our book True or False Pope? (2015), we interpreted Bellarmine, based on the limited material that was available at the time, as teaching that the Church can legitimately “establish the fact” that a reigning Pope has fallen into heresy, and argued that this is what Bellarmine believed was required as a condition for him to be ipso facto deposed, unless the Pope publicly separated himself from the Church. After the publication of the book, the additional writings of Bellarmine that we have discovered, and indeed, the volumes of his writings that have recently been translated into English, confirm that this is in indeed exactly what Bellarmine held.

We will use this opportunity to present this additional material from Bellarmine which sheds further light on his true position (this article is the condensed version of the longer article which can be found at We will also address the pressing question of how the Church (i.e., a council) can legally establish the fact that a Pope has fallen into heresy, while he remains Pope, without violating the bi-millennial teaching, rooted in divine law, that “the First See is judged by no one.” Lastly, we will see how Bellarmine himself refuted the Sedevacantists of his day (the early Protestants), using an argument that equally refutes the Sedevacantists of our day.

Bishop Schneider’s Astute Observations/Objections that the Sedevacantists Failed to Adequately Answer

This issue of whether or how the Church could judge a heretical Pope has been the subject of much debate over the past year. On February 28, 2020, published an essay written by Bishop Schneider, which pointed out several problems with various theories concerning how a heretical Pope loses his office. The bishop correctly noted that the opinion which maintains that an imperfect council can condemn a Pope (e.g., Azorious, Gerson) is at least a mitigated form of conciliarism (the heresy that a council is superior to, and can authoritatively judge, a Pope). This is certainly true, since a condemnatory sentence is a punitive measure that requires jurisdiction and coercive authority over the one condemned, whereas a merely declaratory sentence does not. That is why theologians and canonists say the latter can be issued with respect to the Pope in the case of heresy,[3] but not the former.

Bishop Schneider also pointed out several problems with two of the ipso facto loss of office theories (there are actually four different versions[4]), which purport to resolve the difficulty of “judging the Pope” by positing that a heretical Pope is secretly deposed by God first, and that the bishops or Cardinals simply declare that the former Pope has already lost his office. The problem with this theory is that the Cardinal or bishops could not declare that a Pope had lost his office for heresy, without first judging that he had, in fact, fallen into heresy. Bishop Schneider realizes that if divine law explicitly prevents the Pope from being judged (“the First See is judged by no one”), the same divine law would prevent the Church from declaring that a Pope lost his office for heresy, since the latter could not happen without first rendering a judgment that divine law forbids. Hence, Bishop Schneider rightly rejects these ipso facto theories on the basis that they contain an inherent contradiction and imply a hint of “crypto conciliarism.”

The other problem he mentions is “the inevitable possibility of disagreement among members of the College of Cardinals or the episcopacy regarding whether or not a pope is guilty of heresy,” which would naturally result in doubts about whether or not the automatic loss of office had taken place. There is no question that this problem will exist with every theological opinion concerning how a heretical Pope loses his office if the opinion does not require an antecedent judgment (conviction of heresy) by a body of bishops representing the universal Church as a condition for the loss of office (ipso facto or otherwise) to take place.

Because of the problems Bishop Schneider sees with the various loss of office theories, he adheres to what Bellarmine lists as the Third Opinion in De Romano Pontifice(lib. II, cap xxx) – namely, that if a Pope falls into heresy, he is not ipso facto deposed, nor can he be indirectly deposed by the Church, but will remain Pope in spite of his heresy. This opinion has also been held by Dominique Bouix, Raphael de Pornaxio, Giovanni Cardinal Casanova, and Alberto Pasquali.

Novus Ordo Watch’s Attempt to Answer Bishop Schneider’s Objection

Now, since the problems Bishop Schneider mentioned apply directly to the ipso facto loss of office theory that the Sedevacantists have spent decades promoting (which, as we will see, is not the opinion of Bellarmine), the Sedevacantist apologist Mario Derkson, of Novus Ordo Watch, reacted at once by posting an article that attempted to answer Bishop Schneider’s objections, but completely failed to do so. In reply to the first objection, Derksen wrote:

There is no contradiction in this ‘opinion’ — the position of a canonized Doctor of the Church, we might add – nor is there any ‘crypto-conciliarism’ afoot. The simple fact is just that Schneider doesn’t get it: The cardinals or bishops would have to issue a declaration of the Pope-who-ceased-to-be-Pope only for the good of the Church so that there is an official record and the Church is free to proceed to a new conclave. … The declaration by cardinals or bishops is not necessary for the Pope-who-became-a-heretic to cease to be Pope … Thus there is not a trace of Conciliarism here either, the heresy that a council is above the Pope. Does Schneider really think that someone as brilliant and orthodox St. Robert Bellarmine would not have noticed such a contradiction in his thinking or would have subscribed to ‘crypto-conciliarism’?” (Derksen, “Comedy Hour with Athanasius Schneider”)

After accusing Bishop Schneider of “not getting it,” Derksen went on to repeat the Sedevacantist talking point that it’s not a question of “judging the Pope,” but of “discerning” the fact that he is not the Pope. But this evasive answer fails to resolve the logical inconsistency that Bishop Schneider astutely perceived and noted, which pertains to the ipso facto loss of office theory itself (not necessarily whether or not someone is Pope) – the version of the ipso facto loss of office theory that the Sedevacantists have used for decades in an effort to persuade Catholics to reject the legitimacy of the recent Popes. Nor did Mr. Derksen’s ad hominem attacks, ridicule and mockery of the good bishop (which he engaged in throughout the article) – or the photoshopped picture of Bishop Schneider with a clown nose that Derksen posted top center – resolve the inherent problems with the Sedevacantists’ version of the ipso facto loss of office theory that Bishop Schneider pointed out.

The Logical Dilemma

What has apparently never occurred to Mr. Derksen and his colleagues is that the Cardinals or bishops cannot declare that a Pope has lost his office for heresy, without first judging that the Pope has fallen into heresy. There are two judgments involved, and the second depends upon the first:

1) The Pope has fallen into heresy (antecedent judgment).

2) As a result of falling into heresy, the Pope has lost his office (consequent judgment).

If the antecedent judgment is forbidden, the consequent judgment is impossible. In other words, if the Cardinals or bishops cannot legitimately judge that a Pope has fallen into heresy, they cannot legitimately declare that a Pope has lost his office for heresy. Hence, if a Pope fell into heresy and lost his office by divine law, and if papal immunity from judgment (which is also part of divine law) forbids the Cardinals or bishops from legitimately judging that a Pope has fallen into heresy, the Church would be forced to recognize the (former) false Pope as the true Pope, since divine law, which caused the loss of office, would prevent the Church from rendering the judgment that is necessary to knowand declare that the loss of office had taken place. This disastrous predicament would be due to an inherent defect in divine law itself, but divine law contains no defects, for “the law of the Lord is unspotted” (Psalms 18:8).

Therefore, the only way an ipso facto loss of office theory can avoid this fatal flaw is if papal immunity from judgment somehow permits the Church, i.e., an imperfect council or the College of Cardinals, to legitimately judge that a Popenot a former Pope, but a true Pope – or at least one who is recognized by the Church at the time as the true Pope – has fallen into heresy. Any ipso facto loss of office theory that does not admit that a sitting Pope can be convicted of heresy by the Church – and does not explain how the Church can do so without violating divine law – necessarily contains this inherent contradiction that renders it untenable.

Regarding Bishop Schneider’s second point – namely, the potential disagreement between the Cardinals or bishops over whether the Pope has, in fact, fallen into heresy and secretly lost his office – Mr. Derksen attempted to dismiss this on the basis that such a disagreement is unlikely “because the office would only be lost for objectively manifest heresy, and what’s manifest is not doubtful.” If that is so, perhaps Mr. Derksen can explain why the Sedevacantists disagree amongst themselves over who was, and who was not, the last true Pope? Some only reject Francis, others go back to Paul VI, others to John XXIII, others still to Leo XIII, or Pius IX, or even Innocent II (AD 1130), and some, believe it or not, now go all the way back to the Arian crisis of the fourth century. The confusion and division amongst the Sedevacantists themselves prove the legitimacy of Bishop Schneider’s second objection.

Now, since the Sedevacantist version of the ipso facto loss of office theory contains both of these inherent defects, if the version they hold is truly that of St. Robert Bellarmine (the Fifth Opinion), it means a Doctor of the Church has taught, what can only be described as an absurd theory, which is easily proven false by the logical inconsistencies that Bishop Schneider noted. Fortunately, for the good name of St. Bellarmine, the Sedevacantists do not hold the opinion of Bellarmine.  On the contrary, they have entirely misunderstood his teaching, while proclaiming all the while that by rejecting a series of Popes – and the indefectible Church over which they have reigned – they have simply been “following Bellarmine.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, as we will see, the Sedevacantists do not hold the Fifth Opinion (i.e., “a manifest heretic is ipso factodeposed”) that Bellarmine defended, but rather a modified version of the Second Opinion of Torquemada that Bellarmine refuted.

Clarifying Terminology: Heresy, and Occult and Notorious Heretics  

Before delving into Bellarmine’s writings, it is first critical to clarify the meaning of an “occult heretic” (e.g., secret heretic) and what Bellarmine called a “manifest heretic” (which today is properly termed a “notorious heretic”[5]).

notorious (i.e., “manifest”) heretic is one whose heresy has either been legally declared by the Church (or admitted by the culprit before the competent authority), or is considered so clearly and indisputably proven that a judge would require no further investigation to consider it a juridical fact. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines notoriety as that which has been “so fully or officially proved, that it may and ought to be held as certain without further investigation.” It goes on to explains that notoriety “involves the idea of indisputable proof,” so much so that “what is notorious is held as proved and serves as a basis for the conclusions and acts of those in authority, especially judges.”[6] If a fact requires any further investigation for a judge to consider it legally established, it is not notorious.[7]

Notorious heresy is an extremely high bar to reach, unless the culprit publicly leaves the Church and joins a sect (which is an act that suffices for notoriety of fact), because both the fact of the heresy (i.e., denial of a dogma) and the guilt (pertinacity) must be publicly known, and must be so inexcusable that a judge will consider it proven.  According to Bellarmine, even if bishops publicly subscribe to heresy at a council, that alone will not suffice for them to be considered “manifest heretics.” This is seen in Bellarmine’s defense of the bishops that took part in the Arian Council of Rimini who, in his words, “subscribed to heresy” by decreeing that “the word consubstantial must be abolished” from the Creed, after it had been defined by Nicea. In spite of this, Bellarmine defended them against the accusation that they were heretics (De Ecclesia Militante, cap. xvi).

An occult heretic (i.e., secret heretic) is one who is guilty of formal heresy (internal forum), yet has remained externally united to the Church. Formal heresy is the mortal sin of heresy, which results in the loss of the theological virtue of faith.  The sin of heresy can be committed by an internal act alone (entirely occult), or it can be combined with external acts that manifest heresy (external occult). As long as the external acts of heresy do not suffice for notoriety – that is, do not suffice for a competent judge to consider the heresy officially proven – the culprit will remain an occult heretic.  Fraghi explains:

Heresy can be occult per se, if it is without an external act; or occult per accidens, if it is externally manifested, but is not notorious.  … for, although in the second case the heresy has been externally manifested, it is nevertheless occult if it cannot here and now be juridically proven (De Membres Ecclesia, Rome, 1937, p. 90)

Fr. Gleize explains how notorious is understood in the legal sense:

Notorious heresy therefore is not a heresy that everyone knows about. It is the sort of heresy that results from acts that the hierarchical authority of the Church denounces juridically as incompatible with the common good of Catholic society. In a strictly juridical sense, we speak only about occult or notorious heresy, and the notion of public heresy is reduced to that of occult heresy. In this juridical sense (which is sense used in canon law), any external act that has not been noted by the authority is occult.”[8]

Cardinal Billot provides the theological basis for why heresy that is public, but not notorious, is reduced to occult. He begins by explaining that “baptism, of its very nature, gathers men into the visible body of the Catholic Church,” and says it will continue to produce this effect “ unless there be something in the recipient of baptism that prevents it—something incompatible with the social bond of ecclesiastical unity.” He goes on to explain that as long as heresy “is confined to manifestations that do not suffice for notoriety, it by no means prevents one from being joined to the visible structure of the Church; and by this fact the baptismal character, by which we are made to be of the body of the Church, necessarily continues to have its effect.”[9]

It is worth noting that the informed Sedevacantists readily admit that none of the recent Popes have been notorious (or manifest) heretics. For example, after explaining that “notoriety requires that not only the fact of the crime be publicly known, but also its imputability (canon 2197),” Sedevacantist bishop Don Sanborn admits that heresy has not been “public with regard to imputability” in any of the “Conciliar Popes.”[10] Since he acknowledges that this essential element of notoriety is lacking, he also admits that the recent Popes (and the bishops in union with them), all remained legal members of the Church, since, as he explains, “those who have received Catholic baptism are legally members of the Church until they cease to be” so through “pertinacious and notorious heresy.”[11]

If none of the “Conciliar Popes” have been notorious heretics, and remained “legal members” of the Church, as Bishop Sanborn readily admits, even if one or more of them have been guilty of the mortal sin of heresy (which God alone knows), they would only have been occult heretics, not “manifest” (i.e., notorious) heretics. Hence, they would not have been ipso facto deposed according to the Fifth Opinion of St. Bellarmine.

Spiritual and Legal Separation from the Church Internal and External bonds of faith

It is also helpful to understand the two ways that heresy severs a person from the Church, since this helps to clarify the difference between what Bellarmine lists as the Fifth Opinion and the Second Opinion, that we will discuss below.

  • The sin of formal heresy, even if it is entirely occult (secret), destroys the internal virtue of faith and severs a person from the Church spiritually.
  • Notorious heresy, and nothing less than notorious heresy, severs the external juridical bond of “profession of the faith,” and cuts a person off from the Body of the Church legally.[12]

To summarize, if a Catholic falls into the sin of formal heresy and even “manifests it by external acts,” it will have no legal effect on his relationship with the Church in the external forum, unless the external acts suffice for notoriety.  If his heresy is not considered legally proven, he remains a “legal member” of the Church; and being joined to the Body of the Church legally is all that is required to hold office in the Church and to meet Bellarmine’s definition of a true member of the Church.[13]

How Bellarmine Refutes the Second Opinion which is Essentially the Sedevacantist Opinion

Turning now to Bellarmine’s writing, we will begin with his commentary on the Second Opinion (of Torquemada). This opinion, which was abandoned centuries ago, maintains that a Pope who falls into the sin of heresy is ipso facto deposed by divine law, due to a loss of the virtue of faith (i.e., the internal bond).

The second opinion is that a Pope by the very fact that he falls into heresy, even if it is only interior, is outside the Church and deposed by God; for this reason, he can be judged by the Church, that is, declared deposed by divine law, and deposed de facto, if he still refused to submit [to the warnings]. This is the view of John de Torquemada (bk 4, part 2, chapter 20), but in my opinion it is not proven.[14]

The Sedevacantists really hold a slightly modified version of this opinion, although most don’t realize it, or refuse to admit it.[15] One difference is that most (but not all), say the Pope would also have to “manifest heresy” (verb), by which they mean, do or say things that lead them to believe he has committed the sin of heresy; but it is the sin itself, they say, that causes the loss of office. The problem is that the sin of heresy (formal heresy) severs the internal bond, and external acts that “manifested heresy” are reduced to occult, if they do not suffice for notoriety. The Fifth Opinion defended by Bellarmine requires that the external bond of “profession of the faith” be severed, and the external bond is only severed by notorious heresy.

But what is of particular interest is how Bellarmine refutes the Second Opinion. Here is how he does so:

For jurisdiction is surely given by God to the Pontiff, but with the cooperation of human activity [i.e., the Cardinals who elector him], as is clear, because that man, who beforehand was not Pope, has acquired from men that he would begin to be Pope; therefore, it is not removed by God unless it is through men. But an [entirely] occult heretic cannot be judged by men, nor would such wish to relinquish that power by his own will. Moreover, the foundation of this opinion is that occult heretics are outside the Church, which is false, as we have amply demonstrated in de Ecclesia, bk 1.[16]

Just as God does not make a man Pope without the mediation of men, so too, says Bellarmine, neither does God deprive a Pope of his jurisdiction “unless it is through men” who judge him.  Suarez teaches the same.

I say briefly that an heretical Pope is not deposed by men but by God himself, although not without the ministry of the Church … For just as a Pope is elected by men and yet he receives the dignity not from men but immediately from Christ, so too, although he may be declared a heretic by the sentence of men, nevertheless it is not by human right, but by divine that he is at once deprived of the dignity (Suarez, Defensio Fidei contra Errores Anglicanae Secta, lib. 3, cap. 4. N. 11).

Now, if a Pope’s heresy were entirely occult (no external act), there would be nothing for men to judge, as Bellarmine said above.  But there would be something for men to judge if his heresy were externally occult.

The Church Can “Convict” a True Pope of Heresy – (How God Deprives a heretical Pope of His Jurisdiction “Through Men”)

In the book Bellarmine referenced at the end of the earlier quote (De Ecclesia Militante), he explains what is required for a Pope who is an external occult heretic to fall from the pontificate.

Moreover it is certain, whatever one or another may think, that an occult heretic, if he be a bishop or even the supreme Pontiff, does not lose his jurisdiction, dignity, or the title of head in the Church, until either he publicly separates himself from the Church, or is convicted of heresy (aut convictus haereseos) and separated against his will.[17]

Notice carefully what he said. If a Roman Pontiff falls into heresy, but has not “publicly separated himself from the Church” (which would suffice for a notoriety of fact) he will retain his jurisdiction, his dignity, and his title as head of the Church, until he is convicted of heresy. The conviction is a condition (but not a cause) for the loss of office. It is not a post factum declaration that a former “Pope” has already fallen from the pontificate.  It is a judgment that the currently reigning Pope – who still retains his jurisdiction, dignity and title – is a heretic. Only if the heretical Pope is convicted of heresy is his jurisdiction “removed by God.” If not, he remains Pope. This is the teaching of Bellarmine and it is found all throughout his writings, as we shall see.

What this quotation proves is that, contrary to what every Sedevacantist apologist has maintained for decades, Bellarmine does not exclude the need of an antecedent judgment for a heretical Pope to be ipso facto deposed.  On the contrary, except for the extreme case of a Pope who publicly separates himself from the Church,[18] he requires it as a condition for the loss of office to take place. The reason it is a condition is because the heretical Pope becomes a “manifest heretic” (notorious heretic) when he is convicted of heresy, and therefore that is when he is “removed by God,” or “ipso facto deposed.” And as we will see later, the Pope must be legitimately convicted of heresy by bishops at a council – either at a perfect council, if the heretical Pope himself convokes it, or an imperfect council, if he refuses to do so.

Needless to say, all of this directly contradicts how every Sedevacantist apologist, without a single exception, has interpreted Bellarmine.  They all interpreted Bellarmine as teaching that the Church has no role to play in a heretical Pope falling from the Pontificate, that is, being deprived of his jurisdiction.  Surprisingly, even Fr. Gleize mistakenly believes this is what Bellarmine held. In his article, The Question of Papal Heresy, he wrote:

For St. Robert Bellarmine, Christ denies the formal heretic’s investiture inasmuch as he is a formal heretic: the Church has no role to play.[19]

Fr. Gleize also misinterpreted Cajetan as teaching the opposite extreme, namely, that Christ has no role to play, in depriving a Pope of his jurisdiction, claiming that “the Church alone” brings about the loss of his jurisdiction.[20]  In reality, both Bellarmine and Cajetan agree that the Church and Christ work together in depriving a Pope of his jurisdiction. There is no question that Christ is the Efficient Cause in making a man Pope formally, by conferring jurisdiction upon him, and of formally depriving a heretical Pope, by removing jurisdiction from him.

But Fr. Gleize did get the teaching of Suarez right. Unfortunately, since he misinterpreted Bellarmine and Cajetan as teaching two opposite extremes (only Christ, or only the Church), he erred by concluding that Suarez must have been attempting to reconcile the two. And, like the Sedevacantists, as a result of this misunderstanding, Gleize denigrates Suarez in the process:[21]

Suarez’ explanation (see Part 6a) is original. In fact, it can be likened neither to Cajetan’s nor to St. Robert Bellarmine’s. For Cajetan, the Church alone causes the pope’s dethronement; for Saint Robert Bellarmine it is Christ aloneFor Suarez it is Christ and the Church at the same time. We should note in passing that this way of viewing the problem is characteristic of his eclecticism. Suarez has a lot of erudition but little genius. He does not synthesize. He always has trouble deciding among opposing authorities, and his tendency is to reconcile them is a sort of middle-of-the-road solution. … It is important to remember that Suarez is a man of his times, and the deep trends that he expresses already herald modern positivism.[22]

Yes, Suarez (d. 1617) was “a man of his times,” in fact, of the same times as that of his colleague and fellow Jesuit Bellarmine (d. 1621), with whom he shared the same opinion that a heretical Pope is not deprived of his jurisdiction by God, “unless it is through men,” who convict him of heresy (and thus why in True or False Pope? we call theirs the “Jesuit Opinion”). Before seeing what Bellarmine has to say about convicting and deposing a heretical Pope in his book, On Councils (De Concilio), we need to address the difficult question of a how Pope can be convicted of heresy when “the First See is judged by no one.”

“Judging” the Pope

It needs to be stated at the outset that, as we explain in True or False Pope? (p. 239), a Pope can never be truly judged, as a superior judge’s an inferior. Hence, bishops at a council can never exercise any jurisdiction or coercive power over the Pope, while he remains Pope. Papal immunity from judgment, which is part of divine law, admits of no exception, even in the case of heresy.

This is admitted, not only Bellarmine and Suarez, who hold the fifth opinion, but even by those who hold the fourth opinion (of Cajetan). For example, in his defense of Cajetan’s opinion, John of St. Thomas (d. 1644) said “according to law, the Pope is judged by no one,” and then added: “therefore the deposition of a Pope cannot be done directly, by way of judgment and punishment, since the Pope has no superior on earth by whom he could be punished.”[23]

Suarez defends the Pope’s immunity from judgment and his superiority over a council all throughout his writings.  In his book Against the Anglicans, for example, he says “the Pope has no superior on earth by whom he could be judged or coerced … the first see is judged by no one.”[24] He teaches that papal immunity from judgement is “a privilege of divine law,”[25] and says it holds true even in the case of heresy:

We deny, therefore, that the Church can exercise coercive power over the Pontiff, whether by censure or in any other way, unless he first falls from the pontificate… For as long as he remains a true Pope, he has jurisdiction over the whole Church, even when taken together; and therefore of necessity he is by divine law spiritually exempt, that is, not subject to any higher spiritual power aside outside of Christ, because no such power is found in the world. [26]

Bellarmine teaches the same in numerous places in his book On Councils (cf. De Concilio, lib. 2, cap. xxvi).  Yet these same theologians also teach that bishops at a council can “convict” a Pope of heresy (Bellarmine), and “declare” him a heretic (Suarez), while he remains Pope, and even indirectly depose him (John of St. Thomas), which obviously requires some form of antecedent judgement by the council. How can they both affirm and deny that a Pope can be judged? The answer is found in a distinction between two forms of juridical judgments.

The Key Distinction Sedevacantists Have Missed: Two Forms of Judgment Discretionary & Coercive

In De Concilio, Bellarmine distinguishes between the two powers required for judgment (discretionary and coercive) and two modes of legal judgment. He begins by explaining that a “perfect judgment” requires both powers: “First, the [discretionary] power to discuss the case and to discern or judge what must be done. Secondly, the [coercive] power to compel him who fails in the case to obey the judgment imposed against him.”[27]

In the ecclesiastical forum, these two powers (discretionary and coercive) correspond to the two facets of the “keys” (knowledge and power), and are received with jurisdiction. The members of the episcopate enjoy both powers by virtue of their office.[28] The discretionary power (clavis scientiae) is the authority to investigate case and reach a verdict; the coercive power (clavis potentiae) is the authority to bind and lose (i.e., in the sacrament of confession), or compel, punish, or impose a coercive sentence. Bellarmine explains that a judge properly so-called has both powers. An arbiter, on the other hand, only has the discretionary power.

An arbiter has the legal authority to consider the facts of a case, reach a judgment, and decide what should be done, but he lacks the coercive power needed to impose the sentence, or punish the party. The judgment of an arbitrator is called a discretionary judgment. The “perfect judgment” of a true judge is called a coactive (both powers acting) or coercive judgment.

Bossuet describes the difference between the two forms of judgment this way: he says a discretionary judgment “involves discernment and knowledge, which distinguishes between the true and the false,” whereas a coactive judgment also requires “power and jurisdiction, which is the power to subject someone to the penalty of the decision.”[29] The discretionary judgment of an arbitrator is a legal judgment, with no coercive force. It is a juridical judgement, but not a judicial judgment of a judge properly so-called.

By Divine Law the Pope is Exempt from a Coercive Judgment, but not from a Discretionary Judgment

Papal immunity from judgment, which is part of divine law, contains two aspects: First, it prevents the final judicial decisions of the Pope from being appealed to a council (Denz. 1830.)  Second, it exempts the Pope from the coercive power of the Church (or state). Consequently, a Pope can never legitimately be subject to a judicial coercive judgment, even if he willed it. But divine law does not prevent a Pope from being judged by a discretionary judgment. [30]

Bellarmine proves this by the historical cases of Pope Leo IV (Nos si incompetenter’ 2, q.7), Sixtus III (‘Mandasti’ 2, quaest. 5), Leo III (ch. ‘Auditum’) and several other Popes, who, having been accused of various crimes, submitted to the discretionary judgment of councils or Emperors. Pope Leo IV even agreed in advance to obey the decision that was rendered. In reply to those who argued that a Pope can be judged with a coactive judgment, and appealed to the case of Leo IV to prove it, Bellarmine explained that “Leo only subjected himself to the discretionary judgment of the Emperor, not to a coactive judgment.” (De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch. 29).  Suarez said the form of judgment Leo submitted to was that of an “arbitrator,” which, as we have seen, is another way of saying a discretionary judgment.[31]

Again, what is important to note is that the only power needed to legally investigate facts or accusations, and reach a legal judgment/determination, is the discretionary power (clavis scientiae). As St. Thomas explains, the discretionary power is the “authority to judge.” (Suppl q. 17, a. 3, ad. 2) – not the authority to impose a coercive sentence or punish (clavis potentiae), but simply the authority to legitimately investigate a case and render a decision.

The Conviction is a Discretionary (Non-Coercive) Judgment

In the case of Papal heresy, the conviction is of the same nature as the discretionary judgment of an arbitrator: it is a legitimate judgment of reason (iudicium rationis), with no coercive force. It is legitimate, because in the extraordinary case of Papal heresy, the bishops possess the authority needed to investigate the accusations and establish the facts.  It is non-coercive because they do not possess jurisdiction or coercive power over the Pope.

Hence, when legally establishing the fact that the Pope has fallen into heresy, the bishops at a council would only possess the authority proper to an arbitrator, and therefore would not be acting in the capacity of true judges. That explains why Bellarmine said a heretical Pope would not be deposed by the “sentence of a judge,” nor by excommunication (which is a coercive act).  Christ alone remains the Pope’s only true Judge, while he remains Pope.

The conviction can be compared analogously to a verdict rendered by a jury in a civil or criminal trial.  The jury considers the facts of the case and arrives at a legal decision, but it is the judge who imposes the sentence and punishes.  Similarly, according to Bellarmine’s opinion, if the bishops gathered at a council legally establish or “convicted” the Pope of heresy, Christ, the true Judge, would inflict the punishment by authoritatively depriving the Pope of his dignity and jurisdiction. Only after the Pope had been deprived by God, “through men,” could the bishops act as true judges (with coercive power), by stripping the former Pope of his title and excommunicating him.

Here is the sequence of events:

  • The Church (bishops at a council) convict the Pope of heresy (antecedent/human judgment).
  • Christ authoritatively deposes the Pope (divine coercive judgment).
  • The Church judges and punishes the former Pope (consequent/human coercive judgement).[32]

Bellarmine on Judging, Convicting and Deposing Pope

In light of the sequence seen above (which can also be found on pp. 270-271 of True or False Pope?), let us turn again to the writings of Bellarmine.  In the following quote, he explains what is necessary for a Pope to be deprived of his right to convoke a council:

[T]he Roman Pontiff cannot be deprived of the right to summon a Council, and preside over it – a right he has possessed for 1500 years – unless he were first legitimately judged and convicted, and is not the Supreme Pontiff.  Moreover, [to the objection] that the same man [i.e., the Pope] ought not to be both the judge and the party [being judged]: I say this applies to private men, but not to the Supreme prince. For the supreme prince, as long as he has not been declared or legitimately judged to have fallen from his rule, always remains the supreme judge, even if he litigates with himself as a party.[33]

He goes on to say that a Pope cannot be condemned (which is a coercive act) while he remains Pope, and then explains how the bishops can depose the Pope during the council so that he can be condemned:

Moreover, the Pope is not the only judge in a council, but has many colleagues, namely, all the bishops, who, if they could convict him of heresy (discretionary judgment), could judge and depose him (coercive judgment), even against his will. Therefore, the heretics have nothing, for why should they complain if the Roman Pontiff presides at a Council before he is condemned?[34]

So, according to Bellarmine, a Pope will retain the right to convoke a council and preside over it, as long as he has not been “legitimately judged and convicted” of heresy.  This is because, as Bellarmine explained in De Ecclesia Militante, a heretical Pope will retain his dignity, title, and jurisdiction “until” he is convicted of heresy. But once he is convicted, his jurisdiction is, in Bellarmine’s words, “removed by God” and he ceases to be Pope. Therefore, he goes on to say if the bishops can “convict him of heresy” (antecedent judgment), they can “judge and deposed him” (coercive judgment), even against his will. And remember, the Pope who they convicted of heresy had the authority to summon and was presiding over the council that convicted him. He was the true Pope when the council started, and a former Pope when it ended; and it happened, not because he fell into heresy, but because he was convicted of heresy by those who had the legal authority to render the non-coercive judgment.

This, of course, directly contradicts how every Sedevacantist has interpreted Bellarmine for the last forty years.

The reason they misinterpreted him is because they failed to understand the two forms of judgment.  Because of this, when Bellarmine stated that the reason a Pope can be “judged and punished by the Church” (coercive judgment) is because he has already ceased to be Pope, they thought he excluded the need of any form of human judgment by a council before the ipso facto loss of office takes place. Not only did they miss the distinction between the antecedent and consequent judgments in Bellarmine’s writing, but they rejected them when others pointed them out. For example:

Fr. Kramer: “Robert Siscoe still cannot grasp the simple notion of an automatic loss of office that does not take place by either private judgment, or official judgment by the Church, but by the act of heresy itself, independently of the judgment of others. … as Bellarmine states.”

Fr. Kramer: Salza and Siscoe say, ‘The antecedent judgment must be rendered by the Church before the consequent judgment can be declared.’ Really? But there is no antecedent judgment made before the fall from office – it is impossible…According to Bellarmine, and all who hold to opinion no. 5, the first judgment is pronounced by the heretic upon himself, who automatically falls from office without any judgment by the Church. This is patently manifest in Bellarmine’sown words.”[35]No council can ever ‘convict’ a pope of heresy…”[36]

Those who have properly understood Bellarmine and distinguished between a coercive and non-coercive judgment in order to explain how God can authoritatively deposes a heretical Pope “through men,” have been falsely accused by the Sedevacantists of: (1) saying it is the men who coercively judge and depose the Pope, and consequently (2) of being heretical “Conciliarists.” For example:

John Lane: “Salza is a Conciliarist – he cheerfully asserts what every non-Gallican theologian since Cajetan has been at pains to deny – that the Church can judge a pope. ‘The crime (heresy) [says Salza] must be determined before the punishment for the crime (loss of office) can be inflicted. As Bellarmine, Suarez and the consensus of theologians maintain, the offense of Papal heresy is determined by the Church, and the divine punishment is inflicted by God…’.  Salza’s position is that the Church can judge the pope but cannot, or at least does not, punish the pope. Since this position is heretical, I don’t think we need to concern ourselves any further with it.”[37]

Fr. Kramer: “Salza & Siscoe have become so desperately obsessed with their heretical mitigated conciliarist belief that a pope who falls into heresy must first be judged by the Church, that they have resorted to a plainly irrational argument against the plainly expressed position of Bellarmine…”[38]

Evidently, John Lane no longer considers Salza a “Conciliarist” for saying the Church can determine that a Pope fallen into heresy, because, after the publication of our book True or False Pope?, he changed his position and now concedes that even Cajetan’s Fourth Opinion can be legitimately held, and Cajetan required that the Church do much more than simply determine that the Pope is a heretic.[39]  Fr. Kramer, on the other hand, still believes it is “crypto-Conciliarism” to say the Church can “convict” a Pope of heresy.

More from St. Bellarmine on “Deposing” a Heretical Pope

Bellarmine sheds further light on his true position concerning a heretical Pope in his reply to an objection raised by Protestants.  The Protestants had argued that a condition required for a council to be legitimate, is that the Pope temporarily release the bishops from the Oath of Allegiance that they swear to him, so they will be free to speak their mind during the council. Bellarmine replies by explaining why this is both unjust and impertinent:

The sixth condition is both unjust and impertinent. Unjust, because inferiors ought not be free from the obedience owed to their superiors, unless first he were legitimately deposed (legitimate deponatur) or declared not to be a superior (vel declaretur non esse superior) …  Impertinent because the oath does not take away the freedom of the Bishops, which is necessary in Councils: for they promise to be obedient to the supreme Pontiff, which is understood as the entire time he is Pope, and provided he commands those things which, according to God and the sacred canons, he can command; but they do not swear that they are not going to say what they think in the Council, or that they are not going to depose him, if they were to clearly prove (convincant) that he is a heretic.[40]

Once again, Bellarmine says if the bishops can clearly prove (convincant) that the Pope is a heretic (discretionary judgment), they could depose him (coercive judgment).  They reason they could “depose him” (or declare him deposed), is because his jurisdiction would have been “removed by God” (i.e., he would have ceased to be Pope), the moment his heresy was clearly proven (notorious by fact) by the bishops.   Equally important is Bellarmine’s teaching that inferiors are only released from the obedience owed to their superior (in this case the Pope), if he has been legitimately deposed or declared not to be superior.

Also notice that Bellarmine said a Pope must be obeyed “provided he commands those things which, according to God and the sacred canons, he can command.”  He doesn’t say a Pope must be obeyed in all things no matter what, but only in all his legitimate commands. In De Romano Pontifice (lib. 2, cap. xix), he goes further by saying if a Pope is harming souls or destroying the Church, “it is lawful to resist him, by not doing what he commands, and by blocking him, lest he should carry out his will.” So, not only does Bellarmine teach that a heretical Pope can be convicted of heresy, and that the faithful must remain subject to him unless he has been legitimately declared not to be Pope, but he also advocates the Recognize and Resist position.

Bellarmine’s Refutation of the Sedevacantists of His Day applies Equally to the Sedevacantists of Our Day

Something that most people are not aware of is that many of the early Protestants were Sedevacantists.  Like their counterparts today, they believed the “Papist bishops” – i.e., the Pope and bishops in union with him – had defected from the faith and lost their authority by violating divine law. Their slogan was: “there’s no true succession without true doctrine.” They then argued that their ministers could rightly take the place of the allegedly-fallen Catholic bishops.

Bellarmine refuted this Protestant argument in his book on the Marks of the Church; and, as a final devastating blow to today’s Sedevacantists, the argument of their favorite theologian equally refutes them. Bellarmine didn’t try to refute the Protestants by convincing them that the Catholic bishops had not defected from the faith, since that would have gotten him nowhere.  Instead, he used a different argument, which further proves today’s Sedevacantists have not understood his position. Here is how St. Robert Bellarmine himself refutes Sedevacantism:

Yet they [Protestants] object that Papist bishops have departed from the true faith, and therefore are no longer bishops; thus they say ‘pious ministers’ can rightly take up their places.

I reply to this argument of Brentius.  (Even admitting there is doubt about which side has the true faith, although we are certain that it is with us), Catholic bishops, who have possessed their Sees peacefully for so many centuries, cannot be deprived of them unless they be legitimately judged [discretionary judgment] and condemned.  For in every controversy the party in actual possession enjoys the benefit of the doubt.  And it is certain that the Catholic bishops have not been condemned in a legitimate judgment. For, who has condemned them, besides the Lutherans? But they are the accusers; not the judges!  For, who has made them our judges?[41]

There you have it. St. Robert Bellarmine refutes the Sedevacantists by explaining that Catholic bishops who are in peaceful possession of their sees cannot be deprived of them, unless they are legitimately judged.

Also notice that Bellarmine appeals to the legal maxim, that in every controversy “the one in possession enjoys the benefit of the doubt,” to prove it. This further proves how far the Sedevacantists of our day depart from the mind of Bellarmine. Bellarmine says those in possession of their see enjoy the benefit of the doubt, whereas the Sedevacantists presumeall the bishops in possession of their sees have been ipso facto deposed or never legitimately appointed, unless and until the contrary has been proven. They are all considered guilty until proven innocent.

What is evident is that the Sedevacantists of the twenty-first century, are no more “followers of Bellarmine,” than were the Sedevacantists of the sixteenth century. Quite the contrary. The Sedevacantists of today are followers of the very Protestants who Bellarmine spent his life refuting.

The Protestant/Sedevacantist Appeal to “Divine Law”

How did the early Protestants attempt to counter Bellarmine’s refutation of their Sedevacantist position?  Interestingly enough, they did so by using the same argument as their twenty-first century counterparts, that is, by claiming the Pope fell from the pontificate by violating divine law, without any need of human judgment. Listen to how the Lutheran theologian, Johannas Gerhard (d. 1637), responded to the argument we just saw from Bellarmine:

We respond [to Bellarmine] that Caiaphas and his company could have made precisely the same objection to Christ and the apostles.  ‘For so many centuries we have possessed peacefully the throne of Moses. Therefore, we cannot be deprived of it unless we are legitimately judged and condemned, for in every controversy the condition of the possessor is better.  But it is evident that we have not been condemned by no legitimate court, for who has condemned us but Christ and the apostles?  But they are accusers, not judges, for who has made them our judges? … disregarding Bellarmine’s attempt to escape, we reprove the errors of the Papists from the Word of God and prove that they lack true succession, which requires integrity of apostolic doctrine.  … By divine law he who upholds heretical doctrines ceases to be a true bishop [i.e., with jurisdiction], even if he still occupies the see de facto. Gerhard, Theological Loci, lib. v, 1625, section v., 196.

Sound familiar?

Gerhard goes on to use the identical argument of today’s Sedevacantist to refute Bellarmine. He begins by distinguishing between being judged a heretic in the ecclesiastical forum (i.e., legally according to the law of the Church), and being judged a heretic by God (the divine forum). After listing the steps required for a person to be “legitimately judged” as a heretic by the Church (which Bellarmine said is required), i.e., denunciation, accusation, inquisition, lawful examination, warning, declaratory sentence, etc., Gerhard writes this:

But all these things only pertain to the fact that whoever is declared a heretic in the political and ecclesiastical forum (court) is subject to the punishments due to such men.  But in the divine court there is no need of (human) judgment; for before God he is a heretic who embraces and professes false doctrine against the foundation of the faith, even if the entire world not only does not consider him a heretic but even venerates him as Peter’s successor. Consequently, even some Papist writers argue that ‘if the Roman pope falls into heresy, he ceases to be Pope by (divine) law itself.see Torquemada, bk, 4, part 2, ch. 20.” Gerhard, Theological Loci, lib. v, 1625, section v., 196.

There is not a Sedevacantist alive today who will side Bellarmine against his Lutheran adversary!  They might disagree that the Catholic bishops of the sixteenth century were heretics, but they won’t disagree with the argument the Lutheran used in trying to refute Bellarmine. And they certainly won’t agree with the argument Bellarmine used to refute the Lutheran Sedevacantist. In fact, the argument this Lutheran forefather of modern Sedevacantism used against Bellarmine is the same one the late Fr. Anthony Cekada always used against us. Here is how Fr. Cekada phrased Gerhard’s argument four centuries later:

In the case of heresy, warnings only come into play for the canonical crime of heresy. These are not required as a condition for committing the sin of heresy against the divine law. … It is a pope’s public sin of heresy in this sense [a violation of divine law] that strips him of Christ’s authority.[42]

The only thing Fr. Cekada failed to do is reference Torquemada! Mario Derksen actually does reference Torquemada,[43] and uses the same Gerhard/Cekada “ipso facto loss of office for violating divine law” theory, in his attempted refutation of one of the authors of this article:

In order to answer this question properly, Salza would now have to draw a distinction between heresy as a crime against the law of the Church on the one hand, and heresy as a sin, that is, heresy as a crime against divine law, on the other. This distinction is absolutely essential, and the fact that, for all intents and purposes, he misses it, is one of the reasons why his conclusion against sedevacantism is erroneous…Taking his clue from the fact that heresy as a crime against church law does not result in immediate excommunication, even if the individual is certainly a true and proper heretic (i.e., a baptized person who willfully and against better knowledge denies or doubts a dogma of the Catholic Church), it should have occurred to Salza that the same is not true for heresy as a crime against divine law, because the very sin of heresy is what results in loss of membership in the Church, and hence the membership is lost as soon as the sin is committed, at least inasmuch as this sin is publicly divulged and not secret. …While canon law can help us understand divine law, it is crucial not to mix the two or to reduce divine law to canon law.[44]

The twentieth and twenty-first century Sedevacantists of our day use the same argument as the sixteenth and seventeenth century Sedevacantists of Bellarmine’s day. The same argument is used to defend the same error. The only difference is that today’s Sedevacantists think Bellarmine would support their error.

While many more quotations could be cited to demonstrate the similarities between the Sedevacantists of then and now, suffice it to say that the Sedevacantists’ claim that a Pope is ipso facto deposed for committing the sin of heresy against divine law, is a complete perversion of Bellarmine’s teaching. The sin of heresy severs the internal bond of faith (the virtue of faith); notorious heresy severs the external bond (profession of faith). And severing the external bond, not the internal bond, is what Bellarmine taught results in the loss of membership in the Church, and jurisdiction for a cleric.

What the Protestant Johannas Gerhard of the seventeenth century, and Mario Derksen, John Lane, Fr. Cekada, Fr. Paul Kramer and the other Sedevacantists of our day don’t understand, is that the Church Militant on Earth is a visible society and juridical institution. Members of the hierarchy are not secretly deposed by “divine law” while they are recognized as lawfully holding office by the Church. In fact, in De Ecclesia Militante(chapter 10) – the same chapter in which Bellarmine says a heretical Pope must be “convicted of heresy” – he teaches that it is “infallibly certain” that those prelates who the Church recognizes as bishops are, in fact, legitimate bishops and pastors. He says, “we are certain, with an infallibly certainty, that those, whom we see, are our true Bishops and Pastors. For this, neither faith, nor the character of order, nor even legitimate election is required, but only that they be held for such by the Church” (emphasis added).

What else is “infallibly certain,” is that every Sedevacantist apologist, without a single exception, has misunderstood and misrepresented the Fifth Opinion of St. Bellarmine, since they have all maintained that the ipso facto loss of office must necessarily takes place without any antecedent judgement (conviction) by bishops at a council.

The Sedevacantist Interpretation of Bellarmine  Has Been Proven Wrong

We have demonstrated that St. Robert Bellarmine explicitly teaches that the Church can convict a true Pope for heresy, without violating the principle “The First See is judged by no one,” because it is a non-coercive judgment of the Church (which the bishops or Cardinals alone can legitimately make). As we demonstrate in the long version of this article, Bellarmine even gives historical examples of such a judgment being exercised with respect to the Pope (Liberius and Marcellinus). When the nature of the two judgments (discretionary/antecedent and coercive/consequent) are properly understood, Bellarmine’s position is easily reconciled with the principle that the First See is judged by no one, as we have demonstrated here and in True or False Pope? And yet the Sedevacantists have denied this teaching for many years, and even accused those who hold it of being heretics.

What this tells us is that Christ works with the Church to depose a Pope. He doesn’t do it secretly, since if that were true the immediate effect would be that the entire Church, which was subject to the Vicar of Christ one moment, would be subject to a false Pope the next; nor would God, “whose works are perfect,” (Deut. 32:4), have been so foolish as to establish His Church as a visible, juridical society, and then arrange things in such a way that the members of the hierarchy would automatically fall from office (be ipso factodeprived) due to the sin of heresy. On the contrary, in His Divine Wisdom, He arranged things so that there is no metaphysical incompatibility between the sin of heresy and acts of jurisdiction, since if there were, not only would it be impossible to know who is and who is not a true Pope or bishop, but the absolutions given by a priest who secretly denied a dogma would be invalid.  Both of these consequences would be contrary to the common good of the Church and to the salvation of souls.

To conclude, may God give the wisdom and courage to our Cardinals and bishops to discern whether the process that would lead to a discretionary judgment should be taken against Pope Francis the First, in order to either bring him to repentance and conversion, or “judge and convict” him of heresy, so that he might be expelled from the Body of Christ and no longer be a clear and present danger to the faithful. We will have more to say about how this process could be implemented in a future article.

[1] Yet others find their “solution” in claiming that Benedict XVI is still Pope (who are sometimes referred to as the “Benevacantists” or “Beneplenists”).

[2] This principle was codified in both the 1917 Code (cn. 1556) and 1983 Code (cn. 1404) of canon law but has never been defined by the Church as a dogma of the Faith. This article focuses principally on the teaching of St. Bellarmine as it relates to this principle. In our book True or False Pope?, we examine the historical evolution of other opinions dealing with the concept of papal immunity from judgment, which are not addressed here.

[3] Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa, IB, 2015, Keep the Faith, p. 217; F.X. Wernz, Jus Decretalium, II, Rome, 1899, tit. xxx, n. 615.

[4] 1) An occult heretic is ipso facto deposed (Huguccio/Torquemada). 2) A notorious heretic by fact (i.e., manifest heretic) is ipso facto deposed (Bellarmine).  3) A notorious heretic quasi by law (i.e., manifest heretic) is ipso facto deposed (Suarez/St. Alphonsus/Palamieri/Salaverri/Ghirland). 4) A Pope who members of the laity personally believe has “manifested heresy” (verb) is ipso facto deposed (Sedevacantists).

[5] Over time, the term “manifest heretic” used in Bellarmine’s time faded away in favor of “notorious heretic.” With the codification of the 1917 Code of Canon law, the term “notorious heretic” was used in place of “manifest heretic.” For example, Wernz and Vidal, in their most celebrated commentary on the 1917 Code of Canon Law, use the terminology “notorious and openly divulged heresy” to describe the juridically proven heresy necessary for the loss of office. Ius Canonicum, 2:453.

[6] Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, Notoriety.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Gleize, The Question of Papal Heresy, Part 4.

[9] De Ecclesia Christi, Rome 1903, Quaest vii, Thesis XI.

[10] “notoriety requires that not only the fact of the crime be publicly known, but also its imputability (Canon 2197). … defection from the Catholic Faith on the part of conciliar popes, although it be public with regard to fact, is not public with regard to imputability.” Sanborn, On Being Pope Materially, Part II, vi.

[11] Ibid.

[12] See Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, Nos. 69-71.

[13] See, Lawlor, “Occult Heretics and Membership in the Church” (Theological studies, December 1949, p. 541-541).

[14] De Romano Pontifice, lib, ii, cap. xxx.

[15] Although Fr. Kramer admitted, “I do indeed hold that hypothetically, losing the virtue of faith, the pope would lose office,” he denies holding the 2nd opinion, since he does not believe a Pope can lose the virtue of faith, which is a different question.

[16] De Romano Pontifice, lib, ii, cap. xxx.

[17] De Ecclesia Militante, cap x.

[18] An antecedent judgment may not be required in the case of one who openly leaves the Church (e.g., one who joins a non-Catholic sect or at least publicly defects from the Church). However, under the current Code of Canon Law, for one who holds office in the Church, even an act of public defection has no juridical effect (he retains his office) until declared by the competent authority. See canon 194.2 of the 1983 Code.

[19] Fr. Gleize, The Question of Papal Heresy, Part 6a.

[20] Ibid., Part 6b.

[21] Sedevacantists have repeatedly denigrated Suarez over the years on the fallacious ground that he contradicted the opinion of Bellarmine (and Fr. Gleize follows suit). For example, John Lane wrote: “Francisco Suarez did in fact hold the discredited minority position that a public heretic would have to be deposed by the Church.” Fr. Cekada wrote: “Suarez, who tended to lose most controversies with other Catholic theologians was the only theologian who held that position [that a heretical Pope loses his office only after the antecedent judgment of the Church].” Peter Dimond refers to Suarez’s teaching as the “fallible speculations from 400 years ago” and “the inaccurate speculations of Suarez.” See True or False Pope?, pp. 278-280.

[22] Fr. Gleize, The Question of Papal Heresy, Part 6b.

[23] Cursus Theologici II-II, De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disp. II, Art. III,

[24] Suarez, Defensio Fidei contra Errores Anglicanae Secta lib. iv, cap. iv, No. 4.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid. cap. vi, No. 11.

[27] De Concilio, lib. 11, cap. xviii.

[28] All jurisdiction in the Church comes through the Pope. Bishops who have legitimately received jurisdiction can legitimately exercise it unless it is taken away.

[29] Bossuet, Oeuvres Completes, vol. xii Paris, Vives, 1865, Lib. ii, cap. i.

[30] “I conclude lastly, as regards what concerns external human judgment, that the Pontiff can only submit himself to the judgment of another as to an arbiter, not as to a proper judge who uses jurisdiction over the person itself of the Pontiff.  Thus St. Thomas explained.” Suarez, Defensio Fidei contra Errores Anglicanae Secta, lib. iv, cap. 4.

[31] See Defensio Fidei contra Errores Anglicanae Secta lib. iv, cap. vii, no, ix.

[32] See. True or False Pope?, p. 270-271.

[33] De Concilio, lib 1, cap xxi.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Https://

[36] Fr. Kramer using the pseudonym Don Paulo:!/630/.



[39] “A Conversation with John Lane,” =9590bc 81f2ff0b52392e79454ebc114d.

[40] De Concilio, lib I, ch. XXI.

[41] Bellarmine, Marks of the Church, cap. viii.

[42] Cekada, Traditionalists, Infallibility and the Pope (1995, 2006).

[43] Mario Derksen: “the simple truth is that the only reason why a Pope — so to speak — can be judged for heresy is that he is no longer Pope if he is a heretic. This fact alone explains why judgment is licit in that case. This position was first enunciated, it seems, by Cardinal Juan de Torquemada and later adopted by St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church.” The Open Letter Accusing Francis of Heresy: A Sedevacantist Analysis.

[44] Derksen, “The Chair is Still Empty, A Reply to John Salza on the Alleged ‘Errors of Sedevacantism.”

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