First, a comment: These posts are growing in length as we proceed, but that is because they are also growing in importance as we draw closer to the heart of the matter. I wish to encourage you to persevere!
Before moving on to new territory, I offer for consideration the following bullet point comments relative to Robert Siscoe’s latest article:
- The case of Pope Francis is entirely unprecedented; not just among the post-conciliar popes, but all popes.
Never before has a pope been so publicly admonished and warned (more on this momentarily) as Francis has; much less has any pope disseminated so universally such grievous offenses against the Faith.
As such, dated Sedevacantist arguments concerning other popes, as well as those arguments that do not take into consideration the unprecedented (and necessary, in my view) admonishments leveled against Francis, are irrelevant.
- WRT Canon 194, one notes that the very next Canon (195) begins:
“If by a decree of the competent authority, and not by the law itself, someone is removed from an office…”
Clearly, the law recognizes those who are removed by the law itself as being distinct from those who are removed by a decree; i.e., in certain cases a decree is not necessary for removal – the law itself suffices.
In such cases, according to Can. 194, the removal “can be enforced” only by way of decree. This, however, is not the same as stating that the removal is made “effective” by a decree.
That said, the law concerning lesser clerics cannot be applied directly to the pope. More on that later.
- As for establishing the fact of heresy (as I will argue below) ordinary faithful are able to know the fact of a heretic pope who must be avoided apart from a declaration of the Church.
- We are not discussing the infallible certainty of a pope legitimately elected and peacefully accepted; we are discussing our approach to a pope who judges himself a formal heretic. These are two rather distinct scenarios. Whether or not a moral unanimity of the undernourished faithful of our day are able to distinguish between a heretic who must be avoided and a faithful son of the Church to be embraced is something we will address below.
At this, as promised, we will examine an important treatment of the topic from the eminent 18th century theologian, Fr. Pietro Ballerini, as cited on Robert’s website [HERE].
Ballerini’s treatment in light of the dubia (and Francis’ response to it) weighed heavily in the formation of my opinion.
I will break this lengthy quote down into bite sized portions below (you may wish to skip ahead), but I offer it in its fullness here as it merits our closest consideration. [NOTE: The emphasis in the text has been provided by Robert.]
“Is it not true that, confronted with such a danger to the faith [a Pope teaching heresy], any subject can, by fraternal correction, warn their superior, resist him to his face, refute him and, if necessary, summon him and press him to repent? The Cardinals, who are his counselors, can do this; or the Roman Clergy, or the Roman Synod, if, being met, they judge this opportune. For any person, even a private person, the words of Saint Paul to Titus hold: ‘Avoid the heretic, after a first and second correction, knowing that such a man is perverted and sins, since he is condemned by his own judgment’ (Tit. 3, 10-11).
For the person, who, admonished once or twice, does not repent, but continues pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or defined dogma – not being able, on account of this public pertinacity to be excused, by any means, of heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity – this person declares himself openly a heretic. He reveals that by his own will he has turned away from the Catholic Faith and the Church, in such a way that now no declaration or sentence of anyone whatsoever is necessary to cut him from the body of the Church. Therefore the Pontiff who after such a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod, would remain himself hardened in heresy and openly turn himself away from the Church, would have to be avoided, according to the precept of Saint Paul.
So that he might not cause damage to the rest, he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed, so that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him. Thus, the sentence which he had pronounced against himself would be made known to all the Church, making clear that by his own will he had turned away and separated himself from the body of the Church, and that in a certain way he had abdicated the Pontificate…” – Fr. Pietro Ballerini
For clarity – in particular as it applies to Francis – let’s now follow Ballerini’s treatment of a pope who has fallen into heresy step-by-step; i.e., chronologically. Along the way, I will provide questions and commentary.
- The heretic must be “admonished once or twice.”
Question: What does it mean to “admonish” a pope?
Those who may be looking for something akin to Jesus taking a whip of cords to the money changers, a reprimand, or a rebuke (I have been guilty of this in the past) are likely to be disappointed. Admonishments such as these are acts of judgment and an indication that authority is being exercised over the individual being called to account.
In the case of a pope, however, admonishment is, and should appear as, a respectful act of charity being extended from an underling to his superior.
This would be a fitting description for the ways in which Francis has already been publicly “admonished” – including the “Filial Appeal” signed by more than 30,000 persons, including bishops; the petition signed by 45 theologians, many of whom are priests, and the dubia authored by four prominent cardinals, just to name a few.
With all of this in mind, I would argue that the admonishments that Francis has already received very likely meet (and perhaps even far exceed) the threshold envisioned by Ballerini. This includes what he later refers to as a “warning,” as we will see momentarily.
- If the heretic “does not repent, but continues pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or defined dogma – not being able, on account of this public pertinacity to be excused, by any means, of heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity – this person declares himself openly a heretic.”
Question: What is “heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity”?
The Catholic Encyclopedia states:“Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal.” This, as opposed to “wrong beliefs [that] are only transient errors and fleeting opinions;” something that no reasonable person would say aptly applies to Francis.
Question: Having defined “pertinacity,” what did Ballerini mean by “public”?
It’s important to bear in mind that Ballerini (b. 1698) died more than 50 years before the telegraph was even invented. During his lifetime, a transatlantic journey took upwards of three months to complete.
As it concerns ecclesial communications, even as late as 1925 we find Pope Pius XI noting that official pronouncements from Rome “usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful” (cf Quas Primas 21).
The point should be obvious: Ballerini (and his contemporaries) could not have possibly imagined the near instantaneous, readily accessible, means of communication that the global community enjoys today; the same that Francis uses with stunning frequency and unbridled brashness.
To imagine that the degree to which it is now publicly known that Francis has been admonished and has, in return, demonstrated “obstinate adhesion” to his errors somehow falls short of what Ballerini envisioned with respect to “public pertinacity” is simply beyond reason.
Question: How has Francis made his pertinacity known publicly?
Among the ways in which Francis has publicly demonstrated his pertinacity are:
– His obvious approval of similar norms for the Diocese of Rome over which he is Ordinary (see HERE)
– His recent Avvenire interview
– His frequent harsh denunciations of those who criticize Amoris Laetitia
– By proxy via like minded henchmen who ruthlessly condemn the authors of the dubia
While Francis failing to issue anything more formal (like a written response to the dubia) may serve to frustrate observers, this is irrelevant.
It is also entirely unrealistic to expect any such thing for the simple reason that Francis is a modernist, and such men are known to carry out their misdeeds while “striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety…” (cf Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi)
Therefore, according to a reasonable reading of Ballerini’s thoughts concerning what, for him, was a hypothetical situation, and applying them to the present reality, it seems rather clear to me that Francis has more than made his pertinacity publicly known.
To those who may disagree, I would ask:
What more must Francis (not the “proper authorities,” but Francis himself) do in order to demonstrate public pertinacity?
- “He [the heretic, in this case, Francis] reveals that by his own will he has turned away from the Catholic Faith and the Church, in such a way that now no declaration or sentence of anyone whatsoever is necessary to cut him from the body of the Church.”
At this point, Ballerini states that the heretic is cut from the body of the Church. (NB: The body; not just the soul of the Church.)
He leaves no room for confusion on this point, the “cut” would take place and “no declaration or sentence of anyone whatsoever is necessary.” (This obviously includes “the proper authorities.”)
On this point, I believe that Robert and I agree. Where we may not see eye-to-eye concerns the role of the proper authorities in providing the mechanism by which God removes the papacy from the man who is “cut from the body.” I am certain we will get to that soon.
4. “Therefore the Pontiff who after such a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod, would remain himself hardened in heresy and openly turn himself away from the Church, would have to be avoided, according to the precept of Saint Paul.”
Question: What is this “solemn and public warning” of which Ballerini writes; has it already happened with respect to Francis, or are we still awaiting it?
The word “such” is not incidental; it refers back to the same admonishments that we addressed in #s 1 and 2 above. Ballerini is simply saying, because (or if) this has taken place, “therefore… [the heretic] would have to be avoided.”
In other words, Ballerini believes (as Robert states on his website) “the fall would take place before the declaratory sentence was issued.”
[NOTE: Ballerini does not, as we will see, imagine the “sentence” being “issued” by way of the declaration; properly speaking, it is simply announced. It is the heretic pope who pronounces the sentence against himself.]
Question: Can one who has fallen and would have to be avoided also be the pope?
Given that union with the one visible head who is the pope is necessary for a Catholic, the answer is clearly no.
As I argue above, it seems to me that Francis has already been solemnly and publicly “admonished” and “warned.” Once again, to those who may disagree, I would ask:
What more are you expecting in the way of admonishing and warning Francis?
In his latest offering, in addition to acknowledging that no canonical provisions exist for the treatment of a heretic pope, Robert asked if it is reasonable for there to be “a lack of proportion” between what would be canonically required in the case of a lesser cleric suspected of heresy (e.g., being warned twice and given six months to remove the cause of suspicion) and how Francis should be treated while also under suspicion.
He asked, “Now, if these procedures are required, as a matter of justice, for a lesser cleric, how much more necessary when the accused is the Pope?”
My answer: It’s not necessary as a matter of justice at all; in fact, as a matter of justice for the faithful at large, I’d say that the contrary is true. The pope’s heresies endanger the entire Church; indeed, the entire world! As such, it is perfectly reasonable to expect a more stringent procedure in the case of a heretic pope.
Sacred Scripture would seem to agree:
“And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)
All of that said, it bears repeating: Opinions and procedures concerning the treatment of lesser clerics do not necessarily apply to the pope who is not under the authority of any superior. He and his situation are entirely unique. His jurisdiction comes from God and, ultimately, in the case of formal heresy, it is removed by God.
Even so, I would add that public calls (admonishments / warnings) for Francis to remove any suspicion of heresy and to confirm the true Faith in light of Amoris Laetitia came almost immediately after its formal release in April 2016.
In fact, the aforementioned “Filial Appeal” was launched some 22 months ago (in February 2015) in light of Francis’ handling of Extraordinary Synod 2014 alone, and it continues to gather signatories even now.
The idea that Francis has somehow been deprived of justice (i.e., he hasn’t been given sufficient opportunity to remove the causes of suspicion by confirming the true Faith, as is his duty) is very difficult to accept.
- “So that he might not cause damage to the rest, he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed, so that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him. Thus, the sentence which he had pronounced against himself would be made known to all the Church…”
Question: What is this “contumacy” of which Ballerini writes?
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Contumacy, or contempt of court, is an obstinate disobedience of the lawful orders of a court. Simple disobedience does not constitute contumacy. Such crime springs only from unequivocal and stubborn resistance to the reiterated or peremptory orders of a legitimate court, and implies contempt or denial of its authority.”
Given that no court has legitimate authority over the pope, in such a case, it is the Divine authority with which the immutable truths of the faith in question are taught by the Church (the dubia cites Sacred Scripture and Tradition) that is being stubbornly resisted with obstinate disobedience.
Question: What is the purpose of the public proclamation of which Ballerini writes?
It is simply to make known what the heretic (in this case, Francis) “had [already] pronounced against himself.”
The motive behind this proclamation is very plain; it is for the good of souls – “that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him.” [emphasis added]
Ballerini is clearly suggesting that some of the more well-formed and informed among the faithful (due to the public nature of the matter under discussion, even given the relatively inefficient means of communication that existed in his day) will already have been “able” to know that the pope has fallen into heresy and “therefore must be avoided.”
The proclamation is primarily for the benefit of “the rest.” (Of course, it will also serve to pave the way for the official calling of a new conclave in order to fill the vacant See of Peter.)
Furthermore, one notes that the proclamation of which Ballerini speaks is intended, not to issue a sentence against the heretic, but rather to announce “the sentence which he [the pope] had pronounced against himself.” (NB: “pronounced” – past tense; i.e., he has already been sentenced.)
Question: What exactly does the sentence entail?
“In a certain way he had abdicated the Pontificate…” (NB: “had” – past tense; i.e., the abdication has already taken place.)
At the outset of his treatment, Ballerini made it clear that among those capable of “knowing” that this man must be avoided – even apart from any proclamation from the proper authorities – includes ordinary faithful:
“For any person, even a private person, the words of Saint Paul to Titus hold: ‘Avoid the heretic, after a first and second correction, knowing that such a man is perverted and sins, since he is condemned by his own judgment’ (Tit. 3, 10-11).”
In the present case, the cardinals and bishops have a sacred duty before God to make a public proclamation that all may be equally on guard against Francis.
If they do not, or if they delay in doing so, their failure will in no way undo the reality of what has already taken place, which, in my opinion, suffices to meet the requirements suggested by Fr. Pietro Ballerini for Francis to cut himself from the body of the Church, condemn himself by his own judgment, pronounce a sentence against himself, and in a certain way abdicate the Pontificate.
At this, I believe it has been sufficiently demonstrated that it cannot be said of my opinion, even though it stands open for criticism, finds no support among the Church’s venerable theologians.
So, where do we go from here?
The questions that we’ve yet to address in the case of a heretical pope are perhaps the most crucial of all:
When might we expect Christ to remove the papacy from such a man?
Does the Church have a role to play in facilitating this removal?
If so, what precisely is it?
To this end, Robert quotes Suarez:
“In no case, even of heresy, is the Pontiff deprived form his dignity and power immediately by God himself, without undergoing the judgment and sentence of men. This is the common opinion today. (… ) if a Pope were a heretic and incorrigible, he would cease to be pope after a declaratory sentence of the crime were advanced against him by the legitimate jurisdiction of the Church. This is the common teaching of Doctors.”
Moving forward, it is going to become necessary for us to clarify exactly what “the judgment and sentence of men” and “advancing a declaratory sentence against…” might look like with respect to a pope over whom no man has authority – the same that Ballerini describes as one who judges and sentences himself.
This, I believe, is where the rubber meets the road in this discussion. I look forward to whatever clarifications Robert may be able to provide, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his efforts thus far!
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