By: Robert Siscoe
As Louie mentioned, our replies are getting a bit longer, but I would encourage those interested in this topic to stay with us as we are now getting into important material.
Regarding Canon 194, Louie wrote: “According to Can. 194, the removal [from office] ‘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.”
The commentary I provided by Beal et al. which says a declaratory sentence is required from the competent ecclesiastical authority for the loss of office to be effective, is exactly how Canon 194 was explained to me a few years ago by a canon lawyer (and Traditional priest). It is also perfectly consistent with common legal practice concerning mixed questions of fact and law whereby questions of fact must be established by the competent authority before the law can be applied to the fact.
A person who publicly defects from the Faith (question of fact) is removed from ecclesiastical office by the law itself (question of law), but the removal does not occur until the proper authority establishes the fact (and, in this case, also declare it). That’s how a mixed question of fact and law works. And while it is true that this canon does not apply to the Pope, it does show the mind of the Church concerning this matter.
Louie: “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.
What we are discussing is whether Francis has lost his office for heresy. His acceptance as Pope by the Church guarantees he was validly elected, but the adherence of the Church to him as head (the entire ordinary and universal Magisterium) provides infallible certitude that he has not lost his office. This traditional doctrine, which cannot be denied, is how the Cardinal Billot (who drafted the encyclical Pascendi) refuted the claims of Savonarola, who maintained that Pope Alexander VI – “who didn’t even believe in God” – had lost his office for heresy. Near the end Savonarola implicitly admitted that he had been mistaken.
Navigating the current Passion of the Church is a balancing act in which a deviation in either direction results in serious error, if not formal schism and heresy. Publicly rejecting Francis as Pope, not only requires the rejection of traditional doctrine, but it also leads rapidly to a rejection of the entire visible Church (and hence formal schism). This latter error requires the adherent to either reject the Church’s attribute of indefectibility, or else redefine the term to mean something other than how the Church understands it (which is the same tactic employed by the Modernists to promote their errors). For example, rather than understanding indefectibility to mean that the visible society – the hierarchical institution itself – will never be overcome by heresy, they will say it only means there will always be “true believers” in the world, which is the Protestant definition of indefectibility.
The error of Sedevacantism (and loss of faith in the Church) has caused Bishop Sanborn to go so far that he forbids his seminarians to hold that there are any bishops today with ordinary jurisdiction. This position is absolutely incompatible with the Church’s indefectibility, since it means there is no longer a legitimate hierarch. How right St. Jerome was when he said true schism always leads to heresy. And in a recent video, Fr. Cekada said he would have rejected whoever was elected Pope during the previous conclave, which makes sense for a person who has completely lost his faith in the Church. This brings up another point: today we usually associate heresy with those on the “left,” but if you study the heresies of the past, you will find that many were due to an excess to the right.
We must judge the current situation of the Church in light of traditional doctrine. If we do so, we will remain on solid ground and will not be led astray, either to the left or to the right.
In light of the Church’s traditional doctrine concerning dogmatic facts, we know that the Pope remains pope as long as he is recognized as Pope by the Church – even if he is judged to be a heretic by private judgment (which was the case with a number of Popes from the past). And regarding the entire Church (not just the Pope) we know, based on the doctrine of indefectibility, that it may suffer persecution from infiltrators within and from enemies without, and may even undergo a passion similar to that which Christ endured (and, like Christ, become virtually unrecognizable in its human nature), but the visible society of the Church – the institution – will never be completely overcome by heresy, nor will it morph into an entirely New Church.
The “R&R” position, which is the correct position to hold in the current crisis, strikes the proper balance between the two extremes of indiscrete obedience and formal schism, and does not require the rejection of any traditional doctrine or dogma (when they are properly understood). The same cannot be said for the error of Sedevacantism.
“The case of Pope Francis is entirely unprecedented; not just among the post-conciliar popes, but all popes.”
The primary difference between Francis and his recent predecessors is that Francis is doing to Catholic morality what they did to ecclesiology, the Mass, and other matters of the Faith. And the reason for the strong reaction we are seeing against him is no mystery: it is due to the fact that the conservative Catholics, who’s main focused has always been moral issues (such as abortion), are shocked at seeing a Pope undermine the teachings that they have fought for, just as Traditional Catholics were rightly shocked at seeing the other recent Popes do the same with Catholic doctrine and the Mass.
Another issue with Francis is that he is generally more scandalous and disgraceful in his words and actions than were the other recent Popes, and hence the average Catholic’s sensus fidelium is more offended and even repulsed by him.
But if we judge this latter point in light of history, we will know that there have been plenty of extremely scandalous popes of the past, such as those of the 9th and 10th centuries. If the daily activities of these popes had been transmitted visibly into the home of the average Catholics in those days, they too would have been scandalized, and their sensus fidelium would have been grievously offended.
How many Catholics of the 10th century would have been tempted to reject the legitimacy of Pope John XII, for example – the teenage pope whose dad got him elected, and who was accused of murder, rape and other unspeakable crimes – if his scandals were pumped into their house daily and could be viewed over and over again online? How many would have entirely lost the faith due to his scandals?
And regarding evidence of pertinacity, don’t forget that John Paul II was also sent a dubia, which requested that he reconcile Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty with that of his pre-Vatican II predecessors. John Paul II never directly responded. Instead, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replied a year and a half later, and the response failed miserably to reconcile the two. If Francis’ failure to reply to the dubia (concerning moral issues) renders him a formal heretic, why didn’t John Paul II’s failure to reply to the dubia (concerning doctrinal matters) render him a formal heretic?
And John Paul II put his erroneous teaching of religious liberty into practice – for example, by encouraging public mortal sins against the First Commandment (false worship) as a path to “world peace” during his Assisi Prayer meetings – just as Francis is trying to do with his erroneous teaching on moral issue.
In the case of both of these Popes, their actions and failure to respond to the respective dubias may have led individual Catholics to conclude that they were in heresy, but that does not suffice for a Pope to be guilty of the crime of heresy, which is necessary for him to lose his office (as Wernz-Vidal and everyone else teaches). Just because someone is personally convinced that Francis has committed the sin of heresy does not mean he has lost his office.
And to defend Wernz-Vidal and the other theologians and canonists from potential accusations of HERESY! by Fr. Kramer (who accused myself and John Salza of heresy for holding the same position), the crime of heresy does not cause the loss of office due to any ecclesiastical censure; it precedes the fall from the Pontificate which happens by a direct act of Christ.
Francis Is Not a Notorious Heretic
Theologians are virtually unanimous in holding that it requires notorious heresy for a Pope to lose his office. As of now, Francis does not meet the definition of a notorious heretic (either by law or fact), and neither did any of his recent predecessors.
Notorious by Law: A person becomes a notorious heretic by law when he is declared a heretic by the Church. When Suarez said a Pope who is declared a heretic “is ipso facto and immediately deposed by Christ,” he meant that when a Pope is “notorious by law,” he is immediately deposed by Christ. Clearly, Francis is not notorious with a notoriety of law.
Notorious by Fact: A person is notorious with a notoriety of fact, not simply when it is widely known that he holds a heretical doctrine (the matter), but when the imputability of the crime, or guilt (the formal aspect), is also widely known, and so clear that “that no clever evasion is possible and no legal excuse could excuse” (Canon 2197.3). Francis is not notorious is with a notoriety of fact. This is proven by the fact that the Cardinals are asking him to clarify his position, which would not be the case if he were so evidently guilty of the crime of heresy that “no clever evasion was possible”.
Now, if Francis was directly accused of heresy (not a lesser error), and if he remained hardened in his heresy following “solemn and public warnings” by the College of Cardinals, he would then be notorious with a notoriety of fact (or “explicitly a heretic,” to use the words of Francis de Sales) since at that time no clever evasion would be possible, and no legal excuse would excuse.
Why are these definitions important? Because all the quotes Sedevacantists cite saying a Pope will lose his office if he becomes a “notorious heretic” do not help their case, since Francis does not meet the definition of the term.
As of now, Francis is only “suspect of heresy,” and like all others who are suspect of heresy, he has retained his office. This explains why even the Cardinals who are opposing him recognize him as Pope.
Before discussing the teaching of Ballerini, we will begin with a few theological points:
- The Church has no authority over a pope, even in the case of heresy. If a Pope is deposed, it is Christ who authoritatively deposes him, not the Church. The phrase “authoritatively deposes him” refers to the act of separating the man who is Pope (the matter) from the Pontificate (the form). This can only occur by an act of Christ.
- When theologians and canonists speak of the Church “deposing a pope,” they do not mean authoritatively deposing him. They are referring to the process itself, and the ministerial acts performed by the proper ecclesiastical authorities (such as the formal warnings), which precede Christ authoritatively separating the man from the Pontificate.
- There is nothing that man (a finite creature) can do to directly cause God (an infinite being) to act. Hence, there is nothing that a Pope can do, and nothing that that the Church can do, to directly cause Christ to separate a Pope from the Pontificate. The actions of man (i.e., a pope falling into heresy, the Church declaring him a heretic, etc.) are merely the dispositive cause. They dispose man for Christ to act, but they do not cause Christ to act.
- Now, because there is no metaphysical incompatibility between heresy and ordinary jurisdiction (as there is, for example, between mortal sin and sanctifying grace, and between the sin of heresy and supernatural faith), Christ can, if He so wills, sustain a heretical Pope in the Papacy for as long as he chooses. This explains why Fr. Laymann taught that as long as the Church tolerates a heretical Pope he remains Pope, and it explains why some theologians have been able to defend the position that no matter how heretical a Pope may become, he will never lose the Pontificate. Bellarmine discussed this latter opinion and only referred to it as “exceedingly improbable,” not as certainly false, which it would be if there was a metaphysical incompatibility between heresy and papal jurisdiction.
- The Church’s teaching concerning dogmatic facts, and reason itself confirm that Christ will not secretly depose a Pope without the Church being involved in the process (or at least knowing about it). If He did, the man lawfully elected Pope and recognized as Pope by the entire Church could do what a true Pope could never do – namely, “infallibly” bind the Church to heresy. This unspeakable evil would only be possible if Christ, by a hidden act, severed the bond uniting the man to the Pontificate, thereby removing from him the charism of infallibility.
- The teaching of St. Paul to Titus about avoiding the heretic “after the first and second admonition” (Titus 3:10) is ancient ecclesiastical legislation, in which the earlier teaching of our Lord, “if he refuses to hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen” (Mt. 18:17) is applied to those accused or suspected of heresy. The person is warned by the ecclesiastical authorities, and if he refuses to “hear the Church,” (i.e., heed the warnings) he is to be avoided. Hence warnings issued to those suspected of heresy is part of divine law (Titus 3:10), and is based on the explicit teaching of Christ (Mt 18:17).
By way of introduction, it should be noted that Bellerini is arguing that a pope who “defends heresy,” even privately, can be deposed, and that it is not necessary for a general council to be convened for the loss of office to occur. This latter point, which is disputed by theologians, falls into the category of a “question of law” that the Church alone has the authority to decide. Ballerini does say, however, that a general council may be convened, but, if so, it will take place after the heretical Pope has already lost his office. We will comment on the pertinent sections of Bellerini now, including an important point that Louie did not cite, and which proves his interpretation was not correct.
“Therefore the Pontiff who after such a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod, maintained himself hardened in heresy and openly turned 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 be had turned away and separated himself from the body of the Church, and that in a certain way he had abdicated the Pontificate, which no one holds or can hold if he does not belong to the Church.”
As we can see, according to Ballerini, if a Pope were to remain hardened in heresy after a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, the Roman Clergy or Synod, he would “pronounce sentence upon himself,” thereby becoming notorious with a notoriety of fact. He would do this by his own act of contumaciously holding to heresy in the face of solemn warnings by the Church.
The term “contumacious” does not simply mean adhering to a heresy with pertinacity; it means stubbornly persisting in heresy in opposition to lawful authority (i.e., the Cardinals, etc.), even if the lawful authority in question is issuing a correction as a matter of charity, rather than jurisdiction (which we will discuss below).
Needless to say, Ballerini’s teaching in no way helps Louie’s position since Francis has not persisted in heresy following any “solemn and public warnings” from the Cardinals, etc. The dubia, which merely requested that he clarify certain points, is in no way equivalent to an ecclesiastical warning/correction.
Warning vis-à-vis Dubia
A warning (monitio) differs essentially from a dubia. A warning can come from the law itself (“though shalt not commit adultery”) or from an ecclesiastical judge (monitio canonica). In the case of heresy, the purpose of the ecclesiastical warning is to correct the offender and provide him with an opportunity to remove the cause of suspicion. It must be issued by a lawful authority, name the offender, specify the offense (i.e., what heresy was professed), and, in the case of heresy, clearly state that the offender must reject the stated heresy and affirm the Catholic truth opposed to it.
A dubium is something entirely different. It is an official request for an authoritative and final response from the Holy See on a doctrinal, liturgical or canonical question. A dubia is not an accusation, nor does it specify an offence, but merely seeks clarity concerning an objective fact (dubium facti) or a law (dubium juris). For example, are baptisms administered by Mormons valid, given the fact that the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost have a different meaning for Mormons? A dubia would seek clarity concerning this “question of law.”
When Ballerini spoke of “a solemn and public warning (monitionem) by the Cardinals, the Roman clergy, or a Synod,” he was clearly speaking of a canonical warning (monitio canonica), not simply a request for clarification (dubia), or a request by theologians that the Pope condemn certain propositions (which is what the letter from the 45 theologians was).
Titus 3:10 Applies Even to Private Individuals
When Ballerini says the teaching of St. Paul to Titus (i.e., “avoiding the heretic after the first and second admonition”) applies “even to private individuals,” all he means is that even a private person can warn someone that they are in heresy and then personally avoid them if they persist. Such avoidance would be justified as a matter of conscience and self defense. That’s all Ballerini is saying. But a private warning, since it does not come from lawful authority, is not equivalent to a monitio canonica.
Ballerini does not mean that if a private person judges that a Pope (who has not been warned by the proper authorities) “must be avoided,” it means the Pope has already lost his office. There is no logical connection between the two propositions. It will become clear that this is not what Ballerini meant as we go forward, but first we need to address another important point.
Manifest or Public Dogma
Ballerini: “For the person who, admonished once or twice [by the proper authorities], does not repent, but continues pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or public dogma (dogmati manifesto aut definite) – not being able, on account of this public pertinacity to be excused, by any means, of heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity ….”
For an opinion to be qualified as heretical, it must be contrary to a “manifest or public dogma” (i.e., a revealed truth that has been defined by a solemn decree or definitively proposed by the force of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium). This is an important point since heresy is often used in a broad and imprecise sense to refer to any error against the Faith, whereas, strictly speaking, for a proposition to be qualified as heretical, it must be a direct denial of “a manifest or pubic dogma”. Not all errors – even serious errors that are clearly false – are qualified as heresy. Ballerini confirmed this when he said:
Ballerini: “The present question, then, pertains only to the case in which the Pope, deceived in his private judgment, believes and pertinaciously asserts something contrary to an evident or defined article of faith, for this is what constitutes heresy.”
For a proposition to be heretical, it must be a clear and unambiguous denial of “an evident or defined article of faith,” not simply a teaching that seems heretical, or that logically leads (by additional steps of reasoning) to the denial of a dogma. The former is only qualified as “savoring heresy (haeresim sapiens), while the latter is classified as “erroneous in theology” (propositio theologice erronea). A hundred serious errors against the faith do not add up to a single heresy.
But what about Amoris Laetitia? In the opinion of Cardinal Burke, due to the ambiguous wording of the document, it is difficult to qualify any of its teachings as even materially heretical. There’s no question that there are propositions that logically lead to heresy, and that savor heresy, but that’s not enough.
Regarding the document on “theological notes” by the 45 theologians, it does not assert that any proposition in Amoris Laeitia is directly heretical, but only say “if understood as meaning X” etc. it would be heretical. And the purpose of the document wasn’t to accuse Francis of heresy (and hence was not equivalent to a non-canonical warning), but only requested that he definitively condemned the propositions “if understood as meaning X” as being formally heretical.
This is not to defend Francis or Amoris Laetitia, but only to note that before he can be accused of pertinaciously holding to a heresy, it would have to be shown that the doctrine he is holding to with pertinacity is qualified as heretical. If he is only persisting in a propositio theologice erronea, or in a doctrine that “savors heresy,” that is not enough for him to lose his office for heresy – even if he is truly guilty of the internal sin of heresy (which would be known with certainty to God alone).
The Pope Loses His Office After The Solemn and Public Warnings
Even if it can be shown that Francis has professed a heretical doctrine (not a lesser error), according to Ballerini, he will not lose his office unless he remains hardened in heresy AFTER being warned by the proper authorities – that is, until he is contumacious.
How do we know this? Because Ballerini explicitly states that whatever is done by the Church against the erring Pope, before the declaration of his contumacy and heresy (ante declaratam ejus contumaciam et haeresim) is done as an act of charity, not jurisdiction (caritatis, non jurisdictionis). Why an act of charity, rather than jurisdiction? Because as long as he remains pope, the Church is unable to exercise any acts of jurisdiction against him. Louie himself acknowledged this point when he wrote:
“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.”
With this in mind, let’s read what Ballerini wrote. After saying that a Pope who remained hardened in heresy after “a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, the Roman Clergy or a Synod,” would “pass judgment upon himself” and would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed (so that all would be on guard against him), he wrote:
“One sees then that in the case of a heresy, to which the Pontiff adhered privately, there would be an immediate and efficacious remedy, without the convocation of a General Council: for in this hypothesis whatever would be done against him before his heresy and contumacy are declared, in order to call him to reason [i.e., “solemn and public warnings”], would constitute an obligation of charity, not of jurisdiction”.
Notice, he doesn’t say whatever would be done against the erring Pope “before individual Catholics personally judge that he should be avoided would be an act of charity.” No, he says “whatever would be done against him before his heresy and contumacy are declared … would constitute and obligation of charity.”
What this proves is that, according to Ballerini, the fall from the Pontificate occurs after the “solemn and public warnings,” not simply when he is deemed to be pertinacious by private judgment. This teaching of Ballerini is perfectly consistent with what the theologians have taught since at least the 12th Century, when the question of how to depose a Pope was first being hotly debated. For example, in Die Summa Decretorum des Magister, Rufinus, the 12th Century Decretist, wrote:
“A Pope cannot be declared a heretic unless he persist in error after a second and third warning” (Commentary on “Si Papa” from Gratian’s Decretum).
And this is referring to canonical warnings (monitio).
Ballerini seems to refer to two distinct declarations: 1) a “declaration of heresy and contumacy;” and 2) a “declaratory sentence” that is issued by the council, if one were called.
Regarding the first, when Ballerini says whatever (quidquid) is done against the erring Pope before his heresy and contumacy are declared are acts of charity, it suggests that Ballerini did not believe God would authoritatively depose the heretical Pope until his heresy was declared (at which point he would be “notorious by law”). If so, it means Ballerini holds the same opinion as Suarez (the common opinion of the day).
Objection: But Ballerini said by remaining hardened in heresy after the warnings, the Pope would essentially abdicate the Pontificate. Therefore, he must have meant that he would lose his office at that moment (after being warned), and not at time when his heresy and contumacious is declared.
Answer: Not necessarily. This is evident from the fact that the common opinion of the day (an opinion shared by both Bellarmine and Cajetan), was that a Pope who truly abdicated (“resigned”) would only cease to be Pope when the abdication was accepted by the Church. Cajetan explained this as “a double consent of the human will” (the will of the Pope abdicating, and the will of the Church accepting) which would precede the act of the Divine Will, which separates the man (the matter) from the Pontificate (the form).
As applied in the case of “abdication” due to papal heresy, the pope would manifest his will by remaining hardened in heresy in the face of the public and solemn warnings. The Church would manifest its will by declaring him a heretic. Following this “double consent,” Christ would act by authoritatively by deposing him.
The same double consent of the human will, preceding the act of the Divine Will, is how a man is made Pope during the Conclave. The will of the Church is manifest by electing him as Pope. The will of the one elected is manifested when he accepts. Following the double-consent, Christ authoritatively joins the man to the office and he becomes Pope. The reverse happens when the Church “deposes” a Pope.
Whether Ballerini held that Christ would act by deposing the Pope immediately after the declaration of heresy and contumacy was proclaimed (when he was notorious by law), or just before (when he was notorious by fact), is not clear, but what is certain is that Ballerini believes that the erring Pope will remain Pope until after he shows himself hardened in heresy following the “solemn and public warnings” (since only then would he be “contumacious”); and at least up to the point in which the proper authorities are prepared to issue the declaration of contumacy and heresy (since whatever is done before the declaration, which would include moments before, is an act of charity).
After mentioning “the declaration of heresy and contumacy,” Ballerini then explains what would happen if a general council were convened. He wrote:
Ballerini: “but afterwards, when his departure from the Church has been made manifest, if any sentence should be passed against him by a council, it would be passed against one who would no longer be Pope, nor superior to a council.”
Notice that he refers to the declaration from the council is being optional (“if any sentence should be passed … by a council”), whereas he refers to the declaration of heresy and contumacy as being necessary (“he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed,” etc.).
What seems clear is that Ballerini is referring to two different declarations: a necessary declaration that precedes the loss of office, and an optional Conciliar declaration that follows the loss of office. In the quotation Louie cited from an article I wrote, when I said “the fall would take place before the declaratory sentence was issued,” I was referring to the declaration from the council, if one were called (according to the opinion of Ballerini).
In light of what we have seen, let’s consider the sequence of events in Ballerini’s teaching to see if it supports Louie’s position that Francis has lost his office for heresy.
- The Pope “defends heresy” – not a lesser error, but heresy.
- He is issued a solemn warning by the Cardinals, the Roman Clergy, or the Roman Synod. Up to this point he remains Pope, since whatever the Church does before the declaration of contumacy (which hasn’t happened yet) is an act of charity. If he refuses to “hear the Church” (by remaining hardened in heresy after the solemn warning), he “passes sentence upon himself” and becomes notorious with a notoriety of fact.
- The Church then declares his contumacy and heresy and Christ authoritatively deposes him. (Perhaps this order could be reversed.)
- If a general council is convened, it would issue a declaratory sentence against the former Pope.
In the case of Pope Francis we are not past point number one, which means, according to Ballerini’s opinion, Francis is still the Pope.
What is clear is that Ballerini’s teaching in no way supports Louie’s position, but instead contradicts it, since the loss of office occurs if the Pope remains hardened in heresy “after solemn and public warnings” (monitio canonica) by the proper authorities, which has not happened with Francis. Francis’ failure (at least to date) to respond to the dubia, which is not an accusation of heresy or a non-canonical warning, does not suffice to render him “contumacious,” or notorious with a notoriety of fact. Just because a layperson personally thinks a Pope (or any other cleric) “must be avoided” in no way suggests that he has lost his office. On the contrary, according to canon law, a cleric who is suspected of heresy will retain his office until he is warned twice, and even after that as long as the Church chooses to tolerate him.
Furthermore, we have infallible certitude that Francis is the Pope due to the fact that the Church (the entire OUM) recognizes him as Pope. The great Cardinal Billot teaches that if the universal Church were to adhere to a false Pope as its head, the gates of hell would have prevailed.
At this time, even the authorities who are speaking out the strongest against Francis recognize him as Pope. None of them (and they cannot all be dismissed as “unformed and un-informed” Catholics) claim he has lost his office for heresy, nor have they accused him of heresy (but only of “serious errors” to use Burke’s terminology).
Additionally, because the Church has never determine precisely when a heretical Pope will lose his office, even if Francis is issued a canonical warning, and even if he is declared a heretic by the Church (thereby rendering him notorious by law), the laity could still not publicly declare that he lost his office, since some reputable theologians maintain that an additional step would be required before Christ would act by authoritatively deposing him. Burke may not personally agree with these theologians, based on what he said in a recent interview, but until the Church settles the matter it remains an open question.
The loss of papal office involves questions that private judgment simply cannot resolve. This explains why the manualist Jean-Marie Herve wrote:
“Given that, as a private person, the Pontiff could indeed become a public, notorious, and obstinate heretic … only a Council [the Church] would have the right to declare his see vacant” (Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae, 1952, I.500, p. 495).
While theologians have debated precisely how and when a heretical Pope would lose his office, I know of no theologian or canonist who has ever disagreed with Herve concerning who alone has the authority to declare the see vacant. Yet every single Sedevacantist apologist, without exception, not only rejects this undisputed teaching in theory, but in also in practice. It is one thing for a Catholic to have the private opinion that Francis is a heretic, and quite another to publicly declare that he has lost his office for heresy.
I will end by asking Louie to provide even one authoritative citation supporting his position that a member of the laity can judge the Pope to be a formal heretic, and then publicly declare that he has lost his office while the Church continues to recognize him as Pope.
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