6 July 2017

How to depose a Pope: the teaching of the Archbishopric of Westminster

In view of the documents leaked by Eccles and Bosco just before Christmas concerning Papa Bergoglio's move to Avignon, I here republish a revision of an article which has appeared, I think twice, before on my blog. (Some corrections and additions offered in the original threads have, with thanks, been incorporated into this text.) People who just visit this blog ... and, indeed, the Internet generally ... for a quick giggle need only go straight down to the brief paragraphs in blue.

I am particularly grateful to people who enable me to correct any misstatements.

As you enter Westminster Cathedral, you will, if you look at the wall to your left, see two large sheets of brass (bronze?) which purport to give us a list of the chief pastors of the Catholic Church in this country from S Augustine onwards, showing their communion with the See of S Peter. (Who compiled it? See the thread. Interestingly, it claims that the Vicars Apostolic of the London District were chief pastors ... is this true?) The aim of this list is surely ecclesiological (indeed, polemical and anti-Anglican) and designed to make a claim for the status of the Roman Catholic Particular Churches in England based upon their Communio with the See of S Peter. Such a public witness and explicatio of Communio must clearly be held to embody the formal teaching of the Particular Church of Westminster, God bless her.

What I am interested in is the early fifteenth century, the time when the Great Western Schism had not yet been resolved. There were at one point three simultaneous, competing, 'lines' of 'popes': the Roman Popes; the Avignon Popes; and, after the Council of Pisa in 1409 deposed both of them (their depositions were not then accepted by either of them) there were also the Pisan Popes. Of course, really there can only be one pope. One of those three prelates was the real pope; the other two were antipopes. Obviously, people who adhered to one of the two antipopes, believing him to be the true pope, were in completely good faith and most earnestly desired to be in communion with the Successor of S Peter. An argument which attempted to portray them as 'non-papalist' would be dishonest. But objectively such adherents were as a matter of fact not in communion with him; they objectively were in schism from the one man whom God (alone!) knows to have been pope.

Dr E L Mascall observed that there had never been a definitive judgement on which of the three was the genuine 'line' of 'real' popes, and different editions of such works as the Annuario pontificio are not always in agreement; but the de facto consensus is that the Roman popes were the Real Macoy. Down to 1409, that is. 1409 is the year the real fun starts. Are you sitting comfortably?

As the year 1409 began, the Roman pope was Gregory XII. England was in communion with him. Scotland, France, and Spain, on the other hand, were in communion with the Avignon pope, Benedict XIII. But, during that year 1409, most of the cardinals of each 'pope' deserted their respective masters and, in the council of Pisa, came together; and claimed to depose them both and to elect a new pope, Alexander V. 2+1=3 popes! Now let's see what the official Westmonasteriensian lists do with this situation.

The lists in Westminster Cathedral show Gregory XII (Roman) as becoming pope in 1406; then Alexander V (Pisan) in 1409 (although the 'genuine' and 'Roman' pope Gregory XII did not abdicate until 1415).

In other words, the Church and Bishop of Westminster, interestingly, by implication proclaim the Pisan doctrine that a 'Council' unlawfully convoked by a group of cardinals in collaboration with some 'schismatics' (as Pisa was) and without the consent of the lawful Roman Pontiff, can lawfully depose the lawful pope (in this case, Gregory XII) and lawfully elect eo nondum defuncto a lawful replacement.

(This Westmonasteriensian-Pisan doctrine is distinctly thought-provoking! Would four Cardinals and three SSPX bishops, gathered in solemn Conclave at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or even half-way up the Westminster Cathedral Minaret, suffice for validity?)

However, Alexander V died in 1410; and his Pisan 'line' was continued by the election of John XXIII (sic). But the Westminster list does not mention this John XXIII. The next pope it gives is Martin V, who was to be elected by the Council of Constance in 1417. (At that Council, both Gregory XII [Roman] and John XXIII [Pisan] did either accept deposition or abdicate.)

So it appears that, from 1410 until 1417, according to the public teaching of the Church of Westminster, the See of S Peter was vacant. But it is unclear why, in this public teaching of the Church of Westminster, Alexander V (Pisan) was truly pope but his immediate lineal successor John XXIII (Pisan) lacked the same status. Obviously, the idiosyncratic dogmas of Westminster have profundities which I have not yet plumbed.

A seven-year interregnum, in which nobody is in communion with a pope because there isn't one, is surely long enough to raise interesting ecclesiological questions. I return to this in Footnote (3).

So far we have been considering the papal names on the left side of the Westminster Cathedral list. Let us now look to the right, where we find the Archbishops of Canterbury listed and the date (if known) when they received their  Pallia. The anonymous begetter of this list rightly takes granting and reception of the Pallium to be a clear indicator of Communio between Rome and Canterbury. And in 1414, Henry Chichele became Archbishop of Canterbury and, that same year, received the Pallium at Kings Sutton. Yes ... he received the Pallium ... in ... get this ... 1414.

In 1414, most of the world, including England, regarded the Pisan pope John XXIII as the true pope. Only Italy still adhered to the Roman pope Gregory XII. (Remember: the Church of Westminster regards the See of Rome as being vacant from 1410 to 1417; incidentally, in case you were wondering, the Avignon pope, Benedict XIII, had fled to a small Spanish town called Peniscola and by this point was ignored by everyone everywhere else.) So who sent the Pallium to Archbishop Chichele in 1414?

I have no doubt that it was the Pisan pope John XXIII. (See the thread.)

But the Church of Westminster officially and very publicly dismisses this poor chap as non-existent, i.e. as a mere antipope. As do modern lists of the popes.

So, when Papa Roncalli was elected Bishop of Rome in 1958, he took the title 'John XXIII' as if there never before had been a lawful pope of that name and number.

Irrespective of the question whether John XXIII (version 1) was or was not truly pope, I find it hard to understand how the Church of Westminster thinks it is demonstrating the importance of links of communion between the chief pastors of the Catholic Church in this country and the Holy See by boasting that Archbishop Chichele received the Pallium at a time when its own list declares the See of Rome to have been vacant, without there being any lawful pope (in the Westmonasteriensian view) qualified to bless and send out Pallia.

Stigand, incidentally, raises similar questions for Rigid Westmonasterialensian Extremists.

FOOTNOTES: (1) All this would be even greater fun if a Catholic Cathedral in Scotland had a parallel list ... also writ very large in brass (bronze?) ... showing the quite different list of 'popes' with whom the Scottish dioceses were in communion between 1378 and 1409, and who, I imagine, sent Pallia to Scottish metropolitans. The Avignon Pope Benedict XIII conferred University status upon the Schola at S Andrews in 1413 ... he is still honoured there. I wonder which papal claimant the town of Berwick on Tweed held communio with! And how about the Medieval diocese of Sodor and Man, which in any case showed a tendency to episcopal duplicity in the Middle Ages? And there are our beloved Channel Islands, happy little sunlit tax-havens and historically parts of the Diocese of Coutances. There could be industrial scope for manufacturers of big brass plates to make money by producing contradictory successio lists!
(2) I would not like anybody to think that I am mocking the teaching of Holy Mother Church, defined as tenendum de fide at Vatican I, concerning the Petrine Ministry; or that the facts about the Great Schism of the West in any way whatsoever throw the least doubt upon that teaching, which I have spent my whole adult life asserting and defending. They most certainly do not. In my view, the theological problems which are indeed thrown up by the Great Western Schism are easily, and best, dealt with by applying principles laid out in Paragraph 17 of the document Communionis notio (1992 AAS 85) issued by the CDF under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. And, indeed, any narrative of the Great Schism indicates the need for just such a nuanced understanding of Ecclesiology, of Communio, and of schism, as Ratzinger gives there. (See also his thoroughly admirable Dominus Iesus [2000] Paragraph 17. I cannot help feeling that this is an attitude which Professor Dr E L Mascall, who cogently raised the ecclesiological problems thrown up by the Great Schism, would have been able to adopt.)
(3) Another approach would be to argue that  fundamentally it is with the Roman Church, not with its Bishop simpliciter, that Christians are technically obliged to be in Communion. This would also solve another problem raised by Fr Mascall, that of periods of papal sede vacante ... which, in the Westmonasteriensian view, can go on for at least seven years without any insuperable theological problem arising ... during which, of course, nobody is in communion with the pope because there isn't one, but Catholics are all in Communion with the Roman Church because that does not cease to exist. Readers will also remember that two of the earliest witnesses to the Roman Primacy, S Ignatius and S Irenaeus, refer to the Church of Rome without actually mentioning its Bishop; and that the earliest known exercise of a primatial ministry is the 'Epistle of Clement', which is written as from the Roman Church. Of course, Rome's primacy is necessarily going to be exercised by the Bishop of that Church, who justly is held to be S Peter's Successor. But, in the end, I propose, Rome is not the primatial Church because it has the Pope as its Bishop; the Pope is the primatial Bishop because he has Rome for his Church. I put this forward as a speculation which seems to me to resolve some of the problems.


motuproprio said...

Dear Father, I have assembled the following from secondary sources, no doubt you have access to better documentation.
In July 1405 Chichele was sent by Henry IV to the new Roman Pope Innocent VII, who was professing his desire to end the schism in the papacy by resignation, if his French rival at Avignon would do likewise. In 1406 Chichele was one of the English envoys sent to Pope Gregory XII. On 31 August 1407 the bishop of St David's, died, and on 12 October 1407 Chichele was provided by the pope (Gregory XII) to the bishopric of St David's. Another bull the same day gave him the right to hold all his benefices with the bishopric. He was consecrated on 17 June 1408 by Gregory XII.
Bishop Repingdon of Lincoln, an ex-Wycliffite, was one of the new batch of cardinals created by Gregory on 18 September 1408, most of Gregory's cardinals having deserted him; however, this creation was not recognised in England. In November 1408 Chichele was back at Westminster, when Henry IV determined to support the cardinals at Pisa against both popes. In January 1409 Chichele was named with Bishop Hallam of Salisbury and the prior of Canterbury to represent the Southern Convocation at the council, which opened on 25 March 1409. Before the delegation, after passing by way of Paris, arrived on 30 April, the thirty-seven articles of accusation against the contending pontiffs had been read by a ' Magister Anglus, unus de secretariis Concilii '; probably this is Richard Dereham, chancellor of Cambridge, who had been prominent in the Council from the beginning. Obedience was withdrawn from both the existing popes, and on 26 June a new pope elected instead of them. Chichele and the other envoys were received on their return as saviours of the world; though the result was summed up by a contemporary as trischism instead of schism, and the Church as giving three husbands instead of two. Chichele was enthroned at St Davids on 11 May 1411.
Immediately after the death of Archbishop Thomas Arundel of Canterbury Henry V recommended him for promotion to the archbishopric and in the “Calendar of the Patent Rolls, Henry V, 1413-1416” is the entry ”March 23. Westminster Palace. Signification to pope John of the royal assent to the postulation of Master Henry Chicheley bishop of St. Davids, as archbishop of Canterbury in the place of Th. deceased.”

So it must have been John XXIII who sent the pallium.

motuproprio said...

Father, the following may be of interest.

THE TABLET Page 19, 28th May 1910
— SIR, —The list of the "Chief Pastors of the Catholic Church in England" in the last number of The Tablet will be of interest to many, readers, and our thanks are due to those who have so carefully prepared it. Moreover we learn with satisfaction that it is proposed to perpetuate the list by inscribing it on the walls of Westminster Cathedral.
It is obviously desirable that any question concerning the accuracy of the list should be set at rest before it is permanently inscribed. This is my excuse for raising the question whether it is quite correct to include the Vicars-Apostolic of the London District; for they had no primacy or precedence over the other Vicars-Apostolic, and so could hardly be called "Chief Pastors of the Catholic Church in England." The head superiar of the mission was the Senior Vicar-Apostolic, and it so happens that, during the times of the later Vicars-Apostolic at least, the London Vicar was seldom the Senior. Bishop Walmesley of the Western District was for a long time the Senior, and after him Bishop Gibson of the Northern District ; then for a time Milner in the Midland district. But even the Senior Vicar, though he would preside at the meetings of Bishops, had no primacy of jurisdiction of any kind : each Vicar was supreme in his own district.
Also, is it correct to include the archpriests ? They were the superiors of the clergy, but they neither possessed nor claimed any jurisdiction over the laity (Tiemey's Dodd, vol. v., p. 8, note).
Your obedient servant, QUERY

motuproprio said...


you may also find of interest P33 of The Tablet of 21st May 1910 where John XXIII is clearly listed as Pope. Perhaps there was some 'tidying up' in 1958!

Brandon said...

I am sure it is coincidence, but it is interesting that Alexander VI is the VIth because Alexander V (Pisan) was taken as the preceding Alexander. So the anomaly you note in in the succession plate has a parallel -- thus far, anyway -- in the numbering of Roman popes. (I think Bellarmine somewhere says that the Council of Pisa is a council neither approved nor disapproved by the Church, which adds to the interesting ambiguity of Alexander V's status.)

I know that there was extensive confusion over the exact jurisdiction of the Vicars Apostolic of London throughout the eighteenth century -- e.g., throughout the period there are inconsistent statements about whether the American colonies were within his jurisdiction -- but I don't know if this ever resulted in his having a certain precedence among the other Vicars Apostolic. (It's entirely tangential to the post, but if you are ever interested, the Dublin Review vol. 134 (1904) pp. 66ff. discusses the history of the question of whether the Vicar Apostolic of the London District had jurisdiction in the English colonies. It makes for somewhat humorous reading, for those of us who like that sort of thing, and serves as a good lesson in how thoroughly baffling ecclesiastical jurisdictions and authority can sometimes be, even to people who spend their entire lives dealing with it.)

Figulus said...

A fun and thought provoking post, Father. Thank you.

It brings to mind a saying of Saint Robert Bellarmine’s (I don’t think he invented it.) “Papa dubius non est papa”. If I recall correctly, he quoted this while discussing the theological implications of the Schism.

Taken to its literal extreme that saying would indicate that for the whole period of the Schism, the Roman see was vacant. Yet, as you point out, the Diocese of Rome sailed on and was still being governed to some degree by its clergy, which, come to think of it, might or might not have included an antipope.

Saint Cyprian wrote to the Roman church in the third century looking for confirmation that his handling of the indulgence controversy was not in vain. A representative of the clergy, sede vacante, wrote back, giving him their judgment on his actions, and asking him to keep them informed of developments. The Roman cleric mitigated their judgment, however, by pointing out that their bishop was dead, they had not yet elected another, and that therefor their judgment was provisional; it might be overturned by a bishop when they had gotten one. I am fuzzy on all the details, but I believe some of them can be found easily in Chapter V of Luke Rivington’s excellent tome, “The Primitive Church and the See of Peter," which can be downloaded free of charge from the internet.

Now I don’t know whether the Roman church is qualified, sede vacante, to bless and send out a pallium, but I don’t know anyone but a pope who could overrule them if they did. Granted that any such pallium would be provisional, but does that really matter? If no later pope rescinds it, it seems to me it would stick, "sciente et tacente sede apostolica," and all that.

As for your minor query, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the relevant curial documents gave London no such authority, but the Old Chapter continued its operations, and most of the vicars apostolic were members of the Old Chapter, and the Old Chapter continued to submit the names of candidates to vacant sees to the Holy Father, some of whom were then appointed, and so the Old Chapter, an anomalous chapter of no cathedral of an anomalous non-diocese, could be said to have de facto canonical status, “sciente et tacente sede apostolica”.

John Vasc said...

Pope John XXIII was indeed supported by the English (as well as the French) so he is the most probable source of the 1414 pallium. From April 1412 until May 1413 he had been in Rome at the Council he had convened. After being forced to flee to Florence, he was able to return to Rome in August 1414, on the death of his enemy Ladislaus of Naples. John left Rome again in October 1414 to attend the Council of Constance. So he might well have been in a position to send a pallium from Rome during the period August-October 1414.
The curious omission of his name from the Westminster roll might have been a diplomatic gesture - I recall that when Pope Saint John XXIII was elected in 1958 his title was explained to us Catholic schoolchildren as replacing that of an 'invalid, schismatic antipope'. Our quondam English adherence was diplomatically airbrushed away or forgotten. And of course, the modern Pope John himself would have certainly regarded his namesake as a pretender, born as Roncalli was in Bergamo, a Lombardy city occupied in the early 15th century by the Malatestas. Carlo I Malatesta was one of the principal active supporters of Gregory XII, to whom he gave shelter in Rimini until his self-deposition at Constance. So for Roncalli - as for the medieval Italians, Gregory and not the Pisan Alexander V and John XXIII had been the true Pope of the years preceding the Council of Constance.
The medieval Pope John XXIII was tried and condemned at Constance, but his undoubtedly corrupt election and sins of simony - selling indulgences and giving the Medici the banking account of the Curia - were only the start. From being routine stuff everyone had known and kept quiet about, they were inflated into evidence of general immorality. (One is inexorably reminded of modern post hoc legal attitudes to the sins of the previously powerful and now libel-free deceased. 'If only we'd known....'! :-)
I suppose any Westminster wavering in the matter might also have been tipped in the balance by someone's faint memory of the way Gibbon describes that unhappy Pope, introducing him in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol. 6, with the words: 'John the Twenty-third, the most profligate of mankind...[At the Council of Constance] he fled and was brought back a prisoner: the most scandalous charges were suppressed; the vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy, and incest; and after subscribing his own condemnation, he expiated in person the imprudence of trusting his person to a free city beyond the Alps.'
'Only accused'...'expiated the imprudence'...'free city' ! - As usual, Gibbon is deliciously cynical.)

Is this query, perhaps, connected with your previous enquiry about the much-quoted but apparently unscourced tag 'papa dubius, nullus papa', Father H? For according to some writers, the Council of Constance was the origin of that phrase. See for example Bartholomé Carranza: 'Summa omnium Conciliorum et Pontificum' (1677) P.565

also Johannes Franciscus Hacki: 'Regia Via ad omnes Dissidentes...' (1689) P.197

et alia - But all these sources might well lean on Bellarmine (1605), before whom, as you said back then, nothing concrete can be found. If you've unearthed something in the meanwhile, I'd be most curious to hear it.

John Vasc said...

Did Gibbon merely swallow the created legend, I wonder.
The Council of Constance certainly had their two minutes of hate with the 'antipope' John XXIII, And the posthumous historical hatchet-job was rather like that of the insecure Tudors on Richard III and the House of York. He was derided with nicknames such as 'the pirate Pope'. One much-repeated story was of Pope John, fleeing from the Council down the Rhein, being discovered and re-arrested when he accidentally tumbled out of the barrel in which he was being clandestinely transported. There's a lovely German woodcut, complete with tiara:-

But he was not entirely abandoned after his fall, imprisonment and (?suspiciously) speedy death. The Medici and other Florentines repaid their debt with his magnificent tomb in the Baptistery of Florence - the one and only tomb ever erected in that Baptistery dedicated to St John. (John XXIII had given or rather sold them a relic, allegedly of the Baptist's right index-finger, the one with which he had pointed to Christ as he pronounced the words 'Ecce Agnus Dei'.) The tomb-builders engaged Donatello and Michelangelo. Ten years in the building. Estimated cost 1000 florins - 500 over budget. No skimping there.

Martin V objected to the inscription, as 'Ioannes quondam Papa' might be taken to mean he was still Pope on his death, ie the 'late' Pope, rather than a 'sometime' Pope. Martin wanted them to write 'olim Papa', but the tomb-designers decided '«Ciò che ho scritto, ho scritto».' (The 'quondam Papa' is presumed to have been a bit of bitchy Medici Martin-needling. The Medicis never liked losing a fight, or a Pope.)

Jesse said...

Delightful as always, Father. One thinks of the silver tablets inscribed by Leo III with the text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed without the Filioque.

On the question of who sent the pallium to Archbishop Chichele, we read in Hierarchia catholica medii aevi (vol. 1, p. 163), that it was John XXIII who provided him to Canterbury. This work will tell you which pope provided to which diocese (re: your Footnote 2), briefly citing the archival evidence. (On Chichele, we are directed to the Registrum ["non strictissime dictum"] of this Summus Pontifex in an unofficial collection described as the Tabularium S. Sedis Lateranense.)

And we find the following entry in the Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Records Office; Henry V., I: A.D. 1413-1416, p. 181:

"1414. March 23. Westminster. Signification to Pope John of the royal assent to the postulation of Master Henry Chiceley, bishop of St. Davids, as archbishop of Canterbury in place of Th. deceased."

Interestingly, we find an entry for June 2 that says that Chichele's successor as bishop of St. David's was then away "on the king's business at the court of Rome" (p. 198). Presumably this does not mean in Rome itself. John XXIII was only able to enter Rome in 1411 (Gregory XII's protector having been persuaded to change allegiance), and he was forced to flee to Florence in May 1413. He would not be in a position to return to Rome again until August 1414. Chichele received his pallium on July 24, 1414: when would there have been an opportunity John XXIII to have placed it on the tomb of St. Peter? Did anti-popes on the run keep a stash of ready-to-wear pallia for such emergencies? (For that matter, what was done during the Avignon period?)

Since there seems never to have been a "Pope John XX", there would be room in the Annuario for the Pisan John to be eventually rehabilitated, under a different number, without prejudice to Papa Roncalli.

S Thorfinn said...

A link to one of the inspiring documents:
Pope Francis moves to Avignon

erick said...

Fr Hunwicke,

Another piece is St. Cyprian's referring to the Church of Rome as the "cathedri Petri, the Principal Church, where sacerdotal unity takes its origin" (Ep 54). Notice that the part which says "where...unity takes its origin" is a further specification from "Principal Church", which is doubtlessly the local Roman ecclesia. Perhaps we can say that the See itself is the source of unity in some sense, where its prelate is the practical outworking of that. I.e., Christ created the "Apsotolic College", which includes the "head" office, and then filled it with persons. The Roman See, thus, is what it is, and then a person comes in and takes up what is already there. Also perhaps, the 5th Council (Cple 553) had Emperor Justinian, together with the Eastern Bishops, suspend the prelate of the Roman See from being recited in the Diptycha of the Eastern divine liturgies, while at the same time noting this: "Let us preserve unity to (ad) the Apostolic See of the most holy Church of ancient Rome, carrying out all things according to the tenor of what has been read. De proposita vero quæstione quod jam promisimus procedat." (Session VII).

Valdemar said...

Absolutely fascinating post and comments. Much uponwhich to mull.

As for the brass or bronze...brass is copper alloyed with zinc, bronze is copper with tin. The latter usually but not always {which is what usually means, I guess} is of a more brownish orange to the yellower brass.

I believe the place is Pensicola. The other I think is an act of back room public house acrobatics common to the SAS and some Royal Marines right before the rum is added.

Valdemar said...

Absolutely fascinating post and comments. Much uponwhich to mull.

As for the brass or bronze...brass is copper alloyed with zinc, bronze is copper with tin. The latter usually but not always {which is what usually means, I guess} is of a more brownish orange to the yellower brass.

I believe the place is Pensicola. The other I think is an act of back room public house acrobatics common to the SAS and some Royal Marines right before the rum is added.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve said...

Benedict XIII was the anti pope who received St Colette and approved her reform of the Poor Clares. She had a great esteem for him. Rather encouraging to think that the saints could be wrong about the real pope.