21 February 2018

Sedevacantism

Readers will be aware that I do not enable any comments which even delicately hint at anything even remotely like Sedevacantism. Even if a Bishop of Rome were personally a heretic, even if, like Pope Honorius I, he actually promoted and propagated heresy, he would still be pope. I have no doubt whatsoever about this. And it is the duty of every Catholic to be in Full Communion with him. Sedevacantism is illogical and unhistorical rubbish.

But I must admit that I have no worked-out solution to the following very hypothetical hypothesis.

Suppose a pope were, additionally, to require of every Catholic explicit assent ex animo to heresy as a necessary condition for Communion with himself, what would be the situation?

I think this is humanly impossible in the current pontificate, because PF likes to operate by creating a mess and being imprecise and trusting to Time being more powerful than Space. It is inconceivable that he would waste the energy which would be needed to be precise enough to specify a heresy in a way that would be juridically watertight. Moreover, he would run the risk of putting himself in danger, and I think he is far too fly an individual to do that. Genuinely, I am asking about something genuinely hypothetical.

I'm not terribly keen on receiving lots of ranting comments, either one way or the other. But I would value sober and sensible materials for a solution to this problem. Especially, historical analogues. Unless you feel that this scenario, like an erroneous ex cathedra definition, is something the Holy Spirit can be relied on simply to prevent.

Does S Athanasius ...

And, yes, poor Dr Doellinger is a terrible warning to us all about the dangers inherent in getting answers to this sort of question wrong ...

31 comments:

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

ABS was lean that if a Pope chose to teach heresy, he'd be at room temperature before he was able to do it.

Vatican 1 infallibly taught that the Holy See would never fail;

or they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren

But, why do we accord certitude to a Church Council over the clear teaching of Our Creator, Lord, and Saviour, Jesus Christ?

St. Vincent of Lerins teaches that the crisis we face is the way that God tests us to see if we love Him.

How can any man leave His Church?

How can any man think the Holy See can teach error when His son promised it never would (He seems like a reliable Divine Person).

Have some courage and wait on the Lord.

Charles said...

From my reading of the 17th-18th century debates about the deposition of a heretical pope, the thesis is continually maintained that the pope would be prevented by the Holy Spirit from promulgating error as something that must be held by divine and Catholic faith. The Thomist view re: deposition of a heretic pope is that in order to lose his jurisdiction, a manifestly heretical pope must be known to be manifestly heretical quoad nos, which is accomplished only by means of a public vitandus declaration given in a very public manner, as in an imperfect council. Sedevacantists are funny, holding as absolutely certain those arguments that the best minds of the past found sketchy or at least as non-demonstrative.

Chris Jones said...

If the comments of a sympathetic non-Catholic may be allowed:

It seems to me that the hypothetical that you describe is logically equivalent to "an erroneous ex cathedra definition." The consequence of an ex cathedra definition is the requirement for full assent (sorry, I forget the technical language for the sort of assent that is called for) to that teaching. And the result of a refusal to assent has to be the loss of communion with the Pope, since the basis for communion in the sacraments is always "full agreement in the faith."

If that is true -- that the hypothetical that you describe is an ex cathedra definition in all but name -- then on Roman Catholic principles it is precisely something that the Holy Spirit can be relied upon to prevent.

Belfry Bat said...

I remember reading, somewhere (I think via l'Abbé Zed), that during WWII a German Kidnapping Plot was intercepted, in response to which Pius XII PP signed a letter instructing that one could kidnap Eugenio Paccelli, but not Pius XII, and any attempt at the latter would result only in the former, and that in such an event the College should hold a Conclave.

I do not suppose this instruction itself still holds juridical force, or whether it has been superseded by a.D. 1983 CIC... but it's an interesting Precedent, which perhaps a President Steward of the Czars Romanov might like to keep in mind.

Not that I think manhandling a Priest (let alone a Bishop... let alone.... et.c.) is advisable, being a Sacrilege at the very least. But it is an interesting precedent...

mark wauck said...

I hope this won't be perceived as a "rant." I'll confine myself for the most part to quoting others, but my overall point is that we need to be very clear about basic principles in this controversy and that, perhaps, the tradition of hyper-ueber-ultramontanism that we have all, willy nilly, inherited still hinders us in our efforts to achieve the necessary clarity. Having said that, the quote that I'm about to offer mirrors a comment that I offered here some months ago, in the form of a question: What happens when a pope ceases to act as a pope, as for example when he refuses to respond to to serious questions about the very basics of the Faith that are posed by serious and responsible authorities?

I found this quote on an EWTN page (I trust that, as of the time I type this, EWTN is not under an interdict). I find it of particular relevance to our current crisis because it was written at a time when the Church was descending into a great crisis that is in a very real sense the father to our current crisis. So:

Cardinal Cajetan points out that the famous axiom "Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia" [Where the Pope is, there is also the Church] holds true only when the Pope acts and behaves as the Pope, because Peter "is subject to the duties of the Office"; otherwise, "neither is the Church in him, nor is he in the Church." (Apud St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 39, Art. 1, ad 6)

THE LIMITATIONS OF PAPAL AUTHORITY TO CHANGE SACRED TRADITION
From the Writings of Roman Catholic Popes, Councils, Saints, and Theologians

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Being careful not to swallow the genetic fallacy while straining out fakes, it is prolly useful to note that Traditio was run by a fake priest:

Subject: Re: ("Fr. M. E.) Morrison (He was then the one who owned/operated the Tradition website)

Body: Hello:

M.E. Morrison was "ordained" in California in a Protestant church (Ebenezer Lutheran Chirch) by Thaddeus Alioto, a married man claiming to be a bishop (because he had been "consecrated" a bishop by Wallace David de Ortega Maxey).

De Ortega Maxey had been "consecrated" numerous times by various North American Old Catholic bishops (whom even the Old Catholic Churches in Europe deny have valid orders). De Ortega Maxey also *claimed* to have been consecrated by Antoine Aneed.

Aneed's story is that he was consecrated a bishop by a RC Eastern Rite bishop in Syria and sent to America. Both the Vatican and the Syrian Patriarchate involved denounced the story as a fabrication.

If you have any doubts over the veracity of my statements as to where Morrison got "ordained," just ask his fellow "independent" priest, Merril Adamson. He was "ordained" in the same ceremony. I've a written statement from him confirming the fact.

This is important not because of anything Morrison states on the internet, but because he dresses up his statements as coming from a RC priest.

Even the devil can quote Scripture.

Anyone e-mailing to Morrison's list a request for the facts of his claimed ordination will be dropped.

It never ceases to amaze me how sedevacantists can be so cock-sure JP II is a fraud, yet swallow hook, line and sinker any number of bogus clerics; just because the frauds sing the music sedes like to hear.

It takes more than "right" preaching to make a priest.

Regards, Terry Boyle

[Mr. Boyle's website is at http://www.tboyle.net/ ]

Anita Moore said...

I agree with the comments of Chris Jones above. I believe the Holy Spirit would intervene in the event a pope set out to do what you propose. He could certainly prevent the crisis from happening in the first place, but He need not. He has not always stepped in to prevent crises of the papacy, like the Great Schism or the apostasy of England; but He will always prevent the destruction of the papacy and therefore of the Church.

If a pope proposes to bind Christians to a heresy as a condition of remaining in communion with him, such an action would be void and Christians would not be bound to obey, since even the pope does not have the authority to command anyone to sin. But even if said hypothetical pope succeeded in actually carrying out such an evil deed, the Holy Spirit’s intervention would not be lacking. He could raise up saints to counter the offensive; or He could move said pope to conversion and public repudiation of his deed; or He could remove him from the scene and replace him with true shepherds. But whatever the Spirit does, He will not allow the Church to tip into the abyss.

Banshee said...

If a pope refuses to comment on doctrinal matters, the Church is not any worse off than if that pope were, say, unconscious and unable to speak up.

Now, obviously the pope in question would have some problems with Da Boss, if he were wilfully being obstructive.

As for the original question, it would seem to be prudent to simply avoid giving assent. This would obviously be easier for laypeople. If the pope wants you to make a declaration in order to receive Communion, you just leave Mass early, until he recovers from his stupidity or the biological solution ensues. Because obviously you aren't properly disposed for Communion if a major doctrinal problem is taking place.

Sometimes you vote with your feet; but sometimes, you just drag your feet.

I don't believe in participating in lose-lose "logical dilemmas." Escaping them is the only way to win. (Well, either that or slugging the proposer, but theoretically slugging a theoretical pope would be a theoretical sin.)

Paul Jaminet said...

I think we have to consider the possibility that the Church's response to the modernist challenge has been confused and littered with mistakes from the get-go -- including Vatican I as well as Vatican II and the Bergoglio papacy.

I don't share your optimism that the PF will not directly challenge Christ, and demand allegiance in the name of the Church to an anti-Christian doctrine. It appears that that is precisely where this is headed, and PF and his allies are only trying to boil the frog slowly, while removing any powerful nodes around which opposition might condense.

Nor do I see why a direct opposition between a Pope and Christ should be considered an impossibility. As Jesus said, "Only God is good," and as a corollary, "Only God is infallible." The Church qua the Mystic Body of Christ is infallible; the Church qua an assortment of humans is not. To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, the line between the former Church and the latter Church runs through every human heart.

I think the Church has also over-invested in the concept of hierarchy. A hierarchical structure is a sparse relationship network that creates too many opportunities for deception and abuse. We should rather seek an institutional structure that is rich in relationships, more transparent and open, with more checks upon sin. When messages had to be hand-carried and travel was limited to a few miles per hour, a sparse hierarchy made sense. It makes sense no longer, and it leads to abuses like the sex abuse scandal.

Very possibly, Divine Providence has raised the PF up as a counter-example to force the Church to reconsider past errors and correct and improve its institutions and dogma. Perhaps out of this will come a true ecumenism which can re-unite faithful Christians. One can hope.

Marco da Vinha said...

Perhaps this is an idiotic question, or perhaps I should already know this, having returned to the Church a little over 10 years ago, but I would like some help with it: what exactly does it mean to be "in communion" with the Pope?

Charles said...

Mark, that quote from Cajetan deals with a Pope who sees himself not as the head of the Church but as the head of a state. My shoddy translation: "But should this happen in the mind of the Pope, if he doesn't want to communicate with the Church as a part, as its head in spiritual matters; but holds himself only as a temporal lord...it is said that the Church is in the Pope when he holds himself as Pope, as the head of the Church. But when he does not want to be held as it's head, neither would the Church be in him, nor would he be in the Church." Nevertheless, he says in the next paragraph that one who reasonably holds a Pope suspect does not incur the crime of schism by disobedience to his orders, even if that disobedience is pertinacious, and further, that there may be no sin at all in disobeying a tyrannical pope.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Fred W. This is prolly not the place to discuss this but, for ABS, the problem is that not only does Bishop Emeritus Ratzinger concede there has been an evolution of dogma but he appears to defend such an evolution by referring to the particular circumstances of different times.

ABS simply asks, is Dogma dependent on the people and their existence in a particular time and place or is Dogma Divine Revelation binding on all irrespective of person, time, and place?

Vatican 1 taught clearly the truth that Divine Evolution can be understood by men with no difficulty. BUT, it must be taught in its entirety rather than developing exhaustive excuses for why modern man can't understand Dogma or St Anselm and, thus, Dogma must evolve and we must rethink Justification etc etc etc.

As to the Joint declaration on Justification how can any Catholic read both and then not understand that declaration and Trent on justification are wildly incompatible?

Finally, when ti comes to Mercy vs Justice (cruelty) the obsession over Mercy necessarily means a teaching of truth that is truncated; we are supposed to Have Faith, not Halve Faith by not teaching about Justice; worse, when Jesus is pitted against Himself vis a vis Justice and Mercy, truth is severely damaged nearly to the point of dissolution.

Marrying Dogma to Evolution only produces bastids and hopeless monsters.

Fr Martin Fox said...

What happens when a pope ceases to act as a pope, as for example when he refuses to respond to to serious questions about the very basics of the Faith that are posed by serious and responsible authorities?

The problem with a question like this comes with the follow-up, which is, "Please specify those things that a pope must do?" The answer, it seems to me, is exactly nothing.

When elected, is the pope obliged to offer Mass? To pray? To preach sermons and issue encyclicals? Nope. A pope could simply hide out in his apartments all day, never saying a thing, and he remains pope. Even if two great factions of the Church came to him with a weighty matter, and demanded he resolve it, he is not obliged to do so. After all, there is no certainty that he would be given divine assistance in order to do.

No, the only thing we profess is that he will be prevented from teaching error in a formal way, fill in familiar qualifications from Vatican I here. As long as he remains silent, inert, he remains infallible.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Back to the question at hand: what to do if, God forbid, "a pope were, additionally, to require of every Catholic explicit assent ex animo to heresy as a necessary condition for Communion with himself"?

My first response is to ask someone to explain how this is distinct from the pope formally teaching error, which is impossible according to the dogma of the Church on papal infallibility? The only way I can see to "get around" Vatican I is to imagine the pope makes such a demand, without actually issuing any dogmatic declaration of any sort. In that case, he would be asking assent to . . . nothing. The faithful, right up to each and every bishop and cardinal, could simply ask, "Your Holiness, please specify the dogmatic statement to which you are asking our assent." If it doesn't exist, then there is nothing to assent to.

That doesn't mean it wouldn't be a terrible mess.

mark wauck said...

Charles, thanks for your comment re the Cajetan quote. To me, Cajetan's thinking remains of interest for at least two reasons. The first is that it's a legitimate question to ask: exactly how does Bergoglio view what we call "the Church" and his role with regard to "the Church?" He has dropped hints from time to time that indicate that his views are other than traditional. Recall--Mueller felt obliged to draw a line re the business of claims that a pope doesn't need a curia, can move his See anywhere he feels like, etc. Perhaps, as Paul Jaminet's commented, "we have to consider the possibility that the Church's response to the modernist challenge has been confused and littered with mistakes from the get-go -- including Vatican I as well as Vatican II and the Bergoglio papacy." And very specifically with regard to the matter of the Roman Curia and its theological status, Fr. Hunwicke has written a number of posts that fit in well with Mueller's correction--for so it was.

The other reason I think the Cajetan quote:

Peter "is subject to the duties of the Office"; otherwise, "neither is the Church in him, nor is he in the Church."

remains important is because of this statement of principle which, if I may rephrase it, is that the Church is the body of Christ--not of Peter. If a pope should decide that his duties--what he owes both to his office and to the Church--are other than what tradition holds, what then? The US Supreme Court has famously stated, and restated, that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." That may not be precedent in Canon Law, but similar considerations surely apply. The good of the Church, as body of Christ, surely must take precedence over the vagaries of any particular bishop of Rome. The Church cannot be held to be defenseless in the face of assaults from within. Unfortunately, for action to be taken we need leaders. I come back to Paul Jaminet's comment re the modernist crisis. Mueller very recently stated in so many words that those who speak of "paradigm change" in the Church are "modernists." I couldn't agree more. "Paradigm change" may be a term of recent provenance, but the reality it describes matches exactly what the modernists have professed from the 19th century to the present.

Contra all the above, Fr. Martin Fox makes the remarkable assertion that there is "exactly nothing" that a pope--and therefore, since a pope is pope by virtue of being a bishop, any bishop--need do. Surely feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, strengthening his brothers must involve something more than "exactly nothing." I can only assume that Fr. Fox is spoofing me, and I've somehow missed the punch line. I remain open to the argument that a refusal to perform the duties of office constitutes a de facto abdication--dependent on the circumstances, of course. But, sadly, that statement of principle--if that's what it is--requires action for a resolution.

Fred W. said...

Hello ABS -

I think you're in the wrong thread... but where does Pope Benedict say that there has been an evolution of dogma ? He said we are facing an evolution of dogma, which is not at all the same as an evolution of dogma has occurred.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Full Disclaimer: I'm Eastern Orthodox so I obviously hold some opinions that most here will not agree with. However if I were a convicted Roman Catholic who was confronted by a Pope where there was compelling evidence that he was at the least what used to be known as a "material heretic" and who was clearly engaging in efforts to subvert the Deposit of the Faith, then my answer would be that you resist. You obey the Pope in all matters not contrary to the faith and in all others you follow the lead of the sainted Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Which is to say you commemorate him at mass, you pray for him ceaselessly, and you ignore him in all matters which are clearly contrary to the Faith including changes in immemorial discipline intended to subvert Catholic Doctrine until he either repents or is called to his judgement.

mark wauck said...

Since our host Fr Hunwicke has invited us to go out on a limb, and having blathered on a bit already, I'll venture an opinion as to a "solution," with the understanding that a theory isn't a solution--a solution requires that action be taken.

To start with, I will adopt everything Fr Hunwicke said in "Aidan Nichols, Amoris laetitia, and Tucho." To wit: there has never been a crisis in the Church quite like this one. We've had heretic popes, we've had schisms, we've had grossly immoral men as bishops of Rome, foolish men and worldly men. But, let me speak plainly, I don't think, even among the heretics, we ever saw any whose whole goal was to, in essence, create a new religion. Who attempted with malice aforethought to utterly undermine the very foundations of Faith (think: 2+2=5?). This is, as Fr Hunwicke stated, unprecedented. In that sense we are in uncharted waters.

With that in mind, I'll nevertheless venture to say that any pope who acts in that way, and who refuses to carry out the basic duties of bishop of Rome--feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, and so forth--ipso facto abdicates. As surely as Benedict did. The problem is that, just as a conclave had to be called and an election held to replace Benedict, concrete steps must now be taken. And the first step is for responsible parties to publicly proclaim the abdication. No doubt chaos would ensue, perhaps the schism that Bergoglio himself has joked about--or maybe he wasn't joking. And yet ... do we wish to be numbered among those who were ashamed of Christ?

To date we've had doubts and corrections. But I think it's come to this: we need a proclamation.

Arthur Gallagher said...

Every person has free will, to do good, or to do evil.

I think that one must distinguish between Sedevacantism, which posits the abeyance of the Papal office, and the historical reality that some person might be a valid Pope, and be deposed, or might be an antipope, or (in theory) loose their office through willful heresy, or be a usurper. A usurper could even be ratified, and a valid Pope could give place to a usurper.

Sedevacantism is wrong, because it holds that there was a failure in the office itself.

We can even have perfectly valid Popes who are not very good, or even pretty bad. Sedevacantists cannot seem to grasp this.

mark wauck said...

Two additional comments:

1) Another way to look at the Bergoglian papacy is from a common legal standpoint. I think it's fair to say that the papacy in a real sense has fiduciary responsibilities toward the Church. I think that's not an unfair reading of what Cajetan had in mind. Vatican I sets out what those responsibilities are as the Church has always believed them to be: to maintain and hand down the deposit of Faith, the Apostolic Tradition. Not to come up with "new stuff." Benedict articulated that understanding, the understanding that the Church has always had, at the beginning of his pontificate. Maybe we should be looking at the Bergoglian ascendancy from the standpoint of false pretenses. In law, one who accepts office under false pretenses--that is, with no intention of carrying out the duties of that office as commonly understood--is subject to impeachment and removal. And that thought leads into my second comment.

2) Most people regard the current crisis, or so it seems to me, as a crisis regarding the papacy or, perhaps, one specific pope. And so it is, to some extent. Cajetan, however, while addressing the papacy, tells us that we should be viewing the whole issue from a more general perspective: that of the Church. IOW, this should really be all about the Church, the good of the Church. Bergoglio, while in Chile, articulated this from his own perspective. In his telling, all he's doing is carrying out the vision of Vatican II--for the Church, of course, not for himself. From his perspective, the council appears to govern the Church, rather than the other way round. And so I think this perspective of ecclesiology is important, lest we make a false step in seeking a solution.

This morning a lengthy piece that makes this point--I think, because I haven't read it--appears at Sandro Magister's blog. It's written by Fr. Thomas Weinandy--another theologian cast into the outer darkness by Bergoglio for embracing and living (!) the Bergoglian ideal of parrhesia. The Four Marks of the Church: The Contemporary Crisis in Ecclesiology. Here's how Fr. Weinandy states his goals in this article:

In this talk I will argue for the above in the following way. First, I will examine, at some length, St. Ignatius of Antioch’s seven letters. Second, I will examine, more briefly, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Each text perceives the Church’s revealed identity within these four defining marks. Lastly, with the aid of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, I will contend that these four defining ecclesial marks are presently at risk. This threat comes not only from within the Catholic theological community, but even and regrettably from within Church leadership. Because of this danger I will conclude by advocating the need to mount a robust defense and clear advocacy of the Church’s four marks. Without such an apology, the Church’s identity – what she truly is – will become disordered, and so will enfeeble her ability to live and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This enfeeblement, then, will also be most visibly enacted within the Eucharistic liturgy which will not only cause scandal but also, and more importantly, demean the Eucharistic liturgy as the supreme enactment of the Church being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Rose Marie said...

With respect, Fr. Martin is not describing reality. Despite papal assurances, there is no such polite dialogue before the ax falls. Just ask the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the formerly Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the former members of the Pontifical Academy of Life, the former John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Müller, Cardinal Sarah, Fr. Allessandro Minutella (under a double excommunication, whatever that is), the three priests at the CDF who were diligently working on disciplining abusive priests, the former members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Prof. Josef Seifert, Fr. Thomas Weinandy, and other theologians who have been fired for speaking the truth, and every bishop and priest now cowering in silence. My sensus fidei fidelium is clanging.

The method at the top is not to teach error directly. The method is to stamp out those who teach or practice the Catholic truth. Thus a crisis of the papacy is avoided but the voices of opposition are systematically silenced.

I do not agree that the pope is not obliged to do anything. Vatican I, in defining papal infallibility, said (as our Reverend host has more than once taught us), "[T]he Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles" Pastor Aeternus, Ch. IV (emphasis added). The Petrine Office imposes a positive duty. Silence in the face of error is not an option. Indeed, it was for failing to combat error that Pope Honorius was posthumously anathematized.

Our Lord Himself commanded Peter, "Confirm your brethern." On this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, let us pray for the Pope and the whole Church.

Woody said...

Dear Fr. Fox, you may wish to consult article 18 of the Chieti Declaration, which seems to imply, if not state outright, on the part of the Roman side as well as the Orthodox, that there has been no true ecumenical council since II Nicea in 787, thus depriving even Vatican I of supreme authority. Just sayin,

Rose Marie said...

I should add to the list of those who have been summarily axed the underground Catholic Church in China. God help them.

Don Camillo SSC said...

Surely there are more things than assent to heresy that a Pope is not entitled to demand as a condition for communion with himself?

RichardT said...

My pious hope is that the Holy Spirit would not permit such a thing as Father suggests.

But my simple lawyer's answer is that we are not obliged to do anything that is impossible.

If we cannot get to Mass, our Sunday obligation is removed for so long as the impossibility lasts. Similarly if it is impossible to remain in communion with the Pope, then our obligation to do so is suspended.

True, Father's theoretical situation presents a moral impossibility rather than a physical one, but it is just as valid. If, having by some accident found ourselves so far from a church on Sunday that we could only attend Mass by stealing a car, we cannot attend Mass. Even were there a car nearby to be stolen, and we knew how to steal it, we are not permitted to do so. The same applies to this situation.

The comment of Don Camillo SSC, above, is good. For example, what if a Mafia leader became Pope, and said that in order to remain in communion with him we must kill one of his business rivals? To do so would be (morally) impossible and so the obligation is suspended.

Of course we have to be certain that it is impossible to fulfill our duty, rather than merely difficult or unpleasant. But if it is genuinely impossible, the duty (whether to attend Mass or to remain in communion with the Pope) does not bind us for so long as that impossibility persists.

rick allen said...

Why leave the question at popes? What if an ecumenical council makes a dogmatic statement I think is heretical? What if, in the fourth century, I genuinely and deeply believed that the homoousian was a seriously heretical departure from the apostolic faith?

The Catholic Church is unlike any other because it claims an infallible magisterium. It claims that there is a divinely sanctioned office capable of resolving dogmatic disputes, and I as a Catholic recognize that the pope's judgment on these matters is more to be trusted than mine.

So to ask what I would do if the pope were heretical assumes that I have the capacity to judge the pope. I don't think I do.

So what do I do when I still judge him wrong? I leave it to the Holy Spirit. Maybe he's right after all. And if he's wrong in matters outside of his charism of infallibility (and I can't think of a pope that didn't at some time make such errors), I trust that they will be corrected in the Lord's good time. I might share my opinion with others, but I'm not going to heap contempt and ridicule on the bishop of Rome.

And if I find I can't follow infallible teaching, that amounts to my denying that the Church does have that power. It amounts to no longer being a Catholic, and I wouldn't be happy finding myself in that position. Though, for what it's worth, it's not a problem for me, since I don't consider that Pope Francis has promulgated heresy, and I'm sure he has zero interest in demanding my assent to anything.

mark wauck said...

rick allen makes an important point. Since we now know beyond any cavil of a doubt that a duly elected pope (I accept for purposes of this comment Fr Hunwicke's stipulation) can launch a conspiracy "to undermine in advance the teaching of future popes. Strangling renascent orthodoxy before it has the chance to be born," we ought to be asking ourselves--with rick allen: Why not an ecumenical council? In this current crisis we have "woke" Catholics who have raised the alarm, voiced dubia, issued corrections, etc. Blogged! But what if ..

What if there has been, or have been, ecumenical council(s) that have put forward theological views that have gained widespread acceptance, perhaps by ambiguity, perhaps by other means? Certainly voices of concern regarding certain documents of Vatican II are being increasingly raised in non-SSPX circles--dare I say, in what were heretofore regarded as impeccably post-Conciliar circles? What then?

rick allen's response to such dubia is Cupichian: "I leave it to the Holy Spirit." If you have doubts, said Cupich to Prof. Rist at Cambridge, examine your conscience--could it be that you no longer believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

My response is: We must rely on our God given resources. Historical study based on sound philosophical principles will lead us to a clear vision of the Apostolic Tradition. I take it that this is largely what this blog is intended to be about.

Don Camillo SSC said...

My point extends to more than possibilities, moral or physical. The Pope's jurisdiction (his authority to make law, to command obedience, as distinct from intellectual assent) is ordinary, universal, and Episcopal. I understand this to mean that he can exercise his Episcopal authority anywhere, in any diocese, in virtue of his office as successor of Peter. But can he do more than any other bishop would be entitled to command? There are definite limits to the authority of a diocesan over the personal lives of the faithful. He cannot tell them in general where they may live, who they must vote for, who they must marry etc. Surely the same must apply to the Pope? And if he made such a command a condition of communion, he would act ultra vires.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Mark Wauck:

Contra all the above, Fr. Martin Fox makes the remarkable assertion that there is "exactly nothing" that a pope--and therefore, since a pope is pope by virtue of being a bishop, any bishop--need do. Surely feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, strengthening his brothers must involve something more than "exactly nothing." I can only assume that Fr. Fox is spoofing me, and I've somehow missed the punch line. I remain open to the argument that a refusal to perform the duties of office constitutes a de facto abdication--dependent on the circumstances, of course. But, sadly, that statement of principle--if that's what it is--requires action for a resolution.

I am not "spoofing" you (although I'm not sure what you mean by that; but I mean you no ill). As I said already, I was simply pointing out the paucity of a job description.

Now, I am speaking broadly of the sorts of things we are accustomed to popes doing. If we are more precise, then I suppose he must do the following, from time to time:

- Accept resignations;
- Name Cardinals;
- Name bishops;
- Appoint leaders to administer various departments;

Likewise, he must delegate his duties as a diocesan bishop to someone.

But what if he did none of these things? We would have mounting problems; yet he would still be pope.

Of course the pope I described would be a bad pope; but a bad pope is still pope.

It's quite possible I'm missing something; this isn't something I think about a lot. Tell me what I'm missing, please?

Rose Marie said...

Fr. Martin Fox, I think you have introduced an element that I had not noticed. We are, in effect, asking two different questions. You say, "'Please specify those things that a pope must do?' The answer, it seems to me, is exactly nothing." But from your explanation, your question really is: is there any duty incumbent on the pope the failure of which would cause him to cease to be pope? You answer "No." In those terms, I would agree with you. But as you actually asked the question, I would answer that the Lord commanded Peter, "Confirm your brothers" and "Feed my sheep." Doing nothing is not an option acceptable to the Lord.

coradcorloquitur said...

The response to the possibility of the Pope formally teaching heresy that we simply leave the whole ugly affair for the Holy Ghost to correct seems to me both stating the obvious (of course the Third Person of the Holy Trinity will correct the savage attacks on the Mystical Body, even from popes) and echoing the pacifism (is it a form of the old quietism?) that appears to counsel abdication of the graces we have received at Confirmation for the defense of the Faith. That approach serves the heretics well for in that way they neuter any resistance from orthodox Catholics (precisely why they counsel it, as does the perfidious Cupich); it has been precisely through that kind of clericalism how they have made the incredible inroads they have since Vatican Council II. It is also a position unworthy of Christians, who have the great Commission of passing on the True Faith for the salvation of the world: if the Catholic Church is nothing more than an oracular cult led by a human oracle (basically a common Protestant slander, and false to the core), then no Christian should or could belong to it. But that is not the Catholic teaching regarding the Church---not from Holy Writ, not from the teachings of the Apostles and the early Fathers, not from Tradition in general, not from reason, not from a sense of common decency. Catholics who maintain such an oracular view of the papacy would do well to consider how they are going to render an account to God of the great gift of reason He has bestowed on most of us and of our duty to spread the True Faith; I suspect that hiding behind the claim of loyalty and obedience to the Holy Father will not suffice. Blind obedience, with the nullification of reason it usually implies, is not worthy of Christians or of any human being--it rather belongs with sectarians such as those who followed Jim Jones to their suicide in the jungles of South America. It serves well, however, the goals of the Cupich types of this world. It is edifying to remember the words of a sage and truly paternal pope like Leo XIII (I believe it was he, but double check): The pope needs neither our lies nor our flattery. At times the most loyal son will have to confront the father rather than shrug his shoulders in resigned but unbecoming acceptance.