7 January 2022

Fr Aidan Nichols on heretical popes

On August 18, 2017, Dan Hitchens published news in the Catholic Herald about a paper read by the Dominican, Oxford and Cambridge, theologian, Fr Aidan Nichols. 

Fr Aidan publishes a lot; his connection with us goes back to the years long before the Ordinariate when he devoted enormous amounts of time and care to helping us as we worked towards what finally came to fruition in the Ordinariate. He is a major theological heavyweight.

Back in 2017, we were all coming to terms with Amoris laetitia, PF's first major encouragement of heresy and incitement to sexual immorality. Aidan's paper entered into those topics ("an extremely grave situation") . 

Today, however, I'm planning to give a new airing to his more general remarks. Sadly, the full text of the paper is not available; after the Hitchens report, Aidan appears to have been forbidden to share it further. 

In Easter Week, 2019, he broke silence to the extent of signing the Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church; in 2020, he was sent to teach in the seminary in Jamaica (seven seminarians!).

Fr Nichols said that neither the Western nor Eastern Codes of Canon Law contain a procedure "for enquiry into the case of a pope believed to have taught doctrinal error, much less is there provision for a trial." He remarked that the tradition of canon law is that "the first see is judged by no-one". But the First Vatican Council had restricted the doctrine of papal infallibility, so that "it is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church that a pope is incapable of leading people astray by false teaching as a public doctor. He may be the supreme appeal judge of Christendom ... but that does not make him immune to perpetrating doctrinal howlers. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly given the piety that has surrounded the figures of the popes since the pontificate of Pius IX, this fact appears to be unknown to to many who ought to know better." Given the limits on papal infallibility, Aidan remarked, canon law might be able to accommodate a formal procedure for inquiring into whether a pope had taught error ... "a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error."

He said that the judicial process would "dissuade popes from any tendency to doctrinal waywardness or simple negligence", and would answer some "ecumenical anxieties" of Anglicans, Orthodox, and others who fear that the pope has carte blanche to impose any teaching. "Indeed, it may be that the present crisis of the Roman Magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of primacy in this regard."

He thought that this procedure might be less "conflictual" if it took place during a future pontificate, rather as Pope Honorius was only condemned after he had ceased to occupy the chair of Peter.


armyarty said...

A Pope is either pope, or he is no pope at all. If he is a heretic, he has already deposed himself. No administrative process applies. Anyone deposing him will need to justify that action, and it is either history, or the common consent of the faithful by whom the deposition will be judged.

Popes can be, and have been corrected and even admonished.

Popes have free will, and can do wrong like any other man. Nobody is obliged to just sit on their hands as someone like Jorge from Argentina leads people to hell.

I believe that the current occupant of the Throne of St. Peter (i.e.- "Francis" will be judged by historians as a usurper, and will be remembered as one of the worst popes ever. I also believe that it is going to happen about 15 minutes after they shut the lid on his coffin.

He will be denounced as Stalin was by Nikita Kruschev, and just about everyone will agree.

In the meantime, pay as little attention to him as possible.

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for Father Aiden! And, his suggestion that this crisis is our Lord's providential gift to point up the true limits of the papal office is exactly to my way of thinking.

Indeed, I have been pondering how ironic (or mendacious) it is that, just when Vatican I gave us an actual definition of papal infallibility that made me like S John Henry Newman breathe a sigh of relief, the Ultramontaniat party used the "spirit" of Vatican I in a rearguard action to perpetrate their hyperpapalism!

It was a dress rehearsal for things to come.

Again, three cheers for Father Aiden Nichols!

Albertus said...

Precisely so!

Matthew F Kluk said...

Dear Father: Thank you for sharing Father Aidan Nichols' work today. Very appropriate, very timely, and in this season of Epiphany, enlightening. Words to give hope. Thank you.

Matthew F Kluk said...

Armyarty, I believe you are right. And I hope we will laugh when some of the enablers, sycophants and minions who currently do the will of Pope Francis scramble to reinvent themselves seeking place in the Curia or hierarchy, modern Vicars of Bray. Hopefully they'll be cast into the outer darkness.

PM said...

It would be even more ironic if the wholesale rewriting of the liturgy by Bugnini's committee turned out to be the high point of Ultramontane hyperpapalism. No pope could get away with such a sweeping top-down change now.

Stephen said...

So what are the limits, then, to "Supreme, immediate and universal" to the Pope's power, as stated by Vatican I in Pastor Aeternus? And who gets to decide, if not the Pope? The so-called limits of Vatican I don't seem very limiting

pueblosw@gmail.com said...

Side note: In the history of Popes, I have noted that all of whom I am aware that led lives of questionable moral rectitude (Alexander VI always comes first to mind) seem to have been quite orthodox in their theology. The matter of heresy seems to arise from actions that touch on the political or internal matters that displease certain elements. Could it be that some who have attained this high office have lost sight of the reason there are such things as immutable traditions?

Ed the Roman said...

>> Hopefully they'll be cast into the outer darkness.

Hopefully they will repent, unless you mean political outer darkness. That, I'm fine with.

dunstan said...

Fr Aidan continues to write on this theme from his island exile. The latest edition of New Blackfriars contains a review by him of a book about the 'nouvelle theologie' in which he calls for a ' new criteriology' in the interpretation of the Council concluding, 'There was once a pope who sought to provide it.' Let the reader understand!

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Stephen, read the Relatio.


armyarty said...

Since laws are the product of reason, and since an unjust law is not a true law (per Aquinas,) and since neccessity is a defense to any violation of the law, it is obvious that much of what Jorge gets up to is not really binding.

Including trying to force his own employees to take a vaccine based on aborted fetal tissue.

Stephen said...

Is that on the Vatican's website? If not, where can I access it

Banshee said...

Even though Jamaica is so poor, and so prone to natural disasters, I still think that it's a pretty awesome place to be sent. And Jamaicans can be very kind.

Also, I suspect those seminarians are getting very thoroughly taught! Holy cow, what a joy to be able to work closely with a great scholar and good man, instead of being lost in a large class of strangers!

So yeah, he was sent to a mission country that needed him. What is meant for evil by someone can be turned by God into good.

Moritz Gruber said...

Dear @armyarty,

the latter part is wrong. Some Covid-vaccines, and these the more popular and generally held to be better ones, are not based on aborted fetal tissue.

There is a difference between being based on that (which indeed *some* of them, such as AZ if I recall correctly, *are*) and "well, *after* they were developed, we ran the tests we generally do and as we developers don't have a problem with abortion, some of the tests involved aborted fetal tissue; but the vaccines do not, and their development does not". This is not a technicality; it is morally a difference as between day and night: If it hadn't happened, the vaccines would still be there.

Todd said...

I don't think the V1 Relatio is online. I found it in "The Gift of Infallibility" published by Ignatius Press.