Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Pope Cannot be a Heretic; A Heretic Cannot be Pope

The whole premise behind the term “sede vacante”, which means the chair is vacant, is that the Chair of St. Peter, that is the Holy See, is not currently occupied by a Catholic pope, but rather by a usurper, one who does not have a legitimate claim to the papacy, because he is a heretic.

First, we must address a common argument against judging the man who claims to be pope as a heretic. It goes something like this: "The pope has no superior on earth, and can be judged by no one."

This statement as it stands, is absolutely true. So why do sede vacantists believe that they can judge the man who sits on the chair in the Vatican an antipope?


Judging

It is useful, for better assimilation of the current discussion, to read also the article entitled "Judge not, that you may not be judged!".

In St. Matthew's Gospel, when the Lord Jesus Christ says: "Judge not, that you may not be judged," is he in fact telling us to refrain from all judgment? No. All a person needs to do, is read the next four verses.

"For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye,"

So it is obvious that the Lord was prohibiting people from judging hypocritically, that is, of condemning others for sins that we are guilty of ourselves. And how does the Lord finish His thought? With these words: "and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

So he is not telling us to refrain from judging at all. He is merely telling us that we have to accuse, judge and correct ourselves, and then shall we see to judge others. In other words, judging others is not forbidden, judging them hypocritically is.


Type of judgment

There are two types of judgment. Juridical, which comes from authority, also called canonical judgment; and epistemological judgment.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, that is; the study of what we know, and how we know it. Naturally since most sede vacantists are simple lay people, they are not authorized to judge anybody canonically (for the purpose of imposing penalties, etc.), though as we have heard from the mouth of God Incarnate, once we have purified ourselves of our own sins, we shall then see clearly enough to notice and admonish the sins in others.


"Judging the pope?"  Or a man already judged?

Now, we still haven’t solved the problem of "judging the pope". We know that he is judged by no one on earth. This means that when he exercises his authority, there is nobody superior to him on earth and therefore nobody can overturn his decrees.

When we speak of judging someone to be an antipope, there are there are three things to be distinguished;

1) the papal authority
2) the person of the pope
3) the union of the papal authority with the person

The papal authority is from God, yet the union of this authority with the person is made by human election. The papal authority in and of itself can never be judged by any man and neither can any act or decree, which proceeds from this authority.

The person who would be elected pope, however, is indeed judged by his superiors, who constantly promote him from deacon, to priest, to bishop, etc.

When this person has been judged by enough Cardinals to be elected pope, there has been still no judgment of the papal authority, but rather of the person, using the dogmas of faith and morals as a guide in determining that this person is indeed worthy to be united to the papal authority.

But if the person of the pope (or anybody) were to publicly fall into heresy, he would no longer be in the Catholic Church, because it is Catholic dogma that heretics are outside the Catholic Church:

Pope Eugene IV, the Council of Florence, ex cathedra: “It (the Holy Catholic Church) firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council, Session 3, Chapter 3, #8-9: "Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.  Since, then, without faith it is impossible to please God and reach the fellowship of his sons and daughters, it follows that no one can ever achieve justification without it, neither can anyone attain eternal life unless he or she perseveres in it to the end."

Strong and beautiful words from Pope Pius IX, reiterating and confirming the infallible decree of Pope Eugene IV, but from the other side, professing what is necessary to be counted among the sons and daughters of God, namely the divine and Catholic Faith (and not to reject any point thereof). People who do so are to be avoided, as testified by the constant Tradition of the Church, teachings of both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium and even Scripture. In the Epistle to Titus, St. Paul admonishes the faithful as follows: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: Knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.”

Pope Vigilius Second Council of Constantinople, ex cathedra: “…we bear in mind what was promised about the holy church and him who said that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (by these we understand the death-dealing tongues of heretics)…”

Pope Vigilius, Second Council of Constantinople, ex cathedra: "And about that claim of the Apostle: Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed. As we said earlier, I repeat once more: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, let him be accursed.  Since the Lord declares that the person is judged already, and the Apostle curses even the angels if they instruct in anything different from what we have preached, how is it possible even for the most presumptuous to assert that these condemnations apply only to those who are still alive? Are they unaware, or rather pretending to be unaware, that to be judged anathematized is just the same as to be separated from God? The heretic, even though he has not been condemned formally by any individual, in reality brings anathema on himself, having cut himself off from the way of truth by his heresy. What reply can such people make to the Apostle when he writes: As for someone who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned."


Therefore when a person who appears to be pope has fallen into heresy, he has condemned himself, he has judged himself, he is no longer Catholic, and therefore is no longer personally worthy or able to be united to the papal authority. It is by Divine Law that a lawfully appointed Pontiff is successor to St. Peter in the primacy over the Church, just as it is by Divine Law that a heretic, schismatic, or any apostate from the faith, ceases to be Catholic, and is therefore ejected from the Church. Non-Catholics are not eligible as candidates for the papacy, and this is why if a pope should fall into heresy, he can no longer be pope. We do not pronounce a sentence upon him, but rather recognize that which he pronounces upon himself.

It is the only possible position to hold, otherwise we would have to say that if a pope could be a heretic and remain pope, then St. Paul admonished the body of Christ to avoid its own head, but that is ridiculous. No, his teaching shows the truth that if the person who is the head of the body of Christ should fall into heresy, he loses his headship, and must be avoided.

This is undeniably a reasonable and sound argument.


Another objection

But there is a common objection that runs as follows: "Peter denied the Lord, which is the gravest crime of heresy, even apostasy, so he cannot have been a pope!"  But there are two reasons why this objection is invalid:

1) The papal discipline of Pope Paul IV was not yet decreed, and
2) St. Peter was not yet pope.

The first problem is obvious, since St. Peter's papacy was in the first century of the Catholic age, whereas Pope Paul IV lived 15 centuries later.

The second reason is proved easily enough from the historical record from Scripture itself:

St. Matthew 16:18-20: "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.  Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ."

When Christ and the Apostles came into Caesarea Philippi, St. Peter is not then made the head of the Church, but Christ merely promises that He will build the Church upon him.  A few things are clear form the text of the Gospel of St. Matthew 16:18-20.

1)  Christ says "I will build my church", and "whatsoever thou shalt bind", both in future tense.
2)  He commanded his disciples that they should NOT tell anyone that He was the Christ.

It is clear that at this point, Peter was not a pope, since the pope is the Vicar of Our Lord in Heaven, and it is his duty to preach that Jesus is the Christ.

St. Luke 22:32-33: "And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. Who said to him: Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.  And he said: I say to thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, till thou thrice deniest that thou knowest me."

Obviously Christ knew that St. Peter's faith would fail.  Does this mean that His prayer was ineffective?  God forbid!  But He in order to humble St. Peter, He permitted him to fall into apostasy by His own weakness before he would be later converted to God and strengthened by the Holy Ghost.

It was not until after Christ's resurrection that St. Peter was given the commission that Christ had promised him.

St. John 21:14-19: "This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead.  When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.  He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.  He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?

Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him:Feed my sheep.  Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not.  And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me. "

This is undeniably the event that Jesus foretold in St. Luke 22:32 (being thou converted).


Not all public sinners lose the faith or lose office

There must be a distinction made between a heretic and a public sinner against morality.  Heresy involves explicitly speaking contrary to the Catholic religion, while public sinners who are not heretics do not teach that their sins are okay.  They do give scandal by a bad example, and are no less worthy of damnation, but they retain their Catholicity and authority.  That we may know this is true, The Roman Pontiff has condemned the following proposition of the heretic John Hus:

Pope Martin V, Council of Constance, ex cathedra: "If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy church militant since he is not even a member of it." - Condemned

Of course, even in such cases, it is lawful to rebuke the sins of a superior (even the pope), in the hope that he will amend and save his own soul.

St. Catherine of Siena, Letter to Pope Gregory IX, AD 1376: "Alas, Most Holy Father! At times obedience to you leads to eternal damnation.”

In conclusion, yes it is unlawful to judge the pope's private actions for the purpose of penalizing him, or to judge or rebel against any of his legitimate authoritative papal acts, but once he has condemned himself by his own judgment, by publicly manifesting a heretical belief, he is not showing himself to be no longer Catholic and not the pope and those who recognize this fact are not breaking the law by judging him to be an antipope; they are obeying the law by judging and avoiding a heretic who has fallen from his dignity and placed himself outside the Church by his own perverse opinions.


Finally, here is the most relevant proof from the Magisterium:

Bull of Pope Paul IV, Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio, (#2): "In respect of each and every sentence of excommunication, suspension, interdict and privation and any other sentences, censures and penalties against heretics or schismatics, enforced and promulgated in any way whatsoever by any of Our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs [...] Thus We will and decree that the aforementioned sentences, censures and penalties be incurred without exception by all members of the following categories:

[...]

(ii) Anysoever who (which may God, in His clemency and goodness to all, deign to avert) shall in the future so deviate or fall into heresy, or incur schism, or shall provoke or commit either or both of these. (iii) Anysoever who shall be detected to have so deviated, fallen, incurred, provoked or committed, or who shall confess to have done any of these things, or who shall be convicted of having done any of these things"


Note that Dictionary.com gives the definition of "soever" as follows:

soever
-adverb
at all; in any case; of any kind; in any way (used with generalizing force after who, what, when, where, how, any, all, etc.)

So based on his wording, he cannot be said to be making exceptions for anyone at all, not even the Roman Pontiff. And indeed, not only did he say "that the aforementioned sentences, censures and penalties be incurred without exception by all members of the following categories", but the very purpose of his Bull was as follows:

(#1) "In assessing Our duty and the situation now prevailing, We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this kind [i.e. error in respect of the Faith] is so grave and so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff,who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fulness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith [...] and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place."


So even the Pontiff who should show himself to be heretical in any public and knowable capacity, or has even PROVOKED heresy or schism, has met the above conditions and is excommunicated from the Church.


Sermon of Pope Innocent III: “Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy; because he who does not believe is already judged.”




Update: A provocation of heresy can only invalidate the election of a man who provoked heresy, without actually teaching it, if he did so before his alleged election, since  a pope is not bound by disciplinary teachings of the Church (i.e. a pope is above Canon Law).




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