The Agony of Aggiornamento (dec14agg.htm)

Ember Wednesday
December 14, 2005
vol 16, no. 318

Opposing the Sedevacantist Enterprise

by Christopher Ferrara

Editor's Note: Just as we did for his First Part run in our October 3 issue, we provide Christopher Ferrara's article as it appeared on the listed sources below and we have not included any emphasis or embellishments in order to be totally fair in the presentation per se.

  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • Part Three
  • Part Four

    Part 2 ------- "Manifest" Heresy of the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Popes

    Summary of Part 1

           In the first part of this essay I discussed the patent absurdity of the sedevacantist thesis-----i.e., that there has been no valid Pope since 1958 because the last five occupants of the See of Peter have all been guilty of "manifest heresy" which caused them to lose, or precluded them from  receiving the papal office. I showed how this claim contradicts the infallible teaching of Vatican I that the Petrine succession is perpetual and that an unbroken chain of the successors of Peter will rule the Church as its visible head and foundation until the end of time.

           Hence, even when anti-popes, laid claim to the papal throne, as during the Great Western Schism, a true Pope always reigned at the same time. Allowing for interregnums between the death of one Pope and the election of his successor (the longest interregnum in Church history having been just over two years) the Church has never been without a validly elected true successor of Peter, even when an anti-pope was also on the scene.

           Yet the sedevacantists argue that the Church has been at the mercy of five successive anti-popes since 1958 with no true Pope reigning anywhere for the past half-century, and that there is no end in sight to the train of anti-popes. 25 In essence, they argue that the papacy has been overthrown.

           The sedevacantists further argue that not only the last five Popes, but virtually all the cardinals and bishops of the Catholic Church are impostors because of "heresy," or because the new rites of priestly ordination and episcopal consecration adopted in 1969 are "invalid." Thus, in their view, virtually the entire hierarchy has ceased to exist since Vatican II. Under the conditions they imagine to exist, only a miracle would allow a true Pope to be validly elected in the future and true bishops to be consecrated.

           In sum, according to the sedevacantist Enterprise, the papacy and the governing hierarchy have vanished, and we have no way of knowing when they will return. The spokesmen of the Enterprise would have us believe that all that is left of the "true Church" is a scattered remnant of bickering sedevacantists, whose clerics challenge the validity of each other's ordinations and episcopal consecrations. 26 (The rest of us are viewed as either "apostates" or "tolerantly" conceded to remain in the "true Church" if we have not been culpable in our failure "to understand the situation.") This notion is plainly
    contrary to the promises of Christ that He would be with His Church until the end of time, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. The theory of the vanishing Pope and hierarchy does not merit serious consideration by any Catholic. Some propositions are simply preposterous on their face, no matter how "logical" the arguments adduced in their favor.

           Nevertheless, the sedevacantist Enterprise is misleading a growing number of Catholics with seemingly plausible arguments and piles of "documentation." The Enterprise's own logic has led to true and proper schism with the consecration of sedevacantist bishops and even the election of "Popes." Thus, the merits of the Enterprise's arguments must be addressed in some detail for the safety of souls, even if the sedevacantist thesis is untenable-----and obviously so, to the entire Church.

    A Procedural Failure

           As noted in Part I, the primary sedevacantist argument is that the conciliar and postconciliar Popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) cannot be true Popes because of their "manifest heresy." The sedevacantists here attempt to apply the theological proposition taught by St. Robert Bellarmine (which one could hardly dispute in the abstract) that if a Pope were to become a manifest heretic-----that is, if he openly and pertinaciously (obstinately) denied an article of Divine and Catholic faith, such as the Trinity-----he would by that very fact cease to be Pope because his heresy would automatically exclude him from membership in the Catholic Church.

           There is an insuperable practical problem with this logic, however. As observed by the Abb
    é de Nantes, who famously accused both Paul VI and John Paul II of heresy in his libers of accusation:

           "Such reasoning, however excellent it may be in theory, does not take into account the psychological and sociological aspects of the situation . . . [S]uch a solution is inapplicable in practice . . . To admit the idea of the automatic deposition of the Pope on account of heresy would entail two possible consequences, the one disastrous and the other absurd. Either we should be left without any possibility at all of ridding ourselves of such a Pope, because the masses would continue to follow him regardless, or else any Tom, Dick or Harry who happened to have some grievance against the Pope could declare, on any grounds whatsoever, and claiming for himself the justification of St. Robert Bellarmine, that the Pope was a heretic and deposed on this account!" 27

           For this reason, as de Nantes notes, Cajetan, John of St. Thomas and other theologians held that a heretical Pope must, by some procedure, be deemed deposed by the Church so that her members would have juridical certainty as to the Pope's status. A general council could do this, Cajetan theorized, without claiming to exercise authority over the Pope as opposed to merely presenting the evidence of manifest heresy, which the Pope could rebut if he chose.

           Likewise, St. Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, following St. Antoninus, held that if a Pope were to fall into heresy "a resourceful Divine Providence would have a solution at hand through an ecumenical council." 28 Indeed, it was the Council of Constance, convened by anti-Pope John XXIII, that resolved the Great Western Schism by obtaining the resignation of John XXIII himself, rival anti-Pope Benedict XIII and the true Pope, Gregory XII, declaring the deposition of all three rival claimants to the papal throne and electing Pope Martin V as the next Pope. What else could the Church have done? The Council of Constance was "a desperate measure but the only remedy for such a confused situation." 29

          The eminent pre-conciliar Jesuit theologian, Fr. Joaquin Salaverri, pointed out in a tract on this subject that "theologians admit that a General Council can lawfully declare a Pope to be heretical, if this defection be possible; but it cannot authoritatively depose him, seeing that a Pope is superior to the Council." 30 In that case, as St. Alphonsus observes, the Pope "cannot then be deprived of authority by the Council as by one superior to a Pope, but would be immediately deprived of authority by Christ, assuming the presence of the conditions required for the deposition." 31 The function of the Council would merely be to provide juridical certainty for the Church.

           Indeed, both the 1917 and 1983 Codes of Canon Law provide that no one may insist that an ecclesiastical office has been lost due to heresy unless this has been established by a declaration of the competent authority. 32 Not even a parish priest can be deemed by isolated members of the Church to have fallen from office on account of heresy. Since no one is the competent authority over a Pope, the device of an ecumenical council is the only conceivable way for "the Church" at least to declare that an allegedly heretical Pope is such.

           The Abbé de Nantes also noted the historical example of the "Libellus fidei" addressed by Pope Adrian II to the Eighth Council of Constantinople, which post-humously condemned Pope Honorius for his role in the spread of the Monthelite heresy. In that libellus, Adrian "reminds the faithful, in connection with Honorius, that they have the right to resist a Pope who errs against the Faith and to refuse the directives of superiors who are in heresy." He adds "that even in such a case, no patriarch or bishop would have any right to pass a sentence (of anathema) except with the consent of the Sovereign Pontiff himself. 'Cuipiam de eo quamlibet fas fuerit proferendum sententiam, nisi ejusdem primae sedis pontificis consensus praecessisset auctoritas'."

           Based on this historical precedent, de Nantes presented his libers of accusation for the judgment of the Popes against themselves (or perhaps the judgment of a future Pope against his predecessors), or else their recantation. Meanwhile, de Nantes has steadfastly refused to conclude that the accused Popes are guilty, being merely the accuser and not the judge, and he has vehemently opposed the sedevacantists in their private judgment of papal heresy.

           Whether the device of a councilor papal self-judgment is involved, it is clear that the "Tom, Dick and Harry" solution of the sedevacantist Enterprise is unworkable and absurd, just as de Nantes says. The views of random members of the Church as to what constitutes "manifest" papal heresy are utterly worthless, and this fact is procedurally fatal to the sedevacantist Enterprise.

    Manifest Heresy?

    Putting aside this fatal problem, let us address the sedevacantists' claims of "manifest" papal heresy, lest anyone be persuaded of their incredible contention that the last five Popes have been heretical impostors.

           We must stress at the outset that we are speaking here of the canonical crime of heresy, by which a cleric would lose his office due to the sin of denying an article of Divine and Catholic faith. There is, however, a sin of heresy in the broader sense, which is committed if one willfully "rejects Divinely revealed truths not defined as such by the Church." 33 Thus, it may have been (only God knows) that the 14th Century Pope John XXII committed the broader sin of heresy when (as I showed in Part I) he insisted that the blessed departed do not enjoy the Beatific Vision until the Last Judgment. But the Pope could not have lost his office for the canonical crime of heresy, as the immediacy of the Beatific Vision had not yet been infallibly defined by the Church. John XXII was thus not guilty of "manifest heresy" in the criminal canonical sense that matters here.

           It is important to note that the sedevacantists themselves insist upon this point. For example, in replying to Part I of this series, sedevacantist spokesman Fr. Anthony Cekada argued: "the doctrine on the Beatific Vision had not yet been defined, so a denial of it would not constitute heresy." 34 We shall hold the sedevacantists to the same standard of judgment with respect to the five Popes they accuse of "manifest heresy" concerning matters which have likewise not been infallibly defined, such as the right and duty of the State to repress public manifestations of religious error.

    The sedevacantist claim of manifest "heresy" fails on many grounds. Oddly enough, some of these grounds are summarized by one of the leading sedevacantist web sites, which in a thoughtful and well-written discussion warns against "pitfalls to be avoided" in concluding that the last five Popes are "manifest" heretics:

    Pitfalls to be avoided:

           ". . . Giving the name 'heresy' to an error which is opposed to a doctrine taught by the Church, but not as having to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, or which does not certainly belong in this category;
    ". . . Giving the name 'heresy' to an error which is opposed to a doctrine to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, where the opposition is not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning: in such cases the qualification 'heresy' is not applicable before a definitive judgment on the part of the Church;
    " . . . Affirming that pertinacity is present when other explanations could reasonably be supposed."
    (all emphasis added) 35

           The same web site also cautions: "It is obligatory to incline, out of charity, as far as is reasonably possible, in favor of a suspect, and to reach the conclusion that anyone is a heretic only as a last resort."

           These points------enunciated by sedevacantists themselves-----establish that in order to convict a Pope of "heresy': (1) the allegedly heretical proposition must be manifestly heretical "-----i.e., it must patently contradict a Catholic teaching that certainly belongs to the category of doctrines to be held by Divine and Catholic faith (e.g., the Immaculate Conception or the Holy Trinity), rather than just any teaching of the Church; (2) assuming the existence of some patently heretical statement, the pertinacity (obstinacy) required for the offense of heresy should not be supposed to exist if other reasonable explanations are possible; and (3) the conclusion that the Pope is a true and proper heretic who has lost his office is a last resort.

           Let us now demonstrate how the sedevacantist thesis violates each of these criteria.

    1. The alleged papal "heresies" are not manifest.

    The dictionary defines "manifest" as "clearly apparent to the sight or understanding; obvious." 36 Now, Fr. Cekada (replying to Part I)-----argues that "manifest heresy" means merely that the allegedly heretical statement is made openly, not that its heretical content is manifest, although he cites no direct authority for this claim. Indeed, here he contradicts his fellow sedevacantist spokesman, quoted above, who insists that the heretical content must be "direct and manifest" and that "not depend" on several steps of reasoning." 37

           Here Fr. Cekada appears to conflate the requirement that a heresy be "notorious" 38 -----i.e. openly expressed and known to the Church, as opposed to a heresy harbored "secretly -----with the requirement that it also be clear heresy. The only reasonable interpretation of "manifest" in this context is one that denotes both notoriousness and clarity. Otherwise, the door would be thrown open to heresy hunters throughout the Church, who would claim to detect heresy in every ambiguous public statement of a Pope and declare that the Pope had lost his office -----which, in fact, is essentially what the Enterprise does. Thus, in his own debate with Fr. Cekada, the theologian Fr. Brian Harrison rightly pointed out that in addition to being open (notorious) the alleged "manifest" heresy must "clearly and directly contradict a truth of 'Divine and Catholic faith,' i.e., a dogma." 39 Again, Fr. Cekada's own fellow sedevacantist agrees with the principle, as shown above. And indeed, how could it be otherwise, as the judgments of isolated members of the Church that ambiguous statements are "heresy" would mean nothing.

           This fuller understanding of the word "manifest" accords with the usage of St. Robert Bellarmine in his observation that "A Pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be Pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church." 40 Bellarmine used the Latin word "manifestum" (papam haereticum manifestum), which denotes not merely "open" or "public," but "plainly guilty," "plainly apprehensible by the mind, evident, obvious," "revealed by clear signs, unmistakable, undoubted." Hence we shall use the term "manifest heresy" in the same sense that even Fr. Cekada's fellow sedevacantist recognizes concerning the canonical crime of heresy and consequent automatic loss of office: that is, a heresy that is manifest both in terms of its openness, and its heretical content.

           Now, that which is manifest-----i.e., plain, evident, obvious, unmistakable and undoubted-----requires no explanation. The very quality of not needing to be explained is what makes a thing manifest. Thus, before the Enterprise can even get to first base, it must show us not merely papal statements made openly, but statements whose alleged heresy requires no explanation to demonstrate. The papal words themselves-----not sedevacantist interpretations of those words-----must denote heresy.

           If a Pope were to proclaim to the whole Church in some document or public pronouncement "There is no Holy Trinity. There is only God the Creator, just as the Muslims believe!" his heresy would be manifest in the full and correct sense of the word. That is, it would not merely be an open or notorious statement, but also a clearly and indubitably heretical one. For the Pope would have publicly denied the existence of the Trinity, which is an article of Divine and Catholic faith, and the denial would require no explanation for us to see that it constitutes a heresy. The papal statement would speak for itself. All that would remain would be a determination of whether the Pope had uttered this heresy pertinaciously, i.e., knowing that he was contradicting the Faith and refusing to recant it (see discussion below), or whether the statement was rather the product of insanity, coercion (a threat on his life, for example) or some other motive short of pertinacious heresy. But, as we shall see, we're not dealing with such statements here.

    Sister Lucy Was No Sedevacantist

           As suggested in Part I, however, despite their prodigious output on the subject, the polemicists of the Enterprise have yet to identify a single papal statement since the election of John XXIII that qualifies as a manifest denial of an article of Divine and Catholic faith. They can certainly show statements of an ambiguous character in the teaching of Vatican II and the conciliar and post-Conciliar Popes, and even some statements-----never actually imposed upon the faithful-----that arguably "savor" of heresy or could be considered (under some interpretations) proximate to heresy. And, as already noted, even if the sedevacantists could show clearly heretical statements pertaining to matters not yet defined infallibly by the Church, such statements would not, as the sedevacantists themselves concede, satisfy the definition of "manifest heresy" in question here, although the sin of heresy (versus the narrower canonical crime of heresy) might be involved. (I hasten to remind the reader that, as I showed in Part I, Catholics would have every right to question and even oppose such statements, as did Catholics in the case of the erring Pope John XXII, for example.)

           Sister Lucy of Fatima clearly believed that the current ecclesial crisis arose precisely from the spread of ambiguous teaching which, while not strictly heretical, reflects what she called "diabolical disorientation" in the Church. Never, however , did Sister Lucy declare that the victims of this disorientation, much less the Pope himself, were canonical criminals who had fallen from office.

           Certainly we must resist this disorientation, just as the laity and a few faithful bishops, including St. Athanasius and St. Basil, resisted the disorientation of nearly the entire hierarchy during the Arian crisis of the 4th Century. It is important to note, however, that the members of the Church who resisted the Arian crisis did not declare that Pope Liberius, who signed a semi-Arian formula and approved the unjust "excommunication" of St. Athanasius, lost his office due to heresy, along with all the other Arian or semi-Arian hierarchs. Yet- Arianism, unlike the ambiguities which confront us today, was a definite heresy. Here the history of the Church shows us how members of the hierarchy, including the Pope, can be deceived or disoriented by an outright heresy without thereby losing their offices.

           It is most telling that Sister Lucy urged us to pray for the Holy Father, who, as Our Lady of Fatima warned, would have to "much to suffer" if the Consecration of Russia were not carried out. She did not say. "the Holy Father will fall from office." Yet the Popes have not been immune from the diabolical disorientation in the Church, even if, at critical times (such as John Paul II's infallible pronouncement against women's ordination) they have defended the deposit of the Faith.

           Indeed, it is precisely the current state of confusion in the Church, marked by problematical ambiguities even in certain papal statements, which precludes application of the definition of "manifest" heresy followed by the sedevacantists themselves, as discussed above, That is, the alleged opposition of certain statements of the accused Popes and other hierarchs to Divine and Catholic faith is "not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning . . ." or else the alleged "heresy" involves a Catholic teaching that "does not certainly belong in this category"-----that is, the category of truths to be held with Divine and Catholic faith. Let us now examine some examples of the Enterprise's failed attempts to find papal statements that qualify as "manifest" heresy.

    A. The "Subsistent Superchurch Heresy"

           I will first consider the argument by which the Enterprise conveniently sweeps Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and virtually the entire hierarchy into the category of "manifest heretic." The argument consists of the following syllogism: Major Premise: The documents of Vatican II contain manifest heresies. Minor Premise: Paul VI, the Council Fathers, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and virtually all the bishops and cardinals have either officially promulgated the Vatican II documents or since accepted them as valid. Conclusion: The said ecclesiastics are all manifest heretics who have, in consequence, lost their offices due to heresy. It is easy to demonstrate that the major premise is false, or, at the very least, highly debatable, and that, accordingly, the entire syllogistic  argument based on manifest heresy collapses.

           A recent debate in The Remnant between a sedevacantist priest, Fr. Anthony Cekada, and Fr. Brian Harrison, a theology professor at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico, is illustrative of this failure. Challenged by Fr. Harrison to provide evidence of "manifest" papal heresy in the  teaching of the recent Popes, Fr. Cekada, presumably taking his best shot, cited as one of two examples "Vatican II's, Ratzinger's and John Paul II's 'Subsistent Superchurch' heresy . . ." 41 But instead of simply quoting the obvious "heresy" to be found in the "Subsistent Superchurch heresy," Fr. Cekada merely referred the Remnant's readers to "analysis" in articles by other sedevacantist priests, without quoting a single word from the Vatican II documents. Small wonder. That the "Subsistent Superchurch heresy" requires "analysis" to demonstrate its allegedly heretical content is precisely what takes it out of the category of manifest heresy. A simple quotation of the alleged heresy would not suffice to make the case.

           What Fr. Cekada calls the "Subsistent Superchurch heresy" is a reference to the statement of Vatican II in Lumen Gentium 8, that the one Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church, as opposed to the traditional formulation, expressed by Pius XII in Mystici Corporis, 42 that the Church of Christ simply is the Catholic Church. Fr. Cekada, without the least explanation, asserts that the teaching of Vatican II, Cardinal Ratzinger and John Paul II on this point "denies [the dogma] that 'no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church' . . ." 43

           I do not defend the use of the ambiguous term "subsists in," which could be interpreted in an unorthodox sense to suggest that while the Church of Christ "subsists" in the Catholic Church, it might also exist in some form elsewhere. It is precisely the use of such ambiguous terminology which has made Vatican II such a huge problem for the Church. But while it would have been better for the Council to have said simply that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, as did Pius XII, in context Lumen Gentium's use of "subsists in" is not a "manifest" heresy, even if the term is problematical:
      "This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Savior, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as 'the pillar and mainstay of the truth.' This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity."
           First of all, the term "subsists in" appears to involve an imprecision that is not theological but metaphysical: it makes no sense to say that one thing subsists in another. Rather, a thing simply subsists as that thing: the Catholic Church subsists (exists) as the Catholic Church, just as a particular man or a car subsists (exists) as that man or a car. One would never say that Mr. Smith subsists in the man who lives at 124 Maple Street; one would say that Mr. Smith is the man who lives there. In fact, defenders of "subsist in" insist that it really means only "is"-----i.e. that "the one Church of Christ . . . is the Catholic Church," but their insistence has not cured the ambiguity.

           Nevertheless, the quoted passage hardly constitutes a manifest denial, of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. On the contrary, while the Council asserts that "elements of sanctification . . ." exist outside the "visible structure" of the Catholic Church, it also asserts that these elements belong to the Church of Christ and that they impel toward Catholic unity.

           This is certainly true, for example, with infant Baptisms performed outside the visible structure of the Catholic Church by Protestant ministers, which Baptisms nevertheless make the Baptized infants Catholics until they reach the age of reason and profess some other religion. Infants validly Baptized by Protestant ministers and who die while still infants are saved precisely within the Catholic Church as members of the Church, although they die outside her visible structure.

          Nor can it be denied that there are "many elements . . . of truth" outside the Church's visible structure. Protestant Bibles, for example, contain many elements of truth, along with many errors in translation that favor Protestant heresies; and whatever is true in the Protestant versions of the Bible likewise belongs to the Catholic Church, which gave the Bible to the world: And it is certainly true that these "elements" can lead to Catholic unity for those who encounter them in good faith. It cannot be denied that many a convert has been led into the Catholic Church by the grace of insights obtained while reading a Protestant version of the Bible. 44 For example, in his book The Bible Made a Catholic Out of Me, the renowned Protestant convert Paul Whitcomb gave the following testimony:
      "My reason for embracing the Catholic faith was the evidence of Sacred Scripture. Yes, the title of this booklet will undoubtedly enflame the sensibilities of many Protestants and others who regard the Bible as their own private forte but it is nevertheless true that the Bible made a Catholic out of me. It was purely and simply my unswerving devotion to the written Word of God which ultimately convinced me that the Catholic Church, or 'Roman' Catholic Church if you prefer, is my true spiritual home, the Church wherein I could best effect the salvation of my soul."
           Interpreted as conservatively as possible, one could argue that the conciliar teaching means nothing more than this: that there are things outside the visible structure of the Church, including Baptism, which belong to the Church and which lead souls toward the Church and salvation. True, the same teaching is capable of a heterodox interpretation, and this in itself is a scandal we have every right to protest. But it is also a far cry from manifest heresy. Nor should any Catholic countenance the Enterprise's unCatholic attempt to adopt the most liberal possible interpretation of a conciliar document or papal statement in order to arrive at the declaration of "manifest" heresy.

           So, while "subsists in" may be ambiguous, unsatisfactory and even readily capable of a heterodox interpretation, that does not make the Council's teaching a manifest-----that is, an obvious-----heresy, such that no explanation to demonstrate heresy is even required. Rather, the conciliar ambiguity could be criticized as a "captious proposition," i.e., a proposition "reprehensible because of its intentional ambiguity . . . " 45 Such propositions are not heresies, much less manifest ones, but are considered only as lesser errors against Church teaching. The so-called "Subsistent Superchurch heresy," therefore, is nothing more than a sedevacantist interpretation of the Council's captious proposition. But the very act of interpretation violates the sedevacantist's own rule, cited above, that the alleged heresy cannot be manifest if its detection "depends on several steps of reasoning." Nor has the Enterprise ever produced any papal interpretation of Lumen Gentium 8 that amounts to manifest denial of the dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation.

           But let us assume for the sake of argument that by "analysis" involving steps of reasoning, one could make a case for heresy in the "subsistent Superchurch" teaching. Even if this were so, a Catholic would be bound to observe what even the sedevacantists admit is a necessary limitation on the "manifest" heresy argument: "where the opposition [to Catholic dogma] is not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning: in such cases the qualification "heresy" [i.e., the canonical crime of heresy] is not applicable before a definitive judgment on the part of the Church . . ." That is, given that the existence of heresy in the conciliar teaching is, at the very least, open to debate, only a definitive judgment of the Church could resolve the issue.

           Meanwhile, even if one wished to go a bit further in criticizing the Council's teaching on this point, one would still be applying only the lesser categories of theological error noted in Part I. Thus, one could argue that the conciliar teaching is, rather than a strict heresy,
    • a proposition proximate to heresy (propositio heresi proxima), i.e., one that is opposed to a truth which is proximate to the Faith (Sent. fidei proxima) but is not actually a dogma of the Faith, or
    a proposition suspect or savoring of heresy but not manifestly heretical, or
    • an erroneous proposition (prop erronea), i.e., one that is opposed to a truth which is proposed by the Church as intrinsically connected with a revealed truth (error in fide ecclesiastica), but is not itself a dogma, or
    • a proposition opposed to the common teaching of theologians (error theologicus). 46
    But none of these categories of lesser error constitute manifest heresy as such, even if they could be applied to the Council's teaching. Rather, such errors justify our objection to dubious teaching and our calls for its correction (a la the French theologians who opposed John XXII's teaching on the Beatific Vision), but not our private conclusion that the authors and endorsers of the teaching have lost their offices due to "manifest" heresy.

           Yet the Enterprise leapfrogs over all lesser categories of theological error to arrive immediately at the conclusion that the teaching can only be strictly, formally, and manifestly heretical. This jumping to conclusions violates another of the sedevacantists' own admitted limitations on their arguments, cited above: "It is obligatory to incline, out of charity; as far as is reasonably possible, in favor of a suspect, and to reach the conclusion that anyone is a heretic only as a last resort." Here, the conclusion of heresy is a first resort, and no effort is made to discern non-heretical interpretations of the allegedly "manifest" heresy. The only interpretation entertained is the heretical one.

           What this shows us is that the Enterprise operates with an a priori presumption of papal heresy that it seeks to buttress with after-the-fact "analyses" of the very statements already deemed heretical in the analyst's mind. This is why the Enterprise's literature on "manifest" papal heresies is devoid of any attempt systematically to consider and rule out each of the categories of lesser theological error before arriving at the conclusion of "manifest heresy."

    B. The "manifest heresy" of religious liberty.

           Let us consider another of the sedevacantists' primary examples of "manifest" heresy: the teaching of Vatican II on religious liberty. Here too the "heresy" is far from "manifest," and much "analysis" is needed to demonstrate what is supposed to be obvious.

           There is no question that the Popes before Vatican II consistently condemned the modern notion of "religious liberty"-----i.e., that everyone in society must have the right, both privately and publicly, to practice, preach and otherwise manifest the doctrines of the religion of his choice, even if that religion is filled with error and immorality. That such a "right" attacks both public morality and the very foundation of Catholic social order (where it exists) hardly needs to be proved. There cannot, obviously, be any "right" as such publicly to deny the Divinity of Christ or to preach in favor of contraception, abortion, divorce and other evils. No one has the right to do or to say what is wrong. A right to commit wrong is utter nonsense. Stated negatively, a right not to be prevented by the State from committing wrong is equally nonsensical. The State might for prudential reasons, as St. Thomas observed, tolerate certain public errors and vices, but there is no question of any right to be tolerated in spreading them.

          For these reasons, religious liberty in the traditional Catholic sense means only liberty for the true religion, with (in certain circumstances) tolerance for the existence of false sects. Hence all the pre-Conciliar Popes who taught on the subject taught that in Catholic states the civil authority has the duty to prevent public violation of the Catholic religion in order to defend public morality and the right of Catholic citizens to the integrity of the Faith they hold and seek to pass on to their children. At most, the pre-Conciliar Popes counseled a civic tolerance of the public manifestations of false religions in order to avoid a greater evil, such as a bloody civil war.

           At the same time, however, the Church has recognized that in private, within the realm of the family, the State has no right to require external conformity to the doctrines of the Faith, since the family is a kingdom prior to the State. Hence, for example, St. Thomas taught that the members of Jewish families living in Catholic states ought not to be Baptized against the wishes of their parents as this would violate the sovereignty of the familial kingdom: "Now it would be an injustice to Jews if their children were to be Baptized against their will, since they would lose the rights of parental authority over their children as soon as these were Christians. Therefore these should not be Baptized against their parents' will . . ." 47 Nor does public authority have any right to force anyone to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, even if the State has the right to prevent or punish public attacks upon the Faith in Catholic states.

           The Church's traditional teaching on religious liberty can be seen in the following papal pronouncements:
    • Pius IX, Quanta Cura (1864), on the evil of unrestrained "religious liberty" and the duty of Catholic states to punish public violations of the Catholic religion:
    "For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle, of 'naturalism,' as they call it, dare to teach that 'the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any, more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.' And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that 'that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.' From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an 'insanity,' viz., that 'liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society' . . ."
    • Leo XIII, Libertas (1888), on the State's duty to repress the public spread of error and vice:
    "Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things soever are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State. The excesses of an unbridled intellect, which unfailingly end in the oppression of the untutored multitude, are no less rightly controlled by the authority of the law than are the injuries inflicted by violence upon the weak."
    • Leo XIII, Libertas, on the limits of tolerance of error and vice by the State: 
    "Yet, with the discernment of a true mother, the Church weighs the great burden of human weakness, and well knows the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne. For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. God Himself, in His providence, though infinitely good and powerful, permits evil to exist in the world, partly that greater good may not be impeded; and partly that greater evil may not ensue . . . But, to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. Wherefore, if such tolerance would be injurious to the public welfare, and entail greater evils on the State, it would not be lawful . . ."
    • Leo XIII, Immortale Dei (1885), on how the State must not force anyone to profess the Catholic religion:
    "And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith, against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, 'Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will'."

    The pre-Conciliar Popes also constantly affirmed the Catholic truth that not only each individual, but the State as well, has the duty to profess and defend the Catholic religion, for what is true of each man-----that  he must follow Christ and His Church-----is logically true of the collective of men in civil society. It would be absurd to say that men, but not their societies, have a duty to adhere to the one true religion. Thus, reason itself tells us that if Christ founded the Catholic Church, not only individuals but their societies  have the duty to profess and defend the Catholic Faith:
    • Leo XIII, Libertas:
    "Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-----namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraven upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide-----as they should do-----with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man's capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists . . ."
    "Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: 'His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only Baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.' Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ . . . If therefore the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ."

           Now, according to the sedevacantists, the teaching of Vatican II on religious liberty found in Dignitatis humanæ (DR) is "manifestly" heretical because it contradicts the prior teaching of the Church, summarized above. The literature of the Enterprise typically makes the following comparison between DH and the prior papal teaching:

    Vatican II ----- Dignatatis
    Humanæ, Article 2:

           This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits 
    . . .

    Pius IX, Quanta Cura:

          And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that "that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require." From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity," viz., that liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way."

           The Enterprise asserts that there is a flat contradiction between DR and the traditional teaching: DR affirms a natural right religious liberty in the public manifestations of false religions by the members of non-Catholic sects, while the traditional teaching condemns this notion. As the late Michael Davies has shown in his book on the subject, a case can certainly be made that there is at least an apparent contradiction that the Magisterium ought to address. For this reason, I am hardly a defender of the teaching of DH, which has given rise to scandal and confusion in the Church. As even Fr. Harrison, a defender of the document, has lamented: "The effects of DR have been much more harmful than beneficial for the Church, the world and most important, the honor due to Christ the King . . . The form in which it presents its truth is so one-sided, so poorly explained, so perilously open to unorthodox interpretation, and so infected with the spirit of liberal humanism, that its promulgation has turned out to be a cause of rejoicing for the Church's worst enemies: freemasonry and all the other forces which seek to promote the ever more total secularization of society, the ever more complete exclusion of Our Lord Jesus Christ from His rightful sovereignty over the public life of nations, and confusion and division within the Church itself." 48

           In no way therefore, do I mean to deny the right to criticize a document which, even in the view of one of its defenders, has had such an effect. On the contrary, I would argue that Catholics nave the right to object to the document and to ask that the Magisterium either clarify or rescind it. As I showed in Part I of this essay, this is the remedy Catholics always have had when faced with some problematical papal pronouncement or deed.

           But let us assume for argument's sake that a flat contradiction exists between DR and the prior teaching, and that this contradiction is manifest-----i.e., no explanation is required to demonstrate it. Even so, the contradiction would not involve a manifest heresy as such, since the Church's traditional teaching on the right and duty of the State to repress external violations of the Catholic religion is not a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith, nor is the teaching that there is no right as such publicly to manifest a false religion in Catholic states. To recall the very limitation on the manifest heresy argument admitted by sedevacantists themselves: "Giving the name 'heresy' to an error which is opposed to a doctrine taught by the Church, but not as having to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, or which does not certainly belong in this category." And, to recall Fr. Cekada's words in defense of John XXII in the 14th Century: "the doctrine . . . had not yet been defined, so a denial of it would not constitute heresy."

           The Church has never declared and defined that the traditional teaching on the State's right to repress religious error must be held with Divine and Catholic faith. Thus, any "heresy' in DH would not constitute the canonical crime of heresy, even if one wished to argue that heresy in the broader sense already mentioned (denial of non-defined doctrines which could be defined some day) is present in its text.

           Furthermore, even if by analysis and reasoning one could find a strict heresy in the teaching of DH, the very need for such analysis and reasoning triggers the other limitation on the manifest heresy argument conceded by the sedevacantists: "where the opposition [to Catholic dogma] is not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning: In such cases the qualification "heresy" is not applicable before a definitive judgment on the part of the Church . . ."

           The Enterprise's claim of manifest heresy in DH becomes even weaker when one considers that Article 1 of DH states that the Council "leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ." That is, the Council here appears to affirm without reservation the prior teaching on the duty of the State as well as the individual, to profess and defend the Catholic religion. Moreover, Article 7 DH also states that the State has the right to regulate abuses of the posited right to religious liberty:

           "Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. 50 Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, arid finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality."

           On the other hand, Article 4 of DH states that "However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its [the State's] power, were it to presume to command or inhibit acts that are religious." Further, while Article 1 states that it affirms the traditional teaching of the Church on the duty of the State to be Catholic, Article 6 teaches that "government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens."

           It is fair to ask how the State can control abuses of religious liberty to protect public morality, as Article 7 teaches, if the State would exceed its power if it sought to "inhibit acts that are religious," as Article 4 teaches. And how can the State be Catholic, as Article 1 affirms it ought to be in keeping with the Church's traditional teaching, if there is to be no discrimination among citizens based on religion, as Article 6 declares? A Catholic state cannot exist if there is not some form of juridical preference in favor of Catholics and the rights of the Church.

           Thus, we are dealing with a document that contains apparent self-contradictions, which seem to have resulted from the Council's attempt to appease both conservative and liberal factions among the Council Fathers. A document that contradicts itself by appearing to uphold and negate the traditional teaching at one and the same time can hardly be said to constitute a manifest contradiction of the traditional teaching. And, again, even if there were such a manifest contradiction, it would not constitute heresy in the sense of the canonical crime of heresy by which the proponents of DH would all lose their offices.

           As we can see, then, the Enterprise's attempt to demonstrate "manifest" heresy in the Council's teaching is anything but conclusive. For what is at issue are ambiguities, internal inconsistencies, and novelties which necessarily admit of the possibility of error. Therefore, according to the sedevacantists' own rules which we have been discussing, the state of the question precludes any private judgment of a manifest denial of Catholic dogma by the Second Vatican Council.

           And the same is true with all of the other Enterprise's claims of "manifest" papal or conciliar heresy, of which we have considered only two of the most prominent examples. Every one of these claims involves "analysis" and interpretation of some novel statement which ipso facto take the alleged heresy out of the category of the manifest and into the category of the merely debatable.

             St. Alphonsus Liguori, a doctor of the Church, following St. Antoninus, held that if a Pope were to fall into heresy "a resourceful Divine Providence would have a solution at hand through an ecumenical council." It is not for individual Catholics to declare the Seat of Peter vacant.

           To consider another example, perhaps the most startling of all, not even Pope John Paul II's extemporaneous statement "May Saint John the Baptist protect Islam . . ." qualifies as a manifest heresy. The Pope's apparent wish that Islam receive Divine protection, while outrageous and offensive to pious ears, does not denote any manifest denial of Catholic dogma, but rather a scandalous expression of respect for a false religion that any Catholic has the right to protest. and even denounce, just as Pope John XXII was denounced by the French theologians for his heterodox views on the Beatific Vision, as we saw in Part I. The same is true of the statement in Lumen Gentium 16 that Muslims "together with us adore the one merciful God." This is simply a false statement of fact concerning the members of the Muslim religion, not a manifest denial of any truth of our religion. Yes, the statement is scandalous, confusing, and condemnable, and the faithful have every right to object to it. But we have no right, based on such statements, to declare that the conciliar and post-Conciliar Popes and virtually the entire hierarchy are heretical impostors-----including----- Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who voted to adopt Lumen Gentium. 49

           The examples could be multiplied, but the point is made: the papal and conciliar statements the Enterprise indiscriminately catalogues under the label "manifest heresy" are not manifest heresy upon close examination. Rather, they are manifestly debatable proofs of heresy. Only a future judgment of the Church could determine whether any true and proper heresy is in question here. 50

    Part 3 -------The Incredible Expanding Heresy

           Part 2 of this series on the errors of sedevacantism demonstrated that the "manifest heresies" of which the sedevacantist Enterprise accuses every Pope since John XXIII are not manifest at all, but rather depend upon tendentious interpretations by sedevacantist accusers unjustly acting as the judges of their own cause. I concluded Part 2 with a discussion of John Paul II's alleged "manifest heresy" in his address to group of Jews in Mainz, Germany on November 17, 1980, wherein the Pope said: "The first dimension of this dialogue that is, the meeting between the people of God of the Old Covenant ["Old Testament" in the Vatican's Italian translation 51], never revoked by God [cf. Rom. 11:29], and that of the New Covenant, is at the same time a dialogue within our Church, that is to say, between the first and the second part of her Bible."

           In my discussion of this allegedly "manifest" heresy, I showed that as a reference to the enduring validity of the Old Testament as part the Catholic Bible, or to the fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham (the Abrahamic covenant never having been revoked but rather brought to completion in Christ), the Pope's statement is not heretical, much less manifestly so. Nor, I showed, did the Pope in context say (contrary to the Council of Florence) that the Mosaic religion and ritual have never been revoked. On the contrary, the new Catechism (quoting St. Thomas) makes it clear the Old Law, of which it speaks in the past tense, conferred no grace, and that grace and supernatural charity are to be obtained only in virtue of the New Covenant in Christ. Thus, the Pope never went as far as Cardinal Kasper, who declares that Judaism as such "remains salvific" for the Jews. That the late Pope allowed the false impression to arise that the Old Covenant (the Mosaic religion) has never been revoked does not mean that he was personally guilty of the mortal sin of denying a dogma of the Faith, which is the only issue relevant to the sedevacantist claim of loss of the papal office.

           By way of clarification, however, another aspect of this matter needs to be considered: Did the Pope's statement mean that Israel of the flesh, the Jewish people as a race, still have an election as the chosen people of God? If it does, then the statement would contradict the teaching of the Magisterium that the New Israel, the new elect people, is the Catholic Church. As even Vatican II declares: "Thus the apostles were the first budding-forth of the New Israel (Ad Gentes 1, 5)." Accordingly, a mere thirty-seven years before Vatican II, Pius XI directed the entire Church to pray publicly the following prayer for the Jews on the Feast of Christ the King: "Turn Thine eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Thy chosen people. Of old, they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior, may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and life." 52

           But the Pope's 1980 statement, which refers ambiguously to "the meeting between present-day Christian Churches and the present-day people of the Covenant concluded with Moses," does not permit a definite answer to this question, for that phrase, standing alone, does not state that "the covenant concluded with Moses" remains in effect, although it suggests this. On the other hand, it is not heretical to speak of the present-day people of the covenant concluded with Moses in the sense that this present-day people is descended from the people of that superseded covenant. Of these people St. Paul himself said in Romans 11:29: "According to the gospel indeed they are enemies (St. Paul's emphasis) for your sake: but according to election they are most dear for the sake of the fathers." As the wholly traditional Haydock commentary to the Douay-Rheims Bible explains this puzzling verse: "That is, enemies both to you, because they see the gospel preached and received by you, and enemies to God, because He has rejected them at present for their willful blindness; yet according to election, God having once made them His elect, and because of their forefathers, the patriarchs [especially Abraham], they are most dear for the sake of the fathers  . . . " In other words, the Jews remain dear to God in virtue of the former election, whose termination is not God's fault but theirs. They can rejoin the elect, the New Israel, by converting to Christ and entering His Church.

           Thus, the Pope cannot be held to have stated clearly and unequivocally, as have some present-day "Hebrew Catholic" commentators, that there is a still-operative corporate election of the Jewish race by God. Here we see the difficulty-----nay, the impossibility
    -----of convicting popes of "manifest heresy" based on isolated ambiguous statements to small groups rather than binding pronouncements to the universal Church.

    A Curious Definition of "Manifest"

           Perhaps recognizing that there is a grave problem with the claim that one can find "manifest heresy" in ambiguous papal statements, Fr. Cekada, citing no real authority, feathers his own nest by arguing that I have it all wrong concerning what is meant by "manifest." The term "manifest," he says, does not refer "to what truths a heretic denies (Trinity, transubstantiation, etc.), but rather to how openly he denies them."

           Thus, according to Fr. Cekada, it seems there is no need to show that the heretical content of a papal statement is manifest, but only that the statement was made openly. Thus, we could have five successive "manifestly" heretical popes whose heresies are, well, not manifest. But then, who detects the heresies in the "manifest" statements whose heretical content is not manifest? In a rather convenient arrangement, Fr. Cekada and the sedevacantist Enterprise do.

           On this point, however, Fr. Cekada contradicts another leading sedevacantist, who declares that one of the "pitfalls" in looking for heresy in papal pronouncements is

    . . . Giving the name "heresy" to an error which is opposed to a doctrine to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, where the opposition is not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning: in such cases the qualification "heresy" is not applicable before a definitive judgment on the part of the Church
    . . . 53

           According to this sedevacantist, not just the expression of the heresy, but also its heretical content must be manifest. Perhaps the sedevacantist Enterprise should have a convention to produce a lexicon in which its warring members could at least reach agreement on their most basic terminology.

           Here Fr. Cekada appears to conflate the requirement that a heresy be "notorious" 54
    -----i.e. openly expressed and known to the Church, as opposed to a heresy harbored secretly-----with the requirement that it also be clear heresy. The only reasonable rendering of "manifest" in this context is one that denotes both notoriousness and clarity.  Otherwise, amateur heresy hunters throughout the Church could claim to detect heresy in every ambiguous public statement of a pope and declare that the Pope had lost his office-----which, in fact, is precisely what the Enterprise does. Thus, in his own debate with Fr. Cekada, the theologian Fr. Brian Harrison rightly pointed out that in addition to being open (notorious) the alleged "manifest" heresy must "clearly and directly contradict a truth of 'Divine and Catholic faith,' i.e., a dogma." 55 Again, Fr. Cekada's own fellow sedevacantist agrees with this principle, as shown above. And how could it otherwise, as the judgments of isolated members of the Church that ambiguous statements are "heresy" mean nothing.

           This fuller understanding of the word "manifest" accords with the usage of St. Robert Bellarmine in his observation that "A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church." 56 Bellarmine used the Latin word "manifestum" (papam haereticum manifestum), which denotes not merely "open" or "public," but "plainly guilty," "plainly apprehensible by the mind, evident, obvious," "revealed by clear signs, unmistakable, undoubted." 57 Hence we shall use the term "manifest heresy" in the same sense that even Fr. Cekada's fellow sedevacantist recognizes concerning the canonical crime of heresy and consequent automatic loss of office: that is, a heresy that is manifest both in terms of its openness and its heretical content.

           Therefore, even if all five accused Popes could be shown to have been guilty of one or more erroneous propositions, captious propositions, propositions savoring of or proximate to heresy, badly expressed propositions, scandalous propositions, or even "heresy" in the broad, non-canonical sense involving non-defined doctrines (such as the doctrine denied by John XXII), the sedevacantist case would still fail-----as indeed it does. But I maintain that, for all their striving, a number of captious or badly expressed propositions are all the sedevacantists have been able to produce in their endless cataloguing of "manifest" papal heresy.

    Silent "Heresy"?

          As if to provide a fall-back argument in case of failure to show indubitable papal heresy in statements by the last five popes, Fr. Cekada argues in his reply to my CNF/FC series that a Pope can be deemed a "manifest" heretic by isolated members of the Church based on papal acts or omissions, as well as statements.

           In answer to my point that Pope John Paul II's scandalous kissing of the Koran did not amount to the pertinacious denial of any Catholic dogma (for all we know it was a foolishly impetuous gesture of the moment), Fr. Cekada writes: "Oh really? Canonists and theologians teach that external heresy consists in dictis vel factis
    -----not only in words, but also in "signs, deeds, and the omission of deeds (Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, 1:746.)."

           Here we see a basic sedevacantist technique for "wowing" the gullible: recite a ponderous Latin phrase taken from a theological manual. Why, don't you know that heresy consists in dictis vel factis? Haven't you read your Merkelbach? (By the way, does anyone seriously think the late Fr. Merkelbach would go along with this application of his theological manual and concur that five successive popes have been heretical impostors?)

           The thoughtful person will recognize, however, that the Latin phrase really decides nothing. The question is what act or omission could in itself constitute manifest heresy, just as the question is what verbal utterance constitutes manifest heresy. As Fr. Harrison noted in his Remnant debate with Fr. Cekada, only such hypothetical actions as the willing reception of re-Baptism by a non-Catholic minister or the adamant refusal to subscribe to a statement of orthodoxy could indicate that the accused is a heretic by act or omission.

           Here it is important to note, however, that even a major sedevacantist web site concedes that the law of the Church treats actions (versus positive statements) not as strict heresy, but as grounds for suspicion of heresy. The sedevacantist web site refers to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which enumerates suspect actions such as "Consciously to submit one's children to a non-Catholic minister for Baptism (canon 2319 n. 3)" and "Consciously to submit one's children or those entrusted to one to the upbringing or teaching of a non-Catholic religion," and "Actively to assist at the sacred functions of non-Catholics or to take part in them . . . (canon 23.16)." 58

           Even as to such actions, however, the same web site observes that under the 1917 Code "the suspect of heresy
    -----who, once he has been admonished, does not remove the cause of the suspicion is to be prohibited from legitimate actions [. . . to be sponsor of Baptism or Confirmation, to vote in ecclesiastical elections, to manage ecclesiastical goods, etc.] and, if he be a cleric, when the warning has been once repeated in vain, he will be suspended a divinis . . . and if the suspect of heresy does not amend himself in the space of six full months . . . he will be considered as a heretic, subject to the penalties of heretics."

           The web site article says of this procedure: "Let us observe from this how patient and prudent the Church is in respect of such people." 59 Let us observe it indeed! And let us exhibit that same patience and prudence with respect to the Vicar of Christ, for heaven's sake! Let us recognize that even if certain papal actions could give rise to a mere suspicion of heresy, the twice repeated warning required by the 1917 Code (reflecting St. Paul's teaching to admonish a suspected heretic twice) cannot be administered to a Pope. Therefore, where a Pope is concerned, even if a suspicion of heresy based upon external actions were justified, it would not amount to an actual determination of heresy. And no one, much less a Pope, can lose an ecclesiastical office based on a suspicion.

           In any case, the papal gestures at issue here are not the unambiguous ones enumerated in the 1917 Code. For example, the Pope's kissing of the Koran, however scandalous, hardly indicates that he became a Muslim or that he denied the Divinity of Christ. At worst, it indicates the late Pope's objectionable and overweening "respect for the good in other religions." 60 Such respect, even if it rose to the level of the error (reprobated by Pius XI) that "all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy" is not a heresy, but rather a lesser grade of theological error, for (as noted above) not every error is a heresy. Again, even the sedevacantists insist upon this.

           The case of Honorius returns to mind. Consider that even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that a future ecumenical council might posthumously condemn John Paul II, a la Honorius, for aiding and abetting the spread of religious indifferentism by such gestures, that would not mean John Paul II had lost his office any more than Honorius lost his. Indeed, even if the name of John, Paul, like that of Honorius, might someday be listed in a litany of the anathematized contained in a papal loyalty oath, the Church would nonetheless recognize him as Pope, just as it does Honorius.

           Sedevacantists, however, never consider explanations other than heresy. Heresy! is their one and only verdict in assessing objectionable papal words or deeds. And, as we can see, under Fr. Cekada's expansive definition of "heresy," his roving heresy commission can sniff out guilt based not only on what a Pope says (as interpreted adversely by his very accusers), but also what he does or even fails to do. Indeed, the aforementioned sedevacantist web site, waxing to the theme of wordless heresy, even goes so far as to declare that "It is a thesis adopted by the theologians that it is possible to make a heresy exterior and thereby incur the canonical penalties not only by words, but also by behaviour, attitudes, signs and omissions. Indeed a simple nod of the head, a gesture of the hand or a physical expression can unequivocally indicate a thought. In a larger context a political stance, the silence of an authority or a public attitude can express, in relation to the circumstances, that someone who acts in a certain way, has such and such an idea." 61

           So, the incredible expanding papal heresy is now to include even utter silence or body language! Under this standard no Pope can escape conviction if our sedevacantist prosecutors are determined to bring in a verdict.

    And What of Pertinacity?

           Even assuming Fr. Cekada had proved objectively heretical statements or actions by the last five popes-----and he hasn't
    -----what of the principle noted earlier, that one cannot be a formal heretic without pertinacity, i.e., obstinacy, 62 in his heresy? That is, the accused must subjectively know that his statement is contrary to Divine and Catholic faith and yet refuse to recant it. For, after all, formal heresy is a sin that requires subjective culpability. St. Thomas describes pertinacity this way: "In Christ's Church, those are heretics who hold mischievous and erroneous opinions, and when admonished to think soundly and rightly, offer a stubborn resistance, and, refusing to correct their deadly doctrines, persist in defending them." 63

           Since the accused Popes have not been subjected to interrogation in which they were warned to recant their alleged "heresies," it would not be possible to establish papal pertinacity even if there were an objectively heretical statement before us. (As noted in Part 1 of this series, even Cassiciacum sedevacantists concede this. Hence their fiction of the "material" pope.) How, then, does Fr. Cekada propose to establish papal pertinacity, especially as to Pope Benedict's four deceased predecessors? All Fr. Cekada can say in his reply to the CFN/FC series is that in hypothetical canonical proceedings, this writer, as the Pope's hypothetical lawyer, would have to overcome what Fr. Cekada imagines to be evidence giving rise to a presumption of heresy under former canon 2200.2, based upon an external violation of the law.

           Just a moment! Fr. Cekada has not yet demonstrated any heretical papal statements, yet he wishes to avail himself of the canonical presumption that an objectively heretical statement was intended as such. He challenges me to state which of the "seven excusing causes" I would use to rebut the presumption of heresy as to the five accused popes, when he has not even established heresy in the first place!

           At any rate, Fr. Cekada's "presumption" of heresy does us no good. First of all, as the accused Popes are not before a canonical tribunal
    -----to which, again, a Pope cannot be subjected-----any canonical "presumption" is worthless. There can be no "presumption" of culpable heresy without a canonical proceeding in which there is an opportunity to rebut the presumption or to recant. No random member of the Church is entitled to pick up the Code of Canon law and apply its "presumption" of heresy to anyone, much less a Pope. But instead of recognizing that their whole undertaking is pointless for the very reason that a "presumption of heresy" by random members of the Church proves nothing, the sedevacantists go ahead and convict the Pope anyway.

           Of course the sedevacantists will immediately reply: "The Pope convicts himself!" But who are they kidding? It is they who convict him, based on their tendentious reading of papal statements, acts or omissions. As we have seen, for example, Fr. Cekada tells us to consult Bishop Sanborn for an "explanation" of the "subsistent superchurch heresy." And why should we accept Bishop Sanborn's opinion when even his fellow sedevacantists question his theology on various matters, including his very claim to be a bishop? Besides, what theological credibility does Bishop Sanborn have when he accepted episcopal consecration from the same "Thuc line" bishop, Robert McKenna, he once forbade his own followers to approach for the Sacraments? 64

           In any event, as even his own fellow sedevacantist admits, the external violation of the law that gives rise to the presumption of guilt in canonical proceedings includes the element of pertinacity, without which there is no external violation of the law and thus no presumption:

    The canonists have defined pertinacity as recognition or awareness of the conflict between one's belief and that of the Church. As such, pertinacity is essential to the canonical delict of heresy; it is part of the matter or (technically) corpus delicti of heresy. Hence it must be proved before anyone can be considered a heretic, and Canon 2200.2 with its presumption of culpability does not help to prove it, for it applies only when the law is already externally infringed. And if Catholic doctrine is inadvertently denied by one who does not notice his error, there is not even an external infraction of the law . . . 65

           Thus, Fr. Cekada would have to show not only a manifestly heretical papal statement
    -----which he has failed to do-----but also that the Pope pertinaciously defended the statement despite being called upon to correct it. This would require canonical warnings of some kind, which have not been administered to the Pope. Nor can Fr. Cekada avoid this insuperable obstacle to conviction by arguing that a Pope must always be presumed to know and intend the heretical import of any statement he utters. John XXII, for example, certainly did not think he was denying a truth of the Faith when he preached against the immediacy of the Beatific Vision. And, ironically enough, it was the same John XXII who condemned seventeen separate heresies in the teaching of the orthodox and eminent German theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart, who was not himself convicted of heresy because he had never intended to deny an article of faith. "Eckhart repudiated the unorthodox sense in which some of his utterances could be interpreted, retracted all possible errors, and submitted to the Holy See . . ." 66 Church history shows us how even the best-trained and most eminent theologians, not excluding the Pope himself, can fall inadvertently into serious error.

    Rigging the Inquest

           So, to sum up this section of our refutation: According to the sedevacantists, isolated members of the faithful can deem a Pope to be guilty of the sin of formal heresy, determining that he has thereby lost his office, based on (a) "manifest" statements whose heretical content is not necessarily manifest, (b) suspect actions, (c) suspect failures to act; or d) even utter silence or body language. And in each of these cases heresy can be conclusively "presumed" without inquiring into the Pope's state of mind.

           Even the arch-heretic Martin Luther had a better chance of acquittal than the accused Popes! The Bull Exsurge Domine of Pope Leo X, condemning Luther's forty-one separate heresies, still afforded him sixty days to recant in writing before the sentence of excommunication would go into effect. In the meantime Luther was "merely threatened with excommunication" and the "the only penalty directly imposed on him in the meantime was the prohibition to preach." 67 Further, the Bull was not issued until after a full canonical trial and the deliberation of two Roman commissions, based in part upon the transcript of the famous Leipzig disputation, where Luther had
    -----mark this well-----pertinaciously defended his heresies during an examination by Dr. Johann Eck. 68

           But Fr. Cekada will say that we cannot demand an explanation or recantation from a Pope. So, conveniently enough, the Pope must be presumed guilty. Thus, Fr. Cekada's inquisitional method comes down to this: We cannot try the Pope, so let us convict him! As anyone can see, Fr. Cekada has rigged the inquest into papal "heresy" so that he never fails to find it, while the accused Popes can never escape his findings
    -----at least in the minds of Fr. Cekada's followers.

           I cannot conclude this section without noting the major self-contradiction in Fr. Cekada's tortuous line of argument: In his reply to the CFN/FC series, he lambastes traditionalists for "sifting" papal statements and pastoral initiatives none of which have been imposed upon us as matters of faith (e.g. attendance at the New Mass, participation in "ecumenical activities" or "dialogue," ecumenical exhortations, or prudential judgments on such things as application of the death penalty). At the same time, however, he claims for himself not only the right to "sift" papal words and deeds for "manifest heresies," but also the right to sift the popes themselves (not to mention the entire episcopacy!), determining by his own lights which are true popes and which are false.

           So, under Fr. Cekada's ground rules, he is free to reject five successive popes as fakes, whereas non-sedevacantist traditionalists are not free to prescind from even one act of governance by even a single pope since 1958. As he would have it, the only right Catholics have when confronted with some problematical papal statement or action is to join him and his fellow sedevacantists in concluding that the Pope in question must be an heretical impostor!

           But Catholics must not allow themselves to be drawn into the self-enclosed little world of sedevacantist thinking. We must keep our heads in this time of unparalleled crisis, preserve the proper distinctions, and avoid rash, sweeping judgments. This is why Sister Lucy urged us to pray for the Holy Father, rather than casting pope after pope into outer darkness based on someone's private study of canon law and theology manuals.

    Part 4 -------Section 1: Last-Ditch Arguments

           The theme of this series refuting the sedevacantist hypothesis is that when all is said and done its fundamental claim is preposterous and inadmissible to the Catholic mind. The idea that every Pope since 1958 has been a heretical impostor, and that every bishop at Vatican II, including Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, fell into formal heresy and lost his office on account of approving the Council documents, cannot be reconciled with the promises of Christ concerning the Church's indefectibility or the infallible teaching of Vatican I that the divinely established office of the papacy will have perpetual successors.

           The only conceivable explanation for the crisis in the Church is that something other than formal heresy on the part of the popes and the hierarchy is at work. That something is what Sister Lucy called "diabolical disorientation" in the Church. This disorientation, while destructive of the Church's good order, does not mean that prelates affected by it, much less the accused popes, have lost their ecclesiastical offices due to the personal sin of heresy. Quite the contrary, as I noted at the close of Part 3 of this series, Sister Lucy urged us to pray for the Holy Father. She was no sedevacantist, even though she knew the contents of the Third Secret in complete detail.

           Faced with the unthinkable outcome of their own logic, which leads to the conclusion that the visible Church vanished half a century ago, the sedevacantist Enterprise has advanced a number of last-ditch arguments aimed at diverting attention from the ultimate absurdity of its position. Let us examine these arguments briefly.

    The "No True Pope Would Need to Be Resisted" Argument

    Attempting to turn the tables on their critics, sedevacantist spokesmen such as Fr. Cekada argue that what is absurd is not the sedevacantist position, but rather the position of those who say that Catholics have the right to "resist" certain statements and prudential judgments of Vatican II and the conciliar and post-conciliar Popes. In replying to my series in CFN/FC, Fr. Cekada refers derisively to resistance "on a continuous basis-----so far, forty years and counting, with no end in sight." He accuses non-sedevacantist traditionalists of thinking they can "decide which papal teachings, laws, sacramental rites, or commands are good, and which you'll reject, resist or publicly denounce." 69 The need for such resistance against a line of Popes, he argues, is inconsistent with the reign of true Popes. What Catholics must do instead, he argues in all seriousness, is to conclude that the Popes in question must be impostors! This, he assures us, is not private judgment, unlike traditionalist "resistance" to Popes who are recognized as such.

           First of all, Fr. Cekada misstates the issue to his own advantage. "Resistance" to the crisis by traditional Catholics who recognize the accused Popes as lawful successors of Peter does not actually involve "rejection" of "papal teachings, laws . . . or commands . . ." This augment, borrowed from neo-Catholic thinking, conveniently ignores any distinction between binding papal actions on the one hand, and, on the other, certain recent novelties in the Church which have never been imposed on the faithful as either a doctrine to believe or a practice to be followed by the universal Church.

           As we have already seen, neither the Council nor the Popes since then have purported to impose on the Church any new teaching as binding doctrine, but rather have merely introduced ambiguous new "pastoral" terminology that in no way alters the deposit of the Faith, such alteration being impossible. Nor are traditionalist "resistors" disobeying any "laws" or "commands" of the Church. There is no law or command requiring Catholics to be "ecumenists" or to engage in "dialogue," for example.

           Nor were Catholics ever actually commanded to attend the New Mass and abandon the traditional Latin Mass, although that impression was certainly allowed to arise. As the Vatican itself now admits, however, the traditional Latin Mass was never forbidden de jure and the promulgation of the New Mass did not legally abrogate the Old Mass. Hence traditionalists are not unlawfully abstaining from the New Mass.

           As a matter of fact, the Vatican has not even forbidden Catholics to attend the traditional Latin Mass at chapels of the "schismatic" Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), so long as their "intention is simply to participate in a Mass according to the 1962 Missal for the sake of devotion, [and] this would not be a sin . . ." The same Vatican advisory even declares that "a modest contribution to the collection at Mass could be justified." 70 So where, exactly, is the "command" or "law" Fr. Cekada claims non-sedevacantist traditionalists are violating by abstaining from the New Mass? It does not exist.

           Therefore, the "resistance" of which Fr. Cekada speaks is actually a conscientious and perfectly permissible abstention from recent novelties in the Church. This abstention, which the Church has never forbidden, is combined with legitimate criticism of such contingent matters as "ecumenism" and the "liturgical reform," which are not doctrines of the Faith but rather prudential judgments that are either wise or unwise, rather than true or false.

           Indeed, the currently reigning Pope himself, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote the French language preface to the Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, in which the New Mass comes under the harshest possible criticism, with Gamber calling the liturgical reforms of Paul VI nothing less than "the destruction of the Roman Rite," even if he did not question the essential validity of the New Mass. Nor did Christ ever promise that every papally-approved rite would be the best possible rite, or that His Vicar would, by the Holy Ghost, be rendered ontologically incapable of imprudent liturgical innovation.

           As for "ecumenism," John Paul II, himself, the very Pope of Ecumenism, declared in his inaugural encyclical that "it is perhaps a good thing" that concerned Catholics express their fears that ecumenical efforts "are harmful to the cause of the Gospel, are leading to a further rupture in the Church, are causing confusion of ideas in questions of faith and morals and are ending up with a specific indifferentism." 71 While the Pope added that "correct limits" must be observed in these criticisms, neither he nor his successors have set those limits or in any way censured the criticisms already leveled. In fact, the public criticism of ecumenism has even included a book that calls ecumenism a heresy (in the broad sense, not the sedevacantist sense of a deliberate sin causing loss of ecclesiastical office), with a foreword written by no less than the dean of the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University! 72

           It is rather amusing to note that it is not the Pope or Vatican officials who say we cannot abstain from or criticize the ecclesial novelties in question, but rather the sedevacantists and their neo-Catholic counterparts. Both of these constituencies, but for opposite motives, promote the same false notion that Catholics must mindlessly embrace every policy and utterance of a "true" Pope, even if (as we have seen) the Pope himself allows for freedom of criticism! Fr. Cekada, at least, should know better as a former member of SSPX. Yet it clearly suits his purposes to adopt the line of the neo-Catholic papal idolaters, whose motto has always been The Pope Can Do No Wrong.

           But let us suppose that non-sedevacantist traditionalists were indeed engaged in a resistance that is more than mere conscientious abstention or licit criticism. Let us suppose that we were engaging in outright disobedience of a direct command to participate in the "renewal of Vatican II" by attending the new Mass and participating in ecumenism and dialogue, and to refrain from all criticism of these novelties. There is no such command, of course, but even if there were, what of it? Where is the sedevacantists' authority for the proposition that any Pope who has to be resisted in any of his statements or acts of governance must be an impostor? And which is more reasonable: that successive Popes have said or done things in the name of Vatican II to which the faithful have a right to object, or that the same Popes are all heretical impostors?

           What the sedevacantists are really saying is that "true" Popes would never have to be resisted in the exercise of their office. But this is nonsense, for the Church has taught exactly the opposite: a Pope who abuses his power, gives scandal, and endangers faith not only may, but must, be opposed. Let us recall the earlier mentioned teaching of St. Robert Bellarmine, a doctor of the Church, and Francisco Suarez, the Jesuit theologian honored by Pope Paul V as "Doctor Eximius, a pious and eminent theologian." 73

    Saint Robert Bellarmine:

           Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff that aggresses the body, it is also licit to resist the one who aggresses souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by preventing his will from being executed; it is not licit, however, to judge, punish or depose him, since these acts are proper to a superior. 74

    Francisco Suarez:

           And in this second way the Pope could be schismatic, if he were unwilling to be in normal union with the whole body of the Church, as would occur if he attempted to excommunicate the whole Church, or, as both Cajetan and Torquemada , observe, if he wished to overturn the rites of the Church based on Apostolic Tradition . . . If [the Pope] . . . gives an order contrary to right customs, he should not be obeyed; if he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common good, it will be lawful to resist him; if he attacks by force, by force he can be repelled, with a moderation appropriate to a just defense. 75

           Faced with these texts Fr. Cekada tries to reduce the teaching of Bellarmine and Suarez to "nothing more than this: if a Pope gives you a command to do something contrary to the moral law, you don't have to obey . . ." Fr. Cekada then provides the less-than-enlightening hypothetical example of a Pope who says: "I'm ordering you this time, Monsignor: Bring me a blonde chorus girl, and if the piano player complains, shoot him between the eyes . . ." 76

           This sort of wit might beguile Fr. Cekada's gallery of supporters, but the quoted teachings plainly contradict his reading of them. Bellarmine speaks not merely of direct papal commands to commit personal sinful acts such as procuring chorus girls, but also of resisting a Pontiff "who aggresses souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church." Fr. Cekada conveniently ignores the italicized language. Yet even as to a Pope who attempts to destroy the Church, "it is not licit, however, to judge, punish or depose him, since these acts are proper to a superior." This is hardly music to sedevacantist ears.

           Likewise, Suarez does not limit himself to papal commands to commit sins, but says that a Pope may be resisted if "he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common good . . ." The same, of course, is true of the ruler of any commonwealth; this is a matter of natural law. Here Fr. Cekada distracts the reader by focusing on Suarez's phrase "contrary to right customs," which refers to morals, while once again conveniently ignoring the language that extinguishes his interpretation. 77

           Fr. Cekada also argues that St. "Bellarmine is justifying 'resistance' by kings and prelates, not by individual Catholics." While the context of Bellarmine's teaching might have been a discussion of kings and councils, he was merely applying a general principle to them. It is ridiculous to suggest, however, that Bellarmine stands for the proposition that only kings and councils, but no one else, may resist papal abuses.

           No less than St. Thomas Aquinas, whose teaching is cited by Bellarmine, teaches the positive duty to rebuke and correct even the Pope when his acts or omissions present a danger to the Church, but not to declare his authority to have been forfeited. In the Summa Theologica, under the question "Whether a man is bound to correct his prelate," St. Thomas concludes: "It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith . . . ." (Peter had scandalized potential converts and threatened the mission of the Church by continuing to follow Mosaic dietary laws and refusing to eat with Gentiles). 78
      "It is perhaps a good thing that concerned Catholics express their fears that ecumenical efforts are harmful to the cause of the Gospel, are leading to a further rupture in the Church, are causing confusion of ideas in questions of faith and morals and are ending up with a specific indifferentism."
      Pope John Paul II
          So, St. Thomas, like Bellarmine, contemplated a Pope who endangers the Faith and must be rebuked on that account, yet is still Pope. Offering no real argument against this, Fr. Cekada mocks my statement in the CFN/FC series that implicit in Thomas's teaching is the recognition that a Pope thus rebuked remains Pope: "Implicit indeed! So implicit that one cannot find it at all," he huffed. Come, now, Fr. Cekada. Are you seriously suggesting that St. Thomas had to state explicitly that a Pope who is rebuked by his subject for "scandal concerning faith" remains the Pope?

           The papal Magisterium itself reflects the teaching of St. Thomas, St. Bellarmine and Suarez, as we see in the Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio (1559) of Paul IV. Gravely concerned that in the midst of the Protestant rebellion a future Pope might succumb to a Protestant heresy, Paul IV declared that "the Roman Pontiff, who is the representative upon earth of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fullness 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." Thus, the Roman Pontiff himself teaches that a Pope who deviates from the faith may be contradicted while yet remaining Pope.

           In reply to my CFN/FC series Fr. Cekada again engages in distraction by discussing what Paul IV's Bull provides in the case of a prelate who was a manifest heretic before his election to the papacy and was known as such. In that case, the manifestly heretical prelate's election would be invalid. But, obviously, such preexisting manifest heresy could not be determined after the election by isolated members of the Church, such as Fr. Cekada. A validly elected Pope could not be unseated merely because someone shows up after the conclave to declare: "Excuse me! According to my analysis, you have elected a heretic."

           But this is beside the point, as I suspect Fr. Cekada understands. The real point I made concerning this Bull is that it also teaches that a validly elected Pope, once recognized as such by the universal Church (as the last five Popes have certainly been), may be contradicted by the faithful should he deviate from the Faith, but may be judged "by none in this world." 79 Cekada thus conflates the Bull's treatment of two distinct cases: the election to the papacy of a known heretic (the very matter not proven here), and the alleged heresy of a pope after his election (also not proven). In the latter case, Pope Paul IV teaches, the correct approach to a wayward Roman Pontiff by isolated members of the faithful is contradiction, not judgment or deposition, just as I have argued.

           So much, then, for sedevacantist attempts to delegitimize lawful resistance to papal abuses, scandals and errors. When confronted with a wayward Pope the faithful are certainly not limited to the absurd conclusion that a bad Pope is no Pope at all. But that, in fact, is what the sedevacantist argument on this score boils down to.

           I hasten to remind the reader, however, that nothing I have said thus far is meant in any way to diminish the magnitude of the crisis that confronts us, or the role of papal governance (or the lack thereof) in its emergence. My point, rather, is that this crisis has resulted from acts and omissions in matters where it is possible for the Church's leaders, including the Pope, to err. In the Church, as in every other organization, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. That everything that can go wrong in the Church has gone wrong all at once is no reason to conclude, as Fr. Cekada does, that the Pope and the hierarchy have simply vanished. Rather, we must offer conscientious opposition to certain papal statements and actions-----none of which, I repeat, have been made binding upon us-----that have provoked harm to the Church.

           Hence traditionalists are within their rights to prescind from the novelties of the past forty years. Loyal opposition, not deposition, is the way for us. But it is precisely a ceaseless vituperative attack on loyal opposition, in favor of reckless deposition, that makes the sedevacantist Enterprise a threat to our cause and a danger to the Church. It is becoming more and more apparent that the attack on traditionalists who recognize the Pope and the bishops is a raison d'être of the sedevacantist Enterprise. We must oppose this insidious development.


    25. Some sedevacantists, venturing into the realm of ecclesiastical fantasy, argue that Cardinal Siri was elected at the conclave that produced Pope John XXIII, whose election they declare "invalid." They claim Siri was the "true" Pope, whose election was covered up by a vast conspiracy of the entire conclave of cardinals, and that Siri secretly designated his successor, This claim, supported by no competent evidence whatever, is a desperate attempt to avoid the Vatican I anathema by maintaining that Pius XII did have a valid successor: i.e., Cardinal Siri. It will be shown later in this essay that the "Siri thesis" has no ground in reality.
    26. See, e.g. Rama Coomaraswamy, M.D., "I'm the Only One Ordained,"
    where the author notes: "For example, the members of the Society of Pius V claim that only they are properly ordained-----but there are those who question this because of the mental status and secrecy surrounding Bishop Mendez through whom their orders derive. On the other hand the Society of Pius V denies the validity of any ordinations or consecrations that derive from Archbishop Thuc.  . . . And then there is Bishop Vezelis who holds that any bishop (or priest) who does not accept his primacy and what he calls his "universal jurisdiction" hasn't any right to distribute the Sacraments."

    27. Abbé de Nantes, "THE QUESTION? OF PAPAL HERESY, SCHISM, SCANDAL," at http://www.crc-inter june73.htm#action.
    28. Fr. Alphonsus M. Sutton, FFI, STD, "Current Errors and Their Refutation," Christ in the World, N. 3 (1995), p. 258.
    29. The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, Ed. Eric John (Harrison, NY: Roman Catholic Books, 1964), p. 289.

    30. Sacrae Theologiae Summa of BAC, Vol. I, p. 698, cited by Sutton, loco cit., p. 258.
    31. Liguori, Theologia Moralis, 1:121, cited by Sutton, loco cit., p. 258.
    32. While a cleric who has defected from the Catholic faith is removed from office "by virtue of the law itself," such "removal . . . can be insisted upon only if it is established by a declaration of the competent authority." Can. 194, §§1, 2 CIC (1983).

    33. Hugh and McAllan, Moral Theology, (New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1929), p. 309.
    34. The website's paragraph numbering of these points has been deleted and the paragraphs reordered by this writer for sake of clarity of presentation.
    36. American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition (2000).
    37. Cekada, loco cit.
    38. Can. 188.4, CIC (1917) on which the sedevacantists rely, as they deem the 1983 Code "heretical."
    39. "Two Priests Debate Sedevacantism," A Remnant Reprint, p. 4 (hereafter TPDS). The second example cited by Cekada was the 1998 Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This example merits only a footnote because, as Fr. Harrison has noted, John Paul II "neither wrote the document, nor signed it, nor ordered its promulgation (it never appeared in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis) . . ." but merely praised it as an ecumenical "achievement" of a commission whose documents bind no one. What is more, the article by Fr. Sanborn "analyzing" the "manifest" heresy in the Joint Declaration fails to mention that nine days after its publication the Vatican published an official response by then Cardinal Ratzinger criticizing the ambiguities in the document and noting that "it is difficult to see how" they could be reconciled with the teaching of the Council of Trent on justification. The document was ultimately "salvaged" from the Vatican's perspective by appending Cardinal Ratzinger's 1998 response and a 1999 Annex which, as Fr. Harrison observes, "papers over a few of the more glaring doctrinal cracks." It was the resulting "3-document package" that the Pope praised as an ecumenical "achievement." Given these circumstances, it is impossible to speak of a "manifest" heresy in the Joint Declaration by which John Paul II would certainly have lost his office.
    40. Oxford Latin Dictionary-----"manifestus."
    41. "Sedevacantism: A Further Reply to Fr. Cekada", Remnant Reprint Series.
    42. "If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ-----which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church-----we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more Divine than the expression 'the Mystical Body of Christ' . . ." Mystici Corporis (1943), n. 13.
    43. TPDS, p. 4.
    44. See, e.g., The Bible Made a Catholic Out of Me, online version at p. 2, at
    45. Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 10.
    46. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Tan) p. 10.
    47. Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 10, Art. 12.

    48. Father Harrison's review of Michael Davies, The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty, "Fidelity Magazine".
    49. The Council does not actually teach, nor could it possibly be the case, that the State would act arbitrarily or with unfair partisanship if it favored the Catholic religion by certain measures. General Audience Address, May 5, 1999; Prayer and Exhortation on March 21, 2000, in Wadi AI-Kharrar: "May St. John the Baptist protect Islam ..."
    50. For this very reason even the Abbé de Nantes, who filed libers of accusation charging Paul VI and John Paul II with heresy is not a sedevacantist. Rather, he awaits a decision of the Church and condemns the sedevacantists in their rash judgments of the conciliar and post-Conciliar Popes. (See, for de Nantes "refutation of the errors of the sedevacantists.") To accuse, he recognizes, is not to prove. It is not for the accuser to serve as judge of his own cause.
    51. "La prima dimensione di questo dialogo, cioe I'incontro tra il popolo di Dio del Vecchio Testamento, da Dio mai denunziato (cf. Rm 11, 29)..." See, -paul_ii/speeches/1980/november/documents/hfjp_ii_spe_19801117_ebrei-magonza_it.html.
    NOTE from CFN: this footnote had a gap where text was missing. I tried as it appears, closing the gap, but this page does not come up. A search on the Vatican site did not provide any help. I tried a search, typing in under John Paul II, "November 1980", "speeches", "documents", and "ebrei magonza", all of which produced several links but not to this reference. Thus I conclude the gap had other sections of the URL where the ink skipped and thus the gap.
    52. From the Act of Consecration of the World to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, promulgated by Pope Pius XI in conjunction with his encyclical Quas Primas (1925), on the Social Kingship of Christ.
    54. Can. 188.4, CIC (1917) on which the sedevacantists rely, as they deem the 1983 Code "heretical."
    55. Sedevacantism: A Further Reply to Fr. Cekada, Remnant Reprint Series.
    56. De Romano Pontefice, Book II, Chap. 30.
    57. Oxford Latin Dictionary ----"manifestus."
    59. Ibid.
    60. Not even the Enterprise claims that John Paul II actively assisted or took part in "the sacred functions of non-Catholics," as opposed to the undeniable outrage of inviting non-Catholics to perform their "sacred functions" on Church premises, as at Assisi, or inviting non-Catholics to participate in Catholic sacred functions, such as a Vespers service John Paul II conducted at the Vatican with Lutheran ministers. Even if the Pope had taken part in non-Catholic sacred functions, only a suspicion of heresy would arise.
    62. As noted earlier, formal heresy requires "obstinate denial or doubt" of an article of faith. Can. 751, CIC (1983).
    63. Summa Theologica, lIa (lae, Q. II, a.2, cited by Fr. Brian Harrison in the Remnant debate.
    64. See note 18.
    66. "Meister Eckhart," Catholic Encyclopedia.
    67. Hartrnann Grisar, Luther (London: Kegan, Paul Trench, et aI., 1913), pp. 45-47.
    68.A sedevacantist "authority," whose name is unimportant, accuses me on his web site of having misunderstood the excommunication of Luther. According to him, Luther was excommunicated even before the 60 days provided in the Bull had begun to run because" All heretics are ipso facto excommunicated without any declaration". In other words, the Bull of Pope St. Leo X should be considered a mere superfluity. The argunent is absurd, for reasons not the least of which is that Pope Leo himself never said any such thing. A declarative sentence is essential for juridical certainty, for random members of the Church cannot determine that anyone has been excommunicated by a Divine sentence in the internal forum.
    69. http://www.traditionalmassorgiarticles/article.php?id=66&catname=14.
    70. Letter from Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, dated January 18, 2003. The full text may he found at
    71. Redemptor hominis (1979), n. 6.
    72. "The Mystery of the Blindfolded Synagogue" (2003) by Enrico Maria Radaelli, with foreword by Robert Livi
    73. "Francisco Suarez," Catholic Encyclopedia (1907 Ed.).
    74. St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 29.
    75. De Fide, Disp. X, Sec. VI, N. 16.
    77. Fr. Cekada makes a cheap debating point by pouncing on my phrase "nowhere does [Bellarmine, Suarez] teach" Fr. Cekada's view, posing the arch question whether I have read the entire multi-volume Latin texts of both theologians. Score one for Fr Cekada. But he fails to show how his idiosyncratic interpretation is supported by anything in those texts, and he conspicuously fails to provide quotations that contradict the obvious interpretation of the passages I quoted.
    78. ST, Q. 33, Art. V, Pt. II-II.
    79. As discussed above, this teaching obviously does not apply where the judgment of a pope is by a successor pope or by a general council whose judgment is confirmed by a successor pope, which we see in the condemnation of Honorius.

    • The Agony of Aggiornamento
      Ember Wednesday
      December 14, 2005
      Volume 16, no. 318