Objections and Replies |
True Papal Authority and the Necessity of Keeping the Faith Alive
"Let's face it. John Paul II does not think like a Catholic. It is no wonder that he would consider the ordination of four Catholic bishops to be a danger, yet not blink at the ordinations of exclusively modernist candidates for 20 years! Who can possibly fault Archbishop Lefebvre for doing what he did! He had to do it for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. "
I am now continuing to answer objections that can be or have been brought up against my theses in installments 1-5, which exonerate Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishops Antonio de Castro Mayer, Richard Williamson, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Alfonso de Galarreta, and Bernard Fellay from the charges of excommunication and schism due to the illicit episcopal consecrations of June 30, 1988. In installment 6, I answered 3 possible objections. This is where I'm picking up now.
Objection 4: The First Vatican Council teaches: ". . . the judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment. . . ." (Denzinger 1830). Therefore, since the Pope said Lefebvre and the other five bishops are excommunicated and in schism, they are indeed excommunicated and in schism.
Answer: It would be scary if one could be schismatic and excommunicated at the mere wish of the Pope. But thankfully, whether or not one is schismatic depends upon whether one had committed a schismatic offense, and not whether the Pope has said one is a schismatic. This is likewise true of excommunication. Whether I am excommunicated latae sententiae depends on whether I have committed an offense that incurs such an excommunication. Whether I am excommunicated ferendae sententiae depends upon whether such an excommunication has been pronounced against me by the lawful authority, and whether it is justly inflicted upon me. Here we recall the words of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia: "Excommunication is said to be unjust when, though valid, it is wrongfully applied to a person really innocent but believed to be guilty. Here, of course, it is not a question of excommunication latę sententię and in foro interno, but only of one imposed or declared by judicial sentence [i.e. ferendae sententiae]. It is admitted by all that a null excommunication produces no effect whatever, and may be ignored without sin." In other words, though technically "valid," an unjust excommunication may be ignored without sin because it does not bind.
The reason for this is that the Pope (or other lawful superior) does not have the ability to make someone an excommunicate or a schismatic. The person must be really guilty of an excommunicable or schismatic offense. And this is only determined by objective reality, i.e. by the facts. The Pope cannot change the past. If I have not done anything that deserves a ferendae sententiae excommunication, then even if he should excommunicate me ferendae sententiae, I know it is not binding and can rest easily, knowing that I am still a member of the Church.
What, then, of the Vatican I decree quoted above? The only way I can make sense of it is by understanding it to mean that the Pope has the last word on doctrinal, disciplinary, and canonical matters. He cannot be overruled by anyone, even a council (as the Eastern Schismatic heretics believe). That means that he is the highest legal authority. However, this does not imply in any way that his judgment is always correct or that it is always binding, no matter how unjust, unfair, or perverse it might be.
Let me illustrate this by means of an analogy. The analogy I am going to use is not perfect, but I think it will suffice to get my point across. Think of the U.S. Supreme Court. Imagine you're accused of murder, even though you're innocent. Let's say things have gotten really twisted, and despite your innocence, the prosecution has made a case that really makes you look guilty, and the Supreme Court - the highest legal authority in the United States judicial system - is convinced by the prosecution and condemns you to death, declaring you guilty of murder. Now, the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. This means that whatever the Supreme Court decides, goes. There's nothing you can do about it. If the Supreme Court says you're guilty, you're going to prison! Even if you didn't do what you're accused of and are totally innocent. It doesn't matter. You can't overrule the Supreme Court. You can prove outside of the court to the public that you're innocent, but the Supreme Court has made its judgment, and that's it.
So here's the rub: even though you're innocent, you're guilty "legally." As far as legality is concerned, you're "guilty"! But does that mean you really are guilty? Of course not! The Supreme Court's decision didn't make you guilty of murder. It merely said you were, but if it isn't true, you're not guilty. It's as simple as that. Analogously, if you have not committed a schismatic offense, then you're not guilty of schism, even though the highest authority in the Church - the Pope - says otherwise! And if your actions, per Church law, have not made you incur latae sententiae excommunication, then you are not latae sententiae excommunicated, even though the Pope might say otherwise.
To sum up, then, the only way I can make sense of the Vatican I decree quoted above is by saying that it refers to the Pope's legal authority, an authority which there is no higher authority on earth to appeal to. You cannot bindingly disclaim his judgment - only God, the Pope in question himself, or a future Pope can do that. Nothing Archbishop Lefebvre or the SSPX or I may say can overrule the Pope's judgment in any legally binding way. But we nevertheless can, and must, prove it to be mistaken.
I would hope that after the evidence so far presented, even a skeptic would have to agree that at the very least, it is doubtful whether Lefebvre committed a schismatic act and/or incurred excommunication. But this already would be enough to exonerate him, as Canon 14 says: "Laws, even invalidating and incapacitating ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt of law. . . ."
Objection 5: : The Pope is the authentic and final interpreter of Canon Law. If the Pope says that the canons which exonerate Lefebvre (e.g. Canons 1323, 4°, 7°; 1324, §3; §1, 8°) don't apply, then they don't apply, and you can't use them in Lefebvre's defense.
Answer: The Pope can change certain things in Canon Law, of course, but he can't change the rules in the middle of the game. If Lefebvre relied on several canons to exonerate him, then the Pope can't say afterwards that they didn't apply and then make his decision binding retroactively (in fact, the 1983 Code says: "A law comes into being when it is promulgated" [Canon 7]). If he could do that, then we might as well not have a Code of Canon Law. Then we might as well be totally at the mercy of the Pope, no matter what, in an absolute way. But that would be idolatry, as it would be worship of the Pope. Only God may and must be obeyed absolutely and unconditionally.
Now, notice that I said the Pope can change "certain" things in Canon Law. He cannot change everything but only some things. Canon Law is the Law of the Church, and many decrees in it are grounded in Divine and Eternal Law, in dogma, in doctrine, and in perennial practice. Therefore, some things simply cannot change. The Code is not arbitrary. It is not a manifesto of what the current Supreme Pontiff likes. That would be horrendous. Therefore, for instance, the Pope could never allow desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, idolatry, blasphemy, or apostasy. No Code of Canon Law could possibly declare in any binding manner that people who deliberately and freely desecrate the Eucharist, worship false gods, blaspheme the name of God, etc., incur no guilt or punishment. No Code could decree that, because these things are diametrically opposed to the Divine Law. They are unchangeable. Likewise, even God Himself could never command, tolerate, or approve of idolatry, for instance. He couldn't do it because He would be contradicting Himself, and that is impossible. So, not everything in Canon Law is merely disciplinary. Some of it is rooted in Divine Law, in dogma, in doctrine, etc.
Now, the main point here to remember is that even though the Pope may say that the canons which exonerate Lefebvre are now no longer in force (though he does not claim that, to my knowledge; we're arguing on a hypothetical level), they certainly were in force on the day of the consecrations, June 30, 1988. And that's all that matters.
Objection 6: The Pope has said that the "state of necessity" that Archbishop Lefebvre claimed to rest his case on does not exist. Now, the Pope is the Supreme Legislator, and thus if he says there is no state of necessity, then there is no state of necessity. Therefore, Lefebvre can't appeal to a state of necessity.
Answer: Several things here. First, precisely what constitutes a state of necessity is not defined in the Code of Canon Law. The relevant canon in fact says: "No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept: acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls" (Canon 1324, 4°). When we speak of the "state of necessity" (sometimes called "state of emergency"), we mean that Lefebvre acted "by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience." Now, it is clear that the Pope and other prelates in the Vatican believe that there was no necessity to ordain those bishops, nor would it have been gravely inconvenient for anyone if these bishops had not been ordained, so they think.
However, the very fact that these prelates in the Vatican, incl. the Pope, did not recognize the state of necessity is a great part of the state of necessity and makes the state even worse, i.e. more necessary, and made it even more urgent that these bishops be ordained. Why? Because since at least 1969, to my knowledge, not a single real (=traditional) Catholic was granted permission to be ordained a bishop. Every candidate who was granted permission to become a bishop was a modernist to some extent. They all had to accept Vatican II in total, they all had to accept the New Mass, and they all had to accept the New Religion. But this means that since 1969, not a single Catholic was ordained a bishop. So that means that the only bishops between 1969 and 1988 (when Lefebvre consecrated against the will of the Pope) were modernists, the greatest enemies of the Church. That's almost 20 years. Now, does this not constitute a state of necessity as far as ordaining Catholic bishops is concerned? If the Pope only allows modernists as bishops and no more Catholics, and there are no signs of this changing any time soon after almost 20 years, is it not entirely urgent for the salvation of souls and the tranquility of ecclesiastical order that real Catholics be ordained bishops?
Anyone who is a Catholic would have to agree that yes, there is such a necessity. But the Pope didn't think so. But far from proving that therefore there is no state of necessity, this made the state of necessity even more acute! Not only did the Pope not allow any Catholic bishops to be ordained for 20 years, he also didn't think that that was in any way a problem! Folks, if this does not constitute a state of necessity, then what does? If this does not qualify for a state of necessity exception as far as Canon Law is concerned, then we really have no such state of necessity exception, do we?
Let's face it. John Paul II does not think like a Catholic. It is no wonder that he would consider the ordination of four Catholic bishops to be a danger, yet not blink at the ordinations of exclusively modernist candidates for 20 years! Who can possibly fault Archbishop Lefebvre for doing what he did! He had to do it for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls.
Objection 7: It is never necessary to ordain bishops against the will of the Roman Pontiff.
Answer: That's exactly what the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts said in response to the "state of necessity" argument the SSPX has made. But while the PCILT is authoritative, let's examine what they have actually said. Their claim that it is never necessary to ordain bishops against the will of the Roman Pontiff is simply gratuitous. There is no basis for making such an entirely unjustified assertion. I suppose they just made it up. I can give several scenarios which would easily refute their silly claim. For instance, imagine that a Pope becomes mentally ill. Imagine he has Alzheimer's Disease and is therefore incapacitated to make sober judgments. Imagine that he forbids any and all consecration of bishops henceforth. Let's say that over the years the situation becomes so seriously critical that in order not to endanger the salvation of souls and the continuity of the Church, bishops simply must be ordained. But the Pope remains stubborn because of his disease. This would be a perfect example in which it would be certainly necessary to defy the will of the Pope and go ahead and ordain bishops anyway.
Or imagine a situation in which we simply have a wicked Pope who positively wishes to destroy the Church and therefore forbids anyone from consecrating bishops - from now until forever. Again, the Pope's command must be resisted and bishops must be ordained when the necessity arises.
When the PCILT, therefore, says that it's never necessary to consecrate bishops against the Pope's wishes, they are not only wrong, they also give the Pope more authority than he has - and that is very dangerous - inasmuch as they make the Pope's will absolute. But the Pope, despite his high and noble office, is only a man, and there is no guarantee that he will act in accordance with the will of God unless he speaks ex cathedra on faith and morals, which is almost never.
More objections and replies in the next installment.
Editor's Note: So many of the post-conciliar bishops today refer to those clinging to the true Roman Catholic traditions that were in vogue for 2000 years prior to the reforms of Vatican II as 'fossils,' 'dinosaurs,' 'old folks who will die off soon.' We beg to differ and offer as proof the youthful wisdom and enthusiasm of the younger generation in the Traditional Insights of Mario Derksen who exemplifies the thinking of many more young men and women today who realize the new thinking of the post-conciliar church does not add up to true Catholic teaching. Thus they long for those traditions so tried and true. His insight shows great promise, optimism and hope for the future of Holy Mother Church.
Note: [bold, brackets and italicized words used for emphasis]
For past columns by Mario Derksen, see Archives for www.DailyCatholic.org/2003mdi.htm
Time of Quadragesima
volume 14, no. 10
Mario Derksen's young and refreshing TRADITIONAL INSIGHTS