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What Must Be Believed by Catholics

posted by CMRI

St. Vincent of Lerins

“Also in the Catholic Church itself we take great care that we hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and properly Catholic, as the very force and meaning of the word shows, which comprehends everything almost universally. And we shall observe this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is plain that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent if in antiquity itself we eagerly follow the definitions and beliefs of all, or certainly nearly all, priests and doctors alike.”

“What, then, will the Catholic Christian do if any part of the Church has cut itself off from the communion of the Universal Faith? What surely but prefer the soundness of the whole body to a pestilent and corrupt member?

“What if some novel contagion seeks to infect the whole Church, and not merely a small portion of it? Then he will take care to cling to antiquity, which cannot now be led astray by any novel deceit.

“What if in antiquity itself error be detected on the part of two or three men, or perhaps of a city, or even of a province? Then he will look to it that he prefer the decrees of an ancient General Council, if such there be, to the rashness and ignorance of a few.

“But what if some error spring up concerning which nothing of this kind is to be found? Then he must take pains to find out and compare the opinions of the ancients, provided, of course, that such remained in the communion and faith of the One Catholic Church, although they lived in different times and places, conspicuous and approved teachers; and whatever he shall find to have been held, written and taught, not by one or two only, but by all equally and with one consent, openly, frequently and persistently, that he must understand is to be believed by himself also without the slightest hesitation.“

— St. Vincent of Lerins, “The Commonitory,“ tr. by T. Herbert Bindley (London: SPCK, 1914), book 1, chapter 2, no. 6-8, pp. 26-28. Emphasis added.

Answering the Objections to the Sedevacantist Position

Compiled by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Objection I: Pope Pius XII lifted all ecclesiastical penalties during the conclave to elect the pope. So even if the Vatican II popes were heretics before their elections, they would still be validly elected.

Answer: Heretics and schismatics are barred by DIVINE LAW from the election to the Papal Office. Pope Pius XII lifted ecclesiastical penalties; he did not, would not, could not dispense from Divine Law.

Proof:

A. Institutiones Iuris Canonici [1950], Coronata

— “Appointment to the Office of the Primacy — What is required by DIVINE LAW for this appointment… Also required for validity is that the one elected be a member of the Church; hence, heretics and apostates (at least public ones) are excluded…”

B. Institutiones luris Canonici [1921], Marato

— “Heretics and schismatics are barred from the Supreme Pontificate by the Divine Law itself, because, although by divine law they are not considered incapable of participating in a certain type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, nevertheless, they must certainly be regarded as excluded from occupying the throne of the Apostolic See, which is the infallible teacher of the truth of the faith and the center of ecclesiastical unity.

C. Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus [16 Feb. 1559], Pope Paul IV

— “Further, if ever it should appear that any bishop (even one acting as an archbishop, patriarch or primate), or a cardinal of the Roman Church, or a legate (as mentioned above), or even the Roman Pontiff (whether prior to his promotion to cardinal, or prior to his election as Roman Pontiff), has beforehand deviated from the Catholic faith or fallen into any heresy, We enact, decree, determine and define:

— “Such promotion or election in and of itself, even with the agreement and unanimous consent of all the cardinals, shall be null, legally invalid and void.

— “It shall not be possible for such a promotion or election to be deemed valid or to be valid, neither through reception of office, consecration, subsequent administration, or possession, nor even through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff himself, together with the veneration and obedience accorded him by all.

— “Such promotion or election, shall not through any lapse of time in the foregoing situation, be considered even partially legitimate in any way….

— “Each and all of their words, acts, laws, appointments of those so promoted or elected — and indeed, whatsoever flows therefrom — shall be lacking in force, and shall grant no stability and legal power to anyone whatsoever.

— “Those so promoted or elected, by that very fact and without the need to make any further declaration, shall be deprived of any dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office and power.”

D. Institutiones luris Canonici [1921], C. Baldii

— “The law now in force for the election of the Roman Pontiff is reduced to these points:…

— “Barred as incapable of being validly elected are the following: women, children who have not reached the age of reason, those suffering from habitual insanity, the unbaptized, heretics and schismatics….”

Objection II: Vatican Council I taught that St. Peter has perpetual successors; therefore, long vacancies in the See of Peter are not possible.

Answer: Nowhere does the Church determine how long a vacancy may exist in the See of Peter. Between the death of Pope Clement IV (November 29, 1268) and the election of Pope Gregory X (September 1, 1271), there was an interregnum of nearly three years. During the Western Schism, there were three claimants to the See of Peter; theologians teach that even if none of them were pope, that would not be against the promise of Christ or the teaching of perpetual successors.

Proof:

A. Institutiones Theologiae Fundamentalis [1929], Rev. A. Dorsch

— “The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, or even for many years, from remaining deprived of her head [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituta manet].”

B. The Relations of the Church to Society [1882], Fr. Edward J. O’Reilly, S.J.

— “In the first place, there was all throughout from the death of Gregory XI in 1378, a Pope—with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”

C. The Catholic’s Ready Answer [1915], Rev. M. P. Hill, S.J.

— “If during the entire schism (nearly 40 years) there had been no Pope at all—that would not prove that the office and authority of Peter was not transmitted to the next Pope duly elected.”

D. The Defense of the Catholic Church [1927] Fr. Francis X. Doyle, S.J.

— “The Church is a visible society with a visible Ruler. If there can be any doubt about who that visible Ruler is, he is not visible, and hence, where there is any doubt about whether a person has been legitimately elected Pope, that doubt must be removed before he can become the visible head of Christ’s Church. Blessed Bellarmine, S.J., says: ‘A doubtful Pope must be considered as not Pope’; and Suarez, S.J., says: ‘At the time of the Council of Constance there were three men claiming to be Pope…. Hence, it could have been that not one of them was the true Pope, and in that case, there was no Pope at all….’”

Objection III: If all the Vatican II popes were invalid, then there would be no cardinals to elect a future pope. Thus the Papacy would come to an end which is impossible.

Answer: During the Western Schism, three men claimed to be pope (the true pope in Rome, one in Avignon, one in Pisa) In order to heal the nearly forty-year schism, the Council of Constance determined that with all the cardinals, delegates from each country would participate in the papal election (Pope Martin V was elected). Theologians teach that in doubt of or in absence of cardinals, the Church has the right to choose its Head.

Proof:

A. De Potestate Ecclesiae, Vitoria

— “Even if St. Peter would have not determined anything, once he was dead, the Church had the power to substitute him and appoint a successor to him … If by any calamity, war or plague, all Cardinals would be lacking, we cannot doubt that the Church could provide for herself a Holy Father.

— “Hence such an election should be carried out by all the Church and not by any particular Church. And this is because that power is common and it concerns the whole Church. So it must be the duty of the whole Church.”

B. De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, Cajetan, OP

— “.. . by exception and by supplementary manner this power (that of electing a pope), corresponds to the Church and to the Council, either by the absence of Cardinal Electors, or because they are doubtful, or the election itself is uncertain, as it happened at the time of the schism.”

C. De Ecclesia Christi, Billot

— “When it would be necessary to proceed with the election, if it is impossible to follow the regulations of papal law, as was the case during the Great Western Schism, one can accept, without difficulty, that the power of election could be transferred to a General Council.”

— “Because natural law prescribes that, in such cases, the power of a superior is passed to the immediate inferior because this is absolutely necessary for the survival of the society and to avoid the tribulations of extreme need.”

D. The Church of the Incarnate Word [1954], Msgr. Charles Journet

The Church During a Vacancy of the Holy See

— “We must not think of the Church, when the Pope is dead, as possessing the papal power in act, in a state of diffusion, so that she herself can delegate it to the next Pope in whom it will be re-condensed and made definite. When the Pope dies the Church is widowed, and, in respect of the visible universal jurisdiction, she is truly acephalous. But she is not acephalous as are the schismatic churches, nor like a body on the way to decomposition. Christ directs her from heaven … But, though slowed down, the pulse of life has not left the Church; she possesses the power of the Papacy in potency, in the sense that Christ, who has willed her always to depend on a visible pastor, has given her power to designate the man to whom He will Himself commit the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, as once He committed them to Peter.

— “During a vacancy of the Apostolic See, neither the Church nor the Council can contravene the provisions already laid down to determine the valid mode of election (Cardinal Cajetan, O.P., in De Comparata, cap.xiii, no. 202). However, in case of permission (for example if the Pope has provided nothing against it), or in case of ambiguity (for example, if it is unknown who the true Cardinals are or who the true Pope is, as was the case at the time of the Great Schism), the power ‘of applying the Papacy to such and such a person’ devolves on the universal Church, the Church of God.”

Objection IV: Even if a pope fell into heresy, he would remain pope until the Church declared him a heretic and no longer pope.

Answer: Pope Paul IV, in Cum Ex Apostolatus, Pope Innocent III in Si Papa, and theologians teach that a heretical pope is deposed by God.

Proof:

A. Bull: Cum Ex Apostolatus [16 Feb. 1559], Pope Paul IV

— “Further, if ever it should appear that any bishop (even one acting as an archbishop, patriarch or primate), or a cardinal of the Roman Church, or a legate (as mentioned above), or even the Roman Pontiff (whether prior to his promotion to cardinal, or prior to his election as Roman Pontiff), has beforehand deviated from the Catholic faith or fallen into any heresy, We enact, decree, determine and define:

— “Such promotion or election in and of itself, even with the agreement and unanimous consent of all the cardinals, shall be null, legally invalid and void… Those so promoted or elected, by that very fact and without the need to make any further declaration, shall be deprived of any dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office and power.”

B. Si Papa [1198], Pope Innocent III

— “The Pope should not flatter himself about his power nor should he rashly glory in his honor and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy; because he who does not believe is already judged. In such a case it should be said of him: ‘If salt should lose its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.’”

C. Institutiones Juris Canonici [1950] – Coronata

— “If indeed such a situation would happen, he [the Roman Pontiff] would, by divine law, fall from office without any sentence, indeed, without even a declaratory one. He who openly professes heresy places himself outside the Church, and it is not likely that Christ would preserve the Primacy of His Church in one so unworthy. Wherefore, if the Roman Pontiff were to profess heresy, before any condemnatory sentence (which would be impossible anyway) he would lose his authority.”

D. St. Robert Bellarmine [1610]

— “A Pope who is a manifest heretic automatically ceases to be a Pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church.”

E. St. Antoninus [1459]

— “In the case in which the Pope would become a heretic, he would find himself, by that very fact alone and without any other sentence, separated from the Church. A head separated from a body cannot, as long as it remains separated, be head of the same body from which it was cut off.”

F. St. Francis de Sales [1622]

— “Now when the Pope is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church …”

G. Canon Law – [1943] – Wernz-Vidal

— “Through notorious and openly divulged heresy, the Roman Pontiff, should he fall into heresy, by that very fact (ipso facto) is deemed to be deprived of the power of jurisdiction even before any declaratory judgment by the Church … A Pope who falls into public heresy would cease ipso facto to be a member of the Church; therefore, he would also cease to be head of the Church.

H. Introductio in Codicem [1946] – Udalricus Beste

— “Not a few canonists teach that, outside of death and abdication, the pontifical dignity can also be lost by falling into certain insanity, which is legally equivalent to death, as well as through manifest and notorious heresy. In the latter case, a pope would automatically fall from his power, and this indeed without the issuance of any sentence, for the first See (i.e., the See of Peter) is judged by no one … The reason is that, by falling into heresy, the pope ceases to be a member of the Church. He who is not a member of a society, obviously, cannot be its head.”

I. Epitome Juris Canonici [1949] – A. Vermeersch

— “At least according to the more common teaching the Roman Pontiff as a private teacher can fall into manifest heresy. Then, without any declaratory sentence (for the supreme See is judged by no one), he would automatically (ipso facto) fall from power which he who is no longer a member of the Church is unable to possess.”

Long-Term Vacancy of the Holy See

By John Daly

Revised and edited by John Lane, October 1999

In 1882 a book was published in England called The Relations of the Church to Society — Theological Essays, comprising 29 essays by Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly S.J., one of the leading theologians of his time. The book expresses with wonderful clarity and succinctness many important theological truths and insights on subjects indirectly as well as directly related to its main theme. For our purposes the book has in one respect an even greater relevance than it did at the time of publication, for in it Fr. O’Reilly asserts with the full weight of such authority as he possesses, the following opinions:

  1. that a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time cannot be pronounced to be incompatible with the promises of Christ as to the indefectibility of the Church; and
  2. that it would be exceedingly rash to set any prejudged limits as to what God will be prepared to allow to happen to the Holy See (other, of course, than that a true pope will never fall into heresy, nor in any way err).

Of course Fr. O’Reilly does not have the status of pope or Doctor of the Church; but, that said, he was certainly no negligible authority. Some idea of the esteem in which he was held can be obtained from the following facts:

  • Cardinal Cullen, then Bishop of Armagh, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Thurles in 1850. Dr. Brown, bishop of Shrewsbury, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Shrewsbury.
  • Dr. Furlong, bishop of Ferns and his former colleague as professor of theology at Maynooth, chose him as his theologian at the Synod of Maynooth.
  • He was named professor of theology at the Catholic University in Dublin on its foundation. The General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Beckx, proposed to appoint him professor of theology at the Roman College in Rome, though as it turned out circumstances unrelated to Fr. O’Reilly intervened to prevent that appointment.
  • At a conference held regarding the philosophical and theological studies in the Society of Jesus, he was chosen to represent all the English-speaking “provinces” of the Society — that is, Ireland, England, Maryland, and the other divisions of the United States.

In short Fr. O’Reilly was widely recognized as one of the most erudite and important theologians of his time.

Finally, the following quotation by Dr. Ward in the justly renowned Dublin Review (January 1876 issue) is worth quoting (emphasis added):

“Whatever is written by so able and solidly learned a theologian — one so docile to the Church and so fixed in the ancient theological paths — cannot but be of signal benefit to the Catholic reader in these anxious and perilous times.”

Dr. Ward thought his times were anxious and perilous! Well, let us now see what “signal benefit” we, a little more than a century later, can derive from some of Fr. O’Reilly’s writing.

We open with a brief passage from an early chapter of the book, called “The Pastoral Office of the Church”. On page 33 Fr. O’Reilly says this (emphases added):

“If we inquire how ecclesiastical jurisdiction… has been continued, the answer is that… it in part came and comes immediately from God on the fulfillment of certain conditions regarding the persons. Priests having jurisdiction derive it from bishops or the pope. The pope has it immediately from God, on his legitimateelection. The legitimacy of his election depends on the observance of the rules established by previous popes regarding such election.”

Thus, if papal jurisdiction depends on a person’s legitimate election, which certainly is not verified in the case of the purported election of a formal heretic to the Chair of Peter, it follows that, in the absence of legitimate election, no jurisdiction whatever is granted, neither “de jure” nor, despite what some have tried to maintain, “de facto.”

Fr. O’Reilly makes the following remark later in his book (page 287 — our emphases added):

“A doubtful pope may be really invested with the requisite power; but he has not practically in relation to the Church the same right as a certain pope — he is not entitled to be acknowledged as Head of the Church, and may be legitimately compelled to desist from his claim.”

This extract comes from one of two chapters devoted by Fr. O’Reilly to the Council of Constance of 1414. It may be remembered that the Council of Constance was held to put an end to the disastrous schism which had begun thirty-six years earlier, and which by that time involved no fewer than three claimants to the Papacy, each of whom had a considerable following.

Back to Fr. O’Reilly:

“The Council assembled in 1414…

“We may here stop to inquire what is to be said of the position, at that time, of the three claimants, and their rights with regard to the Papacy. In the first place, there was all through, from the death of Gregory XI in 1378, a Pope — with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”

Thus one of the great theologians of the nineteenth century, writing subsequently to the 1870 Vatican Council, tells us that it is “by no means manifest” that a thirty-six year interregnum would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ. And we can therefore legitimately ask: at what stage, if any, would such be manifest? After thirty-seven years? Or forty-seven years? Clearly, once it is established in principle that a long interregnum is not incompatible with the promises of Christ, the question of degree — how long — cannot enter into the question. That is up to God to decide, and who can know what astonishing things He may in fact decide.

And, indeed, as Fr. O’Reilly proceeds further in this remarkable chapter, written over a hundred years ago but surely fashioned by Divine Providence much more expressly for our day than for his, he makes this very point about what it can and cannot be assumed that God will permit. From page 287 (all emphases added):

“There had been anti-popes before from time to time, but never for such a continuance… nor ever with such a following…

“The great schism of the West suggests to me a reflection which I take the liberty of expressing here. If this schism had not occurred, the hypothesis of such a thing happening would appear to many chimerical. They would say it could not be; God would not permit the Church to come into so unhappy a situation. Heresies might spring up and spread and last painfully long, through the fault and to the perdition of their authors and abettors, to the great distress too of the faithful, increased by actual persecution in many places where the heretics were dominant. But that the true Church should remain between thirty and forty years without a thoroughly ascertained Head, and representative of Christ on earth, this would not be. Yet it has been; and we have no guarantee that it will not be again, though we may fervently hope otherwise. What I would infer is, that we must not be too ready to pronounce on what God may permit. We know with absolute certainty that He will fulfil His promises; not allow anything to occur at variance with them; that He will sustain His Church and enable her to triumph over all enemies and difficulties; that He will give to each of the faithful those graces which are needed for each one’s service of Him and attainment of salvation, as He did during the great schism we have been considering, and in all the sufferings and trials which the Church has passed through from the beginning. We may also trust He will do a great deal more than what He has bound Himself to by His promises. We may look forward with a cheering probability to exemption for the future from some of the troubles and misfortunes that have befallen in the past. But we, or our successors in future generations of Christians, shall perhaps see stranger evils than have yet been experienced, even before the immediate approach of that great winding up of all things on earth that will precede the day of judgment. I am not setting up for a prophet, nor pretending to see unhappy wonders, of which I have no knowledge whatever. All I mean to convey is that contingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree.

While Fr. O’Reilly himself disclaims any status as a prophet, nevertheless a true prophecy is clearly exactly what this passage amounts to. Moreover it is the kind of prophecy which, provided it is advanced conditionally, as in this case, both can and should be made in the light of the evidence on which he is concentrating his gaze. In respect of much that lies in the future there is no need for special revelations in order that we may know it. As Fr. O’Reilly indicates, except where God has specifically told us that something will not occur, any assumptions concerning what He will not permit are rash; and of course such assumptions will have the disastrous result that people will be misled if the events in question do occur. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaias 55:8)

The Papacy

By Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Sts. Peter and Paul
June 29, 1997

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Nearly 2000 years ago in ancient quarters of Caesarea Philippi, our Divine Savior chose St. Peter as the rock upon which He would found His Church. He promised to St. Peter and, in his person, to his successors, supreme power over the universal Church “to bind and to loose.”

As we celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, it would be appropriate to consider the papacy, the office of the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church and of the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. This issue is especially critical in our own times, when we, who have remained faithful to tradition, have been labeled as disobedient to Rome for rejecting the Novus Ordo Mass and the false teachings on ecumenism and religious liberty which have emanated from the Second Vatican Council.

Furthermore, this issue is all the more critical inasmuch as it is the one point that divides traditional Catholics today. How many traditional Catholics long for unity, yet are divided on this fundamental point which concerns the modern post-Conciliar hierarchy.

Let us review the teachings of Jesus Christ and the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church in order to better understand the nature and prerogatives of the divine-established office of the Pope.

In the Gospel of St. John, we read how our Divine Savior had chosen His twelve Apostles and to Simon Bar-Jona Jesus Christ had given the name Cephas:

“But Jesus, looking upon him said, ‘Thou art Simon, the son of John; thou shalt be called Cephas (which interpreted is Peter)” (John 1:42).

Why did Christ change this man’s name? What significance would this change have in the future? The answers to these questions are found in the Gospel of St. Matthew, where we read:

“Now Jesus having come into the district of Caesarea Philippi, began to ask His disciples saying, ‘Who do men say the Son of Man is?’ But they said, ‘Some say, John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but My Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matt. 16:13-19).

Jesus Christ gave to Simon Bar-Jona the name Cephas (rock) for upon would His Church be founded.

This is further supported by the words of Our Lord to St. Peter found in both the Gospel of St. Luke and that of St. John:

“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’” (Luke 22:31-32).

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs… Feed My lambs… Feed My sheep’” (John 21:15-17).

In the holy Gospels, St. Peter is always named first in the lists of the Apostles (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14). In the Acts of the Apostles, it is St. Peter who speaks out that one must be chosen to take the place of the apostate Judas (Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14) and it is St. Peter who first addresses the crowds on the first Pentecost Sunday.

When we investigate the early centuries of the Christian era, we find how St. Peter’s successors in Rome exercised the power of “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” “to bind and to loose.”

Pope St. Clement, writing to the Corinthians in 96 A.D., while St. John the Apostle and Evangelists was still alive, warned certain disturbers among the Corinthians not to disobey what Christ had commanded them through him, thus claiming clearly the authority of the Vicar of Christ, the right to command the whole Church as the successor of St. Peter.

In the second century, Pope St. Victor I (189-198) commanded the bishops of Asia to celebrate Easter on the same day as the Church of Rome, and he threatened them with excommunication if they refused obedience.

In the third century, Pope St. Callistus (217-222) declared against the Montanists that by virtue of the Primacy which he held as successor of St. Peter, he had the power to forgive even the greatest sins.

Pope St. Stephen I (254-257) commanded the Asiatic and African Churches under pain of excommunication not to re-baptize heretics.

In the fourth century, Pope St. Julius I (337-352) taught that difficulties arising among the Bishops were to be decided by himself as the Supreme Judge.

Pope Siricius (384-399) taught that the Universal Church had been committed to his care as to the one who had inherited the Primacy from St. Peter.

The claims of the successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome down through the centuries are so explicit and numerous that it would be superfluous to give more testimonies. In addition to this list of the successors of St. Peter who exercised the Primacy of Jurisdiction over the universal Church, the testimony of the early Fathers of the Church and of the ecumenical Councils also confirms this point as well. Again we have recourse to the testimony of history.

St. Ignatius the Martyr (died 110), writing to the Romans, said that the Church of Rome is the head of the other churches.

St. Irenaeus said that it would be a lengthy matter to enumerate the successors of all the churches; but that by showing the traditional teaching of the Church of Rome, we refute the heretics, for it is necessary that every church agree with the Church of Rome because of its higher authority.

St. Cyprian called the Church of Rome the “principal Church and the source of unity.”

At the Council of Ephesus in the year 431, Philip, the Legate of the Pope, made the following statement to which the Fathers of the Council unanimously agreed: “No one doubts, indeed it was known to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, Prince and Head of the Apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation stone of the Church, received from Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, the Keys of the Kingdom, and to him was given the power of binding and loosing. He [Peter] lives and exercises judgment even to this day and forever in his successors… His successor and representative in that office, Pope Celestine, has sent us to this synod.”

The Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon (451), writing to Pope St. Leo, stated that in the Council he presided through his legate as the head over the members; they speak to him as sons to their father; as to the successor of Peter and the interpreter of the Faith; as to the one to whom the care of the whole Church has been entrusted; and they beg him to honor and affirm their decrees by his decision.

The Third Council of Constantinople (680) addressed the Pope as The Archbishop of the Universal Church.

The Second Council of Nice (787) addressed the Pope as the one whose See is preeminent because it possesses the Primacy of the whole world.

There are many other references that could be quoted; however, the best reference to the Papacy, to its Primacy of Jurisdiction and to Papal Infallibility, is found in the First Vatican Council which was held under Pope Pius IX between 1869 and 1870.

In this Council we find a summary of all the past teachings of the Church on this subject:

“For the fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following closely in the footsteps of their predecessors, made this solemn profession: ‘The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith. For it is impossible that the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18), should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied, and its teaching kept holy.’”

“For they fully realized that this See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error, according to the divine promise of Our Lord and Savior made to the prince of His disciples, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou has turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32).”

“Now this charism of truth of never-failing faith was conferred upon St. Peter and his successors in this Chair, in order that they might perform their supreme office for the salvation of all.”

These passages from the First Vatican Council remind us that the Pope is the one essential person in the Catholic Church’s exercise of her property of Infallibility.

As Ludwig Ott, STD, explains in his comprehensive dogmatic theology book, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

“The possessors of infallibility are:
A) The Pope: The Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra.
B) The whole episcopate: The totality of the bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by all the faithful. The bishops exercise their infallible teaching power in an ordinary manner when they, in their dioceses, in moral unity with the Pope, unanimously promulgate the same teachings on faith and morals. The Vatican Council expressly declared that also the truths of Revelation proposed as such by the ordinary and general teaching office of the Church are to be firmly held with ‘divine and catholic faith.’”

Without the Pope, the Church cannot exercise her infallibility. For this reason Canon Law legislates that an Ecumenical Council is suspended (ipso jure) in the event of the death of the Pope. It is reconvened only after the election of the new Pope.

Now all these considerations bring us to the primary issue of our pastoral letter. What happened at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965?

The answer is most shocking. After two years of work by a Preparatory Commission made up of bishops and theologians from around the world, 75 schemata (topics for discussion) had been gathered to be presented to the Council; nevertheless, by the intervention of John XXIII, all these documents were discarded and replaced by new schemata.

As Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (who was a member of the Preparatory Commission) lamented:

“Now you know what happened at the Council. A fortnight after its opening not one of the prepared schemata remained, not one! All had been turned down, all had been condemned to the wastepaper basket. Nothing remained, not a single sentence. All had been thrown out…. After a fortnight, we were left without any preparation. It was really inconceivable.”

At this point, it became possible to present other agenda — that of ecumenism and religious liberty.

Despite the fact that the Catholic Church had previously condemned false ecumenism (inter-religious dialogue and worship with non-Catholics), especially condemned by Pope Pius XI in Mortalium Animos, and despite the fact that the 1917 Code of Canon Law had forbidden communicatio in sacris (Canon 1258) and held under suspicion of heresy those who would be involved in it (Canon 2315), the Second Vatican Council now encouraged ecumenism in its decree Unitatis Redintegratio and its declaration Nostra Aetate. Whereas before the Council, the Catholic Church always taught that the Catholic Faith was the one, true religion revealed by God, now the Council opened the doors of salvation to other religions — Protestant and non-Christian (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islamism, Judaism, etc.) alike. Now the new mission of the Church according to Vatican II is to promote the good which is found in these false religions. No longer is there any reference to conversion to the true Faith.

Following the Council, it became necessary for the liberal innovators to do away with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because it posed a barrier to the Protestants. In the name of ecumenism, six Protestant theologians representing the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church actively participated in the special commission established by Paul VI to re-write the Mass. The end result of this commission, as we know, was the Novus Ordo Missae — the New Order of the Mass — which by no means represented the propitiatory Sacrifice of Calvary, but rather, as they defined it in Luther’s own words, “The Lord’s Supper.”

For the past thirty-two years the modern hierarchy has daily promulgated in their “ordinary and universal teachings” these blatant errors. On a regular basis John Paul II reiterates over and over the false and freemasonic principles of religious liberty and practices false ecumenism, not only with Protestants, but also with non-Christians.

How can the modern hierarchy represent the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church? How can “popes” of Vatican II represent the rock upon which Christ founded His Church? Can the words of Vatican Council I “in the teachings of the Apostolic See, the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied” and “this See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error,” be applied to the modern hierarchy?

What then has happened in the Catholic Church? The answer is found in St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians:

“The day of the Lord will not come unless the Apostasy comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition… who sits in the temple of God and gives himself out as if he were God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

In the instructions of the Grand Orient Freemasonry, the Alta Vendita, their plan was clearly delineated to infiltrate the Catholic Church to the highest levels, even to the Chair of Peter. Excerpts from the Grand Orient Freemasonry Unmasked, by Monsignor George F. Dillon, D.D.:

“Now then, in order to secure to us a Pope in the manner required, it is necessary to fashion for that Pope a generation worthy of the reign of which we dream. Leave on one side old age and middle life, go to the youth, and, if possible, even to infancy.”

“In a few years the young clergy will have, by the force of events, invaded all the functions. They will govern, administer and judge. They will form the council of the Sovereign. They will be called upon to choose the Pontiff who will reign; and that Pontiff, like the greater part of his contemporaries, will be necessarily imbued with the Italian and humanitarian principles which we are about to put in circulation.

“Seek out the Pope of whom we give the portrait. You wish to establish the reign of the elect upon the throne of the prostitute of Babylon? Let the clergy march under your banner in the belief always that they march under the banner of the Apostolic Keys. You wish to cause the last vestige of tyranny and of oppression to disappear? Lay your nets like Simon Bar-Jona. Lay them in the depths of sacristies, seminaries and convents, rather than in the depths of the sea, and if you will precipitate nothing you will give yourself a draught of fishes more miraculous than his. The fisher of fishes will become a fisher of men. You will bring yourselves as friends around the Apostolic Chair. You will have fished up a Revolution in Tiara and Cope, marching with Cross and banner — a Revolution which needs only to be spurred on a little to put the four quarters of the world on fire.”

We witness today the rapid formation of a New World Order under the auspices of the United Nations, but there can be no doubt that the U.N. has its counterpart in the modern Conciliar Church of Vatican II.

May we remain steadfast in the true Faith, for “whoever perseveres to the end, he shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13).

In Christo Jesu et Maria Immaculata,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Perpetual Successors in the Primacy

Rev. Fr. Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.

The following letter by Fr. Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., is a response to those who claim that the first Vatican Council’s reference to “perpetual successors in the Primacy” is a proof that the Chair of Peter could not have been vacant for the past forty years and more. Although originally written several years ago, the letter is just as relevent today.


Dear correspondent,

You quote the passage from Vatican Council I, Session IV, which states clearly that St. Peter, the first Pope, has “perpetual successors in the Primacy over the universal Church….”

You, understandably, wonder how it could be that there are still “perpetual successors” of St. Peter if the men who have claimed to be Popes in our times have been in reality public heretics, who therefore could not, as heretics, be the true successors of St. Peter.

The important thing here is to understand just what kind of “perpetual succession” in the Papacy Our Lord established.

Did Our Lord intend that there should be a Pope on the Chair of Peter every single moment of the Church’s existence and every single moment of the Papacy’s existence?

You will immediately realize that, no, Our Lord very obviously did not establish that kind of “perpetual succession” of Popes. You know that, all through the centuries of the Church’s existence, Popes have been dying and that there then followed an interval, after the death of each Pope, when there was no “perpetual successor,” no Pope, occupying the Chair of Peter. That Chair became vacant for a while whenever a Pope died. This has happened more than 260 times since the death of the first Pope.

But you also know that the death of a Pope did not mean the end of the “perpetual succession” of Popes after Peter.

You understand now that “no Pope” did not mean “no Papacy.” A vacant Chair of Peter after the death of a Pope does not mean a permanent vacancy of that Chair. A temporary vacancy of the Chair of Peter does not mean the end of the “perpetual successors in the Primacy over the universal Church.”

Even though Our Lord, had He so willed it, could have seen to it that the moment one Pope died, another man would automatically succeed him as Pope, He nevertheless did not do it that way.

Our Lord did it the way we have always known it to be, that is, He allowed for an interval, or interruption, of undesignated duration, to follow upon the death of each Pope.

That interruption of succession of Popes has, most of the time, lasted several weeks, or a month or so, but there have been times when the interruption lasted longer than that, considerably longer.

Our Lord did not specify just how long that interruption was allowed to last before a new Pope was to be elected, and He did not declare that, if the delay in electing a new Pope lasted too long, the “perpetual succession” was then terminated, so that it would then have to be said that “the Papacy is no more.”

Nor did the Church ever specify the length or duration of the vacancy of the Chair of Peter to be allowed after the death of a Pope.

So it is clear that the present vacancy of the Chair of Peter, brought on by public heresy, despite the fact that it has lasted some 40 years or so, does not mean that the “perpetual succession” of Popes after St. Peter has come to an end.

What we must realize here is that the Papacy, and with it the “perpetual succession” of Popes, is a divine institution, not a human institution. Therefore, man cannot put an end to the Papacy, no matter how long God may allow heresy to prevail at the Papal headquarters in Rome.

Only God could, if He so willed, terminate the Papacy. But He will not do it, because He has made His will known to His Church that there will be “perpetual successors” in the Papal Primacy that was first entrusted to St. Peter.

We naturally feel distressed that the vacancy of the Chair of Peter has lasted so long, and we are unable to see the end of that vacancy in sight. But we do realize that the restoration of the Catholic Faith, and with it the return of a true Catholic Pope to the Papal Chair, will come when God wills it and in the way He wills it.

If it seems to us, as of now, that there are no qualified, genuinely Catholic electors who could elect a new and truly Catholic Pope, God can, for example, bring about the conversion of enough cardinals to the traditional Catholic Faith, who would then proceed to elect a new Catholic Pope.

God can intervene in whatever way it may please Him, in order to restore everything as He originally willed it to be in His Holy Church.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M
11-30-02

On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See

By Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI

Our conference on the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the sedevacantist position, is most important, for it is a theological position which is very misunderstood, often misrepresented, and emotionally difficult for many groups. But before we proceed on this topic, it is paramount to stress that it is because of our belief in the Papacy and in Papal Infallibility that we necessarily must reject Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI as legitimate Popes. Many accuse us of rejection of the papacy. That is furthermost from the truth.

In our earlier conference, we made reference to the main errors of religious indifferentism, false ecumenism and religious liberty which have infected the Conciliar Church of Vatican II. It is for us to demonstrate that the true Catholic Church—the Pope and the Bishops in union with him—could not promulgate such errors to the universal Church, and that no true Pope could promulgate a defective liturgy (Novus Ordo Missae) and a sacrilegious law (1983 Code of Canon Law 844.3 and 4 Communion to non-Catholics). It is for us to demonstrate that men who promulgate heresy are heretics; and as such, they lose the authority in the Church

Although we can consider many different aspects of our position with the papacy, it will be sufficient for us today to limit our studies to a few main premises upon which our conclusion (the vacancy) rests.

The first premise to consider is the infallibility of the Catholic Church. What is this attribute of the Church? How does it provide clear and compelling evidence against Benedict XVI and the Conciliar Church?

The attribute of infallibility means the inability and impossibility of the Teaching Magisterium to err when teaching the universal Church on matters of faith and morals. As Vatican Council I taught:

“Moreover, by divine and Catholic faith everything must be believed that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, and that is proposed by the Church as a divinely revealed object of belief either in a solemn decree or in Her ordinary, universal teaching.”

The possessors of infallibility are:

a) the Pope,
(The Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra).

b) the whole Episcopate,
(The totality of the Bishops in union with the Pope is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered over the earth, propose a teaching of faith or morals as one to be held by all the faithful).

Many are familiar with the concept of infallibility in the “ex cathedra” pronouncements of the Pope and also in the decrees of an Ecumenical Council, but they are not familiar with the concept of the infallibility of “the ordinary, universal magisterium of the Church.”

What is the ordinary, universal magisterium?

For a clear and concise answer, we read in The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott:

“The bishops exercise their infallible teaching power in an ordinary manner when they, in their dioceses, in moral unity with the Pope, unanimously promulgate the same teachings on faith and morals. The Vatican Council expressly declared that also the truths of Revelation proposed as such by the ordinary and general teaching office of the Church are to be firmly held with ‘divine and catholic faith’ (D 1792). But the incumbents of the ordinary and general teaching office of the Church are the members of the whole episcopate scattered over the whole earth. The agreement of the Bishops in doctrine may be determined from the catechisms issued by them, from their pastoral letters, from the prayer books approved by them, and from the resolutions of particular synods. A morally general agreement suffices, but in this the express or tacit assent of the Pope, as the supreme Head of the Episcopate, is essential.”

Clearly, the Vatican II church, Benedict XVI (with his predecessors, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II) and the Vatican II bishops have promulgated in their “ordinary and universal magisterium” the errors of religious liberty, false ecumenism and religious indifferentism. This has been the constant theme of the Conciliar Church for the last 40 years!

And in particular, with the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae and the sacrilegious Canon 844, 3 and 4, we find it an impossibility that a true pope could have officially enacted such an erroneous liturgy and legislation. When we consider the area of infallibility, we find the object of the Church’s infallibility is two-fold as described by Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

a) “The primary object of the Church’s infallibility is the formally revealed truths of Christian Doctrine concerning faith and morals.

b) “The secondary object of the Church’s infallibility is truths of the Christian teaching on faith and morals, which are not formally revealed, but which are closely connected with the teaching of Revelation.”

Included in the secondary object of infallibility are the following:

  1. theological conclusions;
  2. dogmatic facts;
  3. the general discipline of the Church;
  4. approval of religious orders;
  5. canonization of saints.

Why must these areas be objects of the Church’s infallibility?

An excellent explanation is found in Christ’s Church, by Monsignor G. Van Noort, S.T.D.:

“The charism of infallibility was bestowed upon the Church so that She could piously safeguard and confidently explain the deposit of Christian revelation, and thus could be in all ages the teacher of Christian truth and of the Christian way of life.”

“It is evident from Christ’s promises that the magisterium, the teaching office of the Church, was endowed with infallibility so that She might be able to carry out her mission properly, that is, to safeguard reverently, explain confidently, and defend effectively the deposit of faith.”

“The security of the deposit requires the effective warding off or elimination of all error which may be opposed to it, even though only indirectly. This would be simply impossible without infallibility in the matters listed above.”

Here it would be well for us to focus on a further explanation of the secondary object of infallibility, in the area of the general discipline of the Church.

Once again, let us read from Christ’s Church, by Van Noort:

“The Church’s infallibility extends to the general discipline of the Church. This proposition is theologically certain. By the term ‘general discipline of the Church’ are meant those ecclesiastical laws passed for the universal Church for the direction of Christian worship and Christian living.”

“The imposing of commands belongs not directly to the teaching office but to the ruling office; disciplinary laws are only indirectly an object of infallibility, i.e., only by reason of the doctrinal decision implicit in them. When the Church’s rulers sanction a law, they implicitly make a two-fold judgment: 1) ‘This law squares with the Church’s doctrine of faith and morals;’ that is, it imposes nothing that is at odds with sound belief and good morals. This amounts to a doctrinal decree.”

Proof:

“—From the purpose of infallibility. The Church was endowed with infallibility that it might safeguard the whole of Christ’s doctrine and be for all men a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. But if the Church could make a mistake in the manner alleged when it legislated for the general discipline, it would no longer be either a loyal guardian of revealed doctrine or a trustworthy teacher of the Christian way of life. It would not be a guardian of revealed doctrine, for the imposition of a vicious law would be, for all practical purposes, tantamount to an erroneous definition of doctrine; everyone would naturally conclude that what the Church had commanded squared with sound doctrine. It would not be a teacher of the Christian way of life, for by its laws it would induce corruption into the practice of religious life.

—From the official statement of the church, which stigmatized as ‘at least erroneous’ the hypothesis that the ‘church could establish discipline which would be dangerous, harmful, and conducive to superstition and materialism.’”

“The well-known axiom,Lex orandi est lex credendi(The law of prayer is the law of belief), is a special application of the doctrine of the Church’s infallibility in disciplinary matters. This axiom says in effect that formulae of prayer approved for public use in the universal Church cannot contain errors against faith or morals.”

How could the Catholic Church continuously renew the unbloody Sacrifice of Calvary in the Holy Mass and then abruptly substitute it with a Lutheran ”memorial of the Last Supper?” How could the Catholic Church so firmly legislate in her laws against interfaith and intercommunion, as fostering religious indifferentism, and then suddenly abrogate these laws and permit these undertakings?

Are we to suppose that the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, has suddenly changed His mind and allowed contradictions in matters of the Faith, the Mass and her universal laws? Are we to suppose that Christ suddenly abandoned His Church and let her fall into error and heresy>

Yet, it is primarily this issue of infallibility that divides those who call themselves traditional Catholics. Some traditional Catholics reject the errors of false ecumenism and religious liberty of the second Vatican Council, the new Protestant memorial of the Last Supper—the Novus Ordo Missae—and the heresies of the New Code of Canon Law (1983) and yet insist that the very authors of these errors are still Christ’s representatives here on earth. In reality, they say that the Living Teaching Magisterium of the Church has erred and has led the majority of Catholics into error, and continues to err. Such a conclusion is nothing less than to deny the infallibility of the Church.

There can be no doubt that the Conciliar Church has erred. Not only in 1965 at the conclusion of Vatican Council II, but also for the past thirty years in its ordinary universal magisterium. How can it be any more clear — this Conciliar Church is not the Catholic Church!

As Pope Leo XIII taught in Satis Cognitum:

“If the living magisterium could be in any way false—an evident contradiction would follow, for then God would be the author of error”.

And also the First Vatican Council (1870), in the Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aeternus, infallibly taught:

§213 “For the fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following closely in the footsteps of their predecessors, made this solemn profession: “The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ (Matt. 16:18) would not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied, and its teaching kept holy…”

§216 “… For they fully realized that this See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior made to the prince of his disciples, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou has turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:32).

“Now this charism of truth and of never-failing faith was conferred upon St. Peter and his successors in this Chair, in order that they might perform their supreme office for the salvation of all; that by them the whole flock of Christ might be kept away from the poison of error and be nourished by the food of heavenly doctrine; that the occasion of schism might be removed, the whole Church preserved as one, and, secure on its foundation, stand firm against the gates of hell.”

Unfortunately, there are some who would falsely claim that popes have officially erred in the past; they refer to Pope Honorius and Pope Liberius. However, this is simply not true. To refute this, we read from the book The Vatican Council and its Definitions by Cardinal Henry Manning (1870):

“I will, nevertheless, here affirm, that the following points in the case of Honorius can be abundantly proved from documents:

  1. That Honorius defined no doctrine whatsoever.
  2. That he forbade the making of any new definition.
  3. That his fault was precisely in this omission of apostolic authority, for which he was justly censured.
  4. That his two epistles are entirely orthodox; though, in the use of language, he wrote as was usual before the condemnation of Monothelitism, and not as it became necessary afterwards. It is an anachronism and an injustice to censure his language, used before that condemnation, as it might be just to censure it after the condemnation had been made.

“To this I add the following excellent passage from the recent Pastoral of the Archbishop of Baltimore:

“That case of Honorius forms no exception; for

1st Honorius expressly says in his letters to Sergius, that he meant to define nothing, and he was condemned precisely because he temporized and would not define;

2nd Because in his letters he clearly taught the sound Catholic doctrine, only enjoining silence as to the use of certain terms, then new in the Church; and

3rd Because his letters were not addressed to a general council of the whole Church, and were rather private, than public and official; at least they were not published, even in the East, until several years later. The first letter was written to Sergius in 633, and eight years afterwards, in 641, the emperor Heraclius, in exculpating himself to Pope John II, Honorius’ successor, for having published his edict — the Ecthesis — which enjoined silence on the disputants, similar to that imposed by Honorius, lays the whole responsibility thereof on Sergius, who he declares, composed the edict. Evidently, Sergius had not communicated the letter to the Emperor, probably because its contents, if published, would not have suited his wily purpose of secretly introducing, under another form, the Eutcyhian heresy. Thus falls to the ground the only case upon which the opponents of Infallibility have continued to insists. This entire subject has been exhausted by many recent learned writers.”

In the case of Pope Liberius, we find in Volume III of Radio Replies by Fr. Leslie Rumble, M.S.C. and Fr. Charles Cortez:

“In their efforts to refute the Catholic Doctrine, enemies of the Church have ransacked history in hope of finding a pope who has taught heretical ideas. They thought they had found such a pope in Pope Liberius, arguing that he subscribed to the Arian heresy condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. But let’s take the facts:

“Liberius became pope in the year 3 52 A.D. From this outset he fought against the continued efforts of the Arians to corrupt the faith.

“The emporor Constantius, himself an Arian, seized Pope Liberius by force and exiled him to Berea in Thrace.

“It is said that to escape this exile and induced by fraud and threats, Pope Liberius signed a formula dreamed up by the Arians. But historical research has shown that it is doubtful whether he signed the documents at all.”

The second premise to be used to demonstrate the vacancy of the Apostolic See is that heretics who cannot be members of the Church, likewise cannot hold positions in authority within the Church. John Paul II’s repeated acts of false ecumenism with the false religions of the world are, in the words of Pope Pius XI, “tantamount to abandoning the religion revealed by God” — in other words, apostasy!

This particular issue of the loss of the papacy by heresy is supported by many canonists and theologians:

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) Bishop and doctor of the Church said:

“Now when the Pope is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church…”

St. Robert Bellarmine said:

“A Pope who is a manifest heretic automatically ceases to be Pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction.”

St. Alphonsus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, said:

“If ever a Pope, as a private person, should fall into heresy, he should at once fall from the Pontificate. If, however, God were to permit a pope to become a notorious and contumacious heretic, he would by such fact cease to be pope, and the apostolic chair would be vacant.”

St. Antoninus said:

“In the case in which the Pope would become a heretic, he would find himself, by that very fact alone and without any other sentence, separated from the Church. A head separated from a body cannot, as long as it remains separated, be head of the same body from which it was cut off.”

At Vatican Council I the question was also raised by a Cardinal, “What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?” It was answered that “there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself. If the Pope, for instance, were to say that the belief in God is false, you would not be obliged to believe him, or if he were to deny the rest of the creed; I believe in Christ, etc. The supposition is injurious to the Holy Father in the very idea, but serves to show you the fullness with which the subject has been considered and the ample thought given to every possibility. If he denies any Dogma of the Church held by every true believer, he is no more Pope than either you or I.” (The Life and Work of Pope Leo XIII by Rev. James J. McGovern, D.D., p. 241).

Canon #188.4 of the Code on Tacit Resignation:

“There are certain causes which effect the tacit resignation of an office, which resignation is accepted in advance by operation of the law, and hence is effective without any declaration. These causes are … (4) if he has publicly fallen away from the faith.”

Wernz-Vidal’s Canon Law, an 8-volume work published in 1943, states: “Through notorious and openly divulged heresy, the Roman Pontiff, should he fall into heresy, by that very fact (ipso facto) is deemed to be deprived of the power of jurisdiction even before any declaratory judgment by the Church… A Pope who falls into public heresy would cease ipso facto to be a member of the Church; therefore, he would also cease to be head of the Church.” And also: “A doubtful pope is no pope.”

In the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia we read:

“The Pope himself, if notoriously guilty of heresy, would cease to be Pope because he would cease to be a member of the Church.”

Pope Innocent III also said:

“The Pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honour and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy; because he who does not believe is already judged. In such a case it should be said of him: ‘If salt should lose its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.’”

Theologian Caesar Badii (1921):

“Cessation of pontifical power. This power ceases. .. (d) through notorious and openly divulged heresy. A publicly heretical pope would no longer be a member of the Church; for this reason, he could no longer be its head.”

Theologian Udalricus Beste (1946):

“Not a few canonists teach that, outside of death and abdication, the pontifical dignity can also be lost by falling into certain insanity, which is legally equivalent to death, as well as through manifest and notorious heresy. In the latter case, a pope would automatically fall from his power, and this indeed without the issuance of any sentence, for the first See (i.e., the See of Peter) is judged by no one . . . The reason is that, by falling into heresy, the pope ceases to be a member of the church. He who is not a member of a society, obviously, cannot be its head.”

The Rev. Matthew Ramstein, D.D. in the Manual of Canon Law states:

“By divine law the Pope, once elected, holds office for life. But in addition to the death of the incumbent, the papal office may become vacant if the pope should resign, or fall into heresy, or lose the use of reason … If the Pope should happen to fall into heresy, he is no longer a member of the Church, must less its head. It is understood that the Pope cannot be guilty of heresy when he speaks infallibly ex cathedra. The supposition is only possible should the Pope teach heretical doctrine in a private capacity.”

In the Defense of the Catholic Church, Rev. Francis X. Doyle, S.J., states in Paragraph 402, The Loss of the Primacy:

“The Supreme Pontiff can lose the Primacy in these ways: 1. By voluntary resignation, as in the case of Celestine V. 2. By open heresy, by which he ceases to be a member of Christ’s Church. This, however, while not contradictory to reason, is hardly conceivable. 3. By Insanity. 4. By death.”

Matthaeus Conte a Coronata (1950) states:

“If indeed such a situation would happen, he (the Roman Pontiff) would, by divine law, fall from office without any sentence, indeed, without even a declaratory one. He who openly professes heresy places himself outside the Church, and it is not likely that Christ would preserve the Primacy of His Church in one so unworthy. Wherefore, if the Roman Pontiff were to profess heresy, before any condemnatory sentence (which would be impossible anyway) he would lose his authority.” (Institutiones luris Canonici, Rome: Marietti 1950 1:312,316).

A. Vermeersch, I. Creusen (1949) writes:

“At least according to the more common teaching, the Roman Pontiff as a private teacher can fall into manifest heresy. Then, without any declaratory sentence (for the supreme See is judged by no one), he would automatically (ipso facto) fall from a power which he who is no longer a member of the Church is unable to possess” (Epitome luris Canonici, Rome: Dessain 1949.340).

Eduardus F. Regatillo (1956) states:

“‘The pope loses office ipso facto because of public heresy.’ This is the more common teaching, because a pope would not be a member of the Church, and hence far less could he be its head” (Institutiones luris Canonici, 5th ed. Santander: Sal Terrae, 1956.1:396).

Pope Paul IV (1559):

“Further, if ever it should appear that any bishop (even one acting as an archbishop, patriarch or primate), or a cardinal of the Roman Church, or a legate (as mentioned above), or even the Roman Pontiff (whether prior to his promotion to cardinal, or prior to his election as Roman Pontiff), has beforehand deviated from the Catholic faith or fallen into any heresy, We enact, decree, determine and define:

— “Such promotion or election in and of itself, even with the agreement and unanimous consent of all the cardinals, shall be null, legally invalid and void.

— “It shall not be possible for such a promotion or election to be deemed valid or to be valid, neither through reception of office, consecration, subsequent administration, or possession, nor even through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff himself, together with the veneration and obedience accorded him by all.

— “Such promotion or election, shall not through any lapse of time in the foregoing situation, be considered even partially legitimate in any way…

— “Each and all of the words, as acts, laws, appointments of those so promoted or elected — and indeed, whatsoever flows therefrom — shall be lacking in force, and shall grant no stability and legal power to anyone whatsoever.

— “Those so promoted or elected, by that very fact and without the need to make any further declaration, shall be deprived of any dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office and power” (Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio,16 February 1559.

One objection raised against our position of the vacancy of the Apostolic See is that heresy is principally a crime (“delictum”) against canon law — and a pope, as supreme legislator for canon law, is not himself subject to it.

However, the case of a heretical pope, rather, pertains to heresy as a sin against divine law — for the canonists clearly state that it is divine law that precludes a heretic from obtaining or retaining papal authority:

“Heretics and schismatics are barred from the Supreme Pontificate by the Divine Law itself, because, although by divine law they are not considered incapable of participating in a certain type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, nevertheless, they must certainly be regarded as excluded from occupying the throne of the Apostolic See, which is the infallible teacher of the truth of the faith and the center of ecclesiastical unity” (Marato, Institutiones luris Canonici [1921] 2:184).

“Appointment to the Office of the Primacy. 1. What is required by divine law for this appointment… Also required for validity is that the one elected be a member of the Church; hence, heretics and apostates (at least public ones) are excluded….”

“If indeed such a situation would happen, he [the Roman Pontiff] would, by divine law, fall from office without any sentence, indeed, without even a declaratory one. He who openly professes heresy places himself outside the Church, and it is not likely that Christ would preserve the Primacy of His Church in one so unworthy. Wherefore, if the Roman Pontiff were to profess heresy, before any condemnatory sentence (which would be impossible anyway) he would lose his authority” (Coronata, Institutiones Iuris Canonici [1950] 1:312,316).

Given the hypothesis of a heretical pope, says Cardinal Billot, such a pope would automatically lose his power because he would be cast outside the body of the Church “by his own will” (De Ecclesia Christi, 5th ed., [1927] 1:632).

It is not a crime against canon law that deposes a heretical pope, but his public sin against divine law.

Furthermore, among the theological motives that are presented by the Society of St. Pius X to maintain their nominal recognition of Benedict XVI against the sedevacantist position, we find a quote from Fr. Peter Scott:

“Nevertheless, it is preposterous to say, as the sedevacantists do, that there has not been any Pope for more than 40 years, for this would destroy the visibility of the Church, and the very possibility of a canonical election of a future Pope.”

The answer to their first “difficulty” as to a lengthy interregnum (a vacancy in the Papal office) is found in the history of the Church during the Great Western Schism which occurred between the years 1378 and 1417. From 1378 to 1409 there were two claimants (one in Rome and one in Avignon) to the Papal office; then in 1409, a third claimant (from Pisa) came on the scene.

In regard to this confused state of affairs in the Church during the Great Western Schism, there is a most interesting theological point found among the teachings of Fr. Edmund James O’Reilly, S.J., He was one of the leading theologians of his time, having been theologian to Cardinal Cullen of Armagh at the Synod of Thurles; theologian to Bishop Brown at the Synod of Shrewsbury; theologian to Bishop Furlong at the synod of Maynooth; and having been named professor of the Catholic University in Dublin. In 1882, Fr. O’Reilly published a book entitled The Relations of the Church to Society in which he asserted that a vacancy of the Holy See lasting for an extended period of time cannot be considered incompatible with the promises of Christ and the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Church:

“We may here stop to inquire what is to be said of the position, at that time, of the three claimants, and their rights with regard to the Papacy. In the first place, there was all throughout, from the death of Gregory XI in 1378, a Pope — with the exception, of course, of the intervals between deaths and elections to fill up the vacancies thereby created. There was, I say, at every given time a Pope, really invested with the dignity of vicar of Christ and Head of the Church, whatever opinions might exist among many as to his genuineness; not that an interregnum covering the whole period would have been impossible or inconsistent with the promises of Christ, for this is by no means manifest, but that, as a matter of fact, there was not such an interregnum.”

During these difficult times in which the Novus Ordo has replaced the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in which false religions have been invited by the Conciliar Church to render false worship to their gods in the churches of Assisi, are we not witnessing nothing less than the Great Apostasy foretold by St. Paul in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (II Thessalonians 2:3-8)?

As for the second “difficulty” proposed by the Society of St. Pius X against the sedevacantist position, that there would be an impossibility of a future Papal election if the See of Peter were vacant since Vatican II, we read in The Church of the Incarnate Word by Monsignor Charles Journet:

“During a vacancy of the Apostolic See, neither the Church nor the Council can contravene the provisions already laid down to determine the valid mode of election (Cardinal Cajetan, O.P., in De Comparata, cap. xiii, no. 202). However, in case of permission (for example if the Pope has provided nothing against it), or in case of ambiguity (for example, if it is unknown who the true Cardinals are or who the true Pope is, as was the case at the time of the Great Schism), the power ‘of applying the Papacy to such and such a person’ devolves on the universal Church, the Church of God” (Ibid., no. 204).