That Conference on deposing the Pope

One of the co-organizers of the conference posted a lengthy comment on my previous article: A Conference called: The Deposition of the Pope. My reply is there. He argues that a Pope can be heretical, based on the opinions of past theologians and scholars. But he ignores the teaching of Vatican I on that question:

1. That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching. This Holy See has always maintained this, the constant custom of the Church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.

2. So the fathers of the fourth Council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church [55], cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honor. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the Christian religion [56].

What is more, with the approval of the second Council of Lyons, the Greeks made the following profession:
“The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.” [57]

Then there is the definition of the Council of Florence:
“The Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church.” [58]

3. To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received.

4. It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes individually, sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established custom of the Churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred to this Apostolic See those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing [59].

5. The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God’s help, they knew to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions.

6. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [60].

7. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

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6 Responses to That Conference on deposing the Pope

  1. Cyrille Dounot says:

    Do you realy believe that Charles Journet (1891-1975), created cardinal by Paul VI, did not know Vatican I council ? Here’s a quote from the Église du Verbe Incarné, Paris, 1941, t. 1, p. 625-627, on this topic :

    “Comment le pontificat, une fois validement possédé, peut-il se perdre ?
    Au plus, de deux manières :
    a) La première – au fond, nous l’allons voir, c’est l’unique manière – par évanouissement, par disparition du sujet lui-même : soit à la suite d’un événement inévitable (la mort, ou cette espèce de mort que serait la perte irrémédiable, de la raison), soit à la suite d’une libre renonciation au pontificat, comme celle de saint Célestin, « che fece… il gran rifiuto ». Le pape était considéré comme démissionnaire en certaines circonstances qui le mettaient dans l’impossibilité d’exercer ses pouvoirs : « Il semble qu’en ces temps-là, quand un évêque était écarté de son siège par une sentence capitale (mort, exil, relégation) ou par une mesure équivalente émanant de l’autorité séculière, le siège était considéré comme vacant. C’est dans ces conditions que l’Église romaine remplaça, au IIIe siècle, Pontien par Antéros, au VIe Silvère par Vigile, au VIIe Martin par Eugène. » (L. Duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l’Église, t. III, p. 229, note 1).
    b) La seconde manière serait la déposition. Si déposition signifie, au sens propre, destitution par une juridiction supérieure, il est évident que le pape, ayant sur terre la plus haute juridiction spirituelle, ne pourra jamais, au sens propre, être déposé. Quand donc on parlera de déposition du pape, ce ne sera qu’au sens impropre. Deux cas sont ici à examiner.

    D’abord le cas de la déposition d’un pape douteux. Mais le pape dont l’élection reste douteuse n’étant point pape, il est évident qu’il ne s’agit pas alors, à proprement parler, d’une déposition de pape.
    Ensuite le cas très débattu du pape hérétique.
    Pour bien des théologiens, l’assistance que Jésus a promise aux successeurs de Pierre les empêchera non seulement d’enseigner publiquement l’hérésie, mais encore de tomber, comme personnes privées, dans l’hérésie. Il n’y a pas, dès lors, à introduire de débat sur la déposition éventuelle d’un pape hérétique. La question est tranchée d’avance. Saint Bellarmin, De romano pontifice, lib. II, cap. XXX, tenait déjà cette thèse pour probable et facile à défendre. Elle était pourtant moins répandue de son temps qu’aujourd’hui. Elle a gagné du terrain à cause, en bonne partie, du progrès des études historiques, qui a montré que ce qu’on imputait à certains papes, tels Vigile, Libère, Honorius, comme une faute privée d’hérésie, n’était au vrai rien de plus qu’un manque de zèle et de courage à pro¬clamer, et surtout à préciser, en certaines heures difficiles, la vraie doctrine.
    Néanmoins, de nombreux et bons théologiens du XVIe et du XVIIe siècle ont admis qu’il fût possible que le pape tombât, en son privé, dans le péché d’hérésie, non seulement occulte mais même manifeste.
    Les uns, comme saint Bellarmin Suarez, ont alors estimé que le pape, en se retranchant lui-même de l’Église, était « ipso facto » déposé, papa hæreticus est depositus. Il semble que l’hérésie soit considérée par ces théologiens comme une sorte de suicide moral, supprimant le sujet même de la papauté. Nous revenons ainsi sans peine à la toute première manière dont nous avons dit que le pontificat pouvait se perdre.
    Les autres, comme Cajetan, Jean de Saint-Thomas, dont l’analyse nous paraît plus pénétrante, ont estimé que même après un péché manifeste d’hérésie, le pape n’est pas encore déposé, mais qu’il devait l’être par l’Église, papa hæreticus non est depositus sed deponendus. Cependant, ont-ils, ajouté, l’Église n’est pas pour autant, supérieure au pape… Ils font remarquer d’une part que, de droit divin, l’Église doit être unie au pape comme le corps à la tête ; d’autre part que, de droit divin, celui qui se manifeste hérétique doit être évité après un ou deux avertissements (Tit., III, 10). Il y a donc une antinomie absolue entre le fait d’être pape et le fait de persévérer dans l’hérésie après un ou deux avertissements. L’action de l’Église est simplement déclarative, elle manifeste qu’il y a péché incorrigible d’hérésie ; alors l’action auctoritative de Dieu s’exerce pour disjoindre la papauté d’un sujet qui, persistant dans l’hérésie après admonition, devient, en droit divin, inapte à la détenir plus longtemps. En vertu donc de l’Écriture, l’Église désigne et Dieu dépose. Dieu agit avec l’Église, dit Jean de Saint-Thomas, un peu comme agirait un pape qui déciderait d’attacher des indulgences à la visite de certains lieux de pèlerinage, mais laisserait à un ministre le soin de désigner quels seront ces lieux. L’explication, de Cajetan, et de Jean de Saint-Thomas – ce n’est plus l’hypothèse d’un pape douteux qui servait à éclairer les agissements du Concile de Constance – nous ramène, à son tour, au cas d’un sujet qui, à partir d’un certain moment, commence à devenir, en droit divin, incapable de détenir davantage le privilège de la papauté. Elle est réductible, elle aussi, à l’amission du pontificat par défaut de sujet. C’est bien, en effet, le cas fondamental, dont les autres ne représenteront que des variantes.

    • Ron Conte says:

      a) No Pope can be deposed by secular authority, not even by the holy Roman emperor (in past centuries). The claim that a secular authority is above the Vicar of Christ is contrary to Church teaching. Again, you propose the work of scholars in place of the teachings of the Church. None of the examples give by Duchesne were a valid removal from office. It is true that emperors tried to assert their authority over Popes, even by force. But under magisterial teaching, such authority is false. Vigilius, for example, was not recognized as the legitimate Pope until after the death of his predecessor.

      b) The assertion is correct that the Pope is the highest spiritual authority on earth, therefore, he cannot be deposed. It is also correct, when we look at the teaching of Vatican I, that: “Pour bien des théologiens, l’assistance que Jésus a promise aux successeurs de Pierre les empêchera non seulement d’enseigner publiquement l’hérésie, mais encore de tomber, comme personnes privées, dans l’hérésie.” Concerning Charles Journet, AGAIN, you are proposing to nullify Church teaching with the opinions of prominent persons. The teaching of a Council is nothing other than what the Council taught. His claims cannot overrule or distort or take the place of what the Council actually taught.

      Your proposed action of the Church is the body rebelling against its head, supposedly led by God. That is contrary to the words of Jesus, that the Church is founded on the single Rock that is Peter and each successor in his turn. The many grains of sand, though they be members of the Church or eminent scholars and leaders, cannot judge or declare that the Pope has gone astray.

      By the way, how many past Popes are you accusing of heresy? So far, you have suggested John XXII, Boniface VII, Honorius, Vigilius, Liberius!!! The authority of the Magisterium falls apart if the Popes can fall into heresy, since we cannot know which Popes and therefore which Councils are valid. And so what are we left with? Only the common opinion of scholars as a replacement. The Rock replaced by the sand, because the sand wishes to exalt itself and take the place of the Rock, against the admonition of our Lord!

  2. Theophanes the recluse says:

    They don’t like this part, Ron

    “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors”.

    Yesterday i tried to explain to a traditionalist that if a Pope could fall into heresy his faith wouldn’t be “never-failing”, and in this case “Pastor Aeternus” would contain a dogmatic error, and if the Church could have erred in this dogma our faith would be worthless, because it could not claim any truth, but he didn’t listen.

    These people are trying to undermine the papal infallibility dogma; nothing more nothing less.

    How ironic: they want to depose a Pope because they erroneusly think he is trying to undermine the dogmatic teaching of the Church concerning marriage by undermining another dogma! :-)

  3. santi says:

    We need to persevere in prayer and fasting. No rebuttal however brilliant seems to touch the heart or enlighten much less correct anyone’s mindset

  4. Guest says:

    As an ex-sedevacantist, I claim that many trads don’t follow the core principles of Catholicism–submission to the teaching authority. They judge the pope’s faith, not the pope theirs. If the pope says X is Catholic and they can’t reconcile it, well the pope is wrong. So with Vatican II, they can’t reconcile it with their reading of old Church documents, so they will claim that it is not infallible for one reason or another. But the Church hierarchy has judged the true sense of Old Church documents in Vatican II. It’s the duty of the living magisterium to decide what is Catholic, not individuals. If your reading disagrees with what is being taught today, you are the wrong one, not the Church. To assert otherwise is to believe in a different church than the Catholic one. If a pope can only be the pope if he teaches what you already believe in is to invert the whole reason why we have a teaching authority in the first place, like a tail wagging a dog. Your are supposed to submit to him. Take away the pope and the foundation collapses. For which of the bishops has the authority to bind any other bishop who disagrees with him? If two bishops teach opposite things, to whom are you supposed to submit to? All you are left with is old Church documents and following the bishop who agrees with your interpretation. This is reduced to a type of private interpretation. If this is the Catholic Church, then it has failed. It couldn’t preserve the faith and remain either visible or united.

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