Eleison Comments – Number CDXI – (411)

Eleison Comments

Eliot Weekend

Catholics, do not be narrow. Our Lord said

That sheep outside his fold have him as head.

The weekend seminar held here in Broadstairs at the beginning of May on poems and plays of the famous modern poet, T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), was a great success. Eliot is a writer difficult to understand, because he insisted on making sense of the senseless modern world, but Dr David White’s six lectures (in 36 hours!) inspired in his more than two dozen Catholic listeners a real interest in Eliot. He was chosen as subject of the literary seminar because he wrote part of his most famous poem, the Waste Land, in nearby Margate. A high point of the seminar was an excursion to the seaside pavilion where Eliot did the actual writing, and where Dr White recited the Waste Land to seminar participants in front of a grey sea, beneath a grey sky – the atmospherics were perfect!

Many Catholics object to writers who are not openly Catholic, however famous they may be. But in the mid-1920’s, soon after writing the Waste Land, Eliot nearly became a Catholic, and from then on until his death the solution he presented in his writings for the modern world’s problems centered around Our Lord Jesus Christ. This may not be obvious at first view, either because he was writing for lukewarm Christians, or because he was still himself wrestling with modernity, but let his real belief in Christ be illustrated by a poem from his Four Quartets, singled out by Dr White for explanation, section IV of the fourth quartet, “Little Gidding”:

  1. The dove descending breaks the air
  2. With flame of incandescent terror
  3. Of which the tongues declare
  4. The one discharge from sin and error.
  5. The only hope, or else despair
  6. Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
  7. To be redeemed from fire by fire.
  8. Who then devised the torment? Love.
  9. Love is the unfamiliar Name
  10. Behind the hands that wove
  11. The intolerable shirt of flame
  12. Which human power cannot remove.
  13. We only live, only suspire
  14. Consumed by either fire or fire.

During the Second World war, Eliot was living in London, and at night he acted as an Air Raid Warden, patrolling the streets to minimize the danger and damage of German air raids. The first of the poem’s two verses is like those plastic double images which contain two pictures, depending on how you tilt the plastic. The second verse draws the tremendous lesson from the double image.

Thus 1) the “dove descending” is both the Holy Ghost descending at Pentecost and the enemy bombers coming down on London. 2) The “flame of terror” is both the fire of the Holy Ghost and the enemy’s incendiary bombs. 3) The “tongues” are both those of the Holy Ghost on the heads of the Apostles and those of the fire-bombs, while 4) the “discharge” is both the Redemption by Christ and the releasing of the bombs by human politics. 5) The first of these is our only hope, the second is the hopelessness of war. 6) On which funeral pyre do we choose to burn? 7) The fire of Redemption is to save us from the fire of damnation. Second verse: thus 8) it is God who designs World Wars to save us from eternal fire. 9) He is not well known, but it is 10) his Love which is allowing the politicians to cause 11) the torments of war, 12) which are redeemable by Christ alone. 13) In conclusion, human life ends only 14) in fire, either that of divine Love or that of eternal damnation.

The Third World War is coming. When it comes, how many Catholic preachers are there who will dare to preach that it is the divine Love which will have been behind its appalling sufferings, no less being necessary in order to put us back, by God’s design, on track to Heaven? The non-Catholic Eliot was saying it 70 years ago.

Kyrie eleison.

Deo Gratias! Two Catholic bishops to challenge Rome on consecration of bishops!

Eleison Comments  5

Laus Deo!!

 Two renegade Catholic bishops on Tuesday at a remote monastery in Nove Friburgo, Brazil, expressed their willingness to consecrate a new generation of bishops in apparent challenge to Rome.
French Bishop Jean-Michel Faure, said the new group “rejected Pope Francis and his new religion” and would not engage in a dialogue with Rome until the Vatican reversed some of its actions.

Richard Williamson and Faure, who were both excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church when the former made the latter a bishop without Vatican approval. Faure said the fact they planned to consecrate bishops was important because it means their schism can continue as a rebel form of Catholicism.

“We follow the Popes of the past not the current one. It is likely that in maybe one or two years we will have more consecration.

“There were already two candidates to be promoted to bishop’s rank,’’ he said. Faure said the group was first addressed as Roman Catholic now St Pius X, and later the Resistance. He said the St of St Pius X (SSPX) was a larger ultra-traditionalist group that was excommunicated in 1988 when its founder consecrated four new bishops, including Williamson, despite warnings from the Vatican. Faure said they rejected the modernizing reforms of the 1962-65 “Second Vatican Council’’ and stuck with Catholicism’s old Latin Mass after the Church switched to simpler liturgy in local languages.

He said the resistance group would not engage in dialogue with Rome. “We resist capitulation, we resist conciliation of St Pius X with Rome,” he said. Faure said he was not sure what it would take for Rome to return to its old traditions but conflict could be a catalyst. “If there is another World War maybe the Church will go back to the way it was before,” he said.

A report said former Pope Benedict readmitted the four SSPX bishops to the Catholic fold in 2009, but the SSPX soon expelled Williamson because of an uproar over his Holocaust denial. It said in contrast to Benedict, Pope Francis pays little attention to the SSPX ultra-traditionalists, They claim to have a million followers around the world and a growing number of new priests at a time that Rome faces priest shortages.

The report stated that under Catholic law, Williamson and Faure are excommunicated from the Church but remain validly consecrated bishops.It explained that the duo could ordain priests into their schismatic group and claim to be Catholic, albeit without Vatican approval.

It added that by contrast, women supposedly made priests by dissident Catholic bishops are not validly ordained because Catholic law reserves the priesthood only for men.

God bless the resistance!



SSPX catholic resistance

Yellow light discussions continue

Participants in discussions on some Resistance boards continue to maintain that the SSPX Chapels/Masses should be given a yellow light and that we should not stay away until we see erroneous doctrine being taught. They are missing a few points:

They are focussing on what is being taught – no current teaching error, therefore no problem. With this line of thought, the logical conclusion is that it is then permissible/required to go to Indult Masses, as they too do not currently teach error and do promote the Tridentine Mass. If this is sufficient, then there is no state of emergency, so there is no reason for the SSPX to exist. There are plenty of groups available within the structure of the Modern Church to meet this preference.

A further point that we can make is that the individual SSPX/Indult/NO priest, who may be personally solid, by staying within the organization represents the policies/principles of the organization. So, although the SSPX priest may be against the organizational policies/procedures, he still represents acceptability of 95% of Vatican II, acceptance of the new Code of Canon Law, NOM’s being legitimately promulgated (and therefore legitimate), etc.

The modern SSPX no longer passes on the fullness of the Teaching of the Catholic Church, partly by omission and partly by distorting the teachings of their founder. The fullness of the Truth is no longer sought, but a practical agreement becomes the target.

Lessons learned through observance of the many other Indult groups are ignored. Modernist Rome is considered trustworthy enough to be obeyed without criticizing their errors.

God bless the Resistance!

Continue reading – http://www.ecclesiamilitans.com/2014/09/29/yellow-light-discussions-continue/

Fr. Pfeiffer – Sedevacantism / Sermon – Fr Chazal: Deposing a Pope /Document SSPX -MC



Fr. Joseph Pfeiffer – Sedevacantism and the Canon of the Mass Sermon

Via: ecclesiamilitans.com

Fr Chazal Forwards Document on Deposing a Pope

John of St. Thomas
“De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis” Disputatio III, Articulus II
XVII De Depositione Papae & Seq.

There remains a second difficulty, namely by what authority can this deposition be made. And the whole question deals on two things, namely, around the declarative sentence by which the crime of the pope is declared, by whom it must be made, whether by cardinals, or by a general council; and if by a general council, by whom authority it must be assembled, and by what power can he know about such cause.

Secondly, about the deposition itself, which is to be done after a declarative criminal sentence; whether it is done by the power of the Church, or by Christ the Lord Himself, immediately, the declaration being supposed.

As for the first point, it must be said that the dealing with the deposition of the pope can be cone in no way by the cardinals in the declaration of the crime, but to a general council. This is evident from the use of the Church; for in the case of Marcellinus regarding the incensing of idols, a synod was assembled in order to discuss the cause, as found in the chapter, distinction XXI. And in the case of schism, in which three popes were found [in the diverse] obediences, there was assembled the synod of Constance in order to quell the schism. And in the case of Symmachus there was the council of Rome to deal with things that were objected to him as referred to by Antonius Augustinus in his “Epitome Iuris De Pontifice Maximo,” title XIII, and in the laws abovementioned we see pontiffs wanting to satisfy for crimes objected to them, doing so in front of a council.

Secondly we see that this power to deal with the causes of the pontiffs, and what belongs to their deposition, do not pertain to the cardinals. It remains in the deposition of the Church, whose authority is represented by a general council, for only the election is entrusted to the cardinals, and nothing more, as anyone reading the law we quoted in article one. It is [good] to see what Turrecremata (lib II Summae cap. XCIII), Cajetan, cited above have to say, as well as canon doctors in the chapter on faith about heretics (in #6) & in the chapter on whether a pope (dist #40).


But now it remains to explain by what authority that council is to be convoked, & indeed it cannot be convoked by the authority of the pope, for the pontiff could recuse it, and annul it if it were convoked against his will, if indeed he is a true pope before the declaration of the crime. Therefore whatever assembled council remains under his authority, and consequently can be dissolved if he so wills.


To which it is answered that this council can be convoked by the authority of the Church, which is over the bishops or their biggest portion. The Church has a right to separate itself from a heretical pope in virtue of divine right, and as a result can take all the means necessary for such a separation. The necessary means is that per se that such a crime be evidenced juridically, and it cannot be evidenced juridically unless a competent judgment is formed, and such a competent judgment cannot be in such a grave matter except by a general council, because it is dealing about the universal head of the Church, which make it the object of the judgment of the universal Church, which is a general council. And thus I do not concur with Fr. Suarez who thinks that this matter could be dealt by provincial councils, for provincial councils do not represent the universal Church in such a way as to enable them to decide of this matter. Neither do several provincial councils enjoy such representation and authority [as necessary]. But if we talk about by whom the convocation of such council is to be made, (not about the authority itself by which he is judged), I think it is determined to no one specifically, but can be done by the cardinals, who can notify the bishops in their turn, or by the closest bishops who can denounce to the others so that all can come; or at the instance of the prince, not by a coative convocation, like when a pope convokes a council, but by a denuntiative convocation which denounces such crime to the bishops and manifests them to come to help. Hence the pope cannot annul or recuse such council, because he is a part, and the Church can convoke it by divine right for that purpose, because she has the right to separate herself from heretics.


Concerning the second point, namely by whose authority the declaration and deposition is to be made, there is dissent among theologians, and it does not appear by whom such a deposition is to be made, because it is an act of judgment, and jurisdiction, which can be exercised by no one over the pope.

Cajetan in his opuscule on the power of the pope, chapter XX, brings forth two opposite ways of speaking, and two median as well.

In the extreme opposite, one is [to say] that the pope by the very fact that he is a heretic is deposed without any human judgment; and the other says that the pope has [above himself] a superior power by which he can be judged.

In the median modes [of speaking], one says that the pope has no superior absolutely, but only in the case of heresy, and the other says that neither absolutely, nor in the case of heresy has [the pope got] a superior power on earth, but only a ministerial power, just like the Church has a ministerial power to elect, in what regards the designation of the person, but not the conferring of the power, because the latter is done immediately by Christ as we said in article one.

Thus, even in deposition, or in the destruction of this conjunction by which the pontificate is united to this particular person, the Church has the ministerial power to depose him ministerially; whereas Christ can deprive [him of office] authoritatively.

Of these two modes of speaking, Azorius follows the first (II, Tom. II, Cap. VII), namely that the Church is. The other way of speaking is followed by Cajetan and explained at length by him; and he is quoted and

attached by Bellarmine (II Book, De Romano Pontifice, Cap. XX), especially on two points, namely when Cajetan says that that a manifest heretic pope is not deposed ipso facto, and that the pope is deposed truly by the authority of the Church – Suarez in his often quoted disputation (Sect VI, Num. VII) attacks [also] Cajetan when he says that the Church, in case of the heresy of a pope, is above him as a private person but not as a pope. But this is not what Cajetan says, but that the Church is not above the pope absolutely, even in the case of heresy, whereas it is above the conjunction of the pontificate with that person by dissolving it, just as it united it at the election, which power is ministerial, because, simpliciter, only Christ the Lord is the superior of the pope. This is why Bellarmine and Suarez believe that in that itself, that a pope is a manifest heretic & declared incorrigible, he is deposed immediately by Christ the Lord, and not by any authority in the Church.


Thus Cajetan’s sentence is contained in three phrases. First, that a heretical pope, by the very fact of heresy, is neither deprived of the pontificate, nor deposed. Second, that the Church has no power, neither superiority over the pope, even in the case of heresy, in what concerns the power of the pope, as if there would be a power above the power in this case. But the power of the Church is in no way above the power of the pope, and consequently neither above the pope absolutely. Third, the object of the power of the Church is to apply the power to the person, by designating him by an election, and separating this power from that person, by declaring him a heretic to be avoided by the faithful.

Therefore, whereas the declaration of crime is like an antecedent disposition, and is ministerial with regard to the deposition itself, nevertheless it attains the form dispositively and ministerially, because in tending in the disposition, it tends mediately in the form. It is like in the generation and corruption of man: neither the generator produces or brings forth the form, neither the corruptor destroys it, but only the conjunction or separation of the form [is touched] by attaining immediately the dispositions of the matter to it, and through these the form [itself].


The first point of Cajetan is manifest from the above and cannot be attacked legitimately by Bellarmine. Its truth is obvious: either because the pope no matter how much he is truly and publicly a heretic, if he is ready to be corrected, cannot be deposed (as we said above), neither can the Church depose him by divine right, nor can she, neither must she avoid him as the Apostle says: “avoid the heretical man after one and a second correction.” Therefore he is not to be avoided by the Church before a first and second correction, neither is he to be deposed consequently. Hence it is false to say that the pontiff by the very fact that he is a public heretic [ipso facto], is deposed. He can be a public heretic, yet not corrected by the Church, nor declared incorrigible; this is either because (as Azorius says well above) no bishop, no matter how much he is an exterior heretic, even if he contracts an excommunication ipso facto, can ipso facto lose his jurisdiction and episcopal power until he is declared thus by the Church and is deposed. Only the non tolerated excommunicated lose their jurisdiction ipso facto, like those who are excommunicated nominatively, or those who have assaulted clerics manifestly.

Therefore if a bishop or any other prelate does not lose his office ipso facto his office by the sole fact of exterior heresy, why would the pope lose his before the declaration of the Church, especially when the pope cannot incur excommunication, because, as I suppose, no excommunication is given by divine right; ad he cannot be excommunicated by human right, because he is by right superior to all men.


The second sentence of Cajetan is proved because the power of the pope is a power derived absolutely from Christ, and not from the Church; and Christ subjected the whole Church to that power, i.e., all the faithfuls without any restriction whatsoever, as it is certain by faith and amply proven above. Therefore in no case can the Church have a power above that one, except in this case in which it is made dependent from the Church, and inferior to her; and in this case that it is made inferior because this power has been mutated and does not remain the same as before, so that it was before above the whole Church and independent from her; [and] by this case it is made dependent and inferior.

Therefore it is never verified that the Church has a power above the power of the pope formally, because for her to have power over it in one case, that power must be formally different and not so ample and supreme as before, and not so supreme and ample as before. And from no authority does it appear that Christ the Lord gave such power of the Church above the power of the pope; the things we are talking about in the case of heresy do not indicate a formal superiority above the power of the pope, but only an avoidance, separation, denial of communion, etc. That can remain without a superior power formally above the power of the pope. Neither is this foundament thus, as we said that Christ the Lord gave to Peter and his See a supreme power without any restrictions whatsoever, and independent, that for the case of heresy it would become formally dependent and inferior to the power of the Church in the order of powers, in such a way that it would remain a subordinate power with respect to the Church, and not superior as before. As for the second saying of Cajetan, namely that the Church has no power superior to the pope, taken absolutely, it is amply proven above that because the Church must be subject to the pope, and because his power is not originating from the Church, but immediately from Christ, whose place he occupies, [it is proved] that in the case of heresy it is neither above the pope in what regards his power, both because this power itself is in no way derived and originated from the Church, but from Christ, and therefore in no case is the power of the Church superior, and also because this power of the pope, as originating from Christ is instituted as a supreme one above all power of the Church which is on earth (as proved in many authorities), no case was made exception of by Christ the Lord, in which this power would be limited, and subjected to another, but is talked always and for all as a supreme [power] and monarchy.

When one talks about heresy, he does not attribute a superiority to the pope, but commands only to separate, to avoid, and not to communicate with the heretic, because these things do not indicate a superiority, and can be kept without it. Therefore the power of the Church is not above the pope even in the case of heresy. The laws give conviction to that, who say that the first See is judged by no one, which applies also in the case of infidelity, for the fathers assembled in the case of Marcellinus told him: you judge yourself.


The third saying follows the preceding. For the Church can declare the crime of the pontiff, and propose him to the faithful as [a person] to be avoided in conformity to divine right by which a heretic is to be avoided, a pontiff to be avoided in virtue of such a disposition is because he is a member to be avoided by her, and as a consequence cannot have influence on her. Therefore by the virtue of such a power the Church dissolves the conjunction between the pontificate and that person ministerially and dispositively, and the consequence is obvious, because the agent that can induce a disposition in a subject to who necessarily a separation of form is annexed and with which the form cannot stay in the subject, has power above the dissolution of the form and attains the form mediately, as to be separated from the subject, not to be destroyed in itself, as is seen in an agent corrupting [destroying] a man destroys not the form but induces the dissolution of the form by putting a disposition in the matter with which the form cannot stay.

Thus as the Church can declare a pontiff as Vitandus [to be avoided], she can induce a disposition in that person by which the pontificate cannot stand, and is thus dissolved ministerially and dispositively by the Church; authoritatively by Christ, just as by designating him by election [process] she disposes him ultimately so that he receives the collation of power by Christ the Lord and thus creates a pope. And when Cajetan says that the Church has authority in the conjunction or the separation of the pontiff with the person it must be in such a wise that the Church has the authority to declare the crime of the pope, just as it designate him as pope, and what is authoritative with respect to the declaration, is in fact dispositive and ministerial with respect to the form, in its conjunction or separation, for there is nothing that the Church can do on the form taken absolutely and in itself because it is not a subordinate power to it.

The laws concur from this which sometimes say that the deposition of the pontiff belongs only to God, and sometimes say that he can be judged by inferiors in the case of heresy. Both is true, both the fact that the ejection and deposition of the pontiff is reserved authoritatively and principally to God alone, as expressly said in the chapter about ejection (79), and in many other laws above mentioned, who say that God reserved to Himself the judgment of the Apostolic See, but ministerially and by dispositively declaring the crime and putting forth the pope as [a person] to be avoided the Church judges concerning the pope, as in the chapt. “Si Papa” (Dist 40) & “Oves” II, quaesi VII.

Solution to Arguments

The solution to the arguments of Bellarmine and Suarez against the aforementioned sentence is easy. Bellarmine objects that the Apostle says that the heretical man is to be avoided after two rebuttals, i.e., after he appears manifestly pertinacious before all [/any] excommunication and judicial sentence, as St Jerome writes there, saying that heretics recess from the Body of Christ. The reason is that a non Christian cannot be the pope, neither can the one be the head if he is not a member. The heretic indeed is not a Christian as the Fathers commonly teach; therefore a manifest heretic cannot be pope.


It is answered that a heretic is to be avoided because of two admonitions juridically made, by the judgment of the Church, and not by private judgment. A great confusion would follow in the Church if such an admonition [itself] of heresy instead of the declaration of the Church proposed to all, all should avoid him. The heresy of the pontiff cannot be public to all the faithfuls except by being reported by others, and because this relation is not juridical, it does not oblige to belief by all and that all should avoid [the pope]. It is required therefore that as the Church proposes him as elected by designating him to all juridically, that she should depose him as a “Vitandus” heretic by declaration and proposition. Hence we see what is practiced in the Church, that in the case of the deposition of a pope, the cause itself is dealt with by a general council, instead of the assumption that he is not pope, as we said above.
The pope does not cease to be the pope before any ecclesial trial sentence by the fact itself of heresy, and before he is proposed as to be avoided. Neither is [St.] Jerome, when he says that the heretic walks out per se from the Body of Christ, excludes him from the judgment of the Church, especially in a thing so grave as the deposition of a pope, but she judges the quality of the crime that excludes from the Church without any over added censure, as long as it is declared by the Church.
Despite being separated per se from the Church, quo ad nos, [as far as we are concerned], such a separation is not understood to take place without such declaration. And in the same way do we reply to the argument that says that the non Christian who neither per se, nor quo ad nos is a Christian, cannot be the pope, for in himself he has ceased to be a Christian because he has lost the faith. But for us [quo ad nos] he is not yet declared infidel or heretic, no matter how much he may be manifest [heretic] according to private judgment. He is still a member of the Church for us [quo ad nos], and consequently its head.

Therefore the judgment of the Church is required by which he is declared as a non Christian, to be avoided, and then he ceases to be a pope to us [quo ad nos] and before then he did not desist, even per se, because all he was doing was valid per se.


Secondly it is objected that the Church has no power over the conjunction between the pontiff and the person, unless she has power on the pontificate itself, and the pope does nothing more, when he deposes a bishop, than destroying his link with the episcopate, for he does not destroy the episcopate itself. Therefore if the Church has power in the conjunction of the pontificate with the person, consequently it can or has power over the pontificate and the person of the pope. What confirms it is that the pope is deposed unwillingly; and therefore is punished by such a deposition. To punish is the act of a superior and a judge; therefore the Church that deposes, or punishes by the punishment of deposition has a superiority over the person of the pope. Lastly he who has power over both parts or over their conjunction, has power over the whole simpliciter; just like the one who generates a man has power simpliciter over the whole man himself. Therefore if the Church has power over the conjunction of the pontificate with the person, she has power over the pope simpliciter, something that Cajetan denies.


It is answered that the pope deposes a bishop in a different way than the Church deposes a pope. For the pontiff deprives him as one deprives a subordinate and someone subjected to him and having a power subordinate and dependent that can be limited and constrained. Hence whereas it takes the episcopate from the person and does not destroy the episcopate, nevertheless he remove it by the superiority that he has over that person, concerning also the power subordinated to himself by the person of which he removes it from the person, and not just the person from it [the power]. The Church takes away the pontificate out of a superiority to the power itself, but a ministerial and dispositive power by which it can induce a disposition incompatible with the pontificate as we said.


To confirm this we answer that the pope can be disposed against his will ministerially and dispositively by the Church, authoritatively by Christ the Lord, hence, properly speaking, he is punished by Christ, not by the Church.

And to the last point we say that the one who has power in the conjunction of the parts has power in the whole simpliciter, but not if this is done ministerially only and dispositively over such a conjunction. This is excepted in natural things in which the physical dispositions have a natural connection with the whole being itself, so that when an agent produces the conjunctive dispositions, he produces also, simpliciter, the whole itself. In moral things, the disposition that is made by one, because it has only a moral conjunction with the form, almost like something made by voluntary institution, the one who disposes [the conjunction] does not make the whole simpliciter and authoritatively, but ministerially. So if a pontiff concedes to somebody that the places he designates have power to gain indulgences and declares as not having this power those places that he declares devoid of it; such designation or declaration does not take away or grant indulgences authoritatively and principally, but only ministerially.

Father Chazal

God bless the Resistance!!


Fr. Hewko – (SSPX-MC) – Divinity of Our Divine Master /Little Catechism on Sedevacantism

Little Catechism on Sedevacantism – from the Dominicans

Translation from our friends in Quebec http://filiimariae.over-blog.com/2014/06/petit-catechisme-du-sedevacantisme.html

Little Catechism on Sedevacantism

By Dominicus – Le sel de la terre No 79, winter 2011-2012

(ecclesiamilitans.com) – A first edition of this little catechism appeared in Le Sel de la terre 36. This second edition, revised and noticeably enhanced, takes into account the debates and objections raised by the first edition.

Introduction: between Scylla and Charybdis In the strait of Messina, between Sicily and Italy, there are two formidable reefs: Scylla and Charybdis. It is important, when crossing, to avoid both reefs. Many imprudent or unskilled navigators, wanting to avoid one, were shipwrecked on the other: they fell from Scylla to Charybdis. Currently, facing the crisis in the Church, there are two errors to avoid: modernism (which, little by little, makes us lose the faith) and sedevacantism (which leans toward schism). If we want to remain Catholic, we must pass between heresy and schism, between Scylla and Charybdis. In this “Short Catechism”, we study one of the two reefs. But the other must not be forgotten. Under pretext of avoiding the dangers of sedevacantism, the dangers of modernism disseminated by the conciliar Church must not be minimized. The Position of Archbishop Lefebvre The position that we are going to put forward is that of Archbishop. Lefebvre and that which, at Avrillé, we have always defended. Here is a short summary: 1) Abp. Lefebvre publicly asked himself the question: “We find ourselves truly before an excessively grave dilemma that, I think, has never arisen in the Church. That he who is seated on the Throne of Peter participates in religions of false gods, I do not think that this has ever occurred in the entire history of the Church (Easter 1986). If someone says that the pope is an apostate, a heretic, a schismatic, according to the probable opinion of the theologians (if it were true), the pope would no longer be pope and, consequently, we would be in the “Sede Vacante” situation. It is an opinion; I do not say that it cannot have some arguments in its favor” (18-3-1977). “It is not impossible that this hypothesis will one day be confirmed by the Church, for it has some serious arguments. Many indeed are the acts of Paul VI that, accomplished by a bishop or a theologian twenty years ago, would have been condemned as suspect of heresy, favoring heresy” (24-2-1977). 2) However, after reflection, he preferred the opposite solution: “But I do not think that it is the solution that we should take, that we should follow. For the moment, I personally think that it would be a mistake to follow this hypothesis” (18-3-1977). “But this does not mean, for all that, that I am absolutely sure to be correct in the position that I take; I am placing myself there in a prudential manner. It is rather under this area that I place myself, more than under the theological domain, purely theoretical. I think that God asks us to have clear ideas not only from a purely theoretical and theological viewpoint, but also in practice, when things are very difficult and delicate, and to act with a certain wisdom, a certain prudence that can seem a bit in contradiction with certain principles, not to be of pure logic” (5-10-1978). “As long as I do not have the proof that the pope is not the pope, well, I presume that he is, that he is pope. I do not say that there cannot be arguments that can put one in doubt in certain cases. But one must have the proof that it is not only a doubt, a valid doubt. If the argument is doubtful, we do not have the right to take enormous consequences away from it!” (16-1-1979). “The Priestly Society does not accept [this] solution, but, based on the history of the Church and the doctrine of the theologians, thinks that the pope can promote the ruin of the Church by choosing bad collaborators and letting them act, signing decrees that do not use his infallibility, sometimes even by his own admission, and that cause considerable damage to the Church. Nothing is more dangerous for the Church than liberal popes, who are in continual contradiction” (13-9-1982). “In practice, this does not have influence on our practical conduct, because we firmly and courageously reject all that is against the faith, without knowing from whence it comes, without knowing who is guilty” (5-10-1978). Questions and Answers What are we talking about? What is sedevacantism? Sedevacantism is the opinion of those who think that the most recent popes, since Second Vatican Council, are not true popes. Consequently, the See of Peter is not occupied, which is expressed in Latin by the formula sede vacante. Where does this opinion come from? This opinion was caused by the very grave crisis which has been occurring in the Church since the last Council, a crisis that Archbishop Lefebvre justly called “the third world war.” The main cause of the crisis has been the dereliction of the Roman Pontiffs, who teach or allow to be propagated very serious errors on the subjects of ecumenism, religious liberty, collegiality, etc. The sedevacantists think that real popes could not be responsible for such a crisis, and consequently they consider them not to be “real popes”. Could you briefly explain what the crisis in the Church consists of? I will do this by quoting Fr. Gleize: “That which speaks the most is all the speeches published in the Osservatore Romano that constantly reaffirm the principle of religious liberty, state secularism and ecumenism, a principle that is in formal contradiction with the constant and unanimous teaching of the pontifical magisterium from before Vatican II. […] “In the past, it was possible that some popes were not equal to their mission. They could fail to keep, at one time or another, their pastoral role, putting in more or less serious, more or less direct danger the unity of the faith in the Holy Church. But this attitude explains itself for essentially moral reasons. None of these popes were attached to error by intellectual conviction. They all fell short without a fundamentally intellectual adherence to error, and this came sometimes from a lack of courage in the middle of persecution, such as with Liberius, sometimes from a certain naiveté and an excess of mediation, as with Honorius and Vigilius, sometimes even from a sort of theological intemperance as with John XXII. The most serious attitude of all, that of Pope Honorius, warranted the favens hæresimcensure. It did not cause this pope to be condemned as a formal heretic […] “But in view of these isolated cases, the consistent attitude of all the popes since the Second Vatican Council has an entirely different appearance. The daily preaching of these sovereign pontiffs is constantly spotted with false principles of religious liberty, ecumenism and collegiality. These are grave errors, and they are the consequence of this “heresy of the 20th century,” to use the expression of Madiran, the heresy of neo-modernism. Constant and repeated errors, from John XXIII and Paul VI to Benedict XVI, errors that are not the consequence of passing weakness or naiveté, but, on the contrary, are the expression of a fundamental adherence of the intelligence, the affirmation of an informed conviction. This is why such a situation is really and truly without precedent.” – cf. Fr. Gleize, Vu de Haut14 (2008), p.95-96. Do the sedevacantists agree amongst themselves? No, far from it. To use the terms of a sedevacantist: the “sedevacantists” are scattered along at least six dividing lines:

  • Total vacancy / formal vacancy and material permanence (“Cassiciacum Thesis”);
  • Acceptance of consecrations without apostolic mandate / refusal of these consecrations;
  • Rejection out of the Church of all those who are not sedevacantists / refusal of such a rejection;
  • Ecclesiastical laws keep their imperative force / the laws are stripped of executory force;
  • Acceptance of the principle of a conclave outside of the Roman line / refusal of such a possibility;
  • Vacancy of authority has lasted since the death of Pius XII / since Pacem in terris / since the death of John XXIII / since the proclamation of religious liberty (December 7, 1965) [and our sedevacantist forgot yet one more theory: since the replacement of Paul VI by a double].

This gives us, unless I am mistaken, 160 possibilities. But that which is common among all sedevacantists is that they think that one must not pray for the pope in public. Sedevacantist Arguments On what arguments do sedevacantists base their theories? They have a priori arguments and a posteriori arguments. A priori, they say, the pope being a heretic, he cannot be a true pope, which can be proven in a theological manner (a heretic cannot be the head of the Church, but John Paul II is a heretic, therefore…) or in a legal manner (Church laws invalidate the election of a heretic, but Cardinal Wojtyla – or Ratzinger – was a heretic at the time of his election, therefore …). A priori, they say again, the current “pope” was consecrated bishop with the new episcopal consecration rite invented by Paul VI, so he is not a bishop. But to be Pope, one must be Bishop of Rome. Therefore … A posteriori, they say finally, we note that the actions taken by the popes are bad or erroneous, while they should be covered by infallibility. Therefore, these popes are not really popes. The Theological Argument of the Heresy of the Pope But isn’t it true that a pope who becomes a heretic loses the pontificate? St. Robert Bellarmine says that a pope who formally and manifestly became a heretic would lose the pontificate. For that to apply to John Paul II, he would have to be a formal heretic, deliberately refusing the Church’s magisterium; and this formal heresy would have to be manifest in the eyes of all. But though the popes since Paul VI, and especially John Paul II, make heretical affirmations or statements that lead to heresy rather often, it cannot easily be shown that they are aware of rejecting a dogma of the Church. And as long as there is no sure proof, then it is more prudent to refrain from judging. This was Archbishop Lefebvre’s line of conduct. If a Catholic were convinced that John Paul II is a formal, manifest heretic, should he then conclude that he is no longer pope? No, he should not, because according to the “common” opinion (Suarez), or even the “more common” opinion (Billuart), theologians think that even a heretical pope can continue to exercise the papacy. For him to lose his jurisdiction, the Catholic bishops (the only judges in matters of faith besides the pope, by Divine will) would have to make a declaration denouncing the pope’s heresy. “According to the more common opinion, Christ, by a particular providence, for the common good and the tranquility of the Church, continues to give jurisdiction to an even manifestly heretical pontiff until such time as he should be declared a manifest heretic by the Church” (Billuart, De Fide, diss. V, a. III, § 3, obj. 2). Now, in so serious a matter, it is not prudent to go against the common opinion. But how can a heretic, who is no longer a member of the Church, be its leader or head? Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, basing his reasoning on Billuart, explains in his treatise De Verbo Incarnato (p. 232) that a heretical pope, while no longer a member of the Church, can still be her head. Indeed, what is impossible in the case of a physical head is possible (albeit abnormal) for a secondary moral head. “The reason is that – whereas a physical head cannot influence the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul – a moral head, as is the [Roman] Pontiff, can exercise jurisdiction over the Church even if he does not receive from the soul of the Church any influx of interior faith or charity.” In short, the pope is constituted a member of the Church by his personal faith, which he can lose, but he is head of the visible Church by jurisdiction and authority that can co-exist with heresy.   The Canonical Argument of the Heresy of the Pope And what about their canonical argument? The sedevacantists base their position on the apostolic constitution Cum ex Apostolatus of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559). But some good studies have shown that this constitution lost its legal force (even sedevacantist priests recognize it: “We cannot use the bull of Paul IV to prove that the Holy See is currently vacant, but only to prove the possibility that it can happen…” (Fr. F. Ricossa, Solalitium 36, May-June 1994, p. 57-58, note 1). That which remains valid in this constitution is its dogmatic aspect. And, consequently, it cannot be made to say more than the theological argument already examined. Yet the code in the Gasparri edition (C.I.C. cum fontium annotatione, Romæ) refers in a note to the Cum ex apostolatus constitution. These notes of the code in the Gasparri edition mention the sources of the code. But this does not mean that all of its sources are still in force! The 1917 code says in Canon 6 (5°) that the punishments that are not mentioned in the code are abrogated. Now, the Cum ex apostolatus constitution was a penal law, because it inflicted the revocation of an ecclesiastical office, and the punishments that it prescribed were not picked up again in the code. There is more: even before the new code, St. Pius X had already abrogated Paul IV’s constitution by his consitition Vacante sede apostolica of December 25, 1904 (§ 29), which declares null any censure able to remove the active or passive voice from the cardinals of the conclave. And Canon 160 of the code declares that the election of the pope is regulated only by this constitution of St. Pius X. The constitution of Pius XII of December 8, 1945, Vacantis apostolicæ sedis, which replaced that of St. Pius X, takes the same position on this subject: “No cardinal may be excluded in any way from the active and passive election of the sovereign pontiff, under no pretext nor for cause of excommunication, suspension, interdiction or other ecclesiastical impediment. We lift the effect of these censures for this type of election only, keeping them in force for everything else” (n. 34). The Argument of the Nullity of the Pope’s Episcopal Consecration Some sedevacantists argue that the current pope was consecrated bishop with the new rite invented by Paul VI, a rite that they deem invalid; thus, Benedict XVI is not a bishop or pope. The new ritual of episcopal consecration comes from a prayer found in Apostolic Tradition, a work apparently from St. Hippolytus and dating from the beginning of the third century. Even if this attribution is probably, it is not agreed upon by all; some think that it is an “anonymous compilation containing elements of different ages”. As for St. Hippolytus, he is thought to have been an antipope for some time before reconciling with Pope St. Pontian at the moment of their common martyrdom (in 235). It is from that same work that Canon number 2 of the new mass issues. Yet, this prayer of the consecration is taken up again with a few variations in two oriental rites, the Coptic rite used in Egypt and the Eastern Syrian rite, used notably by the Maronites. It was therefore adopted by post-conciliar reformers to manifest the unity between the traditions of the three great patriarchates: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch. By reason of this closeness to two Catholic rites, it cannot be affirmed that Paul VI’s prayer is invalid. Isn’t it true that the new rite of Paul VI is close to the Anglican rite that was declared invalid by Leo XIII? It is true that the rite of Paul VI is close to the Anglican rite, but not to the rite condemned by Leo XIII. The Anglican and Episcopalian churches also introduced a new consecratory prayer, taken from St. Hippolytus, with the aim to have a rite acceptable to Catholics, after the condemnation of the Anglican ordinations by Leo XIII. A Posteriori Arguments Don’t the sedevacantists claim to find a confirmation of their opinion in the errors of the Council and the harmful liturgical and canonical laws of the Conciliar Church? Indeed, the sedevacantists think, in general, that the teaching of the Council should have been covered by the infallibility of the ordinary universal magisterium (OUM), and consequently should not contain any errors. But, since there are errors, for example, on religious liberty, they conclude that Paul VI had ceased to be pope at that moment.[1] In reality, if one accepted this reasoning, then it would be necessary to say that the whole Catholic Church disappeared at that moment and that “the gates of hell had prevailed against her.” against her. For the teaching of the ordinary, universal magisterium is that of all the bishops, of the whole teaching Church. It is simpler to think that the teaching of the Council and of the Conciliar Church is not covered by the infallibility of the ordinary, universal magisterium for the reasons explained in the article on “the authority of the Council” that appeared in Le Sel de la terre 35 (winter 2000-2001). Can you summarize the essential parts of this argument? The main reason for which conciliar teaching on religious liberty (for example) is not covered by the OUM is that the conciliar magisterium does not present itself as teaching truths to be believed or held in a firm and definitive manner. Conciliar teaching no longer presents itself as “necessary for salvation” (this is logical, since those who profess it think that it is possible to be saved even without the Catholic Faith). Since it is not imposed with authority, this teaching is not covered by infallibility. The same thing can be said of liturgical laws (the new mass; new canonizations…) and canonical laws (the new Canon Law…) set forth by these latest popes: they are not covered by infallibility, although normally they should have been. The Cassiciacum Thesis Can you explain what is meant by being pope “materialiter”? The main difficulty of sedevacantism is to explain how the Church can continue to exist in a visible manner (for she has received from Our Lord the promise that she will endure until the end of the world) while being deprived of her head. The partisans of the so-called “Cassiciacum Thesis” have come up with a subtle solution: the current pope was validly designated as pope, but he did not receive the papal authority because there was an obstacle in him (heresy). He is pope materialiter, but not formaliter. Can you detail the arguments of this “thesis”? Here are the arguments as summarized by a priest who professes them:

  • The starting point is an induction: the acts of Paul VI (because it was he at that time who was reigning in Rome) contribute to the destruction of the Catholic religion and its replacement by the religion of man in the form of concealed Protestantism. From this comes the certitude that Paul VI does not have the usual intention of obtaining the good / end of the Church, which is Jesus Christ plenum gratiæ et veritatis.
  • The usual intention of obtaining the good of the Church is a necessary condition (the ultimate disposition) for a subject elected pope to receive the communication of pontifical authority with makes him to be with Jesus Christ and hold the role of His Vicar on Earth.
  • Consequently, Paul VI is devoid of all pontifical authority: he is not pope formaliter; he is not Vicar of Christ. In a word, he is not pope.[2]
  • This necessitates the affirmation that if Paul VI is not pope formaliter, he yet remains pope materialiter, as a simple elected subject, seated on the Pontifical Seat, neither pope nor anti-pope.

Does this solution resolve the difficulties of “pure” sedevacantism? It does not resolve the main difficulty of sedevacantism: how can the Church continue to be visible? For some proponents of “the thesis”, there is no longer any hierarchy at all (“the nominations of cardinals and bishops are acts of pontifical jurisdiction, which is precisely absent and which nothing can replace”). For others, the pope materialiter has power (how?) to constitute a hierarchy materialiter. But such a hierarchy, devoid of its “form,” is not the visible hierarchy of the Church (no more than the Orthodox hierarchy is the hierarchy of the Church). Moreover, this theory sets off new difficulties – at least for those who say that the pope materialiter has the power to constitute a hierarchy materialiter – because it implies that the pope materialiter, devoid of authority, still has enough authority to change the laws on papal election. What do you think of the arguments upon which this solution is based? This solution is not founded on Tradition. Theologians (Cajetan, St. Robert Bellarmine, John of St. Thomas, etc.) examined the possibility of a heretical pope, but no one, prior to the Council, ever imagined this theory of “the absence of the usual intention to obtain the good of the Church” that would form an “obex” (obstacle) to receiving the “being-with-Christ,” the form of the papacy. It plays on the ambiguity of the word “intention”. Proponents of the thesis recognize that the intention must be in the person of the pope (“this intention is the ultimate disposition of the subject to receive communication of the pontifical authority”), but at the same time they affirm that it has nothing to do with the personal intention of the pope. We can agree with them when they say that recent popes harm the common good of the Church – and that is precisely what created the state of necessity – but it remains to be proven that such is truly the personal intention of the popes, and then that such an intention deprives them of authority. The “Una Cum” Question Aren’t the sedevacantists right to refuse to name the pope at Mass in order to show that they are not in communion with (“una cum“) a heretic (at least materially) and his heresies? The expression “una cum” in the Canon of the Mass does not mean that one affirms that he is “in communion” with the person of the pope and his erroneous ideas, but rather that one wants to pray for the Church “and for” the pope. In order to be sure of this interpretation, in addition to reading the erudite studies that have been made on this point, it is enough to read the rubric of the missal for the case of a bishop celebrating Mass. In this case, the bishop must pray for the Church “una cum […] me indigno servo tuo,” which does not mean that he prays “in communion with myself, your unworthy servant” (which does not make sense!), but that he prays “and for myself, your unworthy servant.” What does St. Thomas Aquinas think of this? St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, when he comments on the prayers of the Mass (III, Q. 83, A. 4, corpus) equates “una cum” with the expression “et pro”: then the priest commemorates in silence [it is the beginning of the Canon] first those for whom the sacrifice is offered, that is [it is offered] for the Universal Church, and for “those who constitute it in dignity” [the pope, the bishop, the king]; then particular some who offer or for whom this sacrifice is offered [the memento of the living]. But doesn’t St. Thomas Aquinas say that in the Canon one should not pray for heretics? St. Thomas Aquinas does not prohibit praying for heretics, but merely observes that, in the prayers of the Canon of the Mass, one prays for those whose faith and devotion are known to and tested by the Lord  (quorum tibi fides cognita est et nota devotio) (III, Q. 79, A. 7, ad 2). For, he says, in order for this sacrifice to obtain its effect (effectum habet), those for whom one prays must be “united to the passion of Christ by faith and charity.” But he does not forbid praying for a non-Catholic. He only means that this prayer will not have the same efficacy as one for a Catholic, and is not provided for in the Canon. All that can be concluded from this affirmation of St. Thomas is that, if the pope is a heretic (which remains to be proven), then the prayer for him will not have the foreseen effect, “non habet effectum“. What final reflection can be taken from these discussions? It is not suitable to declare that “the Pope is not pope” (materially or formally) in the name of a “theological opinion”. On this subject, we refer to an interesting article by Fr. Hurtaud that appeared in the Revue Thomiste. The author shows that Savonarole thought that Alexander VI had been elected with simony and, for this reason, he was not pope. However, as the invalidity of a “simonous” election was only an opinion, Savonarole asked for the convocation of a council where he brought proof that Alexander VI no longer had the Catholic Faith, and it is in this way that it was certified that Alexander VI had lost supreme jurisdiction. In conclusion, what should we think of sedevacantism? It is a position that has not been proven speculatively, and it is imprudent to hold it practically (imprudence that can have very serious consequences – think, notably, of people who deprive themselves of the sacraments on the pretext that they cannot find a priest who has the same “opinion” as they do). That is why Archbishop Lefebvre never entered onto this path, and he even forbade the priests of his Society to profess sedevacantism. We should trust in his prudence and theological sense. Translated from the original French article (online: http://www.dominicainsavrille.fr/les-dominicains-davrille-sont-ils-devenus-sedevacantistes). 

[1] Argument of Fr. B.: 1. The Universal Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, alone or with the bishops united to him in the council, is infallible. – 2. Now, Paul VI, alone and in the council, exercised such a magisterium by all appearances; John Paul II, who carries on the work, also. – 3. By all appearances, their teaching is therefore infallible. – 4. Now, a contradiction exists between the content of that which they teach or prescribe for the Universal Church, and the doctrine defined before in an irreformable manner. – 5. Given that proposal 1 is of faith, the conclusion is forced: the teaching of Vatican II promulgated and applied by Paul VI and confirmed by John Paul II is not the teaching of the Church, and neither Paul VI nor John Paul II can be recognized as popes.
[2] His acts are therefore devoid of all authority, magisterial as well as canonical; as a result, it can be seen how it is not impossible that the acts of Paul VI are contrary to the Catholic Faith and incompatible with pontifical authority, and that to affirm it is not on any way denying the prerogatives of a pope, in particular his infallibility and his universal and immediate jurisdiction. – However, this proof says nothing about the person of Paul VI, because the intention that is denied him is not his personal intention (finis operantis, which remains out of the picture) but the objective intention that is usually imminent to his actions (finis operis). It therefore does not allow it to be affirmed that Paul VI is personally outside the Catholic Church for reason of a sin of heresy or schism (note from the defender of the “thesis”).