Archbishop Darboy

Archbishop Darboy

The following historical account of the Darboy affair is taken from the article Heresy in History, written by the sedevacantist author, John Daly, who no one can accuse of distorting the facts in order to undermine the position he himself holds.  In the following, we see that the Archbishop not only publicly professed heresy during a speech delivered to the senate, but his heresy was widely reported by the press.  And he refused to recant, even after being warned by Pius IX, yet not one at the time thought he automatically lost his office.

In 1865 Mgr Darboy, archbishop of Paris and member of the French senate expressed in an important speech to the senate ideas clearly opposed to the divinely instituted primacy of the Roman Pontiff over the entire Church, which, unlike papal infallibility, already belonged to the corps of Catholic doctrine. The speech was a public defiance of the pope and a refusal to recognize the pope's ordinary and universal jurisdiction in the dioceses of France

Pope Pius IX, already aware of the ideas of this wayward bishop, reprimanded him sternly in a private letter in which he reminds him that his stated ideas are comparable to those of Febronius (already condemned) and opposed to the teaching of the IVth Lateran Council. In the same letter the pope complained also of the presence of Mgr Darboy at the funeral of a freemason and other scandals. 

Darboy did not reply to the pope for some months and, when he finally did so, adopted a haughty tone to justify himself and to rebuke the pope! He retracted nothing whatever of the errors which had been reported throughout France with glee by the anti-Catholic press! … Nothing was done and in 1867 he met the pope in Rome, but, contrary to the hope he had given, did not mention the subject of this conflict at all.

In 1868 a new clash ensued between Mgr Darboy and Rome, when the private letter of the pope dated 1865 was "leaked" and widely published. Still Rome allowed the situation to “ride” and meanwhile the Vatican Council was in preparation.  Before and at the council, Darboy, needless to say, opposed the dogma of papal infallibility. For more than five years, despite the rebukes of the pope and of the nuncio, he never withdrew his extremely public errors against the faith. And then when the council proclaimed the dogmas concerning the pope, in 1870, he did not adhere to them. On 2nd March 1871, he at last informed the pope privately of his adherence to these dogmas, and even then he continued to delay before carrying out his duty of promulgating these decrees in his diocese. Only that promulgation at last constituted an implicit withdrawal of the false doctrines he was on public record as holding, despite the rebuke of the pope, since 1865.

Now was Mgr Darboy during that period a public heretic or not? If one answers "yes", one is in manifest disagreement with Ven. Pope Pius IX. And of course those who not only accuse others lightly of heresy, but even hold that remaining in communion with un-condemned heretics is an act of heresy, schism or at best a grave public sin entailing exclusion from the sacraments must conclude that all the Catholics of Paris, laity and clergy, simultaneously fell from grace by continuing to recognize Darboy as their bishop even when they deplored his behaviour”.[1]

As Mr. Daly asked, was Msgr. Darboy a public heretic or not?  After all, aren’t we told by sedevacantist apologists that if a prelate makes a heretical statement pertinacity is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proven[2], and that “if the delinquent… be a cleric, his plea for mitigation must be dismissed” due to his “ecclesiastical training in the seminary[3].  And don’t they conclude from this that a Bishop who makes a heretical statement has “publicly defected from the faith” (canon 188.4) and thereby lost his office? 

Yet here we have the example of a Bishop who taught heresy in pubic, and “retracted nothing” after being warned by the Pope himself that his teaching was heretical.  Yet Pius IX – the pope who gave us the Syllabus of Errors, Quanta Cura, and who ratified the First Vatican Council – remained in union with the man!  Clearly, neither Pius IX nor any bishops of the time considered the public profession of heresy and the refusal to recant after being warned by the Pope to have caused him to lose his office.

Michael de Bay

Let’s consider one more example from Mr. Daly’s article.  This example is of additional interest since it involves St. Robert Bellarmine, whom Sedevacantists often quote as an authority for their position.  We will see how St. Bellarmine reacted to a professor and celebrated theologian from the University of Louvain who was publicly teaching heresy.  Once again, the following was written by a Sedevacantist, who cannot be accused of distorting the facts in a way that would undermine his own position.

Doctor Michel de Bay (Baius), born in 1513 took part in the council of Trent and became a celebrated theologian at the university of Louvain where he opposed the Protestants, and in particular the Calvinists. ‘He seems to have been activated by a sincere desire to defend the Church, so many of the Church's impulsive and ill-equipped champions he fell into the very errors which he had set out to destroy.’ (Brodrick: Blessed Robert Bellarmine, Vol. II, p. 3) From his youth he had a love of novelty disguised as a return to more ancient traditions. He affected to disdain the scholastics, without being very familiar with them, and to adhere instead to St Augustine.

A pronounced vice in his character was the ease with which he called heretics all those who failed to agree with his theological ideas, which, of course, he considered to be manifestly the only orthodox ones. From 1551 onwards he spread his errors from his professorial chair. In 1561 Pope Pius IV imposed silence on him, which he did not respect. In 1567 St Pius V drew up a decree condemning 79 of his theses, without promulgating it. De Bay was sent a copy and defended himself; reading his defense determined the pope to give public confirmation to the condemnation, in which several of de Bay's ideas were qualified as heretical. De Bay himself, out of charity, was not named, as it was hoped that his opposition to the doctrines of the Church was not conscious.

De Bay made himself the model of the future Jansenists… by pretending to submit, without changing his beliefs in the slightest. He continued to spread his errors on the pretext that the decree condemned only false interpretations of his thinking.

St Robert Bellarmine arrived in Louvain as professor of theology also. From 1570 to 1576 he publicly opposed the errors of de Bay in his lectures, but without ever naming him. In speaking of him he always considered him as a learned Catholic, most worthy of respect, and at this time called him "prudent, pious, humble, erudite".

Nonetheless St Robert never ceased to hope for a new condemnation of his errors, and this appeared in 1579 (Pope Gregory XIII).

Bellarmine returned to Rome and later the Venerable Leonard Lessius came to replace him at Louvain. By way of preparatory information, Bellarmine told him that in his opinion the doctrine of de Bay and his disciples on the subject of predestination was heretical.

Lessius wrote from Louvain to Bellarmine at Rome, informing him that de Bay continued to spread his errors in private, even after the new condemnation, and sometimes even in public, and that his numerous disciples propagated them with great enthusiasm.

Supported by the advice of Bellarmine, Lessius continued to oppose these errors in his lectures, but without ever naming him or condemning the man who was the source of so much evil, and the precursor of Jansenism.

Now in the light of this account, one is forced to ask whether some sedevacantists in our days are not very much prompter than St Robert Bellarmine was in identifying pertinacity, and more animated by the bad example of de Bay himself than by the good example of St Robert and of the Ven Leonard Lessius. (…) if the Church presumes all who go astray in doctrine to be pertinacious, St Robert Bellarmine was clearly not aware of it. And while it can be possible to recognize someone as a pertinacious heretic even before the intervention of the Holy See, the fact remains that St Robert was slower to draw that conclusion, even after several Roman condemnations, than some are today when relying only on their own judgment of what seems evident”.[4]

Here we see St. Robert Bellarmine’s reaction to a man who continued to teach errors and heresies that had been formally condemned by the Church.  Bellarmine continued to recognize him as a prelate in good standing since he had not been named in the condemnation. Since de Bay had not been declared a heretic by the Church, nor had he openly left the Church of his own will, St. Bellarmine did not consider him a manifest heretic.  Neither did Bellarmine presume pertinacity, even though one could have easily drawn such a conclusion since de Bay continued to preach his heresies, after they had been formally condemned by the Church

[1] John Daly, Heresy In History
[2] “The very commission of any act which signifies heresy, e.g., the statement of some doctrine contrary or contradictory to a revealed and defined dogma, gives sufficient ground for juridical presumption of heretical depravity” McKenzie, The Delict of Heresy, CU Canon Law Studies 77. Quoted by Fr. Cekada many places, including here:
[3] Quoted by Cekada here:
[4] John Daly, Heresy In History


anastasia said...

This article is laughable. There were more than several bishops, renowned theologians and historians, who opposed the doctrine of papal infallibility pronounced in 1870 at Vatican I. At all the ancient councils, up to and including Trent, the only way a declaration could be made was with the unanimity of all bishops. The ancient rules were changed at Vatican I, where unanimity was dispensed with. Truth is not found by majority rule. Further, it was through the base means of bribery, threats and extortion that bishops came over to the doctrine then and later. Therefore, a Catholic may hold that Vatican I was illegitimate Council, which it was, in my opinion, and may hold that papal infallibility is not a true doctrine of the church, which I do. Further, had the rules of the ancient legitimate councils been preserved, Vatican II could never have happened, as there was opposition to all the documents promulgated into law by Paul VI. Lastly, Archbishop Darboy, was martyred at the end of his life. To use this good bishop as your example is particularly repulsive

TrueorFalsePope said...

"A Catholic may hold that Vatican I was illegitimate Council, which it was, in my opinion, and may hold that papal infallibility is not a true doctrine of the church, which I do."

Sorry, but a Catholic cannot deny the legitimacy of Vatican I (which is a dogmatic fact), nor can they deny Papal Infallibility (which is a dogma of the Faith). If it were licit for a Catholic to reject a council and/or the dogmas it defines, based on their private opinion concerning what constitutes a legitimate council, every dogma would be uncertain and the foundations of the faith would be overturned.

But I am curious to know if you embraced the Sedevacantist position before you rejected Vatican I and Papal Infallibility?