E-Mail Exchanges with Fr. Kramer

The following are excerpts from semi-public e-mail exchanges between Fr. Paul Kramer and Robert Siscoe. 


Kramer: “The root of the Salza/Siscoe error is the proposition that the crime of heresy but not the sin, suapte natura, severs the heretic from the body of the Church”.

Siscoe: Did you even read John Salza’s recent article that prompted this e-mail exchange?  John and I both contributed to that article so it represents both of our opinions.  We both affirm that the sin of heresy, of its nature, separates a person from the Church quoad se (of itself), but the sin of heresy, of its nature, does not result in a separation from the Church quoad nos (according to us), nor does it result in the loss of office.  The latter point is what you and the majority of your Sedevacantist associates seem unable to grasp.

As long as a person remains a member of the Church quoad nos – even if he has committed the sin of heresy and has lost the faith - he remains a legal member of the Church; and if the person in question is a bishop or Pope, he retains his office until the crime has been legally established by the proper authorities. 

And lest you plan to resort to your usual tactic of demeaning your opponent while boasting about the theological training you received in Rome during the great apostasy (or at least its prefigurement), I will cite John of St. Thomas, who is recognized as one of the greatest Thomistic theologians the Church has ever produced, explaining this very point.  I’ll cite him at length so that the context can be seen:

“[J]ust as the Church, by designating the man, proposed him juridically to all as the elected Pope, so too, it is necessary that she depose him by declaring him a heretic and proposing him as vitandus (one to be avoided).  Hence, we see from the practice of the Church that this is how it has been done; for, in the case of the deposition of a Pope, his cause was handled in a general Council before he was considered not to be Pope, as we have related above. It is not true, then, that the Pope ceases to be Pope by the very fact [ipso facto] that he is a heretic, even a public one, before any sentence of the Church and before she proposes him to the faithful as one who is to be avoided.  Nor does Jerome exclude the judgment of the Church (especially in so grave a matter as the deposition of a Pope) when he says that a heretic departs from the body of Christ of his own accord; rather, he is judging the quality of the crime, which of its very nature excludes one from the Church—provided that the crime is declared by the Churchwithout the need for any superadded censure; for, although heresy separates one from the Church by its very naturenevertheless, this separation is not thought to have been made, as far as we are concerned [quoad nos], without that declaration.”

Before continuing, notice the point he makes about heresy, of its nature, severing a person from the Church without the need for any additional censure.  This is how heresy, schism and apostasy differ from other mortal sins, which, of their nature, deprive a person from sanctifying grace, but do not separate them from the Church. It requires an additional censure for other sins to sever a person from the Church. For example, abortion severs a person from the Church, not by the nature of the sin, but due to the censure of excommunication that has been attached to it by the Church. 

John of St. Thomas continues by explaining that a pope who falls into heresy ceases to be a Christian quoad se (of himself), but he remains a Christian quoad nos (according to us, or legally).  And as long as he remains a Christian and member of the Church quoad nos, he remains a true Pope quoad se (in himself).  In other words, he remains a true Pope until the crime of heresy is legally established by the Church and he is declared vitandus.  In his own words:

“Likewise, we respond to his reasoning in this way: one who is not a Christian, both in himself (quoad se) and in relation to us (quoad nos), cannot be Pope; however, if in himself he is not a Christian (because he has lost the faith) but in relation to us has not yet been juridically declared as an infidel or heretic (no matter how manifestly heretical he is according to private judgment), he is still a member of the Church as far as we are concerned (quoad nos); and consequently he is its head.  It is necessary, therefore, to have the judgment of the Church, by which he is proposed to us as someone who is not a Christian, and who is to be avoided; and at that point he ceases to be Pope in relation to us (quoad nos)and we further conclude that he had not ceased to be Pope before [the declaration], even in himself, since all of his acts were valid in themselves.”

If you disagree with the great John of St. Thomas - who was known, even in his own day as “the second Thomas” - explain why he is wrong.

Conclusion

The point is this: The sin of heresy, of its nature, severs a person from the Church (quoad se), but it does not cause the loss of ecclesiastical office, and if you think it does, that is the root of your error. Before the loss of office occurs, the public crime of heresy must be committed and it must be legally established by the Church.  Even the Sedevacantist bishop, Donald Sanborn, admits this point, which is why he is not a full blown Sede, but instead holds to the “Material/Formal Pope” Thesis.  Sanborn wrote:

“…despite his public heresy, it was still necessary that Nestorius undergo warnings by the Pope, and having repudiated the warnings, be officially excommunicated and deposed by the same. The case is strikingly close to our own. … we do not have the authority to declare the sees legally vacant which these heretical ‘popes’ or ‘bishops’ possess de facto. Only the authority of the Church can do that. … until their designation to possess the authority is legally declared null and void by competent authority, the heretical ‘pope’ or ‘bishop’ is in a state of legal possession of the see … He can only lose that state of legal possession by legal deposition.

If you disagree with Bishop Sanborn, please explain why he is wrong.

Robert Siscoe

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Fr. Kramer: “The quo ad nos distinction made by John of St. Thomas in his teaching on loss of office is strictly a matter of perception BECAUSE EVEN HE STATES THAT THE REAL, ACTUAL, AND NOT MERELY PERCEIVED FALL FROM OFFICE TAKES PLACE "PER SE".

Siscoe: No he doesn’t.  You are forced to falsify his teaching to justify your own erroneous interpretation of Mystici Corporis Christi.  JST teaches that a Pope who loses the faith ceases to be a Christian “of himself” (quoad se), but as long as he is considered externally a member of the Church “according to us” (quoad nos), he remains a true Pope in himself (quoad se).  He only ceases to be a member of the Church quoad nos (and hence a true Pope quoad se) when he is declared a heretic.  Read it again for yourself:


“For, although heresy separates one from the Church by its very naturenevertheless, this separation is not thought to have been made, as far as we are concerned (quoad nos), without that declaration.  (…) one who is not a Christian, both in himself (quoad se) and in relation to us (quoad nos), cannot be Pope; however, if in himself he is not a Christian (because he has lost the faith) but in relation to us has not yet been juridically declared as an infidel or heretic (no matter how manifestly heretical he is according to private judgment), he is still a member of the Church as far as we are concerned (quoad nos); and consequently he is its head.  It is necessary, therefore, to have the judgment of the Church, by which he is proposed to us as someone who is not a Christian, and who is to be avoided; and at that point he ceases to be Pope in relation to us (quoad nos)and we further conclude that he had not ceased to be Pope before [the declaration], even in himself, since all of his acts were valid in themselves.”

Let’s review what JST just taught. 

1)      Heresy, of its nature, separates a person from the Church (just like Pius XII taught).  The separation either can be only a spiritual separation or legal separation.

2)     Heresy, of its nature, does not result in the loss of ecclesiastical office (and Pius XII never taught that it did, contrary to what you and your Sedevacantist associates imagine). 

3)      As long as the Pope remains a Christian and member of the Church quoad nos (i.e., as long as he is recognized as Pope by the Church, and before he is declared a heretic), he remains a true Pope quoad se (of himself). 

John of St. Thomas did not say “the real, actual, and not merely perceived fall from office takes place "per se", as you claimed.  No, he only said he ceases to be a Christian of himself, not that he ceases to be Pope “of himself” prior to a declaration. You only discredit yourself by falsifying his teaching.

Fr. Kramer: “This is why Bellarmine teaches, citing the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, that the actual loss of office is not effected "by any humal law" but "ex natura hæresis". But you, by adding this qualification by your own Private Judgmrnt to the de fidedoctrine of the Church on how heresy by its nature visibly separstes one from the body of the Church, fall into heresy, and separate yourself from the body of the Church. You are no longer a member of the Church, Siscoe, but a heretic. You are not of Christ's flock of faithful, but you pertain to the reprobate aggregation of infidels, what St. Agustine called the "massa damnata".

Siscoe: Please. Such statements only manifest the usual rash judgment that is so typical of those who have embraced the errors of the Sedevacantism.

And have you read the authorities that Bellarmine himself cites in support of his own position?  Had you done so, you would have seen that, according to John Driedo (who Bellarmine references in defense of his position), those who have received baptism, and who remain “visibly attached to the Church, associating in a peaceable way with the Christian people, are in the Church until they are either cut off by the Church’s judgment (donec vel judicio ecclesia separantur), or depart of their own accord (vel sua sponte exeant).”


None of the recent Popes (including Francis) have departed from the Church of their own accord (nor have they been cut off by the Church’s judgment).  Hence, they remain visible members of the Church quoad nos, and therefore they remain “in the Church,” according to the authority that Bellarmine himself cites in defense of his own position.  In his book on the Church Militant, Bellarmine repeats the same teachig when he says that an heretical pope remains pope until he "openly separates himself from the Church" or else is judged a heretic by the Church.  He wrote:

Bellarmine: “It is certain, whatever one or another might think, a secret heretic, if he might be a Bishop, or even the Supreme Pontiff, does not lose jurisdiction, nor dignity, or the name of the head in the Church, until either he separates himself publicly from the Church (i.e., openly leaves the Church of his own accord), or being convicted of heresy, is separated against his will” (Bellarmine, On the Church Militant, ch X).


Now, if Francis openly separated himself from the Church “of his own accord”, no one would get an argument from me if they believed he was no longer Pope.  But, unfortunately, that has not happened.  Consequently, he remains a member of the Church quoad nos (even if he lacks the virtue of faith) and therefore he remains a true Pope quoad se.


Kramer: “John Vennari was a tireless defender of the Catholic faith and tradition, but he was not a theologian, and was therefore deceived by the philo-Masonic sophistry of Salza & Co….”


Siscoe: You now seek to disparage the reputation of John Vennari (who is not here to defend himself) by claiming he was deceived for rejecting the Sedevacantist errors that you have embraced?  But at least you admitted what you believe about John so that the board of CFN and TFC can see it for themselves.  Is it also your opinion that others associated with CFN and TFC, as well as the vast majority of their readers and supporters, are deceived for rejecting your Francisvacantism position? 

Robert Siscoe

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Kramer: “Ballerini, who systematically elaborated Bellarmine's position (Opinion No. 5) states explicitly that THE FALL FROM OFFICE WOULD TAKE PLACE WITHOUT ANY JUDGMENT WHATSOEVER FROM THE CHURCH. In order to deceive their readers, Salza & Siscoe deliberately FALSIFIED the text of Ballerini, in order to make it appear that Ballerini's opinion was the same as theirs.”

Siscoe: Since you continue to repeat this falsehoold, I will respond.  We did not falsify the teaching of Ballarini.  In the book, we state over and over again that the pope will not lose his jurisdiction until the Church establishes the crime (that is the phrase we use).  The Church “establishes the crime” by judging that the doctrine he professes is qualified as heretical (not a lesser error), and then issuing one or more ecclesiastical warnings.  If the pope remains hardened in heresy in the face of these warnings, he publicly reveals his pertinacity and thereby manifests his heresy (since heresy requires pertinacity).  This is an indirect judgment of the Pope which reveals that “he is already judged” (by God).  All of this precedes the loss of papal jurisdiction for an heretical Pope.  That is how we explain it in the book, and it is exactly how Ballerini explains it.  Here is what Ballerini wrote:

“When the faith is so endangered, cannot inferiors of whatever rank admonish their superior with a fraternal correction, resist him to the face, confront him, and, if it is necessary, rebuke him and impel him to come to his senses?  The cardinals could do that, for they are the counselors of the Pope; so could the Roman clergy; or, if it is judged expedient, a Roman synod could be convened for that purpose.  For the words of Paul to Titus: “Avoid a heretic after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a one is perverse and sins, being condemned by his own judgment” (Tit. 13:10), are addressed to any man whatsoever, even a private individual.  For he who, after a first and second correction, does not return to his senses, but persists in an opinion  contrary to a manifest or defined dogma, on the one hand cannot, by the very fact of this public pertinacity (publica pertinacia), be excused by any pretext from heresy in the strict sense, which requires pertinacity, and on the other hand declares himself plainly to be a heretic; in other words, he declares that he has departed from the Catholic faith and from the Church of his own accord, in such wise that no declaration or sentence of any man is necessary to cut him off from the body of the Church.  (…) Therefore, the Pope who, after so solemn and public a warning given by the cardinals, the Roman clergy, or even a synod, would harden himself in his heresy, and thus would have departed plainly from the Church, would, according to the precept of St. Paul, have to be avoided; and, lest he bring destruction upon others, his heresy and contumacy would have to be brought forth into the public, so that all might similarly beware of him; and in this way the sentence that he passed against himself [i.e., by remaining hardened in heresy in the face of the warnings], being proposed to the whole Church, would declare that he has departed of his own accord, and has been cut off from the Body of the Church, and has in  certain manner abdicated the Papacy, which no one possesses, nor can possess, who is not in the Church.”

Notice what is required: a solemn and public warning from the proper ecclesiastical authorities. That is how the Church establishes the crime of heresy, just as we explain in the book.  But there’s more…

Ballerini goes on to say that “whatever would be done against him [a heretical Pope] before the declaration of his contumacy and heresy, in order to call him to reason [this includes the warnings], would constitute an obligation of charity, not of jurisdiction.”  Why would the ecclesiastical warnings be an obligation of charity and not jurisdiction?  Because the Church has no jurisdiction over a Pope. For this reason, when the Church warns a Pope, it is considered a fraternal correction (an act of charity) and not an act of jurisdiction.  What does this tell us?  It tells us that, according to Ballerini, the Pope remains pope at least until he has received a “solemn and public a warning given by the cardinals, the Roman clergy, or even a synod” which is not only what we argue in the book, but what all the theologians teach.  Needless to say, none of the recent Popes have been issued a "solemn and public warning" from the Cardinals or a synod.

John of St. Thomas explains that remaining hardened in heresy in the face of an ecclesiastical warning is one of the conditions required for a Pope to be deposed for heresy, and he cites canon law to support this teaching.  He wrote:

“The second condition for the Pope to be deposed—namely, that he be incorrigible and contumacious in his heresy—is evident; for, if he is ready to be corrected, nor pertinacious in his heresy, he is not considered to be a heretic, as we gather from the chapter Dixit Apostolus 24, q. 3; therefore, if the Pope is ready to be corrected, he should not be deposed as a heretic.  It is also evident from the fact that the Apostle commands that the heretic be avoided only after a first and second admonition; consequently, if after being admonished he returns to his senses, he is not to be avoided.  Since, then, it is because of that very precept of the Apostle that a Pope ought to be deposed for heresy, it follows from the same precept that, if he can be corrected, he is not to be deposed.  And indeed, since the Pope, before he is deposed, ought to be urged to return to his right mind, plainly if he corrects himself after being admonished it does not seem possible to proceed further by deposing him.  It is of some help to consider the case of Pope Marcellinus as described in the chapter Nunc autem of the 21st distinction (which we have already address in the preceding disputation).  For, although he was declared to be an infidel by a Council of bishops; nevertheless, because he returned to his senses and was willingly corrected, he remained in the papacy, and as Pope he later died for the faith; therefore, unless a Pope abide pertinaciously and incorrigibly in his heresy, he should not be deposed from the papacy. (…) the Pope, no matter how truly and publicly he be a heretic, cannot be deposed if he is ready to be corrected, as we have said above; nor does Divine Law give the Church the power to depose him, for she neither can nor ought to avoid him [until he be proven incorrigible]; for the Apostle says, “Avoid a heretic after the first and second admonition”; consequently, before he has been admonished a first and second time, he is not to be avoided by the Church; neither, then, is he to be deposed.  So it is false to say that the Pope is deposed by the very fact [ipso facto] that he is a public heretic; for it is possible for him to be a public heretic while he has not yet been admonished by the Church…

The point is, before a Pope loses his office for heresy, the crime must be established by the Church – which is precisely what we argue in the book and what Ballerinin and John of St. Thomas teach. 


Robert Siscoe






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