FR. KRAMER ARGUES PRIVATE JUDGMENT PREVAILS OVER THE PUBLIC JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH


FR. KRAMER ARGUES PRIVATE JUDGMENT PREVAILS
OVER THE PUBLIC JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH

       In our ongoing refutation of his many theological errors, we have seen the unraveling of the once-respected priest, Fr. Paul Kramer. We have seen how Fr. Kramer appeals to fictitious quotations (e.g., St. Athanasius), how he quotes lay Sedevacantists with no theological training as his authority (e.g., Steve Speray), and how he refuses to engage us directly (by blocking us from responding on his Facebook page). Of course, the root error in all of this behavior is pride, which gets especially inflamed when one’s positions have been publicly refuted.
        
       As applied here, and as we see with the Sedevacantists, the pride we are talking about begins by forming judgments that are contrary to the public judgments of the Church, then publicizing them, and finally condemning anyone who does not agree with them. This is what Fr. Kramer has effectively done in regard to his rejection of Pope Francis, and he now attempts to defend his position by claiming he has a “natural law” right to do so! Sounds like a Vatican II Modernist, doesn’t it? Perhaps Fr. Kramer now embraces Dignitatis Humanae’s erroneous teaching that man has a “natural right” to form his judgments, irrespective of the teachings of the Church. John Courtney Murray would be most pleased with Fr. Kramer’s theology.
       Following is a post that Fr. Kramer put on his Facebook page, which Eric Gajewski (one of Kramer’s disciples) also posted on his website, under the title “Fr. Kramer Refutes Pseudo Traditionalists Salza and Siscoe.” It’s quite interesting to note that Gajewski was singing Salza’s praises just a few short months ago when he had Salza as a guest on his radio show to discuss the errors of Sedevacantism, and promoted the show on his website. But now that his shepherd (Fr. Kramer) has embraced the Sedevacantist errors, Gajewski has suddenly changed his tune. He now calls Salza and Siscoe “pseudo traditionalists” on his website, and even refers to Siscoe as a “charlatan and a fraud” – and all for explaining and defending the theology on a heretical Pope that Gajewski himself endorsed just a few months ago! 
       Gajewski has not only been reduced to name-calling (“pseudo-traditionalists,” “charlatan,” “fraud”), but he is also making false statements about a conversation he had with Salza in connection with the interview. These are the same bitter fruits that come from the rotten tree of Sedevacantism.
       Here is the post of Fr. Kramer in which he promotes the Sedevacantist error that an individual can personally judge whether the man elected Pope is a true or a false Pope, based on “natural law.”

“Fr. Kramer Response to Andy Sloan: You are confusing the distinction between the judgment of the INTELLECT, and official judgment made with the power of jurisdiction. The former is a RIGHT according to NATURAL LAW, and Canon Law (can. 748); the latter requires authority to be lawful. You quote St. Thomas out of context -- a passage that refers to a judgment that requires the proper jurisdiction to be lawful. It does not refer in any manner to the private judgment of the intellect, which is the individual’s right in natural law and Canon Law, as I have already explained above, and multiple times in the past.
This failure to distinguish the two kinds of judgment in theological and canonical works is also the error of Salza and Siscoe.”

Reply: Given Fr. Kramer’s freefall, it’s no longer difficult to believe that he would make such a ridiculous argument. Martin Luther could not have said it better. According to Fr. Kramer, man has a right under “NATURAL LAW” to form a judgment that is contrary to the public judgment of the Church! He evidently believes that our duty to “hear the Church” terminates when our private judgment is not in agreement with the Church’s public judgment.  Kramer even cites canon 748 for this absurd proposition. Canon 748, §1 says: “All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and His Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.”
       In other words, Fr. Kramer acknowledges that we are bound to seek the truth which regards the Church, but this does not include the Church’s judgment on who is a true Pope, which is one of the most important judgments that the Church can possibly make. Can a more ludicrous argument be advanced? If we have a “natural law” right to reject the Church’s judgment on who is Pope (which John of St. Thomas equates with an article of Faith), what is stopping us from rejecting her other judgments on doctrine, morals, or liturgical practices?
      And if Fr. Kramer’s principle of private judgment were true, then on what basis does he disagree with the Sedevacantists who, by their own private judgment, reject all the conciliar Popes as antipopes? Fr. Kramer privately judges that the conciliar Popes up to Benedict XVI were not “manifest heretics” and therefore were true Popes, whereas the private judgment of the Sedevacantists is the opposite.   Whose private judgment prevails?
       If Fr. Kramer is going to be faithful to his manufactured principle, then he has no basis upon which to disagree with the Sedevacantists, other claiming their private judgment is wrong and his private judgment is correct.  But since Fr. Kramer surely knows that his private judgment is not infallible, how can he be certain that they are wrong and he is right?  This demonstrates why such matters are not to be decided and publicly declared by individual Catholics, but must be established and declared by the proper ecclesiastical authorities.
       Now, in advancing his false principle, Fr. Kramer attempts to make a distinction between his alleged “natural law” right to make judgments contrary to the Church, and the jurisdictional judgments that the Church herself makes (this is why he claims the St. Thomas quotation on judgments by public authority is “out of context”). This distinction only highlights the errors of Fr. Kramer’s position. First of all, we have never argued that people cannot make “a judgment of the intellect,” or that a personal judgment is not different than the Church’s judgment “with power of jurisdiction.” These are red herrings.  Making personal judgments is a natural function of the intellect which everyone must do daily, and we have never denied it. The problem occurs when our private judgment is contrary to the Church’s public judgment on matters of faith and morals.
       The object of the intellect must be truth and, as canon 748 says, “truth in those things which regard the Church.” One of the “truths in those things which regard the Church” is the Church’s judgment on who is the true Pope. Contrary to what Fr. Kramer argues, the “natural law” does not give man a “right” to form a judgment that is contrary to the public judgment of the Church, especially on such a grave matter as who is Pope, since submission to the Pope in all things lawful is necessary for salvation. If Fr. Kramer disagrees, let him produce the Pope, or saint or Doctor who teaches his novelty of how one’s private judgment prevails over the Church’s public judgment.  Let him produce a quote saying that if an individual Catholic personally judges a Pope to be a “manifest heretic,” while the Church itself continues to recognize him as the pope, that the individual has a “natural right” to declare publicly that the man is not the legitimate pope.  Fr. Kramer will search in vain for such a quotation; and appealing to his distorted interpretation of Bellarmine will not help his case.
       When the Church presents a man to us as Pope, and when he is accepted as such by the Church, his legitimacy becomes a “dogmatic fact”.  When this occurs, Catholics are not permitted to publicly reject his legitimacy based on their private judgment.  Rather, they have a moral obligation to assent to it with ecclesiastical faith, which is faith in the authority of the Church teaches.  In his 1951 book On the Value of Theological Notes and the Criteria for Discerning Them, which was drafted for use by Roman congregations under Pius XII, Fr. Sixtus Cartechini, S.J., explains that the rejection of a dogmatic fact (and the example he uses is a Pope who has been accepted as such by the Church) constitutes a “mortal sin against faith.”[1]  Cartechini also says that it is a “mortal sin of temerity” to deny opinions held in common by all theologians – and submitting to the judgment of the Church on who is Pope is certainly one of those opinions. Again, if Fr. Kramer disagrees that his position is leading people into mortal sin (at least the mortal sin of temerity), let him produce the Pope, or saint, or Doctor who teaches that we can reject the Church’s public judgments in favor of our own private judgments.  
       Has Holy Mother Church ever said that the legitimacy of the man she elects and presents to the world as Pope is a matter of “the private judgment of the intellect” for Catholics? Of course not. By way of example, it’s not like the Church allowing Catholics to make private judgments about the age of the Earth, which she did under St. Pius X’s Pontifical Biblical Commission, by permitting exegetes to debate whether the Hebrew word yom (for “day”) literally meant a natural day or a certain space of time. In such matters, Catholics can make a “judgment of the intellect” on which interpretation they believe is correct, since the Church herself has not settled the matter. Not so with the one who the Church elects and presents to the faithful as Pope.  
       Fr. Kramer’s distinction between the “private judgment of the intellect” and “the official judgment [of the Church] made with the power of jurisdiction” also doesn’t help his case because his “private judgment” concerns a matter that falls within the exclusive purview of the Church’s judgment (i.e., who is a true Pope). Because who is a true Pope is a matter of Church law according to the Church’s ecclesiastical process of election and acceptance (the very authority who made the law), it follows that the same authority must interpret and make the definitive judgments about the law, which extend over all who are in communion with the Church. As St. Thomas teaches:

    “Since judgment should be pronounced according to the written law, as stated above, he that pronounces judgment, interprets, in a way, the letter of the law, by applying it to some particular case. Now since it belongs to the same authority to interpret and to make a law, just as a law cannot be made except by public authority, so neither can a judgment be pronounced except by public authority, which extends over those who are subject to the community.”[2]
       It goes without saying that Fr. Kramer’s “private judgment of the intellect” must conform to the public authority and judgment of the Church, that is, if he wishes to remain in communion with her. His effort to distinguish these two judgments to justify his rejection of Francis as Pope only proves that he is guilty of “judgment by usurpation,”[3] in the words of St. Thomas. It also separates himself from the Catholic Church, which is a visible, social and hierarchical unit – a perpetual attribute of the Church that Fr. Kramer publicly denies.
       Most importantly, Fr. Kramer’s claim that he can make a “private judgment of the intellect” about who holds office in the Church, and then separate from the one he rejects based on his private judgment, was condemned by an ecumenical council of the Church. The Fourth Council of Constantinople certainly acknowledged a person’s ability to make a “judgment of the intellect” according to “natural law.” But contrary to the claims and practices of Fr. Paul Kramer, Constantinople IV declared that Catholics could not exercise that private judgment by separating from their Patriarch (the Pope is the Patriarch of the West) before a public judgment of the Church. Nor could they refuse to include his name in the canon of the Mass.  And, under the council’s penal legislation, Fr. Kramer would have been debarred from all priestly functions for doing so:

       “As divine scripture clearly proclaims, Do not find fault before you investigate, and understand first and then find fault, and does our law judge a person without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?  Consequently this holy and universal synod justly and fittingly declares and lays down that no lay person or monk or cleric should separate himself from communion with his own patriarch before a careful enquiry and judgment in synod, even if he alleges that he knows of some crime perpetrated by his patriarch, and he must not refuse to include his patriarch's name during the divine mysteries or offices.
       “In the same way we command that bishops and priests who are in distant dioceses and regions should behave similarly towards their own metropolitans, and metropolitans should do the same with regard to their own patriarchs. If anyone shall be found defying this holy synod, he is to be debarred from all priestly functions and status if he is a bishop or cleric; if a monk or lay person, he must be excluded from all communion and meetings of the church [i.e., excommunicated] until he is converted by repentance and reconciled (Canon 10).” [4]

       As we can see, an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church has condemned the error of Fr. Paul Kramer and the Sedevacantists, by which one, in an act of “private judgment,” separates himself from communion with his Patriarch (or Bishop), and the Pope is the Patriarch of the West. Note also that the council bases its teaching on both Divine Law and human law: Divine law(e.g., Titus 3:10) requires that the Church must first investigate and admonish before rendering a judgment, and human law does not render a judgment without first giving the accused a hearing. 
      We pray that Fr. Kramer returns to his right mind and abandons his “private judgment prevails over the Church’s public judgment” theology, which is not only insulting to the dignity of the Catholic priesthood, but also putting many souls in danger, especially his own.




[1] http://www.the-pope.com/theolnotes.html.
[2] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 6 (emphasis added).
[3] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 2.
[4] Fourth Council of Constantinople, Canon 10, (869-870), http://www.papalencyclicals. net/Councils/ecum08.htm.

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