Addressing the Criticisms He Posted
on His Facebook Page about True or False Pope? (a book he has not read)-
One Error at a Time

Fr. Kramer Rejects the Common Theological Opinion on the Loss of Office for a Heretical Pope. He Claims that a Pope Loses His Office Due to the Sin of Heresy, Without the Judgment of the Church.

Fr. Kramer: “Any Catholic, be he pope or pauper, excommunicates himself by the sin of heresy, because such a one no longer has the Catholic Faith. With or vwithout (sic) the law, the heretic by the very nature of the sin of heresy ceases to be a Catholic and is incapable of holding office. Bellarmine explains this in De Romano Pontifice.”

Salza/Siscoe: Fr. Kramer has not only not read our book, but with this utterly erroneous assertion it does not seem possible that he has even read Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice. Bellarmine says the exact opposite! Perhaps Fr. Kramer is getting his information from Sedevacantist websites, which not only misinterpret Bellarmine, but invariably omit his comments on the Second (and Third) Opinion, in which the Doctor of the Church explicitly rejects the opinion that a Pope “loses his office due to the sin of heresy” without first “being judged.”  You would never know that by reading Fr. Kramer’s posts. As we will show, Fr. Kramer teaches the exact opposite of the sainted Doctor.
       In De Romano Pontifice, Bellarmine refutes what he lists as the “Second Opinion” (which Fr. Kramer apparently holds), which maintains that a pope “in the very instant in which he falls into heresy, even if it is only interior, is outside the Church and deposed by God, for which reason he can be judged by the Church. That is, he is declared deposed by divine law, and deposed de facto” (De Romano Pontifice).    
      Bellarmine refuted this opinion by explaining that a heretical Pope will not be removed from office by God until he is “judged by men,” that is, by the proper authorities (i.e., the bishops or Cardinals). He says:

“Jurisdiction is certainly given to the Pontiff by God, but with the agreement of men [who elect him], as is obvious; because this man, who beforehand was not Pope, has from men that he would begin to be Pope; therefore he is not removed by God unless it is through men. But a secret heretic cannot be judged by men, nor would such wish to relinquish that power by his own will. Add, that the foundation of this opinion is that secret heretics are outside the Church, which is false, and we will amply demonstrate this in our tract de Ecclesia, bk 1.”

       Notice, Bellarmine clearly says God will not remove a Pope from office (i.e., he will not sever the bond uniting the man to the papacy), “unless it is through men” who “judge” him. 
        In this argument, Bellarmine is drawing a parallel between the election of a Pope and the deposition of a Pope. During the election, the Church merely designates the man who is to be Pope, while God Himself makes him Pope.  In like manner, for a Pope to lose his office for heresy, the Church first judges him a heretic, and then God removes him from office (and in the “Third Opinion,” Bellarmine explicitly says that a heretical pope “can be judged by the Church”).
       We find the same teaching in the writings of Suarez, who said:

“[T]he Church does not validly exercise any act of jurisdiction against the Pope, nor is the power conferred [on the man] by the election; rather the Church merely designates a person upon whom Christ confers the power by himself; therefore when the Church would depose a heretical Pope, it does not act superior to him, but from the consensus of Christ the Lord it juridically declares him to be a heretic, and even altogether unworthy of the dignity of Pope; he would then ipso facto and immediately be deposed by Christ.”[1]

       Notice, a heretical pope is deposed by Christ only after being judged by men. In the same treatise, Suarez was even more emphatic on this point when he wrote:

       “[I]in no case, even that of heresy, is the Pontiff deprived of his dignity and of his power immediately by God himself, before the judgment and sentence of men. This is the common opinion today.”[2]

       Notice, this is not the sole opinion of one theologian, but the “common opinion”.  Billuart teaches the same:

       “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.”[3]

      Fr. Paul Layman, who was considered one of the greatest canonists of his day, also confirmed that a heretical Pope will not lose his office until he is first judged a heretic by the Church.  He explained that as long as a heretical pope is tolerated by the Church, he remains Pope. In a statement that completely refutes Fr. Kramer, this brilliant canonist wrote:

       “It is more probable that the Supreme Pontiff, as concerns his own person, could fall into heresy, even a notorious one, by reason of which he would deserve to be deposed by the Church, or rather declared to be separated from her. … The proof of this assertion is that neither Sacred Scripture nor the tradition of the Fathers indicates that such a privilege [i.e., being preserved from heresy when not defining a doctrine] was granted by Christ to the Supreme Pontiff: therefore the privilege is not to be asserted. (…) it was the persuasion  [of the Fathers] that it could happen that they fall into heresy and that … it would pertain to the other bishops to examine and give a judgment on the matter; as one can see in the Sixth Synod, Act 13; the Seventh Synod, last Act; the eight Synod, Act 7 in the epistle of [Pope] Hadrian; and in the fifth Roman Council …  And in Si Papa d. 40, it is reported from Archbishop Boniface: ‘He who is to judge all men is to be judged by none, unless he be found by chance to be deviating from the Faith’. And Bellarmine himself, book 2, ch. 30, writes: ‘We cannot deny that [Pope] Hadrian with the Roman Council, and the entire 8th General Synod was of the belief that, in the case of heresy, the Roman Pontiff could be judged,’ as one can see in Melchior Cano, bk. 6, De Locis Theologicis, last chapter.
       But note that, although we affirm that the Supreme Pontiff, as a private person, might become a heretic … nevertheless, for as long as he is tolerated by the Church, and is publicly recognized as the universal pastor, he is still endowed, in fact, with the pontifical power, in such a way that all his decrees have no less force and authority than they would if he were a truly faithful, as Dominic Barnes notes well (q.1, a. 10, doubt 2, ad. 3) Suarez bk 4, on laws, ch. 7.
       The reason is: because it is conducive to the governing of the Church, even as, in any other well-constituted commonwealth, that the acts of a public magistrate are in force as long as he remains in office and is publicly tolerated.”[4]

       If Fr. Kramer rejects this teaching (and he does), let him produce a citation from a reputable theologian who teaches otherwise – that is, that a heretical pope will lose his office, even if he is being tolerated by the Church and recognized as the universal pastor.

       As John of St. Thomas explains, a Pope who is ‘judged” to be a heretic by private judgment alone remains Pope:

       “So long as he [the Pope] has not become declared to us juridically as an infidel or heretic, be he ever so manifestly heretical according to private judgment, he remains as far as we are concerned a member of the Church and consequently its head. Judgment is required by the Church. It is only then that he ceases to be pope as far as we are concerned."[5]

       Again, if Fr. Kramer rejects this teaching, let him produce a quote from a reputable theologian that contradicts it.     
       As Fr. Laymann taught, a heretical Pope who is being “tolerated by the Church” – that is, who has not been judged a heretic by the bishops – remains Pope. Note well, dear reader, that Fr. Kramer’s teaching is the exact opposite of the theologians we have just cited. They all teach that heretical Pope remains Pope until he is judged a heretic by the Church (i.e., “by men”); only then can he be removed from office.  Yet Fr. Kramer teaches that a heretical Pope loses his office before he is judged by the Church! 
       Like the Sedevacantists, Fr. Kramer imagines that it is he who gets to establish for the Church the “FACT” of the Pope is a heretic who has lost his office! (Fr. Kramer, you would do well to read our three-part series on the theological/ecclesiastical application of “fact” and “law” at
       Here’s Fr. Kramer’s twisted reading of Bellarmine:

“The main thrust of Bellarmine’s argument is that a pope who in FACT became a manifest heretic ceases to be a pope, a Christian and member of the Church. It is precisely due [sic] the FACT of loss of office [NB: by the private judgment of individual Catholics like Fr. Kramer] that he may be judged and punished by the Church. For so long as he holds office, a pope may not be judged by anyone” [except, evidently, by Fr. Kramer and his like-minded colleagues].

     This, Fr. Kramer, tells us is the “thrust” of Bellarmine’s argument (translation: Bellarmine didn’t actually say it), even though Bellarmine not only says no such thing, but says the complete opposite!
       Of course, even if one hasn’t studied the theology, if he has a working intellect, he will see a defect in Fr. Kramer’s argumentation: On the one hand, he says a Pope who holds office cannot be judged. On the other hand, he himself judges that the man the Church has presented to us as Pope is a heretic and therefore does not actually hold the papal office! But before one can maintain that a pope has lost his office due to heresy, he must first judge that he is guilty of heresy; but if we are forbidden to render such a judgment, how can we then maintain that heresy caused him to lose his office?  Obviously, the judgment that he lost his office due to heresy, would have to be preceded by a judgment that he was a heretic, which Fr. Kramer says is not permitted.
       Not only does Fr. Kramer’s novel teaching depart from the common teaching of the theologians who addressed the question of a heretical Pope, but it is inherently contradictory.
       Indeed, Fr. Kramer puts the theological cart before the horse, since he believes that so long as one, by his own private judgment, has a “certitude” that the Pope is a heretic, he can simply declare  (on his own authority) that he is an antipope. He says 

KRAMER: “If it is KNOWN with certitude that a ‘pope’ is a manifest heretic, then he is KNOWN CERTAINLY to not be the visible head, nor even a member of the Church.” 

       According to Fr. Kramer, any Catholic in the street can establish the “FACT” of heresy in the ecclesiastical forum and declare the elected Pope an antipope.
       But if that is the case, how can Fr. Kramer reject the Sedevacantist who claim it is “certain” that John Paul II was a public heretic for promoting the worship of idols, or saying non-Catholic sects were part of the Catholic Church? They claim it is “certain” that John Paul II was a “manifest heretic” and therefore was not a true pope.  How can Fr. Kramer reject their conclusion, when he holds the Sedevacantist principle of “loss of office for the private judgment of heresy” to a tee?
       Fr. Kramer is so confident in is erroneous interpretation of Bellarmine that he actually says “How can Salza possibly believe that Bellarmine proposes a position that he expressly rejects?” Unfortunately for Fr. Kramer, it is his own position that “Bellarmine expressly rejects,” since Bellarmine says the Pope “is not removed by God unless it is through men,” just like God only gives him the papal jurisdiction “by the agreement of men.” Thus, we are forced to ask the same question: How can Fr. Kramer possibly believe that Bellarmine proposes a position (the Pope loses his office for heresy by private judgment, even though Bellarmine says the Pope does not lose is office until he is judged by the Church) that he expressly rejects?! It is difficult to believe that Fr. Kramer has done even a cursory study of the theology concerning a heretical Pope.
       Perhaps Fr. Kramer got his erroneous opinion from a misreading/misapplication of Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis Christi (so common on Sedevacantist websites), in which the Pope says “For not every offense (admissum), although it may be a grave evil, is such as by its very own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.”[6] If Fr. Kramer would have read our book, he would have learned that the Pope was not teaching that the sin of heresy automatically causes the loss of ecclesiastical office, but rather that the nature of the crime of heresy requires no additional censure to sever one from the Body. But this does not nullify the necessity of the Church - who alone has the authority to judge whether a person is guilty of the crime of heresy - rendering a judgment, and most certainly in the case of a person who continues to present himself as a Catholic (as opposed to one who openly left the Church). This is precisely what John of St. Thomas explained when commenting on a similar teaching of St. Jerome, and he even applied the teaching to the case of a heretical Pope:

       “Jerome, when he says that a heretic cuts himself off from the body of Christ, does not exclude the judgment of the Church in such a grave matter as that of the deposition of the Pope, but he instead refers to the nature of the crime, which, of itself, cuts one off from the Church without any other further added censure of the Church, provided, that is, that he be declared guilty by the Church.”[7]

       Regarding Fr. Kramer’s claim that a Pope “excommunicates himself by the sin of heresy, because such a one no longer has the Catholic Faith,” this claim is completely false as well. As Cajetan explained, a Pope cannot incur the censure of excommunication (at least not in the ecclesiastical forum), since this is part of the Church’s positive law, which has no coercive power over a Pope. Cajetan begins by saying the notion that “the pope, falling into a condemned heresy, falls into excommunication, is false,” and then explains why:

       “Since every excommunication, which is an ecclesiastical censure (and that is our subject), is based on positive law, which does not have coercive power over the pope in the ecclesiastical forum, whereas excommunication implies coercion in the ecclesiastical forum, we must conclude that the pope cannot incur any censure. The doctors carry this point so far that St. Thomas says that the pope cannot confer upon anyone the power to excommunicate him. Albert the Great and Saint Bonaventure are of the same opinion, as Lord Juan de Torquemada reports of them.”[8]

       Recognizing Fr. Kramer’s error, Mr. Sam Freson replied to him by saying:

       “But the Pope is above canon law and it’s not applicable to him. It needs to be formal heresy thus declared as such.” Posted July 21, 2016 at 3.14am.

       To which Fr. Kramer responded:

Fr. Kramer: “No, the pope is not above all Canon Law. He is not above the canons which set forth the divine law in statutory form.” Posted July 21, 2016 at 3.16am. He went on to say: “The pope is not above precepts of natural law that are also contained in Canon Law.” Posted July 21, 2016 at 3.17am.

Salza/Siscoe: Unfortunately for Fr. Kramer, there is nothing in “divine law” or “the precepts of natural law” that reveal that the “sin of heresy” automatically “excommunicates” a Pope from the Church and causes him to lose his office (and thus there is no such codification of this fallacious principle in “statutory form” in canon law). Regarding this point, Suarez wrote:

“By divine law no one is deprived of dignity and ecclesiastical jurisdiction because of the crime of heresy. Now we will give an a priori argument: since such a destitution is a most grave penalty, one would only incur it ipso facto if it were expressed in the divine law; however, we do not find any law which establishes this, either in general as far as the heretics are concerned, or in particular as to the Bishops, nor in a very particular way as far as the Pope is concerned. Neither is there a certain Tradition over this matter. Nor can the Pope lose his dignity ipso facto by virtue of a human law [canon law], for this law would have to be established by an inferior, that is, by a Council, or by an equal, that is, by a previous Pope; but neither a council nor a previous Pope possess such a coercive power as to be able to punish their equal or superior. Therefore, etc.”[9]

Fr. Kramer: The sin of heresy is also the crime of heresy. One who becomes a heretic expells [sic] himself from the Church and ceases to be Catholic, because he has rejected the authority of the revealing God.”

Salza/Siscoe: It’s difficult to believe that Fr. Kramer would make such an egregiously erroneous statement, namely, that “the sin of heresy is also the crime of heresy.” The completely novel idea that if individual Catholics personally “discern” that a Pope has committed the “sin of heresy,” they are justified in declaring that he has lost his office, is a principal error of Sedevacantism, which Fr. Kramer has evidently embraced. He employs the same methodology in declaring Francis an anti-pope as others use to declare all the Popes since John XXIII (d. 1958), or Benedict XV[10] (d. 1914), or Innocent III[11] (d. 1130) to be antipopes (depending on which Sedevacantist is judging the “facts”).
        Because Sedevacantists know they have no authority to judge a Pope for the crime of heresy under canon law, they appoint themselves as the judge and jury of the “sin of heresy” by appealing to Divine law (yet, they never cite the alleged Divine law that says a Pope loses his office due to the sin of heresy, because, as Suarez explained, no such Divine law exists). However, Fr. Kramer takes it one step further: He actually says the sin of heresy is also the crime of heresy, and he evidently thinks he is the judge of both! Fr. Kramer gets to play both the Divine Judge and the ecclesiastical judge. It would be clear to any student taking an introductory course in canon law that the sin of heresy is not the crime of heresy; that the former is a matter of the internal forum judged by God alone (and one’s confessor), while the latter is a matter of the ecclesiastical forum judged by the Church and her laws. The former does not result in the loss of office; the latter does, according to a very strict process that we explain over hundreds of pages in our book. Even the Sedevacantist bishop, Donald Sanborn, acknowledges that a heretical Pope will legally retain his office until he is warned and declared a heretic by the Church.  Sanborn wrote: 

       “[D]espite 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.”[12]

       The warning and declaration are considered conditions for a Pope to lose his office, as we will demonstrate in a future installment.

[1] De Fide, disp. X, sect. VI, n. 10.
[2] De Fide, disp. X, sect. VI, n. 3
[3] Billuart, De Fide, Diss. V, A. III No. 3, Obj. 2.  
[4] Laymann, Theol. Mor., bk. 2, tract 1, ch. 7, p. 153 (emphasis added).
[5] Cursus Theologici II-II De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disp. II, Art. III, De Depositione Papae, p.139.  
[6] Mystici Corporis, No. 23, June 29, 1943. In the previous paragraph (No. 22), Pope Pius XII also emphasizes that he is speaking of the external bonds and the external acts or crimes (not internal sins) which can break those bonds (“separating themselves” from the “body” by leaving the Church, or being “excluded by legitimate authority”): “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith and have not separated themselves from the unity of the body or been excluded by legitimate authority” (emphasis added).
[7] Cursus Theologici II-II, John of St. Thomas, De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disp. II, Art. III, De Depositione Papae, p. 139. 
[8] De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, p. 99 (emphasis added).
[9] De Fide, disp. X, sect. VI, n. 3.
[10] See:

[12] Sanborn, “An Emperor We Have, But No Bishop,” http://www.mostholytrinity /An%20Emperor%20We%20Have.pdf.