Part II: CAN THE CHURCH JUDGE A HERETICAL POPE?

Sedevacantist Watch…

CAN THE CHURCH JUDGE A HERETICAL POPE? 
Part II

Derksen and Cekada’s Avoidance of
the Second and Third Opinions
(in Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice)

       For years, apologists of the Sedevacantist sect have been quoting ad nauseam the Fourth and Fifth Opinions of St. Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice to support their position that the Papal See is vacant. They claim that because Bellarmine said, in response to the Fourth Opinion, that “a manifest heretic is ipso facto deposed,” it must mean that if individual Catholics personally “discern” that a Pope is a heretic, it must also mean he is not a true Pope. We have tried in vain to explain to them that the ipso facto loss of office (which itself is only an opinion) would only follow the Church’s judgment of manifest heresy, and would certainly not happen while the Church continues to recognize him as Pope. We have cited quotation after quotation to demonstrate this (in our book and articles), including the thorough teaching of Fr. Pietro Ballerini (an adherent of Bellarmine’s position) who fleshed out Bellarmine’s position by showing precisely how the Pope would become a “manifest heretic” according to the Church’s judgment (Fr. Ballerini’s explanation is identical to how we ourselves explain it, and reveals how the Pope loses his office without the Church inappropriately “judging” the Pope). 
       But none of this has made it through to our adversaries. They continue to insist that the Pope’s ipso facto fall from office for heresy (which, again, is only an opinion) does not require (and follow) the Church's judgment, and that the secret loss of office can be privately "discerned" by any Catholic Tom, Dick and Harry in the street. Notwithstanding all the evidence we have presented to the contrary, our opponents obstinately maintain that it is up to each individual Catholic in the pew to determine, for themselves, if God had secretly deposed the Pope for the “sin” of heresy. These heresy sleuths then write articles instructing other laymen how they too can “discern” if a Pope has fallen into heresy and been secretly deposed by God. Those enlightened ones who discover the hidden “truth” through the Sedevacantist gnosis will then join them as part of the true remnant of “the invisible Church of true believers, known to God alone” (i.e., the “Sedevacantists”).
       Now, what is interesting about all this is that, for reasons that will become evident as we proceed, the Sedevacantists have only published the Fourth and Fifth Opinions from Bellarmine’s treatise, and never bothered to translate the Second and Third Opinions, to see what Bellarmine had to say about these (at least not until we forced them to do so by quoting them in our book and articles). And these Opinions are very short, each consisting of only one paragraph, as opposed to the much longer Fourth and Fifth Opinions, which they did take the time to translate. Why is it that Fr. Cekada, for example, never bothered to provide his readers with these two additional paragraphs, from the Second and Third Opinions, in any of his articles or videos defending Sedevacantism? Is it because they are simply irrelevant? Quite the contrary; they are extremely relevant, as we will see. Was it because he had never actually read Bellarmine’s book that contained these opinions, but simply relied on what was available online, like so many of his Sedevacantist colleagues? Nope. We know that is not true, because when Robert Siscoe cited a section of the Fourth and Fifth Opinion in one of his articles, Fr. Cekada (in a vain attempt to discredit the article) provided a screen shot of Bellarmine’s treatise containing all Five Opinions, and even discussed how many paragraphs separated the quotation that Siscoe cited. Clearly, Fr. Cekada was well aware of these Opinions, but for some particular reason “forgot” to translate them for his flock.
Derksen Deletes the Second and Third Opinion

Screen shot from NOWatch; 2nd & 3rd opinions deleted
       But what else is quite curious is that when Mario Derksen of NovusOrdoWatch.com finally obtained the complete English Translation of Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice (recently made available in English for the first time by Ryan Grant), he too conveniently “forgot” to include the Second and Third Opinions when he posted the new translation on his website. Actually, he didn’t forget to provide these Opinions, but instead “accidentally” (wink, wink) deleted both of them, only providing his readers with the last sentence of the Third Opinion, along with the Fourth and Fifth Opinions in full, which everyone had been reading for years. Yes, Derksen removed precisely the same two opinions from his article that Fr. Cekada “forgot” to translate for his followers.
       Why was this?  Do you smell a rat? Of course you do, and you should, especially if you are familiar with the track records of these two men, which we have thoroughly exposed in this debate. Dishonest Derksen removed these two opinions from his article (the same opinions that Cekada chose not to translate for his flock) because these opinions completely obliterate the Sedevacantist interpretation of Bellarmine’s Fifth Opinion, and instead confirm exactly what we have been arguing for so many years in our attempts to demonstrate to them that they have completely misunderstood what Bellarmine was saying. But don’t take our word for it; let’s allow the facts to speak for themselves.

Why Cekada and Derksen Have Been “Hiding”
the Second Opinion

       Before providing and commenting on the Five Opinions, Bellarmine begins with this proposition: 

       “A Pope can be judged and deposed by the Church in the case of heresy; as is clear from Dist. 40, can. Si Papa: therefore, the Pontiff is subject to human judgment, at least in some case.”

       Bellarmine then says: “I respond: there are five opinions on this matter,” and proceeds to comment on all five. The First Opinion is that of Albert Pighius, who did not believe a Pope could fall into heresy at all. Bellarmine referred to this as a “pious opinion” and as being “easily defendable” but admitted that “it is not certain,” and indeed the contrary was the common opinion of the day.  In other words, the common opinion was (and is) that a Pope could fall into heresy. The next four opinions addressed whether, and if so, how a Pope who did fall into heresy could be deposed (questions of law). This is what is found in the Second through the Fifth Opinion.
       The Second Opinion maintains that “the 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, if he still refused to yield.”
      Notice, this opinion maintains that the Pope is deposed before being judged a heretic by the Church, the moment he falls into heresy. In other words, the Pope falls from office, ipso facto, by committing the “sin” of heresy – a violation of Divine Law – and then the Church simply declares that he already lost his office. Now, why do you think Fr. Cekada never bothered to translate this Second Opinion for his flock, and Dishonest Derksen deleted it before posting Ryan Grant’s new translation his own website? As we will see below, the answer is because Bellarmine explicitly rejects this opinion, which he called “extreme,” and he does so on the ground God will only remove a Pope from his office through the judgment of men. Thus, given the fact that Bellarmine explicitly rejects the Second Opinion, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why Cekada and Derksen have been avoiding it and hiding it from their readers for years.
       Before providing more detail on Bellarmine’s refutation of this Second Opinion, we will explain how John of St. Thomas and some of the other theologians we cite in our book respond to this objection. They argue that just as God himself only makes a man Pope after the Church itself judges that he should be Pope (by the election), so too, God will not depose a heretical Pope until men (the proper authorities) have judged his heresy. Only then will he be deposed immediately by God (one opinion), or deposed by Christ with the cooperation of the Church (another opinion).
       You can see this, for example, in the following quotation from Suarez, who held to the first opinion mentioned above (deposed immediately by God). In the following quotation, Suarez is objecting to those, such as Azorius, who argue that the Church authoritatively deposes a Pope (which is not the Second Opinion mentioned above). Suarez rejects this teaching, by explaining that just as the Church elects a man and then Christ makes him Pope, so too should a Pope fall into heresy, the Church would establish the crime, and then Christ Himself (not the Church) would depose the Pope.  He wrote:

       “Therefore, others [e.g., Azorius] affirm the Church is superior to the Pope in the case of heresy, but this is difficult to say. For Christ the Lord constituted the Pope as supreme judge absolutely; even the canons indifferently and generally affirm this; and at length the Church does not validly exercise any act of jurisdiction against the Pope; nor is the power conferred to him by election, rather [the Church] merely designates a person upon whom Christ confers the power by himself; Therefore on deposing a heretical Pope, the Church would not act as superior to him, but juridically and by the consent of Christ she would declare him a heretic and therefore unworthy of Pontifical honors; he would then ipso facto and immediately be deposed by Christ…”[1]  

       What Suarez is saying is that just as the man elected Pope receives his jurisdiction by an act of God, through men [the Electors), so, too, he also loses it by an act of God, through men [i.e., the bishops who establish the crime].  Accordingly, any ipso facto loss of office would be preceded by the Church’s judgment, which establishes “the fact” (that he was hardened in heresy) before he would lose his office; it would not be automatic as soon as the Pope violated Divine Law by committing the sin heresy, as those who hold the Second Opinion maintain.
       With this in mind, let’s see how Bellarmine specifically refutes the Second Opinion:

       “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 explicitly states that a heretical Pope will not be removed by God, “unless it is through men” who first judge him a heretic.  What this shows is that a heretical Pope is not deposed when God judges him to be a heretic (because God even knows when a Pope is a secret heretic). Rather, he is only deposed by God after men judge that he is a heretic. 
       Now, when we speak of the “judgment of men,” this can either be the private judgment of any individual Catholic in the street who has no authority in the Church (and, further, who doesn’t know the Pope, and probably doesn’t even know the difference between heresy and lessor errors), or the judgment of the Church (who has the competency to judge such matters). It goes without saying that the Church alone possesses the authority to make such a judgment, as we have demonstrated in great detail in our features on Fact and Law. The human judgment must come from the authorities in the Church, not private judgment of laymen in the pew.
       For those to whom it is not evident that a public judgment must come from the public authorities who have the competency to render the judgment, we can turn to St. Thomas for help. He explains:

       “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]

       Only the public authorities have the right to pronounce a public judgment that affects those of the society. St. Thomas goes on to say that those who render a judgment they have no authority to make (individuals in the street) are guilty of the unlawful act called judgment by usurpation. 

       “Judgment is lawful in so far as it is an act of justice. Now it follows from what has been stated above (1, ad 1,3) that three conditions are requisite for a judgment to be an act of justice: first, that it proceed from the inclination of justice; secondly, that it come from one who is in authority; thirdly, that it be pronounced according to the right ruling of prudence. If any one of these be lacking, the judgment will be faulty and unlawful. First, when it is contrary to the rectitude of justice, and then it is called ‘perverted’ or ‘unjust’: secondly, when a man judges about matters wherein he has no authority, and this is called judgment ‘by usurpation’; thirdly, when the reason lacks certainty, as when a man, without any solid motive, forms a judgment on some doubtful or hidden matter, and then it is called judgment by ‘suspicion’ or ‘rash’ judgment.”[3]

       Now, when Bellarmine says that a heretical Pope is only removed by God through men, just as he is made Pope by God through men, do you think he is referring to individual Catholics in the pew judging him to be a heretic, or do you think he is referring to the proper authorities? Would God act by deposing a Pope when an individual committed an unlawful act of judging by usurpation, or would He do so after the public authority rendered its judgment? To ask the question is to answer it. 
       Clearly, anyone with even half of a functioning brain should be able to understand that when Bellarmine says God will not remove a Pope except through men, he is referring to the pubic judgment of the proper Church authorities (the ecclesia docens), not the private and unlawful judgment of individuals with no such authority (the ecclesia discens). Indeed, just as a man is elected Pope and receives his jurisdiction from God by the agreement of the proper authorities (who elect him), so too is he removed from his office by God through the agreement of the proper authorities (who render the necessary judgment). Now we can understand why Fr. Cekada never provided his followers with a translation of the Second Opinion, and why Derksen quickly deleted it before posting Grant’s new translation on his website. 
       While it is true that Bellarmine was primarily addressing secret heresy, the fact that he says a Pope is only removed by God through men, confirms, for the reasons given above, that God will not remove him before the Church judges him to be a heretic – just as Suarez taught above.  Hence, Bellarmine’s refutation of the Second Opinion is a refutation of the Sedevacantist’s interpretation of what Bellarmine wrote in the Fifth Opinion, and thus a refutation of the two Sedevacantist musketeers, Fr. Cekada and Mario Dersken.  In other words, when Bellarmine said “a manifest heretic is ipso facto deposed,” he meant after the Church establishes that he is a heretic through the judgment of men. Hence, the Pope would have to be a manifest heretic according to the Church’s judgment, not just private judgment, before God will depose him - just as we have been arguing for years.

Why Cekada and Derksen Have Been “Hiding”
the Third Opinion

       We now come to the Third Opinion. Utilizing wording borrowed from Cajetan, Bellarmine refers to the Third Opinion as an “extreme.” According to this opinion, “the Pope is not and cannot be deposed either by secret or manifest heresy.” In other words, even if a Pope  becomes a manifest heretic you are stuck with him and there is no way for him to be removed. This false opinion is precisely what Derksen argued in his latest piece. If you recall, Derksen said the reason a heretical Pope cannot be deposed is because he cannot be judged. Therefore, he said, if Francis is the Pope, you are stuck with him. Is that so, Mario? Not according to St. Robert Bellarmine. 
       Before reading Bellarmine’s response, we ask the reader to recall the famous canon Si Papa, dist. 40, which we discussed in Part I. This canon, which was on the books from the twelfth century until the early twentieth century (before, during and after Vatican I), explicitly states that heresy is the exception to the rule that “the First See is judged by no one.”  Also remember the statement from Pope Innocent, who essentially quoted this canon when he taught that he (the Pope) could be “judged by the Church” if he fell into heresy. With these authorities in mind, let’s see how Bellarmine refuted to this Third Opinion (which is also Derksen’s opinion) that a heretical Pope cannot be judged and deposed:

       “Turrecremata in the aforementioned citation relates and refutes this opinion, and rightly so, for it is exceedingly improbable. Firstly, because that a heretical Pope can be judged is expressly held in the Canon, Si Papa, dist. 40, and with Innocent. And what is more, in the Fourth Council of Constantinople, Act 7, the acts of the Roman Council under Hadrian are recited, and in those it was contained that Pope Honorius appeared to be legally anathematized, because he had been convicted of heresy, the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors. Here the fact must be remarked upon that, although it is probable that Honorius was not a heretic, and that Pope Hadrian II was deceived by corrupted copies of the Sixth Council,[4] which falsely reckoned Honorius was a heretic, we still cannot deny that [Pope] Hadrian, with the Roman Council, and the whole Eighth Synod sensed that in the case of heresy, a Roman Pontiff can be judged. Add, that it would be the most miserable condition of the Church, if she should be compelled to recognize a wolf, manifestly prowling, for a shepherd.”

       Notice, St. Bellarmine cites canon law (Si Papa) and the authority of multiple Popes and a council to defend his position that a Pope can be judged in the case of heresy, and that, consequently, such a one can be removed from office, thereby preventing the Church from being “compelled to recognize a wolf” as its shepherd.
       We should also note that Bellarmine and Cajetan are in complete agreement in rejecting both the Second and Third Opinions. Here is what Cajetan wrote:

       “Three things have been established with certainty, namely, 1) that the pope, because he has become a heretic, is not deposed ipso facto by human or divine law [Second Opinion]; 2) that the pope has no superior on earth; and 3) that if he deviates from the faith, he must be deposed, as in C. Si Papa [Third Opinion]. Great uncertainty remains concerning how and by whom the pope who ought to be deposed will [in fact] be judged to be deposed [Fourth and Fifth Opinions].”

       Referring to the Second Opinion in another place, Cajetan explicitly states that a Pope is not deposed by Divine Law without “human judgment”:

       “We say, therefore, that there are two extreme ways, both of them false: one is that the pope who has become a heretic is deposed ipso facto by divine law without human judgment…”[5]

       Both Cajetan and Bellarmine say there must be human judgment before God will depose a Pope for heresy, and they both explain how the judgment takes place. In Bellarmine’s response to the Third Opinion, he uses canon law and the teaching of Popes to defend the position that in the case of heresy, the Pope (not a former Pope) can be judged by the Church.
       We will show how Derksen desperately attempted to get around Bellarmine’s clear teaching in a moment. But first we will show that Bellarmine’s mode of argumentation (seen above in his reply to the Third Opinion) is identical to what numerous other theologians teach. They quote the exact same authorities to defend the same teaching – namely, that a Pope can be judged by the Church in the case of heresy. 
       The first quotation is from John of St. Thomas, who teaches that there are three offenses for which a Pope can be deposed. “The first,” he writes,

       “is the case of heresy or infidelity. The second case is perpetual madness. The third case is doubt about the validity of the election. Concerning the case of heresy, theologians and Canon lawyers have disputed very much [about precisely how the Pontificate is lost]. It is not necessary to delve into this question now. However, there is an agreement among the Doctors on the fact that the Pope may be deposed in case of heresy. (…)

       A specific text is found in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 40, chapter ‘Si Papa,’ where it is said: ‘On earth, no mortal should presume to reproach the Pontiff for any fault, because he who has to judge others, should not be judged (judicandus) by anyone, unless he is found deviating from the Faith’ (Pars I, D 40, c. 6). This exception obviously means that in case of heresy, a judgment could be made about the Pope.
       The same thing is confirmed by the letter of Pope Hadrian, reported in the Eighth General Council [IV Constantinople, 869- 870], in the 7th session, where it is said that the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one, but the anathema was made by the Orientals against Honorius, because he was accused of heresy, the only cause for which it is lawful for inferiors to resist their superiors. Also, Pope St. Clement says in his first epistle that St. Peter taught that a heretical Pope must be deposed.”[6]

       As you can see (and, no doubt, Cekada and Derksen saw before they decided to conceal this material from their followers), Bellarmine, Cajetan and John of St. Thomas are in complete agreement that a Pope can be judged by the Church for heresy, and these great theologians cite the exact same authorities in support of the position.
       Fr. Paul Laymann also teaches the same and even cites the same authorities, including quoting from Bellarmine directly. He also specifically addresses who it is that would be responsible for rendering the judgment, and needless to say, it is not “Aunt Helen” in the pew, but the bishops of the Church, who have the competency to render the necessary judgment. Fr. Laymann also strikes an additional blow to Sedevacantism by explicitly stating that before the Church renders a judgment (while the heretical Pope is being tolerated), he retains his office. He 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.
       "The first part of the proof is shown from the fact that the promises made by Christ to St. Peter cannot be transferred to the other Supreme Pontiffs insofar as they are private persons, but only as the successor of Peter in the pastoral power of teaching, etc. The latter part is proven from the fact that it is rather the contrary that one finds in the writings of the Fathers and in decrees: not indeed as if the Roman Pontiffs were at any time heretics de facto (for one could hardly show that); but it was the persuasion that it could happen that they fall into heresy and that, therefore, if such a thing should seem to have happened, 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 under Pope Symmachus: ‘By many of those who came before us it was declared and ratified in Synod, that the sheep should not reprehend their Pastor, unless they presume that he has departed from the Faith’. 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 [i.e., before the bishops rendered a judgment], 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.”[7]

       Notice, also, that every single one of these renowned theologians (Bellarmine, Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, Laymann) refer to the principle “the First See is judged by no one.” This fact demonstrates that the maxim did not originate with Vatican I (as many Sedevacantists have alleged), and that these great theologians were all well aware of the maxim; yet none of them considered that their position (that the Church can judge the Pope in the case of heresy) violated the principle, due to the explicit exception provided in canon law (Si Papa) and affirmed by Popes Hadrian and Innocent III.

Derksen’s Desperate Dodge

       How in the world does Mario Derksen seek to get around the clear teaching of Bellarmine and all the other theologians? He does so by desperately appealing to a quotation from Cardinal Billot, which he not only takes completely out of context, but admits to taking out of context. You read that correctly, and we will prove this momentarily. 
       After citing Bellarmine’s comments on the Third Opinion (i.e., that a heretical Pope can be judged by the Church), Derksen writes this:

       At first sight, it may indeed seem like St. Robert Bellarmine is going against what was later defined by Vatican I, namely, that no one can judge the First See. But as we saw earlier: “This principle, whether taken juridically or dogmatically, suffers no exception” (Burke, Competence in Ecclesiastical Tribunals, p. 87). So, what is going on here?

       Before showing how Derken seeks to escape from the clear words of Bellarmine by appealing to Billot, it is important to note that Derksen’s reference to the quotation from Burke is also an act of desperation, since Burke is not referring to the exception that a heretical Pope can be “shown to be judged” by the Church for heresy. We take great pains in our book to explain how the Church does this without inappropriately judging a Pope.  In fact, on one of the pages that Derksen cites in his article (p. 302), we included a footnote (#18), which says “the Church does not strictly judge the Pope,” and explain how the Church would establish the crime without inappropriately judging him, as a superior judges an inferior. Needless to say, Burke is not contradicting what Pope Innocent III, the Canon Si Papa, and Bellarmine explicitly teach (when properly understood), and for Derksen to suggest otherwise shows that he has just about run out of arguments. But it only gets worse for Derksen.
       So how does Derksen attempt to get around the clear teaching of Bellarmine, who stated that “a heretical Pope can be judged,” since “heresy [is] the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors”? Here comes Derksen’s desperate dodge. First, he appeals to Cardinal Billot:

       We may safely turn to Cardinal Billot for help, who addresses the examples given by Bellarmine of Popes Innocent III, Adrian II, etc., albeit in a slightly different context [Note: Derksen admits he is taking Billot out of context!]

       ‘The authorities who object [i.e., who say that a Pope can fall into heresy] do not prove anything. First they cite the statement of Innocent III, in his Sermon 2 on the consecration of the Supreme Pontiff, where, speaking about himself, he says: “Faith is necessary to me to such a degree that, although I have God alone as judge of [my] other sins, I could be judged by the Church only by reason of a sin that is committed in the faith.” But surely Innocent does not affirm the case as simply possible [i.e., that a Pope can, in fact, become a heretic], but, praising the necessity of faith, he says that it is so great that if, whether or not it is in the realm of possibility, a Pontiff should be found deviant from the faith, he would already be subject to the judgment of the Church by the reason that was stated above. And indeed it is a manner of speaking similar to that which the Apostle uses when wishing to show the unalterable truth of the Gospel: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. (Billot, de Ecclesia, p. 630; underlining added.)

      Derksen then tries to commandeer Billot’s comments on whether a Pope could actually fall into heresy, to explain away the clear words of Bellarmine, who taught that if a Pope did fall into heresy he could be judged by the Church.  Here’s how he does it:

       “Put simply, when St. Robert Bellarmine says that a Pope can be judged in the case of heresy, he means it in a manner of speaking, much like St. Paul said that an angel from Heaven who preaches a false Gospel would be anathema (see Gal 1:8-9). Bellarmine does not mean that an inferior can legitimately render a canonical judgment against the Pope, his superior, by way of some mysterious exception.  — although this is what Salza and Siscoe insist is Bellarmine’s position (pp. 300-303) — any more than St. Paul meant that a genuine angel could actually preach a false gospel.”

     As we highlighted above, Derksen admitted that Billot was speaking “in a slightly different context” than what Bellarmine was in the Third Opinion. But for him to be completely honest, Derksen should have said that Billot was speaking in an entirely different context.
       What Billot was discussing in the quotation Derksen cited is not whether the Church could judge a Pope if he fell into heresy (the Third Opinion), but whether the Pope could fall into heresy in the first place (the First Opinion). Billot was defending the minority opinion of Albert Pighius, who believed that a Pope could not become a heretic, which is a minority opinion that Billot personally held. That is the context of the citation, which, again, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether a Pope, who did fall into heresy, could be judged by the Church. They are apples and oranges. Yet Derksen takes him completely out of context in order to get around the clear teaching of Bellarmine.
       Since Billot was not talking about whether a Pope who fell into heresy could be judged, the phrase “manner of speaking” has nothing whatsoever to do with judging a Pope. What Billot was saying is that just because Innocent III said a Pope who did fall into heresy could be judged by the Church, does not mean a Pope can actually fall into heresy in the first place (First Opinion). He is saying that Pope Innocent III’s hypothetical (if a Pope fell into heresy, he could be judged), does not prove that the hypothetical (that a Pope can fall into heresy) could actually happen. And Billot is exactly right about this point.  The statement of Innocent III does not prove that a Pope can actually fall into heresy, nor was it intended to prove it.  Billot then supports his entirely valid argument by referring to the impossible hypothetical spoken of by St. Paul, who said if an angel should preach another Gospel he should be anathema. This is only “a manner of speaking” since a good angel could never do such a thing in the first place, just like, as Billot thought, a Pope could not become a heretic in the first place.  Again, the quotation from Billot was addressing the First Opinion, not the Third Opinion.
       Yet simply because Cardinal Billot used the phrase “manner of speaking” concerning whether a Pope can fall into heresy (First Opinion), Derksen claims that when Bellarmine said a Pope who did fall into heresy could be judged by the Church, since “heresy [is] the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors,” he only meant what he said “in a manner of speaking” and not that the Pope could actually be judged. Folks, this shows how desperate Derksen has become to defend his false position. He is literally grasping at straws. It also shows why he originally deleted this Third Opinion from his website.  He knows full well that what Bellarmine wrote contradicts his own opinion, and rather than try to claim Bellarmine didn't mean what he said (a difficult sell), he simply deleted it. He was only forced to deal with the citation because we quoted it in our book and articles.  


The Dog Returns to his Vomit

       Derksen then goes on to argue that Bellarmine did not really mean that the Church could judge the Pope who fell into heresy. Why not, you might ask? Because, according to Mario Derksen, in such case the Pope would no longer be the Pope! Did you catch that? Yes, folks, that is called a circular argument, because Derksen begins with the premise that the Pope is a heretic (according to private judgment) who has lost his office, in order to conclude that the heretic Pope is not actually judged by inferiors (since he is no longer Pope).
      And how does Derksen know the Pope is a heretic who has lost his office? Again, by his own private judgment, of course! Just like the dog returning to his own vomit, Derksen ends his piece by returning to the same, worn-out argument that because he personally thinks the Pope is a heretic, it means he is not the Pope.
       Now, before we provide another citation from Derksen, let’s again recall the Second Opinion, which Bellarmine rejects. This erroneous opinion maintains that if a Pope were to fall into heresy, he would immediately be “outside the Church and deposed by God,” and for that “reason he can be judged by the Church.” As Bellarmine went on to say, this opinion claims that the former Pope (who has already fallen from office) “is declared deposed by divine law, and deposed de facto.” In other words, according to this erroneous opinion, a heretical Pope falls from office immediately by committing a sin against Divine Law. When the Church judges him, it is judging a former Pope. Bellarmine explicitly rejected this opinion, as we saw above, by explaining that just as God does not make a man Pope without the agreement of men (the electors) so too he will not deposed a Pope – that is, sever the bond uniting the man to the office - except through men judging him. With that in mind, let us see how Deksen tries to “interpret” Bellarmine’s Third Opinion, in which the saint says “a heretical Pope can be judged.” Here is yet another desperate attempt by Derksen to get around Bellarmine’s plain words:

       “Rather, Bellarmine simply means that if a Pope were to become a public heretic, he could then be judged by his inferiors because he would no longer be Pope ... Likewise, the reason why Pope Adrian II could say that “in the case of heresy, a Roman Pontiff can be judged”, is not because heresy is some sort of exception to the principle codified at Vatican I that no one can judge the Pope, but because public heresy alone — together with schism and apostasy — is a sin that of its very nature can make a true Pope cease being Pope… That is why a superior can then be judged, so to speak, by his inferiors: because he is then no longer the lawful superior, but, being a heretic, he is cut off from the Body of the Church. This is what St. Robert Bellarmine means, and this is also how Cardinal Billot understands the Doctor of the Church, because he does not contradict St. Robert in any way.”

       We hope the readers can see what Derksen has done here. He has taken a quotation from Billot completely out of context, in a vain attempt to argue that Bellarmine meant the exact opposite of what he actually said. Bellarmine rejected the idea that God would depose a Pope ipso facto without first being judged by men; rather, the proper authorities in the Church (the bishops) first judge the fact of heresy, then God authoritatively deposes the Pope.
       But according to Derksen's "interpretation," when Bellarmine says “a heretical Pope can be judged,” it really means a man who is “no longer the Pope” can be judged. While Bellarmine says “a Roman Pontiff can be judged,” Derksen says the one who “ceases being Pope” is judged. While Bellarmine says “the Pontiff is subject to human judgment,” Derksen says “no one can judge the Pope.” While Bellarmine says “heresy is the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors,” Derksen says “heresy is not some sort of exception” to the rule,” and that the man the Church judges “is no longer the lawful superior.”
       Derksen could not be more guilty of completely reversing the plain meaning of Bellarmine’s teaching, by claiming he meant the exact opposite of what he actually says. Bellarmine never once says a Pope falls from office before the Church judges him to be a manifest heretic.  In fact, he explicitly rejects this in the Second Opinion when he refutes those who claim a Pope is deposed by Divine Law, without being judged by men.
       As anyone with eyes can see, we have forced Mario Derksen into dealing with Bellarmine’s comments on the Second and Third Opinion, and the results are quite ugly: Derksen has been forced to reject Bellarmine’s teaching, all the while pretending that he agrees with Bellarmine, even though his "interpretation" of the Doctor of the Church is the exact opposite of what he actually said. If anyone has honestly followed what we have presented in this feature, he can reach only one conclusion: Mario Derksen has just conceded that St. Robert Bellarmine completely refutes his Sedevacantist position; and all the linguistic gymnastics in the world will not make it otherwise. Derksen has been defeated.
             
Mystici Corporis Christi

       Before concluding, let us once again briefly address the quote of Pope Pius XII from Mystici Corporis Christi. This was addressed more thoroughly in our book, and even in our articles before the book came out. Nevertheless, since the Sedevacantists continue to cite this “proof-text” in support of their position, we will address it once more.
       In order to justify their claim that a Bishop or Pope will lose his office by committing the sin of heresy against Divine Law (which is judged by them, of course), they cite an English translation of Pius XII’s teaching, which simply says:

       “For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.”

       First, Pius XII is simply repeating what everyone knows, namely, that heresy, schism and apostasy differ from other offenses, such as murder, lying or stealing, since the latter do not cut a person off from the Church.  If a person murders another person, as bad as that is, it does not make him a non-Catholic. On the contrary, if a person completely abandons the Christian religion (apostate), or publicly defects from the Church by joining an Orthodox sect or a Protestant denomination, he severs himself from the Church.  That is all Pius XII is saying. But a person who merely commits the internal sin of heresy is not severed from the Church.  And this explains why, in the above quotation, Pius XII did not use the word peccatum (sin), but the Latin word admissum, which can just as easily be translated as “crime.” For example, in the Lewis and Short Latin dictionary, admissum is defined as: “A wrong done, a trespass, fault, crime.”[8]
       And guess what? If you translate the teaching of Pius XII as saying “For not every crime (admissum), however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy,” the teaching fits perfectly with the practice of the Church, since the Church does not consider everyone who has committed the “sin” (peccatum) of heresy to be severed from the visible society (the Body), but only those guilty of the crime. If the sin of heresy alone severed a person from the Body of the Church, we would have no way of knowing who was, and who was not, a member of the Church.  Instead of being a visible society, the Church would be “an invisible Church of true believers known to God alone” which is a Protestant heresy.
      And to answer another objection, if a public sin of heresy (as discerned by private judgment) severed a person from the Body of the Church and caused a prelate to lose his office, then it would be left to each individual Catholic in the pew to determine who is and who is not a member of the Church, and who does and who does not hold office. Needless to say, this mentality is absolutely foreign to 2000 years of Catholicism. Hence, this error is refuted by simply looking to Tradition – namely, how the Church responds to those who continue to present themselves as Catholics, yet who give external reasons to indicate they are in heresy. In other words, only a person who commits the public sin of heresy according to the Church’s judgment (which would then constitute the crime of heresy) is considered a non-member of the Church.  For more on this, see our article “Profession of the True Faith.”

Conclusion

       We conclude by noting that it is good that others are able to see, first hand, the kind of dishonest tactics Sedevacantists use to defend their position, which is precisely what we discovered while researching our book. Not only do they hide quotations that refute their position (Bellarmine’s Second and Third Opinions), but they take others (e.g., the one from Billot) completely out of context to deceive their readers. They also “interpret” individual proof-texts (Mystici Corporis Christi) in a way that is at variance with the 2,000 year-old teaching and practice of the Church, and then have the nerve to refer to themselves as “Traditional Catholics.”  
       In Part III, we will address a long citation from Billot, which Derksen thinks contradicts what the theologians we cite in our book teach.




[1] Tractatus De Fide, Disp. 10, Sect. 6, n. 10, p. 318.
[2] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 6 (emphasis added).
[3] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 2 (emphasis added).
[4] This now discredited opinion was held by some in Bellarmine’s day such as Baronius and Damberger. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia explains that this opinion has been completely abandoned. (Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. IV (article on the Third Council of Constantinople), p. 310.)
[5] De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, p. 83.
[6] Cursus Theologici II-II De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disp. II, Art. III, De Depositione Papae, p. 133 (emphasis added).
[7] Laymann, Theol. Mor., bk. 2, tract 1, ch. 7, p. 153 (emphasis added).
[8] Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary; Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary (Oxford: Trustees of Tufts University, 1879).

The Following are the First, Second and Third Opinions of Bellarmine:

A Pope can be judged and deposed by the Church in the case of heresy; as is clear from Dist. 40, can. Si Papa: therefore, the Pontiff is subject to human judgment, at least in some case.  I respond: there are five opinions on this matter.


The first is of Albert Pighius, who contends that the Pope cannot be a heretic, and hence would not be deposed in any case.  Such an opinion is probable, and can easily be defended, as we will show in its proper place. Still, because it is not certain, and the common opinion is to the contrary, it will be worthwhile to see what the response should be if the Pope could be a heretic.

The second opinion is that the 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, if he still refused to yield. This is of John de Turrecremata, but it is not proven to me. For Jurisdiction is certainly given to the Pontiff by God, but with the agreement of men, 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.

The Third opinion is on another extreme, that the Pope is not and cannot be deposed either by secret or manifest heresy. Turrecremata in the aforementioned citation relates and refutes this opinion, and rightly so, for it is exceedingly improbable. Firstly, because that a heretical Pope can be judged is expressly held in the Canon, Si Papa, dist. 40, and with Innocent. And what is more, in the Fourth Council of Constantinople, Act 7, the acts of the Roman Council under Hadrian are recited, and in those it was contained that Pope Honorius appeared to be legally anathematized, because he had been convicted of heresy, the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors. Here the fact must be remarked upon that, although it is probable that Honorius was not a heretic, and that Pope Hadrian II was deceived by corrupted copies of the Sixth Council, which falsely reckoned Honorius was a heretic, we still cannot deny that Hadrian, with the Roman Council, and the whole Eighth Synod sensed that in the case of heresy, a Roman Pontiff can be judged. Add, that it would be the most miserable condition of the Church, if she should be compelled to recognize a wolf, manifestly prowling, for a shepherd.

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