Peaceful and Universal Acceptance of a Pope

Peaceful and Universal Acceptance of a Pope

(Objections and Answers were added at the end of the article on 2-28-19.  Revised and expanded on 3-20)

The legitimacy of a Pope, who has been elected peacefully and accepted by at least a moral unanimity of Catholics, is infallible certain.  His legitimacy falls into the category of a dogmatic fact, which is a secondary object of the Church’s infallibility. This is the unanimous teaching of the Church’s theologians.

Fr. E. Sylvester Berry

The following, taken from Fr. Sylvester Berry’s Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, The Church of Christ, further explains these principles:


"The extent of infallibility refers to the truths that may be defined by the Church with infallible authority. Some truths are directly subject to the infallible authority of the Church by their very nature [i.e truths contained in Scripture and Tradition]; others only indirectly because of their connection with the former. The one set of truths constitutes the primary, the other secondary extent of infallibility. (…)

"This secondary or indirect extent of infallibility includes especially (a) theological conclusions, (b) truths of the natural order, (c) dogmatic facts (…)

"DOGMATIC FACTS. A dogmatic fact is one that has not been revealed, yet is so intimately connected with a doctrine of faith that without certain knowledge of the fact there can be no certain knowledge of the doctrine. For example, was the [First] Vatican Council truly ecumenical? Was Pius IX a legitimate pope? Was the election of Pius XI valid? Such questions must be decided with certainty before decrees issued by any council or pope can be accepted as infallibly true or binding on the Church. It is evident, then, that the Church must be infallible in judging of such facts, and since the Church is infallible in believing as well as in teaching, it follows that the practically unanimous consent of the bishops and faithful in accepting a council as ecumenical, or a Roman Pontiff as legitimately elected, gives absolute and infallible certainty of the fact." (The Church of Christ, pp. 288, 289, 290)

       Notice the term “practically unanimous,” which is distinct from “mathematically unanimous.” A practically unanimous acceptance does not require acceptance by 100 percent of professing Catholics; it is rather a morally unanimous acceptance, which represents the “one mind” of the Church. As we will see later, the fact that individual Catholics reject the legitimacy of a Pope does not mean he has not been accepted by a morally unanimous consent.

Monsignor Van Noort

       In the following quotation, Msgr. Van Noort further explains the infallibility of dogmatic facts. He also explains that the infallibility of dogmatic facts is qualified as “theologically certain.”  Those who depart from tradition by rejecting a doctrine that is qualified as theologically certain are guilty of a mortal sin

"Assertion 2: The Church’s infallibility extends to dogmatic facts. This proposition is theologically certain. A dogmatic fact is a fact not contained in the sources of revelation, [but] on the admission of which depends the knowledge or certainty of a dogma or of a revealed truth. The following questions are concerned with dogmatic facts: ‘Was the [First] Vatican Council a legitimate ecumenical council? Is the Latin Vulgate a substantially faithful translation of the original books of the Bible? Was [past tense] Pius XII legitimately elected Bishop of Rome? One can readily see that on these facts hang the questions of whether the decrees of the [First] Vatican Council are infallible, whether the Vulgate is truly Sacred Scripture, whether Pius XII is to be [present tense] recognized as supreme ruler of the universal Church." (Christ’s Church, p. 112)

       In another place, Msgr. Van Noort addresses the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope from the perspective of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (the teaching Church). In the following quotation not that, once again, he refers to the currently reigning Pope (Pius XII), not merely a “former Pope” (which is the argument the Sedevacantist priest, Fr. Anthony Cekada, tried to use to get around his rejection of this doctrine).

"Meantime, notice that the Church possesses infallibility not only when she is defining some matters in solemn fashion, but also when she is exercising the full weight of her authority through her ordinary and universal teaching. Consequently, we must hold with an absolute assent, which we call ‘ecclesiastical faith,’ the following theological truths: (a) those which the Magisterium has infallibly defined in solemn fashion; (b) those which the ordinary magisterium dispersed throughout the world unmistakably proposes to its members as something to be held (tenendas). So, for example, one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: ‘Pius XII is [present tense] the legitimate successor of St. Peter’; similarly … one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: ‘Pius XII possesses the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church.’ For — skipping the question of how it begins to be proven infallibly for the first time that this individual was legitimately elected to take St. Peter’s place — when someone has been constantly acting as Pope and has theoretically and practically been recognized as such by the bishops and by the universal Church, it is clear that the ordinary and universal magisterium is giving an utterly clear-cut witness to the legitimacy of his succession." (Sources of Revelation, p. 265)

    What this explanation also proves is that a Pope who is recognized, as such, by the Magisterium has not secretly lost his office for heresy, since his legitimacy remains infallibly certain, by the force of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, as long as they continue to recognize him as Pope.

Cardinal Billot

Cardinal Billot makes a number of interesting observations about this matter as well. In addition to explaining that the acceptance of a Pope by the universal Church is an infallible sign of his legitimacy, he also explains, quite logically, that the universal acceptance is an infallible sign of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy, such as the condition that the one elected was not a public heretic. Another interesting and quite relevant point he makes is that God could permit an extended vacancy of the Apostolic See, but he cannot permit the whole Church to accept a false Pope as being the true Pope (which, it should be noted, presents more problems for the “Siri Theory”[1]). Here is Cardinal Billot’s teaching on this subject:

"Finally, whatever you still think about the possibility or impossibility of the aforementioned hypothesis [of a Pope falling into heresy], at least one point must be considered absolutely incontrovertible and placed firmly above any doubt whatever: the adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff, and therefore also of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy itself. It is not necessary to look far for the proof of this, but we find it immediately in the promise and the infallible providence of Christ: ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’ and ‘Behold I shall be with you all days.’ For the adhesion of the Church to a false Pontiff would be the same as its adhesion to a false rule of faith,[2] seeing that the Pope is the living rule of faith which the Church must follow and which in fact she always follows. As will become even more clear by what we shall say later, God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.

"Therefore, from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy. For the aforementioned adhesion of the Church heals in the root all fault in the election and proves infallibly the existence of all the required conditions.[3]

       In The Church of the Word Incarnate, Cardinal Journet wrote the following about the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope:

"[T]he peaceful acceptance of the universal Church given to an elect, as to a head to whom it submits, is an act in which the Church engages herself and her fate. It is therefore an act in itself infallible and is immediately recognizable as such. (Consequently, and mediately, it will appear that all conditions prerequisite to the validity of the election have been fulfilled.)
      
"Acceptance by the Church operates either negatively, when the election is not at once contested; or positively, when the election is first accepted by those present and then gradually by the rest.[4] The Church has the right to elect the Pope, and therefore the right to certain knowledge as to who is elected."[5]

The Conditions for a Valid Papal Election

      Concerning the prerequisite conditions necessary for a valid papal election, there are conditions required on the part of the electors, who are the efficient cause of the election, and conditions that must be satisfied for the one being elected, who is the material cause.  Regarding the latter, there are both positive and negative conditions that must exist for a valid election.  For example, the one elected must be a male and baptized (positive conditions), and he must not be a public heretic, a schismatic, or mentally insane (negative conditions). As Cardinal Billot explained above, the infallible certitude we have that a Pope, who has been accepted as such by the Church, is in fact the true Pope, provides equal certitude that the conditions required for validity were met. 

The following syllogism will help to clarify this point:

Major:   If a man is accepted as pope by the entire Church, his legitimacy as pope is infallible  certain.

Minor:    There are certain conditions that must be satisfied for a man to become pope.

Conclusion: If a man is accepted as pope by the entire Church, it proves infallibly that all requisite conditions were satisfied. 



If number 1 is true, number 3 is also true. The ‘universal acceptance’ does not guarantee the man will be a good Pope, but it does guarantee he will be a true pope.  In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee that the Pope will not be a positively evil, or even “a devil like Judas the apostle”. This is one of the errors of the heretics Wycliffe and Hus, who rejected numerous Popes on the basis that they were too evil to be true successors of St. Peter.  In response, the Church formally condemned the following proposition:

“If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy Church Militant since he is not even a member of it.” – CONDEMNED
      
John of St. Thomas’ Treatise on the Peaceful and Universal Acceptance
 
       The brilliant Dominican theologian, John of St. Thomas, wrote a lengthy treatise on the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope, in which he explains that the legitimacy of a Pope, who has been accepted as such by the Church, is de fide – that is, it must be accepted with the assent of faith.  He also discusses the conditions required on the part of the electors, and on the part of the one elected, and how we can have certitude that they were satisfied.
       After defining his terms,[6] he begins his treatise as follows:

"In the present controversy we discuss whether or not it is de fide that this specific person, who has been legitimately elected, is the Pope and the head of the Church, as well as the degree of certitude with which this proposition is to be held."  

He then provides his answer:

"Our conclusion is the following.  It is immediately of divine faith that this man in particular, lawfully elected and accepted by the Church, is the supreme pontiff and the successor of Peter, not only quoad se (in himself) but also quoad nos (in relation to us) —although it is made much more manifest quoad nos (to us) when de facto the pope defines something.  In practice, no Catholic disagrees with our conclusion [that his legitimacy is de fide], even though, when he considers it as a theoretical question, he might not think that he believes it with divine faith. (…)"

       Next, he provides three reasons why the legitimacy of the Pope and must be believed with divine faith.  Before reading them, we should note that when John of St. Thomas refers to the Pope as “the rule of faith,” this is true insofar as the Pope defines a doctrine to be held by the Church, not when he is giving press interviews on an airplane or even when writing in an encyclical. As we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 13, non-infallible teachings of the Pope or Magisterium are not owed the assent of faith. Hence the Pope acts as the rule of faith only when he defines a doctrine to be believed by faith.
       With this point clarified, let us read the three arguments John of St. Thomas uses to prove the above thesis:

"The evidence for this conclusion rests upon three principal headings. 

"THE FIRST is that he who is chosen to be Pope is chosen to be a rule of faith, in such wise that, even as a canonical book of Scripture is a written rule of faith, so the person chosen to be Pope is a living rule of faith.

"THE SECOND is that Christ the Lord entrusted it to the Church to choose for herself a man who, for a certain period of time, would be the sort of rule of faith just described; and, consequently, the Church also received the commission to determine, by her own act of acceptance, that this man was canonically and legitimately elected. For, just as it pertains to the Pope and the Church to determine which books are canonical, so it pertains to the Church to determine which man has been chosen to be the norm and living rule of the faith. 

"THE THIRD is that this matter—namely, whether a particular man has been lawfully elected and canonically established as the rule of faith—is something that the Church can determine as a truth of faith."

Efficient Cause

       In line with the method of the Angelic Doctor, John of St. Thomas then proceeds to present and refute various objections to the doctrine. The first objection pertains to the conditions requires for the efficient cause of the election – namely, the electors – and runs thus:

"Objection: We cannot know with certainty of faith that the particular electors have a valid intention of election, nor that they are true and legitimate Cardinals, nor that they observed the form of election required by law, such as the requirement that the Pope be elected by two-thirds majority of the cardinals, as well as the other conditions without which the election is null."

       He responds by saying that because we have infallible certitude that a man elected Pope and recognized as such by the Church is, in fact, a true Pope, it follows that we have certitude that the requisite conditions were met.  From the de fide truth (i.e., the man is a true Pope), it follows as a theological conclusion that the electors met the necessary prerequisite conditions. We will quote him at length. A little later we will discuss the definition he refers to from Pope Martin V:

"Answer: The acceptance and definition of the Church, inasmuch as it gives the certitude of faith [concerning the legitimacy of the Pope], does not touch upon the conditions of the election, or the intention and genuine identity of the electors, without intermediary, but rather mediately, and as a logical consequence of what it immediately touches upon: namely, that whoever is elected by the persons that the Church designates to choose a Pope in her name, by the very fact that he is accepted by the Church as legitimately elected, is in fact Pope. This latter is what the definition of Martin V, related above, as well as the acceptance of the Church, is really about. Now, from the de fide truth that this man is Pope, it follows as a consequence that all the requisite conditions must have been observed.  For, faith does not concern itself primarily with the conditions that must be realized in the electors, but only afterwards with the person elected [i.e., the object of faith is the legitimacy of the one elected, not whether the conditions required for a valid election were met].  It is the same with the definitions of Councils. Faith is not concerned with the prerequisites of the definition—for instance, that the definition was preceded by diligent investigation, or a disputation about the propositions to be defined—for this is not the subject-matter of faith. Nevertheless, once the definition has been given [which is the object of faith], one rightly infers as a theological conclusion that all the things necessary for the definition were in place, and consequently that there was a discussion preceding it.  (…)

"Likewise, because it is de fide that this man in particular, accepted by the Church as canonically elected, is the Pope, the theological conclusion is drawn that there were genuine electors, and a real intention of electing, as well as the other requisites, without which the de fide truth could not stand.

"Therefore, we have the certainty of faith, by a revelation implicitly contained in the Creed and in the promise made to Peter, and made more explicit in the definition of Martin V, and applied and declared in act (in exercitio) by the acceptance of the Church, that this man in particular, canonically elected according to the acceptance of the Church, is Pope. The certainty of faith touches this alone [i.e., his legitimacy]; and whatever is prerequisite to it [i.e., the conditions], or else follows upon the fact of the election, is inferred as a theological conclusion drawn from the proposition that is de fide, and is believed mediately.

      What this shows is that Catholics do not investigate whether the conditions were satisfied in order to know if the man is a legitimate Pope.  On the contrary, the fact that a Pope has been peacefully elected and accepted as Pope by the Church proves that the necessary conditions were met.

Material Cause

   Next he addresses objections concerning the conditions necessary for a person to be elected Pope (the material cause).  He writes:

"Objection 3: The third objection is in the line of material causality. The material cause is the subject [the person] that, by being elected, receives in itself the papal dignity. We do not have the certitude of faith that this subject is susceptible of this dignity; neither, then, do we have the certitude of faith that he has, in fact, received this dignity."

      This is the objection raised by Fr Cekada in defense of his “new argument” – namely, that the recent Popes were all “public heretics” prior to their election and therefore could not be validly elected to office.  And to be clear, Fr. Cekada does not claim his new argument only applies to Pope Francis, but to all of the Popes since Vatican II.  We see this, for example, in Cekada’s reply to an article by Robert Siscoe that was published in Catholic Family News.  In response to Mr. Siscoe’s article, Cekada said:

"In April 2014, Robert Siscoe published an article entitled 'Bellarmine and Suarez on the Question of a Heretical Pope.' Mr. Siscoe attempted to reconcile Bellarmine and Suarez’ teaching on loss of office for a Pope who became a public heretic. And thus, so Mr. Siscoe thought, to refute the Sedevacantist position. The problem, as I pointed out in an article the following month, is that Sedevantists no longer believed that Bergoglio, Ratzinger, JP2 and the rest, ever became true Popes in the first place. These men were public heretics, and canonists taught that as a matter of divine law, a public heretic could not be validly elected Pope."[7]

      Here is John of St. Thomas’ reply to this objection of Fr. Cekada:

"The answer here is similar to the preceding. Prior to the election, there is a moral certainty that all these conditions required in the person [to become Pope] are actually met. After the fact of the election and its acceptance, the fulfillment of these conditions is known with the certainty of a theological conclusion, since they have, per se, a logical implication with a truth that is certain, and certified by faith. (…)     

"When a truth is defined that has a necessary connection with another truth, investigation need not be made into that other, conjoined truth, but only into the truth that is itself the object of the definition.  Now, the truth that is defined and accepted by the Church is not that this man is baptized or ordained, etc., but that this man is truly pope, and is the rule of faith. That he is baptized and meets the other requirements [i.e., that he is not a public heretic] is not held as de fide or defined by the Church, but is inferred as a consequence; and that something be inferred as a consequence does not require any preceding investigation. (…) the truth that this man has been ordained, and has the power of order (that is, of the priesthood or episcopate), is certain in the same way as the truth that he is baptized is certain; namely, not as a truth immediately de fide, but as a theological conclusion necessarily connected with the truth that he is the Pope and the rule of faith in the Church."

       As we see, if a man “is lawfully elected and accepted by the Church” as Pope, his legitimacy is de fide. Consequently, it is also certain that he possessed the necessary conditions to become Pope. What this obviously means is that it is not possible for the Church to elect and accept, as Pope, one who does not meet the required conditions. In other words, it is not possible for the Church to elect and accept, as Pope, a “public heretic,” which is precisely what Fr. Cekada claims occurred during the past six conclaves, and what he uses as the basis of his “new argument.”  
       And if we consult the actual definition of public heretic, which, for some reason, Fr. Cekada never provides, we find that it does not apply to any of the recent popes.  Here is the definition given by one of the Sedevacantists favorite theologians, Salaverri:


       “A public heretic is someone who openly adheres to some heretical sect.” (Sacrae Theologia Summa 1B, bk 3, ch, 2, art. 3)

A public heretic is a public member of a heretical sect (e.g. a member of the Baptist Church), not a Catholic who Fr. Cekada believes to be guilty of the sin of heresy.


Vacant Papal Office

Another material cause is that the papal office (munus) is vacant at the time of the election.   Applying this to the present Pontificate, since Francis was universally accepted as Pope following his election, the infallible certitude that he became Pope provides equal certitude that the papal office was vacant at the time, and hence that Benedict's abdication was valid.


The following syllogism will help to clarify this point:

Major:  Since Francis was accepted as pope by the entire Church following his election, his legitimacy as Pope is infallibly certain.

Minor:   One of the conditions required for Francis to have become Pope is that the Chair of Peter was vacant at the time, and hence that Benedict’s abdication was valid.

Conclusion: Since Francis was accepted as Pope by the entire Church, this proves infallibly that the Chair of Peter was vacant and that Benedict’s abdication was valid.

       If number 1 is true, number 3 is also true.  If the Papal See was not vacant at the time of the election, Francis would not have been accepted as pope by the Church.  Since he was, it not only proves that he became Pope, it proves that the Papal office was vacant, and hence that Benedict’s election was valid.  
       What this shows is that every argument that has been proposed, or that can be proposed in an attempt to prove that Benedict is still the Pope, is proven to be false by the universal acceptance of Francis in the months following his election.   And as we will see below, the universal acceptance occurs as soon as the Church learns of the election and passively accepts it. If the election is not at once contested, it is infallibly certain that the man has become Pope, and hence that all the requisite conditions were satisfied.  This certainly occurred in the case of Pope Francis.


Cardinal Electors Represent the Church Proposing

       John of St. Thomas goes on to explain that the Cardinal electors represent the Church itself in proposing the man to the faithful as Pope.  Consequently, their judgment represents the public judgment of the Church that the man is Pope.  If there is not an immediate rejection of the one elected, this judgment of the Cardinal alone suffices for the universal acceptance. And if there was any defect in the election, it is “healed in the root,” as Cardinal Billot said, by the fact that the universal Church (the bishops, priests and faithful) accepts the man as Pope.

"To the objection that there must be someone to propose this truth to the Church as de fide, I respond that the election and the one elected are proposed by the Cardinals, not in their own person, but in the person of the Church and by her power—for she it is who committed to them the power of electing the Pope and of declaring him to have been elected.  Wherefore they, in this respect and for this task, are the Church herself representatively. Thus the Cardinals, or whoever else are electors legitimately designated by the Church (that is, by the Pope), represent the Church in all that concerns the election of her head, the successor of Peter. Just as the Pope gathers the bishops together in a Council, and yet its confirmation and the ultimate sentence in matters of faith depend upon him, so the congregation of Cardinals elects the Pope, and declares that he has been elected, and yet it is the Church, whose ministers they are, that by its acceptance ultimately confirms as a truth of faith the fact that this man is truly the highest rule of faith and the supreme pontiff. Wherefore, if the Cardinals elect him in a questionable manner, the Church can correct their election, as the Council of Constance determined in its 41st session. Hence, the proposition [that the one elected is a true Pope] is rendered de fide, as already has been explained, by the acceptance of the Church, and that alone, even before the Pope himself defines anything. It is not [just] any acceptance at all of the Church, but the acceptance of the Church in a matter pertaining to the faith, since the Pope is accepted as a determinate rule of faith."

Definition of Pope Martin V

       The definition of Pope Martin V that John of St. Thomas referenced earlier is found in the Bull Inter Cunctas (Feb. 22, 1418), which was written after the last sessions of the Council of Constance.  The Bull condemns the errors of John Wycliffe and Hus, and contains questions to be asked of those who are suspected of heresy, in order to determine “whether they rightly believe.” 
        Since these heretics refused to accept the legitimacy of a Pope unless they personally approved of him, one of the questions that was definitively formulated to detect them, is whether they believe the Pope who is reigning at the time (whose name is to be included in the question), is the Successor of St. Peter and possesses the supreme authority in the Church. 
       As John of St. Thomas and others point out, the question is not if they believe a Pope who passes their test for legitimacy is the successor of St. Peter and possesses supreme authority, but if they believe the man the Church presently recognizes as Pope is the Successor of Peter, etc..  Here is the explanation of this point given by John of St. Thomas:

“Martin V, in the Council of Constance, in the condemnation of the errors of Wycliffe (which is to be found after the fourth, fifth, and last sessions of the Council), in the interrogations that are to be made of those who are suspected in faith, in order to determine whether they believe rightly, puts this question.

‘Also, whether he believes that the Pope canonically elected, who is reigning at the time (his proper name being given), is the successor of Blessed Peter, having supreme authority in the Church of God?’(Denz 674) 

“These words do not refer to the truth of that proposition [i.e., whether he is the legitimate Pope] as understood in a general sense—namely, that whoever is lawfully elected is the Supreme Pontiff, but in the particular, concerning whoever is Pope at the time, giving his proper name, for instance, Innocent X [who was Pope when he was writing]. It is of this man, whose proper name is given, that Pope Martin is bidding the person suspect in faith to be asked, whether he believes that he is the successor of Peter and the Supreme Pontiff: therefore this pertains to the act of faith—and not [merely] to an inference or a moral certitude.”
     
     The way this question would be asked today is: “Do you believe Francis is the successor of Blessed Peter, having supreme authority in the Church of God.”  Anyone who answered “no” would fail in their “profession of faith” and be marked as a heretic.

       John of St. Thomas further explains that it would be contrary to the special providence of God for a man, who does not meet the required conditions, to be accepted as Pope by the Church. He wrote:

[I]t is not merely a pious belief, but a theological conclusion (as we have stated), that God will not permit one to be elected and peacefully accepted by the Church who in fact does not meet the conditions required; this would be contrary to the special providence that God exercises over the Church and the assistance that she receives from the Holy Ghost.

Cardinal Billot teaches the same:

[T]he infallible providence of God will prevent it from ever happening that the whole Church adhere to a false head; consequently, no one will ever be accepted as supreme pontiff who does not meet all the conditions necessary to be a member, whatever those conditions may be. That visibility, therefore, by which the true Church is recognizable as such, is in no way imperiled.[8]

When Does His Legitimacy Become Infallibly Certain?

       John of St. Thomas proceeds to explain precisely when the universal acceptance becomes sufficient to prove that the man is a legitimate Pope.  He wrote:

"All that remains to be determined, then, is the exact moment when the acceptance of the Church becomes sufficient to render the proposition de fide. Is it as soon as the cardinals propose the elect to the faithful who are in the immediate locality, or only when knowledge of the election has sufficiently spread through the whole world, wherever the Church is to be found? 

"I REPLY that (as we have said above) the unanimous election of the cardinals and their declaration is similar to a definition given by the bishops of a Council legitimately gathered. Moreover, the acceptance of the Church is, for us, like a confirmation of this declaration. Now, the acceptance of the Church is realized both negatively, by the fact that the Church does not contradict the news of the election wherever it becomes known, and positively, by the gradual acceptance of the prelates of the Church, beginning with the place of the election, and spreading throughout the rest of the world.  As soon as men see or hear that a Pope has been elected, and that the election is not contested, they are obliged to believe that that man is the Pope, and to accept him."

       Note that the Cardinals’ election and declaration “is similar to a definition given by the bishops of a Council legitimately gathered, which is then “confirmed” by the rest of the Church through its “acceptance” of the election. The universal acceptance is considered to exist when the election becomes known and is not contested by the Church, and is accepted by the prelates.
       In John of St. Thomas’ day, such acceptance would happen gradually as the news spread throughout the Church and the word.  But in our day, when news spreads throughout the world almost immediately, the universal acceptance would be manifest very quickly. This means that if a Pope’s legitimacy is not contested almost immediately, his legitimacy is infallibly certain. And questions raised months and years later would not change the fact.  And it is worth noting that even Fr. Cekada conceded that “everybody” accepted Paul VI as Pope when he was elected, which is also true with the other post-Conciliar Popes.[9] 

Theological Censure

       The final issue John of St. Thomas addresses is whether those who deny the legitimacy of a Pope, who has been accepted as such by the Church, are “only” schismatics or also heretics.  His conclusion, along with Suarez, is that they are heretics:

"Whoever would deny that a particular man is Pope after he has been peacefully and canonically accepted, would not only be a schismatic, but also a heretic; for, not only would he rend the unity of the Church… but he would also add to this a perverse doctrine, by denying that the man accepted by the Church is to be regarded as the Pope and the rule of faith. Pertinent here is the teaching of St. Jerome (Commentary on Titus, chapter 3) and of St. Thomas (IIa IIae Q. 39 A. 1 ad 3), that every schism concocts some heresy for itself, in order to justify its withdrawal from the Church.  Thus, although schism is distinct from heresy, in most cases it is accompanied by the latter, and prepares the way for it. In the case at hand, whoever would deny the proposition just stated would not be a pure schismatic, but also a heretic, as Suarez also reckons (above, in the solution to the fourth objection)."[10]

Bishop Sanborn’s Novelty

       Due to the problems that universal and peaceful acceptance presents for the Sedevacantist thesis, the Sedevacantist bishop, Donald Sanborn, came up with a novel explanation in an effort to get around it. He claims that the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope means only that the he was validly elected; and not that the man elected actually became the Pope. You read that correctly: he attempts to make a distinction between a valid election and the validity of the one who was elected. Sanborn then claims that the peaceful and universal acceptance only ensures a valid election, but not a valid Pope. The following is taken from an article the Bishop wrote in 2002, which is still posted on his website:

       “Q. Can a papal election be convalidated by the general acceptance of the Catholic people?

    "A. Yes. This is generally conceded by Catholic theologians. The ultimate guarantee of a valid election is the universal acceptance of Catholics that a certain man has been elected. Note that this pertains only to election, i.e., designation, and not to jurisdiction. For the Catholic people cannot confer jurisdiction, but only confirm designation to jurisdiction.”[11]

       Now, this is quite a novel theory that the Bishop came up with to defend his Sedevacantist position.[12] Unfortunately, as is the case with most novel theories, it is entirely erroneous. The peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope does not simply guarantee that the man was validly elected; it guarantees that he is a legitimate Pope - that is, it guarantees that God joined the form to the matter following the election. 
       Bishop Sanborn’s argument was answered by John of St. Thomas, who wrote:

“There is no real difference between the proposition, ‘This man is properly elected,’ and, ‘This man is pope,’ since to be accepted as the supreme pontiff and to be the supreme pontiff are the same; just as it is the same for something to be defined, and for the definition to be legitimate.”[13]
 
       As we saw earlier, the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope is an infallible effect that the Pope is, in fact, a true Pope. The cause (true Pope) produces the effect (universal acceptance). Notice that the cause is not only a valid election, but a valid Pope. In fact, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, even teaches that the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope means that a Pope who was not legitimately elected, or somehow took possession of the pontificate by fraud, has nevertheless become a true Pope. Again, this shows that the universal acceptance does not simply guarantee that an election was valid (by curing any defects that may have existed in the election), but that the Pope is a true Pope. Here is what St. Alphonsus taught: 

       “It is of no importance that in past centuries some Pontiff was illegitimately elected or took possession of the Pontificate by fraud; it is enough that he was accepted afterwards by the whole Church as Pope, since by such acceptance he would have become the true Pontiff.”[14]

The Papacy of Alexander VI

       Cardinal Billot applied the teaching of the universal acceptance of a Pope to the scandalous papacy of Alexander VI, in order to prove that he was a legitimate Pope, even though there were some in Alexander VI’s day who believed him to be a public apostate. The controversial Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, for example, was one who denied his legitimacy. In a letter to the Emperor, Savonarola wrote:

"The Lord, moved to anger by this intolerable corruption, has, for some time past, allowed the Church to be without a pastor. For I bear witness in the name of God that this Alexander VI is in no way Pope and cannot be. For quite apart from the execrable crime of simony, by which he got possession of the [papal] tiara through a sacrilegious bargaining, and by which every day he puts up to auction and knocks down to the highest bidder ecclesiastical benefices, and quite apart from his other vices - well-known to all - which I will pass over in silence, this I declare in the first place and affirm it with all certitude, that the man is not a Christian, he does not even believe any longer that there is a God; he goes beyond the final limits of infidelity and impiety."[15]

       In spite of the scandals of Alexander VI’s papacy, including the grave accusations of heresy, apostasy, and illicit acquisition of the Papal See through simony, leveled by his contemporaries, Cardinal Billot explains that the universal acceptance proves certain that Alexander VI was indeed a legitimate Pope. The Cardinal explains:

"Let this be said in passing against those who, trying to justify certain attempts at schism made in the time of Alexander VI, allege that its promoter [Savonarola] broadcast that he had most certain proofs, which he would reveal to a General Council, of the heresy of Alexander. Putting aside here other reasons with which one could easily be able to refute such an opinion, it is enough to remember this: it is certain that when Savonarola was writing his letters to the Princes, all of Christendom adhered to Alexander VI and obeyed him as the true Pontiff. For this very reason, Alexander VI was not a false Pope, but a legitimate one."[16]

       The same holds true for the post-conciliar Popes, who, in spite of accusations of heresy, were accepted as true Popes by the Church. 


Objections and Answers


The following was added to the present article on 2-28-19.  It provides the answers to recent objections that have been raised against the doctrine of the universal acceptance and its application to the papacy of Francis in particular. 

(The objections in quotation marks are taken verbatim from online sources; the others are paraphrased.)

Objection: “Benedict remains in office. Even if the whole world is in error of fact on the invalidity of Benedict's renunciation, the belief based on that error, i.e. that Francis has been validly elected pope, cannot nullify the fact that there is already a pope (…). Universal acceptance cannot validate the election of a man who is elected while another man is still validly holding office…”

Answer: The error in this objection is evident.  It treats a fallible personal opinion (i.e., that Benedict’s abdication was invalid) as an infallible fact, and then uses it to reject a truth that is infallibly certain (i.e., the legitimacy of a Pope who has been universally accepted). 
       Here is the syllogism according to this erroneous reasoning:

Major:            Francis’ election was accepted by the entire Church, which provides infallible certitude that he became the Pope (infallible dogmatic fact).
Minor:            Benedict’s resignation was invalid (fallible personal opinion).
Conclusion: Since Benedict’s resignation was invalid, Francis never became the Pope (error).

The correct reasoning is as follows:

Major:            Francis’ election was accepted by the entire Church, which provides infallible certitude that he became the Pope (infallible dogmatic fact).
Minor:            A condition for Francis to have become Pope is that Benedict’s resignation was valid.
Conclusion: Since the entire Church accepted Francis as Pope, it is infallibly certain that Benedicts’ resignation was valid.

Objection: “Finally, as regards the universal and peaceful acceptance of a papal election: while this principle is certainly a valid reflex principle for troubled consciences in the case of a valid election, there is no possibility of a valid election when the College had no right to act, for it is contrary not only to Canon Law but to Divine Law to elect another Roman Pontiff while the Pope still lives and has not validly resigned. (…)”

Answer:  This objection maintains that ‘the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope’ only provides infallible certitude of a Pope’s legitimacy if his election was valid, but not if it was invalid.  Or to put it another way, it only guarantees the legitimacy of a Pope if all the conditions required for him to have become Pope were satisfied, but not if they were not satisfied. But if that were the case, the doctrine would serve no purpose at all, since the Church could never have infallible certainty that all the requisite conditions were satisfied and that an election was valid.
       The truth is that the universal acceptance of a Pope is what guarantees that all the conditions were satisfied, which is why Cardinal Billot said, “from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy.”[1]
       Once again, the root error of this objection is the rejection of a truth that is infallibly certain (and de fide) based on a fallible personal opinion (that Benedict’s abdication was invalid).

       The next objection is a continuation of the previous one.

Objection:  “… It is also not valid, as regards its implicit minor: namely, that there has been a peaceful and universal acceptance of the Papal resignation. There has not, as the preface to this disputed question demonstrates. Hence, the application of this reflex principle to the present case is at best praeter rem, and worse a subterfuge.”

Answer: The validity of a resignation does not require that it be peacefully and universally accepted.  All that is required is that it be “made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone (Can. 332 §2). Therefore, the peaceful and universal acceptance of Benedict’s resignation is not an implicit minor.  The minor is that the Chair of Peter was vacant before Francis was universally accepted as Pope; the implicit minor is that Christ accepted Benedict’s abdication and stripped him of the papal office.
       Now, as the official declaratio shows, the manifest intention of Benedict was to “renounce the ministry of the Bishop of Rome … in such a way that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant[2] (Minor). The universal acceptance of Francis as Pope two weeks later proves that Benedict accomplished his goal. (Implicit Minor)

Objection: “Though, in common law, possession is nine tenths of right, and thus, usurpation can lead to acquisition of right; (…) it is not valid theologically in regard to an ecclesiastical office which was established by Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, by an immediate personal act. Of which kind is the office of Pope. The theological reason is this: that no one can snatch anything out of the Hand of the Living God (John 10:28). And thus, no usurpation of the papal office can constrain the Godhead, Who is Infinite Justice and Omnipotence Himself, to transfer the grace of the Papal munus to another.  To hold otherwise, would be a theological impossibility and absurdity.”

Answer:  If a papal claimant usurped the papal office illicitly, without becoming the legitimate Pope, he would never be universally accepted as Pope by the Church. On the other hand, if his claim to the Papacy was universally accepted, it would provide infallible certitude that he became the Pope.  Cardinal Billot explains the reason as follows:

“God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.[3]

Objection:  The idea that a man is Pope just because everyone accepts him as Pope is “BS”.  “I don’t care if it is completely unanimous” since “if the entire world is proclaiming something that is false, it does not make that falsehood true.”

Answer: This objection errs 1) by reversing the cause and effect, and 2) by a faulty comparison.  The universal acceptance of a Pope does not cause a man to become Pope (“it does not make” him the Pope), but rather confirms that he has already become Pope.
       As the canonists Wernz-Vidal explain, the practically unanimous acceptance of a Pope is an “infallible effect[4] of his legitimacy – or “an infallible sign of his legitimacy,”[5]  in the words of Cardinal Billot. The effect is the universal acceptance; the cause is a legitimate Pope.  If the effect (universal acceptance) exists, it provides infallible certainty of the presence of the cause (a legitimate Pope).  If the cause is not present, neither will be the effect.  The following shows how this objection erred by reversing the cause and effect: 

“If the entire world is proclaiming (cause) something that is false, it does not make (effect) that falsehood true.”

Here is the correct understanding of the doctrine:

If the entire Church proclaims a man as Pope (effect), it is because he is the legitimate Pope (cause).

       It should also be noted that even if there were a causal relationship between the Church’s acceptance of a Pope and his legitimacy as Pope, the Church’s universal acceptance “would not make a falsehood true”.  Rather, Christ (the efficient cause) would make a non-Pope the true Pope by conferring upon him the Pontifical dignity, which the Church’s acceptance of him as Pope would dispose him to receive (the universal acceptance being the dispositive cause).  Simply put, if a non-Pope became Pope as he was gradually universally accepted by the Church, it would be due to Christ making him the Pope, not man proclaiming him so.

Objection: Vatican I defined that the Pope is infallible and therefore cannot lose the faith or teach heresy.  Francis clearly does not have the Faith and he has taught heresy.  This proves that he lacks the protection of the Papal office, and therefore is a sign that he is not the Pope.

Answer: Nowhere did Vatican I define that a Pope is unable to lose the Faith or personally teach heresy.  What it defined is that he is unable to err when he defines a doctrine, ex cathedra. Cardinal Camillo Mazzella, who held the chair of theology at the Gregorian in the decade following the First Vatican Council, wrote the following in De Religione et Ecclesia (1905):

“[I]t is one thing that the Roman Pontiff cannot teach a heresy when speaking ex cathedra (what the Council of the Vatican defined); and it is another thing that he cannot fall into heresy, that is, become a heretic as a private person. On this last question the Council said nothing (De hac questione nihil dixit Concilium); and the theologians and canonists are not in agreement among themselves concerning it.”[6]

More than a century after Vatican I, Cardinal Stickler wrote:

No theologian today, even if he accept unconditionally the infallibility of the Roman pontiff, asserts thereby that the pope, speaking in the abstract, cannot personally become a heretic….”[7] 

Objection:  Even if Francis became Pope after his election, he clearly does not have the faith now so he can’t be the Pope.  St. Robert Bellarmine said a heretic is ipso facto deposed.

Answer:  In De Ecclesia Militante, Bellarmine shows what his true position is concerning the loss of office for heresy.  He explains that a Pope who falls into heresy does not lose the pontificate unless 1) he publicly separates himself from the Church, or 2) is convicted of heresy by the Church:

“It is certain, whatever one or another might think, an occult 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,[8] or being convicted of heresy, is separated against his will” (Bellarmine, De Ecclesia Militante, Chapter X).

       Francis has not publicly separated himself from the Church, nor has he been convicted of heresy. Therefore, according to Bellarmine he has not lost his office. And the fact that he remains Pope is confirmed by the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which continues to recognize him as Pope, thereby providing “clear-cut witness to the legitimacy of his succession” (Van Noort)[9], as was discussed in Part I.

Objection: I know a lot of Catholics who reject Francis as Pope, so I deny that he is “universally accepted” as Pope.

Answer:  Even if someone denies that Francis is ‘universally accepted’ now, they can’t deny that he was universally accepted in the weeks and months following his election, and that alone suffices to prove he became Pope.  As Cardinal Billot explains, the legitimacy of a Roman Pontiff is infallibly certain “from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church”.[10]  John of St. Thomas teaches the same:  “As soon as men see or hear that a Pope has been elected, and that the election is not contested, they are obliged to believe that that man is the Pope, and to accept him."[11]

Objection: Francis might be ‘universally accepted,’ but he hasn’t been ‘peacefully’ accepted. 

Answer: The ‘peaceful’ aspect refers to the election not at once being contested; the ‘universal’ aspect refers to the entire Church learning of the election and not at once contesting it.  No one contested Francis election until many months after the entire Church had accepted it.

Objection: The papal bull of Paul IV, Cum ex Apostolatus, says pre-election heresy renders null the promotion or elevation of a Bishop, Patriarch, or even the Roman Pontiff, and goes on to say the elevation or promotion does not become valid even if obedience had been “accorded to such by all.”  Therefore, universal acceptance does not prove the legitimacy of a Pope.

Answer: The first thing to note is that the penal sanctions contained in Cum ex Apostolatus were considered so manifestly unjust and problematic, that at the time of Vatican I the opponents of Papal Infallibility presented it as evidence that the Pope is not infallible.  And the defenders of the dogma did not disagree with them concerning the problematic nature of the contents of the document, but instead defended Papal Infallibility by proving that the bull itself did not meet the conditions for infallibility.  Second, Cum ex Apostolatus has been derogated and hence is no longer in force. Third, saying a Pope whose election is null and void to be pre-election heresy, will not acquire validity if obedience accorded to him by all, does not mean it can actually happen that an invalidly elected Pope can be universally accepted as Pope by the Church.  Lastly, the legitimacy of a Pope who has been universally accepted is qualified as “theologically certain.”  This would not be the case if the Church interpreted the aforementioned teaching of the problematic, and now obrogated, papal bull, Cum ex Apostolatus, as meaning an illegitimate Pope can be universally accepted as Pope by the Church.  For more in this, see here

Objection: Even if Benedict’s abdication was valid, the election of Francis was null and void due to the conspiracy of the St. Gallan’s Mafia, which is forbidden by Universi Dominici Gregis, n. 81.

Answer: The canonist Ed Peters has provided a canonical reply to this and other canonical objections.[12]  Theologically, all such objections are proven to be false by the universal acceptance of Francis, which would not have taken place if any illicit acts of the Cardinals had invalidated the election.  Also relevant here is the following teaching of St. Alphonsus:

“It is of no importance that in past centuries some Pontiff was illegitimately elected or took possession of the Pontificate by fraud; it is enough that he was accepted afterwards by the whole Church as Pope, since in light of such acceptance he has already become the legitimate and true Pope (attesoché per tale accettazione già si è renduto legittimo e vero pontefice).”[13]

It should also be noted that the election is merely the mechanism by which the Church chooses a Pope, but it is always Christ who makes the man pope by conferring upon him the Pontifical authority.  Now, Christ is not restricted by human law or hindered from acting due to illicit or fraudulent acts of man.  While it is certain that Christ will act by joining the man elected (matter) to the Pontificate (form) when the election laws are followed, He is not hindered from doing so due to a defect in the election. This explains why some men who were illicitly elected became legitimate Popes. 
       This would logically apply in reverse as well.  For example, if a Pope pretended to resign from the papacy and deceived the Church into believing he did so (which is essentially what those who deny the validity of Benedict’s resignation are attributing to him), there is no doubt that Christ would strip such a one of the Pontificate.  This is implicitly confirmed by the historical examples of true Popes who were illicitly deposed, yet nevertheless lost the papal office when they acquiesced to it.
       Now, since it is certain that only Christ can authoritatively remove a true Pope from the Pontificate, if He has done so in cases of Popes who were illegally deposed yet acquiesced to it, would He not do the same in the case of a Pope who pretended to resign, by orchestrating his own illegal abdication and acquiescing to it?  No doubt He would, and if the next Pope was universally accepted, it would prove it.

Objection: If a man is elected by a conclave, that by itself does not mean he’s the Pope, or even a member of the Church.  He is guilty until proven innocent, and the burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that he is Catholic before the faithful accept him as Pope. [14] 

Answer: This objection is virtually identical to the following error of Wycliffe and Huss, which was formally condemned at the Council of Constance:

 “The vocal (viva voce) agreement of the electors, or of the greater part of them, according to human custom, does not mean by itself that the person has been legitimately elected, or that by this very fact he is the true and manifest successor or vicar of the apostle Peter, or of another apostle in an ecclesiastical office.  It is rather to the works of the one elected that we should look (…). For, the more plentifully a person acts meritoriously towards building up the church, the more copiously does he thereby have power from God for this” – CONDEMNED.[15]

The faithful do not decide for themselves if the elect is a member of the Church before accepting his as Pope.  The election laws provide that the elect becomes the “true pope and Head of the College of Bishops” immediately upon his acceptance of the election (Universi Dominici Gregis, n. 81).  The universal acceptance simply confirms his legitimacy and prevents future doubts from calling it into question.

Objection: The peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope doesn’t prove he is the true Pope. This is proven from the case of Antipope Anacletus II who “was backed by a majority of Cardinals and the entirety of Rome with the exception of the Corsi family and illegitimately ruled EIGHT YEARS until his death.  (…)  You can read the long versions at NewAdvent.org.”

Answer: Anacletus II’s election was not uncontested (‘peaceful’), nor was he ever ‘universally accepted’ as Pope by the Church.  “The long version at Newadvent.org” refers to his election as “the contested papal election of the year 1130.”[16] The reason it was contested is because it took place 3 hours after the election of the true Pope Innocent II – who was proclaimed to be the true Pope by three synods held later same year.  The usurper may have won over the majority of the population of Rome for a time, but that doesn’t suffice for a ‘universal’ acceptance.

Objection: The doctrine of the peaceful and universal acceptance is nothing but a theological opinion that any Catholic is free to reject.

Answer: This doctrine is far more than a mere opinion, and no Catholic who wishes to save his soul can reject it.  In his book ‘On the Value of Theological Notes and the Criteria for Discerning Them’ (which was drafted for use by the auditors of the Roman Congregations), Fr. Sixtus Cartechini, S.J., noted that the rejection the legitimacy of a Pope who has been universally accepted is a “mortal sin against the Faith.[17] John of St. Thomas qualifies it as heresy:

"Whoever would deny that a particular man is Pope after he has been peacefully and canonically accepted, would not only be a schismatic, but also a heretic; for, not only would he rend the unity of the Church… but he would also add to this a perverse doctrine, by denying that the man accepted by the Church is to be regarded as the Pope and the rule of faith. Pertinent here is the teaching of St. Jerome (Commentary on Titus, chapter 3) and of St. Thomas (IIa IIae Q. 39 A. 1 ad 3), that every schism concocts some heresy for itself, in order to justify its withdrawal from the Church. Thus, although schism is distinct from heresy, in (…) the case at hand, whoever would deny the proposition just stated would not be a pure schismatic, but also a heretic, as Suarez also reckons."[18]

      



Foornotes for the Q&A


[1] Op. cit.
[2] Benedict XVI, Declaratio, February 10, 2013.
[3] Op.cit.
[4] Wernz-Vidal, Ius Can., II. p. 520, note 171,
[5] Op. cit.
[6] Mazzella, C. De Religione et Ecclesia, 6th ed. (Prati: Giach. Filii., 1905), p. 817.
[7] The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 60, No. 3.
[8] By ‘separating himself publicly from the Church,’ he means leaving the Church and publicly severing communion with the other Bishops.  This is clear from the historical example he uses (Novation) to support same teaching in De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch, 30. 
[9] Op. cit.
[10] Op. cit.
[11] Op. cit.
[12] https://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/francis-was-never-pope-call-me-unpersuaded
[13] Liguori, Verita della Fede, in “Opera…,” vol. VIII., p. 720, n. 9.
[14] https://akacatholic.com/is-francis-catholic-the-burden-of-proof/
[15] Inter Cunctus, Council of Constance.
[16] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01447a.htm
[17] http://www.the-pope.com/theolnotes.html
[18] Op. cit.
[19] The development resulted in a distinction between the assent of faith owed to formally revealed truths (de fide divina et catholica), and the assent that is owed to de fide truths that comprise the secondary object of infallibility (de fide ecclesiastica).  Today, rejecting the former is heresy, strictly speaking (c. 751), while rejection of the latter is a mortal sin against faith. 





[1] Wernz-Vidal, Ius Can., II. p. 520, note 171,
[2] The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 60, No. 3.
[3] https://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/francis-was-never-pope-call-me-unpersuaded
[4] https://akacatholic.com/is-francis-catholic-the-burden-of-proof/
[5] The current legislation on papal elections provides that if the man elected by the conclave has already received episcopal consecration, he becomes the “true pope and Head of the College of Bishops” immediately, upon his acceptance. (UDG. #88)
[6] http://www.the-pope.com/theolnotes.html
[7] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologici II-II, Tome, Disp. 8, Art. 2.

       
Footnotes for the body of the article


[1] As we saw in Chapter 1, the Siri Theory, held by some Sedevacantists, maintains that Cardinal Siri was validly elected in the 1958 Conclave, taking the name Gregory XVII, but through coercion was forced to resign before being presented to the Church as Pope. They hold that a forced resignation is invalid and consequently Cardinal Siri (who publicly recognized John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II as valid Popes as well as the legitimacy of the changes spawned by Vatican II) remained the true Pope until his death on May 2, 1989.
[2] The Pope is the rule of faith to the extent that he infallibly proposes doctrines that must be assented to by faith. As will be explained in the next chapter, only truths infallibly proposed are assented to with the assent of faith. Personal opinions or non-infallible teachings of a Pope do not constitute articles of faith. Hence, John XXII was not a “false rule” of faith when he taught his error regarding the Beatific Vision. 
[3] Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, pp. 612-613 (emphasis added).
[4] Cf. John of St. Thomas, II-II, qq. 1-7; disp. 2, a. 2, nos. 1, 15, 28, 34, 40; pp. 228 et seq.
[5] The Church of the Word Incarnate, pp. 481-482.
[6] John of St. Thomas: “CLARIFICATION OF THE TERMS PER SE PRIMO AND PER SE SECUNDO: A proposition is said to be de fide immediately and per se primo if, under the light of God, the assent of faith attains to it without any intermediary, as a proposition immediately revealed.  But it is said to be held by faith mediately and per se secundo if it is known through an inference drawn from a premise that is de fide.  The latter pertains to the light of theology, whose business is to draw inferences from the truths of the faith.  Therefore, truths that are de fide in the primary sense (per se primo) are related to those that are de fide in the secondary sense (per se secundo) in much the same way as the axioms used in the sciences are related to the conclusions drawn from them.  But even among those revealed truths that pertain immediately to the light of faith, there is a difference and gradation.  Some are de fide only in themselves (quoad se); others, both in themselves and in relation to us (quoad se, quoad nos); and among the latter some are de fide for all (quoad omnes), while some are such only for a few (quoad aliquos), or for the learned (quoad sapientes).  A proposition is de fide only quoad se when it has, in fact, been revealed, and is contained in Sacred Scripture or in the tradition of the Church, but has not yet actually been proposed as such by the Church…[S]uch propositions coincide, for the time being, with theological conclusions—for all the propositions that the Church defines are first theological conclusions inferred by argumentation before they come to be defined as truths of faith.  Indeed, whenever the Church defines something, this act presupposes underlying argumentation; and this is something peculiar to theology, that the same propositions that were once conclusions can become axioms.  But those things are of faith quoad nos, which are, de facto, revealed, and which are proposed as such by the Church, either by a definition that she gives, or else because they are expressly contained in Sacred Scripture.  And among those propositions which are of faith quoad nos, some are of faith for all (quoad omnes), and some for a few, the learned (quoad aliquos, quoad sapientes).  This last distinction arises from the fact that the definition or revelation itself, by which propositions belong to the faith, is sometimes so clearly expressed that all understand it the same way without any controversy, as is the case with the proposition, “God is three and one”; but sometimes it remains a matter of opinion or doubt whether or not the proposition has been defined or revealed.  As a result, there can sometimes be a difference in opinion regarding the censure attached to a proposition: is the proposition erroneous or not?  No matter how true it be that the proposition is revealed or defined, not all are certain of its definition.  Hence, the following difference: with some propositions that are de fide, their reflex propositions are also de fide—for instance, just as it is de fide that Christ became incarnate, or that there is a Trinity of divine Persons, so it is also de fide that those propositions are de fide.   With other propositions, however, although they are themselves de fide, their reflexes are not, because there remains some controversy concerning whether they have been defined, or whether they are contained in Sacred Scripture, or in the tradition and acceptance of the Church.” 
[7] Fr. Anthony Cekada, “Dead on Arrival”(21:00-21:40).
[8] Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, Q. 7: “On the Members of the Church”.
[9] The sedevacantist thesis arose from a need to explain how Paul VI, whom everyone at first recognized as a true pope when he was elected in 1963, could have used papal authority to promulgate doctrinal errors…” (Fr. Anthony Cekada, “Bergoglio Has Nothing to Lose”). The answer for Fr. Cekada’s difficulty is that a Pope is only protected from erring when he engages his infallibility, which Paul VI never did.  Therefore, it was possible, and not impossible, for Paul VI to teach errors while at the same time being a legitimate pope.
[10] John of St. Thomas does not distinguish between ecclesiastical faith and divine and Catholic Faith, which is a distinction that developed after is time. (See: Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton, “The Question of Ecclesiastical Faith,” American Ecclesiastical Review, April, 1953)   Those who do make this distinction, and place the universal acceptance of the Pope in the former category, hold that the rejection of a Pope, who has been accepted as such by the universal Church, are guilty of a mortal sin indirectly against the faith.
[11] Bishop Sanborn, “Explanation Of The Thesis Of Bishop Guérard Des Lauriers,” June 29, 2002. See http://mostholytrinityseminary.org/Explanation%20of%20the%20Thesis .pdf.
[12] As mentioned in Chapter 10, Sanborn is basing his position upon the thesis of Fr. Guérard des Lauriers (often referred to as the “Cassiciacum” thesis), which holds that each conciliar Pope was a material Pope (they held the papal office lawfully), but not a formal Pope (they did not receive the authority of the office). Sanborn likewise holds that “Novus Ordo” Catholics “are still legally Catholics” (ibid.), even though he also holds that they are not members of the Church but of a false religion. Thus, Sanborn has created a fictional distinction that does not exist in reality, that is, that one can be a legal Catholic and office-holder in the Church, but not actually enjoy the legal rights, privileges and powers which are necessarily concomitant with that legal membership (and, remember, all this is discerned by private judgment, to boot). Needless to say, neither the Church nor any reputable theologian has ever taught such a thing; the theory is as false as it is novel. 
[13] John of St. Thomas, cursus theologicus, Tome 6, Q. 1-7 on Faith, Disputation 8, Article 2[14] Liguori, Verita della Fede, in “Opera…,”vol. VIII., p. 720, n. 9.
[15] Schnitzer, Savonarola, Italian translation by E. Rutili (Milan, 1931), vol. II, p. 303. Quoted in Journet’s The Church of the Word Incarnate, p. 484 (emphasis added).
[16] Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, pp. 612-613 (emphasis added).

2 comments:

Colin Gordon said...

Hello, could you please add the Anacletus II objection from the 1P5 site posts - thanks

Unknown said...

It has been added to the Q&A section.