REPLY TO FR. KRAMER




(The following is an e-mail reply sent to Fr. Kramer's e-mail group)


Fr. Paul Leonard Kramer
       A kind individual forwarded to John Salza and me the e-mail that Fr. Kramer sent out several days ago, in which he accuses us of heresy. Since the e-mail included the addresses of those on Kramer’s list, I am including everyone on this reply.  Before directly commenting on his e-mail, I will preface it with the following remarks.

1)      Fr. Kramer is in a diabolical rage over a book that he has not read, and adamantly refuses to read it. That is not rational.
2)      When writing the book, we took great pains to word everything very carefully.  We also provided footnotes throughout in order to define our terms and clarifying what we meant by various phrases, and what we did not mean.  We did this so that our position would not be misunderstood, and to prevent others from misrepresenting it.  But evidently these measures will not help when a person rashly attacks the book without even reading it, as Fr. Kramer has done and is doing.
3)      Fr. Kramer does not know our position.  He continuously misrepresents it, and accuses us of holding positions that we not only do not hold, but which we explicitly refute in the book. 
4)      When we address a point that is disputed by theologians, such as if, when, or how a pope loses his office for heresy, we purposefully avoid taking a definitive position of our own, since 1) only the Church can settle such “questions of law,” and 2) the Church has never done so.  Therefore, when it comes to if, when, or how a heretical pope loses his office, we do not take present the teaching of any theologian as being definitive and settling the matter.  What we do show, however, is that none of the theologians support the Sedevacantist position, which is one of private judgment determining who is and who is not a true pope, without reference to the public judgment of the Church. 
5)      The question of the loss of office for a heretical pope contains a questions of fact and questions of law.  The question of fact is whether the pope is, in fact, a heretic; questions of law pertain to if, when, or how, a heretical pope would cease to be pope. Both of these issues (questions of law and fact) can only be determined by the Church.  Not even Bellarmine presented his opinion regarding the “question of law” as being definitive.  This is evident since he referred to the opinions he disagrees with by using phrases such as “not proven to me” (second opinion), “exceedingly improbable” (third opinion) or “to my judgment, this opinion cannot be defended” (fourth opinion).  He never declared that they were all certainly wrong and that his opinion was certainly correct, since he knew full well that only the Church could settle such “questions of law” definitively, and until it does so, theologians are free to disagree.
6)      Fr. Kramer and the Sedes error twice with respect to Bellarmine’s opinion: 1) they err by misunderstanding it; 2) they err by treating his opinion as if it were a dogma of the faith to which all are bound to submit. In truth, anyone is free to reject, even the correct understanding of Bellarmine’s opinion.  They are even free to hold the position that a heretical Pope can never lose his office, since this position has been defended by reputable theologians (with books containing an imprimatur) and has never been condemned by the Church.
7)      Regarding our book, which Fr. Kramer has attacked without reading, before it was published it was reviewed by some of the top theologians in the SSPX, and it is published by St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, which is one of the top traditional Seminaries in the world.  And after being published, it has been highly praised by some very reputable priests and two Cardinals that we know of.  One of these Cardinals, who himself is one of the most respected canonists in Rome, referred to it as “a very important book for our time.”  We were also recently contact by a priest who teaches at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (The Angelicum) in Rome, who not only highly praised the book, but asked if we would be willing to provide him with six of the chapters so that he could share the material with some very prominent Churchmen (to be used in an important project). I mention all this not to boast, but to show that it is not simply Fr. Kramer’s opinion (a priest) against that of Robert Siscoe and John Salza (two laymen), as he would like everyone to think; rather it is Fr. Kramer’s opinion (about a book he has never read!) against two laymen and all those traditional priests (and Cardinals) who have praised and endorsed it.

Now, let’s turn to Fr. Kramer’s e-mail.  I will intersperse my comments in red.

Fr. Kramer: Here is Chapter 30 of St. Robert Bellarmine's De Romano Pontifice. By a careful reading of this chapter one easily grasps that my understanding of it, (which is in unanimous agreement of it with the interpretation of all modern scholars), is the only orthodox solution to the question of a papal loss of office due to heresy. The opinion of Cajetan and Suarez both offend against the principle, Prima sedes a nemine iudicatur.

First, notice that Fr. Kramer appears to present Suarez and Cajetan as holding the same opinion. This is a very common error (even Wernz-Vidal made this mistaken), but it is certainly not correct.  Suarez explicitly rejected Cajetan’s position on the loss of office for a heretical pope, and even attempted to refute it.

Let me begin by providing some background that will be helpful in understanding what follows.  There was a lengthy debate between the two Jesuits (Bellarmine and Suarez), and the two Dominicans (Cajetan and John of St. Thomas) concerning the question of how a heretical pope would lose his office.  It began with an extremely thorough, book length treatise by Cajetan (De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii).  Later, Bellarmine (De Romano Pontifice, bk 2, ch 30) and Suarez (Tractatus De Fide, Disp. 10, Sect. 6) objected to Cajetan’s position.  Next came John of St. Thomas (Cursus Theologici, II-II, On the Authority of the Supreme Pontiff, Disp. 2, Art. 3), who defended the position of Cajetan (his fellow Dominican), and refuted each and every objection that Bellarmine and Suarez had presented against it.  These were the four main players in the debate over what has come to be known as the “two opinions” (i.e., the two main opinions concerning how a pope loses his office).  It is also worth noting that, although the Sedes continuously quote what Bellarmine had to say, his commentary was actually very brief in comparison with the others. What Bellarmine wrote in De Romano Pontifice was in no way intended to be a thorough treatise on the subject, but was only his comments on five theologian opinions.

       The reason for mentioning this is because the position of Bellarmine and Suarez is the same, and John of St. Thomas confirmed that their position was the same. Bellarmine and Suarez held the opinion that a heretical pope would lose his office, ipso facto, after being judged a heretic by the Church (unless he openly left the Church of his own accord). That Bellarmine held that the Church would have to judge the matter first is clear by reading not only what he wrote, but also what Suarez wrote, since they use similar arguments to defend their position. The only possible difference between the two is that Bellarmine does not explicitly mention that the loss office follows a declaratory sentence of the crime (even though John of St. Thomas said he did require one), whereas Suarez does.  But Bellarmine does explicitly state that a heretical pope will not be removed by God (that is deposed by God) unless it is through men, who first judge him.  

Fr. Kramer: The canon, Si papa, has been demonstrated to be spurious, and did not originate from St. Boniface; nor has it ever received official recognition from the Church, and can only be applied in a broad sense according to which a pope who has already fallen from the papal office due to heresy can then be judged and punished by the Church.

The Canon Si Papa, which Fr. Kramer tries to dismiss, is found in the Decretum Gratiani (12th century), which is the first part of a collection of six legal texts that together became known as the Corpus Juris CanoniciThe canon was on the books for eight centuries and is cited regularly by the theologians who discuss the loss of office for a heretical pope.  It is treated as an authoritative canon by them all, including St. Robert Bellarmine.  The reason Fr. Kramer is attempting to dismiss this canon is because it explicitly states that a pope (not a former pope) can be  indirectly judged in the case of heresy, which is a teaching that Fr. Kramer declares to be heretical, since he mistakenly believes it is contrary to the famous axiom “Prima sedes a nemine iudicatur” (the First See is judged by no one).  What he doesn’t realize is that heresy has always been consider an exception to the rule, which permits a limited form of judgment against a Pope.  Si Papa explicitly states that a pope can be judged in the case of heresy, and this is how the canon has been interpreted by theologians for centuries.  For example, John of St. Thomas wrote:

“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 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.”

       Here is the actual canon:

“If the Pope, being neglectful of his own salvation and that of his brethren, be found useless and remiss in his works, and, more than that, reluctant to do good (which harms himself and others even more), and nonetheless brings down with him innumerable throngs of people … Let no mortal man presumes to rebuke him for his faults, for, it being incumbent upon him to judge all, he should be judged by no one, unless he is suddenly caught deviating from the faith (nisi deprehendatur a fide devius).[1]

       The great 17th century canonist, Fr Paul Laymann, S.J., (who is recognized as one of the greatest canonists of his day), also acknowledges the authority of Si Papa.  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 [Dominican Opinion], or rather declared to be separated from her [Jesuit Opinion] (…) 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 [of the Fathers] 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 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. …  nevertheless, for as long as he is tolerated by the Church [not yet judged by the Church], and is publicly recognized as the universal pastor, he is still endowed, in fact, with the pontifical power, in such a way that all his decrees have no less force and authority than they would if he were a truly faithful, as Dominic Barnes notes well (q.1, a. 10, doubt 2, ad. 3) Suarez bk 4, on laws, ch. 7.”

The following is Cajetan’s commentary on Si Papa:

“Next that of Boniface, pope and martyr, as found in Si Papa [D. 40, c. 6], where he says, ‘Unless the pope is deviant from the faith, no mortal presumes to convict him of his faults,’ where only the crime of unbelief entails subjection to a judge by whom the pope can be judged, which is recognized to be the universal Church or the general council.[2]

       They all interpret Si Papa is meaning that heresy is the exception to the rule, which permits the Church to render a judgment concerning the pope in the case of heresy.
       Suarez also confirms that heresy is the exception to the rule that “the pope is judged by no one”.  He wrote:

“If you ask what gives us certainty that, by Divine Law, a Pontiff is deposed as soon as a sentence is pronounced by the Church [contrary to the teaching of Cajetan]: I respond, in the first place, that I have already produced the testimony of [Pope] Clement, which is from the mouth of Peter; in the second place … it is the common consensus of the Church and the Pontiffs. (… )

“I say fourthly: outside of the case of heresy, a true and undoubted Pontiff, even if he be extremely wicked, cannot be deprived of his dignity. (…) Therefore all the Pontiffs cited above, while affirming that the Church can pass judgment on the Supreme Pontiff in the case of heresy, deny absolutely that she can pass judgment on him outside of that case; and it is in this sense that the often say that the Pope is judged by no one.”

       What these citations show is that heresy has always been consider the exception to the rule that the first see is judged by no one.  It is also worth noting that neither of the "two opinions" claim that the Church has authority over the Pope (even in the case of heresy), or that the Church authoritatively deposes the Pope. 
       Another authority who is regularly cited by the theologians in defense of the teaching that the Church can judge a Pope in the case of heresy is Pope Innocent III, who said:

“For faith is so necessary for me that, while for other sins I have only God as my judge, only for that sin which is committed against faith could I be judged by the Church” (Sermon II).

       Is Fr. Kramer going to dismiss this teaching of Pope Innocent III as being “spurious,” as he attempted to do with Si Papa?

       Furthermore, as already mentioned, Bellarmine himself cited Si Papa as an authority in affirming that a pope can be judged in the case of heresy.  And to be clear, Bellarmine is not referring to a former pope (who has already lost his office), which is how Fr. Kramer is attempts to twist the clear words of the Doctor of the Church.  No, Bellarmine is referring to a pope, which is why he says that heresy is the one case in which “inferiors” (the Cardinals and bishops) are permitted to judge superiors (the Pope).  Here is Bellarmine’s teaching, taken from his refutation of the Third Opinion:

“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 [bishops] to judge superiors [Pope]. Here the fact must be remarked upon that, although it is probable that Honorius was not 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.”

       Notice that nothing in Bellarmine’s teaching indicates that the pope had already lost his office (being deposed secretly by God) and that the Church was judging a former pope.  This is further confirmed by what he wrote one paragraph earlier when he refutes the idea that a pope is deposed by God before he is judged by men (which is the position that Fr. Kramer and his Sedevacantists comrades hold).  In his refutation of this opinion, Bellarmine draws a parallel between the election of a pope, and the deposition of a Pope.  He explains that just as God does not make a man pope “without the agreement of men” (who elect him), neither does God remove a pope “unless it is through men” (who judge him).  Here is his refutation of the Second Opinion:

“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 an occult heretic cannot be judged by men…”

       And as should be obvious, the judgment would have to be rendered by the proper authorities in the Church – that is, those who are competent to render such a judgment – and not Joe Catholic in the street, who probably doesn’t know the difference between heresy and lesser degrees of error.
       As further evidence that the judgment would have to be rendered by the proper authorities, we can cite St. Thomas who explains that just as it pertains to the proper authorities to write the law, so too does it pertain to them to interpret it and apply it to individual cases.  The following is from the Summa: 

 “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.”[3]

       Furthermore, the Angelic Doctor goes on to explain that it is unlawful for a person to render a judgment he has no authority to make, noting that those who do such a thin are guilty of the unjust act of “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’…

       In addition to this teaching of St. Thomas, we have the decree of a general council of the Church that absolutely forbids Catholics (even priests and bishops) to separate from their Patriarch (the Pope is the Patriarch of the West) before the proper authorities render a judgment of the crime.  And the council Fathers considered this to be such a grave offense that they attached an excommunication to any layperson who dared to do such a thing. The following is from the Fourth Council of Constantinople:

“As divine scripture clearly proclaims, ‘Do not find fault before you investigate, and understand first and then find fault.’ And does our law judge a person without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does? Consequently, this holy and universal synod justly and fittingly declares and lays down that no lay person or monk or cleric should separate himself from communion with his own patriarch before a careful inquiry and judgment in synod, even if he alleges that he knows of some crime perpetrated by his patriarch, and he must not refuse to include his patriarch’s name during the divine mysteries or offices. (…) If anyone shall be found defying this holy synod, he is to be debarred from all priestly functions and status if he is a bishop or cleric; if a monk or lay person, he must be excluded from all communion and meetings of the church [i.e. excommunicated] until he is converted by repentance and reconciled.”

      Fr. Kramer and the Sedevacantist are not only guilty of the sin of “judgment by usurpation,” but they (and the position they promote) is formally condemned by a general council of the Church.  Woe to those confused Catholics who are led by Fr. Paul Leonard Kramer to do what this council forbids.

       Suarez used the same argument as Bellarmine did above in explaining that a heretical pope will not be deposed by Christ before being judged by men.  He explains that just as the Church only designates a man to be pope by the election, after which Christ Himself confers the pontifical power upon him, so, too, when it comes to deposing a heretical Pope, the Church merely judges and declares him to be a heretic, after which Christ authoritatively deposes him. In Suarez’ own words:

“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…”
      
       That is certainly not the opinion of Cajetan.  But we see is that both Bellarmine and Suarez defend their position by drawing a parallel between how a man becomes pope (God joins the man to the office following the election) and how a heretical pope loses his office (God disjoins the man from the office after he is “judged by men”).  The ipso facto loss of office, defended by Bellarmine and Suarez, follows the judgment of men; it does not precede it as Fr. Kramer claims.  In fact, John of St. Thomas confirmed this very point in his refutation of Bellarmine and Suarez’ position:

“It cannot be held that the Pope, by the very fact of being a heretic, would cease to be pope antecedently to [before] a declaration of the Church.  (…)  What is truly a matter of debate is whether the Pope, after he is declared by the Church to be a heretic, is deposed ipso facto by Christ the Lord [one opinion], or if the Church ought to depose him [second opinion]. In any case, as long as the Church has not issued a juridical declaration, he must always be considered the Pope.[4] (…) Bellarmine and Suarez are of the opinion that, by the very fact that the Pope is a manifest heretic and declared to be incorrigible [i.e. judged by the Church], he is deposed by Christ our Lord without any intermediary, and not by any authority of the Church.”[5]

       We can see that one of the main actors in the debate (who happens to be one of the great Thomists the Church has ever produced) confirmed that Bellarmine and Suarez held the same opinion, which is that the ipso facto loss of office occurs after the Church judges the Pope.

Kramer:  Both Ballerini and Pope Gregory XVI understood the doctrine in this manner, as did Wernz-Vidal and Matteo Conte da Coronata OFM Cap. (and many others) in the 20th Century. For more than a century it has been the sententia communior (more common opinion), and according to Dominic Prummer OP, the sententia communis (common opinion).

Kramer refers to a lot of authorities, but quotess none of them. And when he does quote authorities, he usually only provides the Latin, and not an English translation, even though he surely knows that the vast majority of those who read his rants do understand Latin.  Is Kramer simply trying to impress his readers by citing the Latin only (and thereby prevent most of his readers from noticing that the authorities don’t teach what he claims), or does he want them to actually understand what they are reading?  If it’s the latter, why would he only cite the Latin, and not also provide a translation?
       And we can be absolutely certain that none of the authorities Kramer references teach that a layman in the pew, or an individual priest in Ireland who spends his day posting of Facebook, can declare, on their own authority, that a pope, who is accepted as such by the Church, is a heretic and therefore not a true pope.  In fact, Bellarini (who Kramer referenced above) explicitly teaches that a pope who is preaching heresy would have to be publicly warned by “the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod” (the proper authorities) before losing his office.
       Ballerini held the position that if a pope publicly professed heresy, the Church would have to issue a solemn warning.  Following this warning, if the Pope persisted in his error, he would thereby “manifested” his heresy (his pertinacity) and essentially abdicate the Pontificate, even before a council was called.  This differs slightly from what others taught (since they say the council would have to render the judgment), but it is certainly a valid opinion.  According to Ballerini’s opinion, if a council was later called (after the Pope was considered a “manifest heretic” by the Church’s judgment), it would issue a declaration of deprivation affirming that the Pope had already lost his office. But even according to Ballerini, the loss of office would not occur before the Church issued the solemn warnings and established by crime (which is the minimal that we say suffices for the loss of office in the book).   Needless to say, the teaching of Ballerini in no way supports Kramer’s position, since Francis has not remained hardened in heresy following a solemn warning by the proper authorities, and hence is not a “manifest heretic” according to the Church’s judgment.

Kramer: The opinions of Suarez and Cajetan also suffer from the defect that they consider the manifest heretic pope to remain in office until he is judged by the Church. The problem with that is that a manifest heretic ceases by himself to be a member of the Church by his own judgment against himself, by which he leaves the Church and therefore ceases to be pope -- and without the judgment of anyone else -- only his own judgment against himself (as Bellarmine explains in his refutation of opinion no. 4).

First, what those who hold either of the two opinions require is that the pope be a “manifest heretic” according to the Church’s judgment, before he will lose his office; the private judgment of individual laymen and priests does not suffice.  If Fr. Kramer disagrees with this, on what basis can he object to the opinion of the Sedevacantists who reject all the popes since Pius XII?  After all, they personally judge these Popes to have been “manifest heretics.” Therefore, if the private judgment of individual Catholics suffices, how can Fr. Kramer disagree with them, other than to claim their private judgment is wrong and his private judgment is correct?  And since Fr. Kramer must know that his judgment is not infallible, how can he be certain that his private judgment is correct and theirs is not?  Furthermore, on what basis could he object to the Sedevacantist Richard Ibranyi, who now rejects every pope since the year 1130 AD (yes, you read that correctly)?  Ibranyi sincerely believes that all these men were heretics and therefore were not true popes.  He even claims to have “definitive proof” in support of his position. How can Kramer disagree if he believes a pope will lose his office (i.e., that Christ will depose him) when he is a manifest heretic according to private judgment
       What this should demonstrate to a reasonable person of sound mind, is why it is necessary for a public judgment to come from the public authority, as St. Thomas taught, and why Christ will not depose a pope until the proper authorities establishes the crime.
       Second, when Kramer speaks of a pope who “leaves the Church” (as he did above), does he mean a Pope who publicly leaves the Church of his own free will, and is publicly acknowledged by the Church to have done so?  If so, he should know that we concede, in the book, that a case could be made that Christ would depose such a one even before the Church renders a formal judgment, since, in this extreme case, the Church would have no reason to recognize, as its head, one who no longer presented himself as such. But this is not the situation we are facing, nor is it a situation the Church has ever faced.

Kramer: The judgment of the Church can be only an official post factum recognition by which the heretic pope can be "shown to be already judged". (Innocent III - Sermo 4)

Once again we have a short “drive by” comment by Fr. Kramer with no explanation. Therefore, I will provide the explanation along with a refutation of what Fr. Kramer is clearly getting at. We will begin with the citation from Innocent III that Fr. Kramer referenced (without actually quoting, as usual):

“However, he [the Pope] should not flatter himself foolishly because of his power, nor should he recklessly glory in his sublimity or honor; for, to the extent that he is judged less by man, to that extent he is judged more rigorously by God.  I say that he is judged less; for he can be judged by men—or rather, he can be shown to be judged—in the case that he loses his savor through heresy; for “he who believes not is already judged” (Jn. 3).”

       They key phrase is “shown to be judged.”  In other words, the Pope has already been judged (by God) and men merely show that he has already been judged.  But here is the question: does Fr. Kramer interpret this teaching of Innocent III as meaning that, because the pope has already been judged by God (for being an unbeliever), it means he has already been deposed by God?  If not, then how does this teaching of Innocent III help his case?  And if he does interpret it Innocent as meaning that a pope who has “already been judged” (by God) has already been deposed (by God), he is not only departing from the clear teaching of Bellarmine, but he is being inconsistent with his own position. Why do I say that?  Because Fr. Kramer holds that an occult (secret) heretic remains a true pope, even though a secret heretic is an unbeliever who has already been judged by God.  Therefore, Fr. Kramer cannot hold that a Pope, who has already been judged by God, has already been deposed by God. The two are not quivalent, even according to Kramer’s own position.

Kramer: The opinion of John Salza & Robert Siscoe are therefore heretical on these two points: 1) they deny that the public sin of heresy "in sua natura" separates the heretic from the Church…”

We do not reject that teaching and never have.

Kramer: … (and causes the ipso facto loss of office)…

It is not heretical to hold that a pope who has committed the public sin of heresy (i.e., manifest heresy), according to private judgment, retains his office.  It is not even heretical for one to hold that a pope who commits the public sin of heresy, according to the Church’s judgment, retains his office. That is only one of two perfectly acceptable opinions, and nothing in Vatican I changed it (I say this because this is what most Sedevacantists claim). To prove this point, I will cite the following from Elements of Ecclesiastical Law, published after Vatican I, which affirms that both opinions are still licit. And when reading the following citation, notice that it does not even hint that either of the two opinions is more likely correct than the other:

“Question: Is a Pope who falls into heresy deprived, ipso jure, of the Pontificate?

Answer: There are two opinions: one holds that he is by virtue of divine appointment, divested ipso facto, of the Pontificate [i.e., Bellarmine and Suarez]; the other, that he is, jure divino, only removable [Cajetan and John of St. Thomas]. Both opinions agree that he must at least be declared guilty of heresy by the Church, i.e., by an ecumenical council or the College of Cardinals.”[6]  

       Notice, there are “two opinions” (i.e., the Jesuit Opinion and the Dominican Opinion), and “both opinions agree that he must at least be declared guilty of heresy by the church,” which is exactly what Fr. Kramer rejects, since he publicly rejects a pope who has not been declared guilty of heresy by the Church.

       It is also worth noting that that the aforementioned book by Fr. Smith was sent to Rome for review following its initial publication. The Preface of the Third Edition explains that Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect of the Propaganda Fide, “appointed two Consultors, doctors in canon law, to examine the ‘Elements’ and report to him. The Consultors, after examining the book for several months, made each a lengthy report to the Cardinal-Prefect.” Their detailed reports noted five inaccuracies or errors in Fr. Smith’s book, all of which were corrected in the Third Edition. The above citation about the loss of office for a heretical pope was not among the requested revisions. This shows that canonists in Rome found no error or inaccuracy in the assertion that there are “two opinions” concerning the question of the loss of office for a heretical Pope, and that both opinions agree that he “must at least be declared guilty of heresy by the church, i.e., by an ecumenical council or the College of Cardinals”. Therefore, it is clearly not “heresy,” as Fr. Kramer claims, to hold to the opinion of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas.

Kramer:  without the ecclesiastical penalty of excommunication (as Bellarmine explains in ch. 30);”

We have never claimed that a pope loses his office by excommunication, since a pope cannot incur an excommunication, as Cajetan himself (and others) explains.

Kramer: … and they oppose the dogma of the petrine primacy by professing that the Church may pronounce judgment on a pope while still in office.

Saying that the Church must establish the crime of heresy before a pope will lose his office is not a denial of the dogma of the petrine primacy.  If it were, Bellarmine himself, a Doctor of the Church, would have been guilty of this crime, as would Pope Innocent III, and a plethora of other theologians I could cite (some of whom I quoted above).


Kramer: Salza & Siscoe stubbornly assert that their heretical opinion is the common opinion today -- although there is not a theologian in the world who agrees with them.

But how would Fr. Kramer know what our opinion is, since he hasn’t read our book. And how does he know what every theologian in the world thinks?  Has he interviewed them all?  And if Kramer did read our book, he would see that we do not hold to the opinion of any theologian as being definitive. All we do is demonstrate that Fr. Kramer’s position is not supported by any reputable theologian.  And to be clear, Fr. Kramer’s position is that if Joe Catholic in the pew, or Joe Priest in Ireland who spends his days slandering people on Facebook, personally judges that a pope has committed the “public sin” of heresy, they are permitted to publicly declare him to be a heretic and therefore not a true pope.  Kramer will search in vain for any reputable (or non-reputable) theologian who has ever taught such an absurd doctrine.  Excuse me, I mean “dogma”.

Kramer: A complete refutation of the errors and heresies of Salza & Siscoe will soon follow.

We can’t wait.  But if Kramer is going to provide a completely refutation of the “errors and heresies of Salza & Siscoe” he better at least quote us directly before “refuting” what he claims we hold, and he better provide a citation for the quote.  I say this, not only because he continuously misrepresents our position (since he doesn’t understand it), but also because he recently posted a “refutation” that contained an alleged quotation from John Salza that is not what he or I hold; and it is not what we argue in the book .  John and I searched high and low for that alleged “quote” and it was nowhere to be found, and Fr. Kramer refused to provide a source when we requested it.  I personally asked him a half dozen times to tell us where he got the quote, and he refused to do so.  Was it from a radio interview in which John misspoke? Was it from a private e-mail between John and Fr. Kramer from years ago that John wrote in haste?  Or did Fr. Kramer simply make up the quote out of thin air?  We don’t know because he refuses to tell us where the alleged quote came from.  How do you think Fr. Kramer would react if we publicly cited an alleged “quotation” from him that affirmed a position he does not hold, and then refused to tell him where it came from?  No doubt he would immediately take to Facebook to report the lies of the malicious slanderers, Salza & Siscoe.  Yet this is precisely what Kramer himself has done to John: he posted an alleged quote that is certainly not what he believes, and refuses to say where it came from. And, I’m sorry to say, Fr. Kramer has already been caught red handed citing a completely fraudulent quote (from St. Athanasius) against us and in order to justify his errant ecclesiology (this is what happens when someone gets their information from the internet, as does Fr. Kramer, without verifying it).  Had Kramer read our book, he would have known that the quotation was fraudulent since we prove it (Kramer himself now concedes that the “quote” is a complete fabrication).

      So, when Kramer issues his “refutation of the errors and heresies of Salza & Siscoe” make sure he quotes us directly, and be sure to look and see if he provides a reference. And then, presuming the source for the “quote” can be located, look and see if we are giving our opinion, or simply explaining the opinion of this or that Church approved theologian – the least of whom is in a league far superior to Fr. Kramer. And if he was a serious scholar (which he evidently is not) he would quote directly from or book, rather than from our short online articles.  The reason for this is because, as mentioned earlier, the book contains a much more clear exposition of our position (including definitions of our terms) than do the short articles we post on our website. 

       I will close by thanking the kind gentleman for sending us Fr. Kramer’s e-mail, and look forward to being privy to what Kramer sends out in the future.  I would also ask everyone to pray for Fr. Kramer, who appears to be completely losing his mind; and also those confused Catholics who may be persuaded by the grave errors he is spreading via the world wide web.  And also let us remember in our prayers those Catholics of sound mind who may become completely scandalized by Kramer’s public antics and be tempted to lose respect for the priesthood, since there is no doubt that the troubling, and dare I say insane, public behavior of Fr. Kramer will result in a diminishing of the respect for the priesthood for some.  So, many prayers are needed during this unprecedented crisis in the Church, and this time of “diabolical disorientation” that has overtaken certain priests who spend their day slandering people on Facebook.





[1] Si Papa, dist 40, ch 6; Latin found in Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 124.
[2] Cajetan, De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, English Translation in Conciliarism & Papalism, by Burns & Izbicki (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 103.
[3] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 6 
[4] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, Tome 6.  Questions 1-7 on Faith.  Disputation 8., Article 2
[5] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologici Ii-Ii, On The Authority Of The Supreme Pontiff, Disp. 2, Art. 3.
[6] Smith, Sebastian B. Elements of Ecclesiastical Law (revised third edition), New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1881.

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