DO WE REJECT THE R&R POSITION? Responding to Fr. Kramer's Latest Baseless Accusation

Paul Leonard Kramer
       It is sad to see what has become of Fr. Paul Leonard Kramer and the depths to which he has now sunk in his mad campaign to discredit TOFP and publicly promote the errors of Sedevacantism that he once himself rejected. In his latest Facebook post, he again accuses us of defending a position that we not only reject, but which we explicitly refute in our book True or False Pope?. 

       Kramer begins by saying:

Fr. Kramer: “There is a saying in Catholic theology: Ubi non est veritas no est caritas. Where there is not truth, there is not charity.  It is not I but those who oppose Catholic truth who are lacking charity.”

       The charitable truth-teller then proceeds to accuse the authors of TOFP of promoting blind submission to errant prelates and Popes, and says “what Salza & Siscoe have done is to falsify and totally invert Catholic moral doctrine in order to refute error with error.”  He then continues by saying: 

Screen shot from Kramer's Facebook page
Fr. Kramer:  “St. Robert Bellarmine says in De Romano Pontifice, that if the pope were to attack the faith, he must be resisted, and his will must be thwarted. This is the only real means by which Catholics can combat those who would destroy the Church, whether intentionally or unwittingly.  Under such circumstances, the virtue of obedience requires resistance; and to obey popes who attack the faith, liturgy, and discipline of the Church is a sin against the virtue of obedience – it is the sin of ‘servile or indiscreet obedience’, as Prummer explains. It is precisely this sin which Salza & Siscoe promote in their misguided attempt to combat Sedevacantistm. The result of the errors of Salza & Siscoe is something far worse than the damage that the Sedevacantists have done to the Church. …  Eminent authorities (whom I will quote in my next installment of my reply to Salza) also teach that if a pope is professing heresy, he is not be obeyed.” 

         First, note that Kramer says our opposition to Sedevacantism is “misguided” and that our refutation of Sedevacantism “is something far worse” (yes, far worse!) than what the Sedes themselves have done, which is no less than leading others out of the Catholic Church! Thus, according to Kramer, it is worse to remain within the Church and fight the battle against Pope Francis and his Modernism, than it is to reject Francis’ and the Church over which he is the head, and thus publicly defect from the Church! Kramer’s reaction to the crisis in the Church is virtually identical to that of Luther when he witnessed scandals in Rome.
       Now, before we expose the reckless, if not malicious, accusation that we promote “servile or indiscreet obedience” to a “Pope professing heresy,” let’s address Kramer’s “misguided attempt” at defending his own position by playing the “Recognize and Resist (R&R)” card. Why is this a completely irrelevant defense for Kramer’s position? Because Kramer does not recognize and resist Pope Francis! Rather, he completely REJECTS him as an ANTIPOPE!  
       Needless to say, there is a fundamental difference between the R&R position and the Kramer/Sedevacantist position. Those who hold the R&R position recognize the legitimacy of Francis’ pontificate, while Kramer and the Sedevacantists reject his legitimacy. They do not “resist” Francis because they don’t “recognize” him as Pope in the first place. Even Kramer’s reference to the Prummer quote shows that Prummer was referring to true Popes who attack the faith, liturgy and discipline of the Church, not antipopes who have no authority over such matters. Kramer does not reject Pope Francis on R&R grounds, but on the grounds of his twisted theology concerning a heretical antipope. Thus, for Kramer to use the R&R argument to defend his position against our refutation, when the R&R argument does not even apply to Kramer’s position on Pope Francis, shows just how confused he is on these matters. It’s simply a straw man argument from a desperate man who will do anything to save face in the wake of our thorough refutations of his positions.
       Evidently, Kramer’s Facebook fans are just as confused as he is, since they also did not catch this key distinction between R&R and Sedevacantism’s anti-R&R position. Listen to how Kramer’s cult fans praised the fallen priest for such a “clear refutation of our errors.” Here are a few:

“Karen Karwowski: Father Kramer, thank you so much for this concise and clear explanation. May God Bless and protect you always.”

“Helen Westover: Well stated! You clear up so much, and I THANK you, Father.”

“Fasciglione Nicholas: Fr. Kramer, I offer many thinks for this series of posts you’ve provided. This is a great service to many, I’m sure.”

      The problem is that Kramer’s argument is not only entirely irrelevant to defending his antipope theory, but the accusation of the self professed charitable truth-teller is entirely false.  Had Kramer taken time to read the book that he criticizes, he would have seen that we have an entire chapter that refutes the very error he claims we defend! Frankly, Kramer’s accusation exposes just how dishonest and uncharitable he really is, and to what lengths he will go to attempt to save his irrevocably damaged reputation. He has no integrity. It also shows what a joke of a Catholic “scholar” Fr. Kramer really is.
       Is Fr. Kramer not aware that the Sedevacantists have been accusing us, for years, of holding precisely the opposite of what Kramer accuses us of rejecting, namely, the R&R position? Is Kramer not aware that the Sedes have denounced us for holding the very position that Kramer says we do not hold? Or does Fr. Kramer not read anything before he flies off the handle and launches into another campaign of false accusations and slander? Moreover, did Kramer not even read the Table of Contents of our book which he chose to criticize, which contains a chapter (20) called “We Recognize and Resist”? Could a more damning indictment of Kramer’s reckless behavior and juvenile “scholarship” be more painfully evident? How can anyone take this man seriously anymore?
       We are going to provide our readers with some excerpts from this chapter in which we explain that Catholics ARE NOT to blindly follow erring Popes. These pages provide the applicable principles. The remainder of the chapter includes many more quotations from Popes, saints and Doctors of the Church, and historical examples the flesh out the principles. Because we have an entire chapter dedicated to promoting the very principles Fr. Kramer says we reject, we can only conclude that Kramer is either completely clueless, or a malicious slanderer.

Chapter 20

~ We Recognize and Resist ~

       We now reach the final argument put forward by Sedevacantists. This argument does not directly support their own position, but is instead used in an attempt to force Traditional Catholics to embrace the Sedevacantist thesis. They do this by claiming that it is absolutely forbidden to recognize a man as being Pope, yet resist his commands or his teachings – even if the teaching happens to depart from what the Church had consistently taught up to that time. They insist that it is forbidden to judge the teaching of one Pope in light of the perennial teaching of his predecessors, or the dogmatic decrees of ecumenical councils. They declare this to be “sifting the Magisterium.” With this approach, we see, once again, that an error in the beginning is an error in the end.
       The Sedevacantist Bishop Donald Sanborn articulated the position as he attacked Bishop Williamson for defending the stance taken by Archbishop Lefebvre, which was one of,

       “accepting Novus Ordo popes, but at the same time of sifting their teachings and disciplines for what is Catholic, and rejecting what is non-Catholic. He [Bishop Williamson] says that to do so by one’s own personal choice is equivalent to heresy, but it is not equivalent to heresy if one makes the choice based on a two thousand year tradition.”[1]

       Bishop Sanborn argues that this course of action is not permitted. Yet, judging the teaching of the conciliar Popes in light of the teaching of the previous Popes and councils is exactly what the Sedevacantists themselves do. They use the same objective measure of Tradition to “sift” (and reject) the novel teachings of the Vatican II Popes. The only difference between the position of the Sedevacantists vis-à-vis Traditional Catholics, in this respect, is that rather than simply rejecting any novel teaching that is contrary to Tradition, the Sedevacantists go further by declaring that the Pope who gave or approved the novel teaching is not a true Pope (and the Church of which he is the head is not the true Church). Thus, the position of the Sedevacantists as opposed to faithful Catholics is identical, right up to the final additional step taken by the Sedevacantists, which, as we have shown in the previous chapters, is a step that exceeds their authority and separates them from the Church.
       As we will see in this chapter, resisting novel teachings of Popes, which depart from the consistent teaching of the Church, is itself in accord with Tradition. It finds support in the writings of the Church’s theologians and the teachings of the Popes, and there are many historical examples of the faithful – including saints and future Popes – doing just that.
       St. Augustine, for example, appealed to the decision of a former Pope (Innocent I) against the currently reigning Pope (Zosimus), when the latter refused to recognize the previous condemnation of the heretic Pelagius.[2] Pope Zosimus essentially reopened the door to the Pelagian heresy, which had just been definitively settled by his predecessor. The famous saying “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” (Rome has spoken, the case is closed)[3] comes from a sermon St. Augustine gave against the wavering of Pope Zosimus in the face of heresy. In other words, St. Augustine publicly “resisted” the current Pope by appealing to the teaching of a previous Pope.
       Before discussing the writings of the Popes and theologians on resisting commands and teachings of superiors (including Popes), it will be opportune to consider the virtue of obedience (which, like infallibility, has been greatly misunderstood in the current crisis).


       In considering the issue of obedience, we should begin by noting that obedience should be directed primarily to God, and only secondarily to the laws and commands of men. In other words, when we obey a particular law enacted by man, we ought to obey it with a view to obeying God. Pope Pius XI teaches that it is unbecoming for men, who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, to obey man for the sake of man. He wrote: 

       “It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their masters, warns them to give obedience to them not as men, but as the vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should serve their fellow-men. ‘You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men.’”[4]

       Now, although our obedience should be directed primarily to God, we are obliged by God to obey the just commands of lawful authority. If we sought to obey God without submitting to the medium of just laws, how would we be sure we were truly obeying God, rather than our own self-will? We show our obedience to God by submitting to just commands proceeding from lawful authority; and God tells us that those who fail to do so will be condemned: “Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore, he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation“ (Rom. 13:1-2).

The Rational Mean Between Two Extremes

       While we are bound to obey just laws of lawful authority, we are not to obey thoughtlessly and without discretion. We must recall that there is a hierarchical order to the virtues. The lower virtues are subordinate to, and meant to serve, the higher. The highest virtues are the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity), which have God for their object. The cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) fall beneath the theological virtues. Obedience, which is a moral virtue, is subordinate to (and part of) the cardinal virtue of Justice. As St. Francis de Sales said: “Obedience is a moral virtue which depends upon justice.[5]  And as St. Thomas affirmed, the theological virtue of “Charity is a greater virtue than obedience.”[6]
       Like all moral virtues, obedience is a balance point – the rational mean[7] - between excess and defect, and as such can be violated in either direction - that is, by disobeying a just command (defect), or by obeying an unjust and sinful command (excess).

Just and Unjust Laws

       St. Thomas explains that “Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived…” Regarding unjust laws, he wrote:

       “…laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good…as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory - or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him - or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws. (…)

Secondly, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, ‘we ought to obey God rather than man.’”[8]

       The unjust laws that St. Thomas refers to as “acts of violence, rather than laws” do not bind in conscience, “except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance.”[9] The second category of unjust laws mentioned by the Angelic Doctor – namely, those “contrary to the Divine law” - can never be obeyed, but must be steadfastly resisted.
When the command of one superior is contrary to the command of a higher authority, we must resist the former and obey the latter. In such a case, resistance to a lower authority is not disobedience, but rather obedience to the higher authority. Pope Leo XIII said:

       “where the power to command is wanting, or where a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”[10]

In another place, Leo XIII explained that those who refuse to obey unjust laws cannot be rightly accused of disobedience:

       “The one only reason which men have for not obeying is when anything is demanded of them which is openly repugnant to the natural or the divine law, for it is equally unlawful [for authorities] to command [their subjects] to do anything in which the law of nature or the will of God is violated. If, therefore, it should happen that any one is compelled to prefer one or the other, viz., to disregard either the commands of God or those of rulers, he must obey Jesus Christ … there is no reason why those who so behave themselves should be accused of refusing obedience; for, if the will of rulers is opposed to the will and the laws of God, they themselves [the authorities] exceed the bounds of their own power and pervert justice; nor can their authority then be valid, which, when there is no justice, is null.”[11]

       In his classic book, Handbook of Moral Theology, (1916), Rev. Anton Koch further explains:

       “Unjust laws do not bind in conscience because they ‘are acts of violence rather than laws,’ as St. Thomas says. In regard to the above, the following principles should be borne in mind: a) No one is obliged to obey a precept which it is morally impossible for him to fulfill. … A law which runs counter to the moral law of nature, not only does not oblige in conscience, but must be resisted passively. Authority, be it civil or ecclesiastical, can never oblige a man to commit even a venial sin, for we must obey God rather than man. Such has always been the will and the teaching of the Church.”[12]
       Now, just as it would be wrong to obey a sinful command, or a command that is morally “contrary to reason,” so too is it wrong to obey a command that is repugnant to the Faith. This is evident when we consider that the purpose of the lower virtues is to serve, not undermine, the higher. Faith, being a theological virtue, should never be put at risk under the specious pretext of “obedience.”
Resisting Unjust Laws and Commands

       As we have seen, superiors are not to be blindly obeyed in all things. St. Thomas said: “It is written: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ Now sometimes the things commanded by a superior are against God. Therefore, superiors are not to be obeyed in all things.”[13] He went on to explain why this is so:

       “As stated above, he who obeys is moved at the bidding of the person who commands him, by a certain necessity of justice, even as a natural thing is moved through the power of its mover by a natural necessity. That a natural thing be not moved by its mover, may happen … on account of a hindrance arising from the stronger power of some other mover; thus wood is not burnt by fire if a stronger force of water intervenes. In like manner ... a subject may not be bound to obey his superior in all things. First on account of the command of a higher power. For as a gloss says on Romans 13:2…: ‘If a commissioner issue an order, are you to comply, if it is contrary to the bidding of the proconsul? Again, if the proconsul command one thing, and the emperor another, will you hesitate, to disregard the former and serve the latter? Therefore, if the emperor commands one thing and God another, you must disregard the former and obey God.’”[14]

       Now, this principle applies equally to a Pope, who is also a man. Should a Pope command anything contrary to the natural or Divine law, or to the common good (which must ultimately be ordered to the salvation of souls), he must not be obeyed, but resisted. Suarez confirmed this, when he wrote:
       “If [the Pope] gives an order contrary to good customs, he should not be obeyed; if he attempts to do something manifestly opposed to justice and the common good, it will be licit to resist him; if he attacks by force, by force he can be repelled, with a moderation appropriate to a just defense.”[15]

Juan Cardinal De Torquemada, O.P. (d. 1468), who was selected to represent the King of Castile and his religious order at the Council of Florence, explained how broadly a Pope could exceed his authority, in which case he must be resisted. He wrote: 
       “Although it clearly follows from the circumstances that the Pope can err at times, and command things which must not be done, that we are not to be simply obedient to him in all things, that does not show that he must not be obeyed by all when his commands are good. To know in what cases he is to be obeyed and in what not, it is said in the Acts of the Apostles: ‘One ought to obey God rather than man;’ therefore, were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the Sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands, to be passed over (despiciendus).”[16]
       Torquemada is clear that a Pope can exceed his authority in commanding things that are not only contrary to the natural law and common good, but also the perennial disciplines and worship of the Church (“the truth of the Sacraments”) and even the dogmas of the Faith itself (“Scripture” and “the articles of faith”). In such a case, Torquemada’s solution is not that of the Sedevacantists, which is to declare the Pope a heretic who is no longer Pope. Rather, it is to recognize and resist the Pope, who “ought not to be obeyed.”
       Torquemada then went on to quote Pope Innocent III, who said a Pope should not be obeyed if he goes against the universal customs of the Church:

       “Thus it is that Pope Innocent states (in De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey a Pope in all things as long as he does not himself go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the church, he ought not to be obeyed…”[17]  (True or False Pope?: Refuting Sedevacantism and Other Modern Errors, pp. 621-626)

       As explained above, what follows these introductory pages is a more thorough treatment of the R&R position from Popes, saints and Doctors of the Church, including historical examples which highlight the Catholic principles of the R&R position. At the end of the chapter, we summarize the main points of the chapter by concluding with the following:

       Those who hold fast to antiquity, as taught by St. Vincent of Lerins, will be preserved from “the operation of error,” even if it comes from the bishops and the Pope himself. They will know that Catholics can recognize their authority, while resisting them in the exercise of authority (Gal. 1:8-10). They will know that obedience to particular commands should be refused when the command itself is sinful (Pope Leo XIII; Bellarmine), or contrary to good customs (Suarez), and they will know that obedience to general laws can be set aside in extraordinary circumstances (Epikeia, Mt. 12:1-4; St. Thomas). By holding to Tradition, they will also know that a Pope who deviates from the Faith, and even teaches heresy, can be contradicted (Innocent III; Adrian VI), without having to declare that he has ceased to be Pope (Adrian II; Paul IV). They will also know that formally separating from one’s Patriarch based upon the alleged knowledge of a crime, before the matter has been decided by a Synod, is absolutely forbidden (Fourth Council of Constantinople).
       In order to maintain the straight and narrow path during the present crisis, and prevent being tossed out of the Church to the Right or Left, we simply need to follow the teaching of St. Paul by standing fast and holding to Tradition (2Thess. 2:14) which, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, “can never be led astray by any lying novelty.” We are also reminded of the famous words of the great Dominican bishop and theologian at the Council of Trent, Melchior Cano, who said:

       “Peter has no need of our lies or flattery. Those who blindly and indiscriminately defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff are the very ones who do most to undermine the authority of the Holy See - they destroy instead of strengthening its foundations.”[18]

      As the reader can see, Kramer’s accusation that we reject the R&R position is completely and entirely false. It is simply laughable.  It is truly sad to witness a priest, who was once respected by some, publicly spiraling out of control and resorting to blatant lies in order to discredit us. He is an embarrassment to the Catholic priesthood.
       Having now been publicly exposed as a public liar on multiple counts, will Fr. Paul Kramer do what justice requires and recant his false accusations? Or will he dig his heels in even deeper, and obstinately persevere in his deceit? Take a guess. As those close to him have warned us, this priest has “way too much time on his hands.” Indeed, he does. Perhaps he should use that time to read our book. In doing so, he will realize the fool that he has made of himself by his false accusations and straw man arguments.

[1] Sanborn, “Response to Bishop Williamson, On the Subject of the Vacancy of The Roman See,” at .pdf
[2] Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. XV, p. 764.
[3] St. Augustine did not use the exact expression. The phrase is derived from the following sentence that has essentially the same meaning. “For already two councils [Carthage and Mileve] on this question have been sent to the apostolic see [Rome]; and replies [of approval] have also come from there. The cause is finished” (Sermon 131, September 23, 417 A.D).
[4] Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, No. 19, December 11, 1925.
[5] St. Francis de Sales, The True Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis de Sales (London: Richardson and Son, 1862),  p. 145 (emphasis added).
[6] ST, II-II, q. 104, a. 3.
[7] “In this sense every mean of moral virtue is a rational mean, since, as above stated, moral virtue is said to observe the mean, through conformity with right reason” (ST, I-II, q. 64 a. 2).
[8] ST, I-II q. 96, a. 4.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Pope Leo XIII, Libertas, June 20, 1888 (emphasis added).
[11] Pope Leo XIII, Diuturnam Illud, 1881 (emphasis added).
[12] Koch, Handbook of Moral Theology (London: B. Herder Book Co, 1918), p. 166 (emphasis added).
[13] ST, II-II, q. 104, a. 5.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Suarez, De Fide, (Paris: Vivès, 1958), vol. XII, p. 321.
[16] Summa De Ecclesia., pp. 47-48, cited in Newman, John Henry, A Letter addressed to His Grace, The Duke of Norfolk (London: BM Pickering, 1875), p. 52.
[17] Summa De Ecclesia., cited in Coomaraswamy, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition, p. 110.
[18] Quoted in Weigel, George, Witness to Hope (New York: Harper Collins, 1999), p. 15.