Sedevacantist Watch…

Cracking His Nutty Arguments about
St. Robert Bellarmine One at a Time

       A Sedevacantist internet blogger named Steve Speray has a website which he calls “Speray’s Catholicism in a Nutshell.” Speray uses his website to ridicule and condemn true Catholics who reject the error of Sedevacantism, as they recognize and resist the errors of the conciliar Popes. Mr. Speray even has separate tabs on his homepage identifying the Catholic writers he targets (e.g., “Against John Salza”; Against Christopher Ferrara”; etc.) which link to his internet writings. Mr. Speray should consider renaming his website “Speray’s Catholicism in a Nut House” because one has to be looney tunes to advance the types of arguments that he does, which he claims are an “Apologia for Sedevacantism and Catholic Doctrine.”
       In his latest piece, called “St. Robert Bellarmine and John of St. Thomas versus John Salza and Robert Siscoe,” Speray claims that Bellarmine did not require two ecclesiastical warnings to establish a Pope’s pertinacity (and loss of office). He also argues that John of St. Thomas criticizes Bellarmine for rejecting the need for the two warnings. In fact, Speray ups the ante by even claiming that “Bellarmine’s position requires private judgment.” You read that correctly. Steve Speray claims that St. Robert Bellarmine requires (!) Catholics to individually judge (and decide for themselves) whether or not the Pope, who has been elected by the Church, is the true Vicar of Christ, even if their judgment is contrary to the public judgment of the Church.  Speray holds this position even though the Church herself explicitly condemned such an act of private judgment at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (which was affirmed by Pope Benedict XV in Ex Quo). We were not exaggerating when we called Speray’s work “Catholicism in a Nut House.” Let’s refute Mr. Speray’s nutty arguments by cracking them one at a time.

Bellarmine Requires Private Judgment?  = Nut No. 1

       There is a simple way to crack Speray’s nutty argument that Bellarmine actually requires Catholics to individually judge who is a true Pope (or bishop or priest), and that is to ask Mr. Speray to produce the alleged statement from Bellarmine. Of course, Speray does not and cannot produce the statement, since no such statement from Bellarmine or any other Catholic Doctor, saint, or Pope exists (although we are sure Speray could find similar statements from Luther, Calvin or Zwingli, who also advocated the supremacy of private judgment over the Church’s judgment).
      To the complete contrary, St. Bellarmine rejected Speray’s theory of deposition of bishops by private judgment, and we can produce a quotation from the Doctor of the Church to back up this most obvious assertion. In his treatise De Membris Ecclesiae, Bellarmine reiterates traditional Catholic teaching that heretical bishops can only be deposed by the proper ecclesiastical authorities – that is, by a council, or by the Pope – and not declared deposed by the private judgment of individual Catholics:

       “We must point out, besides, that the faithful can certainly distinguish a true prophet from a false one, by the rule that we have laid down, but for all that, if the pastor is a bishop, they cannot depose him and put another in his place. For Our Lord and the Apostles only lay down that false prophets are not to be listened to by the people, and not that they depose them. And it is certain that the practice of the Church has always been that heretical bishops be deposed by bishop’s councils, or by the Sovereign Pontiff.”[1]  

       Further, in Bellarmine’s treatise De Romano Pontifice - the very work that Speray cites for his position - we find Bellarmine’s commentary on the deposition of Nestorius, and how he was deposed by the Church in 431 A.D., even though Nestorius began publicly preaching heresy several years earlier, and was considered by many to be a heretic at that time (Speray claims that Nestorius was deposed, ipso facto, the moment he began teaching heresy – as we showed in our recent article). Bellarmine wrote:

       “No bishop can be shown to have either been deposed or excommunicated by the people, although many are found who were deposed and excommunicated by the Supreme Pontiffs and general Councils. Certainly, Nestorius was deposed from the episcopacy of Constantinople by the Council of Ephesus [A.D. 431], from the mandate of Pope Celestine, as Evagrius witnessed.”[2]

       Here we see the true thinking of St. Bellarmine regarding the loss of office for a heretical bishop. He explains that a heretical bishops can be spotted by the faithful (who should not listen to him), but they “cannot depose him,” or, what amounts to the same thing, “declare” him deposed due to “manifest heresy” by their private judgment. Thus, contrary to Steve Speray’s delusional assertions, Bellarmine, far from requiring Catholics to declare bishops depose by their by private judgment, actually condemns such a practice, and affirms that such a judgment must be made by the Church.

Bellarmine Didn’t Require Warnings?  = Nut No. 2

       Having established that St. Bellarmine actually rejected Speray’s theory of deposition by private judgment of the individual Catholic, one can already logically deduce that Bellarmine required the public judgment of the Church instead. Indeed he did, and he based his opinion upon St. Paul’s letter to Titus, chapter 3, verse 10, where St. Paul tells his fellow bishop to avoid the heretic after two authoritative warnings. This teaching of St. Paul to Titus is an application of Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18:17 to “hear the Church,” when the offender has been accused of heresy. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on heresy explains: 

       “Heresy, being a deadly poison generated within the organism of the Church, must be ejected if she is to live and perform her task of continuing Christ's work of salvation. … St. Paul writes to Titus: ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment’ (Titus 3:10-11). This early piece of legislation reproduces the still earlier teaching of Christ, ‘And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and the publican’ (Matthew 18:17); it also inspires all subsequent anti-heretical legislation. The sentence on the obstinate heretic is invariably excommunication.”[3]

       We see that the necessity of a warning, to establish obstinacy, is an application of the very words of Christ – “if he refuses to hear the Church” (Mt. 18:17), as applied to the case of heresy. And because the legislation itself – the application of Christ’s own words – is contained in Scripture, it too is a part of the same Divine law. This also explains why every treatise that deals with the loss of office for a heretical Pope cites to St. Paul’s teaching in his epistle to Titus.
       In his response to the “Fourth Opinion” (that of Cajetan), Bellarmine quotes St. Paul’s teaching to Titus as the authority for opinion that a manifest heretic loses his office, ipso facto, and, in so doing, he shows that a “manifest heretic,” is one who shows himself obstinate (pertinacious) by remaining hardened in heresy following a twofold warning. In other words, he becomes a manifest heretic by refusing to “hear the Church.” He wrote:

       “For, in the first place, it is proven with arguments from authority and from reason that the manifest heretic is ipso facto deposed. The argument from authority is based on Saint Paul (Titus, 3:10), who orders that the heretic be avoided after two warnings, that is, after showing himself to be manifestly obstinate…”[4]

       Bellarmine explains that one who remains in heresy “after two warnings” thereby shows himself to be “manifestly obstinate,” and, consequently, can be considered a “manifest heretic.” It is clear that this proof of obstinacy (pertinacity) is established by virtue of the “two warnings” (refusing to “hear the Church”) which is the Scriptural authority upon which Bellarmine relies. Bellarmine’s logical chain of thought is thus: one professes material heresy → is warned twice that his position is heretical → perseveres in his heresy, showing himself to be manifestly obstinate → must be avoided as a manifest heretic (and thus cannot hold office in the Church).
       The eminent eighteenth century Italian theologian, Fr. Pietro Ballerini, who subscribed to Bellarmine’s famous Fifth Opinion, discussed how the warnings would serve to demonstrate pertinacity in the case of a sitting Pope who publicly professed heresy. In the following quotation, Fr. Ballerini begins by responding to the question of who would be responsible for warning a Pope who publicly professed heresy, and then explains the effects that such a warning would produce:

       “Is it not true that, confronted with such a danger to the faith [a Pope teaching heresy], any subject can, by fraternal correction, warn their superior, resist him to his face, refute him and, if necessary, summon him and press him to repent? The Cardinals, who are his counselors, can do this; or the Roman Clergy, or the Roman Synod, if, being met, they judge this opportune. For any person, even a private person, the words of Saint Paul to Titus hold: ‘Avoid the heretic, after a first and second correction, knowing that such a man is perverted and sins, since he is condemned by his own judgment’ (Tit. 3, 10-11). For the person, who, admonished once or twice, does not repent, but continues pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or defined dogma - not being able, on account of this public pertinacity to be excused, by any means, of heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity - this person declares himself openly a heretic. He reveals that by his own will he has turned away from the Catholic Faith and the Church, in such a way that now no declaration or sentence of anyone whatsoever is necessary to cut him from the body of the Church. Therefore the Pontiff who after such a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod, would remain himself hardened in heresy and openly turn himself away from the Church, would have to be avoided, according to the precept of Saint Paul. So that he might not cause damage to the rest, he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed, so that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him. Thus, the sentence which he had pronounced against himself would be made known to all the Church, making clear that by his own will he had turned away and separated himself from the body of the Church, and that in a certain way he had abdicated the Pontificate…”[5]

       Here we see an adherent of Bellarmine’s own teaching, regarding the loss of office for a heretical Pope, explain that pertinacity becomes public (manifest) when the accused remains hardened in heresy - but only following the twofold warning from ecclesiastical authority (“Cardinals,” “Roman Clergy” or “Synod”), based on Titus 3:10. Fr. Ballerini was simply explicating the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, who confirmed that the Church issues the two-fold warning, before the Church (not individual Catholics) judges a cleric to be obstinate in his heresy.

       “On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but ‘after the first and second admonition,’ as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death.”[6]  

        In claiming that Bellarmine didn’t require ecclesiastical warnings, Speray refers to a prior internet piece he wrote called “Definitive Proof that St. Robert Bellarmine Supports the Sedevacantist Position.” That “definitive proof” happens to be a half a page on his website consisting of nine sentences and a single quote from Bellarmine which has nothing to do with Titus 3:10, warnings, or a Pope losing his office!
       Instead, Speray refers to a partial quotation from Bellarmine regarding Pope Liberius:

   “For although Liberius was not a heretic, nevertheless he was considered one, on account of the peace he made with the Arians, and by that presumption the pontificate could rightly be taken from him: for men are not bound or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple, and condemn him as a heretic.” (On the Roman Pontiff, 29).[7]

       Speray then concludes: “If two warnings are necessary to prove obstinacy and thus a manifest heretic is made, why would he say that a pope doesn’t even have to be a heretic at all, but only appear as one to lose his office? The reason is that St. Robert Bellarmine never said or implied that two warnings were necessary.” Yes, Speray actually argues that a Pope loses his office automatically if he simply appears to be a heretic.  He argues that this takes place not upon the judgment of the Church, but according to the private judgment of individual Catholics, and he attributes such an absurdity to a saint and Doctor of the Church. Let’s further unravel this mess.
       First, as we have already seen, Bellarmine explicitly referred to the teaching of St. Paul who said heretics are to be avoided “after two warnings” as the basis (under Divine law) for the loss of office. Second, the circumstances in the case of Liberius were entirely different. Liberius had been banished into exile by the Emperor Constantius and thus the papacy was in a state of sede impedita (the inability of the Pope to function as Pope). Liberius was not available to answer any charges of heresy.  Furthermore, when the papacy was in the state of sede impedita, during the persecutions of the early Church, it was equivalent to a resignation.  When this occurred, the Church could wait for the Pope’s return (which may never happen) or simply declare him deprived of his office and elect a new Pope.[8] Due to these circumstances, there was no need for any ecclesiastical procedure to establish heresy.
       Third, the election of Felix was extremely controversial at the time (he was not accepted by the faithful), and Felix is now considered an antipope. When Bellarmine wrote De Romano Pontifice, he was under the mistaken understanding (a common error at the time) that St. Felix was the same “Felix” who was elected to replace Liberius.  In reality, they are two completely different individuals,[9] which only goes to show why it is a mistake to treat the statement of an individual theologian, even a saint and Doctor of the Church, as if it were infallible. Bellarmine defended the controversial election of Felix based on an historical error, since he thought that Felix was recognized as having been a true Pope and saint by the Church. Had he known that Felix was an antipope, he would not have defended his “election.”
       Fourth, Speray conveniently left out two sentences of Bellarmine which immediately precede the rest of his quotation above. They are:

       “Then indeed the Roman clergy, stripping Liberius of his pontifical dignity, went over to Felix, whom they knew to be a Catholic. From that time, Felix began to be the true Pontiff.”

       As we can see (and as Speray didn’t want you to see), the actions were taken by the authorities in Rome (“the Roman clergy”), not by the private judgment of individual Catholics. Hence, Bellarmine’s account of Liberius being replaced by Felix confirms what the Doctor wrote in De Membris Ecclesiae, namely, that bishops are only to be deposed (or, in this case, replaced due to the state of sede impedita) by the proper authorities, and not by the faithful. But yes, the Bellarmine quotation does provide us “definitive proof” of something, and that is that Steve Speray has no idea what he is talking about.

John of St. Thomas Says Bellarmine
Rejected Warnings? = Nut No. 3

       In his next nutty argument, Speray refers to an article written by Robert Siscoe which reveals that Bellarmine and Suarez both held that a heretical Pope must be judged incorrigible by the Church (after ecclesiastical warnings) before he would lose his office, which was also affirmed by John of St. Thomas. Then Speray contradicts the evidence that the article provides by claiming the following: “What Siscoe doesn’t tell his readers is that John of St. Thomas criticizes Bellarmine for rejecting the need for two warnings. That’s right, the very person Siscoe (and Salza) uses as the primary source against sedevacantists, supports sedevacantists on Bellarmine.” Following is the quotation Speray provides from John of St. Thomas:
       “Bellarmine objected that the Apostle [St Paul] says that we must avoid the heretic after two admonitions, that is to say, after he clearly appears pertinacious, before any excommunication and sentence of a judge, as St. Jerome says in his commentary, for heretics separate themselves by the heresy itself (per se) from the Body of Christ.
“And here is his reasoning:
• “A non-Christian cannot be Pope, for he who is not a member [of the Church] cannot be the head; now, a heretic is not a Christian, as commonly say the Fathers; thus, a manifest heretic cannot be Pope….
“I answer [to Bellarmine] that the heretic should be avoided after two admonitions legally made and with the Church’s authority, and not according to private judgment.[10]

       John of St. Thomas went on to add:

       “Let no one say that a Pope, whose manifestly heretical acts have not been declared by the Church, is to be avoided.  For the manifest heresy of a Pope cannot be made known to all without the testimony of others; but such testimony, if is not made juridically, does not oblige, and consequently no one would be obligated to avoid him.” 

       First, it is clear that John of St. Thomas is agreeing (not disagreeing!) with St. Bellarmine who taught that a heretic must be avoided “after two admonitions.” John then points out what should be obvious, namely that the admonitions must be “legally made and with the Church’s authority, and not according to private judgment,” which is no great revelation, since this is precisely how Church law operates in the case of a heretical prelate. When a prelate is suspected of heresy, the Church issues two legal warnings, informs the person of their error, and gives them a chance to amend.  This has always been the practice of the Church.
       In a 1909 article published in The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Fr. Maurice Hassett confirmed that the admonitions spoken of by St. Paul must come from the proper ecclesiastical authorities:

       “From the earliest Christian times heresy was universally regarded as the most heinous of sins. The heretic, St. Paul instructs Titus, shall be admonished a first and a second time of the grave character of his offense; if he will not heed, he must be avoided by Christians as a man in evident bad faith, who stands self-condemned - Titus 3:10. (…) Heretics were consequently cut off from all association with the faithful, who must hold no relations with them so long as they obstinately refuse to heed the official remonstrances of the Church authorities.”[11]

       It is not necessary to guess what St. Bellarmine meant when he spoke of avoiding heretics, “after two warnings,” while explicitly referencing Titus 3:10, since all that is required is to look to the constant teaching and practice of the Church.
       The difference between the opinion of John of St. Thomas/Cajetan, and that of Bellarmine, is that the former said the Church would actually “depose”[12] the Pope, in addition to warning him and establishing the crime (i.e., manifest heresy). Although John of St. Thomas disagreed with Bellarmine and Suarez on precisely how a heretical Pope loses his office (ipso facto vs. by deposition), the disagreement was not over whether the Church would first have to establish the crime. John of St. Thomas explicitly stated that Bellarmine and Suarez both agreed that the Church itself would have to establish the crime before the loss of office would occur (which means he was not disagreeing with them regarding this point). He wrote:

       “Bellarmine and Suarez, however, believe that the Pope, by the very fact that he is a manifest heretic and has been declared incorrigible, is deposed immediately by Christ the Lord, and not by any authority of the Church.”[13]

       This disagreement between the two opinions (the Fourth and the Fifth), concerns whether a heretical Pope is deposed immediately by Christ after the Church establishes the crime, or if the Church also has to “depose” him after it establishes the crime. But both opinions agree that he would have to first be formally warned by Church authorities to establish pertinacity.  Again, this is the common teaching and practice of the Church. In fact, the Sedevacantist bishop, Donald Sanborn, concedes this very point, which is why he considers all of the post-Vatican II Popes to be “legal occupants” of the papal office, or, as some would say, “material Popes.” Sanborn explains:

“…despite his public heresy, it was still necessary that Nestorius undergo warnings by the Pope ...  The case is strikingly close to our own. …we do not have the authority to declare the sees legally vacant which these heretical ‘popes’ or ‘bishops’ possess de facto. Only the authority of the Church can do that. … This balance of Catholic outrage against the teaching of heresy, on the one hand, and of Catholic respect for the processes of law, on the other, is the basis of Bishop Guérard des Lauriers’ Thesis [of a material/formal Pope]. … until their designation to possess the authority is legally declared null and void by competent authority, the heretical ‘pope’ or ‘bishop’ is in a state of legal possession of the see … He can only lose that state of legal possession by legal deposition.”[14]

       We can see that Bishop Sanborn is well aware of the laws of the Church (which require two warnings), and at least tries to square his position with them (we will be addressing Bishop Sanborn’s error in an up-coming feature article). Steve Speray, on the other hand, imagines that he does possess the authority to declare the papal throne vacant, even though no theologian has ever taught that a sitting Pope can be declared to have lost his office by private judgment.  On the contrary, as Bishop Sanborn concedes, and as the Hervé teaches, only the Church has the authority to declare the papal see vacant:

       “Given that, as a private person, the Pontiff could indeed become a public, notorious, and obstinate hereticonly a Council would have the right to declare his see vacant so that the usual electors could safely proceed to an election” (Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae, Hervé, 1943).
       What should be evident by now is that, contrary to Steve Speray’s nutty contention, John of St. Thomas and Bellarmine did not disagree on the question of Church authority establishing pertinacity by the double admonition spoken of by St. Paul (again, Bellarmine quoted St. Paul directly); and neither of the two saints would consider it licit for a laymen in the pew to declare the papal see vacant on his own authority, while the Church continued to recognize him as Pope.

Judgment by Usurpation

       Rendering a public judgment that one has no authority to make is an unjust act known as “judgment by usurpation.” St. Thomas explains:

“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’.” [15]

       As we see, judgment by usurpation is an unjust act. St. Thomas explains that unjust as are, by their genus, a mortal sin.  He wrote:

       “Whatever is contrary to the law of God is a mortal sin. Now whoever does an injustice does that which is contrary to the law of God… Therefore whoever does an injustice sins mortally.  … since injustice always consists in an injury inflicted on another person, it is evident that to do an injustice is a mortal sin according to its genus.”[16]

       Now, in the section of the Summa in which he discusses acts of injustice, St. Thomas makes a distinction between private judgments that are manifest externally (e.g., declaring the Pope a heretic) and private judgments that remain internally (e.g., merely thinking the Pope is a heretic). It is only the former – that is, public judgments, as in those made by Sedevacantists - which constitute a mortal sin.[17]        
       As we can see, publicly declaring that the Pope is not the Pope, based upon one’s private judgment, is no small error. It is instead an objective mortal sin, which, like all mortal sins, cannot be forgiven unless there is repentance and amendment of life.  
       Clearly, Bellarmine would never have taught that private individuals are “required” to declare that a man elected Pope by the Church, and recognized as being Pope by the Church, has lost his office for heresy. The assertion that the Doctor of the Church held this opinion is not only nutty, but utterly absurd.

Wernz/Vidal Require Private Judgment? = Nut No. 4

       Speray’s next nutty argument and proof that he is completely out to sea on these issues is his treatment of Wernz/Vidal. In response to Siscoe’s reference to their teaching that a declaratory sentence “does not have the effect of judging a Pope, but demonstrating he has already been judged,” Speray imagines that, by this quotation, Wernz and Vidal really mean individual Catholics are the ones who determine if the Pope is “already judged,” rather than the authorities of the Church.  As we have already seen, a public judgment can only be rendered by public authority, while those who make a public judgment they have no authority to render are guilty of a mortal sin. Hence, it should be evident that it is the Church who establishes the crime of heresy – and thereby shows that the Pope is “already judged” (by God) - not individual Catholics in the pew, as Speray imagines.

Pope Innocent III Requires Private Judgment? = Nut No. 5

       Finally, Mr. Speray repeats the same nutty argument that Catholics are required to declare Popes deposed, by private judgment, this time by quoting Pope Innocent III, who said:
       “The pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honour and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory, because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy, because he who does not believe is already judged. In such a case it should be said of him: ‘If salt should lose its savour, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.’”
       Speray then gives us his interpretation:

       “Notice that he [Pope Innocent] qualifies his statement by saying ‘or rather, can be shown to be already judged.’ A pope who is already judged is not pope, that’s why he can be judged.”

       First, if Speray is going to argue that a Pope cannot be judged by the Church in the case of heresy, then he is in direct disagreement with very Pope he is quoting (Pope Innocent), who, in a different sermon, explicitly states that if he were to fall into heresy, he “could be judged by the Church.” He wrote: 

       “For me the faith is so necessary that, whereas for other sins my only judge is God, for the slightest sin committed in the matter of the faith I could be judged by the Church.”[18]

       So notice, in the first quote the Pope says he can be “judged by men,” if he should fall into heresy, and in the second quote he clarifies it by saying he can be judged “by the Church.” Consequently, the men who the Pope said can judge him, is a reference to the ecclesiastical authorities of the Church, not individual Catholics in the pew.
       The famous canon, Si Papa, also teaches that in the case of heresy, a Pope can be judged:

       “Let no mortal man presume to accuse the Pope of fault, 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.”[19]

       Bellarmine himself taught the same, and cited the above two quotations as his authority. In his response to the Third Opinion (i.e., that a heretical Pope cannot be deposed), Bellarmine objected by saying:

       “Firstly, because, that a heretical Pope can be judged is expressly held in the Canon, Si Papa, dist. 40, and with Innocent. (Serm. II de Consec. Pontif.) … heresy, the only reason where it is lawful for inferiors to judge superiors.[20] 

       The foregoing is yet another quote from Bellarmine that directly undermines the Sedevacantist interpretation of this great saint and Doctor. If a heretical Pope had already lost his office for heresy (before he was judged by the Church), the Church would not be judging a Pope; they would be judging a non-Pope.
       Second, the term “already judged” (i.e., judged by God) does not mean “already deposed” (by God). A heretic is judged by God the moment he internally denies an article of Faith; but a Pope who internally denies an article of Faith is not, for that reason alone, immediately deposed by God. Bellermine himself acknowledged this when, quoting the authority of Melchior Cano, he said “the Pope who is an occult heretic is still Pope. This is also the opinion of the other authors whom we cite in book I of De Ecclesia.”[21]
       An occult heretic has already been judged by God (and has lost the faith), but that does not mean he has already lost his office. Hence, being “already judged” (for heresy) and being “deposed” (for heresy) are two different things, and the former does not cause, or in any way imply, the latter.  Until the fact of heresy has been established by the Church in the external forum, the Pope retains his office. This was confirmed by the renounced canonist, Fr. Paul Laymann, who wrote:

       “It is more probable that the Supreme Pontiff, as concerns his own person, could fall into heresy, even a notorious one, by reason of which he would deserve to be deposed by the Church, or rather declared to be separated from her. … if such a thing should seem to have happened, it would pertain to the other bishops to examine and give a judgment on the matter; as one can see in the Sixth Synod, Act 13; the Seventh Synod, last Act; the eight Synod, Act 7 in the epistle of [Pope] Hadrian; and in the fifth Roman Council under Pope Symmachus: ‘By many of those who came before us it was declared and ratified in Synod, that the sheep should not reprehend their Pastor, unless they presume that he has departed from the Faith’. And in Si Papa d. 40, it is reported from Archbishop Boniface: ‘He who is to judge all men is to be judged by none, unless he be found by chance to be deviating from the Faith’. And Bellarmine himself, book 2, ch. 30, writes: ‘We cannot deny that [Pope] Hadrian with the Roman Council, and the entire 8th General Synod was of the belief that, in the case of heresy, the Roman Pontiff could be judged. … still, while he was tolerated by the Church [i.e., not yet judged by the Church], and publicly recognized as the universal pastor, he would really enjoy the pontifical power, in such a way that all his decrees would have no less force and authority than they would if he were truly faithful. The reason is: because it is conducive to the governing of the Church, even as, in any other well-constituted commonwealth, that the acts of a public magistrate are in force as long as he remains in office and is publicly tolerated.”[22]

       If a Pope could lose his office for falling into heresy, while he was still recognized as Pope by the Church, we would never know which of the 266 Popes have been true Popes and which had fallen into heresy – possibly only for a short time – and secretly lost their office. Hence, we would have no way of knowing which councils had been approved by a true Pope, and which had been approved by a false Pope who the Church only thought was a true Pope. This is why Christ himself will not depose a Pope for heresy “while he [is] tolerated by the Church, and publicly recognized as the universal pastor.” A Pope will remain Pope unless and until the Church formally determines the crime at a council. John of St. Thomas explained that this has always been the case:

       “The practice in the Church has always been that it the case of the deposition of the pope, the matter itself has been treated beforehand by a general council before he was considered a non-pope.[23]

       As we saw earlier, only the Church possesses the authority to render a public judgment to establish the fact of the crime of heresy, and “only a Council would have the right to declare his see vacant.”[24]  As we also saw, those individual Catholics who make such public judgments/declarations on their own authority, not only rejected the constant teaching and practice of the Church, but are also guilty of a mortal sin. And that cracks the last nut of Steve Speray’s nutty Catholicism. What all this shows is that Steve Speray should either rename his apostolate “Speray’s Catholicism in a Nut House,” or better yet, shut it down completely.

[1] De Membris Ecclesiae, bk. I, De Clerics, ch. 7 (Opera Omnia; Paris: Vivès, 1870), pp. 428-429 (emphasis added).
[2] Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, bk. 1, ch 6.
[3] Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. VII (article on heresy), p. 260.
[4] De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch. 30.                    
[5] De Potestate Ecclesiastica, (Monasterii Westphalorum, Deiters, 1847) ch. 6, sec. 2, pp. 124-125 (emphasis added).
[6] ST, II-II, q. 11, a. 3, sed contra.
[7] Speray’s poor scholarship is further displayed by his citation to Bellarmine’s De Romano Pontifice, book 2, chapter 29, when Bellarmine’s quote actually comes from an entirely different book (book 4, chapter 9).
[8] For more on this see our book, True or False Pope?, pp. 362-365.
[9] See, True or False Pope?, p. 636, footnote No. 75.
[11] Hassett, “Church and State in the Fourth Century,” published in The American Catholic
Quarterly Review, vol. 34, January - October, 1909, pp. 301-302.
[12] By saying “depose” is meant a ministerial part in the deposition itself, but not an authoritative part. This is explained in great detail in chapter 11 of True or False Pope?
[13] Cursus Theologici (Theological Courses), II-II, De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disputatio, Disp. II, Art. III, De Depositione Papae, p. 138. Bellarmine and Suarez held that once the Church establishes the crime of heresy, Christ would depose the Pope ipso facto (by that very fact, established by the Church). Cajetan and John of St. Thomas maintained that the Church, after establishing the fact of the crime, would also have to separate from the Pope by declaring him to be avoided (“vitandus”) before Christ would depose the Pope. It is a subtle distinction that no Sedevacantist has ever publicly addressed.
[14] Sanborn, “An Emperor We Have, But No Bishop,” http://www.mostholytrinitysemin
[15] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 2
[16] ST, II-II, q. 59, a. 4
[17] ST, II-II, q. 60, a. 3, ad 3.
[18] Serm. Consecrat. Pontif. Rom., P. L. CCXVII, col. 656.
[19] Decree of Gratian I, dist. 40, ch. 6.
[20] De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2 ch. 30, translation by Ryan Grant (emphasis added).
[21] De Romano Pontifice, bk 2, ch 30.
[22] Laymann, Theol. Mor., bk. 2, tract 1, ch. 7, p. 153 (emphasis added).
[23] Cursus Theologici II-II, De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis.
[24] Hervé , Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae, Hervé, 1943.