Sedevacantist Watch…

So Much For The Sedevacantist's Love Affair With Billot
(Revised 2/25/16, with more info. from the seminarian)

Cardinal Billot
       A few weeks ago, Mario Derksen of posted a most-telling reply to our feature article on the case of Nestorius. In our article, we demonstrated that Nestorius was not deposed, ipso facto, by "Divine Law" the moment he preached his heresy in 428 A.D., as Sedevacantists have claimed for years, but was instead deposed at the council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. We demonstrated this historical fact from the declaration of the council of Ephesus itself, as well as two separate quotations from St. Bellarmine stating that Nestorius was deposed by the council. Derksen completely ignored the quotations we provided, and instead appealed to a quote he recently discovered from Cardinal Billot, which says that a bishop loses his jurisdiction after he “preaches heresy openly.”

       To Derksen’s reply, we responded with a detailed, 25-page article called “A Point-by-Point Refutation of Mario Derksen on Nestorius.” In our refutation, we reveal that Derksen not only ignored the quotations that completely contradict his claim on when Nestorius lost his office (thus, admitting defeat), but that he also rejects the teaching of Cardinal Billot on universal and peaceful acceptance of a Pope (a classic case of “cherry-picking”). Our refutation also exposed Derksen’s blatant errors on canon law

regarding “notoriety of fact” (c.2197) and “tacit resignation” (c.188.4). Quite amusingly, Fr. Cekada ran to Derksen’s defense by producing a video about our analysis of Nestorius, which he released after we posted our 25-page refutation. Evidently, Cekada was not capable of responding to our refutation, however, since he made the exact same errors that Derksen did, by completely ignoring the quotations from Bellarmine and appealing instead to the quotation of their new, favorite theologian, Cardinal Billot. In fact, Cekada embarrassed himself even more than did Derksen, when he falsely claimed that we said Billot was wrong.

       As anyone can see by reading our 25-page refutation of Derksen (and Cekada), we never claimed Billot was wrong when he said a bishop loses his jurisdiction when he “preaches heresy openly.” Rather, we explained how Billot’s quotation can be easily harmonized with the teaching of the Doctors, saints and other theologians of the Church (ignored by Cekada and Derksen), who all hold that whether a prelate is “preaching heresy openly,” must be established by the Church’s judgment (as it was in the case of Nestorius at a Roman council in 430 A.D.), and not private judgment. This is also why Constantinople IV excommunicated anyone who separated from their Patriarch (e.g., the Pope) before the Church renders the judgment. We also showed how waiting upon the Church’s judgment before formally separating from heretical clerics has always been the practice of the saints (e.g., Cyril of Alexandria vis-à-vis Nestorius; Bellarmine vis-à-vis Michel de Bay ) and Popes (e.g., Blessed  Pius IX vis-à-vis Archbishop Darboy).

       After Fr. Cekada released his ridiculous video which falsely accused us of claiming Billot was wrong, we issued another very detailed response, again highlighting his lies, errors and omissions, and ended with Cekada’s complete rejection of Cardinal Billot’s teaching on peaceful and universal acceptance (more “cherry-picking”). We showed that Billot taught it is “absolutely incontrovertible” and “above any doubt whatever” that the acceptance of a Pope by the Church (hierarchy and laity) is an “infallible sign” of his legitimacy (which is clearly the case with the conciliar Popes), and that it is not even permissible “to raise doubts” about this dogmatic fact. To quote Billot again:

   “…one point must be considered absolutely incontrovertible and placed firmly above any doubt whatever: the adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff, and therefore also of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy itself….[God] cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.

      “Therefore, from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy.”[1]

       We also showed that the rejection of a dogmatic fact (e.g., the legitimacy of a Pope who has been accepted, as such, by the Church), is a mortal sin against the Faith, which, like all other mortal sins, cannot be forgiven unless it is repented of, renounced, and confessed.

       Thus, by appealing to the isolated quote from Cardinal Billot on “preaching heresy openly,” Derksen and Cekada have collectively “cut off their nose to spite their face.” Based on the above citation, it is clear that Billot would completely reject Sedevacantism. So much for Cekada and Derksen’s short lived “love affair” with Billot. But it gets worse for them. 

       In the same theological treatise (on the next page), Cardinal Billot also teaches that the only way a Pope would lose his office is through “voluntary abdication” (Billot’s renowned “Thesis 29”). He bases this teaching on Bellarmine’s theory (which many Sedevacantists accept), which maintains that a true Pope could never fall into manifest heresy in the first place. Billot says:

“…in a person elected properly and once raised to the pontificate, the power can in fact cease by voluntary abdication, but least of all by deposition, and assuredly not in whatever way you please, if, in accordance with the very grounded opinion of Bellarmine and other theologians, the case of a Pope who, through notorious heresy, ceased from being of the Church should be supposed impossible. However, whatever you may as yet think about the possibility of this hypothesis, it must at least be necessarily admitted that the peaceful adhesion of the universal Church always will be an infallible sign of the legitimacy of the person of the Pope, and so also of the existence of all conditions which are required for legitimacy itself.”[2]

      Thus, according to the Sedevacantists’ new, favorite theologian, we have infallible certitude that the conciliar Popes, who have all been universally and peacefully accepted by the Church,[3] are true Popes, and, according to Billot's position, they could lose their office by "voluntary abdication."

       To be clear, what the Cardinal is arguing is that it is not possible for a Pope to be a manifest heretic, according to the Church’s authoritative judgment. This doesn’t exclude the possibility that a Pope could make a heretical statement, but he would not truly become a manifest heretic, which would occur if he remaining hardened in heresy, after being warned by the Church.[4]  And what is certain is that none of the recent Popes – not even Francis, as bad as he is – have been manifest heretics according to the Church’s judgment. 

Sanborn Expels a Seminarian for Adhering to Cekada's Interpretation of Billot’s Teaching

Bishop Sanborn
       Guess what else we discovered? Not only do Fr. Cekada and Mario Derksen reject the teaching of Cardinal Billot – whom Cekada, in his latest video, hypocritically called “one of the most eminent theologians of the twentieth century” - but Bishop Donald Sanborn went so far as to expel a seminarian from his seminary for adhering to Billot’s anti-Sedevacantist teaching! You read that correctly.

       Now, before we continue with the story, let’s say a word about Cardinal Billot. In his screed against our feature on Nestorius, Fr. Cekada himself conceded that Billot was one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. Indeed, Billot was openly praised by high churchmen and theologians as one of the greatest modern pioneers of the Scholastic restoration. Billot helped draft Pope St. Pius X’s monumental encyclical Pascendi and served as a consultant to the Holy Office. In fact, Pope Pius XII, in an address to the students of the Gregorian, declared that Billot should be a model for all teachers of sacred doctrine. Cardinal Billot was one of the Church’s most renowned theologians of the last 100 years, because he explicated with great brilliance and lucidity the teachings of the Catholic Church.

       This is why Cardinal Billot’s theological manuals have always been an important part of traditional priestly formation. His works have a prominent place in the classrooms and libraries of all traditional Catholic seminaries, and his masterpiece Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi (from which we get his teachings on voluntary abdication and universal acceptance of a Pope) has always been a Church-approved seminary textbook for traditional Catholic instruction. In fact, our seminarian learned, a few years after his expulsion, that Billot’s Tractatus was read aloud in the refectory at lunch time! Can there be a greater indictment of Bishop Sanborn and his disgusting hypocrisy? This is just one more example of Sedevacantist’s “cherry picking.”  They praise the theologian and his teaching to the sky when they think it supports their position, and completely reject it when it does not. Let’s continue with the story.

    Back in February 2003, a seminarian at Sanborn’s Most Holy Trinity Seminary (who has requested anonymity), had a meeting with Sanborn’s seminary assistant and protégé, Joe Selway, who was a newly-ordained priest, and “coincidentally” the son of Sanborn’s principal benefactor.[5]  During the meeting several things were discussed.  1) The seminarian was told that he was not permitted to hold that there are any bishops today with jurisdiction; 2) that Fr. Cekada’s interpretation of Canon 188.4 was heretical; and 3) that he was not permitted to accept Billot’s teaching regarding the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope.  In fact, the young seminarian was told that if he did not renounce Billot’s teaching he would be expelled, since Sanborn could not “in conscience” ordain anyone who held to what Billot taught.  You read that correctly: if the young man continued to accept the teaching of Cardinal Billot, Bishop Sanborn would not ordain him.  And the dispute was not over an interpretation of Billot.  Sanborn knew exactly what he taught, but simply rejected it. And it should be noted that the teaching is not only that of Billot, but is the common teaching found in all of the pre-Vatican II manuals.  As we have explained in other articles, if one denies this teaching (which falls into the category of a dogmatic fact, and is qualified as theologically certain), they are guilty of a mortal sin against the Faith. Yet, in spite of this, Sanborn will not tolerate anyone to accept this teaching. In other words, Sanborn forces his seminarians to persevere in an objective mortal sin against the Faith, if they wish to remain at his Seminary.  This should tell you all you need to know about Sanborn, the faculty at Most Holy Trinity Seminary, and the Sedevacantist priests who Sanborn has ordained.

       Following the February meeting, Selway quickly reported the “problem” to Sanborn. A few days later, Sanborn summoned the seminarian to his office and informed him, in no uncertain terms, that he had until June of that year (2003) to change his position. Then, following another conversation with Selway in May, during which the seminarian showed no signs of rejecting the teaching of Billot, Sanborn summoned him to his office a second time and informed him that he was expelled (Sanborn wouldn’t even honor the June 2003 deadline that he himself gave the seminarian).

       What does this say about Bishop Sanborn’s intellectual honesty and integrity, not to mention the training he is giving to his seminarians at Most Holy Trinity Seminary? And what does it say about the absolutely wicked and rotten fruits of the cult of Sedevacantism? We certainly chuckled when Mario Derksen first referred to Cardinal Billot as an authority for the Sedevacantist position. And our chuckles continued when Fr. Cekada parroted Derksen by appealing to Cardinal Billot to defend Sedevacantism in his latest video. But our chuckles ceased when we learned about what Bishop Sanborn did to this seminarian - the brutal, psychological suffering that this wolf in sheep’s clothing inflicted upon this seminarian, and how he robbed this man of his vocation to the priesthood. Indeed, blood is on the hands of Bishop Donald Sanborn.

       We publicly challenge Fr. Cekada, Bp. Sanborn and Mario Derksen to prove that Cardinal Billot’s teachings on the universal acceptance of a Pope is erroneous. If they cannot do so, then they should shut their mouths about how Cardinal Billot allegedly supports their anti-Catholic thesis. But don’t count on it, dear reader. If these Sedevacantists cannot see the blatant errors and utter hypocrisy of their own position, then we are truly dealing with a case of the blind leading the blind, who will all fall into the pit (cf. Mt 15:14). 

[1] Louis Billot, S.J., Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. (Prati: ex officina libraria Giachetti, 1909), pp. 620-621.
[2] Ibid., p. 622. (“…pontificias potestas cessare quidem potest per voluntariam abdicationem…”
[3] As we state in our book True or False Pope?, the conditions for “universal and peaceful acceptance” may be lacking in the case of Pope Francis, given the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s abdication and the alleged conspiracy to get Bergoglio elected.
[4] The eminent eighteenth century Italian theologian, Fr. Pietro Ballerini, who subscribed to Bellarmine’s Fifth Opinion, discussed how the Pope would become a manifest heretic according to the Church’s judgment.  He wrote:
        “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…”(De Potestate Ecclesiastica, (Monasterii Westphalorum, Deiters, 1847) ch. 6, sec. 2, pp. 124- 125 (emphasis added).
[5] This story was reported by Pistrina Liturgica on February 6, 2011 in an article called “An Inclination to Injustice.”  See /2011/02/inclin ation-to-injustice.html.