Part 3 -------The Incredible Expanding Heresy
Part 2 of this series on the errors of sedevacantism demonstrated that the "manifest heresies" of which the sedevacantist Enterprise accuses every Pope since John XXIII are not manifest at all, but rather depend upon tendentious interpretations by sedevacantist accusers unjustly acting as the judges of their own cause. I concluded Part 2 with a discussion of John Paul II's alleged "manifest heresy" in his address to group of Jews in Mainz, Germany on November 17, 1980, wherein the Pope said: "The first dimension of this dialogue that is, the meeting between the people of God of the Old Covenant ["Old Testament" in the Vatican's Italian translation 51], never revoked by God [cf. Rom. 11:29], and that of the New Covenant, is at the same time a dialogue within our Church, that is to say, between the first and the second part of her Bible."
In my discussion of this allegedly "manifest" heresy, I showed that as a reference to the enduring validity of the Old Testament as part the Catholic Bible, or to the fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham (the Abrahamic covenant never having been revoked but rather brought to completion in Christ), the Pope's statement is not heretical, much less manifestly so. Nor, I showed, did the Pope in context say (contrary to the Council of Florence) that the Mosaic religion and ritual have never been revoked. On the contrary, the new Catechism (quoting St. Thomas) makes it clear the Old Law, of which it speaks in the past tense, conferred no grace, and that grace and supernatural charity are to be obtained only in virtue of the New Covenant in Christ. Thus, the Pope never went as far as Cardinal Kasper, who declares that Judaism as such "remains salvific" for the Jews. That the late Pope allowed the false impression to arise that the Old Covenant (the Mosaic religion) has never been revoked does not mean that he was personally guilty of the mortal sin of denying a dogma of the Faith, which is the only issue relevant to the sedevacantist claim of loss of the papal office.
By way of clarification, however, another aspect of this matter needs to be considered: Did the Pope's statement mean that Israel of the flesh, the Jewish people as a race, still have an election as the chosen people of God? If it does, then the statement would contradict the teaching of the Magisterium that the New Israel, the new elect people, is the Catholic Church. As even Vatican II declares: "Thus the apostles were the first budding-forth of the New Israel (Ad Gentes 1, 5)." Accordingly, a mere thirty-seven years before Vatican II, Pius XI directed the entire Church to pray publicly the following prayer for the Jews on the Feast of Christ the King: "Turn Thine eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Thy chosen people. Of old, they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior, may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and life." 52
But the Pope's 1980 statement, which refers ambiguously to "the meeting between present-day Christian Churches and the present-day people of the Covenant concluded with Moses," does not permit a definite answer to this question, for that phrase, standing alone, does not state that "the covenant concluded with Moses" remains in effect, although it suggests this. On the other hand, it is not heretical to speak of the present-day people of the covenant concluded with Moses in the sense that this present-day people is descended from the people of that superseded covenant. Of these people St. Paul himself said in Romans 11:29: "According to the gospel indeed they are enemies (St. Paul's emphasis) for your sake: but according to election they are most dear for the sake of the fathers." As the wholly traditional Haydock commentary to the Douay-Rheims Bible explains this puzzling verse: "That is, enemies both to you, because they see the gospel preached and received by you, and enemies to God, because He has rejected them at present for their willful blindness; yet according to election, God having once made them His elect, and because of their forefathers, the patriarchs [especially Abraham], they are most dear for the sake of the fathers
. . . " In other words, the Jews remain dear to God in virtue of the former election, whose termination is not God's fault but theirs. They can rejoin the elect, the New Israel, by converting to Christ and entering His Church.
Thus, the Pope cannot be held to have stated clearly and unequivocally, as have some present-day "Hebrew Catholic" commentators, that there is a still-operative corporate election of the Jewish race by God. Here we see the difficulty-----nay, the impossibility-----of convicting popes of "manifest heresy" based on isolated ambiguous
statements to small groups rather than binding pronouncements to the universal Church.
A Curious Definition of "Manifest"
Perhaps recognizing that there is a grave problem with the claim that one can find "manifest heresy" in ambiguous papal statements, Fr. Cekada, citing no real authority, feathers his own nest by arguing that I have it all wrong concerning what is meant by "manifest." The term "manifest," he says, does not refer "to what truths a heretic denies (Trinity, transubstantiation, etc.), but rather to how openly he denies them."
Thus, according to Fr. Cekada, it seems there is no need to show that the heretical content of a papal statement is manifest, but only that the statement was made openly. Thus, we could have five successive "manifestly" heretical popes whose heresies are, well, not manifest. But then, who detects the heresies in the "manifest" statements whose heretical content is not manifest? In a rather convenient arrangement, Fr. Cekada and the sedevacantist Enterprise do.
On this point, however, Fr. Cekada contradicts another leading sedevacantist, who declares that one of the "pitfalls" in looking for heresy in papal pronouncements is
. . . Giving the name "heresy" to an error which is opposed to a doctrine to be believed with Divine and Catholic faith, where the opposition is not direct and manifest but depends on several steps of reasoning: in such cases the qualification "heresy" is not applicable before a definitive judgment on the part of the Church
. . . 53
According to this sedevacantist, not just the expression of the heresy, but also its heretical content must be manifest. Perhaps the sedevacantist Enterprise should have a convention to produce a lexicon in which its warring members could at least reach agreement on their most basic terminology.
Here Fr. Cekada appears to conflate the requirement that a heresy be "notorious" 54-----i.e. openly expressed and known to the Church, as opposed to a heresy harbored secretly-----with the requirement that it also be clear heresy. The only reasonable rendering of "manifest" in this context is one that denotes both notoriousness and clarity.
Otherwise, amateur heresy hunters throughout the Church could claim to detect heresy in every ambiguous public statement of a pope and declare that the Pope had lost his office-----which, in fact, is precisely what the Enterprise does. Thus, in his own debate with Fr. Cekada, the theologian Fr. Brian Harrison rightly pointed out that in addition to being open (notorious) the alleged "manifest" heresy must "clearly and directly contradict a truth of 'Divine and Catholic faith,' i.e., a dogma." 55 Again, Fr. Cekada's own fellow sedevacantist agrees with this principle, as shown above. And how could it otherwise, as the judgments of isolated members of the Church that ambiguous statements are "heresy" mean nothing.
This fuller understanding of the word "manifest" accords with the usage of St. Robert Bellarmine in his observation that "A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church." 56 Bellarmine used the Latin word "manifestum" (papam haereticum manifestum), which denotes not merely "open" or "public," but "plainly guilty," "plainly apprehensible by the mind, evident, obvious," "revealed by clear signs, unmistakable, undoubted." 57 Hence we shall use the term "manifest heresy" in the same sense that even Fr. Cekada's fellow sedevacantist recognizes concerning the canonical crime of heresy and consequent automatic loss of office: that is, a heresy that is manifest both in terms of its openness and its heretical content.
Therefore, even if all five accused Popes could be shown to have been guilty of one or more erroneous propositions, captious propositions, propositions savoring of or proximate to heresy, badly expressed propositions, scandalous propositions, or even "heresy" in the broad, non-canonical sense involving non-defined doctrines (such as the doctrine denied by John XXII), the sedevacantist case would still fail-----as indeed it does. But I maintain that, for all their striving, a number of captious or badly expressed propositions are all the sedevacantists have been able to produce in their endless cataloguing of "manifest" papal heresy.
As if to provide a fall-back argument in case of failure to show indubitable papal heresy in statements by the last five popes, Fr. Cekada argues in his reply to my CNF/FC series that a Pope can be deemed a "manifest" heretic by isolated members of the Church based on papal acts or omissions, as well as statements.
In answer to my point that Pope John Paul II's scandalous kissing of the Koran did not amount to the pertinacious denial of any Catholic dogma (for all we know it was a foolishly impetuous gesture of the moment), Fr. Cekada writes: "Oh really? Canonists and theologians teach that external heresy consists in dictis vel factis-----not only in words, but also in "signs, deeds, and the omission of deeds (Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, 1:746.)."
Here we see a basic sedevacantist technique for "wowing" the gullible: recite a ponderous Latin phrase taken from a theological manual. Why, don't you know that heresy consists in dictis vel factis? Haven't you read your Merkelbach? (By the way, does anyone seriously think the late Fr. Merkelbach would go along with this application of his theological manual and concur that five successive popes have been heretical impostors?)
The thoughtful person will recognize, however, that the Latin phrase really decides nothing. The question is what act or omission could in itself constitute manifest heresy, just as the question is what verbal utterance constitutes manifest heresy. As Fr. Harrison noted in his Remnant debate with Fr. Cekada, only such hypothetical actions as the willing reception of re-Baptism by a non-Catholic minister or the adamant refusal to subscribe to a statement of orthodoxy could indicate that the accused is a heretic by act or omission.
Here it is important to note, however, that even a major sedevacantist web site concedes that the law of the Church treats actions (versus positive statements) not as strict heresy, but as grounds for suspicion of heresy. The sedevacantist web site refers to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which enumerates suspect actions such as "Consciously to submit one's children to a non-Catholic minister for Baptism (canon 2319 n. 3)" and "Consciously to submit one's children or those entrusted to one to the upbringing or teaching of a non-Catholic religion," and "Actively to assist at the sacred functions of non-Catholics or to take part in them . . . (canon 23.16)." 58
Even as to such actions, however, the same web site observes that under the 1917 Code "the suspect of heresy-----who, once he has been admonished, does not remove the cause of the suspicion is to be prohibited from legitimate actions [. . . to be sponsor of Baptism or Confirmation, to vote in ecclesiastical elections, to manage ecclesiastical goods, etc.] and, if he be a cleric, when the warning has been once repeated in vain, he will be suspended a divinis . . . and if the suspect of heresy does not amend himself in the space of six full months . . . he will be considered as a heretic, subject to the penalties of heretics."
The web site article says of this procedure: "Let us observe from this how patient and prudent the Church is in respect of such people." 59 Let us observe it indeed! And let us exhibit that same patience and prudence with respect to the Vicar of Christ, for heaven's sake! Let us recognize that even if certain papal actions could give rise to a mere suspicion of heresy, the twice repeated warning required by the 1917 Code (reflecting St. Paul's teaching to admonish a suspected heretic twice) cannot be administered to a Pope. Therefore, where a Pope is concerned, even if a suspicion of heresy based upon external actions were justified, it would not amount to an actual determination of heresy. And no one, much less a Pope, can lose an ecclesiastical office based on a suspicion.
In any case, the papal gestures at issue here are not the unambiguous ones enumerated in the 1917 Code. For example, the Pope's kissing of the Koran, however scandalous, hardly indicates that he became a Muslim or that he denied the Divinity of Christ. At worst, it indicates the late Pope's objectionable and overweening "respect for the good in other religions." 60 Such respect, even if it rose to the level of the error (reprobated by Pius XI) that "all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy" is not a heresy, but rather a lesser grade of theological error, for (as noted above) not every error is a heresy. Again, even the sedevacantists insist upon this.
The case of Honorius returns to mind. Consider that even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that a future ecumenical council might posthumously condemn John Paul II, a la Honorius, for aiding and abetting the spread of religious indifferentism by such gestures, that would not mean John Paul II had lost his office any more than Honorius lost his. Indeed, even if the name of John, Paul, like that of Honorius, might someday be listed in a litany of the anathematized contained in a papal loyalty oath, the Church would nonetheless recognize him as Pope, just as it does Honorius.
Sedevacantists, however, never consider explanations other than heresy. Heresy! is their one and only verdict in assessing objectionable papal words or deeds. And, as we can see, under Fr. Cekada's expansive definition of "heresy," his roving heresy commission can sniff out guilt based not only on what a Pope says (as interpreted adversely by his very accusers), but also what he does or even fails to do. Indeed, the aforementioned sedevacantist web site, waxing to the theme of wordless heresy, even goes so far as to declare that "It is a thesis adopted by the theologians that it is possible to make a heresy exterior and thereby incur the canonical penalties not only by words, but also by behaviour, attitudes, signs and omissions. Indeed a simple nod of the head, a gesture of the hand or a physical expression can unequivocally indicate a thought. In a larger context a political stance, the silence of an authority or a public attitude can express, in relation to the circumstances, that someone who acts in a certain way, has such and such an idea." 61
So, the incredible expanding papal heresy is now to include even utter silence or body language! Under this standard no Pope can escape conviction if our sedevacantist prosecutors are determined to bring in a verdict.
And What of Pertinacity?
Even assuming Fr. Cekada had proved objectively heretical statements or actions by the last five popes-----and he hasn't-----what of the principle noted earlier, that one cannot be a formal heretic without pertinacity, i.e., obstinacy, 62 in his heresy? That is, the accused must subjectively know that his statement is contrary to Divine and Catholic faith and yet refuse to recant it. For, after all, formal heresy is a sin that requires subjective culpability. St. Thomas describes pertinacity this way: "In Christ's Church, those are heretics who hold mischievous and erroneous opinions, and when admonished to think soundly and rightly, offer a stubborn resistance, and, refusing to correct their deadly doctrines, persist in defending them." 63
Since the accused Popes have not been subjected to interrogation in which they were warned to recant their alleged "heresies," it would not be possible to establish papal pertinacity even if there were an objectively heretical statement before us. (As noted in Part 1 of this series, even Cassiciacum sedevacantists concede this. Hence their fiction of the "material" pope.) How, then, does Fr. Cekada propose to establish papal pertinacity, especially as to Pope Benedict's four deceased predecessors? All Fr. Cekada can say in his reply to the CFN/FC series is that in hypothetical canonical proceedings, this writer, as the Pope's hypothetical lawyer, would have to overcome what Fr. Cekada imagines to be evidence giving rise to a presumption of heresy under former canon 2200.2, based upon an external violation of the law.
Just a moment! Fr. Cekada has not yet demonstrated any heretical papal statements, yet he wishes to avail himself of the canonical presumption that an objectively heretical statement was intended as such. He challenges me to state which of the "seven excusing causes" I would use to rebut the presumption of heresy as to the five accused popes, when he has not even established heresy in the first place!
At any rate, Fr. Cekada's "presumption" of heresy does us no good. First of all, as the accused Popes are not before a canonical tribunal-----to which, again, a Pope cannot be subjected-----any canonical "presumption" is worthless. There can be no "presumption" of culpable heresy without a canonical proceeding in which there is an opportunity to rebut the presumption or to recant. No random member of the Church is entitled to pick up the Code of Canon law and apply its "presumption" of heresy to anyone, much less a Pope. But instead of recognizing that their whole undertaking is pointless for the very reason that a "presumption of heresy" by random members of the Church proves nothing, the sedevacantists go ahead and convict the Pope anyway.
Of course the sedevacantists will immediately reply: "The Pope convicts himself!" But who are they kidding? It is they who convict him, based on their tendentious reading of papal statements, acts or omissions. As we have seen, for example, Fr. Cekada tells us to consult Bishop Sanborn for an "explanation" of the "subsistent superchurch heresy." And why should we accept Bishop Sanborn's opinion when even his fellow sedevacantists question his theology on various matters, including his very claim to be a bishop? Besides, what theological credibility does Bishop Sanborn have when he accepted episcopal consecration from the same "Thuc line" bishop, Robert McKenna, he once forbade his own followers to approach for the Sacraments? 64
In any event, as even his own fellow sedevacantist admits, the external violation of the law that gives rise to the presumption of guilt in canonical proceedings includes the element of pertinacity, without which there is no external violation of the law and thus no presumption:
The canonists have defined pertinacity as recognition or awareness of the conflict between one's belief and that of the Church. As such, pertinacity is essential to the canonical delict of heresy; it is part of the matter or (technically) corpus delicti of heresy. Hence it must be proved before anyone can be considered a heretic, and Canon 2200.2 with its presumption of culpability does not help to prove it, for it applies only when the law is already externally infringed. And if Catholic doctrine is inadvertently denied by one who does not notice his error, there is not even an external infraction of the law . . . 65
Thus, Fr. Cekada would have to show not only a manifestly heretical papal statement-----which he has failed to do-----but also that the Pope pertinaciously defended the statement despite being called upon to correct it. This would require canonical warnings of some kind, which have not been administered to the Pope. Nor can Fr. Cekada avoid this insuperable obstacle to conviction by arguing that a Pope must always be presumed to know and intend the heretical import of any statement he utters. John XXII, for example, certainly did not think he was denying a truth of the Faith when he preached against the immediacy of the Beatific Vision. And, ironically enough, it was the same John XXII who condemned seventeen separate heresies in the teaching of the orthodox and eminent German theologian and mystic, Meister Eckhart, who was not himself convicted of heresy because he had never intended to deny an article of faith. "Eckhart repudiated the unorthodox sense in which some of his utterances could be interpreted, retracted all possible errors, and submitted to the Holy See . . ." 66 Church history shows us how even the best-trained and most eminent theologians, not excluding the Pope himself, can fall inadvertently into serious error.
Rigging the Inquest
So, to sum up this section of our refutation: According to the sedevacantists, isolated members of the faithful can deem a Pope to be guilty of the sin of formal heresy, determining that he has thereby lost his office, based on (a) "manifest" statements whose heretical content is not necessarily manifest, (b) suspect actions, (c) suspect failures to act; or d) even utter silence or body language. And in each of these cases heresy can be conclusively "presumed" without inquiring into the Pope's state of mind.
Even the arch-heretic Martin Luther had a better chance of acquittal than the accused Popes! The Bull Exsurge Domine of Pope Leo X, condemning Luther's forty-one separate heresies, still afforded him sixty days to recant in writing before the sentence of excommunication would go into effect. In the meantime Luther was "merely threatened with excommunication" and the "the only penalty directly imposed on him in the meantime was the prohibition to preach." 67 Further, the Bull was not issued until after a full canonical trial and the deliberation of two Roman commissions, based in part upon the transcript of the famous Leipzig disputation, where Luther had-----mark this well-----pertinaciously defended his heresies during an examination by Dr. Johann Eck. 68
But Fr. Cekada will say that we cannot demand an explanation or recantation from a Pope. So, conveniently enough, the Pope must be presumed guilty. Thus, Fr. Cekada's inquisitional method comes down to this: We cannot try the Pope, so let us convict him! As anyone can see, Fr. Cekada has rigged the inquest into papal "heresy" so that he never fails to find it, while the accused Popes can never escape his findings-----at least in the minds of Fr. Cekada's followers.
I cannot conclude this section without noting the major self-contradiction in Fr. Cekada's tortuous line of argument: In his reply to the CFN/FC series, he lambastes traditionalists for "sifting" papal statements and pastoral initiatives none of which have been imposed upon us as matters of faith (e.g. attendance at the New Mass, participation in "ecumenical activities" or "dialogue," ecumenical exhortations, or prudential judgments on such things as application of the death penalty). At the same time, however, he claims for himself not only the right to "sift" papal words and deeds for "manifest heresies," but also the right to sift the popes themselves (not to mention the entire episcopacy!), determining by his own lights which are true popes and which are false.
So, under Fr. Cekada's ground rules, he is free to reject five successive popes as fakes, whereas non-sedevacantist traditionalists are not free to prescind from even one act of governance by even a single pope since 1958. As he would have it, the only right Catholics have when confronted with some problematical papal statement or action is to join him and his fellow sedevacantists in concluding that the Pope in question must be an heretical impostor!
But Catholics must not allow themselves to be drawn into the self-enclosed little world of sedevacantist thinking.
We must keep our heads in this time of unparalleled crisis, preserve the proper distinctions, and avoid rash, sweeping judgments. This is why Sister Lucy urged us to pray for the Holy Father, rather than casting pope after pope into outer darkness based on someone's private study of canon law and theology manuals.
51. "La prima dimensione di questo dialogo, cioe I'incontro tra il popolo di Dio del Vecchio Testamento, da Dio mai denunziato (cf. Rm 11, 29)..." See, www.vatican.va/holy_father/john -paul_ii/speeches/1980/november/documents/hfjp_ii_spe_19801117_ebrei-magonza_it.html.
NOTE: this footnote had a gap where text was missing. I tried as it appears, closing the gap, but this page does not come up. A search on the Vatican site did not provide any help. I tried a search, typing in under John Paul II, "November 1980", "speeches", "documents", and "ebrei magonza", all of which produced several links but not to this reference. Thus I conclude the gap had other sections of the URL where the ink skipped and thus the gap.
52. From the Act of Consecration of the World to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, promulgated by Pope Pius XI in conjunction with his encyclical Quas Primas (1925), on the Social Kingship of Christ.
54. Can. 188.4, CIC (1917) on which the sedevacantists rely, as they deem the 1983 Code "heretical."
55. Sedevacantism: A Further Reply to Fr. Cekada, Remnant Reprint Series.
56. De Romano Pontefice, Book II, Chap. 30.
57. Oxford Latin Dictionary ----"manifestus."
60. Not even the Enterprise claims that John Paul II actively assisted or took part in "the sacred functions of non-Catholics," as opposed to the undeniable outrage of inviting non-Catholics to perform their "sacred functions" on Church premises, as at Assisi, or inviting non-Catholics to participate in Catholic sacred functions, such as a Vespers service John Paul II conducted at the Vatican with Lutheran ministers. Even if the Pope had taken part in non-Catholic sacred functions, only a suspicion of heresy would arise.
62. As noted earlier, formal heresy requires "obstinate denial or doubt" of an article of faith. Can. 751, CIC (1983).
63. Summa Theologica, lIa (lae, Q. II, a.2, cited by Fr. Brian Harrison in the Remnant debate.
64. See note 18.
66. "Meister Eckhart," Catholic Encyclopedia.
67. Hartrnann Grisar, Luther (London: Kegan, Paul Trench, et aI., 1913), pp. 45-47.
68.A sedevacantist "authority," whose name is unimportant, accuses me on his web site of having misunderstood the excommunication of Luther. According to him, Luther was excommunicated even before the 60 days provided in the Bull had begun to run because" All heretics are ipso facto excommunicated without any declaration". In other words, the Bull of Pope St. Leo X should be considered a mere superfluity. The argunent is absurd, for reasons not the least of which is that Pope Leo himself never said any such thing. A declarative sentence is essential for juridical certainty, for random members of the Church cannot determine that anyone has been excommunicatedby a Divine sentence in the internal forum.