Sunday, November 10, 2019

Two popes and idolatry

How bad can a bad pope get?  Pretty bad.  Here are two further examples from history.  Marcellinus was pope from c. 296 – 304.  During his pontificate, Emperor Diocletian initiated a persecution of the Christians, requiring the surrender of sacred texts and the offering of incense to the Roman gods.  Marcellinus and some of his clergy apparently complied, though Marcellinus is also said to have repented of this after a few days and to have suffered martyrdom as a result.  Some claim that by virtue of his compliance he was guilty of a formal apostasy that resulted in loss of the papal office, though his purported repentance and martyrdom also led to his veneration and recognition as a saint.

But exactly what happened is controversial among historians.  St. Augustine denied that Marcellinus was really guilty of the sins in question.  On the other hand, other ancient sources claim that he was, and the later pope Damasus I omitted reference to Marcellinus when paying tribute to his predecessors.  Nor is it clear whether Marcellinus really did either suffer martyrdom or lose his office.

However, that Marcellinus could have been guilty of these sins has not been denied by orthodox Catholic theologians, because it is not ruled out by the conditions under which a pope teaches infallibly.  Indeed, in Book 4, Chapter VIII of On the Roman Pontiff, St. Robert Bellarmine judges that it is “certain” that Marcellinus “sacrificed to idols.”  He also thinks that Marcellinus did not ipso facto lose the papal office, because he acted out of fear.

John XII, who was pope from 955 – 964, was one of the most debauched men ever to sit on the throne of Peter.  He is said to have confiscated the offerings left at the altar for his personal use, to have violated female pilgrims to Rome and effectively to have turned the Lateran palace into a brothel, and to have died while in bed with another man’s wife – on one account as a result of a stroke, and on another at the hands of the cuckold who caught him in the act.  John was also said to have invoked the names of the pagan gods while gambling. 

John brought the office of the papacy into widespread disrepute, and the period was marked by bitter factional conflict.  He was deposed by a synod in Rome, in part on grounds of “sacrilege,” and replaced by Pope Leo VIII – though the legitimacy of this series of events was widely challenged, given papal primacy, and in any event John was able by threat of force to reverse this state of affairs and get himself reinstalled as pope and Leo excommunicated.  Those who had accused John were punished by scourging or bodily mutilation.  After John’s death, Leo was restored as pope – though only after another claimant to the papal office, Benedict V, was first elected and then deposed.  (At Benedict’s deposition – to which he apparently acquiesced – he was stripped of his papal regalia and his staff was broken over his head by Leo as Benedict lay prostrate.  They played for keeps in those days.)

These examples illustrate several important points.  First, popes can, consistent with the doctrine of papal infallibility, be guilty even of sins as grave as idolatry.  Second, when their sins touch on theological matters, as they do in these examples (and as they did in a very different way in the case of Pope Vigilius), Catholics have sometimes understandably been moved to question their legitimacy.  This is theologically problematic, and in my view it cannot plausibly be maintained that Marcellinus, Vigilius, or John XII lost the papal office.  However, whatever canonical chaos temporarily afflicted the Church during the times of these popes was ultimately their fault.  Certainly one can lay heavy blame on the churchmen who tried to depose John XII, and on the emperor Otto I, who played a major role in the events in question.  But the fact remains that it is John’s extremely scandalous behavior that prompted this overreaction.  It is the pope himself who is manifestly the villain of the story.

A further lesson, however, is that these incidents are also noteworthy precisely for their rare and fleeting character.  The theological and/or canonical chaos that bad popes like Vigilius, Honorius, Stephen VI, John XII, et al. inflict on the Church can be intense but it is also always temporary, and the Church eventually so thoroughly returns to order that the chaos is soon forgotten by all but historians and anti-Catholic propagandists scrambling to find evidence that the Church succumbed to error.  The Church can get very sick indeed for relatively short periods of time, but she also always gets better.  Naïve and sycophantic papal apologists refuse to see the first fact, and the anti-Catholic propagandists refuse to see the second. 

Further reading:


  1. Could Peter have theoretically been removed from his office? If so, who among men would have the authority to do so?

    1. This line of argumentation fuels the fires of legitimacy of the Reformation.

  2. Good job muddying the waters. The question of whether a pope can lose office due to heresy or apostasy has nothing to do with papal infallibility, and as bad as John XII was, he was not a heretic or an apostate. So much for your reputation.

    1. If you wish to be taken seriously in your denunciations of Feser, a bit of detail and argument would be good.

    2. J,

      Like John Lane and LonelyProfessor below, you are taking me to task for not addressing a set of issues that is not the topic of the post in the first place. So much for your reading ability.

  3. Excellent opening line. I'm very much enjoying this look at different popes series.

  4. Is Sedevacantism just another form of Donatism? 🤔

    1. Well, sedevacantism and Donatism are of course different things per se; but it is tempting to label typical contemporary sedevacantists as Donatist heretics if we take them at face value. However, to be fair, their thought and speech is rife with ignorance and sloppy reasoning, so I think in charity the most we can accuse them of is being confused.

    2. I've often thought that the view that Francis is not the true pope due to the machinations of the St. Gallen lot has a practical result similar to Donatism. Under Donatism, we can never know whether a particular individual is really a priest, because he might have committed some grave sin without us knowing about it; under the view that Francis' election was invalid, we can never know whether a pope is actually the pope, because there might have been some behind-the-scenes clique which got him elected.

      -- The original Mr. X

    3. It is absurd to accuse sedevacantists of Donatism. Sedevacantists do not maintain that sin is incompatible with the papacy. Sedevacantists rightly maintain, in agreement with St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and many more theologians and canonists, that public heresy is, by divine law, incompatible with the heresy, that any purported pope who can be shown to be a public heretic was never pope to begin with.

    4. See here, the 7th point:

    5. In the linked document, St. Alphonsus Ligouri is cited as saying, "That some popes have fallen into heresy, some have tried to prove, but they have never proved it, nor will they ever prove it; and we will clearly prove the contrary in the end of chapter X. Moreover, if God permitted a pope to be notoriously heretical and contumacious, he would cease to be pope, and the papacy would be vacant. But if he were a hidden heretic, and did not propose any false dogma to the church, then no damage to the church would come; but we must rightly assume, as Cardinal Bellarmine says, that God will never allow any of the Roman pontiffs, even as a private man, to become heretical, neither well-known nor hidden."

      It seems St. Alphonsus Ligouri was wrong about this (well-intentioned, but incorrect).

      Pope John XXII taught a heretical view in public sermons, while pope. The fact that he recanted before his death does not prevent this being a counterexample: While he maintained the heretical view, he stated it openly. It was not hidden, it was public.

      This means at minimum that we can know that St. Alphonsus Ligouri was incorrect in believing "God will never allow any of the Roman pontiffs, even as a private man, to become heretical, neither well-known nor hidden." (If Ligouri is correct, as I think he is, in attributing this view to Cardinal Bellarmine, then of course Bellarmine was incorrect as well.)

      To avoid the conclusion that St. Alphonsus Ligouri was incorrect, one would be required to narrowly define his usage of the terms...
      - "fallen into heresy"
      - "notoriously heretical and contumacious"
      - "heretical, neither well-known nor hidden"
      ...and then find a way to distinguish what he meant by them from what was true of John XXII (namely, that he taught error regarding the Beatific Vision, openly, in sermons, albeit never in a way that should engage his office's charism of infallibility).

      I can see how, in view of his later recanting, Pope John XXII was not "contumacious." But the scandal caused by his views is, I think, perfectly sufficient to describe them as "well-known" and not "hidden." (That they were heretical is seen by the condemnation of those views by his successor...unless one calls them not-quite-heretical by adverting to the distinction between "heretical" and "proximate to heresy," sapiens haeresim, male sonans, piarum aurium offensiva, etc. But sedevacantists can't do that; it gives the game away by removing the justification for their rejection of certain popes!)

      And St. Alphonsus Ligouri doesn't everywhere hold that the heretical pope in question must be contumacious. He seems in most places to state that mere manifest heresy is sufficient.

      Do any sedevacantists hold that John XXII lost his office after his first instance of publicly preaching heresy regarding the Beatific Vision? If not, why not?

      Surely it can't be merely because he recanted on his deathbed! In that case one could not know whether the office was vacant or not until the putative officeholder had died (for he always might recant before then). And in that case, faced with (according to one's own private judgment) a heretical pope, one really can't know whether he's acting validly as pope until he has died and his successor has declared what his predecessor's status was at any given time (if ever he bothers to do so).

  5. Ed,

    Could I suggest that you quote, or at least cite, the historians you are relying upon?

    Are you aware that scholars have been steadily rehabilitating Marcellinus for the last few hundred years? The common view is that the allegations against him were literally inventions by Donatists, and that those who gave them any credit at all (e.g. Bellarmine) were simply mistaken in fact. Not that there's much of a parallel between those allegations and what has happened in our doleful era.

    Here's a good summary of scholarly opinion around 100 years ago. Note that the allegations are given no credit at all. This would be why the Breviary account was altered in 1883 to omit this legendary tale.

    Ed: "The Church can get very sick indeed for relatively short periods of time, but she also always gets better. Naïve and sycophantic papal apologists refuse to see the first fact, and the anti-Catholic propagandists refuse to see the second."

    Your first statement here is right, of course, but how the second follows upon it is difficult to see, unless you are suggesting that the Roman Pontificate has ever been the _source_ of the Church's illness, which is untrue.

    Perhaps you could name one of the "naïve and sycophantic papal apologists" you are criticising in this context? I suggest that you will be forced to admit that your opponents are, exclusively, profoundly knowledgeable scholars approved by Rome (i.e. expert Catholics), and the popes themselves. If you have some other persons in view, tell us their names.

    Indeed, so untrue is this notion that the Roman Pontificate has ever been the _source_ of the Church's illness, that only your "anti-Catholic propagandists" have pushed it. The contrary is spectacularly the case - the Roman Pontiff is the principle of unity of the Church, and unity is convertible with being, as you'd well understand...

    In the Immaculate,
    John Lane.

    1. John,

      I explicitly acknowledged that the claims about Marcellinus are controversial. But in a way, that's the point. They are controversial as opposed to uncontroversially false. What matters for the specific point I was making is not whether they are in fact true, but rather that Catholic teaching about the papacy does not entail that they could not be true. That's why Bellarmine could take the position he did.

      The same thing is true about attempts to defend Honorius, John XXII, et al. Knock yourself out, but Catholic teaching on the papacy does not stand or fall with whether such defenses succeed. That's why Catholics are free to disagree about them, and why Vatican I formulated things very precisely so as not to have to presuppose a particular view on the details of these cases.

      Anyway, the historians I am relying on are no one remarkable or controversial, but just standard sources -- Catholic Encyclopedia, Kelly's handbook on the popes, Bellarmine's treatment of the popes, etc. Can one disagree with them on various points? Sure. But that's totally beside the point, as I said.

      Re: whether the illness in question ever has its source in the pope, the answer is that the kind of illness I was talking about uncontroversially does sometimes have its source in the pope. For example, the chaos entailed by the Cadaver Synod had its source in the actions of Stephen VI, and the chaos described above at the time of John XII had its source in John XII. Do you seriously deny this?

  6. Ed, you say that in these examples, the popes' sins "touch on theological matters." What do you mean by that?

    1. My intention was to contrast idolatry and theological errors on the one hand with other sorts of moral failings (personal sexual sins, financial corruption, disastrous governance, etc.) on the other. The former directly touch on doctrinal matters in a way the latter do not (though of course the latter may touch on doctrine in an indirect way if they stem from theological errors). That is why no one thinks that a pope's having been sexually or financially corrupt is per se relevant to infallibility or potential loss of office, whereas these issues do come up (rightly or wrongly) when a pope is said to have been guilty of idolatry or doctrinal error.

  7. Thanks Ed.

    Two parts. 1.

    The open question (in Roman theology) is whether a pope could, AS A PRIVATE PERSON, fall into heresy. That is, NOT AS POPE. That is why Bellarmine could take the position he did - i.e. he said Marcellinus acted under grave fear, therefore was not free, therefore his act did not count. What Bellarmine did not regard as an open question was whether the pope AS POPE could countenance heresy.

    Your reduction of this to the doctrine of papal infallibility will not wash, I'm sorry. Infallibility protects official acts from error - not merely error against matters of divine faith, but all error in relation to faith and morals (i.e. not just directly against faith, but in relation to it). Heresy is error directly against a matter of divine faith. So the scope of the two subjects is not identical.

    As for "illness in the Church" let's define terms. I say that Roman theology precludes the idea of the pope teaching error. That means, officially, as pope, not in sermons given to local congregations, or in letters addressed to single persons, or in theological works not published as specifically papal works. I do not say, because Roman theology does not say, that popes are impeccable, or always perfectly wise, or necessarily correct about matters of fact. Bellarmine himself states that councils and popes can be mistaken in matters of fact.

    Now, consider the historical examples of widespread error, and what their source was. Arianism was imposed on most of the bishops by the civil power; the Greek schism likewise was a result of imperial domination of local bishops; and Protestantism owed much of its success to worldly princes aiding or imposing it. In all three cases, it was papal action which opposed the errors, and limited their damage, and then later repaired it as far as men would cooperate.

    The trouble with Vatican II, and the New Mass, and countless other things in our era, is precisely that they have all apparently emanated from Rome. This is unique. Rome has never before been the source of doctrinal error, and Roman theology does not admit the possibility. Hence the debate.

    [[ Qu. … Another question which obtrudes itself here is: Is it admissible that the Sovereign Pontiff could ever be heretical in his expressions on subjects of faith? And how could such expressions be distinguished as heretical since there is no authority above the Pope to judge the degree of his orthodoxy, which by reason of its coming formally from the actual head of the Church, is, it would seem, stamped with the seal of infallibility?

    Resp. … As to the question whether a Pontiff could be heretical in his expressions, it seems altogether futile. History has hitherto furnished no example of such an occurrence, though there have been allegations of the kind, as in the case of Honorius. If Christ has promised to keep the Church from error through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost, we may suppose that He will keep the Pontiff, to whom He has committed the guidance of that Church, likewise from error. And as the weaknesses of members in the Church do not militate against this operation of the Holy Ghost, neither would the personal weaknesses of its head interfere with the divine promise. For the rest, the admission that the Pope, whilst personally peccable, yet in his office as supreme teacher and moderator of the Church is infallible, covers the whole case; nor is there any more difficulty here than there is in distinguishing between the official acts of a sovereign and his private deeds, not as a private man but as sovereign. (Question and Answer, American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. XVII 1897, pp. 312 -314.) ]]

  8. 2.

    I don't agree that you can label unknown people "the naive and sycophantic types" and then claim that politeness prevents you from naming them. Surely you'd avoid such characterisations altogether, or only use them to label people by name, if that seemed useful (and morally lawful).

    I have been observing discussions on these questions for some three decades now, and I cannot think of a "naive and sycophantic" defender of popes, outside of your Karl Keating type people (You know, people for whom the faith is whatever the pope says it is this morning over breakfast). Certainly it isn't what one sees amongst traditionalists. Trads have, in my very strong opinion, far too little respect for the papacy, but it isn't primarily their fault, as you have rightly said.

    May I recommend the wonderful "Iota Unum" of Romano Amerio? He was, as you no doubt know, a professor of philosophy, and very traditional. It would be good for you to get that work under your belt before wading into these traditionalist controversies.

    In the Immaculate,
    John Lane.

    1. John,

      You seem to be committing that besetting error of combox posters of responding to some topic you are interested in or think I should have written about rather than the one I actually did write about.

      The original post is about a certain specific kind of sin, namely idolatry. It's in the title of the post, for goodness' sake. I'm not talking about the issues of doctrinal error and heresy in this post -- not mainly anyway, even though it came up tangentially. Hence I'm not trying in this particular post to address the question of what errors may or may not be possible in papal doctrinal statements, or about Vatican II, or about these other things you're dragging in. I've addressed that elsewhere, of course, and no doubt you are in part responding to that. But it simply isn't what this current post is about.

      And it is indeed worthwhile pointing out what happened or may have happened in cases like Marcellinus or John XII vis-a-vis the specific sin of idolatry. You may be well aware that infallibility does not rule out things like what those popes are accused of, but lots of other people don't know that. My post has nothing to do with "reducing" infallibility to whatever it is you think I'm reducing it to when commenting on Marcellinus and John XII, because it is not a general treatment of the nature of infallibility in the first place, but, again, is focusing on one specific sort of issue.

      You seem to think that in my "naive and sycophantic" remark I had in mind certain trads. I have no idea why. I actually had in mind certain people who I imagine you would dismiss as "Novos Ordo types," specifically the kind who have a tendency toward Mottramism. Again, I think you are letting your own interests and concerns color your response to what I actually wrote.

    2. And I'm quite familiar with Amerio, thank you very much. I don't know exactly why you think his book is relevant here, but it seems to me his views are if anything closer to mine than to yours. But again, that would take us into matters that are beyond the scope of this particular post.

  9. The Lonely ProfessorNovember 11, 2019 at 7:47 AM

    The OP is only constructing a straw man, as other posters have pointed out. The issue is not what sins Popes can fall into as private persons. That is not, and has never been, at issue. The issue is that Popes can err grievously in the very exercise of their authoritative teaching office (ordinary Magisterium), and this has devastating consequences for apologetics. And the constant references to John XXII, Honorius, etc. are quite simply attempts at evading the question. For instance, John XXII never even once attempted to teach his opinion authoritatively as Pope, but only expressed then as a private individual, and those who bring him up know that quite well.

    If one denies this claim, one must resort to either:

    1) Denial of the facts, resorting to torturous lawyerly evasions to deny the errors were really errors, or were really taught (naive and sycophantic defenders).

    2) A form of No True Scotsman, saying if a Pope does so it just shows he wasn't Pope to begin with (sedevacantism). This results in epistemological circularity - you know what true doctrine is because it is taught by a true Pope, and you know who a true Pope is because he teaches true doctrine.

    If one admits this claim, then one must justify why believe the Church at all? Thus will follow an explanation of Vatican I, with distinction between "non-infallible" ordinary Magisterium, now capable of gravely erring (showing it to be in fact only a human, and not a Divine authority), and "infallible" extraordinary Magisterium. But why believe Vatican I, the infallibility of which is epistemically prior to the infallibility it claims? (E.g. a mere claim to be infallible doesn't make it so). IOW, why believe Conciliar Infallibility, if, in fact, error being officially taught is not contrary to the nature of the Church?

    1. The OP is only constructing a straw man, as other posters have pointed out. The issue is not what sins Popes can fall into as private persons. That is not, and has never been, at issue.

      The straw manning here is all on your part, not mine. As I said to John above, what I am primarily addressing in this particular post is one particular sort of sin, idolatry. That is "the issue" for the purposes of the post. Other issues are important too, but just not in view here.

      Like John, you're guilty here of that tiresome combox vice of complaining: "This post doesn't address everything I'm personally interested in or the topic I think you should have discussed! You're dishonest! You're an idiot!"

    2. The Lonely ProfessorNovember 12, 2019 at 5:18 AM

      Oh come on, Ed. You are clearly trying the old motte-and-bailey fallacy. You want to defend the bailey (that Francis really hasn't caused tremendous, irreparable damage) but when challenged retreat to the motte (that the Church soon recovered even when previous Popes personally committed idolatry).

      You are clearly attempting to draw a parallel between Francis and the acts of previous Popes, with the intent that we learn the "lesson" that the damage done will be only "fleeting" and that order will eventually be "thoroughly" restored, and only anti-Catholic propagandists could possibly claim otherwise, or that the Church succumbed to error. That was your motive for this post. Say it ain't so, I challenge you.

    3. LonelyProfessor,

      Calm down. Of course I was suggesting such a parallel. What I meant in my previous comment to you is that this post is not addressing the issue of papal doctrinal errors, specifically. The focus, as I've already said, was instead on the issue of idolatry.

    4. C'mon, Ed.

      The focus is on the issue of idolatry, at least in part, for the purpose of drawing a parallel between Francis and the acts of previous Popes, as you admit. Otherwise, you wouldn't have written your last paragraph.

      Thus, whether such a parallel is indeed or to what degree appropriate should be fair game for debate, which involves comparing similarities and differences between Francis and previous Popes.

      Instead, you peremptorily rule out any debate as to whether or not the parallel is appropriate, under the pretext that the focus is merely idolatry, and under the pretext that those who bring it up are merely whining that the OP doesn't address everything they are personally interested in.

      Bush league, Ed.

    5. whether such a parallel is indeed or to what degree appropriate should be fair game for debate

      Who said otherwise? Not me.

      Instead, you peremptorily rule out any debate as to whether or not the parallel is appropriate...

      Who ruled it out? Not me.

      All I said is that the original post wasn't trying to address every issue that arises where the question of papal error is concerned, such as doctrinal issues. I was focusing on idolatry, specifically. If you want to discuss that other stuff, fine. But don't blame me for not addressing that other stuff in a blog post that was not about that other stuff.

      Really, LP, it's not a hard point to grasp. But if you'd rather keep huffing and puffing and being an all-around jerk rather than just admitting that you overreacted, that's your call.

    6. The Lonely ProfessorNovember 15, 2019 at 9:09 AM

      All right then, my bad. Thanks for acknowledging that discussion of other forms of papal error is relevant to the discussion.

  10. Catholics have sometimes understandably been moved to question their legitimacy. This is theologically problematic, and in my view it cannot plausibly be maintained that Marcellinus, Vigilius, or John XII lost the papal office.

    Ed, you have written a good series of posts, and I appreciate getting more info about popes who were bad boys in pretty serious ways, to help balance our perspective.

    One thing you have not done (so far) is to take explicit notice of the papal bull Cum Ex Apostolatus. In it Pope Paul IV declares that clerics who do certain delicts (including heresy but not only that) lost their office, and seemingly they automatically lose their office, the effect does not require that a judgment be laid on them by the lawful superior to take away that office.

    The reach of the bull is interesting: in an earlier part (#3), it addresses specifically lower office-holders, below the pope. Then #6 is addressed to mostly the same people but explicitly includes the pope - to the extent of acts he has done before being raised to the papacy:

    or even the Roman Pontiff, prior to his promotion or his elevation as Cardinal or Roman Pontiff, has deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy:

    (i) the promotion or elevation, even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous assent of all the Cardinals, shall be null, void and worthless;
    (v) each and all of their words, deeds, actions and enactments, howsoever made, and anything whatsoever to which these may give rise, shall be without force and shall grant no stability whatsoever nor any right to anyone;

    (vi) those thus promoted or elevated shall be deprived automatically, and without need for any further declaration, of all dignity, position, honour, title, authority, office and power.

    It might require a good canonist to explain this, but in the language Paul IV uses, he seems to declare that the loss of office applies not just to one who has been found guilty of a delict in a due judgment by a Church tribunal or by the superior who has the power to judge the accused, but falls also on those who have fallen into heresy (even if they are never accused of it). This language is very troubling, because it would seem to cause a loss of office from something that was NOT the subject of a public declaration by an admitted authority, but merely by the fact of some action that became public knowledge, and thus would create all sorts of disorder in the Church.

    From my (perhaps untrustworthy) memory, St. Robert Bellarmine's comments on these issues took as their starting point what is in force either from the very nature of the case or from the constitution and establishment of the Church by Christ. However, one might come to a conclusion that (for example) someone like John XXII, when he taught a heretical proposition, would not have lost his office due to the very nature of the papacy, but if he had done it as a cardinal AFTER the Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus, his election would have been null by the force of the Bull, i.e. by valid legislation.

    Was this papal bull retracted or otherwise removed from being in force?

    1. Hi Tony, that's a big topic, but in brief, I would say that the claim that some cleric has fallen into heresy would in fact have to have been confirmed by some official act by public ecclesiastical authority in order for Cum Ex Apostolatus to be applicable. The fact that some guy somewhere judges "Aha! That cleric was a heretic!" is not good enough. That such a cleric's later elevation to higher office may be null without any further act of ecclesiastical authority needed is a separate point. In any event, I also would agree with the view that Paul IV's bull was effectively abrogated with the promulgation of the 1917 code of canon law.

    2. Thanks very much. I too had come across the position that the Code of 1917 abrogated it, but I didn't think the argument for that was crystal clear. I am not a canonist, so maybe I wouldn't know. I always had problems with the idea of the bull, precisely for the difficulty that it presents if some people recognize X teaching by a bishop as heretical, but 95% don't, and he goes on for another 20 years doing all sorts of things that wouldn't be valid if he is really no longer the bishop. Much worse if he is the pope.

  11. Enter your comment...Dr. Feser, the gift of papal infallibility does not guarantee a Pope will not fall from the office due to his own act of heresy or apostasy. The dogma of papal infallibility is no superstition.

    1. the gift of papal infallibility does not guarantee a Pope will not fall from the office due to his own act of heresy or apostasy.

      Who said it did? Not me.

      The dogma of papal infallibility is no superstition.

      Who said it was? Not me.

  12. Give this a read, scroll down to the seventh point if you wish:

    It is indubitable that being both a public heretic and a pope simultaneously is impossible.

    1. It is indubitable that being both a public heretic and a pope simultaneously is impossible.

      Maybe so, if you mean a formal heretic. But how do we know that someone really is a formal heretic? That part needs an ecclesiastical determination. Some dude who has read a lot of blog posts isn't the one to make that call.

      This is the central absurdity of sedevacantism. It wants to say both "No one may criticize the doctrinal statements of a pope! That would be private judgement!" and at the same time "But I get to decide whether so-and-so is really a pope! That's not private judgment!" It gives back in a massive way with the one hand what it claims to take away with the other.

    2. Eck. Bleah.

      May I suggest that one of the constant difficulties of this sort of conversation is the several senses of "heretic" that come out in the comments? Let me identify 3 different problems:

      Scenario 1, you can have a cleric (such as a pope) deny a doctrine that is the constantly held position of the Church, and is indeed taught infallibly under the Ordinary Magisterium. Case A is where he denies in private, Case B is where he teaches its contrary in public. (I think John XXII's denial of saints' immediate BV fits this Scenario 1, Case B.) The doctrine has never been defined in a formal defining act by the Church. The offending pope is certainly materially in error, but he doesn't hold this position contumaciously; rather he holds it out of a more innocent ignorance (though it need not be FULLY innocent).

      Here there are at least 2 different reasons for not calling the pope a heretic: first, because the teaching had never been defined, second because he had not persisted in his error after the Church corrected him.

      Scenario 2: the doctrine HAS been declared solemnly in an Ecumenical Council, but is not declared as "to be believed with divine and Catholic faith"; rather, it is "to be firmly held" because it is one of those necessary truths that attach to a point of divine faith but is not itself revealed. Let's assume also Case A and Case B as above. If the pope in question (in Case B) here teaches the contrary, he is certainly guilty of a serious wrong, but again there are 2 reasons not to call him "a heretic" properly. One because heresy is formally defined in terms of rejecting those teachings requiring divine and Catholic faith, and does not also encompass those teachings that are merely "to be held definitively" and are taught irreformably that way. Second, because no competent authority has (i) found juridically that he HAS engaged in the delict act (a finding of fact), and (ii) given him the opportunity to reject his error and embrace correction, so there can be no determination that his action is contumacious.

      Scenario 3 has the pope teaching something contrary to a dogma that has been formally defined in Council, and is "to be believed with divine and Catholic faith." Here again, though, there remains the problem of having the pope be the subject of a competent tribunal to (i) find that he has engaged in a delict; and (ii) impose upon him the obligation to correct his error and accept the definitive teaching of the Church (presumably, publicly), and - if he declines, to judge that his retaining his error is contumacious. The problem is that "no one judges the pope".

      Hence people have suggested that while a Church tribunal MIGHT (heavy emphasis on doubt) be competent to judge his ACTION (whether it is in contradiction to defined dogma), but cannot judge the pope to retain his error contumaciously, which is required for a formal (public) determination of his BEING A HERETIC.

    3. Note, though, that this is a procedural obstacle to the FORMAL DETERMINATION that he is a heretic. The Church has never said that a person is only guilty of the sin of heresy if he is DETERMINED by THE CHURCH through a juridic process to be a heretic. That's not the case: a person can be a sinful heretic but only be so in the the private forum, in that nobody has figured it out or put him on trial.

      Most of the theology authorities seem to want to say that the question is not just whether the pope might be a heretic (in the sense of denying dogma) in the privacy of his own will, but whether he might be a known and publicly verified heretic - the latter seems to REQUIRE a definitive juridic judgment by a competent authority, of which there cannot be one in the Church. And the former cannot plausibly be a reason of his losing his office, or we have the (infinite) troubles of a pope who loses his office but nobody even suspects it.

      In any case, it would help if people would speak more clearly, such as "a pope who taught error" (but not an error contrary to solemly defined doctrine), or "a pope who taught heresy" (i.e. contrary to defined dogma, but not contumaciously); versus "a pope who contumaciously persisted in teaching contrary to defined dogma" (but was not corrected by competent authority and never authoritatively found to be contumacious in his error).

      It seems silly to say that God can protect his Church by making sure that a pope can teach infallibly, but is unable to ensure that a pope will never hold (interiorly) a position that directly contradicts a defined dogma, and that when a pope DOES do so God's protection for the Church is to relieve him of his office (also interiorly, so that nobody knows it). What kind of protection is that?

  13. Dear Ed,

    Thanks for the replies.

    The notion of a "pope heretic" is by its nature an exceptional circumstance, so you can't assess it by positing that everything is normal.

    It does my head in when people argue that it could not be the case that a heretic pope would lose his office automatically, because then there would be chaos in the Church. It's incredible, but it seems there are people who haven't noticed that we're in the midst of the most profound and disastrous crisis in the history of the Church.

    "Like, hey, look at this lovely peaceful situation, where everything's great, and you morons want to disturb it? You crazy, or what?"

    Canon 188:4 says that all offices are ipso facto vacated by public defection from the faith, without the need for any declaration. This canon is footnoted to Cum ex Apostolatus as its source. Your assertion that there would need to be a declaration, when the authorities have stated plainly that no declaration is necessary, is really just a way of saying that you think Popes Paul IV and St. Pius X got it wrong.

    A lot of these debates are talking at cross purposes, anyway. Those of who recognise in the New Mass a form of false worship that we would die rather than assist at, have an entirely different view of the crisis than those who may prefer the old mass, but do not think that the new mass is actually evil. We think the Church is in a catastrophic state, and has been since the 'sixties; you think that the Church was going along OK right up until recently, and now Francis is threatening everything. That's our real disagreement, not the pope heretic question.

    And that's why I recommended Amerio's book. I know he wasn't a sede, but his analysis does not yield a peaceful, fruitful Church that should be left undisturbed, but rather he paints an apocalyptic picture, and that thirty years before the current shenanigans in Rome.

    In the Immaculate,
    John Lane.

  14. The ultimate conspiracy of counterfeit popes

  15. I'll take a stand on this. Thank you, Dr. Feser, for the content you wrote on the specific question you address.

  16. "Naïve and sycophantic papal apologists".

    How true! When I first encountered Catholic Apologetics in my youth, it had such a strong appeal because I saw it as dispassionate finding of fact: let the chips fall where they may. In more recent times (particularly since the Francis phenomena), I see so many would be apologists who are anything but dispassionate finders of fact; they are . . . well, naive and sycophantic.

    Merely suggest that there might be a problem and they pelt you with psychoanalysis of your "true" motives, the most intellectually sloppy whitewashing, and topped off by attributing to the "dissenter" claims never made. It's a new sort of Papal Puritanism.

  17. Dr. Feser, I like you and your work, but the analog you wish to draw between those examples and what we have now are unavailing. We are dealing with an organized attack on the Church by Freemasonry and Luciferian Groups who have successfully infiltrated the Church. That's what Vatican II was and is -- the doctrines of Freemasonry forcibly inserted into official Catholic documents by non-Catholic Luciferians. There is no analog for this situation. We must throw the bums out.

    1. Judeo-masonic-bolshevism strikes again?

    2. Anonymous, please read something other than Taylor Marshall (I'd suggest George Weigel: The Irony of Modern Catholic History).

      Look, he (Marshall) has many legitimate points about problems with Francis, the destruction of faith and piety, etc. But the whole overarching theory that we should pretend the modern world never happened is just not true. It is the job of the Church to convert the modern world--that's its original and irrevocable mission--not dig in its heels and pretend nothing happened after 1950.

      The revolution of the modern world is sufficient to explain the turmoil in the Church without conspiracy theories about Masons (who don't care one bit about the Catholic Church and just think they joined a beer drinking club).

      I'd be happy to exchange with you to find the truth. Show me the facts: Show me where Vat II teach contrary to the deposit of faith (please give a very specific answer, not generalizations about how you think Dignitatis Humanae taught universalism).

    3. "It is the job of the Church to convert the modern world--that's its original and irrevocable mission--not dig in its heels and pretend nothing happened after 1950."

      Yeah, and how great a job has the Church done in converting the modern world? The reality is that conversions are happening in the most pre-modern parts of the world [e.g. Africa].

      In the modern Western world, on the other hand, it is modernity that has converted the Church, not the other way around.

    4. Jack: and this proves what?

    5. It proves that in the encounter between modernity and the Catholic Church, the Church has been getting the short end of the stick time and again.

      The Fathers of the Council were sadly naive and sanguine about modernity and this has proven costly for the Church

    6. @ Anonymous: What? The Church is not a corporation that needs to asses it's market position and implement competitive strategy. Don't you know? The victory is already won.

      Imagine it's the second century and let's modify your statement accordingly: "in the encounter between the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church, the Church has been getting the short end of the stick". All the executions have been "costly for the Church" so we should just circle the wagons and just do comfortable things.

    7. But the whole overarching theory that we should pretend the modern world never happened is just not true. It is the job of the Church to convert the modern world--that's its original and irrevocable mission--not dig in its heels and pretend nothing happened after 1950.

      The whole overarching theory that the "modern" world is something special that needs to dealt with in some special way that is fundamentally different from all prior ages seems to have infected both the sillies at V-II and the sillies who infest anti-Catholic hordes these days. All times and peoples have inbred and exterior temptations against the faith and against good morals - and for all peoples, even "merely" immoral behavior if habitually engaged in it will lead them to reject the faith. It is the mission of the Church to bring salvation to ALL people, this includes the new people born to Catholics as well as to adults not yet members of the Church, as well as supporting the sustenance and flourishing of current members. Engaging in "the mission" to non-Catholics in such a way as to lose existing members or to never even get the children of its members is NOT fulfilling its mission. Happily, the very same preaching that ought to be used to sustain current Catholics is also the preaching that will attract new members in similar fashion as happened in the first and 4th and 10th centuries: it is the deep truths that attract (in the right way, lastingly), not glamour and Madison Avenue marketing geared to the "modern" mind - that's bunk.

      So it is neither true that the Church needs to something special to appeal to the "modern world" nor that the Church should "pretend the modern world never happened." Both are failed assumptions. People in the modern world, being people, need salvation just as much as people in the 18th century, and people in the medieval period, and people in the ancient world. That means they need grace, and the sacraments, and the virtues, and sacrifices, and penances, and prayer, and almsgiving, and sound teaching - just like sinners in every age need.

    8. @ Tony: I'll agree with you all day about the abuses that have occurred over the last 50 years; I'll agree with you all day about the inexplicable behavior of the pope and high ranking prelates; I'll agree with you all day that the Church needs to convert the modern world, not cave in to it; I'll agree with you all day that our job is not to save the Church, but to repent from our sins and become saints. But abuses are not necessarily the same as doctrinal errors, and if you wish to charge Vat II with doctrinal error go ahead and make the case--show me where.

      Also, while I agree with what I think you're getting at with the consistency of the Church's mission, how it lives out that mission varies with circumstance and the modern world has it's own circumstance that requires it's own specific response. Certainly those who stress their allegiance to Piux X and Pascendi never tire of saying so: "Modernism" is the synthesis of all heresies, and certainly the synthesis of all heresies requires specific handling, no?

    9. How the one consistent faith applies to different circumstances and different ages is why we have a magisterium; it's why we have encyclicals, and catechisms, and councils.

    10. T N, in fact, I don't wish to charge Vat II with doctrinal error, I have consistently argued the exact opposite when confronted with rad-trads such as sedevacantists.

      That said, it is more than possible that the Fathers of Vat-II, while not teaching error, were engaged in either (a) making less clear what had been more clear before, at least on some matters, and (b) taking the wrong questions as the critical ones that needed to be addressed (or both). What cannot be seriously doubted, at this point, is that while MOST of the Fathers of that council, when they voted on the documents and on the requested alterations to them, were reading the language in a manner in continuity with Tradition, SOME of the Fathers were intentionally introducing language that was ambiguous enough to allow them, later, to teach error and (confusingly) support such error with Vat-II docs, "in the Spirit of Vat-II."

      One of the ways (we can now see more clearly) that the Fathers of Vat-II failed to address the right questions is this: why did they neither notice nor take up the question of why so many seminaries and theology professors had become modernists in the half-century since Pascendi Domenici Gregis? Sure, there are many other questions other than about modernism that they also failed to address, and which needed their attention, so it's not like the problem of modernist infiltration was the only one. (They might have noticed the clerical sodomy problem, but I'll allow that in 1960 it was still hard to see as a systemic problem. It became immeasurably worse in the implosion of correct moral theology teaching that followed the Council.) Just as an example, they failed to address the contraceptive bomb that was working its way through the Church (with, arguably, more critical damage to more Catholics than ANY of the issues that they did address.)

    11. So, you're arguing that Vat II was illegitimate because you don't think they addressed the correct issues?

    12. @TN: "All the executions have been "costly for the Church" so we should just circle the wagons and just do comfortable things."

      You're missing the point. The Church should never do the comfortable thing if doing the comfortable thing is contrary to Church doctrine and practice.

      Since Vatican II, the Church has been doing the comfortable thing in one way or another by accommodating itself to the modern world - by becoming less traditionally Catholic in an effort to appeal to modern sensibilities.

      The effect of this process has been net zero in terms of making the modern Western world more Catholic, but it has definitely made the Catholic Church more modern and mostly not in a good way.

    13. @ Anonymous: yes, sure, I know that. What I'm saying is the abuses you are pointing to are abuses. They are not because of the teaching of Vat II. As I've said so many times now, if you wish to claim otherwise, quit beating around the bush and make the case that shows the abuses are because of the teaching of Vat II and not circumstantial to it.

    14. "Since Vatican II, the Church has been doing the comfortable thing in one way or another by accommodating itself to the modern world - by becoming less traditionally Catholic in an effort to appeal to modern sensibilities."

      Can you give me some examples?

      Also, the Church has been growing rapidly and considerably in Africa and Asia. And contrary to what you might think, African and Asian congregations aren't exactly having Tridentine Mass or anything like that. They are conservative, because their cultures remained conservative - and VII is consilient with their conservatism - but I wonder if you really think they'd all be converting if no VII changes had been implemented.
      The growth of the Charismatic Movement in Latin America is another example.

    15. And lest someone starts posting some examples here and there, I didn't say there is no tridentine mass in Africa or anything like that.
      The thing is that the majority of converts in Africa and Asia probably wouldn't have been reached without Vatican II, the liturgical changes, and (yes) a healthy dose of Ecumenism.

    16. @ Atno:

      I am aware of how successful the Church has been in Africa and I acknowledge that Vatican II probably had something to do with that.

      The Church's record in Asia has been more inconsistent, largely because of local cultural resistance to Western influence than any issues with the Church itself.

      In Latin America, on the other hand, the Church, while still relatively strong, has been weakened by the pull of Evangelical Protestantism and by secular Western influence. Unfortunately, Catholicism in Latin America, while widespread, doesn't have much depth in terms of cultural influence. Latin America is characterized largely by a blend of corruption, violence and poverty. The Church hasn't been able to do much to change that.

      In the West, the modernizing tendencies that have weakened the Church include, inter alia:

      1. Doing away with the Tridentine liturgy.
      2. Doing away with the old vestments and practices.
      3. Doing away with traditional Church architecture in favor of soulless modern buildings.
      4. Failing to catechize the faithful.
      5. Doing away with traditional Church music in favor of easy listening neo-hippie mush.
      6. Failing to take a meaningful stand against bishops, clerics and orders that are effectively heterodox or lax.
      7. Failing to apply canon law consistently or appropriately, such as when dealing with pedophile priests or annulment applications.
      8. Failing to do much of anything to maintain a strong Catholic culture that makes it less likely that the faithful will drift away from the Church.
      9. Failing to emphasize the importance of remaining Catholic in the fight for salvation.
      10. Giving the impression, in practice if not in doctrine, that all religions are more or less as good as Catholicism.

      All of the above occurred as part of "the spirit of Vatican II" and has accompanied a considerable loss of influence of the Church in the West and a major decline in active Catholic participation. You might argue that the decline would have been greater without Vatican II, but that cannot be proven.

    17. Another list of abuses with no attempt to show how the abuses are caused by the explicit teaching of Vat II.

      The argument that council X is illegitimate because confusion, turmoil, and abuses followed council X applies to all councils. Judas just never goes away; that's just the way it is. Thanks for the discussion though.

    18. TN, I don't hear anyone arguing that Vat II was illegitimate. But even a legitimate council can have unfortunate as well as good consequences. I won't talk about the good consequences because they are not at issue. The bad consequences are not so much because the council explicitly endorsed heterodoxy, but because they spoke with sufficient ambiguity to give the heterodox room to maneuver and - worse - the bishops did not have the fortitude to reign in the abuses. I remember clearly in the 70's all sorts of liturgical innovations being justified in terms of Vat II, with little pushback from bishops. If the bishops knew they would be unwilling to reign in unorthodox interpretations of Vat II, then they should not have created the opportunity for those abuses. If they were unaware that they would not defend orthodoxy, then being so spiritually un-selfware they should not have on embarked on such an ambitious project. That's really, for me, the final word on Vat II: Not illegitimate, but naive.

    19. But what about Judeo-masonic-bolshevism?

    20. @ David T:

      From the O.P.: "That's what Vatican II was and is -- the doctrines of Freemasonry forcibly inserted into official Catholic documents by non-Catholic Luciferians."

      Whatever that means.

      Then there was the claim that the Church should make no attempt to address the modern world because the modern world is not worthy of taking note of (or whatever was intended), and I don't remember what else.

      You do not think Vat II is heterodox, but you seem to be saying that the fathers of Vat II were intentionally ambiguous (which is, at least, a moral fault).

      If you want to criticize cowardly bishops, have at it. If you want to say that Vat II is "ambiguous", it depends on what you mean. All forms of Church teaching are "ambiguous" to some degree: scripture is "ambiguous"; catechisms are "ambiguous"; all councils are "ambiguous"; etc. That's why we have an ongoing authority to define the deposit of faith: it is not possible to write some document that will clarify all questions, all the time, forever.

      But if you mean that Vat II was a tool to intentionally dismantle the faith, give me some argument to demonstrate the claim that cannot be attributed to mere human failing. Give me some explicit teaching from the council that shows willful intent to destroy the faith.

      I can give you a positive argument for why I think the explicit teaching of the council is just what the doctor prescribed for the modern world, but what is in question is all the people on this thread who keep trying to make human failing into some reason to reject (in some way) an ecumenical council.

    21. Either it is being claimed that Vat II is bad because of human failings (which is a non-sequitur), or it is being claimed that Vat II somehow dismantled the prior orthodoxy while saying nothing that can be pointed to as evidence (which is nonsense).

    22. Atno, Africans were converting in a tidal wave before V2. Vatican II slowed the rate considerably.

    23. T.N., Vatican II did involve some explicit ideas which are still causing problems. As for intent on the part of individual bishops, it's doubtful that many make this the main point at issue.
      For example, its innovation concerning a right to hold and express religious error based on human nature. Far from being a homogeneous development of doctrine, it was the aping of false philosophical fads from the world around the Church. It's just one of many things which make Vatican II like another Council of Constance - a chaos which will be fixed by another corrective shift on the part of the Church.

    24. Vat II could not have dismantled orthodoxy and not said one single word that can be pointed to as evidence. Yet it took all this time for someone to come up with some claim about Vat II itself and not the failings of humans, which are always present in the Church.

      Dignitatis Humanae (which I mentioned in my very first post on this thread), did not say there is "a right to hold and express religious error based on human nature". It said human beings should be free from coercion. Do you contend otherwise? Do you claim we should shore up the the popes armored divisions and go around shooting people who won't convert?

      Coercion is mentioned 11 times in the short document. Here is one relevant instance: "Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

      Is this a claim that all religions are equal? That civil society should refrain from coercing people so they are free to discharge their duty toward the "one Church of Christ", is a dog whistle to all the "modernist" Freemasons out there?

    25. Beware that Cervantes is a troll who Feser explicitly told to get lost. Probably best not to feed him.

    26. Have you forgotten what he told you? Silence is golden.

    27. @ T N

      Either it is being claimed that Vat II is bad because of human failings (which is a non-sequitur), or it is being claimed that Vat II somehow dismantled the prior orthodoxy while saying nothing that can be pointed to as evidence (which is nonsense).

      It seems to me that you are being unfair to some of your interlocutors. 'When you speak, tell the truth' is one principle governing how we should conduct the truth. There are others. There are times when I should keep quiet, there are times when I will be tempted to keep quiet but ought to speak up, I can express myself more or less clearly, I can decline to call attention to some aspect of my beliefs that my interlocutor would want to query, etc. There's nothing ridiculous in the idea that Vatican II did not teach error but also did not merely happen to engender human error. It may be that people wanting to revolutionize (or Protestantize) the Catholic Church are misuing the Council, because it is in continuity with tradition, but that does not mean that no one involved in the Council was responsible for the misunderstandings, in the sense that they were a result of irresponsibility, cowardice, or whatever.

      Vatican II was followed in the Church by a period of open dissent. I don't think that is entirely an accident. The tone led people to believe that the Church was on the cusp of liberalizing. Then when Humanae vitae upheld the traditional teaching on contraception, a lot of priests openly rebelled against it, taught their parishioners to disobey it, contrived moral theories to justify dissenting, etc.

      All I'll say about the religious liberty question is that it's a question. Is it reconcilable with the Church's tradition? Some say yes, some say no, and the latter treat the case as a pretext for departing from tradition on other matters.

      I don't think that the Council Fathers were intentionally ambiguous, but (as has been noted before) the documents contain a lot of hedging, where they seem to say one thing (radical-sounding) and then refer to the traditional teaching and insist on the consistency of the two, without much explanation. I think this way of writing is not very helpful and is perhaps responsible, in some degree, for the current affairs in the Church, whereby there are very distinct conceptions of how much continuity we need with tradition.

      I'm not arguing that Vatican II was "illegitimate" or "bad", nor am I arguing that it should be rolled back because of its consequences. But I do think it was something of a public relations disaster, and it is necessary to be clear about this as the Church goes forward.

    28. T.N., the text used the term coercion to mean both forcing adherence to religion and rejection of rights for religion, true or false:
      "Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society..."
      The text may have claimed it was not changing prior teaching on individual or social moral obligations towards the true religion, but this is not how it the question had been viewed before the Council. The very first words of the text give it away.

      The text bases its new slant on human nature claiming that free will and an unforced conscience are among the oldest Church teachings, which is true. Where things snap is at its lumping together of the freedom of conscience not to be forced to hold to a truth it does not believe, and a controversial freedom to positively uphold error. The text bases the latter on human nature.

      However, error, like sin, has no rights, no matter what state one's conscience is in. Of course, nobody is advocating persecuting heresy. Nobody was doing in 1965 either. The urgency for the new slant appears at the start of the text. Like the Council of Constance, Vatican II allowed worldly ideas a bit of space.

    29. So, you're arguing that Vat II was illegitimate because you don't think they addressed the correct issues?

      @ T N: No. I never said, nor support, the idea that Vat-II was illegitimate.

      Only that they did many things poorly. Part of what they did poorly is they poorly decided what questions needed to be asked. They poorly distinguished. They poorly directed the reform of the Mass.

    30. Miguel Cervantes,

      Religious liberty as taught by the church has nothing to do with granting rights to error. Read the catechism entry.

      As far as Latin America goes, if it wasn't for some movements like Cathilic Charimastic Renewal, the Church would have lost far more people to protestant sects. Since Vatican II the Church has been growing considerably in Asia, Africa, and Latin america, in great part thanks to ecumenism, a renewed focus on the third world, some liturgical reforms, etc.

  18. As no Pope has lost office because of heresy so far, the discussion seems to be one of opinion only. The practice of the Church weighs heavily.

  19. I can imagine someone being more blatantly and manifestly heretical than Francis. But I can't imagine anyone pretending to be the pope of the Catholic Church to be more blatantly and manifestly heretical than Francis. In other words, I can't imagine any papal imposter to be reckless enough to do or say something so outrageous that even hapless novus-ordo conservatives like Ed Feser would reject him. An example of such an act, I believe, would be in the order of an ex cathedra condemnation of the Immaculate Conception. Of course, such a thing would never take place, so the phony novus-ordo church is quite safe from any mass defections.

    1. George R: is there anything in your post that isn't question begging?

    2. Nope, it's all question-begging, including my name.

    3. When it comes to your name, I'll take your word for it.

  20. IS it a requirement that everyone that wishes to be critical of this post, also write comments in an arrogant and condescending fashion?

    1. Given the circumstances in the Church, it's not surprising there is so much consternation. However, one group screams at you if you say something is wrong. A different group screams at you if you say something is right.

  21. Msgr. Eric Barr on Jansenistic tendencies of many who deny Pope Francis' orthodoxy:

    1. There is NO such thing as a "RadTrad heresy".

      There is NO such thing of Jansenism in the criticism of Pope Francis. Pope Francis is first of all, a Liberation Theology prelate; he is Marxist influenced. He is dropping the Discipline of the Church in regards to homosexuality and communion to the divorced. His Pachamama love-affair is downright sickening and his love of immigration.

      All of this is a sign that Pope Francis, true Pope of Rome, is IN Heresy, is IN Apostasy, and is committing Treason against the Italian people he lives amongst.

      It is not just Pope Francis---our whole Cardinalate and Hieararchy are immersed in Cultural Marxism, i.e. Political Correctness, are therefore apostate.

    2. Ficino, is this a dig at Feser? Perhaps you should explain what he has argued that is wrong, instead of leaving drive-by links.

  22. I find it awful hard on a Catholic Website, a Philosophy blog, no less, to listen or read that people engage in discussion using "Anonymous".

    That is Unethical. How can I check one's background for legitimacy, training, research ability, or bias???
    How can I judge an argument without the Man's Character on display? Scripture and Philosophy says, "Only go to the wise". Aristotle said, "we only listen to opinions of the wise".

    How can one tell who is wise---when hidding behind the veil of "anonymous".

    "Anonymous" comments should not be allowed. Are we all not called to Virtue---II Peter 1:5 "Supplement The Faith with Arete". Virtue. Is it Virtue to engage in argumentation about The Faith or even on Philosophy while being "anonymous".

    If the Bible says, Psalm 1 "I have NOT listened to the counsel of the ungodly"---How can I check that person who hides behind the facade of "anonymous"? Can not do that.

    I believe that should be forbidden. Philosophy means to be Upfront. Philosophy is tied to Virtue. No Virtue, No philosophy, No character.

    I, and others here, should do well by no longer reading or commenting on "anonymous" comments. Our duty is to Scripture and the rules of true Philosophy. "anonymous" commentators should be ignored.

  23. I hate this "anti-pope" or "Empty-seat" use in The Church. There is no such thing.

    Donatism is the demand that a priest or bishop be morally pure for a sacrament to be valid.

    That was denounced by a council.

    Because there have been "robber councils", for me Vatican I is in error saying that the Magisterium can not err or there is such a thing as Papal Infallibility. Recent events are proving that the Magisterium of The Church IS Failing----Big Time. Real events of today are pointing to false doctrines.

    Today, we are NOT facing so much as Heresy, which we are, but Apostasy. The whole of the Hierarchy of The Church, Popes, Cardinalate and lesser bishops, are ALL Infected with Cultural Marxism. Starting with Pope Pius XII onwards, all these popes are Infected with Apostasy. This has been going on now for 80 years. Cultural Marxism is the dictates of another religion, so it is Apostasy. We are dealing with a greater crime.

    I'm sorry but the Magisterium is gone. Pope Francis, even though in Heresy and in Apostasy, is still Bishop of Rome and is still Pope. He is NOT some sort of "anti-pope". Pope Benedict is not some real pope and Pope Francis some "anti-pope".

    The problem lies that in the 9th or 10th centuries, canon law was changed saying that the laity can not remove a priest or a bishop. I believe this damaged The Faith.

  24. Ed writes:
    "This is the central absurdity of sedevacantism. It wants to say both 'No one may criticize the doctrinal statements of a pope! That would be private judgement!' and at the same time 'But I get to decide whether so-and-so is really a pope! That's not private judgment!' It gives back in a massive way with the one hand what it claims to take away with the other."

    End quote.

    The argument is specious.

    The reason why we deny ourselves private judgments with respect to papal teachings is not because private judgments are inherently worthless and unreliable, but because the pope has received the authority from God to teach all men in matters, and we are bound as Catholics to receive all such teachings with docility and to assent to them. On the other hand, assuming we are correct in our judgment that Francis is not a Catholic at all, and, therefore, not the pope, there would be no question of our putting our private judgment before that of the pope. We would merely be using our private judgment to affirm something that is becoming more and more painfully obvious just about every time the (ahem) "Holy Father" opens his mouth.

    1. George R writes: The reason why we deny ourselves private judgments with respect to papal teachings is not because private judgments are inherently worthless and unreliable, but because the pope has received the authority from God to teach all men in matters, and we are bound as Catholics to receive all such teachings with docility and to assent to them.

      THAT has NEVER been the Holy Tradition of The Church. Still, to this day, the Orthodox have a greater hold on Church Tradition.

      Are we not told that every believer is a priest in Christ Jesus? Are we not ALL RESPONSIBLE for The Faith?

      In the Orthodox Church, NO council is accepted UNTIL its fruits are seen. NO Council is accepted immediately. The Faithful have to accept the Council's teachings.

      There are several Patriarchs of Constantinople at the bottom of the Black Sea with a millstone tied around their necks. The Orthodox Laity still have the right to remove bad bishops and laity and even Patriarchs!

      The Roman Catholic Church INNOVATED and changed the Tradition of The Church---and it is THIS Innovation that created Pope Francis!

      Would it not be right if the Catholics of Rome kicked out Pope Francis when he engaged in that Pachamama ceremony and placed those things in a Catholic Church?

      Yes, the people DOCILILY, accepted the turning around of the priest to face the people. THAT HAS NEVER BEEN THE TRADITION OF THE CHURCH---yet it was done---against many of the faithful!

      I'm with Prof. Feser, here, that he is correct, that what Sedevacantists do with one hand---they give away in other! Private judgement is not allowed---but I do have Private judgement to say a Pope is an anti-pope.

      This whole argument is moot, if we return to the premise that the Laity may remove bishops, priests and patriarchs.

    2. Wheeler is a literal white supremacist and conspiracy theorist.

  25. Catholic convert, firebrand, Ann Barnhardt is having conniption fits over the papacy of Pope Francis, calling him must Bergolio! Her recent post:

    Where she points out that

    In this case, the absurdity, the obvious violation of the Law of Non-contradiction, is the notion that Jorge Bergoglio could simultaneously be both the Standard of Unity – that is, the Roman Pontiff, AND its ontological opposite, the Vector of Schism; that all men must BOTH be in union with and submission to Bergoglio in order to NOT be in schism from the One True Church, while simultaneously Bergoglio demands apostasy from the One True Church in order to be in union with him. A clear Catch-22 ontological impossibility. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Only satan plays such irrational games.

    Ms Barnhardt is at her wits end. Sure enough, Pope Francis is causing a Schism in The Church. But the Papacy is not the "unifying factor" of The Church, the Faith is!

    Trad Catholics are having spaz attacks because they are being forced, forced to go into schism.

    What do you think the Orthodox did? Leave an over-bearing Bishop that didn't respect them. They are NOT schismatics. The law of non-contradiction doesn't apply here because modern dogma of Papal supremacy is the fallacy. The Pope of Rome is not a "Universal" patriarch. He is just first among equals, an apostolic see that has pull. But now, Pope Francis is not even a Catholic.

    Heads are bursting over at the Trad Catholic sites but they can save themselves if they just jettison Vatican I. Vatican I has now proven false. The Magisterium of Rome is completely heretical and apostate. And when that is the case---there is only one road to take, Archbishop Lebevre's position.If anything it is the Bishopric of Rome that is in Schism!

    My head is not exploding but Ann's is. Someone needs to put a suicide watch on Ann and the rest of the rad Trads. Pope Francis is driving them crazy!!!!

  26. But Dr. Feser, in all seriousness, we are in unprecedented territory. We have now a pope who has, by virtue of his magisterial authority, placed in the deposit of faith erroneous teachings regarding capital punishment, which he has further clarified in public speeches and referred to as intrinsically wrong.

    Honorious did not do that. Honorious privately confirmed Sergius in his heresy. Vigilius did not do that- Vigilius erred as to the prudence of posthumous condemnations in relation to upholding the authority of Chalcedon, though it could be argued he weakens the claim of inerrancy of dogmatic facts. Liberius did not do that, he acted under coercion, moreover no one knows really WHICH creed of Sirmium he signed, the innocuous one or the heretical one. John XXII did not do that, he did not act in a way to settle for all time the question of the status of beatitude for the faithful departed, but taught an opinion.

    But NOW, we have something altogether different. A pope who makes Vatican II's actual text look like a resplendent beacon of orthodoxy!!! Remember, he formally placed his interpretation of Amoris Laetitia (His note to the Argentine Bishops) in the Acts of the Apostolic See. His interpretation is the formal understanding of the Roman Church. This coupled with the issue of the death penalty...I just don't see the indefectability of the pope here playing out. UNLESS there is some way in which he is NOT Pope, either by faulty election or failure to properly accept the papacy, or Benedict's failure to effect a proper resignation (which is questionable when you see Benedict doesn't ACCEPT that resignation is POSSIBLE for in what sense did he resign, and what kind of error does it create?).

    I would rather be in a Church where I could fight this stuff instead of in a church that demands my submission,without which I cannot be saved. I would LIKE to submit, but how can one submit to what one knows is false, and how can one fight when one knows that he is not SUPPOSED to have to fight the pope?

    Eastern Orthodoxy seems to glitter brightly on the horizon. Unless...

  27. Catholic must know Dogma > Ripped from your soul

    If you're at all interested in knowing ... the Catholic Dogma ... that we *must believe* to
    get to Heaven, and which you have *never* seen ...

    I list it on my website > >

    And no ... the anti-Christ vatican-2 heretic cult (founded in 1965) is not the Catholic Church (founded in 33 A.D.).

    Currently ... you are outside the Catholic Church and so ... have no chance of getting to Heaven.

    Physical participation in a heretic cult (vatican-2, lutheran, evangelical, etc) ... automatically excommunicates you from the Catholic Church (that is, Christianity) >

    Mandatory ... Abjuration of heresy to enter the Catholic Church >

    Dogma that one must Abjure to leave the vatican-2 heretic cult and enter the Catholic Church >

    The BIBLE says ... 15 TIMES ... it is not the authority on Faith,
    the BIBLE says the Church in it's Dogma and Doctrine ... is the authority on Faith and the definition of the Catholic Faith ...

    The Catholic God knows ... what we think and believe ...

    Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
    "They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Deuteronomy 31:21 >
    "For I know their thoughts, and what they are about to do this day."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
    "Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."

    Regards - Victoria