Justifying a false pope at the expense of a true one…
A Response to “Bishop” Athanasius Schneider’s Claims against Pope Liberius
With the recent kerfuffle about the five dubia submitted by “Cardinals” Caffarra, Burke, Meisner, and Brandmuller, it was just a matter of time before we were going to hear from Mr. Athanasius Schneider, the auxiliary “bishop” of the Novus Ordo Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan. Schneider is about as far right in the Novus Ordo spectrum one can be while still being considered in full communion with the Modernist-in-Chief in Vatican City.
In a new interview published at the Rorate Caeli blog, Schneider has come to the defense of the four “cardinals” mentioned above, whose dubia (“doubts”, or formal requests for clarification) have forced Francis into a corner from which he will not be able to escape because they do not allow for anything but a clear and straightforward answer, something Francis has been deliberately refusing to give in public (but not in private!) so as to cause the greatest confusion and chaos possible.
Unfortunately, Schneider’s defense of the four “cardinals” comes at a price: Since he refuses to admit that Jorge Bergoglio cannot be a valid Pope, he tries to find some historical precedent for Catholic prelates opposing a “heretical Pope”. Schneider thinks he has found such a case in the fourth-century Pope Liberius (reigned 352-366):
When Pope Liberius in 357 signed one of the so called formulas of Sirmium, in which he deliberately discarded the dogmatically defined expression “homo-ousios” and excommunicated Saint Athanasius in order to have peace and harmony with the Arian and Semi-Arian bishops of the East, faithful Catholics and some few bishops, especially Saint Hilary of Poitiers, were deeply shocked. Saint Hilary transmitted the letter that Pope Liberius wrote to the Oriental bishops, announcing the acceptance of the formula of Sirmium and the excommunication of Saint Athanasius. In his deep pain and dismay, Saint Hilary added to the letter in a kind of desperation the phrase: “Anathema tibi a me dictum, praevaricator Liberi” (I say to you anathema, prevaricator Liberius), cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, n. 141. Pope Liberius wanted to have peace and harmony at any price, even at the expense of the Divine truth. In his letter to the heterodox Latin bishops Ursace, Valence, and Germinius announcing to them the above-mentioned decisions, he wrote that he preferred peace and harmony to martyrdom (cf. cf. [sic] Denzinger-Schönmetzer, n. 142).
(Athansius Schneider, “A Prophetic Voice of Four Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church”, Rorate Caeli, Nov. 23, 2016)
This is a nice try, it just suffers from one fatal flaw: The “evidence” Schneider relies on is fraudulent.
First, a quick word on the secondary source here. Schneider cites Denzinger-Schönmetzer (available online in Latin here), which is one of the post-Pius XII editions of the magisterial document collection known as Denzinger. The first Denzinger-Schönmetzer was published in 1963 and got a blistering review from Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton (see Fenton, “The New Denzinger”, American Ecclesiastical Review 148, pp. 337-44). The old, last pre-Vatican II edition of Denzinger was that of 1954, sometimes called Denzinger-Rahner, available online here and for purchase here (3oth ed.).
The new edition, i.e. the Denzinger-Schönmetzer, added and dropped some content and completely overhauled the paragraph numbering system, which means that the old Denzinger numbers and the new Denzinger numbers no longer correspond. In most traditional Catholic disputations, it is usually the old numbers that are used. (The old and the new numbers are cross-referenced here.) An example of dropped content in the new Denzinger would be the condemnation of religious liberty by Pope Pius IX (see here). An example of added content would be the documents ascribed to Pope Liberius cited by “Bp.” Schneider above.
There is a reason why the pre-Vatican II editions of Denzinger did not include the documents that are now relied on by Mr. Schneider: It’s because they were of doubtful authenticity or known to be outright forgeries. Yet, when Fr. Adolf Schönmetzer (1910-97) included them in his new edition, he simply dismissed the rejection of the letters attributed to Pope Liberius as having been without foundation: “Their authenticity was formerly questioned without justification” (quarum authenticitas olim immerito impugnabatur). The most recent English edition of Denzinger-Schönmetzer, the so-called Denzinger-Hünermann (43rd ed., 2010), retains those documents and also Schonmetzer’s notes.
Now let’s have a look at the claims made by “Bp.” Schneider against Pope Liberius. In essence, they are the following:
- Pope Liberius denied the dogmatic homoousion, a Greek term meaning “of the same substance” (“consubstantial” in Latin), in reference to the Son of God being of the same (not merely of like) substance as the Father, defined by the Council of Nicea in 325.
- Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius.
- St. Hilary of Poitiers hurled an anathema at Pope Liberius.
- Pope Liberius sacrificed orthodoxy (i.e. the true Faith) in order to have peace with heretics.
The truth is that every single one of these four theses is false, which we shall now demonstrate:
(1) The charge of Pope Liberius denying the homoouison is based on the so-called Professions of Faith of Sirmium, of which there were three. To make a long story short: Pope Liberius signed the first Sirmian formula but not the second or the third. Schneider bases his claim of heresy against Pope Liberius on his signing of the first one, the text of which is found in Denzinger-Hünermann 139-140. The great Church historian Fr. Reuben Parsons, whose work received the approbation of Pope Leo XIII, explains the issue as follows:
The first [Sirmian] formula sins by omission, as all that it contains is Catholic, but it lacks the “Homoouisos;” the second is unmitigatedly Arian, the third is Semiarian. We propose to show that Liberius could not possibly have signed the second or third; that therefore the first, if any whatever, should claim our attention….
There remains, therefore, only the first formula, promulgated in the year 351, to which Liberius could possibly have subscribed. If this is examined, the charge of heresy, which is brought against the Pontiff, must fall to the ground. It reads as follows: “We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, creator and maker of all things, in whom all paternity is in Heaven, and is named on earth. And in His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, generated before all ages from God the Father, light from light, through whom were made all things in Heaven and on earth invisible as well as visible; He is the Word and Wisdom, true light and life, and in the later days was made Man and was born of the Holy Virgin, crucified, dead, and buried; He sits at the right hand of the Father, and is to come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, and will render to each one according to his works; whose Kingdom never-ending will last for infinite ages; He sits at the right hand of the Father, not only in this time, but in the future. And in the Holy Ghost, that is, the Paraclete, whom, having promised Him to the apostles, after His ascent to Heaven He sent to teach them and to advise them in all things. Through whom are sanctified all souls which sincerely believe in Him.” Now, although the word Homoousios is not found in this profession, yet there is nothing in it repugnant to the Catholic doctrine on the divinity of the Word. The omission should not have been allowed, for an insertion of the term “Consubstantial” was regarded by the orthodox as a safeguard to the true faith. But all those who omitted it were not regarded, in the time of Athanasius, as necessarily heretical. There never was a more strenuous defender of the word Homoouisos than the holy bishop of Alexandria [St. Athanasius], and yet he says in his book on Synods, No. 41, “It is not right to regard as enemies those who accept all the other Nicene writings, and hesitate only as to the word ‘Consubstantial’ … for we dispute as brothers with brothers, who are of the same opinion as ourselves, bringing a name alone into controversy. For when they avow that the Son is from the substance of the Father, and from no other substance; that He is not a creature or a thing made, but a genuine and real Son, the Word and Wisdom, existing one with the Father, they are not far from receiving the term ‘Consubstantial.'”
And now we may conclude our dissertation on the orthodoxy of the holy Liberius. We have seen that the arguments against him are not tenable, that there is abundant positive evidence in his favor, and that if he signed any one of the Sirmian formulas, it was one which was innocent of heresy.
(Rev. Reuben Parsons, Studies in Church History, Vol. I, 3rd ed. [Philadelphia, PA: John Joseph McVey, 1886], pp. 230-232)
One reason that may have led Pope Liberius to sign a creed omitting the word homoouison is the fact that this term, although perfectly orthodox, was sometimes hijacked by the Sabellian heretics, who denied the Trinity of Persons and claimed that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were merely three modes of one single Divine Person (cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Monarchians”).
(2) The claim that Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius is likewise false. We will refer the reader to the exhaustive argumentation made by Mr. John Daly on this subject, which we have received permission to publish on our web site:
- “The Alleged Fall of Pope Liberius, His Alleged Excommunication of St. Athanasius, and other Anti-Papal Libels” by John S. Daly
Pope Liberius’ alleged condemnation of St. Athanasius is found in the letter Studens Paci, excerpted in Denzinger-Hünermann 138, but there is no question that the letter is fraudulent, that is, it was not written by Pope Liberius:
[The historian] Sozomen says that lies were circulated at the expense of Pope Liberius, namely, that he gave his sanction to the Anomoean doctrine. Neither can it be denied that spurious letters were ascribed to him as well as to S. Athanasius: to this class belongs, first of all, the correspondence between Liberius and Athanasius, unconditionally acknowledged to be spurious, and, what is of still more importance to us, a letter from Liberius to the Oriental bishops, contained in the same fragment of Hilary, and beginning with the words studens paci. That this must of necessity be spurious, we have already said, and it was so recognised by Baronius; the Benedictine editors of S. Hilary and the Bollandist, P. Stilting, have also proved it in detail.
(Right Rev. Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. II [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1876], p. 239; underlining added.)
So, here we have an illustrious Church historian tell us that the Studens Paci is spurious, and, as we will see now, so is the letter Pro Deifico, which is also found in Denzinger-Hünermann (n. 141), and which is the letter “Bp.” Schneider expressly relies on for his false claims about Pope Liberius and St. Hilary.
Regarding the question of the authenticity of Pro Deifico, Fr. Hefele informs us that a thorough investigation reveals it to be as spurious as the other two letters commonly (but falsely) attributed to Pope Liberius. After listing all the reasons why the three letters cannot be authentic, Hefele concludes:
On account of all this, and because of the impossibility of reconciling these letters with well-authenticated history…, I have as little doubt of their spuriousness as have Baronius, Stilting, Petrus, Ballerini, Massari, Palma, and others, and conclude that they were written in the Anomoean interest, by some Greekling who had very little knowledge of the Latin tongue. Such a falsehood and forgery need not, however, so much surprise us, as we know false letters ascribed to Athanasius were also circulated by the Arian party; and Sozomen expressly relates that the Anomoeans (strict Arians) in Asia had spread false reports concerning Liberius, representing him as having embraced their views, signed the second Sirmian formula, and rejected the teaching of the Church. Might not these three letters have been the very means employed to spread these false reports?
(Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. II, p. 242)
So, keep this in mind when you hear someone refer to these documents as “proof” that Pope Liberius sided with the Arians and excommunicated St. Athanasius. The fact that they are included in the post-Pius XII Denzinger does not vindicate them — to the contrary, it raises the question why Fr. Schonmetzer decided to include documents that have been shown to be forgeries, or — if we want to be generous to skeptics — documents whose authenticity is at least highly disputed. By including them, Schonmetzer has implicitly declared them to be genuine, just because. As a result, the premier reference work for the sources of dogma used in the Novus Ordo Church — which Denzinger no doubt still is — now includes spurious documents that are at odds with, and even condemn, Catholic orthodoxy and thus blacken the name of a true Pope. This says a lot about the Vatican II Sect.
Invoking Cardinal John Henry Newman, as “Bp.” Schneider does, will not help here because, as explained by John Daly, the book in question was written by Newman when he was still an Anglican and is “a work in which he accuses the papacy of having apostatized altogether at the Council of Trent” (source) — not exactly a source which should be used to draw any conclusions about the Pope or the Papacy.
(3) The claim that St. Hilary hurled an anathema at Pope Liberius, as “Bp.” Schneider asserts, is disproven very easily, even using the very source Schneider cites, namely, Denzinger-Hünermann 141. If Schneider had also read the footnote attached to n. 141, he would have seen that it says: “These insertions were not added by Hilary but come from a compiler or copyist of the letter” (interiectiones illae non sunt Hilarii, sed colligentis seu exscribentis has epistolas). The phrase “these insertions” refers precisely to what Schneider says “Saint Hilary added to the letter” of Pope Liberius. But no! These additions — visibly marked in the text using parentheses and dashes — were interjections made by a copyist, as Fr. Schonmetzer’s footnote admits. Did Schneider not bother to look carefully at the text he was relying on to impugn the orthodoxy of a legitimate Roman Pontiff? Fr. John Chapman confirms in The Catholic Encyclopedia that the interjections were not made by St. Hilary: “Interspersed in the first and second letters are anathemas ‘to the prevaricator Liberius’, attributed by the forger to St. Hilary” (s.v. “Pope Liberius”; italics added). Fr. Hefele likewise dismisses the interjections as clearly not made by St. Hilary (see Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. II, pp. 242-243).
(4) Lastly, the thesis that Pope Liberius compromised the Faith and defected into heresy in order to have peace with the Arians rests on the letter Quia Scio, excerpted in Denzinger-Hünermann 142. Like the two aforementioned letters falsely attributed to Pope Liberius, this one too is a forgery. Fr. Chapman summarizes in The Catholic Encyclopedia:
There follows in the same fragment a paragraph which declares that Liberius, when in exile, reversed all these promises and actions, writing to the wicked, prevaricating Arians the three letters which complete the fragment. These correspond to the authentic letters which have preceded, each to each: the first, “Pro deifico timore” is a parody of “Obsecro”; the second “Quia scio uos”, is a reversal of everything said in “Quamuis”; the third “Non doceo”, is a palinode, painful to read, of the letter to Hosius. The three are clearly forgeries, composed for their present position.
(Rev. John Chapman, “Pope Liberius”, The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX ; underlining added.)
That the Quia Scio should be a forgery is also suggested by the very text itself, for in it the author says that “peace and concord … is preferable to martyrdom”, something so obviously at odds with the true Faith and so absurd that no one could believe it to have come from the lips of the Vicar of Christ.
In sum, everything that “Bp.” Schneider adduces against Pope Liberius — something which, we recall, he only does in order to support the idea that Francis is a true Pope despite issuing the heretical exhortation Amoris Laetitia — turns out to be false. At the very least — for those who may perhaps still be skeptical — we must say that the authenticity of the evidence cited by Schneider is far from certain because highly disputed. Even skeptics would have to admit as much.
But we’re not quite done yet. What adds a bit of amusing irony to the whole matter is that both the old and the new Denzinger contain an excerpt of a letter written by Pope St. Anastasius I (reigned 399-402) which confirms the orthodoxy of Pope Liberius:
For this faith those who were then esteemed as holy bishops gladly endured exile, that is Dionysius, thus a servant of God, prepared by divine instruction, or those following his example of holy recollection, LIBERIUS bishop of the Roman Church, Eusebius also of Vercelli, Hilary of the Gauls, to say nothing of many, on whose decision the choice could rest to be fastened to the cross rather than blaspheme God Christ, which the Arian heresy compelled, or call the Son of God, God Christ, a creature of the Lord
(Pope St. Anastasius I, Apostolic Letter Dat Mihi Plurinum, Denz. 93 [DH 209]; underlining added.)
Apparently, Pope St. Anastasius never got the memo about the scandalous Pope Liberius and his capitulation to the Arians or Semi-Arians.
In more recent times, Pope Pius IX, too, seemed unaware that Pope Liberius had defected into heresy and excommunicated St. Athanasius, for he wrote: “…previously the Arians falsely accused Liberius, also Our predecessor, to the Emperor Constantine, because Liberius refused to condemn St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and refused to support their heresy” (Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 16).
And in 1920, Pope Benedict XV cited St. Athanasius as an example of someone who relied on the judgment of the Roman Pontiff as a guarantee of orthodoxy, and mentioned the same Pope Liberius as an example of a Roman Pontiff who preferred exile over compromising the orthodox Faith:
The ancient Fathers, especially those who held the more illustrious chairs of the East, since they accepted these privileges as proper to the pontifical authority, took refuge in the Apostolic See whenever heresy or internal strife troubled them. For it alone promised safety in extreme crises. Basil the Great did so, as did the renowned defender of the Nicene Creed, Athanasius, as well as John Chrysostom. For these inspired Fathers of the orthodox faith appealed from the councils of bishops to the supreme judgement of the Roman Pontiffs according to the prescriptions of the ecclesiastical Canons. Who can say that they were wanting in conformity to the command which they had from Christ? Indeed, lest they should prove faithless in their duty, some went fearlessly into exile, as did Liberius and Silverius and Martinus.
(Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Principi Apostolorum Petro, n. 3; underlining added.)
Finally, it is not without significance that Pope Liberius is listed as “St. Liberius” in the pre-Vatican II edition of Denzinger.
Before we conclude this post, we must look at another justification “Bishop” Schneider invokes in support of the four “cardinals” who are opposing Francis:
The entire Church in our days has to reflect upon the fact that the Holy Spirit has not in vain inspired Saint Paul to write in the Letter to the Galatians about the incident of his public correction of Peter [Gal 2:11-15]. One has to trust that Pope Francis will accept this public appeal of the Four Cardinals in the spirit of the Apostle Peter, when St Paul offered him a fraternal correction for the good of the whole Church. May the words of that great Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, illuminate and comfort us all: “When there is a danger for the faith, subjects are required to reprove their prelates, even publicly. Since Paul, who was subject to Peter, out of the danger of scandal, publicly reproved him. And Augustine comments: “Peter himself gave an example to superiors by not disdaining to be corrected by his subjects when it occurred to them that he had departed from the right path” (Summa theol., II-II, 33, 4c).
(Schneider, “A Prophetic Voice”, Rorate Caeli, Nov. 23, 2016)
It is certainly true that any Catholic — even the Vicar of Christ himself — can be rebuked by an inferior if he sins publicly and thus scandalizes the faithful. This is a matter of fraternal correction. Since even the Pope is a sinner, even the Pope can be fraternally corrected.
However, what has been happening with Francis and the other Vatican II “popes” is not merely a matter of individual “popes” sinning, it is much more than that: It is a matter of them publicly denying the Faith and/or doing things which a true Pope is by divine guarantee prevented from doing (e.g., promulgating harmful disciplinary laws to the whole Church).
In the case of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Francis has promulgated to the entire Vatican II Church various theological theses that are downright heretical, as even Novus Ordo scholars have pointed out. This is an impossible thing for a true Pope to do. Invoking Galatians 2:11-15 won’t help “Bp.” Schneider here, because, as we demonstrate in our little appendix below, the fault for which St. Paul rebuked St. Peter was not a matter of heresy, nor was it even so much as a mortal sin — it was merely a venial sin of imprudence, that of unnecessarily risking to give so-called “scandal of the weak”.
A number of readers will now be quick to say, “But St. Peter, the first Pope, denied Christ three times — that was a mortal sin against the Faith!” To this we respond that even if it was a sin against Faith, this had no bearing on the Papacy whatsoever because St. Peter was not yet Pope when he denied his Lord. Although the Papacy had been promised him in Matthew 16:18, it was not actually conferred upon him until John 21:15-17, as confirmed by the First Vatican Council: “And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Feed my sheep’ [John 21:15 ff.]” (Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 1; Denz. 1822; underlining added).
This concludes our refutation of the errors promoted by Athanasius Schneider and the pseudo-traditionalists at Rorate Caeli. We append below an excerpt from our response to John Salza on the issue of St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter in Galatians 2. Salza attempted to make this into a historical precedent for resisting a Pope for heresy without jumping to the conclusion that the Pope is in fact a formal heretic. We reproduce our rebuttal here because it is an argument that is used again and again against Sedevacantism, when even just a little bit of research proves it collapses right away under closer examination.
St. Paul’s Rebuke of St. Peter in Galatians 2:11-15
(4) St. Peter’s Sin in Galatians 2:11
Next, Salza makes reference to St. Thomas’ teaching on fraternal correction, how even subjects are permitted (or even bound) to correct their superiors in certain cases. Mention is made of Galatians 2:11, where St. Paul rebuked St. Peter in public “on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 33, a. 4, ad 2). It’s hard to see what that has to do with anything we’re discussing, but Salza insists that this is evidence that “it is not only licit but even necessary to oppose a Pope who endangers the Faith, without labeling him a formal heretic” (Salza, “Presumption”, p. 1; italics added).
To answer this, we need only to look at what St. Peter did that caused St. Paul’s rebuke. Just what was it that St. Peter was doing? Was he telling the Jews who were persecuting him that their covenant with God was still valid, as John Paul II did? Was he inviting pagans to offer sacrifice to their idols to obtain true peace, thus legitimizing their false religion, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI did in Assisi?
No, not exactly. The popular Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible has the following note on this passage:
The fault that is here noted in the conduct of St. Peter, was only a certain imprudence, in withdrawing himself from the table of the Gentiles, for fear of giving offence to the Jewish converts; but this, in such circumstances, when his so doing might be of ill consequence to the Gentiles, who might be induced thereby to think themselves obliged to conform to the Jewish way of living, to the prejudice of their Christian liberty.
What John Salza wants to raise to the level of a materially heretical offense (which would then allow him to argue, “But see, notoriety or pertinacity weren’t presumed!”) is nothing but a “certain imprudence” in the conduct of St. Peter. That’s it. This is seconded in the Bible commentary of the famous Fr. George Haydock: “. . . the opinion of St. Augustine is commonly followed, that St. Peter was guilty [only] of a venial fault of imprudence” (Haydock Note on Galatians 2:11). St. Peter was simply afraid of giving offense to the Jewish converts by eating with the Gentiles; hence, he withdrew from the Gentile converts when the Jews arrived. Because this conduct can give the false impression that Christians are still bound by the Old Law, it was imprudent for St. Peter to act this way, though he probably simply sought to avoid giving so-called “scandal of the weak,” and so his intention was good. In any case, St. Peter humbly accepted St. Paul’s rebuke, and that was the end of it.
We see, then, that there is absolutely nothing in here to help Salza’s case. For, while an action indifferent in itself can nonetheless, due to special circumstances, “accidentally” endanger the Faith, such as St. Peter’s conduct mentioned here (eating separately with Jewish converts was not wrong in and of itself, after all, but only became imprudent due to particular circumstance), this is in no wise comparable to actions which are directly and in and of themselves sins against the Faith, such as joining today’s apostate Jews in singing a hymn awaiting the Messiah, or approving of the religions of the pagans (such as Jainism, Voodoo, Hinduism, etc.), or saying that papal primacy as defined at the First Vatican Council may be erroneous, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have done.
What John Salza is doing here is simply grasping at straws. He is desperate to find any sort of argument he can to make sedevacantism look flawed. And this is really saying more than a mouthful, for if he had really good, strong arguments, then we may surmise he would have used them, no? Instead, he resorts to these old taken-out-of-context “proof-texts,” polishes them up by giving them a new spin, and hopes perhaps that the reader will be impressed by all the complicated canonico-theological lingo he is throwing around.