The Theological Errors of “Bishop” Schneider
A Refutation of Athanasius Schneider on the Heretical Pope Question
On March 20 of this year, the Kazakh Novus Ordo auxiliary bishop Athanasius Schneider, immensely popular among semi-traditionalists, published a lengthy article entitled, “On the Question of a Heretical Pope” on the Rorate Caeli web site.
In face of the overwhelming evidence that Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) is not a Catholic but a public heretic, Schneider’s objective was to find a way to reconcile Bergoglio’s obvious stubborn adherence to heresy with his claim to the Papacy, the legitimacy of which Schneider refuses to question. In other words: Schneider couldn’t deny the obvious, yet somehow still needed to allow for Francis’ claim to the Papacy to be valid, since to him Sedevacantism must be avoided at all costs. The result was a theological trainwreck that relies on a skewed presentation of Church history and utilizes made-up concepts such as a “semi-heretical Pope” and “papal correctors”. (Schneider is no stranger to bizarre theological concepts and falsified history.)
Some of the usual suspects of semi-trad Resistance Land immediately jumped on Schneider’s piece and hailed it as an important theological contribution so needed in our day to bring clarity to the issues we are faced with. Thus, for example, Steve Skojec at One Peter Five, Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon in a video discussion, and, of course, Christopher Ferrara, who immediately touted Schneider’s piece as a capable refutation of Sedevacantism. Life Site didn’t take long to publish the obligatory interview that typically accompanies or follows such releases.
Of course the reason why these people were impressed with the “bishop’s” essay is not that they found its theological argumentation to be sound and verified in traditional Catholic doctrine. Rather, Schneider gave his co-religionists precisely what they enjoy hearing, and that’s what accounts for the euphoria and approval among them.
Not all semi-trads, however, joined the party. For example, Prof. Roberto de Mattei — himself a resistance propagandist who is usually on the same page with Schneider — and Resignationist Louie Verrecchio both found the piece to be troublesome. In an interview with Rorate Caeli, de Mattei stated that he cannot agree with Schneider’s idea that a Pope would not lose his office for heresy, and Verrecchio pointed out that “Bishop Schneider’s defense contains certain obvious errors and omissions, which suggest that the weakness of his response to the heretic Bergoglio is inspired not only by a lack of courage, but also, perhaps, by a deficit in right belief.”
But what about a sedevacantist response?
In a somewhat long but not long-winded rebuttal to Schneider’s argumentation, sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada has now weighed in on the debate, calling the Kazakh Novus Ordo bishop’s essay “a 7000-word-long buffet table of factual errors, unproven theological claims, dumb analogies, and unconnected ideas, tossed together without any semblance of linear reasoning or evidence of serious research.”
The following is a complete reproduction of Fr. Cekada’s response to “Bishop” Schneider, which he published on his blog Quidlibet on Apr. 6, 2019. All formatting is given as in the original; only images and their captions have been removed and typos corrected. Reproduced here with permission.
The Errors of Athanasius Schneider
SIX YEARS’ WORTH of the antics of Jorge Mario Bergoglio (aka “Pope Francis”) have left a lot of previously clueless Catholics really shaken. The radical and destructive nature of the Vatican II doctrinal and moral revolution, kept discreetly masked to a large extent under the regimes of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, finally emerged into the light of day once Bergoglio took charge in March of 2013 and began to implement the Council at full speed and with a vengeance (often literally).
The “right” in the Conciliar Church — those we will here call “conservatives” or, in the case of those who promote the old Mass in the Novus Ordo system, “neo-trads” — were at first stunned, then outraged by the breadth, depth, and sheer volume of errors that Bergoglio began to crank out by word and deed.
Lengthy and open critiques of Bergoglio started appearing in conservative and neo-trad opinion outlets. Soon even the words “heretic” and “heresy” began to pop up. But since Bergoglio’s critics in these circles had long pronounced sedevacantism to be utterly unthinkable, they had to create some sort of plausible theological justification for their overall position. This “third way” would somehow need to allow them to continue to do two things:
- Utterly ignore the errors and heresies Bergoglio teaches and acts upon, and
- Still claim Bergoglio is a true pope, the Successor of St. Peter, and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth.
The justification the conservatives and neo-trads have come up with for squaring the circle is this: The theologians who taught that the pope receives some sort of special assistance from the Holy Ghost in his authentic magisterium — the teaching function that he exercises every day — were wrong. Similarly, theologians were likewise wrong in saying that Catholics must give “the assent of the intellect” to what the pope teaches through this authentic magisterium.
Poof — There you have it! Problem solved! The pope has no rights, and you have no obligations!
But this convenient theory not only ran afoul of the teachings of pre-Vatican II theologians (see, for instance Salaverri, De Ecclesia, 1:503ff), but also of the explicit teaching of the popes themselves.
[T]he teaching authority of the Church, which in the divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might remain intact forever, and that they might be brought with ease and security to the knowledge of men, … is daily exercised [cotidie exercetur] through the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops who are in communion with him. (Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928)
“[It]t is He who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth [imprimisque suum in terris Vicarium] with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain it and confirm it with reverence and devotion.” (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 1943)
“As regards opinion, whatever the Roman Pontiffs have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter teach, must be held with a firm adherence of the mind [necesse est et tenere iudicio stabili comprehensa], and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed. (Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885)
It becomes even more obvious why conservatives and neo-trads want to dump these established doctrines if we add still another passage on papal teaching authority, taken from Leo XIII’s 1890 Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, and intersperse it with a few of the more memorable teachings of “Pope Francis.”
“Hence, the Pontiff must have the power authoritatively… to declare what is virtuous [Adulterous second marriages after a discernment process!] and what is sinful [The death penalty! Harming the environment!], what it to be done [Open borders! LGBT accompaniment!] and what it to be avoided [“Below-the-waist” obsessions! Faith as adherence to doctrine! Proselytism! Conversions! Having all the answers!] in the work of salvation, for otherwise he could neither be a sure interpreter of the moral word of God nor a safe guide to man.”
No matter. Under the conservative/neo-trad theory, both papal teaching authority and its content are toast — recycled snacks for the Bergoglio peace pigeons.
You can have your pope — but he’s a cardboard-y one, like a WalMart display that automatically chatters at you as you walk by, but which you generally ignore. Such a pope is in some sense “Peter,” but with his he-who-hears-you-hears-me microchip removed.
In the process of promoting their theory of a denatured papacy, the conservatives and neo-cons then began to denigrate the traditional pre-Vatican II teaching on the papal office by employing terms like “papalotry” (idolatry of the pope), “Ultramontanism” (a 19th-century epithet invented by Gallicans, “Enlightenment” rationalists and other enemies of papal authority), and “the decadent theology of the manualists” (a 20th-century modernist slam against systematic neo-scholastic Thomism).
This disturbing phenomenon has now become quite widespread, but I will address it at some length in another article.
I. The Schneider Intervention
Here I will comment on one recent article that is most representative of this position, “On the Question of a Heretical Pope,” by the Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan. It appeared on the Rorate Caeli blog on March 20, 2019, and was the subject of an additional interview with Bp. Schneider that appeared March 25, 2019 on Life Site News.
We will have to discuss the bishop’s article in considerable detail, not only because he touches upon a wide variety of issues, but also because Bp. Schneider is regarded in conservative and neo-trad circles as a leading voice against the more outrageous Bergoglian errors. I know that longer articles are not to every reader’s taste, so I hope to produce another, shorter article to summarize what follows.
It is obvious from the title that Bp. Schneider intends to squelch any tendencies among conservatives and neo-trads to consider the possibility that in Francis, they are faced with a heretic who therefore could not possibly be a true pope — to embrace sedevacantism, in other words.
To preclude this, Bp. Schneider will attempt to destroy pre-Vatican II teaching on both the special or binding nature of ordinary papal magisterium and on the automatic loss of office by a heretical pope. This way, conservative and neo-trad readers will feel free to ignore Bergoglio’s heresies, while still entertaining the consoling fantasy that a public heresy-spewer can still be “Peter.”
One would think that a bishop who holds a doctorate in theology (albeit Patristics) would manage to present an at least superficially coherent argument for what is, on the face of it, such an outrageous attack on both papal teaching authority and a near-unanimous theological opinion.
But here, one would think wrong. Bp. Schneider’s article is a 7000-word-long buffet table of factual errors, unproven theological claims, dumb analogies, and unconnected ideas, tossed together without any semblance of linear reasoning or evidence of serious research. The style and construction of the article is so stream-of-consciousness and scattershot that one expects to find a note at the end stating: “Dictated but not read.”
The main offerings His Excellency has cooked up to support his position are:
- Schneider’s own proposal to establish a sort of “papal corrector.”
- The case of Pope Honorius as an analogical argument against sedevacantism.
These dishes are set among an odd assortment other garnishes on the buffet table that compliment neither the main fare nor each other — the theological equivalents, say, of marshmallow sushi and sardine cheesecake.
II. Bp. Schneider’s Ancillary Arguments
First, we turn to some of these ancillary arguments. Each one is aimed (and clumsily) at demonstrating that there is noobligation of internal assent to ordinary papal magisterium, and if a pope does spew heresy, well, we should just shrug, say “Meh,” and be “spiritual” about it.
- There is “no true consent” about how to handle a heretical pope. False. Didn’t the bishop do any research? Or doesn’t Google work in Kazakhstan? After St. Robert Bellarmine, dogmatic theologians and canonists all eventually settled upon Bellarmine’s teaching as the correct one: if a pope becomes a public heretic, he automatically loses office because he puts himself outside the Church. Even Dr. Roberto di Mattei calls Bp. Schneider out for cavalierly dismissing a fact that everyone seems to know. (See section V below)
- Pope John XXII (1316–1334) was considered “heretical or semi-heretical.” Distorted history and factually false. Countless pre-Vatican II dogmatic theologians refuted this claim. For a summary, see my article Dr. de Mattei Prescribes an Anti-Sede Tranquilizer.
- “The Church in the very rare concrete cases of a pope committing serious theological errors or heresies could definitely live with such a pope.” Only if, like Bp. Schneider and company, you think you can ignore what the Vicar of Christ teaches. But those of us who believe that Christ gave the pope real teaching authority and the special graces to exercise it would, like the pre-Vatican II canonist Maroto, hold that public heretics “must certainly be regarded as excluded from occupying the throne of the Apostolic See, which is the infallible teacher of the truth of the faith and the center of ecclesiastical unity.” (Institutiones Iuris Canonici 2:784)
- The opinion of theologians erred on the matter for Holy Orders. False, and a truly pathetic analogical argument to attempt against Bellarmine. Theologians engaged in a dispute over what constituted the matter for Holy Orders — there were six different theological opinions — and Pius XII settled the dispute in Sacramentum Ordinis (1947).
- Since an excommunicated person can validly become a true pope, so can a heretic. False and a red herring. Excommunication is an impediment of ecclesiastical law from which papal conclave legislation can and did dispense. Heresy, on the other hand, is an impediment of divine law to obtaining the Pontificate, and as such, papal conclave legislation did not and indeed, could not dispense from it. This objection to sedevacantism has been repeatedly answered. See my 2007 article Can an Excommunicated Cardinal Be Elected Pope? [Novus Ordo Watch comment: On this topic, see also our own article, White Smoke, Anti-Pope: A Response to Rev. Brian Harrison.]
- The pope is like a bad dad; you cannot “disinherit him as the father of a family.” Stupid and inapposite analogy. The authority of the father of a family arises out of the natural law as the result of a physical fact, and consists in private dominative power over his subjects (wife and children); he can never cease to be a father. The authority of the Roman pontiff, on the contrary, is based on a divine power conferred upon him as the result of a juridical fact, and consists in public jurisdictional power over his subjects (the members of the Church); he was not always pope, and he can cease to be pope through heresy, insanity, resignation or death.The idiotic “bad dad” analogy is one of the most ancient of the many Recognize-and-Resist tribal myths. See my video Why Do Traditionalists Fear Sedevacantism? and my article The Tribal Myth-Keepers.
- The attempt to depose a heretical pope is “too human,” a refusal “to bear the Cross.” Hokey, theology-free, pseudo-spirituality. Tell that to St. Robert Bellarmine.
- “Another error in the intention or in the attempt to depose a heretical pope consists in the indirect or subconscious identification of the Church with the pope.” Has our bishop/Patristics laureate ever stumbled across St. Ambrose’s dictum Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia — Where Peter is, there is the Church?
- The theory allowing a pope to lose office is a kind of “Donatism.” Another stupid and inapposite analogy. The Donatist heresy maintained, in effect, that the permanent power of the sacramental character received at ordination can be lost through the unworthiness of the minister. Papal loss of office, however, pertains to the loss of the power of jurisdiction, which is not permanent and can be lost for a variety of reasons — death, loss of reason, resignation, or heresy.
- When a pope is in heresy, he is “in spiritual chains,” just as St. Peter was in material chains. Another dumb analogy, and pseudo-piety. A pope who is a heretic is no longer “Peter.” And who put Bergoglio in his chains except for Bergoglio himself?
- St. Pius X was the first pope who made a “radical reform” in the order of psalms recited in the Divine Office. Hogwash, dreamed up and endlessly recycled by lay liturgy hobbyists. The primitive Roman arrangement of psalms was first altered by St. Gregory the Great (ca. 600) and then by St. Pius V (1568). See my article The Pius X Breviary Reforms: A Personal Appreciation.
- Pope Pius IX, when asked to put St. Joseph in the Canon, made the “impressive and thought-provoking” remark: “I cannot do this: I am only the Pope.” Oh really? Pius IX also said La tradizione sono io! — I am tradition! Also rather thought-provoking, especially if you engage in a day-to-day vetting of a pope’s teachings so you can decide which ones to accept “in light of tradition.” For a discussion, see my video The Pope Speaks: YOU Decide!
- “The more a pope spreads doctrinal ambiguities, errors, or even heresies, the more luminously will shine the pure Catholic Faith of the little ones in the Church.” Is Bp. Schneider kidding? Was someone burning the Kazakh poppy crop outside his window when he typed that sentence? What happens when “the little ones” ask mom what the Holy Father meant by “sadomasochism” or “coprophilia”? Has His Excellency ever heard the bit in the Gospel about scandalizing the little ones and millstones?
But enough of these howlers. We now turn to the two principal issues to which Bp. Schneider wishes to draw his readers’ attention.
III. A Proposal for a “Papal Corrector”
This is what Bp. Schneider offers us as the antidote to future Bergoglios, a solution he claims is a “safer” alternative to the ultimately near-unanimous teachings of theologians and canonists that a heretical pope automatically loses his office.
“Binding canonical norms,” His Excellency says, could stipulate the procedure to follow in the case of a heretical or manifestly heterodox pope. The Dean of the College of Cardinals would be obliged to correct the pope privately, then publicly, if that fails. The Dean would then appeal for the whole Church to pray for the pope to confirm the Faith, and at the same time, publish a Profession of Faith rejecting the theological errors that the pope teaches or tolerates. If the Dean would fail to do this, any cardinal, bishop, group of bishops, or any group of the faithful could follow the same procedure. Any person involved, moreover, could not be subject to canonical sanctions.
My first reaction is that Cardinal Sodano, the current Dean of the College, might need to collect another fat envelope of cash from the Legionaries of Christ before getting the process going — to transform himself, as it were, from the “Cardinal Collector” into “Cardinal Corrector.”
That said, the proposal suffers from a number of other fatal flaws.
- It violates the general principle Prima sedes a nemine judicatur — the First See (the pope) is judged by no one. In Bp. Schneider’s plan, inferiors are allowed to sit in judgment on the teaching and authentic magisterium of a true pope, and if these, in their judgment, be found wanting, publicly condemn them as false.
- A true pope is not subject to canon law because, as Supreme Legislator, he is above it, and can modify and change any part of it. A heretic pope could therefore modify the “canonical norms” Bp. Schneider proposes or suppress them in their entirety.
- A true pope, likewise, has universal jurisdiction, which allows him untrammeled power to appoint or remove officeholders. A Cardinal Dean who would invoke the “correction” legislation Bp. Schneider proposes and decide to become Cardinal Corrector to a heretical pope could therefore find himself summarily removed and appointed as a sort of “Cardinal Neighbor” to Bp. Schneider — in nearby Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, or Tajikistan.
- Who corrects the correctors? What guarantee does one have of their doctrinal orthodoxy, or even moral probity, in presuming to issue a correction? This, as I pointed out in my video Stuck in a Rut, was the problem with insisting that before heresy could exist in a pope or anyone else, the heretic first had to have three warnings from an “orthodoxy buddy.” (See here)
- And what is the endgame Bp. Schneider proposes if the correctee ignores the correctors? The bishop does not say. The pope-heretic continues to teach errors and heresies to the entire Church, I guess. I suppose in the Schneiderian/conservative/neo-trad revised theology of papal magisterium, thanks to the missing microchip, the pope would just continue to be ignored.
- Bp. Schneider, moreover, seems not to have considered that this do-it-yourself correction business could well cut both ways for a more “orthodox” successor to Francis. Disgruntled National Catholic Reporter progressives and the German bishops’ conference, say, could well decide to launch the “correction” torpedo against a future Pope Burke-olio, claiming that he is spreading errors that contradict his beloved predecessor’s teachings on contraception, adulterous second marriages, clericalism, immigration, the death penalty and plastic straws.
- And finally, one must add: “Oh, yes, Your Excellency. Nice to hear about the ‘public correction’ proposal. How has that been working out for you so far?”
In his “papal corrector” proposal, therefore, Bp. Schneider is grasping at straws — though not, one hopes, environmentally harmful plastic ones.
IV. The Honorius “Solution”
Here, Bp. Schneider proposes that we draw a principle for a course of action vis-à-vis Bergoglio from the controversy over Pope Honorius I (625–638). Before assessing the bishop’s reasons, though, we will need to provide the reader with some background information.
A. General Background. Honorius reigned during the great controversy over the Monothelite heresy (=Christ had only one will, the divine). Around 634, he was approached by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was attempting to resolve the dispute and pacify all sides in order to please the emperor Heraclius. Honorius responded to Sergius with several letters dealing with the controversy. Their contents became public only after the death of Honorius, and led to his being accused, variously, of either being a heretic himself, or at least, of being soft on heresy.
In 681 the Third Council of Constantinople posthumously condemned and anathematized Honorius, together with several Monothelites, which condemnation was subsequently renewed by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 and the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 870. The condemnation subsequently made its way into the texts of some ecclesiastical oaths, and the Roman Breviary prior to 1570 portrayed Honorius as having been condemned for heresy.
Nevertheless, despite these condemnations, the Church continued to recognize Honorius as having been a true pope and true successor (albeit perhaps weak) of St. Peter.
Thus the facts in the story of Honorius that everyone agrees upon.
B. Disputed Facts and Interpretations. But there are countless other facts and complications in this story that church historians and theologians do not agree upon, have interpreted in different ways and, generally, have been fighting over for centuries.
These disputed issues include: whether the texts themselves of Honorius’s letters really prove he was a heretic, or merely that he was “soft” in combatting heresy; how the term “heresy” is to be understood in the various conciliar condemnations, since at the time it did not always have the precise technical meaning it has today; whether the subsequent papal approval of the conciliar acts of Third Constantinople (necessary for their legal effect), approved the condemnation of Honorius for heresy properly speaking, or only cowardice; or whether some of the documents were or contained forgeries, a common problem during the era.
Countless other uncertainties like these muddy the waters, making it difficult not only to arrive at a clear and objective historical account of the Honorius affair, but also to tease out of these complicated events correct theological consequences.
Protestants, Gallicans, rationalists and others, especially in the 19th century, had no hesitations about their conclusions, of course, and they routinely trotted out the Honorius affair as one of their main arguments against papal authority in general, and papal infallibility in particular.
Over the centuries, however, the great Catholic dogmatic theologians, including St. Robert Bellarmine, while often disagreeing among themselves over facts and the documentation in the case, refuted at great length the repeated attempts to use Honorius as a cudgel to smash traditional Catholic teaching on the authority of the pope. Their arguments were so successful that by the twentieth century, the standard dogmatic theology manuals usually treated the case of Honorius summarily, in a sentence or two, among the minor objections to the pope’s authority.
(For an overview see The Case of Honorius I, together with a link to a nineteenth century work by Fr. [later Cardinal] Louis-Nazaire Bégin.)
C. Honorius and the Traditionalists. After Vatican II, nevertheless, traditionalist writers of the “recognize and resist” variety, such as Michael Davies and Christopher Ferrara — perhaps unaware that they were keeping some utterly disreputable theological company — tried to resurrect Honorius as a killer analogical argument against both sedevacantism and against the obligation to assent to ordinary papal teaching. The conclusion they wanted to be drawn was that since Honorius was a heretic and the Church still recognized him as a true pope, so too, a pope who is a heretic does not lose his office and may safely be ignored.
Nearly fifteen years ago, it took me only a few sentences to shoot down this shaky analogy in my article Mr. Ferrara’s Cardboard Pope (see #11).
D. Honorius in the Age of Bergoglio. Honorius, though, started surfacing again in conservative and neo-trad attempts to explain Bergoglio, such as Dr. Roberto di Mattei’s 2015 article Honorius I: The Controversial Case of a Heretic Pope. In these articles, wherever Catholic historians and dogmatic theologians in the past disagreed over facts, documentation, or the analyses thereof, these conservative and neo-trad polemicists always picked whichever position which seemed the most damaging to Honorius — and therefore the most favorable to their own anti-sedevacantist, ignore-the-pope position.
This is the same procedure that Bp. Schneider now follows with Honorius, in order to push readers to the following conclusion:
“Pope Honorius I was fallible, he was wrong, he was a heretic… [The three successive ecumenical councils, despite the fact that they] excommunicated Pope Honorius I because of heresy, … did not even implicitly declare that Honorius I had lost the papacy ipso facto because of heresy. In fact, the pontificate of Pope Honorius I was considered valid even after he had supported heresy in his letters to Patriarch Sergius in 634, since he reigned after that another four years until 638.”
I am sure that Bp. Schneider thought that this argument was really powerful and original (as, no doubt, did many of his conservative and neo-trad readers). But once again, had he done even a bit more research, he would have discovered that the argument had already been made and summarily shot down a long time ago.
E. Yes, Another Faulty Analogy. For like countless trad controversialists of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, His Excellency wishes us to derive by analogy from this complex series of events two general theological principles:
- The Honorius case defeats Bellarmine’s teaching that a heretical pope automatically loses his office.
- The Honorius case demonstrates that Catholics have no obligation to assent to ordinary papal magisterium.
Both of these analogical arguments and the principles derived therefrom are false, simply because the common properties needed for any analogy to “work” are completely absent from these analogies.
1. Catholic historians and dogmatic theologians hotly disputed factual issues in the Honorius case (whether the letters showed he was guilty of heresy or merely soft on it, the sense of the term “heresy,” the meaning of the conciliar condemnations, etc.); this renders the factual foundation of the analogies unreliable to begin with.
Why? Because one can have no certitude whatsoever about essential common properties between the two things we are comparing: the Honorius case and Bellarmine’s loss-of-papal-office teaching.
As regards questions of fact alone, therefore, the basis for the analogy simply disappears.
2. The disputed letters were NOT PUBLIC; and it is only PUBLIC heresy that prevents a heretic from obtaining or retaining papal office or authority.
The theologian Hurter and others say it is certain that: “the letters of Honorius were unknown [ignotae] until the death of the Pontiff and that of [the Patriarch] Sergius.” (Medulla Theologiae Dogmaticae, 360.)
This one fact alone destroys the Honorius case as an argument both against the theologians after Bellarmine and against sedevacantism, even if one were to concede that the contents of Honorius’s letters were heretical. For it is only public heresy that takes someone out of the body of Church, and in the case of the papacy, it is public heresy that prevents the heretic from obtaining or retaining papal authority. Private heresy in a pope, on the other hand, has no such effect.
The existence of public heresy in a pope is the very foundation for the principle Bellarmine lays down, and it is the existence of public heresy in the Vatican II popes to which sedevacantists apply Bellarmine’s principle and draw their conclusion.
So Bp. Schneider, like countless others before him, is offering an analogy that is not apposite — or in plain English, is just plain dumb — based as it is on a phony apples-to-oranges comparison.
3. The disputed letters were not public; they may not therefore be adduced as an analogical argument against the obligation of Catholics to give “the assent of the intellect” to what the pope teaches through his authentic ordinary magisterium.
Papal letters that remain hidden and unknown throughout the course of a pontificate and only surface after a pope dies are not magisterium at all. The “teacher” (magister) was dead for fifty years — in this case, until 680 — and there was no one in the classroom.
And in the present discussion, it is the public teachings (either by word or by deed) of the Vatican II popes that faithful Catholics object to as contrary to Catholic faith and morals — the errors and evils these men have openly and manifestly attempted to impose upon the universal Church in every part of the world. This they have done on thousands of occasions through their countless encyclicals, decrees, instructions, decrees, speeches, discourses and public acts.
So, as with the loss-of-papal-office argument, the Honorius analogy lacks yet another common property for the principle it attempts to prove.
4. The principle upon which Bellarmine and sedevacantists base their theological position is derived from the data of revelation — faith is necessary for membership in the Church — and on the face of it therefore offers a degree of theological certitude that cannot be obtained from a mere (and in this case, factually questionable) analogy.
The argument from analogy (comparing the common properties between two things) can never provide certitude, only probability. Only significant resemblances have value in an argument of this type (Bittle, Science of Correct Thinking, (1950), 348), and there are none here.
For in the case of Honorius, we have clearly demonstrated that the fundamental facts of the analogy are disputed, and that the requisite common properties do not exist. Moreover, even assuming that they were true, they could still not provide an even remotely credible analogical argument against Bellarmine, sedevacantism and the teaching authority of authentic papal magisterium.
V. De Mattei: “Somewhat Acceptable”
While the initial reaction among conservatives and neo-trads was to applaud Bp. Schneider’s article, the neo-trad historian Dr. de Roberto Mattei, as mentioned above, was less than enthusiastic, and indeed, adopted a damn-with-faint-praise tone in his March 22, 2019 Rorate Caeli interview
You can almost see il dottore professore cringe when he says that the bishop’s article is “somewhat acceptable [my emphasis] at the present time, in order to avoid that crypto-sedevacantism some traditionalists tend toward,” as he tries to work his away delicately around the Schneider error on the agreement of theologians about papal loss of office.
Apparently, though, Dr. de Mattei did not believe that the bishop’s article would be sufficient to stifle intrusive thoughts about sedevacantism among the conservative and neo-trad troops. The good doctor therefore felt compelled to do a three-paragraph riff on how, well, when Bellarmine or Cajetan were writing about a publicly heretical pope, they really mean “public” in the sense that heresy was evident to a society that was fully Catholic.
“I think that the errors or heresies of Pope Francis, even if professed publically, do not entail his loss of the papacy, since they are not known and manifest to the Catholic population. When I speak of the Catholic population, I’m not referring to the Catholic public opinion in the widest sense of the term, but to that restricted group of baptized who are today maintaining the Catholic faith in its integrity. Many of them still interpret pro bono the words and actions of Pope Francis and do not perceive any malice. We cannot say then that his loss of faith is evident and manifest.”
Uh huh. So since, say, Catholic homeschoolers living off the grid in Hayden Lake, Idaho, haven’t noticed Bergoglio’s heresies, he is still home free as Vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth? Or would ipso facto loss of office kick in only after the homeschoolers and others like them all get high scores on a faith-maintenance/Bergoglio-heresy-perception quiz?
But wait, there’s more! Not only do the small pockets of clueless but orthodox Catholics get Bergoglio off the hook, but also the great horde of heretical clergy and laity. They haven’t noticed the heresy either!
“the large majority of the baptized, the priests, the bishops, even the Pope, are immersed in heresy and very few people can distinguish the true faith. So the correct indications by great classical theologians are difficult to follow in practice.
Got that? The millions of heretics that Vatican II has created cannot now recognize heresy as such, so papal heresy CANNOT really be public or manifest — so the heretic-in-chief gets another free pass from them!
Thus — despite the internet, all the blogs, mass media, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. — Dr. de Mattei would have us enter a world of make-believe where Bergoglio’s heresies are not really public, not really notorious, not really manifest. And this, so conservatives and neo-trads need not worry that the teachings of Bellarmine and countless other Catholic theologians and canonists apply to Bergoglio and to the rest of the Vatican II popes, even though an undisputably “public” reality is staring them straight in the face.
Here we need add one more observation. Other anti-sedevacantist polemicists in the past have, like Dr. de Mattei, tried to find an escape route to get around Bellarmine and company’s teaching on a heretical pope (and thus around sedevacantism as well) by assigning fanciful technical meanings to the descriptors “public,” “manifest,” “openly divulged,” etc. as applied to the term “heresy.”
This door has already been shut, because the descriptors in question were used interchangeably before the 1917 Code to distinguish heresy circulated through public documents or speeches, say, from heresy that was occult or secret — written in a diary, or known to only a few discreet persons. See A Pope as a “Manifest” or a “Public” Heretic.
VI. But Finally: Not Just a “Bergoglio Problem”
“Bishop Schneider’s analysis on heretical popes,” enthused the conservative/neo-trad site One Peter 5, may be just the answer we’re looking for.”
No doubt — but it’s the wrong one, based as it is on dumb analogies, “facts” that are misstated or simply wrong, Never-Never Land canon law fantasies, and theological errors. As we’ve demonstrated at great length above, conservatives or neo-trads are kidding themselves if they still think the theological dog’s breakfast Bp. Schneider served up has solved their “Bergoglio problem.”
And indeed, they are kidding themselves even more if they think that what they have been facing since March 13, 2013 is just a Bergoglio problem. It is, in reality, a “Vatican II problem.”
Vatican II represented the triumph of the modernist heresy, dominated as it was by theologians who were, as the Louvain professor Jürgen Mettepennigen said, “inheritors of modernism.” The poisoned seeds of theological error were sown during the Council with all its yes/buts, existentialist blathering, equivocations, ambiguities, work-arounds, silences, poisoned neologisms, redefinitions, false equivalences, destroyed distinctions and the rest.
Bergoglio is nothing more than one more poisoned fruit from a thoroughly poisoned garden, and he has merely been applying the principles that Vatican II gave him. So don’t think that even by applying Bellarmine’s loss-of-office principle to him you could somehow get rid of the underlying problem that he embodies.
For does anyone seriously think that Bergoglio embraced and began to spread the theological errors and heresies he now spouts only after he showed up on the loggia of St. Peter’s six years ago, sans mozetta? Of course not — he was a heretic before he was elected, and as I have pointed out elsewhere, Bergoglio therefore really has nothing to lose.
The ultimate source of those errors, and the whole thought system that originated them and made implementing them possible, is the modernism of Vatican II. Unless conservatives and neo-trads admit that and act upon it, exchanging a Bergoglio for a Burke-olio and hoping for a restoration “from the top down” will be a fool’s dream, since the modernism of Vatican II has already cracked and destroyed all the foundations, smashed the builders’ tools, and carted the rubble off to an environmentalist landfill.
Admit it, folks. Except for a relatively small handful of Latin Mass safe houses, you’ve got nothing left. The whole lex credendibehind that lex orandi has disappeared. All around you, modernism has turned doctrine and morals into mush, translated its heresies into action, and institutionalized contempt for submission to the law and for the very notion of hierarchy.
So instead of continuing to rail ineffectually against the boogeymen of “papolatry,” “ultramontanism,” sedevacantism, and Honorius, conservatives and neo-trads who seek to preserve the faith should once and for all turn their fire on the real enemy — Vatican II — and thunder with one voice, “Anathema to the Robber Council! A thousand times anathema!”
Source: Rev. Anthony Cekada, Quidlibet blog; Apr. 6, 2019
We encourage all who believe Francis is Pope to take the Francis Papacy Test here and let us know what results they get.
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