Reality check for Ratzinger fans…
Invalid Resignation or Invalid Election?
Benedict XVI’s Denial of the Dogma of Papal Primacy
It is fashionable these days to come up with all sorts of ideas and theories that render the resignation of “Pope” Benedict XVI on Feb. 28, 2013, invalid. This thesis, which we have nicknamed “Resignationism”, is very comforting to those semi-traditionalists and conservatives in the Vatican II Church who can see clearly that Francis is not a Catholic but a manifest apostate and yet will not, for whatever reason, countenance Sedevacantism as the correct alternative position that alone can explain the madness we have been witnessing since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.
As of the time of this writing, adherents of Resignationism include “Bp.” René Gracida, “Fr.” Paul Kramer, the late “Fr.” Nicholas Gruner, Marco Tosatti, Antonio Socci, Mark Docherty, and Ann Barnhardt. Currently flirting with the idea, it appears, are Dr. Taylor Marshall and “Fr.” John Zuhlsdorf.
The latest development in this regard has been a thesis advanced by Dr. Edmund Mazza. On May 27, 2020, Mazza appeared on Taylor Marshall’s program to present the argument that Benedict XVI intended to resign as bishop of Rome but not as Vicar of Christ. In other words, he attempted to split the Roman pontificate from the Papacy so that Francis would be bishop of Rome but not Pope, and he, Benedict, would be Pope but not bishop of Rome.
Our goal in this post is not to evaluate the merits of this thesis, nor to consider whether it is even possible to sever what’s called the romanitas (“Roman-ness”) from the Papacy. It suffices to repeat what is found in Catholic dogmatic theology texts: “There are three opinions on this matter, about which Catholics dispute freely”, i.e. are free to dispute; and “from the decrees of the [First] Vatican Council nothing formally can be concluded in favor of any one of the three opinions…” (Fr. Joachim Salaverri, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, nn. 441, 444; pp. 168-169).
We must add, however, that the preponderance of the evidence would seem to be on the inseparability of the Roman See from the Papacy, as can be gleaned, for example, from Pope Leo XIII’s affirmation that “Jesus Christ chose and sanctified for himself the one Roman Church. He commanded that the Chair of his Vicar is to remain here for the perpetuity of time” (Bull Properante ad Exitum; translation Fr. Kenneth Baker’s, in Salaverri, n. 445). There are similar quotations from other Popes that could be given, but we will not delve into this topic further now since, no matter what the facts may be concerning the question of the seperability of romanitas from the Papacy, one thing is beyond certain: The old heretic Joseph Ratzinger, of all people, had no authority or ability to separate anything, nor even to resign normally from the Papacy, since he was never validly elected to the Papacy to begin with.
To prove that Ratzinger was a public, manifest, and pertinacious heretic by the time he was supposedly elected to the Papacy in 2005 — and thus ineligible by divine law for the office — is the goal of this post. This seemed necessary in light of the continued excitement about Benedict XVI’s resignation and the question if maybe he is indeed “still” the Pope. Instead of everybody beginning to question the validity of his resignation, therefore, people should start questioning the validity of his election.
“Cardinal” Ratzinger explicitly questions Papal Primacy as defined by Vatican I
The heresy of which we will convict Joseph Ratzinger in this post is, quite ironically, nothing less than the denial of papal primacy, the primacy of the successor of St. Peter. Per infallible Catholic dogma, it is not merely a primacy of honor, love, or service, but one of jurisdiction (government). This Fr. Ratzinger calls into question and ultimately rejects.
Can we prove that? Yes, we can. The evidence is contained in his 1982 book Theologische Prinzipienlehre, which was released in English translation as Principles of Catholic Theology in 1987 (Ignatius Press). Ratzinger was a “cardinal” at the time, who had just left the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising for Vatican City, having been appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Novus Ordo version of the former Holy Office, by Antipope John Paul II.
Here is the evidence of Ratzinger’s denial of dogma, in context. We will first quote it at length and then summarize it:
The maximum demands on which the search for unity must certainly founder are immediately clear. On the part of the West, the maximum demand would be that the East recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the full scope of the definition of 1870 and in so doing submit in practice, to a primacy such as been accepted by the Uniate churches. On the part of the East, the maximum demand would be that the West declare the 1870 doctrine of primacy erroneous and in so doing submit, in practice, to a primacy such as been accepted with the removal of the Filioque from the Creed and including the Marxian dogmas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As regards Protestantism, the maximum demand of the Catholic Church would be that the Protestant ecclesiological ministries be regarded as totally invalid and that Protestants be converted to Catholicism; the maximum demand of Protestants, on the other hand, would be that the Catholic Church accept, along with the unconditional acknowledgment of all Protestant ministries, the Protestant concept of ministry and their understanding of the Church and thus, in practice, renounce the apostolic and sacramental structure of the Church, which would mean, in practice, the conversion of Catholics to Protestantism and their acceptance of a multiplicity of distinct community structures as the historical form of the Church. …
…[N]one of the maximum solutions offers any real hope of unity. In any event, church unity is not a political problem that can be solved by means of compromise or the weighing of what is regarded as possible or acceptable. What is at stake here is unity of belief, that is, the question of truth, which cannot be the object of political maneuvering. As long as and to the extent that the maximum solution must be regarded as a requirement of truth itself, just so long and to just that extent will there be no other recourse than simply to strive to convert one’s partner in the debate. In other words, the claim of truth ought not to be raised where there is not a compelling and indisputable reason for doing so. We may not interpret as truth that which is, in reality, a historical development with a more or less close relationship to truth. …
…Certainly, no one who claims allegiance to Catholic theology can simply declare the doctrine of primacy null and void, especially not if he seeks to understand the objections and evaluates with an open mind the relative weight of what can be determined historically. Nor is it possible, on the other hand, for him to regard as the only possible form and, consequently, as binding on all Christians the form this primacy has taken in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The symbolic gestures of Pope Paul VI and, in particular, his kneeling before the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch [the schismatic Patriarch Athenagoras I] were an attempt to express precisely this and, by such signs, to point the way out of the historical impasse. …
…Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the [heretical-schismatic] Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one who presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.
Patriarch Athenagoras himself spoke … strongly when he greeted the Pope in Phanar: “Against all expectation, the bishop of Rome is among us, the first among us in honor, ‘he who presides in love’ (Ignatius of Antioch, epistola “Ad Romano”, PG 5, col. 801, prologue).” It is clear that, in saying this, the Patriarch did not abandon the claims of the Eastern Churches or acknowledge the primacy of the West. Rather, he stated plainly what the East understood as the order, the rank and title, of the equal bishops in the Church — and it would be worth our while to consider whether this archaic confession, which has nothing to do with the “primacy of jurisdiction” [defined at Vatican I] but confesses a primacy of “honor” (τιμή) and agape [love], might not be recognized as a formula that adequately reflects the position Rome occupies in the Church — “holy courage” requires that prudence be combined with “audacity”: “The kingdom of God suffers violence” [cf. Mt 11:12].
(Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, trans. by Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1987], pp. 197-199, 217; underlining added.)
As this is a good amount of text, and we want people to be able to see for themselves that we didn’t make this up, we have scanned in the relevant pages from the book, allowing the reader also to get more of the context (click each image for a larger version – you can ignore the highlights):
To make it easier to understand and follow what Ratzinger is saying in the above excerpt, we will summarize his position in nine bullet points:
- The maximum demand of each side is that the other convert.
- There is no real hope for unity by demanding that non-Catholics convert to Catholicism.
- If the maximum demand is entirely a matter of truth, then there is no other choice but to insist on conversion.
- The papal primacy has taken a certain “form” during the 19th and 20th centuries that is not tied to truth and is not per se binding.
- Other “forms” of papal primacy are possible.
- The Catholic Church need not require the Orthodox to submit to the dogma of papal primacy as defined at Vatican I in 1870, the so-called primacy of jurisdiction.
- Papal primacy was merely a primacy of honor, and the Pope the “first among equals” (primus inter pares), in the first millennium.
- Reunion with the Orthodox is possible without them accepting the dogma of the primacy of jurisdiction defined at Vatican I.
- The primacy of honor [condemned at Vatican I] acknowledged by the Orthodox might be the true position.
These are the theses Ratzinger advances in the excerpt above from his 1982 book Principles of Catholic Theology. We propose the following ratings for them:
- False, probably heretical, contrary to Christian hope, despairing of God’s grace.
- Ambiguous, probably heretical.
Evaluating Ratzinger’s Theses in Light of Catholic Doctrine
We will now proceed to refute Ratzinger and prove that his theses do indeed rise to the level of heresy, that is, doubt or denial of a defined dogma: “If a baptised person deliberately denies or doubts a dogma properly so-called, he is guilty of the sin of heresy (CIC 1325, Par. 2), and automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication (CIC 2314, Par. 1)” (Fr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma [Cork: The Mercier Press, 1955], p. 5).
Regarding the Ratzingerian claim that there is no real hope for unity by demanding that non-Catholics convert to Catholicism, we point out that this is (a) irrelevant, for it is the only possible way to achieve unity, since there can only be “one faith” (Eph 4:5), without which “it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6), and we have an obligation to work towards that unity, since Catholics have a divine mandate to teach all nations (see Mt 28:19-20); and it is (b) false and contrary to Christian hope, for “all things are possible with God” (Mk 10:27), “who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4); and certainly “the gifts of the heavenly grace are never wanting to those who sincerely wish for them, and who beg for the assistance of that light” (Pope Pius IX, Allocution Singulari Quadam). Hence Holy Mother Church, sustained by supernatural hope, always patiently seeks the return of all dissidents: “Persevering in prayer to the Spirit of love and truth, We wait for them with open and outstretched arms to come not to a stranger’s house, but to their own, their father’s home” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 103).
Regarding the Ratzingerian claim that the formulation of dogma can include certain non-essential additions that do not pertain to the substance or the truth of the dogma, we present the following condemnations of that idea:
In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.
Moreover they assert that when Catholic doctrine has been reduced to this condition, a way will be found to satisfy modern needs, that will permit of dogma being expressed also by the concepts of modern philosophy, whether of immanentism or idealism or existentialism or any other system. Some more audacious affirm that this can and must be done, because they hold that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions, in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted. Wherefore they do not consider it absurd, but altogether necessary, that theology should substitute new concepts in place of the old ones in keeping with the various philosophies which in the course of time it uses as its instruments, so that it should give human expression to divine truths in various ways which are even somewhat opposed, but still equivalent, as they say. They add that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries.
It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives not only lead to what they call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it….
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, nn. 14-16; underlining added.)
For, the doctrine of faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding. “Therefore … let the understanding, the knowledge, and wisdom of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding” [St. Vincent of Lerins].
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Chapter 4; Denz. 1800; underlining added.)
Although dogma can become clearer over time and more elaborately or more profoundly formulated, it can never change in meaning, or become corrupted, or deny what was previously affirmed or affirm what was previously denied:
According to Catholic doctrine, a dogma cannot undergo intrinsic and substantial changes; there is an evolution, however, on the part of the faithful as to understanding and expressing a dogma (extrinsic and subjective evolution). This legitimate progress appears in the history of dogmatic formulas defined by the Church, as gradually the meaning of the truths, contained in the sources of divine revelation, came to be more profoundly and clearly understood.
(Pietro Parente et al., eds., Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology [Milwaukee, MN: Bruce Publishing, 1951], s.v. “dogma”)
Pope Pius XII underscored the importance of the Church’s Magisterium in this regard:
It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition. Besides, each source of divinely revealed doctrine contains so many rich treasures of truth, that they can really never be exhausted. Hence it is that theology through the study of its sacred sources remains ever fresh; on the other hand, speculation which neglects a deeper search into the deposit of faith, proves sterile, as we know from experience. But for this reason even positive theology cannot be on a par with merely historical science. For, together with the sources of positive theology God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly. This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church. But if the Church does exercise this function of teaching, as she often has through the centuries, either in the ordinary or extraordinary way, it is clear how false is a procedure which would attempt to explain what is clear by means of what is obscure. Indeed the very opposite procedure must be used. Hence Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, teaching that the most noble office of theology is to show how a doctrine defined by the Church is contained in the sources of revelation, added these words, and with very good reason: “in that sense in which it has been defined by the Church.”
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 21)
In his Principles of Catholic Theology, Ratzinger does the very opposite of what Pius XII admonishes him to do: He goes back in time, to a less clear or less elaborate enunciation of papal primacy and uses that to reject or make optional the later and more explicit definition given by Vatican I, which is no less binding. Thus he denies that “God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly.”
Ratzinger’s theses are imbued with the heresy of Historicism, which, according to Pius XII, by “attributing value only to the events of man’s life, overthrows the foundation of all truth and absolute law both on the level of philosophical speculations and especially to Christian dogmas” (Humani Generis, n. 7). Fr. Georg May, although a member of the Novus Ordo Church, provides an excellent description of this error:
A typical Modernist error is the talk about the historicity of truth. By this is not meant the (explicative) development of dogma which is guided by the Holy Ghost, but the abandonment or redefinition of dogmas. The binding (and unchanging) faith of the Church is passed off as the product of a historical period which has been overcome, and thus the faith has to adapt itself to the changed social conditions. The standard for modifying what is preached is to be the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist). The thesis about the historicity of truth provides the apparent basis for reformulating the truths of the Christian faith, to make them “acceptable” to contemporaries. One speaks so much about the [historical] circumstances of a [dogmatic] definition and the changed conditions until the original sense of a dogma is no longer recognizable. An example of this mode of procedure is the constantly repeated attacks against the sacrosanct term of Transubstantiation.
(Fr. Georg May, 300 Jahre gläubige und ungläubige Theologie [Bobingen: Sarto Verlag, 2017], p. 913; our translation.)
Here we must not forget that Fr. Ratzinger once swore the Oath against Modernism prescribed by Pope St. Pius X in 1910, which was a requirement for ordination at the time and was not rescinded (putatively) until 1967 by Antipope Paul VI. The Oath includes the following lines:
…I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. …
Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. …
I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.
Since the Oath against Modernism mentions Pope Pius X’s syllabus of Modernist errors, the decree Lamentabili Sane, we might as well look at the condemned propositions found in it. Two of them are of particular relevance:
The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort. [error no. 22]
Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel. [error no. 54]
Before his ordination to the priesthood, Ratzinger swore that he too held these propositions as condemned, and look at what he has done since.
Regarding the Ratzingerian claim that the Catholic Church need not require the Orthodox to submit to the dogma of papal primacy as a primacy of jurisdiction, Pope Pius IX shot that idea down in an 1873 encyclical letter to Catholics in Armenia:
…[I]t has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 7)
In 1928, Pope Pius XI did the same thing when he rejected initial attempts to bring about religious unity by way of ecumenism rather than by promoting the conversion to Catholicism as the only acceptable way:
So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.
(Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 10; underlining added.)
In 1944, Pope Pius XII made this same point using the example of St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria (376-444):
…[W]hen the Bishops of the Province of Antioch claimed that for the restoration and maintenance of peace it was enough if they kept the faith of the Council of Nicaea, St. Cyril, while himself firmly adhering to the Nicene Creed, also required of his brethren in the Episcopate, as a condition of reunion, that they should reject and condemn the Nestorian heresy. For he quite well understood that it is not enough to accept willingly the ancient pronouncements of the teaching office of the Church, but that it is also necessary to believe humbly and loyally all that is subsequently enjoined upon our faith by the Church in virtue of her supreme authority.
Even on the plea of promoting unity it is not allowed to dissemble one single dogma; for, as the Patriarch of Alexandria warns us, “although the desire of peace is a noble and excellent thing, yet we must not for its sake neglect the virtue of loyalty in Christ.” Consequently, the much desired return of erring sons to true and genuine unity in Christ will not be furthered by exclusive concentration on those doctrines which all, or most, communities glorying in the Christian name accept in common. The only successful method will be that which bases harmony and agreement among Christ’s faithful ones upon all the truths, and the whole of the truths, which God has revealed.
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae, nn. 15-16; underlining added.)
Furthermore, in a 1949 Holy Office instruction on the ecumenical movement, the same Pius XII directed the world’s diocesan bishops as follows:
As regards the manner and method of proceeding in this work, the Bishops themselves will make regulations as to what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and shall see that these are observed by all. They shall also be on guard lest, on the false pretext that more attention should be paid to the points on which we agree than to those on which we differ, a dangerous indifferentism be encouraged, especially among persons whose training in theology is not deep and whose practice of their faith is not very strong. For care must be taken lest, in the so-called “irenic” spirit of today, through comparative study and the vain desire for a progressively closer mutual approach among the various professions of faith, Catholic doctrine — either in its dogmas or in the truths which are connected with them — be so conformed or in a way adapted to the doctrines of dissident sects, that the purity of Catholic doctrine be impaired, or its genuine and certain meaning be obscured.
Also they must restrain that dangerous manner of speaking which generates false opinions and fallacious hopes incapable of realization; for example, to the effect that the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of dissidents to the Church, on the constitution of the Church, on the Mystical Body of Christ, should not be given too much importance seeing that they are not all matters of faith, or, what is worse, that in matters of dogma even the Catholic Church has not yet attained the fullness of Christ, but can still be perfected from outside. They shall take particular care and shall firmly insist that, in going over the history of the Reformation and the Reformers the defects of Catholics be not so exaggerated and the faults of the Reformers be so dissimulated, or that things which are rather accidental be not so emphasized, that what is most essential, namely the defection from the Catholic faith, be scarcely any longer seen or felt. Finally, they shall take precautions lest, through an excessive and false external activity, or through imprudence and an excited manner of proceeding, the end in view be rather harmed than served.
Therefore the whole and entire Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff [!], and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ. It should be made clear to them that, in returning to the Church, they will lose nothing of that good which by the grace of God has hitherto been implanted in them, but that it will rather be supplemented and completed by their return. However, one should not speak of this in such a way that they will imagine that in returning to the Church they are bringing to it something substantial which it has hitherto lacked. It will be necessary to say these things clearly and openly, first because it is the truth that they themselves are seeking, and moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained.
(Pope Pius XII via Holy Office, Instruction Ecclesia Catholica; underlining added.)
Does the evidence against the then-“Cardinal” Ratzinger need to be any clearer?
Regarding the Ratzingerian claims that the papal primacy is not, or may not be, a primacy of jurisdiction, and that there was a different “form” of the primacy prior to the 19th century, or at least prior to the second millennium, we present the following evidence.
First, with regard to the early Church in the first millennium, we will simply refer the reader to the copious documentation found online and in book form:
- The Church Fathers on the Authority of the Pope (80-341 A.D.) – caution, this is a Novus Ordo site, but the historical evidence is what it is)
- The Church Fathers on the Authority of the Pope (342-597 A.D.)
- 3-volume set: The Faith of the Early Fathers, ed. by Fr. William A. Jurgens
- Pope Pius IX, in his encyclical Quartus Supra, provides sundry quotations from Church history confirming the Catholic dogma of the Pope’s jurisdictional primacy
Second, with regard to the Church’s teaching on the papal primacy in the second millennium before the 19th century, the following select few quotations will suffice:
Also this same holy Roman Church holds the highest and complete primacy and spiritual power over the universal Catholic Church which she truly and humbly recognizes herself to have received with fullness of power from the Lord Himself in Blessed Peter, the chief or head of the Apostles whose successor is the Roman Pontiff. And just as to defend the truth of Faith she is held before all other things, so if any questions shall arise regarding faith they ought to be defined by her judgment. And to her anyone burdened with affairs pertaining to the ecclesiastical world can appeal; and in all cases looking forward to an ecclesiastical examination, recourse can be had to her judgment, and all churches are subject to her; their prelates give obedience and reverence to her. In her, moreover, such a plentitude of power rests that she receives the other churches to a share of her solicitude, of which many patriarchal churches the same Roman Church has honored in a special way by different privileges-its own prerogative always being observed and preserved both in general Councils and in other places.
(Second Council of Lyons ; Denz. 466)
In the third place, if you and the Armenians subject to you have believed and do believe that the Roman Pontiffs who have been and we who now are the Roman Pontiff and, those who in future will be successively as legitimate vicars of Christ and full of power in the highest degree, have received immediately from Christ Himself over the complete and universal body of the church militant, every jurisdiction of power which Christ as fitting head had in human life. In the fourth place, if you have believed and now believe that all the Roman Pontiffs who have been and we who are, and others who will be in the future from the plentitude of past power and authority have been able, are able, and will be able directly by our own power and theirs both to judge all those subject to our jurisdiction and theirs, and to establish and delegate ecclesiastical judges to judge whomsoever we wish. In the fifth place, if you have believed and now believe that to such an extent has been, is, and will be both pre-eminent authority together with juridical power of the Roman Pontiffs who have been, of us who are, and of those who in future will be, has been, is, and will be so extensive, that by no one have they been, can we be, or will they in the future be able to be judged; but they have been, we are, and they will be reserved for judgment by God alone; and that from our sentences and judgments it has not been possible nor will it be possible for an appeal to be made to any judges.
(Pope Clement VI, Apostolic Letter Super Quibusdam ; Denz. 570e,f,g)
We likewise define that the holy Apostolic See, and the Roman Pontiff, hold the primacy throughout the entire world; and that the Roman Pontiff himself is the successor of blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and that he is the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that full power was given to him in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church; just as is contained in the acts of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.
(Council of Florence, Bull Laetentur Coeli ; Denz. 694)
Lastly, it is clear that the Popes in the 19th century taught the primacy of jurisdiction as unalterable infallible dogma contained in the Deposit of Faith believed from the beginning, even if somewhat inchoately at first, as is the case with a great many dogmas. What was defined at Vatican I in 1870 must be believed with divine and Catholic Faith under pain of heresy, which means under pain of ceasing to be a member of the Catholic Church:
Using the words of St. Leo the Great: “Among the holy apostles there was a similarity of honor but a distinction of power: while the election of all was equal, it was given only to one to have preeminence among the others … because the Lord wanted the sacrament of evangelical duty to belong to the office of the apostles; thus He placed it principally in St. Peter, the head of all the apostles.” He granted this to Peter alone out of all the apostles when He promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and entrusted to him the obligation of feeding the Lord’s sheep and lambs and the duty of strengthening his brothers. He wanted this to extend to Peter’s successors whom He placed over the Church with equal right. This has always been the firm and united opinion of all Catholics. It is Church dogma that the pope, the successor of St. Peter, possesses not only primacy of honor but also primacy of authority and jurisdiction over the whole Church. Accordingly the bishops are subject to him.
(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10; underlining added.)
…[T]he Eastern Churches themselves, each time they have reformed themselves under the impulse of divine grace, have solemnly recognized not only a primacy of honor but also of jurisdiction conferred by Our Lord Jesus Christ on St. Peter and on his successors in the Roman See. This primacy, constantly recognized and honored by the most ancient Councils and by the universal Church, was solemnly affirmed in a dogmatic decree of the Ecumenical Council of Florence which united all the Greek and Latin bishops [see Denz. 694]. So true is this that it is inexcusable to wish to deny so evident a truth.
Would to God that the Eastern Bishops had ever kept this dogma of the Catholic faith!
(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Reversurus; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 309-310; underlining added.)
…We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the disposition of the Lord, holds the sovereignty of ordinary power over all others, and that this power of jurisdiction on the part of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; and with respect to this the pastors and the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both as separate individuals and all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church [which is] spread over the whole world, so that the Church of Christ, protected not only by the Roman Pontiff, but by the unity of communion as well as of the profession of the same faith is one flock under the one highest shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation.
And since the Roman Pontiff is at the head of the universal Church by the divine right of apostolic primacy, We teach and declare also that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases pertaining to ecclesiastical examination recourse can be had to his judgment; moreover, that the judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment. Therefore, they stray from the straight path of truth who affirm that it is permitted to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an ecumenical Council, as to an authority higher than the Roman Pontiff.
If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.
(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 3; Denz. 1827, 1830, 1831.)
Accordingly, then, unless they abandon the unchanging and unbroken tradition of the Church which is so clearly confirmed by testimonies of the Fathers, the neo-schismatics can in no way convince themselves that they are Catholics even if they declare themselves such. If We did not thoroughly know the clever and subtle deceits of heretics, it would be incomprehensible that the Ottoman regime still regards as Catholics people it knows to be cut off from the Catholic Church by Our judgment and authority. For if the Catholic religion is to continue safe and free in the Ottoman dominion as the Emperor has decreed, then the essence of this religion should also be allowed, for instance the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. Most men feel that the Church’s supreme head and shepherd should decide who are Catholics and who are not.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 15)
Thus are exposed and refuted the errors, nay heresies, of “Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger, now “Pope Emeritus” Benedict XVI, on papal primacy.
The Question of Pertinacity
Given all of the above, it’s not looking too good for the “bulldog of orthodoxy”, as Fr. Ratzinger has often undeservedly been called. With his ideas on papal primacy laid out in Principles of Catholic Theology, he has proposed clear, manifest heresy in a public forum. That he has done so pertinaciously (i.e. stubbornly, contrary to what he knows to be teaching of the Church) is obvious, since (a) he has an obligation to know the doctrine of the Church by virtue of the position he claims to hold and by the fact that he is publishing a book that seeks to make a contribution to Sacred Theology; (b) he demonstrates that he does know the doctrine of the Church by referring to it and dismissing it; and (c) he had to swear the Oath against Modernism prior to his ordination as a condition for receiving major orders.
To those who think that pertinacity requires that one reject explicit canonical warnings given by a superior, we respond that “for formal heresy it is not required that a person give his assent out of malice, or that he continue in obstinate rejection for a long time, or that he refuse to heed admonitions given him. Pertinacity here means true consent to recognized error, and this … can be given in an instant, and does not presuppose an admonition disregarded” (Fathers John A. McHugh & Charles J. Callan, Moral Theology, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, 1958], n. 829b; available electronically here).
Thus, even if there were no additional evidence for his heretical depravity, his 1982 book Principles of Catholic Theology alone proves that Joseph Ratzinger has been guilty of pertinacious manifest heresy in public for at least the last 38 years. That is, it is evident that Ratzinger stubbornly rejects Catholic dogma defined by an ecumenical council under pain of anathema. This is public, and there can be no excusing factors since the heresy is printed in a widely-circulated book and has never been publicly retracted, and so no one can say it was inadvertent, a mistranslation, that he repented before his election, etc.
Furthermore, considering Ratzinger’s status as an eminent theologian who upon publication of the book had just been appointed to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the immensely popular appeal to ignorance (“maybe he didn’t know better!”) is also dead on arrival. For “ignorance would not be presumed on the part of one who is versed in the law, or on the part of one who holds an office, in regard to the things pertaining to his office. It is for this reason also that even though ignorance is proved, it will be judged crass and non-excusing in these cases” (Fr. Innocent Swoboda, Ignorance in Relation to the Imputability of Delicts [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1941], p. 185-186).
The matter is clear: Joseph Ratzinger, now known as Benedict XVI, is a heretic. He is a Modernist.
Conclusion: The Real Problem is Benedict XVI’s Election, not his Resignation
Ladies and gentlemen, it is high time that all the fuss about Benedict XVI’s 2013 resignation finally came to an end. The man who introduced all this theological chaos about a “Pope Emeritus” who is a “contemplative member” of an “expanded papal ministry” and who retains the “spiritual dimension of the papacy” but is no longer Pope because “there is only one Pope” — this man is on record publicly denying the dogma of papal primacy as defined by the First Vatican Council to begin with. Wake up!
It is nothing short of absurd to continue to argue about whether Benedict resigned the primacy, or only the exercise of the primacy, or the active ministry but not the office, or if he resigned as bishop of Rome but not as Vicar of Christ, etc. All of this is entirely irrelevant because it turns out that Benedict XVI does not believe in the Papacy at all! It is the ultimate irony, courtesy of a thoroughly Modernist mind!
Therefore, the question isn’t whether Ratzinger’s 2013 resignation from the Papacy was invalid, but whether his 2005 election to the Papacy was. Since “[o]f course, the election of a heretic … would be null and void”, as the Catholic Encyclopedia explicitly confirms, the answer is easy: Not being eligible for the Papacy due to public and manifest heresy, Joseph Ratzinger did not in fact become Pope on Apr. 19, 2005, but remained the same lousy heretic as before. Amusingly, we may say that, since one cannot resign an office one does not hold, Ratzinger’s resignation in 2013 was invalid too — just as invalid as his election almost eight years before.
One final question must be permitted: Cui bono? Who benefits from all this endless kerfuffle about Benedict XVI’s bizarre resignation and continued “Pope Emeritus” shtick? Ultimately, it is the Novus Ordo Sect with its program of Vatican II apostasy. As long as people are distracted wondering and arguing about Benedict’s resignation and who the “real” false pope is, the Novus Ordo apostasy can continue unabated. That is so because no matter which of the two contenders people ultimately side with, they will only get one thing: more Vatican II.
And that is the goal.
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