Question XIV, Thesis XXIX

On the Legitimacy of the Roman Pontiff

by Cardinal Louis Billot, S.J.

Tractatus De Ecclesia Christi
5th Edition, pp. 623-636
(Rome: Gregorian Pontifical University, 1927)

Translated from the original Latin by Novus Ordo Watch
Italics in original


Since title to the succession of Peter in the primacy of the entire Church is legitimate election as bishop of Rome, one must bear in mind before everything else that, speaking at least according to rule, the conditions of this election depend on pontifical law alone. — Moreover, in a person duly elected and elevated once and for all to the pontificate, power can in fact come to an end through voluntary abdication, but by no means through deposition, and indeed not in any manner whatsoever, if, according to the well founded opinion of Bellarmine and other theologians, the case of a Pontiff who ceased to be of the Church on account of notorious heresy be supposed impossible. — But whatever you may still think about the possibility of this hypothesis, at least one must necessarily admit that the peaceful adherence of the universal Church will always be an infallible sign of the legitimacy of the person of the Pontiff, and what is more, even of the existence of all conditions that are requisite for legitimacy itself.


That the legitimate election of a Pontiff now depends de facto on pontifical law alone is proved by an easy and ready argument, because sovereign pontiffs have decreed the law governing the election. Therefore, until such time it is abrogated by the Pontiff himself, it remains in force, and there is not any power in the Church, even during the vacancy of the Holy See, whereby it can be changed. “For the Pope established the measures that concern the election, and he changes and so limits the act of election such that the act is void if done in contrary manner. Moreover, that this authority does not exist in the Church or a Council if the Pope has been shut out is clear from the fact that the entire Church cannot authoritatively change the law made by the Pope: for instance, that the election is not the province of true and undoubted cardinals, that someone elected with less than a two-thirds majority of the Cardinals is pope. But on the other hand, the Pope could well make these rules … because in those matters related to positive law, the same lawgiver who had the authority to create a regulation may void it.”[1] And therefore, if, for example, during the [First] Vatican Council the see had become vacant, a legitimate election would not have been the province of the Council Fathers but of the usual electors, as Pius IX had also expressly provided for in a special bull.

Accordingly, there can be the sole question of a possible [case], namely, whether the assignment of the conditions of election could pertain to some authority besides that of the Pope. To be sure, this does not raise any doubt about an ecumenical council’s authority, which by no means is contradistinguished from pontifical power, since the underlying principle of ecumenical decrees is that they have confirmation from the Pontiff. Wherefore there is only doubt concerning some other inferior authority. But the conclusion must be negative, because, since to Peter alone primacy has been given for himself and his successors, to him alone, that is, to the Supreme Pontiff, pertains the determination of the mode of transmission of the hereditary power, and, what is more, the mode of the election by which this very power is realized. Moreover, every law respecting the order of the universal Church surpasses, from the very nature of the thing, the limits fixed to a power that is not sovereign [supremae]. But, without doubt, the election of the bishop highest in rank pertains to the order of the universal Church. Therefore, from the very nature of the thing, election is reserved for the determination of the individual to whom Christ has entrusted the care of the entire community.

As a matter of fact, these conclusions, to be sure, hold good, apart from controversy, for the ordinary and regular state of affairs. But the question is, what is the law, if by chance an extraordinary case should arise in which it might be necessary to proceed to the election of a Pontiff without the possibility of any longer preserving the conditions that the antecedent pontifical law had laid down, as indeed many think occurred in the time of the Great Schism in the election of Martin V.

Furthermore, having supposed the occurrence of such circumstances at any one time, one must admit without difficulty that the power of election would devolve to a general council. For it is in accordance with the natural law itself that in cases of this sort the attribution of a higher power extends, by way of devolution, to the power closest to it in succession, as far as it is absolutely required, so that a society can be preserved and escape the distress of direst necessity. “But in a case of ambiguity (on the grounds that it is unknown if someone is a true cardinal …, the Pope’s being dead or uncertain, as seems to have occurred in the time of the Great Schism begun under Urban V), after making a duly diligent examination of the subject, it must be asserted that, in the Church of God, the power of the papacy is applicative to the person. And then by way of devolution this power seems to reach the universal Church, just as if there were no existing electors designated by the Pope.”[2] This, I say, is easily understandable, admitting the contingency of the case. But it is an entirely different question whether a de facto case has occurred. And furthermore, among scholars it is now held almost with certainty that the election of Martin V was not effected by the Council of Constance’s own authority, but by faculties expressly granted by the legitimate Pope, Gregory XII, before he renounced the papacy[3], such that Cardinal Franzelin justly and correctly says, that is, of course, “why, in humble praise of Christ the King, the Spouse and Head of the Church, we marvel at providence because He put in order that vast confusion occasioned and sustained by greed and ignorance, saving all laws, demonstrating very clearly that the indefectibility of the rock upon which He built His Church so that the gates of hell may not prevail against her depends not on human effort but on divine fidelity to His promises and on His omnipotence in governing.”[4]

That is enough about the election of the person of the Pope. But now the question is whether it is possible that a person duly elected and once and for all elevated to the pontificate can at some time or other stop being active in the pontificate, and to the extent that the answer is affirmative, what the underlying principle is whereby it can occur.


A threefold way is conceivable. First, the Pontiff’s abdication by his own free will. Second, his deposition by the cardinals or by a general Council. Third, his defection from the Church, drawing with it the loss of the papacy from the very nature of the thing, since it is intrinsically incompatible that he who has ceased to be a member of the Church may still exist as the head of the Church.

Taking it further, there is absolutely no doubt that pontifical power in the line of Peter can come to an end in the first way. For the joining of the pontificate with a specific person is not of divine law except for the presupposition of the person’s legitimacy, which is self-caused in human election. However, the effect of human election always depends on the free consent or acceptance of the individual elected, and no less depends on the second, third, and fourth instant [of something’s being or nonbeing] than on the first.[5] Therefore, just as this person first began to be legitimate when he accepted his election as Supreme Pontiff, so he ceases to be [the Supreme Pontiff] as soon as by resignation he destroys the effect of the election in himself. Also note that a successor Pontiff of Peter is not thought to be of the same condition with Peter himself or with any other bishops whatsoever. For Christ had established Peter in power, with no presupposed election by men; whence it seems that he had been unable to abdicate the pontificate. But other bishops are chosen by the power of the Roman Pontiff, as declared in the Council of Trent, Session 23, canon 8, and therefore they can resign, but such that the resignation does not acquire effect unless it shall be accepted afterward by him who called [the bishops] to a share of responsibility.[6] The pope alone is Peter’s successor in that special condition, such that he can even resign, and the resignation is valid by itself. For he did not have superiors or else he has them from the people who elected him, and the electors could not impose election on him by way of an obligation, as happens in general chapters of religious orders according to the order’s own constitutions. Consequently, just as he did not need their agreement in order that the canonical effect of election would be impeded from the outset by non-acceptance, so he does not need the same [agreement] in order that he be unmade by resignation. And since, with the removal of canonical effect, the requisite condition is removed for the investiture of divine law through which the one designated as the successor of Peter had received the chief keys and pastoral power over all Christ’s flock, it plainly follows from the very fact of abdication that he is free of the pontificate. Hence, Boniface VIII, in the Sixth Book [viz., “The Decretals of Boniface VIII”], 1. 1, Title 7, “on resignation,” says: “with a view to the fact that some … less prudently seemed to withdraw into an uneasy doubt whether the Roman Pontiff can renounce the papacy and its burden and honor: Our fifth predecessor Pope Celestine, while he presided over the governance of the (universal) Church, desirous of curtailing the occasion of any hesitation whatsoever on this subject, by his apostolic authority ordained and decreed that the Roman Pontiff can freely resign. Therefore, among other constitutions, as an everlasting remembrance of the matter, We, on the counsel of our brothers, judged that the decision had to be redacted [for inclusion in these decretals], lest it should happen that a determination of this kind be forgotten over the course of time, or the same doubt lead to a renewed controversy.”

But as far as is certain, one must to the same degree hold as an undoubted fact that a person who has once and for all been elevated to the pontificate can be free from the pontificate itself by free abdication, just as much as in relation to an undoubted Pontiff, [a removal] can by no means come about through a deposition by which the Pontiff would be deprived of his authority by the Church or by any group existing in the Church. The general reason is that a superior is not deposed by an inferior. But the Pope is beyond each and every man in the Church, taken both distributively and collectively, and not only by way of general rule but also in view of any case or event at all, as is now evident from the precepts of ecclesiastical monarchy and openly stated below, where [I discuss] the power and guiding principle of the primacy. Wherefore, the opinion of the Gallicans on this point must be regarded in the same sense as their opinion about the superiority of a Council over the Pope, which now, after the definitions of the Vatican Council, has proved heretical.

Nor may you say that deposition is still conceivable, not, for instance, by direct removal of pontifical power (since this is immediately from God and has all other power in the Church under it), but the legitimacy which election produced would naturally without qualification be removed from the person of the Pontiff by a simple change of subject. In fact, this is recognized as contradictory on a number of points. Indeed, first, because the Pontiff would always be placed under legal liability to the judgment of inferiors, something that involves an open contradiction. Second, because the aforesaid change of person is not opposed correlatively to election but exists in another order, undoubtedly in the order of a jurisdictional and juridically capable act, and therefore it does not follow [that] if the person of the Pontiff can be appointed by men, he can therefore be deprived of legitimacy by men. Third, because the Church or the community of the Church does not retain any act with respect to the person of the Pontiff except the act of election. Therefore, with a canonical election completed, there remains nothing to do until there is occasion for a new election, and there is no occasion for a new election except subsequently at a vacancy of the see. Therefore, the impossibility of deposition is certain in every way. However, below we shall speak about what one must think concerning the fourth and fifth sessions of the Council of Constance.

And so, with these two existing concerns now safely placed, as it were, outside all doubt, there lastly remains the celebrated question about the case wherein a Pontiff might defect from the Church by apostasy, schism, or heresy. By apostasy, for instance, if the Pope should become a Turk [Muslim]. By schism, if he no longer were willing to be in communion with the Catholic Church. By heresy, if he should personally profess that he does not believe any dogma so far sufficiently proposed and to be held with a firm faith by all the Christian faithful, say, the divinity of Christ, His Real Presence in the sacrament, the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, or any other dogma of this sort. But of the three aforementioned hypotheses, the first two are so implausible that they hardly even come into consideration among theologians. And therefore the whole question is usually reduced to the case of a pope who might become a heretic by personal profession.

Therefore, once this supposition has been made, all concede that the bond of communion and subordination will have to be removed on account of the divine [Scriptural] authorities that expressly command separation from heretics, Titus 3:10, 2 John 10, etc. But some, along with Cajetan, would have it that a pope who became a heretic is subject to the ministerial power of the Church following the correct sequence so as to produce deposition, and they say this is the only exception in the general teaching asserted and declared just above. Others, however, consider that such a person ipso facto would fall from the pontificate, such that there would be no occasion for deposition on the part of the Church but only for a declaratory sentence concerning the vacancy of the see. “Concerning the manner in which a pope is deposed as a result of the crime of heresy, there is a variety of opinion. Certain theologians say this happens because of the defect of the subject. For they say that the subject of the papacy is a man of faith, and in accordance with this rule, just as the subject of the papacy ceases when bodily life is absent due to death, so the subject of the papacy ceases due to heresy when faith is absent in a man who is pope. This opinion is founded on the fact that faith establishes the wayfarer in the state of being a member of the Church of Christ. To be sure, they add, after annexing another proposition to this opinion, to wit, that the negation of a general term produces the negation of a specific term in things essentially arranged in the order of a formal cause (which is inductively clear: for if it is not animal it is not man, and if it is not color, it is not white, and so on with other things): But being a member and being the head are so essentially ordered that being a member is anterior to being the head, as is evident because the head must be a member, but not conversely. Therefore, that which is not a member is not the head. And so a man lacking faith, as in the case of a heretic, is not a member of the Church, therefore he is not head of the same, and because of this, since a pope is nothing other than the head of the Church, by the very fact he becomes faithless, he becomes non-pope. And this is the reason that, under different theories, other [theologians] say that when the pope becomes a heretic, he is deprived of the papacy ipso facto by the divine law wherein a distinction is made of the faithful from the unfaithful. And when, for this reason, he is deposed through the instrumentality of the Church, the Pope is not judged and is not deposed, but he is one who is already judged and one who is already deposed; since he, having become an infidel by his own will, was transferred outside the body of the church, he is declared judged and deposed.”[7]

Furthermore, of the two ways of speaking here, the latter seems to follow the only way in which the absolutely certain principles of the ecclesiastical constitution, hitherto uninjured, are preserved. And it will easily be apparent to someone reading through the reflections assembled by Cajetan that he argues for the former opinion, laboring without avail in showing how these three [assertions] can stand together, viz.: [1] That a pope who became a heretic is deposed ipso facto by divine or human law. [2] that a pope who remains pope does not have a superior on earthAnd [3] that a pope, if he deviates from the faith, is nonetheless deposed by the Church. But it is the opposite, because if, in the case of heresy, a pope still remaining pope can be deposed by the Church, one of two things necessarily results: that a deposition does not affirm the deposer’s [ecclesiastical] superiority with respect to the deposed, or that a pope who remains pope in reality has, at least in reference to some event, a superior on earth, or that a pope who remains pope in reality has, at least in reference to some event, a superior on earth. Moreover, once a way to deposition is opened, whether owing to the very nature of the thing or to positive law, there is no longer at hand any reason why the possibility of deposition should be restricted to only a case of heresy. For thenceforth all principles to which its incompatibility is generally connected are undermined, and nothing remains except a voluntary rule to which an arbitrary exception is added.

But the reasons wherewith Cajetan dismisses his adversaries’ manner of speaking are hardly of any weight. “[The following argument,]” he says, “shows that a heretical pope is ipso facto deprived (of the pontificate) neither by divine nor human law: Other bishops, if they be heretics, are not deprived ipso facto by divine or human law; and therefore, neither is the pope. It clearly follows that a pope is not in a position inferior to other bishops. What was assumed is proved thusly. A bishop who by a sole interior act disbelieves counter to the faith is truly, properly, and perfectly a heretic and is not deprived ipso facto. In this issue, there are two propositions. The first is that he be designated perfectly heretical by a sole interior act, and this [opinion] is manifest per se… However, the proof of the second is… that such a heretic is not excommunicated; for the Church cannot excommunicate because it cannot judge. Therefore, he is much less deprived of the power of jurisdiction, which is in respect of a man’s commission etc.”[8] Here is where you see that Cajetan’s foundation rests to a singular degree on the fact that an interior act is sufficient for heresy and that jurisdiction is never lost by reason of interior heresy. For the argument goes in this way: a bishop does not fall from his power because of interior and occult heresy per se: therefore a bishop who has become a heretic is never ipso facto deprived of episcopal jurisdiction; and therefore neither is a pope, who is not in an inferior position. But truly one must consider that, in the present, it is not positively a question of heresy insofar as it is a sin against the virtue of faith in the internal forum of God and conscience, but purely and simply of heresy that has the power to cut a man off from the visible body of the Church, and is directly opposed to the external profession of the Catholic religion. But heresy of this kind is not interior or occult heresy, but only exterior and notorious, as is copiously explained in Question 7, thesis 11, § 2. For it is not the secret unbeliever, but one openly professing disbelief in things that are proposed to the Christian faithful to be held with Catholic faith, who breaks the bond by which he belonged to the visible structure of ecclesiastical society and consequently immediately loses membership with all the titles that essentially presuppose it. Therefore, under the supposition of the hypothesis of a pope who notoriously became a heretic, one must without delay concede that he would ipso facto lose pontifical power, provided that, having become a heretic by his own will, he was transferred outside the body of the Church, as say the authors whom Cajetan wrongly, it seems, convicts of error.

I said under the supposition of the hypothesis. But the fact that the hypothesis itself is a mere hypothesis, never reducible to an act, appears far more probable, according to Luke 22:32: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith not fail; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren. For the voice of all Tradition says we must understand this verse to refer to Peter and his successors in perpetuity, and it will be professedly declared below, where [I discuss] the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff. But for the time being, it is assumed as absolutely certain. Now, however, even if the words of the Gospel principally regard the public person of the individual teaching ex cathedra, they must be said, as far as preservation from heresy is concerned, to extend also, by a kind of necessity, to the private person of the pontiff. Certainly the ordinary duty of confirming others in the faith is entrusted to the pontiff, and for this very purpose the individual obtains from Christ, Who is heard in all things out of reverence for Him, the gift of indefectible faith. But, I ask, for whom is it obtained? Is it for an abstract and metaphysical person, or for a real and living person from whom the confirmation of others should come? Or, by chance, will indefectible faith be said to exist in one who admittedly cannot err in determining what others must believe, yet can still personally suffer a shipwreck with respect to the faith? In addition, note that although a Pontiff falling into notorious heresy would ipso facto fall from the pontificate, he nevertheless would all the same sink into heresy before he would lose power, and therefore defectibility in the faith would always be compounded with the duty of the confirmer of his brothers — something that the promise of Christ seems to exclude altogether. Moreover, if, bearing in mind the Providence of God, it is impossible for a Pontiff to fall into occult or merely internal heresy, he can much less fall into an exterior and notorious heresy that would carry along with it far, far greater unbecoming developments. But the divinely established order utterly requires that the Supreme Pontiff as a particular person cannot be a heretic, even by losing faith internally. “For the Pontiff not only must not and cannot preach heresy, but he also must always teach the truth, and he will do it without a doubt, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brothers. But how, I ask, will a heretical Pontiff confirm his brothers in faith and always preach the true faith? If nothing else, God can wrest from his heretical heart a confession of the true faith, just as he once put words into the mouth of Balaam’s ass. But that would be violent and not in accord with the usual workings of the Providence of God, Who regulates all things in an agreeable manner.”[9] — In short, although there is justification for the hypothesis of a Pontiff who might become notoriously heretical, God would never allow it even to be a-priori believable for the Church to land in so many troubles of such kind.

The authorities who object on the opposite side of the question do not prove anything. First they cite the statement of Innocent III, in his Sermon 2 on the consecration of the Supreme Pontiff, where, speaking about himself, he says: “Faith is necessary to me to such a degree that, although I have God alone as judge of [my] other sins, I could be judged by the Church only by reason of a sin that is committed in the faith.” But surely Innocent does not affirm the case as simply possible, but, praising the necessity of faith, he says that it is so great that if, whether or not it is in the realm of possibility, a Pontiff should be found deviant from the faith, he would already be subject to the judgment of the Church by the reason that was stated above. And indeed it is a manner of speaking similar to that which the Apostle uses when wishing to show the unalterable truth of the Gospel: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. For Innocent had said earlier: “If I were not made firm in the faith, how could I strengthen others in the faith? That is what is recognized as pertaining especially to my office, as the Lord witnesses: I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith not fail; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren. He prayed and He brought it to pass, since He was heard in all things out of reverence for Him. And therefore the faith of the apostolic see has never failed in any disturbance, but has always remained whole and unimpaired in order that the privilege of Peter should persist unshaken.” Consequently, that statement is rather in opposition to adversaries, unless they should say that by it Innocent actually means he can sometimes lack that which the Lord procured for Peter as necessary for the office to which he appointed him.

They also cite the statement of Hadrian II in the third address read in Ecumenical Council VIII, Action 7: “We read that the Roman Pontiff has judged the bishops of all the churches; but we do not read of anyone who has judged him. For although after his death the Eastern churches anathematized Honorius, nevertheless it must be recognized that he had been accused of heresy, by reason of which alone inferiors may resist the initiatives of their superiors or freely reject the wicked senses. Although even in that case it would not have been ever so much lawful for any of the patriarchs or other bishops to carry out the sentence against him unless the approval of the concurrence of the Pontiff of the same first see had preceded.” But what does this matter, since it is well known that Honorius by no means fell into heresy, but only negatively favored the same by not using the supreme authority to root out the incipient error, and in this sense he is said to have been accused in the matter of heresy? Accordingly, in the same Ecumenical Council VIII, Action 1, a formula sent by the same Hadrian had been appended, in which, with no restriction attached, one reads the following: “In view of the fact that the Catholic religion has always been preserved in the apostolic see, and holy doctrine has been proclaimed.” If on the other hand the sense of Hadrian is not that Honorius fell into heresy, those who use that statement to argue that the Roman Pontiff can become a heretic have no ground to stand upon.

Lastly they advance a point of canon law, Distinction 40, canon 6 Si papa: “No mortal on earth presumes to prove the (pope) guilty of faults, since he who is to judge all men must not be judged by any man, unless he be discovered to be deviant from the faith.” But, above all else, one must bear in mind that this citation is taken from the Decretum of Gratian, in which there is no authority except the intrinsic authority of the documents that are found collected in it. Moreover, there is no one at all who would deny that those documents, some indeed authentic and others apocryphal, are of unequal value. Finally, it is more than highly likely that the previously cited canon under the name of the martyr Boniface must be considered to be included among the apocryphal documents. However, Bellarmine in this case also replies: “Those canons do not mean to say that the Pontiff as a private person can err (heretically), but only that the Pontiff cannot be judged. Nevertheless since it is not wholly certain whether a Pontiff can or cannot be a heretic, for this reason they add out of an abundance of caution [the following] condition: unless he become a heretic.”[10]


But whatever you finally think about the possibility or impossibility of the aforementioned hypothesis, at least one point must be maintained as completely unshaken and firmly placed beyond all doubt: the adherence alone of the universal Church will always be of itself an infallible sign of the legitimacy of the person of the Pontiff, and, what is more, even of the existence of all the conditions requisite for legitimacy itself. One need not fetch from afar proof of this claim. The reason is that it is taken immediately from the infallible promise of Christ and from providence. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and Behold I am with you all days. To be sure, for the Church to adhere to a false pontiff would be the same thing as if she were to adhere to a false rule of faith, since the Pope is the living rule which the Church must follow in belief and always follows in fact, as will be still more clearly apparent in what is to be said later. By all means God can permit that at some time or other the vacancy of the see be extended for a considerable time. He can also allow a doubt to arise about the legitimacy of one or another man elected. But He cannot permit the entire Church to receive someone as pontiff who is not a true and legitimate [pope]. Therefore, from the time he has been accepted and joined to the Church as the head to the body, we cannot further consider the question of a possible mistake in the election or of a [possible] deficiency of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy, because the aforementioned adherence of the Church radically heals the mistake in the election and infallibly indicates the existence of all requisite conditions. And let this be an incidental remark against those who want to join in giving a respectable appearance to the undoubted schismatic efforts made in the time of Alexander VI on the ground that they were made by one who persisted in saying that the most certain evidence in the matter of the heretical state of Alexander VI had to be disclosed in a general Council. However, so as to forego at the present moment other arguments whereby this opinion of his could be easily refuted, this one [argument] alone is sufficient: It is certainly well known that in the time in which Savanarola was writing his letters to princes, all Christendom adhered to and obeyed Alexander as the true pontiff. Therefore, by that fact, Alexander was not a false pontiff. Therefore he was not a heretic, at least he was not in the heretical state that, in removing the essential element of membership in the Church, as a consequence of its very nature strips [a man] of pontifical power or of any other ordinary jurisdiction whatsoever.

Enough has been said about those things that concern the perpetuity of the primacy of Peter in the Roman Pontiffs. Now we must deal with the power and the underlying principle of the primacy.


1 Thomas Cajetan, Treatise 1, De Auctoritate Papae et Concilii, chapter 13.

2 Thomas Cajetan, in the same place cited above.

3 The legitimacy of the election of Urban VI now seems to have been thoroughly investigated; from that examination follows the legitimacy of Urban’s successors, that is, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII. Moreover, Gregory XII, out of fullness of power, designated the Synod of Constance as a true and legitimate Council for the eradication of dreadful schisms and for justly desiring and bringing about union. Gregory’s legate, Cardinal Dominici, solemnly proclaimed the Pope’s constitution in Session XIV: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. By the authority of our lord the Pope, to the extent to which it concerns the same individual … in order that dissident Christians under the profession of different pastors be joined together in the unity of holy mother Church and by the bond of charity, I convene this sacred general council, and I authorize and confirm all things to be done by it according to manner and form, as is more fully contained in the letter of our lord the Pope.” Then the synod, in virtue of the authority bestowed upon it, decreed in Session XVI that it was reserved to the Council on this occasion to settle the manner and form of the future election of the Roman Pontiff after the vacancy of the Holy See. Finally, in the same Session XVI, Gregory’s abdication by his own free will occurred. Therefore, by this resignation the Apostolic See was truly left vacant, and consequently the Council, by reason of the faculties conferred on it by the sovereign [suprema] power of the Pope, was able to proceed in the manner, form, place, time, and matter settled by Council itself to the canonical and certain election of the one-and-only future Supreme Pontiff, and at length after two years it happily achieved that end in Martin V. — So wrote Franzelin, De Ecclesia, Thesis XIII, in the Commentary. See the documents in the same author’s work.

4 Franzelin, 1.c.

5 This discussion is about human election, which is nothing more than election. Whereas a hypothesis can be considered in which a body of electors has power over each eligible individual. In that case, it is not a mere and simple election, but one that together involves the essential element of a command. But there can be no question in the present about such an election, as everyone knows.

Translator’s Note: “share of responsibility” as distinguished from “fullness of power.”

7 Thomas Cajetan, Treatise 1, De Auctoritate Papae et Concilii, chapter 17.

8 Thomas Cajetan, in the place above, chapter 19.

9 Bellarmine, Book 4, De Romano Pontifice, chapter 6.

10 Bellarmine, Book 4, De Romano Pontifice, chapter 7.

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