The Truth About the Western Schism and Supplied Jurisidiction

The Truth About the Western Schism and Supplied Jurisidiction

© Copyright 2009, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.)


The campaign launched by Traditionalists and conclavists against the Church as She existed during the Western Schism is nothing less than an attack on apostolic succession and a denial of the Vatican Council, called primarily to forever banish the scourge of Gallicanism. That the Council did indeed abolish Gallicanism once and for all can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Gallicanism as well as in Henry Cardinal Manning’s work: “The Vatican Council Decrees in Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance.” This has been pointed out on this Board in the article “Trads, conclavists reinvented Gallicanism,” a subheading in the PDF, “No Apostolic Succession, No Pope,”. It might be helpful to review this article before reading what is presented below. The article easily demonstrates the Gallicanist orientation of Traditionalists and others. It draws out the TRUE analogy between Traditionalists today and the Gallicanists agitating for autonomy during the Western Schism, and this is essential to understanding what follows.

Those trying to establish an analogy between our situation and that of the Western Schism succeed only in proving that an analogy indeed exists; but it exists between Traditionalists today and the Gallicanists during the Western Schism and beyond. All the errors that the Schism produced, condemned either before, during or after Constance, are the very errors Trads share in common with these heretics. Gallicanists, as the PDF shows, were the first to illegally use epikeia to justify their views on the papacy and the general councils. Gallicanists were the ones who reduced the papacy to the role of a figurehead, and denied its perpetual and infallible nature. They championed the role of the laity, and while admitting that God ruled the Church Himself during the absence of a true Pope, they also advocated democratic rule of the Church and the power of the laity to elect and legislate. Gallicanists later impugned ecclesiastical discipline and the right of the pope to excommunicate. This is where the idea that clerics excommunicated for schism (who effectively become lay persons under Canon Law) voted at the Council and elected a pope. This is what Trads use to falsely justify their entire operation. The facts demonstrate, however, that their Gallicanist “take” on the outcome of the Council of Constance is absolutely false, contradicting Church teaching on Apostolic Succession and dogmatic facts.

This article is written for those reading “refutations” of pre-1959 arguments presented here and elsewhere concerning jurisdiction and the necessity of the papacy. Those penning these articles use precedents they say prove that jurisdiction has been supplied in similar circumstances in the past, and that the Western Schism is proof of this. In response, we offer the following observations.

Lack of scholastic proofs and method

These Traditionalist objectors open their discussions by informing readers/listeners that “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Doe” teaches thus and so, when in truth Smith and Doe quote only from approved texts and authors who happen to agree on truths of faith and morals or discipline. A Catholic writer who presents truths of faith for the edification of others is scarcely presenting their own opinion, but their critics have discovered that by identifying the message with the messenger it can be effectively discredited and disassociated from the truth. If Traditionalists are not familiar with these demeaning tactics by now, they have neglected their duty all along. Truths of faith speak for themselves and are not up for debate.

It also is necessary to point out that any attempt to discredit those presenting the truths found here and elsewhere by falsely claiming that the laity have no right to act without the permission or approval of the hierarchy, and in so acting are guilty of hypocrisy are contradicting Pope Pius XII: “The initiative of the lay apostolate is perfectly justified even without a prior explicit ‘mission’ from the hierarchy…Personal initiative plays a great part in protecting the faith and Catholic life, especially in countries where contacts with the hierarchy are difficult or practically impossible. In such circumstances, the Christians upon whom this task falls must, with God’s grace, assume all their responsibilities… Even so, nothing can be undertaken against the explicit or implicit will of the Church, or contrary in any way to the rules of faith or morals, or ecclesiastical discipline,” (“The Mission of Catholic Women,” Sept. 29, 1957, The Pope Speaks, Vol. IV: emph. mine). This statement alone provides all the authorization to proceed that is required. It and all the other numerous urgings of Pius XII and his predecessors to engage in Catholic Action, insofar as we are able, prove that the Church condones this activity, and condones it in these very circumstances.

But since Traditionalists so often ignore what the popes teach and/or neglect to draw out the conclusions of these teachings, we are not surprised that this slips past them as well. They will say they accept them and even cite them but the fail to apply them. Even though we are bound to accept those papal teachings not issuing from the extraordinary or ordinary magisterium with a firm, though not irrevocable consent, unless and until such pronouncements are changed or attenuated by a future pope, this seems to escape them. And others attempting to refute the arguments presented have good reason, especially, to ignore the teachings of Pope Pius XII, believing as they do in the Feeneyite heresy. As has been pointed out before, those embracing this accursed heresy can scarcely hold, at the same time, that Pius XII is pope and also hold that he erred in condemning Feeney as a vitandus and in defining the true nature of baptism of blood and desire. While they might refrain from openly naming him a heretic, in fear of losing followers and credibility, they show in many different ways that they reject his teachings on jurisdiction, the papacy, scholastic theology, the constitution of the Mystical Body and the episcopacy.

So if we keep the above in mind, also the fact that Traditionalists must be identified with Gallicanists, and not true Catholics, it is not difficult to see why these objectors reject out of hand what the Church says must be the basis for determining Her true teachings and the applicability of Her laws. The mettle of their objections must be measured by the rules that govern theological investigation. Again, Pope Pius XII explains all this in “Humani Generis,” admitted by all modern theologians to be infallible. Theologians, even amateurs, are bound to cite Scripture, infallible decrees of the extraordinary and ordinary magisterum, decrees of the General Council and decisions of the Holy See as well as the unanimous opinions of the Fathers, THEN the opinion of theologians. If these are not the primary proofs offered to “refute” the presentations of others who use these same proofs, their arguments are worse than useless. And let us not fall prey to believing that because they minimize these proofs by maintaining the average Catholic cannot understand them that they are doing us all a favor. Dumbing down Catholics concerning truths of faith is no less pernicious than dumbing down the general populace on any other pressing issue. It is a Waldensian tactic that was long ago condemned by the Church.

The use of precedents

So what is it these people resort to in order to justify their objections? They love precedents. They pretend that if they can just find some ancient precedent on which to base their contentions, they have succeeded in debunking the claims of their opponents, regardless of whether such a practice is currently retained in Church law and teaching or not. (To read why it is not precedents are considered only secondary evidence in Canon Law, see the article on pontifical acts applied ot canonical cases under the topic “Canon Law” on this site.) In this they betray their Gallicanist mindset, for as A. Degert said under Gallicanism in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Gallicanism was based on: “a revival of the most ancient traditions of Christianity; a persistence of the common law.” Now those who remember the justification used during the early days of the false V2 council will not forget that the ecumenists constantly urged a return to ancient practices long since condemned to provide the foundation for changes in liturgy and discipline. Communion in the hand and lay Eucharistic ministers are two examples of this. The yet unformed “agape” or love feast of the Church’s earliest days is another, with its table and kiss of peace, bread versus hosts, and so forth. What is the difference, then, in using these arguments to justify a return to these practices in the liturgy and a return to similar practices concerning doctrine and discipline? They are hoping you will not realize the similarities here. They hope their readers will forget that doctrine develops over time, and that the canons, customs and practices pertaining in one age must often be revised to circumvent dangers to faith and morals, also discipline, in another age.

Even an American civil court would scarcely dismiss a ticket for breaking a law that previously did not exist but exists today, and American law is based on Roman law just as Canon Law is based upon it. If one day a milder law is struck down in favor of a stricter law, it is the citizen’s obligation to advise himself of this. A precedent simply claiming that the old law still applies merely because it once existed, or was once invoked, will not hold up in court; this is only common sense. It is true that when a canon law is in doubt we are to return to the old law. But the present law must be truly incapable of fulfillment, unclear or deficient in some other way. “If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be followed is: “In doubt, decide for that which has the presumption.” In this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it was certainly made, and there is no probability for its non-continuance,” (Revs. McHugh and Callan, “Moral Theology: A Complete Course”). This principle, taught by St. Alphonsus, is far from the attitude of Trads today.

What precedents do these Traditionalists cite to continue their operations? The first precedent, used long ago to justify the ordination of Saint Pius X Society priests by Lefebvre, is that of the ordinations and consecrations performed during a three-year interregnum between the death of Pope Clement IV (November 29, 1268) and the election of Pope Gregory X (September 1, 1271). During that time, vacancies also occurred in various dioceses throughout the world and bishops were consecrated to fill these vacancies and to ordain priests to serve the faithful. Following his election, Pope Gregory X affirmed these consecrations, made without papal mandate, and in the meantime, these bishops functioned and serviced the faithful.

Now it must first be noted here that these clerics were not just consecrated and ordained during an interregnum, but during a conclave called to elect Gregory X, which endured for three years. So there was no doubt that these bishops being consecrated and those doing the actual ordaining and consecrating were in full communion with the Roman Pontiff and the hierarchy, were validly and licitly ordained and consecrated by Her authorized agents and were acting in good faith, based on laws that were still partially in force, or at least were not formally abrogated. As Revs. Woywod-Smith write in their “Commentary on the Code of Canon Law”: “In the 12th century the right of electing the bishop had passed into the hands of the Cathedral Chapters in many countries in Europe. In the 13th century we frequently find that the Supreme Pontiff reserved to himself the right to choose the bishops for vacant dioceses. At about the same time the Roman Pontiffs reserved to themselves the right of confirmation of the election by the Cathedral Chapters and the consecration of the new bishop,” (commentary on Can. 953). It would seem, then, that the bishops Traditionalists point to as consecrated at this time most likely were validly nominated and consecrated, as this was the custom in those days. They may or may not have been required to receive confirmation from the Pope once elected, depending on the laws existing for this procedure in the different countries. What then passed as a custom in those days has since been abrogated by the Code of Canon Law, and can be re-evaluated only by a future Roman Pontiff.

This is the testimony found in those laws which have come into existence since the previous law was abolished. Because no mention is made of any retention of this law in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, we can safely conclude that it has been abrogated and cannot be revived, “precedent” or no.Rev. Amleto Cicognani tells us in his work “Canon Law” that exceptions to the law are not to be drawn into precedent, which is a principle stated in Can. 19 concerning privileges. Were this not an exception to the law existing even then; if the bishops were not required to be at least approved in some way by the Pope, there would have been no need for Pope Gregory X to confirm them. Thousands of consecrations before and after this event were done in the proper manner. We find that this previous custom is permanently abrogated by Pope Pius VI in “Charitas” and Pope Pius XII in “Ad Apostolorum Principis”; also in his authoritative interpretation of Can. 147 and in “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis.” That the current laws — not any so-called precedents — apply today, we quote, from among others, Revs. Devivier and Sasia, “Christian Apologetics,” Vol. II, whose work was personally commended by Cardinal Merry del Val and was read by Pope St. Pius X: “…That an Apostolic succession is essential for the discernment of the true Church the Fathers unanimously teach…Jurisdiction itself dwells at all times in the heads of the Church, and is always transmitted according to the canonical rules in force at the time. Whosoever, therefore, has not received jurisdiction according to those rules…remains without it…” Jurisdiction today is not being transmitted nor “supplied” according to the canonical and papal rules now in force, so therefore none of those ordained or consecrated contrary to these rules possess jurisdiction, supplied or otherwise.

Did Western Schism bishops operate under supplied jurisdiction?

A second precedent Traditionalists cite is the Western Schism, and they present it in the form of an analogy to our own times. It is, however, a false analogy. A false analogy is a fallacy in scholastic argument, where an argument is drawn from another subject, which only in appearance resembles the subject in question. Their arguments fail, then; because they do not represent the truth. It is generally presumed that jurisdiction existed during the Schism, and there is evidence that it did so exist. The clergy were licitly able to supply the faithful with the Sacraments because they possessed at least a colored title. This allowed them to operate under the bare outline of Can. 209, not yet a genuine canon, but recognized as a legal principle. Since a true pope existed, the suppletory principle actually was able to apply; for the “Church” supplying jurisdiction is really the Pope. So the comparison fails entirely, because unlike our own times, a true pope existed all along to supply, the clergy possessed colored titles and the faithful were truly in error concerning the true pope’s identity.

Rev. Francis Miaskiewicz explains that for a colored title to exist there must first be an office “conferred by a legitimate superior competent to confer it…” (“Supplied Jurisdiction According to Canon 209,” 1940). So all those cardinals electing Clement VII, Benedict XIII, Alexander V or John XXIII, truly believed they had the ability to function licitly, having been so created by a legitimate, competent superior. So also did those bishops appointed by the various claimants have at least some reason to believe that they were legitimately appointed and could function on this account. They also believed that their own cause would be vindicated, so had reasonable expectation of being recognized as clergy under the legitimate claimant. This was still a presumption, however, on their part. And as Canon Law teaches, presumption must yield to truth; it may or may not be verified in the long run. One true pope existed and in the end, two antipopes. Yet all the cardinals from these obediences and all the bishops from these obediences were allowed to vote in the election of Pope Martin V. How was this possible, since in the external forum many were considered material schismatics?

As demonstrated in “Supplied Jurisdiction” in this same section (Canon Law), Traditionalists possess no colored title, they rely on the ignorance of the faithful, not common error (when Miaskiewicz demonstrates jurisdiction can be supplied only in common error). They also embrace the Protestant heresy of extraordinary mission — that Christ provides them directly with the necessary jurisdiction to function licitly, in direct contradiction of Pope Pius XII’s Ad Sinarum Gentum and Ad Apostolorum Principis — to justify their actions when all else fails. They have assumed authority in the Church and have dismissed all the laws that command them to maintain full communion with the Roman Pontiff, without whom the Church cannot exist, and yet their followers believe they are Catholic. The proofs below remove all doubt on this point.

The true pope calls the Council of Constance

As Can. J. Didiot, quoted in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Western Schism states: “If two elections take place simultaneously or nearly so, one according to laws previously passed and the other contrary to them, the apostolicity belongs to the pope legally chosen and not to the other, and though there be doubts, discussions and cruel divisions on this point, as at the time of the so-called Western Schism, it is no less true, no less real that the apostolicity exists objectively in the true [legally elected] pope. What does it matter if it is not manifest and is not recognized by all until long after? A treasure is bequeathed to me, but I do not know whether it is in chest A or casket B. Am I any less the possessor of this treasure?” Pope Benedict XIV later determined that the Roman line of Pope Urban VI, including the later pope of the schism, Pope Gregory XII was the true line, as reported by the Third Order Dominican C. M. Antony, in his “St. Catherine of Siena,” (editor Rev. Bede Jarrett, O. P., 1915). “Today…the legitimacy of Urban VI and his successors appears clear and evident in the light of day,” (Pope Benedict XIV, “De Servorum Dei Beatificatione,” Ibid.). This is the declaration of a pope concerning a dogmatic fact. Would it not be rash to suggest that Pope Benedict did not have excellent reasons for choosing the Roman line as the true one and Gregory XII, specifically, as a true pope?

Even after their “excommunications” at Pisa, “Both Gregory XII and Benedict XIII continued to claim that they were the legitimate holders of the papal dignity…” (Hubert Jedin, “Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church”). Other historians confirm Gregory XII’s firm belief that he was the true pope. He confirmed this belief in the way that he dealt with the Council of Constance, first convoked by antipope John XXIII. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Pope Gregory XII, through his official representative and following the flight of John XXIII, officially convened the council during its 14th session with a formal Bull of convocation. This ended the sessions presided over by John XXIII, and, as Rev. Philip Hughes and the Catholic Encyclopedia note, “authorized the future acts” of the council, which excluded the previous acts containing the Gallicanist articles, acts which Pope Martin V never approved, either. The Encyclopedia (Vol. XIII) further relates that Gregory XII, in the council’s 17th session, confirmed John XXIII’s (Baldassar Cossa’s) absolute “abdication of all right whatsoever to the papacy.” The two “obediences” — John XXIII’s and Gregory XII’s — were then declared reunited, and Gregory’s resignation was officially accepted. Historians, the Encyclopedia says, recognize Constance as a General Council beginning with its 14th session. And as Rev. Hubert Jedin says, “Gregory stuck to the very end to his claim that he was the legitimate pope,” (Ibid).

Following Gregory’s resignation, the Council then deposed Benedict XIII, (Pedro de Luna). Already St. Vincent Ferrar, (who as Gerry Matatics has rightly pointed out, would have been endowed with extraordinary jurisdiction on account of his prodigious miracles, even if Gregory XII and his predecessors had not supplied), had declared de Luna a schismatic devoid of any office for stubbornly impeding the resolution of the schism. Gregory was the only “claimant” who resigned, and he insisted on convening the Council before doing so and on deposing Cossa. It was following Cossa’s resignation and only after Gregory’s convocation of the council that Benedict XIII was officially deposed, yet already he had lost any putative claim to his office ipso facto. How else could the Church have deemed Constance an ecumenical council, if only in part, had it not been called by a true pope? Many Traditionalists beleive it was an ecumenical council despite its lack of valid and licit clergy, and that Pope Martin V’s election likewise was valid although held by material schismatics, even though this injures apostolicity. They deny that the council possessed any kind of representation by true successors of the Apostles, who must possess both valid AND licit orders to claim this apostolicity. And yet the answer to their dilemma is staring them in the face.

The Church had a very sound reason for declaring the Urban VI line as the true one. She is ever solicitous of the grant of Her Divine founder that the Church, as He constituted it, shall last unto the consummation with all its original properties intact. In analyzing the Western Schism from an objective distance, Benedict XIV could surely see that despite historical protestations to the contrary, the cardinals claiming that Urban VI was elected owing to fear and threatened force had no real case, having treated and publicly recognized him as pope afterwards. Only manifest heresy after the fact could have thrown the election, or proof that the cardinals were somehow not qualified to elect. As the historian Walter Ullmann notes, any defect in the one elected, any irregularity save heresy, could be remedied by the cardinals, (but the cardinals only, as the competent ecclesiastical authority: Can. 147). So if they feared that Urban would be an unsuitable pope, their very election of him remedied the defect, and he became pope despite their fears and eventual disappointment in his performance.

Gregory XII, Urban’s successor was the true pope and knew he was the true pope. Therefore it is inconceivable, if he believed himself to be the true pope, that he would not secretly grant jurisdiction to those operating under John XXIII and Benedict XIII, not for the sake of the antipopes or their clergy but for the sake of the faithful. The Catholic Encyclopedia relates that Pope Leo XIII granted such jurisdiction to schismatic Orthodox priests, and Rev. Szal indicates that that Pope Pius XI did the same. Others state that Pope Pius XII continued this practice. In his “De Ecclesia Christi,” Rev. Timothy Zapelena, S.J. writes: “The true pope was the Roman one, that is Urban VI and his successor. Therefore, he was able to give jurisdiction even to the other bishops of the other obediences (on account of common error of the faithful together with the colored title.).” Even Traditionalists accept this. So what is the problem? The problem is that Zapalena states further that even if all the Western Schism pope had been antipopes, God would have supplied directly as much as was necessary; and Traditionalists take license with this to claim that God so supplies jurisdiction to their bishops and priests today. So what part of perpetuity and indefectibility is it, exactly, that is so hard to understand here?

As long as all the clergy and people were truly in common error and each faction believed and had good reason to believe that they followed a true pope, it seems likely that Christ would supply until the situation was resolved. But this is a highly hypothetical situation, and the Church has never formally decided this question. Certainly He would not supply indefinitely, since this is a grossly irregular situation that Canon Law dictates must be resolved by the hierarchy as speedily as possible. We cannot compare this eventuality to our own since the essential point here is that the Church must have a head, and the faithful must be in communion with that head, or who they at least believe is truly head, to even constitute the Church. Today there is no head, hence no common error exists, either concerning who is truly pope, or, under existing Canon Law, who is validly and licitly considered to be the clergy. Also, all the efforts of the Conclavists were always considered invalid by the Traditionalists, and rightly so.

But Traditionalists can scarcely abandon the de fide belief in the perpetuity of the papacy and the necessity of a visible head in favor of the opinion of (a) one theologian who (b) is not even considering the case at hand, yet that is precisely what they are doing with Zapalena. Without at least the appearance of a true head or heads, with whom the clergy and faithful are in full communion, there can be no presumption that Christ would ever supply. Were this true, anyone could say that He likewise supplies for the Old Catholics, or the Lutherans, both of whom see no need for the papacy. Like it or not, without the possibility of a supplying factor, Traditionalist clergy cannot function and all remain under censure for material schism at least and/or heresy. Until these censures are validly and licitly removed, the laity cannot receive the Sacraments and the clergy cannot administer them or receive them. This is the teaching of Canon Law, “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis” and “Ad Apostolorum Principis,” among others.

Pope Gregory XII lifts all censures

Even if Pope Gregory XII did not grant jurisdiction during the schism itself, it is clear that he granted it to those convoking the Council of Constance, from the 14th session on. This clears the council of all the articles introduced by the proponents of Gallicanism. And it also excludes John XXIII as the council’s official convoker, and the Emperor Sigismund as the official presiding over previous council sessions. Moreover, it is not rational to conclude that having convoked the council and providing it with every necessary authorization, those participating were not absolved from their censures and reinstated in the Church. As Philip Hughes writes, in his “A History of the Church,” Vol. III: “The bull was read commissioning Malatesta and Domenici to convoke the council and to authorise whatever it should do for the restoration of unity and the extirpation of the schism — with Gregory’s explicit condition that there should be no mention of Baldassare Cossa, with his reminder that from his very election he had pledged himself to resign if by so doing he could truly advance the good work of unity, and his assertion that the papal dignity is truly his as the canonically elected successor of Urban VI.

“Malatesta then delegated his fellow envoy, the cardinal John Domenici, to pronounce the formal operative words of convocation; and the assembly — but in its own way — accepted to be thus convoked, authorised and confirmed in the name ‘of that lord who in his own obedience is called Gregory XII.’ The council next declared [with Gregory at its head] that all canonical censures imposed by reason of the schism were lifted, and the bull was read by which Gregory authorised Malatesta to make the act of abdication and promised to consider as ratum gratum et firmum, and forever irrevocable, whatever Malatesta, as his proxy, should perform. The envoy asked the council whether they would prefer the resignation immediately, or that it should be delayed until Peter de Luna’s decision was known. The council preferred the present moment. It ratified all Gregory XII’s acts, received his cardinals as cardinals, promised that his officers should keep their posts and declared that if Gregory was barred from re-election as pope, this was only for the peace of the Church, and not from any personal unworthiness,” (emph. mine). Hughes’ comments are only a summary of the council documents for the 14th session themselves.

After reading these accounts, and Pope Benedict XIV’s determination of Urban VI’s line was the true one, who can doubt that Pope Gregory XII was the true pope? By the time Pope Gregory XII resigned, the entire schism was resolved and he alone was pope. He convoked the council and absolved all of its participants from schism; he did not recognize that part of the council dealing with the Gallicanist decrees; and thereafter, even if Benedict XIII’s cardinals were not absolved initially, the bishops of the council were quite capable of absolving them. Having absolved all from any schism, they then possessed the fullness of their apostolicity to proceed with the council and, in the case of the cardinals, to elect Pope Martin V. The council was validly convoked and its participants absolved, even if only God Himself knew this for certain. To say otherwise is to deny the definitions of the Vatican Council: that Christ constituted the Church as a Divine society and guaranteed the perpetual succession of the hierarchy and the infallibility of the Roman Pontiffs. Therefore from then on the council was truly ecumenical, all its participants were valid and licit, they validly and licitly elected Pope Martin V, then ordained and consecrated him validly and licitly and apostolicity was perfectly preserved.

Pope Martin V confirmed all the Council’s acts after the fact, including those of Pope Gregory XII, since at that time no one was certain of Gregory’s validity. Rev. Bertrand Conway, C.S.P. writes: “The Council became a General Council [at the time] only in its last sessions… when the newly elected Pope, Martin V presided, and when he and his successor approved it with the exception of its anti-papal heresy,” (“The Question Box,” 1929). We say “at the time” because until Pope Gregory XII was officially declared to be the true pope, the Council had to supply after the fact, just as in the Roman case that is used for the basis of Can. 209. In that case a Roman slave, Barbarius, was elected as a judge because his status as a slave, which would have disqualified him for election, was unknown. The Roman government and people, when they discovered this fact, voted to validate all Barbarius’ previous acts as though they had been valid from the beginning, (related by Rev. Raymond Kearney in his Canon Law dissertation, “Principles of Delegation,” 1929). Apostolic succession could be preserved and Martin V’s election validated only by recognizing, as the Church indeed did eventually recognize, that Gregory XII was pope all along.

But as Rev. Kearney also noted in his work, “Not all acts invalid must be rendered valid, for thus the legislator would contradict himself…The omission of formalities required by law for the validity of acts is not supplied by the Church…The Church can supply only that power which is entrusted to her; she cannot, therefore, supply what is required by divine or natural law.” It has been the practice of the Church in the past to declare those illicitly ordained either as laymen, or to conditionally reordain them, not to automatically confirm them, as noted elsewhere on this board. This is done, Kearney says, “…in those cases in which a genuine danger to souls is verified.” Validating the STATUS of these men, and validating the actions they performed, for the sake of the faithful, then, are two different things. This is entirely dependent on the decisions made by a future pope, who alone could decide the true status of these men and the value of their actions.

Traditionalists could have known and should have known that Urban VI’s line was the valid one, merely by consulting the official list of popes. These lists reflect the statement of dogmatic fact. From there they could have and should have reasoned that the Church would not designate this line as valid without weighty reasons, and sought out those reasons. Most of the information they needed was online from the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Council of Constance documents themselves. Instead they left this task to their “leaders,” who have done a very poor job of collecting and presenting the facts. One Traditionalist even claims that there were several “councils” of Constance, and that the teachings of the Vatican Council on papal primacy are “inconsistent” with the earlier conciliarist council documents. This when the Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Church and Her historians do not even consider the council ecumenical, at least until its 14th session, effectively excluding all previous sessions that dealt with conciliarism and resulting in only one true ecumenical Council of Constance. Is it not clear here that the only reason that those maintaining the similarities between the Schism and our own situation do so precisely to justify the indefinite continuation of their clerics as operating validly and licitly without a true pope?

Faith never breached during Schism

As Abp. M. J. Spalding relates in his “Miscellanea: Reviews, Lectures Essays” Vol. I (1880), the council never rendered any decision over any but “a doubtful” pope…who might certainly be brought under the action of the council…The election of Urban was recognized as regular and lawful by the whole Church, and by the Cardinal electors themselves, for more than four months after it had taken place. The plea of want of liberty in the choice seems to have been an afterthought of the French cardinals, and it was so regarded by De Niem. Even after the schism had been consummated by the setting up of a rival claimant at Avignon, the great majority of Christendom continued in the obedience of Urban.” Even the deposition of John XXIII was presided over by Gregory XII, and the council did not depose Benedict XIII until after its convocation and authorization by Gregory. And as Abp. Spalding further states, there was never any question that the unity of the Church was lacking, far less that there were any deviations in doctrine except on the part of select individuals. “Unity of faith, worship and even in a certain sense of government was preserved, even in the midst of the Schism.” Spalding staunchly denies that the Schism ever led to differences in doctrine, as the enemies of the Church aver.

“Those belonging to different obediences did not disagree in doctrine, even on the smallest article; they worshipped at the same altars, and in the same way; they all subscribed to the same doctrine, that the pope was the successor of St. Peter, is the divinely appointed visible head of the Church on earth. They merely differed on a question of fact — which was the true and lawful pope, or which had been regularly and canonically elected? And as soon as this matter of fact could be examined and decided on by the proper authority, the doubt ceased and all immediately acknowledged and paid homage to the undoubted Pontiff,” (Martin V). “Until it could be determined Catholics might, without compromising any doctrine or principle, safely follow their ordinary guides, and yield obedience to the individual, whom in conscience they believed to possess the best claims to the papacy.” This is also the belief of Cardinal Zabarella, called by Walter Ullmann “the foremost canonist of his day,” who served in the obedience of two Roman popes, then John XXIII, (“The Origins of the Western Schism”). “If the faithful of either obedience believe in the justness of their cause, they will be saved.” Abp. Spalding concludes: “The Schism left all of the doctrines as well as the discipline of the Church intact and just where they found it.” But this is not true of the situation today, for obvious reasons.


As a colleague recently observed, the vast majority of Sedevacantists and Traditionalists who undertake “research” on behalf of the Church are not really looking for the truth; they are looking for a way, any way, to defend their indefensible positions. They adopt a position and then consider only that information which justifies their stance. This is not objective investigation nor is it research: it is an attempt to mold the opinion of their hearers in the direction in which they wish them to go. In short, it is propaganda for “their side,” and it necessarily ignores or suppresses any information that does not support their position. The result has been a breach of faith, another good reason why the comparison to the Western Schism ultimately fails. Catholics during the Schism, despite the errors circling about them concerning the nature of the papacy, tenaciously held onto the doctrine. “The Church wept and sighed for unity; and the cardinals at each succeeding election were implored to terminate the Schism, by coalescing with those of the other claimant, or by some other effectual means…There seemed no human remedy for it…A contemporary French preacher [observed]: ‘In the present Schism we find neither bottom nor shore’…[Finally] this state of things could no longer be endured. The Church rose en masse; and the declaration went forth that the Schism must be terminated…John XXIII was compelled by the force of public opinion to convoke a general council at Constance,” (Ibid., Spalding).

This was some 35 years after the Schism began. It would be nearly four years before it concluded in the election of Pope Martin V. Fifty years have passed since the death of Pope Pius XII and Traditionalists do not weep, do not sigh; in fact they do not even realize that they are denying the necessity of the papacy, falsely assuming that without a visible head, without the hierarchy, they can enjoy true unity. They do not implore their clerics to obey the law or to end this debilitating crisis. They do not refuse to aid and abet them in their illicit administration of the Sacraments or raise the hue and cry to determine what might be done, at this late date, to unite the Church. Citizens can publicly and vehemently protest the violation of their rights and the U.S. Constitution at Town Hall meetings, on behalf of their country. But Catholics do not even think enough of their Church and their own spiritual welfare to make a meaningful ripple in the pond of heresy and schism, material or otherwise, in which they swim.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.