Death Blow to Lay “Popes,” Lay “Elections”

Death Blow to Lay “Popes,” Lay “Elections”

© 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 All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)

“Even infallible laws cease to apply when the subject matter is wanting and the necessary moral conditions are passed away.” — Henry Cardinal Manning, “The Vatican Decrees and Their Bearing on Civil Allegiance,” 1875

A list of complaints recently appeared on the Internet lamenting the fact that those who admit the papal see is vacant refuse to do anything to remedy the situation or restore the Church, and fail to support those who claim to have filled the vacancy. It is time for Catholics to ignore the ridiculous antics of these rival “claimants” (who never possessed a ghost of a claim to begin with) and focus instead on the fact that according to Divine law and infallible law, the Holy See is still officially vacant.

No scholastic foundation


Of course nothing from a scholastic standpoint is presented to substantiate the validity of these complaints, which amount to the fallacy of trying to concoct a simple solution to a very complex problem, the common error of amateurs. And failure to present these proofs is basically a rejection of scholastic theology and all the weighty tomes written throughout the centuries by the Fathers, the Doctors, the popes and the theologians who spent their entire lives, in some cases, investigating and expounding on various subjects. It is a denial of all the Church has ever taught concerning the solution of doctrinal questions and the methods She Herself has prescribed for the resolution of these questions. It amounts to a total disconnect from the reality of the times in which we live. Ultimately it is, as we have repeatedly pointed out in the hundreds of pages presented here, a matter of begging the very questions that are never stated and never answered: Does God WANT us to have a pope in these times? Is there anyone who is able to provide us with a pope according to His laws and the teachings of the continual magisterium? Is there anyone qualified to rule the faithful as an unquestionably valid and licit successor of the apostles? If the answer to all these questions is “NO” — and this most definitely has been proven to be the case — then there is no use in continuing this discussion. The answer lies in the opening quote of this post and a definitive work of Pope Pius XII, which until now has been entirely misrepresented.

A matter of Divine law, not just infallible decrees


Before those intent on defying every law ever made by the Church begin to make hay with the quote above, let us dissect this very important statement made by Cardinal Manning and apply it in the true sense in which it is intended. First off we must note here that in no way are infallible laws to be equated with Divine law. Not even the Roman Pontiff may contravene Divine law. Since we are speaking here of the election of the Roman Pontiff during a time when both physical and moral conditions have ceased we must draw the line firmly between Divine law and infallible law. The validity of ordination and the absolute necessity of jurisdiction are matters of Divine faith; Divine law PERSONALLY LEGISLATED BY CHRIST HIMSELF. These Divine laws insist that all priests must possess both unquestionably valid ordination AND jurisdiction conveyed by valid and licit bishops whose lineage can be traced to the original Apostles, and who also are in communion with a canonically elected Roman Pontiff.

In the articles on this site, I have gone to great lengths to explain that from all appearances, no clerics exist who match the necessary conditions above. There are none today who have retained their juridic membership in the Church. Does this mean they cannot save their souls? No; membership in the Church by desire, if certain conditions are fulfilled will save them. But it most certainly means that they cannot qualify as actual members of the Church, and men who are not actual or juridic members of the Chruch cannot become priests and they cannot vote in ANY ecclesiastical election, least of all a papal election, until they have been absolved from censure. Nor could the faithful even validly accept the one elected unless they first had been absolved from their censures. This is the cessation of physical and moral principles. The physical existence of cardinals and even of true bishops, able to freely act, has ceased.

And likewise the need to minister to the “faithful” has ceased, since the faithful are not able to receive absolution from men who cannot be proven to possess jurisdiction, and such men are forbidden to minister to the faithful as well. Catholics by desire cannot, therefore, receive the Sacraments until they receive absolution and are abjured from heresy and/or schism. By virtue of their free will, all have chosen to disobey even the most obvious and basic laws upheld by the Church throughout Her entire existence and have incurred the resulting censures. Even after being made aware of these violations of the law, as noted above, many traditionalists do not yet sufficiently understand the need to amend or the extent of the amends and reparations they are required to make. This applies to self-styled “conclavists” as much as anyone else, and perhaps even more.

Nor let it be said — and they have said it and will disingenuously continue to maintain it — that we are talking only of ecclesiastical laws governing papal elections and not divine or natural law; or that current papal election law now can be said to no longer exist. In infallibly securing his constitution on papal election, Pope Pius XII was simply upholding the Divine law already in existence. Christ granted the Pope divine jurisdiction, and indisputably grants it to each succeeding pope canonically elected. This is precisely what Pius XII is so zealously defending in the first three paragraphs of “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis;” no one but the true Roman Pontiff may dare to exercise that jurisdiction which Christ grants directly to His vicar.

Pius XII’s nullifying, invalidating clause still stands


1. “While the Apostolic Seat is vacant, let the Sacred College of Cardinals have no power or jurisdiction at all in those things which pertain to the Pope while he was alive…but let everything be held, reserved for the future Pope. And thus we decree that whatever power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff, while he is alive (unless in as far as it is expressly permitted in this, Our Constitution) the meeting of Cardinals itself may have taken for exercising, is null and void.

2. “Likewise we order that the Sacred College of Cardinals is not able to dispose of the laws of the Apostolic Seat and the Roman Church in any manner it wishes, nor may it attempt to detract wheresoever from the laws of the same, either directly or indirectly through a species of connivance, or through dissimulation of crimes perpetrated against the same laws, either after the death of the Pontiff or in time of vacancy, [however] it may seem to be attempted. Indeed, we will that it ought to guard and defend against the same contention of all men.

3. “Laws given by the Roman Pontiffs are in no way able to be corrected or changed through the meeting of the cardinals of the Roman Church [the See] being vacant; nor is anything able to be taken away or added, nor is there able to be made any dispensation in any manner concerning the laws themselves or some part of them. This is very evident from pontifical Constitutions [on]…the election of the Roman Pontiff. But if anything contrary to this prescript occurs or is by chance attempted, we declare it by Our Supreme authority to be null and void.” — Vacantis Apostolica Sedis, paras.1- 3, Ch. 1; Pope Pius XII, 1945.

Does Cardinal Manning’s observation at all affect the nullity and invalidity of all acts attempted during an interregnum, as Pius XII infallibly proclaims? No, because the physical and moral conditions governing these acts and the last true pope’s power to proscribe such acts still exist. The Church can never fail or disappear; She will always possess the power of the papacy “in potency,” since she is destined to last until the consummation. The reason for the pope’s infallible declaration is still very much in existence, even more so today than at any time during Pius XII’s reign. Pius XII was attempting to prevent precisely what happened following his death. Beginning in 1958 and the election of Roncalli, every rule concerning the election of the Roman Pontiff was overturned, Canon Law itself was later weakened and an attempt was made to replace the 1917 Code with the revised Code issued in 1983 by JP2, (nullified by Pope Pius XII’s still valid law). As long as the interregnum wears on, “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis” will continue to be in force.

Conditions that have ceased


It would be permissible to disregard the parts of Pius XII’s law concerning the cardinals, since they no longer exist; this is the lack of subject matter. It would be permissible to proceed to an imperfect council presided over by certainly valid and licit bishops in this emergency situation, since conclaves are limited to cardinals. But it would never be permissible to disobey divine law in the process, nor any of those Canon Laws based in whole or in part on Divine or natural law. Nor could those proceeding dare disobey any other clearly infallible papal laws, (which means a great deal of research would need to determine the actual status of such laws before any action could be taken). Cardinal Manning stated the truth as it applied to the situation in his day, and this applies in part even in our own day. But Ultramontane that he was, Manning would be the first to admit that a subsequent ruling by the Roman Pontiff bearing on these matters would supersede or at least attenuate anything he himself said.

For years traditional clerics have told their followers and have exhibited by their behavior that much of Canon Law no longer applies since Pius XII’s death in1958; that in these “unprecedented times” they have the right to interpret, dispose of or dispense from these laws in any way they choose. This obvious abuse of power is precisely what “Vacantis Apostolic Sedis” forbids and nullifies ahead of time, so all laws are presumed to remain in force unless the subject matter or moral conditions governing these laws are proven beyond a reasonable doubt to no longer exist. However, valid and licit clergy were promised by Christ to exist perpetually; this is Divine law. These will always remain, although Christ never promised we would always have immediate access to them. Pius XII was well aware of the irenic, neo-modernist trend fueling the liturgical renewal and lay activist movement. Faithful steward that he was, this pope dutifully locked the doors of the Church before his death and took the keys with him to his grave.

The See remains vacant


Already the objections that an interregnum no longer exists ring in our ears; so-and-so is the true pope; no, it is this other so-and-so… Well prove it, folks. It is pretty clear that those not Catholic cannot elect anyone head of the Catholic Church, be they (heretical and/or schismatic) bishops, priests or simple laity. Americans from afar could scarcely elect the president of another country, any more than the citizens of the state of Massachusetts could elect the governor of Illinois. A little common sense will go far in aiding in the understanding of why those who are not officially Catholic can neither elect a pope nor be elected pope. A simple case in point is the requirement in American law that any candidate for president must be an American citizen, and those voting must also be American citizens. And in civil law no more than in Canon Law, it does not count to long with all one’s might to be an American citizen, or even to be enrolled in citizenship classes; there is no substitute for actual citizenship. The argument that priests and bishops excommunicated for heresy and/or schism (or the laity likewise excommunicated) can validly and canonically elect has very quickly become not only ridiculous but also indefensible, which it was, in fact, from the very beginning. And what conclavists contend is the final leg of their table is about to collapse as well.

Some of these claimants are actual laymen. Others are illicitly ordained clerics or validly ordained clerics who were ipso facto deposed for heresy and/or schism (and all papal claimants essentially have suffered this excommunication). Those clerics laying claim to the papacy today have essentially been reduced to the lay state and can no longer be members of the Catholic Church; this according to Can. 188 #4. All are essentially laymen, and as such they fall under Pope Pius XII’s pronouncement in his allocution “Six ans se sont” on what happens when a layman is elected to the papacy. Of course the laity participated in all these elections. So for that reason ALONE such elections were invalid under Pope Pius XII’s election law, which states that these attempts are null and void, (see “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis” preamble below). But let’s return to Pope Pius XII’s comment on a layman elected pope.

Papal address defines election of laymen


In “Six ans se sont,” Pope Pius XII clearly laid down the roles of both laity and clergy. Earlier, he had already made clear distinctions in these roles in his authoritative interpretation of Can. 147 §2 (ecclesiastical offices cannot be “validly obtained without canonical appointment …which is the conferring of an ecclesiastical office by the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons.” This interpretation is a document of the ordinary magisterium, (AAS 42-601). Bouscaren and Ellis point out that this also applies to the papacy.) Nothing had changed in 1957 concerning the role of the laity: this was the clear message sent by Pope Pius XII in “Six ans se sont.” And in that address, Pope Pius XII made an important statement concerning the election of a layman as pope. It is a statement certain people have tried to twist or ignore, even using new (and unauthorized, vague and inaccurate) translations. But its original force — the original translation of this address from the French made by those duly authorized by the Church, (with such authorization now impossible today) — cannot be eclipsed. Pope Pius XII stated in this address that a layman may ACCEPT election “only if he is fit for ordination and willing to be ordained.”

Definition of fitness


Idoneus, the Latin word for “fit,” is used in Canon Law in various forms, (Canons 154, 970, 971, 972, 973). This Latin word translates in English to “appropriate, fit to do something, capable, qualified, suitable.” Canon 973 insists that the bishop ordaining must obtain positive proofs of this fitness and possess moral certainty before ordaining anyone to the priesthood. (Here we only follow Can. 18 and 20 in seeking out the various uses of this word elsewhere in the Code.) Only Canon Law lays down those requirements, supplemented by the Sacred Congregations of the Sacraments and for Seminaries, determining what all these qualifications necessary for ordination entail. Surely none can honestly believe that Pope Pius XII, who for years worked to help compile the Code of Canon Law, was using the word fit in any other manner than it is used in the 1917 Code itself. Nor could he have been ignorant of the fitness required in general for ecclesiastical elections, a fitness that certainly would apply even more strictly to one who would ascend to the papacy. Under the topic of ecclesiastical elections in the Catholic Encyclopedia, persons eligible for election (including that of the pope) are those who “meet the requirements of common ecclesiastical law, or special statutes [and papal election law is considered special law], for the charges or function in question; hence, for each election it is necessary to ascertain what is required of the candidate.

In general, for all kinds of elections, the necessary qualifications are mature age, moral integrity and adequate knowledge. For each charge or function dependent on an election, these conditions are defined with more precision and fullness.” Pope Pius XII was giving the specific, not the general requirements for the election of a layman. He was ascertaining what was required of the lay candidate in that particular case. One cannot confuse the minimal (general) requirements with those specific to the situation and expect to arrive at a true sense of what constitutes fitness. Finally, the Encyclopedia article itself refers to idoneus as the definition of fitness in ecclesiastical elections.Six ans se sont. Pope Pius XII wrote prolifically on the subject of Holy Orders. If his laws on this topic are taken as a whole, it is painfully clear that it would never be his intention to allow a laymen to be advanced to the papacy without any seminary training, spiritual formation, testing or even experience in some other related capacity. It also must be remembered that both the one ordaining and those ordained to the priesthood must have the intention to be ordained according to the mind of the Church, in the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine. How can this be so if the mind of Pope Pius XII on fitness and the rites of the Church is ignored?

Canon Law states that laws are to be interpreted according to the mind of the lawgiver (Can. 17). Concerning heresy, the canonists Revs. Bouscaren-Ellis stated, in their canon law commentary: “[In the definition of a heretic] pertinaciter does not imply duration, nor violence; it simply means setting up one’s mind against the known mind of the Church.” Rev. Eric MacKenzie, in his The Delict of Heresy says under the heading of Pertinaciter: “What we have already said makes plain that heresy consists not merely in error, but in error which is consciously and deliberately conceived by excluding the evidence which would otherwise lead to a true judgment.” Any candidate who could have known and should have known that the requirement in “Six ans se sont” was infallibly necessary for validity and either failed to properly investigate the matter or suppressed the truth was guilty of heresy. Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange wrote in his “The Theological Virtues: Faith,” that: “Heretical pertinacity is not directed immediately against God’s word, or truth in revealing. Its target is the infallibility of the Church’s authority.” For formal heresy to exist, “It is not necessary that the individual believer realizes that the truth in jeopardy has been revealed.”

The pope was anxious in this address to clarify many things which had been the subject of speculation among those agitating for liturgical renewal and a more prominent role for the laity in the Church. Liberal France had long been the seedbed for such fulminations. A recent work by a French author at that time (Rev. Yves Congar, “Lay People in the Church,” published in France in 1951 and translated into English shortly before Pope Pius XII delivered his address), had raised the possibility that a layman could validly be elected pope. Others had also raised this possibility yet could not address it authoritatively, so the subject had become a point of controversy which only Pope Pius XII could address and did so address. No matter how vaguely the above passage concerning fitness has been retranslated, it is clear that one must possess the qualifications necessary to be ordained a priest, and, as Canon Law demands, positive proofs must be presented for such a determination to be made.

Canon 984 n. 5 declares that men seeking to receive orders who are guilty of apostasy, heresy, schism and other crimes not only become irregular but also incur infamy of law. This permanent impediment to election disqualified all current claimants to the papacy, as previous essays on this board have easily proven. This impediment requires a papal dispensation, impossible to obtain during an interregnum, and according to Pope Pius XII, no one but a true pope can dispense from this impediment, (“Vacantis Apostolica Sedis”). If such a dispensation is attempted it is null and void. In one contested “papal” election, the claimant held that a pope-elect need not be examined or present positive proofs of worthiness necessary for ordination before accepting election. This despite Can. 973, which states: “The Bishop shall confer Holy Orders on no one unless, from positive proofs, the bishop is morally sure of the candidate’s canonical fitness; otherwise the bishop not only commits a grievous sin, but also exposes himself to the danger of partaking in the sins of others.” This claimant also dismissed Pope Pius XII’s teaching in “Six ans se sont” as only ecclesiastical law, and held that once a man was elected pope he could not be examined because “no one may judge the pope.” (Forget the distinction between election and acceptance, and most importantly the necessary FITNESS requisite for validity.) Yet new information concerning Pope Pius XII’s statement in “Six ans se sont” proves beyond any doubt that the failure of these men to present such positive proofs before their so-called “acceptance” invalidates their claims.

‘Six ans se sont’ is infallible


In his introduction to “The Major Addresses of Pope Pius XII,” Vol. I, 1961, Victor Yzermans (who authored many works duly approved up to 1958) addresses the authority of the addresses or allocutions delivered by Pope Pius XII. He notes that all but four of the nearly 100 addresses published in his two works are recorded in the Acta Apostolica Sedis. While “Six ans se sont” is not one of the addresses he included in his collection, it nevertheless qualifies under the infallible declarations of Pope Pius XII himself as a document of the ordinary magisterium, considered as infallible. Yzermans cites “Humani Generis” as the determination of what must be considered as issuing from the ordinary magisterium. In “Humani Generis,” Pope Pius XII states that those documents officially recorded in the Acta Apsotolica Sedis are indeed pronouncements of the ordinary magisterium. He also notes that any time a pope passes judgment on any matter “up to that time under dispute,” as the matter of the valid election of a layman to the papacy was at that time, then “it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiff, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”

Was “Six ans se sont” entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis? Yes it was, and we find proof of this in a most unlikely place. It is listed as footnote #3, Chapter IV—The Laity, in Paul 6’s “Lumen Gentium,” given November 21, 1964, (cfr. Pius XII, Allocution “ ecoule’s, 5 Oct. 1957: AAS 49 [1957], p. 927. De “mandato” et missione canonica, cfr. Decretum De Apostolatu laicorum, cap. IV, n. 16, cum notis 12 et 15.) Now no one can say that this statement is not normative or binding on Catholics but a mere “ecclesiastical law.” So any slurs levied against others for citing Pius XII’s teaching on this matter and insisting that his teaching be upheld are baseless and need to be acknowledged as such. Catholics are obligated to defend the truths of faith when they are attacked and “true popes” censure them for this?! What a travesty. As stated in a previous work by this author, a layman elected by the proper ecclesiastical authority (qualified bishops and priests) would need to be examined to determine if positive proofs existed that would allow him to be ordained. No bishop can ordain any candidate for the priesthood — this is a matter of Divine law, (1 Tim. 5:22). And Pope Pius XII’s address proves such men automatically are candidates for the priesthood, disproving the myth of a “valid” lay pope. The election is legitimate only if such a man is elected by “the proper ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons,” (Can. 147 §2 above). “Only if he is fit” may he accept an election posited by the proper ecclesiastical authority; these are infallible statements, the very denial of which is heresy itself.

Laymen cannot ‘mystically’ become clerics


Another false teaching dispelled by “Six ans se sont” is the novelty that a man automatically becomes a cleric by virtue of his election even by laity, not the required ecclesiastical authority. Pope Pius XII’s very insistence that a layman may not be elected by any but the hierarchy — and even then may not accept unless deemed fit by the hierarchy, according to the sacred canons themselves — sends this foolishness down in flames. Moreover, another statement in “Six ans se sont” condemns this notion. Pope Pius XII cites the following question posed to him, no doubt, by those advocating increased recognition for the laity: “Does not the layman who is entrusted with teaching religion — that is with the ‘missio canonica,’ the ecclesiastical mission to teach — and whose teaching is perhaps his only professional activity, pass by this very fact from the lay apostolate to the ‘hierarchical apostolate’?”

First Pius notes the necessary distinction between “Pope, bishops and priests on the one hand and laymen on the other.” Then he answers this question as follows: “The hierarchy…has sole responsibility before God for the government of the Church. The layman’s acceptance of a particular mission, of a mandate of the Hierarchy, may associate him more closely with the spiritual conquest of the world being conducted by the Church under the direction of Her pastors, but this does not make him a member of the hierarchy or give him the powers of Holy Orders or jurisdiction; these remain strictly bound to the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in its various degrees.” And “In the laws of the Code, the words ‘ordain,’ ‘order,’ ‘ordination’ and ‘sacred ordination’ imply, besides the episcopal consecration, the orders in Can. 949…and also the first tonsure…,” (Can. 950). For without tonsure one cannot becme a cleric and unless one is a cleric, he cannot receive any of the orders.

There is no substitute, then, for the Minor and Major orders of the priesthood; no magical/mystical induction into the clerical state. This was the entire thrust of Pope Pius XII’s statement that no layman could accept the papacy without being subject to all those laws which govern the creation of the clergy. Not even those laymen in Pope Pius XII’s day who had received a delegated share of ecclesiastical power from valid and licit authority could claim to be a part of that hierarchy without having received such orders. And certainly these pretenders cannot say that “Six ans se sont” is an infallible law that ceases to apply and for which the moral conditions have passed away. For if they are claiming to be able to be worthy of election as laymen in the absence of true clergy, they actually call these laws into play. Why would Pius XII’s command that they present proofs of their qualifications rankle such claimants (even though all were invalidly elected) if their intentions were pure, when the natural law insists that all those elected to important posts are likewise required to present such qualifications? Only those with something to hide would bristle at complying with these laws.



Some have taught that since the necessity of the papacy is the highest law, the Seat must be filled even if “every ecclesiastical law in the book” is broken to accomplish this. Since it is true that the Church cannot even exist without the papacy, making it the law par excellence, would it not also be true that all laws governing papal election bind more strictly, and that the greatest care must be taken to see that everything possible be done to comply in every way with such laws? This is the Church’s true intention in demanding that only the most worthy and best qualified candidates be nominated and elected and that in their nomination and election, no stone is left unturned to guarantee their fitness and worthiness. If the law to fill the papacy is “the highest law” this law is hardly honored or fulfilled by denying or ignoring the infallible teachings of the Church and those teachings so close to infallible teaching that they cannot be overlooked without denying a truth of faith. Such is the case concerning those specifics of the necessary fitness for the priesthood, required as a condition for accepting the papacy. To justify the deficiencies of current claimants, apologists maintain that a doubtful pope, a scandalous pope, even an evil pope is “necessary” as long as the See is filled. And so by ejecting the first devil — the antipopes who have reigned since the death of Pope Pius XII — they successfully admit seven devils worse than the first, and alienate countless well-intentioned Catholics by sidestepping Church teaching.

Calls for unity are essential, but not for unity in perversity. As Pope Pius IX never ceased to teach, “unity in truth” is the only unity worth having. As long as these claimants refuse to accept the truth and abandon their invalid claims, as past claimants were required to do at the Council of Constance, there can be no unity. God will withhold any possibility of unity until all show themselves ready to obey His teachings. False popes, by ignoring Divine law and defying infallible decrees will only intensify God’s wrath and further prolong the need for prayer and penance.

This being the case, it is high time that those who do not accept, cannot teach and refuse to even attempt to understand the true teachings of the Church on this matter cease and desist from further injuring the remaining faithful. They are misleading those who cannot save their souls unless they obey the teachings of the TRUE Roman Pontiffs, not the false teachings of pretenders. By consistently resisting the known truth, these men are working in concert with others to destroy what little is left of the Church’s recognized holiness and credibility. Under the false guise of championing the Church, they are, instead, successfully thwarting any true hope of unity and championing the cause of Antichrist.

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