Pope Martin V: Canonical Election Necessary for Validity

Pope Martin V: Canonical Election Necessary for Validity

© 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 following is a commentary on the work “Dr. Littledale’s Theory of the Disappearance of the Papacy” by Sydney F. Smith, S. J., Farm Street, Berkeley Square, W. London. It was published by the Catholic Truth Society, 21 Westminster Bridge Road, S.E., London in 1896. Dr. Littledale’s theory, as expressed by Rev. Smith amounts to the following: “If a Pope should be invalidly elected and the Cardinals appointed by him be in consequence invalid also, it follows that a ‘false Pope may seriously affect the competency of the electoral body which will have to choose his successor.’ Not only may this happen, but, according to Dr. Littledale, it has happened, and that often. Many a time have Popes [Littledale contends], destitute of any lawful title, held possession of the See of Rome, and during their tenure appointed Cardinals, who, being so appointed, could in their turn have no valid title to elect future Popes.” This possibility is a tenet of Canon Law, expressed in Can. 2391, #1, which states that, “A college which knowingly elects an unworthy person is automatically deprived for that particular election of the right to hold a new election.”

In his “Canonical Elections,” Catholic University Press, 1939, Rev. Anscar Parsons states that, “The election of the Holy Father has been the prototype for the election of inferior prelates.” As both Rev. Parsons and Rev. Timothy Mock (“Disqualification of Electors in Ecclesiastical Elections,” Catholic University Press, 1958) explain, the election of an unworthy candidate is null and void from the beginning, because qualified electors are bound to know that the one they elect is duly qualified. By unworthy is meant a person branded by infamy of law or fact or a notorious apostate, heretic, schismatic or public sinner, (“A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,” Revs. Woywod-Smith; commentary Can. 2391 #2). These disqualifications still are in place today, according to Pope Pius XII’s “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis.” This final papal election law infallibly nullifies anything done contrary to its teaching. It furthermore decrees that if a pope is elected by other than cardinals, excommunications lifted in his constitution for offenses other than heresy or schism still pertain, and those who have incurred them are considered unworthy in such elections for these excommunications as well. Over the years, the Church tightened up Her papal election laws to eliminate every possible claim of invalidity in the election process. But these ages-old disqualifications for heresy and schism remained, and any election held by other than cardinals or a universal representation of the bishops (in emergencies only), was still held as uncanonical (not legitimate), because it was held contrary to the existing canons.

While the V2 popes (Roncalli to Ratzinger) and other conclavists have been shown to be heretics prior to their election, Rev. Smith proves that Littledale’s arguments fail absolutely in regard to all popes reigning throughout the centuries and up to his day (1896), as they likewise fail until the election of Roncalli in 1958. It is precisely these specious arguments leveled by those who hate the Church and did all in their power to destroy Her that account for much of the confusion today concerning papal election law and the indefectibility of the Church. Many today, namely rabidly anti-Catholic Protestants and those of the Feeney persuasion have basically adopted all of Littledale’s arguments and held to the Masonic kernel of Littledale’s objections. Smith’s comments, therefore, are important; for they reveal how theologians and members of the hierarchy of the Church understood past situations similar to our own, or viewed the solutions to such situations should they occur in the future. Rev. Smith demonstrates that thinking on many of these subjects is perfectly in line with what has been written elsewhere on this board, as quoted from other authors in this same time period and historians throughout the centuries. It confirms all else written here concerning the reasons papal elections are invalid and in the few points where it does digress, it is only because so few authors ever imagined the severity of the crisis we face today.

After reading Rev. Smith’s response to Littledale, and in light of Pope Pius XII’s “Six ans se sont,” recently proven to be a document of the ordinary magisterium, hence infallible, there is no longer any possible justification for believing that anyone can legitimately lay claim to the papacy outside these laws. As Smith observes, the necessity of unquestionably legitimate election is infallible teaching itself, per Pope Martin V’s decree “Inter Cunctus.” Deny that necessity — accept anyone elected by other than certainly legitimate cardinals or, in their absence, valid and licit bishops and senior clerics — and that person ipso facto is guilty of heresy. For heresy consists in a direct contradiction of any truth defined by the Supreme Pontiff. Pope Pius XII’s infallible statement that all such attempts to elect outside the laws of the Church are automatically null and void only confirms Pope Martin’s decree in relation to the current 1917 Code now in force. And as the Church has always taught, and teaches in Pope St. Pius X’s “Oath Against Modernism”: “The doctrines of faith are transmitted from the Apostles through the orthodox Fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us; and so I reject the heretical invention of the evolution of dogmas, passing from one meaning to another, different from that which the Church first had.”

As will be explained shortly in a separate article, the goal of those eager to seize or maintain power, whether in law and government, science and technology, or the financial markets are successful because they either falsify or distort the law to their own advantage. We have seen numerous examples of this in the unconstitutional conduct of the federal government and so many civil courts, the recent Climategate scandal, (among other things) and the questionable practices of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the mortgage lending industry. All this was carefully orchestrated by manipulating and abusing the law in order to make legal what was never legal in the first place. It is no different with religion. The Protestants began distorting Divine law by private biblical interpretation during the Reformation once they threw off the yoke of Canon Law. And the Jansenists, the Liberals and the Modernists did all in their power to impugn Canon Law by basing their beliefs on false philosophical principals, also championing civil law in its place. The false church in Rome set up under the reign of Angelo Roncalli early on laid the groundwork for the revision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Traditionalists sprouting up in the wake of the false Vatican II council thought nothing of using certain canons to their advantage (while ignoring other canons) to build a power base, or attempt to do so. And the same can be said concerning the Conclavists. Rev. Smith’s observations here only further support these conclusions.

Below is Rev. Smith’s analysis of Dr. Littledale’s theory and this author’s comments on Rev. Smith’s reply. The pertinent points have been highlighted in red throughout Rev. Smith’s text.

The true Church cannot accept a counterfeit pope

“That this is the painful truth our critic then goes on to establish. And first he calls attention to the sources of nullity, by which, according to the express doctrine of the canonists, the de facto tenure of the Papacy may be affected. Six sources of nullity, he tells us, are beyond dispute. Those are not true Popes who have been intruded by external violence in spite of, or even without the concurrence of, the electors; or who have been elected by persons not qualified to elect; or who have been elected by votes simoniacally procured; or who at the time of election were affected by some personal ineligibility, such as bastardy, or heresy previous to election; or who have lost a previously valid title either by subsequently falling into heresy, or by being guilty of non-residence. And in case these alleged sources of nullity in a claimant to the Papacy should not be far-reaching enough in their effects to satisfy the sweeping demands of his theory, Dr. Littledale takes note, that, according to an “accepted maxim of Latin theology,” doubtful Popes are to be regarded as no Popes at all.

“Here is Dr. Littledale’s indictment, and perhaps; some may think it effective. ‘At the very least,’ some one may be inclined to say, “it places me under the necessity of a complicated historical inquiry, altogether beyond my powers; for until I have investigated all these historical cases, how can I know for certain that the Pope who now rules the Church is a true Pope, and how, as a matter of necessary consequence, can I know that the Church which adheres to him is the true Church?”

COMMENT: All Rev. Smith does here is prove that so far in the history of the Church, that is, in the late 1800s, the cases that Littledale poses can all sufficiently be explained or happened before laws prohibiting such actions were legislated. As will be seen below, the one thing he insists on is that unless he is an obvious heretic, or for some reason the election was clearly not canonical, a pope accepted by the entire Church is always necessarily a true pope. Smith notes the very difficulty so many Catholics today have encountered, that of the complicated historical inquiry. Those with the materials to do such inquiry and who are able to do it are under obligation to make such a study, if only for the sake of others. It has been made clear in various articles on this board how Catholics by desire, at least, may determine who is and is not a true pope. Articles on Church membership also have explained why Catholics today could not accept anyone as pope, at least until they are absolved from heresy and schism. This is no different in principle than those who, although they were once citizens, have been deprived of their citizenship or voluntarily abandoned it. Because of this they are unable to vote or act in any other way as actual citizens of a given country. The Church is a divinely established society and Her requirements are no different than those in the civil sphere, although they are understandably more binding owing to Her establishment as a Divine institution.

“The principle just enunciated, that the Church which adheres to a false Pope can only be a false Church, so far from offering us increased motive for alarm, indicates the secure and easy path out of the maze prepared for us. It is true that a Church which adhered to a false Pope could not be a true Church, and why is this, save because the true Church cannot adhere to a false Pope? But if this is so, since we know on certain and quite independent grounds which is the true Church, we have only to ask ourselves in reference to any particular Pope either the living Pope whom we are called upon to obey, or some past Pope in whom we are historically interested whether the true Church adheres or adhered to him, or not, and then we can be sure at once, independently of all detailed historical investigations, whether the title by which he entered upon the See of Peter was valid or not. And so likewise if we find that the true Church has separated itself entirely from any claimant to the Papacy, we have at once in this easily obtained knowledge, the certainty that such a claimant had not a valid title to the See. The only cases to which the application of this principle is not helpful are those of Popes whose reigns were so short that the Church Universal had hardly time to give distinct signs of adherence or rejection, or those (likewise short-lived) of whose lives the extant records are too scanty to show clearly whether the Church regarded them as legitimate or as intruders. But these exceptions are few and unimportant.

“Of the vast majority of individual Popes, and still more of the line of Popes, reaching not merely up to the sixteenth century, but to our own days, it is absolutely clear that they received that loyal adherence and obedience from the Universal Church which Leo XIII receives now, and which of itself is so sure a sign of the legitimacy of his title that we can even make it the matter of an act of faith that he is the true Vicar of Jesus Christ. This is no mere theory, but the common doctrine of Catholic theologians, as will appear sufficiently from the following passage in Ferraris Bibliotheca, a work of the highest authority. In his article on the Pope, (S.v. Papa, p. 949) Ferraris says: It is of faith that Benedict XIV, for instance, legitimately elected and accepted as such by the Church, is the true Pope (common doctrine among Catholics). This is proved from the Council of Constance, where Martin V’s Const. Inter Cunctos decrees that those who return from heresy to the faith shall be asked, among other points, ‘Whether they believe that the Pope canonically elected, for the time being, his name being expressly mentioned, is the successor of St. Peter, having supreme authority in the Church of God.’ For thereby he supposes it to be an article of faith, since those who abjure heresy are ‘interrogated only as to truths of faith.’”

COMMENT: So if the canonical election of popes is “of faith,” and no popes since the death of Pope Pius XII can be said to be canonically elected, we deny the faith if we pretend that anyone can conduct other than a canonical election. We also place ourselves outside the Church for schism anytime we pretend that such a person could ever be held as validly elected. Even though Rev. Joaquin Saenz-Arriaga, also Dr. Carlos Disandro and others, ably demonstrated that beginning with Roncalli, the V2 popes were false, the Lefebvrites and other groups such as the material formal crowd made it appear that accepting these usurpers was at least an option despite their heresies and questions concerning the canonicity of their election. Sedevacantists, were it not for the fact that many endorsed the Thucites or entertained the Siri theory, at least acknowledged that those who teach heresy cannot be true popes. (Note here that it is an article of faith that one free of any heresy or schism either before or after election must accept election from certainly valid electors, choose a name and be recognized as pope in his lifetime.)

Many who left the Novus Ordo in the 1960s and 1970s did not even remain in the Church. The Catholic Research Center tells us that between 1967-1976 in the U.S. alone, 10,000 men abandoned the priesthood. Baptisms were cut in half, at least in the U.S. and Great Britain and conversions plummeted. Some estimates of the losses of faithful members are exceedingly grim, estimating as many as two-thirds of those who were Catholic in the 1950s left the Church 10-15 years later. Some simply stopped practicing their faith, others were absorbed into Traditionalist or Orthodox groups and yet others became Protestants. Those who stayed in the NO willingly abandoned their faith to accept the changes or had actively lobbied for them from the beginning, so they could not be counted as true Catholics. The pastor was struck and the sheep scattered, as Christ prophesied. Who can doubt this did not mark the arrival of the Man of Sin, the abomination of desolation as defined by Pope Paul IV — a false pope reigning as a true pope? As Henry Cardinal Manning affirmed, the Scripture phrase “he who withholdeth” can refer to none other than the pope, and once he is “taken out of the way,” as indeed happened with the usurpation by Roncalli and Montini, the Man of Sin then will be revealed to the world, (“The Present Crisis of the Holy See Tested by Prophecy,” Lecture I: Christ vs. Antichrist).

Those who departed and did not take a stand against the intruders only exacerbated the existing disaster by following false christs (illicit priests and bishops who did not acknowledge even the authority of past popes). These clergy and laity who took a stand managed to separate themselves from the Church by adhering to non-Catholic sects and receiving sacraments from those who were not their legitimate pastors. No matter how well intentioned they might have been, they became first (at least) material schismatics, then material heretics. This effectively left the Church with no remedy for the crisis and no juridic members to constitute the true Church, for as Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey and other respected theologians teach, even material heretics are not members of the Church. It is important to understand that the laws of the Church are seen to fully apply here where material heresy is concerned and act as a shield protecting the Church’s indefectibility.

Because these popes were not popes and those following them were not Catholic, neither are illicit Trad clerics legitimate pastors; their followers are not valid subjects and therefore cannot expect to receive spiritual goods. If these laws didn’t apply, then it could be said that the Church had defected because Her members followed false popes and pastors, both the V2 imposters and their appointees as well as those “elected” by conclavists. Before the Conclusion of the false V2 council and the official institution of the Novus Ordo Missae (NOM), it can at least be understood how Catholics might have been confused concerning the acceptance of Roncalli and Montini, but this confusion ended when the Church was modernized and the NOM introduced. At that point Pope Paul IV’s “Cum ex…” would have forgiven them of all censures for accepting a false pope had they not gone on to follow pastors who were not in communion with a true bishop or pope and had no right to minister to them.

Note that “Inter Cunctas” by Pope Martin V above forbids anyone to accept a pope as a valid pope unless he is canonically elected. The necessity of canonical election, Smith notes, is an infallible teaching of the Church. Nor is anyone required to recognize one as a true pope who has not accepted election, taken a name and at least been accepted for a brief time by the faithful. Thanks to papal law and canon laws governing ecclesiastical elections throughout the centuries, the integrity of the Church’s doctrine on indefectibility has been successfully preserved. The situation today proves only that Rev. Smith’s observation still holds and is supported by subsequent Church teaching: since Pope Pius XII, no one has been elected legitimately, and no true Catholics remained juridic members of the Church to accept such an election. And neither can this situation be remedied until true bishops are found who can absolve those now outside the Church. Catholics who are “only” material heretics, as some maintain, are not juridic members of the Church, only members by desire. And they cannot again become members until they have confessed their sins and been duly abjured of their heresy and schism. Rev. Smith continues below.

Acceptance by Church makes valid what is invalid

“It will be said, ‘Yes, but he speaks only of a Pontiff canonically elected and as such accepted by the Church, and his authority cannot therefore be quoted for the case of one whose canonical election is called in question.’ This, however, is an objection which Ferraris himself anticipates, and he meets it thus: Through the mere fact that the Church receives him as legitimately elected, God reveals to us the legitimacy of his election, since Christ has promised that His Church shall never err in a matter of faith, . . . whereas she would err in such matter of faith if the conclusion did not hold; since the Church in acknowledging the elect to be the true Pope, acknowledges him as an infallible rule of faith, while (if he were not really the true Pope) he would be fallible, &c.

“The Church, then, cannot err in recognizing her Head. She can neither adhere to a spurious head, nor separate herself from the true Head. The grounds for this proposition have been indicated to us by Ferraris, but it may be useful to expand his account of them a little more fully. By the terms of the fundamental promises of our Lord to His Church she is guaranteed two prerogatives: indefectibility and immunity from error, together with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, overruling the movements of hearts and minds and the course of events, in order to secure for her the continuance of these two prerogatives. Now the Pontificate is an essential element in the Church’s constitution. If, therefore, the Pontificate were to lapse, the Church would be sustaining a loss in her essentials and so reveal herself as not indefectible. And again, the Church is preserved from religious error by her reliance on the infallible voice of her Supreme Pastor. But if she could err by failing to discriminate between her true Head and a counterfeit, with the result of adhering to the latter, she would be hopelessly exposed to the risk of erring in religious doctrine through receiving it from wrong and unaided lips.”

COMMENT: Those who accepted the V2 usurpers as legitimate despite their falsification of Christ’s own words in the revised liturgy not only ran the risk of accepting false doctrine; they denied Christ outright by such acceptance. Even if they did not know or understood that this was a direct denial of Divine revelation, they still became material heretics. This denial of Divine Faith was not hard to determine; the proper wording “for many” was recorded in every bible, Protestant or Catholic, since the invention of the printing press and before the advent of the erroneous modern revisions. Sufficient publicity was given to the Consecration formula in the Tridentine canon vs. the “for all” forgery in the new “mass” formula; therefore there should have been ample opportunity to understand the necessity of examining this very grave matter. When editions of “Our Parish Prays and Sings” were distributed throughout the U.S. beginning in January of 1959, booklets containing prayers for the dialogue Mass, the phrase “for all men” was reiterated by Catholics in this country long before the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced by Paul 6. But those calling themselves true Catholics in those days did not notice?

Sadly these Catholics were so ignorant of the faith they professed that this phrase even then did not raise a red flag and create an uproar until its official appearance 10 years later. “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” Had Catholics protested then, the problem could have been resolved. But from 1959 and thereafter, the church in Rome gradually became what it is today. Where then is the true Church? Hidden from view temporarily perhaps, as St. Francis de Sales and many other commentators opine; but certainly not defeated. As Rev. Edmund O’Reilly, among others, has noted, nowhere does the Church declare that the See can remain vacant only for such and such a time and then it must be filled or the perpetual succession has lapsed. God’s thoughts and plans for us are a great deep. If the perpetual succession cannot lapse, then either true bishops and priests exist as Christ has always promised they would or Christ will provide them miraculously, as some scripture commentators have stated.

Appointments of popes by emperors

“It will be necessary to start with a very slight account of the changes through which the prescribed mode of electing a Pope has passed in the course of centuries. As our Lord did not Himself determine how vacancies in the Pontificate should be filled up, the certain inference is that He left the determination to the Church, and therefore to the Pope. For such a power was clearly necessary for the well-being of the Church, which would require progressive adaptation of the mode of appointment to the circumstances of the different periods, and if the power, being necessary, exists in the Church, it must reside in the person of the Pope. The Popes, accordingly, have not hesitated from time to time to employ it.

“In the earliest ages the right of election belonged to the clergy of the local Roman Church, the laity also having a recognized right to signify their approval. The object of this intervention of the laity was clearly to bespeak a more favourable reception of the new Pontiff from his immediate flock, but in course of time the practice led to serious evils. The laity could differ among themselves as well as agree, and could emphasize their divergencies of opinion by popular disturbances. It was also natural that nobles, officials, governors, &c., should claim to be the proper representatives of the people and should arrogate to themselves a right of very effective interference. It was natural too that the Roman Emperors, and later those who claimed a succession to their rights, should assume that this right along with others had passed over to them. There were times when this civil intervention in Papal elections was of great service, and it was in recognition of this that Leo III (800) awarded to the Emperor Charlemagne the office of advocatus ecclesiasticus, an office which authorized him to intervene for the sake of securing liberty of action to the electors.

“But too often what happened was that worldly-minded sovereigns converted the right of intervention into an instrument for forcing upon the Church Supreme Pastors not fitted for the high office. Hence it was that the Popes struggled so hard in the middle ages to relieve themselves of the incubus [lay investiture], and here the name of Gregory VII stands out as that of one who achieved a signal success in the work of liberation. Another change more directly affecting the mode of election was made by Nicholas II. (1059). Till then the relative importance of the votes of the clergy and of the approbation of the people had not been clearly determined, and many disputes arose out of this obscurity. Nicholas restricted the power of election to the Cardinal Bishops. To them the definitive voice should henceforth belong; the other Cardinals, the clergy, and the people, being left only the duty of signifying assent to the choice of the former.

“It was he who first gave it equally to all the three orders of Cardinals, to the Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests, and Cardinal Deacons; and he likewise prescribed that a majority consisting of two-thirds of the electors present should be decisive, whatever plea might be urged to the contrary (absque ulla exceptione). The effect of this last clause was to abolish all, or almost all, ineligibility from personal disqualifications. It is held that it allows the choice to fall even on a layman, or even on a married man the object of the clause being to reduce as much as possible the occasions of dispute. Thus many points were decided, but it still remained open to the electors to make their choice in any way they pleased, by meeting together in council, by letters or proxies, or even by tacit assent to appointments imposed on the Church from without. In 1274, Gregory X. put an end to all this by prescribing that henceforth elections should be made in conclave.”

COMMENT: “As our Lord did not Himself determine how vacancies in the Pontificate should be filled up, the certain inference is that He left the determination to the Church, and therefore to the Pope.” Smith’s words here must be properly emphasized. The laity are not allowed to decide far less effect the manner of papal election; this belongs entirely to the Roman Pontiff. In an emergency such a duty to determine the mode of election to be followed falls to the remaining valid and licit bishops and senior clergy, who nevertheless must faithfully follow Church practice in this regard. While the Church allows even the election of a layman or married man to avoid any possibility of claims the election was invalid, She yet reserves the right to make any decision necessary to further guarantee that same validity. In Canons 109 and 219 in the 1917 Code, the Church legislates further that only a pope who is LEGITIMATELY elected (read canonically — Can. 147) by the proper ecclesiastic authority is truly pope.

In his “Six ans se sont,” recently proven to be an infallible document (see “Death Blow to Lay Popes, Lay Elections” under free downloads), Pope Pius XII authoritatively decreed that only one deemed to be unquestionably qualified for the priesthood may even accept election. Unless his fitness for the priesthood is assured by positive proofs, he cannot accept election, nor receive the Divine jurisdiction directly from God that makes him pope. Pope Pius XII legislates further that a two-thirds plus one majority is required for valid election and that acceptance of papal election must be duly confirmed and recorded by the cardinals. Pope Pius XII’s restatement and revision of Pope St. Pius X’s previous election law retains Pius X’s excommunications for certain behaviors, with absolution of these censures reserved only to the pope. Smith was merely citing the laws and teachings in effect in the late 1800s. Those laws were codified and further strengthened by successive popes, as just explained.

A doubtful pope is no pope

“Now at last we can estimate the reasoning by which our amateur canonist has discovered so many flaws in the Papal Succession. Be it remembered that he has against us a black list of invalid Popes, including sixty-five of the names before 1536, and all the names subsequent to it.

“i. And in the first place, what is to be said of his statement that the principle, Papa dubius, est Papa nullus is an accepted ‘maxim of Latin theology,’ and applicable to all cases in which modern writers may fancy themselves to detect an historical doubt in an ancient Papal election? It must be answered that there are four distinct flaws in this portion of his reasoning.

“(a) The principle of Papa dubius est Papa nullus: is not a ‘maxim of Latin theology,’ but only the opinion of some Latin theologians, not even of the majority of them.

“(b) The upholders of this principle never dreamt of understanding it, as Dr. Littledale has done, of mere literary doubts about the title of a Pope whom no one during his life resisted; nor did they mean it to be construed according to the strict sense of the words, but technically, as canonists, whose proficiency in their science has gone beyond Dr. Littledale’s, would know. The case contemplated was that which arose through the so-called Great Schism in the Papacy during the fourteenth century, the case of two or more claimants to the Papacy existing, each supporting his claim by reasons of sufficient strength to defeat all attempts at solution by canonists or Councils, (Cf. Historical Papers, No. XIII. The Great Schism of the West). And the maxim, expressed, as legal maxims usually are, in epigrammatic form, meant not that any one was free to treat such claimants as spurious Popes, but that the doubt in their title availed to subject them to the authority of a General Council and to empower it to set them aside altogether, if the interests of Catholic unity should require it.

“(c) At Pisa, where soon after its invention it was proposed for the first and, with the exception of Constance, the only time, to give practical effect to this maxim by deposing the two existing claimants, Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, the Council did not fully trust to the proposal, but preferred rather to impart to its act of deposition a declaratory form, and base it on an imputation against Gregory and Benedict of heresy and schism whereby they had already dethroned themselves. In like manner at Constance, where the schism was finally healed, it was not healed through any application of this maxim, but by the voluntary resignation of two claimants, and the general abandonment, by that time consummated, of the third, such abandonment, according to the principle we have already considered, being taken as a sign that Benedict could not be, or have ever been, a truly elected Pope.

“(d) The maxim of ‘Papa dubius est Papa nullus’ has the preponderance of evidence against it. The chief reason urged in its favour is that without it the Church might find herself without remedy, if the rival claimants to a disputed succession should persist in their refusal to resign. But the answer is, that God’s special providence over His Church will see to this, as it did in the sole case of real difficulty which has arisen during these twenty centuries, (Cf. Ballerini, De Pot. Eccles. c. ix.).”

COMMENT: Here Rev. Smith’s opinion re ‘Papa dubius…’ fails for our situation, because the assumption on which it is based has been proven false. It is understandable that the hierarchy in those days hesitated to declare these men heretics and schismatics, since all the elections could have been construed as canonical and all elected were cardinals or other members of the hierarchy. Also heresy and schism in such a case would not be definitively defined per papal elections, as Smith notes, until Pope Paul IV’s “Cum ex…” some 150 years later. History has, since the 1800s, actually proven that God’s providence is sometimes other than expected, for what had not then yet happened has since happened. Smith himself acknowledges this is often the case when he writes: “It is not for us to prescribe to the providence of God how much of the evil exercise of free-will it shall tolerate, how much stay. If we watch we shall detect ample signs of God’s action in the world, and if there are also occurrences which to our short-sightedness escape its purview, we must be content to believe that God has wise grounds for permitting them.” As one of Smith’s own contemporaries and fellow Jesuits, Rev. Edmund James O’Reilly S.J. likewise observed in 1882, “We must not be too ready to pronounce on what God will permit…We, or our successors in future generations, may see stranger evils than have yet been experienced… contingencies regarding the Church, not excluded by the Divine promises, cannot be regarded as practically impossible, just because they would be terrible and distressing in a very high degree.” So what was simply a matter of opinion in Smith and O’Reilly’s day, Divine Providence has confirmed otherwise in our own times.

It should be pointed out here that the only other comparable situation, that of the Western Schism cited by Smith, differs in certain points from what we face today. To begin with, there have been no qualified canonists to fairly examine the arguments; only amateurs. The one lay canon lawyer who considered the situation, Dr. Andrade, has no doubts that Roncalli and Montini were false popes. All other canonists once qualified embraced V2 thinking and abandoned the faith long ago. And even when it is apparent that the amateurs left are clearly relying only on Canon Law and Church teaching and only are following unquestioned canonical experts writing before the death of Pope Pius XII, Traditionalists have refused to acknowledge this. Canonists during the Western Schism did not have the wealth of Church teaching and the benefit of codified Church law to rely upon. Many doctrines had not yet been defined. Probably the most controversial point is that valid Cardinals had elected all the various claimants and were elected pope during the schism, giving the appearance of canonical election. These cardinals may have been misinformed, or wrongheaded, but they were not declared formal heretics or schismatics. They did not throw the laws of the Church out the window to hold their various elections and it has never been alleged that they officially and knowingly taught error.

What seems to have happened is that there were reservations on the part of some of the cardinals concerning the character of Urban VI that were repressed or not sufficiently considered for various reasons. He appears to have been a compromise candidate and there also was fear that he would not be acceptable to some of the populace. The reservations concerning Urban’s character were confirmed shortly after his election. These cardinals later felt that in retrospect, and in view of Urban’s behavior, they should have spoken out. But by then they could protest only by departing and electing another candidate. Still the canonists of the day decided that the cardinals could not use fear as an excusing factor because they did not immediately protest the election. These canonists even accused them of being less than honest in claiming such fear. But whether the cardinals’ fears were justified or not, it appears that they believed they were justified, and believed they been deprived of their free choice in a candidate.

This is where the notion of “papa dubius” comes into play. Later commentators observe that the doubts the cardinals claimed should have been resolved, and then papa dubius need not have come into play. That was true perhaps in the case of Pope Urban’s election, but this is not true today. Not all opinions held only by a lesser number than the majority of theologians, as Smith notes papa dubius was held, are disqualified by this fact alone. In fact later theologians do not seem to have abandoned this theory at all. In our particular situation, the failure to apply the doubtful pope principle led to the most notable crisis ever known in the history of the Church. Had the remaining clergy not accepting the V2 pretenders called for an imperfect council, at least, to depose the existing claimants on virtue of their doubtful claim, things would be very different today. Such a move would not only have prevented the later emergence of conclavist claimants but would have absolved those who accepted John 23 and Paul 6 of all censure. It not only would have avoided the proliferation of illicit pastors but also would have prevented this interminable interregnum.

The only time the faithful are obligated, not just permitted, to renounce spurious claimants to the papacy is in the event that they are teaching heresy or promoting schism in the guise of pope, in which case it becomes clear they never could have become popes in the first place. This is infallibly decreed in Pope Paul IV’s “Cum ex Apostolatus Officio,” which Rev. Smith mentions later on in his answer to Littledale.

Pope Martin V’s election unquestionably valid

“Dr. Littledale’s strange and unscientific reading of this maxim being now set aside, the evidences of nullity which he has brought forward assume a different complexion. One thing is at least certain, that the validity of subsequent Popes was not affected by the state of temporary uncertainty, since at Constance they were careful so to arrange the settlement that every possibility of defect in the title of Martin V should be demonstrably eliminated. Dr. Littledale, indeed, becoming ultra-ultramontane for the moment, sets down Martin V as ‘irregularly elected,’ because the electoral body was not composed of the Cardinals alone, but of these with certain Bishops, &c., added to their number. But as long as the Cardinals accepted the arrangement, which they did, no invalidity could arise from this source; and besides, they all agreed that the choice of each section should fall on the same person, which it did.”

COMMENT: Isn’t this amazing — the Protestants of the 1800s were using the same arguments to discredit Martin V that today’s Conclavists use to discredit him, in order to justify their own “elections.” Rev. Smith provides further evidence that in no way was Martin V’s election irregular, or accomplished by excommunicated clergy, far less members of the laity, as some have falsely maintained. As explained at length in the article on this board concerning the Western Schism (see TradWatch: Countering Objections), the true papal line of which Pope Gregory XII was a member prevailed throughout the schism. Gregory XII himself supplied jurisdiction for all those voting for Martin V both during his papacy and especially right before his resignation. In addition, Smith gives a reason is Martin V’s election was not irregular from a procedural standpoint: the Cardinals approved the manner of election and determined its details. Such uncertainty about electors or the one elected would destroy Church teaching on indefectibility and perpetuity, as Smith later notes. Those who claim that the “prelates from other nations” who participated in Martin V’s election, with the full permission of the cardinals, were laymen must ignore the Church’s own definition of “prelate,” reflected in Can. 110. This canon defines the word as “clerics, either secular or religious, who have jurisdiction in the external forum.”

In his “A Catholic Dictionary,” Donald Attwater further explains that “the principal prelates are the bishops; others are vicars and prefects apostolic, abbots and other major superiors of religious orders and the higher officials of the Roman curia.” Prelates nullius are appointed by the pope and must have all the qualifications for bishops, even if they do not receive consecration. Even if one assumed that all the prelates who voted for Martin V were only priests (monsignori), which Smith says they were not, they certainly could never be considered even lay religious. Involvement of the laity in elections had been forbidden long before the Western Schism, and all involvement of the laity in papal elections whatsoever was proscribed. Martin V infallibly proclaimed in “Inter Cunctas” that canonical election is necessary for a true pope to be validly elected, and Pope Pius XII’s “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis” forbids lay participation of any kind in papal elections.

Imperial papal appointments always confirmed by Church

“4. Next come nine cases of disputed election. Of these, one is that of the so-called Leo VIII, who was a clear intruder, and has always been regarded as such. He was appointed during the lifetime of the lawful Pope and in spite of him. The other eight are Popes against whom some rival claimant was started. Even apart from the theological certainty we have that the Church cannot adhere to a spurious Pontiff and reject the true, it is only rational to prefer the judgment of the contemporary Church to that of some modern writer attempting to decide between the obscure, scanty, and contradictory accounts which have been preserved to us. At the same time, in most cases we can ourselves see how the decision of the contemporary Church was on the side of truth, as in the case of St. Damasus, St. Boniface, and Innocent II.

“Now follows the year of our Lord, 897, of the fifteenth Indiction, in which Boniface (VI), invading the See (of Rome), held it for fifteen days, a man whom we must not number among the Pontiffs, since he was condemned in the Roman Synod under John IX, as will be said in the proper place. He was a man of evil life who had been twice degraded, once from the diaconate, another time from his priesthood. Stephen VII (VI) was substituted in his place, Boniface the intruder being thus driven out by another intruder. All these deeds being wrought by force and terrorism, brought disgrace on the Roman Church. But although some of these, like this Boniface, were altogether rejected, others were afterwards received as Pontiffs. The reason of this was because, however much they owed their original occupation of the See to tyrannical violence, they were afterwards by fresh elections duly held elected as legitimate Pontiffs by the clergy, who deemed it better to tolerate them just as they were than to permit the Church to be torn by schism. This observation we are compelled to make because the Universal Catholic Church has venerated them and obeyed them as true Pontiffs, has recognized them as Vicars of Christ and successors of St. Peter, and has shown them the reverence due to genuine Pontiffs; a thing which would never have been done had there not been evidence of a subsequent legitimate election.

“Possibly Baronius is too sanguine in assuming that the intrusion was ordinarily revalidated by a formal ceremony of election duly conducted, and indeed elsewhere he says that often this could not have been. But even if there were no formal ceremony, Baronius’s principle would still apply. A tacit acceptance of the intrusion by the electors as distinguished from a persistent refusal to tolerate it, would have sufficed to rectify the original nullity of the title. In after-days, indeed, such a tacit acceptance would not have sufficed, because subsequent Papal legislation made election in Conclave with observance of special forms a condition of validity. But there was no such law in force in the tenth, century, and had it been then in force, probably those with whom the power of election lay would have acted otherwise.”

COMMENT: Some new information must have been uncovered concerning Pope Leo VIII, for the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia lists him among the true popes from July 964 to March or April of 965. The Emperor Otto reinstated him after the death of John XII (during whose lifetime Leo VIII was first elected and deposed) and following the deposition of the antipope Benedict. It is possible that this was not made known until a later time, considering the accusations then being made against the Church by Littledale, Gladstone and others. But once having determined that Leo VIII was a true pope, this then becomes a dogmatic fact. The Church’s due acceptance and inclusion in official papal lists of any man She determines was truly pope may not be infallible of itself, but it is so closely related to doctrinal matters that it cannot be denied without also calling doctrine itself into question, (Canons 1324 and 1325; DZ 1820).

Even though emperors appointed certain popes during tumultuous times, the subsequent ratification of these men by the cardinals and clergy or even their tacit acceptance by this same body, without any dissent, amounted to a second election in those days before the laws governing papal election were set in stone. All this only proves what has been stated in the article on this board, “No Apostolic Succession, No Pope,” under the heading “Lay Election Disproven by Church History,” (see main Index under “False Popes, Antichrists…”). Those claiming that the laity or some secular authority not a cleric effected these elections without approval of the Church’s ecclesiastical authorities must surely see that the body of historical evidence is against them and is growing as new proofs are found. The scant and unconvincing evidence they offer as “proofs” to support their claims that laity can directly elect popes, a concept directly opposed to infallible Church teaching and Divine law, are very likely forgeries. Several of these forgeries were produced by the various imperial regimes who believed in lay investiture (that the laity had the right to appoint the hierarchy and even Christ’s Vicar), and this is not idle speculation. The Catholic Encyclopedia under Pope Leo VIII explains that just such forgeries were used to state that Leo VIII gave the emperor Otto the right to appoint future popes.

While it is true that before the laws were changed beginning with Pope Gregory VII the practice of tacit acceptance was tolerated, this is not true today. Rev. Smith rightly observes above: “In after-days, indeed, such a tacit acceptance would not have sufficed, because subsequent Papal legislation made election in Conclave with observance of special forms a condition of validity.” Here we see expressed precisely what Pope Pius XII would later state: “They [the Chinese bishops] have unrighteously assumed to defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise,” (“Ad Apostolorum Principis”).

No need for any declaration concerning heresy

“In regard to the first, we must distinguish actual heresy arising in one who is already Pope, and past heresy in a candidate for the Papacy. As regards present heresy it has been generally held that, given the possibility of a personally heretical Pope, he would ipso facto cease to be Pope by ceasing to be a member of the Church. The Church in that case, as represented by the Cardinals or otherwise, could on due information of the fact pass a declaratory sentence on one who being no longer Pope was no longer its superior, and then take measures to remove him from the See in which he had become an intruder. This doctrine, however, has, except in a single and doubtful instance, been always of an academic character, there never having been occasion to use it. The one exception has been already mentioned. It was when the Council of Pisa thought of utilizing the opinion in order to heal the Great Schism, by imputing constructive heresy to claimants who would not consult the interests of unity by resigning. In regard to past heresy as a disqualification in a candidate for the Papacy, we need only say that it did not exist as such until 1559, when Paul IV issued his Bull ‘Cum ex apostolatus officio,’ a Bull in which the possibility of such a candidature for the Papacy is contemplated only inclusively with similar possibilities in regard to other sees, offices, and dignities, civil as well as ecclesiastical, throughout the world. A Bull of that date can have no concern for us in this tract. Certainly since then no suspicion of heresy in a Pope can be suggested. I know Dr. Littledale claims that the form of the Bull is retrospective, but that only shows his incompetency to deal with a legal document.”

COMMENT: What Rev. Smith means by this last sentence is that until a law has been properly promulgated, it does not bind anyone. Pope Paul IV’s law does renew all former excommunications for heresy, apostasy and schism, however, and teaches that they shall be regarded as applying to those condemned of these crimes in the past as though the law then was in its full rigor. In his haste to discredit Dr. Littledale, it appears that Rev. Smith did not study Pope Paul IV’s “Cum ex…” at any length, assuming that since the events outlined in the bull had never occurred it could not apply to circumstances in the 1800s. Had he done so, he would have realized that in the preamble to Paul IV’s Bull, the pope definitely refers to the advent of the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place, a reference which ultimately can only be seen to describe a false pope reigning as a true pope. The history of Pope Paul IV’s decree, which Can. 17 urges us to consider whenever there is doubt concerning the true history and meaning of any law, also the mind of the lawgiver, confirms that Paul IV had reason to fear that a certain Cardinal Morone, who he suspected of heresy was plotting beforehand to seize the papacy after his death. After Paul IV died, an attempt was made to elect Morone, but the historian Hergenrother reports that the future Pope St. Pius V, then Cardinal Ghisleri, objected to Morone’s attempted election, stating that “it would be invalid owing to the question mark hanging over his orthodoxy,” a statement undoubtedly based on “Cum ex…” itself, (“Will the Catholic Church Survive…?”, pgs. 76-78). This provides a morally certain answer to those who claim that suspicion of heresy only does not invalidate a papal election. ALL these silly pretensions of past and current papal claimants appearing after the death of Pope Pius XII — none of whom were canonically elected — can be easily dismissed. And in reality, they were roundly dismissed long ago by saints and eminent theologians.

When Rev. Smith states that “The Church…as represented by the Cardinals or otherwise, could on due information of the fact pass a declaratory sentence on one who being no longer Pope was no longer its superior, and then take measures to remove him from the See in which he had become an intruder, he states only that this could be done, or could have been done prior to Pope Paul IV’s Bull. But this does not mean that in order for the ipso facto deposition to become a reality it must be done, for Pope Paul IV does not require this declaration. In fact he taught that “The persons themselves so promoted and elevated shall, ipso facto and without need for any further declaration, be deprived of any dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office and power, [without any exception as regards those who might have been promoted or elevated before they deviated from the faith, became heretics, incurred schism, or committed or encouraged any or all of these]…It shall be lawful for all and sundry…who would have been subject to persons so promoted and elevated…even for those who participated in the election of one straying from the Faith, or of a heretic or schismatic to the Papacy… to depart with impunity at any time from obedience and allegiance to said promoted and elevated persons and to shun them as sorcerers, heathens, publicans, and heresiarchs…”

Does this sound like a declaration is required before one can consider these men antipopes? Once again, it appears that Rev. Smith did not intend here to properly examine “Cum ex…” because it was not relevant to his case, but it certainly has relevance to ours. The argument for the validity of a simoniacal election is included below because Pius XII’s 1945 constitution “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis” confirms Rev. Smith’s conclusions on this matter. This constitution clearly states that the existence of simony in the course of a papal election cannot be used as any pretext for declaring an election BY CARDINALS invalid, nevertheless censuring those involved in such an act latae sententiae, (Can. 2330, #5). The absolution from these censures is reserved only to the Roman Pontiff and only in the event that the offender is in danger of death. Nor does Can. 2254 apply in urgent cases, Revs. Woywod-Smith explain in a footnote to Can. 2330. For these excommunications, carried over from the papal constitution of Pope St. Pius X, issue not from Canon Law itself but from a special law issued by the Roman Pontiff. So while the election itself would not be invalid for simony alone, even a well-founded suspicion of heresy or schism among the cardinals and/or the one elected would definitely invalidate it. And most importantly, it should be noted that Pope Pius XII obliquely refers to an election not conducted by the cardinals in Conclave. In such a case, he teaches, all the excommunications not involving heresy and schism, from which the cardinals are excused in the earlier part of his election law, would need to be observed in any other type of election. Laws forbidding simony, then, would still be in effect in the event such an election occurred, and any electors would need to be free from any and all excommunications of any kind whatsoever.

Two-thirds (plus one) majority a validating factor

“Meanwhile we must lament that our canonist did not consult the treatise of Cardinal Jaccovaccio (I533), who argues most conclusively, reciting the opinion of others in confirmation of his own, that simony was not previously to the Bull of Julius an invalidating defect, at all events, when the election had been followed by enthronization. He argues from the Bull of Alexander III that when a majority of two-thirds, always necessary, has been secured, no exception or opposition to the election can be taken on any ground whatever. I may add that Jaccovaccio had in view the Bull of Julius II, and mentions it as having changed the state of the question. We may therefore disregard altogether for present purposes, though without conceding, the charges of simony against the elections of Innocent, Alexander, Julius, or any of their predecessors, thereby delivering ourselves at last of the entire contents of Dr. Littledale‘s terrible black list.

“Schmalzgrueber writes: When the election of the Cardinals has been invalid, it cannot confer any title upon the elect. Hence the acceptance of the Universal Church must be awaited, which if it supervenes will heal the effect of an invalid election . . . provided the disqualification is one of positive law (such as the disqualification of simony would be). One rule of legal interpretation is that the language of a law is to be taken in its proper and usual sense, lest any absurd or unjust consequence should follow from so taking it, and should render the law itself altogether useless.”

COMMENT: Here we see that in all discussion of the possibility of an invalid election, it is assumed that such an election has been posited only by a two-thirds (now two-thirds plus one) majority of the cardinals, not any other body. Referring to the opinion of the canonist Baldus de Ubaldus, one of the greatest casuists of the 14th century, the historian Walter Ullmann writes from de Ubaldus’ second “Consilium”: “The cardinals…by their consent to the election of a certain individual as pope, could thereby remedy every defect which would otherwise make the candidate unfit, even if he was excommunicated or a notorious concubinary priest…The cardinals have it in their power to clear the candidate of all irregularities — except one, and that is persistent heresy,” (“The Origins of the Great Schism”). The cardinals are chosen especially by the pope and must be “endowed with exceptional learning, piety and prudence,” even before their appointment, (Can. 232). For this reason they are assumed to possess a more refined discernment and superior powers of judgment; therefore they enjoy greater privileges. Rev. Smith and all others writing on this topic unanimously concede that only a canonical election conforming to the papal laws of the times can be considered valid. They further concur that one who manifested heresy pre-election or who manifests it post-election, having either unknown to others or secretly held it pre-election, is not a valid pope. According to “Cum ex…,” no acceptance by the cardinals or the rest of the faithful can cure this invalidity, since it contradicts divine, not just positive law.

A note also should be made concerning Smith’s mention of enthronization as a validating factor, since others have denied that this is indeed an indication of a valid papal election. This issue was brought up in regards to the enthronization of Urban VI, since it was cited as further proof that the dissenting cardinals considered him a true pope. This was obviously true in retrospect, since later Urban’s line was confirmed as the true line. Two lay canonists writing at the time of the schism early on contended that Urban VI was the true pope, as held by the canonists Baldus de Ubaldus, and his contemporary Johannes de Lignano. Ubaldus taught one of the only cardinals of the era who had any papal loyalty or real vision concerning how the schism should be resolved — Cardinal Francis Zabarella. Lignano, “enjoyed great authority in ecclesiastical circles,” Ullmann reports. He also writes that in his first “Consilium,” written even before the schism occurred, Baldus rules out the cardinals’ claims of fear in electing Urban. He does this by pointing to Urban VI’s coronation (part of the enthronement ceremony) as proof that the dissent they maintained existed among them from the time of the election was certainly not reflected by their willing participation in the enthronement ceremony. Obviously Cardinal Jaccovaccio, writing in the 16th century, was not unfamiliar with Baldus’ earlier teaching.

Some also have tried to gain support for the validity of modern Conclavist elections by objecting that St. Peter, as Pope, denied Christ, when Christ uttered the words “Get thee behind me Satan…” or when, during the Passion, Peter denied knowing his Master. This they cite as proof that heretics can be popes or later can become popes, (which was not well understood before Pope Paul IV wrote “Cum ex…”). But Peter was not yet officially pope prior to the Resurrection, for as the Vatican Council teaches, Christ did not confirm and officially convey the papacy to Peter until AFTER the Resurrection, (DZ 1822). And in confirming him and requiring the threefold affirmation of Peter’s faith prior to this confirmation, Christ personally exculpated His chosen vicar from any error, far more understandable and forgivable in a recent convert from Judaism and simple fisherman, than in a man raised as a Catholic possessing seminary training. Christ’s absolution was a one-time occurrence. Barring an outright miracle, such a thing is not possible in this situation. Christ, who relies on individuals to rightly form their consciences and freely do His will, can scarcely compel them to follow their consciences when they choose to err, lest He revoke free will altogether.

One final observation is in order. Rev. Smith’s comment that “the language of a law is to be taken in its proper and usual sense, lest any absurd or unjust consequence should follow [from so taking it,] and should render the law itself altogether useless” applies to “Cum ex…” where the ‘no declaration is needed’ clause is concerned. Pope Paul IV’s words on this subject are clear and unmistakable, and he specifically mentions the papal see as needing no declaration to be vacated of its occupant.

Close look at “Cum ex…” clarifies time lapse issue

“Dr. Littledale’s proposed interpretation of the words, “shall not be revalidated by any lapse of time,” sins against this rule [concerning the clear language of the law]. His very contention is that the effect of the law is to create an impasse, and so deprive the Church of an essential element in her constitution. For this reason alone his proposed interpretation stands condemned; and, in fact, it is clear from the Bull that the object of the phrase is merely to give elbowroom to the Cardinals who may have to take action against the intruder. It is to meet the case of a simoniacal intruder, who might well say, “You have let some weeks or more pass without taking action, and now it is too late.” Whereas, on the other hand, in dealing with a matter of such delicacy and difficulty, the Cardinals would need to delay action for a while, (1 De And. Legati de Latere, lib. ii. nn. 424-427).

“But the chief reason for confidence that, since the Bull Quum tarn divino, there has never been another simoniacal Papal election, is drawn from the theological principle with which we started, the principle that the special Providence (or Assistentid) which watches over the Church will not allow it to adhere to a spurious Pontiff; and it is probably truer to say, as well as more commonly held by theologians, that if, on a doubt arising as to the validity of an election, the acceptation by the Universal Church is to be awaited, it is awaited, not as ratifying a title which was till then invalid, but as a sure sign that the hitherto doubtful title was all along valid.

“This, of course, does not meet the difficulty at all, and the truer way of regarding the question is to say: “If God has indeed attached such inestimable privileges to the Papal Chair, and if, as all theologians and canonists agree, the occupant of that chair must be validly elected in order to exercise them, then we shall find on inquiry that the line has been regular and undisputed from the first; that no doubt, and, above all, no invalidity, attaches to any one of those reckoned in the succession. And the super-abundant proof that such is not the case, that actually no See in the whole world has so many flaws of the gravest kind in its pedigree, none has ever sunk morally so low and so often in the person of its Pontiffs, is the final disproof of the Petrine claims, as a mere human legend, destitute of any Scriptural, legal, or historical basis.”

COMMENT: Pope Paul IV’s teaching concerning the fact that regardless of any lapse of time in office, and even retroactively, a heretic or schismatic’s crime can be recognized and addressed is proven in para. 6 of “Cum ex…” where he states: “It cannot be declared valid or become valid through his acceptance of the office, his consecration, subsequent possession or seeming possession of government and administration, or by the enthronement of or homage paid to the same Roman Pontiff, or by universal obedience accorded him, or by the passage of any time in said circumstances, nor shall it be held as quasi-legitimate.

This concession actually protects the faithful and the electors of a usurper who were for a given time unaware of any defect in the one elected. But the scenario envisioned by Pope Paul IV did not encompass popes elected and afterward accepted as true popes in centuries past, as referred to by Littledale. Paul IV envisioned a withdrawal from obedience during a false pope’s lifetime, or shortly thereafter. Doubts concerning Roncalli’s papacy were in many respects not conclusively confirmed until the reign of Paul 6, although such doubts existed from the beginning of his papacy, as Belligrandi, Leroux and others prove, (see “Death Knell for Good Pope John,” under False Popes and Antichrists on this board). Furthermore, it has been proven that “Cum ex…” is retained in the Code and was a most prophetic and far-reaching decree, obviously intended for our times. Rev. Smith talks about simony above, not heresy and schism, which is the subject matter of “Cum ex…” Simony is not a matter of faith, so a lapse of time in addressing it would arise from different motives. “Cum ex…” declares above that not even enthronement or universal obedience accorded to one discovered to be a heretic or schismatic, regardless of the length of time this has gone on, can make legitimate or even quasi-legitimate that which was never legitimate in the first place.

And once the heresy or schism becomes manifest or generally known, there is no need for any further action unless the usurper refuses to vacate the papal seat. “For the greater confusion of persons thus promoted and elevated, if they attempt to continue their government and administration, all may implore the aid of the secular arm against those so advanced and elevated.” In other words, these persons may be forcibly removed; it does not require the official action of ecclesiastical authority to determine that such heresy or schism exists, for the heresy or schismatic stance itself is proof enough. Those ecclesiastics departing from obedience need only declare the FACT and proceed to a new election.

Relevance of Smith’s work to the present

Instead of addressing issues raised concerning the matter of papal elections factually and honestly, Trad clerics, also papal claimants and their supporters have relied upon precedents existing before later infallible decrees set the current canonical norms for clerical legitimacy and the valid election of the Roman Pontiffs. Some conclavists have cited the reports of imperial apologists later discredited by the Church. Such proofs certainly are not admissible. It is important that those who are trying to unravel what has happened to the Church over the past several decades know all that was presented in way of evidence from reliable sources. This is especially true since these theologians and historians considering the “disappearance” of the Church — also the validity of popes elected uncanonically or appointed at one time by secular authority — have come to almost identical conclusions and have cited impeccable sources to support their case. It is their opinions — not those of so-called “experts” today — that matter, as Smith himself notes above.

At the time of the Western Schism, before the issuance of “Cum ex…” and Pope Pius II’s “Execrabilis,” it was possible to call a general council to ask for the resignation of Gregory XII and John XXIII and declare Benedict XIII to have abandoned his claim by his refusal to likewise resign. Canon Law states with “Execrabilis” that there can be no appeal from a (then) reigning Roman Pontiff to a General Council (Can. 228), nor can a general council continue in session or be called during an interregnum, (Can. 229). This leaves only the possibility that in the absence of the cardinals, and provided that valid and licit bishops could be found, “the college of cardinals or the bishops,” could convoke an imperfect council, as St. Robert Bellarmine states in his “De Conciliis”, Ch. 14. But this is not possible today, nor, strictly speaking, is it necessary in order to depose the usurpers, since no declaration is needed to consider papal claimants “deposed.” Those who quite obviously never became pope need no further consideration. In his “Principles of Scholastic Theology,” Rev. Bernard Wuellner states that laws declaring an incapacity to act unless certain conditions are verified automatically invalidate any attempted act or reception. This truth is clearly stated in Pope Pius XII’s 1945 election law “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis,” which voids any interference in an election by laity, absolutely disqualifies those deposed as electors, and infallibly forbids any violation of Canon Law or exercise of papal jurisdiction during an interregnum. The Council of Trent and Canon Law likewise condemn the interference of the laity. The laws are clear and in no need of explanation, and “Six ans se sont” further clarifies the situation of a layman elected pope.

There are only two ways to validly and legitimately elect a true pope, and the first is obvious: by a two-thirds plus one majority of qualified cardinals electing in Conclave. The second method is by an imperfect council called by valid and licit bishops and senior members of the priesthood, to be convoked only in the event that the cardinals cannot elect or do not exist, or in case of some other emergency. St. Bellarmine treats the case where “bishops of their own accord” would come together in an imperfect council to elect. In the 1300s, during the Western Schism, Cardinal Zabarella, whom Ullmann describes as a “thorough-going papalist,” advanced an entire line of thought on how to resolve the Western Schism, and his thinking provides many good points for consideration in the present situation.

It is from Zabarella that the principle so often cited by Traditionalists today seems to have originated: “Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures.” It is only a legal principle, mainly used in civil law, not any kind of teaching of the Church. In reporting Card. Zabarella’s statement concerning it, Ullmann notes that the cardinal said it “in a somewhat apologetic manner,” (“The Origins of the Great Schism,” 1948). This is because it was an untested principle where ecclesiastical law is concerned, and there was much uncertainty during those times. It is related to the epikeia principle so incorrectly and illegally applied by Traditionalists to the problems that began with Roncalli’s reign. But Card. Zabarella, Ullmann writes, was no supporter of epikeia, and he notes that, “this pseudo-legal…panacea of epikeia appears not once in his tracts.” So this cardinal did not believe in stepping outside the law to resolve the schism, but in finding solutions within the accepted legal infrastructure of the Church at that time. As explained below, he proposed an alternative solution, grounded in ancient canons, which would send the bishops to a council to resolve the schism.

In way of preliminary remarks, Card. Zabarella observes that in his “Decretum,” Gratian states that in the case of two men elected pope during the same time frame, the election is null and void; only the one elected by proper ecclesiastical authority and accepted by the majority of the faithful is to remain in the papal chair. It is easy to conclude, then, that in the case of numerous claimants, none would be valid since none could claim election by a majority of cardinals or bishops in council, far less claim acceptance by even a modest majority of the faithful. This was precisely the case of the Western Schism. (And for those who might protest that Gratian’s Decretum cannot always be trusted, we also should comment that this dismissal of all claimants is the practice of the Church, as demonstrated during the Western Schism and also in other cases where the papacy was contested.) Zabarella then cites Joannes Teutonicus, a respected 13th century canonist, who stated in his day that a general council must be convoked in such a situation, since “the power which the pope usually combines in his person now comes to rest with the whole Church which is the fidelium congregatio, a term used by Nicholas III.” But this must not be taken to mean that laity have any real say in such a council, or indeed, may even participate in it past professing their faith. “For in a general council, despite its name, not all the Catholics of the whole world are assembled, but only personae praecipuae [principle persons], such as bishops, abbots, rectors of great religious houses, in short, the pars idoneior,” [or sanior pars, translated from the Latin as the senior or older part]. Since Zabarella’s time, of course, the Church has determined that a general council cannot be called during an interregnum, leaving only the possibility of convening an imperfect council, “although without the head it is unable to decide about many things,” (St. Bellarmine’s “de Concilis”).

So even before Pope Paul IV confirmed in “Cum ex…” that the Church could appeal to the emperor or civil authority to eject a usurper already deposed (by the fact of heresy or schism itself), Card. Zabarella had outlined this idea. He had proposed that an emperor likewise could call a general council to resolve the Great Schism, as indeed Emperor Sigismund later did. Ullmann notes in his work that indeed, “many of the most important councils in the Church were called by lay princes.” Zabarella even noted that in the case of the elections of Symmachus and Laurentius as pope in 498 A.D., the Gothic king Theodoric not only called a general council, but determined that Symmachus was the true pope. Citing ancient canons, Zabarella notes that in the case where “a properly instituted bishop” fails to call his colleagues together to determine some important matter, “It is the people themselves who have to summon the neighboring bishops for special purposes, if the…bishop neglects his duty.” In the event of something like the Great Schism, “the lay population is entitled to summon bishops for a special meeting…the Emperor simply takes the place of the people.” The emperor and the people may call such a council, “to avow [their] faith publicly.” Referring to the fact that in papal elections proper, the laity even have the right to restrict food to the cardinals and exert an indirect pressure on those who leave the conclave without electing a pope, Zabarella concludes that only in such an emergency as a contested papacy or vacant see could they bring pressure upon the senior clergy to do their duty and resolve a schism or contested election.

One final note: It is interesting to say the least that none of the Conclavist “election” efforts hinged on the calling of an imperfect council, although an individual involved in one of these efforts did, in the beginning, advocate such a council. Still this was not good enough, since only valid and licit bishops could have convened such a council. These efforts should instead have focused their energies on the relentless search for true bishops, but it is unlikely that even then they could have been located. Also, at that time the laity was not aware of what they must do to at least become worthy of finding these bishops, who, if they had been asked to convene the council, could then have absolved all parties concerned from heresy and schism.


After serving two successive Roman popes, Boniface VIII and Innocent VII, cardinal Zabarella was created a cardinal by (antipope) John XXIII. He was one of the ambassadors sent to the Council of Constance, where he died Sept. 26, 1417. But before his passing he witnessed his canonical conclusions at work, the balm that began the healing of the schism. Before those reading this work begin to speculate that perhaps we can do today what was done in a similar circumstance centuries ago, it must be noted that the laws and the circumstances peculiar to our times severely limit any options. As stated in “Surviving the Great Apostasy” and elsewhere, there is a way to prepare ourselves for absolution and abjuration by valid and licit bishops should they ever come forward in our lifetime. Three years abstinence from any participation in non-Catholic religions; an attempt to bring others to the truth, especially those we may have scandalized; a prayerful life, and some apostolate, no matter how humble, to promote the faith — these are the prerequisites for absolution that would prepare us to once again become juridic members of the Church.

At Fatima Our Lady made a simple request: prayer and penance, faithfulness to daily duty and especially prayers for sinners who need them most. Many believe that her appearance and messages had reference to the fulfillment of the Apocalypse and that if her requests were not fulfilled the pope (papacy?) would suffer. We have already seen the Man of Sin (Paul 6, V2 popes), who appeared once he who withholdeth (the true pope) was taken out of the way. In Apocalypse 2:5, Christ tells St. John that if the church in this passage does not do penance, its candlestick shall be removed. Scriptural commentators observe that the candlestick refers to the bishop, and of course the Pope is the bishop of Rome. If we wish Christ to replace our candlestick, we must do penance for our sins and make amends and reparation; nothing will be resolved until this is done. We must first observe the command found in Apoc. 18:4, “Go out from her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.” And we also must pray without ceasing that we find valid and licit bishops (who, if necessary, can prove their mission from God by miracles), to convene an imperfect council. Either that or we must pray that God in His mercy shall somehow provide otherwise. Until then, the enemies of the Church will continue to rejoice, and to spread the rumor that the Church has indeed disappeared.

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