+ The Immaculate Conception+

There has been much confusion among Traditionalists regarding exactly what St. Robert Bellarmine taught on whether a true pope could ever become a heretic. We have known for years St. Bellarmine taught that a non-Christian can never be elected as pope. He also taught that a doubtful pope is no pope; but the doubtful pope teaching, to the best of this author’s knowledge, has never been attributed to St. Bellarmine as its rightful author by anyone throughout the entire course of the crisis in the Church. Those pretending Bellarmine did not agree with the Pope Paul IV on the finer points of Cum ex Apostolatus Officio did not examine all his teachings as a comprehensive whole.

  1. Bellarmine taught non-Catholics cannot be elected pope: “This principle is most certain: The non-Christian cannot in any way be Pope, as Cajetan himself admits (ib. c. 26). The reason for this is that he cannot be head of what he is not a member…” (De Romano Pontifice, Lib II, Cap. 30). This confirms paragraph 6 of Cum ex
  2. Bellarmine also taught that “if a papal election is really doubtful for any reason, the one elected should resign so that a new election may be held… But if he refuses to resign, the bishops can and ought to decide who is the legitimate pope…That is what the Council of Constance did” (De Concilio, ii, 19). (This teaching holds true because the legitimacy of the Roman Pontiff is a dogmatic fact, which cannot be denied because it is so closely connected to the dogma of unbroken succession to the papacy. This fact must be certainly established and when there is positive doubt regarding a papal election, this is not the case.)
  3. St. Bellarmine himself also solved the case of Liberius below, in his De Romano Pontifice, lib. II, cap. 30, et al:

“Then two years later came the lapse of Liberius, of which we have spoken above. Then indeed the Roman clergy, stripping Liberius of his pontifical dignity, went over to Felix, whom they knew [then] to be a Catholic. From that time, Felix began to be the true Pontiff. For although Liberius was not a heretic, nevertheless he was considered one, on account of the peace he made with the Arians, and by that presumption the pontificate could rightly [merito] be taken from him: for men are not bound, or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple [simpliciter], and condemn him as a heretic.”

This speaks to the old rule of law (concerning the law itself) that a doubtful law is no law, meaning that if there is doubt that it was legitimately made, or that it was properly promulgated, it may be ignored. From this comes the like axiom, “a doubtful pope is no pope” used as a reflex principle in requiring the resignation of all papal claimants at the Council of Constance during the Western Schism. The presumption that St. Robert speaks of above is that stated in Can. 2200: “The evil will spoken of in Can. 2199 means a deliberate will to violate the law and presupposes on the part of the mind a knowledge of the law and on the part of the will freedom of action. Given the external violation of the law, the evil will is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proven.” Revs. Woywod-Smith comment on this canon: “The rule here stated is evidently necessary for the public welfare.” Canon 1825 declares that a presumption of law is stated in the law itself, as is the case in Can. 2200.  And we find in Can. 1827: “He who has a presumption of law in his favor is freed from the burden of proof, which is thus shifted to his opponent. If the latter cannot prove that the presumption failed in the case, the judge must render sentence in favor of the one on whose side the presumption stands.”

In other words, one who is even suspected of being a heretic cannot, in Church practice, be tolerated as a true pope, even if there is a danger that these suspicions are not correct. One who is certainly Catholic must be elected, as was Pope Felix. Thus it is absurd and a great slander against St. Bellarmine to maintain that he believed a true pope could become a heretic, when he had such a horror of it that even a man suspected of this crime could be “stripped of the papacy.” This could never have happened if these clergy had not firmly believed that this pope was a heretic, as Bellarmine indicates above.  For as the Church teaches, “… the Roman Pontiff, who is Vicar of God and of Jesus Christ on earth, holds fullness of power over peoples and.kingdoms, and judges all, but can be judged by no one in this world… (yet even he) may be corrected if he is apprehended straying from the Faith.” Bellarmine did believe that the pope might be able to become a heretic in his private capacity. And regardless of speculation by Traditionalists that he taught the pope could fall into error in his official capacity, Bellarmine later clarified his true position.

Quoting Bellarmine’s Controversies de Summo Pontifice (lib. iv. cap. 2), Henry Edward Cardinal Manning in his work The Ecumenical Council and the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff, 1859, Spotswoode and Co., London, (p. 58-61), writes:

Bellarmine says: “Both Catholics and heretics agree in two things; first, that the Pontiff, even as Pontiff and with his counsellors, or even with a General Council, may err in controversies as to particular facts, which chiefly depend on the information and testimonies of men; secondly, that the Pontiff, as a private doctor, may err even in questions of faith and morals; and that from ignorance, as at times happens to other doctors. ‘Next, all Catholics agree in two other things, not indeed with heretics, but among themselves. First, that the Pontiff, with a General Council, cannot err in framing decrees of faith, or general precepts of morals. Secondly, that the Pontiff alone, or with his own private Council, whether he may err or not, in deciding anything in a dubious matter is, nevertheless, to be obediently listened to by all the faithful…

“…The Pontiff, whether personally he can be a heretic or no, ‘cannot, in any event, define anything heretical to be believed by the whole Church.’ This is the most common opinion ofnearly all Catholics,” as S. Thomas says. Bellarmine in later years reviewed his ‘Controversies,’ and wrote of this point as follows: “This ‘opinion’ is more rightly the common judgment of Catholics; for opinion implies uncertainty, and we hold this judgment to be certain.”

Clearly from what St. Bellarmine says above he considered it only a matter of opinion that the pope could fall into heresy as a private person. And he accepted as a matter of certainty that in his official capacity, the Pope could never define anything heretical to be believed by the whole Church. Monsignor Fenton confirms that St. Bellarmine supported as “probable” the opinion of Pighius in his day, that the pope could not err in matters of faith and morals even as a private person; and unlike modern works lacking Church approval, Monsignor Fenton’s works are entirely reliable. He comments on this topic as follows:

“St. Robert Bellarmine (died 1621), who contributed more than any other individual theologian to the formation of the thesis on papal infallibility, characterized the teaching of Gerson and Allemain [proponents of what was later condemned as the Gallicanist heresy, which taught the pope is fallible and could be judged — Ed.] as ‘entirely erroneous and proximate to heresy’ (De Romano Pontifice, Lib. IV, cap. 2, “De controversiis christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos,” Ingolstadt, 1586, I, col. 975). On the other hand, he accepted the opinion of Pighius [that the pope could not err even as a private doctor] as ‘probable,’ and defended it, (Ibid., Cap. 5, col. 988). His essential teaching on infallibility is summed up in three propositions.

“I. Under no circumstances can the Supreme Pontiff be in error when he teaches the entire Church on matters of faith and morals.

“II. The Roman Church [the pope and bishops together, the Holy Office speaking with the pope’s express consent] as well as the Roman Pontiff is exempt from the possibility of error in faith (Ibid., cap. 3, col. 975).

“III. The Roman Pontiff is incapable of error, not only in decrees of faith, but also in precepts of morals which are prescribed for the whole Church and which deal with matters necessary for salvation or with matters good and evil in themselves (Ibid., cap. 5, Col. 987).”

So if St. Bellarmine did not even believe the pope could err in his private capacity, how could he ever have taught he could become a heretic in his official capacity?!

Here is the end, finally, to the fallacious and irresponsible assertions by certain Traditionalists claiming St. Robert Bellarmine taught that a canonically elected pope could fall into heresy. Theologians attending the Vatican Council would later specify that the privilege of infallibility does not reside in the pope personally and exists only transiently when he speaks publicly on matters of dogma. In other words, he lacks the charisma of infallibility when speaking privately, for then he is not speaking to the whole Church and any heresy that he might hold either would not be broadcast publicly or could be corrected prior to the release of a written document.

The fact is, it appears this remains a matter of opinion yet today that has not been totally resolved. For as S. B. Smith relates in his Elements of Ecclesiastical Law (Vol. I; Benziger Bros., 1891), written after the Vatican Council: “According to the more probable opinion, that the pope may fall into heresy and err as a private person, yet it is also universally admitted that no pope ever did fall into heresy, even as a private doctor (Ferraris)” (p. 240).

It is important to remember that despite all the claims to the contrary, John 23 and Paul 6 uttered heresy from the chair. Publicly.  This is only proof of their pre-election heresies, which according to Pope Paul IV’s Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, the old law now in effect, nullified their respective “elections.” The Vatican Council held in 1869-70 left the question of the pope committing heresy as a private doctor open. In his The True Story of the Vatican Council, Cardinal Manning wrote: “The doctrine affirmed by the schools and by the Holy See was that infallibility attaches to the office…[it] is personal, therefore, only in the sense that the office is borne by a person.” But the heresies of John 23 and Paul 6 in question were never private, either before or after their elections. The case against the Roman usurpers today can be easily proven without ever referring to this open question.

Application to current circumstances, given the above

It has long been known that no one can become pope who has previously been a heretic; this is addressed in Cum ex Apostolatus Officio where Paul IV proclaims that those who are guilty of heresy may not be readmitted to their function as clerics. This is the part of Cum ex… expressed in Can. 188 no. 4. Canon 2200 mentioned above assumes those who have publicly expressed adherence to a non-Catholic sect or stated something heretical are schismatics or heretics until the contrary is proven. Those promoting Giuseppe Cardinal Siri as a hidden pope, “elected” in 1958, believe that these censures do not apply to him because he was elected before there was any evidence he would accept the Vatican 2 reforms and pledge allegiance to Roncalli and Montini. But this is a classic case of failing to prove the point at issue.

The point at issue is there is no definitive way to prove that Siri was ever elected OR that even if he received the vote, he actually accepted election. Accepting election is necessary for the election’s validity, per the election law of Pope Pius XII, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis. And there is a mountain of evidence demonstrating that he not only accepted John 23 and Paul 6 as valid popes, something impossible to do if he was pope himself, but also celebrated the Novus Ordo and to all appearances followed the V2 reforms. The way that Pope Paul IV wrote Cum ex… explains to us how it could be that a man elected pope might later be found to be either a heretic or schismatic before his election. If no one realized that this was the case, evidence would have to be discovered that would verify his condition as a non-Catholic. This could be done in two ways: by someone discovering writings (or today recordings) containing such statements that would leave no doubt he had either left his faith for another sect or denied some truth of faith or by behavior publicly demonstrating the same.

Pope Paul IV gave even the cardinals an unlimited amount of time before these things could be determined. In fact, he wrote in his Bull that “It shall be lawful for all and sundry…even for those who participated in the election of one straying from the Faith, or of a heretic or schismatic to the Papacy, or who otherwise presented and pledged him obedience and paid him homage… 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…” (para. 7). No clear-cut guidelines are given for exactly when the heresy, apostasy or schism must manifest itself. All the Bull says is: “If ever at any time it becomes clear” that such a breach has happened (para. 6). In the case of both John 23 and Paul 6, the heresies SHOULD have been clear prior to their elections. But regardless, with John 23 the election was not canonically conducted, on the testimony of several individuals, and that automatically negated the election of Montini. Even if it was only doubtfully canonical, the longstanding practice of the Church, recommended by St. Bellarmine, is to elect a new pope.

Commenting on St. Bellarmine’s teaching regarding a doubtful pope, Rev. E.S. Berry comments in his The Church of Christ: “When there is a prudent doubt about the validity of an election to any official position, there also is a similar doubt whether the person so elected really has authority or not. In such a case, no one is bound to obey him… But a superior whom no one is bound to obey is in reality no superior at all… An authority that may be justly doubted at all times is no authority; it commands neither obedience nor respect as is evident in churches that reject the claim to indefectibility… One who intrudes himself into the ministry against the laws of the Church receives no authority, and consequently can transmit none to his successors” (p. 402). This is why St. Bellarmine, writing in his De conciliis after the Western Schism, limits the calling of an imperfect council, when the Church has no pope, to the cardinals, or “bishops [who] of their own accord come together in one place.” In his The Origins of the Great Western Schism, Walter Ullmann relates that Cardinal Zabarella, writing at the time of the Western Schism proposed that in the event of two claimants to the papal see, only a Council composed of the most capable and senior in position can decide who is truly pope.

Reasoning from the standpoint of the cardinals as electors, Canonist Baldis de Ubaldis, Zabarella’s student, observes that, “Canon Law lays down the dictum that in a doubtful situation, the man elected has to be held as Pope,” (Ullmann). His teaching was later struck down by St. Robert Bellarmine, who based on the history of the Western Schism could see how such a teaching undermined authority. In trying to resolve the Western Schism, Zabarella deplored the “incalculable damage…inflicted upon the Faith and the Church if the latter were in the hands of an heretical pope,” something we have witnessed in our day. Ullmann reports that Zabarella favored the calling of a Council by the Emperor, and presumed that “good clerics and loyal believers and followers of the Church” would support such a council; and they did. Indeed the Emperor Sigismund insisted on the calling of Constance, following Zabarella’s reasoned line of thinking.

For this reason, Pope Paul IV, in Cum ex… taught that those persons among the hierarchy “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.” But that was in the day of Catholic emperors. The popes of the Western Schism were not publicly heretical; also cardinals originally appointed by a true pope elected these claimants, so they had some claim to valid election. Nevertheless, those senior in position worked to either obtain their resignation, or in the end deposed them. Among them was St. Vincent Ferrar, who abandoned Benedict XIII when he refused to resign in order to advance the resolution of the schism. The Church thereby recognizes that whenever several papal claimants exist, the best plan is abdication and the only other recourse is declaration that such men were never popes. As Cardinal Zabarella wrote: “It is the people themselves who have to summon the neighboring bishops for special purposes if the properly instituted bishop neglects his duty of summoning his colleagues,” (Ibid. Ullmann; emph. mine). In a case such as ours, Zabarella says, “good clerics and loyal believers and followers of the Church” would need to resolve the situation, and God would have to intervene, since the Church, ‘cannot not be.’”

Well where were the faithful required to command the bishops to elect a true Pope in 1958? And where were the bishops? It is amazing that a cardinal actually thought that the faithful would be sufficiently educated and righteously indignant to actually demand such a resolution. Those favored by the Siri crowd trotted off to Rome to peddle a book (The Plot Against the Church) that did not at all suggest rounding up said bishops to elect a real pope, which was the only possible solution to the crisis. Instead this work, ghost-written for Rev. Saenz of Mexico, exacerbated the problem, rather than focusing on the solution, and this even though Saenz at least suspected that Roncalli was not a true pope. Given the climate in Rome at the time, the book indisputably left a bad taste in the mouths of any remaining bishops who might have been willing to work toward addressing the situation. For it unnecessarily put them in a position of defending the book against the rising Novus Ordo tide of correcting so-called injustices to the Jews over the centuries, when conservative-minded bishops were already in the minority.

Having successfully neutralized any remaining faithful bishops, Saenz went on to establish Traditionalism when he should have been lobbying for a papal election. The bishops should have gathered together regardless, but they didn’t. They voted in the Vatican 2 reforms and sent the faithful packing. And those exiting the Church following Vatican 2  laid down and let themselves be used as the paving stones Saenz and other collected “priests” trod upon to resurrect the Old Catholic movement. Rather than assuming their stance as the Church Militant they became the Church Pathetic, victims whining they wanted their Mass and Sacraments back. Even after the official introduction of the NO by Paul 6, Catholics could have risen up, collected at least a small number of bishops and forced one of them to be elected pope. But they were too focused on their losses and perceived spiritual needs. As Pope St. Pius X warned, they perished for a lack of knowledge. Had they risen to the occasion God would have helped them, but that was not the case.

Cardinal Siri could have organized them all, but that didn’t happen. He could have collected cardinal-bishops objecting to John 23rd’s election and, following historical precedent, denounced the election of Roncalli. Pope Pius XII’s Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis makes exceptions owing to circumstances for different types of elections within a conclave setting. As few as three cardinals could elect a pope under this method, and as many as seven, delegated by the others. But where impossibility excuses, and no delegation can be made, the law could have been followed as closely as possible but without the delegation, since it could not be validly given. This is according to principles governing Canon Law.

All law and teaching on papal elections is being cast aside by Traditionalists who are championing Siri. The Church’s centuries old traditions on papal lection were codified into the papal election law of Pope St. Pius X, and this law was simply updated and reorganized by Pope Pius XII. Traditionalists, whose name would make one believe they revere Tradition of all kinds, hypocritically betray their own self-adopted moniker. If they push forward with their effort, they will succeed only in accomplishing what they have condemned in others who have supported and participated in illegal papal elections for in the past, producing yet another pretender to the papal see.

It has crossed our mind that they are waiting for the very comments stated above to falsify yet forthcoming “facts” regarding Siri’s behavior and purported election to better disguise the real fact they are acting outside Church law and teaching, not to mention the dictates of even civil law. But no matter. They forged forward to demand their mass and sacraments, so they will now do the same with their “pope.” As with the Jews, they may well have their earthly king, but if they persist they will not have access to the Kingdom of Heaven.

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