A Tower of Babel
The Rush to Depose a Pope
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 55: 8)
“We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our princes, and to our fathers that have sinned.” (Daniel 9: 8)
That those who consider themselves faithful and traditional Catholics are in confusion in regard to the extraordinary papacy of Pope Francis, and all of its aberrations, cannot be denied. And after witnessing several years’ worth of a confusing and often contradictory array of proposals by traditional Catholic pundits for getting rid of Francis, one might think that any conscientious Catholic should now be willing to consider the possibility that none of these solutions is in accord with either the thoughts of God, or His ways.
No one seems to be asking the most important question of all: “Why has God allowed this to happen?” We are, of course, familiar with the promises of Our Lord: that He would establish the Church upon the rock of the Papacy; that He would be always with the Church; that, being His own Mystical Body, the Church would be the object of His continual love and care; and that the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church. If all this be true, then the obvious answer to the above question is that what is happening with the current papacy is a loving and necessary chastisement being inflicted, not just upon the Pope or other members of an erring and sinful hierarchy, but upon the whole Church: For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Heb. 12: 6).
We are thus left with a second question which should be absolutely uttermost in our minds and hearts if we sincerely seek a solution: “What have we done to deserve and need this profound chastisement?” Why does the rock of the Papacy now appear to be something which, instead of being a firm foundation upon which the Church stands, is being employed to “sift” us, and hand us over to such widespread “confusion of faces”?
It has been one of the purposes of the Rosary to the Interior for the Purification of the Church to explore the answers to these two questions (why God has done this, and what we have done to deserve such chastisement). Our answer has been twofold – both of these answers consequent upon our having pursued an adulterous friendship with this world. First, we have betrayed the fundamental Gospel teaching concerning the living of the Beatitudes (and especially the first: poverty towards all the things of this world). And secondly, we have surrendered to the world of scientific reductionism, evolutionary thinking, and technology which has ensued from this betrayal. As we have explored in several articles, this especially entails rejection of two great gifts given to us by God in the 13th century: the “Way” (the sacrum commercium) of St. Francis, and the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The solution we have offered is explained in our Original Proposal. It consists in first of all coming to the self-knowledge that at the real root of our present chastisement is the fundamental truth that “we have sinned”, rather than just “they have sinned”. And, secondly, that the solution to the present crisis only lies in the unified placing of our hearts and mind within the Immaculate Heart of Mary seeking self-knowledge and purification of the adulteries of the whole Church to the world. This is why we are calling for this “Rosary to the Interior” to occur on the double Feast of the Purification and Presentation on February 2nd. The light of Jesus will only once again shine forth from His Church for the conversion of nations and peoples if it is purified in the Heart of Mary: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35).
One of the things most preventing the acquisition of this absolutely necessary self-knowledge – and which keeps untold numbers of traditional Catholics busily surfing in a world of superficialities instead of doing the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42) – is the delusion and conceit that somehow we, as members of the Church, can figure out a way to free ourselves of the papacy of Francis. All of the following is intended to expose this agenda as the way of man in opposition to the Way of God, thereby hopefully convincing those who continue to pursue such futile efforts to turn inward towards that path opened up to us by God through Our Lady and her Rosary.
It took some time after Pope Francis’ ascension to the Papacy on March 13, 2013 for those who were profoundly and rightly disturbed by his words and actions to begin spinning their claims that he was really no Pope at all, or that he could be declared to be deposed of the Papacy. There was first of all the silliness that, in resigning the Papacy, Pope Benedict only resigned the administrative part of the Papacy, and now continued to retain the spiritual office. We thus had the absurd theory that we were in the midst of some kind of Papal diarchy. Later on, we were besieged by claims that the election was itself invalid because of the conspiratorial designs of a number of Cardinals and bishops in regard to electing Jorge Bergoglio (as though there were never such “conspiracies” in other Papal elections – one need only read various histories of the papacy to realize the extraordinary scope of such “behind- the-door” activities). And then we also had Cardinal Burke publicly and matter-of- factly state that it would be up to the College of Cardinals to make the judgment that the Pope was guilty of heresy and declare him deposed.
But the most persistent of these agendas for ridding the Church of Pope Francis seems to be the notion that it lies only in the competence of a Council of Bishops to validly declare a Pope to be a heretic, and therefore also to have lost the Papacy. The most recent effort in this direction came during Easter week of 2019 with the publication on Life Site News by 18 initial signatories of an Open letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church.
Canon Law emphatically declares that “The First See is judged by no one” (#1404). The First Vatican Council’s First Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Church states:
“And since, by the divine right of Apostolic primacy, one Roman pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal, but that none may re-open the judgment of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgment. Wherefore they err from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff.”
It is clear from both the infallible teaching of Vatican I and from Canon Law that there is no competence anywhere within the Divine Constitution of the Church for anyone, regardless of status or numbers, to judge the Pope. It is also clear therefore that all attempts to in any way formally declare the Pope a heretic, and therefore deposed of the Papacy, necessitate the spinning of casuistic complexities designed to somehow convince us that judging the Pope is not really judging him at all. Most of these attempts focus on the writings of four men (their writing occurring over a span of less than 150 years): Thomas Cajetan, Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suarez, and John of St. Thomas.
Sedevacantists focus on the teaching of Bellarmine and Suarez and their teaching that a Pope who is a manifest heretic ipso facto loses his office, without a formal judgment from the Church. This obviously justifies their position that the Chair of Peter is empty, and in the minds of most sedevacantists, has been empty since the death of Pope Pius XII over 60 years ago. This places them in the absurd position of still claiming to be Catholic while possessing no Pope, and no possibility of ever having one again, since there now exists no valid Cardinals to elect one, or any other means juridically in place for such an election. This does not mean that some of them cannot fantasize about some sort of direct intervention of God by which he would miraculously re-establish the Papacy.
As we have said, however, those who rightly balk at the consequences of the sedevacantist position, and yet hunger for some way to rid the Church of Francis, are left with only one option: to figure out how he can be declared a heretic and deposed in some orderly fashion within the existing Church. And since bishops are the next in authority beneath the Pope, it is here where they seek their answer.
All of the efforts concentrating on the alleged duty and right of a Council of Bishops to take such action rely heavily on a work titled On The Deposition Of The Pope, written by the Dominican theologian John of St. Thomas (1589-1644). John of St. Thomas is considered by many to be one of the most faithful interpreters of St. Thomas Aquinas, and his (John of St. Thomas’) writings on this subject are almost certainly being considered as central to any agenda which seeks a declaration of heresy and deposition from the Papacy in respect to Pope Francis.
Before beginning our analysis of John of St. Thomas’ treatise, we wish to clearly state our own position. We do not believe that a Pope can be judged as a formal heretic, and therefore be declared to be deposed. We need add, on the other hand, that we certainly do believe that a Pope can succumb to all sorts of philosophical and theological error, which indeed can find expression in objective heresy (in forms which obviously do not constitute infallible teaching), and which certainly may find expression in all sorts of agendas and practices which are in contradiction to traditional Catholic doctrine and practice. But the position of John of St. Thomas, and that of those also who now seek the Pope’s deposition, is, however, something which now poses an immense threat to the Church. It portends a descent into chaos which would make the present crisis of disunity and rebellion in the Church look like child’s-play. It is therefore well-worth examining and combating.
As we shall see in John of St. Thomas’ agenda for deposing a Pope, the responsibility and power for such deposition comes to rest in a General Council of Bishops. It would therefore seem absolutely necessary to begin with a lucid understanding of the relationship between the Pope and all the bishops of the world.
The most clear and succinct exposition of the relationship which must exist according to the Divine Constitution of the Church between bishops and the Pope would almost certainly be Pope Leo XIII’s wonderful encyclical Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church). We have never seen it quoted by any of the growing number of people now busily trying to find some justification for deposing a Pope. The following passage is crucial:
“The safety of the Church depends on the dignity of the chief priest, to whom if an extraordinary and supreme power is not given, there are as many schisms to be expected in the Church as there are priests….He alone was designated as the foundation of the Church. To him He gave the power of binding and loosing; to him alone was given the power of feeding. On the other hand, whatever authority and office the Apostles received, they received in conjunction with Peter: ‘If the divine benignity willed anything to be in common between him and the other princes, whatever He did not deny to the others He gave only through him. So that whereas Peter alone received many things, He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating in it’. (S. Leo M. sermo iv., cap.2).” [Notice that the last two sentences are quoted from Pope St. Leo the Great].
Every attempt to justify the deposition of a Pope because of heresy necessitates the building of an intellectual construct, a Tower of Babel, which ascends above the Pope, while still claiming subjection to the Papacy. All of the scourings of history – searching through the writings of Saints, Doctors, Theologians, Canonists, Councils, and Popes – in a vain attempt to find justification for, and a means towards, judging and deposing a Pope, must disguise the fact that not only does the Pope not “participate” in such construction, but that every one of these edifices is diametrically opposed to the manifest mind and will of the reigning Pope. Every such attempt, in other words, is in direct contradiction to the truth taught by Pope Leo XIII which is rendered in bold in the above quotation.
We watch these attempts proliferating in the midst of Pope Francis’ pontificate, and feel as though we are in the midst of a replay of the fundamental temptation of original sin: “No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” It is the same old temptation. We just cannot believe that God would allow us to be in a situation in which we are to have no recourse to any power or source of authority within ourselves, but only to Him.
But this is precisely the principle which is the foundation of the Papacy and its only ultimate defense against all the forces of Satan, especially those forces working internally in the minds and hearts of the individual pontiffs themselves which would seek to prevail over it throughout the centuries: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke 22: 31-32). The extraordinary prerogatives of the Papacy, which make it the Rock against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail, can only be rooted in the promise and prayer of Christ. The defense of the institution, perpetuity, power, and nature of the Papacy does not lie in man’s recourse to any sort of natural law or human right, but in the supernatural grace and promise of God. This is the central truth of the Papacy which is at least implicitly denied in the following passage from John of St. Thomas’ treatise (and which forms the entire justification for his seeking a means of deposing a Pope):
“Now, one should not avoid one that remains in the [Sovereign] Pontificate; on the contrary, the Church should instead be united to him as her supreme head and communicate with him. Therefore, if the pope is a heretic, either the Church should communicate with him, or he must be deposed from the Pontificate.
“The first solution leads to the obvious destruction of the Church, and has inherently a risk that the whole ecclesiastical government errs, if she has to follow a heretical head. In addition, as the heretic is an enemy of the Church, natural law provides protection against such a Pope according to the rules of self-defense, because she can defend herself against an enemy as is a heretical Pope; therefore, she can act (in justice) against him. So, in any case, it is necessary that such a Pope must be deposed.”
It certainly is true that the Church has the power and right to defend itself against a Pope teaching heresy. But Christ is the Head of the Church, the Pope is His Vicar, and only He possesses the right and power as the Pope’s Superior to judge him. As Pope St. Gregory the Great is reputed to have said, “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just deserts of the faithful.” It is only Christ who can relieve us of the present chastisement. As pointed out above, we need to stop this non-Catholicity, and follow His Way.
As we shall see by the end of our analysis, the so-called “natural right” to depose a Pope is itself immersed in self-contradiction, and represents an agenda for total chaos and disintegration within the Church.
It is well to begin by repeating this basic principle: “So that whereas Peter alone received many things, He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating in it.”
The only way in which a living Pope can participate in the loss of the Papacy is through his own voluntary resignation. The grievous error of John of St. Thomas position is therefore succinctly stated in the very first sentence of his treatise: “I affirm that the Pope can lose the pontificate in three ways: through natural death, by voluntary renunciation, and by deposition.” No matter what Jesuitical or sophistic mental gyrations one may come up with, there can be no attempt at deposition of a Pope without directly contradicting the absolutely foundational principle that “He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating in it.”
So let us begin. We wish to note here for the sake of future reference that the work of John of St. Thomas examined here was first translated into French from the Latin and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Marie O.P., and then translated from the French into English by Fr. Juan Carlos Ortiz, SSPX. Subtitles were added, and we shall employ these subtitles where deemed appropriate.
John of St. Thomas begins with three “Arguments from authority” in order to try to establish some sort of authoritative precedence for his position:
The first argument is as follows:
“A specific text is found in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 40, chapter Si Papa, where it is said: ‘On earth, no mortal should presume to reproach (redarguere) any faults to the Pontiff, because he who has to judge (judicaturus) others, should not be judged (judicandus) by anyone, unless he is found deviating from the Faith.’ (Pars I, D 40, c. 6). This exception obviously means that in case of heresy, a judgment could be made of the pope.” (Please keep in mind that this last sentence is the conclusion of John of St. Thomas, and is not found in Gratian].
I have personally added bold emphasis to the word “reproach” in the above passage from the Decree of Gratian. It is clear that there is here proposed a right of judgment (which is identified with the concept of “reproach”, and nothing else) in regard to errors or deviations from the faith on the part of the Pope. This, of course, is fully incumbent upon us in our individual responsibility for retaining and defending the Faith. But there is nothing here, contrary to what John appears to say in his last sentence of the above paragraph, to identify such judgment and reproach with the right to sit in judgment of the Pope’s culpability in this regard (as being one who has lost the Catholic faith), or depose him.
This becomes fully evident if we place the above quote from Gratian in its larger context (which, in all honesty should have been done in the first place):
“If the Pope, being neglectful of his own salvation and that of his brethren, be found useless and remiss in his works, and , more than that, reluctant to do good (which harms himself and others even more), and nonetheless brings down with him innumerable throngs of people….Let no mortal man presume to rebuke him for his faults, for, it being incumbent upon him to judge all, he should be judged by no one, unless he is suddenly caught deviating from the faith.”
The word “reproach” or “rebuke”, and the “judgment” which is its requisite, is here applied across a wide spectrum of papal failures, and the passage simply instructs us that we pull back from such judgment and reproach of the Pope except in the case of his deviation from the faith – in which case we may exercise that judgment which issues forth in reproach of the Pope. To extend the word “judgment” as used here to further mean that someone has the right to formally judge the Pope as a heretic, and depose him, is indeed a perversion of this passage. Such rashness and presumption seems to speak of an agenda desirous of seeing things that are not really there.
The Second Argument from Authority, employed by John of St. Thomas, runs as follows:
“The same thing is confirmed by the letter of Hadrian II, reported in the Eighth General Council [IV Constantinople, 869-870], in the 7th session, where it is said that the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one, but the anathema was made by the Orientals against Honorius, because he was accused of heresy, the only cause for which it is lawful for inferiors to resist their superiors. (MANSI, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova collectio amplissima, Venice, 1771, vol. 16, col. 126).”
First, we rightly conclude again, and therefore in agreement with this principle as stated in the above passage, that it is the right and duty of inferiors to resist objective heresy proposed by their superiors. But the above passage does not accuse Honorius of actually being a formal heretic, nor does it say anything about the right of inferiors to judge him to be so, and certainly says nothing about the right to depose him. In other words, the above passage, in and of itself, offers no argument whatsoever justifying judgment and deposition of a Pope.
But there is more that needs to be said here.
The “case” against Pope Honorius may well to be the greatest piece of historical falsification of fact and reality in the history of the Catholic Church. Subsequent to this article, we will post a rather extensive article on this subject. It will also include shorter sections on Pope Liberius and Pope John XXII, since these Papacies have also been used to further this same agenda.
The Third Argument is the shortest, and is most easily disposed of. John of St. Thomas writes:
“Also Pope St. Clement says in his first epistle that Saint Peter taught that a heretical pope must be disposed.”
John of St. Thomas apparently picked this argument up from Cajetan. It is absolutely false. There is nothing of the kind in the First Epistle of Clement. Pope Clement I’s Letters are available in English, and anyone can check this out. We do not know how Cajetan or John of St. Thomas fell subject to this piece of historical error.
In addition, even though they are not included in John of St. Thomas’ arguments from authority, it would seem beneficial here to include two other such historically based “arguments”.
The first derives from a statement made by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in one of his sermons:
“The pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honour and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory, because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy, because he who does not believe is already judged. In such a case it should be said of him: ‘If salt should lose its savour, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.”
Again, we are here dealing with the question of the meaning of the word “judgment” as employed in this passage. All men should consider themselves subject to judgment, from both superiors and inferiors, if they violate God’s truth. It is a matter of great credit to Pope Innocent III that he possessed the humility to acknowledge this truth. It was he who possessed the nobility and humility to receive St. Francis’ exalted vision for his Order, a vision which was soon to be buried under the compromising legislation of future Popes (see our article St. Francis of Assisi: They Loved You So That They Might Leave You for an extensive treatment of this subject). But such “judgment” is not the same as a judgment of authority which has the power to declare a person formally to be a heretic. Nor does it posses the power and authority to institute juridical actions against him which would depose him of his office. This power only resides in a superior authority who, in the case of a reigning Pope, is God alone. Even a future Pope has no such authority to formally judge one of his predecessors.
The final argument, necessary for inclusion here, involves the Council of Constance. John of St. Thomas states it quite simply:
“And in the case of the Great [Western] Schism during which there were three popes, the Council of Constance was assembled to settle the schism.”
This, again, is a falsification of history. There were not three Popes, at the time the Council of Constance, but only one – Gregory XII – who resigned from his office, sanctioned the Council itself, and also sanctioned its legitimacy in electing a new Pope.
Having established the lack of substance, and the extraordinary superficiality, in all these alleged arguments from authority, we might well question the benefit in proceeding any further. But further examination of John of St. Thomas’ program for deposition of a Pope will be of value in unmasking what we have termed the “Tower of Babel” of intellectual sophistry which is now under construction by many Catholics in their attempts to ascend to power over the Papacy of Pope Francis. We will begin with a summary of his position, and afterward offer analysis.
Deposition of the Pope:
John of St. Thomas begins with the scriptural injunction to be found in Titus 3:10: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid him”. He proceeds: “Now, one should not avoid one that remains in the [sovereign] Pontificate; on the contrary, the Church should instead be united to him as her supreme head and communicate with him. Therefore, if the pope is a heretic, either the Church should communicate with him, or he must be deposed from the Pontificate. John then opts for the second solution because, “The first solution leads to the obvious destruction of the Church….So, in any case it is necessary that such a Pope must be deposed.”
According to John, however, “heresy alone is not sufficient to depose the Pontiff”. Two other conditions must be fulfilled: 1) The heresy is not hidden, but must be “public and legally notorious”; 2) the Pope must be incorrigible and pertinacious in his heresy.
From here, John moves on to what he calls the second problem: “by what authority should the deposition of the Pope be done?” This involves two questions, and two very distinct stages: the declaration, on the one hand, and the deposition which follows: 1) “Who should pronounce the declarative sentence of the crime of heresy? And, 2) “On which authority is the Pope deposed?
In answer to the first question, John replies: “On the first point, we must say that the statement of the crime does not come from the Cardinals, but from the General Council.” In response to the second question, he answers, “In the case of deposition, this belongs to the Church, whose authority is represented by the General Council; indeed, to the cardinal is only entrusted the election, and nothing else, as can be seen in Canon Law.”
The summary of John of St. Thomas position can thus be very simply summarized as follows:
1) The Pope can fall into heresy.
2) If such heresy is “public and legally notorious”, if the Pope has been warned, and if he is “incorrigible and pertinacious” in his heresy, he can be, and should be, deposed.
3) A General Council can first declare his heresy.
4) A General Council can then declare him deposed.
5) Until this final declaration of deposition is made, the Pope is still Pope, and the Catholic faithful are obliged to submission to his supreme authority. The Pope does not lose his office for heresy, whether hidden (occult) or public, until this deposition is declared by the General Council.
John of St. Thomas’ basic program for deposition of a Pope appears relatively simple. This certainly is not true of his attempts to justify it. The complexity of his arguments employed in justifying the five-point agenda listed above is the means by which its errors are masked, and might appear to many to be made acceptable. Having already exposed the lack of substance in his arguments from authority (which were designed to support the first two points), we now move on to the absolutely crucial question as to who has the authority to make both the declaration of heresy and the declaration of deposition (points 3 & 4).
John begins by first noting the sharp “dissension” which exists among theologians concerning this matter. He refers to Cajetan’s writings in which are enumerated four very opposing positions, two of which are designated as extremes, and two as being middle positions. The first “extreme position” he describes as postulating that “the Pope is removed without human judgment by the mere fact of being a heretic”, and that this is the position of Bellarmine and Suarez. The second extreme position is that the Pope truly has a human power in the Church above him by which he can be judged. Both these positions are rejected by Cajetan and John of St. Thomas (and of course now by Vatican Council I and Canon Law).
The first middle position posits that in the single case of heresy, the Church is above the Pope. This also is to be rejected.
And, finally, there is the position (the second middle position) of both John of St. Thomas and Cajetan that the Pope “has no superior [on earth], neither absolutely, nor in the case of heresy, but only in a ministerial way.”
I think it also valuable at this point to again mention Cardinal Burke’s position to this mix. In his interview with Catholic World Report, he very specifically says that the Pope would cease to be Pope by the very act of formally professing heresy, and that, further, the authority for declaring him to be in heresy belonged to the College of Cardinals. In other words, Cardinal Burke has added a fifth position (a ‘ministerial” deposition by Cardinals) to what we have called this “Tower of Babel”. Interestingly enough, among all of those who have attempted to pronounce on this issue, Cardinal Burke has held the highest legal office in the Church.
Now, let us return to John of St. Thomas’ position that the Pope “has no superior [on earth], neither absolutely, nor in the case of heresy, but only in a ministerial way.” He continues:
“Just as the Church has a ministerial power to choose the person [Pope], but not to give power, as this is done immediately by Christ, in the same manner, in the disposition, which is the destruction of the bond by which the Papacy is attached to such person in particular, the Church has the power to depose him in a ministerial manner, but it is Christ who deprives [his power] with authority.”
Expressed in somewhat simpler form, what John is saying here (and using the arguments of Cajetan to do so) is that if it is through the ministry of men (Cardinals, under current Papal legislation) that the form of the Papacy is connected (disposed) to a certain person by the power of Christ, so through the ministry of the Pope’s inferiors (a General Council in this case), the connection between the form of the Papacy and the person of a particular Pope can be dissolved by a similar ministry of men.
Upon reading this passage, immediately our Catholic antennae for detecting sophistry should go up. Everything that the Church does is ministry, as is all that is done “in a Church way” by individual Popes, bishops, priests, etc. Nothing is done with a power and authority which proceeds from us, but only through us by the commission, power, and authority of Christ. But at the same time, as we have seen in the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, it is a firm matter of Catholic truth that no ministry is exercised by bishops (or a General Council of Bishops) without the Pope participating in it. To turn this 180 degrees around and declare that somehow we can have an unwilling Pope participating in a declaration of himself as being a heretic, and then also participating in his own deposition, is sophistry and casuistry of the highest order.
Further, the ministerial power by which the Cardinals choose a Pope is totally a matter of a ministry derived from Papal legislation (which can be altered at anytime, but only by a reigning Pope). There is nothing in such legislation which says that either the Cardinals or a General Council of Bishops has the ministerial power to dissolve this bond and thereby depose the Pope. The legislation in place for electing a Pope is clearly according to the “manifest mind and will of the Pope”, and therefore a matter of his “participation” in the process. Any attempt, on the other hand, to depose a Pope against his manifest will, and therefore without his participation, is the opposite. It requires specious reasoning of the highest order in any attempt to do so.
But the reasoning of John of St. Thomas involves not only specious casuistry, but also, as I said earlier, dissolves into simple self-contradiction. As we have seen, it was the position of Robert Bellarmine that the Pope is ipso facto deposed once he becomes a manifest heretic, and this without any formal declaration or judgment by the Church. Bellarmine’s reasoning is simple: A manifest heretic is not a Catholic, and a non-Catholic cannot be Pope. Further, if we are to follow the scriptural injunction, “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid him”, then if we were obliged to consider such a man Pope until he was formally deposed through the declaration of a General Council (which might take years, or never be accomplished at all), during all that time all the faithful would be in a forced position of communicating with, and being subject, to a non-Catholic and heretical Pope. St. Robert Bellarmine obviously thought this to be an intolerable situation.
It is precisely this trap into which John of St. Thomas falls. He writes:
“A non-Christian who is such in itself AND in relation to us (quad se et quoad nos) cannot be Pope; however, if he is not in himself a Christian, because he has lost the faith, but if in relation to us he is not legally declared being infidel or heretic, as obvious as it may appear in a private judgment, he is still in relation to us (quoad nos) a member of the Church and therefore the head.”
In other words, according to John of St. Thomas (and Cajetan), the Antichrist could be (in relation to us) a member of the Church and our “head” – all because of a “legalism” which just couldn’t seem to get it together to have him ministerially declared a heretic. This is the terrible, self-contradictory principle entailing self destruction in John of St. Thomas’ position. As discussed earlier, he says that communication with a heretical Pope “leads to the obvious destruction of the Church”, and thus we must have the means to rid ourselves of him. On the other hand, in positing the possible existence of a formally heretical Pope, and yet at the same time the necessity of him remaining our “head” for years or even decades until he is declared deposed by a General Council of the Bishops, he is placing us in subservience to “the obvious destruction of the Church”. And of course, in accord with the views of those who believe Pope Francis must be deposed, this is precisely the situation we would now face. Most of today’s bishops probably do not believe in designating anyone a heretic, even less the Pope. To expect any sort of unity in such an project is now profoundly delusional, especially in the face of the fact that so many of the hierarchy now owe their positions to the present Pope. Any serious and protracted effort in this regard would almost certainly lead to a massive schism. We only need add that even for Bellarmine, who taught that a heretic Pope would only ipso facto lose his office after he was shown to be pertinacious in the face of warnings, the Antichrist could be our head if he were good enough at keeping a secret (occult heresy), or intimidating and seductive enough to prevent public warnings being issued against him.
After all, once you posit that a Pope can be a formal heretic, there are no limits to just how big of a heretic he might be.
Such is the Rock of the Deposers.
Vatican Council I stated that in the Apostolic Primacy “is found the strength and solidity of the entire Church”. To posit the possibility of a formally heretical Pope who can, and should be, deposed, is to destroy the strength and solidity of the entire Church.
It certainly can be in accord with Catholic truth and charity to believe that Christ is chastising us through the present Papacy, that Satan has infiltrated the Church is a myriad of ways, that the Pope has been severely poisoned by philosophical and theological thinking whose origin lies in an almost universal subjection to reductive science and evolutionary theory, and that he is even malicious in his attempts to impose the implicit or logical consequences of these errors on those faithful who seek to hold onto tradition. But this does not mean that we have a “natural right” to liberate the Papacy from the Pope, but rather that we are now suffering such “confusion of faces” that no one can save us from this satanic mire except Our Lord and Our Lady.
As discussed in our article Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist, there is a great deal in the growth of modern attempts to figure out some way to depose a Pope from his office which parallels the growth and triumph of democracy, and the principles and spirit of Antichrist which are its roots. There are many of course who get drawn into this vortex with no conscious malice. But there is a second, equally destructive, effect produced in the minds and hearts of those persons who entertain such delusions.
As we noted earlier, this sort of agenda produces a spiritual superficiality, which cause us to remain on the surface – a superficiality which prevents its adherents from penetrating deeply into the Hearts of Our Lord and Our Lady wherein alone lies the solution to what we now experience. Such is the situation of those in Our Lord’s parable among whom are sown the seeds which, however, “fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth: and they sprung up immediately, because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up they were scorched: and because they had not root, they withered away.” As explained by Jesus, such a person originally receives the graces of God with joy, “yet he hath not root in himself, but only is for a time: and when there arises tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized.” (Mt. 13: 5-6, 20-21). It is a vicious circle – a vortex pulling us down into ever deeper realms of confusion and darkness. The “scandal” remains with us, and only increases, because we do not do the one thing necessary. The final “scandal” thus awaits to devour us in despair, loss of faith, and spiritual death. And all the while that we are crying out “Why has God abandoned us?” it will in reality be we who have abandoned Christ and the Way He has shown for our Return.
All the signs of a blistering heat to come, which will test the depths of the soil that is within us, are now upon us. The time is now ripe, and soon will be passed, for us to turn with violence of heart to the Way which Our Lord has shown us through Our Lady and her Rosary (see our article The Rosary: The Way of Perfection).
– Please read our Original Proposal.