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Dr. de Mattei Prescribes an Anti-Sede Tranquilizer

foto-RdM-1-235x300by Rev. Anthony Cekada

A 14th century pope was a “heretic” and remained pope, so Bergoglio must remain pope, too, right? Right? 

JORGE BERGOGLIO’s antics are unnerving more and more people in the conservative/traditionalist wing of the post-Vatican II establishment, and it is becoming harder and harder for them to insist that Francis is really a pope.

In the past week alone (in January 2015), Bergoglio has rattled on about “rabbits,” repudiated apologetics (Take that, Catholic Answers!) and given a pat on the head to a “trans” couple. What next?

Those who recognize the gravity of Francis’ errors find themselves peering over the precipice into sedevacantism — the only truly coherent theological explanation for the dilemma he embodies — and it makes them dizzy.

Anything, anything but that!

So controversialists on the right have stepped forward and tried to jury rig some guardrails.

The latest is the work of Dr. Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian and commentator on Church affairs who has written eloquently and incisively on Bergoglio’s errors and his revolutionary program. In a January 28 article, translated and posted on the Rorate blog, Dr. de Mattei treats the case of  Pope John XXII (1316-1334) as an example of “a pope who fell into heresy and a Church that resisted.”

He doesn’t explicitly mention the dreaded “trigger word,” sedevacantism, but it is absolutely clear that this is the real subject of his article.

The implied conclusion Dr. de Mattei wants us to draw about sedevacantism proceeds, more or less, from the following analogical argument: John XXII (1) became a public heretic after he was elected pope, (2) but he did not therefore lose the papal office, and (3) the Church resisted him. So too, Francis (1) has become a public heretic after he was elected pope, (2) but he does not therefore lose the papal office, and (3) we have the right to resist him.

So take a deep breath, and feel the sense of calm and contentment as the effects of your recurring Bergoglio-induced sedevacantism anxiety attack once again recede from your head and members.

But alas, the soothing analogical argument that Dr. de Mattei prescribes fails for at least two reasons.

Papa_Ioannes_Vicesimus_SecundusI. John XXII was not a heretic

The accusation of heresy arose from a series of sermons John XXII preached in Avignon, France in which he maintained that the souls of the blessed departed do not see God until after the Last Judgement. Sounds promising as an anti-sede argument at first, since John XXII was always recognized as a true pope. However:

(a) The doctrine on the Beatific Vision had not yet been defined — John XXII’s successor, Benedict XII would do that.

Dr. de Mattei, perhaps sensing a weakness in his analogy because of this, waffles on the point: when it came to the common teaching on the beatific vision at the time, John XXII “contested the thesis,” “fell into heterodoxy,” “entered into conflict with Church tradition on a point of primary importance,” “sustained the view,” “re-proposed the error,” “tried to impose this erroneous view,” etc.

So while in the title of his article, Dr. de Mattei speaks of “a pope who fell into heresy,” he shies away from employing the specific technical term “heresy” in his text. And the heresy of the post-Conciliar popes, including Bergoglio, is the starting point for the sede argument.

(b) Then there is the mode that John XXII, who had been a theologian before his election, employed to present his arguments and conclusions.

Here, the theologian Le Bachlet says that John XXII proposed his teaching only as a “private doctor who expressed an opinion, hanc opinionem, and who, while seeking to prove it, recognized that it was open to debate.“ (“Benoit XII,” in Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, 2:662.)

Thus, it is incorrect for Dr. de Mattei to claim that John proposed his thesis as “an act of ordinary magisterium regarding the faith of the Church.”

In the pope’s second sermon, moreover, he said the following:

“I say with Augustine that, if I am deceived on this point, let someone who knows better correct me. For me it does not seem otherwise, unless the Church would so declare with a contrary statement [nisi ostenderetur determinatio ecclesie contraria] or unless authorities on sacred scripture would express it more clearly than what I have said above.” (Le Bachelet, DTC 2:662.)

Such statements excluded the element of “pertinacity” proper to heresy.

So, two of the conditions which by definition are necessary for heresy to exist were simply not present in the case of John XXII.

Berg PonchoII. John XXII validly became Pope, while Bergoglio never did

The second point on which Dr. de Mattei’s implied analogy fails is the hidden assumption that, like John XXII, Bergoglio validly obtained papal authority in the first place, which he could somehow retain, despite public heresy.

Bergoglio, however, was a public heretic before his election, and as a public heretic, he could not be validly elected pope.

The principle is a matter of divine law. When treating the requirements for election to the papal office, numerous pre-Vatican II commentaries on the Code of Canon Law explicitly lay down this principle. For instance:

“Those capable of being validly elected are all who are not prohibited by divine law or by an invalidating ecclesiastical law… Those who are barred as incapable of being validly elected are all women, children who have not reached the age of reason; also, those afflicted with habitual insanity, the unbaptized, heretics, schismatics…” (Wernz-Vidal, Jus Canonicum 1:415)

We made just this point and provided more citations for it in an earlier article, whose title sums up why Dr. de Mattei’s implied John XXII/Bergoglio analogy fails: Bergoglio’s Got Nothing to Lose.

*   *   *

SO ON BOTH COUNTS — heresy and validly obtaining papal authority — the analogy between John XXII and Francis is yet another shaky barrier that must fall on the road to acknowledging the only logical explanation for Bergoglio: He’s a heretic who was never a real pope to begin with.

Anything else is just whistling past the graveyard.

For more on sedevacantism, see Sedevacantism: A Quick Primer


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