CAN A POPE BECOME A HERETIC?
Student: I want to postpone until the treatise on the dogmatic teachings of the lord John XXII those matters which refer to him. So would you now bring forward for examination arguments for the above assertion.
Master: Those who assert it try to prove by many arguments based on authoritative writings that after entering [office] canonically a pope not only can err before any voluntary renunciation [of it] but can even be stained by heretical wickedness. Now their first argument is as follows. Any mere pilgrim who has the use of reason but has not been confirmed in grace can err against the faith and adhere pertinaciously to that same error, because such a one can, if he wishes, disagree with a truth which is not self-evident nor learnt by sure experience nor proved to him demonstratively and can opine its opposite, because according to blessed Augustine no one can believe except of his own will; but the pope is a mere pilgrim and not one who has apprehended, for if he were one who has apprehended he would not be able to err. A pope is also someone who has the use of reason, generally speaking, for if he were to lose the use of reason through sickness, old age, or some other reason he would for that reason not be able to become a heretic as long as he lacked the use of reason, just as children, those who are insane or even those merely sleeping can not become heretics as long as that state lasts; moreover the pope has not been confirmed in grace since he is able to sin. A pope like this, therefore, can, if he wants to, disagree with a truth that is not self-evident nor learnt by sure experience nor proved to him demonstratively. However, there are many catholic truths which are not self-evident, have not been learnt by sure experience and have not been proved demonstratively to the pope, since blessed Gregory says that faith for which human reason offers proof does not have merit. If he wishes, therefore, a pope can disagree with truths of this kind, and consequently he can be entangled in heretical wickedness.
A second argument is this. Someone appointed to an office through which grace and virtues are neither necessarily conferred nor necessarily increased can fall into heretical wickedness, or could have been stained with heretical wickedness before he obtained the office. This is well known, because without grace or virtue no pilgrim who could previously have incurred some heretical wickedness can be preserved from that wickedness unless he were to lose the use of reason. But grace and virtues are not necessarily conferred when the papal office is obtained nor also are they necessarily increased then. Therefore since the pope was able to be involved in heretical wickedness before obtaining the office of pope, it follows that also after obtaining that office he can be polluted by the same stain (if he does not lose the use of reason).
The major [premise] is manifest; the minor is proved by authorities and by reason. Certainly by reason, because someone who obtains the papal office can be in mortal sin; but grace and virtues are not conferred on anyone who is in mortal sin, nor are they increased in such a one while the mortal sin persists. It can happen, therefore, that neither virtues nor grace will be increased in someone raised to the papacy or will be conferred on him then. This also seems to be clearly provable from many writings of the saints. For, as we find in dist. 40, c. Non loca [col.146], blessed Gregory says, "It is not our position or our orders that bring us close to our creator but it is our good deserts that join us to him or our bad ones that separate us from him." By these words we are given to understand that without good deserts no ecclesiastical dignity brings closer to God those being raised to that office or dignity. From this we clearly conclude that grace and virtues are not conferred necessarily nor by necessity increased with the obtaining of the office of pope, since without good deserts - in fact with bad deserts - it is possible for someone ambitious, greedy or involved in some other wrong to be appointed to the office of the papacy.
So as we find in c. Nos qui of the same distinction [col.145], Gregory also says, "We who are in charge should be known not for the dignity of our position or our family but for the nobility of our way of life, not for the fame of our cities but for the purity of our faith." And in c. Illud of the same distinction blessed Ambrose says[col.147], "So that you might notice that anyone at all judges themselves not by the nobility of their position or of their family but by their virtue, take note of the fact that man was made outside paradise but woman within." And as we find in the same distinction c. Non est facile, blessed Jerome says [col.145], "It is not easy to stand in the place of Peter and Paul, that is to hold the see of those reigning with Christ; for this reason it is said that the children of the saints are not those who hold those places [founded by] the saints but those who do works like theirs." And as we read in c. Multi of the same distinction John Chrysostom says [col.147], "It is not the see that makes the priest but the priest the see, not the place that sanctifies the man but the man that sanctifies the place." As the last chapter of the same distinction records, the same man also says [col.147], "It is not he who is greater in honour who is more just, but it is the one who is more just who is greater." It is quite clear from these [texts] that grace and virtues neither are necessarily conferred on the obtaining of an ecclesiastical dignity nor are they necessarily increased. This also seems provable through divine Scripture because, as we find in 2 Mach. 5[:19], "The Lord did not choose the people for the place's sake, but the place for the people's sake." We conclude from this that the Lord does not approve of a prelate on account of his dignity but approves of a dignity on account of the merits of its prelates. And so it is not necessary for grace and virtues to be infused or increased on the obtaining of a dignity.
Student: It seems to follow from that argument that grace is neither conferred nor increased on the obtaining of orders.
Master: It does not follow from that argument that grace is neither conferred nor increased when orders are conferred, but it does follow that, just as it can happen in the conferring of baptism and other sacraments that grace is not conferred or also increased because of the inadequacy of the one to be baptised, if he persists in mortal sin, for instance, so this can happen in the obtaining of orders and any ecclesiastical dignity whatever.
Student: Would you bring forward other arguments?
Master: A third argument is this. Whoever has not been confirmed in faith and has the use of reason can err against the faith; but the pope has not been confirmed in faith because if he were confirmed in faith he would be confirmed in faith by some supernatural gift, but no supernatural gift by which he is confirmed in the faith appears to have been conferred on the pope. For among all the supernatural gifts which are conferred as a normal right on mere pilgrims those which particularly and especially make the recipient strong in faith are grace and the theological virtues, namely, faith, hope and charity and the gifts of the holy spirit. But a mere pilgrim is not confirmed in faith by these since they are often found to be more perfect and greater in others, who nevertheless are not confirmed in faith by them, than in the pope; therefore the pope is not confirmed in faith by them; and therefore no conferred supernatural gift confirms him in faith; therefore he can err against the faith.
Student: That argument is not conclusive because it would be proved by it that a general council, indeed the whole congregation of the faithful, could err against the faith because no supernatural gift appears to have been conferred on a general council or on the congregation of the faithful by which it is confirmed in faith, since grace and virtues and the gifts of the holy spirit do not confirm pilgrims in the faith; yet among all the supernatural gifts it is chiefly these that are known to have been conferred on a general council and the congregation of the faithful.
Master: Those who make that assertion grant that this argument, taken barely like this, is not conclusive, because it is possible for God to preserve from error and heresy not only the congregation of the faithful but also the pope and any other pilgrim at all without a supernatural gift informing their soul; through him the congregation of the faithful will remain immune from every heresy until the end of the world. Nevertheless this should not be affirmed of a person or college unless God has revealed of the one or the other that he or it will never err against the faith. God has revealed this about the congregation of the faithful, however, and not about the pope. It is therefore rash to say that a pope entering [office] canonically will never err against the faith.
Student: Bring forward other arguments.
Master: Their fourth argument is this. Ecclesiastical sacraments are not of less efficacy and power with respect to an act of faith than is any ecclesiastical dignity at all; but by the receiving of baptism, which is called a sacrament of faith (Extra, De baptismo et eius effectu [col.664]), no one is confirmed in faith so that he can not afterwards err against the faith; no one is confirmed in the faith, therefore, by the obtaining of any ecclesiastical dignity at all, even the papacy.
A fifth argument is this. Faith and grace are not less inconsistent with error than any ecclesiastical dignity at all; someone is not more confirmed against error and heresy by an ecclesiastical dignity, therefore, than by faith and grace; but no mere pilgrim is confirmed in faith by faith and grace, so that after [receiving these] he can not err and be corrupted by heretical wickedness. No one is confirmed in faith, therefore, by an ecclesiastical dignity, even by the papacy; indeed, afterwards he can be stained by heretical wickedness.
A sixth argument is this. Both a justly deposed pope and a pope who had renounced the papacy of his own free will can err against the faith; therefore a pope can also err against the faith before his deposition and voluntary renunciation. The antecedent is clear because if a deposed pope and one who has renounced the papacy could not err against the faith it would follow that some mere pilgrim entangled in many sins, besides the pope, would not be able to err against the faith. The consequence is proved because a pilgrim does not acquire the power of erring against the faith by a meritorious act; but both the deposition of a pope and [a pope's] voluntary renunciation can be meritorious. For if a pope who deserves to be deposed accepts his deposition or patiently endures it for God's sake he acquires merit. So if from love of God John XII had endured it patiently when he was deposed from the papacy he would have acquired merit with God. It is probable too that both Pope Symachus, who renounced the papacy and adhered to 11000 virgins , and Celestine V, who renounced the papacy, acquired merit before God. So the power of erring against the faith is not acquired by such a deposition or renunciation and so a pope has the power to err against the faith before his deposition or renunciation just as he does after it.
Student: That argument seems to accept one false assertion, namely that a pope can err against the faith before he is deposed. For according to law it seems that as soon as a pope were to err against the faith he would be deposed.
Master: Some people reply to this objection by saying that there are two senses of 'deposition', namely by man and by law. A pope can err against the faith and incur heretical wickedness before being deposed by man and the above argument is effective about that deposition because the pope first becomes a heretic and later, having changed and become satisfactory to God, he could be deposed by man and could accept that deposition meritoriously. Before deposition by law, however, a pope can err against the faith out of simplicity or ignorance but not be added to the number of heretics because even if he has deviated from the faith out of ignorance or simplicity yet if he is prepared to be corrected he is not deprived of the papacy; but if he clings pertinaciously to his error against the faith he is by that very fact deposed from the papacy and as a matter of law stripped of all authority, not by man but by law.
Student: Add other arguments.
Master: Their seventh argument is this. No one is confirmed in faith by a dignity which is received unworthily, illegitimately and wrongly; but it is possible for someone unworthy to ascend illicitly and wrongly to the papacy, namely out of ambition, by simony or in many other wicked and wrong ways; such a person, therefore, is not confirmed in faith by the papacy.
Their eighth argument is this. That state through which the one assuming it is confirmed in faith and in which no one can err should not be shunned by perfect men but should be sought with all their desire, because such a state either is completely safe from any spiritual danger or is less dangerous than a state in which no one is confirmed in faith, since on account of a defect of faith someone is both more imperfect and more inclined to sin; but the papacy should not be sought but should be shunned and it is not less dangerous than other states in which it is possible to err against the faith; it is for this reason that blessed Clement refused to become pope; therefore no one is confirmed in faith by the papacy.
A ninth argument is this. That one who can not err against faith does not need knowledge of the constitutions of others in this mortal life in order to define and determine doubts that emerge about faith, just as he who was not able to err in geometry or some other branch of study would not need the advice of others in order to explain doubts in that branch. In the same way too, because the congregation of the faithful can not err against faith it does not need the wisdom of others besides Christians to define those things that are in harmony with catholic truth. But the pope does need the knowledge of others in order to make clear and explain the many doubts that emerge about catholic faith. For otherwise general councils would have been assembled in vain to make doubts clear and to eradicate heresies. It would also be vain to consult experts on the sacred page. Therefore, the pope can err against faith.
Their tenth argument is this. Every mere pilgrim who can commit an actual mortal sin against the law of God can incur heretical wickedness, because such a person can be culpably blinded, since the malice of sinners blinds them, as we find in Wisdom 2[:21]. For it is written about the ungodly there, "For their own malice blinded them." And so they could be led into such great blindness that they deny catholic truth. But the pope can commit an actual mortal sin according to the clear testimony of the martyr Boniface, as we read in dist. 40, c. Si papa [col.146], and Pope Symachus, as we find in 9, q. 3, c. Aliorum [col.610]. The catholic church manifestly implies this too when it does not cease pouring out prayers to God for the pope's [ipsius] spiritual salvation. Therefore the pope can incur heretical wickedness.
Their eleventh argument is this. Those who are to be preferred to the pope in the exposition of the Scriptures can err against the faith; it is, therefore, much more the case that the pope can err against the faith. The consequence is obvious (i) because it holds through the argument from the lesser, (ii) because that one who can not err against the faith should be preferred in exposition of the divine Scriptures to that one who can err and (iii) because, just as a liar should not be preferred to a truth teller, so he who can lie about matters of faith should by no means be preferred to that one who can not lie. The antecedent is plainly proved. For, as was argued above, according to what we find in dist. 20, para. 1 of the decretals, commentators on the divine Scriptures should be preferred to highest pontiffs in the exposition of Scripture. These commentators, however, can err against faith according to what was proved before about blessed Cyprian, Augustine and Jerome. The commentator on divine Scripture, Origen, also erred not less clearly and fell into heretical wickedness. It is much more the case, therefore, that highest pontiffs, who are often unlearned, wicked and ignorant of the divine Scriptures, can fall into heretical wickedness.
A twelfth argument is this. Whoever can be accused of heresy and condemned for heresy can err against catholic faith and be stained with heretical wickedness. This is self-evident because there is no accusation of a crime that a person can not commit. However, a pope can be accused of heresy and condemned for heresy, as is clearly proved above. Therefore, a pope can become a heretic.
Their thirteenth argument is this. Whoever can commit a heretical act can become a heretic. That a pope can commit a heretical act, however, is clear from the examples of blessed Marcellin and of Sylvester II. Therefore, a pope can become a heretic.
Their fourteenth argument is this. It is not licit to assert about any person that he can not err against faith unless it can be shown by sacred Scripture, by teaching of the church or the saints, or by argument based on that teaching that he can not err. But it can not be shown in any of those ways that a pope can not err against faith. For if it could be shown it would be proved most of all by those texts of the Saviour, "I am with you always to the end of the age" (end of Matthew [28:20]) and "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 22:31-2]). But it can not be shown by those texts that the pope can not err against the faith. Not by the first, because that text can not be understood of the pope, since when his see is vacant there is no pope, and so Christ did not say about the pope but about the church militant, "I am with you always to the end of the age."
Again Christ did not mean that he would remain with the church militant to the end of the age only through faith but also through love and a good life. It is certain, however, that Christ is often not with the pope in love and a good life since the pope is often a wicked man without love. The above words, therefore, should not be understood of the pope.
Nor should the second text be understood of the pope as though Christ asked that the pope's faith should not fail. This is firstly because the apostolic see is often vacant and yet the faith for which Christ asked does not then fail, and secondly because a pope can renounce the papacy or be deposed and afterwards err against faith, and yet at no time will the faith for which Christ asked fail. Christ said the aforesaid words to blessed Peter, therefore, in reference to Peter himself, because in the end Peter's faith did not fail, although it did fail for a time, which is why Christ said to him, "And thou, being once converted", that is, after your faith has failed and you have turned back to the faith, "confirm thy brethren." Christ also said those words, that is, "But I have prayed for the that thy faith fail not", to Peter representing the congregation of the faithful, because Peter's faith did and will endure without interruption in the congregation of the faithful to the end of the age. For the faith that blessed Peter held, preached and taught will not fail but will persist in some Christians, cleric or lay, men or women, to the end of the age.
Their fifteenth argument is this. Whoever can be a supporter and defender of heretics and heresy can be stained with heretical wickedness. Indeed, such a person should be considered a heresiarch according to the testimony of Pope Urban, who says, as we find in 24, q. 3, c. Qui aliorum [col.999], "Whoever defends an error of others is more culpable than those who err because not only does he err himself but he also prepares and confirms stumbling blocks of error for others. So because he is a teacher of error he should be called not only a heretic but also a heresiarch." But a pope can be a supporter and defender of heretics and heretical wickedness, as is proved by two examples. The first concerns Anastasius II who was a supporter of the heretics Fotinus and Achacius, as we find in dist. 19, c. Anastasius [col.64]. Some people give as a second example John XXII who was at one time a supporter and defender of Nicholas III and his decretal Exiit qui seminat and also of Clement V and his decretal Exivi de paradiso; and yet some people say and write that in those decretals Exiit and Exivi there are clearly contained many errors about the poverty of Christ and his apostles and also about a vow to renounce ownership of all temporal goods individually and even in common.
Student: They are showing that they are malicious towards John XXII for they are trying to conclude that he was or is now a heretic.
Master: I want you to know that some people think it is not shown maliciously but truly and incontestably that John XXII either was or is now a heretic. For they affirm that it can not by any subterfuge be denied that his teaching about the poverty of Christ and his apostles, about the renunciation of ownership of all temporal goods, both individually and also in common, and about gospel poverty is opposed to the teaching of Nicholas III and other highest pontiffs. Since all the above issues pertain to faith or to good morals it is therefore necessary that one or the other of those teachings contains heretical wickedness. Either the teaching of John XXII is heretical, therefore, or the teaching of Nicholas III and the other highest pontiffs who agree with him on the above issues is heretical. If John XXII's teaching is heretical it follows from the fact that he solemnly declared that it had to be held that he himself should be considered pertinacious and a heretic. However, if the teaching of Nicholas III and the other highest pontiffs is heretical then when John XXII solemnly approved and in many ways commended it in his decretal beginning Quorundam exigit he should have been regarded as a heretic because he was a defender and supporter of heretical wickedness.
Now from the above some people fashion a sixteenth argument as follows. Whoever contradicts himself about matters of faith can err against faith. However, a pope can contradict himself about matters of faith. They prove this by the example of John XXII who is found to have contradicted himself since he first approved Nicholas III's teaching about the poverty of Christ and his apostles and about the renunciation of the ownership of all temporal goods, both individually and also in common, and later rejected it.
“In the year 1864, Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be unloosed from hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of hell; several religious institutions will lose all faith and will lose many souls.Our Lady of La Salette 19 Sept. 1846 (Published by Mélanie 1879)
Several will abandon the faith, and a great number of priests and members of religious orders will break away from the true religion; among these people there will even be bishops. Our Lady of La Salette 19 Sept. 1846 (Published by Mélanie 1879)
Francis The Destroyer
For In Those Days Jesus Christ Will Send Them Not A True Pastor, But A Destroyer ~ St. Francis