Here ends the fifth book of the first part of the dialogues, teaching who may be defiled by heretical stain. The sixth book of the same part begins, investigating the punishment of heretics and especially of the Pope who has become a heretic

On the punishment of heretics and especially of the Pope who has become a heretic

Chapter 1

Student: I shall endeavour to discover the solutions of the preceding arguments by myself and therefore I shall cease to question you about potential heretics. I now duly intend to raise questions concerning the punishment to be inflicted on heretics. Moreover, since I wanted this work to be composed principally on account of the discord between the Most Holy Father and Lord, the Lord Pope John XXII, and certain persons who are spreading rumours of his heretical wickedness (I agree with them that a pope may be spattered with heretical stain but consider the aforementioned Lord to be a faithful and catholic man), I shall consequently in this sixth book undertake above all to investigate in what manner and by whom a pope is to be struck down should he become a heretic. However, since a pope may be defamed of heresy both falsely and truthfully, I shall initially inquire about a pope mendaciously slandered of the crime of heresy, and secondly of a pope truly polluted by heretical stain. But first of all I would like to know whether the pope has a superior judge on earth. Would you then report to me one or more positions on this issue along with their supporting argumentations. 

Master: The learned disagree about your question. Some say that the pope has no superior on earth. Others contend that while no specific person is the pope's superior on earth, the universal church and also the general council are nevertheless above the pope. Now of those who claim that the pope has no superior on earth, some say that once a man has been canonically elevated to the papal office he may never (save by divine power) be justly deprived of the papacy, even if he becomes a heretic, unless he resigns of his own free will. Others say that although a pope has no superior on earth so long as he remains pope, should he happen to become a heretic he is instantly deprived of the papacy by divine law (not by human law) and becomes inferior to catholics.

Student: Begin with representations for the assertion with which these [latter] opposite parties agree, namely, that the pope has no superior judge on earth.

Master: Many attempt to prove this by authorities and arguments. Indeed, Pope Innocent seems to hold this view for he states in 9 q. 1 c. Nemo [col. 610] that "no one is to judge the first see when it is establishing justice; the judge will be judged neither by the emperor, nor by all the clergy, nor by kings nor by the people". One gathers from these words that even the universal church is not the pope's superior, since it is made up of the very clergy and people who, according to the cited words of Innocent, are not competent to judge the pope. From which it follows that the general council is likewise not above the pope. Again: Pope Symachus states (we have it in c. Aliorum [col. 610] of the same canon law context): "God willed that the cases of other men were to be decided by men; He reserved without question the head of this see for His own judgment". From this one concludes that God alone is superior to the head of the Apostolic see.

Student: Others would say that Pope Symachus is speaking of cases other than cases of heresy and therefore, notwithstanding his words, the pope has a superior in cases of heresy.

Master: This response is challenged because, as one gathers from statements by holy fathers, where a canon makes no exception neither must we. Since the canon of Pope Symachus by no means excepts the case of heresy, we cannot except this case either. The same point is evident from the dictum that words stated indistinctly must be understood comprehensively, and hence the pope is to be reserved for divine judgment in every case. The third authority in support of the aforecited assertion is that of Pope Antherius (in the same context [col. 610-611] at c. Facta) who declares: "the deeds of subjects are judged by us, but our deeds are judged by the Lord". Therefore the pope has no superior judge on earth. The fourth authority is that of Emperor Constantine. We read in 12 q. 1 c. Futuram [col. 682] that "presiding over the holy synod which was gathered at Nicea, when he [Constantine] noticed that a dispute between some [bishops] was on the verge of being brought before him for judgment, he said: 'you may be judged by no one, because you are reserved for the judgment of God alone, for you are called 'gods' and thus you cannot be judged by men'". From these words we understand that clerks cannot be judged by laymen, and consequently all the more strongly the head of the clerks, namely the supreme pontiff, cannot be judged by another.

The fifth authority in favour of the same assertion is that of Pope Gelasius. Speaking of the Apostolic see (we have this in 9 q. 3 c. Ipsi)[col. 611] he states: "these are the canons which willed the referral of appeals from the entire church to the scrutiny of this see, while decreeing that at no time was it ever allowed to appeal therefrom, and thereby these [canons] ordered that this see was to judge the whole church, while being called to the judgment of no one, nor was its own judgment ever to be subject to judicial review". From these words we understand that the whole church is not allowed to judge the pope, but it is his function to judge the whole church. Therefore since neither a person nor some congregation on earth is superior to the entire church, it is impossible to find a person or some congregation which is superior to the pope, who is himself above the entire church. The sixth authority is that of Pope Nicholas (we have it in the same context at c. Patet) [col. 609] who states: "It is unquestionably clear that the judgment of the Apostolic see (there is no greater authority) is to be reviewed by no one, nor is anyone allowed to judge its decision". From this we gather that no one has the right to judge the supreme pontiff, and consequently that he has no superior on earth.

Student: I think that one who could reasonably respond to these authorities would be able, without difficulty, to solve all the others claiming the same point. Therefore these are sufficient. Indicate however where additional authorities might be found which appear to suggest that the pope has no superior judge on earth.

Master: The authority of Pope Nicholas in di. 21 c. Nunc autem [col. 71], and di. 22 c. Qua traditione [col. 75], and 2 q. 7 Petrus [col. 496], might be adduced to this end.

Student: Provide arguments in favour of the same assertion.

Master: The first argument is this. He from whom it is not permitted to appeal does not have a superior on earth, because one is allowed to appeal from any inferior to a superior (2 q. 7 c. Placuit)[col. 501]. But it is not permitted to appeal from the pope (9 q. 3 c. Ipsi [col. 611]and c. Cuncta [col. 611]). Therefore the pope has no superior judge on earth. The second argument is this. He who is superior to everyone does not have a superior, because one cannot be both superior and inferior with respect to another. But the pope is superior to all catholics since he is the head of all, therefore he does not have a superior on earth. The third argument is this. He who cannot be the subject of someone's accusation does not have a superior judge. But the pope cannot be accused by someone, because the shepherd cannot be accused by the sheep (6 q. 1 Oves [col. 555] and 2 q. 7 Petrus [col. 496]). Now all catholics are sheep entrusted to the care and the rule of the pope. Hence they cannot accuse him and consequently he may be judged by no one.