POPE FRANCIS - A HERETIC? ON THE PUNISHMENT OF HERETICS AND ESPECIALLY OF THE POPE WHO HAS BECOME A HERETIC WILLIAM OF OCKHAM Dial. 6 CHP. XXVI
Holy Thursday 2014
Student: Why is there no special statute in the law concerning the method of appealing from a heretical sentence of the pope.
Master: Two causes are alleged for this. The first is that it is not necessary to appeal from such a sentence in the first or second acception of the term "appeal", in that such a sentence cannot be legally conclusive. The second is that laws are made by reference to events which occur more frequently. And it rarely happens that a pope renders a heretical sentence, therefore it is not necessary to enact a law about it.
Student: Laws have been made in general terms about the appeal process. Why, then, should these laws not be observed when someone wishes to appeal from a heretical sentence of the pope.
Master: This has been answered previously. [1 Dial. 6.25] Indeed it was stated that because a true pope has no superior, therefore in the event he lays down a judgement against the faith it is not necessary to observe the general rules established with respect to appeals, for this might result in danger for the faith.
Student: It seems that the established rules as to appeals should be observed more strictly when someone wants to appeal from the pope than if he wants to appeal from somebody else, since a greater respect must be shown to the pope than to others inferior to him. Therefore rules which may lead (if the accusation is true) to an infringement of papal honour should be observed most strictly, in that no one must enjoy a greater privilege here than the pope.
Master: The answer to this is that canon and civil laws are to be more or less strictly observed or not observed at all depending on the variety of causes, persons, and times, on the imminent danger, and also on other circumstances. And therefore since a pope who renders a sentence against the faith sins more seriously than another (because the sin grows with the dignity of him who commits it), it is indeed easier to perform justice with respect to the pope's inferior if the latter renders a sentence against the faith. Indeed, a greater danger threatens all Christians from a heretical sentence of the pope. Therefore if someone wanted to issue a standard appeal in favour of the faith from such a papal sentence (and given that the faith is worthier of support than the pope) the appellant in question must be less bound by the formal requirements of an appeal than if he had decided to appeal from some other sentence of a judge inferior to the pope. And so in this particular case, with support for the faith at stake, a lesser respect as to many things is to be shown to the pope, and he must enjoy a lesser privilege. Just as, were he accused, he would enjoy a lesser privilege than do some other spiritual leaders, who (we have this in 2 q. 4 c. Presul) [col. 466] must not be condemned unless 72 witnesses testify against them. But the pope hardly enjoys such a privilege, as is attested by the gloss to the cited passage, which states: "should there be even more witnesses against the pope? No. Indeed two would suffice, and in this the pope's situation is worse, because he was elevated above others without their participation, and therefore he must be condemned without hope of remission, like the devil". [col. 653] It is evident from these words that sometimes the pope enjoys less privilege for his misdeed than do bishops inferior to him. And this must be especially observed when a greater danger threatens Christianity due to the pope's crime, which is indeed the case when the pope issues a decree against the faith.