Can The Church Depose An Heretical Pope? A Warning Written by Robert J. Siscoe

A Warning

A public warning serves as the most effective means for establishing pertinacity. For this reason, canon law requires that a warning be given before a prelate loses his office for the crime of heresy. (Canon 2314.2, 1917 Code) This aspect of canon law is founded on divine law (Titus 3:10) and is considered so necessary that even one who publicly defects from the faith (Canon 188.4, 1917 Code) must be warned before losing his office. (46) In addition to the canonical warning, in most cases the loss of office also requires a declaratory sentence of the crime. (47)

The warning determines, with a sufficient degree of certitude, whether or not the person who has professed heresy is pertinacious, rather than merely mistaken, or perhaps only guilty of a regrettable statement made out of human weakness, which might be a sin, but not necessarily the sin of heresy. Since pertinacity is itself a necessary element of heresy, it does not suffice that its presence be presumed; it must be confirmed. The warning accomplishes this by removing any chance of innocent ignorance, and/or providing the suspect with a chance to affirm what was denied in a moment of weakness.


46) A Commentary of Canon Law, Rev. Augustine, OSB, DD, Professor of Canon Law, Vol VIII, bk 4, (Herder Book Co, 1922), p 280

47) Ibid. pg 278