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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
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[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Louie Verricchio Refutes Robert Siscoe

Point / Counterpoint 3: Verrecchio


In his last installment, Robert did not address the point that I had raised concerning Canon 195 which begins:
“If by a decree of the competent authority, and not by the law itself, someone is removed from an office…”
Clearly, the law recognizes situations wherein one is “removed from an office by the law itself” as distinct from those wherein one is removed “by a decree.”

“Enforcement” and “establishing the fact” are different matters altogether. (For the present, we will set aside the fact that no man, not even the Church, removes a pope from office; only death, resignation, or God can do that.)
Perhaps an example will prove useful in making sense of the situation with Francis:
Suppose a pastor who, in violation of Can. 194 §1 article 3, “has attempted marriage even if only civilly.”
According to the canon, that cleric is “removed from [his] ecclesiastical office by the law itself;” i.e., no decree is necessary for the removal from office to occur.
Suppose further that the fact of the pastor’s attempt at marriage is publicly known; e.g., one of his parishioners actually witnessed the civil ceremony, or it was published in the local newspaper, or the pastor plainly admitted to it, etc.
Now, imagine that this man continues to act as pastor in spite of having been “removed from [his] office by the law itself.”
Clearly, it would fall to the legitimate authorities to establish the fact (i.e., collect whatever evidence is necessary to determine for themselves and for the record what did or did not take place) and then to  enforce his removal; making the loss of office known to all equally and opening the way for his replacement.
This hypothetical scenario gets more interesting when we consider an appropriate response on the part of those parishioners who had explicit knowledge of the pastor’s actions beforehand; the same by which he had already been removed from his office by the law itself (Canon 194).
Is it reasonable to insist that they are required to behave as if they do not know what they plainly do know; treating the man as if he were still in office until such time as the proper authorities act to “establish the fact” and “enforce” his removal?
Of course not; rather, they would be entirely justified in viewing the man as the usurper that he is, avoiding him, and what’s more, being compelled in conscience to warn others to be on guard in relation to him as well.
In the present discussion, Robert and I disagree over whether or not Francis has been sufficiently admonished and warned to have judged himself a formal heretic (more on that in a moment).
Fair enough, but insisting that well-formed Catholics are somehow required to wait for the proper authorities to establish for themselves a fact that is already clearly discernible not only flies in the face of reason, it is tantamount to insisting that we are required to expose ourselves (and others) to a danger that should be avoided.
So, exactly what facts are clearly discernible concerning Francis?
Robert: “What we are discussing is whether Francis has lost his office for heresy.  His acceptance as Pope by the Church guarantees he was validly elected, but the adherence of the Church to him as head (the entire ordinary and universal Magisterium) provides infallible certitude that he has not lost his office.” 
The “adherence of the Church” defense is growing flimsier by the day…
I am certain that Robert, just like I, knows of numerous members of the Church who long ago determined that it is necessary to ignore or otherwise be on guard in relation to Francis.
Robert also likely, just like I, knows of any number of well-formed Catholics, clergy included, who are convinced that Francis is indeed a formal heretic and an anti-pope but have refrained from saying so publicly for any number of reasons (e.g., repercussions like loss of position or loss of income).
What portion of the Church this describes is unknown, but what we do know is that, with the publication of Amoris Laetitia in particular, grave doubts about Francis’ validity are no longer a rare exception.
As such, I find the claim of “infallible certitude” as evidenced by “the adherence of the Church” to Francis (or perhaps better stated, the outward appearance of adherence to a man who operates a regime of intimidation) less than compelling.
If I understand it correctly, Robert’s argument seems to be that if a majority of the Church “adheres” (at least outwardly) to an anti-pope as if he were a legitimate pope, or a majority is confused as to the pope’s true identity and validity, the gates of Hell would have somehow prevailed; i.e., the Church could no longer be considered indefectible.
I disagree.
During the Great Western Schism, when three men laid claim to the Chair of St. Peter, arguably two-thirds of the faithful, including certain Saints, “adhered” to a usurper as if he were pope. In this, the Church remained indefectible; her visible hierarchical structure intact.
Yes, but there was a legitimate pope!
Indeed, but for all we know, that’s the case today as well given the serious defects and the deliberate acts of obfuscation concerning the details of Benedict’s so-called resignation.
Letting that can of worms rest for the moment, the simple fact of the Chair of Peter being unoccupied in no way threatens the indefectibility of the Church; indeed, interregnum periods are a normal part of the Church’s life.
Yes, but what you’re claiming is rather abnormal!
Certainly, and so too were those extended periods of time in history when the Church went without a pope; in fact, for as long as two years, and yet, the visible society of the Church remained intact, her indefectibility unquestioned.
There is no “traditional doctrine” telling us how long is too long for the See of Rome to be vacant, or precisely what percentage of the Church adhering to an anti-pope is too high, in order for indefectibility to remain.
History does, however, provide the examples cited above, which strongly suggest that my position is in no way at odds with the Church’s indefectibility.
Robert: “The primary difference between Francis and his recent predecessors is that Francis is doing to Catholic morality what they did to ecclesiology, the Mass, and other matters of the Faith.” 
In my view, the most noteworthy point of distinction in this case lies in the degree and the extent to which Francis and his errors have been publicly challenged by cardinals, bishops, priests and theologians, or put another way, the degree to which he has been admonished and warned.
The example of the popes of the 9th and 10th centuries is not especially relevant; with Francis, we are talking about heresy and blasphemy, not simply bad behavior.
As for the dubia that was sent to John Paul II challenging him to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae with tradition, far be it for me to downplay the gravity of that matter, but it falls well short of providing a useful precedent.
In that case, John Paul II was being asked to defend a teaching that had come from an ecumenical council (so-called), was given approbation by his predecessor, and had been widely accepted as legitimate for decades prior to the dubia.
In the present case, Francis has personally introduced, via an Apostolic Exhortation disseminated to the Universal Church, false teachings (heresies) that have never been accepted as legitimate and, in fact, have been directly condemned by the Council of Trent.
In other words, John Paul II was being asked to defend the Second Vatican Council; Francis, by contrast, is being asked to defend himself.
As for admonishments and warnings…
Robert: “A dubium … is an official request for an authoritative and final response from the Holy See on a doctrinal, liturgical or canonical question. A dubia is not an accusation, nor does it specify an offence, but merely seeks clarity concerning an objective fact (dubium facti) or a law (dubium juris).” 
While the four cardinals chose to use the dubia format, the well-known facts in this case clearly indicate that it is not simply a request for clarity.
The Church has already provided (on multiple occasions) “authoritative” (indeed, infallible) responses to each of the five questions.  As such, clarity is not lacking with respect to the doctrines under discussion; rather, the dubia in this case is an attempt to clarify one thing and one thing alone; namely, whether or not Francis accepts the infallible teachings of the Church.
Cardinal Burke plainly admitted as much, confirming in his interview with Michael Matt that he most certainly does know the correct answers to the questions posed in the dubia. In fact, every single solitary person worthy of the name Catholic knows the answers!
This being so, the dubia sent to Francis is quite unlike any number of other dubia that one might cite; it is precisely an accusation; or better said, an admonishment and a warning.
As I’ve written in the past; this particular dubia was sent to Francis with the presumption of guilt, or perhaps more accurately, with explicit knowledge that what Francis is teaching is not Catholic.
That is why silence would invite, as Cardinal Burke stated, not more questions or requests for clarification, but a formal act of correction.
In truth, this dubia is truly nothing other than an opportunity for Francis to confirm his membership in the Body of Christ and likewise his papacy.
In a number of ways (cited in my previous installment), he has responded in the negative; refusing to answer formally is an answer.
I asked Robert what more he might be looking for in the way of admonishment and warning, to which he wrote:
A warning (monitio) differs essentially from a dubia.  A warning can come from the law itself (“though shalt not commit adultery”) or from an ecclesiastical judge (monitio canonica). In the case of heresy, the purpose of the ecclesiastical warning is to correct the offender and provide him with an opportunity to remove the cause of suspicion.  It must be issued by a lawful authority, name the offender, specify the offense (i.e., what heresy was professed), and, in the case of heresy, clearly state that the offender must reject the stated heresy and affirm the Catholic truth opposed to it.
Once again, a major sticking point arises…
There is no “ecclesiastical judge” with jurisdiction over a pope, and there is no “lawful authority” to tell the pope what he “must” do.
Bearing these important distinctions in mind, it is clear that the dubia has met every one of the requirements that Robert proposed as necessary for a valid canonical warning:
It must be issued by a lawful authority: The dubia was issued by members of the College of Cardinals.
It must name the offender: The dubia names, and was sent directly to, Francis.
It must specify the offense: The dubia cites the specific “offending” articles in Amoris Laetitia; juxtaposing them with infallible teaching.
It must clearly state that the offender must reject the stated heresy and affirm the Catholic truth opposed to it: The dubia cites the specific opposing dogmas “based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church;” Catholic truths that every member of the Church must affirm.
Its purpose is to correct the offender and provide him with an opportunity to remove the cause of suspicion: The dubia is simply the latest and most noteworthy attempt to correct Francis; he has been given more than ample opportunity to remove the causes of suspicion.
This brings me to the matter of “notoriety.”
Robert wrote:Notorious by Law: A person becomes a notorious heretic by law when he is declared a heretic by the Church.” 
It must be said yet again: The Church has no authority to judge the pope.
This being so, it is only after a pope has judged himself a formal heretic that a declaration of notorious heresy can be made. In other words, the declaration is simply that – a declaration; it is not a judgment.
What this means in practice is that it is NOT the “declaration” by which the pope becomes a notorious heretic; he becomes a notorious heretic by his own actions, the declaration merely announces as much to all concerned and sets the stage for his replacement.
Robert continued: “Notorious by Fact: A person is notorious with a notoriety of fact … when not just the crime, but the imputability of the crime is also widely known…”
According to Beal’s commentary (cited a number of times by Robert in our exchanges) this understanding of the term “notorious” is taken from canon 2197 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law which states that a crime is notorious if it is “publicly known and was committed under such circumstances that no maneuver can conceal, nor any legal defense excuse.”
Robert stated: “Francis is not a notorious heretic.”
I would ask, therefore:
Exactly what sort of “maneuver” might serve to “conceal” his heresy? What sort of “legal defense” could possibly “excuse” it?
To my mind, no maneuver or defense is possible in this case. We are discussing basic, fundamental, well-defined and infallible matters of faith; dogmas that treat of no ambiguity or nuance whatsoever.
Look, I long for the day when “the Church” will make a formal declaration of notorious heresy concerning Jorge Bergoglio, but as I said above, a declaration is simply that – a declaration of that which has already happened.
In the interim, I’m not going to pretend that I can’t see what is obvious.
Robert concluded his last piece with a challenge: “I will end by asking Louie to provide even one authoritative citation supporting his position that a member of the laity can judge the Pope to be a formal heretic, and then publicly declare that he has lost his office while the Church continues to recognize him as Pope.”
This is a multi-part challenge concerning: 1) The pope as formal heretic 2) The public declaration of such, and 3) The majority of the Church recognizing (i.e., adhering to) a man as pope.
We’ve covered item # 3 already; “recognition” and “adherence” to Francis is dwindling by the minute and, in my view, cannot reasonably be considered a source of “infallible certitude.”
Concerning item #1, I regret having to repeat myself, but it is necessary:
No one can judge the pope a formal heretic. As such, Robert’s request (inadvertently, I am sure) misrepresents my actual position, which is NOT that a “member of the laity can judge the Pope.”
What I have to assume Robert really meant to request is even one authoritative citation supporting the position that a member of the laity can recognize that the Pope has judged himself to be a formal heretic.
My actual position made clear yet again, we need look no further than Sacred Scripture for just such an authoritative citation; several, in fact.
Our Lord’s own words as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew would seem useful:
But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. (Mt. 18:15-17)
Francis’ heresy and blasphemy is an offense first and foremost against Christ, but also against every member of His Body. Numerous “rebukes” of Francis and the heresies enshrined in Amoris Laetitia have been made; some, even prior to its publication. (Remember, the “whip of cords” scene isn’t the sort of “rebuke” we should expect to see in such cases.)
In response to these rebukes, Francis will not hear them.
Now, with the dubia, the Church as represented by members of the College of Cardinals has rebuked him.
In response to this rebuke, Francis will not hear the Church.
As such, and according to Our Lord’s own instructions, we are to treat him as a heathen and publican. (One notes that no exemption exists for bishops in white!)
More directly applicable to Francis still are the words of St. Paul:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:8)
Again, no exceptions… With respect to Francis, no reasonably well-formed Catholic can possibly fail to recognize (again, this is my position) that he is preaching a contrary gospel; i.e., heresy.
For those who know their faith, there is no need to feign ignorance of this fact until such time as the present day “proper authorities” (who are themselves infected with various degrees of diabolical disorientation) get around to informing the rest of the world of a reality that we can plainly see.
Let him be anathema…
Not only are St. Paul’s words clearly applicable to Francis, even more obviously still do the solemn definitions issued by the Council of Trent serve to anathematize him.
So, what does it mean for one to be “anathema”?
In the New Testament anathema no longer entails death, but the loss of goods or exclusion from the society of the faithful. St. Paul frequently uses this word in the latter sense. (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)
If, therefore, it is reasonable (and I insist that it is indeed) to consider Francis “excluded from the society of the faithful” for so many reasons already stated, how are we then to consider him head of said society?
St. Paul provides yet another authoritative citation in support of my position in the Epistle to Titus:
A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: Knowing that such a one is subverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment. (Titus 3:10-11)
I maintain that Francis (as explained in detail throughout this exchange) has received several admonitions and has condemned himself by his own judgement and therefore must be avoided.
Turning now to item #2 of Robert’s challenge (about publicly declaring Francis a formal heretic and anti-pope), as I’ve stated any number of times, my own “declaration” concerning Francis is only my personal opinion. Feel free to take it or leave it, but follow him at your own risk.
It is now up to the so-called “proper authorities” to issue a formal declaration for precisely the reason given by Fr. Pietro Ballerini:
“So that he might not cause damage to the rest, he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed, so that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him.”
St. Paul’s words quoted above – “let him be anathema… know that such a one is condemned by his own judgment” – are not followed by “but be sure to keep it to yourself if it pertains to the pope;”  in fact, the exact opposite is clearly implied.
As such, I feel compelled in conscience to continue offering my opinion publicly in order to increase, in my own small way, the number of those on guard in relation to Francis lest any more poor souls needlessly find themselves and their loved ones led into grave error by this man; possibly even right out of the Church of Christ.
The question that remains concerns the mechanism, or logistics, by which God removes the papacy from the man who has fallen into heresy.
The Church has never pronounced on this question, so we are left to speculate.
First, let it be said that Robert and I agree that while the Church plays a crucial “ministerial” role in a papal election, it is truly God who bestows the papacy upon a man. Likewise, we both believe that it is God who will remove it from a pope turned heretic, but only after the Church carries out a similar ministerial act.
If I understand him correctly, Robert tends to think that the declaration that we’ve been discussing is the ministerial act that sets the stage (so to speak) for God to remove the papacy from the heretic, but I think that it is more reasonable to believe that He does so even prior to that.
Consider: When a man is elected pope – a ministerial function carried out by the Church in a conclave – he is immediately presented with the opportunity to either accept or reject the office. It is only upon the man’s acceptance – freely made by his own action – that God then bestows the papacy upon the man. At that moment, he is the pope.
It is only after this takes place that the public declaration is made to the Church: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habamus papam, thus making it known to all that this man has been made pope.
In a similar way, we can reasonably imagine that when a pope suspected of heresy is duly admonished and warned (as I maintain Francis has), this is the Church carrying out a ministerial function similar to that which takes place in a conclave; albeit in the open.
In this case, the man who is pope is presented with the opportunity to either accept or reject the Catholic faith (and therefore the papacy) in light of his errors. If he rejects it, it is at this point that God will remove the Office of Peter from the man.
It is only after this has transpired that a declaration will be made to the entire Church announcing that the Chair of Peter is empty; i.e., the declaration is not what prompts God to act, it is simply an announcement that He already has acted, just as it is with the declaration following a conclave.
This to me seems to be a more reasonable scenario; one that respects both the ministerial role of the Church and the free will of the man to either accept or reject what is offered.
At this, while Robert is more than welcome to respond, it would seem that we have come full circle.
I cannot express my gratitude to Robert enough for engaging in this exchange, and I trust that for those of you who took the time to wade through all of the arguments, it has proven beneficial.
Let us pray for Jorge Bergoglio’s conversion to the Catholic faith, and short of this, for the formal declaration from the Church that all of us await to come swiftly.

Louie Verricchio "Antipope Francis: A Blessing In Disguise?"