Neo-SSPX on papal heresy: From shock to embarrassment
The final installment of Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize’s multi-part treatise on papal heresy has at last been published, and barring a statement to the contrary from the SSPX, one may reasonably consider it the Society’s official position.
This, in my view, is rather like saying that cyanide once ingested could lead to poor health when in fact it is deadly.
In any case, Fr. Gleize outdid himself in Part 6 as he reflected on “the authentic meaning” of those Scripture passages often cited by venerable theologians and philosophers of the past (like Cardinal Tommaso Cajetan) in their own treatment of “papal heresy.”
Following are the relevant Biblical texts given mention by Fr. Gleize:
– “Depart from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be involved in their sins.” (Numbers 16:26)
– “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)
– “And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6:)
– “If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you.” (2 John 1:10)
– “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid.” (Titus 3:10)
As for how these verses apply to a heretical pope, Fr. Gleize writes:
St. Paul says that it is necessary to avoid a notorious heretic, no more and no less.NB: In this, Fr. Gleize is not addressing Francis whom he has already absolved of teaching heresy; rather, he is treating the matter of “papal heresy” in a strictly general sense.
On the basis of that, nothing proves that a notoriously heretical pope is dismissed from his office, because nothing says that the situation of someone who must be avoided by the faithful is incompatible with the title of the papacy.
Despite the paradoxical attractiveness of this assertion at first glance, it is still possible to avoid having anything to do with a notoriously heretical pope, without therefore considering him as being dethroned from the papacy.
Revealed in the process, however, is the degree to which his thinking on the topic is detached from well-established Catholic principles.
As we see from the above quotation, Fr. Gleize believes that a notoriously heretical pope retains his office…
Though a definitive teaching does not exist concerning precisely how a notorious heretic pope loses his office, it is certain that notorious heresy is incompatible with the Office of Peter.
Canon 2197 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law states that a crime (such as heresy) is “notorious” when it is “publicly known and was committed under such circumstances that no maneuver can conceal, nor any legal defense excuse.”
Let’s be very clear about what we’re discussing here:
“Notorious heresy” is formal heresy; i.e., it is not error mistakenly put forth in ignorance (material heresy), but rather it refers to obstinate adherence to that which constitutes a denial of a truth(s) that we are obligated to believe by divine and Catholic faith.
The result of such heresy is clear:
“For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.” (cf Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis 23)Get that?
The heresy under discussion by Fr. Gleize severs a man from the Body of the Church.
Obviously, one cannot be both severed from the Body and, at one and the same time, act as its Head.
Fr. Gleize also makes the incredible assertion that the papacy is not incompatible with someone who must be avoided by the faithful.
To be kind, this is absurd.
The Baltimore Catechism provides the basic teaching as well as anything by plainly identifying the three necessary elements that comprise the unity of the Church:
“The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible head.”It is nothing short of irrational to imagine that the faithful can be unified “under one” who must be avoided.
There is but “one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
To suggest, as Fr. Gleize does, that the sheep can at once avoid the person of the shepherd and yet faithfully remain within the flock is, at best, a recipe for schism.
In its teaching “On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff,” the First Vatican Council states:
“By unity with the Roman Pontiff in communion, and in profession of the same faith, the Church of Christ becomes one flock under one Supreme Shepherd.” (Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3, Article 3)NB: Being “in communion” (that is, gathered together as one in union) with the person of the Roman Pontiff, and professing the same faith, are treated individually; i.e., each one is necessary in order to render the Church of Christ one flock.
Fr. Gleize fails to draw this distinction as is evident when he cites the following taken from the “Declaration of Fidelity to the Positions of the Society of St. Pius X”:
“I, the undersigned, recognize Francis as Pope of the Holy Catholic Church. That is why I am ready to pray in public for him as Supreme Pontiff. I refuse to follow him when he departs from Catholic Tradition, especially in the questions of religious liberty and ecumenism, as also in the reforms which are harmful to the Church.”Fr. Gleize comments:
“This expression ‘I refuse to follow him’ neatly corresponds to the devita of Saint Paul, and it does not rule out the ‘I recognize.’”Far be it for me to explain to Fr. Gleize the Declaration that he himself signed, but the only way its text can be understood in a Catholic sense is to say that “I refuse” concerns the avoidance of false teachings; i.e., it means not following the pope in his errors so as to persevere in the “profession of the same faith” invoked in Pastor Aeternus.
It does not mean to say “I ‘avoid’ the person of the pope” – as if a notoriously heretical pope retains his office – a proposition that finds no support in the exhortations of St. Paul.
If all that has been said thus far does not serve to demonstrate the lack of Catholic coherence in Fr. Gleize’s argument, note very well his interpretation of Galatians 1:8, which reads:
“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.”
Of this passage, Fr. Gleize states, “‘let him be anathema,’ in other words, separate yourselves from him.”
In reality, St. Paul is saying quite a bit more than this.
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)The Catholic Encyclopedia further indicates that “anathema” came to be understood in the Church as a fate worse than excommunication:
All the councils, from the Council of Nicæa to that of the Vatican, have worded their dogmatic canons: “If any one says . . . let him be anathema”. Nevertheless, although during the first centuries the anathema did not seem to differ from the sentence of excommunication, beginning with the sixth century a distinction was made between the two …Once again, we are faced with the obvious: One cannot be anathema; that is to say, separated from the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and yet somehow rule over said Body as its head.
This distinction was introduced into the canons of the Church, as is proved by the letter of John VIII (872-82) found in the Decree of Gratian (c. III, q. V, c. XII): ‘Know that Engeltrude is not only under the ban of excommunication, which separates her from the society of the brethren, but under the anathema, which separates from the body of Christ, which is the Church.’ (ibid.)
And yet Fr. Gleize is asking us to believe that there is no contradiction between one who is anathema and the papacy!
In light of Part 5 of this regrettable series of articles, I found myself disgusted and deeply disappointed by the position taken by the Society of St. Pius X.
Now, having read Fr. Gleize’s work in its entirety, I am embarrassed for the Society; in particular those good and holy men who comprise its leadership.
In the days ahead, I will (God willing) engage said leadership directly, in the hope that a much-needed correction will soon be issued.
Whether or not it comes, these timeless words of Sacred Scripture shall remain our guide:
It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man. It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8-9)