Can One Be Materially Pope and Not Formally Also?

Image result for Cassiciacum Thesis Father Bernard Lucien

A review of “The Problem of Authority in the Post conciliar Church – the Cassiciacum Thesis” by Father Bernard Lucien.

In this review, I would wish to proceed through the Cassiciacum Thesis of Msgr. Guerard des Laurier as presented by Rev. Bernard Lucien and translated by Rama P. Coomaraswamy, M.D., step by step, but time does not allow. Be that as it may, one must first skip to the conclusion in order to put into perspective the outcome of their conclusions. I will return to the Thesis afterwards.

I begin by quoting from the Chapter “Conclusion:”

“We have in effect shown that, if one considers the facts, without going into their explanation, it is the light of faith which is directly involved. The faith assures us the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium: this certitude in and of itself prevents us from considering Paul VI and John Paul II as true Popes, because their promulgation and maintenance, in union with the bishops, of a doctrine already infallibly condemned by the Church . . .

“The first thing that flows from this situation is negative: the duty to say and do nothing that in the practical order would give recognition to the Authority of John Paul II (or Paul VI). In particular, the priests should not name him in the Te igitur of Holy Mass, nor the other prayers undertaken for the Sovereign Pontiff . . .

“Positively, those who understand the situation also have the duty, each according to his means, of proclaiming the actual absence of any Magisterial Authority, a fact which results in great and immanent danger to accepted his election [sic], both his subsequent acts are null . . .”

With this conclusion, there is nothing different from those accepting the fact that the Apostolic See is vacant (Sede Vacante, hence Sedevacantism). There are also three things to consider for those who are not so readily to accept this:

First, only if the Apostolic See is vacant do we omit the prayers. Thus the instructions: Ubi dicit: una cum famulo tuo Papae nostro N., exprimit nomen Papae: Sede autem vacante verba praedicta omittuntur [Missale Romanum, Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missae, cap. viii, n.2]. there is no provision otherwise to excuse this omission (thus, again, why those who acknowledge the Apostolic Seat vacant are called Sedevacantists-they do not mention Wojtyla’s name in the Canon of the Mass).

Secondly, with the lack of authority, no Cardinals are created. This is substantiated by Msgr. Guerard des Laurier himself, when he wrote: At present the church Militant is “occupied” and in a state of privation. W. (Msgr. K. Wojtyla) validly elected (I grant the election until proven otherwise) by a conclave, which consisted of at least 10 authentic Cardinals (who did not protest against the election), has taken possession of the Papal Chair; whereby he is “material” pope (according to external juridical circumstances).” By this statement, the recognition of the other “Cardinals” is denied.

Thirdly, therefore, we may ask, was the election valid in the case of especially Wojtyla? For this we have to consider:
a: Not all Cardinals were allowed to elect, the rule denying those over a certain age to participate – Pope Pius XII in “Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis” (1945).
b: Whether those “10 Cardinals” had voted for the present “pope elect,” secrecy being such;
c: Whether there are any “authentic” Cardinals left today:

Now, the above are only logical conclusions of this statement.
But, let us now turn to the beginning of the text. First, let us observe the diagram of the various position.

The first position (A) is to accept John Paul II as a legitimate Pope and from this flows two tendencies.
[1] “. . . one should submit to his disciplinary decisions [that they wish to follow-JS], while at the same time denouncing the doctrinal errors of this teaching and his personal responsibility for them” [the position of many traditionalists – JS].
[Or 2] ” . . . one should not submit to his disciplinary dispositions. It is necessary to transmit the Sacraments against his authority” [open schism – Society of Pius X].
The second position (B) is to refuse to accept him as a legitimate Pope and from this there presently flows two divisions:
[1] “He is [at least] deposed because of his [public] heresy” [Sedevacantism].
[Or 2] . . . He is not yet deposed: he materially occupies the apostolic throne
[Thesis of Cassiciacum].

It is apparent from the above overview, I believe provided by Rama P. Coomaraswamy, that in the first division the illogical aberration of the Society of Pius X is truly schism. The second division does not admit, superficially, of any difference of position, it is only when we continue to read through the explanation that we run aground upon contradictions.

The Thesis of Cassiciacum differs because they proceed on the premise that “Paul VI and John Paul are [not] pure and simply deposed, that they are [not] anti-popes [a misnomer, as anti-pope refers to a claimant to the Apostolic Chair while a legitimate pope still sits upon it; it should read “false pope” – JS] and that the See is [not ] vacant.”

Thus, it is presented as following: “Since December 7, 1965 [when the decree, Dignitas Humanae – On Religious Liberty – of Vatican Council II was formally promulgated by Paul VI], the person occupying the Apostolic See is no longer formally the pope: he no longer has divinely assisted Pontifical authority; he however remains materially a pope in so far as he has not been juridically depose.”

With this so stated, we may begin to question what is really said here.

First, there is a judgment: “since December 7, 1965, the person occupying the Apostolic See is no longer formally the Pope.” This “judgement” of the “pope” is in opposition to the Vatican Council (1870): “that the judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment” [D1830, cf. D330].

But, setting aside this condemnation, how can we judge him deposed, unless he publicly promulgated heresy, and, if so, this would contradict the Vatican Council (1870) definition of papal infallibility: Moreover, that by the very apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff as the successor of Peter, the chief of the Apostles, holds over the Universal Church, the supreme power of the magisterium is also comprehended, [and] the Catholic has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated . . . that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, through the Divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished that His Church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals . . . [D1832; 1833; 1839]. Paul VI has not fulfilled this divine promise, as we can all attest.

The Vatican Council [1] appears to have also settled the question of depositus and deponendus, because an “heretical pope” would be contrary to its definition. It would, therefore, appear to close any further speculation.

Thus, we can review that Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silva, in his dossier, wrote concerning “The Theological Hypothesis of an Heretic Pope.” In chapter II, he quotes Cardinal Billot/Tractatus de Ecclesiae Christi, 1909, tom us I, pp. 609-610]: “admitted the hypothesis that the Pope should have become notoriously heretical, one must concede, without hesitation, that he would lose ‘ipso facto’ the pontifical power, since by his own will he has put himself outside the body of the Church, becoming an unbeliever . . . “I said: ‘admitted the hypothesis.’ But it appears by far more probable that this hypothesis is a mere hypothesis, never reducible to act, in virtue of what St. Luke says [xxii.32]: ‘I have prayed for you that your faith not fail, and you, once being converted, confirm your brethren.’ That this ought to be understood of St. Peter and of all his successors, is what the voice of Tradition attests, and what we shall demonstrate ‘ex professio’ later, on treating of the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.

For the time being we shall consider as absolutely certain. Now even thought these words of the Gospel refer principally to the pontiff in as much as a public person who teaches ‘ex cathedra,’ one ought to affirm that they extend, by a certain necessity, also to the private person of the pontiff in regard to his preservation from heresy. To the pontiff, in effect, was given the ordinary function of confirming the rest of the faith. For this reason, Christ – Who for His dignity is heard in everything – asks for him the gift of an indefectible faith. But in favor of whom, may I ask, is this petition made? Of an abstract and metaphysical person, or, rather of a real and living person, upon whom it is incumbent to conform the rest? Or perhaps he will be called indefectible in the faith who cannot err in establishing what others must believe, but personally can become shipwrecked in the faith? And – observe – even though the Pontiff, falling into notorious heresy, lost, ‘ipso facto’ the pontificate, he would however logically fall into heresy before losing his charge; this being so, the defectibility in the faith would co-exist with the duty of confirming his brethren, which the promise of Christ would seem to exclude in an absolute way. More yet, if, considering the providence of God, it cannot happen that the Pontiff fall into occult or merely internal heresy, for this would cause concomitant evils very much worse. Now, the order established by God, requires absolutely that, as a private person, the Supreme Pontiff cannot be a heretic not even losing his faith in the internal forum alone. ‘For,’ write Saint Robert Bellarmine [De Rom. Pont., lib. iv, c. 6], ‘the pontiff not only must not and cannot preach heresy, but he must also always teach the truth, and without doubt he will do that, given that, Our Lord ordered him to confirm his brethren. But how, I ask, will an heretical Pontiff confirm his brothers in the faith and always preach the true faith? God can, without doubt, wrench from an heretical heart a confession of the truth,  as at another time He made the mule of Balaam speak. But this would rather be violent and not at all in conformance with the manner of acting of Divine Providence, which disposes all things with sweetness. Finally, if the hypothesis of a Pope who turned notoriously heretical were made a reality, the Church would be thrown into such and so many afflictions, that already ‘a priori’ one can perceive that God would not permit it.’”

As Billot and St. Robert Bellarmine write, which conforms to the Vatican Council’s teaching on the Roman Pontiff, a Pope cannot become heretical. This would contradict his role to ‘confirm his brethren’ and it would force the Church to become heretical with him, since he “is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on [his] judgment” [D1830].

That Giovanni Battista Montini and Karol Wojtyla were heretical in their beliefs before and after their “elevation” to the Papacy is not denied by any Catholic accepting the traditional Catholic Faith. This may be read in the numerous publications that are circulated among the various “traditional” Catholics and I need not here cover it. Msgr. Guerard des Lauriers had this comment on Religion et Travail, by Giovanni Battista Montini: “The thinking of Cardinal Montini is corrupted in its very foundation by an atheistic rationalism,” and concludes: “The teaching, which leads unavoidably to the Cult of Man and not revealed religion . . . Did Cardinal Montini have the faith when he was elected pope? Was the election valid? We confine ourselves to this, that the question remains open” (Cahiers de Cassiciacum 1, p. 107-108).

But, to accept that they were validly elected, and that they had taken possession of the Apostolic See, it can only follow that they had, as we read in The Catholic Encyclopedia, “ipso facto cease [d] to be pope” (Article, Infallibility, 1912 edition). This would coincide with my article, “The Two Horns of the Anti-Christ,” for then we would see the words addressed by the angel: “But I have this against thee, that thou has left thy first love” (Apoc. ii.4).

The author of the Cassiciacum Thesis would contradict this, under the guise that “it does not appeal to any preexisting theory.” I then have to question the novelty of such a theory where, historically speaking, we find no basis among the Fathers of the church or of past theologians. That there have been claimants to the Apostolic See that were immediately or later declared anti-popes or false popes is well documented in Church history. One need only read of Hippolytus, Anacletus, John XXIII, the Western Schism, among others. But there is no discussion about “materially” pope and “formally” pope. In the reality, there cannot be a separation of the two.

The author sets forth his argument to continue: “the occupant of the See is not deposed, does not absolutely say he should be deposed. It only says this hypothetically: he should be compelled (by the Catholic bishops and by the cardinals, or by any competent Authority in the Church) to condemn the errors; it is only after such an official demand is made on the part of those who have Authority in the church that deposition can occur: that is to say, when the Apostolic Throne refuses to confess the Faith and condemn the errors contradicting it (only then could the bishops and or cardinals officially state that he is deposed, the person responsible for deposing him being Christ). But should the occupant of the Throne comply with the demand: then his act of condemning the errors would ipso facto establish him as being formally the Pope.”

The above sounds sweet and plausible, but one must not forget it is not a matter of tolerating errors, but one of promoting errors. The author may say that we cannot judge the culpability of the author of these errors, but when the author himself recognizes that there is a break from Tradition, which can be read in Abbe Le Roux’s book, Peter, Lovest Thou Me? To say a man raping a maiden is not culpable of his actions is what the “Modernist’s” proclaim. Shall we say that the one sitting in the Vatican and raping the Church of her Faith and Morals is not culpable? Even if the law does not stop the crime, human conscience demands it as it is in no way tolerable. Pope Leo XIII had already written in Apostolicae curae that we need not look to “the inner intention, but by outward action” (D3318).

Nor must we wait that a Council define that a claimant to the Throne is not a Pope. History provides us with thorough examples of false and anti-popes being declared for what they were without any council.

Rather, it is close to impossible to assume how a “Pope” could be heretical, and this leads to the various argumentations to the support of such a stance, which da Silva has already researched, but which deny the Office of the Apostolic See: The infallible certitude that in Roman Pontiff abides the orthodox Catholic Faith, without having to pass judgment. Thus, we may pass over the various argumentations that are used to strengthen the already weak supposition.

This is conceded in the words of the author’s syllogism: “A reasoned reductio ad Absurdum: If Paul VI was formally Pope at the moment when this doctrine of Vatican II was promulgated, it would have been impossible, by virtue of the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium, for this new doctrine to be opposed to the infallible teaching of the Church.

“But this new doctrine was in fact ‘infallibly’ promulgated in direct contradiction to the previous infallible teaching.

“Therefore Paul VI could not have been formally the Pope.”

As to whether they were “validly” elected introduces the discussion. Those holding the Chair of Peter is still vacant [sede vacante] can conclude they were not “validly” elected, and that because they were not even “material” candidates for the office at the time of election. This is supported by Canon 188: Ob tacitam renuntiationem ab ipso iure admissam quaelibet officia vacant ipso facto et sine ulla declaratione, si clericus: no. 4. A fide catholica publice defecerit; and Can. 192: 1. Privatio officii incurritur sive ipso iure, sive ex facto legitimi Superioris.

Pope Pius XII, in his Constitution, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, writes: As soon as the consent (of the elected in the election) is given, the elected is immediately (illico) true and receives thereby the full and absolute Jurisdiction over (the whole world) and can so act (Cap VII, 101).

And in the Church law we read: “The Roman Pontiff, legitimately elected, upon acceptance of the election, immediately receives, by divine law, the full power of supreme jurisdiction [Can. 219: Romanus Pontifex, legitime electus, statim ab acceptata electione, obtinet, iure divino, plenam supremae iurisdictionis potestatem]. Let it be remarked that the words ‘illico’ and ‘statim.’

Thus, we need not go into a discussion of ‘depositus’ or deponendus;’ rather, it is the decision as to whether the present occupant of the Apostolic See is a Pope or a ‘pretender’ to the Apostolic See. If he is a ‘pretender,’ we no longer fall under the censures of the Church, because we are no longer judging the ‘judgment of the Apostolic See,’ but opposing a ‘pretender’ to the Apostolic See.

Perhaps that is what Msgr. Des Laurier was considering, when he wrote:

“W. (Wojtyla) is, and radically, a PSEUDO . . . And I am beginning to
think that the election of W. has been ‘pseudo,’ such that he had never been
pope, not even materially. As this does not change anything which (for the
moment) we have to do, I am waiting to again publicly place this question.”
[Letter to Alfons Eisele on 18 April, 1984, SAKA-INFORMATION, May 1988]

In conclusion, opting to omit the various inconsequential arguments, I would say that we also admit “the fact: The occupant of the Apostolic See is not formally the Pope.” But we deny “the comment” that follows: “. . . but he remains materially the Pope.”

Because, first: historically speaking, nowhere do we find a Father of the church or a past theologian speaking of a distinction between the ‘formal’ and ‘material’ pope. That there have been claimants to the Apostolic See that were immediately or later declared anti-popes or false popes is well documented in Church history. One need only read of Hippolytus, Anacletus, John XXIII, the Western Schism, among others. But there is no discussion about ‘materially’ pope and ‘formally’ pope. In reality, there cannot be a separation of the two.

Secondly, theologically speaking, he who loses the form of the pontificate, that is, universal jurisdiction, loses the pontificate itself.

Thirdly, philosophically speaking, if we are to understand it in terms of Scholastic philosophy, we can give the following example: gold can be formed into a ring, it is the ‘matter’ for a possible ring. But, so long as a goldsmith does not give it this form, it is no ring. If the gold is given the form, and later the form of being a ring is dissolved by being again melted, the gold is no longer a ring. So too, with the papacy, as in the case of Pope Celestine. But never is there a ‘suspended’ material ring. The acceptable understanding of matter and form is the papabile, which is also what St. Robert Bellarmine accepted. St. Augustine tells us: if it is unable to contain the matter for the envisioned form of the artist, it may not be given the name material (De natura boni, xxviii., 18).

Fourthly, the thesis cannot be proven by rational arguments nor by recourse to authorities upon the subject once one admits to the validity of the election. In this point, the Thesis distances itself from St. Robert Bellarmine and the Fathers of the Church, because they understood that all who did not confess the Catholic Faith were not members of the Church. St. Robert Bellarmine writes: “a publicly heretical Pope ceases, through itself, to be Pope and Head.”

The Cassiciacum Thesis demands a double standard, a duplicity in thought, which is impossible to the normal rational person, let alone to accept. I don’t wish to belittle anyone in their efforts to grasp the situation of the Church in this time of darkness, but the remaining arguments opposed to sedavacantism within the paper neglect the in depth understanding of the Church’s teaching on the issues of Canon Law and Theology or a misunderstanding of the position of those who hold the Chair of Peter vacant. They should be dealt with, and I hope someone competent in those fields will do so in the near future. In reality, all true Roman Catholics are sedevacantists by their actions: nonrecognition of the acts of the present claimant to the Apostolic See.

That the Cardinals and the Hierarchy did not immediately condemn and declare Paul VI a false pope or depose him, when he publicly subscribed to heresy and introduced the Novus Ordo Missae, and elect a new Pope is failure on their part. Yet we have the obligation to fill this Chair, because the Office remains in perpetuity: “Now what Christ the Lord, supreme shepherd and watchful guardian of the flock, established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual safety and everlasting good of the Church must, by the will of the same, endure without interruption in the Church which was founded on the rock and which will remain firm until the end of the world . . . “

[Vat. Council, 1870; D1824]. Therefore, also, the means of electing a Pope will always be available.

John Paul II falls into the same category as Paul VI. Here is one who “sit[s] in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God” [2 Thess. ii.4]. Our Lord said, speaking to the Jews: “I have come in the name of My Father, and you do not receive Me. If another come in his own name, him you will receive” [John v. 43]. This is exactly what is happening, for the Jews have welcomed John Paul II into their Synagogue.

“We can even assert that he will not be a king, nor a general of an army, but a clever apostate, fallen from the episcopal dignity. From being an apostle of the Gospel he will become the first preacher of the false messiah” (History of Antichrist, Rev. P. Huchede, p.24).

With the Apostasy [2 Thess. ii.3] the Conciliar Church has become “a synagogue of Satan” [Apoc. ii.9]. The Church has had to flee into the wilderness [Apoc. xii.6]. But as we read in the Apocalypse that: “To him who overcomes, I will give the hidden manna” [the Holy Eucharist], so too, “I will give him a white pebble” [Apoc. ii.17].- for we know that Peter is the Rock, and we know that the Pope, the successor of Peter, has worn white since Pope St. Pius V, it would seem here that this ‘white pebble’ refers to a bishop, for bishops are necessary to continue the ‘Mission’ of the Church: to teach, to sanctify, to rule. Did not Christ Himself say: “I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” [Matt. xxviii.20]; and, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [Matt. xvi.18]. Yet, “He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal to me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men.” [Matt. xvi.23]. But, remember, he gave to the Apostles (bishops are their successors) a share in the power granted to Peter [Matt. xviii.18].

I have covered other points in my lecture on the Parousia, and I would invite all to hear it so as to come to a better understanding of the Church in these days of ‘great tribulation’ [Matt. xxvi.21].

June 6 1993 Trinity Sunday
Grace be with you through Mary, our hope
Joseph B.D. Saraceno