Church and Papacy
An Important Message for all Catholics about the Pope
Journey of a confused soul
Robert, I need your help...
I sincerely need your guidance and your help. I feel like I am on my last chain. I am 23 years old, married, and a devout Catholic trying his hardest to just do what is right and pleasing to God. I honestly mean that. I am a sedevacantist... at least, I am right now, but I am so confused. Sometimes I wonder if God is the one guiding me, or if Satan is messing with my mind and leading me to confusion. It is very hard trying to live a good Catholic life and not knowing if the Spirit or Satan is the one guiding your steps.
I was born and raised Catholic by my parents. My father, in particular, was very rooted in the message of Fatima. He had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother; my uncle Jim was the same way. I went to Church every Sunday, and every night we prayed our family rosary. I grew up loving my faith, but not knowing too much about it theologically. In high school, the typical thing happened as does to many teens today-- I lapsed. I went a couple years living a sinful life, not really caring to learn or live my faith at all. At 18, a good friend of mine was stabbed to death and died. The funeral shook me tremendously-- I began wondering where his soul went. For the first time in years, I began questioning the existence of heaven and hell and the veracity of the Bible. Some Mormons began coming to my home every week and I was eager to hear them out because I wanted spirituality back in my life. About 6 months later, a friend of mine at school challenged me to read the Bible on my own and see if the Mormon claims were there. So I began reading Scripture and studying it. I fell in love with it, it moved my soul, as if God was speaking to me. My friend told me to go with him to his Protestant youth group. So I was there for 8 months. In that time, I grew in my love for Christ and felt in my heart that He did exist and that He truly was God in the flesh. After 8 months, the pastor asked me if I had said the sinner's prayer in order to be saved. Not knowing much of Catholicism, I told him, "I was baptized as an infant, so is that good?" He sat me in his office and we talked all night; he told me why Catholicism was of the devil and gave me all his reasons. I was very disturbed after; I thought, Could the faith I was raised with be so wrong? Has my family lived a lie? I stopped going to that church because of depression. I was 18 at this time.
That October (the year 2000) my dad asked me to go to a Medjugorie Conference with him. I was hesitant, but I went. I was still reading the Bible, but had no affiliation with any religious group. At that conference, I heard apologist Jesse Romero give an inspiring and vigorous talk on the biblical truths of the Virgin Mary. I had never heard Catholicism preached so loudly and effectively. After his talk, I went to his booth and bought a bunch of his talks. I told him my biggest problem with Catholicism was the issue of justification (the Protestant pastor had me believe Catholics believed they worked their way to heaven about from God's help). Jesse told me to get your book, Not By Faith Alone. The next week, I went to the Catholic Resource Center and bought it; and spent about $400 on Catholic material. I soaked it all up and fell in love with Catholicism. I spent the next three years going to Johnny Romero's (Jess' younger brother) bible studies and going to conferences with him. He was training me to hopefully one day be a speaker for Saint Josephs.
Johnny, Jesse, Tim, Scott Hahn, etc. etc. spend most of their efforts focusing solely on Protestantism. The problems of the Church never occured to me. I figured there was a little liberalism here and there, but that was it. I loved John Paul II and praised him as a living saint. Neo-Catholic apologists make him out to be such. As well, I saw Vatican II as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Everything was beautiful around me-- I felt we truly were in a springtime of evangelization. Then...
I began to notice problems at my local parish. It never occured to me how liberal it was. I was really bothered. I didn't question Catholicism, but I did begin asking the lay ministers and my priest what was going on. We began getting in heated debates outside of church. Jesse's answer was, "Hey, there's good and bad in the Church." I accepted that. Then one day I came upon your webpage and saw articles on Assisi. I hadn't realized just how bad things really were. I began studying the Vatican II documents and saw the ambiguity everywhere. I was shocked, because for the first time I didn't see JPII as the saintly pope I thought he was. I was shocked to think that the Vatican would lie to us about the 3rd Secret. I was shocked that the Novus Ordo was composed largely by Protestant pastors. I told Jesse and Tim and Johnny that I was a full-fledged traditionalist after about 8 months of serious study regarding it. I seriously saw the neo-Catholic apologists as blinded by what was really going on. One by one, all the apologists who were "training" me to get somewhere in apologetics stopped talking to me. One day on the Internet, I stumbled across Quo Primum and De Defectibus. For the first time, I began questioning the validity of the Novus Ordo. I was sitting at church wondering if there really was a sacrifice being offered. I prayed on it and after a few months stopped going to church altogether. I needed guidance and counseling; so I looked up local traditional parishes around my house. I found one 5 minutes away, called the priest, and he agreed to meet with me that night...
I found out he was sedevacantist. He showed Ex Cum Apostolatus Officio and what Bellarmine said regarding a pope who falls into heresy. He showed me how JPII had defintely fallen into heresy, which proved he never was a true pope. He showed me John XXIII and Paul VI's leanings before their elections into masonry and modernism, and said that they could not be true popes. He showed me how Canon 188 of the 1917 Code agreed with Bellarmine. For the first time in a while, lights began clicking in my head. Everything made sense to me. I remember emailing you the next day to ask you what you thought, and you wrote back saying, "The Dimond bros are heretics. Look the other way and never turn back." That was it; but it wasn't enough for me. I had never even heard of the Dimond brothers, so I went on their website and began reading their material. Then I found out Mario Derksen was now a sedevacantist because he argued the 1984 Code contained evil laws which proved JPII could not have been a valid pope. My then-fiancee and I started attending the sedevacantist chapel (CMRI), and ended up getting married there last November...
Now, I need your guidance. I have convinced my wife, my best friend, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and almost my father that sedevacantism is the sure way to go. What gets to me is knowing that scholars like you, whom I hold to be the best apologist in the world today, do not accept it. That may seem like a weird holdback, but it is very true. I am up at night sometimes wondering to myself if I am getting it all wrong and leading all these souls astray, and if I am, why and how? What is the piece of information I am missing? Why is it a man of your expertise and love for the faith has not seen sedevacantism as the obvious reason why things are the way they are. If the universal and ordinary magisterium is infallible, how do we explain all the blatant errors against in the Vatican II Church? How do we explain the pro multis change? I have read various arguments, but none satisfy me. How is it a pope who falls into heresy can't cease to be head based on Ex Cum Apostolatus and Bellarmine and Galatians 1:8? Robert, maybe I am missing something. If I am, please please please tell me. I need your guidance. You are the best at what you do, and obviously you have heard all the sedevacantist arguments there. What am I missing that makes sedevacantism fall flat? Please respond. This is urgent; my soul and others dear to me are on the line.
R. Sungenis: First, let me say that I understand and sympathize with your situation. All things considered, we live in the most tumultuous time in Church history. Never before have we seen such wholesale departures from the faith as we have seen in our day. What we are experiencing today is far beyond the “Arian” crisis of the fourth century when most of the bishops of the world were heretics. ("This sentence [or these sentences] have been removed by request of R. Sungenis"), but it is not surprising, because Scripture, LaSalette, Fatima, and an whole host of Fathers, medievals, saints and doctors predicted such times would eventually come upon the Church. Unless our next pope is strong and orthodox, then it is only going to get worse. As Apocalypse 11:1-14 states, someday the two witnesses (who represent the Church in her proclamation of the Gospel) will be killed and the whole world will gloat over their demise thinking they have finally vanquished the Gospel, but after three and a half days (a symbolic time period) they will rise and then the end will come.
The greatest comfort we have, however, is that God is in control, and, in fact, He is organizing all that we see today in order to expose men in their evil and prepare them for their condemnation at Judgment Day. Out of that situation, the devil still roams as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He comes after the woman with a flood in order to enter every crevice where she may be hiding, but God has given her wings of an eagle to carry her to a place of refuge in the wilderness (Apoc 12:11-17). In his stead, however, the dragon employs the two beasts. One is ferocious and the whole world follows after him (Apoc 13:1-10). The other, taking his power from the first, comes looking like a lamb (as if he were Christ), but in reality he is speaking for the dragon (Apoc 13:11-18). This is the part of the Apocalypse that we are going through today. You can learn all of this in our Apocalypse Study taking place on the Internet. There are many more details you can learn in that study.
One of the Beast’s greatest deceptions is to lead men to think that they are the true Church of God in place of the existing Church Christ established. Our Church is defined by the office of the papacy. Whether the person occupying the throne of Peter is good or bad, makes no difference. As long as the office of the papacy has its heir, then the Church survives. This does not mean, however, that someone could not appear to ascend to the throne of Peter and be an imposter. It has happened many times in our history. The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that it happened at least about forty times in Christian history.
The problem for us, however, is that if we suspect a certain pope is not legitimate, we, as laypeople, have no authority to declare him so. We can have our suspicions and act accordingly by protecting ourselves, our children and all in our influence, but we have no authority to declare a recognized pope as an antipope. That is something that can only be done by either another pope or perhaps the college of cardinals who, after suspecting the illegitimacy of the reigning pope, persuade him to step down (upon which they will elect another pope in his place), or call him to a trial and prove in a canonical court of law that he is indeed an illegitimate pope. If they determine so canonically, then if that antipope refuses to step down, they can thus ignore him and proceed to elect another pope in his place who will then use his authority run the Church and banish the illegitimate pope.
We have two precedents in our history to establish this procedure. First is the case of Pope Honorius who, after declaring a heresy concerning Christ, was subsequently condemned for that heresy by two subsequent popes, three councils, and with agreement of the emperor of that day. This case is important because it tells us that a pope can be in error in his teaching, but it also tells us that the error does not mean that he loses his office, ipso facto, since neither of the two subsequent popes or the three councils who condemned Honorius ever stated that Honorius lost his office as pope. The worst thing they said about him was that he polluted the office of the papacy.
The second case concerns the time in our Catholic history when there were three men all claiming to be the true pope. It got so bad, that one pope would use his army to run the other pope out of Rome, and vice-versa. This situation was eventually remedied when the college of cardinals held a trial and determined who of the three popes was the legitimate pope. Once restored to his office, that legitimate pope would then banish the imposters.
In order to determine that a pope is heretical and either is an imposter or deserves to lose his office, it is required, canonically, that he be a manifest heretic. That is, he must hold to a belief that is directly contrary to a canonically established dogma of the Church. For example, if the pope said in one of his speeches: “I believe that Mary was not Assumed into heaven,” this would be a manifest heresy, since it is directly contrary to an established, ex cathedra, dogma of the Church. His statement should immediately rouse the college of cardinals (if they are being faithful) to pursue whether or not his declaration was, indeed, what he truly believed, and whether he intended to persist in that error, without repentance. If they find that both are true, then they would be obligated immediately to bring the pope to trial in order to persuade him to step down, and if he refuses, proceed with electing another pope, which pope will then complete the dethronement and banish the previous pope.
Contrary to what some sedevacantists have stated, the pope does not immediately lose his office if he teaches an error. St. Robert Bellarmine, as good a man as he was, was not the magisterium of the Church, and therefore, he cannot be used as an authority on this issue, and neither can any other single individual. No magisterial statement of the Church has ever stated that a pope immediately, ipso facto, loses his office if he teaches an error. This is precisely why the Church, at Vatican I, stated quite clearly that the only time the pope is fully protected from error is if he speaks ex cathedra, and tells us prior to his teaching that he is, indeed, speaking ex cathedra (See 1983 Code of Canon Law 749.3). It is no wonder that all the clerics of the Church, including Robert Bellarmine, who were holding that a pope in error immediately loses his office were stated prior to Vatican I’s clarification on papal infallibility. If the pope can err in statements that are not under the ex cathedra umbrella, then it stands to reason that he would not lose his office when he made such statements.
In any case, none of us, whether we be a cardinal, bishop, priest, nun or common lay person, can act as a vigilante court and determine, by ourselves, that a pope is either a manifest heretic or is an illegitimate pope. We can have our suspicions and take the proper precautions, but we have no authority to act on those suspicions by declaring the pope a heretic or illegitimate. The pope would only lose his office if it can be proven in a canonical court that he holds to the error in question without equivocation and refuses to repent of the error if confronted by the canonical court (which was not true in Honorius’ case since he did equivocate in his teaching; and his condemnation came about posthumously).
Please note: Everything must be done legally and by the proper authorities. Anyone acting outside of the legal/canonical domain, or anyone who has no authority to make such declarations or enforce them, but acts as if he does, is himself acting illegitimately, and he will suffer the consequences.
Our only recourse when the pope says or does something wrong is to follow the prerogatives of canon law, which, under the pope’s own vigilance, allows us to register our complaints and criticisms, in a respectful manner, to him and to all the Christian faithful. We do this in hopes that God will use us to provide the pope with the gifted thinking of his flock that God has provided to us for his benefit.
We must show our respect both to the papal office and to the pope who presently reigns upon it. We must obey him in all things lawful, and we must gratefully acknowledge the good things he has said and done. We must never relinquish the fact that God has given the pope supreme power over all men in order to lead them to salvation through a unique, irreplaceable role as His vicar.
There is no other human being on earth given this kind of authority in matters of discipline, as well as infallible protection in dogmatic matters of faith and morals. Moreover, one must be deeply vigilant so as to not allow disagreement with the pope on pastoral and/or non-binding matters to mutate into rebellion. We must always maintain proper filial bonds with him. There is a balance that must be maintained, especially if one is called to address the interior battles of the Church (as CAI is called to do). If you read our mission statement (Sensus Catholicus link), you will see these kinds of concerns clearly echoed.
In brief, CAI stridently upholds and defends the papacy. We have stated this many, many times and will continue to state it. Anyone who perceives CAI's reservations, objections and criticisms as supportive of a rebellion against the pope is gravely mistaken. We believe it is clear both historically and in canon law that there is an entirely legitimate place for honest objection and disagreement to be expressed. When properly understood, such expressions are at the service of the Pope and the Church, they are not opposed to either.
In these post Vatican II days of "dialogue," we will take the Pope at his word. The Church is in dialogue with everyone, so we will be in “dialogue” too. Whether or not we agree with this new pastoral approach of extensive dialogue, it is the publicly expressed approach of the Holy Father and the Vatican. There is nothing to be gained by denying it or simply wishing it away. It seems to us that many with generally conservative sensibilities would have all of the conservative Catholics remain effectively mute while the liberals run wild, hoping that things will eventually improve if we simply remain conservative. To these people, it would seem that our only legitimate responses are to pray, suffer and wait. We at CAI disagree.
We believe that this meek silence and assiduous submission to everything and anything that seems to have Vatican approval is misguided in light of the prerogatives we have in the current pastoral "dialogue." We will indeed pray and suffer, but in addition to these, we will also lift our voices up in the hope that our shepherds, present and future, will hear and respond. Certainly, not everyone is called to publicly express their objections. But just as certainly, some, indeed, are called.
We understand that this new type of “dialogue” with our pope and bishops can be unsettling and possibly confusing to some. And so, we continuously try to clarify the crucial distinctions between legitimate disagreement and rebellion.
In closing, we want to reiterate a most important point: we must NEVER place ourselves in the position of judge, jury and executioner in opposition to the pope. All things must be done through legitimate, legal means, and in a spirit of love. Otherwise, God will judge us, and most severely. In families, sometimes voices can be raised and strong words of concern and objection can be spoken. This happens when people have deep feelings about issues and are looking to protect one another. God's will often works through such means. Yet, such expression can never be allowed to degenerate into a means or reason to destroy the family itself. And neither should honest expression of such objections be automatically construed by others as illegitimate, disloyal or emanating from less than praiseworthy motives.
It is CAI's prayer that God will deliver us from these difficult, confusing times, soon. But until the confusion dissipates, we will endeavor to faithfully serve the Church and the Pope by expressing our views in accordance with the gifts and calling graciously given us, and approved by the pope in his own canon law. We solicit your prayers to that end.
I believe the issue of Honorius could prove to be the key so to speak to obliterating the sedevacantist claim (kind of odd that Honorius, of all people, would be the key to it all). Since Honorius was condemned as a heretic and yet to this day we know he was a valid Pope, this would ruin the sedevacantist argument that a pope who falls into heresy loses his authority. Admittedly, there are several different opinions regarding the issue of Honorius, and just exactly what he was condemned for, by various different apologists. That makes this a little more complicated, but I do admit that I pretty much agree with you on the case of Honorius. Could you, by any chance, possibly elaborate on your position regarding Honorius? If it can be shown that he was in fact condemned justly for heresy (on the issue of the one will of Christ), then that defintely would prove the sedevacantist claim to be erroneous.
R. Sungenis: The terminology was a little different back then, so it doesn't so much hinge on the word "heresy" or "heretic" as much as it does the fact that both Agatho and Leo II both said that Honorius erred both in the statement he made to Sergius in his letter and the fact that he was negligent in handling the affair correctly. It would be impossible to deny that Honorius did not err when he wrote to Sergius, since his heretical words are recorded right in Denzinger, para. 251.
In addition, Agatho writes:
“The heretics have followed some passing expressions imprudently set down by one Pope [Honorius], who made no appeal to papal authority, nor to tradition from St. Peter. Against this I put the repeated, the continuous protest of Pope after Pope, authoritative, grave, deliberate. Their voice was intended to be, and was, the voice of the infallible Roman Church.” (Mansi, xi, 285).
I think this statement says everything I have said above, in a nutshell. Notice first that Agatho admits (by his reference to “imprudently set down by one Pope”) that Honorius put to writing the erroneous statement that Christ had “one will.” As I noted earlier, this erroneous statement was included in a letter that Pope honourius wrote to Sergius, and it is recorded in Denzinger 251.
To explain this erroneous statement, Pope Agatho does not give unbridled immunity from error to Pope Honorius himself, rather, Agatho says Honorius “made no appeal to papal authority.” In other words, Agatho explains for us that Honorius separated his “person” from the papal “office” when he wrote the letter to Sergius. He wrote a private letter to Sergius, and according to Agatho, this does not qualify as “papal authority,” since Honorius did not claim such authority when writing it. Now, this explanation of Honorius comes directly from one of our popes, speaking authoritatively in his papal office, as to how we should understand the issue.
At the request of the Emperor, Pope Agatho called a council for this matter. This was the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which took place on Novermber 7, 680. It was here that Agatho’s long letter (an excerpt quoted above) was read to the Council. Agatho sent two papal legates to the council, representing himself. At the twelfth session, Honorius’ written correspondence with Sergius is brought up for the first time. The council then drafts a response to these erroneous letters, stating:
“…those whose impious dogmas we execrate, we judge that their names shall also be cast out of the holy Church of God, that is, Sergius, who was prelate of this God-protected royal city, and was the first to write about this impious dogma, Cyrus of Alexandria, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, who presided on the throne of this God-protected city, and who held the same views as the others, and also Theodore, who was Bishop of Pharan; all which persons were mentioned by Agatho, the most holy and blessed Pope of elder Rome, in his letter to the most pious and divinely strengthened and great Emperor, and were cast out by him, as holding view contrary to our orthodox faith; and these we define to be subject to anathema. And in addition to these we decide that Honorius also, who was Pope of elder Rome, be with them cast out of the holy Church of God, and be anathematized with them, because we have found by his letter to Sergius that he followed his opinion in all things and confirmed his wicked dogmas.”
Obviously, this is only fair. To have condemned Sergius and to have spared Honorius would have been grossly unfair. If Sergius began the heresy, Honorius continued it by his written approval.
As such, Agatho’s papal legates raise no objections to the Roman Council. In fact, as its presidents, the legates must have proposed the condemnation of Honorius to the council, and the legates must have known that Agatho would not have disapproved, since they do only the pope’s bidding. As such, the council ordered Honorius’ letters to Sergius to be burned, since they were “agreeing in one impiety and hurtful to the soul.”
As it stands, the council agreed with all that Agatho wrote, and Agatho agreed with the council through his papal legates. This is no discord or discrepancy between pope and council regarding Honorius.
In the final decree of the council on Sept. 16, 681, it begins by accepting the five general councils and the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople, and it condemns the “one will” heretics, including Honorius, saying: “But the devil raised up Theodore…Sergius, Phrrhus, Paul and Peter…and also Honorius, who was Pope of Elder Rome…to teach one will and operation after the fashion of the impious Apollinarians, Servians and Themistians.” It then adds:
“And this holy an ecumenical Synod, faithfully and with uplifted hands greeting the letter of the most holy and blessed Pope of Elder Rome, Agatho, to our most faithful Emperor Constantine, which casts out by name those who have preached and taught, as we have said, one will or one operation in the dispensation of the Incarnation of Christ, our true God…” (Mansi xi, 632).
The decree was signed by the whole Council, first by the two papal legates, and last by the Emperor. At the moment of his signing, anathema was again proclaimed against all the heretics, including Honorius.
After this, the council addresses the Emperor, citing Pope Agatho:
“Therefore, in accordance with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and in agreement with one another, and assenting to the letter of our most blessed Father and most high Pope Agatho, addressed to your Majesty, and also to that of his holy synod of 125 bishops…And lest anyone should reprehend the divine zeal of the all-holy Pope or the present angelic assemblage, we have followed his teaching and he the Apostolic and Patristic tradition…with us fought the Prince of the Apostles (Greek: ho koruphaiotatos protapostalos) for to assist us we had his imitator and the successor to his chair, who exhibited to us the mystery of theology in his letter.”
And thus, when signed by Agatho’s papal legates, the victory over Honorius and the eastern bishops is attributed to Pope Agatho.
The council then addresses a letter to Pope Agatho:
“The greatest diseases demand the greatest remedies, as you know, most blessed one. Wherefore, Christ, our true God, has revealed you Holiness as a wise physician, mightily driving away the disease of heresy by the medicine of orthodoxy, and bestowing health on the members of the Church. We therefore leave to you what is to be done, since you occupy the first see of the universal Church and stand on the firm rock of faith, after we have dwelt with pleasure upon the writings of the true confession from you paternal blessedness to the most pious King, which also we recognize as pronounced by the chiefest head of the Apostles, and by which we have put to flight the dangerous opinion of the heresy which lately arose…according to the previous condemnation pronounced on them in your holy letters – we mean Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Paul, Pyrrhus and Peter, and besides these…Macarius…Stephen…and Polychronius.”
Notice that Honorius is numbered among those whom the pope had already condemned, though in the original condemnation he had been rightly set down as an addition made by the Council.
The Emperor then wrote an edict putting the decrees of the council into effect. Here the Emperor makes an official declaration of the inerrancy of Rome:
“These are the teachings of the voices of the Gospels and Apostles, these the doctrines of the holy synods, and of the elect and patristic tongues; these have been preserved untainted by Peter, the rock of the faith, the head of the Apostles; in this faith we live and reign…”
Thus, even the Emperor recognizes the vital role that Agatho played in condemning Honorius.
This is confirmed in a letter that the Emperor himself wrote to Pope Leo, since Agatho had died soon after the end of the council in January 682. The Emperor recounts how he had invited the Pope to send representatives to a council. One paragraph of the Emperor’s letter states:
“The letter of Pope Agatho…we ordered it to be read in the hearing of all, and we beheld in it as in a mirror the image of sound and unsullied faith. We compared it with the voices of the Gospels and of the Apostles, and set beside it the decisions and definitions of the holy ecumenical synods, and compared the quotations it contained with the precepts of the Fathers, and finding nothing our of harmony, we perceived in it the word of the true confession of Peter unaltered…We all received it willingly and sincerely, and embraced it, as though it were Peter himself. Marcarius alone, who was prelate of Antioch, with those whom he dragged after him, divided from us, and drew back from the yoke of Christ, and leapt out of the sacerdotal circle; for he refused altogether to agree to the all-holy writings of Agatho, as though he were even raging against the corypheus Peter himself…Glory be to God, who does wondrous thing, who has kept safe the faith among you unharmed. For how should He not do so in that rock on which He founded His church, and prophesied that the gates of hell, all the ambushes of heretics, should not prevail against it…” (Mansi, xi, 713).
The Emperor then addressed a letter to the Roman Council who condemned Honorius:
“You yourselves were present with your ecumenical chief pastor (Greek: to oikoumeniko archipemeno), speaking with him in spirit and in writing. For we received, besides the letter from his blessedness [Agatho], also one from your sanctity…We did not neglect to compare them with care. And, therefore, in harmony of mind and tongue we believed with the one and confessed with the other, and we admired the writing of Agatho as the voice of divine Peter, for nobody disagreed, save one.” (Mansi, xi, 721).
As we can see, there is complete collaboration between the pope, the emperor and the council. All are in agreement about Agatho’s infallible decree, and all are in agreement that Honorius’ name is added to those condemned for the heresy. END
Also, I know you said that Bellarmine is not the Magisterium, and that the Church has never formally taught that a pope who falls into heresy loses his pontificate. I was wondering if you could comment on the document Ex Cum Apostolatus Officio, the Apostolic Consitution of Pope Paul IV, issued in 1559 (from what I understand, this was issued because Paul IV feared that a Protestant might be elected to the papacy after he died). The document states that if a pope is shown to have been a heretic prior to his election, his election would be null and void even if his election had the full consent of all the cardinals. Is this document an infallible one? Is it binding? Is it still in force today? Please clarify for me because this document is defintely one that still somewhat holds me in sedevacantism.
R. Sungenis: Sure, it's still in force. No pope has rescinded it. But we're back to square one. In order for Cardinal Wojtyla to be declared a heretic prior to his ascension to the throne, it would have to be determined by a canonical court prior to his ascension. It certainly cannot be done by lay people acting like Monday morning quaterbacks.
Related to the above document, could you also please comment on the 1917 Code, canon 188? Does the word 'cleric' apply to a pope? I know you accept the authority of the 1984 Code, but the reason this one is a stumbling block for me is because this was the Code in force when Roncalli and Montini were elected, so it would apply to them in their day.
R. Sungenis: Yes, it was applicable, but Roncalli and Montini were never declared formal heretics by the Church before they accepted the throne.
And two quick questions (I am very sorry for all the questions, but I am still learning): I was married at a sedevacantist chapel last November; is that valid? And also, if sedevacantism is false, does this mean the priests who are sedevacantist are false also?
R. Sungenis: From everything I know, your marriage is not valid. Write to the bishop of your diocese, or directly to Rome, if you need verification.
Thank you so much for all you've helped me with. I pray you find time to respond to this email, and I am sincerely praying on this whole ordeal. Please continue to pray for me. In my opinion, you are the best in the business at what you do and are a God-send to me and so many others. I pray God continues to bless you, and I look forward to CASB vol.2 and Galileo Was Wrong (by the way, your articles and cassettes on geocentrism are simply amazing)!
R. Sungenis: Thank you very much for the commendation. I'll keep you anonymous, as you requested. God be with you, and I hope and pray everything will be straightened out for you.
Robert Sungenis and the Staff of CAI