A Condemnable Pope Condemned? Yes

Issue: Whether Jesus Christ – the Word Incarnate – has two wills and two acts of will, one for each will?

Dogmatic Answer: Yes.

Pope Honorius (d. AD 638) failed to have that answer. In words, at least, he professed “not two wills” and “not two operations”. He was reluctant to answer the question. There were factions and battles. The empire was being ripped asunder. The Church, torn here and there. Infidels threatened from the East and South to wipe out large swaths of Christianity. It seemed best to compromise, not to lead, not to defend the truth. Thus the woeful weakness of that Pope.

But the Church survived his inaction that effectively constituted objective treachery (or, worse, as it seems some thought: his complicit treachery). The Holy Church survived and in her teaching members came to her senses: Under the reigns of Honorius’s successors, she condemned the heresy that denies two wills and two acts of will; she also condemned Pope Honorius.

Ecumenical Council Constantinople III: “After having investigated the teachings by Sergius … and the letter written in reply by … Honorius, and after having discovered that these are entirely alien to the apostolic teachings and to the decisions of the holy councils and to all the eminent holy Fathers but instead follow the false teachings of the heretics, these we entirely reject and loathe as soul-destroying” (DS 550). “… We have seen fit to banish from the holy Church of God and to anathematize also Honorius, the former pope of the elder Rome because we have discovered in the letters written by him to Sergius that he followed in everything the opinion of that one and confirmed his impious teaching” (DS 552).

Pope Agatho (NPNF II):

“Woe is me, if I cover over with silence the truth which I am bidden to give…. What shall I say in the future examination by Christ himself, if I blush (God forbid!) to preach here the truth of his words? What satisfaction shall I be able to give for myself, what for the souls committed to me, when he demands a strict account of the office I have received?”

Again, “Who, then, my most clement and most pious lords and sons, (I speak trembling and prostrate in spirit) would not be stirred by that admirable promise, which is made to the faithful:  “Whoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father, who is in heaven”?  And which one even of the infidels shall not be terrified by that most severe threat, in which he protests that he will be full of wrath, and declares that “Whoever shall deny me before men, him also will I deny before my Father, who is in heaven”?  Whence also blessed Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, gives warning and says:  “But though we, or an angel from the heaven should preach to you any other Gospel from what we have evangelized to you, let him be anathema.”  Since, therefore, such an extremity of punishment overhangs the corruptors, or suppressors of truth by silence, would not any one flee from an attempt at curtailing the truth of the Lord’s faith?

Pope Leo II, in the year 682, a little under 50 years after the death of the notorious Honorius: “We in like manner anathematize … [list of heretics] and also Honorius, who did not purify this apostolic Church by the doctrine of the apostolic tradition, but rather attempted to subvert the immaculate faith by profane treason.” DS 563.

Profession of Faith in Rome: “The council Fathers have restrained under the bond of perpetual anathema the following authors of a truly novel doctrine: Sergius, … along with Honorius, who extended favor to their distorted assertions” (see Ignatius Press Denzinger, p. 681).



I RESPOND: STOP BEING AN ULTRA-MONTANEThe pope’s very action is itself formally infallible when and only when he is defining a matter of faith and morals. I say defining. Everyone who has any sense of fundamental theology knows that such events are rare. (Not as rare as some minimalists maintain, but rare nonetheless.)

Example to illustrate this point: John Paul II used very strong and final language in his declaration that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women. Let’s listen to the wording. He writes with the thunder of truth:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

This declaration comes millimeters away from being in itself formally infallible. Still, in itself it is not infallible. Rather, it gives well nigh infallible witness to the already infallible and hence irreversible teaching of the Church. The content taught is infallible, but this declaration is itself not infallible.

“Says who?” pokes the doubting Thomas. “Says Ratzinger himself as Prefect of the CDF!” That’s who.

“On what grounds?” On the grounds that the Canon Law on the books at this time stipulated that such definitions must explicitly state that they are irreformable. But JPII did not do that. Ergo.

Now for an aside: JPII was a pope that followed canon law. If he wanted not to follow it, or to make it stricter, he changed the law before acting out of turn.

On that note, we close with a few relevant though seemingly scattered (but once again relevant and linked) lines of thought.

Sure, the pope can “act out of turn” since no one can authoritatively judge him. There is no tribunal by which he can be prosecuted – except by a successor pope, of course. But Truth judges him. Truth and Genuine Love judge him. Genuine Love wills the good for the sinner. But sin is evil for the sinner. Ergo, genuine love wills the separation of sin from the sinner. Now, when mortal sin clings to a sinner (i.e. a sinner does not repent by a determinate free act of repentance, which includes firm purpose of amendment, which entails willing no longer to sin and willing to take the needed action) then such a sinner cannot receive the Eucharist happily. Only miserably. Truth shepherds the sinner towards repentance, towards a cleansing, before it invites him to dine in celebration. If a man commits adultery, God forbid, he must repent and seek God’s forgiveness, the Church’s, and his wife’s. Perhaps she forgives him. If so, perhaps in time he can come to her as in the days of his youth. But if he is still shacking up with his concubine, then his wife would retain her dignity only by refusing him. And the on-going adulterer (e.g. “divorced” and “remarried”) retains his sobriety only be abstaining from communion. Even if an Angel were to tell him to receive, or that it would be OK to receive, he should shun such advice as contrary to all faith and reason and good sense and decency. After all, if he still has faith (isn’t that still a requisite for receiving???) then he knows that to receive in a state of sin is sacrilege that merits greater punishment after death. But hey – no one thinks about punishment anymore. None about sacrilege.

God is become in the minds of many a Lawless Sugar Daddy.

9 thoughts on “A Condemnable Pope Condemned? Yes

  1. Not to the main point of your post, but what is the source for saying that infallibility is engaged *only* when defining faith and morals? It’s clear that “If defining faith and morals, then infallible teaching,” but what about the converse?

  2. John, it’s laid down in all sorts of places: Canon Law (see especially Can. 749-752), Lumen Gentium, and the CCC. Here’s Can. 749:

    “Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.”

    As I understand it, the solemn teaching authority of the Church is limited to matters of faith and morals–which, to be fair, comprises a very wide range of human experience.

    1. Yes. The one thing that must be added is that “minimalists” read “faith and morals” to mean “only items in the Depositum Fidei.” However, they are quite wrong.

      Faith and morals includes all the Deposit of Faith and also anything “ad fidem pertinens”, that is anything necessarily connected with the faith. Example. That the Church has no authority to ordain women. The Church knows this infallibly, but does not infallibly know whether this is in the Deposit or only pertains to the Deposit. She might gain clarity on this in time. Another example. Anglican Orders are all Null and Void. This is an infallible teaching. However, clearly it is not in the Deposit, for Jesus did not mention Anglican priests in the 18th century. But it ‘pertains’ to the Deposit. How? Because the Deposit contains the teaching that the priesthood is sacrificing. (My my, have we forgotten that these days? Well, at least not when the Roman Canon is uttered.) But for several centuries, Anglican orders were expressly performed as not intending the sacrificing priesthood. Hence, all such ordinations were invalid, because they denied part of the form. That ecclesiology endured long enough to ensure that the sacrament of orders does not exist among Anglicans today. Thus, it matters not whether an Anglican priest or bishop can trace his lineage to Apostles. All Anglican orders are null and void. There might also be philosophical truths definable by the Church but not necessarily in the deposit.

      1. Phew. I wouldn’t be a minimalist by that standard, but I do seem to be one by the standards of many modern Catholics. For instance, I am genuinely doubtful that Laudato Si can be considered part of the Magisterium, since it does not really bear on faith and morals except in indirect, prudential ways. For instance, it is clearly a moral principle derived from the Deposit of Faith that we should be good stewards of Creation, but Laudato Si oversteps the bounds of magisterial teaching authority (at least to my mind) with its exhortations to concrete actions that are contingent on a range of particular historical and political circumstances.

      2. Agreed. I began to treat LS a while back. It does contain parts that treat items in the deposit or directly associated with the deposit. I will pick it up again sometime, but am swamped with stuff to do.
        When the USCC got involved in minimum wage arguments, they cheapened episcopal currency. They are no economists. Tell us about the basic principles of economic justice, but do not derive conclusions too concretely.
        Incidentally, it is a violation of Vatican II for the bishops to get involved in what lay experts should be doing. (There’s a zinger for rhetorical purposes, no?)

  3. Maybe I’m just dense, but I think my question still stands. As far as I can tell, the references grant what I already grant. I’m asking about the converse. I.e., “A implies B” doesn’t mean that “B implies A”. In this context, A = “defining faith and morals” and B = “infallible teaching”. It’s clear that Church teaching is that “A implies B”, but where are you getting “B implies A”? Big difference.

    1. John: Let me Paste your remark in bold and then reply. John wrote, “Not to the main point of your post, but what is the source for saying that infallibility is engaged *only* when defining faith and morals? It’s clear that “If defining faith and morals, then infallible teaching,” but what about the converse?”

      The Church’s teaching on this is this: The essence of the charism of infallibility is to expound without error the deposit. The means are these: Extraordinary and ordinary. The essence gives us the material object: Faith and morals (and ad fidem pertinens). If the object is outside that field, no action concerning it can be infallible. E.g. opinions on minimum wage, climate change, or conditions of the penal system cannot possibly fall within the purview of the munus docendi.

      The means give us the signs or indications that the charism is being exercised. We know that it is being exercised: (a) when there is a solemn definition, and this (a1) in an ecumenical council or (a2) in an ex cathedra statement, (b) when there is a teaching by ‘all’ bishops over a long time. All being a term of moral unanimity. (Rebels and renegades don’t factor into this, just as they do not factor into the ‘sensus fidelium,’ which no sociologist but only true believers can determine.)

      From the essence of the act, we know that if the teaching is infallible, it must regard faith and morals.
      From the sign of the act, we know that if there is a solemn definition, there is an infallible action.

      But note: The items here are connected as essence or as properties. And when it comes to such assignments, there is in fact reverse entailment, when one heeds the logical materially. It may be a logical fallacy, but insight tells us the converse is nonetheless true.

      All men are rational. All rational things are men. Both true. No angels are rational; angels are intellectual.

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