Questions about Pope Honorius – The History

In the chaos of the last sixty years, it has become common for Catholics to look for historical precedents for our situation. But in desperation to find some sort of evidence that the Church has experienced such things before, it is tempting for some to allow history to become a sort of “source of theology.”

These interpretations of history are then used to settle theological questions – even if this means rejecting the traditional theology of the Church, or dismissing it as exaggerations or “dry neo-scholasticism.” This is tempting even for those who would reject such antiquarianism in the liturgy as a revolutionary inversion.

In reality, many who reject this liturgical antiquarianism allow interpretations of history to ride roughshod over the received theology of the Church.

Theology and History

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology and History I – How do we understand the relationship between the liturgy and theology?
Theology and History II – Why is it crucial to understand this relationship?

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses the historical narrative in de Mattei’s Love for the Papacy.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters. (Down for editing)
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith (Down for editing)
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church (Down for editing)

Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser I
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser II
Part IVa and IVb will consider the implications of a so-called “heretical pope.”
Part V will assess this “historical theology” in light of Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

The title photo is of the apse at the church of St Agnes in Rome. Pope Honorius was involved in its building: he is on the left, holding the church in his hands. Source

Having considered the true order of the sources of theology – with history as the lowest of mere adjuncts – let’s look at an example of this inverted historicism.

To this end, we will be looking at Professor Roberto de Mattei’s article on the seventh-century pope Honorius, the supposedly “heretical pope.”

In this part we will look at the history that he presents, and in later parts we will move to theology which he claims to derive from it. Finally, we shall consider this approach in light of Pope St Pius X’s condemnation of modernism.

I am responding to de Mattei’s own call for Catholics to unite around tradition. Such a union must be based on truth – otherwise what he calls a “new more compact front for orthodoxy” will be built on sand. I offer this analysis in the hope that we may all overcome, in de Mattei’s own words, “the many misunderstandings that often divide the forces of good people.”[0]

Before properly analysing de Mattei’s articles and methods, which have become common in traditionalist discourse, we need to look at some preliminary material.

Preliminaries: The article, facts, assertions, and authorities

The case of Pope Honorius

Honorius had a good reputation in life. He reigned from “the great qualities of an administrator”: he was instrumental in spreading the faith amongst the English people and died leaving “the impression of an energetic pontificate, preoccupied with the rights of the Church and the special prerogatives of the Roman See.”[1] But today, it appears, he is mainly used by traditionalists as a polemical tool.

As a typical example of the Catholic account of events, this is Ludwig Ott’s compressed account, given in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

There is no doubt but that Pope Honorius I (625-638) was personally orthodox. However, through his prohibition against speaking of two modes of operation [“two wills” in Christ] he unwittingly favoured the Monothelite error [“one will in Christ”]. The Sixth General Council wrongly condemned him as a heretic. Pope Leo II (682-683) confirmed his anathematisation but not for the reason given by the Council. He did not reproach him with heresy, but with negligence in the suppression of the error.[5]

This very standard account is disputed by de Mattei in various ways.

His article on Honorius is representative of the historical-theological method he and others use elsewhere. It was published in his newspaper, and syndicated on various traditionalist websites, in many languages.[2] It was later published as a chapter of his 2019 book Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church.[3] We shall refer to the version of the article in this book.

The book is an anthology of similar articles, clearly responding to the Francis pontificate and Amoris Laetitia. De Mattei’s stated intention is to address “situations that seem unprecedented and present no obvious way out”: he does this by presenting accounts of “bad popes” from history.[4] We can call this a relativisation of the present crisis: it is an attempt to establish a precedents for popes promulgating error and harmful laws.

This is an unsound project. First, it assumes what it sets out to prove, namely that our current crisis has precedents in history, and that cases like Honorius are relevant or analogous. It assumes this by ignoring key theological principles, and by drawing false parallels.

Secondly, the “bad popes” in de Mattei’s book have been dealt with at length by authoritative pre-conciliar theologians and historians. These narratives read like the non-Catholic objections presented, clarified, and answered in these works. Like those objections, these narratives neglect important distinctions, and present doubtful things as certain. There is limited awareness of their similarities to such objections – or of the ways in which such objections have been resolved.

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Assertions and their implications

The article is subtitled “The Controversial Case of a Heretical Pope,” thus asserting that Honorius was a heretic. In this, de Mattei sets himself against two Doctors of the Church, several saints, and many Catholic theologians and historians.

His assertions and our outline are as follows. I will provide our counter-authorities in the relevant places.

Assertions addressed in Part I:

  • That Honorius wrote letters to the Patriarch Sergius which contained error[6] – as if this is not denied, or doubted by very many Catholic authorities;
  • That Honorius’s letters were “anathematized with the note of heresy”[7] – as if this was not also widely denied or doubted; and finally
  • That Honorius was himself anathematized as a heretic[8] – as if this is not also widely denied or doubted.

Assertions to be addressed in subsequent parts:

These points allow de Mattei to claim the following;

  • That in “the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium there may be errors and even, in exceptional cases, heretical formulations” which can be later condemned.[10] This idea of “magisterial heresy” is asserted without a reference, and when applied to the papal ordinary magisterium, misleading and denied by Catholic authorities (dealt with here and here);
  • That Pope Honorius was truly a heretic[11] – as if this was not denied by almost all Catholic authorities;
    • Thus also implying that a manifest heretic can be pope, also denied by very diverse sources.

Affirming that Honorius taught error and was condemned as a heretic implicitly requires us to reject many Catholic authorities and doctrines about the Church and the papacy. This we cannot accept. Vatican I and St Pius X taught that, no matter how far disciplines such as history might progress, we must always hold to the “same dogmas”, in the “same sense” and according to the “same acceptation” in which they were received.[12] We wish to be traditionalists not just regarding liturgical rites, but in an integral sense. This includes holding fast to the theology which the Church has received.

De Mattei’s authorities

There is a wealth of material on the matter of Honorius. I shall give special focus to four of de Mattei’s six modern sources, to show how his own authorities disagree with him.

Fr Emile Amann (1880-1948) is the author of the article ‘Honorius’ in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique. Although de Mattei uses this article as his main source, he omits some striking points that contradict his narrative and commentary.

Dom John Chapman (1865-1933), an English Benedictine, wrote a book and Catholic Encyclopaedia article about Honorius. He is about the most hostile to Honorius himself. Nonetheless, his judgment is considerably more nuanced than de Mattei presents it to be.

Fr Hartmann Grisar SJ (1845-1932) is correctly called by de Mattei an “eminent Jesuit historian.” De Mattei cites this great author merely to establish an incidental, mundane point of the narrative, which hardly calls for an authority at all. However, the text behind even this single citation hides a level of nuance that significantly undermines his narrative.

Bishop Karl Josef von Hefele (1809-1893) wrote the five-volume work “The History of the Councils.” He modified certain claims in the second edition, after his acceptance of papal infallibility. De Mattei uses this comprehensive – if sometimes controversial – historian to support an incidental point – but Hefele too has much to say against de Mattei’s more central ideas.

De Mattei also cites Arthur Loth and Georg Kreuzer as including copies of Honorius and Sergius’s letters. These are not significant references in his article, and the four above – along with our own authorities – are sufficient for our purpose.[13]

Historical Problems: Is there doctrinal error?

  • Was he condemned for heresy?
  • Did Honorius write letters containing errors or heresies to Sergius?

Despite the innuendo of the article’s subtitle, de Mattei holds from from specfically stating that Honorius’s letters contained errors or heresies. But the subtitle is clear, it is implied throughout, and he quotes Chapman as saying that Honorius was wrong and a heretic.

In addressing this question, I am not trying to show that these letters were orthodox on intrinsic grounds. Those interested in the Christological question should consult the works cited. My intention, rather, is to show the weight and number of Catholic authorities – including those cited by de Mattei – that hold that them to have been orthodox and containing no error, let alone heresy. If the historical narrative is unreliable, then the principles derived from it are also unreliable.

Grisar states explicitly:

“There are no dogmatic errors in either of Honorius’s letters. As for the expression: ‘We confess a will,’ etc. the context clearly shows that it has no heretical sense […] Nor is there any basis for saying that Honorius ‘thought rightly, but expressed himself heretically.’”[14] [All bold emphases in quotes are our own unless otherwise noted]

Grisar also cites Schneemann, claiming that Honorius based his letter on another letter by St Augustine – and Ward also cites Schneemann’s patristic examples of Honorius’s phrase “one will” used in an orthodox sense.1

He also states that he is following St Robert Bellarmine, Turrecremata and others. Bellarmine writes:

“[…] No error is contained in these epistles of Honorius […] Moreover it can be shown that Honorius acted with great prudence when he forbade the names of one or two operations. For then it was the beginning of this heresy, and nothing on these terms was yet defined by the Church.”[15]

Grisar affirms that, although the letters were used to favour heresy, “the doctrine of Honorius is so little monothelite, that indeed in it we find all the elements to refute monothelitism.”[16]

Amann is equally clear:

“There was no doctrinal error on the part of the pope.”[17]

These authorities are representative of many more. If they are correct, then the other anti-Honorius conclusions are vitiated at the root. Honorius’s case cannot be used to prove, for example, that popes have been heretics, or that the papal magisterium can teach error, if his letters do not actually contain error.

Hefele is more cautious than Grisar and Amann, and there is a tension between different points that he makes such that he could be cited for both sides. However, he states:

“Although orthodox in his thought, [Honorius] did not sufficiently see through the Monothelite tendency of Sergius, and expressed himself in such a way as to be misunderstood, so that his letters, especially the first, seemed to confirm Monothelitism, and thereby practically helped onward the heresy.”[18]

Even this, to be sure, is what Grisar says is a baseless concession – but it also shows the doubt around the presence of error in the letters.

The below paragraph was revised in October 2022.

As stated, Chapman is the most hostile critic, and yet his treatment is more nuanced than it is presented by some. At one point he says that some of Honorius’s passages are “difficult to account for,”[19] and that the main problem is that “Honorius entirely agrees with the caution which Sergius recommends,” and as a result his answer to Sergius:

“… did not decide the question, did not authoritatively declare the faith of the Roman Church, did not claim to speak with the voice of Peter, it condemned nothing, it defined nothing.”[20] (Emphasis added)

On a similar note, the theologian Van Noort remarks: “to urge silence on a matter is just the reverse of a peremptory definition! The letters of Honorius do not contain any doctrinal error.”[21]

Chapman continues:

“The words of Honorius are inconclusively though not necessarily, heretical. No doubt Honorius did not really intend to deny that there is in Christ a human will, the higher faculty; but he used words which could be interpreted in the sense of that heresy.”[22]

This is all a far cry from asserting that the letters contained heresy or error.

What do other authorities say on the matter?

Doctors of the Church and other authorities

I have already given the conclusions of St Robert Bellarmine, the first of our doctors.

St Alphonsus Liguori – another Doctor – writes that those that judge that Honorius fell into heresy “are certainly deceived.”[23] St Alphonsus grants that Honorius himself erred “when he imposed silence [because this] is only favouring error.”[24] He continues, however:

It is a fact beyond contradiction, that Honorius never fell into the Monothelite heresy, notwithstanding what heretical writers assert.”[25]

The great Cardinal Louis Billot writes:

“It is clear that the letters from Honorius to Sergius of Constantinople contain nothing contrary to orthodoxy.”[26]

De Mattei does refer in passing to those who deny that the letters contained error, but only to try establish a false dilemma to force his readers into accepting his theories.

“[Regarding] theologians like St. Robert Bellarmine who, in order to save the memory of Honorius, denied the presence of explicit errors in his letters, Amann underlines that they raised a greater problem than the one they claimed to resolve.”[27]

Let us note first that Amann himself, as mentioned above, denied the presence of what de Mattei calls “explicit errors” in these letters.[28] But what are we to make of this passage and this false dilemma?

“Theologians like St Robert Bellarmine”

In one sense, there are not many “theologians like St Robert Bellarmine.” Bellarmine is a Doctor of the Church – a small group of illustrious saints, notable for their teaching. Fenton writes of such Doctors:

“Not only does the Church declare that there is no serious error in any of [the given Doctor’s] work, but [also] commends that portion of his writings on which he may be said to have specialized.”[29]

It would be irrelevant to reply, as some do, that Doctors are not infallible. The point is, we are entitled to receive his teaching and to believe him to be an authority, and an authority of greater weight than Amann or de Mattei himself. If we are not allowed to rely on the teaching of two Doctors of the Church on this matter, it is not clear on what grounds we should choose other authorities.

However, even Bellarmine does not rely on his own authority: he himself follows these popes and saints: “John IV, [St] Martin I, [St] Agatho and [St] Nicholas I [“the Great”], the Supreme Pontiffs; [and] the Roman Council gathered under Pope [St] Martin,” who held that these letters were free from error, and, as Bellarmine says, understood them better than those condemning them.[30] He adds that “almost all Latin historians [including Bede] have it that Honorius was a Catholic and holy Pope.” [31]

Amann himself also writes that Honorius’s successor John IV, and St Maximus the Confessor, and the abbot, “John, the pope’s very holy collaborator” all defended Honorius’s letters against charge of doctrinal error.[32]

In this sense, there are many “theologians like St Robert Bellarmine.” Those who deny the presence of doctrinal error in the letters are of greater number and weight than de Mattei suggests.

As a further point, Bellarmine is a very significant authority on ecclesiology, the theology of the Church. The suggestion that he was trying “to save the memory of Honorius” conveys no impression of the depth and seriousness of his ecclesiology, which was essentially canonized at Vatican I and elsewhere.[33] What Bellarmine is actually doing is considering how difficult cases and anti-Catholic slanders fit into this ecclesiology – and refusing to take such slanders at face value. De Mattei’s comment suggests that Bellarmine is writing out of sentimentality, human respect or partisanship. This, again, we cannot accept.

I could cite other authorities which are even more favourable to Honorius. Yet even de Mattei’s own sources do not support the idea of error – let alone heresy – in these documents – thus rendering his conclusions unsound. These letters cannot relativise the problems of conciliar and post-conciliar documents like Dignitatis Humanae or Amoris Laetitia.

What, then, are we to make of this famous condemnation?

Essay continues below.

Were Honorius’s letters “anathematized with the note of heresy”? Was he also anathematized as a heretic?

De Mattei’s quote continues:

“Amann underlines that [Bellarmine et al] raised a greater problem than the one they claimed to resolve, i.e. the infallibility of the acts of a council presided over by a pope. If, in fact, Honorius did not fall into error, the popes and the council that condemned him were wrong. […]

“In order to save infallibility it is better to admit the historical possibility of a heretic pope, than to shatter the dogmatic definitions and the anathemas of a council ratified by a Roman Pontiff.”[34]

Along with Ott, most Catholic authorities deny that Honorius and his letters were anathematized with the note of heresy. This false dilemma – “either Pope Honorius was a condemned heretic, or a true ecumenical council erred” – is based on an inadequate grasp of both the historical facts and the theological distinctions. The overview, even from Ott, is sufficient to see how this is so – and it is at least permissible for us to hold to this traditional and majority view.

But this is not all.

Can ecumenical councils err?

The answer to whether ecumenical councils can err or not depends on what we mean by a “council” and what we mean by “erring”.

De Mattei gives little indication that Catholic theology holds that it is entirely possible for conciliar decrees to contain errors – unless and until they are approved by the Roman Pontiff. The Roman Pontiff is not obliged to approve all of a councils decrees in their totality, but is rather free to reject or modify certain parts, as is clear below. It is only at that point that the Church has the guarantee that the given council and decrees are free from dangerous error.

This approval may occur with the Pope present, or by him ratifying the decrees of another council, even if it was originally a regional synod.[35] It is itself a necessary part of what makes a council ecumenical and infallible.[36] Fenton writes:

“If this [papal approval] is lacking [then] the act of the council cannot be accepted as the solemn teaching and judgment of the Catholic Church […] Where this approval is withheld, as it was from the twenty-eighth canon of the council of Chalcedon, the rejected teaching has no doctrinal value.”[37]

Once grasped, one sees that the key question is not whether a council of bishops at Constantinople condemned Honorius for heresy. On the contrary, the question is whether St Leo II, the pope who approved the council, approved or modified such a condemnation, if it occurred.

Grisar – like many authorities – holds that St Leo II did not confirm the “council’s” condemnation of Honorius simply as he found it.[38] The final, approved condemnation – the one that matters for theology – was harsher in some ways, but clarified it such that Honorius was condemned for negligence and favouring heresy, but not for affirming it as a heretic himself.[39] De Mattei cites Grisar to prove a mundane point about the acceptance of this council in the west – but nothing de Mattei says suggests this crucial disagreement on the topic for which he cites him.

De Mattei cites Hefele to say that “the condemnation of Honorius was confirmed by Leo II’s successors.”[40] As with other points, there is a tension in Hefele’s treatment of the question of the condemnation itself. However, he writes:

“With greater precision than the Synod, however, Pope Leo II pointed out the fault of Honorius [when confirming the decrees]. It is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematised Honorius, because he did not bring the apostolic doctrine to light, i.e., did not speak out as a teacher, and so, by the violation of his sacred duties, allowed the falsification of the faith.”[41]

Hefele later writes that the only sense in which Honorius could be said to have “allowed the purity of apostolic tradition to be polluted” is that “ (a) from negligence, since he did not come forward against [heresy], and (b) since he used an expression which the heresy turned to its own use.”[42]

Elsewhere again, Hefele claims that Honorius was condemned because of

“the incriminated passages in the letters of Honorius, which certainly had a heterodox sound (particularly in the first), and to the fact that Honorius had thus written and given great help to the heresy.”[43]

So another of the sources undermines the idea Honorius was condemned as a heretic. What of Chapman, de Mattei’s chosen authority for this particular point?

“Honorius was not condemned by the council as a Monothelite.”[44]

This paragraph was added October 2022.

In spite of this, Chapman claims that “unquestionably no Catholic has the right to deny that Honorius was a heretic” and that “it is clear that no Catholic has the right to defend Pope Honorius.  He was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact.”  But what does Chapman mean? Does he mean that this great body of Catholic theologians all misunderstood and wrote against clear and authoritative magisterial acts? Surely not – and if he does mean this, with all due respect to him, it does not seem reasonable to think that the Church could have tolerated (and canonised and otherwise celebrated) men doing what he would therefore seem to think was a flagrant denial of authority.

These distinctions noted by Grisar, Hefele, Chapman and others – that Honorius was condemned for favouring heresy by his negligence, rather than as a heretic properly speaking – makes this historical parallel irrelevant to Francis, his predecessors and Vatican II.

Amann does not accept this explanation: but in his treatment of this topic, de Mattei does not convey the impression that he is advocating a minority opinion against significant arguments and authorities.[45] Among the very many others we could cite, here is St Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church:

“Honorius can, by every right, be cleared from the Monothelite heresy, but still was justly condemned by the Council, as a favourer of heretics, and for his negligence in repressing error […] he is worthy of condemnation for his pusillanimity in using ambiguous words to please and keep on terms with heretics, when it was his duty to oppose them strenuously in the beginning.”[46]

Billot, for the same reasons, does not consider these anathemas to be problematic. Honorius is finally condemned, “not because he had lost the faith, but because he had been guilty of neglecting his office.” [47] St Leo II later affirmed this elsewhere, as Billot writes:

“As [St Leo] wrote to the bishops of Spain, [Honorius] had not immediately extinguished the flame of heresy, as the apostolic authority should have done, and had on the contrary encouraged it by his weakness.”[48]

Dom Prosper Guéranger – whom de Mattei calls one of the “great theologians of history”[49] – makes the same point:

“The real Sixth Council, the one to which the Roman Pontiff gave the necessary and canonical form, the one which requires the respect of the faithful, condemned Honorius only as an unfaithful guardian of the deposit of the faith, but not as having himself been an adherent of heresy. Justice and truth forbid us from going beyond that.[50]

These opinions are also held by Salaverri and other authorities.[51] This is all very far from saying that the sixth ecumenical council certainly condemned Honorius for heresy.

To crown all this, Billot even notes that the Council that supposedly condemned Honorius for teaching heresy actually features “solemn testimonies proclaiming the inerrancy of the successors of St. Peter and affirming that the faith has always been preserved integrally in the Apostolic See.”[52]

So much for the great dilemma. The myth of Honorius poses no serious problem to our day. It poses no problem to traditional ecclesiology, nor does a council condemning negligent papal behaviour provide any precedent for a condemning earlier popes or their teaching.

Preliminary conclusions

We here pause in our analysis of de Mattei’s article, to consider our findings. We have seen how Catholic theology and history has treated Honorius in two areas. We have considered number and weight of authorities that hold that his letters were free from doctrinal error, and that deny that he was condemned as a heretic. We begin to see how Fr Paul Bottalla SJ could write in the nineteenth century:

“We may say, then, without fear of contradiction, that the view which represents Pope Honorius as having actually held Monothelite doctrine, has for nearly two centuries become almost exclusively the possession of Protestants and schismatics.”[53]

We also begin to see the problems with allowing historians to determine what we believe. We know well that liturgical traditionalists refuse to accept changes based on supposed findings of history. Why, then, would we accept changes to traditional theology based on the same grounds? If we reject the idea that the traditional liturgy needed to be reformed, why would we accept that the traditional theology must be purified like this?

The uncertainty around this Honorius narrative should warn us against taking such things as the foundation for our belief. For having analysed de Mattei’s historical assertions, we must next turn to the theological assertions.

Is it even possible to claim that Honorius’s private letters were “undoubtedly magisterial acts”, and that such acts can teach “errors and even, in exceptional cases, heretical formulations”? And what are we to make of de Mattei’s title, “The Controversial Case of a Heretic Pope”?

We will address these questions in the later parts. These questions form the heart of the problem, because the myth is presented in this way due to its purported relevance to our crisis. De Mattei writes, in the introduction to the book, that his narratives are intended to address “situations that seem unprecedented and present no obvious way out.”

But this is not right: our response to the crisis must be based on truth and sound doctrine, not anti-papal myths adopted to suit present ends.

These myths are attempts to draw what Fr Jean-Michel Gleize calls “the analogy of history” in theological reflection, to relativise our crisis, and to find precedents to support opinions about Francis.

For as Fr Gleize continues: 

“‘The analogy of history’ is a perfectly legitimate way of proceeding. But still it is necessary to make sure that it rests on adequate foundations… a misunderstanding of history could prove fatal, or at least the source of imbalances. It has been and it can be again.” [54]

Theology and History

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology and History I – How do we understand the relationship between the liturgy and theology?
Theology and History II – Why is it crucial to understand this relationship?

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses the historical narrative in de Mattei’s Love for the Papacy.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters. (Down for editing)
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith (Down for editing)
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church (Down for editing)

Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser I
Interlude: Response to Prof. Edward Feser II
Part IVa and IVb will consider the implications of a so-called “heretical pope.”
Part V will assess this “historical theology” in light of Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

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[0] Roberto de Mattei, Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church (henceforth LPFR), Angelico Press, Brooklyn NY, 2019. 23-29.

[1] Emile Amann, “Honorius Ier”, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique Vol VII, Libraire Letouzey et Ane, Paris, 1922. 93-6. Our own translations.

[2] Here is a selection of the syndicated websites. With the exception of Corrispondenza Romana, we are not entering into any criticism of those who have syndicated this article.

Rorate Caeli (English):

Corrispondenza Romana (Italian):

Correspondance Europeenne (French):

FSSPX Mexico (Spanish):

And, as has been mentioned, the article has been published in the anthology mentioned by Angelico Press.

[3] LPFR 22.

[4] LPFR iii

[5] Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Roman Catholic Books, Fort Collins CO, 1854 edition. 160.

[6] Implied in LPFR 24, 28, and throughout.

[7] LPFR 27.

[8] LPFR 26.

[9] LPFR 28.

[10] LPFR 28.

[11] LPFR: Cf. the title of the chapter, and throughout.

[12] Pope St Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the doctrine of the modernists), 1907. 23. Available at

[13] These two works are cited as including the correspondence between Honorius and Sergius. As will be clear from our treatment, we are not dealing directly with the letters but rather how Catholic authorities have treated the matter.

[14] Hartmann Grisar SJ, Analecta Romana, Vol I, Desclée Lefebvre e C. Editori, 1899, 396. Available at

[15] St Robert Bellarmine, On the Roman Pontiff: Vol II Books 3-5 [ebook version], translated by Ryan Grant, Mediatrix Press 2017, 465-6

[16] Grisar 396.

[17] Amann 110.

[18] Karl Josef von Hefele, A history of the councils of the church Vol V. Trans. Clarke. T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1896. 57. Available at 

[19] Dom John Chapman, “Pope Honorius I” The Catholic Encyclopaedia. 1913.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Mgr G. Van Noort, ‘Christ’s Church’, Dogmatic Theology II, Newman Press, Maryland 1957, 306.

[22] Chapman.

[23] St Alphonsus Liguori, The History of Heresies and their Refutation, Vol I 2nd Edition, trans. Mullock, James Duffy, Dublin, 1857. 181.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Cardinal Louis Billot SJ, L’Église II – Sa constitution intime, trans. L’Abbé Jean-Michel Gleize SSPX, Courrier de Rome, no year given, 523. Our translation from the French.

[27] LPFR 27

[28] Cf. above, Amann 110.

[29] Joseph Clifford Fenton, What is Sacred Theology? Cluny Media, Providence RI, 2018, 154-5. Originally published as the Concept of Sacred Theology, 1941.

[30] St Robert Bellarmine, On the Roman Pontiff: In Five Books Second Edition, translated by Ryan Grant, Mediatrix Press 2017, 572.

[31] Bellarmine, ebook version 487.

[32] Amann 108.

[33] For example, writing of the remarkable way in which the writings of St Robert Bellarmine were used and quoted by Vatican I, Brodrick concludes: “At Trent, the Bible and St. Thomas ruled the debates; at the Vatican [I], the Bible, St Thomas and Bellarmine.” James Brodrick SJ, Robert Bellarmine 1542-1621, Vol I, Longmans, Green and Co, London. 1928. 188

[34] LPFR 27.

[35] “In order that an assembly may fulfil the requisites for an ecumenical council, it must be called by the Holy Father, presided over by him, either personally or by his delegates, and finally, most important of all, its proceedings must be approved and ratified by the Holy See. […] Not all of the twenty councils recognized within the Catholic Church as ecumenical actually possessed all of the ecumenical attributes.… Furthermore, even among the acts of the twenty councils, only those decisions are valid which have been approved and promulgated by the Holy See.” Fenton 140-1

[36] Those councils that were mere local synods “were recognized as ecumenical and given the status of general councils solely through the positive will of the Roman Pontiff.” Ibid. 141.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Grisar 406

[39] Ibid.

[40] LPFR 27.

[41] Hefele 184-5

[42] Hefele 186

[43] Hefele 186

[44] Chapman.

[45] Amann 121.

[46] St Alphonsus Ligouri, 186-7

[47] Billot 523

[48] Billot 523

[49] Robert de Mattei, “New scenarios in the coronavirus era”, a video presentation from March 2020, included as a chapter (pp 11-30) in Punishment or Mercy? The divine hand in the age of Coronavirus, (henceforth PM) Calx Mariae Publishing, London, 2021. 22.

[50] The original French text of Dom Guéranger is available in Défense de l’Eglise romaine contre les accusations du R.P. Gratry, Victor Palmé, Paris, 1870, p 18. Available here: 

The English text of Guéranger is from the Novus Ordo Watch translation of Fr (later Cardinal) Louis-Nazaire Bégin’s La Primauté et l’Infaillibilité des Souverains Pontifes, translation published 2017. This is available here:

[51] Joachim Salaverri, On the Church of Christ, in Sacrae Theologia Summa IB translated by Kenneth Baker SJ 2015.239.

[52] Billot 523

[53] Fr Paul Bottalla, S.J. Pope Honorius Before the Tribunal of Reason and of History, Burns and Oates, 1868. 45. Available at

[54] Fr Jean-Michel Gleize, The Question of Papal Heresy – Part 2, 2017. Available at

  1. Grisar: “A good overview of Honorius’ argument can be found in [Schneemann], where Honorius’ words are illustrated with the relevant passages of St. Augustine that he clearly used.” Grisar 396, Schneemann available at: Ch. 3 p. 48. Cf. Also W.G. Ward, The Condemnation of Pope Honorius, Burns and Oates, London 1879, 42.

One thought on “Questions about Pope Honorius – The History

  1. Michael Henderson

    The links to Part II in the text and the summary box seem to be broken.

    The WM Review:

    Thanks for this Michael, they are down for editing at the moment.

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