Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei – Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority

This article is a set of reflections and observations, rather than a more tightly-argued essay. While it has arisen from my ongoing study of de Mattei and his concept of a “heretic pope,” and addresses certain relevant points, it is supplementary and informal.

This is an ongoing study.

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology & History I addresses the relationship between the liturgy and history.
Theology & History II addresses the relationship between theology and history.

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses de Mattei’s historical narrative.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters.
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church
Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Part IV considers the implications of a so-called “heretical pope.”
Part V will assess this “historical theology” in light of Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

As a very wise man once asked: If the pope dies and nobody knows about it, does he retain office until someone finds him?

Would we have treat him as pope until some process has recognised the fact of his death and declared otherwise?

These questions, while facetious, reveal a certain tendency in Catholic discourse regarding the application of law. Theology has a place of priority over canon law, but there can be temptation for some to emphasise positive and human law at the expense of more primary things. This tendency can in turn lead to a reductive positivism, with unjustified conclusions.

For example, the existence of a canonical process to establish a fact or guilt is sometimes taken to mean that such a process is necessary for to attain this end.

Image: Pope St Gregory VII (Source)

For example, the existence of a legal process for establishing that someone is a heretic is taken by some to mean that one cannot establish this with certainty without such a thing. Another view – which amounts to the same thing – is that while one may be able to establish such things with certainty, they lack any effect until they are established at law by an authority. Even effects which follow from the nature of the cause are denied, in a sort of legalistic “occasionalism” – comparable to suggesting that water will only freeze at 0c if God directly intervenes and makes it so.

A further variation of this is the idea that all words must be understood in specifically canonical terms, as if canon law has a primacy over theology. This is sometimes used to establish a priori conclusions. In the case of “public heresy,” it can lead to diversions such as wrangling over how this or that canonist defines the word “public.”

Some indeed today try to insist that nothing is public in the relevant sense until it has been declared as such by an authority.[1] According to this view, a bishop whose heresy and pertinacity are public knowledge remains, nonetheless, a member of the Church and retains his office and jurisdiction until a process or some authority intervenes. As an example of this, Professor Roberto de Mattei says the following on the heretic pope thesis:

“Loss of office is not automatic. Since as a visible society the Church’s official acts must also be visible, the heretical Pope continues in office until the full outward manifestation of his heresy […] I think that the errors or heresies of Pope Francis, even if professed publicly, do not entail his loss of the papacy, since they are not known and manifest to the Catholic population.”[2]

This is a good example of wrangling over the word “public” in order to establish an a priori conclusion, namely that Francis is certainly the pope. To this end, de Mattei introduces an arbitrary requirement for Francis to fulfil – beyond what is warranted by authorities – before he can be counted as a manifest heretic.

Please be clear that we are not here talking about the heretic pope thesis: we are solely talking about membership of the Church. We are only discussing loss of office insofar as de Mattei links it to public heresy and membership.

In other words, what de Mattei claims are “errors or heresies,” and which he admits are “professed publicly,” fail (in his mind) to have the effect of destroying a man’s membership in the Church and are compatible with the Church’s visible unity of faith.[3] While refraining from committing himself, de Mattei appears to express the view that this point is only reached after a series of warnings.

“Only by persisting in heresy after a repeated admonition would the pope lose the papacy.”[4]

But this is just one example of this tendency, and as I have mentioned, I am not here discussing what happens to a heretic pope. Rather, in this essay I want to consider a few examples in which the Church has expected the faithful to use their God-given intellects to ascertain facts, and to act upon them.

Let’s consider first an interesting example – that of clerical concubinage.

The Council of Rome

In 1059, the Council of Rome decreed that a layman could not attend the Mass of a priest whom he knew to have a concubine. The great twelfth century canonist Gratian explained that the idea behind this idea was that if the faithful were to shun such a priest, he would be helped to come to repentance.[5]

In the face of this clear decree, some canonists raised an objection:

“How was this to be reconciled with the fact that the laity are not to be judges of priests, but are to leave this judgement to the bishop; or that one has not the right to refuse the sacraments from a priest of whose way of life one disapproves, as though his sacraments were therefore less holy?”[6]

Such canonists doubted that it was possible for the faithful to shun such priests, objecting that this would make them the judge and jury of a priest who was offering valid (and therefore holy) sacraments.

As a result of this difficulty, some concluded – against the sense of the canon – that “the intervention and judgement of the bishop were required before they might [act upon it].”[7] Implicit in this is the idea that a person is incapable of drawing a judgement of reality or acting upon it without the declaration or permission of an authority.

Others introduced the distinction between secret and public concubinage. They concluded that, rather than being obliged to shun the priest whom they knew was living with a concubine, the faithful were merely allowed to avoid such priests – and only if this was common knowledge.[8]

But against all these attempts to change or empty the canon of meaning, Pope Alexander II later confirmed the regulation as it stood. Nor was this the end of such wrangling.

Pope St Gregory VII

Pope St Gregory VII (reigning 1073 to 1085) made further impositions along the same lines.

He tirelessly rooted out clerical concubinage through such means, against much opposition. The historian Darras tells us that St Gregory and a council issued “a withering decree […] against those priests who had bought their holy office for gold, or who profaned it by their loose morality.”[10] He ruled that anyone who refused to comply was “to be at once deposed, to be deprived of all their powers.”[11] But this was not all: this decree renewed the prohibition against laymen hearing their Masses:

“The faithful were forbidden to assist at the masses or offices celebrated by these rebel priests, or to receive the sacraments at their hands.”[12]

The Catholic Encyclopaedia tells us the same:

“[St Gregory] interdicted such priests from saying Mass and from all ecclesiastical functions, while the people were forbidden to hear the Mass which they celebrated or to admit their ministrations so long as they remain contumacious.”[9]

This led to serious resistance from many quarters. Of particular interest to this essay were those making canonical arguments such as this:

“There were many who, without touching the grounds of the doctrine, sought to weaken the authority of the decree by intrinsic considerations. They maintained that it was very dangerous to forbid the faithful to receive the sacraments from the hands of scandalous priests; since this would make laymen the judges of ecclesiastical questions…”[13]

Darras tells us that this line of argument was adopted by the bishops of Italy, France and Germany. How did St Gregory respond to this claim?

He “doubled-down”, as they say. “The resolution of Gregory VII,” Darras says, “became more fixed and irrevocable.”[14] He ordered the Catholic sovereigns of Europe to ensure that these decrees were enforced, seeing as he could not rely on the bishops.[15] Later, in 1075, he issued another decree which addressed lay investiture, simony, and clerical celibacy – and then reinforced again his previous instruction that the lay faithful were to avoid concubinious clerics:

“The faithful should not assist at the offices celebrated by a cleric they see trampling upon the Apostolic decrees.”[16]

There is no implication here that they are to await a decree, a declaration, a process or a sentence. The pope – and his predecessors and successors – expected and entitled the faithful to apprehend reality and act upon it, without doing mental acrobatics or worrying about subjective or internal guilt.

Let us summarise. A great and holy pope decrees that the faithful are to avoid the masses and sacraments of priests they know to be keeping a concubine. In response, a large section of persons make legalistic arguments, claiming that the faithful are unable or should be prevented from acting on this decree without a declaration or the intervention of authority. Finally, this great and holy pope rejects this legalistic argument and reaffirms his original decree.

St Gregory won the day. The Catholic Encyclopaedia holds that the First Lateran Council in 1123 “may be said to mark the victory of the cause of celibacy.”[17] In the same century, the Decretals of Gratian express the same obligation for the faithful, and do not appear to require an intervention of authority for them to make the judgement and act upon it.[18]

St Thomas, Concubinage and Notoriety

St Thomas states that this prohibition on hearing such Masses applies when the priest is notoriously guilty, either legally from sentencing legitimate confession, or factually when it is “impossible [for the priest] to conceal his guilty by any subterfuge.”[19]

This same distinction is codified in clearer terms in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 2197 states that a delict can be notorious either by notoriety of law or by notoriety of fact – the latter being when the delict:

“is publicly known and was committed under such circumstances that no clever evasion is possible and no legal opinion could excuse [the act].”

In passing, it is worth observing what may seem obvious: the canon states that both notoriety of law and notoriety of fact establish notoriety. The relevant distinction is presented as being between two different means to establish the one concept of notoriety – not as different types of notoriety per se. Further, we cannot say that notoriety of fact can never be obtained in reality due to our inability to read men’s hearts: aside from anything else, this would entail the unacceptable suggestion that the Code contains obsolete and useless provisions which are never possible to put into practice. Such a suggestion lacks due reverence to the Church and her law. It is both gratuitous and absurd.

Some persons concede that certain acts have notoriety of fact but not of law, and conclude that they therefore are not notorious in the canonical sense. This misses the point of the canon, and the premises even lead to the opposite of the proposed conclusion.

So to summarise, we see that even in the twelfth century, the presence of a process for dealing with concubinious clerics did not deprive the faithful of their right and duty to apprehend reality and act upon it. The fact that they were not legally declared to be contumacious was irrelevant.

All this is a concrete example of the Church intervening and ruling against those who felt that, in this case, a declaration was necessary to prevent the Church falling into chaos.

Let’s consider another example of the Church evidently expecting us to use our intellects and to act on the basis of what we apprehend.

Continues below


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Violent Hands

Without going into detail, the document Ad Evitanda Scandala of Pope Martin V was issued as a response to the Great Western Schism, in which there were three claimants to the papacy and various nations were mutually excommunicated. Under the law at the time, one was obliged to avoid various excommunicated persons.

Having essentially healed the schism, Pope Martin V wished to resolve some of the confusion. As such, he ruled:

“No one henceforth shall be bound to abstain from communion with anyone in the administration or reception of the sacraments […] on pretext of any ecclesiastical sentence or censure globally promulgated whether by the law or by an individual; unless the sentence or censure in question has been specifically and expressly published or denounced by the judge on or against a definite person, college, university, church, community or place.”[20]

In other words, interdicts, censures and so on were no longer to be held to oblige the faithful to abstain from receiving the sacraments from a priest, unless the sentence had been expressly published against a specific person or class of persons.[21]

But he continued. Martin V left in place an obligation to abstain from communion with certain persons:

“[S]omeone of whom it shall be known so notoriously that he has incurred the sentence passed by the canon for laying sacrilegious hands upon a cleric that the fact cannot be concealed by any tergiversation nor excused by any legal defence. For we will abstinence from communion with such a one, in accordance with the canonical sanctions, even though he be not denounced.”[22]

Again to paraphrase, Martin V expressly stated that the faithful were to avoid the sacraments from a man who had notoriously incurred an automatic punishment for laying violent hands on a cleric. He cannot be talking about a declared punishment, since that empties the passage of all meaning. “Notoriously” cannot be given a legalistic construction, as Martin V expressly applies this for a person “even though he be not denounced.”[23]

Ipso facto dismissal for religious

In a more modern controversy, we see that Canon 646.1 (1917) deals with certain acts which result ipso facto in them being “considered as legitimately dismissed.” Canon 646.2 then states:

“In these cases, it suffices that the major Superior with his Chapter or Council issue a declaration of fact according to the norm of the constitution.”

What does this mean? In 1934, in answer to a question, the Code Commission ruled that the declaration is not necessary for the religious to have been considered legitimately dismissed.[35] The existence of the fact itself produces the effect and requires others to treat the person accordingly.

What then is the purpose of the declaration? Heribert Jone addresses this question, explaining that such a declaration is made without a trial, that it is not equivalent to a judicial sentence or even a declaratory sentence, that it has no required formalities, and that it is not required for the effect of the dismissal. He then states:

“The declaration of the fact and conservation of the evidence are prescribed so that the dismissal may be fully established in law and to offset future doubts and possible difficulties.”[36]

There are those who may seize on this phrase “established in law,” and suggest that we cannot act until this has happened, or as if the person is still a “legal religious” until this happens. But this is simply begging the question in the face of clear statements to the contrary. It sums up the problem we have been addressing. To restate that problem: some persons have a tendency to insist that, at least for some matters, an individual is unable or not allowed to recognise reality, draw conclusions or make practical judgements until there has been some intervention of authority. Further, as mentioned above, there is a sort of occasionalism, by which acts are at least implicitly denied to have intrinsic effects – or at least only to have intrinsic effects before God and not before us. The effects are held to be extrinsic and caused by authority, either directly as a punishment or indirectly as a result of a declaration – both of which are gratuitous and fail to draw relevant distinctions.

One such example is that of public heresy, and the accompanying failure to distinguish between loss of membership in the Church and excommunication.

Some points on heresy

Again, we are not here addressing the heretic pope question – but can we know someone to be a heretic, and to have incurred certain consequences, without interventions of authority such as canonical warnings, canonical declarations or sentences?

This is an important question. In his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Pius XII taught that, among other things, it was a requirement that a person “profess the true faith” in order to be included as a member of the Church.[24] He also taught that the effect of heresy “is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church.”[25] As we have established elsewhere, theologians have understood this to refer to public heretics who, by their external profession of heresy, “separate themselves from the unity of Catholic faith and from the external profession of that faith.”[26]

We are not talking here about excommunication. Heretics certainly do incur excommunication, but this is additional to their loss of membership in the Church and not its cause – as we will see below. The cause is, as Pius XII says and as theologians explain, the nature of public heresy (and also the visibility of the Church) itself.

As such, the question of whether this public heresy is knowable without the intervention of authority is very important. Let us consider some witnesses and authorities.[27]

Cardinal de Lugo teaches that in some cases – not necessarily all – it is possible for us to be certain that a person has become a public heretic, with the necessary pertinacity and bad will. He writes:

“… [N]ot even in the external forum is a warning and preceding correction always required for someone to be punished as pertinacious […] For if it be certain by some other means – for example, if the doctrine in question be well known, or if it be obvious from the kind of person and other circumstances involved – that the accused person could not have been ignorant of the opposition of his doctrine to that of the Church, he will automatically be judged a heretic.”[28]

Now, by talking of punishment and judging, it is clear that de Lugo’s reflections at least include the context of a trial. But it would be begging the question to assume that these principles apply exclusively to such a situation. In the same place, de Lugo states that a process of warnings is based on the need to make sure the accused is “aware of the opposition between his error and the doctrine of the Church.”[29] For the same reason, the accused is asked whether he is aware of such a contradiction, not because this might be the only way of establishing pertinacity, but because it is a swift and sufficient means of establishing it.

He continues:

“So if he knows the whole subject much better himself from books and conciliar definitions than he could from the words of anyone admonishing him, there is no reason for a warning to be necessary for him to be pertinacious against the Church.”[30]

In other words, de Lugo is asserting that there are some cases of this kind in which we can attain the truth with necessary certainty from the facts alone. Again, an ecclesiastical court being able to establish this in this way by no means prevents an educated or informed individual, whether lay or clerical, from doing so in some circumstances.

We can also turn to an interesting and “colourful” source – the fifteenth century inquisitorial handbook the Malleus Maleficarum, about rooting out witches. Due to the controversy of this source, I want to emphasise that I am treating it as a witness rather than an authority. It provides us with this interesting text:

There are two kinds of judgment, one belonging to God, Who sees inner matters, and the other to men, who can pass judgment on inner matters only through outer ones, as the third argument admits. Now the man who is judged to be a heretic in the judgment of God is truly a heretic according to reality, since God judges only a person who has an error of the Faith in his understanding to be a heretic. As for the person who is judged to be a heretic in the judgment of men, it is necessarily the case not that he is a heretic according to reality, but that he has committed an act by which it is apparent that he has a wicked opinion about the Faith and consequently is considered a heretic by the presumption of the law.”[31]

So we see an explicit rejection of the idea that we cannot know someone to be a heretic due to the subjective state being unknown to us. While this is not exactly the point we are making, it is key for the idea that we must have a legal declaration to know such a thing.

Now, certainly, the inquisitors followed a process which ended in a declaration and sentence. Nonetheless, the principle here is instructive, and does not clearly apply only to judgements arrived at by a judicial process. Indeed, such an interpretation would empty the passage of meaning. It does not exclude a cognitive judgement – which is the sort of judgement necessary for judges at an ecclesiastical trial anyway.

Here is an objection: We cannot know that a person is subjectively guilty of heresy (viz. is pertinacious in his otherwise obvious denial or doubt of dogma) because only God judges internals. As such, we are told, there must be the intervention of some process in order to establish his pertinacity.

But the passage above explains that the Church, even by her process, is not seeking to judge internals, but merely to establish pertinacity in the external forum according to moral certainty. There is no suggestion here – nor have we seen compelling arguments elsewhere – that it is per se impossible to establish this through other means. Further work must be done to establish such a claim.

This principle was taken up by St Robert Bellarmine in his discussion of Liberius. Without entering into discussion of Liberius himself, here is Bellarmine’s comment:

“Although Liberius was not a heretic, still it was considered that, on account of the peace made with the Arians, that he was a heretic, and from that presumption his pontificate could rightly be abrogated. For men cannot be held to thoroughly search hearts; yet when they see one who is a heretic by his external works, then they judge simply and condemn him as a heretic.”[32]

Again, it would be gratuitous to assert that this applies only to an ecclesiastical trial. This is because divine law commands us, as St Paul says in various places and ways, to avoid heretics – even in the loose sense. This is because of the danger they pose, whether putatively in authority or not, to the faith. But this does not exclude the possibility of knowing that someone is a heretic in the strict sense either.

Now, please note why I have presented these three sources. I have not presented them to make any particular claim about Francis or anyone else. The point that I am making is that these three sources show, in their own way, an attitude which concedes to the human intellect the power of judging, with certainty, that someone is a heretic in certain cases.

This can be summed up in the modern, popular language of Dom Felix de Sarda y Salvany, in his book approved by the Holy Office:

“Of what use would be the rule of faith and morals if in every particular case the faithful could not of themselves make the immediate application, or if they were constantly obliged to consult the Pope or the diocesan pastor? […]

“It would be rendering the superior rule of faith useless, absurd and impossible to require the supreme authority of the Church to make its special and immediate application in every case and upon every occasion which calls it forth.” [33]

Law follows reality

But given all that, are the laws mentioned – on avoiding concubinious clerics etc – still in force? It hardly matters, as this is not the point at all.

The important thing here is that canonical processes for dealing with concubinious clerics, sacrilegious violence and heresy do not necessarily render the human mind incapable of apprehending reality, nor do they necessarily say anything about what one should do when one has certain knowledge of a situation.

This is because these processes, at least in some cases, follow the reality of the facts. In a similar vein, we see Fr Sylvester Berry explaining how a legal condemnation for heresy follows a person’s loss of membership (at least for public heretics):

It is a well-known fact that the Church has always demanded the strictest unity in the profession of faith; those who refused to profess even a single doctrine, were condemned as heretics who had already ceased to be members.[34]

In other words, by deliberately departing from the profession of faith they became heretics: and a condemnation merely follows what has already happened by the nature of the facts. Similarly, we saw above that de Lugo holds that trials and processes are effective means of quickly establishing guilt, and necessary when the crime is occult or uncertain – but that they are not the only means of establishing this.

There are certain matters about which the Church expects us to use our own judgements. She expects us, in some matters, to be able to recognise reality, draw conclusions and make practical judgements – even before the intervention of authority. She expects us not only to recognise the reality of certain things, but also their effects – such as the ipso facto legitimate dismissal of a religious, as discussed above.

In the case of public heresy, however, many talk in occasionalist terms. They implicitly or explicitly deny the intrinsic effect of public heresy on membership of the Church, and convey the idea that this effect only follows the decree of authority. Aside from being false, this is comparable to suggesting that a glass window shatters only because God intervenes at the moment the brick hits it.

But as we have seen, canonical processes are (at least) sometimes just the enactments of positive law to establish something legally which is already established, with its consequences, in fact – such as notorious concubinage, sacrilegious violence or public loss of membership or office for whatever reason. We have also seen from Canon 2197 that something is notorious either when it is established by a legal process or by notoriety of fact. In the latter case, a declaration or sentence can indeed then have a different implication for the general populace, who may then be obliged to acknowledge a reality about which they had been subjectively uncertain.

But what has this to do with those who did know of this crime with certainty? And what exactly does it change in terms of notoriety, for things that were already notorious before?

Let those who want to tell us, tell us.

Continues below


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Why are traditionalists doing this?

It is especially strange to see traditionalists standing on ceremony over the need for legal processes and declarations. Let us not forget that we are the ones who have judged:

  • That the New Mass is a species of non-Catholic worship and dangerous to the Faith.
  • That certain doctrines of Vatican II and other official texts are in contradiction with the perennial teaching of the Church.
  • That John Paul II et al cannot possibly be true saints.
  • That the “Novus Ordo system,” for lack of a better word, is a non-Catholic religion.
  • That, by and large, we must reject the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
  • That we must avoid the men who have been appointed by the putative bishops of our dioceses, and
  • That we must set up chapels either wholly or morally independent of these putative bishops.

And yet after all this, some of us wince back and insist that we cannot apprehend certain facts without a declaration or the intervention of some authority, or wait for some arbitrary degree of “publicity” beyond what authorities require – as if otherwise we would be guilty of private or rash judgement.

I am not disputing the existence of things which might require such declarations: but I am stating that such a requirement must be proved – and that the existence of a process does not do so. We can summarise the legalistic argument in a simplistic way like this.

  1. There exist in canon law certain processes for establishing certain facts.
  2. There would not be such processes in canon law unless they were the only means of establishing such facts.
  3. Therefore these processes are the only means of establishing certain facts.

When stated in syllogistic form, we can see that the second premise is gratuitous, at least as stated. As such we deny it, and with it, its conclusion. Those who want to prove that certain facts can only be established with a legal intervention need to develop the arguments further, for each specific case.

To be sure, some come to those conclusions with more sophisticated arguments. Good for them: they have developed their arguments further, as I just mentioned. Nonetheless, this simplistic syllogism is a representation of a tendency towards interpreting theology and other matters through the lens of a reductive legal positivism. As such, we must be cautious about deriving our theology from canonical texts.


It is ironic, given the thrust of my articles about de Mattei and his historical theology, to have written this piece in his very style. Nonetheless, the purposes are different. The purpose here has not been to rewrite theology in light of dubious history, but rather to assert the primacy of theology over other disciplines – including canon law. While the examples given all show that the Church sometimes expects us to apprehend reality and the faith, and not wait around for legal declarations, the situation with concubinious clerics even shows the Church intervening against those creating artificial legal obstacles through their demands for declarations.

Canon Law can indeed give us indications of the Church’s mind on certain things, but we must be on guard against a reductive, positivist or voluntarist attitude. It would be a gross non sequitur to suggest that a process designed to make public something hitherto occult is necessary to establish what is already public or notorious. It would be a gross non sequitur to suggest that the existence of a legal process to establish some reality means that the reality cannot be established by any other means, or that the lack of a completed legal process necessarily leaves a lingering legal reality, connecting contradictory things together like an unbreakable spider’s web. Such a connection needs to be proved in each case.

As we have discussed elsewhere, the “sources of theology” are divided into those which are proper (or unique) to theology, and those which are improper (i.e. legitimate but not unique) to theology. Of those proper sources, the authority of scholastic theologians is the lowest (coming beneath things like the authority Scripture, the Church and of the Fathers) and the authority of the canonists is treated as a mere adjunct of that source.

This is why, in one of his smaller works, St Thomas Aquinas expresses the general principle with this observation on the relationship between theology and canon law:

“It would seem inconsistent and ridiculous for professors of sacred learning to quote as authorities the little glosses of jurists, or to make them a basis of argument.”[37]

While St Thomas’s language is somewhat polemical, the point is clear: theology has a primacy over canon law, and its theses should not be subject to revision based on arguments from canon law. Canon Law can serve as a witness in building a theological argument, but we must be on guard against treating it as an authority which trumps traditional theology.

This is an ongoing study.

Introduction considers general principles and the problems of “historical theology.”
Theology & History I addresses the relationship between the liturgy and history.
Theology & History II addresses the relationship between theology and history.

Pope Honorius and Roberto de Mattei is an in-depth analysis of an example of “historical theology” in practice.
Part I: The History addresses de Mattei’s historical narrative.
Part II: Undoubtedly Magisterial Acts? considers the nature and status of Honorius’s letters.
Part IIIa: Magisterial Heresy? The Rule of Faith
Part IIIb: Magisterial Heresy? Trust in the Church
Interlude: The human mind’s ability to apprehend reality without the intervention of authority
Part IV considers 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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St Thomas Aquinas, Contra doctrinam retrahentium a religione, Published in English as Refutation of the Pernicious teaching of those who would deter men from entering religious life, trans. By John Procter OP in An Apology for the Religious Orders, London: Sands & Co., 1902. From updated version of Joseph Kenny OP. Chapter 13.

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica.

St Robert Bellarmine, On the Roman Pontiff, Vol II (Books 3-5), trans. Ryan Grant, Second Edition, ebook version, Mediatrix Press, 2017

E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, B. Herder Book Co. London 1927 p 90

Cardinal Louis Billot SJ, Selections from Tractatus de Ecclesia, by various translators. Document received 2021

J.E. Darras, A General History of the Catholic Church, Vol III. P. O’Shea, New York, 1868. Available at: https://archive.org/details/AGeneralHistoryCatholicChurchV3/page/n9/mode/2up

Gratian, n.d. Decretum Gratiani – Kirchenrechtssammlung. Available at: https://geschichte.digitale-sammlungen.de/decretum-gratiani/kapitel/dc_chapter_0_0324

Peter Huizing SJ, ‘The Earliest Development of Excommunication Latae Sententiae by Gratian and the Earliest Decretists’, in Studia Gratiana III, ed. By Ios. Forschielli and Alph. Stickler, 1955. Available at: https://docplayer.net/118595139-Ill-post-octava-decreti-saecvlaria-commemorationi-gi-atianae-instrvendae-forchielli-alph-f-stickler.html

Heribert Jone, Commentarium in Codicem Juris Canonici, trans. by Mr. John Daly, Canon 646 n.2. Quoted in https://web.archive.org/web/20140126112721/http://strobertbellarmine.net/offices.html

Henricus Institoris & Jacobus Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum, 1486, published in English as The Hammer of Witches, ed. Christopher S. Mackay, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2009.

Cardinal de Lugo, Disputationes Scholasticae et Morales, Disp. XX, De Virtute Fidei Divinæ. Trans. John S. Daly, available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20201116210043/https://romeward.com/articles/239752519/cardinal-de-lugo-on-heresy

Pope Martin V, Ad evitanda scandala, 1418. Trans. By Mr John Daly. Available at: http://www.strobertbellarmine.net/encyclicals/mart05/adevitanda.html and https://web.archive.org/web/20180610041331/https://romeward.com/articles/239749959/the-true-scope-of-the-constitution-ad-evitanda-scandala

Roberto de Mattei, ‘Professor De Mattei Comments on Bishop Schneider’s “Heretical Pope” Text'[Interview with Matt Gaspers], Catholic Family News, 2019. Available at: de Mattei, R. & Gaspers, M., 2019. Professor De Mattei Comments on Bishop Schneider’s “Heretical Pope” Text. [Online] Available at: https://catholicfamilynews.com/blog/2019/03/24/professor-de-mattei-comments-on-bishop-schneiders-heretical-pope-text/

Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, 1943, available at https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html

Don Felix Sarda Y Salvany, Liberalism is a Sin (1899), trans. Conde B. Pallen, TAN Charlotte, North Carolina, 2012. Ebook version.

Herbert Thurston, “Celibacy of the Clergy.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 15 Dec. 2021. Available at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03481a.htm

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

[1] On the contrary, this idea that public heresy is not public unless declared to be so destroys the visibility of the Church, which is primarily “the visibility of believability from the four marks” – including her visible unity in her profession of faith. (Billot Q7)

[2] De Mattei & Gaspers

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “The sacraments, therefore, are forbidden to be received from the hands of such priests, not as to be true as to their form and effect, but because, as long as priests of this kind see themselves despised by the people, they are more easily provoked to penance by the blushing of their modesty.” Gratian C. VI

[6] Huizing 306

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Thurston

[10] Darras 114

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Darras 115.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Darras 116

[17] Thurston.

[18] Gratian in link in bibliography.

[19] St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III 82. A9. r3

[20] Martin V, Ad Evitanda Scandala

[21] This is not to say that there could be no other reasons (such as discussed throughout this piece) to avoid such persons – just that undeclared interdicts, censures and other such punishments were not in themselves such reasons.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (MCC), 1943, n. 22. Available at https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html

[25] Ibid. 23

[26] Mgr G. Van Noort, ‘Christ’s Church’, Dogmatic Theology II, Newman Press, Maryland 1957, p 241.

[27] I am soon going to be publishing an essay on the different uses of the word heresy in the Church’s history – in order to avoid the appearance of contradicting myself in the next piece, I should emphasise that there is no reason to suspect that the following texts are using the term exclusively in the wider, looser sense.

[28] De Lugo

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Malleus Maleficarum 490.

[32] Bellarmine 439-440

[33] Sarda y Salvany Ch 32. 238 (ebook version)

[34] E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, B. Herder Book Co. London 1927 p 90

[35] Heribert Jone, Commentarium in Codicem Juris Canonici, Canon 646 n.2.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Aquinas, Contra doctrina retrahentium a religione, Ch 13.

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