The So-Called Resistance’s Misrepresentation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s Position on the Pope and Heresy

I, like Fr. Paul Kramer, hold to the position that a true pope cannot have been just prior to his election or cannot become during his papacy a formal heretic, even an occult one.  This is known as the First Opinion of the Five Opinions expounded upon by the Doctor of the Church and great ecclesiologist, St. Robert Bellarmine, who himself held to the First Opinion.  Here is an extract of one of Fr. Paul Kramer’s works on this opinion:

“Since the First Vatican Council the ‘First Opinion’ has become the opinio communissima, as Don Curzio Nitoglia (quoted in Part III Section II of Volume One) points out; and is arguably (as I explained in Part III Section III) not merely probable, but theologically certain or at least proximate to faith. Fr Jean-Michel Gleize points out (in his article The Question of Papal Heresy) in reply to the question, ‘Can a pope fall into heresy?’: ‘In fact, the negative answer to this question is the common opinion of theologians of the modern era.'”
(On the true and the false pope: The case against Bergoglio, pp. 247-248. Gondolin Press. Kindle Edition)

Now in my estimation, the largest faction within the so-called Resistance hold to the Fourth Opinion:  that a manifest heretic does not fall from the pontificate by himself ipso facto, but must be judged by the Church to fall from office.  This opinion is heretical, as demonstrated by Fr. Paul Kramer in his two volumes of To Deceive the Elect, because one presumed to be pope can never be subject to the judgement of the Church.  There is smaller faction within the so-called Resistance that avoid this heresy by holding to the Third Opinion:  that a pope who is even a manifest heretic is not deposed ipso facto and cannot be deposed by the Church.  However, both factions hold to the heretical proposition, at least indirectly, that the public sin of manifest formal heresy does not per se (i.e., by its very nature) separate the heretic from the Church.  This smaller faction also holds to the proposition that only a future pope can make the judgment and that for the time being we must presume the current occupier to be pope.  Of course, this proposition is also false because a future pope would not have the power to judge a previous pope if that future pope started with the same presumption that the previous pope was pope.  This is because an equal does not have jurisdiction over another equal.

Now regardless of which of the Five Opinions the so-called Resistance hold to, there is one thing that most within it, according to my estimation, have in common, and that is that they appeal to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre that we cannot make a private judgment that a putative pope is not pope.  Rather, we must wait for a future pope or the Church to make an official judgment.  Until then, the man occupying the Chair of Peter is presumed to be pope no matter how many heresies he spews, even if he manifests himself (not necessarily by admission) to be a formal heretic.  Now it is true that Archbishop Lefebvre accepted all the conciliar popes as popes until his death in 1991.  However, what the so-called Resistance have done is made his acceptance of all the conciliar popes as popes into a universal principle (i.e., we must always accept a putative pope as pope until a future pope or the Church decides otherwise).  But was this universal principle really the position of Archbishop Lefebvre?  The answer is “no“.  In the July 1986 Issue of the Angelus Magazine (see here as well), talks given by Archbishop Lefebvre on March 30 and April 18, 1986 related to this subject were published.  Here are some quotations [square brackets and italics are mine]:

“…..I cannot see how it is possible to say that the Pope [i.e., John Paul II] is not suspect of heresy, and if he continues, he is a heretic, a public heretic. That is the teaching of the Church.”

“Now I don’t know if the time has come to say that the Pope is a heretic; I don’t know if it is the time to say that. You know, for some time many people, the sedevacantists, have been saying ‘there is no more Pope,’ but I think that for me it was not yet the time to say that, because it was not sure, it was not evident, it was very difficult to say that the Pope is a heretic, the Pope is apostate.”

“Now I don’t wish yet to say it formally and solemnly, but it seems at first sight that it is impossible for a Pope to be publicly and formally heretical. Our Lord has promised to be with him, to keep his faith, to keep him in the Faith—how can he at the same time be a public heretic and virtually apostatize? So it is possible we may be obliged to believe this pope is not pope.”

“…..we prefer to wait until Providence gives us such evidence, that it is no longer possible to refuse to say that the Pope is a heretic.”

Now do you read anything in these quotes that the Archbishop Lefebvre held to some universal principle that we cannot make a private judgment that a putative pope is not the pope and that we must just wait for a future pope or the Church to decide?  No.  On the contrary, the Archbishop makes it clear that he just was not ready to make the judgment at that time that John Paul II was not pope due to heresy.  Why?  Because the evidence was not yet sufficient to make that judgment.  You see, my friends; the Archbishop used evidence as the basis for his position on whether John Paul II was pope, not the universal principle indicated above.  And this is precisely my position and the likes of Fr. Paul Kramer.  Evidence of formal heresy is the key, or as Fr. Paul Kramer would have it “the indicia (evidence, signs, indications) of heresy”, on whether a putative pope is truly pope, a doubtful pope, or no pope at all.  These “indicia” can range from light, vehement, or violent suspicion of heresy to morally certain proof.  If the indicia amount to morally certain proof of formal heresy, then a private judgment that the putative pope is not pope would be justified (and as a matter of fact morally obligatory) before any official judgement of a future pope or the Church.

In conclusion, the so-called Resistance needs to stop appealing to the Archbishop to hold to their heretical positions, in whatever format they take, on this subject.  Rather, it is the likes of Fr. Paul Kramer and me who can truly appeal to the Archbishop in support of our position (and which, more importantly, is the Catholic one).

Wake up so-called Resistance; wake up.

To purchase the two volumes of To Deceive the Elect, please see the following links:

Hardcover versions:  see here.
Softcover and electronic versions:  see here and here.

1 thought on “The So-Called Resistance’s Misrepresentation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s Position on the Pope and Heresy”

  1. Very clearly and well said. The Holy Faith is never in conflict with reason; not is it obscure and not knowable by man having attained the age of reason. Catholics are not to pretend that they do not know the Faith and what follows necessarily from it though this is what a false “traditional Catholic resistance” does…..


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