On September 18, 2023, the online version of the Remnant Newspaper published a letter by His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider titled “On the Validity of the Pontificate of Pope Francis” (see pdf version here). The proposition that His Excellency asserts that I want to bring to your attention is the following:
“Even in the case of a heretical pope he will not lose his office automatically and there is no body within the Church to declare him deposed because of heresy.”
This is essentially Opinion No. 3 of the Five Opinions expounded upon by St. Robert Bellarmine:
That a pope who is even a manifest heretic is not deposed ipso facto and cannot be deposed by the Church.
Another cleric I know that holds to Opinion No. 3 is Fr. David Hewko (see this post). Like Fr. David Hewko, Bishop Schneider’s position opposes the Magisterium of Pope Pius XII who taught in Mystici Corporis the following:
“Siquidem non omne admissum, etsi grave scelus, eiusmodi est ut — sicut schisma, vel haeresis, vel apostasia faciunt — suapte natura hominem ab Ecclesiae Corpore separet.”
“For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.”
Here Pope Pius XII teaches us that the sin of heresy by its very nature severs a man (who publicly manifests formal heresy) from the Body of the Church. Now a thing that causes a change due to its own nature allows for no exceptions to the change that that thing causes. Therefore, the public sin of manifest formal heresy would, because of this public sin’s own nature, cause the one committing this public sin to sever from the Body of the Church. He would go from being Catholic to non-Catholic and hence no longer a member of the Church. This would occur without any intervention of the Church authorities. Now assuming purely for the sake of argument that Jorge Bergoglio was legitimately and validly elected to the pontificate in 2013 and that a valid pope could fall into public manifest formal heresy, his public manifest formal heresy would by itself cause him to go from Catholic to non-Catholic. Being no longer a member of the Church, he could not be its head. Yet, Bishop Schneider claims that a heretical pope would remain pope, and in holding such a claim he indirectly opposes the Magisterium of Pope Pius XII.