In a posted titled “The So-Called Resistance’s Misrepresentation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s Position on the Pope and Heresy“, I demonstrated that those within the so-called Resistance who hold Opinion No. 3 or Opinion No. 4 of the Five Opinions regarding the pope and heresy expounded upon by St. Robert Bellarmine are NOT in line with Archbishop Lefebvre on this matter. What most within the so-called Resistance have done is made the Archbishop’s 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). However, this was NOT the Archbishop’s position. Rather, the Archbishop used evidence of formal heresy as the basis for his position on whether a conciliar pope was pope. Fr. Paul Kramer uses the term “indicia” of formal heresy, which IS in line with the Archbishop’s position.
The question arises, how did the so-called Resistance come to adopt a position not in line with that of the Archbishop on this matter? Well, it seems the problem started with the Dominicans of Avrille after the death of the Archbishop. In the 2001 Spring Issue of Le Sel de la Terre (No. 36) published by the Dominicans of Avrille, there was an article titled “Petit catechisme sur le sedevacantisme” (i.e., Little Catechism on Sedevacantism).1 This article was translated into English by the SSPX Canada (see pdf here). Subsequently, it formed a portion of Fr. Dominique Boulet’s A SSPX Dossier on Sedevacantism (see pdf here). However, Fr. Boulet does not draw a firm conclusion about his or the SSPX’s position regarding the Five Opinions. Fr. Boulet does indicate, however, a tendency towards Opinion No. 5 with Opinion No. 1 in second place:
“As we see, St. Robert Bellarmine;s 1st Opinion has reasons in favor and against it. Thus we can say that this 1st opinion is only probable.”
“Among the 5 opinions studied by St. Robert Bellarmine, this 5th opinion appears to be the most probable.”
However, Fr. Boulet’s dossier gets so convoluted that by the end of it all he seems to be concluding that “we should just accept the pope as the pope”.
In the original article published by the Dominicans of Avrille, under the title “But isn’t it true that a pope who becomes a heretic loses the Pontificate?”, it states the following:
“St. Robert Bellarmine (pictured left) says that a pope who would formally and manifestly become a heretic would lose the pontificate. For that to apply to John Paul II, he would have to be a formal heretic, deliberately and explicitly refusing a truth defined by the Church’s magisterium; and this formal heresy would have to be open and manifest. But if John Paul II often enough makes heretical affirmations or statements that lead to heresy, it cannot easily be shown that he is aware of rejecting any dogma of the Church. And as long as there is no sure proof, then it is more prudent to refrain from judging. This was Archbishop Lefebvre’s line of conduct.”
Note that the last two sentences speak about Archbishop Lefebvre’s position. As long as there was no sure proof (i.e., evidence or indicia of formal heresy), Archbishop Lefebvre refrained from judging that Pope John Paul II was not pope. This statement is consistent with the Archbishop’s position that I presented here. However, look what comes next in the Dominicans’ article under the title “If a Catholic were convinced that John Paul II is a formal, manifest heretic, should he then conclude that he is no longer pope?”:
“No, he should not, for according to the ‘common’ opinion (Suarez), or even the ‘more common’ opinion (Billuart), theologians think that even an heretical pope can continue to exercise the papacy. For him to lose his jurisdiction, the Catholic bishops (the only judges in matters of faith besides the pope, by Divine will) would have to make a declaration denouncing the pope’s heresy.”
Do you see that, my friends? The Dominicans added THEIR OWN opinion (which equates to Opinion No. 4).2 In addition, the Dominicans did not elaborate that the “common” or even the “more common” opinion was considered the true opinion at that time (i.e., the 17th century). However, between the time period of Vatican I and Vatican II, the “common opinion” was that a true pope cannot be a formal heretic (Opinion No. 1). Opinion No. 4 was basically dead.3
I believe this is now why most within the so-called Resistance hold to Opinion No. 4, while a smaller group hold to Opinion No. 3 (e.g., Fr. David Hewko and the Catacombs Forum). Nevertheless, neither of these positions are consistent with that of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
- An updated version can be found here (Part I) and here (Part II).
- I wrote about the Dominicans’ position in this post.
- “After Opinion No One, Opinion No. 5, at least as a hypothesis, is now the more common opinion, while Opinion no. 4 is not proposed by any serious theologian today – it is dead.”
(Kramer, Paul. To deceive the elect: The catholic doctrine on the question of a heretical Pope . Kindle Edition.)