Question: Can a Pope Who Becomes a Public Manifest Formal Heretic Retain Jurisdiction?

Answer:  No.

In this post, I have shown that the so-called Resistance is NOT in line with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre regarding his position on the pope and heresy and how they came to deviate from it.  The main cause it seems are the Dominicans of Avrille in their Little Catechism on Sedevacantism (Part I, Part II).  What has recently caught my attention is that there are two quotes in this Catechism that have been distorted or not placed within the correct context.  They have to do with the idea that a pope who is manifestly a heretic can still retain papal jurisdiction (assuming if it were, purely hypothetically speaking, possible for a pope to become a public manifest formal heretic).  The first one is a quote attributed to the 18th century theologian, Charles-Rene Billuart:

“’According to the more common opinion, Christ, by a particular providence, for the common good and the tranquility of the Church, continues to give jurisdiction to an even manifestly heretical pontiff until such time as he should be declared a manifest heretic by the Church’ (Billuart, De Fide, diss. V, a. III, § 3, obj. 2).”

The second one is a quote attributed to the 20th century theologian, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange:

“Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, basing his reasoning on Billuart, explains in his treatise De Verbo Incarnato (p. 232) that a heretical pope, while no longer a member of the Church, can still be her head. Indeed, what is impossible in the case of a physical head is possible (albeit abnormal) for a secondary moral head. ‘The reason is that – whereas a physical head cannot influence the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul – a moral head, as is the [Roman] Pontiff, can exercise jurisdiction over the Church even if he does not receive from the soul of the Church any influx of interior faith or charity.'”

Now I found an article published by a Sedevacantist site titled “The Deception in the SSPX’s Anti-Sedevacantism Catechism” (see pdf here).  In regards to first quote above, the article states that the original source, as referenced above, was researched.  The quote was not found to exist in the reference cited!  In regards to the second quote, the article states that the original source was referenced and found that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was not speaking about a pope who is a “public” manifest formal heretic but an “occult” heretic.  Well, occult heresy in regards to loss of Church membership is not in question.  St. Robert Bellarmine himself taught that occult heretics are still members of the Church.

So we see, my friends, that the two sources referenced by the Dominicans of Avrille do NOT teach that a pope who becomes a public manifest formal heretic retains papal jurisdiction.  Now I am not accusing the Dominicans of Avrille (or Fr. Boulet) of foul play.  I am just stating the facts as presented by the article.  If someone can challenge the article’s claims, then be my guest.

In the end, it would not matter even if the Dominicans of Avrille were accurate in their quotations of Billuart and Garrigou-Lagrange. These two theologians would be lone wolves in this teaching. The Church teaches the loss of office (and hence jurisdiction) for public defection from the Catholic Faith in her Canon Law (e.g., 1917 Code, Canon 188.4º) and that the public sin of manifest formal heresy by its very nature severs the heretic from the Church (i.e., Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis). One who is severed is not a member. A non-member cannot be pope (and hence cannot have papal jurisdiction).  This is just common sense.  To insist that a non-member can be pope is to place the office of the papacy potentially outside of the Church (because one outside of her would have the papal office with him).  This is simply an offence to her divine constitution.

Let us end with St. Robert Bellarmine’s, Doctor of the Church, reading of the Fathers of the Church:

“For those Fathers, when they say that heretics lose jurisdiction, do not allege any human laws which maybe did not exist then on this matter; rather, they argued from the nature of heresy… Yet heretics are outside the Church, even before excommunication, and deprived of all jurisdiction, for they are condemned by their own judgment, as the Apostle teaches to Titus; that is, they are cut from the body of the Church without excommunication, as Jerome expresses it.”
(De Roman Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 30)

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