A Program for Sanctity

A programme for sanctity

by Fr Vayssière O.P. (1864-1940)

Union with God

1. By union and abandonment to the Divine Will. See this adorable Will in all and always by the Faith, even in the smallest details, and always be united to this Will in all and  through charity.  The result of this is a very real permanent union with God at every moment, even when we are not conscious of it – our will being lost, as it were, in the Divine Will.

2. By the thought and remembrance of Jesus, either His intimate Presence in the depths of our heart by grace, His Eucharistic Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, or by His divine mysteries.

Try to develop a greater and greater fidelity to this remembrance, and to arrive at an intimacy with God, as habitual as it is full of tenderness for the Divine Master.

3. Apply ourselves especially to union with His Sacred Heart and, in this, to respond to His call “learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart”.  Therefore, exercise oneself, always in the practice of humility and charity:

* Humility

  • Never speak of oneself;
  • Avoid with great care the sentiments and thoughts of vain complacency; to consider that all that is in us belongs to God, and in serving him and serving our neighbor, we are only doing our duty strictly and rigorously.
  • Prefer and seek to be in the last place.

* Charity

  • Watch over our tongue
  • Never refuse a service in the measure that it is possible.
  • Apply oneself especially to interior charity:
    • Charity of the will in desiring sincerely the good of all.
    • Charity of the spirit and judgment in thinking of the well-being of others, refraining with all our power from rash judgments.

4. Envelop oneself with a serious spirit of penance, both interior and exterior.

5. Put oneself especially under the patronage of saint Catherine of Siena 1 and to see in her the model of our interior life, our exterior life, and the apostolic life, which the Dominican tertiary ought to reproduce.

**

1. Remember that your life is really and totally consecrated to God.  Even though living in the world you must live only for Him.  Your life must be truly a religious life.  “God alone”, that is your motto.

2. To this God, your only lot, your only ambition, you must walk by the interior way, the true way, unique even, which permits to find, to know, to taste and to unite yourself to Him:

  • Greatly desire this interior life.
  • Ask for it by incessant prayers.
  • Prepare oneself for that grace:
  1. by a purity of heart ever-growing.
  2. by recollection.
  3. by a spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice.


3. In consequence:

  1. Get yourself used to acting, in all things, with a great interior spirit.
  2. Do faithfully daily mental prayer.
  3. Say vocal prayers (Rosary and Office) with a great interior attention.
  4. Develop in yourself devotion to the Holy Ghost and of the most blessed Virgin Mary.


4. Apply the spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice especially to the two great virtues of humility and gentleness, distinctive virtues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, capable of establishing the soul in the very state of perfection, provided they are practiced generously.

5. Make recollection the principal object of your particular examinations (of conscience).  Put yourself on guard against agitation and haste.  Make an effort to possess oneself always in God, living in us.

Do this and you will live

(Marcelle Dalloni, Le pere Vayssière, Paris 1957, p 191-193)

On the Deposition of the Pope (Part 2 of 2)

ON THE DEPOSITION OF THE POPE  – continued  (Part 2 of 2)

Text of John of St. Thomas O.P.

Translated from the Latin and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Marie O.P. (Avrillé. France)

and published in Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]

Translated from French to English by Fr. Juan Carlos Ortiz


Response to the objections

It is easy to answer the objections of Bellarmine and Suárez against this view.

Objection 1. “A heretic is not a member, so cannot be head of the Church”

Bellarmine objected that the Apostle [St Paul] says that we must avoid the heretic after two admonitions, that is to say, after he clearly appears pertinacious, before any excommunication and sentence of a judge, as St. Jerome says in his commentary, for heretics separate themselves by the heresy itself (per se) from the Body of Christ.

And here is his reasoning:

  • A non-Christian cannot be Pope, for he who is not a member [of the Church] cannot be the head; now, a heretic is not a Christian, as commonly say the Fathers; thus, a manifest heretic cannot be Pope.
  • One cannot object that a character remains in him , because if he remained Pope because of a character, since it is indelible, it could never be deposed.  This is why the Fathers commonly teach that a heretic, because of heresy and regardless of excommunication, is deprived of any jurisdiction and power, as say St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose and St. Jerome.

Answer:  

I answer [to Bellarmine] that the heretic should be avoided after two admonitions legally made and with the Church’s authority, and not according to private judgment; indeed, a great confusion in the Church would follow , if it was allowed that the admonition is made by a private man, and that the manifestation of this heresy having been made without being declared by the Church and proclaimed to all, in order that they avoid the Pontiff, that all should be required to avoid; for a heresy of the Pope cannot be public for all the faithful on the report of a few, and this report, not being legal, does not require that all believe it and avoid the Pontiff; and therefore as the Church proclaims him legally elected by legally designating him for all, it is necessary that she deposes him by declaring and proclaiming him as a heretic to be avoided.

Therefore, we see that this has been practiced by the Church, when in the case of the deposition of the Pope, the cause itself was first addressed by the General Council before the Pope was declared “No Pope”, as we said above.  Therefore it is not because the Pope is a heretic, even publicly, that he will ipso facto cease to be Pope, before the declaration of the Church, and before she proclaims him as “to be avoided” by the faithful.

And when St. Jerome says that a heretic separates itself from the body of Christ, he does not exclude a judgment of the Church, especially in such a serious matter as the deposition of the Pope, but it indicates only the quality of the crime, which excludes per se from the Church, without any further sentence, at least from the moment he is declared [heretic] by the Church;  indeed, even if the crime of heresy separates itself (ex se) of the Church, however, in relation to us that separation is not understood as have been made (not intelligitur facto) without this statement.

It is the same thing from the reason added by Bellarmine.  A non-Christian who is such in itself AND in relation to us (quoad se et quoad nos) cannot be Pope;  however, if he is not in itself a Christian, because he has lost the faith, but if in relation to us he is not legally declared being infidel or heretic, as obvious as it may appear in a private judgment, he is still in relation to us (quoad nos) a member of the Church and therefore the head.   Accordingly, a judgment of the Church is required through which he is declared (proponatur) as being a non-Christian and to be avoided, and then he ceases in relation to us to be the Pope, consequently, previously he did not cease to be himself (etiam in se) [Pope], because all what he did was valid in itself.1


Objection 2. “The Church has no power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person.”

The points of this objection are these:

  • [a] The Church cannot have power over the conjunction of the pontificate with the person, unless you have power over the Papacy itself; indeed, when the Pope deposes a bishop he does nothing else than to destroy his conjunction with the episcopate, though he does not destroy the episcopate itself;  therefore, if the Church has power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person, consequently she has power over the Papacy and the person of the Pope.
  • [b] A confirmation of this argument is that the Pope is deposed against his will, therefore, he is punished by this deposition; but it belongs to the superior and to the judge to punish. Therefore, the Church who deposes or punishes through the punishment of deposition, has superiority over the Pope.
  • [c] Finally, one who has power over the united parties or their conjunction simply has power over the whole. Therefore, if the Church has power over the conjunction of the Pontificate with the person, she has simpliciter power over the Pope, which Cajetan denies.

Answer:

[a] We answer that it is not in the same manner that the Pontiff has power over the bishop when he deposes him, and the Church over the Pontiff: indeed, the Pontiff punishes the bishop as someone who is subjected to him, [the latter] being invested with a subordinated and dependent power, which [the former] can limit and restrict; and, although it does not remove the episcopate from the person [punished], nor destroys it, nevertheless he does it by the superiority he has over the person, including in this power which is subordinated to him.  That is why he really removes the power to [from] that person, and does not just remove that person from power.  On the contrary, the Church removes the Pontificate not by superiority over him, but by a power which is only ministerial and dispositive, in so far as she can induce a disposition incompatible with the Pontificate, as it was said.

[b] In response to the confirmation of the reasoning, the Pope is deposed against his will, in a ministerial and dispositive manner by the Church, [but] authoritatively by Christ the Lord, so that through him, and not by Church, he is properly said punished.

[c]  Regarding the latter reason, he who has power over the conjunction of the parties has power over the whole simpliciter, unless his power over the conjunction is ministerial and dispositive; we must distinguish between

  • physical realities when the dispositions have a natural connection to the very being of the whole, so that when the agent realizes the combination producing the dispositions binding the parties, it produces the whole simpliciter;
  • and moral realities, in which the disposition made by the agent has only a moral connection with the form, in relation to a free institution, so that he who does the disposition is not supposed to do the whole simpliciter;  for example, when the Pontiff grants to anyone the power to designate a place to be favored to gain indulgences, or remove indulgences by saying that the place is not privileged anymore, that designation or declaration removes or grants indulgences, not with authority and principaliter, but only ministerially.”

[End of John of St. Thomas’s text]



Some thoughts as a conclusion

The main argument of sedevacantists concluding on the vacancy of the Apostolic See is “the theological argument of the heresy of the Pope,” namely of a Pope who becomes a heretic loses the Pontificate.

In the “Small Catechism on Sedevacantism” (Le Sel de la terre 79, p. 40), Dominicus explained that this argument cannot conclude, on the one side because it would be necessary to prove the formal and manifest heresy of the Pope, on the other, because a judgment of the Church stating that heresy would be necessary.

The text of John of St. Thomas develops this second point: the need for a judgment of the Church for the deposition of a heretical pope.

But at the same time, it shows the difficulty of such a judgment in the present circumstances of the Church.  Indeed, it is easy to see that the vast majority of bishops share the Pope’s ideas about false ecumenism, false religious freedom, etc.  It is therefore impossible to imagine in the current circumstances, a judgment of a General Council which would declare the heresy of Pope Francis.

Humanly speaking we see the situation is hopeless.  We must wait that the Providence, in one way or another, shows the way to overcome this impasse.  Meanwhile, it is prudent to maintain the position of Archbishop Lefebvre and pray for the Pope, while resisting his “heresies”.


Annexes

Here we give some other texts from Thomist authors who share the view of Cajetan and John of St. ThomasBáñez, the Carmelites of Salamanca, Billuart and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

Báñez

Domingo (Dominicus) Báñez or Bannez O.P. (1528-1604) is one of the greatest theologians of the 16th century, the golden age of Theology in Spain (with Francisco de Vitoria, Domingo de Soto, Melchior Cano, Bartholomew Medina and Pedro de Sotomayor).

Báñez is regarded, rightly, as one of the most profound and safest commentators of the doctrine of St. Thomas. His style is clear, sober and nervous, without darkness or false elegance.  His erudition is abundant, without ostentation or clutter.  His logic power and intelligence of metaphysics are particularly noteworthy, and on this ground exceeds his teachers and his most famous colleagues. (P. MANDONNET, D.T.C., “Bañez”)

In his commentary on the Summa Theologica, he defends the view that:

If the Supreme Pontiff falls into heresy, he does not lose immediately the Papal dignity, before he is deposed by the Church. (In II-II q. 1 a. 10)

He explained that a number of theologians believe that the Pope, once he becomes a heretic, immediately loses his power.  But the opinion he defends is that of Cajetan, of which he summarizes the arguments:

  1. The other bishops, if they become heretics, retain their episcopal dignity until they are deposed by the Pope. […]
  2. If the Pontiff, once fallen into heresy, is ready to amend, he should not be deposed, as even those who hold the opposite view admit, so he does not cease to be Pope. […]

He then examines an objection against his thesis, and this is the most interesting passage for our study:

One objects that the Sovereign Pontiff ceases to be the head of the Church when he falls into heresy and therefore he ceases to be Pope.  Indeed, as soon as he falls into heresy he ceases to be a member of the Church, so to be its head.

One easily answers this objection with the doctrine we have given while explaining the definition of the Church.  The Pontiff is not said to be the head of the Church because of his holiness or his faith, because it is not thus that he influences the other members, but [rather] is said to be the head of the Church because of his ministerial office, which aims to govern the Church by defining the truth, by establishing laws, by administering the sacraments, all of which are carried out according externally according to a visible ecclesiastical hierarchy, and almost palpable.  Besides, the fact that the Pontiff, because of his heresy, ceases to be a member of Christ, for he ceases to receive from Him the spiritual influence for his own sanctification, does not prevent him of being called the chief member of the Church, namely its head, in relation to the ecclesiastical government.  Similarly, the head of a State is said to be the head of the Republic.  As the notion of membership is employed metaphorically, we have said above that there may be different points of view of the metaphor: according to one point of view [Editor’s note: from the spiritual influence received from Christ] the Pontiff is not a member of Christ or the Church, and from another [Editor’s note: the power of government] he is a member. (Venice edition of 1587, columns 194-196)

The Carmelites of Salamanca

The composition of the Cursus theologicus salmanticensis extends over seventy years, during the last three quarters of the 17th century. It is a renowned theological course composed by six Discalced Carmelite theologians of Saint-Elias Convent of Salamanca.  The convent was founded in 1581, during the life and under the counsel of St. Teresa of Avila.

They ask if the Pope, as an individual doctor, can become a heretic.  They cite some authors who think it is not possible (Pighi, Bellarmine, Suárez), and they continue:

The contrary view (which states that the Pontiff as a private doctor can err, not only in secondary objects, but even on matters of faith, and not just with a non-culpable error coming from ignorance or negligence, but also with pertinacity, so that he is a heretic) is much more probable (longe probabilior) and more common among theologians.

Among the reasons they give in favor of their opinion, there is this one:

Because the Church may depose the Pontiff of his dignity, as Cajetan shows in his Treatise on the Authority of the Pope (from chapter 20 to chapter 26) and Melchior Cano in his book De Locis theologicis (book 6, chapter 8).  But this power to depose is not vain in the Church, and it cannot be reduced to the act except if the Pontiff errs in the faith: so this error may be in the Pope as a private person. (De Fide, disp. 4 dubium 1, n. 7)

Billuart

Charles-René Billuart O.P. (1685-1757) is a French Thomist theologian.  He composed a Theology course which enjoys a high reputation.

In the Treatise on the Incarnation (De Incarnatione, diss. IX, a. II, § 2, obj. 2) Billuart defends the thesis that Christ is not the head of heretics, even occult.

It is objected that several doctors (Cajetan, Soto Cano, Suárez, etc.) say that the Pope fallen into occult heresy remains the head of the Church. So he must be a member.

Billuart denies the conclusion:

There is a difference between being constituted a head by the fact that one is influencing on the members, and being made a member by the fact that one is receiving an influx in itself;  this is why, while the pontiff [who] fell into occult heresy keeps the jurisdiction by which he influences the Church by governing her, thereby he remains the head;  but as he no longer receives the vital influx of Christ‘s faith or charity, who is the invisible and first head, he cannot be said to be a member of Christ or of the Church.

Instance: it is repugnant to be the head of a body without being a member, since the head is the primary member.

Answer:  I distinguish the first sentence: it is repugnant to a natural head, I agree; to a moral head, I deny it.  For example, Christ is the moral head of the Church, but he is not a member.  The reason for the difference is that the natural head cannot have an influence on other members without receiving the vital influx of the soul.  But the moral head, as the Pontiff is, can exercise the jurisdiction and the government over the Church and its members, although he is not informed by the soul of the Church, which are faith and charity, and that he does not receive any vital influx.   

In a word, the Pope is made a member of the Church through the personal faith which he can lose, and the head of the Church by the jurisdiction and the power which can be reconciled with an internal heresy. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars III, Venice, 1787, p. 66)

In the Treatise on Faith (De Fide diss IV to III, § 3, obj 2) Billuart defends the following thesis:   Heretics, even manifest (unless being denounced by name, or by leaving the Church themselves) keep the jurisdiction and absolve validly.

He considers the question of the case of a Pope, which is a special case, who receives his jurisdiction not from the Church, but directly from Christ:

It is nowhere stated that Christ continues to give jurisdiction to a manifestly heretical Pontiff, for this can be known by the Church and she can get another pastor.  However the common sentence [editor:  opinion] holds that Christ, by a special provision (ex speciali dispensatione), for the common good and peace of the Church, continues [to give] jurisdiction to a Pontiff even who is a manifest heretic, until he is declared manifestly heretical by the Church. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 33-34)

In the Treaty on the Rules of Faith (De regulis fidei, diss IV, VIII a, § 2, obj 2 and 6) Billuart defends the following thesis:  The sovereign Pontiff is superior to any council by authority and jurisdiction.

It is objected that the Pontiff is subject to the judgment of the Church in the case of heresy.  Why then he would not be subject also in other cases?

He replies:

This is because in the case of heresy, and not in other cases, he loses the pontificate by the fact itself of his heresy: how could remain head of the Church he who is no longer a member?  This is why he is subject to the judgment of the Church, not in order to be removed, since he is already deposed himself by heresy and he rejected the Pontificate (pontificatum abjecerit), but in order to be declared a heretic, and thus that he will be known to the Church that he is not anymore Pontiff: before this statement [of the Church] it is not permitted to refuse him obedience, because he keeps jurisdiction until then, not by right, as if he were still Pontiff, but in fact, by the will of God and accordingly disposing it for the common good of the Church. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 123)

Another objector remarked that the Church would be deprived of a remedy if she could not subject the Pope to the Council in the case that he would be harmful and would seek to subvert her.

Billuart replied that:

If the pope sought to harm her in the faith, he would be manifestly heretical, and he would thereby lose the Pontificate: however it should be necessary a declaration of the Church in order to deny him obedience, as we have said above. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 125)

If the Pope would harm the Church otherwise than in the faith, some say that one could resist him by the force of arms, however without losing his superiority.  St. Thomas Aquinas said it would be necessary to appeal to God in order to correct him or taking him away from this world (4 Sent. D. 19, q. 2, a. 2 q.1a 3, ad 2).

Billuart prefers to think that:

Whereas God governs and sustains his Church with a special Providence, he will not permit, as he has not permitted it so far, that this situation will happen, and if he permits it, he will not fail to give the means and the help appropriate. (Cursus theologiœ, Pars II-II, Brescia, 1838, p. 125)

St. Alphonsus Liguori

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Doctor of the Church, devoted several writings in defense of Papal power against the conciliarist heresy (which gave to the councils a higher authority over the Pope).  Collected in one volume by a Redemptorist religious on the eve of Vatican Council I, (Du Pape et du concile; Tournai, Casterman, 1869) these writings have helped to prepare the definition of the dogma of Papal infallibility.  St. Alphonsus does not really treat the issue of a heretical Pope, and he excludes it so that it does not disturb his subject.  But, without entering into the details, he said repeatedly that the heretical Pope loses his authority only when his heresy has been confirmed by a council.   He clearly shares the view of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas.

In an essay on the authority of the Pope, added by St. Alphonsus at the end of the edition of his Moral Theology in 1748,2 the Holy Doctor vigorously defends the superiority of the Pope over the council, but beforehand he declares:

  1. It should first be noted that the superiority of the Pope over the council does not extend to the dubious Pope in the time of a schism when there is a serious doubt about the legitimacy of his election; because then everyone must submit to the council, as defined by the Council of Constance.  Then indeed the General Council draws its supreme power directly from Christ, as in times of vacancy of the Apostolic See, as it was well said by St. Antoninus (Summa, p. 3 did. 23, c. 2 § 6).
  2. The same must be said of a pope who would be manifestly and exteriorly heretical (and not only secretly and mentally).  However, others argue more accurately that, in this case, the Pope cannot be deprived of his authority by the council as if it were above him, but that he is deposed immediately by Jesus Christ, when the condition of this deposition [= the declaration of the council] is carried out as required.3

After presenting the views of Azorius (viz. that the council is above a manifestly heretical pope), St. Alphonsus nuances it and therefore ultimately follows the position of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, considered as “more accurate”.   St. Alphonsus did the same in his apologetical treatise Truth of Faith (1767):

“When in time of schism we are in doubt about the true Pope, the council may be convened by the cardinals and the bishops; and then each of the elected Popes is obliged to follow the decision of the council because, at that time, the Apostolic See is considered vacant.  It would be the same if the Pope would fall notoriously and perseveringly, persistently in some heresy.  However, there are those who affirm with more foundation that in the latter case, that the Pope would not be deprived of the papacy by the council as if it were superior to him, but he would be stripped directly by Jesus Christ because he would then become a subject completely disqualified and deprived of his office.” (Truth of Faith (1767), penultimate chapter “On the Superiority of the Roman pontiff over the councils”, art. I, Preliminary Notions, 2°)

St. Alphonsus defends again the same idea in 1768 in his refutation of the errors of Febronius:

If ever the Pope, as a private person, falls into heresy, then he would be immediately stripped of papal authority as he would be outside the Church and therefore he could not be the head of the Church.  So, in this case, the Church should not truly depose him, because no one has a superior power to the Pope, but to declare him deprived of the pontificate.  (We said: if the Pope fall into heresy as a private person, because the Pope as Pope, that is to say, teaching the whole Church ex cathedra cannot teach an error against Faith because Christ’s promise cannot fail). (Vindiciae pro suprema Pontificis potestate adversus justinum febronium, 1768, Chapter VIII, response to the 6th objection)

Father Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange examines the question of the heretical pope in his treatise De Christo Salvatore. (Marietti, Rome-Turin, 1946, p. 232)  After explaining that Christ cannot be the head of a formal heretic, he concludes:

This is why a baptized formal heretic is not a member in act of the Church, yet the Church has the right to punish him, in so far as he does not hold what he has promised, like a king has the right to punish a deserter.

Bellarmine objects that a Pope fallen into occult heresy remains a member of the Church in act, for he remains the head of the Church, as taught [also] by Cajetan, Soto, Cano, Suárez and others.4

I answer that this case is quite abnormal, so it is no wonder that it follows an abnormal consequence, namely that an occult heretical Pope would not remain a member of the Church in act (according to the doctrine we have just described), but he would keep the jurisdiction by which he influences the Church by governing her.  So he would retain the reason [= the nature] of head vis-à-vis the Church, on which he would continue to influence, but he would cease to be a member of Christ, because he would no longer receive the vital influx of the faith of Christ, the invisible and first head.  Thus, in a quite abnormal manner, in relation to the jurisdiction he would be the head of the Church, but he would not be a member.

This would be impossible if it were a physical head, but it is not contradictory for a secondary moral head.  The reason is that, while a physical head cannot exert any influence on the members without receiving the vital influx of the soul, a moral head, as is the [Roman] Pontiff can exercise jurisdiction on the Church even if it [he] receives from the soul of the Church no influence from internal faith and from charity.

In short, as Billuart says, the Pope is considered a member of the Church by his personal faith, which he may lose, and a head of the visible Church by the jurisdiction and power that may coexist with internal heresy.  The Church will always appear as a union of members placed under a visible head, namely the Roman Pontiff, although some of those who appear to be members of the Church are internal heretics.  Therefore we must conclude that occult heretics are only apparent members of the Church, which [the latter] they profess outwardly and visibly to be the true one.



On the Deposition of the Pope (Part 1 of 2)

ON THE DEPOSITION OF THE POPE

Text of John of St. Thomas O.P.

Translated from the Latin and annotated by Fr. Pierre-Marie O.P. (Avrillé. France)

and published in Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]

Translated from French to English by Fr. Juan Carlos Ortiz

Foreword

John of St. Thomas (1589-1644) is rightly regarded as one of the greatest Thomistic theologians. His contemporaries unanimously called him a second Thomas, a bright star in front of the Sun (St. Thomas Aquinas) and always he was placed, in the company of Cajetan and Báñez, alongside the Angel of the School.  His doctrine is none other than that of the Angelic Doctor, profoundly understood and faithfully expressed.”  (J.M. Ramírez, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, “Jean de Saint-Thomas”, col. 806)

He was born in Lisbon, was educated at Coimbra University, then at Louvain University, before joining the Dominicans in Madrid at the age of 23. He was long time a professor at Alcalá (Madrid University).  The last year of his life he was the confessor of King Philip IV of Spain (1605-1665, king in 1621).  It is, moreover, much against his will and by obedience that he accepted this honor while telling his brothers in religion, “This is the end of my life, Fathers; I’m dead, pray for me.”

“His life was a living reproduction of the virtues of the Angelic Doctor, from whom he had taken the name to mark his devotion to him.  In fact, he joined to his hard intellectual work, a great love of prayer and a burning desire for religious perfection.  Students flocked to his courses, attracted by the depth and solidity of his doctrine.” (Ibid. col. 804)

We give here the first [French] translation of the main passages of his dissertation on “Can the Pope be deposed by the Church as he is elected by Her, and in what case?” (Disputatio II, articulus III, in II-II, q. 1 a. 7, p. 133-140 in the edition of Lyon, 1663) which he wrote while commenting the first question of the II-II of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.

This is a matter whose importance will not escape our lectors.  However, the book of Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser?  1 often considered the reference on the question on the “heretical pope” does not have this opinion.  John of St. Thomas is not even mentioned in the extensive bibliography of the book.  In fact, Xavier da Silveira agrees with the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine, while Cardinal Journet affirms that the studies of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas on this point are more penetrating than those of the Jesuit doctor.

As we have remarked in the report we did in Le Sel de la Terre 52 (p. 205), Father Jean-Michel Gleize [SSPX] thinks that this “thesis [of Cajetan on the deposition of heretical pope] does not hold” since St. Robert Bellarmine’s S.J. studies (1542-1621), and declares not being satisfied with the answers John of St. Thomas gave to the Jesuit theologian. (Thomas de Vio Cajetan, The Successor of Peter, annotated translation by Father Gleize in Courrier de Rome, 2004, n. 65, p. XXII and n. 473, p. 138.)

Nevertheless, a century after John of St. Thomas, Billuart (1685- 1737) also qualified this thesis of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas as ‘more common’. (See the text given in the Appendix.)  It seems, to us, to be solidly supported.  With the text published here and the appendices that follow, the readers may judge by themselves.

The subtitles and the notes are ours.

Le Sel de la Terre [No. 90, Fall 2014]


Introduction

“I affirm that the Pope can lose the pontificate in three ways: through natural death, by voluntary renunciation, and by deposition.

About the first case, there is no difficulty.

About the second case, there is an express provision [in Canon Law2 ], where it is established that the Pontiff may resign, as it was the case with Celestine V; at the Council of Constance, the resignation was asked to the doubtful pontiffs in order to finish with the schism as did Gregory XII and John XXIII. […]

About the third case of losing the Pontificate, many difficulties arise: to make this brief, we reduce all these problems to two main headers: [1] Under what circumstances a deposition can be made?   [2] And by which power this deposition should be made?

On the first point, we will mention three main cases in which a deposition can take place.  The first is the case of heresy or infidelity.  The second case is perpetual madness.  The third case is doubt about the validity of the election.”

[COMMENT: Here we are only interested in the first case dealt with by John of St. Thomas: the deposition for cases of heresy or infidelity, as it is the case currently concerning us with Pope Francis.]

Can a deposition occur in cases of heresy or infidelity?

“Concerning the case of heresy, theologians and Canon lawyers have disputed very much.  It is not necessary to dwell at length.  However, there is an agreement among the Doctors on the fact that the Pope may be deposed in case of heresy: we will mention them in the discussion of the difficulty.

Arguments from authority

  • A specific text is found in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 40, chapter “Si Papa”, where it is said:  “On earth, no mortal should presume to reproach (redarguere) any faults to the Pontiff, because he who has to judge (judicaturus) others, should not be judged (judicandus) by anyone, unless he is found deviating from the Faith.” (Pars I, D 40, c. 6)   This exception obviously means that in case of heresy, a judgment could be made of the pope.
  • The same thing is confirmed by the letter of Hadrian II, reported in the Eighth General Council [IV Constantinople, 869-870], in the 7th session, where it is said that the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one, but the anathema was made by the Orientals against Honorius, because he was accused of heresy, the only cause for which it is lawful for inferiors to resist their superiors. (MANSI, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova collectio amplissima, Venice, 1771, vol. 16, col. 126)
  • Also Pope St. Clement says in his first epistle that Saint Peter taught that a heretical pope must be deposed.3


Theological argument

The reason is that we must separate ourselves from heretics, according to Titus 3:10: A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid (devita) him.”   Now, one should not avoid one that remains in the [Sovereign] Pontificate; on the contrary, the Church should instead be united to him as her supreme head and communicate with him.  Therefore, if the pope is a heretic, either the Church should communicate with him, or he must be deposed from the Pontificate.

The first solution leads to the obvious destruction of the Church, and has inherently a risk that the whole ecclesiastical government errs, if she has to follow a heretical head.  In addition, as the heretic is an enemy of the Church, natural law provides protection against such a Pope according to the rules of self-defense, because she can defend herself against an enemy as is a heretical Pope; therefore, she can act (in justice) against him.  So, in any case, it is necessary that such a Pope must be deposed.

Response to an objection.

An objection: Christ the Lord tolerated, in the chair of Moses, infidels and heretics, like the Pharisees: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses.  All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. (Mt 23: 2-3).  But the Pharisees were heretics and taught false doctrines according to various superstitions and traditions, says St. Jerome in his commentary on Chapter 8 of Isaiah.  St. Epiphanius lists their errors (Panarion, 1. 1, c. 16), and Josephus (Jewish War, 1. 2, c 7 on the end) and Baronius (Annals, v. 7).   So on the Chair of Peter, too, one must tolerate a heretic and an infidel, because he can define a heresy or an error, and thus the Church will always remain free of heresy.

I answer that Christ the Lord did not order that Pharisees be tolerated in the chair of Moses, even if they are declared heretics, or that any heretic or infidel should be kept in the priesthood or in the Papacy, but he only gave this counsel in case they are tolerated there.  If they are not yet declared and deposed from their chair, the faithful should listen to them and obey them, because they keep their power and jurisdiction; however, if the Church wants to declare them heretic and no longer tolerate them, Christ the Lord does not prohibit it by the words reported above.

Two conditions.

But we need to know if the Pope can be deposed in any case of heresy and in whatever form of being a heretic; or if some additional conditions are needed without which heresy alone is not sufficient to depose the Pontiff.

I answer that the pontiff cannot be deposed and lose the pontificate except if two conditions are fulfilled together:

  1. That the heresy is not hidden, but public and legally notorious;
  2. Then that he must be incorrigible and pertinacious in his heresy.

If both conditions are fulfilled the pontiff may be deposed, but not without them; and even if he is not unfaithful interiorly, however if he behaves externally as a heretic, he can be deposed and the sentence of deposition will be valid.

Concerning the first requirement, some among Catholics are of a different opinion, saying that even for an occult  heresy [Editor:  occult = “hidden”, “not visible”], the Pontiff loses his papal jurisdiction, which is based on the true Faith and right confession of Faith; supporting this opinion we have Torquemada (1, 2, 2 p. from v. 18 and 1. 2, c. 102), Paludanus, Castro, Simancas, Driedo […]

Others think that it is necessary that the heresy must be external and proved in the external forum in order that the Pontiff can be deposed of the pontificate; thus Soto (4 Sent. D. 22, q. 2. 2); Cano (from Locis, 1. 4), who believes that the contrary opinion is not even probable; Cajetan (On the Pope’s power, De Comparatione auctoritatis papae and concilii cum apologia eiusdem tractatus; Rome, Angelicum, 1936; c. 18 and 19), Suárez, Azorius, Bellarmine (On the Roman Pontiff, c. 30).

The principle is that occult heretics, as long as they are not condemned by the Church and being separated [by her], belong to the Church and are in communion with her, as like being moved from the exterior, even if they do not receive any more interiorly the vital movement; therefore the Pontiff, if he is an occult heretic, is not separated from the Church; therefore, he can still be the head, since he is still a part and a member, even if he is not a living one.

A confirmation of it is that the priests of a lower order can exercise the power of order and jurisdiction without Faith because a heretical priest can confer the sacraments and give absolution in cases of extreme need […]

The second condition, in order to be able to depose the Pope, namely that he is guilty of incorrigible and pertinacious heresy, is evident, because if someone is ready to be corrected and is not pertinacious in heresy, is not considered to be heretical (Decree of Gratian, No. 24. 3. 29 “Dixit Apostolus.”); therefore, if the Pope is ready to be corrected, he should not be deposed as a heretic.

The Apostle [Paul] prescribes to avoid heretics only after a first and a second correction: if he comes to repentance after the correction, he should not be avoided; therefore, as the Pope must be deposed for heresy under this apostolic precept, it follows that if he can be corrected, he should not be deposed. […]”

On the Deposition of the Pope

“It remains to deal with the second problem: by what authority should the deposition of the Pope be done?    And the whole issue revolves around two points:

  1. The declarative sentence by which the Pope’s crime is declared: should it be made by the Cardinals or by the General Council?  And if it is by the General Council, by what authority should it be assembled, and on what basis could this Council judge the case?
  2. The deposition itself which must follow the declarative sentence of the crime: is it made by the power of the Church, or immediately by Christ, being supposed made the declaration?


1. Who should pronounce the declarative sentence of the crime of heresy?


The declarative sentence should not be made by the Cardinals

On the first point, we must say that the statement of the crime does not come from the Cardinals, but from the General Council.

It first appears from the practice of the Church. Indeed, in the case of Pope Marcellinus (Pope from 296 to 304) about the incense offered to idols, a Synod was convened, as stated in the Decree of Gratian. (Distinction 21, Chapter 7, “Nunc autem”)   And in the case of the Great [Western] Schism during which there were three popes, the Council of Constance was assembled to settle the schism.  Likewise in the case of Pope Symmachus (Pope from 498 to 514), a Council was convened in Rome to treat the case against him, as reported in Antoine Augustin in his Epitome juris pontificii veteris (Title 13, Chapter 14. See also Catholic Encyclopedia, Pope St. Symmachus); and the places of Canon Law quoted above, show that the Pontiffs who wanted to defend themselves against the crimes imputed to them, have done it before a Council.

Then we see that the power to treat the cause of the Pontiff, and what concerns his deposition, was not entrusted to the Cardinals.  In the case of deposition, this belongs to the Church, whose authority is represented by the General Council; indeed, to the cardinal is only entrusted the election, and nothing else, as can be seen in Canon Law [John of St. Thomas refers to what he said earlier in his works]: see Torquemada (Summa, 1. 2, c. 93), Cajetan (De Comparatione auctoritatis papae), and the Canonists (On the Decretal of Boniface VIII (in 6th), chap. “In fidei de haereticis” and the Decree of Gratian, Dist. 40).

The declarative sentence must be made by a General Council

[…] This council can be convened by the authority of the Church which is in the Bishops or the greater majority of them; the Church has, by divine law, the right to separate herself from a heretical Pope, and therefore she has all the means necessary for such a separation; now, a necessary means in itself (per se) is to be able to legally prove such a crime; but we cannot prove it see legally unless if there is a competent judgment, and in such a serious matter, we cannot have a competent judgment except by the General Council, because it is about the universal head of the Church, so much so that it depends on the judgment of the universal Church, that is to say, of the General Council.

I do not share the opinion of Father Suárez who believes that this can be treated by Provincial Councils; indeed, a Provincial Council does not represent the universal Church in a manner that this case can be treated by such authority; and even several Provincial Councils have no such representation or such authority.

If this is not about the authority under which one must judge, but about the one which has the authority to convene the [General] Council, I believe that this is not assigned to a specific person, but it can be done either by the Cardinals who could communicate the news to the bishops, either by the nearest bishops who can tell others so that all are gathered; or even at the request of princes, not as a summons having coercive force, as when the Pope convenes a Council, but as an “enuntative” convocation that denounces such a crime to the bishops and manifest it in order that they come to bring a remedy.  And the Pope cannot annul such a Council or reject it because he is itself part of it (quia ipse est pars), and that the Church has the power, by the divine right, to convene the council for this purpose, because she has the right to secede from a heretic.

2. On which authority is the Pope deposed?


The diverse opinions

On the second point, namely on which authority the declaration [of heresy] and the deposition are to be made, there is dissension among theologians, and it is not clear by whom that statement should be made, because it is an act of judgment and jurisdiction, which no one can exert on the Pope.  Cajetan, in his treatise On the Pope’s authority, refers to two extreme positions and two middle positions. (De Comparatione auctoritatis Papae and concilii; Angelicum, Rome, 1936; chapter 20)

The two extremes: one says that the Pope is removed without human judge by the mere fact of being a heretic (Bellarmine and Suárez); on the opposite, the other said that the Pope has truly a power above him by which he can be judged (this opinion is not sustained anymore; Cajetan considered it false).

The two middle positions: one says that the pope has no superior [on earth] in absolute terms, except in case of heresy; the other says that he has no superior on earth, neither absolutely, nor in the case of heresy, but only in a ministerial way: just as the Church has a ministerial power to choose the person [Pope], but not to give power, as this is done immediately by Christ, in the same manner, in the deposition, which is the destruction of the bond by which the Papacy is attached to such person in particular, the Church has the power to depose him in a ministerial manner; but it is Christ who deprives [his power] with authority.

The first opinion is that of Azorius (the church is above the Pope in case of heresy).  The second is that of Cajetan who develops it extensively.  Bellarmine quotes it and combats it (The Romano Pontifice, c. 20), especially on two points:  Cajetan said that the manifest heretic Pope is not ipso facto removed and that the Pope is actually deposed really and authoritatively by the Church.  Similarly Suárez (De fide Predisputatio, Sec. 6, num. 7) reproaches Cajetan for saying that the Church, in the case of heresy, is above the Pope as a private person, but not as a Pope.  This, in fact, Cajetan did not say: he holds that the Church is not above the Pope absolutely, even in the case of heresy, but she is above the link joining the Pontificate with such a person, and that she dissolves it, in the same manner as the Church has joined it in the election, and that this power of the Church is ministerial, because only Christ the Lord is simpliciter superior to the pope.

Bellarmine and Suárez therefore think that the Pope, by the very fact that he is a manifest heretic and declared incorrigible, is immediately deposed by Christ the Lord and not by any authority of the Church.


The opinion of Cajetan


Thus the opinion of Cajetan contains three points.

1.  The first is that the heretic pope is not deprived of the Pontificate and deposed by the mere fact of heresy, considered separately.

2.  The second is that the Church has neither power nor superiority over the Pope about his power, even in the case of heresy; never is the Church’s power above the power of the Pope, and consequently above the Pope absolutely.

3.  The third is that the Church’s power has for its object:

  • the application of the papal power to such person, in designating him by the election, and
  • the separation of the power with such a person, by declaring him heretical and to be avoided by the faithful.

Therefore, although the declaration of a crime is like an antecedent disposition preceding the deposition itself and that it relates to it only in a ministerial manner, however, it reaches the form itself of this dispositive and ministerial manner; insofar as it reaches the disposition, so it aims mediately to the form: in the same manner as in the generation and corruption of a man, the begetter neither produces nor educts the form, and the one who corrupts it does not destroy it, but the first one produces the combination of the form, and the second one the separation, immediately reaching the dispositions of the matter to the form, and through them, the form.

Cajetan’s FIRST POINT:  The heretical pope is not deprived of the Pontificate and deposed by the mere fact of heresy considered separately

The first point is obvious and is not legitimately opposed by Bellarmine.  His truth appears thus:

- First, because the Pope, no matter how real and public may be his heresy, by the moment he is eager to be corrected, he cannot be deposed, and the Church cannot depose him by divine right, for she cannot nor should avoid him since the Apostle [Paul] says, “avoid the heretic after the first and second correction; therefore, before the first and second correction he should not be avoided, and consequently he should not be deposed; therefore it is wrong to say that the pope is deposed (ipso facto) as soon as he is a public heretic: he may be a public heretic, but not yet corrected by the Church, nor declared incorrigible.

- Then, because (as Azorius rightly noted) any heretical Bishop, no matter how visible is his heresy, and although he incurs an excommunication, does not lose ipso facto the Episcopal jurisdiction and power until he is declared [such] by the Church and deposed; indeed only the excommunicated “not tolerated” [vitandus] loses jurisdiction ipso facto, namely those specifically excommunicated or those who manifestly struck a cleric (manifesti percussores clerici).  Therefore, if a bishop or some other prelate loses not ipso facto his power by the mere external heresy, why the Pope would lose it [even] before the Church’s declaration?   Especially since the Pope cannot incur excommunication: on the one hand, no excommunication at all – I suppose – is carried by divine law itself;  on the other hand, he cannot be excommunicated by human right, because he is superior to any human right.

The Church has neither power nor superiority over the Pope concerning his power of Pope, even in case of heresy


Thesis to be proved

The second point of Cajetan is proved by the fact that the power of the Pope absolutely (absolute) is a power derived from Christ the Lord, and not from the Church, and that Christ has submitted to that power the entire Church, namely, all the faithful without restriction: that is certain of faith [de fide] as we have shown it above.

Therefore, in no case the Church can have a power superior to him, except in a case where the power of the Pope would be made dependent to the Church, and inferior to her: and by the fact that it is made inferior in this case, his power is changed and remains the same as before, since before it was above the Church and independent from her, but in this case it is made dependent and inferior: thus, it never happened that the Church has [had] power over the pope formally, because in order to have a higher power than the papal power in a particular case, it is necessary that the papal power be formally other, and not so extensive and supreme as it was before.

Argument from authority

And one cannot cite any authority stating that Christ the Lord has given in such a manner to the Church a power above the Pope.  Those who were cited in the case of heresy, do not indicate any superiority over the Pope formally, but only speak about avoiding him, getting separated from him, to refuse the communion with him, etc., all things which can be done without a power formally above the Pope’s power.

Lack of foundation of the opposite opinion

There is no basis for the proposition which allows to affirm that Christ the Lord, who gave unrestricted, supreme, and independent power to the Pope and to the Holy See, has determined that, in the case of heresy, such a power would be formally as a power (in ratione potestatis) dependent on and inferior to that of the Church, which implies that it would remain subordinate to that of the Church, and not superior as before.

Cajetan’s SECOND POINT

Theological argument

This second point of Cajetan (the Church has never, in the strict sense, a superior power to the Pope), is widely proved by what has been said above, since the Church must be submitted to the Pope and the power of the Pope did not originate from the Church, as a political power, but immediately from Christ, of whom the Pope is the Vicar.

That, even in the case of heresy, the Church is not superior to the Pope, as a Pope, it appears:

  • On the one hand, because the power of the Pope is in no way derived from the Church, nor does it come from her, but from Christ, therefore never is the power of the Church superior [to that of the Pope].
  • On the other hand, because the power of the Pope, which originated in that of Christ, is established as a supreme power above all other powers of the Church here on earth (as we have shown above with many authorities); no case has been excluded by Christ in which this power [of the Pope] would be limited and subjected to another, but always and in relation to all [powers], He speaks of it as a supreme power and as a monarchy.   When He deals with the case of heresy, He does not assign any superiority [of someone] in relation to the Pope, but He prescribed only to avoid the heretic, to be separated from him, not to communicate with him, all things that do not show any superiority, and which can exist without it.  Therefore, the Church’s power is not superior to the power of the Pope, even in the case of heresy.

Canonical argument

Finally, Canon Law also gives us this conviction when it says that “the First Seat is judged by no one,” and this applies even in cases of infidelity, for the Fathers gathered to examine the case of Pope Marcellinus said: “Judge thyself.”

Cajetan’s THIRD POINT:  The power of the Church has as its object the application of the Papal power to a person


Theological argument

The third point follows from the previous two.  For the Church can declare the crime of the Pontiff and proclaim (proponere) to the faithful that he should be avoided according to divine law, decreeing that a heretic must be avoided.

Now, a pontiff who must be avoided by this provision is necessarily prevented from being made the head of the Church, for he is a member which she must avoid, and therefore he cannot have an influence on her; this is why, by virtue of such a power, the Church dissolves ministerially and dispositively the link of the pontificate with such a person.  The implication is clear: an agent that can induce in a subject a disposition that necessarily causes the separation of the form, a disposition without which the form cannot exist in the subject, has power over the dissolution of the form, and acts mediately on the form, in order to separate it from the subject, and not to destroy it; it is clear in the case of an agent who corrupts a man: he does not destroy the form [the soul], but it induces the dissolution of the form, by putting in the matter a disposition without which the form cannot subsist.

Thus, since the Church can declare the Pontiff as a person to be avoided, she can induce in that person a disposition without which the pontificate cannot stand; the pontificate is so dissolved ministerially and dispositively by the Church, by the authority of Christ, in the same manner as the Church, in choosing the pontiff by the election, she ultimately disposes him to receive the collation of power by Christ the Lord.

Explanation of the words of Cajetan

When Cajetan says that the Church acts with authority (auctoritative) on the conjunction or separation of the Pontificate with the person, and ministerially on the Papacy itself, we must understand it in the sense that the Church has the authority to declare the crime of the Pope, as she has [the power] to choose him to the Papacy, and that what she does with authority in this declaration, acts at the same time ministerially on the form [the Papacy] to join or to separate [the person]: for the form itself, absolutely and in itself (absolute et in se), the Church cannot do anything because the Papal power is not submitted to her.

Canonical argument.

This is congruent with the provisions of the law that sometimes affirm that the deposition of the Pontiff belongs only to God, and that sometimes in case of heresy he can be judged by his inferiors: both are true,

  • On the one side, the “ejection” or deposition of the Pope is reserved only to God in order to be done with authority and from above (auctoritative et principaliter), as stated in the Decree of Gratian, Distinction 79 (Pars I, D 79, c. 11) and in many other places of the law, which say that God has reserved to Himself the judgment of the Apostolic See;
  • Secondly, the Church judges the Pontiff in a ministerial and dispositive manner, by declaring his crime and by proposing him to be avoided, as stated in the Decree of Gratian, in Distinction 40, chapter “Si Papa” (Pars I, D 40, c. 6) and in Part II, Chapter “oves” (q. 7 c. 13).


(To be continued)



From Liberal Protestantism to the True Church of Christ

Andrew de Bavier

(1890 – 1948)

 

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From Liberal Protestantism to the True Church of Christ

I was born into Protestantism.  I called myself a Christian, but I didn’t recognize any authority other than my own conscience, and no revelation other than religious experience.  I recognized in Christ a unique personality, but I refused to concede Him any supernatural character.

Besides, the problem of the Divinity of Christ didn’t make sense anymore, in this day and age.  Doesn’t God dwell within man?  The divine and the human, don’t they make one and the same thing?

Imbued, without even realizing it, with this pantheism which has poisoned modern thinking, I saw prayer not as an act of adoration or as the call from an indigent creature to its Creator, but as an excellent way of accumulating in myself the spiritual energies spread throughout the universe.

In fact, I had lost any notion of the Divine transcendence and all sense of the supernatural.  I never gave a thought to the laws of God.  Besides, religion, being essentially a life, what does our Creed matter, provided that our religious experiences are strong? One must be broad-minded, if one desires to be penetrated by the breath of the Holy Ghost.  I was broad-minded, very broad-minded, and I had a holy hatred for “narrow-mindedness”, that is those who held traditional ideas.

My liberalism made me into a sectarian opponent of sectarianism! Disciples of the new liberal orthodoxy, my companions and I were virtually scandalized when we heard a preacher repeat an old formula or profess any veneration for Jesus-Christ which was in harmony with the Nicene Creed.

As for Catholicism, it was the incarnation of all that we detested.  Didn’t the Roman Church press an iron yoke upon souls?  She was the most faithful ally of all reactionaries and of all those in authority.  Happily the Church died slowly but surely, decrepit and powerless. The modern spirit was incapable of interesting itself in the old fashioned rites which made up the cult of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, I was completely unaware of what those rites were.  As I understood nothing of the gestures of the priest, the Mass (which I had only attended one or two times), appeared to me to be an artificial and theatrical ceremony; and I proudly compared the vain pomp of Catholicism to our cult in spirit and in truth.  I had, like almost all Protestants, a conception of Catholic dogma that was absolutely false on every point, and I never even thought of verifying.

— Experience as an Anglican

In the spring of 1909 I went to the Kings College in London, a School of Anglican theology.

I will never forget the first impression I had of the Anglican environment in which I found myself.  The College Chapel was more like a Catholic Church than a Protestant one.  I was astonished.  I was even more astounded when I understood the thoughts or ideas of my companions.  Their faith was dogmatic.  They believed, like the Catholics, in the Real Presence in the Protestant Communion or Lord’s Table which they went so far as calling the Mass.  For me, the visible Church was nothing more than a political and administrative machine; for them, she was the mystical body of Jesus Christ, his Spouse.

My time spent at the King’s College would have a decisive influence on my entire life.  I wouldn’t realize this until later however.  At that particular time my liberal ideas weren’t damaged in the least.  I had already entered the School of Theology of Paris in November 1909.  My liberal Protestant tendencies, which Anglican influences began to undermine, without my having been aware of it, were accentuated again at the same time as was my hostility towards Rome.

I soon became one of the most Rationalist students at the College.  Exclusively taken up with social questions, I abandoned my Bible for the “apostles” of the Revolution.

— A Crisis: Faced with my nothingness

The crisis came suddenly in January of 1911.

My whole being was profoundly shaken; I was forced to face myself and to put into question my most cherished ideas.

I had exalted this earthly existence; I hadn’t come to the realization that our temporal life is fragile, fleeting, incapable of satisfying our most noble aspirations.  Blinded by spiritual pride, I relegated “sin” to those old fashioned notions of days gone by; and behold! how I now awoke, poor and guilty, having an immense need of the love and forgiveness of God.

I suddenly felt the need of a mediator and of a Savior, and the problem of the Divinity of Christ took upon itself an altogether new significance for me.

Liberal Protestantism could suit, if need be, the rich and happy of this world, but it folds up before the great truths and realities of this life: sin, suffering and death.

I understood that my most grievous fault had been to separate myself from Christ.  Without Him, I sadly discovered, religious faith finishes being absorbed into a vague pantheism.  I knew not yet if Christ was the Son of God, but I now knew He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I resolved to place myself quite simply before the Christ of the Gospels without any preconceived notions, and to allow myself to be taught by Him.

A work that I did at the School on the Cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages made me enter for the first time into contact with Catholic devotion.  It was a true revelation for me.

I found in the meditations and prayers of Saint Anselm, Saint Bernard and Saint Thomas, a fervor, a tenderness, a simplicity, which I had never ever been accustomed to.  Saint Anselm made me understand the beauty of the dogma of the Communion of Saints.  Why had I not till then believed what was evidently so natural?  God, being the bond which held souls together, were not deceased Christians then more alive than us, and even closer to us?  From then on it was easy to enter into contact spiritually with those souls and to ask their prayers.

I persevered however in my daily meditations on the Gospels.  The more I lived in union with Jesus Christ, the more He grew in my eyes.  Not content with upsetting all the values of this world, Jesus dared to go so far as to say that none could come to the Father save through Him.  He incarnated something of the Absolute.

For a long time I refused to affirm His Divinity, for fear of falling into dogmatism.  However, there arrived a time when it was impossible for me to hide from the question that Our Lord asked me, as he had asked so many others, “Who do you say that I am?”

Upon returning to Switzerland, I took up first the Catechism of the Council of Trent, then the excellent manual of Father Lesetre called “The Catholic Faith”.  I went from one discovery to another.

I soon had to admit that the Catholic Faith had an extraordinary sense of the Divine about it.  Nowhere was God so transcendent and yet immanent; so far and yet so close.

He was the Unique, the Inaccessible, the Ineffable.  “I am He Who Is”, said Our Lord to Saint Catherine of Siena, “and you are she who is not.”  And yet the God who surpasses any framework of our mind, the God of the mystery of the Trinity, was at the same time the God of the mystery of the Incarnation, the God who had espoused our frail humanity in the Person of Christ, the God who continues to unite Himself to us in the Eucharistic Communion and who lives in the soul in the state of grace.

Liberal Protestants and modernists, in neglecting the Divine transcendence, to insist uniquely on the immanence, belittled God, under the pretext of drawing man closer to God.

— A Problem of Authority

Christianity was a revealed Religion, or it wasn’t: it therefore implicated a dogmatic element and Christians never considered Religion as a thing of mere sentiment.

If Christianity was a gift from God, a revelation from on High, it must necessarily be a Religion of Authority.  Neither the Protestant ‘solution’, nor the Anglican ‘solution’ of the problem of Authority was satisfying.  Didn’t all Protestant denominations claim to have their roots in the Bible, and with equal right, because there is no authorized interpreter of Biblical Revelation?  As for Anglicanism, where does the authority lie in this National Church, which holds within itself tendencies which are not only different, but contradictory?

Perhaps only the Catholic Church had a conception of Authority which was capable of resisting all the effects of time and of satisfying all the demands of reason.

An anguishing problem posed itself from then on to my soul, and never ceased haunting me for many long months:

« Would Christianity in its entirety be found only in Catholicism? Was Protestantism vitiated at its roots? »

I was incapable, at the time, to answer.  But my duty (or task) was clear: I had but to study Catholicism very seriously and to redouble with fervor in my religious life.  Three years of Protestant theology imbued me with the idea that the Religion of the New Testament was different from that of the Council of Trent.

Was primitive Christianity truly in opposition with Catholicism?  This question was vital to me.  What I was searching for was the Religion which Jesus Christ had founded.  I put my whole soul into re-reading the New Testament, leaving aside, as much as possible, any preconceived notions.  I had already been struck for a long time by the Catholic character of certain passages in the Gospels and Epistles.  I believed to have seen, in analyzing the notion of the Church in the Epistles of Saint Paul, that the great Apostle of the Gentiles already possessed all the essential elements of the Roman conception of the Church.

I began researching Catholic works on the first Centuries of Christianity.  The more I examined the Christianity of the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, the more I was struck with its resemblance to Catholicism.  My eyes were beginning to open.  The Religion of the New Testament was a Religion of authority, a dogmatic Religion which imposed itself upon men as a supernatural revelation, independent of human judgments, rising above the changes of time, absolute and Divine.  The Church had always remained faithful to herself; and the Sovereign Pontiff, in warning Christians against modernism, had repeated the actions of Saint Paul writing to Saint Timothy:  “O Timothy, guard that which is committed to thy trust, and keep free from profane novelties in speech…” (I Tim. 6:20)

— Was the Church human or Divine?

When I condemned the subjection of Catholics to Rome, I had forgotten that the Church, in the eyes of a Catholic, was not an administrative organization, created by man, fallible and obsolete like them; but that, for a Catholic, the Church is the Spouse of Christ, She is animated and directed by the Holy Ghost.  I had been wrong in believing the Church to be as it were a barrier between God and the soul, preventing the soul from communicating directly with God.

I had forgotten that mankind is not made up of a simple dust of individuals, each one a law unto himself.  Christians are the members of the body of Christ, and they only participate in the life of Christ by participating in the life of the Body, which doesn’t prevent them from entering directly into communion with Christ.  In the same way as an arm or a leg united to the body directly experiences the effects of the soul which governs the body, so does the Christian united to the Church directly experience the effects of Christ who governs the Church.

Personal observation also proved Catholicism to be right: it is in the Roman Church that one finds souls that have had the most direct vision of God.  Saints such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Teresa of Avila, who had received admirable revelations, distinguished themselves just as much by their scrupulous obedience to the Hierarchy of the Church.

Dogma opened up an infinite amount of points of view; Dogma was even of such greatness that the Church would never have been capable of conserving it, and fully developing it without the assistance of the Holy Ghost.  Heretics are always offering us a shriveled and mutilated Christianity; our poor human brains never being able to see but one side of things.

On the contrary, the Church was essentially comprehensive. She has ever refused to place herself at an exclusive point of view.  She combats with equal vigor:

  • The Docetists, who denied the humanity of Christ; the Arians, who deny the Divinity of Christ;
  • The Pelagians, who didn’t believe in Grace; the Calvinists and the Jansenists, who didn’t believe in free will;
  • The Rationalists, who denied the Faith; and The Pragmatists, who denied that man is endowed with reason.

Yet, Catholic doctrine wasn’t a vague compromise between several contradictory tendencies.  The more I studied it, the more I admired its harmony.  Everything flowed from a single source: Jesus Christ.  And everything tended towards the same end: the Glory of God. By no means did the unity of Dogma exclude the diversity of systems of thought, and the theologians divided themselves into numerous schools.

Far from oppressing the intelligence, Catholicism essentially liberated it.  Catholics were unaware of the painful divorce of mind and heart which so many Protestants suffered from.  I was soon to experience myself this double action of the intellect on the heart and the heart on the intellect.  The winter of 1911-1912 was not only for me a year of hard work, but also a time of fervent religious life.

— The Gift of the Faith

I loved to pass entire hours in the Chapel of the Benedictines.

I hadn’t yet the Faith, but I often assisted at the Mass.  The ceremonies which I had judged to be devoid of sense some years ago, took up for me a greatness all their own.  Didn’t the Catholic have the privilege of assisting at the greatest Drama in History, the mystical representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary? In union with the Priest, he could even offer himself to God with Jesus Christ present in the Sacred Host, and unite himself closely in Holy Communion with the Sacred Victim.

All other Sects appeared poor to me when I understood the profound Mystery of the Mass.

A day came when God granted me the greatest grace of my life.  On Easter Sunday, in 1912, while the Priest elevated the Consecrated Host, I was granted the grace to believe.  I adored God made man, who continues to live with us under the veil of the Eucharistic Bread.

My conversion was virtually completed.  My Protestant friends tried to dissuade me by recommending a book to me called: “What One Has Made Of The Church” (which was anonymously written).  It was full of errors and contradictions and made all sorts of accusations against the Church and Her Leaders.  I must say that the long enumerations of scandals made no impression on me.  There had been bad Bishops and even bad Popes.  There would always be scandals in the Church.  How could it be otherwise?  The Church is Divine, but it is composed of sinful men.  God promised infallibility to the Pope, but he never promised that he would be impeccable.  God asks our collaboration, but He leaves us free to accord it or not to Him.  It is this collaboration of God and man which makes up the drama of the life of the Church; and the great miracle of History is that the Church has been able to live and develop itself despite Christians.

Conversion became for me a serious obligation.  I had been led from liberal Protestantism to the Christianity of the Gospels.  I now saw clearly that the Religion of the Gospels and Catholicism were one and the same thing.  Orthodox Protestantism and even Anglicanism were nothing more than imperfect realizations of the Christian ideal.  Only the Catholic Church had remained faithful to Christ and the glorious freedom of the children of God could not be found but in being submissive to the Vicar of Jesus-Christ1.

Those around me asked me to wait a few months before taking such a decisive step.  I wasn’t received into the Church until the Eve of All Saints Day, 1912, in the Dominican Monastery of Saulchoir.

Andrew de Bavier (“From Geneva to Rome, by way of Canterbury” – abridged text). Andrew de Bavier was ordained a Priest on April 21, 1924. He passed away in 1948.