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Diane Montagna

Diane Montagna


Sawing off the branch on which he sits: Experts question Francis attack on popes over death penalty

 Capital PunishmentDeath PenaltyPope Francis

ROME, December 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has incited further controversy in a recent address expounding on his reasons for changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

As LifeSite reported earlier today, Pope Francis told a delegation from the International Commission against the Death Penalty in a Dec. 17 address that popes “in centuries past” ignored “the primacy of mercy over justice” in using the death penalty, which he called an “inhuman form of punishment” that is now “always inadmissible.” 

Insisting that the change to n. 2267 of the Catechism is not a “contradiction with the teaching of the past,” but the “harmonious development” of doctrine, Pope Francis reiterated that the Church now teaches that, “in light of the Gospel, the death penalty is always inadmissible because it violates the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

The Pope has already faced criticism for seeking to change infallible Catholic teaching on the permissibility of execution in principle. This latest papal intervention will make it even more difficult for those who argue that there is no contradiction between Pope Francis’s teaching and the doctrine of his 266 predecessors. 

Already, one prominent philosopher and writer on capital punishment is challenging the basis of the Pope’s new teaching, while a Dominican theologian and a Catholic historian have both expressed concerns at the coherence and defensibility of the pontiff’s novel claims.

A prominent philosopher weighs in

Renowned Catholic philosopher Edward Feser, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, is one of the foremost contemporary writers in the Thomistic tradition. He is the author of such works as The Last SuperstitionScholastic MetaphysicsFive Proofs of the Existence of GodBy Man Shall His Blood Be Shed (with Joseph Bessette) and the forthcoming (and much anticipated) Aristotle’s Revenge.

By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, is a study and defense of the perennial Catholic teaching on the death penalty as legitimate in principle and often advisable in practice even in contemporary social conditions.

In comments to LifeSite regarding Pope Francis’s Dec. 17 address to the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Feser said:

Once again the Pope both appears to condemn capital punishment as intrinsically wrong and claims that his remarks are consistent with past teaching. He tries to justify the claim that there is no inconsistency by saying that the Church has always affirmed the dignity of life. But this is analogous to denying the doctrine that there are three divine Persons and then claiming that this is consistent with past teaching, on the grounds that the Church has always affirmed that there is only one God.  In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity requires us to say both that there is only one God and that there are three Persons in God.  Similarly, consistency with scripture and previous papal teaching requires us to say both that life has dignity but also that an offender can in principle lose the right to his life.  To fail to affirm both of these things is precisely to contradict past teaching, not “develop” it.

Feser continued:

The Pope implicitly criticizes previous popes for upholding and applying capital punishment, such as in the Papal States, and he implies that these popes were deficient in their doctrinal understanding insofar as they lacked awareness of our “present level of development of human rights” and ignored “the primacy of mercy over justice” — this despite the fact that previous popes rested their teaching on scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and all their predecessors in the papal office. Perhaps the pope does not realize that he is inadvertently laying the groundwork for a future pope to criticize him the way he is criticizing his predecessors. If 2000 years of popes can be wrong about capital punishment — as Pope Francis implies — why should we not conclude instead that it is Pope Francis himself, rather than they, who has gotten things wrong?

The co-author of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed added

As he has done several times in the past, the Pope appears to be condemning life imprisonment as well as capital punishment. Curiously, Catholics who praise the Pope’s views on capital punishment never seem to comment on his views about life imprisonment.  Why not?  Are Catholics now required to call for releasing serial killers and the like from prison at some point, however heinous their crimes and however dangerous they remain? If not, why not, given the Pope’s repeating sweeping condemnations of life imprisonment as no less wrong than capital punishment?  How are we supposed to deal with the worst offenders if both capital punishment and life imprisonment are ruled out?  Exactly how long should prison sentences be if life sentences are ruled out? Why do the Pope’s admirers not address these questions or call on the Pope to address them?  

Analysis from a Dominican Theologian

A Dominican theologian who wished to remain anonymous offered a more detailed critique of Pope Francis’s Dec. 17 address on the death penalty.

In comments to LifeSite, the Dominican noted that Pope Francis’ claim that his teaching “does not imply any contradiction” with the Church’s teaching in the past “renders the entire speech incoherent, since the Church clearly taught in the past the legitimacy of capital punishment.”

In initial remarks, he notes that the death penalty cannot be a “cruel punishment,” as Pope Francis claims, arguing that “since capital punishment is sometimes just, it cannot always be cruel.”

The Dominican pointed out that Pope Francis confuses his own theological views with the teachings of the Church; for example, when he refers to the Church’s commitment to abolition. This is really “his personal commitment” and “Catholics as such are not obliged to share it,” the Dominican theologian added.

The circumstances, as laid down by the First Vatican Council, in which the teaching of the Pope is also necessarily the teaching the Church, are actually quite restricted. 

The Dominican theologian pointed out that Pope Francis’ appeal to St. John Paul II rests on “a confusion between the doctrine of John Paull II and his personal judgement of the prudence of capital punishment in modern times.”

Taking umbrage at the Pope’s statement that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel,” he also points out that: “Christ says the law of Moses was given by God, instancing the command that those who curse their parents be put to death (Mk. 7:9-10), and that Scripture, including therefore the imposition of capital punishment for many offences, cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35).” 

“Hence, it is the claim that the death penalty is opposed to the gospel which is opposed to the Gospel,” he argues.

While agreeing with Pope Francis that “extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” are to be condemned, the Dominican theologian takes issue with the Pope’s appeal to the authority of St. Thomas regarding the death penalty as a (now obsolete) form of self-defence observing that it rests on a misunderstanding. 

St Thomas is talking here about self-defense by private individuals, notabout the rights of the State. In article 3 of the same question in the Summa, he says: “it is lawful to kill an evildoer in so far as it is directed to the welfare of the whole community, and hence this belongs to him alone who has charge of the community’s welfare. Thus it belongs to a physician to cut off a decayed limb, when he has been entrusted with the care of the health of the whole body. Now the care of the common good is entrusted to persons of rank having public authority: wherefore they alone, and not private individuals, can lawfully put evildoers to death.” In article 2 he says: “if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump.”

Like Feser and Bessette in their book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed, the Dominican argues that capital punishment can work powerfully to illicit repentance in serious criminals. 

“Capital punishment offers the possibility for a repentant criminal to expiate at least part of his sin upon earth, more briefly and less painfully than in purgatory; hence it can itself be an offer of mercy,” he said.

The theologian added: “Cardinal Newman wrote movingly in Difficulties of Anglicans, about the compassion felt for condemned criminals in the papal states, and how special confraternities existed to pray that they would accept their penalty in this spirit, and how in this way the conversions of great sinners were sometimes accomplished.”

Pope Francis in contrast says that this “inhuman form of punishment” ignores “the primacy of mercy over justice.”

Like Feser, the Dominican is also concerned about the Pope’s attack on life imprisonment. 

“He who can do the greater can do the less. Since the civil power can inflict death, it can also inflict perpetual punishment,” he said. “This claim [by Pope Francis] also gives new grounds for doubt about whether Pope Francis believes in the dogma of hell, in the way in which the Church teaches it, namely as a state, precisely, of ‘perpetual punishment.’”

In his Dec. 17 address to the International Commission against the Death Penalty, the Pope says that his predecessors, have unduly “sacralized the value of laws.” On the contrary, the Dominican theologian sees the Pope’s perspective as secularized.

“Temporal power, as a shadow of divine power, has an intrinsically sacred element. St. Paul states that the ruler, even if a pagan, is ‘the minister of God’, and that he ‘does not bear the sword in vain’, i.e. that he can legitimately execute the worst criminals. Pope Francis’s words put him at odds the apostle to the Gentiles,” he says.

A Catholic Historian comments 

A British Catholic historian based in the U.S also questioned the defensibility of Pope Francis’ novel teaching on the death penalty.

Dr. Alan Fimister is an Assistant Professor of Theology and Church History at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and Director of the Dialogos Institute, which encourages debate on legitimately disputed theological questions among Catholics. 

Dr. Fimister has expressed concern in the pastabout the possibility of reconciling opposition to capital punishment in principle with the traditional teaching of the Church throughout the first and second millennium (up to and including John Paul II and Benedict XVI) and also about the compatibility of episcopal demands for its abolition in practice with the rightful autonomy of the laity in questions of temporal government. 

As he explains “It is for the hierarchy to define, in accordance with scripture and tradition, the conditions under which capital punishment is legitimate but it is for the laity to decide when and where those conditions are met. Obviously, clerics will have views on these matters like anyone else but they ought not to be expressed in an official capacity.”

“Although the new paragraph in the Catechism is not unproblematic” Dr. Fimister told LifeSite, “it is still possible to read the text itself as making the inadmissibility of the death penalty dependent on the alleged fact that ‘more effective systems of detention have been developed.’”

“Read this way, while appearing to take up a temporal prudential judgment reserved to the lay faithful, it would not directly contradict the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium concerning the legitimacy of the death penalty in principle,” he said.

“On the other hand, it has always been clear that Pope Francis’s personal view expressed in less formal contexts (including sadly the statement cited in the new section of the Catechismand now this address) is much harder to reconcile with the immemorial teaching of the Church.”

Fimister continued:

There is an ambiguity in John Paul II’s 1997 version  of 2267 as to what is meant by ‘the unjust aggressor.’ If ‘the unjust aggressor’ means ‘the murderer’ or ‘the rapist’ as a category then the 1997 version is giving us the same doctrine the 1566 Roman Catechism which implies that the legitimate use of the death penalty would both avenge crime and give security to life. Unfortunately, there is another way of interpreting n. 2267 (1997) and that is as saying that the actual individual murderer etc. has to be uncontainable by the prison system in order for the death penalty to be justified. This would not be consistent with prior teaching and would also imply a much too broad understanding of double effect. The use of the death penalty cannot be justified in such a way as would imply that one may do evil that good may come of it. One may never do evil that good may come of it. Pope Francis is coming down on the problematic side of this ambiguity and developing it into further and even more problematic conclusions (including the implicit condemnation of the universal and ordinary magisterium as “more legalistic than Christian” and “lacking in humanity and mercy”).

Dr. Fimister also pointed to some remarks of the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe in her essay ‘The Dignity of the Human Being.’ 

“To regard someone as deserving of death is very definitely regarding him, not just as a human being but as endued with a dignity belonging to human beings, as having free will and as answerable for his actions … Capital punishment, though you may have reason against it, does not, just as such, sin against the human dignity of one who suffers it. He is at least supposed to be answering for crime of which he has been found guilty by due process.”

Professor Anscombe, sometime head of the Cambridge philosophy faculty and celebrated pupil of Wittgenstein, was no slouch in her zeal for human dignity facing arrest for barricading abortion clinics with her own body. 

“We always have to be careful to avoid claiming that the teachings of Christ and the Apostles somehow contain hidden meanings contrary to how the Church has understood them and apparent to us only now,” Fimister said. “As Vatican I reminds us, ‘If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.’”

As one informed source observed wryly: “It is hard to understand how Pope Francis can hold that the death penalty is per se contrary to the Gospel and yet was taught and practiced legitimately (if regrettably) in the past but is now ‘inadmissible.’ But one needs to remember that the pope is widely held to teach that sometimes some people simply cannot help but commit adultery and are therefore blameless. We can only hope that one day the ‘change in the conscience of the Christian people’ will make adultery inadmissible as well.”



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CARDINALS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Recently many educated Catholic observers, including bishops and priests, have decried the confusion in doctrinal statements about faith or morals made from the Apostolic See at Rome and by the putative Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Some devout, faithful and thoughtful Catholics have even suggested that he be set aside as a heretic, a dangerous purveyor of error, as recently mentioned in a number of reports. Claiming heresy on the part of a man who is a supposed Pope, charging material error in statements about faith or morals by a putative Roman Pontiff, suggests and presents an intervening prior question about his authenticity in that August office of Successor of Peter as Chief of The Apostles, i.e., was this man the subject of a valid election by an authentic Conclave of The Holy Roman Church?  This is so because each Successor of Saint Peter enjoys the Gift of Infallibility.  So, before one even begins to talk about excommunicating such a prelate, one must logically examine whether this person exhibits the uniformly good and safe fruit of Infallibility.

If he seems repeatedly to engage in material error, that first raises the question of the validity of his election because one expects an authentically-elected Roman Pontiff miraculously and uniformly to be entirely incapable of stating error in matters of faith or morals.  So to what do we look to discern the invalidity of such an election?  His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, within His massive legacy to the Church and to the World, left us with the answer to this question.  The Catholic faithful must look back for an answer to a point from where we have come—to what occurred in and around the Sistine Chapel in March 2013 and how the fruits of those events have generated such widespread concern among those people of magisterial orthodoxy about confusing and, or, erroneous doctrinal statements which emanate from The Holy See.

His Apostolic Constitution (Universi Dominici Gregis) which governed the supposed Conclave in March 2013 contains quite clear and specific language about the invalidating effect of departures from its norms.  For example, Paragraph 76 states:  “Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected.”

From this, many believe that there is probable cause to believe that Monsignor Jorge Mario Bergoglio was never validly elected as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Saint Peter—he never rightly took over the office of Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and therefore he does not enjoy the charism of Infallibility.  If this is true, then the situation is dire because supposed papal acts may not be valid or such acts are clearly invalid, including supposed appointments to the college of electors itself.

Only valid cardinals can rectify our critical situation through privately (secretly) recognizing the reality of an ongoing interregnum and preparing for an opportunity to put the process aright by obedience to the legislation of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in that Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis.  While thousands of the Catholic faithful do understand that only the cardinals who participated in the events of March 2013 within the Sistine Chapel have all the information necessary to evaluate the issue of election validity, there was public evidence sufficient for astute lay faithful to surmise with moral certainty that the March 2013 action by the College was an invalid conclave, an utter nullity.

What makes this understanding of Universi Dominici Gregisparticularly cogent and plausible is the clear Promulgation Clause at the end of this Apostolic Constitution and its usage of the word “scienter” (“knowingly”).  The Papal Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis thus concludes definitively with these words:  “.   .   .   knowingly or unknowingly, in any way contrary to this Constitution.”  (“.   .   .   scienter vel inscienter contra hanc Constitutionem fuerint excogitata.”)  [Note that His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, had a somewhat similar promulgation clause at the end of his corresponding, now abrogated, Apostolic Constitution, Romano Pontifici Eligendo, but his does not use “scienter”, but rather uses “sciens” instead. This similar term of sciens in the earlier abrogated Constitution has an entirely different legal significance than scienter.] This word, “scienter”, is a legal term of art in Roman law, and in canon law, and in Anglo-American common law, and in each system, scienter has substantially the same significance, i.e., “guilty knowledge” or willfully knowing, criminal intent.

Thus, it clearly appears that Pope John Paul II anticipated the possibility of criminal activity in the nature of a sacrilege against a process which He intended to be purely pious, private, sacramental, secret and deeply spiritual, if not miraculous, in its nature. This contextual reality reinforced in the Promulgation Clause, combined with:  (1) the tenor of the whole document; (2) some other provisions of the document, e.g., Paragraph 76; (3) general provisions of canon law relating to interpretation, e.g., Canons 10 & 17; and, (4) the obvious manifest intention of the Legislator, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, tends to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the legal conclusion that Monsignor Bergoglio was never validly elected Roman Pontiff.

This is so because:1.  Communication of any kind with the outside world, e.g., communication did occur between the inside of the Sistine Chapel and anyone outside, including a television audience, before, during or even immediately after the Conclave;2.   Any political commitment to “a candidate” and any “course of action” planned for The Church or a future pontificate, such as the extensive decade-long “pastoral” plans conceived by the Sankt Gallen hierarchs; and,3.  Any departure from the required procedures of the conclave voting process as prescribed and known by a cardinal to have occurred:each was made an invalidating act, and if scienter (guilty knowledge) was present, also even a crime on the part of any cardinal or other actor, but, whether criminal or not, any such act or conduct violating the norms operated absolutely, definitively and entirely against the validity of all of the supposed Conclave proceedings.

Quite apart from the apparent notorious violations of the prohibition on a cardinal promising his vote, e.g., commitments given and obtained by cardinals associated with the so-called “Sankt Gallen Mafia,” other acts destructive of conclave validity occurred.  Keeping in mind that Pope John Paul II specifically focused Universi Dominici Gregis on “the seclusion and resulting concentration which an act so vital to the whole Church requires of the electors” such that “the electors can more easily dispose themselves to accept the interior movements of the Holy Spirit,” even certain openly public media broadcasting breached this seclusion by electronic broadcasts outlawed by Universi Dominici Gregis.  These prohibitions include direct declarative statements outlawing any use of television before, during or after a conclave in any area associated with the proceedings, e.g.:  “I further confirm, by my apostolic authority, the duty of maintaining the strictest secrecy with regard to everything that directly or indirectly concerns the election process itself.” Viewed in light of this introductory preambulary language of Universi Dominici Gregis and in light of the legislative text itself, even the EWTN camera situated far inside the Sistine Chapel was an immediately obvious non-compliant  act which became an open and notorious invalidating violation by the time when this audio-visual equipment was used to broadcast to the world the preaching after the “Extra Omnes”.  While these blatant public violations of Chapter IV of Universi Dominici Gregis actuate the invalidity and nullity of the proceedings themselves, nonetheless in His great wisdom, the Legislator did not disqualify automatically those cardinals who failed to recognize these particular offenses against sacred secrecy, or even those who, with scienter, having recognized the offenses and having had some power or voice in these matters, failed or refused to act or to object against them:  “Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur and be discovered, those responsible should know that they will be subject to grave penalties according to the judgment of the future Pope.”  [Universi Dominici Gregis, ¶55]

No Pope apparently having been produced in March 2013, those otherwise valid cardinals who failed with scienter to act on violations of Chapter IV, on that account alone would nonetheless remain voting members of the College unless and until a new real Pope is elected and adjudges them.  

Thus, those otherwise valid cardinals who may have been compromised by violations of secrecy can still participate validly in the “clean-up of the mess” while addressing any such secrecy violations with an eventual new Pontiff.  In contrast, the automatic excommunication of those who politicized the sacred conclave process, by obtaining illegally, commitments from cardinals to vote for a particular man, or to follow a certain course of action (even long before the vacancy of the Chair of Peter as Vicar of Christ), is established not only by the word, “scienter,” in the final enacting clause, but by a specific exception, in this case, to the general statement of invalidity which therefore reinforces the clarity of intention by Legislator that those who apply the law must interpret the general rule as truly binding.  Derived directly from Roman law, canonical jurisprudence provides this principle for construing or interpreting legislation such as this Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis.  Expressed in Latin, this canon of interpretation is:   “Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis.”  (The exception proves the rule in cases not excepted.)  In this case, an exception from invalidity for acts of simony reinforces the binding force of the general principle of nullity in cases of other violations. Therefore, by exclusion from nullity and invalidity legislated in the case of simony: “If — God forbid — in the election of the Roman Pontiff the crime of simony were to be perpetrated, I decree and declare that all those guilty thereof shall incur excommunication latae sententiae.  At the same time I remove the nullity or invalidity of the same simoniacal provision, in order that — as was already established by my Predecessors — the validity of the election of the Roman Pontiff may not for this reason be challenged.”  

His Holiness made an exception for simony. Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis.  The clear exception from nullity and invalidity for simony proves the general rule that other violations of the sacred process certainly do and did result in the nullity and invalidity of the entire conclave. Comparing what Pope John Paul II wrote in His Constitution on conclaves with the Constitution which His replaced, you can see that, with the exception of simony, invalidity became universal. 

In the corresponding paragraph of what Pope Paul VI wrote, he specifically confined the provision declaring conclave invalidity to three (3) circumstances described in previous paragraphs within His constitution, Romano Pontfici Eligendo.  No such limitation exists in Universi Dominici Gregis.  See the comparison both in English and Latin below:Romano Pontfici Eligendo, 77. Should the election be conducted in a manner different from the three procedures described above (cf. no. 63 ff.) or without the conditions laid down for each of the same, it is for this very reason null and void (cf. no. 62), without the need for any declaration, and gives no right to him who has been thus elected. [Romano Pontfici Eligendo, 77:  “Quodsi electio aliter celebrata fuerit, quam uno e tribus modis, qui supra sunt dicti (cfr. nn. 63 sqq.), aut non servatis condicionibus pro unoquoque illorum praescriptis, electio eo ipso est nulla et invalida (cfr. n. 62) absque ulla declaratione, et ita electo nullum ius tribuit .”] as compared with:Universi Dominici Gregis, 76:  “Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected.”  [Universi Dominici Gregis, 76:  “Quodsi electio aliter celebrata fuerit, quam haec Constitutio statuit, aut non servatis condicionibus pariter hic praescriptis, electio eo ipso est nulla et invalida absque ulla declaratione, ideoque electo nullum ius tribuit.”]Of course, this is not the only feature of the Constitution or aspect of the matter which tends to establish the breadth of invalidity.

 Faithful must hope and pray that only those cardinals whose status as a valid member of the College remains intact will ascertain the identity of each other and move with the utmost charity and discretion in order to effectuate The Divine Will in these matters.  The valid cardinals, then, must act according to that clear, manifest, obvious and unambiguous mind and intention of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, so evident in Universi Dominici Gregis, a law which finally established binding and self-actuating conditions of validity on the College for any papal conclave, a reality now made so apparent by the bad fruit of doctrinal confusion and plain error. It would seem then that praying and working in a discreet and prudent manner to encourage only those true cardinals inclined to accept a reality of conclave invalidity, would be a most charitable and logical course of action in the light of Universi Dominici Gregis, and out of our high personal regard for the clear and obvious intention of its Legislator, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.  Even a relatively small number of valid cardinals could act decisively and work to restore a functioning Apostolic See through the declaration of an interregnum government.  The need is clear for the College to convene a General Congregation in order to declare, to administer, and soon to end the Interregnum which has persisted since March 2013. Finally, it is important to understand that the sheer number of putative counterfeit cardinals will eventually, sooner or later, result in a situation in which The Church will have no normal means validly ever again to elect a Vicar of Christ.  After that time, it will become even more difficult, if not humanly impossible, for the College of Cardinals to rectify the current disastrous situation and conduct a proper and valid Conclave such that The Church may once again both have the benefit of a real Supreme Pontiff, and enjoy the great gift of a truly infallible Vicar of Christ.  It seems that some good cardinals know that the conclave was invalid, but really cannot envision what to do about it; we must pray, if it is the Will of God, that they see declaring the invalidity and administering an Interregnum through a new valid conclave is what they must do.  Without such action or without a great miracle, The Church is in a perilous situation.  Once the last validly appointed cardinal reaches age 80, or before that age, dies, the process for electing a real Pope ends with no apparent legal means to replace it. Absent a miracle then, The Church would no longer have an infallible Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.  Roman Catholics would be no different that Orthodox Christians. In this regard, all of the true cardinals may wish to consider what Holy Mother Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶675, ¶676 and ¶677 about “The Church’s Ultimate Trial”.  But, the fact that “The Church .   .   .  will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection” does not justify inaction by the good cardinals, even if there are only a minimal number sufficient to carry out Chapter II of Universi Dominici Gregis and operate the Interregnum. This Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, which was clearly applicable to the acts and conduct of the College of Cardinals in March 2013, is manifestly and obviously among those “invalidating” laws “which expressly establish that an act is null or that a person is effected” as stated in Canon 10 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  And, there is nothing remotely “doubtful or obscure” (Canon 17) about this Apostolic Constitution as clearly promulgated by Pope John Paul II.  The tenor of the whole document expressly establishes that the issue of invalidity was always at stake.  This Apostolic Constitution conclusively establishes, through its Promulgation Clause [which makes “anything done (i.e., any act or conduct) by any person  .   .   .   in any way contrary to this Constitution,”] the invalidity of the entire supposed Conclave, rendering it “completely null and void”. So, what happens if a group of Cardinals who undoubtedly did not knowingly and wilfully initiate or intentionally participate in any acts of disobedience against Universi Dominici Gregis were to meet, confer and declare that, pursuant to Universi Dominici Gregis, Monsignor Bergoglio is most certainly not a valid Roman Pontiff.  Like any action on this matter, including the initial finding of invalidity, that would be left to the valid members of the college of cardinals.  They could declare the Chair of Peter vacant and proceed to a new and proper conclave.  They could meet with His Holiness, Benedict XVI, and discern whether His resignation and retirement was made under duress, or based on some mistake or fraud, or otherwise not done in a legally effective manner, which could invalidate that resignation.  Given the demeanor of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, and the tenor of His few public statements since his departure from the Chair of Peter, this recognition of validity in Benedict XVI seems unlikely. In fact, even before a righteous group of good and authentic cardinals might decide on the validity of the March 2013 supposed conclave, they must face what may be an even more complicated discernment and decide which men are most likely not valid cardinals.  If a man was made a cardinal by the supposed Pope who is, in fact, not a Pope (but merely Monsignor Bergoglio), no such man is in reality a true member of the College of Cardinals.  In addition, those men appointed by Pope John Paul II or by Pope Benedict XVI as cardinals, but who openly violated Universi Dominici Gregis by illegal acts or conduct causing the invalidation of the last attempted conclave, would no longer have voting rights in the College of Cardinals either.  (Thus, the actual valid members in the College of Cardinals may be quite smaller in number than those on the current official Vatican list of supposed cardinals.) In any event, the entire problem is above the level of anyone else in Holy Mother Church who is below the rank of Cardinal.  So, we must pray that The Divine Will of The Most Holy Trinity, through the intercession of Our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces and Saint Michael, Prince of Mercy, very soon rectifies the confusion in Holy Mother Church through action by those valid Cardinals who still comprise an authentic College of Electors.  Only certainly valid Cardinals can address the open and notorious evidence which points to the probable invalidity of the last supposed conclave and only those cardinals can definitively answer the questions posed here.  May only the good Cardinals unite and if they recognize an ongoing Interregnum, albeit dormant, may they end this Interregnum by activating perfectly a functioning Interregnum government of The Holy See and a renewed process for a true Conclave, one which is purely pious, private, sacramental, secret and deeply spiritual.  If we do not have a real Pontiff, then may the good Cardinals, doing their appointed work “in view of the sacredness of the act of election”  “accept the interior movements of the Holy Spirit” and provide Holy Mother Church with a real Vicar of Christ as the Successor of Saint Peter.   May these thoughts comport with the synderetic considerations of those who read them and may their presentation here please both Our Immaculate Virgin Mother, Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and The Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.N. de Plume
Un ami des Papes


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. Sheepdog says:

    According to Veri Catholici, Steve Skojec is a liar who came up with the term “Bennyvacantism”. I also want to add that Steve also does not take the correct theological positions when dealing with other opponents and cross-debating. For example; around the same time when John Salza and Robert Siscoe were debating Peter and Michael Dimond online, Steve Skojec allowed Neo-Sedevacantist comments on his blog. Certainly Peter and Michael Dimond are heretics and not to be followed. They are liars.They have some good points but their conclusion on how to resolve it is clearly false.

    Why can’t all these people help you out? Would the Remnent with Michael Matt accept your proposal for the Valid Cardinals to get together?

    I feel as though Church Militant is good, and now they should consider your article. Go to and see if they will accept your open letter.

    In the meantime the two sheepdogs will continue tweeting.

  2. Sheepdog says:

    “Pope” Francis always contradicts himself.

  3. hellenback7 says:

    I suppose it now follows that I shouldn’t feel quite so guilty if/when I miss Mass on Sunday. Nw that Francis is “boss” of if murderers and rap I everything abd murdering rapists are not allowed to ever be killed as punishment, why would I receive eternal damnation for missing Sunday Mass?

    Is not the eternal suffering of the soul a more egregious punishment than a quick execution?
    This guy seems to have missed some theology in the seminary!
    Either that or he has quite a chip on his shoulder over having to obey Popes he didn’t personally agree with (not that he actually ever did).

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