Thursday, March 05, 2015

Can Retired Popes Judge

One of the meanders that seemed to fascinate Canon Lawyers was: who can depose a Pope, if he felll into heresy?
I was sent this article by Jacob Wood, it gives a brief summary of Suarez's and Bellarmine's arguments, Basically Canonists after Trent say that it is possible but there is no power to do it, either God removes him or 'the bishops' somehow do it. In previous age it might have been suggested, at least by certain schools of theology, that emperor could do it or I suppose the Roman mob. The problem was that although the Pope de jure if he fell into heresy might lose the Papacy de facto he remained Pope.

The problem is of course no-one is able to judge the Pope, except the Pope, Up until the last Conclave that meant that only a successor who judge his predecessor. The arguments of the 16th century Canonists never of course envisioned the idea of a retired Pope, does this change the situation?

Though I think the arguments put forward by some Italian authors that Benedict has retained something of the Papacy are more than cranky, the idea that a retired Pope might at some stage intervene in a crisis is an interesting idea.


Liam Ronan said...

I wonder if what is known as the 'sensus fidei' plays a mysterious role in who is genuinely the 'Pope', the True Shepherd, and who is the hireling?

"My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, so that to all eternity they can never be lost; no one can tear them away from my hand." John 10:27-28

The understanding of the 'sensus fidei' has had much written about it throughout the ages.

Here is a recent work (below). [*God of surprises warning insofar as interpretation of this latest exposition.*]

Capt. Morgan said...

I have always felt, and continue to feel, that Pope Benedict's involvement in the crisis is not finished. He gave us hints of the depth of the crisis from the beginning of His tenure. His stepping aside has unleashed the progressives. They seem to think they have won the day. I am not convinced.

Sitsio said...

Surely this is part of the history of the Church, i.e. the Great Schism of 1378, when there were several claimants to the Papacy. Ultimately this led to the rise of conciliarism, which was then replaced by Ultramonatism and finally put to bed at the First Vatican Council.

Fr. VF said...

Benedict is NOT a "retired Pope" in the sense of "a Pope who is retired."

He is a retired man who was Pope. He is NOT a Pope in any sense. He is not the occupant of the See of Peter.

Reportedly, it was his preference that he become Cardinal Ratzinger again upon ceasing to be Pope.

Fr Ray Blake said...

My point is simply that a former bishop of Rome is a new thing, having a living 'representative' of the previous Pope's magisterium is a new thing.

A retired Pope has no de jure authority, he does have a certain de facto authority, Suarez, Bellarmine agreed that a heretic Pope could be deposed, but their arguements never provided a mechanism to do that.
A retired Pope however has the ability to claim his successor is not acting in continuity. He could even claim his successor was elected invalidly because he himself was coerced to resign.
Though he has no actual authority he alone could force the College of Cardinals to re-examine or re-evaluate his successors election or actions

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem seems to me that we have invested far too much in the different personalities of the men who occupy the See of Peter - a product of the media/celebrity age, I suppose. Each incumbent will have their own personal style, preferences, prejudices, priorities etc., but popes do not have a personal "magisterium" which they can carry with them should they resign (not "retire", surely). They may command personal esteem for their wisdom and holiness, but nothing more than that.

I may not like everything about the current Pope's style, but he is the Pope. My biggest problem is not his liturgical preferences or unguarded remarks, but his thinly veiled support for an attempt to nullify in practice Our Lord's solemn teaching about Marriage. That is a real issue, but it still hasn't happened yet. If he does officially attempt to do such a thing, surely it would be up to the Cardinals and bishops to act? They are the next level of the Magisterium, not an ex-Pope, who is just one bishop now, albeit a venerable one.

I'm not convinced there is evidence that Pope Benedict was forced to resign. He solemnly affirmed that he did so of his own free will. Anyway, what could there be that would force him? He only had to say "no" and hang on in there, calling in loyal supporters from round the world to help him. But, sad to say, he fled before the wolves. This crisis is as much of his making as anyone else. I know that may upset some here, but that's how I see it. Of course, he's still a far better man than I will ever be, and only Jesus is our judge. And He's in charge not me, thank goodness. The Gates of Hell will not prevail, but how that pans out in these troubled times, I have no idea.

JR Charousek said...

Father Blake,

Are you suggesting that the Pope has fallen into heresy?

Are you suggesting that the previous Pope was coerced into resigning?

Please would you make your position clear on these matters. Otherwise readers might be mislead as to your intentions and see unintended innuendoes in your words.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Certainly not!
However people do seem to be returning to look at these 'what if?' arguments as never before, it is inevitable, because on the one we have a Pope resigning, and therefore unsettling the notion of 'Papacy" and on the other hand we have a body of Cardinals who appear to wish to move the Church to a practice many consider heterodox.

Pelerin said...

There is an interesting interview with Cardinal Sarah on the blog 'Aleteia'.

When he is asked 'What are we to do with those who say that Pope Francis was not the candidate/choice of the Holy Spirit?' he replied 'I say to them - are they themselves in direct contact with the Holy Spirit?'

fzk5220 said...

Are there any provisions as to the course of action in the event of something like medically certified "dementia" or the diagnostic term "Alzheimer's " currently in vogue?
Is there a "living wil " -like provision in the event a pontiff is incapacitated and whose responsibility is it then to make the decision to declare that he is incapable of performing or upholding his duties for the benefit of all us sheep?
Is there an urgent need to clarify this point?
As you can tell I am a layman.

Православный физик said...

Well, I don't have the authority to answer the question, but it is one that seriously needs to be looked at. Pope Francis may well NOT do the bidding of the liberals who wish to destroy the Church, but I do not find it a mere coincidence who his friends are. And if that's the case, God help us all.

JR Charousek said...

I would suggest that, given there is no suggestion that the previous Pope was not coerced to resign and resigned of his own volition, presumably for the good of the Church, to discuss matters such as possible coercion and engage in 'what if' analysis is at best redundant and at worse puts us at risk of entering into idle gossip and speculation, possibly even judging our fellow men.

The same is true of discussing the possibility of a Pope falling into heresy, of which there is absolutely no suggestion here.

Since there is clearly only one Pope, how can the notion of Papacy be unsettled?

Jacobi said...

It would have been a lot better if Benedict had just carried on. Yes, he is not as young as he used to be but that applies to a lot of us.

There are times when keeping your mouth shut is appropriate, is better than any alternative, and he was quite good at that which his successor, yes I stress his successor, not questioning that, is not.

Yes, Benedict should have just carried on.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Because the notion of Papacy we have lived with since 1870, especially around VII was rather inflated, not an authentic interpretation of VI, or of 'Tradition'. People are following Et in Unam Sint's urging to look again at the Papacy.
Also Francis is unsettling: 'create a mess', but Benedict's resignation has forced a rethink (I repeat myself, again), it is impossible to regard Francis or any subsequent Pope as we did Pius XII, or John XXII, or PaulVI, or JPII

Colonel Mustard said...

I do question some of the violently hostile neo-conservative legalists - amongst others - who spout the line: in no way is Benedict pope. We do not unknit the papacies of popes who have retired. Indeed, their teaching serves a purpose, and through it (and something through devotion to them as holy men, as well), they exercise influence. That a pope is retired, rather than dead, does not diminish his role as the present pope's predecessor. The fact that Pope Benedict is still defined by his being the former bishop of Rome (rather than being transferred to a titular see, as I believe bishops who retire should be, as was the case in the past) doesn't help the cause of those that want to whitewash the Holy Ghost's inspirations, sorely needed in these confusing times. I think an ex-pope does have some role to play; we aren't robots. We cannot simply transfer our love from one man to another by a tick on a ballot paper. Similarly, there is no reason why Almighty God, in his great wisdom, would constrain himself to act through the living pope who happens to wear the crown at that moment. It is high time that we reevaluated the papacy, and our collective and individual relationship with it, because I think we're missing out on something if we don't.

Pelerin said...

Frank Karwatovicz brings up an interesting point asking what should happen if a Pope develops dementia. With people living much longer now this is a possibility although Pope Leo XIII appears to have been ok before his death at 93 but then presumably the media were not following his every move.

Having a good friend recently diagnosed to be in the first stages of Altzheimers I have been looking up details and found on the 'America' site that 'there are no procedures for dealing with the siuation of a Pope developing dementia.'

I do remember seeing a video on the internet of one of the Popes - I forget which one - who was looking extremely vague and confused being helped along. He looked as if he had no idea what he should be doing at that time.

Another site recording what the various Popes died of makes for interesting reading - one is quoted as having major anxiety neurosis and another severe depression and a fear of being murdered. Both were named Clement! Another died when a ceiling fell on him for whom I have great sympathy as that was nearly my fate as a child only missing the collapsed ceiling by a few minutes!

Anonymous said...

Colonel Mustard, I think yo are confusing a number of issues. In saying that Jospeh Ratzinger is no longer Pope does not diminish, dismiss or undermine his acts or the teaching he gave when he was Pope. These stand, as do his edicts and judgements unless specifically countermanded by a successor. Nor is it an attack on affection and respect for what he did during his papacy or for the man himself. I wish he was still Pope, but he is not. The authority and powers go with the office not the man. When he resigned he left the office, and with it the authority and powers that go with being Pope. From his relatively unprecedented position he does indeed command a moral authority as a thinker and from his previous standing in the Church, although he has mostly been careful to avoid that being called on in the public sphere, lest it be confused or used by others as a bid to establish some residual and competitive papal centre of action. He has no formal magisterial role now, but he no doubt has opinions, which so far he is keeping firmly to himself.

I think it was Cardinal Burke, or even Pope Benedict himself who pointed out that The Holy Spirit does not choose Popes. If that were teh case then some of the really bad Popes of history would have to be signs of epic failure by the Almighty!The Cardinals do the choosing and the Holy Spirit confers special graces of protection which guarantee the ex-cathedra teachings of whoever sits in the chair of Peter, so that they at least do not harm the Church and confirm their brothers in the faith.

In ages gone by most of us would only have heard what Popes did or said when formal pronouncements were made. Popes were the final court of appeal in matters of doctrine and discipline. Now we have made the personalities superior to the office. I too have an affection for Benedict XVI and also a great devotion to St. John Paul II, and I ask the latter's prayers daily in the current situation, but the fact is neither of them are Pope now and so cannot act as if they are. Actually their spiritual influence (from heaven in one case, and from his self imposed enclosure on earth in the other) may be much greater than some the apparent activites of the man who is currently Pope - I certainly hope so - but facts are facts. That is all I am saying.

Colonel Mustard said...

As a bishop, Pope Benedict has a "magisterial role", as does every bishop, priest and deacon.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

While the speculative arguments of the great Saint Bellarmine and others seems compelling at first, we have been taught infallibly that the Holy See of Peter will remain faithful until the end of time - see Vatican 1 and the promises of Jesus.

Now, literally every other Church on Earth could fall to Satan but NOT the Holy See of Peter - EVER.

For those tempted to post but what about LaSallette ....

Forget it. In the first place that putative prophecy has been condemned; and besides, do you think it possible that Mary would tell any woman that the Holy See would fall to Satan after th promises of Jesus?

Liam Ronan said...

I realize this is off-topic, but I thought fellow readers of Father Blake's Blog would like to remember that Mario Palmaro, the Italian Catholic pro-life champion and faithful outspoken son of the Church, died one year ago today, March 09, 2014.

May Perpetual Light shine upon him.

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