Have We Correctly Understood Schism?

I have held since early 1983, and still hold, that the Holy See is at present vacant, and that those who follow the false religion of Vatican II, accepting its changed doctrines and rites, are not to be considered Catholics.

For most of that time I have also held the following three propositions:

  1. All who consider John-Paul II to be pope are by that very fact and for that very reason to be considered as non-Catholics by virtue at least of schism.

  2. All those who reject John-Paul II, but remain in communion with any others who recognise John-Paul II to be pope, are by that very fact and for that very reason to be considered as non-Catholics by virtue at least of schism.

  3. All those who reject John-Paul II but remain in communion with those who hold certain other errors, or have been guilty of certain other misdemeanours, such as holding the Guérardian thesis or frequenting clergy descended from the Thuc line, are by that very fact and for that very reason to be considered as non-Catholics by virtue at least of schism.

Recently I have devoted very close study to the reasons for which I held these latter views. As a result I have been forced to abandon them. I no longer believe that any of the above propositions represents the correct Catholic evaluation of those to whom it relates. To explain the reasons for my change of view I shall refer chiefly to the first of these propositions.

What were my grounds for believing that one who rejected the false doctrines and false Mass of John-Paul II was automatically a schismatic if he was deceived by the arguments of those traditionalists who claim that, despite his errors, he is still the pope?

Eight Arguments for the Old Position

My grounds for believing as I did included most of the following arguments:

  1. The church headed by John-Paul II is not the Catholic Church. One who acknowledges John-Paul II as the head of his religion must be a member of that false church, and therefore not of the Catholic Church.

  2. External affiliation to a false religion creates a presumption of pertinacity in the external forum, i.e. the Church treats those thus seduced as strangers to her communion even if they may be interiorly in good faith.

  3. Separating oneself from a true pope is a schismatic act, so the same logically applies to communion with a false one.

  4. Canon 2200/2 requires us to presume malice in the external forum when the law is externally infringed. (I have not myself applied this argument to heresy and schism since 1989, but others continue to use it.)
  5. It is impossible to justify continuing to accept John-Paul II as pope, in the light of the relevant facts, without falling into false doctrine.

  6. Certain episodes of Church history show that one who remains in communion with public heretics without espousing their heresies is deemed a schismatic.

  7. Traditionalists who recognise John-Paul II as pope show a schismatic mentality by ignoring him in a way that would constitute schism if he were in fact a true pope.

  8. When these traditionalists are confronted by evidence of their error, and proof that John-Paul II is not pope, they commonly manifest their pertinacity by taking refuge in a variety of sophistical evasions of that obligatory and inescapable conclusion.

After careful research, I am now satisfied that no single one of these considerations can validly be invoked to justify the conclusion they aim at.

The simple truth, I now maintain, is that no one is guilty of schism or heresy unless he is pertinacious in his error, and there is no sufficient reason for judging that all those traditionalists who still believe John-Paul II to be pope are pertinacious; nor is there any basis in canon law for presuming the requisite pertinacity.

No one is a heretic unless he deliberately rejects the rule of faith established by God - the Catholic Magisterium - by consciously doubting or denying a dogma.
(1) And no one is a schismatic unless he wilfully refuses submission to the Holy See or communion with the Catholic Church.(2)

It is certainly possible in some cases to infer the presence of pertinacity from the fact that the individual in question could not credibly be in good faith, but this view should not be reached too easily.

I see no basis for drawing such an inference with regard to all traditionalists who continue to imagine that Karol Wojtyla is pope. Those involved reject the Vatican II changes in liturgy and doctrine, but believe that Wojtyla is still pope because they think that the canonical effects of heresy do not occur automatically and because they follow the opinion of those theologians who hold that a heretic can continue to be pope - Cajetan, Suarez and John of St Thomas. That was my own position until, in January 1983, after nearly a year of study, reflection and debate, I realised that it was wrong. Very commonly it is precisely the fear of falling into schism that makes traditionalists continue to adhere to Wojtyla despite his heresies.

Reply to the Eight Arguments

Does acceptance of Wojtyla imply membership of his sect? If the individual rejects the heresies and conventicles of that sect, but is confused as to the status of Wojtyla himself, the inference is completely gratuitous. A soldier who secedes to the enemy army is a traitor, but one who loses his way in the fog and marches with the enemy because he has mistaken them for friendly forces is clearly no such thing.
(4) Similarly, if a German should be deceived into believing that Jacques Chirac was the President of Germany and should accordingly declare his submission to him, by no legitimate process of reasoning may one infer that he has abandoned his German citizenship and adopted the French nationality.

Is there a presumption of pertinacity as a result of adherence to a false religion? If one consciously adheres to a false religion, undoubtedly there is. Otherwise no authority for such a notion exists. It will be found that every author quoted to support this view is referring to a case in which no confusion was possible - the miscreant adhered to a heretical sect while realising that it was not the Catholic Church.

But is it not a schismatic act to adhere to a false pope? Surely it would be an act of schism to reject a true pope and can be no less schismatic to adhere to a false one?

No. In fact it is not an act of schism to reject a true pope, if one does so not because of a wish to leave the communion of the Holy See but because one reasonably doubts whether he is in fact legitimate. This is clearly taught by numerous theologians and canonists and their teaching definitively refutes the error of those who think that involuntary and unconscious separation from the true occupant of the Roman See creates an automatic presumption of pertinacity.

So one who rejects a true pope on the basis of an innocent mistake and with no pertinacious intention of separation from the Holy See remains a Catholic. All the more so would this apply to one who mistakenly accepts a false pope as true.

Of course John-Paul II is not just an illegitimate claimant - he is a publicly heretical one. But this does not clinch the fact of schism, since renowned theologians have held, however wrong-headedly, that a heretical pope does not automatically lose his office. It can be shown that this view is wrong and cannot apply to John-Paul II, but it cannot be shown that all those who think it can are definitely pertinacious. Pertinacity consists in the refusal to accept the direct judgment of the Church, not in the failure to follow a chain of reasoning, however deplorable that failure may be. Moreover, Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio of Pope Paul IV, while ruling that the election of a heretic to the papacy would be invalid, merely permits the faithful to separate themselves from the culprit (as and when they recognise the invalidity of the election). It does not suggest that those who are backward in doing so are to be considered schismatics, and is indeed quite incompatible with that view.

Does Canon 2200/2 help? No. It has no relevant application whatever. Neither heresy nor schism exists where there is no pertinacity. Pertinacity is essential to the crime. To presume pertinacity where it is not evident would be to presume the crime itself, not just the guilt.
(6) Authors apply Canon 2200/2 to a case of heresy in which a priest would preach manifest heresy from the pulpit because a hidden gunman threatened to shoot him if he did so.(7) There we have an external and conscious profession of heresy, but without pertinacity because the priest's interior belief remains orthodox. No authors support the application of Canon 2200/2 to the case of one who holds an unorthodox doctrine while sincerely believing it to be orthodox, or who adheres to a non-pope while sincerely believing him to be the pope. It is a mistake to consider such cases to be heresy or schism committed in good faith(8). There is no heresy or schism at all where the individual sincerely wishes to hold the Catholic Faith and to submit to the Holy See, but is confused on a point of fact as to what the Church teaches or who in fact is the pope.

Does not acceptance of John-Paul II logically lead to beliefs that are incompatible with the Catholic Faith? Certainly, if pressed to its logical conclusion, it does. A traditionalist who adheres to Wojtyla must hold, if pressed, that true popes can teach error by the habitual exercise of the Ordinary Magisterium during forty years, and that the Catholic Church, by her praxis, laws and liturgy, can lead souls astray. Neither proposition is reconcilable with the Catholic Faith. However, several steps of reasoning are involved to demonstrate that acceptance of Wojtyla as pope leads inevitably to unorthodoxy. In such cases the Church does not assume that all involved have understood the connection and actually hold the error, much less does she suppose them to be pertinacious in holding it.
(9) Not every one who holds a position adverts to and admits all of its logical consequences, much less to whether each of those consequences is necessarily compatible with sound doctrine never perhaps adequately learnt or studied. Neither ignorance nor folly is a proof of pertinacity.

Moreover special allowance must be made in our days when it is genuinely difficult, in evaluating the situation confronting us, to see any solution that does not have at least an appearance of unorthodoxy. Many traditionalists are shy of the sedevacantist solution because it is hard to reconcile with the Vatican I dogma that the Church will always possess bishops, and hard to reconcile with the teaching of many theologians that peaceful acceptance by the Church confirms the validity of a pontificate
(10), among other difficulties.

Our situation is reminiscent of that which prevailed during the Great Western Schism - another time of great confusion. The difficulty of seeing how the situation could be rectified led many Catholics to embrace the heterodox notion that a council could be superior to a pope and depose him. This was unquestionably incompatible with Catholic doctrine
(11), but innocent confusion was possible, and understandable in the circumstances. The Church has never considered those who held this view to have been heretics or schismatics. She considers them to have been confused and mistaken on a point of doctrine, but nonetheless good and edifying Catholics. The same may apply to some of those who still mistakenly adhere to John-Paul II.

What about the lessons of history? It is true that some Fathers treated as schismatics those who frequented the conventicles of heretics without actually accepting the heretical doctrines. But we are considering those who do not go to the Novus Ordo conventicles. It is true that those who were in communion with heretics were deemed schismatics…but only when their pertinacity was considered evident. No Father or Saint has condemned as schismatic those (especially among simple priests or the laity) who remained in communion with an uncondemned heretical prelate without accepting his heresies.

In evaluating pertinacity there is a clear difference between the attitude of Ss Jerome and Epiphanius on the one hand, and that of Ss Hilary and Chrysostom on the other. All are saints. The latter, milder attitude is that which has ultimately been accepted by the Church, as we see from the treatment of Berengarius, or the attitude of St Robert Bellarmine to Michel de Bay. The authorities of the Church made every effort to believe in the good faith of those who erred, even about matters a great deal clearer than those we confront today. And does a private individual have the right to be less understanding, and harsher, than the Roman Inquisition?

Those who sided with false popes during the Great Western Schism, or the schism of Pietro Pierleone (Anacletus II) were not considered schismatics, owing to the confusion that prevailed.

Do not traditionalists who recognise John-Paul II treat him in a way that would brand them schismatics if they so treated a true pope? Does that not betray a schismatic mentality?

It is true that no Catholic may treat a true pope as these confused traditionalists treat Karol Wojtyla by ignoring him, disobeying his commands even when they are intrinsically unobjectionable, etc. But the reason they treat him thus is that they realise, correctly, that to submit to him would be even more blatantly unacceptable. Their mistaken recognition of him as pope presents them with the dilemma of obeying him and jeopardising their faith, or of disobeying him habitually and thereby being practically schismatic in his regard. They do not see that the dilemma can only be illusory. They are half-way between submission to John-Paul II and the total rejection of his usurpation. It is undeniable that this half-way house implies a compromise that Catholic doctrine cannot accept, but it must be admitted that the cause of the error is not an evil in itself - the schismatic spirit. It is the fact of having correctly seen that it is not possible for a Catholic to treat Wojtyla as pope, without having the courage and perceptiveness to see with certainty that he is not one. How many of us who have arrived at the position that John-Paul II is not pope have reached it without passing through this position of compromise? And when we were ourselves in that position, was it due to the sin of schism
(12), or simply to our having understood half of the reality but not yet all? Is it logical, if you want someone to cross a road, to take scandal at seeing him already in the middle of it?

In any event, since he is not a true pope, their attitude does not make them actually schismatics. It is certainly a deplorable attitude, and one more proof that recognition of John-Paul II cannot ultimately be reconciled with the Catholic Faith and is fraught with the gravest dangers. But deplorable and dangerous errors can be espoused without realisation of their full implications and dangers at all; they do not constitute proof that pertinacity is present.

The argument that these traditionalists pertinaciously reject the proofs that Wojtyla is not pope and the proofs that their position leads to unorthodoxy would have to be evaluated in each individual case. I am conscious of a lamentable dearth of sound and convincing material arguing in favour of the vacancy of the Holy See. Much of what exists is vitiated by highly debatable arguments, such as the application of Canon 2200/2 to presume pertinacity. It is not at all clear that more than a small number of traditionalists have encountered a truly convincing case for sedevacantism and pertinaciously rejected it. It is not clear that the others have clearly understood why the opinion of Cajetan, Suarez and John of St Thomas cannot be held today in regard to Wojtyla. Nor is it clear that those who have drawn their attention to the unsatisfactory implications of their present position have satisfactorily answered the specious objections that can be made and widely are made against sedevacantism. To give a single example, the lie that no one is a heretic, under Canon Law, until he has been officially reprimanded and given an opportunity to retract, is so widespread that it is not sufficient to deny it - it must be thoroughly refuted. Simple souls may simply not be capable of evaluating the evidence involved, but even those who are capable of evaluating it need first to see it.

Moreover, since I am not an inquisitor and not trained for the role, and I don't know anyone who is
(13), it is not surprising if there should be differences of opinion in judging who is and who is not pertinacious. What is quite certain is that charity forbids us to judge evil of our neighbour except insofar as the evidence is inescapable. There can be no possible grounds for considering someone a schismatic because his opinion of whether some other party is pertinacious in his errors differs from ours.

The mystery of iniquity at work around us is not just iniquitous; it is also mysterious. Providence has willed that the times should be confusing, not to exclude from salvation all those who are mistaken in evaluating every detail affected by the confusion, but, surely, to try our charity as well as our faith. The closest historical parallels we can find suggest that we should limit our anathemas to those who depart from the Church's known teaching when no plea of good faith is possible. For the others, St Augustine's words seem applicable:

"And yet, if, within the Church, different men still held different opinions on the point, without meanwhile violating peace, then till some one, clear and simple decree should have been passed by a universal council, it would have been right for the charity which seeks for unity to throw a veil over the error of human infirmity, as it is written, 'For charity covers a multitude of sins.' For seeing that its [sc. charity's] absence causes the presence of all other things to be of no avail, we may well suppose that in its presence there is found pardon for the absence of some missing things." (On Baptism, against the Donatists, bk. 1)

Further Considerations

Of course, charity towards confused persons who sincerely hold the Catholic Faith and are earnestly determined to hold her doctrines as far as they understand them, and to live and die in her communion, must not be confused with liberalism towards manifest heretics. John-Paul II and those who, like him, have thrust off all together the sweet yoke of the revelation of Jesus Christ, in favour of the manifest heresies of ecumenism, religious liberty, universal salvation, with the accompanying new sacrilegious rituals
(14) are to be deemed pertinacious heretics. Ignorance that these beliefs are contrary to the perennial teaching of the Church is hardly conceivable, and those so ignorant of Catholic doctrine as not to know that would hardly be aware of the duty of adherence to the Magisterium at all.

Our duty is to distinguish where possible between those who have pertinaciously rejected Catholic doctrine
(15) and those who have been innocently confused and led astray while still habitually docile to the Magisterium. Charity inclines us in the suspect's favour where possible. Disagreements are inevitable.(16) If Catholics were perfectly united in their judgments of difficult questions during a prolonged vacancy of the Holy See one would be entitled to wonder what the popes were needed for in the first place. I submit that our salvation is likely to depend more on the humility with which we defend our views and our charity towards those who disagree with some of them than upon whether we succeed in reaching the right answer to every complicated question. I at least have been earnestly trying to reach the right answers for over seventeen years, with numerous advantages unavailable to most Catholics, and I have no assurance of having no remaining errors to weed out. Having only just realised that I was wrong on this fairly fundamental question of identifying who are and are not Catholics today, I have nothing but sympathy for others who have gone astray on other points, whether to the left or to the right.

Practical Consequences

This revision of my views has certain practical implications. It does not mean that Catholics should frequent Masses said in communion with John-Paul II or which are said by clergy who spread dangerous errors or are a source of grave scandal. Even when the priests involved are still members of the Catholic Church, numerous factors militate against such a practice. But it certainly does mean that those who frequent them nonetheless are not to be readily deemed guilty of schism or notorious sinners. Hence I see no reason justifying a Catholic priest in refusing the sacraments to such individuals - indeed it would be quite wrong to refuse the sacraments to anyone unless it is certain that he is a heretic or schismatic or a public sinner.

Evidently it follows that there is no reason for the faithful to avoid a sedevacantist priest on the grounds that he makes the sacraments available to non-sedevacantist traditionalists, for he is quite right to do so.

And I see no reason why all that is said above should not apply likewise per se to those who are associated with Thuc-line clergy. Many of them sincerely believe that Thuc was an edifying sedevacantist bishop at the time of his consecrations of Carmona, Zamora and Guérard des Lauriers. That he was nothing of the kind convicts them of an error of fact, but not necessarily of schism. Moreover one who receives orders from a heretic or schismatic whom he believes in good faith to be a Catholic incurs no censure for this
(Canon 2372(17)). And in any event, those who receive orders from second or third generation Thuc bishops do not necessarily contract a taint from the original fact of Thuc's aberrations.

Many of those involved sincerely believe the canard that Thuc possessed a faculty from Pope Pius XI or XII authorising him to consecrate whom he saw fit at any time or place. That is not so, but, once again, an error of fact or of prudence does not expel anyone from the Catholic Church.

It is an error to imagine that the Church's legislation requiring a papal mandate for the consecration of a bishop
(18) is definitely not susceptible to epikeia, if we understand a "papal mandate" as implying a direct and explicit authorisation for each consecration, granted by an actually reigning pope. Dom Gréa, and various historical episodes show that the contrary view is sustainable. Exactly what conditions would be needed for a consecration in our day to be lawful is a topic calling for careful study and about which opinions are likely to differ. Exactly which traditionalist consecrations are definitely valid in the various lines is another topic concerning which, pending fuller information, opinions are likely to differ. Meanwhile, if someone believes a given cleric of one of these lines to be Catholic and that his orders are valid, the legality of the circumstances in which he received his orders does not appear to constitute a decisive factor as to whether he may approach him for the sacraments.(19)

No one reasonably supposes in our day that receiving the sacraments from a priest implies full agreement with all that the priest believes and does in his ministry. If it did, I for one would be entirely cut off from the sacraments.


One implication of my new position, outlined in this paper, is that I no longer regard it as a matter of overwhelming importance for everyone else to agree with me about all that relates to the present state of the Church. I recognise as my fellow-Catholics those who still adhere to the position I used to hold, even though they, by an innocent mistake, are obliged to consider me a schismatic if they sincerely accept to the last letter the contents of the study What All Catholics Must Know… I have stated the grounds for my change of view, and wide consultation has elicited no serious attempt to refute my case. Hence my own duty in conscience is clear and I am content to leave others to follow theirs.

Nonetheless, I cannot bring myself to close this paper without addressing two challenges to those who still adhere to the "old position". The first is this: if you sincerely believe that adherence to a heretical anti-pope excludes one from the Catholic Church, irrespective of one's good faith, and that being in communion with a schismatic excludes one from the Church even if one mistakenly thinks him to be a Catholic - where was the Catholic Church between 1965 and 1970, when sedevacantism was practically unheard of and when the infinitesimal number of those who held it were certainly not out of communion with others who did not hold it?

It is no answer to say that the situation has become clearer since then. That reply concedes the central point at issue, namely that submission to a heretical pseudo-pope, and communion with schismatics, does not necessarily exclude one from the Church, but only insofar as the facts are clear. Once that is granted
, it is undeniable that what matters is not how clear the facts are in themselves, but how clear they are to each individual affected, which brings us back to the main thesis of this paper: failure to reject Karol Wojtyla's pseudo-pontificate is not a schismatic act unless pertinacity is evident.

My second challenge is simpler still. In this paper I have chiefly argued against the first proposition listed on page 1: "All who consider John-Paul II to be pope are by that very fact and for that very reason to be considered as non-Catholics by virtue at least of schism." Even supposing that you remain unconvinced by my arguments and still adhere to this proposition, do you seriously believe that my arguments are so weak and unworthy of credence that it is a schismatic act on my part to have been convinced by them and to conform my actions to their implications? If you recognise that my case is at least a probable and defensible one, and that I am therefore still a Catholic (!), you will note that you no longer hold proposition 2: "All those who reject John-Paul II, but remain in communion with any others who recognise John-Paul II to be pope, are by that very fact and for that very reason to be considered as non-Catholics by virtue at least of schism." So you have already changed your position on one major point. I too saw first of all that proposition 2 was unsustainable. Continued reflection enabled me to see that proposition 1 is equally gratuitous and I hope that you will follow the same course.

This paper is a simple summary of a longer case presented in my 32 page study Schism and Pertinacity. Of those who have read this study, most have found it convincing. To date no one has rejected it outright or suggested that my change of position is unreasonable, much less that it is incompatible with continued membership of the Church and eligibility to receive the sacraments.

Nor has any reader yet offered a single authoritative text justifying a universal presumption of pertinacity on the part of all who mistakenly believe a heretical anti-pope to be the true Vicar of Christ.

Appendix 1

St Antoninus on the Great Western Schism

"The question was much discussed and much was written in defence of one side or the other. For as long as the schism lasted each obedience had in its favour men who were very learned in scripture and Canon Law, and even very pious people, including some who – what is much more – were illustrious by the gift of miracles. Nonetheless the question could never be settled without leaving the minds of many still in doubt. Doubtless we must believe that, just as there are not several Catholic Churches, but only one, so there is only one Vicar of Christ who is its pastor. But if it should occur that, by a schism, several popes are elected at the same time, it does not seem necessary for salvation to believe that this or that one in particular is the true pope, but just in general whichever of them was canonically elected. The people are not obliged to know who was canonically elected, just as they are not obliged to know canon law; in this matter they may follow the judgment of their superiors and prelates." (pars 3, tit. 22, cap. 2)

Appendix 2

Billot on the Nature of Heresy

        "Heretics are divided into formal and material. Formal heretics are those to whom the authority of the Church is sufficiently known; while material heretics are those who, being in invincible ignorance of the Church herself, in good faith choose some other guiding rule. So the heresy of material heretics is not imputable as sin and indeed it is not necessarily incompatible with that supernatural faith which is the beginning and root of all justification. For they may explicitly believe the principal articles, and believe the others, though not explicitly, yet implicitly, through their disposition of mind and good will to adhere to whatever is sufficiently proposed to them as having been revealed by God. In fact they can still belong to the body of the Church by desire and fulfil the other conditions necessary for salvation. Nonetheless, as to their actual incorporation in the visible Church of Christ, which is our present subject, our thesis makes no distinction between formal and material heretics, understanding everything in accordance with the notion of material heresy just given, which indeed is the only true and genuine one.
(20) For, if you understand by the expression material heretic one who, while professing subjection to the Church's Magisterium in matters of faith, nevertheless still denies something defined by the Church because he did not know it was defined, or, by the same token, holds an opinion opposed to Catholic doctrine because he falsely thinks that the Church teaches it, it would be quite absurd to place material heretics outside the body of the true Church; but on this understanding the legitimate use of the expression would be entirely perverted. For a material sin is said to exist only when what belongs to the nature of the sin takes place materially, but without advertence or deliberate will. But the nature of heresy consists in withdrawal from the rule of the ecclesiastical Magisterium and this does not take place in the case mentioned [of someone who is resolved to believe all that the Church teaches but makes a mistake as to what her teaching consists in], since this is a simple error of fact concerning what the rule dictates. And therefore there is no scope for heresy, even materially." (Cardinal Louis Billot S.J., widely held to have been the foremost Thomistic theologian of recent centuries, in his De Ecclesia Christi, 4th edition, pp.289-290)

It is clear from this text that a simple error of fact as to what the Church teaches or who is her pope does not constitute even material heresy or schism. A heretic is not one who makes a mistake about what the Church teaches, but one who does not respect the principle of submission to the Magisterium at all. Similarly a schismatic is not one who errs in judging whether a given individual legitimately occupies the Holy See, but one who refuses submission to the Holy See. So when Canon 731§2 forbids the sacraments to be given to heretics and schismatics who err in good faith, it is referring to those who are in invincible ignorance of the duty of belonging to the Church, not to those who inadvertently err on a point of doctrine or in evaluating the claim of a given individual to be pope. Priests may not administer the sacraments to schismatics even if they were raised in schism and are not culpable. But it would be a total misunderstanding to equate such persons with Catholics who are confused in evaluating the present status of John Paul II.

Appendix 3

St James of the Marches on the Status of those who are Led Astray in Good Faith By a Heretical "Pope"

"…supposing that a pope were heretical, and not publicly condemned, still bearing his office; supposing that a simple person, not a public person, enquired of that Lord Pope concerning the unity of the Faith, and the pope then instructed him in that heresy which he himself held for a truth; then the man thus instructed, if he be not made conscious [of his error] from some other quarter, is not to be adjudged an heretic, seeing that he believeth himself to be instructed in the Catholic Faith." (Quoted in heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, ed. Edward Peters, London, Scolar, 1980, p 248)

Here the saint postulates the case in which the Holy See would be (illegitimately) occupied by an uncondemned heretic (as is the case today). He considers the case of someone who believed the heretic to be a true pope and asked his instruction on a point of Catholic doctrine. The "pope" instructs him in heresy instead, and the man believes the false doctrine. Even so, says Saint James, the man would not be deemed a heretic, because his intention is to believe the Catholic Faith, and his error has occurred despite that.

Are we not here a million miles from the notion that the misled person should already be deemed a non-Catholic for being in communion with a heretical false pope in the first place? That notion does not even occur to the saint to be refuted; he insists that even if he believes a heretical doctrine on the "authority" of the heretical usurper of the Holy See, he retains his status as a member of the Catholic Church. And are we really to consider a man as excluded from the Church when in a similar case he rejects the new heresies, and even rejects the usurper who is disseminating them, but continues to consider as his fellow-Catholics others who have not yet seen as clearly as he?


This paper is addressed to those who hold the position I formerly held and which I now consider to be too rigorous. Other sedevacantists incline to the other extreme – the view that there is no difficulty or danger in the idea of frequenting the Masses of priests who continue to recognise Karol Wojtyla. It is not my intention to fuel the fires of this school. I have no intention of encouraging any Catholic to follow this course and no intention of doing so myself. There is no question of defending the indefensible position of the S.S.P.X. and others, but only the good faith of many of its adherents. I am merely pointing out that whatever objections exist against assisting at the true Mass celebrated in communion with John-Paul II do not include the presumption that the celebrant is necessarily a non-member of the Catholic Church.

In Festo Dedicationis Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, A.D. 1999

John S. Daly
Le Bouchillou
24410 Servanches
Tel/Fax 05 53 82 15 02
E-mail: John Daly

 (i) " Those who defend their opinion, no matter how false and perverse it may be, without pertinacious insistence, and who with all solicitude seek the truth, prepared to correct their opinions when they have found it, are not to be counted among heretics." (St Augustine: in cap. Dixit Apostolus, xxiv, q. iii; Letter 43, para. 162, c.1, n.1)

 (ii) " Those who hold some diseased and perverse opinion in the Church, if, when they are corrected, in order to bring them to the correct and wholesome view, contumaciously resist, and are unwilling to amend their pestiferous and deadly doctrines but insist on defending them, are heretics." (St Augustine: Contra Manichaeos, in cap. qui in Ecclesia, xxiv, q. iii. The saint teaches the same thing in Book 4, Chapter 16 of his work On Baptism against the Donatists, saying that one who, through error, believes the same as Photinus becomes a heretic for the first time when, the doctrine of the Catholic Faith being made known to him, he prefers to reject it and chooses instead that which he had held.)

  (iii) Canon 1325/2: "A heretic is one who, after baptism, while continuing to call himself a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that are to be believed with divine and Catholic Faith."

 (iv) Bouscaren and Ellis: "Pertinaciter (in definition of heretic) does not imply duration nor violence; it simply means setting up one's mind against the known mind of the Church." (Canon Law, p. 902)

2  "…the sin of schism is, properly speaking, a special sin, for the reason that the schismatic intends to sever himself from that unity which is the effect of charity... Accordingly schismatics properly so called are those who, wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church…" (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q.39, A.1) Canon 1325/2 defines a schismatic as one who "refuses to be subject to the Roman Pontiff or to communicate with the members of the Church subject to him." The Bulla Coenae declared excommunicated "schismatics and all those who pertinaciously withdraw from obedience to the reigning Roman Pontiff". (emphases added)

3  (i) Cf. De Lugo: Disputation on Heresy and Heretics, section V, n. 156 et seq.

  (ii) " Obstinacy may be assumed when a revealed truth has been proposed with sufficient clearness and force to convince a reasonable man." (Dom Charles Augustine: A Commentary on Canon Law, Vol. 8, p. 335.)

4  Canon 2316 brands as "suspect of heresy" those who communicate in the religious rites of heretics. Canonists specify that this affects only those who commit the misdemeanour consciously.

 (i) " Finally they cannot be numbered among the schismatics, who refuse to obey the Roman Pontiff because they consider his person to be suspect or doubtfully elected on account of rumours in circulation..." (Wernz-Vidal: Ius Canonicum, Vol. vii, n. 398)

  (ii) " Nor is there any schism if one merely transgress a papal law for the reason that one considers it too difficult, or if one refuses obedience inasmuch as one suspects the person of the pope or the validity of his election, or if one resists him as the civil head of a state." (Szal, Rev. Ignatius: Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, CUA, 1948, p.2)

 (iii) " Neither is someone a schismatic for denying his subjection to the Pontiff on the grounds that he has solidly founded ['probabiliter'] doubts concerning the legitimacy of his election or his power [refs. to Sanchez and Palao]." (de Lugo: Disp., De Virt. Fid. Div., disp. xxv, sect. iii, nn. 35-8)

6  "The essence of heresy consists in this, that a Christian chooses a rule of faith other than that which Christ has instituted; heresy is a rebellion against the doctrinal authority of the Catholic Church and manifests itself in a refusal to believe doctrines which are declared by the Church to be Divinely revealed. Now it is evident that, in order for such a refusal to constitute a real rebellion and thus verify the essential notion of heresy, there must be previous knowledge that the doctrine denied is in fact taught by the Catholic Church as belonging to the deposit of faith; there is no disobedience to authority where there is no knowledge of a command having been issued. It would therefore...be a misuse of the term to brand as a heretic a professing Catholic who should deny or doubt a doctrine which he did not know to form part of the Church's dogmatic teaching; such a person would not be even a 'material' sinner, because he would not be a rebel." (Canon E. J. Mahoney: The Clergy Review, 1952, vol. XXXVII, p.459)

7  Cf. Fr. Heribert Jone's treatment of Canon 1325/2 (Commentarium in Codicem Juris Canonici, vol. II, p.493).

8  See Appendix 2.

9  Cf. Canon 1323§3, de Lugo: Disputation on Heresy and Heretics, section III, nn. 77-8 and Cartechini: de Valore Notarum Theologicarum, pp. 19-20, 27, 74, 87 and 99.

10  Since Roncalli, and Montini at the beginning of his "reign" to all appearances were peacefully accepted by the Church.

11  Though the contrary had not at the time been directly defined, as it since has.

12  Of course we may have been negligent in seeking the truth; we may have been at fault. But the pertinacity required for the sin of schism implies much more than that - "schismatics properly so called are those who, wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church…" (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q.39, A.1) Does that really apply to the state of mind we were in at that time in our pilgrimage towards the sedevacantist conclusion?
13  "Laymen are not competent judges in matters of heresy, even as to mere questions of fact." (The Rev. S. B. Smith: Elements of Ecclesiastical Law, vol. 1, p. 362)

14  Participation in which unquestionably constitutes an outward expression of heresy by actions (Cf. A. V. da Silveira: Behaviour, Gestures, Attitudes and Omissions Can Betray a Heretic) owing to their opposition to the dogmas of transubstantiation and of the sacrificial and propitiatory character of the Mass.
15  Cf. De Lugo: Disputatio XX, de Haeresi et Haereticis, sections v and vi. It should be understood that someone can be guilty of mortally sinful negligence in establishing the truth, without being pertinacious. Pertinacity implies conscious departure from the Church's faith or communion. Cf Vermeersch-Creusen: Epitome Juris Canonici Cum Commentariis, vol. III, n. 311)
16  Cardinal Billot: De Ecclesia, Q. VII, explains that it is not unusual for there to be some confusion in establishing whether or not someone is really a Catholic, and in no way in conflict with the dogma of the Church's visibility.
 Those who receive orders in bad faith from a heretical or schismatical bishop incur suspension. In good faith there is no censure, but the orders should not normally be used without dispensation. This dispensation being a requirement on ecclesiastical law only, its necessity may yield to epikeia in exceptional circumstances such as our own.

18  Even after the relevant acts of Pope Pius XII.

19   There may well be prudential reasons for avoiding such priests, but they are not clear enough to establish a definite obligation, especially when other legitimate sources of the sacraments are in short supply.

 Cardinal Billot is writing in explanation of his eleventh thesis under question 7 of the work in question. This thesis reads as follows:
        "Although the baptismal character is sufficient of itself to incorporate a man into the true Catholic Church, nevertheless a two-fold condition is required for this effect in adults. And the first condition is that the social bond of the unity of the faith be not impeded by formal or even material heresy..."