The Innocence of Pope John XXII

Pope John XXII is often accused of heresy. His innocence is easy to prove to anyone who has faith.

1. It is a DOGMA of the faith (proven here) that every Pope has the gift of immunity from grave error and the gift of a never-failing faith. Immunity from grave error means he cannot teach heresy; never-failing faith means he cannot commit apostasy, heresy, or schism. Whoever says otherwise commits the sin of heresy themselves, by rejecting this dogma.

“But let me explain to you to my clever scholarly argument proving some Pope is a heretic!”
“Let me explain to you what the word ‘faith’ means.”

2. John was not contradicting a DOGMA. The infallible teaching of the Church on when the faithful departed receive the Beatific Vision of God was issued by his successor, Benedict XII. When there is no infallible teaching of the Magisterium, there is no formal dogma.

Heresy is not an idea contrary to truths found in Tradition or Scripture, but rather an idea contrary to truths found in Tradition or Scripture AND confirmed by the Magisterium infallibly.

“The Pope committed heresy by contradicting a truth of Tradition!”
“That’s not what heresy is, you idiots.”

Tradition and Scripture are open to varying interpretations, until the Magisterium defines a dogma. Even a non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium might be subject to later reform, which is why non-infallible teachings are called non-irreformable (Donum Veritatis 28). So if a Pope contradicts your understanding of Tradition, and you call him a heretic, that’s not heresy. That’s you pretending to be God.

3. John proposed his opinion on the Beatific Vision as opinion, not even as a non-infallible teaching. He permitted open disagreement. When some theologians tried to use his sermons on the subject to silence the opposition, John intervened to permit the contrary opinion. And he was making preparations for a final decision on the subject by consulting many persons.

It is a false narrative to say that he was teaching heresy, and was finally corrected on his death bed.

4. Saint Robert Bellarmine on John XXII:

“John, at that time, really thought that souls would not see God unless it were after the resurrection: others so reckoned when still it was lawful without danger of heresy, since still no definition of the Church had gone before him. John, moreover, wished to define the question, but while still preparing and in consultations, died, as Benedict XII, his successor, witnessed….”

“Furthermore, John Villanus relates that Pope John, before his death, partly declared and even partly recanted his opinion. First, it is on good evidence that he never had it in his mind, although he had spoken on this matter, to define the question, rather only to treat to discover the truth. Next, he added that John already thought the opinion was the more probable, that asserts the souls of the blessed enjoy the divine vision even before the day of judgment, and he embraced this opinion, unless at some time the Church would have defined otherwise, and he subjected all his teachings freely to its definition. This retraction simply teaches that the mind of Pope John XXII was always good and Catholic.”

“Benedict XII, in his Extravagantes, asserts that Pope John severely commanded the Cardinals and others, all teachers, that they should sincerely give their opinion, that the truth could be discovered.”

“He retracted his opinion the day before he died, but by the advice of those close to him, not at the command of the king. Nor is it true that John was compelled to repent, and it is much less true that it happened in the presence of King Philip.”

Bellarmine, Robert. Papal Error?: A Defense of Popes said to have Erred in Faith (p. 104-108). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.

5. Whosoever accuses any Pope of teaching or committing heresy is guilty of heresy themselves by contradicting a dogma of the faith, defined by the First Vatican Council. Moreover, anyone who accuses the current Roman Pontiff of heresy commits the sin of schism, as no one who considers a man to be a heretic also accepts that man as Teacher and Shepherd.

Those Catholics who say “resist” are guilty of schism. It is not sufficient for submission to the Roman Pontiff that one acknowledge a man to be the true Pope. Even an atheist might admit the same. Submission to the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Pontiff means accepting his decisions as authoritative and generally true and correct, and accepting his person as Teacher and Shepherd.

On Pope Francis: if a conservative Pope is elected next, those who fell into schism under Pope Francis remain under schism, until they accept Francis as Teacher and Shepherd, and admit that he never taught any grave error on faith or morals, and never made any gravely erroneous decision on discipline.

6. Heretics and schismatics are not welcome to comment on my blog.

“No, but listen to me! I’m right in my own mind by my own judgment!”
“Faith is setting aside one’s own mind and judgment, so as to submit to the mind of Christ, through His Vicar. If you don’t have faith, stay away from me.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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4 Responses to The Innocence of Pope John XXII

  1. sircliges says:

    I am neither heretic neither schismatic. I demand permission to comment. I will no accuse any Pope of heresy. I have an objection to your argument and I would like to express (politely).

  2. sircliges says:

    Ok. I will make it simpler as possible.

    Your defense of J22: his wrong opinions were not heresy because that topic (beatific vision) was not yet dogma. So the Papal Infallibility (in the following, “PI”) is safe.
    I agree with this defense of PI, but I observe it is inconsistent with your previous description of PI. In fact, you stated many times that PI covers
    – formal heresy
    – material heresy
    – “any type of grave error about doctrine or discipline”
    The case of J22 was not heresy (I don’t enter into distinction between formal / material) but was surely a grave error, because J22 was actually wrong! If you were following the Pope in that case, you would be misleaded.

    You say that J22’s mistake was no grave error, because that topic was open question at that time.
    I disagree. The massive reaction the Pope by so many theologians (I gave a long list in my previous comment), the speediness of the next Pope in closing the matter by dogma, the bad memory of the name “John” (unchosen by Popes for over sic centuries)… they prove that the topic was not simply “open question”. Truth is the opposite: there was no question until John XXII.
    Let’ clarify a point. Usually dogmas do not rise because there is an open question and a day a Pope wakes up and has a light. Usually dogmas do rise exactly because THERE IS NO QUESTION, there is no need to formalize a point that is already part of the “depositum fidei”, the thing believed by all the Church. Then someone makes the question, there are quarrels, and Magisterium has to mark the point with formal dogma.
    See for example the Transubtantiation. The dogma is made by Trento Council in 1551. XVI century! There was no formal dogma about this topic for about fifteen hundred years! So, can we think that it was “an open question”?

    Conclusion. If the PI were so extended as you say, the justification “NOT YET DOGMA” would be valid for everyone except the Pope, because he could not make a grave error. But J22 really made a grave error. So, truth is: PI covers protection from heresy (at least formal heresy), but not protection from grave errors. In case of grave error, catholics have the right and the duty of correction towards the Pope.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I am not basing my position on Papal Infallibility. The dogma of Vatican I, also taught previously by many Popes is that each Pope has Immunity from error (which must mean from grave error since some degree of error is possible). You are ignoring this dogma. You have not addressed how your position could be reconciled with it. (It cannot.) So your position is heresy.

      I don’t need to prove that J22’s error was not grave. That position is dogma. And your account of the situation with J22 is a false narrative, designed to support your heretical position that Popes can commit grave error. Read the quotes I gave from Saint Bellarmine. You won’t accept his authority or that of Vatican I? Then I don’t want to hear from you again on any subject. This is a matter of faith.

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