In the 15th century, the Council of Constance (1414-1418) condemned the errors of Jan Hus. Many of these errors seem entirely consonant with the words and/or behavior of the modern-day papal accusers. Let’s review some of the condemned errors and see how they compare to modern errors.
from Denzinger, the condemned errors of Jan Hus:
“8. Priests who live in vice in any way pollute the power of the priesthood, and like unfaithful sons are untrustworthy in their thinking about the church’s seven sacraments, about the keys, offices, censures, customs, ceremonies and sacred things of the church, about the veneration of relics, and about indulgences and orders.”
This error essentially states that when a priest (or bishop) errs gravely in any way, whether by a grave sin or an error of the faith (“vice in any way”), he is to be considered entirely untrustworthy, and all that he does should be seen as wicked. This last part is explicitly stated by Hus in #16 below.
“16. The immediate division of human actions is between those that are virtuous and those that are wicked. Therefore, if a man is wicked and does something, he acts wickedly; if he is virtuous and does something, he acts virtuously. For just as wickedness, which is called crime or mortal sin, infects all the acts of a wicked man, so virtue gives life to all the acts of a virtuous man.”
These two errors (8 and 16) are seen in the words and behavior of many of the papal critics today. Anyone who, in their judgment, errs gravely — especially Pope Francis, his supporters, and any bishops or priests who speak or act contrary to the conservative understanding of the Faith — is viewed as if he were entirely corrupt. They see him as wicked (though they might not use that term), and so they consider all that he does to be wicked (#16). And then then consider him to be “untrustworthy” in his entire understanding of the Church, the Sacraments, and the Faith.
The correct position is that when a person errs, only the error is to be condemned, not the whole person. Moreover, if a person sins gravely, his other acts may well be moral and virtuous. Each act must be judged on its own as to its morality. A person, especially a baptized Christian, can cooperate with grace at any time. Even a person in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin can cooperate with actual grace (and hopefully be led to repentance). So we should not condemn in their entirety any Church leaders who err in some way, nor should we treat them as wicked opponents.
But it is also important to note that the papal accusers are, in almost every case, making false or exaggerated accusations against Pope Francis. His errors, if any, are necessarily limited by the grace of God. No Roman Pontiff can teach heresy, nor teach any grave error, nor commit apostasy, heresy, or schism, nor err gravely in decisions of discipline. The indefectibility of the Church keeps the head of the Church on earth from grave errors of any kind, by the prevenient grace of God.
“11. It is not necessary to believe that any particular Roman pontiff is the head of any particular holy church, unless God has predestined him to salvation.”
“12. Nobody holds the place of Christ or of Peter unless he follows his way of life, since there is no other discipleship that is more appropriate nor is there another way to receive delegated power from God, since there is required for this office of vicar a similar way of life as well as the authority of the one instituting.”
“13. The pope is not the manifest and true successor of the prince of the apostles, Peter, if he lives in a way contrary to Peter’s. If he seeks avarice, he is the vicar of Judas Iscariot. Likewise, cardinals are not the manifest and true successors of the college of Christ’s other apostles unless they live after the manner of the apostles, keeping the commandments and counsels of our lord Jesus Christ.”
These errors allow anyone to judge the Roman Pontiff, to consider him to be not the true successor of Peter, nor the true head of the Church, and thereby to reject him as Teacher and Shepherd. This attitude (rather than the specific error itself) is seen in the way that the papal critics treat Pope Francis. They do not speak or act as if he were the Vicar of Christ. While they acknowledge that he holds the office of Roman Pontiff, this is not sufficient for them to avoid the sin of schism. One must submit to the Roman Pontiff as one’s own Teacher and the Shepherd of one’s own soul.
Jan Hus thought that anyone could judge the Pope to be not predestined to salvation, and therefore reject that Pope’s authority and acts. His error allows anyone to judge whether the Pope follows Peter’s way of life, and if he is judged to have failed in this, to treat him as not the true successor of Peter.
And the papal critics today are behaving similarly. They judge Pope Francis. They judge the Cardinals and Bishops, as well as the body of Bishops itself. And they treat the Pope and any of the Cardinals or Bishops who support him (or who seem to the critics to have erred) as if they were “not the manifest and true successors of the college of Christ’s other apostles” — not unless they live as the papal critics wish they would live.
“17. A priest of Christ who lives according to his law, knows scripture and has a desire to edify the people, ought to preach, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication. And further on: if the pope or any superior orders a priest so disposed not to preach, the subordinate ought not to obey.”
“18. Whoever enters the priesthood receives a binding duty to preach; and this mandate ought to be carried out, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication.”
The above error proposes that the faithful can disregard the decision of proper Church authority, to excommunicate someone (or by implication other actions) and continue preaching and teaching what the Holy See has decided is error. And this is the attitude, if not the exact situation, of the papal accusers today. They will not stop speaking against the Pope and any Cardinal or Bishop they oppose, no matter what the Church decides. And if a sentence of excommunication were handed down against any leader they support, they would not accept it. They would encourage that person to continue to preach and would declare the excommunication to be invalid (“pretended”).
“20. If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy church militant since he is not even a member of it.”
“22. The pope or a prelate who is wicked and foreknown to damnation is a pastor only in an equivocal sense, and truly is a thief and a robber.”
“23. The pope ought not to be called “most holy” even by reason of his office….”
The above errors permit the faithful to judge and condemn any Roman Pontiff, even accusing him of being under the influence, or doing the bidding of the devil, just like Judas. These errors also permit the faithful to deny that any Pope is the true Pastor of the Faith, based on their judgment and condemnation of his words and deeds. These are errors for several reasons:
1. The First See is judged by no one;
2. The prevenient grace of God does not permit any Pope to teach any grave error, nor to err gravely on decisions of discipline, nor in any way to do grave harm to the Church;
3. The prevenient grace of God keeps every Pope faithful, and prevents the faith of the Pope from failing by apostasy, heresy, or schism (or in any other substantial way).
4. The Church is the indefectible body of Christ, enlivened and led by the Holy Spirit, and the Pope is the indefectible Vicar of Christ, protected from error and failings of faith by the Spirit. Therefore, to accuse the Pope or a Council or the Church at the highest levels of being infiltrated by Satan is blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Spirit.
5. The Faith would lose is surety if each and every Pope were not guarded by the grace of God.
“24. If a pope lives contrary to Christ, even if he has risen through a right and legitimate election according to the established human constitution, he would have risen by a way other than through Christ, even granted that he entered upon office by an election that had been made principally by God. For, Judas Iscariot was rightly and legitimately elected to be an apostle by Jesus Christ who is God, yet he climbed into the sheepfold by another way.”
“26. The viva voce agreement upon some person, made according to human custom by the electors or by the greater part of them, does not mean by itself that the person has been legitimately elected or that by this very fact he is the true and manifest successor or vicar of the apostle Peter or of another apostle in an ecclesiastical office. For, it is to the works of the one elected that we should look irrespective of whether the manner of the election was good or bad. For, the more plentifully a person acts meritoriously towards building up the church, the more copiously does he thereby have power from God for this.”
“30. Nobody is a civil lord, a prelate or a bishop while he is in mortal sin.”
The above errors permit the faithful to judge the Pope, to condemn him by their evaluation of his works, and to reject his authority. And this is exactly the behavior of the papal accusers, even if their rationalizations are somewhat different, the error is essentially the same. They judge the Pope, or various Cardinals and Bishops, or even a Council, to be sinning gravely, and by that unjust judgment they reject the authority of Christ in the Church.
So the papal critics are living the errors of Jan Hus, errors condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Constance. They are truly heretics and schismatics. For in order to reject the authority and teachings of Pope Francis, other Popes, and Vatican II, they must deny the dogmas that teach the faithful to believe and obey the Church. And having rejected all Church authority by these heresies, they refuse submission to Popes and Councils, thereby committing schism.
Some papal accusers go so far as to accuse Vatican II and/or various Popes of being under Satanic influence, and that wicked sin reaches to the extent of apostasy and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. For to accuse the Church of being led by Satan destroys the faith entirely, and is therefore apostasy. And the same accusation is truly against both Christ Himself and the Spirit, since the Church is the body of Christ, with Jesus as her Head, and with the Spirit as her Soul.
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.
O, mon très chers Ami,
Lisez mieux le”Docteur Commun” qu’est saint Thomas d’Aquin, dans la version authentique dite “léonine”! Etudiez le “Commonitorium” de saint Vincent de Lérins, les “Acta apostolicae sedis de saint Pie X et de Pie XII, particulièrement sa lettre-encyclique “Divino afflante Spiritu” du 30 septembre 1943: forcément, vous verrez autre chose! Etudiez bien aussi les anciens textes bibliques les plus authentiques, si possible dans la version d’origine la plus proche et la plus précise. Etudiez aussi la vie et les écrits des grands Inquisiteurs dominicains, surtout ceux qui sont devenus martyrs.
Très humblement vôtre,
Le pauvre pécheur que je sais être.
Ron, I cannot resist asking you your take on the following quote from Raymond Arroyo today:
“Let’s not create silly conspiracy theories in an effort to dismiss their concerns or questions. Most of these traditional Catholics have deep reverence for the office and the person of the pope. And like the saints of old, they are, to the best of their ability, trying to keep him from making tragic mistakes or from being deceived by voices with their own agendas,” he added.
Is this not an admission that popes can be deceived and make tragic mistakes?
It is dogma that Popes have the gifts of immunity from grave error and a never failing faith:
No Pope can, by being deceived nor by any other means, teach grave error, make tragic mistakes in discipline, teach or commit heresy, nor violate the indefectibility of the Church in any way.
Notice that the papal accusers — who are manifestly guilty of bearing false witness against the Pope (e.g. the diversity of religions question) and of rejecting the dogmas described in the article cited above, and of schism for absolute refusal of submission to multiple Popes, Vatican II, and the body of Bishops — are termed “traditional” with a “deep reverence” and are compared to the Saints. This is a false description used to justify their public objectively grave sins. They have no faith that the grace of God will preserve the Popes and Councils from all grave errors. They are rejecting the indefectibility of the Church. Some even accuse the Church of having been infiltrated by Satan at the highest levels. So they are not Saints saving the Church from the Pope.
What exactly is meant by “grave” error in this context? I, for example, think Pope Francis is wrong to deem the death penalty inadmissible and overlooks the legitimate demands of retributive justice in the punishment of criminals. I don’t think it makes him heretical, just naive.
He’s not gravely wrong on that topic; he can’t be. It’s an article of faith that papal errors can only be substantially limited, not grave. The mistake the papal critics are making is to put their own judgement above faith in the Magisterium and the grace of God. And no one has the role to judge the Pope, whether to judge him to be heretical (which is impossible) or naive.
No man can avoid forming an opinion on something once he hears of it. Likewise with the pope. I do not claim authority over him, but I cannot agree with his decisions in the realm of secular law. My country should, on this point, dissent. We have far too many criminals who remain extremely dangerous and worthy of death while in prison, not to mention the not insignificant number of escapees
So you claim to be unable to set aside your own reasoning and believe what the Church teaches? You are denying the very existence of supernatural faith, which believes even when the reason of the fallen sinner cannot understand or disagrees. What room is left for faith, if you can’t avoid following your own reasoning, when it contradicts the teachings of the papal Magisterium?
I’m not disagreeing with the pope on any infallible point, I am considering his evaluation of prudential circumstances inaccurate. And the last I was aware holding an opinion on the pope was not forbidden.
The new revision on the death penalty by Pope Francis does seem to rely at least in part on the present day circumstances. Part of the revision reads: “Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption,” reads the Catechism now, as it was approved by Francis.
I agree with what Pope Francis is saying here. What I am saying is, what if there is a breakdown of the current structure of society either locally or worldwide such as during the Tribulation? Would the death penalty be admissible then under such extreme conditions where the detention of violent criminals could not be reliably maintained?
the article can be found here: https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/08/02/pope-francis-changes-teaching-on-death-penalty-its-inadmissible/
I disagree with the Pope on the evaluation of the circumstances. I think the death penalty is still needed in some cases. But the tribulation may require a broader use of the death penalty than the recent popes have anticipated. We need not worry, as the pope of that time will simply adjust the evaluation of the circumstances (which is a prudential judgment, not a dogma).