St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chap. 29: “Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff who attacks the body, so also is it licit to resist him who attacks souls or destroys the civil order or above all, tries to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will. It is not licit, however, to judge him, to punish him, or to depose him.”
Answer: Many of those who believe Benedict XVI is the pope, yet reject the official actions of his “Church,” such as Vatican II, attempt to see a justification for their false position in this passage from St. Robert Bellarmine. In fact, this passage is one of the most commonly used pieces of evidence that people attempt to throw against the sedevacantist position. Unfortunately, the passage has been completely misapplied and distorted.
First, in the chapter immediately following the above quote from Bellarmine, he teaches this:
“A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction.”
Now, hold on a second. In chapter 29 (the quote cited in objection 2), St. Robert says that you cannot “judge, punish or depose” the pope. In chapter 30, he says that a manifest heretic ceases to be pope (i.e., he is deposed) and he can be “judged and punished” by the Church.
My question to the objector is this: Is St. Robert Bellarmine an idiot?
St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, chapter 29
One cannot “judge, punish or depose” a pope
St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, chapter 30
A pope who is a manifest heretic is deposed, “judged and punished”
St. Robert Bellarmine is neither an idiot nor contradicting himself. He is a doctor of the Church, and knows exactly what he is trying to say. It is blatantly obvious, therefore, that he is not speaking about a manifestly heretical pope in chapter 29, but rather a true pope who gives bad example, who is not a manifest heretic. The context of the chapter confirms this beyond any doubt.
Chapter 29 involves St. Robert’s lengthy refutation of nine arguments favoring the position that the pope is subject to secular power (emperor, king, etc.) and to an ecumenical council (the heresy of conciliarism). During the Middle Ages, the heresy of conciliarism (subjecting a pope to an ecumenical council) became a major problem. In contradiction to this heresy, St. Robert Bellarmine says that while a Catholic can resist a bad pope, he cannot depose him, even if the pope gives bad example, disturbs the state or kills souls by his action. He is speaking of a bad pope who is not a manifest heretic; for he deals with the proper reaction to manifest heresy in the next chapter! It’s quite simple. He says that a manifest heretic is considered not to be the pope in the next chapter!
With this in mind, the objection raised from Bellarmine against sedevacantism is refuted. He is not talking about a manifest heretic in chapter 29, but a true pope who acts inappropriately; for he explains that a manifestly heretical pope is deposed, judged and punished in chapter 30. It is a mortal sin of omission for “Catholic” writers to quote over and over again the passage of chapter 29, without ever giving St. Robert’s statement on manifestly heretical popes in chapter 30. Among such people we include those who write for some of the more popular “traditional” publications. These writers suppress St. Robert’s teaching in chapter 30, along with all the other saints, popes and canonists who teach that manifestly heretical popes lose their office, because they want to deceive their readers into thinking that St. Robert condemns sedevacantism, when in reality he and all the early Church Fathers support the fact that a manifest heretic is not a pope.
St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30:
“For, in the first place, it is proven with arguments from authority and from reason that the manifest heretic is ‘ipso facto’ deposed. The argument from authority is based on St. Paul (Titus 3:10), who orders that the heretic be avoided after two warnings, that is, after showing himself to be manifestly obstinate – which means before any excommunication or judicial sentence. And this is what St. Jerome writes, adding that the other sinners are excluded from the Church by sentence of excommunication, but the heretics exile themselves and separate themselves by their own act from the body of Christ.”
And again St. Robert Bellarmine teaches:
“This principle is most certain. The non-Christian cannot in any way be Pope, as Cajetan himself admits (ib. c. 26). The reason for this is that he cannot be head of what he is not a member; now he who is not a Christian is not a member of the Church, and a manifest heretic is not a Christian, as is clearly taught by St. Cyprian (lib. 4, epist. 2), St. Athanasius (Scr. 2 cont. Arian.), St. Augustine (lib. De great. Christ. Cap. 20), St. Jerome (contra Lucifer.) and others; therefore the manifest heretic cannot be Pope.”
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