Answer: A “material” heretic is a Catholic erring in good faith about a dogmatic issue. The Vatican II antipopes are without doubt real heretics. They cannot be material heretics (Catholics erring in good faith) for many reasons, most important among those reasons being: 1) they don’t hold the essential mysteries of Faith; 2) they reject obvious dogmas of which they are fully aware.
“Material heretic” is a term used by theologians to describe a Catholic erring in good faith regarding some Church teaching, who has not denied it deliberately. The only way that one can be a “material heretic” is by being unaware that the position that he holds is contrary to the teaching of the Church. Such a person would change his position immediately upon being informed of the Church’s teaching on the matter. Thus, a so-called “material heretic” is not a heretic, but rather a confused Catholic who denies nothing of that which he knows the Church to have taught. The fact that a so-called “material heretic” is not a heretic is proven by the fact that a so-called “material heretic” does not cease to be part of the Church; and we have already shown by many quotations that all heretics cease to be members of the Church.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441:
“The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics…”
Furthermore, a so-called “material heretic” (an erring Catholic) does not bring down on his head eternal punishment for denying the faith; and all heretics bring down on their heads eternal punishment for denying the faith.
Pope St. Celestine I, Council of Ephesus, 431:
“… ALL HERETICS corrupt the true expressions of the Holy Spirit with their own evil minds and they draw down on their own heads an inextinguishable flame.”
A material heretic, therefore, is not a heretic, but a Catholic who is innocently mistaken about some Church teaching. Hence, those who claim that Benedict XVI is unaware of all of the dogmas that he denies, and is therefore only a “material heretic” (in other words, a mistaken Catholic) are not only arguing that which is absurd, but that which is IMPOSSIBLE. It is impossible that Benedict XVI is only a so-called “material heretic” for three reasons:
Number 1): It is a fact that Benedict XVI knows of the many dogmas of the Church which he denies. He knows more about Catholic teaching than almost anyone in the world. He discourses on the Church’s dogmatic pronouncements – the very same ones he contradicts and rejects, such as Vatican I – all the time.
Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology (1982), p. 239: “Anyone who inquires about the Church’s teaching with regard to holy orders finds at his disposal a relatively rich supply of source materials; three councils have spoken extensively on the subject: Florence, Trent, and Vatican II. Mention should also be made of the important apostolic constitution of Pius XII (Sacramentum ordinis) of the year 1947.”
Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology (1982), pp. 197-198: “On the part of the West, the maximum demand would be that the East recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the full scope of the definition of 1870 [Vatican I] and in so doing submit in practice, to a primacy such as has been accepted by the Uniate churches… none of the maximum solutions offers any real hope of unity.”
In these quotations we see just a glimpse of Benedict XVI’s familiarity with Catholic teaching, including the very councils he denies. The same applies to John Paul II and his “predecessors.” For example, in the 1999 agreement with the Lutheran Church on Justification, approved by John Paul II, John Paul II agreed that the Council of Trent no longer applies.
Vatican-Lutheran Agreement on the Doctrine of Justification, approved by Benedict XVI: “# 13. IN LIGHT OF THIS CONSENSUS, THE CORRESPONDING DOCTRINAL CONDEMNATIONS OF THE 16TH CENTURY [i.e., the canons of the Council of Trent] DO NOT APPLY TO TODAY’S PARTNER.”
It goes without saying that he cannot be unaware of the Council of Trent if he agrees that it no longer applies. Further, Benedict XVI holds several doctorates in theology and has written many books dealing with the intricacies of Catholic dogma. One of us has read 24 of his books, and can say that Benedict XVI is more familiar with what the Catholic Church teaches than almost anyone in the world. To assert that Benedict XVI or John Paul II or Paul VI or John XXIII remained unaware of the simplest Church teachings which they denied on Our Lord, against Protestantism, on salvation, against false religions, on religious liberty, etc. is false and ridiculous in the highest degree. To assert, for instance, that Benedict XVI is unaware of the dogma that Protestants are bound under pain of heresy to accept the Papacy – remember that he teaches just the opposite – is pure insanity. It’s equivalent to asserting that one can be the head chef at a five star restaurant and not know what lettuce is. But that’s exactly what those who advance the “material heretic” argument would have us believe.
Number 2): It’s impossible for Benedict XVI to be only a “material heretic” or a mistaken Catholic because – supposing for a moment that he were unaware of the many dogmas which he denies (which, as we have stated, is definitely not true) – being a man who claims to be a bishop and the pope, he is bound to have learned them. Therefore, there is no excuse for him on the grounds that he is unaware of the fundamental Church dogmas which he denies.
A canon law manual: “If the delinquent making this claim be a cleric, his plea for mitigation must be dismissed, either as untrue, or else as indicating ignorance which is affected, or at least crass and supine… His ecclesiastical training in the seminary, with its moral and dogmatic theology, its ecclesiastical history, not to mention its canon law, all insure that the Church’s attitude towards heresy was imparted to him.”
Number 3): It is impossible that Benedict XVI is merely a “material heretic” because there are certain things that every adult must hold by a necessity of means in order to be a Catholic, and Benedict XVI doesn’t hold those things. Every adult Catholic must believe in the Trinity, the Incarnation, that Jesus Christ and His Church are true, and that other religions outside of Jesus Christ are false. These essential mysteries must be known by a necessity of means.
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 1), June 26, 1754:
“We could not rejoice, however, when it was subsequently reported to Us that in the course of religious instruction preparatory to Confession and Holy Communion, it was very often found that these people were ignorant of the mysteries of the faith, even those matters which must be known by necessity of means; consequently they were ineligible to partake of the Sacraments.”
In other words, every Catholic above the age of reason must have a positive knowledge of certain mysteries of faith to be saved. There are no excuses, even for ignorance. Thus, if one holds a belief which destroys faith in those mysteries, even if he has been taught incorrectly, he is not a Catholic.
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 4):
“… confessors should perform this part of their duty whenever anyone stands at their tribunal who does not know what he must by necessity of means know to be saved…”
Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (# 2), April 15, 1905:
“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”
For instance, if one really believes in three different gods and not one God in three divine persons, then he is not a Catholic – period. This is true even if he was never taught the true doctrine on the Trinity. He is not a Catholic, since his belief contradicts an essential mystery he must possess to hold the true Faith.
Likewise, if one believes that other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, etc. are also good, then one doesn’t believe that Christ (and, by extension, His Church) is the only truth. If one doesn’t believe that Christ (and, by extension, His Church) is the only truth, then one doesn’t have the Catholic Faith – period. This is true even if he was never taught the true doctrine on this matter, which is why Pope Pius XI says that all who hold the opinion that all religions “are more or less good and praiseworthy” have abandoned the true religion – period.
Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (# 2):
“… Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little, turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.”
Well, we have shown that Benedict XVI and his “predecessors” believe that Judaism, Islam, etc. are good. Benedict XVI was even initiated into Islam in a mosque on Nov. 30, 2006. He and his “predecessors” praise these religions. Benedict XVI specifically called Islam “noble” and said that it represents “greatness.” It’s not possible for him to believe this and be a Catholic “material heretic,” since he doesn’t believe in an essential mystery he must possess to hold the true Faith: that Christ is the only truth. Therefore, Benedict XVI is not a Catholic – period.
This is also proven from another angle. Since it’s an essential mystery of Catholic Faith that Christ (and, by extension, his Church) is the only truth, it follows that those who believe this mystery also hold that Christ’s Church must be believed. This is the teaching of Pope Leo XIII.
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (# 13), June 29, 1896:
“You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held.”
If one holds that the Catholic religion doesn’t have to be accepted by non-Catholics, then one is not a Catholic. As we’ve shown, the Vatican II antipopes teach that the Catholic religion doesn’t have to be accepted by non-Catholics; they specifically teach that the Eastern Schismatics don’t need to convert to the Catholic Faith.
Paul VI, Joint Declaration with the Schismatic “Pope” Shenouda III, May 10, 1973: “Paul VI, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark… In the name of this charity, we reject all forms of proselytism… Let it cease, where it may exist…”
John Paul II, Homily, Jan. 25, 1993: “’The way to achieve Christian unity, in fact,’ says the document of the Pontifical Commission for Russia, ‘is not proselytism but fraternal dialogue...”
Benedict XVI, Address to Protestants at World Youth Day, August 19, 2005: “And we now ask: What does it mean to restore the unity of all Christians?... this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!”
The law of the Church presumes pertinacity in heresy unless the contrary is proven.
In addition to the above facts which demonstrate that the Vatican II antipopes are definitely formal heretics, the presumption of the law is against them:
Canon 2200.2, 1917 Code of Canon Law: “When an external violation of the law has been committed, malice is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proven.”
A commentary on this canon by Rev. Eric F. Mackenzie, A.M., S.T.L., J.C.L, states:
“The very commission of any act which signifies heresy, e.g., the statement of some doctrine contrary or contradictory to a revealed and defined dogma, gives sufficient ground for juridical presumption of heretical depravity… [E]xcusing circumstances have to be proved in the external forum, and the burden of proof is on the person whose action has given rise to the imputation of heresy. In the absence of such proof, all such excuses are presumed not to exist.”
Not only have the Vatican II antipopes made literally hundreds of statements contrary to revealed and defined dogma, but they have also explicitly declared themselves to be in communion with – in the same Church as – schismatics and heretics. They have, furthermore, confirmed these statements with acts which further manifest their adherence to heresy, such as communicatio in sacris (communication in sacred things) with various false religions. It is not, therefore, the law or the spirit of the Church to exonerate someone publicly spewing heresy, but rather to presume him guilty.
Pope Innocent IV, First Council of Lyons, 1245:
“The civil law declares that those are to be regarded as heretics, and ought to be subject to the sentences issued against them, who even on slight evidence are found to have strayed from the judgment and path of the Catholic religion.”
St. Robert Bellarmine explains why this must be.
St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30:
“… for men are not bound, or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple, and condemn him as a heretic.”
A simple illustration will also demonstrate why this must be.
Suppose you had some sheep and you appointed a shepherd to watch over them. Suppose one day the shepherd became a wolf and began eating the sheep and tearing them to pieces. Would you, looking after the welfare of these sheep, maintain the wolf as head of the sheep? Would you demand that the other sheep not yet eaten subject themselves to the wolf, and thus place themselves in proximate danger of being eaten? Of course you wouldn’t, and neither would God.
God could never allow one who is promulgating manifest heresy in the external forum to maintain authority in the Church or be able to demand the submission of Catholics, regardless of what his intentions are. Remember, heresy kills souls. Suppose the wolf in our story is just hungry, or having a bad day. Does this change the fact that the sheep are being eliminated? No.
Furthermore, what wolf who was trying to deceive people would openly declare himself to be a non-Catholic or an enemy of the Church?
Matthew 7:15- “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
There is no more effective way to assist a false prophet than to insist that he, despite his public profession of heresy, maintains authority in the Church. Pope St. Celestine authoritatively confirms the principle that we cannot regard a public heretic as a person with authority when dealing with the case of the heretic Nestorius. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, began to preach the heresy that Mary was not the Mother of God. The faithful reacted by breaking communion with him, having realized that since Nestorius was preaching public and notorious heresy he could not have authority in the Catholic Church. The following quote from Pope St. Celestine is found in De Romano Pontifice, the work of St. Robert Bellarmine.
Pope St. Celestine:
“The authority of Our Apostolic See has determined that the bishop, cleric, or simple Christian who had been deposed or excommunicated by Nestorius or his followers, after the latter began to preach heresy shall not be considered deposed or excommunicated. For he who had defected from the faith with such preachings, cannot depose or remove anyone whatsoever.”
Pope Pius IX confirms this principle by teaching that one is considered a heretic or a schismatic even if one has not yet been declared as such by the Holy See.
Pope Pius IX, Quartus Supra (# 12), Jan. 6, 1873:
“Since the faction of Armenia is like this, they are schismatics even if they had not yet been condemned as such by Apostolic authority.”
This is why the saints, theologians, doctors, canonists and popes who speak to the issue of a “heretical pope” avoid the terms “material” and “formal” heresy, for these are terms that imply a judgment of the internal forum. Rather, they use the words public, manifest, notorious, etc. – terms corresponding to the external forum.
F.X. Wernz, P. Vidal (1943):
“Through notorious and openly revealed heresy, the Roman Pontiff, should he fall into heresy, by that very fact is deemed to be deprived of the power of jurisdiction even before any declaratory judgment of the Church…”
Canon 192, 1917 Code of Canon Law:
“A person may be unwillingly deprived of, or removed from, an office, either by operation of law or an act of the lawful superior.”
Canon 188.4, 1917 Code of Canon Law:
“There are certain causes which effect the tacit (silent) resignation of an office, which resignation is accepted in advance by operation of the law, and hence is effective without any declaration. These causes are… (4) if he has publicly fallen away from the faith.”
What is a public defection from the faith?
Canon 2197.1, 1917 Code of Canon Law:
“A Crime is public: (1) if it is already commonly known or the circumstances are such as to lead to the conclusion that it can and will easily become so…”
Thus, we have shown in great detail why it’s utterly false to assert that the Vatican II antipopes are merely “material heretics.” They cannot be material heretics because 1) they know very well of the dogmas which they deny; 2) they are bound to know the Catholic Faith as “bishops,” especially the dogmas which they deny; and 3) they lack and contradict the essential mysteries of Faith which one must hold to be a Catholic.
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 578.
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 74.
 Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius Press, 1982, p. 239.
 Benedict XVI, Principles of Catholic Theology, pp. 197-198.
 L’Osservatore Romano, Special Insert, Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification, November 24, 1999, #13.
 G. McDevitt, The Delict of Heresy, 48, CU, Canon Law Studies 77. Washington: 1932.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 45.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 46.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 30.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), pp. 313-314.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 2 (1878-1903), p. 399.
 L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican’s Newspaper), May 24, 1973, p. 6.
 L’Osservatore Romano, Jan. 27, 1993, p. 2.
 L’Osservatore Romano, August 24, 2005, p. 8.
 Eric F. Mackenzie, A.M., S.T.L., J.C.L. Rev., The Delict of Heresy, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Univ. of America, 1932, p. 35. (Cf. Canon 2200.2).
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 283.
 St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 416.
 Ius Canonicum. Rome: Gregorian 1943. 2:453.
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