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Articles: Sedevacantism Pope Issue

Canon 188.4 or Where is the Church
Most Rev. Daniel L. Dolan, B.F. Dryden

Defection from the faith and loss of office.



It was as an aid to my own preaching that three essays were written in the spring of 1979, explaining ,respectively, loss of office under Canon 188.4, the history and present meaning of the term anathema, and the Novus Ordo as anti-Mass.

      The author, Benjamin Frederick Dryden, worked in close consultation with me and used, in large measure, materials furnished by me or by others at my behest. The views he expresses in these essays are mine as well as his. They are in all particulars conformed to the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church.

— Daniel L. Dolan

Roman Catholic Priest

and Missionary

January 22, 1980



The Essay

They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. — John 20:13

On the first Easter Sunday, St. Mary Magdalen "stood at the sepulchre without, weeping" because it was empty of her Master's Body. And even when her eyes fell upon Him, resurrected and living, she thought, in her sorrow, that it was the gardener, and knew Him only when He spoke her name "Mary!"

      So today, many a Catholic, having found the church buildings emptied of Christ's grace and truth, seeks His Mystical Body, the one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, in sorrow and bewilderment. Expecting to find it in the same buildings as in times past, and in the persons that call themselves Pope, Bishops, and priests, such Catholics are blinded by their very sorrow to an unprecedented but patent fact: These offices are vacant, not one at a time through the incumbent's death, but all together through the incumbent's default, because usurpers apparently fill them and because no one in high station, revered by the Catholic Faithful throughout the world, has pointed out that these offices are in truth vacant and urgently need to be filled.

      We do indeed find professed defenders of traditional Catholic Faith and morals who loudly and vainly protest against abuse of authority by the usurper popes, bishops, and parish priests while accepting without question the pretense that Paul VI, his two successors John Paul, and their underlings have some authority to abuse. Few and lowly, however, are the defenders who lay the axe to the root, the pretended authority itself, by reading to the faithful the Catholic Church's own Canon Law, notably Canon 188, n. 4.


I.  The Text of Canon 188.4

A. Translation and Latin Text:

“Through tacit resignation, accepted by the law itself, all offices become vacant ipso facto and without any declaration if a cleric: ...n.4. Has publicly forsaken the Catholic Faith.”

 (Ob tacitam renuntiationem ab ipso iure admissam quaelibet officia vacant ipso facto et sine ulla declaratione, si clericus: ...4 A fide catholica publice defecerit.)


B. Paraphrase:

No one, unless he profess the Catholic Faith, can hold any office — that is, lay valid claim to authority in the Catholic Church. For the faithful to know this fact and refuse obedience, no formality is required: neither sentence passed by a court nor any other official pronouncement, nor a formally expressed resignation accepted by some official. Defection itself from the Catholic Faith constitutes resignation.


C. Explanation of Terms:

1.   Through tacit resignation.

Resignation is one of the ways mentioned in Canon 183 by which ecclesiastical offices are lost, namely: resignation, deprivation, removal, transfer, completion of a term for which the office was conferred. Canon 184 allows anyone of sound mind to resign his ecclesiastical office, unless there is some special prohibition. Canon 186 requires that the resignation be in writing or else before two witnesses; but the adjective tacit, in Canon 188, waives this requirement in eight cases which render the incumbent obviously incapable of fulfilling the duties of his office. The conditions themselves constitute a resignation.

2.   Accepted by the law itself.

This phrase waives the requirement of Canon 187, that the resignation be made to him who is empowered to accept it, or to the person who conferred the office, etc.

3.   All offices.

Canon 155 states that the term office (officium) is, in law, to be taken in its strict sense: "a position permanently established either by divine or by ecclesiastical ordinance, conferred according to the regulations of the sacred Canons, and entailing some share, at least, of ecclesiastical power, whether of orders or of jurisdiction." The adjective all, of course, whether of Pope, Ordinary (i.e., local bishop or his substitute), or pastorship of a parish.

4.   Become vacant.

That is, as far as the law and the Catholic faithful are concerned. Whether or not the incumbent continues to usurp the office, he has lost all authority connected with it.

5.   Ipso facto.

This is Latin for "by the very fact". These "facts" (cases, circumstances), as numbered in Canon 188, are briefly: 1) Religious profession; 2) neglect to assume the office within the time required; 3) acceptance and possession of some other office incompatible with the former office; 4) defection from the Catholic Faith; 5) contraction of "marriage", even if only a civil union; 6) military enlistment, contrary to Canon 151; 7) laying aside ecclesiastical attire; 8) failure to reside at the required place.

      We note that it would be hard to classify these eight cases under any common heading other than obvious incompatibility with discharge of duty in a particular office. Some are offenses, but others are not. The Canon is, therefore, not penal, aimed at correcting offenders, but rather protective, aimed at clearing away objections, so that offices may be filled and the spiritual needs of the Faithful properly served.

6.   Without any declaration.

This phrase (sine ulla declaratione) means without any pronouncement by a judge, court, or Superior — indeed without any legal formality. This informality is an exception to Canons 150 and 151.

      For Canon 150 makes invalid the conferral of an office not legally vacant by resignation, deprivation, removal, transfer, or expiration of the term of office. Canon 151 says that "an office vacant by law but perchance illegally held by someone, may be conferred, provided however that, conformably to the sacred Canons, such holding of the office be duly declared illegal and that mention of this declaration be made in the letter of conferral." By Canon 188, however, for the eight cases listed therein, no such declaration is needed; even without it, the office is legally vacant "by tacit resignation." No formality must hinder bestowal of the office on a new incumbent, or allow the former incumbent to exercise the authority of the office.

      We note, also, that the phrase without any declaration makes obsolete the procedure customary in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae 3, q. 82, a. 9c), by which at least a declaratory sentence was required, even in the case of a heretic self-condemned, and under the anathema of St, Paul and St. John. No longer does the Church, while awaiting such a declaration, maintain the jurisdiction of a heretic Pope, Cardinal, local Bishop, or pastor. (See our article on anathema.)

7.   If a cleric...

Compare Canon 118: "Only clerics can obtain the power either of Orders or of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and ecclesiastical benefices and pensions." Canon 188 refers only to clerics because they alone can hold office in the Church. The laity, however, guided by this same Canon 188, n. 5, must withhold recognition and obedience from clerics who illegally hold an office; e.g., from Paul VI and his Cardinals, Bishops and priests after they have tacitly resigned by publicly professing the heresies listed below under Catholic Faith.

      We note also the lack of any modifier for the noun clericus (translated "a cleric" or "the cleric"). However, a modifying phrase is implicit in the context, suggested by the subject of the sentence, quaelibet officia (any offices): If the cleric holding any office, from the Chair of Peter down to the humblest country pastorship .

8.   Has publicly forsaken the Catholic Faith.

The adverb publicly requires something more than suspicion, more even than such private knowledge as might justly guide a superior in discharging an inferior from office, e.g., under Canon 192 para. 3. Tacit, ipso facto resignation must be clear from notorious facts, facts in the public domain, matters of record, or those otherwise generally known.

      The Catholic Faith is summarized for the laity in catechisms and other religious books which bear an Imprimatur signed by a Catholic Bishop and dated 1958 or earlier. It was after the death of Pope Pius XII, in 1958, that a rash of errors and suspect propositions began to be printed with an Imprimatur, either anonymous or signed by some bishop who thereby "forsook the Catholic Faith". Comparison with earlier books shows clearly that Paul VI and his underlings and successors are imposters; for they publicly contradicted articles of Faith — and so tacitly resigned from office--when they forbade the Mass instituted by Christ (see our essay on The Novus Ordo), or taught that non-Catholic religions are “means of salvation” (see Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, n.3) or that common worship with non-Catholics is good and permissible. (ibid n.8).


II. The Consequences of Canon 188.4

      The Catholic Church gives a voice in the election of a Pope only to her own Cardinals, "Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church" (Pius XII, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, Dec. 8, 1945, par. 32). But the participants in the Conclaves of 1978 had, one and all, by Canon 188, n. 4, forfeited all office, were not "Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church", and therefore could not and did not elect a pope.

      The usurpers who, in the name of Christ-given authority, attack Christ's doctrine, Christ's Mass, Christ's Sacraments, and Christ's Church are, by Canon 188, n. 4, deprived of their chief weapon, shorn of their pretended authority, placed among the motley herd of heretics, and subjected, along with Arius, Luther, Calvin and all their ilk, to the divinely inspired strictures of the holy Apostles Paul and John: "A man that is a heretic...avoid" (Titus 3:10-11). Though he were himself an Apostle or an angel from Heaven, "let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:6-8). "Receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you" lest you "communicate with his wicked works', (II John 10-11). Let us, therefore, not say "the Pope" or "Pope John Paul", lest we restore to him his weapon of pretended authority and share in the wicked use he makes thereof; let us say rather "the Antipope", or "Antipope John Paul", as simple truthfulness requires. We should not complain of the evils "within the Church" or the "self-destruction of the Church"; rather we should point out that these evils are within the Conciliar Anti-Church, which is not Catholic and exists for the sole purpose of destroying the Holy Catholic Church.

      Neither must we be deceived by some turn for the better, some apparent reform that does not include a clear abjuration of heresies formerly professed and a repudiation of the Conciliar Church, its supposed authority, and all its works. John Paul II has proclaimed his intention to use this strategem of enforcing the decrees of Vatican II while pretending that this is the same thing as preserving the deposit of Faith. (Address of October 17, 1978, published in The Wanderer, Oct. 26, 1978 p. 5).

      Let us remember that a liar has small hope of being believed unless he first speaks truth enough to establish a reputation for truthfulness. So the wily heretic establishes a reputation for piety and orthodoxy by proclaiming, loudly and often, some of Christ's doctrines the more effectively to deny others. Let us remember, in matters of Faith as well as of morals, the saying of the Apostle St. James (2:10): "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all." When the heretic truly repents, he will abjure all his errors, all those of his accomplices; he will accept wholeheartedly all the teachings and all the discipline of the Catholic Church, as Catholics do, simply because these repose on the authority of God Himself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Until then, "a heretic avoid".

      But if we have no Pope in the Vatican, no Bishop in his cathedral, no pastor in his parish church, where is the Catholic Church? Has Christ not kept His promise to be with her all days? He has indeed kept it; and His Church goes on with her work, which is His, during this present vacancy of her offices, as she has always gone on between the death of one Pope and the election of his successor, the demise of any office-holder and the appointment of a new incumbent. Faithful Catholics, both clergy and laity, continue to obey the directives of their departed shepherds as far as possible; or else, where that is impossible, Canon 20:

‘If in regard to a given matter there is no express provision of law, either general or particular, the rule is to be taken, except in the application of penalties, from laws laid down in similar matters; from the general principles of law, in accord with the equity proper to Canon Law: from the language and practice of the Roman Curia; from the common and constant opinion of doctors.”

      At present, therefore, though the vacant offices make a dead letter of any Canon involving action of a Pope, Ordinary, or pastor, nevertheless, faithful priests carry out Christ's commission to teach all nations His doctrine and to dispense the Sacraments He instituted. The laity accord these men the reverence due to the priestly character given them in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the gratitude and loyal support they deserve for their labors. Emergency jurisdiction is given such priests directly by the Church, in virtue of her own first principle: Salus animarum suprema lex — Salvation of souls is the highest law.

      Where, then, is the Church? Here, in these priests and in these lay folk, is the true Church.  

  B.F. Dryden

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