Question: How do you reconcile the individual conscience of the Catholic with the necessity of holding that John Paul II is not the Pope? Are you not raising to the level of dogma something that is only a theological opinion?
Answer: In the first place, let me state that I have no authority, and
therefore whatever I say cannot take the place of the authority of the Catholic
Church. It is impossible for me or anyone else who lacks authority to raise to
the level of dogma anything at all,
and it is likewise impossible for anyone who lacks authority to bind the consciences of others.
The only function
I can perform is to point out what
the teaching of the Catholic Church, the true Faith, is, and even this I do not
do with infallibility. The force in a Catholic’s conscience can only be the
teaching authority of the Catholic Church; any substitution made for that
authority constitutes the very spirit of heresy.
When I say,
therefore, that it is impossible that
Wojtyla be pope, and that it is necessary
for Catholics to reject him as pope, I am merely pointing out that there is a
necessary logical connection between saying that he has altered the Faith, on
the one hand, and that he is not the pope on the other. The argument may be put
in syllogistic form in the following manner:
is impossible that a man be pope and at the same time authoritatively
promulgate doctrines of faith and morals which contradict the teaching of the
Church, or to make general laws which are harmful to souls.
Minor: But Karol Wojtyla has authoritatively
promulgated doctrines of faith and morals which contradict the teaching of the Church,
and has made general laws which are harmful to souls.
Conc.: It is impossible that Karol Wojtyla be
The major is de fide, for it is the very infallibility of the Catholic Church,
namely, that in her official teaching capacity, whether through the ordinary or
extraordinary magisterium, she cannot
err. Nor can she err in making general laws for the Church, that is, they cannot be harmful to souls.
The minor is de fide with regard to Vatican II, and from reason illumined by the
faith with regard to the changes of Vatican II. It is de fide with regard to Vatican II itself, since Vatican II
contradicted nearly word for word the teaching of Pius IX concerning religious
liberty. But the teaching of Pope Pius IX has all of the hallmarks of, at least, the universal ordinary
magisterium, to which the assent of faith is owed. But if the assent of faith is owed to the teaching
of Pope Pius IX, then the dissent of
faith is owed to Vatican II.
For example, it
is defined that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. The Catholic owes
the assent of faith to this doctrine. He automatically owes the dissent of faith to its contradictory:
Mary was not assumed body and soul into heaven.
This dissent is
not an act of reason but of faith, so much so that one would have to give up
his life in order to manifest this dissent.
we owe the assent of faith to the teaching of Pope Pius IX concerning religious
liberty, we owe the dissent of faith to its contradictory, viz. the teaching of
Vatican II on the same subject. It is not an act of reason, but of faith.
On the other hand
the judgment that the New Mass, the new sacraments, and the New Code of Canon
Law are evil and non-catholic is a judgment of reason, but reason illumined by
faith, for these things are repugnant not to reason, but to the Faith. While
not in word for word opposition to the teaching of the Church, nevertheless
these changes are so obviously opposed to it, that resistance is immediately given
to them by those who retain the Faith.
however, has not officially and expressly condemned these, as it has
religious liberty, and therefore the judgment involves the intervention of
reason. The resistance which the faithful give to them is a resistance of faith. The assertion, then, that the
changes of Vatican II are false and harmful to souls proceeds from reason illumined by faith, which means
that this assertion is theologically certain.
What is even more
important is that this assertion is the
very basis of resistance to the changes of Vatican II. For if the changes of
Vatican II are not an alteration of the Faith, or not harmful to souls, then it
would be a grave mortal sin of disobedience, if not schism, to resist them.
In other words, why do we carry on this resistance, if the changes are
Catholic? The only justifying reason
for the unauthorized apostolate of traditional priests is that the “authority”
has promulgated doctrines and laws which are harmful to souls. But if that
“authority” has promulgated doctrines and laws which are harmful to souls, then it is impossible that it be the
For if you admit
that Catholic authority, the authority of the Church which is the authority of
Christ, is the author of Vatican II, the New Mass, the new sacraments, and the
New Code of Canon Law, then you must
accept these reforms as Catholic, free from error, and conducive to eternal
Another way of
putting it would be to say that there is a necessary link between papal authority
and the catholicity and intrinsic goodness of the doctrines and laws which it
promulgates. The assertion of one demands the assertion of the other, that is, if a doctrine is authoritatively taught by
the pope, it must be Catholic; if a general law is promulgated by the pope, it
must be good. This is DE FIDE,
which means that if a Catholic were to deny this essential link, he would cease
thereby to be a Catholic, since this link is the very charism of the infallibility and indefectibility of the Church.
I therefore point
out to the faithful, to their Catholic consciences, that if they are undertaking the resistance to
Vatican II, the New Mass, and the New Code of Canon Law because these are not
Catholic and are harmful to souls, then they cannot, by the logical link which I have
just explained, maintain
that the authority which promulgated these things is the authority of the
If they do
maintain that it is the authority of the Church, they implicitly fall into
heresy, since they maintain that the Church has promulgated error and evil,
which is against the promises of Christ and the teaching of the Church. If, on
the other hand, they think that Vatican II, the New Mass and Sacraments and the
New Code are Catholic, then they have
no sufficient reason to resist them, in fact their resistance would be a mortal
sin. The only way out of this dilemma is to maintain that it is impossible that
Wojtyla be pope.
What If You Are in
What of the case of the person who is
in doubt about the harmful nature of
the changes of Vatican II, and/or in doubt
about the papacy of Wojtyla?
In the first place, doubt is something
which exists only in the mind, and not in reality. Either the changes are
harmful or they are not; either Wojtyla is the pope or he is not.
One must first
distinguish between doubt about the evils of Vatican II and its reforms, and
doubt about Wojtyla’s personal orthodoxy, for these are two different things.
In the case of
doubt concerning the evils of Vatican II and its reforms, the same conclusion
of the non-papacy of Wojtyla must be drawn, since even doubt destroys the
necessary link between the papacy, which is the supreme authority of the Church
and of Christ (one single authority), and the truth of the doctrines taught and
intrinsic goodness of the laws promulgated. For doubt admits the possibility of the non-catholicism of
the changes, and possibility is the contradictory of impossibility.
One cannot say,
for example, with the certitude of faith, that it is impossible for a pope to
authoritatively teach false doctrines, or to promulgate general laws harmful to
souls, and at the same time hold that it is possible that a pope has
authoritatively taught false doctrines, and/or has promulgated general laws
harmful to souls. These two statements are
Yet doubt admits
this possibility, for doubt is the wavering of the mind between two judgments
which each have some probability, i.e. some evidence of their truth. But the
virtue of faith cannot bear even this possibility
that its opposite be true, since judgments of the faith are necessary judgments.
Thus we cannot
say, on the one hand, that we believe by faith that Christ is God, but on the
other hand see some probability in the statement that Christ is not God. Such a
statement would be heretical since it destroys the necessary link between
Christ and God, which link is guaranteed by the authority of God Himself.
Likewise we cannot say that we believe
by faith that it is impossible for a pope to teach false doctrines and
promulgate evil laws, and at the same time say that there is a certain
probability that a pope has taught false doctrines and promulgated evil laws.
Such a statement would be heretical,
since it would destroy the necessary link
between the authority of the pope and the truth of his teachings and the
goodness of his laws, which link is guaranteed by the authority of God Himself.
Using the same
syllogism as before, we may express this reasoning in the following manner:
Major: It is impossible that a man be pope
and at the same time authoritatively promulgate doctrines of faith and morals
which contradict the teaching of the Church, or to make general laws which are
harmful to souls.
Minor: But it is possible that Karol Wojtyla
has authoritatively promulgated doctrines of faith and morals which contradict
the teaching of the Church, and has made general laws which are harmful to
Conc: It is impossible that Karol Wojtyla be
Notice that the
conclusion is not that it is possible
that Wojtyla be pope, but that it is
impossible that Wojtyla be pope, since the conclusion must always follow
the “worse” part of the antecedent, and impossibility is “worse” than
tells you the same thing: possibility of Wojtyla’s substantial alteration of
the Faith ruins the impossibility of papal authority doing such a thing. Hence
one would have to either conclude that:
(1) papal authority was capable of defection (which is against the Faith) or
is impossible that Wojtyla be pope.
What cannot follow is that it is possible that Wojtyla be pope. This
conclusion is at the very least
attached to the Faith, that is, logically deduced from something which is de fide.
You might then
argue that the certitude of the conclusion that Wojtyla is not the pope rests
on the certitude of the assertion that Vatican II is erroneous, that the New
Mass and sacraments are harmful to souls, and that the New Code of Canon Law
has promulgated evil laws.
My response is concedo — granted. But I add that this
assertion is based partially on the dissent owed by the Faith to assertions
which contradict it, and partially on reason illumined by the Faith and is,
therefore, absolutely certain, and,
what is more important, is the moral
basis for carrying on the traditional apostolate.
A priest could
not possibly be justified in saying the traditional Mass, distributing the
sacraments, establishing churches and schools, preaching and hearing confession
without the jurisdiction of the bishop, unless it were true that Vatican II and
its subsequent reforms constitute a substantial alteration of the Catholic
Faith. It is, furthermore, the only moral basis which would justify a layman’s
approaching a traditional priest for sacraments. The traditional apostolate
becomes schismatic without this moral basis.
But what about
the person who is in doubt about the
personal orthodoxy of Wojtyla?
principles of law, one would have to hold to John Paul II’s innocence unless there
were proof of his guilt, and hence the doubt would have to be resolved into a
moral certitude of his innocence.
In this case, one
would be obliged to recognize him as pope and mention his name in the canon.
For if one could cease to recognize the pope as pope, because of a personal
doubt about his orthodoxy, the Church would be reduced to chaos.
entertained a doubt about the orthodoxy of Pope Pius XII, or better yet, of
Pope John XXIII? Could he legitimately cease to render him obedience, and
publicly withdraw from communion with him? Of course not. He would have to wait
for the Church to declare him guilty and the see vacant. For this reason,
Cardinal Billot says that the attempts to establish the non-papacy of Alexander
VI, due to a supposed public heresy, were schismatic, since the whole Church
recognized him and obeyed him as pope.
If, on the other
hand, there is a juridical doubt,
i.e. one which concerns the validity of his election, one cannot give such a
pope the benefit of the doubt, for the Church cannot live with a doubtful pope.
The pope is the principle of unity of the Mystical Body, and is the proximate
norm of belief and obedience in the Catholic Church. Hence assent to his
teachings, as well as submission to him and communion with him are necessary
for membership in the Catholic Church, which is, in turn, necessary for
One cannot say,
therefore, he is probably the pope,
and I will therefore give assent to his teachings, submit myself to him, and
profess communion with him. If he is only probably
the pope, then the Church of which he is the head is only probably the Catholic Church. But one cannot, in good conscience,
join or adhere to what is only probably the
Catholic Church, for one cannot use probabilism with regard to those things
which pertain to eternal salvation.
But adherence to
the true Church pertains to eternal salvation, and therefore one must follow
the pars tutior — the safer course — with regard to a doubtful pope, just as
one would have to follow the pars tutior
with regard to a doubtful church. Ubi
Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, and therefore, Ubi
Petrus dubius, ibi Ecclesia dubia. For Peter is the principle of unity of
the Catholic Church, which means that union with him is union with the Catholic
Church. If one is in union with a doubtful pope, then he is doubtfully in union
with the true Church, and is therefore risking his eternal salvation.
accepting a doubtful pope, the Church could defect, that is, the Church would
be admitting the possibility that it had a false pope, was professing false
doctrines, was promulgating evil laws, and would thus cease to be the pillar of truth as St. Paul describes
The certainty of
the identity of the pope is necessary for the Church’s indefectibility, since
otherwise it reduces the Church’s teaching to mere probabilities. For if he is
only a probable pope, then his teachings are only probably true.
If Pope Pius XII
had only probably been the pope, then
the doctrine of the Assumption is only probably
true, which means that it could be false!
This is absolutely incompatible with infallibility and indefectibility, which
are divine guarantees of truth and of the Church’s perseverance to the end of
time with the same nature with which God endowed it. What would happen to the
apostolicity of the See of Rome if the Church admitted a few “probable popes?”
For this reason,
Cardinal Billot speaks of the principle of convalidation
of a papal election, which means that, no matter what defects or cloudiness should
exist concerning the pope-elect, he would be pope if the whole Church should recognize him as pope. This is true
because the Church, by virtue of indefectibility, cannot err concerning the
identity of the pope.
Cappello , De Groot , and Cajetan all uphold the principle that a dubious pope
cannot be recognized as a true pope. “Papa
dubius, nullus papa.”
however, must exist from the very moment of the election, since, once the
election is conceded by the whole Church, one cannot call it into doubt later.
Once the Pope possesses the power, he cannot be deposed by a later doubt raised
about his election.
One cannot apply
the same principle, however, to a public and universal doubt of the Church
about his orthodoxy, since a true and valid pope could fall from the already possessed papacy if he fell into
heresy. It would be a tacit resignation from the Mystical Body, and therefore a
tacit resignation from any jurisdiction enjoyed in it, especially the universal
jurisdiction of the Church as Vicar of Christ.
Hence a public
and universal doubt on the part of the whole Church concerning the orthodoxy of
a pope would oblige the Church to reject him as a doubtful pope, just as the
public and universal doubt on the part of the whole Church concerning the
election of a pope would oblige the Church to reject him as a doubtful pope.
For if the principle holds true for election, a fortiori would it hold true for doubt regarding his orthodoxy.
Lack of orthodoxy
is a far greater obstacle to the papacy than a dubious election, for through
lack of orthodoxy a candidate is intrinsically incapable of assuming or
continuing to possess the papacy, whereas a dubious election is only an
extrinsic obex. If, therefore, a candidate would emerge from an election whose
orthodoxy was in serious and insoluble doubt, he would have to be rejected by
the Church, for it is unthinkable that the infallible and undefecting Church
would ever accept as pope someone who might
be a heretic.
But it is
important to understand that this principle of the impossibility of his papacy is the logical effect even of doubt about the orthodoxy of Vatican II
or the goodness of the general laws of the reformed religion.
It prescinds from
Wojtyla’s personal orthodoxy, for no matter how many heresies he pronounces, or
snakes he worships, someone can always say that he is in good conscience, and
therefore not a formal heretic, and therefore still a Catholic, and therefore
still the pope.
The fact that John Paul II has publicly upheld
Vatican II and upheld the legality of the New Mass, and promulgated the New
Code of Canon Law, is sufficient to prove
that it is impossible that he be pope, since papal authority, by Divine
assistance, cannot do such things, i.e. promulgate error as the ordinary magisterium of the Church,
or promulgate laws which are harmful to souls.
For if you think
that Vatican II is orthodox, and the New Mass, new sacraments, and New Code are
not harmful, then you must accept them. Thus the choice which must be put to
the lay people when they come to the traditional Mass, is this: either to
accept John Paul II and his reforms, or to reject John Paul II and his reforms,
but the third possibility
is impossible, that is, to accept John
Paul II as Pope but to reject his reforms as evil, for this would destroy
the indefectibility of the Catholic Church.
The lay people
have a tendency to worry only about valid and traditional sacraments, and they
do not realize that it is necessary to receive the sacraments from the Church. The Greek Orthodox, for
example, have valid and traditional sacraments, but they are not the Catholic
Church, and it is wrong to receive sacraments from them, for in so doing you
are giving a sign of adherence to them as if they were the true Church.
So also the
traditional sacraments must be distributed by the Catholic Church and received
from the Catholic Church. But to distribute traditional sacraments against the
will of him who is the Head of the Catholic Church, the Vicar of Christ, is to
“set up altar against altar” and to break from the communion of worship of the
sacraments from those who are in communion with Wojtyla and the new church, is
not to receive sacraments from the Catholic Church, but to receive them from a
non-catholic sect. For this reason the Indult Mass is wrong, not because it is
not the traditional Mass, but because it
is not the Catholic Church which is offering the Mass. The Holy Sacrifice
of the Mass is an ecclesial act of the whole Catholic Church, offered
principally by Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest, the Invisible Head of the
Roman Catholic Church. To even actively attend a Mass which is not in union
with Him — Whose authority is a single authority with that of the Roman Pontiff
— is to attend a schismatic, non–catholic service, objectively sacrilegious and
Because the lay
people have a tendency to neglect this most important aspect of Catholic
worship, it is the duty of the clergy to emphasize all the more the necessity
of rejecting Wojtyla, pointing out that it would be schismatic either:
(1) to carry on the traditional apostolate if
he is the pope, or
(2) to recognize him as pope if he is not.
should also point out that even doubt about the changes draws them necessarily
to the non-papacy of Wojtyla, for the papacy of Wojtyla purely and simply demands that Vatican II be necessarily orthodox, the New Mass and
sacraments be necessarily Catholic,
and the New Code of Canon Law be necessarily
free from error and conducive to eternal salvation.
In other words,
either the doubt has to go or Wojtyla has to go, but Wojtyla’s papacy cannot
coexist with doubt about the orthodoxy, catholicity, and goodness of his
magisterium and laws.
With regard to
the consciences of the faithful, it is clear that they should be informed in
the manner I described. Not to so inform them would be to leave them in a
spirit of schism.
With regard to
individual cases, however, i.e. those in which this reality of Wojtyla’s non-papacy
is too difficult to understand, all of the usual rules would apply of
invincible ignorance, of common error, and of leaving someone in good
conscience. But one cannot make these cases the norm of one’s teaching. A confessor may find it prudent to leave a
scrupulous person in material error about a certain moral obligation, but he
cannot, due to this particular exception, alter the general moral teaching,
fail to preach about it, or say that it is merely a matter of opinion.
I do believe that
there may be cases in which certain simpler people may find the fact of
Wojtyla’s non-papacy too hard to understand, and may be left in good conscience
But one cannot,
without damaging the Church and her doctrine, remain silent about the Wojtyla
issue, for fear of offending people. One cannot say, for example, “Since
Wojtyla’s non-papacy is too difficult for some to understand or to bear, we
will simply keep silent about it and say, when asked, it is a matter of
opinion.” For a theological opinion is only legitimate if it does not conflict
with the teaching of the Church. We have seen, however, that the theological
opinion that Wojtyla is Pope cannot coexist with the refusal of divine and catholic faith that is due
to the teaching of Vatican II.
For it is not a
“legitimate theological opinion” that a pope can authoritatively teach false
doctrines or promulgate evil laws; on the contrary, it is against the Faith.
Nor is it a “legitimate theological opinion” that the changes of Vatican II are
not a substantial corruption of the Faith, for if that were true, it would
(1) that one could be a perfectly good
Catholic while at the same time assenting to the reforms of Vatican II and the
new church, and
(2) that its
opposite—that the reforms are unorthodox and evil—would also be merely a
But if one can be
a perfectly good Catholic and accept the reforms of Vatican II and the new
church, then why don’t we accept them? And
if our fight against Vatican II and its reforms is based merely on a
theological opinion, then we are no better than Luther and Calvin, for we are
then adhering to our “theological opinions” in opposition to the teaching and
practice of the universal Church.
Therefore if it
is not a legitimate theological opinion that the pope can teach false doctrines
and promulgate evil laws, and if it is not a legitimate theological opinion
that the reforms of Vatican II are orthodox and good, then how could it
possibly be a legitimate theological opinion that Wojtyla could be the Pope? On
the contrary, it is impossible, since his non-papacy is necessarily linked to the evil of the Vatican II reforms.
There are many who say that the
non-papacy of Wojtyla is a probable
opinion, i.e. an opinion which has certain motives of assent, but which
motives do not overcome the motives of assenting to the opposite opinion. In
other words, the mind, while adhering to the non-papacy of Wojtyla,
nevertheless sees some strong reasons for saying that he is the Pope. Or, vice versa,the
mind may adhere to the papacy of Wojtyla, all the while entertaining strong
reasons for saying that he is not the Pope.
If the matter of
Wojtyla’s papacy is considered from the point of view of his personal orthodoxy, it is impossible to
break out of probability, at least in the speculative order, since his lack of
possession of the papacy would depend on the
formality of his heresy, that is, the pertinacity with which he adheres to
the heresies which he has expressed, and which he has confirmed by his
absolutely apostate praxis (e.g. snake-worship). Without the intervention of
authority in this case, it seems impossible to arrive at the point where one
could exclude any possibility that he was not pertinacious in his errors.
In any case, even
if one were to say that it is impossible
that he be only a material heretic, one could not, without a declaration of
the Church, find any authority by which to make everyone observe one man’s judgment about him over
another’s. This, I believe, is the position of the Fr. Kelly group, that is,
while they all have personal certitude of the non-papacy of Wojtyla, they feel
that they cannot impose their judgment upon others as if they had
But there are a
number of serious problems with this position. In the first place, the question
here is not one of a private individual, like Hans Küng, for example, but
rather of the Pope or would-be pope. But the pope is the
principle of the unity of faith, government, worship, and communion of the Roman
Catholic Church. Hence, as I said above, the Church cannot remain in doubt
about him, but must resolve the doubt to either submission to him or rejection
As I have already
pointed out, if the whole Church were in doubt about him, the pars tutior would have to be chosen in
this case, and John Paul II would have to be rejected, even in the speculative order:“papa dubius, nullus papa”; if, on
the other hand, the whole Church accepted him, and someone entertained merely
private doubts about him, then he would have to follow the judgment of the
whole Church, and accept him. But the Church, and therefore individual members
of the Church, cannot submit to an objectively doubtful pope.
therefore be seriously harmful to the Church to say, “Since there are two
legitimate theological opinions—two opinions which have a certain
probability—about this question, it does not matter, in the practical order,
what you think about it, or how you act toward Wojtyla.” For such an attitude
wreaks havoc with regard to the unity of the Catholic Church, its very
identity, the truths of the Faith necessary for salvation, its unity of faith,
government, and worship.
consequences of this “freedom of conscience” approach to the subject was seen
in the September, 1990 ordinations of Frs. Greenwell and Baumberger, in which
the ordaining prelate offered the Mass of ordination in union with John Paul
II, while the two new priests, on the other hand, skipped the name of Wojtyla
in the Canon. This is an ecclesiological
nightmare, for at one and the same Mass, the central act of worship of the
Mystical Body of Christ, the ordaining bishop declared Wojtyla to be the
principle of unity of the Mystical Body, while the two new priests declared, by
the skipping of the name, Wojtyla not
to be the principle of unity of the Mystical Body. This means that, while the
two new priests consider Wojtyla to be an impostor pope, they nonetheless
consider it to be a legitimate theological opinion that Wojtyla is the
principle of unity of the Catholic Church, and that union with Wojtyla is
therefore necessary for eternal salvation. They also apparently consider it to
be a legitimate theological opinion to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in
union with Wojtyla.
But if it is a legitimate
theological opinion to recognize Wojtyla as pope, then automatically it becomes a legitimate theological opinion to
recognize as Catholic everything which Wojtyla officially approves as Catholic.
Hence it would be a legitimate theological opinion to recognize Vatican II, the
New Mass, the new sacraments, the New Code of Canon Law as Catholic.
if it is a legitimate theological opinion that these are Catholic, then to
oppose them becomes a mere legitimate theological opinion. And this is the second serious
problem with this position, which is that it ruins the basis of opposing the
reforms of Vatican II, since to oppose the entire hierarchy of the Church over
a “theological opinion” is heretical and schismatic , and if I ever thought
that my rejection of the reforms was not based on the Faith, but on some “theological opinion,” which sees its
contradictory opinion as having some weight,
I would, without hesitation, submit to Wojtyla as Pope and function in a
diocese. As we say in America, “It’s all one big ball of wax.”
But this entire
approach, that is, of the personal orthodoxy of Wojtyla, is incorrect. Rather
his non-papacy is clearly necessary when seen in the light of the faith’s rejection of Vatican II.
The virtue of faith cannot, logically, reject Vatican II and accept
Wojtyla as pope. For the pope’s proposition of the truths of the Faith is the
proximate norm of what is to be believed by Catholics.
(Sacerdotium 2, Winter 1992).