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On Papal Heresy

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This article will draw from John of St. Thomas (who follows Cajetan): On the Deposition of the Pope


I have often encountered those who argue thus from the writings of St. Bellarmine, “A Pope that is a heretic is ipso facto deposed by Christ from the Papacy, the Pope is a heretic, ERGO, Pope Francis is an anti-Pope and ought not to be followed.” While the minor premise (the Pope is a heretic) must be utterly repudiated with utmost severity and disgust, there are other errors in play.

First, the consequent is faulty, for, St. Bellarmine argues that the heretical Pope would be “judged and punished by the Church” for his heresy. “A non-Christian who is such in itself AND in relation to us (quoad se et quoad nos) cannot be Pope; however, if he is not in itself a Christian, because he has lost the faith, but if in relation to us he is not legally declared being infidel or heretic, as obvious as it may appear in a private judgment, he is still in relation to us (quoad nos) a member of the Church and therefore the head. Accordingly, a judgment of the Church is required through which he is declared (proponatur) as being a non-Christian and to be avoided, and then he ceases in relation to us to be the Pope, consequently, previously he did not cease to be himself (etiam in se) [Pope], because all what he did was valid in itself.”

There must be that judgment before our separation occurs, we cannot (even on the supposition that the Pope is a heretic) separate from him until those properly tasked (the Bishops of the world) judge him. Before this judgment, he is to be regarded as Pope to us, even if he is a heretic and thus (for Bellarmine) deposed in actu. This seems to be more in li