Pope Sifting - Difficulties with Sedevacantism


 by Laszlo Szijarto


Taken from Angelus Press Magazine October 1995



Some theologians hold that a pope would lose his office ipso facto [by the very fact] by falling into manifest heresy.[1] l Sedevacantists  have  devoted  much  time and  effort to pointing  this  out.  According  to  the  principle  papa a nemine judicandus,[2] [the pope is to be judged  by no one] no declaration by the Church could effect the deposition  of a pope.  Catholics,  however,  do not  have  the right to make a determination on their own as to the fact of whether deposition   had  actually  taken  place  in  this  manner.


Although manifest heresy would  ontologically  effect deposition ipso facto, a determination would have  to be made  by the Universal Church about that very fact embodied in the expression ipso facto most probably  through   the  declaration of a General Council before individual Catholics  could arrive at such a conclusion criteriologically.


Knowing  When Deposition Has Taken Place


Canonists  distinguish  between a sententia (iudicialis) privationis [sentence of (judicial) deprivation] and  a sententia  (mere) declaratoria[3]  [sentence merely declaratory] Pope Innocent III first applied this distinction between iudicari [to be  judged] and  iudicatus ostendi [to be held as judged] to the case of  a  heretical   Supreme   Pontiff.[4] While the Church  could not issue a sententia privationis to effect the deposition of an heretical pope (iudicare) [to judge], not only would  there  be nothing to prevent it from declaring that a pope  had ipso facto defaulted from his office (judicatum ostendere)[to show him as already judged],[5] but  it would have to do so before Catholics could make that determination for themselves.[6]


Why do Catholics not have the right to arrive at such a conclusion on their own? Let me illustrate this point  through  some of its practical implications. On one occasion, a sedevacantist  friend of mine suggested that Pope Pius IX had fallen from the papacy. On what grounds? He had  discovered  “heresy”  in an encyclical  letter issued by that Supreme  Pontiff–a  conclusion  based of course  upon  his misreading  the document. He proceeded from there  to allege  that  even  St. Peter himself might have at one point lost authority  (i.e., when he denied  our Lord). Fortunately, however, St. Peter  eventually  recovered his office. Various sedevacantists  have denied  the legitimacy of Pius XII,[7] Pius  XI,  Benedict  XV,  and  (yes!) even St. Pius X. Now Pius IX and St.Peter  himself? Where  will it stop? Take  out Pius XII and  you uproot the dogma  of our Lady’s Assumption. Eliminate Pius IX and you undermine the Immaculate Conception,  Papal Infallibility, and the entire First Vatican  Council.  Is this how we are to defend the magisterium?


Legitimacy as a Dogmatic Fact


Theologians   classify papal  legitimacy among  dogmatic facts, that is to say, theological conclusions  so intimately connected with the Faith that their  denial  would lead to the undermining of revealed  doctrine. Just try  to imagine  the  chaos  that would inevitably result if there were conceded  to  individual   Catholics the  right  of deciding  about  legitimacy. Let us suppose, hypothetically, that  a certain  Pope  had  just defined a dogma. Upon  examining the dogma  (under  the lights of private judgment),  a certain  Catholic decides that the dogma contradicts Tradition. Said Catholic therefore feels bound  to conclude  that aforementioned  Pope  had  fallen  from the papacy.  According  to this principle (absolutely fundamental to sedevacantism), every dogmatic pronouncement  would  be  subject  to the private  judgment  of individual Catholics  as its ultimate criterion.


Who Has the Authority to Decide Such a Question?


Dogmatic facts regarding  legitimacy work a priori [in prior time] to dogmatic definitions. If it were possible  to  argue  a posteriori  [in after time] from a perceived “false” teaching to the non-legitimacy of a pope, the a priori infallibility of any given dogmatic definition would be completely undermined. Dogmatic definitions would be accepted ultimately in reference  to a private  judgment about their truth or falsehood. Sedevacantism renders  impossible any a priori infallibility whatsoever, even  in the  case of solemn  definitions.


Quid  prodesset  enim in  abstracto profiteri infallibilem conciliorum oecumenicorum  aut  Pontificum R. auctoritatem, si licitum esset  dubitare de legitimitate cuiuslibet concilii aut Pontificis? [8]What good would it be to profess the infallible authority  of Ecumenical Councils  or Roman  Pontiffs in the abstract  if it were permitted to entertain   doubts  about  the  legitimacy of any given Council  or Pontiff?


[Facta  dogmatica]   “[e]jus modi sunt, e.g., Scripturam s., qua utimur, esse   genuinam; concilia nicaenum, ephesinum, tridentinum  etc., fuisse legitima; Pius IX,  Leonem XIII  etc. Iegitime fuisse electos ac  proinde legitimos Petri in  episcopatu  romano successores.  Sane fac quidpiam horum in dubium vocetur,  illico consequetur, editas definitiones in conciliis incertas, incertum  esse    centrum  unitatis catholicae, scil. consequetur ipsius fidei excidium revelationisque  pernicies....[9]


[Dogmatic  facts] include  things of this sort:  that  the  Sacred  Scrip- tures  we use are  genuine;  that  the Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, Trent, etc.  were  legitimate;  that  Pius IX, Leo  XIII,  etc.  were  elected  legitimately  and  consequently were  legitimate successors to Peter as Bishops of Rome.  Just see what would result if you would let any of these things be called into doubt.  Defini- tions issued during Councils would not have certainty. There  would be no  sure  way  of  determining  the center  of Catholic  unity.  In  short, what would result is the uprooting of faith itself and the destruction of Rev- elation. [my  emphasis]


Sedevacantism  does not defend the infallible magisterium, but undermines it in a very serious way! Faith depends upon the Church’s authority.  Scripture itself would not have any weight had the Church  not proposed it as containing God’s revelation. If doctrines  are  to be endowed  with the Church’s authority, however, the legitimacy  of  those  who  promul- gate  them  must  also  be  founded upon   no  less  an  authority.   Conversely,  if the  legitimacy  of those who promulgate doctrines were left up to the private  judgment  of indi- vidual Catholics, no doctrine  could ever be endowed  with that author- ity which constitutes the formal motive of faith (according the principle of logic peiorem semper partem sequitur conclusio) [conclusions are based on the worst facts].


...[H]isce factis ita implexae veritates revelatae, ut illis nutantibus hae ipsae nequeant consistere:  revelationis de- positum unitasque fidei sarta tectaque servari non poterit, nisi Ecclesia judicio supra  omnem  dubium  [facta dogmatica]  judicare possit.[10]


Revealed truths are so inter- twined with [dogmatic] facts that, if the  latter  do  not  rest  on  a  sure foundation,  the  former  cannot  re- main  standing  either.  Neither  the Deposit of Revelation  nor the unity of  Faith  could  be  kept  safe  and

sound unless the Church  were able to judge about [dogmatic facts] with a judgment  beyond  all doubt.


If questions about legitimacy depend upon the judgment  of indi- vidual Catholics, then–since indi- vidual Catholics cannot “judge about”  them  “with a judgment  be- yond all doubt”–“neither the Deposit of Revelation  nor the unity of Faith could be kept safe and sound.”


What  Constitutes a  Judgment by the Church?


Problems  for Indefectibility


Only the Universal Church  can make judgments  about legitimacy– not individuals,  not portions  of the Church,   not  even  a  majority,  but only the Universal Church. Why? Because only the Universal Church can decide such matters “beyond all doubt,”  i.e., infallibly.


“Papa dubius, Papa nullus.” Porro verum est duntaxat,  si  dubium  et propter dubium  secessio   est totius Ecclesiae; non autem potest admitti, si, postquam Pontifex legitime est constitutus, in  parte, imo  in  parte etiam majori Ecclesiae, propter inductas perturbationes dubia  et  secessiones oriantur.[11]


“Doubtful popes are no popes at all.” Yet this would be true only if there be a doubt and on account of that doubt  a secession by the whole Church. It cannot be admitted, how- ever, if–after a Pontiff had been legitimately constituted–doubts and  secessions  would  arise  in  a part, even in the greater part, of the Church  on account  of disturbances that had  been  introduced.


Consequently, sedevacantism poses serious difficulties for the Church’s  indefectibility.   It  would be entirely  incompatible with that indefectibility  if the Universal Church   could  either  adhere   to  a false pope  or reject a true one.


Unde,  si  universalis Ecclesia a Pontifice quodam secedit, signum est infallibile, iuxta  superius dicta, non illum, antea Papam, nunc a potestate sua privari ista defectione,  sed illum numquam fuisse verum et legitimum Pontificem, cum Christus, in promissis fidelis, permittere non possit ut  tota Ecclesia  falso adhaereat Pontifici aut verum reiiciat.[12]


Wherefore, if the Universal Church  ever  secedes  from  a Pon- tiff, that  very  fact  constitutes  an infallible  sign,  according   to  what had been stated earlier, not that he who had  once been  Pope  has now been   deprived  of  his  power   by virtue of that defection,  but that he had  never  been  a  true  and  legitimate  Pontiff, since  Christ,  faithful in his promises,  would not be able to permit that the entire Church adhere  to a false Pontiff or reject a true  one.


Omnes admittunt Ecclesiam infallibilitate gaudere circa legitimitatem S.  Pontificis, proinde errare non posse quando unanimiter hunc Papam ut  legitimum agnoscit; secus  enim Ecclesiae  corpus a  capite separaretur;  quod contrarium est ejus indefectibilitati et unitati.[13]


All admit that the Church  enjoys infallibility with regard to the legitimacy of a Holy Pontiff, and therefore  that it cannot  err when it unanimously recognizes  that  Pope as legitimate. Otherwise, the Church’s body would be separated from its head.  That  would be contrary to its indefectibility and unity.


Apart from dismissing this principle  altogether,   there  would  remain only two possible alternatives. Either  the  Vatican  II  popes  have been legitimate or what remains  of the  Holy  Catholic  Church  resides in sedevacantist  groups.  Non datur tertium [there is no third choice].




Sedevacantists have criticized those  “Traditional” Catholics  who do not hold to their school of thought for “sifting” the Magisterium,  i.e., for  picking  and choosing among pronouncements that have (putatively) issued from it on the basis of private judgment about their orthodoxy. Sedevacantism, however, leads to “sifting” popes,  i.e., to picking and choosing among popes on the basis of private judgment  about their orthodoxy.


John of St. Thomas


After I had composed  the main body  of this text,  I ran  across  the Cursus Theologicus  by  John  of  St. Thomas–specifically, the tract en- titled De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis [Concerning  the Authority of the Supreme Pontiff]. In a surprisingly  detailed commentary about the problem of an heretical pope, he ended up making the very same argument that I have proposed. Instead of weaving  quotations  from  his work into their  appropriate place within my  exposition,   I  decided   to  give him a separate section. I felt that the argument would be more  convincing if readers knew that the two of us had arrived  at the same conclusion independently, i.e., that I have not been  merely  “rehashing”  what  he had  written. Instead, both of us have simply followed a line of thinking dictated by an inner  logic of its own.


...[ Depositio ]  facienda est  post declarativam criminis sententiam... (disp. II, art. III  17).

...[Deposition]  is to be made  after a declaratory sentence about the crime....


...Concilium congregari  potest auctoritate  Ecclesiae, quae est in ipsis episcopis, vel majore eorum parte; ha- bet enim jus Ecclesia  ad segregandum se  a papa haeretico  ex jure divino, et consequenter  ad  adhibendum omnia media ad talem segregationem  per se necessaria; medium autem necessarium, et per se  est ut  juridice constet tale crimen; non  potest autem  juridice constare nisi formetur competens judi- cium, non potest autem in re tam gravi competens esse   judicium,  nisi  per Concilium generale,  qua tractatur de universali capite Ecclesiae, unde pertinet hoc ad  judicium universalis Ecclesiae, quod est Concilium generale (disp. II, art. III  19).


...By the Church’s authority, a Council   is  able  to  be  convened. That  authority  resides  in the  bish- ops, or in a majority  of them.  For the Church  has the right from God to separate itself from a heretical  popea and, conse- quently, to apply all the means that are   in   and   of themselves   necessary  for  such  a separation.  But  it  is  a necessary means–and in and of it-self–that such a crime   be   established juridically.  Yet  it  cannot be  established   juridically unless a competent judgment be formed. In so grave a mat- ter, however, there cannot be a  competent  judgment except through   a   General Council.   Since  this  matter deals with the universal head of the Church,  it therefore  pertains  to the  judgment   of  the  Universal Church.  That  judgment  is a General  Council.


Et  ex his concordantur  jura, quae aliquando dicunt Pontificis depositionem pertinere ad solum Deum, aliquando in  causa haeresis posse judicar ab inferioribus, utrumque enim verum est, et quod ejectio, seu depositio Pontificis soli Deo reservatur auctoritative, et  principaliter...; ministerialiter autem, et  dispositive declarando crimen, et  proponendo papam, ut evitandum Ecclesia judicat de Pontifice... (disp. II, art. III 24).


As a result, the principles–which sometimes  maintain  that the deposition  of a Pontiff belongs  to God alone and at other times that he can be judged by inferiors in the case of heresy–come to be reconciled. Both are true. To God  alone is reserved the  casting  out  or  deposition  of a Pontiff (authoritatively and  principally. Yet (ministerially and executionally) the Church makes judgment  about a Pontiff by declaring  the  crime  and  proposing   that the pope  should  be avoided...


Respondetur haereticum esse evitandum propter duas correptiones juridice scilicet  factas, et ab Ecclesiae auctoritate, et non secundum privatum judicium; sequeretur enim magna con- fusio in  Ecclesia si  sufficeret hanc correptionem    esse  factam ab homine privato... Unde sic videmus practicatum in Ecclesia,  quod in casu depositionis papae causa ipsa in generali Concilio prius tractata est quam pro non papa habitus.... Nec  Hieronymus quando dicit haereticum  per se  discedere   a corpore Christi, excludit ipsum Ecclesiae judi- cium praesertim in re tam gravi, qualis est depositio papae, sed criminis judicat qualitatem, quod per se sine alia censura superaddita excludit ab  Ecclesia, dummodo tamen per Ecclesiam declaretur; licet enim ex se separet  ab Ecclesia, tamen  quoad  nos  non intelligitur facta separatio sine ista declaratione....

...[Q]uoad nos autem adhuc non fit juridice declaratus, ut  infidelis, vel haereticus, quantumcumque  manifestus sit secundum privatum judicium, adhuc quoad nos est membrum Ecclesiae,  et consequenter  caput. Requiritur ergo judicium Ecclesiae, quo proponatur, ut non Christianus, et evitandus, et tunc desinit quoad nos esse  papa, et consequenter antea non desierat etiam in se, quia omnia quae faciebat erant valida in se (disp. II, art III 26).


The translation  of the previous three  paragraphs is as follows:


In response, a heretic must be avoided  as a result of two rebukes that have been made juridically–by the  Church’s  authority  and  not ac- cording to  private judgment. Great confusion  would result in the Church if  it  would  suffice that  this  rebuke should be  made by a private individual....Consequently, we see what the practice of the Church  has been.  When  a pope  needed  to be deposed,  the case was treated  first in a General  Council before he was considered not to be a pope....St. Jerome–in  saying that a heretic  departs  on  his  own  from  the Body  of Christ–does  not  preclude the  Church’s  judgment,  especially in so grave a matter  as is the deposition of a pope.  He  refers instead to the nature of that crime, which is such as to cut someone  off from the Church  on its own and without any other  censure  in addition  to it–yet only  so  long  as  it  should  be  declared  by the Church.  Although  it separates  from  the  Church   on  its own, the fact of separation  does not make  itself  known  to  us  without

that  declaration.


...So  long   as  he   has   not   be- come declared  to  us  juridically as  an  infidel or  heretic, be  he ever so  manifestly heretical ac- cording to private judgment, he remains  as  far  as  we  are   con- cerned a member of the  Church, and consequently its head. Judgment is required from  the Church,  therefore,  a  judgment by which he  would be  proposed as not  a Christian and to be avoided. It  is only  then that he ceases to be pope as far as we are concerned. As a result, however, he  would not  have ceased to be such   even  in   and  of  himself, since  all the  things which he enacted had force  in and of themselves [my  emphasis].


I have translated the expression quoad nos very loosely throughout. In point of fact, it represents a highly technical term–the equivalent of “criteriologically.” Many theologians would probably disagree with the very last assertion in the citation above, i.e., that a manifestly heretical pope  would remain  pope  even ontologically  until it had  been  determined otherwise criteriologically. I maintain,  however,  that  John  of St. Thomas  was–rather  brilliantly– taking to its logical conclusion a principle  already  found  in most of the theologians  who had dealt with this question. Few theologians actu- ally  held  that  a  secretly  heretical pope  would  be  deposed  ipso facto, the reason  being  that membership in the Church  needs to be a visible reality  (so that it could  be verified criteriologically). Otherwise, the Church  might fall into chaos if the activities of secret heretics would in reality be null and void. Ontologically,  however,  even a secret heretic would cease to be a Catholic  before God. Yet membership in the Church  does not simply represent  a visible–though  still only ontologically  manifest–reality,   but a  juridically visible reality, i.e., criteriologically manifest–manifest in the true sense  of this term. Holding jurisdiction depends  upon the juridi- cal reality  of  membership  in  the Church. With this principle, John of St. Thomas  ingeniously  reconciled the  long-standing  dispute  between the papa haereticus ipso facto depositus [heretical pope ipso facto deposed] and the papa haereticus deponendus [heretical pope to be deposed] schools.


                                                Addressing the Problem of Infallibility


Theologians (without exception) admit that there do in fact exist certain kinds of magisterial pro- nouncements which  do  not  enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, and the precise limits between what does or does not constitute  an infallible definition have been fiercely con- tested almost since the very close of Vatican I. Probably  one of the most crucial factors in an infallible decision,  however,  involves  the  intention of a pope to bind the universal Church. Paul VI himself declared that  Vatican  II  did  not  intend  to define  anything  infallibly.


Unquestionably, the  approach taken by non-sedevacantist “Traditional” Catholics  poses many  difficulties.  Yet  it rests  upon  theoretically tenable principles. Cardinal Newman,  for example,  maintained a very narrow interpretation regard- ing the  kinds  of things that  would constitute infallible determinations. He remained in good standing as a Catholic–and his opinions have never  been  condemned.


Among the other contradictions in which sedevacantists involve themselves, many reject the re- formed Holy Week rites of Pius XII. At the same time, however, they uphold  the  legitimacy  of Pius XII.  If Pius  XII  can  promulgate a liturgy contaminated with modernistic principles (as they assert), then why could not Paul VI   have   done   the same (with regard to the   Novus  Ordo ) while   also   remaining  a  legitimate  Supreme  Pontiff? After all, there would only be a difference  in degree  between  them.  Rejection of the reformed  Holy Week rites which had, by the way, been accepted  without any protest whatsoever from the Universal Church– remains absolutely inexplicable in light of their argument from infallibility.


However one resolves the infallibility question,  that ultimate decision  about  the  legitimacy  of John XXIII,  Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, or any other  pope  does not rest with us but with the authority of Holy Mother Church.


                                                            Fruits of Sedevacantism


I myself had once been a sedevacantist.  Only  in retrospect  can I honestly see the great bitterness and lack of charity that this led to on my part. I have found nothing  but spiri- tual disorder–to one extent or another–in  all  the  sedevacantists   I have  ever met (myself included  and foremost  among  them).  It would  be best to leave out the numerous downfalls–in scandalous fashion–of bitter  sedevacantists.  Our  Lord  said that people would recognize His true followers  in  their  love  for  one  an- other. Hatred  for evil becomes disordered  when  it does  not  proceed  directly  from  and  in  proportion with love for good.  If we reject the Conciliar  reforms,  it  should  be  from  a burning  love for God  and  for our neighbor.  Pope John XXIII used to say that if we behaved  as true Christians there  would  be  no  more  pagans. If we “Traditionalists” behaved as true  Christians,  there  would  be no more modernists.  Let us then dispel any bitterness from our hearts, any pharisaical  spirit of a rigorous clinging to minutiae [small things] as if they were ends in themselves, any self-righteous contempt  for those who  have  been  led  astray  as if it were anything but the grace of God that prevents  us from going astray ourselves if  we have  not  done  so already. We need to remember that our judgments  even about the purported “errors” of Vatican II do not have the Church’s authority behind them–and are therefore  liable to be mistaken. Consequently, all we can and  must  do as Catholics  in these confusing  times  is to  do  what  we have  to in order  to save our souls. Let us proceed  with intellectual humility, with charity, with trust in God’s Providence, and, as Archbishop  Lefebvre has said, “without bitterness.”




[1] Not all theologians hold to this view. Numerous others have been pro- posed. Cardinal Cajetan, for example, rejected the papa haereticus ipso facto depositus theory–by way of a rather elaborate argument–in favor of an intriguing papa haereticus deponendus position too complex to detail here. Despite the weighty evidence that he adduced, theological consensus appears to have shifted toward the opposite view.

[2] Complete formula (as it appears in the Decretum of Gratian) reads papa a nemine judicandus, nisi deprehendatur a fide devius, with the nisi clause lending support to the position taken by Cardinal Cajetan.


[3] F.X.Wernz. Ius Decretalium (1913) II.615.


Quare omnino dicendum est ipso facto R. Pontificem haereticum excidere sua potestate. Sententia vero declaratoria criminis, quae tanquam mere declaratoria non est rejicienda, illud efficit, ut Papa haereticus non iudicetur, sed potius iudicatus ostendatur, i.e., Concilium generale declarat factum criminis, quo ipse Papa haereticus sese ab Ecclesia separavit suaque dignitate privavit.


Consequently, we must by all means state that a heretical Roman Pontiff falls ipso facto from his power. On the other hand, a sentence that declares a crime–which should not be rejected in so far as it is purely declaratory–- does not have the effect of judging a heretical pope but of demonstrating that he has already been judged, i.e., a General Council declares the fact that a crime had been committed, a crime whereby the heretical pope on his own had separated himself from the Church and deprived himself of his rank.

[4] In Consecratione Pontificis. Sermo IV.


Peccatum ergo praelati et aliis damnosum, et sibi est periculosum.... Periculosum sibi quoniam ad nihil valet ultra, nisi ut mittatur foras, id est ab officio deponatur, et conculcetur ab hominibus, id est a populo contemnatur.... Qualiter ... de quolibet alio praelato possit intelligi, satis apparet; sed qualiter intelligi debeat de Romano pontifice, non est adeo manifestum. Servus enim, secundum Apostolum, suo domino stat aut cadit. Propter quod idem Apostolus ait: Tu quis es, qui iudicas alienum servum? Unde cum Romanus pontifex non habeat alium dominum nisi Deum, quantumlibet evanescat, quis potest eum foras mittere, aut pedibus conculcare?....[P]otest ab hominibus iudicari, vel potius iudicatus ostendi, si videlicet evanescat in haeresim, quoniam qui non credit, iam iudicatus est.


As a result, sin committed by a prelate both causes harm to others and puts himself in danger....It puts himself in danger, because he would no longer be good for anything except to be thrown out, i.e., deposed from office, and to be trampled by men, i.e., despised by the people. As to how this could be understood in the case of any other prelate, that is clear enough. As to how it should be understood when it comes to the Roman Pontiff, however, that is not so obvious. Servants stand up and sit down for their master. For this reason, the Apostle writes also: Who are you to judge another’s servant? Wherefore, since the Roman Pontiff does not have any other master besides God, however much he should lose his savor, who can throw him out or trample him under foot?...He can be judged by men, or (rather) shown to have been judged–if he should lose his savor by falling into heresy–since whoever does not believe has already been judged.

[5] Schultes. De Ecclesia Catholica (1931) cap. VII, art. LIII, II.5.


De auctoritate Concilii in casu Papae dubii.–Stante dubio de electione legitima Rom. Pontificis,..[c]onventus...episcoporum totius Ecclesiae...posset sententiam ferre de factis quae electionem respiciunt: quae sententia singulos fideles obligaret.


About the authority of a Council in the case of a doubtful pope.–With a standing doubt about the legitimate election of a Roman Pontiff,...an assembly of bishops from the whole Church...would be able to pass judgment about facts which have a bearing upon the election. That judgment would bind the individual faithful.

[6] Hervé. Manuale Theologiae Dogmaticae (1943) I.501.

...[P]osito quod, ut persona privata, haereticus publice quidem, notorie et contumaciter fieri possit Pontifex,–quod generatim negant theologi, suavem Christi Providentiam erga Ecclesiam et promissiones eius divinas spectantes–ipso facto haereseos a pontificali potestate excideret, dum propria voluntate transferretur extra corpus Ecclesiae, factus infidelis. Tunc Concilium [Ecclesia] ius tantum haberet sedem vacantem declarandi, ut ad electionem tuto procedere possent consueti electores.


Given that, as a private person, the Pontiff could indeed become a public, notorious, and obstinate heretic–a proposition denied by theologians for the most part, in view of the tender Providence that Christ shows toward the Church along with His divine promises–he would fall by the very fact of heresy from his papal power, in so far as he would have been removed from within the Church’s body on his own accord by having become an unbeliever. In that case, only a Council [the Church] would have the right to declare his see vacant so that the usual electors could safely proceed to an election.

[7] Zubizarreta [Theologia Dogmatico-Scholastica (1948) 481] concluded it to be implicite revelata that Pius XII reigned legitimately on the See of Peter. Salmanticenses had referred to the legitimacy of any given pope as immediate de fide. Consequently, to deny his legitimacy would entail heresy. I hope that this might serve as a wake-up call to sedevacantists, especially to those who actually do deny the legitimacy of Pius XII.

[8] Hervé, op. cit., I.514.

[9] Hurter, S.J. Theologiae Dogmaticae Compendium (1885) I.338 (Thesis


[10]  Hervé, op. cit., I.514.

[11] Franzelin. De Ecclesia Christi (1907) Thesis XIII.

[12] Hervé, op. cit., I.501.

[13] Tanquerey. Synopsis Theologiae Dogmaticae (1921) I.84.