The SSPX, the Open Letter, and the Heresies of Pope Francis

Note from the Editors: The arguments contained in the following are not necessarily the position of 1P5. However, we believe that what you will read here is an important contribution to the ongoing theological debate about what can, in practical terms, be done about our heretical pope.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre distinguished himself during and after the Second Vatican Council by his public combat against the modernist heresies of the day, and by his willingness to publicly oppose the reigning popes when he considered that they were tolerating or even fostering these heresies. This opposition culminated in his ordination of four bishops in 1988, in defiance of the will of Pope John Paul II, an action that led to him dying excommunicate.

One would therefore expect that the priestly fraternity that he founded and that claims to carry on his mission would follow his example of resistance when confronted by the overtly heretical behavior of the current pontiff. The Society of St. Pius X ought to be at the forefront of opposition to Pope Francis’s attacks on the Faith and the Church. This expectation has been disappointed, a development that is not the least of the unpleasant surprises of this pontificate. The Society has not been vocal or active in opposing these attacks. The important opposition to Pope Francis has come from clerics and laity outside the Society.

In reaction to the recent publication of the Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, the Society has taken another step away from combatting the heresies of Pope Francis. This Open Letter accused Pope Francis of the canonical crime of heresy and asked the bishops of the Catholic Church to admonish him for this crime. If he failed to abjure these heresies after being asked to do so on three occasions, it further requested that the bishops declare that he had forfeited the papal office on account of his heresy.

The General House of the Society of Saint Pius X issued a statement in response to this letter, condemning it in strong terms: “This Open Letter is a waste of time — an action producing little effect, the fruit of a legitimate indignation but which falls into excess.” Here we have not only a failure to oppose Pope Francis’s promotion of heresy, but an attack on those who do oppose him. As a signatory of the Open Letter, I think it necessary to address this attack.

The statement of the General House does not give reasons for rejecting the content of the Open Letter. It offers a criticism of the approach of the Letter:

We risk being captivated by the present evil, forgetting that it has roots, that it is a logical result of a tainted process at its origin. Like a pendulum, some believe they can magnify the recent past to better denounce the present, including counting on the magisterium of the popes of the Council — from Paul VI to Benedict XVI — to oppose Francis. This is the position of many conservatives, who forget that Pope Francis is only drawing out the consequences of the teachings of the Council and his predecessors.

This criticism does not have much weight. The letter is specifically aimed at addressing the actions of Pope Francis. It is not pertinent to object that it does not consider the faults of his predecessors or the historical and ideological roots of his deviations. It is not entirely accurate to raise this objection, either; the Open Letter was presented as a continuation of a process that began with a letter sent to the cardinals and patriarchs of the Church assigning theological censures to certain propositions of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia and that continued with a filial correction sent to Pope Francis himself. This filial correction identified the moderrnist heresy as a source of Pope Francis’s aberrations and gave a detailed exposition and condemnation of this heresy.

Moreover, even a cursory investigation into the signatories of these documents will reveal that many of them have written extensively on the evils of modernism, the Novus Ordo, and the Second Vatican Council and have criticized Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI for words and actions that are harmful to the faith. Many of the leading critics of these evils can be found among the signatories. Indeed, this was presented as a reason for dismissing these documents when they were made public. The Society’s characterization of the signatories of these documents as “conservatives” in the sense given above is absurd.

The statement of the General House further criticizes the initiative of the Open Letter:

[W]e have to question what results are expected from such an action. Is this way of doing things prudent? Does it have a chance to succeed? Let’s ask about the recipients. Who are they? What formation have they received? What theology has been taught to them? How were they chosen? Given the way in which the incriminating texts have been received by the various episcopates in the world, it is highly probable, even certain, that the vast majority of bishops will not react.

But what answers could Archbishop Lefebvre have given to these questions when he set up the SSPX? What answers, indeed, could the SSPX give to these questions today, if it were asked how likely it is that the bishops of the world will consider and accept any of the positions that the Society exists to uphold?

An attempt to substantiate this rejection of the Open Letter has been made by Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, FSSPX in two articles in the May 2019 issue of the traditionalist monthly Courrier de Rome (“Si Papa” and “Fidelis servus et prudens”). Fr. Gleize is the professor of ecclesiology at the Society’s seminary in Écône, and he took part in the Society’s doctrinal discussions with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. We may take it that his arguments offer the best case that can be made by the SSPX against the Open Letter and that their contents are found acceptable by the leadership of the Society. He offers two lines of criticism. In one article, he attacks the canonical basis of the Open Letter, and in another, he criticizes the prudential wisdom of the initiative.

Canonical objections to the Open Letter

Before considering Fr. Gleize’s canonical arguments, we should clarify the question at stake. The Open Letter states that it is accusing Pope Francis of the canonical crime of heresy. This expression is used in order to prevent misunderstanding of the accusation against the pope. The term “heresy” is used to refer to the personal sin of heresy, as well as to the public crime of heresy. The personal sin of heresy is a sin against the theological virtue of faith. It occurs when a person rejects the faith, by doubting or disbelieving a proposition he knows to be taught by the Catholic Church as being a divinely revealed truth contained in the deposit of faith. No public manifestation of this disbelief is necessary in order to commit the personal sin of heresy. An inner refusal to believe is sufficient. The public crime of heresy, on the other hand, involves a pertinacious public doubt or denial of such a divinely revealed truth. Doubt or denial of a divinely revealed truth is pertinacious when there are publicly available facts that establish that the person doubting or denying the truth has been presented with the fact that it is taught by the Catholic Church as divinely revealed.

The canon law of the Church punishes the public crime of heresy. Hence, this public crime is rightly described as a canonical crime. However, it is not constituted as a crime by the law of the Church or defined by the law of the Church. It can be compared to murder in the civil law, as opposed to tax evasion in the civil law. The nature of tax evasion, and its character as a crime, are both defined by the civil law. We could imagine a society where there were no taxes (perhaps the state would function by demanding military and labour service from its citizens, not monetary payments). In such a society, there would be no such thing as tax evasion, and there could be no crime of tax evasion. Murder, however, is identified and punished as a crime by the civil law, but it is not made a crime or defined in its nature as a crime by the civil law. It is a crime prior to its condemnation by the civil law, which only recognizes it as a crime and specifies the legal treatment it receives.

Heresy is like murder in this respect. Its nature and character as a crime are specified by the divine law; ecclesiastical law simply recognizes it as a crime and specifies the means of identifying, judging, and punishing it. The public crime of heresy can be taken to indicate the personal sin of heresy, but it is a crime not just because it indicates the existence of this personal sin. Its criminal nature goes farther. It is an attack on the Church and the faith of Catholics, as well as an individual sin against God.

Since this attack is a public and deliberate rejection of the faith of the Church, the person who commits it voluntarily separates himself from the Church. This separation happens not because the Church inflicts it as a punishment for the crime. It is an intrinsic consequence of the crime of heresy in itself. “Not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy” (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis 23). The penal sanctions for heresy inflicted by canon law recognize and enforce this separation, rather than causing it.

Fr. Gleize’s criticism of the content of the Open Letter is directed at its assertion that the canon law of the Church supports the view that a pope who is guilty of heresy must lose the papal office. He does not deny that there is a theological consensus in favor of this view, nor does he deny the truth of the view itself. He simply rejects the claim that this consensus has any canonical force and asserts that the view is no more than a theological opinion.

There is an important inconsistency in his characterization of the position of the Open Letter. In some passages, he describes the letter as maintaining that a pope can be deposed for heresy (“l’hypothèse théologique qui voudrait légitimer la déposition du Pape tombé dans l’hérésie“). In other passages, he describes the letter as simply asserting that a pope who is guilty of heresy must lose the papal office (“un pape coupable d’hérésie et qui s’obstine dans ses vues hérétiques ne peut continuer d’être Pape“). These positions are quite different. There are three views that have been advanced on how a pope loses the papal office as a result of heresy. The conciliarist view holds that a heretical pope must be deposed by an ecumenical council that exercises a superior jurisdiction over him. The view of St. Robert Bellarmine is that a manifestly heretical pope loses the papacy ipso facto, with no need or possibility for an intervention of the Church. The view of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas is that the Church must act in order for a heretical pope to fall from the papacy.

The conciliarist position has been condemned by the Church. No choice has been made by the Church concerning the positions of Bellarmine and Cajetan, both of which are supported by reputable Catholic scholars up to the present day. The Open Letter rejects the conciliarist view, but it does not take a position on the choice between Cajetan and Bellarmine. It states:

[T]he Church does not have jurisdiction over the pope, and hence that the Church cannot remove a pope from office by an exercise of superior authority, even for the crime of heresy. … There are some lesser differences of opinion between Catholic theologians concerning the measures that the Church must take in dealing with a heretical pope. The school of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas asserts that in order for the papal office to be lost, the Church, after ascertaining and pronouncing that the pope is a heretic, must also command the faithful to avoid him for his heresy. The school of St. Robert Bellarmine does not reject the step of commanding the faithful to avoid the pope as a heretic, but it does not consider it a necessary precondition for the pope’s losing office for heresy. Both these schools have adherents, up to and including the present day. We do not take a position on these disputed questions, whose resolution is a matter for the bishops of the Church.

It limits itself to maintaining the general view, common to both Cajetan and Bellarmine, which states that a pope who pertinaciously denies a truth of the Faith must lose the papal office. There is no insuperable opposition between these two views when it comes to the practical steps that must be taken in order for a heretical pope to fall from the papacy. The position of Cajetan holds that certain measures are necessary in order for this to happen; the position of Bellarmine states that these steps are not necessary but accepts that they are permissible. The practical recommendations of the Open Letter are acceptable to both positions. Fr. Gleize’s references to the Open Letter as calling for the deposition of the pope are thus inaccurate.

Fr. Gleize offers two lines of argument that attempt to refute the position of the Open Letter concerning the canonical base for the deposition of a pope. In the first line of argument, he appeals to Fr. Clayes Bouuaert’s article “Déposition” in Raoul Naz’s Dictionnaire de droit canonique. This article, he points out, states that “the question of the deposition of a pope does not arise in canon law.” He quotes Fr. Bouuaert’s article in more detail on this issue:

Let us sum up, by way of conclusion, the explanation that the best theologians and canonists have given for this difficulty … There can be no judgment and deposition of a pope in the strict and proper sense of these words. The vicar of Jesus Christ is not subject to any human jurisdiction. God alone is his direct and immediate judge. If, therefore, some ancient conciliar or doctrinal texts seem to admit that a pope can be deposed, the meaning of their assertions must be properly distinguished and rectified. On the assumption (a most improbable one) that a Pope should have fallen into public and formal heresy, he would not be deprived of his papal office by a human judgment, but by his own action, since formal adherence to heresy would exclude him from the Church. [1]

Fr. Gleize presents this article as supporting the conclusion that the only canonical principle that is relevant to the question of a heretical pope is the one stated in canon 1556 of the 1917 Code and canon 1404 of the 1983 Code, “Prima sedes a nemine judicatur,” “the Apostolic See is judged by no one.” The view that a heretical pope must lose the papal office he qualifies as a mere theological opinion that has no canonical weight.

It is a mystery how Fr. Gleize draws this conclusion from the article of Fr. Bouuaert. The passage from the article cited above is a straightforward assertion of the position of St. Robert Bellarmine concerning the situation of a heretical pope, and it says the pope loses his office if he is a heretic. This assertion is not qualified as an opinion, but given as a statement of fact about canon law.

In addition to this appeal to the authority of Fr. Bouuaerts, Fr. Gleize offers arguments of his own against the Open Letter’s claim that the canonical tradition of the Church holds that a heretical pope must lose the papal office. He points out that the Open Letter cites a text from the Decretals of Gratian in support of its claim. The Decretals of Gratian is a collection of canonical texts from the 12th century that was later incorporated into the Corpus iuris canonici, the collection of legislative texts that served as the basis for the Latin Church’s canon law until the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. The text in question states that the pope can be judged by no one unless he is found to have deviated from the Faith (“Hujus culpas redarguere præsumit mortalium nullus, quia cunctos ipse judicaturus a nemine est judicandus, nisi deprehendatur a fide devius,” (dist. XL, C. 6). Fr. Gleize asserts that this text has no authority on two grounds: i) the Decretals of Gratian are a private collection rather than an official text of the Church and ii) the entire Corpus iuris canonici, including this text, was in any case suppressed with the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, unless its contents were explicity or implicitly included in that code or were statements of divine positive law or natural law.

Fr. Gleize’s first argument for rejecting the content of this text of the Decretals is clearly invalid. From the premise that not all texts in the Decretals of Gratian have legal force, it does not follow that no text in the Decretals states a law of the Church. This line of argument would provide a basis for rejecting the legal principle that the Apostolic See is judged by no one, since that principle is stated in the Decretals, and is indeed stated in the very text from the Decretals that Fr. Gleize objects to.

Fr. Gleize’s second argument begs the question. It assumes that the content of this text from Gratian is not based on divine positive law or natural law. But the canonists and theologians who have cited this text in support of the claim that a heretical pope must lose office have maintained that this claim is based on divine positive law and even on natural law. St. Robert Bellarmine makes this point clearly, in arguing for his thesis that a heretical pope must fall from the papacy:

There is no basis for that which some respond to this: that these Fathers based themselves on ancient law, while nowadays, by decree of the Council of Constance, they alone lose their jurisdiction who are excommunicated by name or who assault clerics. This argument, I say, has no value at all, for those Fathers, in affirming that heretics lose jurisdiction, did not cite any human law, which furthermore perhaps did not exist in relation to the matter, but argued on the basis of the very nature of heresy. The Council of Constance only deals with the excommunicated, that is, those who have lost jurisdiction by sentence of the Church, while heretics already before being excommunicated are outside the Church and deprived of all jurisdiction. For they have already been condemned by their own sentence, as the Apostle teaches. (De Romano Pontifice, lib. II, cap. 30)

John of St. Thomas appeals to the natural law to support the claim that a heretical pope can lose his office for heresy: “In addition, as the heretic is an enemy of the Church, natural law provides protection against such a Pope according to the rules of self-defense, because she can defend herself against an enemy as is a heretical Pope; therefore, she can act (in justice) against him” (In Secunda Secundae, q. 1 a. 7, disp. II, a. III.).

The argument from divine positive law is based on the following Scriptural texts:

“And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” (2 Thess. 3:6:)

“If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you.” (2 Jn. 1:10)

“A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” (Tit. 3:10–11)

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.” (Gal. 1:8–9)

These scriptural arguments are supported by magisterial teachings. The content of the text of Gratian is supported by the teaching of Gregory the Great, Moralia XXV c. 16; the allocution of Pope Hadrian II to the Roman Council in 869, which was incorporated into the acts of the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869–870); and the teaching of Pope Innocent III, who asserted that only for heresy could he be judged by the Church (“propter solum peccatum quod in fide commititur possem ab Ecclesia judicari“). The text from Gratian is usually cited by canonists and theologians simply as expressing the conclusion established by these arguments from Scripture and magisterial teaching. This text is seen as deriving from and expressing the contents of divine positive law and Church teaching, rather than as the origin of the legal principle that a heretical pope must lose the papacy.

The justification given by theologians and canonists for the text in Gratian entails that Fr. Gleize is wrong in supposing that this text can have been abrogated by the 1917 or 1983 Codes of Canon Law. The 1917 Code states that it does not abrogate earlier laws derived from natural law or divine positive law [2]. It also states that if there is a doubt about whether an older law differs from the new code, the old law is not to be rejected [3]. The 1983 Code states that “insofar as they repeat former law, the canons of this Code must be assessed also in accord with canonical tradition” (can. 6 §2). The 1983 Code does not change any canons of the 1917 Code that are pertinent to the issue of a heretical pope, so the content of the 1983 Code in relation to this issue is the same as the content of the 1917 Code.

In earlier writings on the question of a heretical pope [4], Fr. Gleize has argued that these scriptural passages do not require that a heretical pope lose the papacy. He claims that they simply require that a heretical pope be avoided, and that this can be done while the pope in question retains the papal office. But this argument is absurd. The pope is the head of the Church, and the Church cannot avoid her head. Nor can a person who has been anathematized by the Church retain the papal office, or any office in the Church.

Fr. Gleize’s arguments against the consensus of canonists and theologians thus lack any force. His own view on the canonical situation with respect to a heretical pope is not tenable. He asserts that the only law relevant to this situation is the traditional principle asserted in canon 1556 of the 1917 Code and canon 1404 of the 1983 Code, “the Apostolic See is judged by no one.” If this claim is to be used to support his position concerning a heretical pope, we must refrain from asking what canon 1404 means and how it is to be interpreted. We cannot ask how the occupant of the Apostolic See is determined, and in particular, we cannot ask if heresy does or does not lead to the loss of the papal office. However, it is obvious that these questions must be asked if we are to know how to obey the canon. If we do ask them, we find that the answer offered by canonists is the one given in the authoritative New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law:

Canon 1404 – The First See is judged by no one.

Canon 1404 is not a statement about the personal impeccability or inerrancy of the Holy Father. Should, indeed, the pope fall into heresy, it is understood that he would lose his office. To fall from Peter’s faith is to fall from his chair. [5]

The same answer is given by all commentators on the 1917 Code concerning canon 1557 §1.

Fr. Gleize’s position betrays a misunderstanding of the nature of the 1917 and 1983 Codes. The structure of these codes is influenced by the European codes of civil law, derived from the Napoleonic Code. The codification of canon law produced a result that was much smaller and more organized than the previous mass of legislation in the Corpus iuris canonici. This brevity and organization is not achieved without a cost. The cost is that the laws in such a code are generally not self-explanatory, and indeed often cannot be understood without reference to a mass of legal material that they necessarily presume. This material includes the definitions of standard terms, the history of previous legislation, magisterial teaching concerning the content of the laws, and the consensus of canonists about the scope and meaning of the laws. Such material is not made up of theological opinions independent of the law itself, to be accepted or rejected according to the judgment one forms of the strength of the theological case made. They are an essential part of the law. When this material agrees on an interpretation of the law, that interpretation is what Catholics should take the law to mean. They are not free to reject it. But in the case of a heretical pope, this agreement exists. It asserts that a heretical pope cannot retain the papal office. Fr. Gleize is wrong in dismissing this agreement as a theological opinion that he is free to reject. It is the law of the Church.

Fr. Gleize’s dismissal of this law is mysterious in light of the position that taken on this question by other authorities of the SSPX. In 2015, John Salza and Robert Siscoe published the book True or False Pope? Refuting Sedevantism and Other Modern Errors. This book was published by STAS Editions, the publishing arm of the SSPX’s St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. The book provides a good overview of the theological debates concerning heretical popes and is worth reading and even purchasing. Salza and Siscoe describe the positions of Cajetan, Bellarmine, Suarez, and John of St. Thomas on the situation of a heretical pope and conclude that John of St. Thomas advances the correct view. The book has a laudatory foreword by Bishop Bernard Fellay, then superior general of the SSPX, who stated, “We thus pray that True or False Pope? finds its way to many Catholics of good will.” It receives enthusiastic endorsements from other high-ranking priests and scholars of the SSPX:

“It will give light to all its readers.” —Fr. François Laisney, SSPX, former district superior, USA

“This clear exposé [sic] of Catholic doctrine will nourish the faith of all Catholics of good will.” —Fr. Steven Reuter, SSPX, professor, St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Winona.

“Siscoe and Salza communicate to their readers another great benefit; they patiently and clearly present the constant teaching of the Church on her own nature.” —Fr. Paul Robinson, SSPX, professor of dogmatic theology, Holy Cross Seminary, Australia.

One would not want to calumniate these clerics by accusing them of agreeing with John of St. Thomas when they are opposing sedevacantism but dismissing his position as unfounded when it comes to accusing Pope Francis of heresy. One must therefore count them as agreeing with the position of the Open Letter on this topic and rejecting the view of Fr. Gleize.

Bishop Fellay’s support of the position of the Open Letter has not been limited to his endorsement of Salza’s and Siscoe’s book. He also signed the filial correction addressed to Pope Francis, which reproached the pope for upholding heresy and asked him to repudiate his heretical words and deeds.

It is true that Bishop Fellay is no longer the superior general of the SSPX. The character of the new leadership of the Society may give a clue to the position that the SSPX has taken toward the Open Letter. The current superior general of the Society is Fr. Davide Pagliarani, who was the superior of the SSPX seminary in La Reja, Argentina from 2012 until his election in 2018. The new assistants to the superior general are Bishop Alfonso de Galarreta and Fr. Christian Bouchacourt. Bishop de Gallareta was also a rector of the Society’s seminary in Argentina. Fr. Bouchacourt served as the district superior of the Society in Latin America from 2003 until 2014 and is known to have enjoyed good relations with the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio. The new leadership of the SSPX thus seems to have been chosen in order to promote better relations with Pope Francis. Pursuit of this policy requires rejection of the Open Letter. It explains why the Society has chosen to attack the letter, regardless of the badness of the reasons it provides for rejecting it.

Practical objection to the Open Letter

Fr. Gleize’s attack on the canonical basis of the Open Letter has required a detailed discussion because of the complexity of the subject matter. His criticism of the prudential wisdom of the initiative can be dealt with more briefly. Fr. Gleize observes that although Archbishop Lefebvre thought Paul VI and John Paul II promoted heresy, and could on occasion have been taken to have expressed it, he nonetheless never accused them of being heretics and always accepted them as legitimate popes. Fr. Gleize states that this policy should only be changed if there were a change in circumstances. He acknowledges that some people allege that circumstances have in fact changed, because Pope Francis has crossed lines that his predecessors respected. However, Fr. Gleize denies that there is a significant difference between Pope Francis and his predecessors. He argues for this conclusion as follows:

In fact, circumstances have not changed substantially. On the one hand, Rome continues to have distanced herself from doctrinal tradition because of the errors of the Council, errors which have not changed, even if some concessions have been made in order to tolerate some aspects of Tradition in disciplinary or liturgical matters. On the other hand, this distancing, although it has increased as a result of having been extended from doctrine to morals, conserves the same root, which is the false idea of freedom of conscience. [6]

The premise of this argument is dubious. A false idea of freedom of conscience is no doubt one of the roots of the theological errors that can be attributed to Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Francis, but it is  not the only one. The correctio filialis described some of the other intellectual sources of Pope Francis’s heresies, including modernism and the ideas of Martin Luther. In any case, Fr. Gleize’s argument is a non sequitur. Let us concede for the sake of argument that the questionable ideas and statements of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Francis have some of the same sources, or even exactly the same source. This would not prevent Francis from taking these ideas farther than his predecessors did, and doing so in a way that means he is a formal heretic where they were not.

The conclusion for which Fr. Gleize is arguing is also obviously false. Any informed person can cite several respects in which Francis has shown himself far more hostile to the Faith than his predecessors. For example, Paul VI and John Paul II both made strong magisterial statements in defense of truths of the faith that were being widely questioned — Paul VI in Mysterium Ecclesiae, for example, and John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio. Francis has never done this. On the contrary, he has deliberately repudiated the teaching of many of the documents of John Paul concerning divinely revealed moral truths. His episcopal appointments show a deliberate policy of appointing only heretics and excluding orthodox believers as far as is possible, which Paul VI and John Paul II did not do. The Open Letter provides a detailed case for Francis’s heterodoxy, to which readers can be referred.


The General House of the SSPX concludes its criticism of the Open Letter with this exhortation: “‘What to do?’, some ask. Without parochialism or misplaced pride, we can say there is an example to follow, that of the Athanasius of modern times — Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.” This conclusion can be heartily accepted by those who endorse the Open Letter. The relevant part of Archbishop Lefebvre’s example is that when faced with an unparalleled crisis he did something to address it. This is what the Open Letter has done in the case of Pope Francis.

[1] Il ne peut être question de jugement et de déposition d’un Pape dans le sens propre et strict des mots. Le vicaire de Jésus Christ n’est soumis à aucune juridiction humaine. Son juge direct et immédiat est Dieu seul. Si donc d’anciens textes conciliaires ou doctrinaux semblent admettre que le pape puisse être déposé, ils sont sujets à distinction et rectification. Dans l’hypothèse, invraisemblable d’ailleurs, où le Pape tomberait dans une hérésie publique et formelle,il ne serait pas privé de sa charge par un jugement des hommes, mais de par son propre fait, puisque l’adhésion formelle à une hérésie l’exclurait du sein de l’Église. (Fr. Clayes Bouuaert, ‘Déposition’, in Raoul Naz ed., Dictionnaire de droit canonique, vol. IV: Condition-Droits acquis [Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1949], col. 1159.)

[2] Can. 6 §6: “Si qua ex ceteris disciplinaribus legibus, quae usque adhuc viguerunt, nec explicite nec implicite in Codice contineatur, ea vim omnem amisisse dicenda est, nisi in probatis liturgicis libris reperiatur, aut lex sit iuris divini sive positivi sive naturalis.”

[3] Can. 6 §4: “in dubio num aliquod canonum praescriptum cum veteri iure discrepet, a veteri iure non est recedendum.”

[4] “Le pape qui tombe dans l’hérésie perd-il l’investiture dans le Primat?,” Courrier de Rome, no. 595, January 2017. This can be found at

[5] New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, and Thomas J. Green eds. (New York: Paulist, 2000), p. 1,618.

[6] “En effet, les circonstances n’ont pas substantiellement changé : d’une part, Rome reste toujours aussi éloignée de la Tradition en matière doctrinale, à cause  des erreurs inchangées du Concile, même si quelques concessions ont pu être faites, pour tolérer une certaine  part de Tradition en matière de discipline ou de liturgie ; d’autre part cet éloignement, pour s’aggraver en  étendue, du fait qu’il s’étend du plan dogmatique au  plan moral, reste toujours le même dans sa racine, qui  est l’idée fausse de la liberté de conscience.”

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