A POINT-BY-POINT REFUTATION OF MARIO DERKSEN ON NESTORIUSA Case of “Cherry-Picking” Theology and “Butchering” Canon Law
In our recent article titled “SEDEVACANTISM PROVEN SEDEVACANTISM PROVEN FALSE BY THE CASE OF NESTORIUS (2/2/16),” we proved that, contrary to the claims of Sedevacantists, Nestorius was not deposed, ipso facto, the moment he professed his heresy in the year 428. We proved this by showing that the Council of Ephesus (not individual Catholics) deposed Nestorius, and “stripped him of his episcopal dignity,” three years later. We even quoted the Sedevacantists’ favorite theologian, St. Robert Bellarmine, who explicitly stated that it was “certain” that Nestorius was deposed by the Council of Ephesus.
We further cited the example of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Universal Church, who refused to publicly sever communion with Nestorius before the Church itself rendered a judgment. We then cited a lengthy quotation from Pope Pius XI praising the saint for his actions. We also quoted the Fourth Council of Constantinople, which confirmed the position taken by St. Cyril by declaring, in no uncertain terms, that any layman who severs communion with his Patriarch, before the Church has rendered a judgment, is excommunicated. In spite of this, Mario Derksen of NovusOrdoWatch.com is still defending the actions of those who do precisely what the Catholic Church (and her great saints) would later condemn. But this is the hubris of those who espouse the anti-Catholic thesis that individual Catholics are the judge of who lawfully holds office in the Church, even when their private judgment is contrary to the public judgment of the Church.
In this piece, we will respond to the fallacious arguments Derksen made in his response to our article. As you will see, Derksen’s attempted shot was a complete misfire. In this response, we will not only show that the Sedevecantists are completely unable to make basic theological distinctions, but also conveniently skip over (and utterly ignore) the quotations that directly contradict their position. Their theology is built upon what we would call “cherry-picking,” that is, selecting what quotations they think work for them, and ignoring those that don’t. The difference between the Sedevacantist cherry-pickers and us is that we don’t need to ignore any theologian or quotation that, at first blush, may seem confusing or contradictory to our position. We accept all of them, because we make the proper and necessary distinctions, which is critical to the study of theology. To ignore them is to admit defeat, which is what the Sedevacantists have already done. Let’s take a look.
First Point: Error in Judgment Presented as a Fact
Derksen comes out of the gate, quite appropriately, with an error, which amounts to a public lie. He wrote:
“The huffing and puffing anti-sedevacantist apologists over at TrueOrFalsePope.com are currently busy publishing countless excerpts from their 700-page book as separate, individual articles.”
Derksen has been repeating this falsehood on social media. He claims that our recent feature articles are simply excerpts from the book that we are posting online. Derksen is not only mistaken but a liar, as anyone who reads the book will see (and because Derksen admits in this same article that he has not yet read the book, he convicts himself of rash judgment as well). While most of the information contained in the articles can be found in substance in the book, the articles we have recently posted have been written from scratch.
Derksen made a similar rash judgment about the contents of the book, by claiming that the book simply repeats old arguments (which is not true), and therefore “has already been refuted.” He began making this false claim publicly, not only before he read the book, but before it was even published. He simply created the lie out of thin air and began publishing it as if it were a fact.
Although these are somewhat minor issues (and irrelevant to the fact that Derksen cannot rebut our material, whether in book or article form), it is further evidence of the way in which Sedevacantists not only err in their private judgment, but also how easily they present their false judgment as if it were a fact. We saw a similar error committed by Fr. Cekada, when he claimed, repeatedly, that the SSPX “bankrolled the Salza/Siscoe book” (and for which he has not provided a public retraction). But when agenda-driven individuals are not really searching for the truth, but instead present their own opinions as “fact,” they will eventually spew public falsehoods without the slightest pang of conscience, as is the case with Derksen and Cekada.
Second Point: Erroneous Claim That Nestorius Was Deposed, Ipso Facto, By Divine Law
Next, Derksen disagrees with our assertion that Nestorius was not
deposed, ipso facto, by “Divine law” for preaching heresy, but was instead deposed at the Council of Ephesus. Here is what Derksen wrote:
“…One such article posted on Feb. 2 criticizes Sedevacantists for pointing out that Nestorius automatically and immediately ceased to be the valid bishop of the see of Constantinople at the moment he became a public heretic, and not only after a legal declaration by the Church. This, John Salza and Robert Siscoe maintain, is false: ‘Nestorius was not deposed by ‘Divine law’ the moment he began preaching heresy, but was instead deposed after the Church itself rendered a judgment,’ they argue. But is this true?”
Yes, Mario, our statement is true: Nestorius was deposed at the Council of Ephesus, after the Church had rendered a judgment. It is an historical fact that is confirmed by your favorite theologian, St. Robert Bellarmine. Once again, this is what he wrote.
“No bishop can be shown to have either been deposed or excommunicated by the people, although many are found who were deposed and excommunicated by the Supreme Pontiffs and general Councils. Certainly, Nestorius was deposed from the episcopacy of Constantinople by the Council of Ephesus, from the mandate of Pope Celestine, as Evagrius witnessed.”
The above quotation is from Book I of De Romano Pontifice. In Book II of the same work, Bellarmine again confirms that Nestorius was deposed by the Council of Ephesus. He wrote:
“The Council of Ephesus, as it is found in Evagrius, says that it deposed Nestorius by a command of a letter of the Roman Pope Celestine.”
What was Derksen’s response to these quotations from St. Bellarmine, one of which was included in our original article? He completely ignores them! That’s right. And his strategy is to quote a passage from Cardinal Billot, even though Billot in no way contradicts what Bellarmine wrote. Derksen then predicts that our response to the Billot quote will be to claim that “theologians are not infallible.”
Now, before we address the quote from Billot, we must say that we find this prediction quite amusing, since the Sedevacantists themselves have made that very claim (“theologians are not infallible”), when presented with a teaching from – wait for it - Cardinal Billot himself! That’s right again. In fact, the quotation in question was from the very same book that Derksen cites. What is the teaching of Cardinal Billot that was rejected by the Sedevacantists? It is the common teaching of theologians which maintains that the peaceful and universal acceptance of a Pope by the Church provides infallible certitude that he is a true and legitimate Pope. When the entire Church accepts a man as Pope, his legitimacy falls into the category of a dogmatic fact, which cannot be denied. Needless to say, this common teaching of the Church’s theologians eviscerates the Sedevacantist claim that all the Popes after Pius XII have been antipopes.
Again, to reiterate for our Sedevacantist opponents, this is not only the teaching of Cardinal Billot. It is the common teaching of the Church’s theologians, and is qualified as “theologically certain.” As we showed in our recent article called “Sedevacantists Reject Pre-Vatican II Popes,” the rejection of this dogmatic fact is a mortal sin against Faith. In fact, in the blog section of the NovusOrdoWatch website which follows this Derksen article on Nestorius, a questioner asks: “The faithful must assent to a teaching that is communis?” To which Derksen responds: “Yes, they do, under pain of mortal sin.” Well, if Mario does not “assent” to the common teaching of universal and peaceful acceptance as regards the conciliar Popes, he has just publicly accused himself of mortal sin.
Now, when NovusOrdoWatch’s friend, Steve Speray, was presented with the teaching of Cardinal Billot, who explained that “the adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff,” he rejected it without a scruple. And guess how Speray justified doing so? Get ready for it: He did so by saying: “theologians are not infallible.” That’s right! He did exactly what Derksen claimed we would do (and did not do). Perhaps Derksen should consult the writings of his fellow Sedevacantists before preemptively accusing us of making arguments that his own colleagues make - and we have not made - which has only caused further embarrassment for him.
Here is what Speray wrote when Robert Siscoe presented him the teaching of Cardinal Billot (and others):
STEVE SPERAY: “…your theologians and canonists are proven wrong by history. You don’t know how and where infallibility applies. Unfortunately, even theologians get it
wrong. … The theologians that say that unanimous consent of Catholics on who the pope is constitute dogmatic facts are simply wrong. Theologians are not infallible
You see, when Sedevacantists can find a quote from an authority which they think supports their position, they puff the quotation and praise the theologian to the heavens (cherry-picking). But when the exact same authority (i.e., Cardinal Billot) teaches a doctrine that presents an obstacle to their position, they reject it without a second thought. And, thus, with his rejection of the infallible certitude of peaceful and universal acceptance, Speray accuses himself of mortal sin.
Now, how do you think Speray reacted when he read the quotation from Billot that Derksen recently discovered and claims supports the Sedevacantist position? Here is what Speray wrote:
“John Salza and Robert Siscoe have attacked me on the case of Nestorius … My friends at Novus Ordo Watch just posted a devastating piece against Salza/Siscoe on the issue. It just so happens that Cardinal Billot supports the very argument that Salza/Siscoe ridiculed me for making. … Salza/Siscoe need to concede or denounce Cardinal Billot as a nutty professor.”
You see, when Billot teaches what Speray doesn’t like (universal and peaceful acceptance), then “theologians are not infallible.” But if Speray happens upon a quote that he thinks supports his position, everything changes. Instead of saying “even theologians get it wrong,” suddenly his opponent must either concede his point “or denounce Cardinal Billot as a nutty professor.” Unfortunately, this modus operandi of cherry-picking, not only theologians but also their individual teachings, is pervasive amongst Sedevacantist apologists, which is demonstrated in spades at both “NovusOrdoWatch” and “Speray’s Catholicism in a Nut House.”
Now, although we do agree that theologians are not infallible (especially when they are simply giving their opinion on a matter of speculative theology or law which the Church itself has not yet resolved), the quotation that Derksen has brought forward by Billot does not say what Derksen would like it to say. Nowhere does Billot teach that Nestorius was “deposed, ipso facto, by Divine law,” the moment he began preaching heresy. Nor does Billot ever contradict the teaching of the Fourth Council of Constantinople (which Derksen completely ignored!), which condemns those who separate from their Patriarch before the Church has rendered a judgment on the matter. In fact, in the same book Derksen cites, Billot himself mentions that St. Cyril refused to separate from Nestorian before the Church rendered a judgment. But this is precisely what Derksen has done, and he seeks to justify his anti-Catholic actions by appealing to the quote from Billot.
Unlike Derksen, who in his “response” to our article, ran and hid from the quotations we provided from Bellarmine and the Fourth Council of Constantinople (he never even mentioned them, much less addressed them), we will address his quotation from Billot directly. Continue reading here