My purpose in broaching the subject is not to start yet another endless R&R vs sedevacantist debate thread, but to expose for comment some interesting opinions of Bishop Athanasius Schneider.
1. Speaking of the 10th and 11th century popes who were deposed by the German emperors (because of abuse of power and immorality, not heresy), Bishop Schneider says:
"However, they were never deposed according to a canonical procedure, since that is impossible because of the Divine structure of the Church. The pope gets his authority directly from God and not from the Church; therefore, the Church cannot depose him, for any reason whatsoever."
In espousing this view, many will erroneously perceive Bishop Schneider to be favoring St. Bellarmine over John of St. Thomas, where in fact the rest of his article will show him to be opposing both Doctors
: He will oppose the idea that a pope can be deposed ipso facto (Bellarmine), and he will seemingly
oppose JST, possibly based on misunderstanding (i.e., JST does not posit that the Church will depose the Pope, but merely that a council will be convened to declare Christ's deposition of the pope).
What is novel here is that +Schneider opposes the very idea that a pope can lose office for heresy, period. More on this below.
2. Bishop Schneider endorses a comment which seems
to contradict Vatican I (i.e., that a Pope is only infallible when he speaks via the solemn extraordinary magisterium, vs Pastor Aeternus, which also speaks of the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium). Quoting Dom John Chapman from his book “The Condemnation of Pope Honorius” (London 1907), Bishop Schneider endorses the opinion that:
"It is a dogma of faith that the pope cannot proclaim a heresy when teaching ex cathedra. This is the Divine guarantee that the gates of hell will not prevail against the cathedra veritatis, which is the Apostolic See of the Apostle Saint Peter. Dom John Chapman, an expert in investigating the history of the condemnation of Pope Honorius I, writes: “Infallibility is, as it were, the apex of a pyramid. The more solemn the utterances of the Apostolic See, the more we can be certain of their truth. When they reach the maximum of solemnity, that is, when they are strictly ex cathedra, the possibility of error is wholly eliminated. The authority of a pope, even on those occasions when he is not actually infallible, is to be implicitly followed and reverenced. That it should be on the wrong side is a contingency shown by faith and history to be possible” (The Condemnation of Pope Honorius, London 1907, p. 109)
The reconciliation which is implicit here is that not every "teaching" which emanates from Rome qualifies as a teaching of the OUM:
"We should also note that for all the Bishops throughout the world at a given time (synchronic universality) to believe and definitively teach that a particular doctrine is a revealed truth that must be believed by all Catholics, the doctrine taught would have to be consistent with what Catholics have believed from antiquity (diachronic universality). Hence, there would have to be a synchronic universality in the teacher (the subject), and a diachronic universality (at least implicitly) in the doctrine taught (the object) for the definitive character to be manifest. One thing is certain: it has never happened, nor will it ever happen, that a novelty or error is so clearly and definitively taught as a revealed truth, by the Pope and all the Bishops dispersed throughout the world, that it acquires the definitive character necessary to be binding on the faithful."https://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/4214-the-infallibility-of-the-ordinary-and-extraordinary-magisterium
Such teachings lacking synchronic and diachronic universality would therefore be relegated to what is called the "authentic magisterium," discussed in the same article just linked to above (see quoted from Dom Paul Nau, 1954).
It would have been nice had Bishop Schneider explicated this, because as his article stands, many will stop reading as soon as they (wrongly) sense he is denying the infallibility of the OUM.
Again, my purpose is not to debate whether he is right or wrong in all of this, but to make this interesting observation:
Thus far, the status disputationes seems to be that: A) There can never be a papal deposition; B) But we don't need one because the errors/heresies are not at the level of the extraordinary or ordinary magisterium (which more or less relegates all the conciliar errors to the personal opinions "promulgated" as papal and Catholic teaching.
What is interesting about that theory is that on the one hand, it would make it impossible to promulgate heresy if every time a pope tried, his heresy were ipso facto relegated to the level of merely authentic magisterium for lack of universality (synchronic or diachronic), like a built-in protection system.
Is this the explanation of how
the Church is protected from error (i.e., Is this how Christ has chosen to make the Church indefectible)?
But on the other hand, if this is the solution or reconciliation, it does not seem to prevent the entire Church from being swept away by error (as has in fact happened), since the faithful will not comprehend that what passes for the teachings of the Church in conciliar encyclicals, documents, catechisms, rites, and canon law is in fact nothing more than personal opinion passed off as Catholic teaching on a grand and systematic scale, having been "authorized" by Rome.
If that is the truth, then practically speaking, how has the Faith been protected from defection, if that protection is of a technical kind, but nevertheless allows for the possibility of the entire body of faithful (and clergy) being swept away by error?
The answer would seem to be that it is the faith, not the faithful, who are protected from defection.
3. Speaking of the heretical Pope, Bishop Schneider says, "The Church in the very rare concrete cases of a pope committing serious theological errors or heresies could definitely live with such a pope."
So, while +Schneider began by seeming to give some the mistaken impresion of having sided with St. Bellarmine (insofar as he rejected John of St. Thomas) regarding the impossibility of the Church deposing an heretical pope, he subsequently makes the issue moot in his theory because the pope can apparently never promulgate a doctrine at the level of the OUM (for want of diachronic universality) even if he wanted to. Hence, he may be personally heretical, but cannot promulgate (in a technical sense), his heresies, which are all ipso facto relegated to the authentic magisterium.
However, in such cases, the pope would become a public heretic (in which case, most approved theologians and even popes (e.g., Pius XII) have opined that he would no longer be a member of the Church. But the pope is required to be a Catholic man.
Can a public heretic, who by definition is no longer a member of the Church, remain pope?
+Schneider thinks to resolve this issue later in the article by stating that even an excommunicate can become pope, citing Romano Pontifice Eligendo of Paul VI:
"No cardinal elector may be excluded from active and passive participation in the election of the Supreme Pontiff because of or on pretext of any excommunication, suspension, interdict or other ecclesiastical impediment. Any such censures are to be regarded as suspended as far as the effect of the election is concerned.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifice eligendo, n. 35)
That citation certainly shows excommunicates can participate in a conclave, but does it also show one of them can be elected pope? I don't see it.
In any case, there seems to be need of further explanation to reconcile the "authentic magisterium" solution with the fact of public (individual) heresy, and its consequence for membership in the Church.
Bishop Schneider's study does not sufficiently or satisfactorily address this aspect.
4. Bishop Schneider then advances what seems to be a novel opinion: A pope cannot fall from office for for heresy:
"The opinion, which says that a heretical pope ipso facto loses his office, became a common opinion starting with the High Middle Ages until the twentieth century. It remains a theological opinion and not a teaching of the Church and therefore it cannot claim the quality of a constant and perennial teaching of the Church as such, since no Ecumenical Council and no pope has supported such an opinion explicitly. The Church, however, condemned a heretical pope, but only posthumously and not during the term of his office. Even if some saint Doctors of the Church (e.g. St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis de Sales) held such an opinion, it does not prove its certainty or the fact of a general doctrinal consensus.
Even Doctors of the Church have been known to err; such is the case with Saint Thomas Aquinas regarding the question of the Immaculate Conception, the matter of the sacrament of Orders, or the sacramental character of the episcopal ordination."
The problem with this position is that it denies that all the major approved theologians agreed a pope could fall from office for heresy, with the dispute between them being limited to the method by which he would be deposed (Bellarmine, Suarez, et al saying the pope is ipso facto deposed, and JST, Cajetan et al saying the deposition would not occur until declared by a council).
The problem then becomes: If
there is unanimity among the most eminent theologians that a pope can be deprived or lose office (one way or the other) for heresy, what level of consent to the unanimity of theologians are we required to yield? True, these opinions would not technically be the teaching of the Catholic Church per se, but neither is the unanimity of the greatest minds in Church history lightly disregarded.
But that is what Bishop Schneider does, and accuses them of erring in the matter.
How likely is it that a conciliar bishop has a better grasp on the subject matter than all of the great masters of doctrine (including several doctors of the Church)?
The counter-argument will surely be that the recent history of the Church (i.e., the last 60 years) has served to correct, by deduction, the doctrine of the earlier saints/doctors.
Possible, yes. Technically. But probable?
5. Further rejection of both St. Bellarmine and John of St. Thomas:
"The theory or theological opinion allowing the deposition of a heretical pope [John of St. Thomas] or the loss of his office ipso facto [St. Bellarmine] because of heresy is in practice unworkable. If it were applied in practice, it would create a situation similar to that of the Great Schism, which the Church already experienced disastrously at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries. Indeed, there will be always a part of the Cardinals’ college and a considerable part of the world’s episcopate and also of the faithful who will not agree in classifying a concrete Papal error (errors) as formal heresy (heresies) and consequently they will therefore continue to consider the current pope as the only legitimate pope."
This conclusion is not self-evident.
While it is true in the case of St. Bellarmine's ipso facto deposition theory (i.e., because it would rely upon private discernment to arrive at the conclusion of deposition, and this would happen individually or not at all, insofar as the varying opinions of fallible judgment dictated), it is not at all the case with regard to John of St. Thomas's opinion:
If a Church council declared the fact of Christ's deposition of the pope for heresy, it is precisely the benefit of the conciliar declaration which announces with divine and infallible authority the fact of the deposition. If then some section of the Church should refuse to yield to this infallible council, how is that any different than Old Catholics refusing to accept infallibility at Vatican I and so on?
What +Schneider seems to be working toward thus far is building a theory that advances the impossibility of loss of office for heresy (which, once again, would be novel and in opposition to the all the greatest theologians in the history of the Church):
Moreover, the implications for +Schneider's conclusion (ie., a pope can never lose office) are staggering: There is no way to rid the church of an attacking pope, lest wew revert to the methods of the 10th and 11th century emperors who deposed them by force for other reasons. But the Church itself, he implies, would have no mechanism or solution for such a situation (except for the temporary substitution of faithful bishops and clergy, which is really what the article sets out to justify).
6. +Schneider makes a major, contradictory non-sequitur in this (bolded) quote:
"One can disinherit children of a family. Yet one cannot disinherit the father of a family, however guilty or monstrously he behaves himself. This is the law of the hierarchy which God has established even in creation. The same is applicable to the pope, who during the term of his office is the spiritual father of the entire family of Christ on earth. In the case of a criminal or monstrous father, the children have to withdraw themselves from him or avoid contact with him. However, they cannot say, “We will elect a new and good father of our family.” It would be against common sense and against nature. The same principle should be applicable therefore to the question of deposing a heretical pope. The pope cannot be deposed by anybody, only God can intervene and He will do this in His time, since God does not fail in His Providence (“Deus in sua dispositione non fallitur”). During the First Vatican Council, Bishop Zinelli, Relator of the conciliar commission on Faith, spoke in these terms about the possibility of a heretical pope: “If God permits so great an evil (i.e. a heretical pope), the means to remedy such a situation will not be lacking” (Mansi 52, 1109)."
What, then, are these means which are not lacking if, as +Schneider says, the Church cannot declare Christ's deposition of the heretical pope?
+Schneider a few paragraphs earlier has just explained that we must patiently endure the heretical pope, and there a deposition is unfeasible (even by Christ).
This commentary concludes for the sake of brevity, about halfway through +Schneider's article.
Later, he will continue to rebuke the saints and doctors, likening those who supposed the possibility of convening a council to declare Christ's deposition of an hereetical pope to Donatists (!), and being guilty of conciliarism, etc.
If there is sufficient interest, I can comment on the rest of the article, but at this juncture, it does not appear very persuasive (at least to me).