I think the first question before us should be, Moral unanimity primarily among whom? I gave above my answer, "among those bishops who belong to the episcopal college and have a teaching office in the Church. This is also mentioned in both the AER article and by Monsignor Noort ... "
Would you disagree? The authorities say it follows as something infallibly true which proves that it must come from strict teaching authority properly so called. Thus Msgr. Noort speaks of it being the ordinary and universal magisterium that gives a witness to the legitimacy of the succession.
So I deny that the level the theologians are speaking of is the same as what you seem to require. A morally unanimous acceptance by said Bishops suffices.
The second question is, How many such Bishops are there in the world today and how many of them accept Pope Benedict XVI (yes, we can speak about the current Pope specifically if that is okay with you) as for all practical intents and purposes as being the Pope? John Lane's own theory about this, which I think you agree with, works against you here.
PS: SS, yes, I remember we discussed before what I think a member of your forum said about St.Padre Pio's lett er. I don't know if we should go into this in detail here, but if you wish to, I'll say I find the response unconvincing - it implies both L'Osservatore Romano and EWTN committed deliberate forgery or manipulation of the letter based on very little evidence - more likely, something simple like the fact that a newspaper article often edits a portion of a letter for reasons of space constraints is the reality.
Thank you for your response. My answer follows:
I do not believe you have carefully examined the sources you use as evidence of your assertion that "among those bishops who belong to the episcopal college and have a teaching office in the Church," is the only group needed for acceptance.
Let us look again at the sources:
Certainty of the Pope's Status
Question: What certainty have we that the reigning Pontiff is actually the primate of the universal Church – that is, that he became a member of the Church through valid baptism, and that he was validly elected Pope?
Answer: Of course, we have human moral certainty ... This type of certainty excludes every prudent fear of the opposite.
But in the case of the Pope we have a higher grade of certainty – a certainty that excludes not merely the prudent fear of the opposite, but even the possible fear of the opposite. In other words, we have infallible certainty ... This is an example of a fact that is not contained in the deposit of revelation but is so intimately connected with revelation that it must be within the scope of the Church's magisterial authority to declare it infallibly. The whole Church, teaching and believing, declares and believes this fact, and from this it follows that this fact is infallibly true. We accept it with ecclesiastical – not divine – faith, based on the authority of the infallible Church.
Van Noort said:
“So, for example, one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: “Pius XII is the legitimate successor of St. Peter”; similarly (and as a matter of fact if this following point is something “formally revealed,” it will undoubtedly be a dogma of faith) one must give an absolute assent to the proposition: “Pius XII possesses the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church.”
For — skipping the question of how it begins to be proven infallibly for the first time that this individual was legitimately elected to take St. Peter’s place — when someone has been constantly acting as Pope and has theoretically and practically been recognized as such by the bishops and by the universal Church, it is clear that the ordinary and universal magisterium is giving an utterly clear-cut witness to the legitimacy of his succession”
Cardinal Billot said:
Putting aside here other reasons with which one could easily be able to refute such an opinion, it is enough to remember this: it is certain that when Savonarola was writing his letters to the Princes, all of Christendom adhered to Alexander VI and obeyed him as the true Pontiff. For this very reason, Alexander VI was not a false Pope, but a legitimate one. Therefore he was not a heretic at least in that sense in which the fact of being a heretic takes away one’s membership in the Church and in consequence deprives one, by the very nature of things, of the pontifical power and of any other ordinary jurisdiction"
I have added boldfacing to the parts I would like you to re-read. In all of the sources, it is very clear that it is not the acceptance of the bishops only, but also the acceptance of the universal Church.
I have put forth the argument that in the case of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, many Catholics explicitly denied their claim, others said they accepted it, but only accepted them as figureheads without any power to teach and rule. These Catholics alone comprise a large body of the Church, and they did not peacefully accept the claim of the these men to be pope.
I would further argue that the remainder of faithful
Catholics, who believe the faith in every point as it was always taught by the magisterium until the death of Pope Pius XII, only believe the claim of these men to the papacy due to their ignorance of the heresy of these men.
As John Daly pointed out, part of the accepting of the pope is to believe he is the rule of Faith, and it is clear that those few Catholics who keep their Faith intact in the structure of the Concliar church do not look to these men as their rule of Faith. The few that I know in the Concliar church who are in confusion about all of this, keep their Faith
because they either they are old and learned their Faith from the Church, or if they are younger they learned it from reading old books. I am not aware of any faithful Catholics who learned their Faith from these "popes," or the bishops in communion with him. These Catholics have learned their Faith in spite of these men, not from these men.
Let us analyze this more, who are the members of the Church today who believe the Catholic Faith as taught until the death of Pius XII, and let us look to see if they peacefully have adhered to John Paul II and Benedict.
1. The sedevantists, not a huge amount of Catholics, but still a significant minority.
2. Those Catholics who resist the anti-popes, but still call them pope. This is a very large group, and as I have said, they may call these men "pope," but they are not peacefully accepting them, as that would entail treating them as pope, which they have never done.
3. Those who adhere to the Conciliar church and live within its structure, but have kept the Faith despite these anti-popes and heretical bishops. I cannot be certain of the number of these people, but if surveys indicate anything, most "catholics" that call themselves "catholic" no longer accept all of the doctrine or moral teaching of the Church.
The Catholics who are faithful in group 3, in my opinion are not informed or do not grasp the issues, and in my opinion, they only accept Benedict and John Paul's claim based on a false belief about who they are and what they teach.
But, even if you wish to argue that group 3 whose numbers we are not certain, are accepting their papal claims, it is certain the group 1 explicitly denies those claims, and group 2 lacks any peace about the matter, because they only accept these men in name only, and do not in practice treat them as a pope in any sense. Therefore, two large bodies of the tiny population of the universal Church, has not peacefully accepted John Paul and Benedict.
I am sure I do not need to mention in this that the acceptance of a pope does not rely on the those who are outside the Church, the news media, t.v., and other sources. The acceptance must come from the Church, and since John Paul II has been elected has become a very small group, as most Catholics have defected from their Faith, and the remainder is the remnant composing the three groups I discussed.
Therefore, I believe I have made the case that there has not been a universal
peaceful acceptance of the claims of John Paul II and Benedict XVI by the remaining faithful Catholics who make up the Church.