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By Subverting Traditional Ceremonies,
a Pope Falls into Schism

Following the same rationale regarding last week's excerpt, TIA continues to post the opinions of some of famous theologians on the possibility of a Pope falling into schism.

Today, we bring to our readers a text on this topic by Fr. Francisco Suarez, SJ, one of the greatest Catholic theologians after St. Thomas Aquinas.

Fr. Francisco Suarez (1548-1617)

“Schism may come about not only by reason of heresy, but also without it, as it takes place when someone, conserving the faith, does not wish to maintain the unity of the Church in his actions and his manner of practicing our religion. And this may come about in two ways.

“In the first way, separating oneself from the head of the Church, as one reads in the chapter Non Vos, 23, question 5, in which the Gloss says that schism consists in not having the Roman Pontiff as one’s head – and not in denying that the Roman Pontiff is the head of the Church, for this would be schism united to heresy. Rather, it is either rashly denying some Pontiff in particular, or behaving in relation to him as if he were not the head: for example if someone were to try to convoke a General Council without his authorization, or elect an anti-pope. This is the most common mode of schism.

There could be a second mode of schism if someone separated himself from the body of the Church not wishing to communicate with it in the participation of the Sacraments. Saint Epiphanius narrates an example of this (Haeres., 68), in respect to the sect of Melecius, who, dissented with his Patriarch, Peter of Alexandrine, separated himself from him in al the sacrifices, and was accused of schism, although between the two there was not any divergence in matters of faith, as Epiphanius attests.

And in this second way, the Pope could be schismatic should he not want to have the due union and coordination with the whole body of the Church, as would be the case if he tried to excommunicate the whole Church, or if he wanted to subvert all the ecclesiastical ceremonies founded on apostolic tradition, as was observed by Cajetan (ad II-II, q. 39) and, with greater amplitude, by Torquemada (1. 4, c.11)” (1).
  1. Suarez, De Caritate, disp. XII, sect. I n 2, pp. 733-734. As we see, the hypothesis of a fall of the Pope into schism, as conceived by the theologians who really studied the question, is logically possible, granted that it does not involve a contadiction. We do not comprehend, then, how a canonist of incontestable authority, like Father Cappello could write; “Some cite also (among the cases of cessation of pontifical power) schism (of the Pope) and they match it with heresy (cfr. Wernz, Ius Can., tom. II, n. 616). But how can the Pope become schismatic? For where he is, is not the (cfr. can. 1325, 2) true Church there also? This opinion, as others, must be considered antiquated” (Summa Iuris Can., I, p. 276, note 21). A position analogous to that of Father Cappello is adopted also by Phillips, Du Droit Eccl., vol. I, p. 178. In our view, the attitude taken by these authors induces one to think that they did not study the question ex professo

(Arnaldo V.X. Silveira, The Theological Hypothesis of a Heretic Pope,
available here, p. 179)

Posted on August 21, 2021


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