by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Recently, the Most Rev. Henry Gracida, on his blog published a long critique, entitled, “Some Thoughts about the status of Cardinals etc.”, of a post, here at the From Rome Blog, entitled, “How usurpation of the Papacy leads to the excommunication of the participating Cardinal Electors and Bishops“.
Since, I intend to respond to the charges brought against my position, I recommend that all readers first read both articles, in chronological order. — Since the commentator is anonymous, I will refer to him by the initials of his nome du plume: CC.
The argument marshaled against my position contains a list of ridiculous errors. The first of which is derived from juridical positivism, which holds that nothing is certain in reality unless it be judged by a competent court of law, holding constitutional authority to judge the matter. This is the kind of error no one but a Canonist or Lawyer would fall into, because it reduces the realm of epistemological truth to that of what a court recognizes as facts. Now, its quite understandable that someone exercising the profession of a lawyer or canonist, who must prove everything to the level of certitude had in the courts before whom he appears, to have such a habit of mind, but is quite a grand moral and philosophical error to hold that such a criterion is validly applied to the whole of reality.
On the contrary, the human mind can know truth with certitude. This is a fundamental presupposition of all human endeavor, because if it be denied, then there could be no faith given by one man to another on the basis of human judgements. Now just as the human mind can exist outside the mind of a lawyer before a court, so the human mind can know truth with certitude outside of the court of law. To say otherwise, would be psychotic, that is divorced from reality.
I say this to preface the notion of latae sententiae excommunication as a canonical penalty in the new code of Canon law. Many canonists, proceeding from the mindset of juridical positivism hold that whereas such penalties are published in the Code, they are either never incurred or that they can never with certainty be known to be incurred, until, in both cases, a competent authority declares them.
The fundamental error of this position, is that the very Latin of the penalty contradicts their position: “latae sententiae” in Latin means, without the necessity of a juridical sentence being handed down. This means, that the one who violates the law which bears this penalty for violation, is penalized BEFORE and WITHOUT any public declaration of the penalty being inferred. This being the case, a human mind can know of it with certitude. The certitude I speak of here is the certitude of natural reason which from facts which are in the external forum and known by documented evidence or eye-witness testimony, can be with seen as fulfilling the conditions for the excommunication to be incurred.
What CC attempts in criticizing me is a sophistic error: For first he argues that such excommunications cannot be known with certitude, and then asserts that such certitude can only be had in a court of law, from which he infers that I am wrong in saying that Cardinals are excommunicated. — As an aside, no where in my article do I say that any Cardinal is excommunicated; I merely said that Cardinals and Bishops are subject to the penalty.
While it it true, that in the Catholic Church, the incurring of any ecclesiastical penalty, whether declared or not, should be made known by ecclesiastical authority for the sake of the unity of the Church, it is not true, that all of them are NOT incurred if ecclesiastical authority through corruption, fear, sloth or some other vice, fails to declare that they are incurred. For excommunications latae sententiae are incurred by the law itself. Those who say otherwise are simply ignorant of Latin. To say this idea of excommunication as “automatic” is merely a canard, since as is clear it depends not upon the private individual or merely the act of violation, BUT by the imposition before the fact by the Supreme Legislator, the Pope, of a penalty which applies to all future violations ipso facto.
He extends this error of juridical positivism in the most clericalist manner by denying that a Catholic can know with certitude if a Conclave be valid or not, when a Conclave is called to elect another pope, while the first pope is still alive! — This is pure insanity! That is like saying a layman cannot know the Moon is eclipsing the Sun, just because he saw the Moon blot out the Sun! — You have to be totally psychotic to even say such a thing.
The truth is, the certitude that a Conclave is invalid is had from the certitude of the facts according to which it would not be licit to convene the Conclave. In the case in question, this certitude derives from the certitude that Pope Benedict XVI never resigned the petrine munus. Which certitude is objective, real, verifiable, documented and testified to by 2 things: the document Non solum propter, which only renounces the ministerium, and canon 332 §2 which says a Pope resigns when he resigns the munus. Since every Latinist knows that ministerium and munus are not only different words, but which do not share the same significations in ecclesiastical usage, the certitude that Pope Benedict XVI never resigned the Papal Office is both prima facie and a necessary consequent of the law (especially since canon 38 required that if Benedict wanted to signify munus by ministerium, he would have had to explicitly derogate the obligation of canon 332 §2 in its fundamental conditional clause).
Those who have studied and understood philosophy know that both in logic and in moral and legal affairs, the certitude of principles and causes extends and flows down through to conclusions and effects. A Canonist who is expert in the procedural rules of declared and imposed penalties which are not latae sententiae, might think differently, since he moves in a world of courts, but that is not the whole of reality. Thus to discount canon 359, the canon which forbids Cardinals to convene a conclave when there is no sede vacante, is not only absurd but should make anyone who knows Canon Law doubt whether CC has ever read the law.
Next, in regard to his attempt to fault me for misreading 1382, he seems never to have read the Code of Canon Law of 1983, which specifically obrogates the old code and makes recourse to its terms unauthentic when the new code establishes a greater penalty, which is true in the case of episcopal consecrations. And no, contrary to CC’s assertion, when I said, “ordain” I mean “consecrate” because the consecration of Bishops is a species of the power of ordination, a thing everyone who knows his theology of the Sacraments knows well enough. CC furthermore goes off into the fog, by saying in effect that an AntiPope consecrating Bishops or nominating Bishops is only guilty if he is feigning to have the authority of the Pope to confer jurisdiction. What kind of argument he is trying to make by moving this against the case in question, I do not know, because that is what an Anti-Pope objectively does!!!
The appeal to canon 1405 §1, 2°, namely, that the Pope alone judges the Cardinals, is praeter rem, because in legislating canonical penalties which apply to everyone in the Church, without exception, Pope John Paul II did judge the Cardinals beforehand. Those who have studied Canon Law and understand its nature know this well.
Finally, all CC’s other assertions saying things cannot be known or known with certitude, by anyone but the Canonist or Judge in a court of Canon Law, or by the Pope alone, is merely an extension of juridical positivism, an absurd professional error of snobbery among poorly schooled lawyers. Canonists who know the Faith understand well that Canon Law’s fundamental context is the Catholic Faith and that it must be understood in a manner which does not conflict with objective reality and epistemology. Like the Catholic Faith, it is not a gnostic science in which the truth is only known by the initiates who study at Pontifical Universities.
I invite all those who have not yet done so, to read my original article on the Excommunication of Cardinals and Bishops who participate in the usurpation of the Papal Office more carefully, and they will see how I speak of moral causes and the terms of the law, and how I never said anyone was excommunicated, only that if they know what they did, they merit to have incurred the penalty. This is perfectly Catholic.
As a Postscript, I add, that I am not in the least offended by the publication of CC’s critique. I appreciate the occasion to manifest the truth better through the clash of mental swords. — I would also note that, what really irks Canonists and Bishops about my article is that I have put them on notice that their offices and privileges be derived from a true Pope, not a fake pope; in other words, I am reminding the malicious ones that their entire project is null and void, and that they are risking losing communion with Christ, canonically speaking, if they have not already done so.