by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
I appreciate a good debate, but the attack launched against me personally won’t offer much worthy of attention because it is founded upon a totally incapacity to think. As I will explain.
I am speaking about, Mr. Robert Siscoe and Mr John Salza’s article entitled, Br. Bugnolo Redefines “Dogmatic Facts” to justify Benevacantist schism.
First, let me publicly thank them for calling me Brother. I will respond by referring to them as Mister, because I believe that in debating a Catholic should be respectful of persons and of truth, and disrespectful of error and falsehood.
However, as regards the title it is incorrect. I am not a Bennyvacantist. A Bennyvacantist, if the word means anything but a purile slur — and I assumed Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza are gentlemen and would never stoop to such behavior — must mean someone who holds that Pope Benedict has vacated the Apostolic Throne. But that is not my position, that is the position of Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza.
So there is some major confusion. As the attack on me personally regards the accusation that I am misusing words and changing definitions, I am not nitpicking the title, I am merely showing that my interlocutors are misusing words and changing the proper meaning of particles. So that kind of puts doubt that their critique of my position on dogmatic facts will be sound.
Here is their opening charge against me:
There’s a common saying that schism always ends in heresy. If a false doctrine isn’t trumped up to justify the schism, a true doctrine is distorted and eventually denied to sustain it. The latter is taking place before our eyes with Br. Alexis Bugnolo, whose “Benevacantist” position has now forced him to falsify the meaning of dogmatic facts by entirely redefining the term. It was only a matter of time before this happened, since his rejection of the peaceful and universal acceptance (UPA) has always really been a rejection of the infallibility of the Magisterium in judging dogmatic facts. As we will see later, according to Cardinal Ratzinger himself, by rejecting the legitimacy of Francis’ election, Br. Alexis Bugnolo has rejected a truth of the faith, denied the infallibility of the Magisterium, and cut himself from communion with the Catholic Church. And this teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger is perfectly consistent with what all the theologians have taught, and what Martin V defined at the Council of Constance.
I concede the first proposition…but they should have not
It is true as regard the Greek Schismatics, for example. But why is it true. Because when you separate yourself from the true Pope you fall away from Christ’s Mediation of grace. We see heresy arise in all schisms which perdure a long time, when they intentionally reject the Roman Pontiff.
However, it is really poor judgement that my opponents cite this principle at the very beginning of their diatribe. Because, as you can see, logic itself turns against them:
MAJOR PROPOSITION: There’s a common saying that schism always ends in heresy. If a false doctrine isn’t trumped up to justify the schism, a true doctrine is distorted and eventually denied to sustain it.
MINOR PROPOSITION: But Jorge Mario Bergoglio by the universal acceptance of every Catholic author in the last 7 years who accepts the perennial magisterium has spoken heresy, has refused to retract it and continues to profess it.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, Bergoglio must be in schism, because he has ended in heresy. But if he is in schism he is not the pope.
Contrariwise, after 7 years, Pope Benedict XVI has not fallen into heresy. Therefore he must be in union with the true pope. But Bergoglio is not the true pope, since he has fallen into schism. Therefore, he must be the true pope, because the Church cannot be without its Head.
Truths of the Faith
As we will see later, according to Cardinal Ratzinger himself, by rejecting the legitimacy of Francis’ election, Br. Alexis Bugnolo has rejected a truth of the faith,
The Faith is defined as the totality of Divine Revelation, when “the Faith” is used as a metynymic term for the whole of the Catholic Religion. Faith as a virtue is not called, “the faith” in English, as anyone who has ever taken 1 course in theology at a Catholic institution should have learned.
So when Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza classify Dogmatic Facts as truths of the faith, I have to shake my head. They have just redefined the Faith. It is a truth of faith, but not of the Faith. It is a truth of faith, because faith requires implicitly that when we show obedience of assent to the teaching of the Magisterium, that we accept that certain authorities involved in is promuglation are in fact legitimate. Thus, as Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza rightly say, elsewhere in their article:
Again, we see that a dogmatic fact must be believed with faith because of its connection to revealed truth, and is a fact that the Church judges infallibly due to its relation with a revealed truth.
Here, Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza change their definition of Dogmatic Fact. Now they say it regards revealed truth. Whereas before in their opening peroration they said is was “a truth of the faith”, which I explained, must mean a revealed truth.
The problem here arises from the Latin, since we say of truths of the faith that they are de fide. And Latin does not have the definite article, the. If you are skilled in the philosophy of particulars and universals, and in the theology of dogma and in the English language, you can understand this. But you won’t learn it in law school or in other disciplines, because they do not teach it.
So I can honestly concede that Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza are scandalized at my use of terms when speaking about all these three arguments, and about canon law, because they simply are trying to squeeze what I am saying into the wrong categories of their own minds, which do not know how to distinguish them properly. I see this commonly among many Catholics and I do not get angry at it, since I know that I once also did not understand this before I went to Seminary and 3 pontifical universities. Though for the record, I do not hold a degree in them. My degree is in Cultural Anthropology.
This leaves Br. Bugnolo in quite the predicament. If he remains in communion with Pope Benedict, he too is a member of the Church of Antichrist.
Here Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza make a grave error in their ecclesiology. As Catholics we should be in communion with all the other members of the Catholic Church. Not to do so would be schismatic. So whether you think Benedict is the pope or not, you should be in communion with him. To say that anyone who is is a member of the Church of the Antichrist is as much false, as it is an absurd exaggeration and horrendous thing to say. Because by saying it, they are implying that Pope Benedict XVI is the Antichrist.
I think this lapsus linguae is very revealing.
Yet if they refuse to accept his own judgment that Benedict’s abdication was invalid, he is “rebelling against the papal law,” and “condemned by Unam Sanctam.”
But as regards the judgement that Benedict’s Declaratio did not have the proper canonical form to effect his separation from the petrine munus, I do not recall that I have ever said that this is so because I judge it so. If Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza can find such a statement, I will withdraw it. But as I have loved the Papal magisterium from my youth, and know well in what it consists, I learned when I was a boy, reading Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori, that in matters of the Catholic religion we must leave aside our own judgement completely and simply accept the words used by Holy Mother Church or by the Saints at their face value. And this includes canon law. Do my opponents do that?
I submit that all rational and sane men by universal acceptance will grant that in saying that “when Benedict renounces ministerium while canon 332 requires the renunciation of munus, that the renunciation is not in conformity to the norm of law and is rendered of no effect by canon 38, irritus by canon 188 and not binding on anyone in virtue of canon 41,” that I am not using my own judgement to support my such an assertion, I am merely reiterating the law in the circumstances which prima facie it appears to apply to. And as every lawyer knows, the prima facie meaning of a law or legal text has the presumption in every argument. For that reason, since the application of the to due circumstances is not an opinion, which wavers between doubt and assent, it is also wrong to call it my opinion. I do not hold it as an opinion, I hold it with the same certitude that the Sun rose this morning and that Rome is the capital of Italy, because those are facts of reality just as factual and real as that ministerium was renounced by Benedict in his text and that munus is found in canon 332 §2. From these facts, the conclusion follows with the same certitude: prima facie the renunciation of the papal office never was effected, therefore it must be held that Benedict is the pope still, because the cessation of power is not to be presumed.
In the formation of Catholic Clergy, prior to the study of theology or canon law, a seminarian has to study philosophy. This is required because you cannot understand theology without the intellectual ability to make the proper distinctions and to undrstand words in their proper senses. I have had such formation at Our Lady of Grace Seminary in Boston, where I graduated cum laude.
So on the central argument of Dogmatic Facts, I concede all the authors cited. But I point out that none of them is magisterial and that theologians are often imprecise even if they are substantially correct. This is mostly because they write for one purpose, but readers read them for another purpose and so miss the finer points of context, which change how you apply the principles or truths they enunciate. That is why no theologian or canonist has publicly denounced my position. In fact, Edward Pentin on Saturday, at his blog, affirmed that Mons. Nicola Bux knows many canonists who hold the same position.
Let me cite Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza, where they write:
Here is how another real theologian, Tanquerey, explains dogmatic facts in Vol. I of Dogmatic Theology (1959).
“The Church is infallible in regard to dogmatic facts. A dogmatic fact is one which is so much connected with a doctrine of the Church that knowledge of it is necessary in order to understand the doctrine and to preserve it safely. Dogmatic facts can be threefold: historical, doctrinal and hagiographical. Thus, dogmatic facts are the legitimacy of the Holy Pontiff, the ecumenical (universal) nature of a Council. That the Church is infallible in regard to dogmatic facts is certain.” (Tanquerey, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1, 1959, p. 146.)
The debate with me, however, regards only the historical Dogmatic Facts, though I admit referring to doctrinal dogmatic facts. Elsewhere, above this, in their article they attack me claiming my examples of dogmatic facts are wrong:
As anyone who has ever consulted a theology manual concerning dogmatic facts would know, the nomination of a bishop is not a dogmatic fact, regardless of whether he accepts the nomination. Neither is the choice of the Cardinals during a conclave.
Here, I really got to chuckle. Evidently, Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza think that dogmatic facts are like points in a Cartesian plane, through which there are no intersecting lines. I know that this is false, because when I studied what dogmatic facts were under Dr. Peter Felhner, OFM Conv., I asked him the question: If it is a dogmatic fact that Vatican I was a true council because it defined papal authority, then would not all the facts which lead to that also be dogmatic, like the fact that Pope Pius IX was the canonically elected, was validly ordained a Bishop, was validly baptized, and was born and existed. His answer was yes, they are remotely considered as dogmatic facts, whereas that Vatican I was a valid council is the proximate dogmatic fact. Also there are negative and positive dogmatic facts. A positive one is that which is connected to a dogma by positively affirming it. A negative one is that which is connected to a dogma by affirming that contrary evidence is not authoritative. Such as for example the teaching did not come from an authentic source, which becomes dogmatic inasmuch as it negative demonstrates that the contrary doctrine is not dogmatic.
Wherefore, when I say the nomination of a bishop is a dogmatic fact, I am referring to remote historical dogmatic facts. I did not specify their connection to dogma, because in the context of my writing I am referring to the acts themselves inasmuch as they are classified. Obviously, the nomination of a man as Bishop does regard a dogmatic fact, because as Bishop he holds the ordinary power of the magisterium, and his teaching enters into the ordinary magisterium of the Church only if he is a licitly appointed or validly ordained Bishop of the Catholic Church holding jurisdiction. If he did not accept, then that he was not a Bishop is a negative dogmatic fact. But his appointment by the Pope is a remote dogmatic historical fact, inasmuch the act proves that the Pope was the true pope, and the Pope exercises the Magisterium which touches upon many points of doctrine affirming or which will be used to affirm the definition of dogma or doctrine int he future.
If you know philosophy you understand these things.
Church Doctrine vs. the teaching of theologians
The next major confusion that Mr. Siscoe and Mrs. Salza have regards doctrine. The word means simply teaching. The Church teaches and theologians teach. But not every opinion of a theologian is Church doctrine. For example, Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori wrote a book on Moral Theology in which he presents thousands of his own opinions on matters of morals. But it would be incorrect to say that since he is canonized and a doctor of the Church that his opinions are church doctrine or binding doctrine. Yes, they are approved of, inasmuch as the Church probably will not punish anyone for holding them, but nearly all of them have never been formally taught by the extraordinary Magisterium, even though many of them may regard and be derived from the ordinary magisterium.
When you study dogmatic theology 101, you learn these things.
So, I have to object to what Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza write when they say:
The consequences of rejecting this Doctrine
They make the statement in reference to the opinions they cite from theologians in the previous section:
- Fr. E. Sylvester Berry’s book, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, which was originally published in 1927
- Tanquerey, explains dogmatic facts in Vol. I of Dogmatic Theology (1959).
- Msgr. Van Noort provides the same explanation in his manual of Dogmatic Theology, The Church of Christ, published in 1957.
Now, as can bee seen from their identities, it is a dogmatic historical remote negative fact that they are not Bishops of the Catholic Church and never held an office which participated in the ordinary magisterium of the Church. Therefore, their doctrine is not magisterial. And therefore it might contain some imprecision and may even be wrong. I do not think their doctrine is wrong, but I do think that some of their statements regard other kinds of dogmatic facts, or are extrapolations poorly expressed. No one is required to accept their doctrine as they state it, since it is not the doctrine of the Church in the form in which the state it, it is their own doctrine.
I am not sure if Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza understand these distinctions.
Nay, it seems that they suffer from super-scrupulosity in accepting the doctrines of theologians who are fallible men and yet suffer from a complete lack of scrupulosity in accepting the terms of Canon Law which does not come from man, but from the office of Saint Peter, approved in Heaven by Mouth of God Himself, saying: whatsoever you bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven.
I find their inability to do this inexplicable. I find their imbalanced approach also inexplicable, though I tried to explain it here.
Intrinsic and extrinsic proofs
One of the fundamental problems that Mr. Siscoe and Mr. Salza seem to have is their inability to distinguish the proper hierarchy of forensic evidence.
Forensic refers to things which pertain to the scrutiny of a court. Forensic evidence is evidence presented to judgment. We are not talking about courts here, but we are talking about evidence which pertains to the truth or value of canonical acts in the Church. So I use the term forensic in this sense.
Now among such evidence there is a hierarchy. Let us take an example to illustrate this. A man is charged with murder. There is his confession, the video tape of the murder, the testimony of witnesses which saw it, or heard it when it happened, and of witnesses who heard others speak of it or of the accused confess it. Then there is the evidence from the crime scene which is strictly spoken of as forensic evidence when gathered for a prosecution in court.
In the USA the legal system puts the judgement about the evidence to be admitted for a trial before all other proceedings of the actual case, because it is important to get the evidence correct. Thus, I think we can agree that some evidence is more determinative than other evidence.
For example, if there is a video of the actual murder, and the testimony of someone a week later who heard the accused say he was not innocent. The testimony cannot be regarded as as crucial or important. Even the testimony of someone who heard the crime but did not see it. There is a hierarchy of importance. And this is determined by its proximity to the historical event or act which is under investigation or dispute.
But for Mr. Siscoe and Salza, they want the remote and post factum consequential evidence of what Bishops thought happened because they uncritically listened to the media say Benedict did in fact resign the papacy to be the SOLE determinative factor, and want everyone to ignore the crucial proximate evidence that Benedict renounced ministerium not munus.
I think anyone can see that is simply not a sound way of proceeding.
But that some theologian in the past at any time advocated the use of such remote post factum evidence as proof, is really praeter rem to the present argument. Because in the past documentation was hard to come by. Ancient manuscripts and notes and transcripts have been lost. One does not have certain proximate evidence, so there is some necessity to argue a case on the basis of remote post factum evidence. But with Benedict XVI that is not necessary as we all have all the proximate evidence in his Declaratio and the Code of Canon Law.
Thus in regard to the election of Roman Pontiffs or their renunciations, the conformity of their election or renunciation to the norm of law in force at the time is the principle and proximate forensic criterion upon which to base the evaluation of the proximate or remote positive or negative historical dogmatic fact that they were elected or not, or did resign or not. That is what legitimacy means properly.
Legitimacy does not mean public opinion. But when the proximate evidence is lacking or obscure some theologians have appealed to post factum evidence to establish legitimacy. But they are not talking about canonical legitimacy in the sense of conformity to law, but in the sense of determined by the judgement of a Council or the Apostolic College.
The citations made to Martin V regard the Council of Constance which condemned Huss. The question of the legitimacy of Martin V’s election results from the 38 year controversy over who was validly elected in the election of 1378, whence sprang the Great Schism in the Church. Because Martin V was elected after both rivals renounced their claims, though one later fled to Spain and left a series of successors as anti-popes. Since the Great Schism was put to an end in a Council, it is one of the few dogmatic facts which prove the possible doubts to a papal title, in this case Martin V, whom the Hussites charged was not the valid pope on that account. So the statements made about universal acceptance had value in that debate, since the proximate evidence of 1378 was long put in doubt.
Understanding all of the above, because I learned it from those more knowledgeable than myself, hold that Benedict still the pope for the reasons I have stated in my Index to Pope Benedict’s Renunciation. I do so because I recognize things the way the Church teaches them, while my opponents rush off to find some other kind of evidence while ignoring the proximate issues.
For this reason I think the arguments marshaled against my position are false, praeter rem, erroneous, mistaken, and based on a lot of lack of familiarity with philosophy, theology and canon law, and the principles of forensic evidentiary methodology.
Finally, please excuse any errors in this rebuttal, as I wrote it quickly in the space of an hour or so, and am a poor proof reader.
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