Commentary and Rebuttal by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
It is personally painful for me to have to, yet again, put pen to paper, as it were, and refute the silly arguments of a prelate whom I once admired as one of the best of the best in the Church. While he took the correct positions against Amoris Laetitia and the ridiculous arguments of the SSPX in their Magazine, on the topic of the DeathVaxx, he has more frequently than not fallen somehow into supporting the most ridiculous theological and moral theses on controversial topics (see here for FromRome.info’s coverage of the Bishop’s notorious interventions).
But because I love Jesus Christ more than any Bishop in the Church, whenever one gravely deviates from the truth on such an important topic as who is the pope and what are the Catholic principles by which we are to recognize who is the pope, I know I am under grave obligation to speak out, seeing that I know these principles and am known for defending them.
First, we know who is the authentic successor of Saint Peter not by private judgement, public opinion, polls, surveys, theological reflections, newspaper articles, television reports. No, we know who is the authentic successor of St. Peter by the conformity of public acts with the published canons and laws of the Church which determine the process for his election or renunciation. And this conformity must be precise and exact and not one which is simply claimed to exist. It has to be prima facie, as one says in forensic circles, that is, it must appear to be conform on first sight. — And it cannot be otherwise, because since the Church is visible, the concord of the Church must be and can only be based on unambiguous public acts and laws, and their conformity.
Second, you can argue till your face is blue in Hell for all eternity by any other means, but your argument is worthless. Argumentation does not prove who is the true pope. Only facts and laws do. (Here by facts, I mean documented or documentable words or actions).
And third, by conformity with the law, I refer to the fulfillment of a legal requirement.
Bishop Schneider proposes the error of Traditionalism, as his false principle of discernment
So it is crystal clear that Bishop Scheider’s entire thesis is false from the get go, as they say in parts of the United States: namely, when he says, that to say Pope Benedict XVI is the true Pope is contrary to Tradition. Because tradition, whether sacred and divine or merely ecclesiastical, is not a first immediate principle to have recourse to, in determining who is the authentic successor of Saint Peter is. Facts and law are. This argument is the flip of the common Modernist argument, which says you should reject some Catholic practice or doctrine, because it is contrary to the progress of the Church in modern times. And by this comparison with its contrary error, we see that Bishop Schneider is appealing to the error of traditionalism, which was condemned at Vatican I: which error says that all truth comes from tradition.
If facts and law say Benedict XVI is still the pope — and you do not like that conclusion — you cannot have recourse to Tradition or tradition to propose a different answer to the question. That’s not how juridical acts work. But that is how spoiled children who never grew up attempt to run governments and even the Church.
Bishop Schneider appeals to the moral error of Tutiorism, to apply his false principle
Next, Bishop Schneider advances his traditionalist error on the back of an exaggerated moral principle known as tutiorism, which holds that in every moral decision one must always make the choice of that which is more safe. This principle is faulty because it leads to neurosis and a pharasaical self-righteousness, where the individual determines what is right and wrong and not God.
This error is not easy to discern by those who are given to wantonness because it never occurs to them to consider it. But it is the exact error of their own vice, since it insists that it is morally evil not to be obsessed with seeing possible evil in everything. The super-scrupulous easily fall into complete paralysis of judgement by adopting the error of tutiorism, for example.
But lest there be no misunderstandings, I will give some examples.
- The tutiorist will hold that in brushing your teeth you should never do so out of vanity and that you should omit all brushing of the teeth until you can do so without vanity, even if this would cause your teeth to rot.
- Again, the turiorist, will hold that it is too dangerous ever to go in public, because by being in public places you might be tempted to impurity, and thus they omit to fulfill even the duties of their state, when these require some recourse to public places to obtain the necessities of life or to fulfill religious duties.
Tutiorism, alas, is a very deceptive form of pride, because the one thing the turiorist is never worried about, is the misuse of his own discretion to determine what is right or wrong, safe or dangerous. He always relies on his own judgement, not those of God, the Church, or wise and prudent men, such as Saints and pastors.
And this is precisely the moral error into which Bishop Schneider falls by crafting his entire argument, that in the name of safety, we should reject the thesis that Benedict XVI is still the pope.
Bishop Schneider employs a gross error in forensics
Again, at the beginning of his ridiculous discourse, Bishop Schneider crafts an argument against admitting prima facie evidence (namely that when Pope Benedict renounced, he announced the renunciation of ministerium, but did not renounce the munus). Against this obvious problem all are having to ignore this fact, the Monsignor proposes a principle whereby you can ignore all facts (how convenient!):
The principle of legality applied ad litteram (to the letter) or that of juridical positivism was not considered in the great practice of the Church an absolute principle, since the legislation of the papal election is only a human (positive) law, and not a Divine (revealed) law.
The human law that regulates the assumption of the papal office or the dismissal from the papal office must be subordinated to the greater good of the whole Church, which in this case is the real existence of the visible head of the Church and the certainty of this existence for all the body of the Church, clergy and faithful.
Now, it is clear that anyone who holds that Pope Benedict XVI remains the only and true pope, does not have to appeal to such an argument, which seeks to overturn the letter of the law or the plain meaning of documents, and says that they should be read to serve the greater good of the Church.
This approach to Church law is like the the boy who believes that all laws are like library regulations, or that the laws against murder are light traffic laws. Which is simply not so. Yes, there are norms, regulations and laws, but not each have the same obligating force, because not each exists for the same purpose. Norms are advisory, regulations are bureaucratic and laws are legally binding, such as to make infraction criminal, even if only as a misdemeanor.
There are norms in libraries, such as to keep quite. There are regulations about how to fill out your driver’s license application. And then there is the law against murder. And if you imagine, as an adult, that each is equally binding or not binding, you have only a child’s comprehension of the matter. For in libraries sometimes you can and must speak. The rule of silence is practical only. At motor vehicle registries, the regulations on how to fill out your application are binding, but if you violate them you will not go to jail, you simply wont get your license. But as for murder, you cannot say that someone who committed such a crime should not be prosecuted, simply because it serves the greater good, for it never serves the greater good to tolerate murder.
And obviously the papal laws on Papal Elections or the canon regarding Papal Renunciations is of the latter kind: it is a law, not a norm nor a regulation.
And so, I must say: No, Bishop Schneider: in the Catholic Church laws mean what they mean regardless of what you want them to mean or what outcome you want to have. For as the saints all say, “I would prefer that the world perish, rather than that God be offended by one of my sins”. This is true religion. Nothing can be justified merely on the basis that it achieves an outcome which we want. That is pagan. A Catholic judges things on the basis of God’s judgements revealed in Scripture and contained in Sacred Tradition. Things are right and wrong in themselves and by themselves, apart even from circumstances and intentions or goals. If goals alone determined such things, we could do as we want, and not as the Divine Will has commanded.
And, as regards having a valid pope, whom the whole Church can recognize as such, it is never for the good of the Church that any canon or law regarding his election or renunciation be violated!
Bishop Schneider’s insistence on a visible head of the Church
Yes, the Church should have a visible head, but the way that the Bishop wants this principle to be applied goes to every excess and extreme. I do not find it necessary to point out, to the readers of FromRome.Info that in an argument about which of two living and speaking claimants to the papacy is the true one, a discussion about visibility makes no sense. — I almost get the impression that he says this to slight Pope Benedict XVI — Quite the contrary, yes, the Church ought to have a visible head, but Her existence and unity is not shaken per se by not having one, for this happens after the death of every pope, before his successor is elected. Nor is the unity of the Church shaken by the fact that a true Pope remains a claimant to the Papacy against the false claims of an anti-pope. To think like that would be to turn truth on its head.
And when one reflects on how outrageously Bergoglio has used his claim to the papacy to destroy the Church, to advance the argument that since he is more visibly the head he should be the pope, is simply a malign mafia style prudence equivalent to saying, that since the criminal who robbed you of the farm, de facto, is the better manager of its destruction, the owner loses all rights. I mean who argues like this, but a Marxist and a demon?
Bishop’s Schneider’s total incomprehension of Ecclesia supplet during Papal Schisms
Next, the Bishop appeals to an false argument ad absurdum. For he attempts to argue that since an anti-pope’s appointments are canonically invalid, the unity of the Church or the visibility of the Church would be somehow damaged by such an event. He writes as if there have never been antipopes naming bishops or Cardinals. He imagines that the consecration of Bishops and the confection of Sacraments stopped during the Great Schism. He also seems to think that the Church held, after the fact, that all such invalid appointments and illicit sacraments were such forever.
What he completely ignores, is that after these ancient papal schisms were ended, Popes ex post facto granted the appointment of Cardinals, the nomination of bishops and the confections of Sacraments canonical liceity by an act which is called sanatio in radice. This is not a condonation of the immorality of those acts, but is a monarchical act of the Vicar of Christ for the sake of those who in good conscience were fooled by liars. Those who knew the antipope was an antipope are not by this act of sanatio excused from sin or from the obligation to repent. Not even from the obligation to resign their offices, unless the Pope grants them a personal or general indulgence. The Popes generally grant such a sanatio after every papal schism, because it is sufficient that all bishops and clergy and faithful recognize the one true pope as pope, and it is not necessary to punish every sinner canonically, nay it would cause too much strife, when the peace of the Church does not require it. God will render the punishments in such cases, and the popes have always chosen the way of mercy and been very light in their punishments, after papal schisms, by restricting them to the antipope himself and his closest supporters or henchmen.
Bishop Schneider gets the matter backwards, when he argues instead that we can presume a sanatio in radice after an invalid resignation, because the Church’s peace requires it. We cannot presume any such thing. Such an act is reserved to the Vicar of Christ alone. And it has to be a written juridical act, otherwise is has no existence.
Bishop Schneider continues in ignorance about the events of 1046 A. D.
Even after being publicly corrected by numerous individuals, Bishop Schneider continues to ignore the facts of 1046 A. D., when at the Council of Sutri 3 “popes” or more exactly, papal claimants, were deposed. He seems to think that Gregory VI obtained the papacy invalidly because of simony. He is entitled to his opinion. But as there were almost never laws which invalidated papal elections on the basis of simony — not then, nor now: the only time being the Bull of Paul IV where in this determined an invalid election; which clause was overturned by his next successor because it would introduce too much doubt as to validity of any election — I think it would be difficult to support such an opinion. Yes, Henry III, King of the Germans asked Gregory VI to resign because he did not want to be crowned Emperor by anyone with the stench of simony on his hands, and Gregory did so, because episcopal elections and nominations obtained by simony were canonically invalid and always held to be such, his behavior was in no way morally defensible. But the Pope is no mere bishop, and the Roman Church has always insisted that general laws for bishops do not apply to the Roman Pontiff. This is why the Church recognizes Gregory VI as a true pope, even though he himself recognized that he obtained the papacy by simony and therefore had no moral claim to the title.
But you cannot apply this case to the present controversy over which is the pope: Benedict XVI or Francis, because there is a PAPAL law and there is a Papal canon, which do regard the validity of the election and resignation of the pope, both of which have not been observed!
Bishop Schneider’s red herring of 1378
Next Bishop Schneider wastes the time of his audience by discussing the papal election of 1378, which no one doubted the validity to, until the Cardinals who were French discovered that the new Pope was pro-Italian. They then invented an excuse for their disobedience, and pharasaically claimed some circumstance of the election made it invalid, and immediately elected another as antipope. He argues as if what they did had some legitimacy. And he implies that those who hold that Benedict XVI is the pope are in a similar situation of claiming a past failure of legal form and inventing an excuse to refuse allegiance to the new pope.
This is totally absurd. The Cardinals profess a solemn vow in conclave to elect someone to receive the petrine munus. If the pope remains alive and has not renounced the munus, their vow does not legitimize their illegal action of electing another under those circumstances. In fact, Bishop Schneider has flipped the moral case on its head. It is the Cardinals in the Conclave of 2013 who imitated the French Cardinals of 1378, as both proceeded to an illicit, illegal and illegitimate election of another pope, while the true pope which they all previously elected and supported was still alive and had not resigned.
Bishop Schneider then takes back 1378 and reinterprets 1294
Moments after appealing to 1378, Schneider pretends we have forgotten what he claimed was the correct position, namely, to support a reigning pope, and proposes the case of the papal renunciation made by Saint Celestine V on Dec. 13th, in the year of Our Lord, 1294.
On that day, Celestine V by written and signed decree, renounced the papacy. No one doubted that the act existed and was signed by the Pope. In all his behavior thereafter, he acted as a hermit: he took off the papal robes, renounced the dignity and left Rome. He even accepted being held under house arrest by his successor to prevent the faithful from approaching him. The act was canonically explicit. I have reported on it here.
Therefore, there was no need of a sanatio in radice, and Boniface VIII never granted one. Nor has any pope since.
This case Bishops Schneider should have never mentioned, because if you argue that a canonically valid and explicit renunciation of the papacy should not be questioned, then you must sustain likewise that a canonically invalid and explicitly deficient renunciation of the papacy SHOULD BE QUESTIONED. That is the simple logical conversion.
Bishop Schneider attempts to box off thought about his absurd position by saying that there will be no other way for Benedict XVI to have a successor, since Bergoglio has appointed the majority of Cardinals, who, if they are invalid, mean that there will never be a valid successor again. This is equivalent to saying that since a thief now has full possession of your diamond ring, there is no point going to the police to report the crime and get them to obtain it back.
His moral principle fails from the virtues of zeal and justice for the House of God. It also fails on right, because, hypothetically, if no validly nominated Cardinal elector broke from the antipope within 20 days after Benedict XVI’s death, the papal law for Conclaves, which is the only normative practice which is canonically valid for the election of the pope, would ipso facto cease to bind, since in the case in which there are no Cardinals in communion with the Church, there is no obligation to elect a pope via a conclave of cardinal electors. And hence, in such hypothetical, the right to elect the Pope would return to its source, that is the Apostolic Tradition in the See of Rome, wherein the entire people of God in the Diocese, which encompasses Rome and the suburbican dioceses (which in law are not separate from Rome), would have the right to elect the Roman Pontiff to succeed Benedict XVI. And such an election would be legitimate and licit even if it could not be properly termed canonical or uncanonical. I have discussed this several times already. The right to election returns to its source, since the Papal law for elections is only an application of Apostolic Tradition, which cannot be annulled by custom nor overturned by any papal act, since it pertains to Sacred Tradition itself, that is, to the Deposit of the Faith. This is because the Roman Church is not the Church of Rome, but the very Church Christ founded, with universal jurisdiction, which was not separated into dioceses in other parts of the world.
I think by now you can see that the Bishop has simply presented a Mafia style argument to serve a Mafia style usurpation of the papacy. The depths of depravity of judgement and opinion to which he has descended to sustain his opinion are most shameful.
In a better age, a bishop arguing like this would end up in a papal dungeon on bread and water. In the meantime, I think the only charitable thing to do is to ignore him as one of the worst of the worse.