Tag Archives: Antipopes

A Canonical Justification for the Second Synod of Sutri

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

It has been reported that Cardinal Burke has recently remarked that canonists, seeking a solution to the current problem of a patently heretical pope or a dubious papal resignation, have found no canonical way forward in the present juridical system of the Church.

To this alleged assertion, I intend to response with this brief essay, as it becomes all the more clear to a majority of the faithful and bishops who have been paying attention, that Bergoglio was never canonically elected and Benedict never canonically resigned.

First of all, it must be said, that in truth no canonical solution is required, if by “solution” one means putting into practice a special juridical tribunal or making a special appeal to some particular body. This is because, the real and simple solution would be to PUBLICLY simply ask Pope Benedict XVI what he did and intended to do and accept that. — Or as Ann Barnhardt proposes, in the case of Benedict truly thinking by error that the papal dignity can be shared, to rebuke him for his error as St. Paul did St. Peter, and publicly call on him to recognize that — and, as I would add, to renounce the papacy wholly if he no longer wants to be the pope. (Though this must be after some decision is made regarding to the invalidly nominated Cardinals and Bishops, and the invalidly appointed members of the Roman Curia and Vatican government)

But if one means by a ‘canonical’ solution a special event or action to rid the Church of Bergoglio or put an end to the controversies on these matters, then there needs to be a canonical justification for such an action. And that is what I intend to expound, herein.

In the Middle Ages, when the Church was faced with apparently insolvable doubts about discipline, and in particular, about who was the real pope, She convened councils and synods. This is how the Church sought to end the Great Western Schism which began in 1378 when the college of cardinals claimed to have elected in separate conclaves two different men as the Pope. The general council of Constance (1414-1418) was called to end that conflict, and obtained the resignation of the two rivals, and paved the way for the election, by compromise and unanimity of all the real and alleged Cardinals, of Pope Martin V.

Before that at the Synod of Sutri in 1046, the clergy of Rome, to whom there pertained the right of electing the Roman Pontiff, were convened at the request of Henry III, King of Germany, to sort out which if any of the three claimants to the papacy: Silvester III, Benedict IX or Gregory VI were the pope.  That Synod deposed all three, and paved the way for the election of Pope Clement II on the vigil of Christmas of that year.

The Church has always accepted as canonical, valid and legitimate, the actions of both of these synods. And that establishes the precedent upon which an argument for a future synod, after the manner of that of Sutri in 1046 can be made.

The first problem, however, is that in the present Code of Canon Law, synods and councils are called and convoked by the Pope.  It expressly says in canon 344, that “A Synod of bishops is directly beneath the authority of the Roman Pontiff, to whom it belongs, n. 1, to convoke the synod, howsoever often it seems to be opportune, and to designate the place where its meetings are to be held”. Indeed, both at Constance and Sutri both or at least one of the rival claimants to the papacy convoked the meetings.

Since it is unlikely that Bergoglio would ever convene such a synod, and while it remains unlikely that Benedict would be allowed to publicly call for such a convocation, there remains to consider other arguments to justify such an assembly.

These can be classified into two categories: arguments from divine right or ex iure divino; arguments from necessity or by natural right.  Both categories have supreme authority, inasmuch as the divine and natural laws are both promulgated by God, the former in the Gospels and the latter in creation.

I will begin with a consideration of natural right, which is the weaker of the argument, inasmuch as it is more indirect.

The necessity of the Church requires that it have a government which is united. The existence of two popes makes that unity impossible.  Since the subjects of every society have the right to know the identity of their government, the Church has a corresponding duty to Her members to not delay to identify Her own earthly head in a public declaratory manner.

As for divine right, there are several arguments which could be advanced.  the first is that the highest law of the Church is the promotion of the salvation of souls. And since no one can be saved who is not subject to the Roman Pontiff, as Pope Boniface VIII magisterially taught in his bull, Unam Sanctam, it is a practical necessity of all the faithful to be subject to the true pope. And hence the Church is gravely obligated, in all her members, to put to rest such a doubt with an authoritative declaration.  This is the argument of natural right raised to the level of the supernatural.

The second argument from divine right is that the unity of the Church requires the unity of the clergy. And since there can be no unity unless the clergy recognize the same man as the Roman Pontiff, it is of divine right that the clergy have the right to know who is the true pope and thus of the Church to given them a public authoritative declaration of the fact.

The third argument from divine right is that the Bishops of the Church, inasmuch as they are successors of the Apostles, while they each have a duty towards their own flocks, nevertheless all share in the duty of being responsible for the government of the whole Church universally, and that in the case of an Apostolic See impeded by doubt about who is and who is not the real pope, they have the right to make a public declaration of the matter.

In fact, as regards this latter argument, many Synods were called by bishops locally, during past schisms which resulted from more than one claimant to the papacy.  In such cases, these Synods were called at the request of Kings and Princes, by under the authority of the primate of the Kingdom and other Archbishops of those territories. And indeed, in such cases, there were occasions in which the Synod of this kingdom rendered a decision differing or concordant with the decision of synod of another kingdom.  This happened often in the Great Western Schism (1378-1415).  Even during the schism under Bl. Urban II or the antipope Anacletus II, several councils were held in France to repeat the decision in favor of the true pope.  So that there be only one Synod rather than more is not even a necessity.

Now the strongest argument against calling such a council or synod is that it would never be legitimate canonically unless it be called by Pope Benedict XVI or by Bergoglio, depending upon which you think is the true pope.

But the stronger argument is this: Since every Bishop has the right and duty to remain in communion with the true pope.  This is implied formally in canon 392 §1, which says:

Since he is obliged to defend the unity of the Church universal, the Bishop (of each diocese) is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and hence to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

Thus, if a Bishop is obliged he has a right to act, and if he be bound to promote the common discipline, he is even more bound to uphold the terms of Canon 332 §2 on papal renunciations and canon 1364 regarding heretics, apostates and schismatics, even if they intrude upon the Apostolic See.

As for the convocation of such a Synod, this too is a duty of the Bishops in virtue of their specific obligation of communion with and visits to the Roman Pontiff (cf. canon 399) every 5 years, because a Synod held in the presence of the Pope is nothing more than a public audience of the Pope held in the presence of the bishops to hear from his own mouth his instructions and councils and explanations and to hear from their own mouths, their needs and questions.

Another avenue is the Provincial Council, which can be convened by the Metropolitan Archbishop (canon 442) when the majority of bishops in that ecclesiastical province agree (canon 440), and though this can only be done with the approval of the Apostolic See (cf. canon 339), it would be sufficient that one of the claimants to the papacy remain silent, to grant the tacit permission to convene the Synod. In a provincial council, the Metropolitan determines the place, procedures, questions, time of opening and can transfer, prorogue or dissolve the assembly of bishops (canon 442 §1 n. 3). In the case of there being no valid Metropolitan, this can be done by a  validly nominated suffragan Bishop elected by other valid suffragan bishops (canon 442 §2). Canons 443-446 specify how to conduct a Provincial Council.  And it is noteworthy to note, that the Synod of Sutri in 1046 was most likely a Provincial council.

Perhaps the most risky of all solutions, however, would be to await the death of one or the other claimants and allow the Cardinals who recognize Benedict XVI as the true Pope, to meet and make a public declaration for Pope Benedict (when Bergoglio passes away or resigns) or to proceed to elect his successor in a new conclave, depending on the case in question. Though I think that a public declaration by the Cardinals would still require a public confirmation by Pope Benedict XVI or a Synod).

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CREDITS: The Featured image is that of the doors of the Cathedral of Sutri. All rights reserved by FromRome.Info.

Bl. Urban II, patron of Popes who courageously oppose Anti-popes

By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

One of the greatest popes of all time, was born nearly 1000 years ago, in 1035 A. D., at Châtillon-sur-Marne, in the Kingdom of the Franks, to a noble family of knights and warriors who dominated that countryside.

Moved by the grace of God, in his youth, he forsook the easy life of a diocesan priest, with promises of being a local Bishop, and gave up this world and became a humble son of Saint Benedict, at the famous Monastery of Cluny, nearby.  Cluny was one of the leading religious communities in the Church. Founded nearly a century ago by Saint William in the remote forests, it grew to be a great center of monastic life, on account of the zeal and devotion of its monks and that it was free from all Feudal obligations of tax, tithe and service.

So talented and devout was Odo de Lagery, that he was chosen Prior of Cluny some time before 1046 A.D., as I estimate it. And as such he received a guest that would forever change the history of the world. I speak of  Saint Hildebrand

Hildebrand was an Italian. The son of a blacksmith in southern Tuscany. He had been a guest-student at the Benedictine Monastery of Tre Fontane in Rome, and had attached himself to the retinue of the man he thought was the pope, John Gratian, reigning under the name of Gregory VI  However, at the Council of Sutri in 1046, Gratian was deposed for the crime of having obtained the papacy by simony. At the time his acolyte, was but 16 year of age, and so when he went into exile he took the young Hildebrand with him.

Gratian died shortly afterwards, and Hildebrand, finding himself in Burgundy sought out the Monks of Cluny for lodging, perhaps having nothing to live upon and no where to go, as the former acolyte of an Antipope. But Prior Odo took him in for several weeks. Whereupon he left and attached himself to a Bishop in Burgundy, who was close friends with the Monks of Cluny: Saint Bruno of Egisheim, Bishop of Toul, who at the Diet of Worms late in 1048 was elected as Pope Leo IX.

Years later, after battling against simony and the abuse of lay princes in nominating Bishops, Saint Hildebrand, himself was raised to the Apostolic Throne, in April of 1073, and took the name, Gregory VII: he went on to become one of the top 10 greatest popes in history, and certainly the greatest of the Middle Ages for his unswerving zeal for the liberty of the Church of Christ.

Seven years later, Gregory VII named Prior Odo, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, and in 1084 made him Apostolic Legate to the Holy Roman Empire. He was so trusted by Saint Hildebrand, that the Saint named him as one of the three men that should succeed him. Blessed Odo was the third, in that succession, and became Pope at Terracina, on March 12, 1088.

Pope Urban II

He took the name Urban II, recalling the Saint and Martyr by that name who reigned on the See of Peter at the beginning of the Third Century.

But Pope Urban II did not inherit a Church at peace, for in the strife which reigned between Pope Gregory VII and the German Emperor, the Emperor had descended to Rome in 1084 and set up the Antipope Clement III who had reigned there firmly ever since. So from day one, Bl. Urban II had to contend with an Anti-pope.

It is to be noted, that the mere fact that an Antipope controls Rome is NO OBSTACLE for the Church of Rome to elect a successor to the true Pope.

Many a man, and many a pope, would have run away or become so totally obsessed with the bad position in which he was in, as to take ineffective measured and let the Schism go on. But not Bl. Urban.

He traveled Italy — staying away from Rome — and held Councils at Amalfi, Troia and Benevento, condemning the Antipope and restoring ecclesiastical discipline with those Bishops who were favorable to true reform and renewal. Ancient canons were re-established, guilty clergy were punished and expelled. He assisted faithful Catholic nobility and clergy throughout Western Europe by sound counsel and decrees. He was ever open to holy suggestions.

The First Crusade

Upon the mountain of merits he had accumulated, God sent him the answer to his troubles which he never foresaw.

This answer began with a man called Peter the Hermit. It is not clear if he was a hermit or simply a priest of Northern Francis with that surname. Inspired by love of God he had traveled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage in 1093-4 and found himself in the spring of 1094 praying one midnight in the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ was buried and rose from the dead. There, he had a vision of Christ Crucified who commanded him to speak with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and call upon the Bishop of Rome to call upon the Men of the West to liberate the Holy Land from the cruel yoke of the Muslims under which it had labored for centuries but, very heavily in the last 60 years. Peter complied, and the Patriarch wrote the Catholic Bishop of Rome asking for help.

Peter met Bl. Urban at Bari, in Apulia, in the fall of 1094, and traveled with him to Piacenza, in northern Italy, in March 1095, where the Greek Orthodox Emperor of Constantinople renewed the call for military assistance. Bl. Urban had met his destiny and eagerly responded.

He went to Clermont, France, where he had summoned all the Bishops of the West, and on the 27th of November of 1095 gave a speech which changed the history of the world: for he called on the Catholic knights and noblemen present to lay down their arms against their brothers in the faith and take them up in a penitential pilgrimage to Jerusalem to free it from the infidel. — The crowds were so moved with fervor at his speech, that they shouted out DEUS VULT!  God wills it.

Bl. Urban II died on July 29, 1099 A.D., fourteen days after the Catholic Forces of the First Crusade had captured Jerusalem, in a military venture which was so unexpected and miraculous that all historians since have spoken of it and tried to explain it. The Crusaders took the city because the True Pope had called them and promised them victory. And God granted it, because Urban II and not Clement III was His Vicar on Earth.

The First Crusade was followed by 9 others, and they forever changed Europe, because they opened the Catholic World up to the idea of bringing the Gospel to all the Earth and defending the rights of Christians everywhere against the forces of unbelief. For this reason, Bl. Urban is the most hated pope by all the enemies of the Church, inside and outside the Church. But should be the most beloved by all who truly love the true God.

Bl. Urban had the consolation in seeing his rival also driven from power in 1097. Because one of the many Crusader contingents, passing through Italy on the way to Jerusalem, drove the Antipope from Rome and re-established the authority of the true pope.

The moral of the story is, be generous with God and He will be generous with you. And all take heart and be of good cheer, because all the Providence of God is at the back of those who support the True Pope!


CREDITS: The Featured Image is a photo of the Statue of Bl. Urban at the Place de la Victoire, Clermont-Ferrand, France, and is used here according to the Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 unported license described here. — The sketch of Bl. Urban is by Artaud de Montor, see here for more info.

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