by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
In the Catholic Church, the authority to judge comes from God alone. Catholics cannot maintain their status as Catholic for long, so long as they do not accept that principle.
Thus, by the Faith which comes from God we can, if we understand it well, discern who is teaching wrongly or not. And we can then discern whether a man be teaching contrary or apart from Christ, His Apostles or Prophets.
And this personal discernment is an ability, but not all have the capacity. Since though we all receive faith in Baptism, not all have faith, and not all understand the Faith. Faith is the virtue, the Faith is the sum of the doctrines of our holy religion. Both come from God. But having the knowledge of one does NOT guarantee the other.
Now in the Church, since the authority to judge for the community comes from God, God has given it to Bishops alone, and to the Bishop of Rome in its highest grade here on earth. These alone can take away the canonical rights of an individual or community.
The recognition of this is what separates and distinguishes Catholics from protestants and orthodox schismatics. These latter two refuse to accept the Pope as supreme judge in matters of faith and discipline. And protestants refuse also to accept bishops as judges in matters of discipline in their own dioceses.
And here is the pitfall of all those Catholics who take the first step on the road of Sedevacantism: they refuse to admit that while they have the ability by faith to discern who is a heretic, they have no juridical authority to declare anyone such, as to deny that accused of his canonical rights.
This is affirmed in the very important passage in Universi Dominici Gregis, n. 35. This rule echoes the long standing debate among canonists, which Pope Paul IV in 1559 spoke, of what is to be done with a Cardinal who deviated publicly from the faith prior to his election to the Pontificate. Paul IV wanted in his Constitution, Cum ex apostolatu officio, that his election be declared null and void. His constitution however was annulled by his successor. And the precedent of his opinion was refuted in the above manner in every subsequent Papal Law on elections.
The reason for this, is, if an undeclared person could be refused the canonical right to vote (active voice) or be elected (passive voice), then it would introduce into the election a doubt which could possibly render many or most elections doubtful and hence invalid.
And the theological justification for removing this doubt, is the Faith of the Church in the promise of Jesus Christ and His always efficacious power of impetration, when He declared, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you all as wheat, but I have prayed for YOU, that your faith may not fail, and when you are converted, confirm your brethren.”
Note, our Lord says, “when” not “if”, because His is always efficacious in His prayer to the Father and obtains all that He asks for.
And since the man elected pope becomes the target of Christ’s prayer, thus promised, it matters not if he had deviated from the faith beforehand, so long as he was not declared by the Church to have done so. For if he was declared by the Church, then the word, of Christ would apply: “He who hears you hears Me.”
Those who become Sedevacantists do not avert to these words of Jesus Christ, and once they start on that path, out of pride they refuse to accept them, so as to justify the path already undertaken. And so they fall into heresy and schism, and go to perdition, because if you do not believe in every word of Jesus Christ, you cannot be saved.
And now, this is the temptation of those who refuse the juridically valid election of Bergoglio on Monday, and who are attempting to argue thus: that election cannot be valid, because it elected a man whom I consider a heretic.
To these I say: YOU are not the Church. YOU do not have the juridical authority to declare someone a heretic. Yes, you have by faith the ability to discern heresy, if you know your faith. But that is not the same thing. To presume that your judgement of heresy is equivalent to a juridical pronouncement is to arrogate to yourself a right which God has not given you. Even Cardinals in the Conclave do not have this right. How much more a bishop, priest, or layman anywhere else at any time, when the person to be judged is not even under their jurisdiction.
Perhaps, the ignorant confound the possibility that some tribunal or future pope might agree with their judgement as sufficient authorization, but they are confusing the ability to discern from the authority to issue a judgement binding on the community.
Have a little humility.
Have faith in Christ.
Only those who have both, can be saved.
Only in certain cases, where the Church herself or the very nature of the act prescind from the necessity of a public judgement, can Catholics act on the basis of personal discernment. Such is the case of papal renunciations, which must be manifest in themselves, and when doubtful, can be considered invalid by all Catholics who thus discern them to be. This is because a renunciation of papal office cannot be judged or interpreted by anyone, since there is no one who can judge it. For if it was invalid, the pope would remain the pope yet hold it valid. And if it was valid, the man who was the pope could not longer judge it. This is why in such cases Catholics do not arrogate to themselves a right which belongs to others, as Sedevacantists do who refuse the validity of this or that papal election.