Tag Archives: Synod of Sutri

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 (1414-1481) 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.

The Door to Sutri II is unlocking

In an article entitled, Waiting for Gregorian reforms 2.0, published by Polonia Christiana on Sept. 7, 2018 (and reprinted by ChurchMilitant.com, Prof. Grzegorz Kucharczyk lays out the historical and legal context of the current crisis of criminality in the Church which may lead to another Synod of Sutri.

The Synod of Sutri in 1046 A. D., was one of the most extraordinary canonical events in the history of the Church. It deposed 3 popes and paved the way for the election of Pope Clement II. Our knowledge of the event is confirmed by men of indisputable honestly: Bl. Pope Victor III in his annales, Saint Peter Damian who praised the proceedings and attended the coronation of Pope Clement, and Pope St. Gregory VII, who as an acolyte of Gregory VI was present at the Synod and saw his patron deposed from the papacy.

Later historians, after the Council of Constance, who wanted to defend against the implication that the Pope could be judged by a Council, have fiercely attacked the Synod of Sutri as an aberration, an uncanonical proceeding, an illegitimate act to be discarded to the history of the Seculum Obscurum of the Church, a long period in which the Papacy was ruled by despots appointed by Roman Nobility, without regard to the norms of law.

But the Synod of Sutri was a legitimate canonical proceeding accepted by all parties, save that of Pope Benedict IX, after whose death there were no supporters of his own to continue his opposition. Holy Mother Church by canonizing 2 witnesses and beatifying the third, gives the most certain refutation of this wrong headed papal maximalists, who erred out of excessive zeal in judging the precise nature of the canonical proceedings.

Three popes were deposed. But in truth no pope was deposed. Both statements are true, because both statements do not use the word, “pope”, in the same sense.  In the first, one speaks according to the appearances of their claims. In the second, one speaks according to the truth of canon law.

Popes Sylvester III and Gregory VI were never valid popes. The former usurped the office of the Papacy after an angry mob had driven Pope Benedict IX from the city. The latter, Gregory VI, had purchased the office of the papacy from Benedict IX who wanted to resign and marry, and needed the money.  Pope Benedict IX by the fall of 1046, had publicly resigned the papacy but wanted it back since his girlfriend had rejected his proposals to marriage.

So according to the norms of law, 3 pretenders to the papacy were deposed, not three popes.

The confusion about Sutri lies in the obscurity of history, since it is not known under what kind of precise wording Benedict IX resigned and sold the papacy to John Gratian, who took the name Gregory VI. And for that reason, some have said that Benedict was still the pope, assuming that the resignation and sale were one contract, and others have said that Benedict was no longer pope, assuming the two acts were separate. The sale of an ecclesiastical office and its reception by the buyer were always considered invalid legal acts from the time Saint Peter condemned Simon Magus for wanting to do such a thing (cf. Acts 8:9-24). Whence the name for such a crime: simony.

In my previous article on this, I spoke according to the first assumption, and riled the Sedevacantists. — I publicly admit that my assumption about he contract, there, might have been wrong.

But what Prof. Grzegorz Kucharczyk says in his article is true. The Synod of Sutri was the consequence of temporal power which required the resolution of a disputed papacy at Rome for its own purposes. Just so, the ongoing massive legal actions by several nations against the criminally corrupt clergy will inevitably lead back to Rome. And then the power that be will find it necessary to clean up the Vatican.

I will add my own observation, here. Namely, that the recent decision of the pro-Bergoglian government here in Italy — which enjoys now less than 15% support in the national polls — to put the most popular politician, Matteo Salvini, on trial for delaying the disembarkation of illegal immigrants in the port of Catania for 3 days, though with the consent of key members of the current government — Salvini will be charged with kidnapping! — will have its consequences. It will produce the certainty that the day the people of Italy again have a government which supports their views on immigration, that that new government will be implacably anti-Bergoglian and disposed to use their rights, under the Lateran Pact, to resolve the problem of a Vatican out of control and operating against the canons of the Church.

In this way, the doors to the Second Synod of Sutri are being unlocked: Christ the King will have His justice executed even in this world!

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Bishop Schneider gets his Papal History wrong

henry-iii-called-the-black-holy-roman-emperor-synod-of-sutri-by-a-picture-id625398302
Henry III (1017-1056). Called the Black. Holy Roman Emperor. 3 Popes Deposed at the Synod of Sutri (1046). Engraving by A. Closs. Colored. (Photo by: PHAS/UIG via Getty Images)

In his recent article at Rorate Caeli, Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider writes a long article to quell the raging doubts Catholics now have regarding Bergoglio’s claim to the papacy.

But in that Article the learned Bishop gets his history lesson wrong, when he writes:

Popes were deposed several times by secular powers or by criminal clans. This occurred especially during the so-called dark ages (10th and 11th centuries), when the German Emperors deposed several unworthy popes, not because of their heresy, but because of their scandalous immoral life and their abuse of power. However, they were never deposed according to a canonical procedure, since that is impossible because of the Divine structure of the Church. The pope gets his authority directly from God and not from the Church; therefore, the Church cannot depose him, for any reason whatsoever.

(Emphasis added)

As I recited in my article, Yes a Pope can be canonically deposed, the history of the Papacy contradicts the Bishop’s assertion, for the Church does recognize as legitimate a Synod which canonically deposed 3 claimants to the papacy, one of which had to be the legitimate pope.

I quote my own article:

The events are summarized by John Cardinal Newman, and summarized in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes the events:

The proceedings of the Synod of Sutri, 20 December, are well summarized by Cardinal Newman in his “Essays Critical and Historical” (II, 262 sqq.). Of the three papal claimants, Benedict refused to appear; he was again summoned and afterwards pronounced deposed at Rome. Sylvester was “stripped of his sacerdotal rank and shut up in a monastery”. Gregory showed himself to be, if not an idiota, at least a man miræ simplicitatis, by explaining in straightforward speech his compact with Benedict, and he made no other defence than his good intentions, and deposed himself (Watterich, Vitæ Rom. Pont., I, 76); an act by some interpreted as a voluntary resignation, by others (Hefele), in keeping with the contemporary annals, as a deposition by the synod. The Synod of Sutri adjourned to meet again in Rome 23 and 24 December. Benedict, failing to appear, was condemned and deposed in contumaciam, and the papal chair was declared vacant. As King Henry was not yet crowned emperor, he had no canonical right to take part in the new election; but the Romans had no candidate to propose and begged the monarch to suggest a worthy subject.

Now, its not heresy to say that something happened, even if nutty Sedevacantists fell off their toilets when I wrote my article in September, accusing me of heresy. If the Church did depose a Pope canonically, its clearly not heresy to say that they did, or that the Church holds in practice that the Church can. Why since 2 of the deposed popes are depicted on the frieze of the Lateran (constructed in the 19th century), you could even argue the Vatican endorses both their papacies and their deposition, since Pope Clement II is also depicted there, who replaced all three.

Whether the Divine Constitution of the Church opposes such a notion or not, I think, is a concept of the constitution of the Church which excludes her history. Because if the Divine Constitution of the Church does make that impossible, then it’s also illicit, and thus immoral. But the Church has recognized the validity of the Synod of Sutri for 10 centuries, and the validity of the election of Pope Clement II for 10 centuries. So if anyone can quote a theologian or canonist after Sutri who said otherwise, quote him. But can we rely on his authority and not that of the Church by Her tacit acceptance? If we rely on such an opinion, are we not constrained to say the Church was in error for 10 centuries? And if we say that, are we not heretics?

As I said before, if Benedict IX did sell the papacy to Gregory VI, then the sale effected nothing, since you cannot validly sell an ecclesiastical office. That means that Benedict IX was the true Pope, because even if he did resign after the sale thinking he did sell the office, he was in substantial error and therefore his resignation was invalid. I suppose one could argue the Synod was in substantial error thinking it could depose Benedict or anyone for that matter, and that therefore Clement II’s election was invalid on account of substantial error, but the Church has never said that. The Frieze above the interior columns of the Lateran sill show Clement II as the one true valid Pope during the years of his reign.

I think its more probable, that whereas the Pope cannot be deposed as pope or for being pope, the man who is pope, who sins against the office by Simony or Heresy, can be deposed. But I admit that is my private fallible opinion. The Church’s Magisterium has not addressed such a specific case, to my knowledge, to handle the Synod of Sutri. The probability which causes me to hold such an opinion is that such an opinion avoids contradicting defined dogma and canons, by admitting an exceptional case in which the Law Maker Himself would not want otherwise unbending laws to prevail.