L'Université de Paris (the University of Paris), for long known as the Sorbonne, has been around for well over 900 years. It was already 800 years old when Walt studied there (briefly) in the summer of 1863. Emerging around 1150 as a corporation associated with the cathedral school of Notre Dame de Paris, it was officially chartered in 1200 by King Philip II of France and recognized by Pope Innocent III in 1215.
The university is the historical location where the eminent Doctors of the Church, the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas and the Franciscan St. Bonaventure, held their great theological debates. In the 1300s, a series of meetings at the University explored the question of what could be done with the possibly heretical Pope John XXII, who denied the doctrine that the souls of the just are admitted to the Beatific Vision after death, a position he retracted only on his deathbed. The Paris scholars decided that John was not to be considered a heretic because the doctrine he had contradicted had not been formally defined by the Church.
Now, over seven centuries later, the question of what can be done with (or to) a heretical pope arises again, because of the refusal of Pope Francis to answer the Dubia -- questions posed in a letter by four cardinals requesting clarification of the meaning of certain statements and propositions included in Pope Francis' exhortation Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love").
The question of how to depose a heretical pope will be considered at the University this coming Thursday and Friday, by a group of eminent canon lawyers, theologians, and scholars. Called "Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenge", the conference seeks to explore the mechanisms that are built into the Catholic Church for dealing with a pope who openly teaches falsehood and even heresy.
Speaking at the conference will be University of Paris Professor Laurent Fonbaustier, who last year published a 1200-page book on the topic, titled The Deposition of the Heretical Pope. Also featured are Professors Nicolas Warembourg and Cyrille Dounot, two of the 45 Catholic academics who last June submitted an appeal to the Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome requesting a repudiation of the erroneous propositions they found in Amoris Laetitia. They said Pope Francis' exhortation "contains a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals."
In November 2016, Vaticanista Giuseppe Nardi reported that a 1975 theological study by the learned Brazilian layman Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira was making the rounds in the Vatican. In The Theological Hypothesis of a Heretical Pope, Senhor da Silveira considered whether it is possible for a pope to be or become a heretic, and if so, what consequences would follow from this. Signor Nardi commented that "three and a half years after the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis is reaching his limits. The impression, given by means of gestures and words, of a latent intention to change the doctrine of the Church must at some point either take on definite form or else it must collapse."
"Francis," he continues, "finds himself cornered by means of the very atmosphere he himself is responsible for creating. It's no longer about a spontaneous utterance on this or that, which remains improvised and non-binding. His pastoral work and his leadership skills, which demand a sense of responsibility and an exemplary character, are reaching their limits. This could cause [Francis' pontificate] to fail."
Last December, Raymond Cardinal Burke gave an interview in which he explained that if a pope were to "formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope." He explained that there is a process within the Church for dealing with such a situation, adding his hope that "we won't be witnessing that at any time soon."
Also in December, American canon lawyer Dr Edward Peters addressed the question of what could be done if a pope were found to be heretical. The crucial question, he wrote, from a canonist's perspective, is "who would determine whether a given pope has fallen into heresy" since Canon 1404 states that the "First See is judged by no one." However, Dr Peters found in canonical tradition the position that if a general council determined that a pope had committed heresy, by that very fact he will have effectually cut himself off from the true vine, thereby forfeiting his office. "However remote is the possibility of a pope actually falling into heresy and however difficult it might be to determine whether a pope has so fallen, such a catastrophe, Deus vetet [God forbid], would result in the loss of papal office."
Faithful Catholics, please pray to St Michael the Archangel for the success of the conference and for the deliverance of Holy Mother Church from the thrall of all who would destroy Her.
Further reading: "Is the Catholic Church about to disintegrate?", WWW 31/10/17.