Could the Heresy of Various Popes regarding Salvation Help Exonerate the Jansenists?
Modern Traditionalists generally admit the last five popes to have been heretics. Many of them - including Father Feeney, Saint Benedict Center, Most Holy Family Monastery and RJMI - consider popes from before Vatican II to have issued heretical statements. Could, then those popes who condemned Jansenism have been heretical?
We shall consider this a step at a time.
Heresy of the Vatican II popes
The heresy of the popes during and after the Second Vatican Council needs little proof, as it is so well known to all Traditionalists bar some of the indult crowd. It is conceded by both sedevacantists and non-sedevacantists alike.
Their heresy concerns, in particular, matters related to the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics. We shall mention briefly the well-known papal errors concerning;
The Old Covenant still being operative for Jews,
The salvific role claimed for the various religions,
The Church being spread through the various sects and religions,
The practice of dialogue and co-operation with other religions that is not aimed at conversion,
In particular we refer the reader to ample documentation exhibiting the heresy of the Vatican II establishment and John Paul II in particular, that all people shall finally be saved (apokatastasis).
Thus we can with confidence list the five most recent popes as heretical;
John Paul I,
John Paul II and
It should be noted that we are not concerned here with explanations, that is, whether the popes were contumacious, stubborn in their heresy or misinformed. We are concerned only with the fact of papal heresy.
A few examples
We shall give just a few examples of the heresy of these popes to make the point, before we proceed. Pope John Paul II habitually taught heresy on the matter of salvation outside the Church; here is an example.
“Normally it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour.” (General Audience of 9, 9, 1998)
Even the brothers at Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire have denounced this statement as heretical, writing “This is sheer, undeniable heresy” (Loyal Catholic Resistance, FTHT 58).
Pope Benedict XVI is also well known to be a heretic on this score. While still a cardinal, Ratzinger wrote as follows:
“Q. But could we not also accept that someone can be saved through a faith other than the Catholic? A. That’s a different question altogether. It is definitely possible for someone to receive from his religion directives that help him become a pure person, which also, if we want to use the word, help him please God and reach salvation. This is not at all excluded by what I said; on the contrary, this undoubtedly happens on a large scale.” (Salt of the Earth, 1996, p. 24)
Pope Paul VI encouraged the heresy that the invincibly ignorant can be saved without receiving the Catholic religion in his post-Vatican II creed.
“We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. But the divine design of salvation embraces all men, and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.” (Credo of the People of God)
Papal heresy in principle and precedent
The case of the last five popes should alert Traditional Catholics in common that there may have been heretical popes before them. If these several popes can be heretical, then it is evident that it is in principle possible for a pope to be heretical.
Not only that, but several precedents have been established all in a row. We should be less surprised to find heresy before Vatican II than if there had been but one case of papal heresy since. We should not be too surprised either to see the present series of heretical popes extend before the Council to include the popes immediately preceding them or to see cases of papal heresy some centuries before.
It makes no difference in this regard whether the Vatican II popes are termed true popes or not. If there have been heretical anti-popes since the council then there could have been before; if there have been heretical true popes since the council then there could have been before. Either way the possibility has been established that popes were heretical before Vatican II.
Nor would it matter if it could be established that the popes before Vatican II were universally acclaimed by Catholics as true popes – which is by no means established – for sedevacantists are wont to argue that a heretical pope would not be a true pope even if he were so acclaimed. As proof they are wont to cite the bull Cum Ex Apostolatus.
Papal heresy before Vatican II
We shall argue in common with various Traditionalists that, in fact, the present spate of heretical popes does extend further back, with several popes before Vatican II enunciating, or otherwise encouraging, heresy regarding the possibility of the salvation of non-Catholics.
The popes contradicted the defined doctrine that “no one at all” is saved outside of the Catholic Church. Pope Innocent III defined it as follows at the IV Lateran Council, which was an ecumenical council held in 1215 that all Catholic theologians recognize to be infallible:
“One indeed is the Church of the Faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved.”
The list of heretical popes who contradicted this dogma includes;
Pius X and
Pius XI may have been heretical too but the evidence against him is only anecdotal and therefore not weighty.
We shall provide some documentation to substantiate these claims.
The heresy of Pius IX
It is well known that Pius IX contradicted the defined dogma that no one can be saved who dies outside of the Catholic Church. Liberal apologists have cited him in their favor since the nineteenth century. There are several passages that people cite from him but for the sake of brevity, we shall cite but one.
“The Catholic Church is the temple of God, outside of which, except with the excuse of invincible ignorance, there is no hope of life or salvation.” (Singulari Quidem)
Some Feeneyites are wont to pretend that Pius IX was orthodox and was misrepresented on this point because they imagine that it would harm their cause to admit that such an earlier pope contradicted them. But most are more candid and concede the obvious. Indeed, it is better to be honest if one is to accurately appraise the situation.
The heresy of Pius X
Evidence against Pius X is found in the 1905 Catechism that bears his name, which he had compiled for the use of the laity of the whole Church and the use of which he imposed on the diocese of Rome; he wrote most of it. The old Catholic Encyclopedia says the following.
“The present pontiff, Pius X, has prescribed a catechism for use in the Diocese of Rome and in its ecclesiastical province, and has expressed a desire that it should be adopted throughout Italy. It has been translated into English, French, Spanish, and German, and a movement has begun with a view to extending its use to other countries besides Italy, especially to Spain, where the conditions are similar.” (T.B. Scannell, Christian Doctrine)
It is incredible that some Feeneyites should claim that Pius was neither responsible for nor even conscious of the Catechism’s contents. Indeed it is particularly laughable that the Brothers Dimond have written that “it is just a fallible Catechism that went out during his reign and was given his name”, as if Pius had nothing to do with it and it had a life all of its own, especially as they are so ready to accuse others of “dishonesty” and “human respect”.
The following passage is particularly incriminating.
“29. Q. But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved? A. If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can, such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.”
The brothers at Most Holy Family Monastery have denounced this Catechism as heretical.
“Here we see this fallible Catechism word for word denying the dogma Outside the Church There is No Salvation! It teaches that there can be salvation “outside” the Church. This statement is so heretical, in fact, that it would be repudiated even by most of the crafty heretics of our day, who know that they cannot say that people are saved “outside,” so they argue that non-Catholics are not “outside” but are “inside” somehow. So even those crafty heretics who reject the true meaning of Outside the Church There is No Salvation would have to admit that the above statement is heretical!” (Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation, Br. Peter Dimond)
This just goes to emphasize that canonizations are not infallible, nor are they proof of sound teaching. It is as well to remember that canonizations by Rome are admitted by all to have been a medieval innovation and not of apostolic origin. Earlier, they were by popular acclaim, which none think to have been infallible.
The Catholic faith comes to us from the apostles, through the orthodox Fathers and in particular St. Augustine, and has sometimes been defined by the popes when there was a need. It is not based on canonizations, approved devotions, popular drawings or anything else. Any deviation from that rule is just an excuse for heresy.
The heresy of Pius XI
The evidence against Pius XI is only anecdotal.
He is said to have said the following to Cardinal Facchinetti, whom he had just appointed to be the apostolic delegate to Libya.
“Do you think that you are going among infidels? Muslims attain to salvation. The ways of Providence are infinite.” (Martin Lings, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century (University of California Press, 1973); L’Ultima, Anno VIII, 75-76, p. 261 (Florence, 1954))
Of course, this cannot be taken as weighty proof and we have included the matter only for the sake of completeness, though it is quite believable in the midst of so much papal heresy.
The heresy of Pius XII
Evidence against the orthodoxy of Pius XII is found in the 1949 Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston. As the Letter says, Pius “deigned to give his approval, that the … explanations pertinent to the doctrine” of no salvation outside the Church, contained in the Letter, be given. And as the introduction to the published Letter, written by an Archbishop, says, “Pope Pius XII, has given full approval to [the] decision” of the Holy Office to order the Archbishop to make the Letter public.
The Letter gives support to heresy by claiming that an implicit desire suffices for salvation in circumstances of invincible ignorance, because he did not specify that an explicit faith is essential in central mysteries such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. Indeed, he knowingly left everyone to interpret him as saying that non-Catholics can thus be saved.
“That one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing. However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.”
Pius XII also allowed the Letter to quote him as supporting this position in his encyclical Mystici Corporis and to imply that he was teaching that people can be saved in other religions, just not “equally well”.
“Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who ‘are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire,’ and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition “in which they cannot be sure of their salvation” since ‘they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church’. With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion.”
It is untenable that some Feeneyites should claim that the Letter misrepresents Pius’ encyclical when he gave his approval to the interpretation and to the order that it be made public.
Father Feeney and the original Saint Benedict Center denounced the Letter as heretical.
“On September 24, 1952, three weeks after its publication in full, the Center addressed a letter to Pope Pius XII in which it protested: ‘This Protocol is substantially defective in that it contains heresy insofar as it states that one can be saved under certain conditions outside the Roman Catholic Church and without personal submission to the Roman Pontiff.’” (Father Feeney and the Truth About Salvation, SBC NH)
Richard Ibranyi (RJMI) has incredibly gone so far as to question whether Pius XII even knew about this Letter of the Holy Office, though he claims that he was a heretic on another matter: “This heretical letter against Fr. Feeney… Whether Pius XII knew of this letter or not is of no consequence [because] he was not pope at the time because he lost his office in 1951 for teaching the heresy of Natural Family Planning” (Why we lost the Pope, not the Papacy, and the Mass). The Dimond Brothers too dont seem to grasp that Pius gave his approval to the doctrine of the letter and that it be made public, quoting as it does his encyclical in support. “If Pope Pius XII had come out in favor of the Protocol and against Fr. Feeney then he would have been a heretic. This is just a fact.” (Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation, Br. Peter Dimond) Again, it is clear that many Traditionalists are not being frank about the heresy of pre-Vatican II popes regarding salvation because they fear that it would harm their cause. Pius X never read his own Catechism and Pius XII didn’t know of the 1949 Letter?
The heresy of the anti-Jansenist popes
It will be less surprising to find that there were heretical popes in the centuries leading up to Vatican II, given that we have cited eight instances of heretical popes already.
Indeed, the heresy of the later popes can be understood as a continuation of the heretical course pursued by the anti-Jansenist popes. They have likewise endorsed the ways of the world (cupiditas) and falsified the doctrine of salvation to include in beatitude not the orthodox Catholic elect but all the posterity of Adam. The heretical course has culminated in the open profession by popes of the heresy of universal salvation, which maintains that all men will finally be saved.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the papal heretics were led to condemn the infallibly defined Augustinian teaching that has come to us from the patristic Church. The Catholic doctrine of grace and predestination has now almost completely vanished from sight behind the smoke and mirrors of the non-infallible condemnations issued by the anti-Jansenist popes and now a heretical “pastoral” ecumenical council. It is apparently granted to very few these days to recognize the true doctrine of the faith on this matter.
As the early teaching is less well known, we shall compare the statements of the later Augustinian writers that were condemned by the heretical anti-Jansenist popes side by side with early definitions and the similarity will be obvious. We shall quote canons taught by early popes as the rule of the faith, that are sentences extracted from the writings of Augustine and that express his doctrine and accordingly must be understood in their original, Augustinian sense, which is the “sense once defined” as Vatican I (a proper, infallible doctrinal council) said they must. Indeed, the early popes were wont to profess that they were teaching the doctrine of Augustine as their own:
Pope St. Hormisdas: “What the Roman, that is the Catholic, Church follows and preserves concerning free will and the grace of God can be abundantly recognised in the various books of the blessed Augustine, and especially in those to Hilary and Prosper [his last two books, called the Predestination of the Saints and the Gift of Perseverance].” (Sicut Rationi)
Again, it is not our intention to show every papal error here, so we shall make just one or two comparisons for each anti-Jansenist pope. These popes condemned dozens of orthodox sentences and often each of these sentences demonstrably accorded perfectly with various early canons but we shall be brief.
The heresy of Pius V
Pius V condemned in Ex Omnibus Afflictionibus (1567) various Augustinian propositions advanced by Michael Bajus that had been infallibly approved by popes of the patristic Church.
Pope Boniface II approved the Second Council of Orange (529) as a rule of faith for the Church and its canons are grudgingly admitted by Catholic theologians to be infallible definitions of the doctrine of the faith, though few would honestly own its teaching.
Pope Pius XI: “It is a further tribute to the glory of the Bishop of Hippo [Augustine], that more than once the Fathers in lawful Councils assembled, made use of his very words in defining Catholic truth. In illustration it is enough to cite the Second Council of Orange”. (Ad Salutem)
The heresy of Innocent X
Innocent condemned in Cum Occasione (1653) defined Augustinian doctrine, supposedly in sentences taken from the writings of Cornelius Jansen.
Some theological explanation of the contradiction is called for here.
The canon quoted from the Indiculus defines Augustine’s doctrine of efficacious grace, using his terminology of the “adjutorium quo” (the help by which), which is the help by which the good act is effected in man, as distinguished from the purely “adjutorium sine quo non” (the help without which it cannot be), the help had by Adam which did not itself effect the good act but only made it possible. Efficacious grace is both adjutorium “quo” and “sine quo non” as we cannot now do anything good without it. The phrase in the Indiculus “received through the daily help of God” is the “adjutorium quo” concept translated into English. The canon teaches that man can persevere in good acts only through this efficacious help. Accordingly, the justified cannot keep the commandments if this grace is wanting and that is the only meaning which can be given to the canon supposedly condemning Jansen.
The Indiculus seu præteritorum Sedis Apostolicæ episcoporum auctoritates (Indiculus de gratia Dei), from which we have just quoted, was compiled by St. Prosper of Aquitaine for Pope St. Sixtus III and contains a series of quotes on the Catholic doctrine of grace from popes St. Innocent I and St. Zosimus and from the Carthaginian Council approved by Rome. Catholic theologians consider it to be infallible and to have certainly always been recognized as such. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “The Augustinian standpoint of the compiler is as unmistakable as the anti-Semipelagian tendency of the whole work… It is certain that about A. D. 500 this work was recognized as the official expression of the views of the Apostolic See.” (Pohle, Semi-Pelagianism) The 1957 edition of Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma says that the Indiculus was “recognized universally as the genuine doctrine of the Apostolic See”.
The heresy of Clement XI
We should be here all day if we were to compare every error of Clement with the early teaching. He condemned in Unigenitus (1713) defined Augustinian teaching in the writings of Pasquier Quesnel.
Again, the canons from Orange and the Indiculus express Augustine's doctrine that we cannot do good without efficacious grace, the “adjutorium quo” that is the grace of (given by) Christ in distinction from the grace of (had by) Adam.
The heresy of Pius VI
Pius VI attempted to rehabilitate in Auctorem Fidei (1794) the heretical Pelagian fable of Limbo, ignoring the definition of Carthage XVI that is contrary to him. Carthage taught that unbaptised infants have the punishment of fire in hell with the devil and that there is no place of rest and happiness for them anywhere (limbo).
The canons of Council of Carthage XVI (418) were composed by Augustine and were infallibly approved as a rule of faith by Popes Innocent I and Zosimus I. Again, they are recognized as infallible by all Catholic theologians, though few would honestly own their teaching.
The canon of Carthage taught that infants have the pain of fire, for they “run into the left” and are, in their fate a “partner of the devil”. This refers to the last judgement scene narrated in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
“Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.” (St. Matthew 25:41, 46)
Thus it is defined by Carthage that unbaptised infants receive their everlasting punishment with the devil in the fires of hell. St. Augustine often taught this in his writings and it was characteristic of him to do so with reference to Bible passages. It is also condemned that there is “some place anywhere where happy infants live who departed from this life without baptism”.
Conclusion – twelve heretical popes exposed
We have exposed twelve popes as heretical.
Traditionalists generally admit the five most recent popes to have been heretics, whether they are sedevacantists or not.
Many Feeneyites admit a further three popes to have been heretical.
Jansenists, with just as much reason as the Traditionalists and the Feeneyites, admit a further four popes to have been heretical.
It is not our intention to imply that these are the only twelve popes who have been heretics or that no other popes fell into heresy over the issue of “Jansenism” (which is simply the doctrine and discipline of the patristic Church as historians are wont to admit).
Catholic theologians generally admit several other popes to have been heretical, including, most famously Liberius and Honorious.
It is not particularly controversial amongst Catholic theologians to say that popes have been heretical. Indeed, Pope Adrian VI stated as follows.
“If by the Roman Church you mean its head or pontiff, it is beyond question that he can err even in matters touching the faith. He does this when he teaches heresy by his own judgement or decretal. In truth, many Roman pontiffs were heretics. The last of them was Pope John XXII.” (Quaest. in IV Sent.)
For further commentary on papal heresy, see the essay, The Right and Duty to Resist a Pope, which was republished by Saint Benedict Center.
St. Augustine, Doctor of Grace