You are on page 1of 12






Introduction 1-2
Has the Magisterium ever Spoken on the Subject of the Heretical Pope? 3-6
Fr. Gleize and Theology as a Science 7
The Strange Theses of Fr. Gleize 8
The Difficulty of Identifying Heresy 9
Is Jurisdiction Compatible with Heresy? 10
The Conditional Opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine and Others 11-13
The Heresy has Permeated the Greater Part of the Faithful and of the Hierarchy 14
Can the Pope’s Inward Adherence to Heresy be Proved? 15-16
Does the Heretical Pope Lose his Office? 17
The Confusion Rampant Among Traditionalists 18
Fr. Gleize and Cajetan 19-20
The Real Position of St. Robert Bellarmine 21-25
The Positions of St. Robert Bellarmine and of Suarez 26-28
Three Theologically Certain Propositions 29-31
Back to the Issue of Certainty 32
Fr. Gleize Criticizes My Study on the Heretical Pope 33-36

1. Over the years, I have followed with interest the writings of Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize SSPX,
setting forth and analysing the doctrine of the Church, while removing deviant interpretations.
For instance Fr. Gleize maintains that the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium (to use the expression
of Vatican I) is infallible only when it teaches the same truth not only throughout the world, but
also for a long time. So too, with discernment and originality, he sets out the limits of infallibility
in the canonization of Saints. He also addresses a myriad of other points of traditional theology
which are both delicate and highly topical.

2. For these and other good services that Fr. Gleize has rendered to the Holy Church, I express
my respect for his work, and stress that these remarks are only intended by way of collaboration in
the search for a common theological path for faithful Catholics to tread in safety in the current
crisis. Now last January, Fr. Gleize published six articles on the question of the heretic Pope,1

These articles are: I - En cas de doute...; II - Le Pape peut-il tomber dans l’hérésie? La matière d’un débat; III - Du Pape
which I shall be commenting on in a constructive, not a polemical, spirit.

Has the Magisterium ever Spoken on the Subject of the Heretical Pope?
3. Fr. Gleize studies the various positions of ancient and recent theologians on the subject of the
heretical Pope,2 giving special emphasis to that of Cajetan, generally adopted by the Dominicans.
He sets forth exposes the opinions of St. Robert Bellarmine, Suarez, Bouix, Billot and others. In
evaluating these positions, he says: “… with regard to the purely speculative opinions of the ancient
theologians, they remain debatable, within the domain of speculation.”3 Distinguishing the speculative
question from the prudential one, he writes that when considering the matter “… as a purely
speculative problem, abstracting from all circumstances, one is limited to purely theological reasons, which are
considered to apply to every case, but which are only probable and remain insufficient to provide speculative
certainty,4 because only an argument of magisterial authority, which still does not exist, could give an apodictic

4. But is it really true that the Magisterium has never spoken about the speculative question of the
heretical Pope? The teaching Church, which constitutes the Magisterium strictly so-called,
composed exclusively of the Pope and bishops, teaches and speaks not only directly, but also
indirectly, for example, by approving, at least tacitly, what is taught by theologians, parish priests
and catechists. The issue of the heretical Pope has been of interest to Catholic thinkers for almost
two millennia. In the Introduction to his work book Ipotesi Teologica di un Papa Eretico,6 Professor
Roberto de Mattei shows how in the Middle Ages the question was widely studied. It was further

et de l’hérésie; IV - François hérétique?; V - Jean XXII; VI - Le Pape qui tombe dans l’hérésie perd-il l’investiture dans le
Primat? (Courrier de Rome, nº 595, January 2017).
I cite these six articles by Fr. Gleize using Roman numerals I to VI, followed by Arabic numerals for the
subdivisions of each article (e.g.: Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 12). I shall be referring to the Potuguese, French or
Italian texts of my own study using, respectively, the abbreviations, and, followed by page
numbers (e.g.: 79). Thus:
- refers to “Considerações sobre o ‘Ordo Missae’ de Paulo VI”, mimeographed edition, St. Paulo, Brazil, 169
pp., 1970.
- refers to “La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en Penser?”, Diffusion de la Pensée Française, Chiré en
Montreuil, France, 360 pp., 1975.
- refers to “Ipotesi Teologica di un Papa Eretico”, Ed. Solfanelli, Chieti, Italia, 200 pp., 2016.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 12.
The phrase “purely theological reasons … which are only probable and remain insufficient to provide speculative
certainty” is discussed in Paragraph 32 below.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 11.
In my study of the heretical Pope I divide the matter according to the five opinions enumerated by St. Robert
Bellarmine ( 218-219; 27-28). Here we see that the hypothesis of the heretical Pope involves three
sub-questions, which authors do not always properly distinguish:
- Sub-question A – Can the pope become a heretic, or already be one at the time of his election? – Subject of
the First Opinion;
- Sub-question B – If he can become a heretic, does he in consequence lose the papacy? – Subject of the Third
- Sub-question C – If he does lose his office, how does this happen? – Subject of the Second Opinion (with
regard to the heretic even occult), of the Fourth Opinion (with regard to declaration by the Church) and of
the Fifth Opinion (ipso facto, upon externalization of his formal heresy).
analysed in the Silver Age of Scholasticism; in the following centuries it was studied by saints and
doctors such as St. Alphonsus Liguori, Ballerini and Bouix. And in the 150 years of neo-
scholasticism, most manuals of Dogmatic and Moral theology and Canon Law make at least a
passing reference to the basic theses on the subject. Does all this not bear witness to indirect but
real manifestations of the Magisterium?

5. In addition, the numerous statements of Popes and Councils, over the centuries, on the
question of the heretic Pope, seem to me to be likewise teachings of the Magisterium. I refer,
among others, to the condemnations of Pope Honorius by the VIth and VIIIth Ecumenical
Councils, and by Pope St. Leo II; to the famous pronouncement of Innocent III on the hypothesis
of his own defection from the Faith; to the Bull of Paul IV Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, which, even
taken as a merely disciplinary document, appears to be based on the principle that the Pope may
defect from the Faith.

6. In any case, I do not think that we could only have certainties on the subject of the heretical
Pope if and when there were definitions of the extraordinary Magisterium about it. This involves
the notion of theology as a science, which I outline below.

Fr. Gleize and Theology as a Science

7. Theology, writes St. Thomas, is a science7 which has as its object the principles revealed by
God, and which “… surpasses all others, both speculative and practical. Of the speculative sciences, one is
more worthy than another, both because of the certainty and the dignity of its matter. And in these two respects,
theological science surpasses the other speculative sciences. It does so in terms of certainty, because the other
sciences have their certainty from the natural light of human reason, which can err; while the certainty of
theology comes from the light of divine science, which cannot be deceived. According to the dignity of matter, this
science deals principally with that which by its elevation transcends reason, whereas the other sciences consider
only what submits itself to reason.”8 – Hence I cannot accept in principle that we can only be certain
on the subject of the heretical Pope if and when there exists “an argument of magisterial authority”.9

The Strange Theses of Fr. Gleize

8. As we shall see later, Fr. Gleize holds that it should not be said that the Pope can fall into
heresy. He holds that if he falls, the formal character of the papal heresy will remain impossible to
prove. He holds that, even if this formal character were proved, the Pope would not lose his office.
And he holds that any act aimed at the removal of the heretic Pontiff from his see would be
founded not on dogmatic principles, but on the virtue of prudence.

The Difficulty of Identifying Heresy

9. Studying the dubia that Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner sent to the Pope
on Amoris Laetitia, Fr. Gleize says that it is necessary to clarify: (i) whether the five truths

St. Thomas, Sum. Th., I, q. 1, a. 2, c.
Op. cit., ibidem, a. 5, c.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 11.
enumerated by the dubia of the four cardinals are in fact dogmas; and, (ii) whether Amoris Laetitia
in fact denies these dogmas or calls them explicitly enough into doubt. Diverging from recent
studies, which underpin the widespread conviction held on this question by faithful Catholics, Fr.
Gleize is emphatic: “The answer to these two questions is far from being clear and certain.”10 – Like some
twentieth-century authors, Fr. Gleize strongly emphasizes the technical difficulty of detecting
heresy,11 but goes no further. He presents no solution to this difficulty. By contrast I maintain that
the sensus fidei and theology can indeed distinguish orthodoxy from heresy and are well able to
differentiate a faithful Catholic from a heretic who claims to be one but it not.

Is Jurisdiction Compatible with Heresy?

10. As one of the justifications for his thesis that the Pope, even if he is a heretic, would not lose
his position, Fr. Gleize writes: “Prudence led the founder of the St. Pius X Fraternity to consider, at least in
practice and provisionally, that the modernist heresy remains compatible with the possession of the supreme
pontificate.”12 – Now at that time the question of the heretical pope was only beginning to be
analyzed in the terms in which it now exists. For this reason, Archbishop Lefebvre expressed a
“practical and provisional” opinion, which Fr. Gleize today seems to regard as definitive. The theory
of the radical loss of the papacy is defended by the present writer,13 is based on the deep
incompatibility between heresy and jurisdiction. If both can coexist in the same person, it is
because of the visible character of the Church, whose authorities must be constituted and de-
constituted by external and public acts. Thus, such coexistence occurs in a state of violence and
precariously, in anomalous situations to be corrected as soon as possible. In maintaining that the
heretical Pope does not lose his position, is Fr. Gleize not turning a provisional position of
Archbishop Lefebvre into a definitive and absolute one while simultaneously carrying it to an
extreme degree?

The Conditional [alternative-successive] Opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine and

11. Fr. Gleize writes: “The true thesis [for St. Robert Bellarmine] is that the Pope will never fall into
heresy;” which makes Bellarmine hold the first opinion instead of the fifth. Hence Fr. Gleize says
that for the same Jesuit St. and Doctor of the Church, the opposite is only admissible in a “purely
theoretical” way, “per impossibile”. 14

12. However, St. Robert Bellarmine does not close the matter with the First Opinion. He
considers this Opinion “probable”, and, perhaps foreseeing future doubts, tautologically reinforces
his statement, saying that “it is not certain.”15 Thus, he defends the fifth Opinion as a conditional
(alternative-successive), i.e. he considers the first Opinion to be probable, but assuming it to be

Op. cit., section 12.
Op. cit., art. IV.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 6.
13 36 ss.; 273 ss.; 88 ss.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 6.
15 241; 50. – St. Robert Bellarmine, De Rom. Pont., lib. II, cap. 30, p. 418.
possible for the Pope to fall into heresy, he declares that between the Second, Fourth and Fifth
opinions, the last is “true”. 16 Hence in calm objectivity it can and should be said that that the Fifth
Opinion is that adopted by St. Robert Bellarmine, from a conditional point of view.

13. This conditional, alternative-successive opinion may be expressed as follows: of all the Opinions
St. Robert Bellarmine preferentially held the first as probable; but, as it might prove to be
erroneous, of the others he held the Fifth. Somewhat analogous to this is the position of other
authors who hold the First Opinion as merely probable, among whom are Suarez, Bouix, Bishop
Zinelli at Vatican I and Salaverri. 17

The Heresy has Permeated the Greater Part of the Faithful and of the
14. Fr. Gleize maintains that no classical author predicted that the Pope’s heresy might spread
through a large part, or even the greater part of the body of the faithful and the Hierarchy. 18 – Is
this observation relevant? Ballerini, for example, admits that a simple lay Catholic may warn the
Pope, as St. Paul commands, 19 which surely implies that Cardinals and other ecclesiastics might
not be willing to do so. – Moreover, all the alternatives examined by Fr. Gleize require the
intervention of some official organ against the Pope, but such intervention may clearly become
unrealisable if the greater part of the Hierarchy adheres to the heresy. – Now, the fifth authentic
Opinion, the “true” one, supposes no such intervention on the part of the Church, and therefore
avoids this difficulty. – For Fr. Gleize, who mis-states the Fifth Opinion, the sheer extent to
which today’s heresy has spread shifts the question from the speculative to the prudential field,
making the studies of the past, all of them speculative, irrelevant. This is one reason why his six
articles lead to no conclusion, not even a theoretical one, about how a heretical pontiff would lose
his office, or even whether he would lose it.

Can the Pope’s Inward Adherence to Heresy Be Proved?

15. According to Fr. Gleize, it is an inadmissible hypothesis that the Pope could fall into heresy
both formal and notorious. 20 And this is what appears to suggest his treatment of the difficulty of
identifying a text as heretical.21 Yet the blunt statement that the Pope cannot fall into formal and
notorious heresy contradicts almost all the received theologians, for they see nothing in Sacred
Scripture and Tradition that clearly indicates the impossibility of such a defection, as Fr. Gleize
himself recognizes: “The provisions provided by positive ecclesiastical law cannot apply to the Pope. Only
divine law can establish laws in this matter. Now the sources of Revelation contain no sufficiently explicit
teaching on this question.” 22

16 266; 79. – Op. cit., ibidem, p. 420.
17 220-222, 240-241; 29-31, 50-51. – Salaverri, De Eccl. Christi, p. 718.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, sections 9-10.
19 268; 81 – Pietro Ballerini, De Potestate Ecclesiastica ..., pp. 104-105.
Fr. Gleize, art. III.
See Paragraph 9 above.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 9.
16. Is it true that, even if the Pope were to fall into formal heresy, his internal adherence to this
deviation in the Faith would remain impossible to demonstrate? This is what Fr. Gleize seems to
be alleging: “… the passage from material heresy to formal heresy belongs as such to the internal forum and
remains unverifiable.”23 If this were so, it would be impossible to establish the Pope’s formal heresy,
i.e. his pertinacity, and the same would also apply to any other heretic, which runs counter to
Scripture, Tradition and plain common sense. The truth is that, although the visible Church
cannot penetrate men’s minds and hearts, it is undeniable that words and deeds express what is
taking place in the soul. Once the suspect has been twice warned, as St. Paul specifies in Titus 3,
10-11, and has proved obstinate, his formal heresy will be externally proved.

Does the Heretical Pope Lose his Office?

17. Fr. Gleize says: “The power of the Pope being supreme in the Church here on earth, no one has sufficient
authority either to legally determine the fact of heresy on the part of the Sovereign Pontiff or, if it should occur,
to draw the penal consequences of this fact by depriving the Pope of his power.” 24 – Fr. Gleize sees here an
argument in favour of his thesis that a heretical Pope does not lose his office. However, although
his remark is perfectly valid in respect of the Fourth Opinion, which requires an ecclesiastical
organ to “legally determine” the papal heresy, as will be seen below, 25 it has no application to the
Fifth Opinion, in which, according to the authentic position of St. Robert Bellarmine, no one
“legally determines” the Pope’s heresy, but rather the pope tacitly resigns his office – a fact
which may or may not be “legally determined” by an imperfect Council, (i.e. a Council
without the Pope), after he has already forfeited the papacy. – Does not this suggest that Fr.
Gleize is joining the ranks of the theologians who, by dint of specious distinctions, conclude that
the heretic Pope does not lose his office at all, but continues indefinitely to poison the faithful?
This position corresponds to the Third Opinion enumerated by St. Robert Bellarmine, abandoned
for centuries, which entirely disregards the deep-seated incompatibility between heresy and
ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as I emphasized in my study of the heretical Pope.26

The Confusion Rampant Among Traditionalists

18. Against this background, it is natural to wonder what repercussions Fr. Gleize’s articles are
likely to produce in the traditionalist media, in which the conviction has gradually and laboriously
been formed that the Pope can defect from the Faith, and, in this case, St. Paul’s warnings having
been made, in one way or another he does lose the papacy. This conviction, with its solid
theological foundation, provides a beacon of hope for true Catholics amid the darkness of our day.
And it is critically necessary in our days for Catholics, even the best, to grasp the deep-seated
incompatibility between heresy and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and not to be deceived by a false,
monolithic concept of papal infallibility such as might induce them to accept the doctrinal and
disciplinary disorders of the last decades.

Op. cit., art. III, section 5.
Op. cit., art. VI, section 9.
See Paragraphs 21-25 below.
See Paragraph 10 above.
Fr. Gleize and Cajetan
19. Cajetan, after stating that no one, not even the Church, is above the Pope, proposed a solution
to the question of the heretical Pope which does not exclude the principle that the Supreme
Pontiff can be judged by no one. In the words of Suarez, “Cajetan makes extraordinary efforts to avoid
being forced to admit that the Church or a Council are above the Pope in case of heresy; but finally concludes
that they are above the Pope, not as Pope, but as a private person. This distinction, however, does not satisfy,
because by the same argument it could be said that the Church can judge and punish the Pope, not as Pope, but
as a private person.” 27 – Cajetan’s subtleties are harshly criticized by St. Robert Bellarmine.28 In his
study, Fr. Gleize gives special importance to Cajetan’s position, but in the last article he
recognizes, quite rightly, that “Cajetan’s explanation does not in fact avoid placing the Church above the
Pope;”29 hence this explanation cannot be accepted.

20. Fr. Gleize also criticizes Cajetan for interpreting St. Paul’s “Avoid him” 30 as meaning “Remove
him from office”, whereas, in Fr. Gleize’s view, it would be possible to avoid and resist the Pope
without his being “dismissed from his office”. 31 For Fr. Gleize this aspect of “… Cajetan’s explanation
… is unquestionably a fatal weakness.” 32 – Yet, St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez do not share this
view. The Holy Jesuit says: “The Pope who remains Pope cannot be avoided, for how could we avoid our
head? How could we escape from a member united to us? This argument is most certain.”33 And, in
discussing the heretical Pope, Suarez writes: “Heresy ‘spreads like cancer,’ which is why it must be
avoided as much as possible, and therefore much more should the heretical shepherd be avoided; but how can he
be avoided if he does not cease to be the shepherd?” 34

The Real Position of St. Robert Bellarmine

21. Fr. Gleize does not refer to the true position of St. Robert Bellarmine on the Fifth Opinion.
In this Opinion which he adopts as his won, Bellarmine maintains that the loss of the Papacy
occurs ipso facto, by the very fact of the externalization of the Pope’s formal heresy. Here are his
words: “The manifestly heretical Pope ceases of himself [“per se”] to be Pope and head, just as he ceases of
himself [“per se”] to be a Christian and a member of the body of the Church.”35

22. Hence according to St. Robert Bellarmine, no one deposes the Pope except himself by the fact
of manifesting his formal heresy before the visible Church, which thereupon withdraws from him
so that he canonically forfeits his office, even if he refuses to accept this and obstinately persists in
his occupation of the Apostolic Palaces and in the exercise of the papacy. What takes place is an
abdication, a tacit renunciation, as a result of adopting a position incompatible with the Papacy.

27 259; 71. – Suárez, De Fide, disp. X, sec. VI, nn. 3-10, pp. 316-318.
28 260-265; 73-78. – St. Robert Bellarmine, De Rom. Pont., lib. II, cap. 30, pp. 418-420.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 16.
Titus 3, 10.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 15.
Op. cit., ibidem.
33 260; 73. – St. Robert Bellarmine, De Rom. Pont., lib. II, cap. 30, pp. 418-420 (realce nosso).
34 257-258; 70. Suárez, De Fide, disp. X, seç. VI, nn. 3-10, pp. 316-318.
35 266; 79. – St. Robert Bellarmine, De Rom. Pont., lib. II, cap. 30, p. 420 (my emphasis).
23. Every other opinion as to how a heretical Pope loses his office presupposes at least one
jurisdictional act of an imperfect Council, the College of Cardinals, or some other ecclesiastical
organ. The only opinion of the classical doctors which does not resort to a juridical
pronouncement against a still reigning Pope is that of St. Robert Bellarmine, also adopted, and in
some points complemented and enriched, by Ballerini, Wernz-Vidal, Billot and others. Indeed:

• In St. Paul’s admonitions Ballerini sees of acts of fraternal correction, not of jurisdiction;
and therefore of charity, not of justice. Speaking of “abdication,” he points out that no
one would depose the Pope; instead he would himself be implicitly resigning from his
office, and this even if he intended to keep it. 36
• Wernz-Vidal states, without hesitation, that according to St. Robert Bellarmine the
heretical pope would lose his office only when his defection from the faith became
“notorious and publicly divulged”. 37 As ecclesiastical law does not apply to the Pope, it is clear
that “public” and “notorious” are here to be understood in their everyday or de facto
meaning, and not in the technical, canonical sense. 38
• Billot: “On the hypothesis that a pope did become notoriously a heretic, it must be granted without
hesitation that he would ipso facto lose the papal power, since by his own voluntary act he would
have placed himself outside the body of the Church, becoming an infidel.” 39

24. In presenting the basis of his position, St. Robert Bellarmine appeals to St. Jerome, whose
words are quoted verbatim by Ballerini: “The reason why the heretic is said to condemn himself is that the
fornicator, the adulterer, the murderer and other sinners are expelled from the Church by the priests; but heretics
pronounce sentence against themselves, excluding themselves from the Church spontaneously: an exclusion
which corresponds to their condemnation by their own conscience.” 40

25. In view of St. Robert Bellarmine’s real position, i.e. his adoption of the Fifth Opinion, it
seems to me that the following statement made by Fr. Gleize calls for rectification: “For Cajetan, it
is only the Church that causes the Pope’s forfeiture of office; for St. Robert Bellarmine, it is only Christ. For
Suarez it is at the same time both Christ and the Church.”41 In fact, for St. Robert Bellarmine it is
exclusively the Pope himself who, by embracing heresy, abandons the Church and therefore the

36 268; 82-83. – Pietro Ballerini, De Potestate Ecclesiastica ..., pp. 104-105.
37 278; 83-85. – Wernz-Vidal, Ius. Can., vol. II, p.517.
See Fr. Gleize, art. III, section 3.
39 224; 34. – Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 1909, tom. I, pp. 617-618
40 268-269; 82. – Pietro Ballerini, De Potestate Ecclesiastica ..., pp. 104-105. [“Propterea vero a semetipso
dicitur esse damnatus: quia fornicator, adulter, homicida, et caetera vitia, per sacerdotes de Ecclesia propelluntur. Haeretici autem in
semetipsos sententiam ferunt, suo arbitrio de Ecclesia recedentes: quae recessio propriae conscientiae videtur esse damnatio.” St.
Jerome, “Commentarii in Epistola Beati Pauli ad Titum”; Migne, Patrologia Latina, tom. XXVI, col. 598, n° 738. –
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 17.
The Positions of St. Robert Bellarmine and of Suarez
26. According to Suarez, once formal heresy has been externalized, ipso facto Our Lord deposes the
Pontiff, and then an imperfect Council declares this deposition before the visible Church.
According to St. Robert Bellarmine, however, no one deposes him, not even Our Lord: it is the
Pope himself who quits his office by positing an act incompatible with the papacy. Both analyses
maintain that office is lost ipso facto, by the unequivocal exteriorization of formal heresy. Each
position has the ipso facto element in common, but in what follows they differ. For St. Robert
Bellarmine, as I have said, the loss of office is effected by the externalization of heresy. For Suarez,
on the other hand, after the externalization of the heresy comes an intervention on the part of
Our Lord, followed in turn by deprivation by the Council. Hence Suarez speaks improperly in
employing the expression “ipso facto”.

27. That is why I classify Suarez as holding the Fourth Opinion presented by St. Robert
Bellarmine, not the Fifth. According to Suarez, Our Lord deposes the Pope by an act of His own,
not manifested to men. Now, the visibility of the Church would require such a deposition to be
manifested to the Church militant. And Suarez, in his eclecticism to which Fr. Gleize rightly
draws attention, 42 imagines a conciliar act, which in turn would violate the principle that the Pope
is subject to no ecclesiastical organ.

28. Let me repeat: St. Robert Bellarmine’s position is the only explanation of how the heretical
Pope forfeits his office that does not require the intervention of any ecclesiastical organ. All
others merit the criticism that St. Robert Bellarmine makes of Cajetan’s when he shows that any
intervention of an official organ in the removal of a Pope would involve jurisdiction, i.e., the
judgment of the Pope by the Church. Fr. Gleize’s failure to grasp St. Robert Bellarmine’s true
opinion on this point is why he finds all the speculative solutions to the problem unsatisfactory. In
fact, the only one that is satisfactory is that of the Jesuit doctor, which he misrepresents.

Three Theologically Certain Propositions

29. In the 1970 Brazilian edition of my study of the heretical Pope, in the French edition of 1975
and in the Italian in 2016, I stated that on the grounds of the intrinsic theological reasons
underpinning the Fifth Opinion I considered it not merely probable but certain. I chose not to
insist on the qualification “theologically certain” for an extrinsic reason, namely, that certain
authors of weight do not adopt it. 43 This was also the opinion of the then Bishop of Campos,
Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, as expressed in a letter of 25th January 1974, when he sent my
work to Paul VI, asking him to point out any possible errors (which never took place), expressly
stating that he referred to the study “written by lawyer Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira, with the
contents of which I associate myself.” 44 – Now, however, after the passage of well over four centuries
since St. Robert Bellarmine’s 1588 study, I am convinced that the Fifth Opinion must be simply
qualified as theologically certain, both for the intrinsic reasons on which it is based and because

Op. cit., ibidem.
43 40; 281; 96-97.
it is the only one of those dealing with how the heretical Pope would lose his office which does not
place any ecclesiastical organ above him.45 Moreover in recent decades numerous more or less
detailed works on the heretical Pope have thoroughly scrutinized the subject, their collective
outcome being to shows that St. Robert Bellarmine’s positions of are certain. – In any event,
extrinsic probability must yield to intrinsic certainty.

30. I further think that Sub-question A, presented in footnote n° 6, should be considered

resolved. Thus, I submit that the following proposition, derived in part from a passage46 of Fr.
Gleize, be taken as being theologically certain: Divine law alone can establish laws that apply
to the Pope; but, since the sources of Revelation contain no sufficiently explicit teaching
as to the impossibility of a pope falling into formal and notorious heresy, therefore, in
dogmatic terms, there is nothing to exclude the pope from becoming a heretic or from
already being one at the moment of his election. 47 – Note that as formulated by Fr. Gleize48
the meaning is that nothing in Revelation determines that the heretical Pope loses his office,
whereas, in the above formulation, the conclusion is that there is nothing in Revelation to prevent
the Pope from falling into heresy.

31. I also think that Sub-question B49 must now be considered to be resolved, in the light of the
cogency of the arguments of St. Robert Bellarmine and others about the Third Opinion. Thus, I
propose that it be held to be theologically certain, given the deep-seated incompatibility
between heresy and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and since the formal and notorious heretic
ceases to be a member of the Church, that the formally and notoriously heretic Pope loses
his office.50

Back to the Issue of Certainty

32. In summary, therefore, it is proposed51 that the following be considered as theologically
certain: (i) the teaching of Robert Bellarmine, Ballerini, Wernz-Vidal and Billot concerning the
Fifth Opinion; (ii) that there is nothing in Revelation to exclude a Pope’s falling into heresy; and
(iii) that in this case the heretical Pope must forfeit the papacy.
As a result of misrepresenting St. Robert Bellarmine’s true position of on the Fifth Opinion, and
of deeming all the opinions of the ancient writers to be no more than probable, Fr. Gleize
concludes that nothing is certain about the fundamental issues raised by the question of
the heretical pope: “purely theological reasons ... which are only probable, and which remain insufficient to
provide speculative certainty.” 52 He maintains that we simply don’t know whether the Pope can fall
into heresy; nor whether formal heresy on his part could ever be demonstrated; nor whether he

See above: Footnote nº 6, Sub-question C.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 9, quoted in Paragraph15 above.
See above: Footnote nº 6, Sub-question C.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, section 9, quoted in Paragraph15 above.
See Footnote nº 6.
See 273-275; 88-91.
See Paragraphs 29-31.
Fr. Gleize, art VI, section 11, quoted in Paragraph 3 above.
would lose his office; nor whether there are any dogmatic principles applicable to the case. Thus
in his view everything is left to the prudence of the faithful, and for Fr. Gleize this means refusal
to follow the Pope insofar as he deviates from Catholic Tradition. 53 – Which brings us back to the
question of certainty in theology .54

Fr. Gleize Criticizes my Study on the Heretical Pope

33. In a footnote to his first article, Fr. Gleize writes: “The recent, but already elderly, study of Arnaldo
Xavier Da Silveira, La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser? pp. 213-281, is often cited as a
reference. But close inspection reveals that Silveira did not have access to the texts of Torquemada or Cajetan: to
present the thinking of these two theologians he simply uses the summary of them given by Suarez and John of
St. Thomas. Moreover, he makes several errors [“se trompe plusieurs fois”] in ascribing to theologians
opinions which they have only quoted without adopting them. Journet, by contrast, has clearly read Cajetan’s
text closely: his discussion in L’Église du Verbe Incarné, I, pp. 625-627, contents itself with setting out
Cajetan’s thought, but at least exposes it with all requisite exactitude.” 55

34. As already mentioned, 56 Fr. Gleize criticizes the position of Cajetan, which in a sense places
the Church above the Pope. I saw no reason to enlarge further on this position in my book. Nor
does Fr. Gleize’s remark about Torquemada seem well-founded, for the great Cardinal of the
fifteenth century argued that loss of the papacy occurs even in case of purely internal heresy, an
opinion long since abandoned for excellent reason. 57

35. As to the accusation that I attribute to theologians of the past opinions of others which they
only quote without making them their own, this is a serious charge. Several such
misrepresentations of the opinions of ancient writers would surely constitute a serious oversight
and might mislead many readers. – Fr. Gleize does not specifically indicate where I commit this
error, but I infer from his words that it is, perhaps among others, in treating the question of the
conditional [alternative-successive] opinion. If this is so, the explanation of my position on this
point, which I maintain to be both clear and logical, will be found above in the subsection entitled
“The conditional [alternative-successive] opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine and others.”58

36. I receive Fr. Gleize’s criticisms in a dispassionate and academic spirit. My respect for him and
the warm appreciation with which I have always read and studied his works remain unchanged.
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of God and of us all, assist and enlighten us.

Op. cit., ibidem, section 15 e respectiva nota de rodapé nº 20.
See Paragraph 7 above.
Fr. Gleize, art. I, section 5, note 5.
See Paragraph19 above.
Fr. Gleize, art. VI, sections 2 and 13.
Paragraphs 11-13 above.
About the author
A lay theologian of long-standing international reputation, Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira
was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1929 and graduated in law in 1956 from the São Paulo Pontifical
Catholic University. He went on to study philosophy at the Central Major Seminary of the
southern states of Brazil. He taught Moral Theology and Sociology in the São Bento Faculty of
Philosophy, Science and Letters and at the Heart of Jesus Economics Faculty, both part of his alma
In the 1960s he became a major contributor to Catolicismo – a monthly cultural and religious
periodical published under the auspices of Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer.
His articles, invariably supported by abundant documentation, include titles such as:
• The Doctrinal Authority of Pontifical and Conciliar Documents (n° 202)
• It is not only Heresy that Can be Condemned by Ecclesiastical Authority (n° 203)
• Essay on Heresy: How Behaviour, Gestures, Attitudes, and Omissions Can Betray a Heretic (n°
204; translated into English by John S. Daly)
• Reply to an Imaginary Progressive (n° 206)
• Can a document of the Magisterium Contain Error (n° 223)
• Public Resistance to the Decisions of Ecclesiastical Authority (n° 224)

They have been widely translated and reproduced.

In 1969-70 he wrote three highly topical theological studies: (i) Considerations on the Ordo Missae of
Paul VI; (ii) Modifications Introduced in the 1969 Ordo, and (iii) The Infallibility of Ecclesiastical Laws, the
first of which included a substantial study on the Theological Hypothesis of the Heretical Pope. These
three works were translated into French and combined to form a single book: La Nouvelle Messe de
Paul VI: Qu’en penser? which was published by Diffusion de la Pensée Française and enjoyed wide
readership. Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer sent a copy of this work to Paul VI expressing his
agreement with its content. Paul VI intervened to prevent its publication and succeeded for a time
in delaying the entry into circulation of the 1975 French edition.
In 2017 Dr. Xavier da Silveira was signatory to the Correctio Filialis de hæresibus propagatis which he
sees, as explained in his January 2018 article Aprofundando Pontos da Correctio Filialis, as a step
towards bringing to the attention of the entire Church the growing body evidence pointing to the
conclusion that the present claimant to the Holy See is indeed a heretic. Pending further
clarification he considers him to be at least seriously suspect of heresy. He does not consider that
the theologically certain proposition that a heretical pope ipso facto forfeits his office yet applies to
the existing situation, pending more widespread recognition of the facts on the part of the faithful
at large.

Dr. Xavier da Silveira’s recent articles may be found on his website at

You might also like