Note: We urge everyone to reprint, post and share this important Op-Ed — published first here at Rorate Caeli — far and wide. And we urge you to keep reading beyond the “Read more” link as His Excellency lays out a plausible case for future binding canonical norms to address a “heretical or a manifestly heterodox pope”:
By Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Special to Rorate Caeli
March 20, 2019
On the question of a heretical pope
The issue of how to handle a heretical pope, in concrete terms, has not yet been treated in a manner which approaches anything like a true general consent in the entire Catholic tradition. So far, neither a pope nor an Ecumenical Council has made relevant doctrinal pronouncements nor have they issued binding canonical norms regarding the eventuality of how to handle a heretical pope during the term of his office.
There is no historical case of a pope losing the papacy during his term of office due to heresy or alleged heresy. Pope Honorius I (625 – 638) was posthumously excommunicated by three Ecumenical Councils (the Third Council of Constantinople in 681, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, and the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 870) on the grounds that he supported the heretical doctrine of those who promoted Monotheletism, thereby helping to spread this heresy. In the letter with which Pope Saint Leo II (+ 682 – 683) confirmed the decrees of the Third Council of Constantinople, he declared the anathema on Pope Honorius (“anathematizamus Honorium”), stating that his predecessor “Honorius, instead of purifying this Apostolic Church, permitted the immaculate faith to be stained by a profane treason.” (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, n. 563)
The Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum, a miscellaneous collection of formularies used in the papal chancery until the eleventh century, contains the text for the papal oath, according to which every new pope, upon taking office, had to swear that he “recognized the sixth Ecumenical Council, which smote with eternal anathema the originators of the heresy (Monotheletism), Sergius, Pyrrhus, etc., together with Honorius.” (PL 105, 40-44)
In some Breviaries until the 16th or the 18th centuries, Pope Honorius was mentioned as a heretic in the lessons of Matins for June 28th, the feast of Saint Leo II: “In synodo Constantinopolitano condemnati sunt Sergius, Cyrus, Honorius, Pyrrhus, Paulus et Petrus, nec non et Macarius, cum discipulo suo Stephano, sed et Polychronius et Simon, qui unam voluntatem et operationem in Domnino Jesu Christo dixerunt vel praedicaverunt.” The persistence of this Breviary reading through many centuries shows that it was not considered scandalous by many generations of Catholics, that a particular pope, and in a very rare case, was found guilty of heresy or of supporting heresy. In those times, the faithful and the hierarchy of the Church could clearly distinguish between the indestructibility of the Catholic Faith divinely guaranteed to the Magisterium of the See of Peter and the infidelity and treason of a concrete pope in the exercise of his teaching office.
Dom John Chapman explained in his book … [Read on at RORATE CAELI]