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(LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the well known auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazahkstan, has spoken out against the theory that Benedict XVI is the only valid pope, saying that the argument would contradict the “proven and reasonable practice of the great tradition of the Church.”

In a newly recorded video message (full transcript found below), Bishop Schneider outlined the Catholic Church’s teaching and history regarding contested papal elections. Drawing from examples in the Church’s history, notably the cases of Popes Gregory VI and Urban VI, the bishop stated:

The safest guiding principle in the crucial question for the life of the Church regarding the validity of the papacy of Pope Francis, should be the prevailing practice in the history of the Church, with which were resolved cases of presumably invalid papal renunciations or elections. In this prevailing practice was shown the sensus perennis ecclesiae.

In recent months, arguments suggesting that the Pope is actually Benedict XVI, not Francis – motivated perhaps by the growing scandals emanating from the Vatican – have gained increasing prominence, notably though Catholic podcaster Patrick Coffin.

The Church must have a visible ‘Supreme Shepherd’

Schneider wrote that a fundamental principle with which to address the question was that “human law that regulates the assumption of the papal office or the dismissal from the papal office must be subordinated to the greater good of the whole Church, which in this case is the real existence of the visible head of the Church and the certainty of this existence for all the body of the Church, clergy and faithful.”

READ: Bp. Schneider: There’s a ‘basic error’ in Vatican documents on ‘material cooperation’ with abortion-tainted vaccines

The Church, by nature a visible entity, “cannot exist for a considerable time without a visible Supreme Shepherd,” he said, “since the vital activity of the universal Church depends on its visible head, such as the appointment of diocesan bishops and cardinals, appointments that require the existence of a valid pope.”

Schneider added that “the spiritual good of the faithful depends on a valid appointment of a bishop,” which in turn relies upon a valid and clearly visible Pope. 

Should a bishop be invalidly appointed, his priests “would lack pastoral jurisdiction (confession, marriage),” said Schneider. 

To apply, in this case, the “principle of supplying of jurisdiction would undermine the characteristic of the Church’s visibility and would be substantially the position of the sedevacantist theory,” he warned. 

The auxiliary bishop of Astana made clear that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), did not fall under this category of undermining the Church, since while he “applied the principle of supplying jurisdiction, he applied it only to specific cases and not to the entire pontifical jurisdiction. He always mentioned the pope in the Canon of the Mass.”

Guided ultimately by the “spiritual good and eternal salvation of the faithful,” the Church supplies the principle of “sanatio in radice (healing at the root),” said Bishop Schneider – meaning that “in the case of doubts about a renunciation or a pontifical election” the matter is resolved by the “peaceful and morally universal acceptance of the new Pontiff by the episcopate and the Catholic people.”

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Bishop Robert McElroy (right) is to be made a cardinal in August, despite his inaction on allegations against notorious ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

We all have a responsibility to speak up when serious wrongs are being brought to our attention, but McElroy didn't.

SIGN this petition to demand Pope Francis not reward a bishop who failed to report allegations against McCarrick

The Bishop of San Diego was told about serious sexual wrongdoing by McCarrick in 2016 when psychotherapist Richard Sipe, who had interviewed numerous victims of McCarrick, sent him a detailed letter, but McElroy sat on that information and is now being made a cardinal.

Appointing him to the College of Cardinals is not only an insult to those who suffered clerical sex-abuse, but also to those who are intent on ridding the Church of such evil.

This decision to make McElroy a cardinal must be reversed, and the only way to make that happen is with pressure from the laity.

SIGN and SHARE this petition to stop the appointment of Bishop McElroy to the College of Cardinals

Sipe told McElory that numerous seminarians and priests reported sexual advances and activity by McCarrick in a letter that also detailed extensive abuse by other clerics.

"I have interviewed twelve seminarians and priests who attest to propositions, harassment, or sex with McCarrick," the psychotherapist told McElroy in the 2016 letter, adding: "None so far has found the ability to speak openly at the risk of reputation and retaliation."

McElroy, who claims there was no corroborating evidence, could have brought the allegations to the pope, or even to the Papal Nuncio, but instead ended the correspondence with Sipe, himself a clerical sex-abuse victim.

It would take another year for the truth about McCarrick to slowly emerge in public.

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Turning a blind eye to serious allegations of sexual wrongdoing is reprehensible in any context, but particularly when a bishop, a shepherd of souls, does so.  

He also supports giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, contrary to the Church's teaching, while he has concelebrated LGBT Masses as bishop and claimed Fr. James Martin's attempt to normalize the LGBT ideology is "fully consonant with Catholic teaching".

The sad truth is that McElroy is not fit to continue as a bishop, let alone become a cardinal.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition to stop the rot that continues to tarnish Christ's Church. 

We must do what we can to clean up this mess now.

More Information: 

Bishop McElroy was warned about McCarrick - LifeSiteNews

Pope announces 21 new cardinals, including McElroy - LifeSiteNews

Photo: Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Robert McElroy (Lisa Bourne/LifeSiteNews & Diocese of San Diego/YouTube)

 

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Lessons from Church history

Bishop Schneider cited the example of “invalid pontifical elections” from the Middle Ages, noting how Pope Gregory VI invalidly bought the papacy, yet was still considered by the Roman Church as a “valid pope,” despite the “illegitimate manner by which Gregory VI became pope.”

Questions were also raised about the legitimacy of Pope Urban VI, who “had been elected under enormous pressure and threats from the Roman people,” added Bishop Schneider. 

While “all the cardinal electors paid him homage and recognized him as pope during the first months of his pontificate,” doubts were raised about the “validity of the election” after a few months, noted Schneider. 

When a new pope was elected by the cardinals because of this doubt, “he and his successors were considered by the Roman Church always as anti-popes,” said Schneider. “The Roman Church has always recognized Urban VI as a valid pope, despite the probably invalidating factors of his election,” he added.

Similarly with the case of Pope Celestine V who resigned “in circumstances of pressure and insinuations by the powerful Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, who succeeded him as Pope Boniface VIII in the year 1294,” said the bishop. 

Such circumstances meant that part of the laity and the clergy “never recognized Boniface VIII as a valid Pope,” yet “the Roman Church considered Boniface VIII as a legitimate pope, because the acceptance of Boniface VIII by the overwhelming part of the episcopate and the faithful healed ‘at the root’ the possible invalidating circumstances of both the renunciation of Celestine V and the election of Boniface VIII.”

For Francis to not be pope would have ‘paralyzed’ the Church

Bishop Schneider also presented a series of hypothetical scenarios regarding the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, but stated that “the hypothesis of Benedict XVI’s invalid renunciation, and therefore of the invalidity of the papacy of Francis, properly presents itself as a dead end, a cul-de-sac.” 

For the Apostolic See to be “de facto vacant” would thus mean that “the universal Church would be paralyzed in its visible aspect,” he said. “Such an assumption would amount in practice to the attitude of sedevacantism.”

To argue that Benedict XVI is still pope “contradicts not only the proven and reasonable practice of the great tradition of the Church, but also simply common sense,” Bishop Schneider said.

READ: Bishop Schneider calls faithful to pray for Pope Francis to ‘convert’

Instead of explaining the crisis in the Church by arguing that Pope Francis is not the Pope, Bishop Schneider added that “the rudder of the boat of the Church holds Our Lord Jesus Christ in his hands even in situations of heaviest storms, such as it can be in a time of a doctrinally ambiguous pope.”

He referenced “a time of calm, doctrinal security, liturgical sacredness and holiness of the priests, bishops and popes” which would come when, “in the midst of the confusion and the storm within the life of the Church of our day, Our Lord will rise and rebuke the winds and the sea.”

See below the full transcript of Bishop Schneider’s video.

Reflections on the question of the validity of the papacy of Pope Francis

The safest guiding principle in the crucial question for the life of the Church regarding the validity of the papacy of Pope Francis, should be the prevailing practice in the history of the Church, with which were resolved cases of presumably invalid papal renunciations or elections. In this prevailing practice was shown the sensus perennis ecclesiae.

The principle of legality applied ad litteram (to the letter) or that of juridical positivism was not considered in the great practice of the Church an absolute principle, since the legislation of the papal election is only a human (positive) law, and not a Divine (revealed) law.

The human law that regulates the assumption of the papal office or the dismissal from the papal office must be subordinated to the greater good of the whole Church, which in this case is the real existence of the visible head of the Church and the certainty of this existence for all the body of the Church, clergy and faithful.

This visible existence of the head and the certainty about it are required by the very nature of the Church. The universal Church cannot exist for a considerable time without a visible Supreme Shepherd, without the successor of Peter, since the vital activity of the universal Church depends on its visible head, such as e.g. the appointment of diocesan bishops and cardinals, appointments that require the existence of a valid pope.

In turn, the spiritual good of the faithful depends on a valid appointment of a bishop, since in the case of an invalid episcopal appointment (due to a presumably invalid pope), priests would lack pastoral jurisdiction (confession, marriage). From this also depend those dispensations that only the Roman Pontiff can grant, and also indulgences, all this for the spiritual good and eternal salvation of souls.

Applying in this case the principle of supplying of jurisdiction would undermine the characteristic of the Church’s visibility and would be substantially the position of the sedevacantist theory. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, when consecrating bishops without the Pope’s mandate, also applied the principle of supplying of jurisdiction, but he applied it only to specific cases and not to the entire pontifical jurisdiction. He always mentioned the pope in the Canon of the Mass.

The acceptance of the possibility of a prolonged time of a vacancy of the Holy See (sedisvacantia papalis) easily leads to the spirit of sedevacantism, which ultimately constitutes a kind of a sectarian and quasi-heretical phenomenon that has appeared in the past sixty years due to the problems with Vatican II and the conciliar and post-conciliar popes.

The spiritual good and eternal salvation of the faithful is the supreme law in the normative system of the Church. For this reason, there is the principle of supplet ecclesia or of sanatio in radice (“healing at the root”), that is, the Church completes what was against the human positive law, in the case of the sacraments, which demand jurisdictional faculties, e.g. confession, marriage, confirmation, the burdens of the intentions of the Masses.

Guided by this truly pastoral principle, the instinct of the Church has also applied the supplet ecclesia or the sanatio in radice in the case of doubts about a renunciation or a pontifical election. Concretely, the sanatio in radice of an invalid pontifical election was expressed in the peaceful and morally universal acceptance of the new Pontiff by the episcopate and the Catholic people, for the same fact that this elected (presumably invalid) Pontiff was nominated in the Canon of the Mass practically by the entire Catholic clergy.

The history of the Church is a sure teacher in this matter. The longest vacancy of the Apostolic See lasted two years and nine months (from 29 November 1268 until 1 September 1271). It was also the time in which lived St. Thomas Aquinas. There were evidently invalid pontifical elections, i.e. assumptions of the papal office invalidly, e.g. Pope Gregory VI became pope by buying the papacy with a large sum of money from his predecessor Pope Benedict IX in the year 1045. However, the Roman Church has always considered Gregory VI as a valid pope and even Hildebrand, who later became Pope St. Gregory VII, considered Gregory VI to be a legitimate pope, notwithstanding the illegitimate manner by which Gregory VI became pope. Pope Urban VI had been elected under enormous pressure and threats from the Roman people. Some cardinal electors feared even for their lives, such was the atmosphere of the election of Urban VI in the year 1378. During the coronation of the new pope all the cardinal electors paid him homage and recognized him as pope during the first months of his pontificate.

After a few months, however, some cardinals, especially the French cardinals, began to doubt the validity of the election because of the threatening circumstances and the moral pressure they had to suffer during the election. For this reason, these cardinals elected a new pope, who was called Clement VII, a Frenchman, who chose Avignon as his residence. He and his successors were considered by the Roman Church always as anti-popes (see the editions of the Annuario Pontificio). Thus began one of the most disastrous crises in the history of the Church, the Great Western Schism, which lasted almost forty years, tearing apart the unity of the Church and damaging the spiritual good of souls so much. The Roman Church has always recognized Urban VI as a valid pope, despite the probably invalidating factors of his election. The fact that even a saint, as for example St. Vincent Ferrer during a time, recognized the anti-pope Clement VII as the only valid pope, is not a convincing argument, since saints are not infallible in all their opinions. The same St. Vincent Ferrer later abandoned the Avignon anti-pope Clement VII and recognized the pope in Rome.

Pope St. Celestine V made his renunciation in circumstances of pressure and insinuations by the powerful Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, who succeeded him as Pope Boniface VIII in the year 1294. Because of these circumstances, a part of the faithful and clergy of that time never recognized Boniface VIII as a valid Pope. However, the Roman Church considered Boniface VIII as a legitimate pope, because the acceptance of Boniface VIII by the overwhelming part of the episcopate and the faithful healed “at the root” the possible invalidating circumstances of both the renunciation of Celestine V and the election of Boniface VIII.

The following explanation of Professor Roberto de Mattei demonstrates convincingly the inconsistency of the theories of an invalid papacy of Pope Francis:

“It has mattered naught that Monsignor Georg Gänswein, in a declaration to LifeSiteNews on February 14, 2019, reaffirmed the validity of Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the Petrine Office, by stating that “there is only one Pope legitimately elected – and it is Francis.” By then the idea of a possible redefinition of the Papal ministry had been launched. Some people say that pope Benedict’s intention was that of maintaining the papacy, assuming the office capable of bifurcating in two; but this is a substantial error, since the monarchal and unitary nature of the Papacy is of divine right.

God alone judges intentions, whereas Canon Law merely limits itself in evaluating the outward behavior of the baptized. A well-known sentence of canon law affirms that «De internis non iudicat praetor»; a judge does not judge interior things. On the other hand, Canon 1526, § 1 of the new Code of Canon Law points out that: «Onus probandi incumbit ei qui asserit» (the onus of providing the proofs falls to the one alleging). There is a difference between a clue and a proof. The clue suggests the possibility of a fact, the proof demonstrates the certainty. Agatha Christie’s rule whereby three clues are a proof, is fine in literature but not in civil or ecclesiastical courts. Furthermore, if Pope Benedict is the legitimate Pope, what would happen if from one day to the next he should die, or instead, before he died, Pope Francis should pass away? Given the fact that many current cardinals were created by Pope Francis and none of the cardinal electors consider him an Anti-Pope, the apostolic succession would be interrupted, jeopardizing the visibility of the Church. The paradox is that to prove the invalidity of Benedict’s renunciation juridical sophisms are employed, but then to resolve the problem of Benedict’s or Francis’s succession, extra-canonical solutions ought to be used.” (The Unknowns at the End of a Pontificate, originally in Corrispondenza Romana, July 1, 2020)

The hypothesis of Benedict XVI’s invalid renunciation, and therefore of the invalidity of the papacy of Francis, properly presents itself as a dead end, a cul-de-sac. For nine years the Apostolic See would have been de facto vacant, since Benedict XVI did not make any act of government, no episcopal or cardinal appointment, no act of dispensation, of indulgences, etc. For this reason, the universal Church would be paralyzed in its visible aspect. Such an assumption would amount in practice to the attitude of sedevacantism.

In the past nine years all the appointments of Apostolic Nuncios, diocesan bishops and Cardinals, all the Pontifical dispensations, the indulgences granted and used by the faithful would be null and void, with all the harmful consequences for the spiritual good of souls (illegitimate bishops, invalid episcopal jurisdictions, etc.). All the cardinals nominated by Pope Francis would be invalid, that is, there are non-cardinals, and this would apply to the most of the current college of cardinals.

Another purely theoretical hypothesis: if Benedict XVI would have been an extremely liberal and almost heretical pope and would have renounced in 2013 in circumstances similar to those that actually occurred in 2013 (therefore having possible elements of invalidity) and then would be elected a new pope with an absolutely traditional spirit. And this new pope – presumably elected invalidly because of the invalid renunciation of his predecessor and because of the violation of some norms of the conclave – would begin to reform the Church in the true Catholic sense, appoint good bishops and cardinals, issue professions of faith or ex cathedra pronouncements to defend the Catholic faith against the current errors within the Church, certainly no good cardinal, bishop and faithful Catholic would consider this new hundred percent Catholic pope an illegitimate pope, asking for his renunciation and for the old liberal pontiff to return to rule.

Another hypothesis: The person who was Pope Benedict XVI could still live for several years, and in the meantime all the cardinals nominated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI would die, therefore the college of cardinals would be composed only of cardinals appointed by Pope Francis, therefore they would be non-cardinals according to the theory of the invalid pontificate of Francis, therefore there would no longer be a college of cardinals, and therefore there would be no valid electors, who could proceed to a new pontifical election. The law that says that the cardinals are the only valid electors of the pope has been in force since the eleventh century and was sanctioned by the Roman Pontiffs, therefore only a Roman Pontiff is competent to change the law of the pontifical election and to sanction a rule that would allow to have other electors except the cardinals. If one would follow the theory of the invalid pontificate of Francis, in the hypothetical case, when all the cardinals appointed before Pope Francis would die and also the former Pope Benedict XVI would die, it would not be possible to validly elect a new Pontiff. The Church would be in a dead end, a cul-de-sac.

The hypothesis that says that Benedict XVI is still the only valid pope, and therefore Pope Francis would be an invalid pope, contradicts not only the proven and reasonable practice of the great tradition of the Church, but also simply common sense. Furthermore, in this case one absolutizes the aspect of legality, that is, in our case of the human norms of renunciation and pontifical election, to the detriment of the good of souls, since there is created the situation of uncertainty on the validity of acts of government of the Church and this undermines the visible nature of the Church, and one approaches the mentality of sedevacantism. The surer way (via tutior) and the example of the constant practice of the great tradition of the Church must be followed also in our present case.

The rudder of the boat of the Church holds Our Lord Jesus Christ in his hands even in situations of heaviest storms, such as it can be in a time of a doctrinally ambiguous pope. Such storms are relatively short compared to other great crises during the two thousand years of the existence of the militant Church.

In the midst of the confusion and the storm within the life of the Church of our day, Our Lord will rise and rebuke the winds and the sea (see Mt. 8:24), and there will be again given a time of calm, doctrinal security, liturgical sacredness and holiness of the priests, bishops, and popes. We have to renew in the midst of a situation which humanly spoken appears helpless, our unshakeable faith in the Divine truth that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Catholic Church.

+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana.

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