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Catholic Action

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Exposing the Errors of Fr. Paul Kramer

Written by  Robert Sisco and John Salza
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Fr. Paul Kramer Fr. Paul Kramer

Our Reply to His Manuscript Currently Titled “Defection from the Faith & the Church”

 Introduction

After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis in 2013, Fr. Kramer publicly adopted the position that a Catholic could, by his own private judgment, and contrary to the public judgment of the Church, decide for himself if the man elected and accepted as Pope by the Church is a legitimate Pope. Kramer initially declared that Francis lost his office due to heresy, declaring on his Facebook page – “the conclusion is inescapable: Sede Vacante” (sic). He then abandoned the Sede Vacante position, but continued to reject Francis, by arguing that a grammatical error in the original Latin version of Benedict’s renunciation rendered it null, and hence that Benedict remained Pope. After a canonist pointed out the flaws in this argument, Fr. Kramer changed his position once again, this time arguing that Benedict was still Pope because he did not intend to renounce the papal office itself (the munus Petrinum), but only the active exercise thereof.[1]

Fr. Kramer then embarked on a mission to “prove” Francis is not the Pope by adopting Sedevacantist theology and parroting their flawed arguments (often verbatim), even sharing Sedevacantist articles on his Facebook page. It was then that he became obsessed with discrediting us and our book, True of False Pope?, which he knew was a major obstacle to his new-found position, not only because it exposes the errors of Sedevacantist theology which Kramer has now adopted, but also because the book was published by the SSPX and endorsed by a wide range of Catholic scholars. To that end, Fr. Kramer has spent the past year and a half attempting to refute our work via social media, radio interviews, and through e-mails sent to a large group of recipients.

We will first expose Fr. Kramer’s dishonest methodology. We will then explain his mischaracterization of our position and address his theological errors. 

Fr. Kramer’s Method of Attack

Fr. Kramer began his campaign against us with countless untruths and false allegations of error or heresy, followed by the refutation of the straw men he erected.  The following is just one example, which not only demonstrates how he employs the tactic, but shows how easily his Facebook followers are deceived by it. In a Facebook post from early August of 2016, he wrote: “What Salza & Siscoe have done is to falsify and totally invert Catholic moral doctrine in order to refute error with error – exactly as Martin Luther, who combated the abuse of selling indulgences by heretically denying both indulgences and purgatory.”

How, you may be wondering, do we supposedly falsify and invert Catholic moral doctrine? He accuses us of doing so by rejecting the Recognize & Resist (R&R) position, and promoting the sin of indiscrete obedience! Here is the accusation in Fr. Kramer’s own words:

“Salza and Siscoe have erred gravely against Catholic teaching; inverting moral and canonical doctrine in order to bind the Catholic conscience to falsehood. This is the work of devilish iniquity: Numquid adhaeret tibi sedes iniquitatis: qui finghis laborem in praecepto? (Ps. 93) …

Eminent authorities (whom I will quote in my next installment of my reply to Salza) teach that if a pope is professing heresy, he is not [to] be obeyed. …  St. Robert Bellarmine says in De Romano Pontifice that if the pope were to attack the faith, he must be resisted, and his will must be thwarted. …  Under such circumstances, the virtue of obedience requires resistance; and to obey popes who attack the faith, liturgy, and disciplines of the Church is a sin against the virtue of obedience – it is the sin of ‘servile or indiscrete obedience”, as Prümmer explains. It is precisely this sin which Salza & Siscoe promote in their misguided attempt to combat Sedevacantism.  The result of the errors of Salza & Siscoe is something far worse than the damage that the Sedevacantists have done to the Church; since their error attempts to deprive the Catholic of the only defense of the faith against the abomination of desolation, which St. Jerome explains is ‘perverse doctrine in the Holy Place’.”

Before showing that the accusation is entirely false, we should point out that, in the same Facebook post, he went out of his way to defend himself against the accusation that his public attacks, name-calling and inflammatory invective are contrary to charity by saying: “There is a saying in Catholic theology: Ubi non est veritas no est caritas. Where there is not truth, there is not charity. It is not I but those who oppose Catholic truth who are lacking in charity.”

We couldn’t agree more with the axiom that where truth is lacking, so too is charity. Now, to demonstrate how easily Fr. Kramer’s Facebook “friends” believed the accusation (that he didn’t even attempt to prove), and to show how impressed they were with his refutation of the straw man, here are are a few comments they left in support:

Father Kramer, thank you so much for this concise and clear explanation. May God Bless and protect you always.”

 “Well stated! You clear up so much, and I THANK you, Father.”

 “Father, thank you for the wonderful writings; I’ll throw the book away, what a waste of money; to find out these men have evil intentions and not the truth. Thank you for being frank and honest” (Joe Mudblock). 

What’s more, to further demonstrate their support for Fr. Kramer’s “frank and honest” refutation of our supposed errors, some of his fans began posting pictures of True or False Pope? in their trash cans. Clearly, his Facebook campaign was off to a great start and his method was working brilliantly!   

The problem, as anyone who read the book would know, is that the accusation is entirely false (containing a two-fold lie), and his refutation is of a straw man (Ubi non est veritas no est caritas). So, whoever it was that accused him of offending against charity was entirely correct to do so. Nowhere in our entire book, or anywhere else, do we ever argue that Catholics must blindly follow an erring Pope, nor do we promote the sin of “servile or indiscrete obedience.”

On the contrary, we devote an entire chapter to defending the doctrine that Fr. Kramer accuses us of rejecting - the right of Catholics to resist erring prelates - and refuting the sin of “servile or indiscrete obedience” that he accuses us of promoting (and it is one of the most detailed and thorough treatments of the subject you will find anywhere - see Chapter 20, p. 621). Yet Fr. Kramer publicly accuses us – in writing - of rejecting precisely what we defend, and defending precisely what we reject.

What’s almost as shocking as his entirely false accusations is that people so easily believed him. Any Catholic who is even remotely familiar with our writing should have known that we’ve always advocated for the R&R position – and Fr. Kramer himself has personally attended Fatima conferences where Salza defended the R&R position from the pulpit (as his many conference videos prove).

Yet Fr. Kramer completely misleads his Facebook friends by claiming we “falsify and totally invert Catholic moral doctrine” by promoting “the sin of servile or indiscrete obedience,” and then proceeds to triumphantly refute the straw man that he erected - and he is praised for it!  This is the tactic Fr. Kramer has used quite successfully for the past year and a half in his public campaign to discredit the authors of True of False Pope?


Kramer Defends His Decision
to Criticize a Book He Hasn’t Read

Now, while it is difficult to believe Fr. Kramer would dare to accuse people – in writing - of rejecting positions they defended publicly for years, it is even more difficult to believe he would attempt to refute a book without first reading it! But that is exactly what he did. Rather than reading the very detailed and scholarly book (published by one of the most respected seminaries in the English-speaking world) in order to determine what the authors position is, Fr. Kramer instead relied on articles written by notorious Sedevacantists (which are full of errors), and short excerpts from the book that they quote (usually out of context), which he no doubt cobbled together from their websites.

His approach is equivalent to consulting a Protestant website dedicated to exposing the “false doctrines” and evils of the Catholic Church in order to gain a proper understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches, which is one of the  most effective ways to not gain a proper understanding of what the She teaches. Yet this is essentially what Fr. Kramer did before launching his public campaign.  Here is how he defended doing so to his Facebook fans:

Fr. Kramer: “Now let’s consider the Salza/Siscoe doctrine, which has already been adequately refuted by another author [a Sedevacantist layman with no theological training], who, (unlike myself), has endured the somewhat penitential work of reading through the entire 700 page book. I have read enough excerpts to gain an adequate understanding of the errant Salza/Siscoe arguments [remember this statement]. One does not need to jump into a refuse bin and asphyxiate on the putrid fumes to recognize its contents – a couple of sniffs suffice for the olfactory apparatus to make its determination. Likewise, it is not necessary for one to read through an entire work to recognize by the stink of their errors...” (Facebook, August 5th).

As we will see in the material that follows, Fr. Kramer was quite mistaken to believe he could rely on “excerpts” of the book (and articles from Sedevacantist websites) to “gain an adequate understanding” of our supposed errors. Not only did his imprudence result in countless false accusations of heresy (serious violations of charity and justice), but it also resulted in him wasting a year and a half of his life refuting straw men he erected as a result of his misunderstanding of our position.

Now, we originally intended to ignore Fr. Kramer’s attacks, but when we recently learned that he intends to publish his “refutation” as a book, which could bring even more damage to souls, we felt an obligation to respond publicly, which is what we will do in this series of articles.

In Part I below, we will address three key “heresies” Fr. Kramer accuses us of holding concerning the specific issue of how heresy severs a person from the Church, from which are borne the two main straw man arguments he attacks throughout his book. We will demonstrate that all three accusations are entirely false by quoting directly from our book.  Once these accusations of heresy are shown to be false, the two main straw man arguments – which together constitute the foundation he spends most of his time attacking - will be destroyed; and when the foundation is taken away, all the arguments and false accusations of heresy erected upon it will crumble (which will then require that Fr. Kramer re-write his entire “refutation”). 

Later on, we will discuss the question of how a heretical prelate loses his jurisdiction/office, which is not the same question as how heresy severs a person from the Church (these are two distinct issues). This will include important material that we have never published before, as well as recently translated material from St. Bellarmine that refutes Fr. Kramer’s and the Sedevacantists’ interpretation and application of his opinion concerning a heretical Pope, and confirms precisely what we have been arguing for years. 

       

Part I

How does Heresy Sever a Person from the Church?

“Rarely affirm, seldom deny, always distinguish.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Fr. Kramer: “This article drives the stake through the heart of Salza's and Siscoe's heresies. … Their doctrines are contrary to the Catholic faith, as is proven in the article and demonstrated beyond all legitimate dispute.  (…) The sin of Heresy per se, like apostasy and schism, has the intrinsic effect of separating the heretic from the Church by itself without any ecclesiastical censure or judgment. the sin of heresy suapte natura (of its nature) severs the heretic from the body of the Church…

At the outset, we should note that Fr. Kramer’s superficial “sin of heresy” argument is precisely the same argument the Sedevacantists have used for the past 40 years to justify their rejection of all the conciliar Popes. The argument (“the sin of heresy causes a Pope to lose his office”) is identical; only the conclusion (which of the recent Popes have been guilty of the sin and thereby lost their office?) is different. The reason for the difference in the conclusion is because Fr. Kramer and his new Sedevacantist friends disagree with each other concerning which of the recent Popes have been guilty of the sin, and which have not. Fr. Kramer has no answer for the inconsistency between his private judgment and their private judgment, except to say: “I am right and they are wrong.” The truth of the matter is that they are both wrong. And their error is not only in the conclusion, but in the argument itself, due to a failure to make critical distinctions.

Now, because Fr. Kramer has spent the last year and a half misrepresenting our position, we will begin by summarizing what we discuss at length in True or False Pope? concerning how heresy severs a person from the Church. We will also explain why it is imprecise and technically false to say, as Fr. Kramer does, that “the sin of heresy, of its nature, severs a person from the Body of the Church” - if by “Body of the Church” one means external union with the Catholic Church (which is what Fr. Kramer means). This problem with Fr. Kramer’s terminology will be addressed in more detail in Part II, in our discussion of a quotation from Mystici Corporis Christi.

We will begin with an explanation of the bonds that unite a man to the Church, and then show how these bonds are severed by heresy.

Internal and External Bonds of Union: There exist internal and external bonds of union with the Church. The external juridical bonds are profession of the faith, communion in the same sacraments, and submission to the hierarchy and especially the Pope. These juridical bonds join a man to the visible society of the Church and make him a legal member of the Body of the Church. In addition to these external bonds, there are the internal spiritual bonds of faith, hope and charity, which unite man to the Soul of the Church and join him spiritually to the other faithful.

The Sin of Heresy: The sin of heresy is a moral offense against divine law which, “of its nature, is destructive of the Christian virtue of faith.”[2] Now, because the virtue of faith is the foundation of the supernatural life (without which the bonds of hope and charity cannot remain), if a Catholic commits the sin of heresy (and loses the faith), he is entirely severed from the Soul of the Church.  However, the sin of heresy, per se, and the loss of faith resulting from it, does not formally sever one from the Body of the Church – that is, from visible communion with the Catholic Church.

It is important to note that the nature of the sin of heresy is the same, regardless of whether the culprit has concealed it in his heart (internal act alone), or professes it publicly (external act). The difference is the extent to which the heresy has been divulged; there is no difference in the nature of the sin itself.[3]

With this in mind, if the sin of heresy, of its nature (suapte natura), severed a person from the “Body of the Church,” as Fr. Kramer expressly states above, it would follow that even occult (secret) heretics would be cut off from external union with the Church, since they too are guilty of the sin of heresy (the nature of which is the same, regardless of the degree to which the heresy has been divulged). Yet Fr. Kramer himself does not believe occult heretics are severed from external union with the Church, but instead maintains, along with Bellarmine, that they remain members of the Body of the Church in spite of their sin of heresy. Hence, Fr. Kramer’s own position proves that it is not the nature of the sin of heresy that severs a person from the Body of the Church.

The Crime of Notorious Heresy: What separates a Catholic from external union with the Body of the Church is not the nature of the sin of heresy (again, as Kramer argues above), but rather the nature of the external act (crime[4]) of notorious heresy. This is confirmed by Cardinal Billot, who said “only notorious heretics are excluded from the body of the Church.” (De Ecclesia, Thesis II). The reason notorious heresy, of its nature, separates a Catholic from the Body of the Church is because it severs the juridical bond[5] of “profession of the faith.” The legal separation from the Church has nothing to do with the nature of the sin of heresy, and everything to do with the nature of the public act (crime) of notorious heresy. This is confirmed from the fact that Bellarmine, Cajetan and John of St. Thomas unanimously teach that a notoriously heretical Pope can be deposed, or declared deposed, even if, per accidens, he is not subjectively guilty of the sin.

Furthermore, if the legal separation from external union with the Body of the Church were due to the nature of the sin, it would follow that 1) a Catholic who publicly left the Church and joined a non-Catholic sect, or 2) who was judged and declared a heretic by the Church, would nevertheless remain a legal member of the Church, provided he was not subjectively guilty of the sin of heresy (an hypothesis Garrigou-Lagrange says it possible), which is certainly false. What these examples further prove is that being severed from external union with the Body of the Church is not due to the nature of the sin (moral offense) of heresy, but to the nature of the public act of notorious heresy – and a public act is a crime, by its nature. This further shows that Fr. Kramer’s repeated claim that it is the nature of the sin of heresy that severs a person from the Body of the Church is false.[6] In other places he says “manifest and formal heresy” severs a person from the Body of the Church of its nature. This we agree with, since the public act (crime) of “manifest and formal heresy” is essentially the same as notorious heresy by fact, which we will discuss now.

What is Notorious Heresy? The Catholic Encyclopedia defines notorious as that which has been “so fully or officially proved, that it may and ought to be held as certain without further investigation.[7] It also explains that “notorious” is “more or less synonymous with ‘official’,”[8] as in officially recognized by the proper authorities, whether secular or ecclesiastical.

Now, heresy can be notorious either by law or by fact. It is notorious by law, “after a sentence by a competent judge that renders the matter an adjudicated thing, or after a confession by the offender made in court in accord with Canon 1750.”[9] In this case, the certitude is due to the Church’s authoritative judgment or the admission of the suspect in a court of law.

A notorious fact is a fact that is so certain “it may no longer be called in question.” Heresy is deemed to be notorious with a notoriety of fact, if it ispublic and committed under such circumstances that no clever evasion is possible and no legal excuse could excuse.”[10] It is also important to note that for a person to be deemed a notorious heretic by fact, it doesn’t suffice that the material aspect of his heresy be public (i.e., that he adheres to a heretical doctrine); the formal aspect (pertinacity) and imputability must be public as well.[11] If a Catholic were to openly leave the Church and oppose it (not just drift away from regular attendance), or publicly admit that he rejects a defined dogma, while publicly admitting that he knows the doctrine he rejects has been defined, he would likely be deemed a notorious heretic by fact, by the Church, since, in both cases, no clever evasion would be possible and no legal excuse would excuse.

It should be further noted – and this is also a critical point - that notorious heresy does not sever a person from the Church because it is listed as a crime (delict) in canon law, or because of the censure of excommunication that the Church attaches to the crime (another position that Fr. Kramer falsely accuses us of holding, as we will show later). Rather, notorious heresy separates a person from the Church due to the nature of the public act itself, which severs a juridical bond (i.e., “profession of the faith”). Notorious heresy would sever a person from the Church even if it were not listed as a crime in canon law.

In light of the foregoing summary of our actual position (which is explained more thoroughly in our book), we will now address Fr. Kramer’s “refutation” of our supposed heresies.

 

Proving Fr. Kramer’s False Accusations and Straw Man Arguments

 

Fr. Kramer:John Salza and Robert Siscoe are in heresy. Their entire doctrine on heresy and loss of office is based on their heretical proposition: ‘the sin of heresy alone does not sever one from the Church’.”

To begin with, the “quotation” Fr. Kramer attributes to us, which he qualifies as heretical, is nowhere to be found in our book. But, in fairness, it does closely resemble what we explain at length in Chapter Five. Had Fr. Kramer taken the time to read the book for himself, rather than relying on “excerpts” in the internet, he would have realized that what he declares to be our “heresy” (i.e., “the sin of heresy alone does not sever one from the Church”) is, in reality, identical to what he himself believes.

The purpose of Chapter Five is to demonstrate that the internal sin of heresy alone does not sever a person from visible communion with the Body of the Church, or cause a prelate to lose his office. This is one of the errors explicitly held by some Sedevacantists, and which has caused them to reject the legitimate reign of multiple Popes (one person we discuss rejects every Pope since the twelfth century based on this error). The chapter refutes this error by showing that the internal sin of heresy alone only severs the person from the Soul of the Church (by severing all the internal bonds); it does not formally sever one from the Body of the Church – that is, from visible communion with the Catholic Church.

Now, what we discuss in our Chapter Five is exactly what Fr. Kramer himself believes, as can be seen by his following statements: “the sin of internal heresy does not separate one visibly from communion with the Catholic Church (…) The internal sin severs one from the soul of the Church … [not] from the body of the Church” (Fr. Kramer’s Facebook page). That is precisely what we explain in the chapter, and for which Fr. Kramer declares us to be heretics! 

 

The Key to Understanding
 Fr. Kramer’s Mischaracterization of Our Position

 


Why did Fr. Kramer accuse us of heresy for holding a position that he himself holds? The reason is that by failing to read our book, and instead imprudently relying on isolated “excerpts” he found online, he imagined that the word alone (i.e., “the sin of heresy alone…”) meant “without an ecclesiastical censure,” or “without a pronounced judgment.” He then rashly concluded that we believe heresy does not sever a person from the Church, of its nature (“alone”), but rather due to the censure of excommunication that is attached to the crime. He then cites authoritative quotations saying that heresy, of its nature, DOES sever a person from the Church, and concludes by publicly declaring us heretics for allegedly denying it.

Fr. Kramer could have saved himself a lot of embarrassment (and avoided committing many sins), if he had simply read the book, since the context would have made it perfectly clear to him that the word alone was referring to an internal sin alone (i.e., “the internal sin alone does not formally sever a person from the Body of the Church, but only from the Soul of the Church”). The word “alone” had absolutely nothing to do with an ecclesiastical censure or a judgment from the Church that might follow! The following quotations from Chapter Five clearly show this:

True or False Pope?: “The internal sin of heresy alone does not cause a prelate to lose his office (…) The sin of heresy alone does not separate one from the Body of the Church. (…) If an internal sin of heresy alone severed a person from the Body of the Church, the Church would no longer be a visible society, but an ‘invisible Church of true believers known to God alone,’ which is a heresy of Protestantism.” (…) “Consistent with the distinction between the Body and Soul of the Church, formal heresy can remain hidden in the internal forum (the internal sin of heresy), or it can be manifested in the external forum … Formal heresy in the internal forum alone (secret or “occult” heresy), only severs a man from the Soul of the Church.  It requires formal heresy in the external forum (i.e., notorious heresy) to sever him from the Body of the Church.”

What Fr. Kramer refers to as our “heretical proposition” and claims our “entire doctrine on heresy and loss of office is based on,” is a figment of his own imagination. It is also one of the straw man arguments he has spent the last year and a half feverishly refuting, as well as the foundational error (in his own mind) that has resulted in at least two more straw man arguments, and countless falsely accusations of heresy that he has been spreading throughout the world via the internet.

 

Fr. Kramer’s False Accusation/Straw Man Argument
Concerning the Censure of Excommunication

 

Fr. Kramer: “Salza and Siscoe base their opinion on loss of office on their heretical belief that heresy by itself [i.e., “alone”] does not separate the heretic from the Church, but only by means of an ecclesiastical censure. ... John Salza and Robert Siscoe are in heresy.

Since Fr. Kramer thought the word alone meant “without a censure,” he accuses us of being heretics for supposedly maintaining that heresy, of its nature, DOES NOT sever a person from the Church, but that it only does so due to the “ecclesiastical censure” that is attached to the crime. Here are a few quotations from the book that prove we do not hold that position which, again, could have prevented Fr. Kramer from committing such grievous sins against charity, had he read it rather than relying on “excerpts” from the internet to gain his “understanding” of our position:

True or False Pope?: “the public offense (the crime) of heresy, which, of its nature, severs a person from the Body of the Church with no further censure attached to the offense. (…) Jerome is referring to the nature of the crime [of heresy], which severs one from the body of the Church with no additional censure attached to it.  In this sense, the crime of heresy differs in its nature from other crimes, such as physically striking the Pope or procuring an abortion, which are crimes that only sever a person from the Church by virtue of the additional censure attached to the act. (…) As mentioned above, the nature of these particular crimes (heresy, schism and apostasy) differs from that of other offenses which only severs one from the Church due to an additional censure attached to them .”

As you can see, we explicitly and repeatedly state that heresy, schism and apostasy separate a person from the Church due to the nature of the offense, and not due to a censure that the Church attaches to it! Yet Fr. Kramer publicly accuses us of being heretics for supposedly denying what we expressly affirm!

Now, in light of the fact that Fr. Kramer has publicly accused us of being heretics for holding a position that we explicitly reject in our book, will he have the humility to do what the divine and moral law requires and publicly recant these false accusations he’s been spreading around the world via the internet for the past year and a half? Or will he simply ignore this and persist in his slanderous campaign? We shall see. He would do well to consider the scandal he is causing to souls who are witnessing a priest acting in such an irresponsible manner, as well as the account he will have to render to God for his imprudent and reckless behavior.

And to respond to yet another of Fr. Kramer’s straw man arguments, when we use the phrase “additional censure” or “further censure,” we do not mean a second censure in addition to some prior censure. As should be obvious to anyone of sound mind, when we say heresy, OF ITS NATURE, severs a person from the Church without an additional censure, we do not mean heresy DOES NOT sever a person from the Church, of its nature, but instead does so due to a preceding censure! How Kramer could have possibly thought that is what we meant is anyone’s guess, but it is certainly not correct. Yet this absurdity is one of the straw men Fr. Kramer triumphantly refutes throughout his manuscript, and, once again, publicly declares us to be heretics for allegedly holding.  For example, he writes:

Salza & Siscoe in their reply to my irrefutable proofs, have manifested again their blind adherence to heresy -- an adherence which is impervious to all correction; by stubbornly persisting in their heretical belief, even after multiple corrections, that manifest formal heresy, which is the obstinate denial or doubt of an article of faith, of its own nature does not separate one from the body of the Church by the very act itself; but only the canonical crime of heresy, of its own nature, severs one from the body of the Church, without any additional censure, but, nevertheless, by some means of juridical censure: by the authority of the Church.

Not only does Fr. Kramer fail to prove his absurd accusations of heresy (and instead leaves it to us to disprove them, which we have), he also accuses us of “stubbornly persisting” in the heresy, even though we have repeatedly demonstrated to him that he has completely misrepresented our position. Thus, it is Fr. Kramer who has proven to be “impervious to all correction” and has “stubbornly persisted” in his false accusations of heresy, and that is because where there is no truth, there is no charity. If Fr. Kramer were wise, he would be more careful before rashly accusing people of heresy, since, as Pope Hadrian teaches, if a person makes an accusation he fails to prove (which will necessarily be the case when the accusation is false), he “must himself suffer the punishment which his accusation inferred” (S.T. II-II, q. 68, a. 4).

In our latest effort to inform Fr. Kramer that he is falsely accusing us of positions we do not hold, and advise him that we would be forced to respond for the sake of the truth, this was his reply:

Fr. Kramer: “If you really think I accuse you of professing heresies you have never professed, then you are delusional. No amount of verbal trickery or subterfuge will ever be able to conceal the fact that you do indeed profess those heresies. You have professed them explicitly. Your stated intention to publish an attempt at refuting my arguments proves only that you are incorrigible, and that you are a glutton for punishment.”

So, Fr. Kramer publicly accuses us of heresy for allegedly holding positions that anyone who has read our book would know we do not hold, and then declares us to be “delusional” for denying the false accusation, and “incorrigible” and “a glutton for punishment” for daring to issue a response to his false accusations. This shows what we have been dealing with for the past year and a half. No matter how many times we warn him that he’s accusing us of heresy for positions we do not hold, he simply ignores us and continues to spread the same false accusations. In his mind, he has read enough “excerpts” on the internet “to gain an adequate understanding of the errant Salza/Siscoe arguments,” and if Salza/Siscoe themselves disagree with his understanding of their own position, it must be because they are “delusional.”

This brings to mind an e-mail we received last year from a reader, who said “I have debated on and off with Fr. Kramer and the sedevacantists many times and have yet to find one who is prepared to entertain even the slightest possibility that he may be in error … the devil sure knows how to make use of pride to blind and embitter those who consider themselves blessed above their fellows!” Indeed he does!

Now, returning to the issue of the censure, as should be obvious to anyone of sound mind, when we use the phrase “additional censure” or “further censure,” what we mean is any censure that would be added by the Church as a punishment for the crime. And this terminology is not something that we came up with. Rather, it’s the same terminology employed by John of St. Thomas – one of “the most learned men of his time,” who “was placed successively (1630 and 1640) in charge of the two principal chairs of theology in the university.” Here is how he phrased the same teaching:

“When St. Jerome says that a heretic separates himself from the body of Christ … He refers instead to the nature of the crime, which is such per se to cut someone off from the Church, without any further censure attached to it.”

 Will Fr. Kramer accuse John of St. Thomas of meaning a second censure in addition to some prior censure? And will Fr. Kramer still accuse us of “verbal trickery” and “subterfuge” by using John of St. Thomas’ terminology, and also by quoting directly from our book to refute his false accusations? He would only further discredit himself by doing so.

We now turn to another one of Fr. Kramer’s straw man arguments, this one dealing with whether the Church must render a formal judgment before heresy severs a person from the Church. 

 

Fr. Kramer’s False Accusation/Straw Man Argument 
Concerning a “Pronounced Judgment of the Church”

      

Fr. Kramer: “Salza & Siscoe interpret this papal magisterial text [i.e., Mystici Corporis Christi] by conflating it with the private opinion of John of St. Thomas, in order to support their heretical belief that the sinful act of manifest formal heresy by itself does not suapte natura separate a man from the Church unless there is pronounced a judgment of the Church for the “crime” of heresy. (…) They both heretically profess, contrary to the doctrine of Pius XII, St. Pius X, St. Pius V, and the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, that manifest heretics [i.e., notorious heretics] do not cease to be members of the Church entirely by means of their own external act of defection from the faith, but by the authority of the Church.”

Fr. Kramer’s false accusations of heresy never end. As should be clear by now, we do not and never have denied that “manifest formal heresy” (notorious by fact) severs a person from the Church of itself, “without a pronounced judgment of the Church.” We have an entire section of this material in our book. The same holds true for notorious schism and apostasy, and we have never denied it. We readily admit, for example, that Fr. Cekada (whose Sedevacantist theology concerning the loss of office for heresy Fr. Kramer now promotes) is outside of the Church; as is the Sedevacantist layman (mentioned in the Introduction) who now posts Fr. Kramer’s writings on his website, and whose articles Fr. Kramer shares on his Facebook page. They both publicly left the Church of their own will, due to the Sedevacantist errors they embraced, and therefore no “pronounced judgment” is necessary to legally separate them from the Church.

And if anyone doubts that they left the Church, all he must do is ask them if they are members of the Church over which Francis is the head - and Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I, and Paul VI were before him - and they will be the first to say “no.” Because of the Sedevacantist errors they embraced, they were led to believe that the true Church is a false Church and, like those who were led into the same heresy by the errors of Luther, they “separate themselves from the unity of the Body,” and hence it was not necessary for them to be “excluded by legitimate authority” (Mystici Corporis Christi, No. 22).

If Fr. Kramer falls into the same error as his Sedevacantist friends (assuming he hasn’t already), and publicly declares that he is not a member of the Church headed by Pope Francis and the bishops in union with him, no “pronounced judgment of the Church” will be required in his case either. This proves that Fr. Kramer was clearly wrong to accuse us of rejecting “the doctrine of Pius XII, St. Pius X, St. Pius V, and the unanimous teaching of the Fathers.”

 

When a Judgment by the Church is Necessary

 

As we just proved, we agree that notorious heresy severs a person from the Church without a pronounced judgment, but what if the culprit’s heresy is not notorious by fact? What if he is truly guilty of the sin of heresy, but is only suspected of heresy in the external forum? In such a case, has his heresy formally severed him from the Body of the Church due to the nature of the sin, even if his external actions only rendered him suspect of heresy? Of course not, as even Fr. Kramer would be forced to admit. Catholics who lose the faith by committing the sin of heresy, yet who are only suspected of heresy in the external forum, remain legal members of the Church (as canon law confirms).

Now, in the case of a Catholic who is guilty of the sin of heresy and has even externalized his heresy, yet who is not deemed to be a notorious heretic by fact, he would still incur the censure of excommunication ipso facto (since the censure is even incurred by external occult heretics) but, in such a case, it would require a “pronounced judgment of the Church” (rendering him notorious by law), before he would be legally severed from the Body of the Church. The ipso facto excommunication he incurred (in the internal forum) would not, per se, have the juridical effect (in the external forum) of legally separating him from the visible society of the Church since, as Pope Benedict IV said, “a sentence declaratory of the offence is always necessary in the external forum, since in this tribunal no one is presumed to be excommunicated unless convicted of a crime that entails such a penalty.”[12]

Now, the fact that heresy, which is not notorious by fact, requires “a pronounced judgment by the Church,” before it has the juridical effect of legally severing a person from the Church, is something that is almost never (if ever) mentioned by Fr. Kramer and his Sedevacantist friends. Due to this omission, the impression is given that heresy never requires a declaration to sever the culprit from external union with the Church. Worse still, when Fr. Kramer makes imprecise and misleading statements, such as “Heresy suapte natura (of its nature) severs one from the Church when the sin is committed, not when it is judged post factum by the Church,” his sloppy and misleading terminology adds to the confusion by implying that “the sin” of heresy, per se, automatically severs a person from the visible Church, and hence that a judgment and declaration is never required before the legal separation occurs. This is the same misleading terminology that Fr. Kramer’s Sedevacantist friends have been using for years to lead Catholics out of the Church. Perhaps that explains why they now post Fr. Kramer’s writings on their websites.

And it appears that Fr. Kramer’s misleading terminology may have resulted in the confusion of one Peter Chojnowski. When Mr. Chojnowski posted a portion of Fr. Kramer’s disastrous “refutation” of our supposed heresies on his own website, this is what he titled it: “John Salza, Call Your Office: Fr. Kramer Releases His Text Showing that Heresy Automatically Separates one from the Catholic Church WITHOUT declaration.” Unfortunately, someone needs to call Peter Chojnowski’s office and inform him that his cute title is entirely misleading, at best, since heresy includes everything from the internal sin alone, to the public crime of notorious heresy - and only the latter automatically severs a person from external union with the Church “without a declaration.” And unless the culprit openly leaves the Church, it requires much more than what the Kramerians and their like-minded sectarians realize, in order for a person to be deemed a notorious heretic by fact.

We will demonstrate this with an historical case that shows just how much a Catholic can “get away with” while remaining a legal member of the Church. The facts of this case are taken from an article written by the Sedevacantist apologist, John Daly.

 

Notorious by Fact? Not So Fast!
An Historical Example

 

During the glorious pontificate of Pope St. Pius X (whom, believe it or not, some Sedevacantists now declare to be a heretical antipope!), a parish priest was faced with a difficult case concerning a family who desired to have their children baptized in the Church. The family had stopped attending Mass, had their children enrolled in a Protestant school, and even attended the Protestant church that the school was associated with from time to time. Worse still, as Mr. Daly recounts, the parents “blasphemed the Blessed Eucharist to the parish priest, relying on typically Protestant arguments,” which they no doubt learned from those at the Protestant church they attended. In spite of this, however, the family professed that they were Catholics, not Protestants, and wanted to have their newborn children baptized by the parish priest.

The priest reached out to a moral theologian on the staff at L'Ami Du Clergé (The Friend of the Clergy) for expert guidance. He wanted to know “whether the parents had incurred [public] excommunication, whether they could be buried as Catholics, and whether, if he should manage to convert any of them, they would have to make a formal abjuration.” The staff of the highly respected publication, which was approved and even encouraged by Pope St. Pius X at the time, considered the facts of the case and concluded that the family’s attendance at Protestant services was not sufficient proof that they intended to leave the Church, which was further confirmed by the fact that they publicly declared themselves to be Catholics, and not Protestants. And even though they had blasphemed the Eucharist in the presence of the priest, the judgment of the competent authorities on the staff was that “their stated wish to be Catholics gave to understand that these poor misguided souls had no wish to knowingly and willingly reject the dogma of the Church concerning the Holy Eucharist.” Mr. Daly then gives the staff’s expert reply to the specific questions that had been posed by the priest:

“The Ami du Clergé replied that the culprits were still members of the Catholic Church, were not excommunicated, had no need to make formal abjuration of their errors, but only to repair the scandal given, and that if, dying with no sign of repentance, they were ineligible for Catholic burial.”

So even though this family had stopped attending Mass, had become loosely affiliated with a heretical sect, and blasphemed the Blessed Eucharist to the parish priest, they were nevertheless judged to be members of the Church, due to “their stated wish to be Catholics.” This historical case is one of many we could cite that illustrates how heretical a Catholic (who does not leave the Church of his own will) can appear to be without him being deemed a notorious heretic by fact.

As we saw earlier, for heresy to be deemed notorious by fact, it must be so “certain” that it “may no longer be called in question” (Catholic Encyclopedia). And if the culprit’s heresy it does not possess the degree of certitude necessary for it to be deemed notorious by fact, it does require a “pronounced a judgment of the Church” before the heretic is legally severed from the Church. 

In light of this, we can understand why implying that heresy never requires a judgment to sever a person from external membership in the Church is quite misleading. For this reason, we would suggest that Mr. Chojnowski change the title of his post. On second thought, it would be better for him to remove Fr. Kramer’s disastrous article from his website entirely, since it includes multiple false accusations of heresy (an objective mortal sin of calumny), which Mr. Chojnowski himself is now responsible for spreading.

In Part II, we will comment a quotation from the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (a favorite proof-text of Fr. Kramer and his Sedevacantist friends), that our critic mistakenly believes contradicts our position, and as well as a quotation from Msgr. Van Noort that he cited in an attempt to prove his rash assertion that “the Salza/Siscoe interpretation of Mystici Corporis is not shared by any academically qualified theologian in the world.” The truth, as we will see, is that the quotation from Van Noort reflects our position perfectly!

In Part III, we will begin our discussion on the loss of jurisdiction for a heretical Pope, which will include recently translated material from St. Bellarmine that most people have never seen. We will also point out an important distinction of “the jurists,” explained by a very prominent Cardinal, which will no doubt be a real shocker to Fr. Kramer. Stay tuned! We’re just getting started…

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[1] We examined this theory ourselves. After studying the subject in depth, along with the related doctrinal teachings of the Church, we concluded, along with Benedict himself, that “there isn’t the slightest doubt about the validity” of his resignation, and “speculation about its invalidity is simply absurd.”

[2] Catholic Encyclopedia.

[3] The only distinction that can be made when considering the nature of heresy is between: (1) the sin of heresy that is completely concealed in the heart and has never been externalized at all, and (2) the crime of heresy that has been externalized, even if no one was around to hear it (i.e., external, occult heresy). Cajetan explains that the reason the two are distinct, according to their nature, is because the sin of heresy that remains entirely hidden in the heart can only be judged by God, according to 1 Kings 16:7 - “man seeth the things that appear, but God beholdeth the heart,” whereas the crime of heresy that has been externalized (the external act renders it a crime by its nature) is subject to the judgment of men - even if, due to the circumstances (e.g., no one around to hear it) it cannot be judged. In other words, the former is not divulged at all (hidden by its nature); the latter is divulged (external by its nature), even if no one heard it. The former is judgeable only by God; the latter can be judged by men. Heresy that has not been externalized at all is a sin, but not a crime; heresy that has been externalized (even if no one was around to hear it), is both a sin and a crime. Hence, the crime of heresy is more restrictive in its meaning than is the sin of heresy; and the external act is what makes it a crime, by its nature.

[4] The external act of heresy is, by its nature, a crime.

[5] See Mystici Corporis Christi, No. 70.

[6] We should again clarify that the statement is false if, by “body of the Church,” one means external union with the Church, which is what Fr. Kramer means.  There is another way to interpret the statement that is theologically correct. This point will be addressed in more detail in Part II, during our commentary on a quotation from Mystici Corporis Christi.

[7] Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article on Notoriety.

[8] Ibid.

[9] 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 2197, º2.

[10] 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 2197, º3 (emphasis added).

[11] Woywod, Stanislaus, A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1943), emphasis added.

[12] Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. V, p. 680  

 

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