Posted by: frroberts | August 20, 2017

Seminary professor responds to Fr. Nichols– the plot thickens

Dr. Ed Peters of Sacred Heart Seminary has responded to Fr. Aidan Nichols’ proposal that canon law be amended to provide for correcting an errant pope.  Dr. Peters suggests that Sacred Tradition has already provided a means to correct a pope who falls into heresy.  These are confusing times.  Pray for Pope Francis.  Do Penance.  Go to confession.

[A]nother check against this papal freedom turning into license, albeit a check harder to pin down than are neatly drafted canons, is “Tradition”.

Tradition, not canon law, holds the Church to accept a host of truths, for example, that Jesus rose from the dead, that canonized saints are in heaven, and that contraception between married couples is objectively gravely wrong, such that a pope who suddenly challenged the reality of the Resurrection, the status of one duly canonized, or the gravity of conjugal contraception—or who winked at others doing such things—would stand in urgent need of prayers and would be a proper object for some kind of correction, perhaps such correction as is apparently envisioned by Cdl. Burke and others.

But beyond even this—and moving back to what Nichols’ point seemed to be—Tradition has some even more startling things to say about popes who might fall into heresy. To summarize a long story already shortened here, the Church is not defenseless against heresy from popes. Under certain rare circumstances, one is talking, according to several weighty authors, about the loss of pontifical office itself.

There are, of course, several practical problems with Nichols’ proposal for changes to canon law (some of which problems he noted in the reported version of his remarks) and to which I would add a simple one: popes are the Legislator of canon law, and the chances of any legislator writing a law that could be used against him are slim. But, if the commentators cited in my earlier blog are really saying what they seem to be saying, we might not need new canon laws to deal with the problem.

Tradition might already have a solution.


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