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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Novus Ordo Watch Excommunicates Archbishop for Resisting Pope in 1700's Featured

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On January 12th I authored a short blog post entitled, “Resisting Papal Errors: Another Historical Precedent for Cardinal Burke.”  In it I recounted a little known tale of the Archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, resisting the tragic 1773 brief of Pope Clement XIV suppressing the Jesuits. The post apparently hit a nerve, stoking the ire of the sedevacantist website Novus Ordo Watch.  So much so that the site published an almost 5,600 word tome condemning my piece entitled, “Resisting the Pope? “The Remnant” and the Suppression of the Jesuits.

The author, presumably Mario Derksen, attempts to point out various supposed flaws in my Remnant blog post; a post consisting primarily of quotations from two Catholic historians. The blog post was written not as an exhaustive research paper, but in order to make the historical letter of resistance from Archbishop Beaumont to Pope Clement XIV, which even Mr. Derksen admits is authentic, more widely known to Catholics.  

As it turns out, Abp. Beaumont’s letter of resistance was far more objectionable to Mr. Derksen than it was to Pope Clement XIV. This is evident as Mr. Derksen used 5,600 more words than the late pope to respond to it. Although I don’t normally make a habit of acknowledging such erroneous rebuttals, I believe in this case responding to some of the more outlandish claims in his piece might be beneficial to any confused readers.


Dr. Warren Carroll

First, Mr. Derksen spends five paragraphs explaining that famed Catholic historian Dr. Warren Carroll, who I cite in my post, was a Novus Ordo conservative or Neo-Catholic.  This is correct.  However, Mr. Derksen misses the significance of this point entirely. Novus Ordo conservatives, just like Mr. Derksen and other sedevacantists, hold the position that the pope’s official legislation, and in most cases whatever he says, is never to be contradicted or resisted in any manner whatsoever by the faithful.

This is precisely why Dr. Carroll, who even condemned Archbishop Lefebvre’s own resistance to Paul VI and John Paul II, coming out in favor of Abp. Beaumont’s resistance to Clement XIV was so striking and persuasive. For in the case of the Jesuit Suppression even a Novus Ordo conservative like Dr. Carroll could see and admit that resistance was called for and morally justified. Thus, far from lessening the credibility of the argument, Dr. Carroll admitting Archbishop Beaumont acted rightly only strengthens the resistance argument.

Pre-VCII Sources

Mr. Dersken then took major issue with my stating that, “Pope Clement XIV cravenly caved in to pressures from the Church’s enemies and secular kings and ended up doing their bidding by eliminating their greatest foe and the Church’s greatest ally.” 

Unsatisfied with this fact of history confirmed by Dr. Carroll and various others, Mr. Derksen presents carefully selected quotations from pre-Vatican II authors to present what he claims is the “more complex and difficult” story behind Clement XIV’s decision to suppress the Jesuits. 

Mr. Derksen’s sources speculate that Pope Clement may have been trying to avoid perceived “greater evils” like potential schisms. First, schisms over the Jesuits were unlikely as the Jesuits had already been civilly suppressed by the secular authority in these countries. Regardless, if Clement XIV had done his moral duty and refused to unjustly suppress the Jesuits neither he nor the Church would have borne the blame for any such schisms. Instead, the Catholic kings would have been to blame. Clement XIV failed to stand up to the Catholic kings as his namesake Clement VII stood up to King Henry VIII. Thus, Clement XIV, unlike Clement VII, was entirely blameworthy for the disaster that resulted. As the Jesuit author Cahour, quoted by Mr. Dersksen, says regarding Clement XIV’s decision, “I regret that on this occasion the sacrifice of Jonah, made to the fury of the waves, served only to augment the tempest.” 

Regardless, Mr. Derksen’s speculation as to why Clement XIV made one of the worst prudential decisions in papal history doesn’t negate the fact that Clement XIV made one of the worst prudential decisions in papal history. Mr. Derksen then spends over 1800 words quoting pre-Vatican II sources to make the point that Clement XIV’s tragic decision to suppress the Jesuits “was in reality a most difficult papal decision made in the greatest anguish.”  Yes, it was. In fact, I quote Dr. Carroll to show that Pope Clement XIV regretted his decision, especially in his final hours. Other Catholic sources say that Pope Clement XIV cast off his pen and even went mad after signing the brief. However, this does nothing to negate the fact that the decision itself was an unjust and wholesale tragedy for the Catholic Church. 

Mr. Derksen tries to dispute and minimize the tragedy and disaster of the Jesuit suppression throughout his piece in order to exonerate Clement XIV. He even calls the devastating and unprecedented suppression a mere “hapless disciplinary decision.” Later, in the comments section of his article, he states, “Pope Clement XIV did not suppress the Jesuits unjustly.”  A shocking opinion, and one he would be hard pressed to find support for among Catholic historians, or for that matter, his own fellow sedevacantists. 

For example, Stephen Heiner, founder of the sedevacantist website True Restoration, notes the tragedy of the suppression and says that the responsibility for it falls on Clement XIV, even if mitigated by circumstance:

Further events occurred [after the suppression] that further humiliated Pope and Church. Voltaire offered Father Adam (a Jesuit superior) a home in his own house, at least implying that he did not agree with the justice of the action. Further, Dutch Calvinists and Jansenists had a medal struck in honor of the “great Pope Ganganelli” with their approbation (“opprobrium” to all Catholics).

Through all this it must be maintained that no one should attempt to relieve the Holy Father of the burden of responsibility. He did indeed sign the Brief. However it can, and must be observed, that his judgement must be mitigated in the light of such terrible pressure and circumstances. The enemies of the Church did have their triumph, at least for a little over 30 years until the glorious Restoration of the Order…

This glorious restoration came too late, though. The damage had been done. The French Revolution had occurred. Webster argues that in suppressing the Jesuits the Old Regime removed the only barrier capable of resisting the tide of revolution. “The spread of the anti-Christian movement in France,” as Fr. Kelly calls it, was deeply rooted by the time of the Restoration. The absence of the Jesuits had provided the Freemasons ability to meet without impediment, in the lodges which provided “the meeting-places for which every type of impiety, immorality, and revolt found a safe refuge, and where all the anti-religious and anti-social elements of French society met on common ground.”

In addition, sedevacantist John Daly establishes that Clement XIV’s suppression of the Jesuits was “extremely unjust and damaging to the Church.”  Daly’s book that the following quote is taken from is, ironically, featured on Mr. Derksen’s own website:

To make the parallel complete, it remains for me to establish that the suppression of the Jesuits was indeed an unjust act and one causing great harm to the Church…

For this purpose it is sufficient to quote the words of Pope Pius VII, the pope who was to restore the Jesuits in 1814. The following is a reproduction, taken from the source mentioned, of a conversation between Pope Pius VII and a French priest, the abbé Proyart, who, in a biography of the French king, Louis XVI, had sharply criticised the action of Clement XIV in suppressing the Jesuits.

Proyart: “People have given me a scruple for speaking as I have one of Clement XIV, most Holy Father, yet God knows that it was not in the bad sense of philosophers who have calumniated every pope except the destroyer of the Jesuits.”

Pius: “What you say of him is unfortunately only too true. I heard the minutest details of the business from a prelate who was in Clement XIV’s service, and then entered mine. He was the very prelate who offered Pope Clement the bull of suppression to sign. As soon as he had signed it, he threw his pen on one side, the paper on the other, and seemed beside himself.”

Proyart: “It seems to me, most Holy Father, that if the Powers [i.e. the kings and other national rulers] forced him to suppress their own staunchest ally [i.e. the Society of Jesus], the pope should at least have avoided blaming those whom he was compelled to use unjustly [in the bull of suppression, Clement had listed a string of charges against the Jesuits, most of them calumniatory and unsubstantiated]. Still less should he have treated them as if they were criminals.”

Pius: “Most certainly. Even supposing that the Church had been threatened by far greater evils than the suppression of this important Order, at the dictates of kings misled by their advisers, a bull of three lines should have given this unhappy sentence: ‘yielding regretfully to the force of things, etc., etc.’”

Thus there is no escape from the conclusion that the suppression of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV was, and was accepted by at least one later pope to have been, extremely unjust and damaging to the Church.

Case closed.

Archbishop Beaumont’s Resistance

Mr. Derksen then (finally) presents the primary issue as he sees it: “was it morally permissible to disobey the suppression of the Jesuits?”  In other words, was it morally permissible for a Catholic archbishop to resist a pope’s unjust suppression made “in the greatest anguish” under duress from his enemies, of an innocent religious order that served as the last line of defense of Christendom? Yes.

Mr. Derksen knows why, but I will play along for the sake of any readers new to the arguments. When dealing with a pope whose orders would have the effect of damaging or tearing down the Church, which is precisely what the Jesuit suppression did, there is a Catholic duty to resist such orders. This duty is well known and taught by theologians such as Cajetan, Dominican theologian Sylvester Prieras, O.P., Msgr. Gerard Van Noort, Abp. Francis Kenrick, and St. Bellarmine. (See Chapters 13 and 20 of True or False Pope.)

In addition, Archbishop Beaumont’s duty of obedience owed to non-infallible teachings, much less non-infallible disciplinary decisions, was of a lesser nature entirely than his duty of obedience infallible declarations of the pope (assent of faith).  The obedience normally required to non-infallible papal directives is one of religious assent. Religious assent is founded on the virtue of obedience, which is a lesser virtue than faith. Thus various theologians point out that in situations where non-infallible teachings or directives are found to be in error, we are allowed to refuse our assent.

For example, the German Jesuit Christian Pesch (d. 1925) writes:

(…) one must assent to the decrees of the Roman congregations, as long as it does not become positively sure that they have erred. Since the Congregations, per se, do not furnish an absolutely certain argument in favor of a given doctrine, one may or even must investigate the reasons for that doctrine. And thus, either it will come to pass that such a doctrine will be gradually accepted in the whole Church, attaining in this way the condition of infallibility, or it will happen that the error is little by little detected. For, since the religious assent referred to is not based on a metaphysical certainty, but only a moral and general one, it does not exclude all suspicion of error. For this reason, as soon as there arises sufficient motives for doubt, the assent will be prudently suspended: nevertheless, as long as such motives for doubt do not arise, the authority of the Congregations is sufficient to oblige one to assent. The same principles apply without difficulty to the declarations which the Supreme Pontiff emits without involving his supreme authority, as well as the decisions of the other ecclesiastical superiors who are not infallible.[i]

Franciscus Diekamp similarly states:

These non infallible acts of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff do not oblige one to believe, and do not postulate an absolute and definitive subjection. But it behooves one to adhere with a religious and internal assent to such decisions, since they constitute acts of the supreme Magisterium of the Church, and are founded upon solid natural and supernatural reasons. The obligation to adhere to them can only begin to terminate in case, and this only occurs very rarely, [when] a man [who is] fit to judge such a question, after a repeated and very diligent analysis of all the arguments, arrives at the conviction that an error has been introduced into the decision.[ii]

Finally Merkelbach, a renowned Dominican moralist, agrees. In his Summa Theologiae Moralis, he wrote:

When the Church does not teach with her infallible authority, the doctrine proposed is not, as such, unreformable; for this reason, if per accidens, in a hypothesis which is however very rare, after a very careful examination of the matter, it appears to someone that there exist very grave reasons contrary to the doctrine thus proposed, it will be licit, without falling into temerity, to suspend internal assent (…)[iii]

Thus, if Archbishop Beaumont was justified in resisting non-infallible erroneous papal teachings on doctrine, how much more was he justified in resisting a mere non-infallible and unjust disciplinary decision of a pope in “anguish” and under duress?

But far from having to cite all of these renowned theologians, all I have to do is to cite testimony from Clement XIV himself to prove that he had no moral right to suppress the Jesuits. Clement XIV admitted the following in a letter to the French representative, Choiseul:

As for the Jesuits, I can neither blame nor destroy an Institute which nineteen of my predecessors have praised, especially as the Institute has been confirmed by the holy Council of Trent… if it be desired, I will assemble a General Council, where all things for and against the Jesuits may be fairly discussed, and where they themselves shall be heard in their own defence; for I owe to them, as to every religious order, justice and protection. Moreover, the Polish nation, the kings of Sardmia and Prussia have written to me in their favour. I should, therefore, by destroying them only content some princes by displeasing others."

The Jesuits: their apologists and their enemies: a lecture delivered in St. Patrick's Church, Ottawa, Sunday evening, February 24th, 1889, p. 28

As we can see, Clement XIV not only admits he had no moral right to suppress the Jesuits by his own whim, he also predicts that even if he did suppress them it would not bring about the supposed peace he would later cite as his justification.

Mr. Derksen Excommunicates Archbishop Beaumont!


Not satisfied with claiming Archbishop Beaumont had no moral right to resist an unjust suppression which ended in the French Revolution and decline of Christendom, Mr. Derksen then decides to impugn the great Archbishop Beaumont one final time by excommunicating him.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Mr. Derksen, with all of the authority of a layman who runs a website in 2017, declared to his readers that the great Archbishop Christophe de Beaumont of Paris, “a prelate respected universally for his zeal” and referred to by his contemporaries as “the modern Athanasius,”[iv] a man who wrote tirelessly against the Jansenist heresy and against the philosophical errors of Voltaire, a man who was the most avid defender of the pope and papacy, and a man of whom the Catholic Encyclopedia said, “In the eighteenth century the See of Paris was made illustrious by Christophe de Beaumont”  was excommunicated.

What is Mr. Derksen’s proof, you ask? You guessed it. His own private judgment. Yes, Mr. Derksen simply read Clement XIV’s brief, Dominus ac Redemptor Noster, to himself, decided Abp. Beaumont was covered by the excommunication therein, and then proceeded to announce to the world that the illustrious Archbishop had been excommunicated. As Mr. Derksen triumphantly declares:

So, there we have it: If words have any meaning, then the Archbishop of Paris incurred automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) reserved to the Holy See by refusing to suppress the Jesuits in his diocese and audaciously resisting the Pope. That a blogger at The Remnant can so nonchalantly side with an excommunicated archbishop and single-handedly presume to exonerate him based on his reading of a Novus Ordo historian, is a frightening thought. This is serious business.

Serious business indeed!  Presuming to publicly excommunicate a heralded Catholic Archbishop of Paris that is. As for my “exonerating” Archbishop Beaumont, this is hardly necessary since the only accusation of excommunication leveled against him in Catholic history is from a Novus Ordo Watch blogger in 2017.

But to be fair, since Mr. Derksen is such a big promoter of pre-Vatican II sources, he must have dozens of such reliable source to verify this shocking claim, never before heard of until now. Maybe he simply forgot to list them in his piece. Therefore, since I am a reasonable man, I’d like to publicly give Mr. Derksen the opportunity to produce a single credible Catholic historian who agrees with his claim that Archbishop Beaumont was excommunicated for refusing to suppress the Jesuits in his archdiocese of Paris.

As we wait for Mr. Derksen’s Catholic sources to come pouring in, note that for all of his lectures about proper research and historical analysis, Mr. Derksen himself failed to realize that Clement XIV’s brief was not promulgated urbi et orbi, that is to say, publicly. Therefore it did not immediately go into effect upon its being written.  As the Catholic periodical, The Month recalls:

As there was to be no public promulgation what was done was to create a Special Congregation pro rebus extinctce Societatis. It consisted of five Cardinals -Corsini (the President), Marefoschi,Zelada, Casali, and Carafa. These were assembled and instructed by Clement on August 6th but the Brief Gravissimis ex causis, by which they were formerly constituted did not issue till August 13th. To this Congregation was entrusted the duty both of intimating the Brief to the Jesuits and of taking all such subsequent measures as might be found necessary for its full execution… (503)

…Cardinal Corsini in the name of the Special Commission dispatched on August 18th an Encyclical Letter ad omnes Episcopos [To All Bishops]… authorizing and enjoining them to proclaim publish and intimate the Briefs Dominus et Redemptor and Gravissimis ex causis (copies of which were enclosed) to the Jesuits assembled in every one of their houses colleges or residences or wheresoever any of the individual members were to be found within the jurisdiction of the respective Bishops. They were then to expel the ex Jesuits from the said houses and take possession of them and of the letters and all the property in them or belonging to them holding these till they should receive orders from his Holiness assigning the purposes to which they were to be applied. (505 – 506)

(S.F.S, “The Suppression of the Society of Jesus, The Month, Volume 101, 1903)

Mr. Derksen triumphantly states at the end of his piece, “if the Pope one day decrees that they [the Jesuits] are suppressed, then they are suppressed.” Not so fast, Mr. Derksen. In order for Clement XIV’s brief to have had legal effect upon the Jesuits in a particular diocese, the diocesan bishop had to first publish the documents to said Jesuits. If the bishop did not do this, those Jesuits were not legally suppressed.  Hence, you had Jesuits in Protestant states who were not suppressed by the brief in Russia and Prussia because their leaders forbade the bishops to publish it. As S.F.S. continues for The Month:

Accordingly both Frederick the Great Prussia and Catharine II of Russia forbade their Bishops intimate the Brief to the Jesuits in their dominions. This led to an anomalous state of things to which we can only refer briefly. The Jesuits remained in their houses justifying their action on the ground that until the Brief had been intimated to them, they were not called upon to obey it. A ground which appears defensible in view of the defect of any promulgation urbi et orbi at Rome. (508) 

Thus, the Jesuits in Archbishop Beaumont’s archdiocese of Paris were not suppressed and we have the good Archbishop to thank.

As for Mr. Derksen’s absurd claim Archbishop Beaumont was excommunicated, it predictably falls apart. Notice the language Mr. Derksen cites from Clement XIV’s brief as undeniable proof of the Archbishop’s excommunication:

Further, we do ordain, that after the publication of this our letter, no person do presume to suspend the execution thereof, under colour, title, or pretence of any action, appeal, relief, explanation of doubts which may arise, or any other pretext whatever, foreseen or not foreseen. Our will and meaning is, that the suppression and destruction of the said Society, and of all its parts, shall have an immediate and instantaneous effect in the manner here above set forth; and that under pain of the greater excommunication, to be immediately incurred by whosoever shall presume to create the least impediment or obstacle, or delay in the execution of this our will: the said excommunication not to be taken off but by ourselves, or our successors, the Roman Pontiffs.

(Pope Clement XIV, Decree Dominus ac Redemptor Noster, July 21, 1773)

Notice particularly the words “after the publication of this our letter.” The “execution” of the pope’s will in the brief could only legally begin after the brief was published to the Jesuits in the diocese. Remember that the instructions regarding the publication of the brief were handled by the accompanying encyclical letter ad omnes Episcopos. As we learned earlier, this encyclical letter only authorized and enjoined the bishops to proclaim publish and intimate the Briefs Dominus et Redemptor and Gravissimis ex causis to the Jesuits in their diocese. It did not command them to. 

Let’s prove this by following Mr. Derksen’s own advice. Remember what he admonished us to do:

Instead of relying on a single Novus Ordo author other writers at The Remnant decry as a “neo-Catholic”, we suggest that genuine traditional Catholics instead to turn to — drumroll, please! — traditional Catholic sources on Church history.

Yes, Mr. Derksen, let’s do that.  In fact, let’s use one of your own sources, to make sure it is credible. Let’s use the article from the American Catholic Quarterly Review you quote from at length as a reliable “traditional Catholic source” on Church history. Mr. Derksen cited pages 696-706 of this article. If Mr. Derksen had read his own source carefully, including page 703, he would have noticed the following paragraph:

And here it is worthy of remark that no Bull of Suppression was issued, but merely the brief, “Dominus ac Redemptor Noster,” which could be revoked at any time without difficulty, and was not binding on the Pope’s successors. The usual formalities for its publication and execution were not observed, and the bishops were not commanded, but merely recommended, to notify the contents of the brief to those concerned. (703)

(H. L. R., “The Suppression of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV”, American Catholic Quarterly Review XIII, no. 52 [October, 1888])

Checkmate. No need to apologize to me, Mr. Derksen, but if you would please publicly apologize to the late great Archbishop de Beaumont for declaring him excommunicated, I’m sure he would appreciate it.
 200px Christophe de Beaumont Colour


[i] [1] Pesch, Praelectiones Dogmaticae., vol. I, (Freiburg: Herder & Herder, 1898), pp. 314-315 (emphasis added).

[ii] [2] Diekamp, Theologiae Dogmaticae Manual, vol. I (Desclee, Parisiis – Tornaci-Romae, 1933), p. 72 (emphasis added).

[iii] [3] Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, vol. I (Desclee, Parisiis, 1931), p. 601 (emphasis added).

[iv] [4] The Suppression of the Society of Jesus, 2004 by Sydney Fenn Smith, p. 22 & 59.

 

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