Author Topic: Material/Formal Distinction i.e The Cassiciacum Thesis or Sedeprivationism  (Read 237 times)

Offline Sin of Adam

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 1.  The Cassiciacum thesis holds that a person elected pope (and apparently accepting election) but who lacks the habitual will to realise the good of the Church does not have the authority and powers (infallibility, jurisdiction, etc) of a pope and in fact is not pope, but nonetheless has a special “hold” on the Holy See whereby he could become its legitimate occupant by manifesting suitably changed dispositions, and whereby no one else could be elected to it meanwhile unless the appointed electors should summon him to change his dispositions and he should fail to do so within an allotted span.  This is the essence of the Cassiciacum thesis.

2.  Although such an individual is not pope, and therefore unable to posit any papal act, there is one exception — he can, they claim, validly name cardinals.  This is an accidental adjunct to the Cassiciacum thesis.

3.  This, they say, has in fact been the case of the purported popes since (at least) the promulgation of the erroneous Vatican II declaration Dignitatis Humanae on Religious Liberty in 1965.  This is the concrete, contemporary application of the Cassiciacum thesis.

4.  The individual elected but indisposed for valid acceptance of the papacy (e.g. Montini, Wojtyła) is described as being materially (“materialiter”) pope, but not formally (“formaliter”) pope.  This is the technical vocabulary of the Cassiciacum thesis, an analogical use, borrowed from scholastic philosophy.  Among those who have not made a serious study of scholastic philosophy, it generally leads to confusion because they infer from the misunderstood adverb that Cassiciacum adherents think that Wojtyla is partly pope.  It is therefore imperative to stress that the word “materially” approximates rather to the familiar word “potentially” and implies that Wojtyla is in a special state of ability to become pope, not that he is a half-pope.  It must also be stressed, in this connection, that: (a) the thesis does not (as has been rashly claimed by some of its gainsayers) teach or imply the heresy that someone can be pope without having all the papal powers and authority — on the contrary it holds that Wojtyła lacks these powers and authority because he is not pope, unless we are to confuse potentiality with actuality — or in plain English confuse “could-become” with “is”; and  (b) the thesis is thus not a half-way house between sedevacantism and the SSPX position — it is a  variant of sedevacantism, and indeed the word “sedevacantism” was invented with reference to the Cassiciacum thesis. (c) There is in any event no need to recur to the materialiter-formaliter vocabulary to enunciate what the thesis holds, as can be seen from the clear statement of it above in Nos. 1 and 2.  It is more important to seize what a man believes and wants to communicate than to get bogged down in questions of semantics — hence, though I think it regrettable, I have nothing more to say here about the technical Guerardian vocabulary and I shall not be using it again in these notes.  I add however that the Cassiciacum thesis is also innocent of the charge of claiming that matter can exist without form.  Matter cannot exist without form, but the matter of a particular entity can certainly exist without the due form of that entity, in which case the entity itself is not present.  That is sound philosophy and is exactly what the Cassiciacum thesis affirms — that in John-Paul II there is the material element of a pope, but not the formal element, and thus that he is not in fact pope.  Those who have made this unfounded objection seem to have confused the claim that “the matter of X exists without the form of X” with the absurd claim that “the matter of X exists without any form at all”.

5.  The Cassiciacum thesis rejects classic “Bellarmine” sedevacantism on two grounds:  (a) it does not consider that the delict of (pertinacious) heresy, sufficient to cause ipso facto loss of (or ineligibility to) the papal office, can be sufficiently made known to the Church without some intervention of authority; (b) it considers that the dogma of apostolicity requires that the jurisdiction necessary to elect a pope be maintained in the Church, for a pope elected by electors having no jurisdiction for this purpose received from a prior pope would not be one of the “perpetuos successores” of St Peter, but the first of a new line ... which is impossible.


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