“Non Una Cum” and the Resistance
By Sean Johnson, 20 January 2017
As the deterioration of the papacy accelerates under Pope Francis, with revealed doctrine consistently being openly flouted and contradicted, some priests in the Resistance have embarked upon a campaign to make the prayer for the Pope in the canon of the Mass (ie., “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro Francisco”) optional. These usually deny being sedevacantists, instead preferring to argue that, “as the status of the Vatican II and post-Vatican II Popes is uncertain (so they say), likewise, so too ought the rendition of the prayer “una cum” (which means “One with thy servant, Pope Francis”) be optional, since we cannot be sure he really is a Pope.”
These same priests will often be found wielding a newly created term: “Dogmatic sedeplenists,” by which they mean to adversely describe those Catholics who are rightly intolerant of the suggestion that the recognition of Francis as Pope is optional. Just as the homosexuals created the term “homophobia” (with its connotations of irrational opposition) to make their opponents seem the “bad guys,” create a perception of being unjustly persecuted, and spread the idea that sexual orientation was merely a choice or personal preference, a similar tactic is used by the “non una cum” priests:
“Who can say whether Francis is Pope? As the matter is doubtful, we ought not persecute -or be dogmatic- in the defense or assertion of his Papacy. We ought to tolerate those with opposing views until the Church settles the matter, etc. And after all, since we cannot pray for heretics in the Canon of the Mass, it is better to leave Francis’ name out.”
By this artifice, they hope to create sympathy and openness among Resistance Catholics to the idea that one may decide on his own accord whether or not the “una cum” prayer should be prayed for Francis, or as they now prefer “una cum Petro.”
Let us review Church teaching to discover whether this is justified and permitted.
What Does the Church Teach About Praying for the Pope in the Canon of the Mass?
In 1756, Pope Benedict XIV promulgated the encyclical Ex Quo,1 which announced to the Church that the “Euchologion”2 of the Eastern uniates had been corrected in conformity with Catholic doctrine. One of the corrections which had taken place was the insertion of the prayer for the Pope (which quite logically was absent in the schismatic Euchologion).
The Holy Father explained:
“But however it may be with this disputed point of ecclesiastical learning, it suffices Us to be able to state that a commemoration of the supreme pontiff and prayers offered for him during the sacrifice of the Mass is considered, and really is, an affirmative indication which recognizes him as the head of the Church, the vicar of Christ, and the successor of blessed Peter, and is the profession of a mind and will which firmly espouses Catholic unity. This was rightly noticed by Christianus Lupus in his work on the Councils: “This commemoration is the chief and most glorious form of communion” (tome 4, p. 422, Brussels edition). This view is not merely approved by the authority of Ivo of Flaviniaca who writes: “Whosoever does not pronounce the name of the Apostolic one in the canon for whatever reason should realize that he is separated from the communion of the whole world” (Chronicle, p. 228); or by the authority of the famous Alcuin: “It is generally agreed that those who do not for any reason recall the memory of the Apostolic pontiff in the course of the sacred mysteries according to custom are, as the blessed Pelagius teaches, separated from the communion of the entire world” (de Divinis Officiis, bk. 1, chap. 12).3
It is evident, therefore, that the omission of the prayer for the Pope in the Canon of the Mass is considered by the Church to be a schismatic act, which deprives the violator of communion with the Catholic Church.
But Who is to Say Francis is a Pope?
The “non una cum” priests attempt to skirt this trap by questioning the legitimacy of Francis’ pontificate: “Sure, this applies to validly reigning Popes, but since it is not certain Francis is a legitimate Pope, it is not clear this passage from Benedict XIV’s encyclical applies to him.”
But is it really true that the legitimacy of Francis’ pontificate is, for a Catholic, a matter open to question?
Siscoe/Salza cite several weighty authorities asserting the contrary: 4
1) Cardinal Billot, S.J. expressly denies that God could allow a false Pope to be recognized as a true Pope:
“Finally, whatever you still think about the possibility or impossibility of the aforementioned hypothesis [a Pope becoming a heretic], at least one point should be considered absolutely incontrovertible, and placed firmly above any doubt whatever: The adhesion of the universal Church will be always, in itself, an infallible sign of the legitimacy of a determined Pontiff, and therefore also of the existence of all the conditions required for legitimacy itself…As will become even more clear by what we shall say later, God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit the whole Church to accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.
Therefore, from the moment in which the Pope is accepted by the Church and united to her as the head to the body, it is no longer permitted to raise doubts about a possible vice of election or a possible lack of any condition whatsoever necessary for legitimacy. For the aforementioned adhesion of the Church heals in the root all fault in the election and proves infallibly the existence of all the required conditions.”5
2) Msgr. Van Noort asserts the legitimacy of a reigning Pope to be a dogmatic fact (and therefore unquestionable6):
“The Church’s infallibility extends to dogmatic facts. This proposition is theologically certain. A dogmatic fact is a fact not contained in the sources of revelation, but on the admission of which depends the knowledge or certainty of a dogma or of a revealed truth. The following questions are concerned with dogmatic facts: Was the First Vatican Council a legitimate ecumenical council? Is the Latin Vulgate a substantially faithful translation of the original books of the Bible? Was Pius XII legitimately elected Bishop of Rome? One can readily see that on these facts hang the questions of whether the decrees of the First Vatican Council are infallible; whether the Vulgate is truly sacred Scripture; whether Pius XII is to be recognized as supreme ruler of the universal Church.”7
3) Fr. Berry’s manual (lauded by both sedevacantists and Catholics) teaches the following:
“A dogmatic fact is one that has not been revealed, yet is so intimately connected with a doctrine of faith that without certain knowledge of the fact there can be no certain knowledge of the doctrine. For example, was the First Vatican Council truly ecumenical? Was Pius IX a legitimate Pope? Was the election of Pius XI valid? Such questions must be decided with certainty before decrees issued by any council or Pope can be accepted as infallibly true or binding on the Church. It is evident then, that the Church must be infallible in judging of such facts, and since the Church is infallible in believing as well as in teaching, it follows that the practically unanimous consent of the bishops and faithful in accepting a council as ecumenical, or a Roman Pontiff as legitimately elected, gives absolute and infallible certainty of the fact.”8
4) Siscoe/Salza also cite the 1951 work of Fr. Sixtus Cartechini, S.J. “On the Value of Theological Notes and the Criteria for Discerning them9” as declaring:
“The rejection of a dogmatic fact is a mortal sin against faith.”10
It is therefore scarcely tenable to claim, as the “non una cum” priests do, that the mandate from Pope Benedict XIV’s encyclical Ex Quo can be evaded on the pretext that it is not certain Francis is a legitimate Pope, when the Church considers that determination to be one of dogmatic fact (and therefore theologically certain).
But We Do Accept Francis as Pope!
One priest I recently corresponded with on this issue said to me, “Anyone who says that I am a sedevacantist is a liar!”
Then in the very next breath, he continued to explain to me that:
- He rejects the authority of Francis;
- He rejects the jurisdiction of Francis;
- He refuses to say the name of Francis in the Canon.
Is that position coherent?
Can one who claims Francis has no authority, or jurisdiction, and whose name he refuses to pray in the Mass, avoid the label of “sedevacantist?”
As (sedevacantist) Bishop Sanborn explained in a well-known article, the prayer “una cum” is the litmus test for sedevacantism:
“Because the rubrics instruct the priest to leave out the name of the pope or bishop if the see is vacant (i.e., when a pope dies and the new pope is not elected), the mention or non-mention of the name by the priest is a litmus test for the priest’s position about John Paul II [or Francis] and the New Church. If he thinks that John Paul II is the true Pope, successor of Saint Peter, then he must place his name in the Canon. If, on the other hand, he does not hold him to be a true Pope, but a false one, then the priest must not mention his name in the Canon. So this little phrase in the Mass, una cum, says it all: is he or isn’t he the Pope?11
And after reaching out to Fr. Anthony Cekada (another well-known sedevacantist priest in America), I received the following response to my question on whether a non-sedevacantist could omit Francis from the Canon of the Mass (in the typically blunt Fr. Cekada fashion):
“The rubrics do not allow this. If there is a pope, his name must be inserted where prescribed. If there is no Pope, the entire phrase is omitted. The idea of inserting something else is simply stupid.”12
The same argument would have been made by every other “faction” in the Church: Sedevacantists, SSPX, indult, and conciliar. All recognize that either Francis is Pope, and you must pray for him in the Canon, or he is not, and therefore you must omit his name.
Therefore, to omit the prayer for Francis, while simultaneously denying one is a sedevacantist, is either incoherent at best, or dissimulating at worst.
In 2007, Fr. Anthony Cekada wrote a lengthy article titled “The Grain of Incense: Sedevacantists and Una Cum Masses,”13 which several years later was distilled into an abridged version titled “Should I Assist at a Mass that Names ‘Pope Francis’ in the Canon?”14
The purpose of those articles was to explain the importance of the “una cum” prayer to sedevacantists, and thereby exhort them NOT to attend any Mass which prays for the conciliar Popes. Conversely, these arguments are exceptionally useful, by inversion, for explaining to Resistance clergy and laity the importance of maintaining the “una cum” prayer, and shunning the Masses of any priest who refuses to pray Francis’ name in the Canon:
- The prayer acknowledges Francis is the head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, and the successor of St. Peter; it’s omission is therefore a denial of same;
- Per Ex Quo, the mention of the Pope’s name in the Canon is “the chief and most glorious form of communion” with him, “the profession of a mind and will which firmly espouses Catholic unity.”Its intentional omission is therefore a denial of the same;
- The inclusion of Francis’ name in the Canon recognizes him as the principle of unity in the Church; omission is therefore a denial of the same;
- Mention of Francis’ name in the Canon is a sign that the priest has not separated himself from the universal Church; omission is therefore a sign that the priest has separated himself from the universal Church;
- Mention of Francis’ name is proof of the orthodoxy of the offerer on this point; omission evinces the contrary;
- Praying for Francis acknowledges him to be the “ruling Pontiff, the visible pastor and the authorized intermediary with almighty God for the various members of his flock.” Refusal acknowledges exactly the opposite.
These examples from our sedevacantist adversaries, applied to the matter of Resistance priests omitting the “una cum” highlight the absurdity of excising the prayer from the Canon of the Mass, while simultaneously denying they are sedevacantists (i.e., Doing so denies all the above, in addition to contradicting the teaching of the Church in Ex Quo.15
I would ask them, along with Pope Pelagius I:
“How can you believe that you are not separated from communion with the universal church if you do not mention my name within the sacred mysteries, as the custom is?”16
“Well, That is Between the Priest and God, Not Me”
The Holy Mass is a public act of worship, and those who actively participate in it unite their actions to the priest who offers the sacrifice, thereby expressing their acceptance of his position.
Fr. Cekada cites Merkelbach (i.e., The same Dominican moralist taught by the SSPX in its own seminaries, by the way) as teaching that active religious participation:
“is rightly considered a sign of religious unity.” It constitutes “implicit approval of an exercise of worship.”17
Fr. Cekada cites several additional Popes and theologians, all expressing the same opinion.
It is not possible, therefore, to discharge oneself from moral culpability from attending “non una cum” Masses by implementing this fictitious distinction: Whatever mental reservation one might desire to create for oneself, his actions demonstrate his support and agreement with the priest’s act.18
But there is also the problem of “insincerity” and communicatio in sacris:
If omission of Francis from the Canon implies schism for refusing to recognize him as head of the Church, then one is quite possibly running into the same preclusions that apply to prevent Mass attendance at Orthodox and other schismatic Masses.
In such cases (unless ignorance, extreme necessity, or double effect would excuse such a course of action), sanctifying grace from the sacrament would not be communicated, since, though it would be produced in the sacrament “ex opere operato,” it would fail to transmit “ex opere operantis,” because of the bad disposition of the subject (i.e., Who would be objectively and knowingly committing a grave sin, and therefore would not be in the state of grace to receive an increase of same).
There is nothing “optional” in the matter of praying Pope Francis’ name in the Canon of the Mass.
Those few Resistance priests who, on the one hand deny being sedevacantists, and on the other reject Francis’ authority and jurisdiction, and refuse to mention his name in the Canon, are incoherent to say the least. One must look upon their position with a certain degree of suspicion. They are sedevacantists in fact, if not by intention, and seem to be in transit to a conscious recognition of that position (even if they deny it today).
As a friend wrote to me:
The ‘non una cum’ position “resembles a kind of hideous misery of dogmatic sedevacantism, which makes it possible to present a less frightening face to souls disturbed by the current crisis of the church but which, in the end, draws them to the terrain of hard sedevacantism.”
I quite agree:
Do not be deceived, and let their pleas to “tolerance of opinion” fall upon deaf ears.
The Church has explained in her encyclicals (and rubrics) the necessity of praying for the Pope in the Canon of the Mass, and declared those who refuse to do so as severed from communion with the universal Church.
Moreover, the vast majority of approved theologians recognize the identity of the Pope to be a dogmatic fact, and therefore infallible (or at least theologically certain).
Finally, the theologians explain that the knowing laity may not exempt themselves from moral culpability (via mental reservation or practical considerations), as their active participation and public worship are joined to the intentions of the priest.
We must pray for the conversion of such priests, or insist upon their departure from the Resistance, and the laity must be told that it is not possible to attend their Mass venues.
- The Euchologion is the primary book of many of the Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) liturgical rites and rubrics.
- Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, vol. I, pp. 612-613 (Cited by Siscoe/Salza here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedevacantists-reject-pre-vatican-ii.html
- See this interesting article from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the binding nature of Dogmatic Facts: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05092a.htm
- Msgr. Van Noort, Christ’s Church, p. 112 (Cited by Siscoe/Salza here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedevacantists-reject-pre-vatican-ii.html
- Fr. E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, p. 290. (Cited bu Siscoe/Salza here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedevacantists-reject-pre-vatican-ii.html
- See: http://www.the-pope.com/theolnotes.html. Cited by Siscoe/Salza here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedevacantists-reject-pre-vatican-ii.html
- See: http://www.the-pope.com/theolnotes.html. Cited by Siscoe/Salza here: http://www.trueorfalsepope.com/p/sedevacantists-reject-pre-vatican-ii.html
- Fr. Cekada’s reference to “inserting something else” is a reference to these unwitting sedevacantists’ preference for saying “una cum Petro” rather than “una cum Francisco.”
- I might add secondarily, that tinkering with the rubrics on the basis of personal and subjective preferences and (mis)understandings evinces a liberal mindset wholly foreign to the traditional Latin Mass and traditionalists sensibilities generally. If they have tolerated it (or even welcomed it), it can only be because Francis has made himself so repugnant to Catholic sensibilities, that these have not stopped to consider the gravity of the position their presence at such Masses has endorsed, which we will speak of now, above.
- Epistola 5, PL 69:398. (Cited by Fr. Cekada in footnote #13 here: http://www.traditionalmass.org/images/articles/SedesUnCum.pdf
- B. Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis (Montreal: Desclée 1949) 1:753-54.
- And of course, mental reservation is not permitted when there is danger of scandal, as is certainly the case with “non una cum” Masses.