The Pope’s Two Bodies: the The Weinandy-Farrow Thesis as Lancastrian Ecclesiology

In a recent article for The Catholic Thing, the Capuchin theologian Fr. Thomas Weinandy comes to some rather startling conclusions. He argues that Pope Francis is both the visible ruler of the Church on earth— as Vicar of Christ— but also at the same time the head of a ‘schismatic church’ which has separated itself from the Unity of the Una, Sancta, Catholica. Here are Fr. Weinandy’s words at length:

[W]e perceive a situation, ever-growing in intensity, in which on the one hand, a majority of the world’s faithful – clergy and laity alike – are loyal and faithful to the pope, for he is their pontiff, while critical of his pontificate, and, on the other hand, a large contingent of the world’s faithful – clergy and laity alike – enthusiastically support Francis precisely because he allows and fosters their ambiguous teaching and ecclesial practice.

What the Church will end up with, then, is a pope who is the pope of the Catholic Church and, simultaneously, the de facto leader, for all practical purposes, of a schismatic church.  Because he is the head of both, the appearance of one church remains, while in fact there are two.

The only phrase that I can find to describe this situation is “internal papal schism,” for the pope, even as pope, will effectively be the leader of a segment of the Church that through its doctrine, moral teaching, and ecclesial structure, is for all practical purposes schismatic.

In a web-exclusive for First Things, Douglas Farrow develops Fr. Weinandy’s position even further:

The kairos, the culture of encounter, being lauded in the Pan-Amazon Synod is a Bergoglian kairos and culture. The church “called to be ever more synodal,” to be “made flesh” and “incarnated” in existing cultures, is a Bergoglian church. And this church, not to put too fine a point on it, is not the Catholic Church. It is a false church. It is a self-divinizing church. It is an antichristic church, a substitute for the Word-made-flesh to whom the Catholic Church actually belongs and to whom, as Cardinal Müller insists, it must always give witness if it means to be the Church.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us, quite frankly, with the question of how both the true Church and the false can have the same pontiff, and what is to be done about that fact

It happens that just as I was reading Fr. Weinandy and Prof. Farrow on the two churches of which the one pope is head, I was going through the first chapter of Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies for a class with the licentiate students in Heiligenkreuz. I was struck by the parallels between the Weinandy-Farrow thesis and the theory of the King’s two bodies developed by Tudor jurists, or rather of the use made by that theory by the Long Parliament in its struggle with King Charles I.

Kantorowicz explains how the Tudor jurists distinguished between the king’s natural body, and his body politic. The king’s body natural is subject to weakness and death, but his body politic is immortal and invulnerable, being united to a new body natural when the current body natural dies. The analogy that would spring to mind at once would be with Christ’s natural body and His mystical body. And indeed the Tudor jurists do make some use of that analogy. But in general that analogy does not serve their purposes, since the Christ’s natural body is of course superior to His mystical body (we adore His body really present with latreia, which we do not do for His mystical body), but the jurists wanted the King’s body politic to be superior to his body natural. They therefore ended up reaching for another analogy: the relation of the Divine Nature and the human nature in the hypostatic union. Here the Divine Nature corresponds to the body politic and the human nature to the body natural.

Kantorowicz gives a rather amusing discussion of how all the major Christological controversies of the early Church are repeated in discussions of the two bodies. For the most part the analogy corresponds to orthodox doctrine, but at times it strays in a “monophysite” or “Nestorian” direction. The Nestorian reading can be seen most clearly in the use made of this Tudor doctrine by Jurists of the Stewart period:

Parliament succeeded in trying “Charles Stuart, being admitted King of England and therein trusted with a limited power,” for high treason, and finally in executing solely the king’s body natural without affecting seriously or doing irreparable harm to the King’s body politic

This extreme parliamentary position has effectively separated the two bodies— just as as Nestorius separated the natures of Christ.

Parliament claimed to be defending the “Lancastrian Constitution” of England, according to which “Sovereignty was identified not with the King alone or the people alone, but with the ‘King in Parliament.’” But clearly if ‘the King in parliament’ could be opposed to the natural body of King Charles I, the supposed balance of the Lancastrian Constitution was revealed as a polite lie.

It is no accident that some of the severest critics of Farrow’s article (eg: Adrian Vermeule), are also those who have little patience for ‘confused’ notions of sovereignty.

Where does this leave us with respect to the Pope? The case of the pope is rather a special one. Our Lord gave very solemn promises to Peter and His successors, which were never given to any English king. And yet, at one level a ‘two bodies’ type solution is understandable. After all, the pope, when teaching ex cathedra, is infallible, whereas when he speaks as ‘private doctor’ he is not. But it seems to me that the extreme thesis that Weinandy and Farrow are entertaining, where the Pope is simultaneously the head of the Church and also the head of a schismatic group, is not really tenable. What are schismatics after all, other than “those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy” (Sth IIaIIae, Q 39, A 1)? If one tries to pull the sort of trick on the Supreme Pontiff that Parliament pulled on Charles I, could it truly be said “Blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received”?

25 thoughts on “The Pope’s Two Bodies: the The Weinandy-Farrow Thesis as Lancastrian Ecclesiology

  1. This “two-body problem” that you have identified seems to be the natural reconciliation of the the Petrine promise with a heretical pope supported by a majority heretical hierarchy.

    Would you propose a different reconciliation of the fact of a heretical pope and the Petrine promise? Or would you outright reject the possibility of a heretical pope?

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  2. The problem here is the false premise that Bergogolio is a pope. Church teaching specifically requires a pope to renounce his papal Munus, or Office, for a papal abdication to be valid – which Benedict XVI has never done. Attention to Her teaching accordingly solves the above dilemmas, whereas what remains to be solved is the dilemma of BXVI’s failed effort to renounce his ministry (ministerium) even as he held to & holds the papal Office while refusing to rule.

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    • Here is a thought about the “Pachamama” controversy: the Church has always defended the veneration–but–not–adoration of nature (the creation) against the Puritans, the iconoclasts, and Manicheans, And She has done so with surprising vehemence: 1) by defending the veneration of the Holy Icons (St. John Damascene) against the iconoclasts. How can you VENERATE icons when Scripture warns you so often and so explicitly against idolatry? Well, the Church teaches explicitly, surprisingly and vehemently that you can. 2) By defending the cult of the saints while the Apocalypse of St. John tells us to worship God only, so how can we venerate the saints. Well, we do! 3) By defending the astonishing and mind-bending doctrine of the Theotokos, the Most Holy and Venerable Mother of God. (Only Theotokos is in a sense even a stronger expression than Mother of God, which makes it clear that while Christ took flesh from the Virgin, the generation in question is spiritual rather than carnal, and thus really qualifies as generation; Theotokos.

      And St. Paul VI spoke about a Cult of Man, for which he was attacked by the Radical Traditionists of his time who once again said what the Puritans have always said. I will cite a piece which expresses this Puritanism with great eloquence;

      “If Paul VI had such a love for the Council, it was because the general approach of the episcopal assembly corresponded with the intimate aspirations of his mind. The Council was the men of the Church’s rush towards the world. And Paul VI loved even the modern world, he wished to be immersed in it and to feel with it. Interested in all human realities, he corrected a pessimism born of temperament with an optimism born of resolution, entertaining a benevolent view of even modern thought, of countries and of far-off cultures; he valued modern art, to such an extent that he decorated his apartments in the Vatican with it! What he loved in the world was man. Humanity was at the heart of his thoughts, even though he did denounce anthropocentrism. He was especially interested, out of compassion, in the poor man, the worker, the man far from the Faith, on the outskirts. “We, we more than any other,” he would say, “we have the cult of man!” To draw closer to man, thought Paul VI, it was necessary to repent of so many of the Church’s characteristic behaviors in the past, that drove away souls, such as condemnations (hence the suppression of the Index), or far too exclusive dogmatic proclamations. He preferred suggestion to government, exhortation to sanction. His reign was one of dialogue.

      Drawing closer to man meant first drawing closer to the Protestants; Paul VI was the pontifical initiator of ecumenism. While he theoretically considered it as a return to Catholicism, he contradicted himself by exalting the values of the Protestants and multiplying the relations with Taize. The scandal reached its climax when he invited the Anglican “archbishop” of Canterbury to bless the crowd in his stead, during an ecumenical meeting at St. Paul Outside the Walls, placing on his finger the pastoral ring. Must we believe that saints behave thus? What true blessed soul would not shudder, from the depths of his Beatific Vision, at the sight of such confusion? But according to Paul VI, we needed to transform our Catholic attitudes. “The Church has entered into the movement of history that evolves and changes,” he explained. That was the program: evolution, change, aggiornamento.

      And that is why he proceeded with a liturgical reform that, with time, spread to every domain of prayer. The Mass, if we are to believe the founding texts of this reform, was no longer a sacrifice, but a “synaxis”. Its rite, as Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci denounced, was far, “as a whole and in its details, from the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass.” But there was nothing to be done: the liturgies with electric guitar, Communion in the hand, young girls in short skirts reading the epistle, the words of the consecration left up to the celebrant’s whims, all spread with carte blanche from the bishops. It would be unjust, of course, to place the responsibility for each and every local disorder on the shoulders of the one in charge of the universal Church. Besides, the pope sometimes deplored the wonderful liturgical havoc of the Novus Ordo Missae.

      But what effective measures did he take to stop it? And was he not the first cause of it all? Paul VI is presented to us as an archetype of perfection. But is virtue not in duty, and is not the duty of a leader to encourage those who do good and punish those who go against the law? Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was judged without being heard, punished without being received, and Paul VI thought he “belonged in a psychiatric ward.” But the priests who celebrated Mass with rice or joined in the protests of the Communist party enjoyed their comfortable rectories free from worry. And yet Paul VI did not like Communism; he always warned against the pernicious nature of Marxism.

      So what paradox made him support a benevolent attitude towards the Communist countries (Ostpolitik), whose fruits were so bitter for the Catholics in these countries, who felt abandoned by Rome? Paul VI considered, along the same lines, that one can be Catholic and enter into the service of the Socialist ideals, regardless of the express words of Leo XIII. He was also very hostile to Fascism; he preferred Christian democracy. All these positions gave birth early on, even within the Roman Curia, to an opposition to Montini. Pius XII knew his strengths, but distrusted his taste for modernity.”

      Fr. Philippe Toulza, Director of Editions Clovis of the SSPX—10-18-2014

      You can see here how the Radical Traditionalist objection to Paul VI remarkably resembles the objections of the anti-Francis league to the present Pontiff. But the Christian anthropology of St. John Paul II is very much in the same line as the Christian anthropology of St. Paul VI, and Benedict XVI did not call it into question, but only refined it and protected it. The Radical Traditionalist will tell you, with a certain coherence: well there you have it! They are all liberals, they are all Modernists; with Vatican II you have the Great Apostasy.

      Well, there you have a certain coherence of conception. But I don´t buy it. History teaches that when one distances oneself from Peter one enters into much trouble.

      Finally as a witness to the Catholic veneration of nature I want to refer to the witness of that great poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who represents that vehemence of which I have been speaking (when he talks about kissing his hand to the stars he is perfectly aware of how the Old Testament warns against the Cult of the stars, just as he is aware that his sentiment is truly evangelical.

      I kiss my hand
      To the stars, lovely-asunder
      Starlight, wafting him out of it; and
      Glow, glory in thunder;
      Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west:
      Since, tho’ he is under the world’s splendour and wonder,
      His mystery must be instressed, stressed;
      For I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand.

      (From The Wreck of the Deutschland)

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      • One commentator in the National Catholic Register asked: how do we know that the veneration of the Pachamama Image was not idolatrous, because it seemed to the commentator that it very well could have been. Answer: the Pope said it was not. (Adriaan Vermeule: Roma locuta est.) But it is the same thing with the Virgin Mary: how do we know that the fervent, over-the-top-seeming, devotion to the Mother of God practiced in so many Catholic places is not idolatrous. Answer:(brief answer): because the Pope says it is not, in spite of the fact that some people might suspect that it is. Peter is guarantor of the faith.

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    • i´ve been examining and enjoying the tweets of Vermeule. He is (or just might be). my kind of integralist (i.e. one who understands integralism as that position that holds that there is at root a definite consistency to what the Church teaches about the Church-State relation and that this doctrine is rooted in the Gospel. But who is this Carl Schmitt fellow–with quite a gift for aphorism– that Vermeule likes retweeting?

      I am however a little worried that all that fineness of perception will go to rot and become mere cynicism a jadedness and self-contemplation. Is it not better to keep it simple?

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  3. The essence here expressed with subtlety and ingenuity is that you beg to differ with Weinandy and Farrow. I would say things more bluntly. But I agree with your disagreement if I understand you correctly. Catholic adherence to the Pope is not a sort of blind obedience but favors orthodoxy and sound theology intrinsically. It is a sign of being on the right track. It helps.

    If you follow what the Pope has been doing since the beginning the Amazon Synod is fruit of the program that the Pope has openly announced and pursued. After having been chosen elected Cardinal Hummes came to him and said “Don´t forget the poor” and Francis commented beautifully on how that phrase struck him to the quick.

    Grace does presuppose culture. The Catholic teaching on two sources of revelation (Scripture and Tradition) does not exclude that other Catholic teaching that at the heart of the cultures are seeds of the Word. The Bible speaks amply of this.

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  7. In my long discussions with Radical Traditionalists I learned to 1) concede that yes a Pope could be a heretic, apostatize, start a schismatic Church and 2) insist on the facts. If you don’t start with the facts you are wasting your time. The infallibility of the Pope does not presuppose a sort of magic charm given to the Church by a God of the Gaps intervening in an arbitrary way in the affairs of men.
    The anti Francis-league bases itself on falsities, i.e. lies. Lies regarding the facts. (Example: that Amoris Laetitia permits or is ambiguous about adultery.)

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  9. It seems to me that an ontological weight is being given by some (such as Vermeule) to Weinandy’s observations that they do not in fact have, much as happened to the now infamous comments about ‘two popes’, active and passive.

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  10. In the Eucharist, we worship the body of Christ affirming the unity and unicity of that body, and not the natural body as opposed to the mystical body. Because if you say the latter, you are dividing Christ into two bodies (and you are saying that we worship the human nature of Christ, which is not true: the human nature of Christ is creature, and we do not worship it.)

    Christ does not have more than one body. There lies the real force of the argument against the schismatics. You can´t have Christ without the Church because there is only one Christ, and therefore only one Church.

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