Chris Ferrara, “Opposing the Sedevacantist Enterprise,” Catholic Family News, August 2005, p. 21: “Compare the [Sedevacantist] Enterprise’s lack of success in finding ‘manifest’ heresy in the pronouncements of the conciliar popes with the historical example of Pope John XXII. In 1331, certain French theologians and Cardinal Orsini denounced John XXII as a heretic when, in a series of sermons, he taught that the souls of the blessed departed, after finishing their appointed time in Purgatory, do not see God until after the last judgment. Cardinal Orsini called for a general council to pronounce the Pope a heretic… Confronted in this public manner, John XXII replied that he had not intended to bind the whole Church to his sermons, and he impaneled a commission of theologians to consider the question. The commission informed the Pope that he was in error, and he did retract the error several years later, the day before his death. Yet despite being denounced as a heretic and threatened with a general council to declare his heresy, John XXII never ceased to be regarded by the Church as Pope, and Church history duly records him as such.”
Answer: John XXII was not a heretic, and his reign is no proof that heretics can be popes.
First, we want the reader to consider something very interesting: when Ferrara (the person launching this objection) is discussing John XXII, notice that the affair is exaggerated. He doesn’t hesitate to label it as an example of actual heresy. But when he is addressing the clear heresies of the Vatican II “popes”, they are all diminished so much that he denies that any of them even constitute heresy. For instance:
Chris Ferrara, “Opposing the Sedevacantist Enterprise,” Catholic Family News, August 2005, p. 21: “But the [Sedevacantist] Enterprise does not even get to first base since, as we shall see, despite its indefatigable efforts it has failed to identify any ‘manifest’ heresy among the many ambiguous pronouncements and disturbing (even scandalous) actions of John Paul II or Paul VI…”
Okay, so none of the clear heresies from John Paul II and Paul VI (e.g., teaching that there are saints in other religions; stating that we shouldn’t convert non-Catholics; etc.) even constitute heresy, according to Ferrara; but the case of John XXII certainly rose to the level of heresy. What complete nonsense! Does anyone not see the profound hypocrisy and utter dishonesty here? When Ferrara and other non-sedevacantists feel that it is an advantage to belittle the heresy, they raise the bar for heresy, so that basically nothing rises to the level of actual heresy. But when they deem it useful to exaggerate a heresy (as in the case of John XXII), because they think that it will be useful in opposing sedevacantism, they overstate it and make it seem much worse than it was.
The fact of the matter is that John XXII was not a heretic. John XXII’s position that the souls of the blessed departed don’t see the Beatific Vision until after the General Judgment was not a matter that had yet been specifically defined as a dogma. This definition occurred two years after Pope John XXII’s death by Pope Benedict XII in Benedictus Deus, but apparently Ferrara didn’t feel that it was important to mention that fact.
The fact that Cardinal Orsini denounced John XXII as a heretic doesn’t prove anything, especially when we consider the context of the events. To provide a brief background: John XXII had condemned as heretical the teaching of “the Spirituals.” This group held that Christ and the apostles had no possessions individually or in common. John XXII condemned this view as contrary to Sacred Scripture and declared that all who persistently adhere to it are heretical. “The Spirituals” and others like them, including King Louis of Bavaria, were condemned as heretics.
When the controversy about John XXII’s statements on the Beatific Vision occurred, the Spirituals and King Louis of Bavaria profited by it and accused the pope of heresy. These enemies of the Church were supported by Cardinal Orsini, the man Ferrara mentions in his article.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, “John XXII,” Vol. 8, 1910, p. 433: “The Spirituals, always in close alliance with Louis of Bavaria, profited by these events to accuse the pope of heresy, being supported by Cardinal Napoleon Orsini. In union with the latter, King Louis wrote to the cardinals, urging them to call a general council and condemn the pope.”
With this background, we can see that Ferrara’s statement that “Cardinal Orsini called for a general council to pronounce the pope a heretic…” takes on a different light: Yes, Cardinal Orsini and his good friends: the excommunicated heretics. In fact, in his book Dogmatic Theology, even Ferrara’s own “pope” notes that the scandal was exploited by the enemies of the Church for political ends:
“Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), Dogmatic Theology, 1977, p. 137: “The scandal [of John XXII] was exploited for political ends in the accusation of heresy brought by the pope’s Franciscan opponents [the Spirituals] in the circle of William of Ockham at the court of the emperor Louis of Bavaria.”
Ferrara places himself right in the company of the enemies of the Church with his exaggeration of the case of John XXII. John XXII was not a heretic. In addition to the fact that the matter had not yet been specifically defined as a dogma, John XXII also made it clear that he bound no one to his (false) opinion and was not arriving at a definitive conclusion on the matter:
The Catholic Encyclopedia, on Pope John XXII: “Pope John wrote to King Phillip IV on the matter (November, 1333), and emphasized the fact that, as long as the Holy See had not given a decision, the theologians enjoyed perfect freedom in this matter. In December, 1333, the theologians at Paris, after a consultation on the question, decided in favor of the doctrine that the souls of the blessed departed saw God immediately after death or after their complete purification; at the same time they pointed out that the pope had given no decision on this question but only advanced his personal opinion, and now petitioned the pope to confirm their decision. John appointed a commission at Avignon to study the writings of the Fathers, and to discuss further the disputed question. In a consistory held on 3 January, 1334, the pope explicitly declared that he had never meant to teach anything contrary to Holy Scripture or the rule of faith and in fact had not intended to give any decision whatever. Before his death he withdrew his former opinion, and declared his belief that souls separated from their bodies enjoyed in heaven the Beatific Vision.”
All of this serves to show that John XXII was not a heretic. He held a personal opinion that was dead wrong, one which he explicitly declared was nothing more than opinion. In fact, despite his significant error, John XXII was quite vigorous against heresy. His condemnation of the Spirituals and King Louis of Bavaria is proof that he did condemn heresy. To compare him to the Vatican II antipopes who don’t even believe that heresy exists is utterly ridiculous. As established already, Benedict XVI doesn’t even believe that Protestantism is heresy! It’s absurd that anyone would obstinately (in the face of these facts) assert that this man is a Catholic. The fact is that wherever non-sedevacantists turn (to the dogma of the Papacy, or the actions of Luther, etc.), they are refuted. Indeed, since we’re on the topic of John XXII and the General Judgment, it should remembered that Benedict XVI denies perhaps the most central Catholic dogma with regard to the General Judgment: the Resurrection of the Body, as we demonstrated in the section on his heresies.
Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, 2004, p. 349: “It now becomes clear that the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible.”
Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, 2004, pp. 357-358: “To recapitulate, Paul teaches, not the resurrection of physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons…”
Therefore, when non-sedevacantists bring up the issue of John XXII and the Last Judgment, they do nothing except remind us of another dogma that Benedict XVI denies and another example of why he is not the pope.
 Chris Ferrara, “Opposing the Sedevacantist Enterprise,” Catholic Family News, August 2005, p. 21.
 Chris Ferrara, “Opposing the Sedevacantist Enterprise,” Catholic Family News, August 2005, p. 21
 Denzinger 530.
[iv] Denzinger 494.
 The Catholic Encyclopedia, “John XXII,” Vol. 8, 1910, p. 433.
 Benedict XVI, Dogmatic Theology, The Catholic University of America Press, 1977, p. 137.
 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, p. 433.
 Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, p. 349.
 Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 357-358.