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The Keyes of the Kingdom? Barak and Benedict, Two Peas in A Pod

The Keyes of the Kingdom? Barak and Benedict, Two Peas in A Pod

Alan Keyes on the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, and its remarkable relevance to an analogous ecclesiastical situation 

There’s been a bit of media buzz recently – not only on the Internet but even on mainstream news networks such as MSNBC – about a recent video interview of Alan Keyes regarding the constitutional legitimacy of fellow African-American Barack Obama’s presidency. The 4-minute clip can be seen on YouTube here:

Even those who disagree with his conservative politics and/or conservative Roman Catholic faith concede that ambassador, author, activist, political commentator, and talk show host Keyes is an intelligent, passionate, and articulate proponent of his views. I experienced this first-hand the first time I met Dr. Keyes in the 1980’s when he gave a lecture at Christendom College, where I served as full-time professor of theology for three years. I saw, heard, and met him again in the mid-90s when he gave the keynote address at the first International Catholic Creation conference, at which I too was a featured speaker. 

For those not familiar with Dr. Keyes’ extensive resumé, perhaps I should cite just a few highlights. Holder of a B.A. and Ph.D. in government affairs from Harvard University, Keyes served as Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations under President Ronald Reagan, and as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, and was publicly praised by Reagan for his accomplishments in those posts.

Keyes next ran as a Republican candidate for the US Senate in 1988, in 1992, and in 2004 -- in 2004 running for the US Senate seat in Illinois against eventual winner Barak Obama. (Several televised debates between the two men, also viewable on YouTube, provide a fascinating look at the then relatively unknown Mr. Obama.) Keyes also ran for US president in 1996, 2000, and 2008.

Rightful Occupant of the Oval Office or Usurper?

In the course of the aforementioned interview Keyes talked tough about the disastrous nature of Mr. Obama’s economic policies, Obama’s advocacy of abortion rights (including infanticide), and other pertinent issues. Although I hope to return to these other issues in subsequent essays, today I wish to confine my focus to just one interesting theme in Dr. Keyes’ remarks:

“Is [Obama] President of the United States? According to the Constitution, in order to be eligible for President you have to be a natural-born citizen. He has refused to provide proof that he is in fact a natural-born citizen, and his Kenyan relations say that he was born in Nairobi at a time when his mother was too young to transmit US citizenship. So I’m not even sure he is president of the United States – no, that’s not a laughing matter – neither are many of our military people now, who are going to court to ask the question, “Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the Constitution?” We’re in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don’t stop laughing about it and deal with it, we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion, and civil war … The person you [the interviewer] call “President Obama” – and I frankly refuse to call him that – at the moment he is somebody who is kind of an alleged usurper, who is alleged to be someone who is occupying that office without constitutional warrant to do so ...”

In a longer interview (also viewable on YouTube:, Keyes expands upon this theme, in the course of which he says: “If a president is actually exercising his power on a basis that contradicts what the Constitution said is the ground and framework for eligibility, then he’s not president.”

Lex Rex: The Law is King

I was immediately struck by the relevance of Keyes’ remarks to another, analogous, and far more significant situation: the current crisis in the Catholic Church, an institution whose integrity is far more crucial than that of the United States to the safety, stability, and survival of the world.

Being an American citizen but a Catholic first and foremost, whose ultimate loyalty is to the Church and the Faith, I am therefore, relatively speaking, less interested in the question as to whether in fact Mr. Obama was born in Kenya or born in Hawaii. I am less interested in whether the digitized image of Obama’s birth certificate that was posted on the Internet by his campaign is a clever forgery, as some experts claim, or is in fact authentic.

What interests me enormously, however, because of its relevance to the analogous ecclesial issue, is the fundamental nature of the underlying legal principle, regardless of whether Mr. Obama’s claim to the presidency is thereby ultimately vindicated or invalidated. That principle, succinctly stated, is that Mr. Obama's -- or anyone's -- eligibility for election to the presidency of the United States is something to be determined on a purely legal basis, by ascertaining whether or not one has met the qualifications laid out in the relevant legal document, in this case the US Constitution.

Eligibility is most definitely not determined by how much Obama wants to be president, nor by how much America wants him to be president. It is not determined by how intelligent or politically savvy Mr. Obama is, how charismatic a personality or how skilled a speaker he is, how successful he's been in persuading people that he honestly has America's best interests at heart, or how many friends and supporters he has in the media, in government, or in the shadowy circles of wealth and power behind both. It is not determined by how much he promises to do for America, or even by whether he is in fact the one who can (per impossible) do the most for America.

It doesn’t matter what Mr. Obama says happened on November 4, 2008. It doesn’t matter what the other candidates and campaigns say happened on November 4, 2008. It doesn’t matter what the US media or the world press report as having happened on November 4, 2008. It doesn’t even matter what the American people say or think happened on November 4, 2008. All that matters is whether Mr. Obama met the legal eligibility requirements for election to the office of President of the United States (in particular the matter in dispute, i.e., whether he is in fact a natural-born US citizen), so as to have been validly elected on November 4, 2008.

I myself of course don’t know for sure whether Barack Obama was in fact born in Hawaii or Kenya. Let us suppose, for the moment, that he was indeed born in Hawaii and was therefore validly elected. My point is simply that, if it turns out that he was not born in the US, then his election was legally null and void, and even if everyone in America says he is their president, he is in fact not president at all, and all his actions subsequent to his “election” have no binding legal force whatsoever.

On this point, on this principle (whether or not on the factual question of Mr. Obama’s place of birth), Alan Keyes is absolutely, irrefutably correct. In the event that Barack Obama is ever shown to have been born as anything but a United States citizen, then, whatever else one might think of him, however passionately a "New Depression"-fearing America might applaud his "New Deal, Part Two" policies and initiatives, he is in actual fact (to quote Keyes) a “usurper, who is alleged to be someone who is occupying that office without constitutional warrant to do so.”

But this (mutatis mutandis) is exactly what those law-abiding, faithful Catholics misnamed “sedevacantists” have been saying all along about the men who have physically occupied the see of Peter since 1958!

(Please see the “Gerry Replies” section on this website for the many reasons why I reject the misnomer “sedevacantist”; instead, I am simply, by God's grace, a Catholic, i.e., one who fully accepts all the Church’s teaching, including the doctrine that heretics are not Catholics – see below for the relevant proof-texts – with all the consequences that flow from this. I am compelled by the Catholic Faith itself to consider those who claim to be Catholics but who espouse heresy, or who are knowingly in communion with heretics, not to be Catholics.)

The Legal Standing of Heretics in the Church (Hint: none)

Folks, if the United States of America have their legally-binding Constitution, then a fortiori does the Kingdom of God – Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church – have its constitution, one in fact divinely determined and promulgated. This constitution of Christ’s Church is laid out in the deposit of faith found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and authoritatively articulated and interpreted in the constant teaching of the Church’s magisterium. And four facts of the Church’s divine constitution are immediately relevant here:

Fact #1: In the Church’s God-ordained constitution, it is (in addition to baptism) the supernatural gift of faith that makes one – and maintains one as – a member of the Church. The Church, St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:4-5, is “one body” professing “one faith.” As with every other doctrine, what Scripture teaches, the magisterium likewise teaches: “For there is one universal Church outside of which no one at all is saved … [its members] all profess one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Pope Pius IX, Ubi Primum 10).

Fact #2: Since a heretic by definition does not profess this “one faith,” he cannot be a member of this "one Church." This is not merely a logical inference; it is a dogma solemnly taught by popes, both in their ordinary and in their extraordinary magisterium, as the following examples amply attest.

Ordinary magisterium: “By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess the one Church, not of heretics, but the Holy Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church outside of which we believe that no one is saved” (Pope Innocent III, Eius exemplo, Dec. 18, 1208). For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 23).

Extraordinary magisterium: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church -- not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics -- cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives (Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino, 1441; full text in Denzinger 714).

The Sin of Heresy vs. the Crime of Heresy

Notice, by the way, that Pope Pius XII makes it clear, in the quote above from his 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis, that it is the sin of heresy, not the crime of heresy, that “severs a man from the Body of the Church.” This is a crucial distinction, for many ill-instructed Catholics erroneously claim that until someone is found guilty of the crime of heresy by a legal proceeding (a formal admonition, followed by a heresy trial) he is still a member of the Church.

But this would mean that a layman or cleric (be he parish priest, bishop, or occupant of the papal see itself) who spent his entire life denying (in his speeches and writings) the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, the existence of hell, or the perpetual virginity of Mary (for example), would somehow nevertheless remain a member of the “one body” whose members all profess the “one faith,” provided he was never formally charged with, and found guilty of, the crime of heresy, and that every faithful member of the Church would be obliged to accept such a man as a fellow Catholic.

This is not only a patent absurdity, it is refuted by the constant practice of Catholics down through the ages, as I showed in my recent essay “Why, Grandma, What Big Ears You Have!” available in the archives here:

No, Pope Pius XII teaches specifically that the “sin” of heresy (which one can be guilty of without ever being convicted of the crime of heresy) is sufficient to sever, or, as he puts it, “is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church,” i.e. before or even without any legal proceeding whatsoever.

Ivory Soap Orthodoxy: 99 and 44/100% Pure

But there’s a second dodge attempted by “Catholic” apologists desperate to avoid the painful conclusions of the Church’s teaching on the consequences of heresy that must be addressed as well. “In today’s postconciliar, liberal milieu,” they say, “no currently reigning church prelate is cut out of the same clerical cloth, stamped in the same adamantly anti-modernist mold as, say, Pope St. Pius X. But what if you’re basically conservative, mostly orthodox, even very traditional? What if you’re liberal, or even heretical, only on a minor point or two, a bit here or there? Aren’t you then at least in ‘partial communion’ with the Church? One little heresy doesn’t put you completely outside the Church, does it?”

Alas for such ill-instructed “Catholics,” the answer is that, yes, “one little heresy” does put you completely outside the Church. God does not grade on the curve: orthodoxy, and hence membership in the Church, is only “pass/fail.” There is no such thing as being “a little bit heretical” and still being a Catholic, any more than there is such a thing as being “a little bit pregnant” and still being a virgin (except, of course, for Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God). There’s no such thing as being “99% Catholic”: you either are or you aren’t. It’s all or nothing. As in baseball, you’re either “safe” or “you’re out.” Here’s the proof:

“The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum # 9; June 29, 1896).

Unfortunately, not only so-called “conservatives” but even many soi-disant “traditionalists” have bought the Vatican II heresy of “partial communion” (the SSPX, while verbally denouncing it, in practice adopt it) -- a heresy which was never taught by the Catholic Church before Vatican II (nor, therefore, has it been taught by the Church since, since the Church cannot change its doctrine). The irony is that, in attempting to argue that “nearly traditional” prelates (e.g. “bishops” who generously allow the “Tridentine Mass”) retain their Church membership, such people end up forfeiting their own, since they hold to a view never held by Catholics, but rather condemned by every pope (as by Pope Leo XIII in the quote immediately above).

The Ineligibility of Heretics to Hold Office in the Church

Fact #3: It is the indisputable teaching of the Church that, if a man who falls into the sin of heresy does not retain membership in the Church, then by the selfsame fact he cannot retain whatever office he previously held in the Church, since, as Pope Leo XIII reminds us in his 1896 encyclical Satis Cognitum (paragraph 15), “it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside [the Church] can command in the Church.” 

Consider, too, the clear teaching of canon 188.4 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law:

“Any office becomes vacant upon the fact and without any declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric publicly defects from the Catholic faith.”

Notice that if a man “publicly defects from the Catholic Faith” (as he does, for example, by teaching heresy), his office in the Church automatically (“upon the fact”; the Latin is ipso facto) becomes vacant, “without any declaration” being necessary. (So much for the imagined requirement of a formal admonition, much less a conviction at the end of a long heresy trial.) He is deemed, by his very espousal of heresy, to have “tacitly [i.e., silently] resigned” from his office, a resignation “the law itself” equally silently accepts. Done deal. Case closed.

This Includes the Papacy Itself

Notice, too, that canon 188 says “any office.” “Any” means “any.” The highest office in the Church, the office of the papacy itself, is no exception to this immutable law of God’s kingdom (on the contrary, it is precisely at the pinnacle of the Church’s hierarchy that this law assumes paramount importance):

"A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction" (St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church, De Romano Pontifice, II, 30). 

"Now when he [the Pope] is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church" (St. Francis De Sales, Doctor of the Church, The Catholic Controversy, pp. 305-306 in the edition published by TAN Books).

"In the case in which the pope would become a heretic, he would find himself, by that fact alone and without any other sentence, separated from the Church.  A head separated from a body cannot, as long as it remains separated, be head of the same body from which it was cut off.  A pope who would be separated from the Church by heresy, therefore, would by that very fact itself cease to be head of the Church.  He could not be a heretic and remain pope, because, since he is outside of the Church, he cannot possess the keys of the Church." (St. Antoninus, Summa Theologica, cited in the Acts of Vatican I)

The pope himself, if notoriously guilty of heresy, would cease to be pope because he would cease to be a member of the Church” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910, “Heresy,” Vol. 7, p. 261).

Heresy as a Disqualifying “Pre-existing Condition”

Fact #4: Fourthly and finally, the Church authoritatively teaches that -- in addition to the case of a man who subsequently becomes a heretic and thus loses an office he once rightfully had in the Church (the case outlined in fact #3 above) -- if a man is already a heretic before his election to Church office, the election is null and void. Such a man, in other words, never legally acquired the office in the first place, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

This is confirmed, for example, by Pope Paul IV in his bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, dated February 15, 1559, a papal decree I have cited before on this website; here I will simply quote paragraph 6:

“6. In addition, [by this Our Constitution, which is to remain valid in perpetuity We enact, determine, decree and define:] that if ever at any time it shall appear that any Bishop, even if he be acting as an Archbishop, Patriarch or Primate; or any Cardinal of the aforesaid Roman Church, or, as has already been mentioned, any legate, or even the Roman Pontiff, prior to his promotion or his elevation as Cardinal or Roman Pontiff, has deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into some heresy:

(i) the promotion or elevation, even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous assent of all the Cardinals, shall be null, void and worthless;

(ii) it shall not be possible for it to acquire validity (nor for it to be said that it has thus acquired validity) through the acceptance of the office, of consecration, of subsequent authority, nor through possession of administration, nor through the putative enthronement of a Roman Pontiff, or Veneration, or obedience accorded to such by all, nor through the lapse of any period of time in the foregoing situation;

(iii) it shall not be held as partially legitimate in any way…

(vi) those thus promoted or elevated shall be deprived automatically, and without need for any further declaration, of all dignity, position, honour, title, authority, office and power.”

That is why, based on this and many similar official pronouncements, the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article on “Papal Elections,” unambiguously states, “Of course, the election of a heretic, schismatic, or female [as Pope] would be null and void." (Vol. 11, p. 457).

Hopefully, dear reader, the many authorities I have cited above have convinced all but the most wickedly obstinate of you that this is not a matter of opinion; it is not one of many equally acceptable views. Rather, as Doctor of the Papacy St. Robert Bellarmine states (De Romano Pontifice, II, 30), “This principle is most certain.  The non-Christian cannot in any way be Pope, as Cajetan himself admits (ibid, c. 26). The reason for this is that he cannot be head of what he is not a member; now he who is not a Christian is not a member of the Church, and a manifest heretic is not a Christian, as is clearly taught by St. Cyprian (lib. 4, epist. 2), St. Athanasius (Scr. 2 cont. Arian.), St. Augustine (lib. De great. Christ. cap. 20), St. Jerome (contra Lucifer) and others; therefore the manifest heretic cannot be Pope."

Catching the Rat Red-handed

Space does not permit me here to even just list, much less expound upon, the many heresies of John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and II, and Benedict XVI. That has been ably done on several websites over the years, and I myself am working on a book, entitled The Catholic Case Against Benedict XVI, that I hope will constitute a complete catalog of Benedict XVI’s multiple offenses against orthodoxy, both before and after his (invalid) “election,” since, sadly, no book devoted to a complete analysis of Ratzinger from an anti-modernist perspective yet exists.)

In the meantime, however, please remember that one doesn’t need a complete catalog of Ratzinger’s many heresies to see through the fraudulent nature of his election to and usurpation of the papacy; as demonstrated above, it is the constant teaching of the Church that it only takes one heresy to put oneself outside the Church and to therefore render one’s election to the papacy null and void.

One heresy that Ratzinger (following in the faithless footsteps of his four equally-usurping predecessors) has taught countless times over the years is that – contrary to the constant teaching of the Catholic Church – the heretics and schismatics of the Eastern “Orthodox” churches are members of Christ’s Church and that their clerics legitimately function as shepherds of the Church.

This heresy, which I could cite dozens of examples of from Ratzinger’s own mouth and pen, he recently reiterated, for the umpteenth time, only a little over a month ago (February 1, 2009) at the enthronement of “Orthodox” Patriarch Kirill as the new Patriarch of Moscow and of the entire Russian Orthodox Church.

To Russia With Love

On that occasion Benedict XVI sent his emissary Cardinal Walter Kasper to deliver to Kirill a chalice and a message which said, as recorded in the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano (February 4, 2009 issue, pages 1, 3):

“To His Holiness Kirill Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia: I greet Your Holiness with joy as you undertake the great responsibility of shepherding the venerable Russian Orthodox Church … I pray that our heavenly Father will grant you the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit in your ministry and enable you to guide the Church in the love and peace of Christ … I am certain that Your Holiness will continue to build on this solid foundation, for the good of your people and for the benefit of Christians everywhere … Conscious of the enormous responsibilities which accompany the spiritual and pastoral ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called you, I renew to Your Holiness the assurance of my prayers and fraternal good will.  I ask Almighty God to bless you with his love, to watch over the beloved Russian Church, and to sustain the Bishops, priests and all the faithful in the unfailing hope which is ours in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine).

No one – not even a non-Catholic historian – familiar with the history and theology of the Catholic Church could imagine any real pope during the preceding millennium (i.e., since the “Orthodox” churches heretically and schismatically broke away from the Catholic Church in 1054) spouting any such un-Catholic and heretical nonsense. Nor can heretical language about the Church ever be justified in the name of "love"; on the contrary, it is a supremely uncharitable act to speak heresy regarding the Church to someone outside the Church, lest in swallowing your heresy they damn their souls.

Rose Bowl Parade of Red Herrings

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the keys of His kingdom (His Church on earth) to Peter and to his successors (Matthew 16:19). The transmission of those keys – the passing on to each new successor of the Vicar of Christ’s three-fold authority to infallibly teach, effectively sanctify, and legitimately govern Christ’s Church – can only legally and validly occur in fidelity to Christ’s own divinely established constitution for the administration of His Church, a constitution that, as we have seen, has always excluded heretics from membership and office in the Church. Without such fidelity, the Church herself teaches that all pretenses to the exercise of authority within her are only illegal illusions, however widely believed and received they may be by the world (including the world of professing “Catholics”).

Alan Keyes may very well be on to something when it comes to the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of Barack Obama’s claim to be the 44th President of the United States of America; perhaps only the passage of time will tell.

But whether or not Mr. Obama ever succeeds in satisfying former Ambassador Keyes and many other concerned Americans, including knowledgeable experts in the field of government affairs, that he has indeed met the legal requirements to have been validly elected to the office he now occupies, one thing is clear: the passage of time has only served to confirm, month after month and year after year, that Joseph Ratzinger, a self-professed liberal and progressivist since well before Vatican II, has never abjured his modernist heresies, but on the contrary has relentlessly persisted in reiterating them, again and again, since his invalid election four years ago next month.

On this point, at least, Barack Obama and Benedict XVI find themselves to be two peas in the same political pod. Just as in the case of Mr. Obama’s election, so in the case of Cardinal Ratzinger’s election, it is the law – and in Papa Ratzi’s case, God’s immutable law – that is determinative, and nothing else.

It doesn’t matter what the (equally heretical) other “cardinals” say or think they accomplished in the conclave on April 19, 2005.

It doesn’t matter what the world of professing “Catholics” says.

It doesn’t matter what either the secular or the “Catholic” media says, what the AP or UPI or NBC or EWTN says, what Fox News or Abe Foxman says, what The New York Times or USA Today or The Wanderer or The Remnant or Catholic Family News or The Latin Mass Magazine or Inside the Vatican or TV Guide says.

It doesn’t matter what Rush Limbaugh, Regis Philbin, Richard McBrien, or Roger Staubach says. It doesn’t matter what Fr. Gruner or Fr.Groeschel or Cardinal Maphoney says. It doesn’t matter what Mother Angelica or Karl Keating or Scott Hahn or George Weigel or Wayne Weible says, or what the NCCB, the SSPX, the ADL, or the AFL-CIO says. Nor, of course, does it matter what Alan Keyes or Gerry Matatics says, either.

All that matters is what God’s law says. And no amount of occasional pseudo-traditionalist gestures on Benedict XVI’s part -- gestures cleverly calculated to persuade the “SSPX” (or any other gullible, pseudo-traditionalist group) of Benedict’s own feigned “traditionalist” proclivities, gestures that the world of would-be Catholics and wishful thinkers desperately clutch at, as drowning men clutch at straws -- can obscure that determinative, and damning, fact.

[Note: You can read Pope Leo XIII’s extremely relevant encyclical, Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church), cited in the essay above, included along with twenty-nine other key papal documents of his, in the 580-page anthology A Light in the Heavens: The Great Encyclicals of Leo XIII, available from our online store,, while supplies last. We also carry Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma, a compendium of papal pronouncements spanning the two-thousand-year history of the Church which includes many of the proof-texts cited in the essay above.

For a thoroughly detailed discussion of all aspects of this issue, please order from our online store our new 6-CD set, “Counterfeit Catholicism: Why Vatican II, the New Mass, and Benedict XVI Are Not What They Claim to Be” (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded), a state-of-the-art digital recording of a live all-day seminar presented in Orange County, California on June 28, 2008 and released in December, for only $40 in a handsome, high-quality vinyl album. Anyone who previously purchased the first edition, consisting of 5 tapes or CDs recorded live at a seminar on September 15, 2007 in Indianapolis, is automatically eligible (proof of natural-born US citizenship not required!) to purchase the brand-new 6-CD second edition at half price, for only $20.]

Updated On: March 14th, 2009

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