Keeping Faith during the Great Apostasy 02

The Pope Cannot Fall into Heresy

This is the second post in this series, explaining how the faithful of the Church can remain faithful during the great apostasy. The first post emphasized love of God and neighbor, which is expressed, in part, by loving the truths of the Faith taught by Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. This post emphasizes the faithfulness of each and every validly elected Pope and the body of Bishops.

As many authors will tell you, no Pope can teach error or heresy when exercising Papal Infallibility.

Unfortunately, there is also a common theological opinion claiming that any Pope could possibly fall into heresy. If so, then he supposedly loses his office automatically, and is unable to exercise the Magisterium infallibly. This erroneous idea, that a Pope can possibly fall into heresy, must be utterly rejected if you are to keep your faith intact during the apostasy.

It is foolish to say both that a Pope can teach infallibly and that he can fall into heresy. For if the Pope teaches infallibly, and any member of the Church thinks the teaching is heretical, he simply claims that the Pope fell into heresy and that therefore the apparently infallible teaching of the papal Magisterium is not of the Magisterium and is not infallible. This foolish theological position puts every teaching of every Pope in jeopardy. For if any individual believer finds a papal teaching to be gravely contrary to his own personal understanding of the Faith, he exalts his own understanding above the Magisterium, acts as a judge of the papal Magisterium, and condemns the Pope and his teaching as heretic and heresy.

The Church would not be the Rock founded on Peter and his successors if any Pope could fall into heresy. For then every believer would be left in the tenuous position of judging every Pope, to decide if he is a heretic or not. And then every Ecumenical Council would be on shaky ground, because someone might claim that the Pope who was the head of the Council fell into heresy, thereby making the Council null and void. And the same is true for the body of Bishops dispersed through the world, but continuing in communion with the Pope. At any time, anyone might accuse the Pope and the body of Bishops who teach with him of heresy, thereby nullifying their ability to teach the Faith. (An individual Bishop or even a set of Bishops can fall into heresy, but not the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope.)

This foolish position has been put into practice by certain ultra-conservatives, including the SSPX and similar splinter groups. They compare the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the recent Popes to their own understanding of Tradition. And whenever there is a conflict, they assume that each successive Pope since Vatican II fell into heresy, with the Bishops at the Council, and the body of Bishops dispersed through the world. If the Magisterium of an Ecumenical Council and a series of Popes and the body of Bishops all put together disagrees with your own understanding of Tradition and past magisterial teaching, is it not possible that you have misunderstood? It is the sin of pride to an extreme degree to assume that you yourself cannot fall into error or heresy, but the Pope, an Ecumenical Council, and the body of Bishops can.

This error will be repeated again and again during the great apostasy, on the right and on the left.

So in order to remain faithful, you must admit that if either your own ideas or the Pope’s teaching is heretical, you are the one who is in error. By the love of God and the love of truth, humbly admit that you have misunderstood, and accept the teaching of the Church.

The Pope can never fall into heresy. The Pope can never teach heresy infallibly. The Pope can never teach heresy non-infallibly. The Pope can never fall into heresy in his own personal opinions, whether those opinions are expressed publicly or hidden within his heart and mind. In order to cause the Church to be the indefectible Rock founded on Peter and his successors, the grace of God absolutely prevents every valid Pope from falling into apostasy, heresy, or schism.

No Ecumenical Council can fall into heresy, nor can the body of Bishops dispersed through the world, but remaining in communion with the Pope, fall into heresy, for the same reasons.

The only alternative is to say that each believer must judge each Pope and Council, to see if they have fallen into heresy. And the result of that position is that the believer soon falls away from the Church, because he has made his own understanding out to be the infallible judge of Popes and Councils. The Church would be shattered into many small splinter groups, if Popes and Councils could fall into heresy.

Soon many persons will be crying out against Pope Francis, and then later against his successor, accusing them of heresy. Do not be fooled. Do not be arrogant.

See my posts:
Could Pope Francis fall into heresy?
Why neither the Pope, nor the body of Bishops, can commit heresy
Can a Pope commit the sin of heresy?

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

The Catechism of Catholic Ethics
is now available in print (paperback, 752 pp.) and in Kindle format.

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