The Rejection of Popes and Ecumenical Councils

The “old Catholic Church” is a small schismatic and heretical group, formed in reaction to the First Vatican Council. It happens time and time again, in the history of the Church. An Ecumenical Council decides questions of faith and morals with the authority of Christ, and some Catholics leave the Church because they don’t agree. Regardless of the teachings and time period at issue, the fault is the same: placing one’s own limited fallible understanding of Christianity above the infallible teaching of Jesus Christ through His Church. Oh, the arrogance of individuals and small groups of Christians, to consider that the Pope and the body of Bishops have all gone astray, to imagine that their own understanding is essentially infallible, and that the successor of Peter and the successors of the other Apostles are foolish, ignorant, and heretical. Pride goes before sin.

And the same process is happening today. There are some conservatives who decided that the Second Vatican Council erred, that the Council taught heresy and fell away from the true Catholic Faith. These are the “sede vacantist” splinter groups, who can’t even agree among themselves as to what is truth; yet each considers itself to be the one true Church.

Then there are certain conservative Catholics who “soft reject” Vatican II. They treat the Council and its teachings with condescension and denigration. They claim that the Council erred, and that it taught nothing authoritatively. They don’t go so far as to say that the Council taught heresy. But they reject anything contrary to their own understanding of Catholicism, even when taught by a Pope or a Council. They have one foot out the door of the Church.

Some of these ultra-conservatives are treating Pope Francis the way that they treat Vatican II. They are condescending toward him. They seek out every possible criticism of his words and actions. Since he is liberal and they are conservative, they imagine that they understand the Faith better than he does. When Pope Francis eventually issues a teaching document, containing truths certainly found within Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, but contradicting the distorted understanding of Catholicism in the minds of these arrogant conservative, they will reject him as a heretic. Then they will have both feet out the door.

When certain Catholics rejected the First Vatican Council, they formed the “old Catholic Church”. They are certain that Vatican One went astray from the Faith. So, what do they think will happen next? Do they expect that a new Council will reject Vatican I and II as heretical or schismatic Councils, and declare that the “old Catholic Church” is the true Church? Do they expect that a new Pope will reject all the Popes from the First Vatican Council to the present day, including several Pope-Saints? Never gonna happen.

And the same is true for the Second Vatican Council. Will a future Council reject the teachings of Vatican II, treating those teachings the way that the ultra-conservatives do? Will a future Pope decide that all the Popes since Vatican II went astray by continuing to teaching its teachings? The idea is ridiculous. So what do the ultra-conservatives who reject Vatican II (in one way or another) and who are about to reject Pope Francis think will happen? No subsequent Pope is going to reject Pope Francis or Pope John XIII or any other valid Pope, conservative or liberal. No subsequent Council is going to reject the conservative First Vatican Council, nor the liberal Second Vatican Council.

Or do you not realize that a non-infallible teaching (if, indeed, the teachings of Vatican II were all only non-infallible in the first place) becomes infallible under the ORDINARY AND UNIVERSAL MAGISTERIUM — just as Vatican One taught — when it is taught by the body of Bishops dispersed through the world and the Popes universally? Many of the teachings of Vatican II have become infallible, by this point in time, because they have continued to be taught by each successive Pope and by the body of Bishops dispersed through the world. So these teachings, which ultra-conservatives claim were originally only non-infallible, are now infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium. And anyone who now rejects those infallible teachings commits the sin of formal heresy, and is automatically excommunicated.

The sin of formal schism also carries the penalty of automatic excommunication. When soon these same ultra-conservatives reject Pope Francis, they will fall under the penalty for that sin as well. And they will be guilty of bearing false witness against their neighbor, when they falsely accuse the Pope of heresy. How does the branch expect to continue receiving life from the vine, when it rejects the vine and separates from it?

The tribulation is near. And one of its most terrible events is the great apostasy. But while many conservatives imagine that they are being more faithful by being ever more conservative, in fact they are committing apostasy by putting conservatism above Catholicism. These ultra-conservatives will be the first ones to leave the Church during the great apostasy, under the reign of Pope Francis. Very soon.

You’ve been warned.

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

Apocalypse Survival Guide for Christians
available in print (paperback, pp.) and in Kindle format.

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