Pope Francis: to what extent is error possible?

Many conservative and traditionalist Catholics are preparing to reject Pope Francis, if he should teach anything contrary to Catholic doctrine or change any discipline that is related to doctrine. To what extent is error possible in the doctrines and disciplines of Pope Francis?


1. It is a dogmatic fact that Pope Francis is the valid Pope. Pope emeritus Benedict has accepted him as Pope. All the Cardinals and Bishops of the world have accepted him as Pope. The body of the faithful have accepted him as Pope. “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.” (Lumen Gentium 12)

Some conservatives have decided to cast doubt on the validity of his election. Their motivation is solely that they disagree with his ideas. They put forward no substantial reason to doubt his validity, other than his refusal to teach according to their own misunderstanding. Do not listen to their fables. The Church is secured by being founded on the Rock that is Peter and his successors. The Church’s foundation would at no time be as firm as a rock if the validity of a papal election were fragile, easily made invalid by small problems. See my post: The Path of Salvation is Not Fragile

2. A valid Pope can never fall into heresy in any way. He can never teach heresy. He can never commit the sin of heresy personally, not even secretly in his heart and mind. What Saint Bellarmine really said about Popes and Heresy

3. The Church is indefectible. She can never teach heresy. She can never go astray from the Faith. She can never lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. And since the Pope is the head of the Church, the Pope can never teach heresy, can never go astray from the Faith himself, and can never lead the faithful away from the path of salvation.

4. Therefore, it is a grave error to judge every teaching and decision of any Pope, conclude that he must have fallen into heresy when you disagree with his teaching or when you fail to see how his teaching is consonant with past Church teachings, and then declare that his election must have been invalid. His validity is a dogmatic fact. There is no possibility that Pope Francis has been mistakenly accepted by all the diocese and parishes of the world as true Pope, for then the Church would not be indefectible.

If you do not see how his teaching can be true, or can be consonant with past Church teachings, then the fault is yours. You have oversimplified the doctrines of the Faith. You have made false assumptions and drawn incorrect conclusions. If you and the Pope disagree, to such an extent that you conclude the Pope must have fallen into heresy, then the truth is that you yourself have fallen into heresy. For the Church is indefectible, and the Pope cannot go astray, neither personally, nor in His teachings.

Note Well:

Pope Francis is the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, the Head of the Church on earth. His infallible teachings, if he should issue any teachings under infallibility, cannot err. His non-infallible teachings can err, but only to a limited extent, and never to such an extent as to lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. His decisions on discipline are fallible and can err, but again, never in such a way as to lead anyone away from the path of salvation.

Pope Saint Celestine V, who famously resigned from office after only several months, is said to have made many mistakes in the exercise of his temporal authority (over discipline). “It is wonderful how many serious mistakes the simple old man crowded into five short months. We have no full register of them, because his official acts were annulled by his successor.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Take note that no one questions the validity of the papacy of Pope Celestine V, and he is a canonized Saint. It is certainly possible for Pope Francis to err in many different ways in matters of discipline. Such errors do not conflate to errors on doctrine. And the idea that a change of discipline equates to heresy is a rash, foolish, ignorant, dangerous, and utterly false claim.

Some errors are possible in the reign of a valid and holy Pope. But a greater range of errors is possible in your own mind and heart, in your own words and deeds. I am sick and tired of reading the arrogant words of Catholics who speak as if their own understanding of Church doctrine is infallible. They propose an over-simplified and distorted understanding of doctrines which they say the Church has always taught or has taught infallibly, and then they proclaim that if Pope Francis says otherwise, he must have erred, or gone astray from the Faith, or committed heresy, or that he must be an invalid Pope. Pride goeth before a fall.

Pride goeth before schism, heresy, and apostasy. The Catholics who are speaking this way have badly misunderstood the breadth, depth, complexity, and mystery of Catholic doctrine. They are rushing toward the grave sin of formal schism. Pope Francis will eventually teach true doctrines, in contradiction to their false assumptions, over-simplifications, misunderstandings, unsound theological arguments, and incorrect conclusions. And then they will reject Christ by rejecting the Vicar of Christ. They will depart from the Church by formal schism. Ironically, these same persons often loudly proclaim that apostates, heretics, and schismatics cannot be saved unless they repent.

If you think that you understand the Catholic Faith better than the Pope, where are your books, booklets, and articles of theology? You have none. Where is your work with Sacred Scripture? You have none. Now for a simpler question: What is your real name? Most of these arrogant and ignorant Catholics hide behind the anonymity of the internet, while loudly proclaiming that their understanding of doctrine and discipline is better than that of the Pope.

What is the likelihood that “sillyusername123” has understood the teachings of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium better than the Pope? Zero.

At least the Pharisees of Jesus’ day studied the Jewish Faith, before proclaiming their errors on doctrine and discipline. These modern-day Pharisees don’t even bother to study the Catholic Faith, before speaking as if they themselves were more Catholic than the Pope.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

{16:12} Then they understood that he was not saying that they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

{16:17} And in response, Jesus said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father, who is in heaven.
{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
{16:19} And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

{18:2} And Jesus, calling to himself a little child, placed him in their midst.
{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
{18:4} Therefore, whoever will have humbled himself like this little child, such a one is greater in the kingdom of heaven.

Accept the teaching and authority of each successive Pope, liberal or conservative, like a little child.

Or depart from the Catholic Christian Church, and stop bothering us faithful souls who simply wish to live in the House built upon the Rock.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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