Some Catholics are Preparing to Accuse Pope Francis of Heresy

Over at the blog One Peter Five, Steve Skojec is preparing his readers to accept an accusation of heresy against Pope Francis. How is he doing this? First, by accusing two past Popes of heresy: Honorius I and John XXII.

Skojec claims: The Church “has endured some 30 antipopes. We’ve had two valid popes (Honorius I and John XXII) who, to some degree, embraced heresy during their tenure as Vicar of Christ.”

Skojec arrogantly accuses two Popes of embracing heresy. And his qualification “to some degree” does not excuse him from this false accusation.

Did Pope Honorius I fall into heresy or teach heresy? Not at all. See the article: Guilty Only of a Failure to Teach. Pope Honorius I never taught or believed in a prevalent heresy in his day, that Christ has only one will. He was subsequently criticized by Popes and Councils for not doing enough to oppose the heresy. But the claim that he committed heresy or taught heresy is a false accusation against a Supreme Pontiff.

Did Pope John XXII (22 not 23) fall into heresy or teach heresy? Not at all. See the article: on Pope John XXII at the Catholic Encyclopedia. Pope John XXII expressed a minority opinion on a theological question — whether the souls in Heaven have the Beatific Vision prior to the general Resurrection. He opined that they do not, but he was very clear that his assertion was opinion, not an act of the Magisterium. So he was not teaching this error. And at the time, the Magisterium had not yet definitively taught that point. Subsequently, Pope Benedict XII infallibly taught that the souls in Heaven have the Beatific Vision prior to the general Resurrection. So the Pope merely expressed an erroneous opinion on an open question.

And in another relevant example: Did Saint Thomas Aquinas fall into heresy or teach heresy on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Not at all. In the Summa Theologica, he expressed the erroneous opinion, on what was then an open question, that Mary was sanctified after conception, rather than in the first moment of conception. But since the Magisterium had not yet taught the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Thomas did not commit heresy or teach heresy.

Skojec accuses two Popes of heresy in the context of his severe criticism of Pope Francis. His post begins with the question “Can a Catholic Criticize the Pope?” Then he raises the issue of the appointment of Fr. Radcliffe as consultor the a Pontifical Council by Pope Francis. The post strongly criticizes Pope Francis for his papal appointments of Radcliffe and others, which Skojec claims “represent an actual danger to the faith…. leading us to believe that he [Pope Francis] agrees with their heterodox agendas.”

Yes, a Catholic can criticize the Pope. But the most common mistake made when offering such criticism is the arrogant assumption that one’s own understanding and judgment is inerrant. Again and again I read online criticisms of Pope Francis and other Popes stated with the tacit assumption that the author cannot possibly have misunderstood anything: dogma, doctrine, discipline, and judgments of the prudential order. They love to point out that Popes can err in their theological opinions and prudential judgments. They hate to consider whether they themselves might have erred or misunderstood.

Skojec then mentions the grave sins of several popes:

“We would also do well to remember that the non-theological actions of popes can also be scandalous. Popes like Stephen VI, Benedict IX, Sergius III, John XII, Alexander VI, Innocent IV, and Urban VI come prominently to mind. These popes — all of them valid — were reported variously to have taken part in scheming, simony, murder, adultery, rape, torture, sodomy, bestiality, desecration of the corpse of a predecessor, and other horrific crimes.

While Pope Francis has certainly not been accused of acts such as these….”

The juxtaposition of a list of severe crimes and sins with a sharp accusation of Pope Francis has the effect of putting him in that same company. The claim that two Popes fell into heresy or taught heresy, and the mention of antipopes, has the effect of suggesting that Pope Francis might fall into heresy, teach heresy, or be an antipope. Skojec is not merely criticizing the Pope. He is suggesting that Pope Francis might commit grave sins, or fall into heresy, or teach heresy.

If Steve Skojec treated his neighbor in this way, impugning his character will such comparisons, he would be guilty of sin:

“Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2476 False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness. [275] When it is under oath, it is perjury. Acts such as these contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused. [276] They gravely compromise the exercise of justice and the fairness of judicial decisions.

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. [277] He becomes guilty: – of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; – of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them; [278] – of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. and if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. [279]

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.”

To commit such sins against the Pope increases the gravity of the sin. To do so in a public manner adds the sin of scandal.

Moreover, by falsely accusing two Popes of heresy, Skojec shows himself to be incompetent to teach the Catholic Faith, and incompetent to judge the words and deeds of the Pope. The Catholic faithful are poorly catechized. And some of these poorly catechized Catholics have decided to teach the Faith, without first having learned. Then some go so far as to judge and condemn Popes, despite having a poor understanding of both doctrine and discipline themselves.

Do I criticize a physicist for his views on the Higgs boson? No. I have no competency in that area. Do I tell a neurosurgeon how to conduct a delicate operation? No. I have no competency in that area. Do I write on any topic in Catholicism without researching it first? No. For I know that teachers will have the stricter judgment.

Pride goeth before a fall. A schism is about to occur in the Church. Those conservatives who are filled with pride in their own seemingly-infallible understanding of the Catholic Faith will falsely accuse Pope Francis of heresy, and thereby commit formal schism, departing from the one true Church. And authors like Steve Skojec are preparing the way for this schism.

I’m glad that the Providence of God is permitting this impending schism. For many years, many conservative and traditionalist Catholics have been teaching errors, and exalting themselves above the authority of the Church on doctrine and discipline. They should be put to the test, so see which ones put their faith in the teaching of Jesus and His Church and which ones instead put their faith in their own understanding or in the prevailing opinion in one or another Catholic subculture. God is about to separate the sheep from the goats.

The Church must become smaller in order to become holier. We must cast off those false teachers, starting with conservative false teachers, who are leading the faithful away from truth by appealing to their preference for conservative views. Michael Voris, for example, openly teaches heresy on a number of serious matters, and yet he is widely accepted and praised by persons who judge and criticize Pope Francis. How is it that persons who teach heresy are praised while Popes are falsely accused? Why does Skojec speak so harshly about the Supreme Pontiff, hinting that he might one day teach heresy, while ignoring the heresies of Voris?

The answer seems to be that some persons have decided that Conservatism is more important that Catholicism. Voris and his ilk hit all the right conservative talking points, so they are treated as if they can do no wrong. Pope Francis is liberal, so he is targeted with rash judgment, calumny, disrespect, and denigration. See my past posts on Michael Voris, especially the posts on the Trinity and on Judaism.

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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3 Responses to Some Catholics are Preparing to Accuse Pope Francis of Heresy

  1. GetReal says:

    So you’re accusing Francis of being antipope? If popes can’t be heretics, and Francis is a heretic, it follows that Francis is not a pope. If Francis says “This sounds like a heresy but I am going to say it anyway” he’s almost crossing the line between material and formal heresy, which requires obstinately holding to a position that is heretical.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is a dogmatic fact that Pope Francis is a valid Pope. For the Church is indefectible (dogma) and all the Bishops and dioceses of the world have accepted him as Pope. And no valid Pope can be a heretic. Therefore, if you think he has said something heretical, you must be wrong.

      Your argument is based on the unstated assumption that you are infallible. If it seems to you that the Pope stated heresy, you assume you could not be mistaken. This is the problem with many conservatives and traditionalists: the tacit assumption that their understanding is absolutely infallible.

  2. Francisco says:

    This is what the Pope has said:
    “I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who ‘knows’ that, despite our differences, we are one.”

    In other words, he is saying that it may “sound” controversial or heretical [to the unlearned], BUT, again, BUT, [he is teaching and correcting that] in fact, it is Not.

    The “One who knows” that, despite our differences, we are one is God.

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