Most Catholics do not want a Pope at all

Most of my fellow Catholics don’t want a liberal Pope or a conservative Pope or a moderate Pope. They do not really want a Pope at all. For the Supreme Pontiff of the Church has the right and duty to teach and correct them. The typical secularized modern-day Catholic does not accept teaching or correction from anyone. They make up their own mind about each issue, believing whatever they wish to believe. They are influenced more by sinful secular society than by any teaching of the Magisterium. And the idea that a Pope would point out the errors in their understanding and the sins in their lives is a horror to them.

Pope Francis is a liberal but orthodox Roman Pontiff. When he teaches and corrects, few listen. If he says something that is in agreement with what a particular group of Catholics already accept, they praise him for teaching them what they already knew. But if he says anything contrary to their own ideas, they ignore or explain away that correction. Most Catholics do not want to be taught by anyone. They only accept teachers who tell them what they already think is true.

Liberal Catholics do not accept correction from Pope Francis when he teaches against abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, or any other sin. They only accept his words selectively, when his words agree with their own ideas. And the same is true for conservative Catholics. They will not accept teaching or correction from Pope Francis. It is as if conservatism trumps magisterial teaching.

Do conservative Catholics oppose Pope Francis because he is liberal? That is only part of the reason. For if a very conservative Pope were to teach them any idea contrary to their own dogmatized opinions, they would reject his teaching also.

For example, the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor on intrinsically evil acts has been widely rejected by conservative Catholics. They radically reinterpret this teaching, so that it agrees with their own ideas, or they utterly ignore it. In another example, the fairly liberal teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II on salvation theology are ignored or openly rejected by conservatives. And I know of multiple instances in which certain conservatives reject particular teachings of the Council of Trent, because it conflicts with their own understanding. So it is not merely a question of conservatives rejecting a liberal Pope. Rather, a widespread trend has developed in the Church today whereby the individual Catholic feels no obligation to believe what the Church teaches, if it is in any way contrary to his or her own thoughts.

Each person’s own opinion, in this widespread error, becomes equal to any other opinion. And the definitive teachings of the Church are treated as no better than an opinion. If any teaching is undeniably a dogma, they simply reinterpret the dogma so as to transform it to their liking. I refer to this trend as “spiritual communism”.

Spiritual communism is like political communism in that all persons and ideas are claimed to be equal. This attitude undermines the role of the Pope and the Bishops to lead, teach, and correct. But just as political communism quickly leads to totalitarianism, so also does spiritual communism lead to the cultural totalitarianism whereby the majority opinion in sinful secular society is forced upon all the individuals of that society, quickly taking away the claimed equality of ideas.

Spiritual communism among Catholics leads many individuals to join a group, a subculture within the Church, in which a similar type of totalitarianism prevails. Whether the group is liberal, conservative, traditionalist, or some group that revolves around a claimed private revelation, in each case the group has ideas that it requires its members to hold, regardless of Church teaching. If any Pope tries to correct them, they adhere instead to the views of the group.

Spiritual communism treats all ideas in theology as equal. But the end result is that each person considers his or her own understanding to be absolute. For when anyone disagrees, their view is discounted as a mere opinion. If all opinions are equal, the individual has no reason to change his own opinion. But since the teachings of any Pope or Council are treated like opinions, the individual also sees no reason to change his opinion when it contradicts Church teaching.

Most Catholics do not want a Pope. They want an elderly grandfather who tells interesting stories, agrees with everything they say, and never criticizes, or teaches, or corrects. Ideally, they would like a Pope who will teach in vague terms, so that they never need to interpret his words to the condemnation of their own ideas or deeds.

Sooner or later, Pope Francis and his successor, and other successors of Peter, will teach definitively and require belief in that teaching. And then many Catholics will be angry and dismayed, as if only now do they realize that the Supreme Pontiff of the Church has actual authority over them, to teach and to correct.

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

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4 Responses to Most Catholics do not want a Pope at all

  1. Anthony says:

    “For example, the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor on intrinsically evil acts has been widely rejected by conservative Catholics. ”
    can you elaborate a little about this please.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Many conservative Catholics claim that intention and circumstances can make an act no longer intrinsically evil. Fr. Martin Rhonheimer promotes this view. So does Jimmy Akin. And it is a common view expressed by many Catholics in online discussion groups. They do not accept the teaching that intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances. They refuse to accept this teaching, for example, as it applies to lying, contraception, and various sexual sins.

  2. Paul Gravelle says:

    Thank you Ron for sharing so eloquently.

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