Some, not all, conservative and traditionalist Catholics have decided that they will oppose any decision on doctrine or discipline by Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops which does not agree with their own understanding. Within this loose-knit group are a few Cardinals and Bishops, more than a few priests, and a large number of laypersons. They think that Pope Francis will issue doctrines and disciplines contrary to their own understanding of Catholicism. I think they are right.
They think that any papal decisions on doctrine or discipline contrary to their own understanding must be erroneous. I think they have a “god complex”. They speak and act as if their own ideas cannot possibly be wrong. They speak and act as if their adherence to conservatism or traditionalism gives them a special place in the Church, above the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops, to judge and correct them. It is as if the Roman Catholic Magisterium has been replaced, in their minds and hearts, with the majority opinion among conservatives or traditionalists.
If you would believe me: Conservatism is fallible. Traditionalism is fallible. No subset of Catholics, apart from the Magisterium, can decide matters of discipline or doctrine infallibly. The Pope is able to teach infallibly. The body of Bishops led by the Pope is able to teach infallibly. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are infallible sources of truth. But adherence to a conservative or traditionalist philosophy does not guarantee freedom from error.
The decisions of the Church on discipline are not teachings. Discipline includes rules and rulings, liturgical form, rules for religious orders, administrative decisions, judgments in particular cases, and various holy devotions and practices. Disciplines are not infallible truths revealed by God. They are not moral teachings based on Divine precept. And so Church decisions on discipline are fallible.
But the Church does in fact have the authority to make these decisions, and no subculture within the Church has the authority to overrule Her. The faithful are free to disagree with particular decisions of the prudential order (as these decisions are termed). But we are not free to reject the Pope or the body of Bishops, nor to utter calumny against them, merely because we would prefer a different decision.
Some traditionalists are now proposing that an alleged error in deciding a question of discipline, such as who may receive Communion, is equivalent to a rejection of infallible doctrine. They further propose that their own understanding of said doctrine cannot err, as if their understanding were entirely dogmatic. Thus, if the Pope decides to admit the divorced and remarried to Communion, or to admit other persons deemed unfit by the conservative subculture, they will accuse the Pope of rejecting infallible doctrine. In other words, they are preparing a case to accuse Pope Francis of heresy.
As I’ve already written, no valid Pope can ever commit the sins of apostasy, heresy, or schism, just as Saint Robert Bellarmine taught. And Pope Francis is a valid Pope. So anyone who accuses Pope Francis of apostasy, heresy, or schism, thereby makes a false accusation against the Vicar of Christ. And whosoever rejects the authority of Pope Francis, rejects the authority of Christ and commits the sin of formal schism.
Apostasy, formal heresy, and formal schism each carry the penalty, under the eternal moral law and canon law, of automatic excommunication. So the end result of this conflict between the most conservative Catholics and the liberal but orthodox Pope Francis is a schism. And as the schism unfolds, I believe that an increasing number of conservative Catholics, including most traditionalists, will depart from communion with the Pope.
The schism begins at the Synod of Bishops (4 Oct 2015). It worsens as Pope Francis makes further decisions on doctrine and discipline subsequent to the Synod. He might decide to admit any Catholic to Communion who believes himself or herself to be in good conscience. He might decide to ordain women solely to the diaconate.
As early as 2007, I predicted that a future Pope would ordain women deacons in the year 2016: “a Pope, in the year 2016, will have permitted women to be ordained as deaconesses” [The Bible and the Future, 2007 edition, p. 67]. And in another book, I wrote: “The Pope of this time will decide to permit women to be ordained as deaconesses (but not as priests or Bishops). This will begin in January of 2016.” [The Secrets of Medjugorje and Garabandal Revealed, first edition, p. 228]. At that time, I had no idea that the Pope in question would take the name Francis, though I anticipated that this would be a fairly liberal Pope. And now it seems entirely possible that the Pope will decide to ordain women to the diaconate in 2016.
What other controversial decisions on doctrine and discipline might Pope Francis make at the Bishops Synod or soon thereafter? See my past post: Pope Francis’ October Surprise: 24 Shocking Possibilities
The approaching conservative schism will not tear all conservatives away from the one true Church. A large number will depart initially, and then more will follow as events unfold. Due to the schism and controversy, I believe that Pope Francis will resign as Pope in 2016 or 2017. His successor will be very conservative, but he will not entirely undo the decisions of Pope Francis, nor will he contradict the definitive teachings of Pope Francis. As a result, the conservative schismatics will mostly remain separated from the true Church.
Then this conservative successor of Pope Francis will issue decisions on doctrine and discipline that will outrage and offend liberal Catholics, leading to the second phase of this schism, the departure of most liberal Catholics along with most minimally-practicing or non-
This two-step process results in the departure of most Catholics from the Faith worldwide. Presently, over 1.2 billion persons call themselves Catholic. When all is said and done, the vast majority will depart from the Church. Many will no longer use the word Catholic to describe themselves. Some schismatics will remain who claim to be true Catholics, though they reject the Pope. But Catholics who remain faithful to all the successive Popes will be numbered, at that time, perhaps in the low hundreds of millions.
This is the great apostasy long prophesied to accompany the tribulation.
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