Mirus and Lawler versus Pope Francis

Conservative Catholics continue to rush headlong toward the cliff of schism. Pride goeth before a fall.

Dr. Jeff Mirus has a recent post: On criticizing bishops—or even the Pope. It starts out quite well.

“It is a spiritual and moral duty of every Christian to consider each person’s words in the best possible light. This goes double for our pastors, triple for our bishops, and quadruple (at least) for our pope. Moreover, it is also a spiritual and moral duty of every Christian to seek something in all spiritual discourse that he can use to grow in holiness.”

Well said. If he stopped there, I’d be touting his words as a concise effective remedy for these many attacks on Pope Francis. But then he followed this insight with statements filled with extreme pride.

“At times, of course, this means discerning an error and responding to it by accentuating the proper understanding in our own lives…. In order to use counsel that is either bad or at least confusing to our advantage, we must already be fairly well-formed and in a good position to judge such counsel against what we call “the mind of the Church.” The majority of people, for a great variety of reasons, are not able to do this…. When such scandal has been given by a Church leader, one way to minimize it is through public comment which corrects errors, confusions, and misconceptions….”

Wow. The sheer arrogance of these words astounds me. Jeff Mirus has decided that he and Phil Lawler understand the Catholic Faith so well that they should judge and correct the teachings of any and all Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes. They supposedly have the role in the Church of “discerning an error and responding to it” by telling everyone the “proper understanding” on any point of faith or morals — in contradiction to any and all Bishops and the Pope. It is as if the Magisterium and the assistance given to the Magisterium through the Holy Spirit were given only to Catholic bloggers and self-appointed teachers, and not to the body of Bishops led by the Successor of Peter.

In the quote above, Mirus portrays the teachings and insights of the Pope as “either bad or at least confusing”. Then he asserts that he and Lawler (and other similar commentators?) are “already…well-formed and in a good position to judge such counsel against…the mind of the Church.” Mirus thinks that he and Lawler are qualified to recognize which ideas are true and which are false, even when those ideas are uttered by the Vicar of Christ, speaking to the universal Church.

Then Mirus has the gall to portray anything said by any Pope, Cardinal, or Bishop and judged by him to be an error (based on his own understanding of the Faith) as “scandal” and to speak as if he has the role to correct the “errors, confusions, and misconceptions” uttered by Popes and Bishops. Who appointed Mirus or Lawler to this role? NOBODY. Who appointed Pope Francis as the Supreme Pastor and ruler of Christ’s whole fold and the Supreme Judge of the faithful? The grace and providence of the Holy Spirit, guiding the College of Cardinals.

Lawler thinks that “the Pope speaks so often without first considering what he is about to say, and that when he makes these impulsive remarks, his first unguarded thoughts so rarely show the imprint of sound Catholic teaching.” In other words, Lawler has every right to speak as often as he wishes, in one blog post after another, and the Pope has no similar right. And Lawler supposedly has the role to decide, concerning every remark of the Supreme Pontiff, whether his words “show the imprint of sound Catholic teaching”. And what is “sound Catholic teaching”? It is apparently limited to ideas that agree with the version of Catholicism in the minds and hearts of various bloviating Catholic bloggers — fallen sinners who have decided that their understanding of the Faith is infallible and complete.

Mirus and Lawler and many other Catholic authors and bloggers automatically assume that anything uttered by the True Vicar of Christ and Supreme Head of the whole Church cannot possibly be true and correct if it in anyway contradicts the version of Catholicism in their own minds and hearts. Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the teachings of the Magisterium, including the Papal Magisterium, have been replaced by the dogmatization of each arrogant Catholic’s own understanding. It is as if Mirus, Lawler, and so many others have decided that they themselves are infallible in every thought on every topic in Catholicism. And therefore, it must be their duty to correct the Supreme and Universal Pastor of the one true Church.

What other possibility is there?!! They can’t imagine that they themselves would ever be in need of teaching or correction from the person appointed by God to teach and to correct the whole Church on earth!! Are you more Catholic than the Pope? What!!? You actually think that you are more Catholic than the Pope??!!! What the $^%*#* is happening!!!???

“When our priests, bishops and even the Pope confuse or mislead the faithful by their actions or statements, this is usually because of their failure to stand firm against the common errors of the age…. With respect to scandal, the purpose of publicly criticizing the errors and confusions of ecclesiastical leaders is to limit the damage by offering better instruction.”

Mirus thinks that his blog posts on Catholicism offer “better instruction” than the priests, bishops, and the Pope. He thinks that he has the role to judge the words of the Supreme Teacher of the universal Church, to see if the Vicar of Christ may have failed “to stand firm against the common errors of the age”. Mirus and Lawler speak as if they were the Rock on which the Church were founded, and as if they have the role to criticize and correct the Pope, to “limit the damage” of his words, and to offer “better instruction”.

Here is Phil Lawler’s bio and then the bio for Jeff Mirus. Between the two of them, according to their own self-descriptions, they don’t have a single degree in theology. Neither is an ordained priest or Bishop. Neither is an advisor to the Pope, nor to the Holy See. Yet they present themselves as if they were literally judges over the teachings and theological opinions of Bishops, Cardinals, and especially the Supreme Shepherd of the universal Church.

Pride goeth before a fall.


Here are the true titles of the holy Roman Pontiff:

Holy Father
True Vicar of Christ
Supreme Head of the whole Church
Father and Teacher of all Christians
Supreme Pontiff
Roman Pontiff
Supreme and Universal Pastor
Supreme Pastor and ruler of Christ’s whole fold
Supreme Judge of the faithful

Any Catholic who denies that each Roman Pontiff has the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in matters which concern the discipline and government of the Church, or denies that the Roman Pontiff has the absolute fullness of this supreme power, not merely the principle part, and or denies that this power of his is ordinary and immediate over each and all churches and each and all of the pastors and the faithful, is automatically excommunicated for the sins of schism and heresy.

The holy Roman Pontiff is not your elderly grandfather, whose ideas are quaint or silly or the result of senility. The Pope is not a poorly-catechized child in a class where you are the teacher. The holy Father of the Church represents Jesus Christ on earth and he speaks for Christ. He has the role to teach and correct you, and you have no such role over him.

Many Conservative bloggers are boldly leading the faithful toward schism by speaking as if they understand the Faith better than the Father and Teacher of all Christians. They literally believe that they are more Catholic than the Vicar of Christ and the Head of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They sin gravely every time they speak in such a way as to lead more souls away from submission to the Roman Pontiff.

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

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One Response to Mirus and Lawler versus Pope Francis

  1. Frank says:

    I’m afraid this problem goes beyond bloggers or internet writers. I know a particular priest who during his homilies at Mass starts belittling the Pope or treating the Holy Pontiff as if he were just a clown and he, the priest, is the expert in Catholic teaching. The worst is that he influences poorly catechized mass going Catholics, and then, during the 2nd Eucharistic prayer, he has to say the words:

    “Remember, Lord, your Church, spread throughout the world, and bring her to the fullness of charity, together with *OUR* Pope Francis and our Bishop and all the clergy….”.

    After our Pope has been blasted and ridiculed, to say these words seems hypocrisy to me, or that the priest says those words because he just has to since this is written in the Eucharistic prayer.

    The way he treats the Vicar of Christ is as if Pope Francis is not really *his* Pope.

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