conservative Catholics denounce and revile the Pope

We have reached the point now where many conservative Catholics are openly disrespecting, denigrating, denouncing, deriding, and reviling the Holy Father, Pope Francis. They show no trace of respect for the office or the person of the Pope. They have poured forth a river of negative rhetoric against the Vicar of Christ. And they seem to be competing with one another, to see who can offer the most sensational calumny, the most incisive slander, against the Father and Teacher of all Christians. They belittle the Supreme and Universal Pastor. And they exalt themselves as well.

A faithful Catholic can respectfully disagree with the Pope. But it is always sinful:

* to assume that your understanding on any matter of doctrine or discipline is necessarily and inarguably true
* to assume that your understanding is better than that of the Pope
* to assume that a conservative Catholic necessarily understands the Faith better than a liberal Pope
* to speak as if the Pope cannot possibly be correct, when his words conflict with your own understanding

* to speak with disrespect toward the Pope
* to denigrate the Pope
* to deride the Pope or his words or his theological opinions
* to denounce or revile the Pope

* to utter any kind of negative rhetoric against the Pope
* to speak or act as if the Pope were subject to your judgment
* to condemn his words or deeds, as if you had authority over him
* to fail or refuse to treat the Pope with the utmost respect and honor, even when you disagree with his words or deeds

Pope Francis is all of these things…

Holy Father
Supreme Head of the whole Church
Father and Teacher of all Christians

Supreme Pontiff
Supreme and Universal Pastor
True Vicar of Christ

Ruler of Christ’s whole fold
Supreme Judge of the faithful
Successor to Saint Peter

Rock on which the Church is founded
Pilot and Helmsman of the Ark of Salvation

…and you are none of those things. So when you speak with disrespect and denigration against the Pope, when you denounce and revile him, you necessarily sin gravely against Christ himself. When Saul persecuted the Church, he was truly persecuting Jesus.

{9:4} And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
{9:5} And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”

When conservative Catholics speak against Pope Francis, they speak against Christ. A faithful Catholic can disagree with a personal theological opinion of any Pope, or with a decision on discipline. A faithful Catholic can even disagree, to a limited extent, with some few teachings of the Pope under the non-infallible ordinary papal Magisterium. But it is always sinful to treat the Pope with disrespect, denigration, derision, reviling, slander, or calumny — as so many conservative Catholics are doing today.

Many Catholic bloggers and commentators are publicly committing objective mortal sin by the way they speak about the Vicar of Christ. They loudly proclaim that persons who are unrepentant from manifest grave sin must not receive holy Communion. And then they commit manifest grave sin by the way they speak about the Holy Father. They show no remorse or shame or repentance from this sin. And they continue to receive Communion.

They are like the Pharisee in the temple, whose prayer was filled with self-exaltation and with contempt for his neighbor, a fallen sinner. The repentant sinner went home in a state of grace, and the Pharisee did not; he remained unrepentant from actual mortal sin (Lk 18:11-14).

Each and every valid successor of Saint Peter possesses the divinely-conferred gift of truth and of a never-failing faith.

The Pope can possibly err, on a matter of faith or morals, in his personal opinions or even in a non-infallible teaching. But he can never teach heresy, and he can never commit heresy — neither in his public statements, nor in any private communications, nor even hidden in his heart and mind.

Here is a brief excerpt from my book, In Defense of Pope Francis on that point:

Those who oppose Pope Francis have a tendency to adhere to the false opinion that a Pope can possibly teach heresy or can possibly fall into heresy. In their harsh criticism of the Pope, they seem to assume that a Pope can commit formal heresy personally or that he can teach material heresy. They express no confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit to protect a Pope from falling into heresy. They assume that if a Pope commits heresy, he would thereby cease to be truly the Pope. Some also think that a validly elected Pope might become invalid by going astray in doctrine or discipline. For them, the Rock on which the Church is founded is not the Roman Pontiff, but conservatism or traditionalism or their own understanding. It is as if Pope is only the Rock, and is literally only the Pope, if he conforms to their will and whims.

But in truth, no Pope can ever teach heresy, and no Pope can ever fall into heresy at all. The prevenient grace of God absolutely prevents the Pope from adhering to any heretical idea and from teaching any heresy, for the sake of the indefectibility of the Church and the surety of the path of our salvation. The promise of Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 16:17-19; Lk 22:32) guarantees both the public teaching and the personal faith of the Pope.

You ask: But what if Pope Francis does in fact teach heresy? I reply with my own question: Are you yourself infallible? Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that you might have misunderstood the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium or the words of the Pope? Where in the Gospels does it say that you yourself are infallible, or that the conservative or traditionalist subculture can never err?

I have cited and quoted the passages in the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaching that: the Church is indefectible, the Church is founded on the Rock that is Peter and his successors, and the faith of each Pope can never fail. This teaching is infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium and has been taught by the First Vatican Council. Why do you not accept this teaching?

If you think that Pope Francis has taught heresy, you are mistaken. If you are absolutely certain that the Pope has taught heresy, and all your fellow traditionalists, or liberals, or conservatives, or some other group are equally certain, then you are all mistaken. The Church has seen large portions of the faithful, including some Bishops and many priests, go astray from the Faith. The monophysite heresy (claiming that Jesus had only one nature, not two) was held by most of the Church located in Egypt at the time. The Arian heresy saw over 300 Bishops go astray into that error, though most repented. There is no guarantee from God that any subgroup within the Church, even the one with which you identify, will be indefectible or infallible.

The Roman Pontiff has the charism of a faith that never fails, and you do not. The universal Church on earth as a whole has the charism of indefectibility, and your subculture of Catholics does not. So if you and yours are certain that Pope Francis or his successor has fallen into heresy, then I am certain that you are the ones who have gone astray.

Pride goeth before a fall.

Please consider buying my book: In Defense of Pope Francis. You will need to understand these truths about the Church and the Pope — that both are indefectible — when the great schism begins (probably later this year).

Supporters of the Pope might want to take a look at Tribulation Times, which has recently been focusing on defending Pope Francis (though the main topic of the site is eschatology). They have my permission to reprint my blog posts defending the Pope.

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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One Response to conservative Catholics denounce and revile the Pope

  1. James says:

    The thing is Ron is Pope Francis, at the very least, obfuscates issues, he doesn’t clarify them. Does this then lead people to sin?

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