To avoid the sin of schism, a Catholic should hold that:
1. Pope Francis is the current valid successor of Peter, and therefore he is:
“true vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christian people. To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal Church.” — First Vatican Council
2. The Catholic Christian faithful must be subject to Pope Francis, since he is the Roman Pontiff.
“It arises from the necessity of salvation that all the faithful of Christ are to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” — Fifth Lateran Council
“schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” — Canon 751
3. Pope Francis has the gift of truth and of a faith that cannot fail.
“This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.” — First Vatican Council
Therefore, no Pope can teach material heresy, nor commit the sins of apostasy, heresy, or schism. And no Pope can lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. For the Church is indefectible, and the Pope is the Head of the Church.
4. Any Pope, from Peter through all of his successors, can possibly err in a personal theological opinion, but never to the extent of material or formal heresy, nor to such an extent as to lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. And such errors must never be exaggerated, as if they implied heresy or a destruction of the true Gospel.
5. Any Pope can possibly err, to a limited extent, in his non-infallible teachings, but never to the extent of material or formal heresy, nor to such an extent as to lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. The errors that are possible in personal theological opinions are broader than the errors possible in non-infallible teachings. But neither can contain heresy or lead us away from eternal life.
6. Any Pope, including Pope Francis, is able to teach infallibly, and such teachings, if they meet the criteria taught by the First Vatican Council for Papal Infallibility, cannot possibly err.
7. Faithful Catholics can disagree with a decision of any Pope on a matter of discipline or of prudential judgment. But we must always remain subject to the Pope’s authority over both doctrine and discipline.
8. Malice, hatred, and vicious false accusations, directed at any Pope, are incompatible with submission to the Roman Pontiff and with membership in the one true Church.
9. The decision to oppose any Pope, whether privately or publicly, not merely on a particular question of discipline or doctrine, but, on the whole, to oppose his person or his office, is incompatible with submission to the Roman Pontiff and with membership in the one true Church.
10. In humility, we must admit that if the words or deeds of any Pope seem to be in error, perhaps we are the ones who have erred or misunderstood.
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