If I lived in the time of past Popes

If I lived in the time of Pope Honorius, I would hold him to be the valid successor of Peter and defend him against any accusation that he has taught or committed heresy.

I suppose I would have realized that Jesus has two wills, not one. However, the question was not then so simple as it seems to be today. Certainly, subsequent to Honorius, the Church definitively taught that Jesus has two wills, his human will and the Divine will. But at the time, opinions were divided, and Sacred Scripture does not offer a plainly-stated answer. The faithful had to wait for the Magisterium to decide the question definitively. As for Pope Honorius, he never taught the incorrect position (one will), and even in his privately held convictions, expressed in private letters, he did not decide the question.

If I lived in the time of Pope John XXII (22), I would hold him to be the valid successor of Peter and defend him against any accusation that he has taught or committed heresy.

I suppose I would have disagreed with his theological opinion on the Beatific Vision for the departed faithful, but it’s difficult to say, since I have been catechized by the Church of today, which definitively taught on that question subsequent to the reign of John 22. But in any case, Pope John 22 did not teach heresy. He expressed an incorrect theological opinion, on a matter not then decided by the Magisterium.

If I lived in the time when one Pope or another was a notorious sinner, I would not immediately give credence to every accusation against the Roman Pontiff. And regardless of what sins the Pope may (or may not) have committed, I would hold him to be the valid successor of Peter and defend him against any accusation that he has taught or committed heresy.

And the same is true for all the past Popes.

So now we all live in the time of Pope Francis, and the conservative Catholic subculture has decided that it runs the Church, and that the Pope should be taught and corrected by them. So whenever the Supreme Pontiff says or does anything contrary to that culture, it speaks out against him via its mouthpieces: various Catholic bloggers, commentators, authors, and a few pride-filled members of the clergy.

I hold Pope Francis to be the valid successor of Peter, and, like all successors of Peter, he is entirely incapable of teaching heresy and of committing apostasy, heresy, or schism. I defend him against any accusation to the contrary. But I also feel free to disagree with his decisions on discipline and his personal theological opinions. Like all Popes, his non-infallible teachings are subject to a limited possibility of error, and he is able to teach infallibly, with no possibility of error.

Soon the conservative and traditionalist Catholic leaders are going to publicly accuse Pope Francis of teaching and/or committing heresy, and they will thereby fall into the sin of formal schism. I will not join them, since Jesus prevents every Pope from teaching or committing heresy.

by
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 If I lived in the time of past Popes

  1. Tom Mazanec says:

    If I lived in the time when one Pope or another was a notorious sinner, I would not immediately give credence to every accusation against the Roman Pontiff. And regardless of what sins the Pope may (or may not) have committed, I would hold him to be the valid successor of Peter and defend him against any accusation that he has taught or committed heresy.

    I suppose some such Popes are in Hell?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t know of anything from Tradition, Scripture, or Magisterium which would suggest or imply that every Pope goes to Heaven. But we really have no specific information on that point. A very sinful Pope might repent, with imperfect contrition, go to Confession, and then spend a long time in Purgatory. We just don’t know.

  2. Francisco says:

    Ron,
    Please correct me if I’m wrong (this is in connection with Jesus’ two wills):

    Jesus also has two natures, Divine and human; but Jesus’ Person is One and that is Divine, not human.
    In other words:
    Jesus’ Personhood is One = Divine
    Jesus’ nature are two = Divine and human (human since the Incarnation)
    Jesus’ will are two = one for His Divine nature and the other for His human nature.

    Please advise.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “but Jesus’ Person is One and that is Divine, not human.”
      Not correct. Jesus is a Person both human and Divine. The One Person is two natures. The rest of what you said is right. He has two wills, one for each nature.

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