Solution to the Papal Crisis

The Papal Crisis is the opposition between the conservative Catholic subculture and the Roman Pontiff: Pope Francis. This crisis is harming the Church. Many laypersons are being encouraged by conservative Catholic leaders to distrust the Vicar of Christ, and to reject or ignore his teachings. The Church is not a political body; it is the Ark of Salvation. When large groups and prominent individuals oppose the one pilot and helmsman of that ship, the journey of the passengers to happiness is put in danger.

You might imagine that Pope Francis could have taught the same truths, but in a different manner, and perhaps lessened the conflict between the two sides. But consider the conflict between conservatives and the Second Vatican Council. Still today they undermine, ignore, and denigrate that Ecumenical Council. I see nothing wrong with the Council’s documents at all. So, even if Pope Francis had been more careful, treating conservatives like infants who are not ready for solid food, they would still have rejected him.

Since Vatican II, a conservative Catholic subculture has developed with sees itself as the guardian of truth in the Church, above the Magisterium. They should have humbled themselves to accept the teachings of Vatican II, and perhaps also doing some good work supporting the correct interpretation of its documents (against certain liberal errors). But out of pride, they reject or ignore anything in Vatican II that does not agree with their own thinking.

And the same attitude, the same culture, continued during the reign of subsequent Popes, from Pope Saint Paul VI, to Pope Saint John Paul II, to Pope Benedict XVI, to Pope Francis. Always whatever was taught was filtered through the conservative Catholic subculture, to judge whether it is right or wrong. And whatever seemed the least bit suspect was rejected or radically reinterpreted. So the Papal Crisis is not just between Pope Francis and conservative critics. It is a conflict between the conservative Catholic subculture and the Papacy itself.

God’s plan to deal with these arrogant leaders, who exalt themselves above the Church itself is simple: present them with a liberal Pope to prove whether they are faithful to the Church and the Roman Pontiff, or to their own ideas. Conservatives are being put to the test by God and they don’t even realize it. They are failing the test miserably.

The Best Solution would be for conservative critics of the Pope to humble themselves before him, submit to his authority, and accept his teaching. There is some room for faithful dissent from non-infallible teachings of any Pope. So they are not in such a difficult situation. But they absolutely must stop speaking about the Pope as if he were under their authority, as if his ideas are measured by the yardstick of their understanding, and as if they could demand answers to questions and changes to behavior from him.

That won’t happen. They are filled with pride. They have a large audience and plenty of money. They will continue to oppose him.

Next Best Solution: Pope Francis will continue to teach in opposition to the conservative Catholic subculture, and they will depart from the one true Church, revealing themselves as unfaithful schismatics, not as persons who are so wise and holy they can correct Popes, Councils, and the Church Herself. The Church will become smaller and holier, while the conservative Catholic subculture drifts in the storm, like a ship without a rudder.

Pope Francis will need to use Papal Infallibility in order to complete God’s work of testing the conservative Catholic leaders. Otherwise, they could claim that his teachings are errors under the non-infallible magisterium. But once that happens, the Crisis will reach its breaking point, and we will see who is truly faithful and who is not.

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

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19 Responses to Solution to the Papal Crisis

  1. ERM says:

    Hi Ron, may you please list some of Pope Francis’ teachings, that you see as most important for people to harken unto, in your opinion. You’ve done this to some extent in articles like https://ronconte.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/an-a-to-z-defense-of-pope-francis/
    but that list is organized by the teachings which a critic chose to oppose, not based on which teachings you think are most important. I’m just interested to know your opinion on which teachings are most important (regardless of whether or not they’re also the most often opposed). Thanks!

    • Ron Conte says:

      His teachings on the environment solve the problem of pitting concern for the environment against human needs. He integrates humanity into this integral ecology, and proposes a scale of values, such that stopping abortion would be above lesser concerns (that are still important) like climate change.
      https://ronconte.wordpress.com/?s=environment

      Also important is his concern for persons who are trapped in a cycle of sin, repentance, and sinning again, and his approach of letting them receive Communion after Confession, despite their situation. It is important to avoid the black and white analysis so common in conservatives approaches. This will show when the Pontiff tackles salvation theology (hopefully soon). Persons who are living in objectively sinful situations might still be in the state of grace, like the divorced and remarried, and might still go to Heaven (gay married persons, transgender individuals, non-believers, etc.).

      His criticisms of conservative Catholics are important because conservatives have so much influence in many parts of the Church. It is important to realize that a conservative answer is not necessarily the right answer, and to see the weaknesses of the conservative approach to the faith.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    “Persons who are living in objectively sinful situations might still be in the state of grace, like the divorced and remarried, and might still go to Heaven (gay married persons, transgender individuals, non-believers, etc.).“

    You mean through ignorance, correct?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Ignorance keeps them being guilty of actual mortal sin, then they would also need to love their neighbor to be in the state of grace.

    • Mark P. says:

      Then somebody who is born into an isolated atheist country like North Korea probably has a better chance of attaining heaven than a Catholic, because they would basically remain ignorant of Christian teachings for their entire life.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No. Catholics have the Sacraments, devotions, teachings of the Church, which are of immense help in the path of salvation. An atheist has the hidden work of grace and fallen reason. So it is harder for the atheist to attain heaven.

  3. joey_in_NC says:

    “Ignorance keeps them guilty of actual mortal sin…”

    Can you please elaborate on what precisely “ignorance” means in this context? For example, if a gay married man is confronted by his priest and informs him that the Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, then wouldn’t the gay married man no longer be “ignorant”? And thus will he not be in the state of mortal sin if he chooses to continue to be active in his relationship?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Most gay married couples are not Mass-going Catholics. That is the case I was referencing. They may be in good conscience, because society strongly supports the claim that they are not doing anything wrong. For the case you describe, mere knowledge that the Church teaches something is not sufficient. Some Catholics simply think that the Church is mistaken. What matters is the sincere belief of conscience, one way or the other.

  4. Matt Z. says:

    Then what about those who continue to persist in their homosexual sin after they have been told about their error and sin? What if this were other sins such as murder, adultery, abortion, contraception and these people continue in their sin even after the Church rebukes them? These people have to bring their consciences to align with the Church by trusting the Church. For those that have the heart of truly wanting to learn from the Church and start to bend their wills to Church teaching , then thats great. If not, they need to be treated as unrepentant public sinners. My own father has been divorced and remarried for many many years. He once in a great while attends mass. When I approach him about this subject(about divorce and remarriage) he states he “doesnt follow every of the Church little edicts.” It seems like he is more bent of having the Church follow him in his own sin rather than conform to the Church. I continue to love him and have him a part of my life and my familys life. He is respectful of my faith and he doesnt preach his liberalism to our children. But if he did, things would be quite different, I wouldnt allow him to be as close to my family. So in my opinion there has to be a point where the Church says no more to public unrepentant sinners. Otherwise, its going to be like it is now, people infiltrating the Church from within, corrupting the minds of believers and even some of the clergy, some by using liberal tactics or wanting their own sinful wills instead of the will of God.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “If not, they need to be treated as unrepentant public sinners.” It is not as simple as you say. The question as to which teachings are infallible, and which are non-infallible, and the distinction between teachings and common theological opinions is not always clear. For cases where it is clear, we still have to respect the consciences of others. And if the Church were to take the position you propose, you don’t seem to realize how many priests and popular Catholic leaders would be excommunicated. You can’t say “no more” to one mortal sin and not another. Schismatics, heretics, teachers of grave (but popular) errors would also have to be rebuked.

      That approach may be coming next. After God reaches out in mercy to sinners, through Pope Francis, He then sets a limit and requires repentance and conversion, or else the next Pope will expel them. But you will be surprised as who is expelled, I think. Many popular conservative Catholic leaders are actually teaching heresy.

  5. joey_in_NC says:

    “Some Catholics simply think that the Church is mistaken. What matters is the sincere belief of conscience…”

    True, but only God can read/judge one’s conscience. Because the Church is not all composed of mind-readers (like St. Padre Pio), I don’t see how she should give up convincing people to stop living objectively sinful lives.

    If sincere belief of conscience is really all that matters, then do we have anything to gain by the Church attempting to correct any sinful behavior provided one’s conscience appears to be content? It would seem to better to remain ignorant with a good conscience than being informed with a nagging conscience.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Of course, we should be teaching everyone what is objectively right or wrong. But when we speak of salvation and the state of grace, conscience and the judgment of God must prevail.

    • Mark P. says:

      Good point, there must be a limit to this. An Islamic terrorist may obey his conscience and believe he is performing the will of god by detonating a bomb which kills a dozen people, including himself. He would be completely ignorant of Christian teaching but the final act of his life would be murder and suicide. How can God then condemn this man if he were truly confused and ignorant?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Some acts are so thoroughly disordered that even fallen human reason cannot mistakenly think it is moral. So the terrorist murderer cannot be committing these acts with a sincere but mistaken conscience.

  6. Paul McNamara says:

    Condemning “conservatives,” even going so far as prophesying their demise into schism, while at the same time excusing the consciences of those you are obstinate in objective sinful behavior seems hypocritical to me. Do conservatives not get the benefit of the doubt that you give adulterers?

    The Catechism states, on conscience:

    1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it WELCOMES THE COMMANDMENTS. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

    On erroneous judgement, it states:

    1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The schismatics may be in good conscience, some of them. But the schismatics state that one must believe what the Magisterium teaches, and then they do not. They reject the Papal Magisterium, making it subject to their own judgment. They condemn adulterers for rejecting Church teaching, and then the reject Papal teaching. In both groups, there are some who are in good conscience and others who are not. The schismatics should know better; they have a much better awareness and understanding of Church teaching than minimally practicing divorced and remarried Catholics. Yet their sin is worse. For by their behavior, they affect many souls adversely, whereas the divorced and remarried sin quietly in their own lives.

  7. Paul McNamara says:

    The CCC states on conscience:

    1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it WELCOMES THE COMMANDMENTS. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

    On erroneous judgement, it states:

    1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

  8. Mark P. says:

    It has been liberal, progressive, and modernist thinking which has caused the Church to reach the point of conservatives supposedly overreacting to these errors. To use the Holy Father’s own words, many conservatives are in a “concrete situation” of being genuinely scandalized by the Church and confused by many things announced by the Vatican over the last few years. Yet, their “concrete situation” has not been recognized as a condition requiring “accompaniment.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      There are serious errors in the conservative Catholic subculture: its exaltation above the magisterium, its presumed role to judge Popes and Councils, its rejection of any papal teaching or decision not to its liking. Conservatives are not scandalized by the Pope’s teaching, but by their own pride. They are confused because they expect the Pope to teach from conservatism, not from the Gospel, and because they expect the teaching of every Pope to match their own understanding of the faith.

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