He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love
me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I
love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
[Note: I began this before the lockdown, and with very minimal revisions, completed it today]
Following the issuance of the dogmatic teachings on the very strict limitations of Papal Infallibility, and the Code of Canon Law of 1983 on heresy (unchanged from the 1917 Code), the various theories of papal heresy and the solutions over the past centuries must be viewed henceforth through the lens of Vatican I and Canon Law. For example, the "Bellarmino Solution" or the "Cajetan Solution" and so on must be placed within the context of post-Vatican I dogmatic Church teaching and Canon Law as they pertain to heresy. What may have been possible opinions/theories have ceased after the dogmatic teachings of Vatican I on the visibility of the Church, the role of Peter, and papal infallibility. Catholics must not forget that these opinions/theories were those of private doctors. They are not dogmatic teachings.
Two contemporary "solutions", that have gained a lot of traction, are not solutions at all. The Sedevacantists argument is: the Pope is a liberal, liberalism is heresy, therefore the Pope is not the Pope. The Modernist apply this same logic from the opposite extreme: the Pope is a liberal, but the Pope is Catholic, therefore we must be liberals.
There is a Catholic solution: Vatican I and Canon Law. The question of a Pope being a heretic, is in a sense then, besides the point. The scandals, heresies, and schismatic intentions that a Pope can convey do not ipso facto deprive him of the Papacy. In fact, history proves this beyond debate, with heretical (or dabbling with heresy) Popes remaining Popes.
A huge problem remains for Catholics striving to live holy lives, knowing that to be saved, we must be attached to the visible, hierarchical Church. To break with the Church, is to break with Christ. Outside the Church there is no salvation.
The problem and question is: obedience. This is a key point, as it is normal and natural for a Catholic to want to obey the Pope.
Just how does a Catholic navigate the waters of obedience when faced with a Pope who scandalizes, manifests intentions that seem schismatic, and engages in actions and words that seem or could be interpreted as materially heretical? The non-Catholic and emotional reaction is to declare the Pope deposed. An imposter who sits on the Throne of Peter. Here we have a serious problem. To call the Pope an "antipope" or "heretic" [formal] is to judge a priori without recourse to the Church, the very Church that these rebels claim they are defending! You cannot defend Christ by unlawfully withdrawing filial respect and obedience to His lawful Pastors. The Catholic Church is a Monarchy not a democracy, with Christ as the Head, and the Pope as His earthly Vicar. However, the Pope as Vicar does NOT have absolute powers over the Faithful. One papal title is "servant of the servants of God". We can therefore outline certain parameters that a Pope cannot circumvent:
The Pope cannot Rule as a Tyrant
Catholic teaching includes dogmatic teachings of the ecumenical councils, which no Pope can change. The Pope, like all Catholics, is also bound by Canon Law, which, without sinning, he cannot on a whim disobey. The Pope can change Canon Law, but he cannot change it so that is is contrary to Faith and Morals. Further, until Canon Law is changed, the Pope, if he violates it sins against the Church, against the virtue of obedience, against charity, and misleads the faithful. We know this from common sense: if the Mayor in a city speeds, he is breaking the law and should be subject to a fine. Until the law is changed, the Mayor cannot exceed the speed limit. Otherwise he acts unjustly, displays a dictatorial bent, and manifests contempt for the citizenry.
Violating the law of the Church is far, far graver than the violation of a city ordinance. Simply put, the Pope is not above the Law, even "his" Law. In fact it is NOT his law, but the Church's, to which the Pope must submit. Otherwise he sets himself up as a despot.
Obedience to the Pope is not Limitless
St. Paul himself, warns us in Galatians 1:8: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed". If you had lunch with the Pope, and he asked you to jump out the window at St. Marta's, (or place a beach ball on an Altar), you would be under no obligation to obey him. To the contrary, you would be bound by God's Law to not only reject his proposal, but to admonish him for violating God's Law. The Pope is not some sort of Oracle, a "divine" robot regurgitating every thought of God. This is a damnable heresy that is spread by protestants, ignorant Catholics, and misapplied by both Sedevacantists and Modernists.
The First Vatican Council reiterates traditional Catholic teaching that binds the papal hands regarding touching Catholic Dogma and Tradition (related to dogma and doctrine). The actions, statements, pronouncements, ad hoc chit chat, telephone calls, interviews with this or that journalist, must always be placed within the context of Church teaching, otherwise we fall into the madness of the "Talmud-Hadith Thesis". That is, every word and action of the Pope is a "brain dump" from God which minutely regulates the lives of Christians. This is what has become to also be known as "papolatry".
The Question of Evil Popes
In Governance and Discipline, according to the same Council, the Pope has supreme and universal jurisdiction. However, many papal acts of governance are reversed, overturned, and modified by successors, precisely because they do not pertain to doctrine. Further, acts of Governance and Discipline must be for the pastoral good of the Church. A number of Popes who abused their authority and perverted the justice of good governance in the service of the Gospel can be cited. For example, Paul IV, Alexander VI, and other renaissance popes ruled as despotic princes, and committed grave sins of uncharity and injustice. Some Popes have been elected through simony. Even a simoniacal man who seizes the Throne of Peter through evil means, once recognized by the Church, becomes Pope (e.g. Julius II, Alexander VI), for God will not allow His Church to be headless. Though the First Lateran Council declared prelates who engaged in simony to lose Office: “‘Following the examples of the Holy Fathers’ and renewing the duty of
our office ‘we forbid in every way by the authority of the Apostolic See
that anyone by means of money be ordained or promoted in the Church of
God. But if anyone shall have acquired ordination or promotion in the
Church in this way, let him be entirely deprived of his office.'” (Denz. 359), it did not apply to men who were once recognized as Pope, as my two examples above illustrate.
Besides the grave sin and crime of simony some Popes have fathered children, others have committed murder and other crimes. Who can forget the active homosexual, rapist, murderer, simoniacal Benedict IX? However, like the heretical popes, these men, still to this day, are listed as Popes. Along with heretical Popes, evil Popes also remain Popes.
So we come to Pope Francis, a man who it cannot be denied has abused his Office, created scandal such as his promotion of men gravely suspect of heresy into the episcopate, met and embraced two homosexuals he met whilst on his visit to the United States, the protection/promotion of known homosexuals in the curia, coverup in the de facto international pedophile gang.
He has also engaged in remarks and actions that are very grave causes for concern. I shall only cite a few examples of documented facts, not gossip or rumours. Examples include: his official renunciation of preaching the Gospel to Jews. His refusal to preach the Gospel to Moslems, Buddhists and others. Equivocation on the existence of Hell (which incidentally has been causing consternation amongst the separated brethren), the contradictory obfuscations in Amoris Laetitia. More recently we have the Amazon Synod working Document that also contains the following: No. 121: "the Spirit of the Lord has taught these peoples [Amzonian animists] throughout the centuries faith in the God Father-Mother Creator...") etc. Most recently we have his scandalus "Tutti fratelli" document that mixes truth, falsehood, innuendo, politics, and subtle gossip into a unpalatable stew of spiritual poison.
Is Francis a Punishment from God?
However he remains the Pope. Why? Why does God allow a man who refuses to preach the Gospel to Jews, Moslems and others; who is and is permitting error and confusion to be sown in the Church, to be on the Throne of Peter? Perhaps as a just punishment from God on His Church which has been, and continues to be grossly disobedient? Who can deny that a just punishment should not be meted out on the vast majority of Catholics who rejected Humanae Vitae, or ignored it, or even indirectly contributed to the error by believing (and living it) it themselves but not teaching it to family members?
Jesus Christ took marriage very seriously. He upbraided the Jews for their issuing divorce certificates. The spirit of the Judaizers (the very original heresy) was already rampant in the 1960s. We saw it reappear during the recent Synod on the Family when one high ranking Prelate preferred the abrogated Law of Moses to the living Law of Christ. Let us not forget the warning of St. John Eudes, who said that when God permits evil priests, it is a sure sign that God is angry with His Church.
Who cannot deny that over the decades, and even well before the Second Vatican Council, the Church was already committing adultery with the World? Who can deny that Catholics are in need of scourging for being so lukewarm, so engrossed in sin? Just look at the use of contraception, the abortion rates, the explosion in pornography, the support for sexual deviancy amongst Catholics. God has every reason to be outraged with Catholics who are openly mocking His Law. The price for infidelity, as reflected in the Old Testament, is constant scourging by God, and the final deportation into slavery in Babylon for the unfaithful Israelites. Let there be no mistake, our countries, our cities, our very parishes are modern "Babylon".
Throughout this mysterious crisis, let us not forget that Jesus Christ remains in absolute control as the Lord of History. He permits the Pope to still remain the Pope. For as all powerful, He could strike the Pope dead today, if He so decided. Francis remains on the Throne for a reason known to God, just as the High Priest Caiaphas remained on the "seat of Moses" whilst he was organizing the greatest blasphemy and crime in history: Deicide. Yet Our Lord did not depose him, but recognized Caiaphas as the head of the Jewish Church (at that time the one true religion, until they rejected and crucified the Messiah) until the Sacrifice was Offered on the Cross. When, and only when the Curtain of the Temple was rent in two was the Old Covenant abolished and the Church born out of the blood and water from Christ's side to become the new Israel, led at that time by a tiny remnant of faithful Jews. The rest had fallen away into apostasy.
Loyalty to Christ through Loyalty to the Church
Let us return now to the question of obedience to the Popes that Jesus Christ permits to sit upon the Throne of Peter. As I have tried to outlined above, when a Pope diverges from what he is bound as Pope to teach and defend, we are not bound to obey. The Pope as bishop is also a private doctor. Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga emphasized this very point last December on Polish television, when discussing the issue of obedience. It must not be forgotten that upon his Episcopal consecration, Jorge Bergoglio professed the following, and when a Catholic respectfully disobeys the Pope, it should be because the Catholic desires the Pope to remain faithful to his promises to Christ. It is not rebellion, but seeking the Pope to reaffirm his faith in Christ:
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in
the word of God, whether
written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a
solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth
to be believed
as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the
Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
We must love the Church, love the Pope, pray for the Pope, especially for any Pope who may have gone out of his Catholic mind! The words of Our Lord to St. Peter: "Simon, Simon do you love me", also apply to us. Do we love Him? Do we really love Him? Do we love Him enough to trust Him and remain in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? When churchmen like Cardinal Burke, Archbishops Lenga, Vigano and others speak, they do so out of love for the Pope, that he affirm the Faithful in Christ's unchangeable Teachings.
The Activity of Satan in causing Confusion
Satan is also very active. He loves dissension, confusion and hatred. There is a diabolical temptation to anger, rage, quarreling, private judgment etc. St. Paul warned us, all these come from the Evil One. None of this will reform the Church, but on the contrary, only add to the destruction, and loss of souls. If the Pope does or says something crazy: turn to prayer, to penance. Do not follow him into error, but also do not rage, do not lead others into confusion. Christ is in control of His Church! It is His Church, and not the Pope's. Remember we are not supposed to be "papolators", are we? But it is also not my Church or yours. It is His. Let us NOT forget that. Failure to recognize this is to place far too much trust in man, and far too little in God.
Christ is the Head of the Church
It is de fide, that Christ is the Head of the Church. One of the greatest temptations is to abandon the Church because of our revulsion that She has been betrayed into the hands of sinful men. But that would be a catastrophic error. We can choose: will we be like the daughters of Jerusalem, the women at the Cross, or will we run and hide like the Apostles? Or, far worse, will we betray Our Lord and join with Judas to sell out the Church to Caiaphas and other evil men who proclaim daily, "he will not reign over us"?
Friends, let us remain with the Church as she is abused, raped, sold into prostitution by the very men who should be loving and serving Her. Let us not abandon Jesus, as He is being re-crucified in His Church. Let us not flee to false synagogues of Satan, let us not leave the Church for some nonexistent "church" or sect. To flee is to flee from the foot of the Cross, to abandon Christ to His enemies. Schism, as I have been trying to warn, is no solution at all, but in fact an aggravation of the crisis. To leave the Catholic Church because bad men control the Hierarchy, even the Papacy is pathetic. Did the holy women walk away from the foot of the Cross?
Our Weapon is Prayer
Have you been to Mass today? [you can see that this was drafted well before the lockout from our churches] Have you visited the Blessed Sacrament? Have you made a good examination of conscience? Have you prayed the Rosary? Have you forgiven your "enemies", those who may have mocked you for staying faithful to Christ's Church? Do you love the Pope? You may not like him but you are commanded by the Law of Christ to love him. If you have hate in your heart, you have Satan there.
The first step in ending the madness in the Church and the world is that each one of us, in humility recognize our sins, make a good confession, a firm purpose of amendment, and strive to lead holy lives. It means seeking out a priest to whom we regularly make a good confession. This is critically important, as for what is "self-evident" heresy, may actually be us in error. Let us not forget the lesson the Abbe de Nantes taught the dissenting, schismatic priests back in 1969: no one can authoritatively pronounce someone as guilty of heresy. We may - with charity - say someone seems to be suspect, perhaps even guilty of material heresy. But NO one, outside of the Church through Her juridically appointed judges, can pronounce the sentence of formal heresy upon another. To deny this is an act of rebellion and despising the legitimate Authority of Christ through His Ministers. It is implicitly denying Christ as King.
The Absolute Need for a Spiritual Director
We need to have a spiritual director, who can act as a guide in these tumultuous times. A spiritual director can provide the necessary brake on our natural inclination to pride. The refusal to have a spiritual director, someone whom we obey, is a sure sign of spiritual pride which will only have sad consequences. Critically, the spiritual director can provide essential guidance on how to act and react to the crisis in the Church, so that if and when scandals and heresies arise, we will be guided through the minefield and not be scattered to the winds, with the very heretics we wish to avoid. The Catholic Church functions on Authority, thus we expose ourselves to the grave danger of private judgment without spiritual direction.
We may also need to make practical reforms in our lives which are leading us, and others into sin. For example, we may have to give up, change the direction, and/or greatly reduce our social media activity, if our confessor sees it as an impediment to growing in holiness.
If we cannot reform ourselves, we can hardly reform the Church, even less can we call for reform without being convicted of hypocrisy. Let us do penance, let us pray, let us serve others in our lives, and let us leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit who is the True Reformer. May the words of St. Paul be our guide:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith"
2 Timothy 4:7