Kelly Bowring versus Pope Francis

Obstinate Doubt

According to Canon law and the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” (CCC 2089)

Notice the phrasing I’ve placed in bold above on “obstinate doubt”. One way to commit heresy is to decide that an infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Magisterium is false or erroneous: “obstinate denial”. You’ve decided to reject an infallible teaching. But another way to commit the same type of sin is “obstinate doubt”.

For example, there was a news story a few years ago about a Catholic priest in Australia, who was distributing a written booklet suggesting that Jesus was merely human, not Divine at all. (See #3 in this post at When faithful Catholics objected and complained to the Bishop, he defended himself by saying that he was not certain that Jesus was merely human, he was only considering it as a possibility. Well, that’s obstinate doubt and that’s heresy. If Jesus is not Divine, then our faith is in vain.

If you say that maybe the Virgin Mary was not a virgin, but maybe she was a virgin, you are doubting the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. If this doubt is obstinate — not passing feelings or hesitations or difficulty in overcoming objections (CCC 2089) — but a deliberate continued resolution to doubt an infallible teaching, then you have fallen into the heresy of obstinate doubt.

The same principle applies to schism. If you have decided that Pope Saint John 23, or Pope Saint John Paul II, or Pope Francis, or any other validly elected Pope, is a heretic, or the Antichrist, or an evil false prophet who assists the Antichrist, or an imposter, or the like, then you have fallen into the grave sin of schism. You have chosen to separate yourself from the Church by rejecting the Head of the Church on earth and the Supreme Teacher of all Christians. If your rejection of the Pope is not an obstinate denial of his role as the Head of the Church on earth and the Vicar of Christ, but obstinate doubt, you are still guilty of the grave sin of schism.

Can a Pope Fall into Heresy?

Can a validly-elected Pope fall into heresy, and thereby become invalid or somehow lose his authority as Supreme Shepherd of the Church? Let’s see what Jesus says:

{22:32} But I have prayed for you [Peter], so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

This verse and the phrasing “confirm your brothers” is cited by Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium n. 25 in the passage on Papal Infallibility. Jesus has prayed for Peter and his successors, and as a result of His Divine Help, the Pope cannot fail by falling into apostasy, heresy, or schism.

{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
{16:19} And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

This passage is also cited by Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, n. 22, which states that the “body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head…. this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.”

The Pope cannot fall into heresy, nor in any way become “invalid” or an “imposter” or a “false prophet”, because our Lord Jesus Christ has promised that Peter and his successors would be the Rock on which the Church is founded. If a Pope could fall into heresy, then the body of Bishops would lose its head, and the gates of Hell would have prevailed. For sins against religion, including certainly apostasy, heresy, and schism, are among the worst sins that one can commit, the sins most deserving of Hell.

In the past, some Saints have considered what would happen if the Pope fell into heresy. But this mere hypothetical was like the counter-factual hypothetical of the Apostle Saint Paul:

[1 Corinthians]
{15:12} Now if Christ is preached, that he rose again from the dead, how is it that some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
{15:13} For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen.
{15:14} And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is useless, and your faith is also useless.
{15:15} Then, too, we would be found to be false witnesses of God, because we would have given testimony against God, saying that he had raised up Christ, when he had not raised him up, if, indeed, the dead do not rise again.
{15:16} For if the dead do not rise again, then neither has Christ risen again.
{15:17} But if Christ has not risen, then your faith is vain; for you would still be in your sins.

If a Pope ever fell into heresy, then he too would be automatically excommunicated, cut-off from the Church by his own obstinate denial or obstinate doubt of an infallible teaching. But God does not permit any Pope to fall into heresy. If Christ has not risen, then our faith is in vain. But He has risen, and so our faith is not in vain. If the Pope is a heretic, then our faith is in vain. But the Pope can never fall into heresy, and so our faith is not in vain.

The grace of God does not permit the Pope to fall into heresy, not for his sake, but for ours. Does this contradict the free will of the Pope? Not at all. For any Pope can validly resign, and subsequently he is not the Pope and does not have protection from apostasy, heresy, and schism. But as long as a validly elected Pope (who accepts this office freely and becomes the Bishop of Rome) willingly continues in office, grace prevents him from this type of sin, so that the promise of Jesus would be inviolate: Peter is the Rock of the Church and the Rock of the teachings of the Magisterium and the Rock of our salvation.

Is the Magisterium always infallible?

No, it is not. The teaching of the Magisterium is only infallible when it meets certain conditions. For Papal Infallibility, the conditions are those taught infallibly by the First Vatican Council. This dogma necessarily implies that the teaching of the Pope is only infallible when those conditions are met. If anyone claims that the teaching of the Pope or of the Magisterium is always infallible, then he has fallen into the heresy of rejecting the infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council.

Canon law is a witness to this truth, that not every magisterial teaching is infallible:

Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.

The Pope is only infallible when his teaching meets the above summarized conditions, more precisely explained by the First and Second Vatican Councils. Not every doctrine of the Church is infallible.

The U.S. Bishops have taught that some teachings of the Magisterium are non-infallible, allowing for a limited possibility of licit dissent. (Human Life in Our Day, n. 49-54). Some foolish persons maintain that the teachings of the Magisterium can never err, and when confronted with this teaching of the Magisterium by the U.S. Bishops, they claim it is an error. Such a contradictory position is ridiculous.

Both Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken about the non-infallible teaching of the Church. And Pope Saint John 23 famously said:

“I am not infallible…. The pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra. I will never speak ex cathedra, therefore I am not infallible.” (See my post)

So any Pope or Ecumenical Council, when not exercising their ability to teach infallibly, can possibly err. The possibility of error is limited by the work of the Holy Spirit, so that even a non-infallible teaching cannot lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. But not all teachings of the Magisterium are infallible. And when the Pope expresses his personal theological opinion, he can err — but never to the extent of heresy.

If a Pope could fall into heresy by his public teaching, then how would we know which teachings to believe? An Ecumenical Council is not valid without a valid Pope, as Lumen Gentium n. 22 taught. So how would we know which Councils to believe? We would have no way to judge the veracity of a Pope’s public teaching. And if a Pope could fall into heresy secretly and thereby lose his authority, how would we know? This claim places the validity of every Pope and Council in a state of perpetual uncertainty. And that is why God NEVER permits any Pope — liberal or conservative, Saint or sinner, great or small — to fall into heresy.

Kelly Bowring

And this brings us to the subject of theologian and author Kelly Bowring. Here’s a link to his lengthy diatribe against Pope Francis. And here is a relevant quote:

“A year ago, after examining the credible heavenly prophecies of our times and their relation to the election of the new Pope, I wrote an article explaining that it was “plausible” (seems reasonable, but not yet certain) that the prophecies might be true concerning their declaration that Pope Francis is the False Prophet.

“Today, a year into his pontificate, mounting evidence of credible heavenly prophecy and of Pope Francis’ own actions, teachings and unfolding agenda that aligns with the prophecy have me now thinking it is not only plausible, but also even “possible” he is the False Prophet… it is quite possible.”

Bowring does not seem to understand the meaning of the words possible and plausible. Possible means that something may be true. Probable means that something is likely to be true. He has the meanings reversed. But since he asserts both meanings, it does not matter.

Kelly Bowring has publically asserted that it is both possible and probable that Pope Francis is the “false prophet” who assists the Antichrist in deceiving the world:

“It is important to recognize that the False Prophet will be the greatest deceiver to ever live on earth, the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, pretending perfectly to be that which he is not. By this, he will lead many of the faithful into heresy, and he will eventually cause the earth to honor and worship the Antichrist (Rev. 13:12).”

This assertion, which Bowring posted on 13 March 2014, constitutes obstinate doubt concerning the legitimacy of the Pope. And it implies a refusal to submit to the authority of Pope Francis. Bowring insists that Pope Francis may have fallen away from the Church by heresy. But the truth is that Bowring himself has fallen away. Kelly Bowring has fallen under a sentence of automatic excommunication by rejecting Pope Francis as the Shepherd of the Church of Jesus Christ, instead calling him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “imposter,” and “False Prophet”.

And it is not a legitimate defense for Bowring to say that he only doubts the validity of Pope Francis. Obstinate doubt is no excuse. We are all required by the holy Catholic Faith to believe the words of Jesus that Peter and his successors have a faith that cannot fail, and that each Pope is a Rock on which the Church is founded.

Bowring also errs gravely by claiming that the teaching of the Magisterium is always infallible:

“Catholics believe that by the will and teaching of Christ, the Magisterium of the Church is protected with the charism of infallibility such that by the power of Holy Spirit the Pope cannot ever err in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. The true Church will never err in faith and morals.”

It is not enough for a Pope’s teaching to be “official” and “on matters of faith and morals”. All of the conditions for Papal Infallibility taught by the First Vatican Council and reiterated by the Second Vatican Council must be met, or the teaching of the Pope is only non-infallible. Infallible teachings require the full assent of faith. Non-infallible teachings require only the religious submission of mind and will, as Lumen Gentium n. 25 taught, and as Pope Saint John Paul II taught:

“With respect to the non-infallible expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church, these should be received with religious submission of mind and will.” John Paul II to U.S. Bishops

Bowring rejects the teachings of Vatican I and Vatican II and Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope John Paul II and the U.S. Bishops and Canon Law that the Magisterium sometimes teaches non-infallibly and other times infallibly.

It’s also quite absurd to say that the teaching of the Pope is always infallible, except when you yourself judge that the Pope has fallen into heresy. The result is not that the Pope is infallible, but that you are infallible. You are essentially saying that the Pope is only infallible when he teaches whatever you think is true. And if the Pope dares to teach anything you don’t think is true, you conclude that he must have fallen into heresy? Is it not possible that you yourself, being a fallible sinner, have instead erred and misunderstood? The arrogance of judging any Pope or Council, to see if you should accuse the Pope or the Council of heresy, is astounding. It is like the arrogance of the Pharisees, who judged and condemned Jesus Christ.

Why does Bowring reject Pope Francis? It is partly because he adheres to the claimed messages of a false visionary who has chosen for herself the self-exalting pseudonym: “Maria Divine Mercy” (MDM). She names herself after the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nature of God who is Mercy.

Bowring’s book “The Great Battle Has Begun: How to Approach the End of Our Times with Peace” contains many quotes from MDM, quotes which treat her words as if they were from Heaven. And yet her messages vehemently reject Pope Francis as an “imposter” and “False Prophet” — the same claims made by Bowring in rejecting Pope Francis.

See my posts on Maria Divine Mercy:
Rejection of the Catholic Church by Maria Divine Mercy
Kelly Bowring and Maria Divine Mercy
A False Visionary Rejects the New Pope

The real name of Maria Divine Mercy is “Mary Carberry” of Dublin, Ireland. Her bishop has publically stated that many of her messages “are in contradiction with Catholic theology”.

Maria Divine Mercy and all her followers have fallen into heresy and schism. They are all automatically excommunicated under Canon law and the eternal moral law: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication” (Canon 1364). And Kelly Bowring is also automatically excommunicated for rejecting Pope Francis and the teaching of Jesus himself on the Pope as the Rock of the Church.

Whosoever rejects any Ecumenical Council rejects the Church. Whosoever rejects any Pope rejects Christ. If anyone does not love our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema!

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

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2 Responses to Kelly Bowring versus Pope Francis

  1. Matt says:

    Protestants are especially anti-Catholic. They even call the Catholic Church the whore of babylon. Worse, many of them are former Catholics. I’ve debated them on blogs defending the Catholic faith but am appalled at the utter hatred of the Pope and priests. Are they committing gravely immoral sins due to their rejection of the Catholic Church?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think that most Protestants are not anti-Catholic. They simply disagree with Catholic teaching. Only a small but vocal percentage of Protestants choose to hate the Church, her priests, and her faithful. But in so far as anyone — Catholic, Protestant, other faiths, no faith — chooses to hate God or neighbor, they commit a grave sin against the Love that is the only path of salvation.

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