The first cracks of the Conservative Schism


The Remnant Newspaper and Catholic Family News have issued a joint statement against Pope Francis: “With Burning Concern: We Accuse Pope Francis”. With this three-part accusation, they have entered into a state of formal schism from the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The accusations in part one are numerous and severe. Parts 2 and 3 of the “Liber” (book) of accusations are out now, at the same link above. Rather than go through each accusation, I will make a few overall comments.

First, the papal accusers lack faith:

* in the words of Jesus, that Peter is the Rock on which the Church is founded;
{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.

* in the teaching of the Magisterium and the witness of Tradition that said Rock is every successor of Peter, not Peter alone;

* in the words of Jesus, that the faith of Peter will never fail;
{22:32} But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

* in the teaching of the First Vatican Council that “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors”, not on Peter alone;

* and in the indefectibility of the Church, of which Peter and each successor of Peter is the head.

Second, the papal accusers assume that their own understanding of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium is entirely infallible. So whenever the Pope contradicts their own understanding, they claim that he is contradicting Tradition or Scripture or the Magisterium. It takes a vast measure of sinful pride to make such an assumption, and then to accuse a Pope, publicly, based on that assumption.

The two publications in question are well-known for their very conservative views, and for their disdain for the Second Vatican Council and for the state of the Church since that time. The three signed authors of the accusation are on the far right of Catholic theological opinion. And, for a long time, they have been presenting their opinions as if these were inarguable facts. It is a case of the dogmatization of theological opinion. One’s own limited understanding of Tradition becomes Tradition itself. One’s own limited understanding of magisterial teaching becomes the Magisterium itself. No other interpretation of Scripture can possibly be correct, other than their own. They can’t imagine that their own understanding could err in any way, and therefore anyone who disagrees, even the Pope, must have fallen into error.

These three authors of the book of accusations against Pope Francis do not accept the teaching and authority of the Second Vatican Council, and they do not accept any teaching of any Pope which contradicts their own understanding. So the problem is not that the Cardinals decided to elect a liberal Catholic as the Vicar of Christ. The problem is the assumption that conservatism is equal to Catholicism.

Third, these accusations against Pope Francis are largely based on the assumption that the holy Pontiff has bad intentions. Rather than interpret his words and deeds with Christian charity, they interpret these with severe bias and diabolical malice.

Fourth, these accusers have taken every somewhat liberal or controversial remark of the Vicar of Christ and exaggerated the meaning of each one, as if the slightest problematic remark implied a complete abandonment by the Supreme Pontiff of the entire Gospel.

Fifth, these accusers are committing the grave sin of schism by making this accusation against Pope Francis. The accusations are so severe, and they pertain to such important matters of faith, morals, and salvation, that the accusers are thereby publicly refusing submission to the Roman Pontiff.

“Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Sixth, these accusers are committing a grave sin against the commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor — as well as the grave sin of scandal.
The second part of the book of accusations is much the same as the first, in terms of its lack of faith in the successor of Peter, exaggerations, malice, false accusations, and the pride-filled assumption that the accusers themselves cannot possibly have misunderstood any of the contended ideas.

Seventh, these papal accusers have filled their accusations to the brim with malicious rhetoric. It is not a reasoned theological argument. Rather, the authors unleash a tirade of exaggerated negativity. It is hateful and malicious, and is incompatible with Christian charity. Even if these accusations were not made against a Pope, but someone else, anyone else, it would still be  a grave sin to speak with such malice and hate.

The third part of the book of accusations has now been released. It is more of the same attitude. The papal accusers, in the end of the document, essentially say to the Pope that he must recant and correct his errors — but to do so (as a mere hypothetical), the Pope would have to change all of his opinions and teachings and decisions, on discipline and doctrine, to exactly match the views of three lay persons who are ultra-conservatives. So it is not as if they are asking him to correct an erroneous opinion on one or another point. They have utterly rejected his every opinion, teaching, and decision, and they will not submit to his papal authority, unless he submits entirely to their opinions, misunderstandings, and exaggerations.

The authors of the book of accusations have committed a formal act of schism by this extreme set of accusations against the Pope. They are not merely disagreeing, as a faithful Catholic may, with a Pope’s opinion, or with a decision on doctrine, or (to a limited extent) with a non-infallible teaching. This extensive all-encompassing set of exaggerated malicious and pride-filled accusations represents an utter rejection of the Pope’s authority as the Vicar of  Christ.

They have also committed the sin of heresy by rejecting the infallible teaching that the Church is indefectible. The First Vatican Council infallibly taught that the Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith. But they reject this dogma.

I advise all employees of those two publications to resign, and all their subscribers to cancel their subscriptions and no longer read their schismatic and heretical publications.

I advise my readers to take to heart the words of Jesus concerning persons who refuse to be corrected by the Church:

{18:17} And if he will not listen to them, tell the Church. But if he will not listen to the Church, let him be to you like the pagan and the tax collector.

Many Catholics today are making a similar error to that of the above-discussed papal accusers. They assume that their own understanding of magisterial teaching cannot err. They refuse to be taught and corrected by anyone. They want a Pope who says nothing other than what they already believe to be true. In their pride, they will not accept correction, nor admit that they themselves may be the ones who have erred.

Pride goeth before a schism.

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

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1 Response to The first cracks of the Conservative Schism

  1. Shane Hogan says:

    Thank you Ron for this piece. I have read the accusations and found them disturbing. What is most upsetting is the little bits of truth in the accusations although overall the accusers seem to have lost faith in the Pope and in the Church.
    Could I also ask you to comment on Dr. Kelly Bowring’s open letter to Pope Francis which is in a similar vein. Shane

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