The fault is with conservative Catholics, not Pope Francis

It’s not just Amoris Laetitia, and it’s not just Pope Francis. In the present time, many conservative Catholics portray themselves as entirely faithful to the Magisterium, while rejecting, ignoring, or radically reinterpreting any magisterial teachings contrary to their own thinking. They fell away from the teachings of the Church before Pope Francis was elected. It’s not him. It’s them.

As I have repeatedly said, the opinions and teachings of Pope Francis contain a few limited errors. But the errors found among popular Catholic leaders and authors are far greater. His errors do not reach to the extent of heresy, not even close. Their errors contain multiple severe heresies.


1. Vatican II

Traditionalist Catholics generally treat Vatican II as if it did not exercise the teaching authority of the Church, or as if its teachings were not binding on the faithful. They prefer their own understanding of the Faith to the teachings of the Church in an Ecumenical Council, a Council presided over by two Popes, the liberal John XXIII and the conservative Paul VI.

Vatican II does contain some infallible teachings, such as the definition of the ordinary and universal Magisterium in Lumen Gentium 25. And even if the majority of its teachings are non-infallible, such teachings still require religious assent. Moreover, since Vatican II, the successive Popes and Bishops have continued to teach many of the Council’s doctrines, and their teachings are often in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. Therefore, such teachings, even if they were once non-infallible, now fall under the ordinary and universal Magisterium, requiring the full assent of faith — an assent which many traditionalist Catholic still refuse to give, and that refusal is heresy.

2. The Council of Trent

Yes, even the teachings of the Council of Trent have been ignored, contradicted, and rejected by some conservative Catholics. The dogma on transubstantiation has been distorted, contradicted, and reimagined by several different conservative Catholics, as I have detailed in past posts. The dogma that everyone who receives a baptism of water OR a baptism of desire is a child of God by spiritual adoption, due to the state of grace, is rejected by some conservatives who claim that only baptized Christians are children of God by spiritual adoption. The dogma that a valid confession requires confession of mortal sins in kind and number was rejected by one popular Catholic blogger, considered a conservative faithful to the Magisterium. And he was never rebuked by any other Catholic author (except myself).

3. Humanae Vitae

Liberals offend against the teaching of the Church on contraception by openly rejecting it. And most conservative Catholic authors today are just as guilty. But instead of openly rejecting the teaching of Humanae Vitae, they have radically reinterpreted it. They claim that outside of marriage, contraception is either moral, or morally neutral, or that the Church has no teaching on contraception outside of marriage. Then they claim that, within marriage, a married couple may morally use contraception — including abortifacient contraception that can be anticipated to kill prenatals!!! — as long as they have a good intention or a difficult circumstance. Some go so far as to justify direct sterilization or even a direct abortion during birth (a so-called “partial birth abortion”).

By the way, the teaching of the Magisterium against contraception is not found only in Humanae Vitae. It is found in many magisterial documents, as one position definitively to be held. Therefore, the teaching is infallible under the ordinary and universal Magisterium. And so, all the false teachings on this subject are abject heresy. Yes, many conservative Catholic leaders and authors are teaching heresy on contraception and on related topics. And yet they are extolled as if they were faithful and holy leaders in the Church.

And who will step forward to rebuke these false teachers? Very few. They continue to spread their heretical distortions of magisterial teaching on contraception, abortifacient contraception, sterilization, and direct abortion. And their false teachings have found a welcoming audience, especially online. Yes, the internet has been one of the most prolific means for false Catholic teachers to spread their poison — along with the claim that it is really a healthy food offered by the Church.

4. Veritatis Splendor

The teachings of Veritatis Splendor on intrinsically evil acts is well-established as a teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. But this teaching, too, has been widely rejected by conservative Catholics. Either they write about ethics at great length, without any mention of the three fonts of morality and the concept of intrinsically evil acts. Or they propose a radical reinterpretation of that teaching, which claims that an act is not intrinsically evil, if it has a good intention or a dire circumstance.

Again, this false teaching is utter heresy. And yet its proponents have a large and thankful audience, who treat them as if they were apostles of Christ, when in fact they are doing grave harm to many souls by spreading the poison of heresy on grave matters of faith and morals.

And which false teachings on ethics are most popular? Any claimed teaching which justifies grave sexual sins, or the related sins of contraception, abortifacient contraception, and abortion, quickly becomes popular among the so-called faithful of the Church. Many Catholics are guilty and unrepentant of grave sexual sins. And they welcome any teacher who will soothe their guilty conscience by radically reinterpreting magisterial teaching, so that grave sexual sins become moral, or at least only venial.

[2 Corinthians]
{11:13} For false apostles, such as these deceitful workers, are presenting themselves as if they were Apostles of Christ.

[2 Timothy]
{4:3} For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but instead, according to their own desires, they will gather to themselves teachers, with itching ears,
{4:4} and certainly, they will turn their hearing away from the truth, and they will be turned toward fables.

[2 Peter 2]
{2:1} But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be among you lying teachers, who will introduce divisions of perdition, and they will deny him who bought them, the Lord, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
{2:2} And many persons will follow their indulgences; through such persons, the way of truth will be blasphemed.

5. Redemptoris Missio

This encyclical of Pope Saint John Paul II is on the subject of salvation. In this important area of doctrine, many conservative Catholics are spreading false teachings, too.

On the one hand, there are a few persons who have an extreme liberal position: that all human persons end up in Heaven, with no exceptions. As I have explained in past posts, such a claim is contrary to the dogmatic teachings of several different Ecumenical Councils and entirely contrary to the teachings of Tradition and Scripture.

On the other hand, Catholics on the far right have ignored or contradicted the teaching of Redemptoris Missio (n. 10) — “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.”

Instead of the above teaching of the Magisterium, they claim that non-Christians are generally not saved, that the unbaptized cannot be children of God by spiritual adoption (by a baptism of desire), and that anyone who knows about Christianity or the Catholic Church cannot be saved unless they convert. They also condemn all atheists and agnostics, as if the objective mortal sin of choosing to reject belief in God is necessarily always an actual mortal sin — something the Church has never taught.

In truth, some human persons are sent to Hell, but by the grace and mercy of God, most human persons go to Heaven, usually by way of Purgatory.

But the opinions of many conservative Catholics on salvation are not the result of study and faith in the teachings of the Magisterium. Instead, they follow their own hearts, treat non-Catholics, non-Christians, and non-believers with contempt, and follow the majority opinion of those around them, not the teachings of Christ through His Church.


How can this be? Many conservative Catholics say that they are faithful to the Magisterium, but in fact they are only faithful to their own understanding of Church teaching and to the majority opinion among conservatives. And if any Ecumenical Council or Pope, not only Pope Francis, teaches a doctrine they dislike, the feel free to ignore, contradict, or radically reinterpret it. They are filled with pride in their own faithfulness, and yet they have long ago departed from true faithfulness to the Church.

The conservative schism is very near. It’s foundation has been poured and is dry. And they have already begun to build upon it.

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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10 Responses to The fault is with conservative Catholics, not Pope Francis

  1. Mark P. says:

    Thank you for an informative post, Ron. Do you feel that this conservative schism will take place in the US and Europe, or across all areas? It seems to me that the divide between political liberals and conservatives is stronger in the West, and may feed into more schismatic action here and in Europe as compared to the rest of the world.

    In any case, both extremes of Catholics pose a threat to the Church. The extreme conservatives may prevent many people from converting to, growing in, or remaining in the faith by being overly judgmental and focusing on only a couple of token issues while almost neglecting many other requirements of the faith. And indeed, many of the traditional conservatives emphasize practices to the point of idolizing them; some of them actually think that inconsequential actions, like saying “Ahmen” instead of “Amen,” or “Holy Ghost” instead of “Holy Spirit,” are very important points and look down upon others who do not pronounce these words exactly the same as them.

    On the other hand, the extreme liberals operate under the assumption that the Church is a democracy that should adapt to the secular sinful ways of the world and basically operate as a massive charity organization. They severely confuse tolerance with morality, and to them there is no greater sin than condemning somebody’s immoral “life choices.”

    What appears to be common to many Catholics is that they do not take any additional time to study Scripture, the Catechism, or Church teaching.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The conservative schism will be worse in some areas of the world. I think it might be worst in Africa, where the Church is very conservative. But it will affect the whole Church on earth, to one extent or another, in each region.

      There will also be a liberal schism, under the next Pope, who will be very conservative. There are many problems among liberal Catholics.

  2. Dan says:

    You state that ‘conservative’ Catholics are at fault and not Pope Francis, but it is not clear which Catholics you consider fall into this group (sedevacantists? traditionalists?). You cite several examples, but some appear to still be open questions (% of those who form the elect) while others are errors inadvertently presented by individual Catholic commentators. I do not see a widespread spirit of dissent regarding Pope Francis specifically or of the Magisterium in general, but I could be wrong (time will tell).

    Also, you appear to not assign any fault to Pope Francis regarding the current situation. In my view, the manner in which Amoris Laetitia was crafted, then subsequently presented and defended has in part led us to the current situation. I believe most conservative Catholics who have concern over Pope Francis regarding the current situation will give their assent once there is something to give their assent to.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not speaking about the sedevacantists, who already left the Church long ago. I’m referring to many conservative Catholics in the pews, as well as many Catholic bloggers and online commentators, as well as most traditionalists. But the situation is not merely a reaction to AL. What will happen if Pope Francis decides to ordain women deacons? What if he teaches that non-Christians and non-believers can be saved without converting? So many Catholics seem to have staked out a position of opposition to him and of judging his teachings, as if they had no obligation to submit their will and mind to his magisterium. As you said, time will tell.

  3. christian webb says:

    With respect, there are major doubts among the faithful due to Amoris Laetitia. I know, as I am a priest dealing with the issue. The bottom line is that It would be absurd for Christians who do not strive to be faithful to Christ, to pretend it’s okay commune with Christ.

    For a fuller statement

    • Ron Conte says:

      There are some errors in AL. There have been errors in past magisterial documents under previous Popes. The faithful can licitly disagree with some few points in non-infallible teachings. But the reaction to AL seems to be based more on the liberal-conservative divide in the Church. Pope Francis is liberal, and his critics are conservative. They have long believed that the conservative answer to every theological question is the correct one. Pride is the problem here. They are unwilling to be taught or corrected on any subject. See, for example, the reaction to Laudato Si

      If you want to be entirely consistent in who may receive Communion, father, you would have to deny communion to anyone committing an objective mortal sin — which is most Mass-going Catholics today. Why don’t you preach a sermon telling your parishioners not to receive Communion if they are divorced and remarried, or if they are using contraception, or if they support legalized abortion, or if they support legalized same-sex marriage, or if they commit any grave sexual sin, without prior confession? Why are the divorced and remarried the only sinners barred from Communion? My position is that anyone who commits any objective mortal sin, ordinarily, should confess before communion. It’s Pharisaical to apply one standard to the divorced and remarried, and a much looser standard to everyone else.

  4. Guest says:

    What’s ultramonatism? That’s word that the Catholic right uses to justify their rebellion against the pope. Is Vatican I a defence of ultramonatism? They don’t see the pope as having a never-failing faith or full authority in the Church. They seem to believe that the pope can err in matters of faith and morals in his official teachings and they are right for resisting him.

  5. Paul says:

    Ron Conte said, “My position is that anyone who commits any objective mortal sin, ordinarily, should confess before communion.”

    Ron, if they know to confess it, does that not mean it would be an actual mortal sin?

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