Q and A on accusations against Pope Francis

A conservative schism is already underway. Some conservatives have already publicly declared that Pope Francis has taught heresy, or has committed heresy. Some have already publicly declared, in one way or another, that they will not be guided or taught by this Pope. And many more are on the edge of falling into schism. The following Q and A addresses the concerns of some Catholics who have fallen into doubts about Pope Francis.

Q: If Pope Francis is accused of heresy, how do we know that the accusation is false?

A: Pope Francis is a liberal but orthodox Roman Pontiff. He is the valid Pope and so he has the authority of Christ over doctrine and discipline. The prevenient grace of God prevents him from teaching or adhering to any heresy. Therefore, if anyone accuses him of heresy, they are the ones who are in error. As for matters of discipline, an imprudent discipline is not a doctrinal error, for all disciplines eventually pass away, but the truth remains forever. These points are proven by the previous chapters of this book.

Q: What if I am a traditionalist and the majority of traditionalists accuse Pope Francis of heresy?

A: Are you a follower of Jesus, or of the traditionalist subculture? Is your faith in God, or in men? A faithful Catholic can be liberal, or moderate, or conservative, or traditionalist. But if any Catholic places more trust in a particular culture, rather than in the Vicar of Christ, he has fallen away. Heed the words of Sacred Scripture:

[1 Corinthians]
{1:9} God is faithful. Through him, you have been called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
{1:10} And so, I beg you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that every one of you speak in the same way, and that there be no schisms among you. So may you become perfect, with the same mind and with the same judgment.
{1:11} For it has been indicated to me, about you, my brothers, by those who are with Chloes, that there are contentions among you.
{1:12} Now I say this because each of you is saying: “Certainly, I am of Paul;” “But I am of Apollo;” “Truly, I am of Cephas;” as well as: “I am of Christ.”
{1:13} Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

God is faithful, therefore He never permits the Church, or the Pope, or the body of Bishops to go astray from the path of salvation. As explained earlier in this book, the degree and type of errors that are possible are limited. Whoever says otherwise accuses God of unfaithfulness.

Notice the example that Sacred Scripture gives, where different persons are divided by following different leaders: Apollo, Cephas (Peter), Paul, Christ. The expression “I am of Apollo” represents those Christians who fall away from the Church by adhering to the ideas of sinful secular society. The expression “I am of Cephas” represents those who fall away by using a past Pope as a way to reject the current Pope. Examples include the Society of Saint Pius X, and those who claim that Benedict XVI was the real Pope during the reign of Pope Francis. The expression “I am of Paul” represents those who fall away by following a prominent Cardinal or Bishop or a subset of Cardinals and Bishops. The expression “I am of Christ” represents those who fall away from the Church by claiming that their own understanding of Christ’s teachings is correct, and that of the Church is wrong.

To be faithful, we need simply believe the teachings and follow the disciplines of each successive valid Pope. God is testing the members of the Church, to see if they are truly faithful. The reign of the liberal Pope Francis will be followed by the conservative Pope Pius XIII. There will be one short papal reign after another, and each Pope will be very different from the previous ones. Do you believe what the Church teaches only when you like the particular Pope in office? Then you are only faithful only to your own mind and heart. The successor of Peter is the Rock on which the Church is founded. So if you wish the house of your faith to withstand the storms of the present age, build that house on Peter.

Q: Cardinals, Bishops, and priests, who have always been holy and faithful, are departing from communion with the Pope. Should we not follow their example?

A: Who told you to judge each Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, and priest, and then only believe those whom you have judged to be faithful and holy? The Pope alone holds the keys to the Church, the two keys that represent the spiritual and temporal authority of Christ. It does not matter how holy or faithful a Cardinal or Bishop may seem to be. It does not matter if a particular Pope seems, to your fallen sinful mind, to be misguided or imprudent. You cannot see people’s souls and you have no ability or authority to judge them.

Speaking for myself, I will follow each valid Pope, whether he is Saint or sinner, wise or imprudent, congenial or unruly, lenient or harsh. For the Church on earth can only have one head, the Vicar of Christ. The one and only Church is one body, one head, (not two heads like a monster). The Pope holds the keys, not because he is holiest or smartest or cleverest or most eloquent. The Pope holds the keys because he has been chosen under the providence and grace of God.

{11:33} Oh, the depths of the richness of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable are his ways!
{11:34} For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
{11:35} Or who first gave to him, so that repayment would be owed?
{11:36} For from him, and through him, and in him are all things. To him is glory, for all eternity. Amen.

Q: If my local traditionalist priest has rejected Pope Francis, can I still attend the Latin Mass said by him? There is no other Latin Mass nearby.

A: When did Christ teach that only the Latin Mass is valid? Was the Last Supper a Latin Mass? Catholics who love the exterior elements of traditionalism more than Christ are not really Catholic or Christian. There is nothing wrong with the traditional Latin Mass, and the faithful can have a preference for various traditional elements of worship. But as soon as you decide to prefer these non-essential aspects of Catholicism over the valid Pope and over the Bishops and priests in communion with him, you have decided to prefer these things over Christ.

If no Vetus Ordo is available nearby, led by a priest who is faithful to each successive valid Pope, then attend a Novus Ordo Mass. If no Mass is nearby led by a conservative priest, attend a Mass led by a liberal priest, as long as the priest is in communion with the Pope. It offends God when a Catholic drives 50 or 100 miles, to another parish or diocese, merely because their local priest is not to their liking. He is liberal and they are conservative, or vice versa. Is Christ divided into liberal and conservative? Does the Blessed Virgin Mary ask you to reject the Mass in every language but Latin? Don’t be ridiculous. Go to Mass at your local parish, unless the priest has manifestly rejected the current Pope.

I have attended Mass led by priests who were very conservative, very liberal, and in-between. I’ve attended Mass at conservative parishes, liberal parishes, and college chapels. The same Eucharist is offered at every Mass. The same God is worshipped in any language. If you are only willing to attend Mass when every element of liturgical form is to your liking, then you are not there to worship God. Carry your Cross and forebear any problems and faults in the local parish priest and in the Mass said by him.
Q: What if I am certain that Pope Francis has taught a grave heresy? Is it not a sin for me to believe what he teaches and do what he says?

A: The sin is found in your arrogance and ignorance. You exalt yourself above the Pope, as if you understand Catholicism better than he does. Are you so learned and holy that you are more Catholic than the Pope?

I have a degree in theology. I’ve been studying and writing theology for 20 years. I’ve written and published over 3 dozen books and booklets of theology. I’ve translated the entire Latin Vulgate Bible into English (the Catholic Public Domain Version). Not counting my Bible translation and books on other topics, I’ve written about 10,000 pages of theology. And yet I do not consider myself to understand Catholicism better than Pope Francis, or any other Pope. I have read the documents issued by Pope Francis very carefully, and I’ve learned from this Pope. I consider him to be faithful, holy, learned, wise, and a future canonized Saint.

Do you understand Catholicism better than Pope Francis? You don’t even understand the Faith better than I do. Where are your works of theology? Where is your translation of the Bible? The vast majority of those who denigrate, ridicule, and reject Pope Francis have very little basis for that rejection, other than sinful pride. They are conservative, and he is liberal, therefore they think themselves to be above him in understanding and faithfulness.

If you are certain that Pope Francis has taught heresy, then you have sinned by that certitude. For the teaching of the Pope defines what is and is not heresy. And the prevenient grace of God keeps every Pope from teaching material heresy, and from committing apostasy, heresy, and schism. Most of the critics of Pope Francis have no idea what “prevenient grace” even means. They couldn’t pass a test on the basic teachings of Catholicism on faith, morals, and salvation. They cannot distinguish between dogma and heresy.

Is it a sin for you to believe what Pope Francis teaches, when you are certain that he is wrong? It would not be a sin, if you would humble yourself to believe what he teaches with your heart and mind. The infallible teachings of the Pope require the full assent of faith from you. If you refuse, then you are the one guilty of heresy. The non-infallible teachings of the Pope require the religious submission of your mind and your will. If you refuse, you have sinned. If you accuse any Pope of heresy, you have sinned. Pride goeth before a fall.

Submit your mind and will to the teachings of the Pope, for that is what Christ Jesus requires of you. But if you think that you have understood Catholicism better than him, depart from the Church and go your own way. For you cannot claim to be a Catholic Christian while accusing the Pope of heresy.

Q: Explain to me how the latest teachings of Pope Francis are compatible with Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the past teachings of the Magisterium. Why should I believe without being given a satisfactory explanation?

A: Those who have the infused virtue of faith believe because it is the teaching of the Church, not because they were given an explanation that made sense to their fallen sinful heart and mind.

Q: What am I supposed to do, if my friends and family, or my parish priest and fellow parishioners, or my Bishop reject Pope Francis?

A: Remember what Christ taught:

{10:32} Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father, who is in heaven.
{10:33} But whoever will have denied me before men, I also will deny before my Father, who is in heaven.
{10:34} Do not think that I came to send peace upon the earth. I came, not to send peace, but the sword.
{10:35} For I came to divide a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
{10:36} And the enemies of a man will be those of his own household.
{10:37} Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me.
{10:38} And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
{10:39} Whoever finds his life, will lose it. And whoever will have lost his life because of me, shall find it.

To remain faithful, you might have to give up the Latin Mass, or a beloved priest, or a traditionalist or conservative parish. To remain faithful, you might have to disagree with friends or family about the Pope and the Catholic Faith. Try to find a parish where the priest has remained faithful to each and every Pope. Do not be alarmed if the local Bishop has gone astray. You do not need to move or drive to a different diocese. Eventually, the schism will be healed and the Church will be One.

Q: What if someone I know to be intelligent and holy is telling me to reject Pope Francis?

A: There are many intelligent and holy persons in the Orthodox Churches and the Protestant denominations. They are still wrong to reject each Roman Pontiff, and certain Ecumenical Councils. There are many intelligent and holy persons in the Jewish faith, but they are still wrong to reject Christ and His Church. There are many intelligent and good persons in other religions, and even among agnostics and atheists. But their intelligence and goodness does not imply that they have the ability or authority to judge or condemn any Supreme Pontiff of the one true Church.

Choose Christ.

Q: Is it the sin of schism to disagree with Pope Francis or with the Synod?

A: Concerning every Pope and Ecumenical Council and Synod and Cardinal and Bishop: You may disagree, to a limited extent, with some few magisterial teachings, if they are non-infallible and you have a firm basis in Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. You may not disagree with any infallible teaching. You may opine that a particular judgment of the prudential order or that a decision on discipline is imprudent. And some limited disobedience to Church authority is also possible, without grave sin (Mt 12:1-7).
But if you accuse any Pope or Ecumenical Council or the body of Bishops of heresy, you have committed schism. If you refuse to believe any infallible teaching of the Magisterium, you have committed heresy. If you reject the teaching authority or the temporal authority of any Pope, or of the body of Bishops, you have committed schism. If you separate yourself from the one true Church by joining a group which rejects the Church, or which falsely claims to be the one true Church, then you have committed schism.

The above Q and A is from my book:
In Defense of Pope Francis

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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