The Mistakes of Conservative Papal Critics

Like every Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis is not personally infallible; his opinions and non-infallible teachings do not have the guarantee of infallibility; he can err in a number of different ways. Therefore, the faithful can disagree, without sin. In so far as he can err, they can disagree. But faithful disagreement has limits.

The current situation is reprehensible. A large number of conservative Catholics, who formerly defended each Pope and their teachings, now see the current Pontiff as their theological opponent. They criticize everything he says and does. They interpret his words and deeds with suspicion and disesteem, rather than charity and faith. They are making many mistakes. Here is my summary of their errors:

1. They assume that the majority opinion in the conservative Catholic subculture cannot err.

2. They assume that the correct answer to any theological question is the conservative answer.

3. They think that conservatives are necessarily orthodox and faithful.

4. They each think themselves to be more faithful to Church teaching than Pope Francis.

5. Pride, sinful pride. For they will not humble themselves to be taught and corrected by the Roman Pontiff.

6. They interpret his every word and deed with a strongly negative bias.

7. They view Pope Francis as an opponent, not as their Pastor and Teacher.

8. They wrongly think that a Pope can possibly teach or commit heresy.

9. They oversimplify and distort Church teaching, without realizing it.

10. They do not admit that their own understanding of Church teaching might be in error.

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

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3 Responses to The Mistakes of Conservative Papal Critics

  1. Jay says:

    Ron-Everything you say is correct. But there are troubling aspects to this Pope. Let me give you one example.Soul Annihilation. Has Pope Francis offered a teaching on judgment? Or the final issues? No he hasn’t. But he has offered his opinion, more than once, in informal chats with reporters. The worst possible outcome for a soul is annihilation. Well that’s the level of the Watchtower Society. Same with Amoris laetitia. Anything in there contradicting traditional teachings? No But the Bishops councils of Germany, Malta and Argentina interpret it one way and the Bishops of Poland and I believe Child interpret a different way.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Troubling aspects because you judge him by your own limited understanding and by your own expectations. The annihilation of the soul in Hell is a figure of speech. When the CCC calls hell eternal death, that also is a figure of speech.

      Many Bible passages are interpreted in different ways. HV is interpreted in different ways (unfortunately). And the wrong interpretation (in my view) is the one widely accepted by conservatives.

      JP2 issued an encyclical Redemptoris Missio which takes a rather liberal view of salvation theology. If Francis said the same things, he would be declared a heretic. For example: “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.”

      Pope Francis can be criticized, just as any Pope can be. I think the explanation for the excessive criticisms of Francis is just as stated in this post above.

  2. Georg says:


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