Love of Enemies versus Faith in a flawed Pope

{5:44} But I say to you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. And pray for those who persecute and slander you.
{5:45} In this way, you shall be sons of your Father, who is in heaven. He causes his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and he causes it to rain upon the just and the unjust.
{5:46} For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Do not even tax collectors behave this way?

Do you have the true love of God and neighbor in your mind, heart, and soul? If you love your friends and family, if you love those who treat you well, you might not have the theological virtue of love. For even some of the wicked seem to love their friends and family. The real test of whether you have true spiritual love of neighbor is how you treat those who treat you badly.

Similarly, the real test of faithfulness to the Church and the Vicar of Christ is not found in your loyalty to a Pope who may well also be a Saint and a Doctor of the Church. Rather, it is found in how you treat a Pope who has personal flaws, who speaks too readily, who makes mistakes in personal theological opinions and matters of discipline. Only if you are faithful to this type of Pope, who is a true successor of Peter despite his failings, only then do you truly have the theological virtue of faith. And it is found in how you treat a Pope who teaches contrary to your own understanding and who rebukes you the way that Christ rebuked many different persons.

Pope Francis may well be a living Saint. Pope Saint Celestine V made many errors of discipline and administration during his several months as Pope, and then he resigned his office. Yet he is a Saint. Pope Francis has a profound love for the suffering and for the fallen sinner, and so I believe he is a Saint. But he rebukes conservatives for their errors (which do deserve a rebuke), he teaches truths that are contrary to their own limited understanding, and he makes many minor mistakes in his opinions and remarks. Thus, the papal critics show the weakness of their faith, and some show their absence of the living virtue of faith.

God is using Pope Francis to show the errors and sins and weak faith of so many conservative Catholic leaders. And it isn’t over yet. Pope Francis is going to issue further decisions on doctrine and discipline, which will drive a wedge between the faithful conservatives and the pride-filled unfaithful conservatives. There will be a conservative schism soon. Many conservatives are already prepared to depart the Church. Their bags are packed. The car keys are in their hands. They just need to say their last goodbyes and then they are out the door.

Yes, pride is the reason for the schism. I have seen this pride for many decades now, so it is not attributable to Pope Francis. The conservative Catholic subculture has become a magisterium unto itself. They have developed a new version of the Roman Catholic faith, based on their own minds and hearts, not based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. They have distorted or ignored or rejected any teachings they dislike. And they have already preached their perverse version of the Catholic religion very widely. All that is left to happen is for the true Vicar of Christ to issue decisions on doctrine and discipline in contradiction to the conservative Catholic subculture.

Then each conservative Catholic will have to choose, between what seems right to their own mind, influenced for so long by conservative Catholicism, and what Christ himself is teaching through the Vicar of Christ. You will all be put to the test. Pray that you are not found lacking in the eyes of God.

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

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6 Responses to Love of Enemies versus Faith in a flawed Pope

  1. Mark P. says:

    I believe that some more “liberal” clergy take advantage of the Pope’s kind demeanor and calls for mercy and twist his messages to their own understandings and notions. So it seems this Pontificate is bringing to light errors on both “sides,” for lack of a better term.

  2. Guest says:

    I’m thinking that conservatives (from the global north) do not understand this pope (who has experiences living in the global south) so they are confused because he doesn’t stress the issues that they find most important and dismiss him as a demagogue, socialist or liberal.

  3. Tom Mazanec says:

    If there is a schism going on, it is not over conservative or liberal popes, in my personall experience. Several members of my family have either officially left the Church, or unofficially done so. Those who remain (including me) have been scandalized. And the scandal is not over doctrine or discipline. It is over the pedophilia and homosexuality of much of American clergy, and how it has been handled by the Church.

  4. Matt says:

    Before Pope Francis, you would have never caught me in the same room with a homosexual or known adulterer, let alone having dinner with them. Pope Francis has taught me to not be a Pharasee and instead pray for them. I still consider homosexual conduct or a person leaving their spouse and marrying another person quite repulsive. However us Catholics are the bridge and probably only hope for that person’s eternal salvation. I find it incredibly challenging to evangelize to grave sinners. What I do now is have Masses said for them without them even knowing. My hope is that God will send graces to move that person to repent sometime in their life, even at the hour of their death.

  5. Dora says:

    Ron, I hope you’re coping better with your sciatica. My aunt went to a chiropractor for back pain and she was able to skip surgery and she went off every one of her meds.

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