Does Opposing the Pope really help the Church?

A while back, I read an absolutely ridiculous article, by which I mean an article deserving of ridicule, over at 1Peter5: Our Battle Against Seemingly Insurmountable Odds. It’s about the battle against the Pope, the person chosen by Jesus Christ to shepherd His flock. The author is the founder of 1P5, and, if you are not familiar with the site, it is organized around one guiding principle: stop the Pope from harming the Church.

Steve Skojec says: “I hate what I’m doing,” I thought. “I just talk about problems all the time. I spend my days forced to go on the offensive against one of the things I love most in the world — the Catholic Church. When will I have the chance to do something constructive? Positive? Uplifting?”

Someone asked me recently about how it’s possible to do this all the time. “Because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.” I said.

Yeah, OK. It’s so tiring and wearing, being “forced” to treat the Supreme Shepherd with contempt and denigration, being “forced” to find fault with everything he says and does, being “forced” to “go on the offensive” against the successor to Peter, so that, what? So that the faithful will not follow the Pope? So that Catholics will not accept teaching and correction from the leader of the Catholic Church? What is the goal here?

I believe Mr. Skojec. He really thinks that he is right, and the Pope is wrong. He sincerely believes that he and others must rise up against the Pope, to counter the Pope’s errors, to save the Church. But he also can’t see beyond the end of his own nose.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” someone once said. In Catholicism, your theology is not worth reading if you have not examined your own premises. The assumption of Skojec and others is that they could not possibly have misunderstood the teachings of Tradition or the Bible or past Church teachings. The assumption is that they could not possibly have misunderstood the Pope, or his motivations. And they assume that the gift of the indefectibility of the Church is so limited and weak that it cannot withstand the faults of a Pope.

Skojec is “forced to go on the offensive against … the Catholic Church”, forced by his own misunderstanding of Catholic teaching and his own exaggerated sense of self-importance. Does anyone believe that the indefectible Church will fall away from Truth if Skojec and other bloggers do not intervene, to oppose the Supreme Pontiff? He is not forced to oppose the leader of the Church.

The role of the faithful is to be taught and corrected by the Pope. If there is a conflict between Steve Skojec’s understanding of Catholicism and that of any Roman Pontiff, the proper reaction is for Steve to humble himself and be taught and corrected. The proper reaction by all of us is to find ways to be taught by the Pope’s writings, and find charitable interpretations of his non-magisterial words and deeds. We must always consider that we could be in the wrong. The only thing forcing Mr. Skojec to oppose the Pope is his own lack of humility, understanding, and charity.

He says that he could not live with himself, if he did not publicly oppose the Roman Pontiff. Not similarly, I could not live with myself if I did not treat each Pope with humility and charity and faith. I could not live with myself if I did not learn from each Pope and help others learn as well. Why the difference? I have faith. I believe that God would not permit any Pope to teach grave error, nor allow him to lead the Church astray. I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in every Pope’s words and deeds, magisterial or not.

Steve Skojec hates what he is doing, some of the time, in a manner of speaking. Could that be because it is wearing to have to find a way to disagree with everything the Pope says and does? Is it difficult to treat the leader of the flock of Jesus Christ with constant distrust, and to try to engender that distrust in his own flock? The constant contempt, denigration, and anger found at 1Peter5 and directed at the Pope, yes, it must be difficult to keep that up every day.

But this is the only alternative: to humble yourself to admit that your own understanding of Catholicism is flawed, that you yourself are in need of teaching and correction — from a liberal Pope. Yes, God wants conservative Catholics to be taught or corrected by a liberal successor of Peter, so that they show Him they are devoted to God and truth, not to the false god of conservatism. The alternative to going on the offensive against the leader of Christ’s flock is faith — to believe the teachings of each Pope, even when they seem wrong to one’s own mind and heart. That is true faith.

The articles at vary in their content, usefulness, and in their disrespect for the Vicar of Christ. But some of these articles show a distinct lack of faith. For they speak as if Catholics are not bound by faith to believe whatever the Magisterium teachings, but instead were required to apply their own understanding to magisterial teachings, to first decide if the teaching is correct. Thus, faith and the Magisterium itself and the Pope are all seemingly subordinate to the self-important conservative Catholic, who thinks that he, merely by being conservative, cannot err on any subject.

“Steve Skojec: This month, like every month since August 1st, 2014, 1P5 is in the trenches, leading the fight against the forces of darkness that foolishly thought they could co-opt Christ’s bride.”

The faithful of Christ have a wide latitude to disagree with any Pope’s decisions on discipline, with his theological opinions, with his remarks to the press, and even some latitude to disagree with any Pope’s non-infallible magisterial teachings. But it is always a grave sin to promote opposition to the Pope with the claim that the Pope himself represents “the forces of darkness” and with the foolish idea that the Pope and his supporters are trying to lead astray the Bride of Christ. This attitude toward the Roman Pontiff is not compatible with faith. It is not compatible with the required submission of mind and will to the non-infallible teachings of the Pope, and the required submission to the authority of the Roman Pontiff.

I personally have read nearly every type of complaint against Pope Francis, every point on which anyone accuses him of anything. I see that the Pope may have erred to a limited extent in a few matters. But I see no reason to oppose him at every turn or to accuse him of any grave sin or error. Most of the accusations against him are the result of a lack of understanding of Church teaching, a lack of charity in interpreting the Pope’s words and deeds, and the arrogance of thinking that each Pope must submit to the judgment of the conservative Catholic subculture in all that he does.

Many conservatives Catholics do not realize that, by their excessively harsh criticism of the Roman Pontiff, they are leading many souls ever closer to schism.

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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62 Responses to Does Opposing the Pope really help the Church?

  1. Maurilio Piazza says:

    @Marco: I learned the argument from your article – thank you!

    @Stefano: you wrote:

    “Are you saying that the couple who have not yet taken the decision to quit their irregurar relation, for the graver duty of children’s upbringing are exemped by God himself even from the obligation to live in chastity in order to receive communion?”

    No, this is not how I explained FC 84. Here God himself exempts the couple not from chastity, but from the ordinary obligation to separate, which means God himself binds them to remain in the irregular union because of their circumstances. If they then don’t decide to live in perfect continence, God himself still binds them to remain in the irregular union because of their circumstances, plus FC’s discipline does not allow them to receive the sacraments.

    That being said, JPII’s law about reception for objective heretics and schismatics belonging to other Churches or ecclesial communities implies that, for greater reason, unrepented objective violation of chastity is only intrinsically incompatible with reception of absolution, communion and anointing if it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent (i.e. if it is also an unrepented actual mortal sin).

    So, back to your question, the wording “… are exempted by God himself even from the obligation to live in chastity in order to receive communion?” is wrong in that it mistakes an absolute moral obligation (a negative commandment, the prohibition of an intrinsically evil act) for an intrinsically necessary requirement for reception of the sacraments – hence the shortcircuit. And this mistake can be traced back to confusing objective mortal sin with actual mortal sin – or to a systematic failure to apply the distinction and draw logical conclusions from it.

    • stefano says:

      Thank you Maurilio, but the moral obligation is to take care of your children, not to live together with your partner; you can, if you deem it necessary, but you are not required to. This cannot be an intrinsically necessary requirement, neither a commandment from God. I have never heard anything like that.

      However, even if God himself required one to live with his partner for the sake of their children, how can you say that, because of that, their sexual incorurses are just objectively, but not actually mortal sins? Maybe the 11th commandment is also requiring the two to sleep in the same bed?

      But, again, the point here is not to determine whether or not, or to what extent, one is guilty of committing an intrinsecally evil act. This is a question for moral theologists, not the scope of FC84. The scope of FC84 is to establish the conditions – objective conditions – for divorced and remarried in which they can be allowed to the sacraments.

      These conditions are set and nobody has the right to let FC84 say something different, less than ever implicitly. You may wish that FC84 said explicitly what you mean, not pretend that it does implicitly.

    • Maurilio Piazza says:


      You wrote:

      “… to live together with your partner… cannot be an intrinsically necessary requirement, neither a commandment from God.”

      FC 84 says: “… when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman CANNOT satisfy the obligation to separate…” – it doesn’t say “CAN OPT NOT TO satisfy”, it doesn’t consider cases where the moral choice is a free matter of subjective preference: here JPII is contemplating all those situations where, by separating, the couple would violate serious reasons for remaining in the irregular union – in other words, by separating despite serious reasons not to, they would commit serious, i.e. objectively grave, sins. This means that a graver moral obligation (whose ultimate foundation is God’s will) objectively binds them, in light of their particular situations, to remain in the irregular union. Obviously, by definition, such an obligation cannot possibly be intrinsic to the irregular union and, being dependent on the particular situations considered, is an exception to the general norm of separating, as well as changeable over time. But, inasmuch as it is a true moral obligation, it must needs fall under one or the other of the ten commandments.

      You wrote:

      “How can you say that, because of that, their sexual intercourses are just objectively, but not actually mortal sins?”.

      I never said that, nor did I mean it. That would be the fallacy of jumping to conclusions. You should be careful not to jump to the opposite conclusion that, just because an act is an objective mortal sin, then it is also an actual mortal sin. Those sexual intercourses may be actual mortal sins, or they may be actual venial sins.

      You wrote:

      “The scope of FC84 is to establish the conditions – objective conditions – for divorced and remarried in which they can be allowed to the sacraments.”

      I never said the opposite, nor did I mean it.

      You wrote:

      “These conditions are set and nobody has the right to let FC84 say something different, less than ever implicitly.”

      I explained FC 84 faithfully. It does not follow that the Church has not the authority to change those conditions. “Objective” does not imply “intrinsic”.

      You wrote:

      “You may wish that FC84 said explicitly what you mean, not pretend that it does implicitly.”

      I said that FC 84 [necessarily] implies that God himself binds certain irregular couples to remain in their irregular unions because of their circumstances, and I mean to say that a necessary implication of FC 84 is that those couples may correctly discern this moral obligation and correctly identify it as God’s binding will for them for the time being.

      Here ends my debate.

    • stefano says:

      Well, what can I say? Maybe just this: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom”.

      I can only invite you to give a closer look to your logical system and exclude – if you can – that jumping from one moral obligation to another (and another, and another…), whilst being just before God, does not degrade morality to lutheran standards; by the way, introducing “de facto” divorce in the Catholic Church.

      Under these premises, formal divorce is only a matter of time, a logical consequense of the full access to sacraments.

      FC84 used to set conditions that are like a path to sanctity for christians in irregular situation. Now, thanks to arguments worthy of a Pharisee, this path is lost and no one is seeking forgiveness any longer, only blessing for his own wrong choises and permission to continue on the grounds of his righteousness before God.

      All it took was switching from “objective” to “actual”. You can’t beat the devil.

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