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. sircliges says:

    Dear Ron Conte, what do you think about this behaviour of Pope Francis?

    “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      So what? The Pope has the authority to decide the discipline for Communion. And if he wishes to do so subtly, why be upset about it?

  2. sircliges says:

    «But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay»
    Matthew 5:37

    Would be a sin to judge this behaviour a bit hypocrite?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Jesus was sometimes subtle in his communication, telling the truth in parables, knowing that some would not understand. (Mt 13:10-11). The quote you give does not imply that we must always be direct.

  3. sircliges says:

    Sorry, have I offended you?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, you didn’t offend me. Sorry, I didn’t intend to be glib or dismissive. I think that when we disagree with the Pope, we must always remember that we are not on the same level as he is. He has the keys of Peter, and he can use them as he sees fit. So I don’t see why it is a criticism to point out that he chooses a more subtle way to implement a change to communion discipline.

  4. sixlittlerabbits says:

    Have to disagree with you on this one. We believing Catholics admit that Bergoglio is the Pope, but he is the worst pope in our lifetimes and a heretic. Most of his pontificate has been scandalous and continues to be so.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t see why he should be considered the worst. Also, the qualification in our lifetimes is rather limiting. How many Popes is that? The worst out of half a dozen or so? I’m well-versed in theology, dogmatic, moral, soteriology, etc. I’ve seen not a single substantive argument proving heresy, material or formal. People just state the accusation, without supporting it. And I’ve been over the Filial Correction and some of the other petitions. There’s no substantial argument.

  5. Mark P. says:

    In many ways, even though Vatican II was over 50 years ago now, Pope Francis is kind of just the third post-Vatican II pope…Blessed Paul VI was basically transitory and Pope St. John Paul II had an extremely long papacy. So even Pope Benedict XVI was “once removed” from the transitory pope-Vatican II papacy of Paul VI…so then entire “post-Vatican II” Church (for lack of a better term) is basically in its infancy.

  6. Matt says:

    Message of Our Lady Queen of Peace, transmitted on 03/31/2018 – Pedro Regis

    Dear children, God is in a hurry. Do not fold your arms. This is the opportune time for your return. What you have to do, do not leave for tomorrow. Give the best of you in the mission entrusted to you and you will be generously rewarded. You walk for a future of division in the House of God. My Son Jesus left (for us) His Church, but this non-negotiable truth will be denied by many. I tell you again that the truth is kept intact only in the Catholic Church. Do not allow the deceptions of the devil to lead you away from this truth. Stay with Jesus and listen to the true Magisterium of His Church. My Son Jesus died to save you. He is present, as He promised, every day, in His Church. Go to His meeting. Seek Him in the Eucharist. His Presence in the Eucharist in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is one of the proofs of His Mercy for all men. Repent and come back. I do not want to force you, but listen to Me. This is the message that I am sending you today in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thank You for allowing Me to meet you here one more time. I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Be at peace.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “a future of division” indicates the schism I’ve been talking about for many years now. Pope Francis is going to do something that puts conservatives over the edge. They are on the edge of the cliff of schism already.

  7. Jay says:

    So Ron the other argument raised is Francis is not the Pope. Benedict still wears the Papal garments,lives at the Vatican. He-Benedict- attempted to bifurcate the Papacy by giving up the public ministry while maintaining a contemplative ministry of some sort. So his resignation is not valid. Plus there is some evidence of coercion –I believe the Cardinal of Antwerp was involved. So Francis is an anti-Pope without the protection of the Holy Spirit. This is the argument anyway.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is quite absurd, since Benedict has said nothing like that. He acknowledges Francis as Pope. And Popes have resigned in the past without “bifurcating” the papacy. Coercion? Fairytale. It is like the stories they tell about Vatican II, and why we should not listen to that Council, all kinds of intrigue behind the scenes, they claim.

      The Church is indefectible, therefore the Pope must also be indefectible. Each Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith, just as Vatican I taught based on Scripture. So that is a teaching of divine revelation. And God would not permit someone who is not really Pope to be accepted by the body of Bishops and actually take the role of leading the Church. This is all explained at length in my book, In Defense of Pope Francis. The claims they make are not even possible. God’s prevenient grace prevents it.

    • stefano says:

      Ron, Vatican I, however, referred to infallible teaching, not ordinary magisterium.

      Moreover, most critics say that Pope Francis seems to be gradually shifting the catholic orthodoxy towards a sort of protestantism, not by means of formal magisterium, least of all by means of infallible teaching (that he rather prefer not to excercise), but by legitimating a non conforming orthopraxis.

      Further, the way he seems to pursue this change has nothing of the “Yea, yea; Nay, nay” prerequisite of a truely spiritual language, as already noted. Most of the times he says without sayng, or, worse, he has somebody else attribute him thoughts and beliefs that he clearly cannot say, but he neither disproves nor contraddicts.

      And, finally, if this is a strategy to push conservatives over the edge of a scism, as you suggest, rather than preventing them from passing the edge, it really doesn’t look like something coming form above.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Vatican I teaching to which I referred was not papal infallibility, but a different teaching that says each Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith. This means that a pope cannot commit formal heresy, and can’t teach material heresy, by the grace of God. Some errors are possible in non-infallible magisterial teachings. But I just do not see why critics must insist on imputing bad motives or some secret plan to harm the Church to the Pope. Is it really so terrible that the Pope has a liberal point of view, rather than a conservative one?

    • stefano says:

      That’s not the point, Ron. You yourself admitted to believe that Francis has a (secret?) plan to push the conservative to a practical scism.

      I may be wrong, but this has nothing to do with the gift of truth and of a never-failing faith. So, you too should feel free to criticize what in the Pope does not pertain to the prerogatives of Peter.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, I don’t think he has a plan to push for a schism. I think that God is putting conservatives to the test, and that God will let them choose between faithfulness with humility, or a schism. And they will choose the latter. It’s not a plan from Francis. I don’t mind people criticizing the Pope. I draw the line at accusations of material or formal heresy. But also, the attitude of opposition is a problem. We should see ourselves as his flock. He errs in some ways. But I think John Paul II erred in a number of ways. Yet whatever conservatives did not like in his teachings, they just ignored (like Redemptoris Missio 10). Francis will not be ignored. So we have to choose faithfulness or schism.

    • stefano says:

      Do you mean #10 of Chapter 1? What’s wrong with it?
      Anyway, if we have to choose faithfulness or schism, then the open unfaithfulness to the previous popes of innumerate bishops and theologians after CVII has been an actual permanent material schism. Can we say that this scism is no longer a schism just because it became majority in the conclave?

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t agree that Vatican II represents a break with past teachings. I really do not see any errors in Vatican II.

    • stefano says:

      Neither do I. I was referring to those who look at CVII as a re-foundation of the Church, and, from the same wrong perspective, look at Francis as the first Pope truely faithful to CVII. I would ask them, what good is it for you to be faithful to a Pope just because he is a break up with the past? There is only one Church, not the one before CVII and the one after.

      You can be equally schismatic if you do not recognise the present pontiff, and if you do not recognise the previous ones.

      Then, my question to Pope Francis would be: why don’t you correct this wrong perspective of so many catholics, who only for a small fraction are traditionalists?

  8. sircliges says:

    Dear Ron, what do you think of the affaire Viganò? He did a terrible job, was very unfair to Benedict XVI and tried to cheat the people. But Pope Francis refused to substantially punish him. He removed him from his position, but concurrently created for him another new position with equal power – a three card trick. Moreover, in his letter, the Pope defended Viganò without mentioning the fraud perpetrated on the Ratzinger’s letter.

    A very unfair behaviour, or what?

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is not our role to judge any Pope, or his decisions. This is like when the secular press judges court cases that come to their attention, and they presume to know all the facts, and presume to be competent to decide guilt or innocence. Maybe Pope Francis erred there, or maybe not. Why should any Pope be subject to constant judgment by conservative Catholics, to make sure that he decides every question according to their liking?

    • sircliges says:

      But this isn’t a matter about conservatism VS progressiveness.

      It’s about decency, honesty, truth.

      We know for sure that Viganò lied and Pope Francis protected him. We DO HAVE the facts. Therefore, we must judge.
      The tree will be judged by the fruits.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I think if Pope Francis were conservative, we would see the current papal critics defending him, instead of blaming him for everything wrong with any of his appointees. And no, there is no moral requirement for us to judge, as in “we must judge”. If Vigano did something wrong, publicly, we can say he was wrong. But we should be charitable to all persons, no less to the Pope.

    • sircliges says:

      But Pope Francis covered and protected Viganò.
      If Viganò did wrong, so Pope Francis.
      So, you cannot blame who blames the Pope.

      It’s consequential logic.

  9. Mark P. says:

    In many ways I agree with Stefano’s comment that “And, finally, if this is a strategy to push conservatives over the edge of a scism, as you suggest, rather than preventing them from passing the edge, it really doesn’t look like something coming form above.”

    I agree with him because this view turns the Catholic faith into a “test of wits” to see if conservative Catholics will remain faithful during a liberal papacy, and if liberal Catholics will remain faithful during a conservative papacy. And it does seem that, if God’s plan was to use Pope Francis to find the lost sheep, then in many regards it is backfiring because the “conservative” sheep are wandering off. And I do not think that the conservatives are always to blame, because shouldn’t the shepherds properly guide the flock so as to maintain the entire herd while finding those who have strayed off? Meanwhile, instead of focusing our faith on Jesus, it seems that our efforts can instead be concentrated on defending a Pope of one’s liking, or criticizing a Pope of one’s disliking, to such an extent that the whole purpose of faith is just lost in arguments and discussions surrounding each Pope. Perhaps as Catholics we often err in this regard, because many times the history of the Church is referenced in regards to the Papacy of Pope “X” instead of as a continuation of the Church that Christ founded.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Many conservatives have gone astray in a number of serious ways. They assume that the majority opinion of the conservative Catholic subculture is dogma. They have usurped the role of deciding what is and is not orthodox. They have adopted theological errors on salvation, ordination of women, intrinsic evil, contraception, etc. Not all conservatives, but many. Errors abound and they don’t accept correction. If a Pope tries to correct them, they assume he must be wrong, since he disagrees with them. If an Ecumenical Council teaches anything contrary to their own views, e.g. Vatican II, they assume the Council is wrong. So conservatives are in need of correction.

    • sircliges says:

      I think you are making a hotchpotch of different things and ways of thinking.
      Are you speaking of followers of Lefebvre? Of people who say there is no Pope after Pius XII? Of conservatives that accept Council Vat 2? Not clear.

      My impression. You are making cherry picking. You pick those and only those features of cons that you want in order to “demonstrate” they are wrong.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m speaking about mainstream conservatives, not sedevacantists or even traditionalists. They think they have the role to judge Popes and Councils. The belittle Vatican II. They speak as if their opinion were dogma. They’ve decided that non-Christians cannot be saved in large numbers. They’ve decided that unbaptized infants can’t be saved. They’ve decided that women can’t be ordained as deacons. They’ve decided that contraception is only intrinsically evil in a valid marriage. They have usurped the Magisterium. But of course, this applies to some conservatives, not all.

    • sircliges says:

      Sorry, this is cherry picking. You are drawing a convenient portrait of conservatives. But what about, for example, Josef Seifert? Robert Spaemann? Alberto Strumia?

      I have to say you. “Conservative” is not a label you can put on what you like.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Sure, there are many conservative points of view, and many will not fall away. But there is a conservative subculture and it does not have faithfulness to the Magisterium as its foundation. We shall soon see if I am right. What will most conservatives do, if Pope Francis ordains women deacons? What if he writes a document saying that non-Christians and non-believers can be saved without converting?

    • sircliges says:

      The very conservative people will do what they are already doing. Obey and criticize and warn against dangerous consequences. That there will be.

      By the way, let’s be honest. Women deacons it is not a problem itself. I could accept it without compliants, if were only this. But we aren’t naive, are we? We know this is a Trojan horse, in progressive’s mind, in order to slowly introduce the woman priest. This is not a theory: they said it, openly. Schorborn talked openly about women priestesses. So what is the most terrible danger for the Church, now? Conservativeness or open high-located heresy?

  10. Mark P. says:

    Correction is one thing, but the idea that God may be presenting the option of a schism through the papacy of Pope Francis is another. If you can identify an impending or ongoing schism, should not the Holy Father be able to do the same? And if so, why would he be comfortable in just letting them go rather than in ensuring they remain in the flock? These are honest questions.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t think he sees the impending schism. I see it because of my study of eschatology. God has plans over and above what any Pope himself plans.

    • stefano says:

      Ron, what makes you think that a schism has an eschatological relevance? What makes you think that it will prepare the second advent of Jesus? And why ever a conservative schism? You would need divinatory gifts in order to say that.

      All we know from the Scriptures is that the coming of Jesus will be preceded by a general crisis of faith. Now, when looking at present times, one could argue the time is indeed imminent; but you are lacking sense of proportion if you take a modest traditionalist schism for all what has to happen. If indeed there is going to be a schism, it’s got to be one of much larger proportions. This would make sense with the prophecy of “the rest of Israel”, “the small flock” (those who will remain faithful).

      I’ll give you another key of interpretation: maybe the big schism in the Church started already long ago, unnoticed, and is ready to deflagrate at any time, while we concentrate on schismatics.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, I don’t need gifts. I can interpret Scripture and various private revelations, such as Pedro Regis on the schism. The great apostasy can’t occur for no reason. It has to be a sequence of events. What I consider, and this is speculative of course, is that first conservatives will be tested and many will fall into schism, and then liberals will be tested and fall away. The liberal schism will be greater, as most Catholics are minimally practicing and have adopted all of the “teachings” of secular society. But, yes, the two schisms together will be very large.

      I see the conservative schism in the attitude of conservatives that they decide truth, and that they can judge Popes and Councils. Consider Phil Lawler’s statement that he has the role to judge each Pope, as if his own understanding were above the Magisterium.

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