How shall we treat the Pope? (Part 3)

Part 2 of this article [here]

Paul corrected Peter, therefore I can correct the Pope” approach:

Before going to St. Paul’s teaching to the Galatians, let’s keep in mind the following:

St. Paul was an Apostle, but St. Peter’s position was superior than Paul’s. Paul could not resolve the dispute regarding circumcision (Acts 15:1-2). Paul and Barnabas had to go to Jerusalem in order to solve this matter and it was resolved at the Council of Jerusalem by the proclamation of Peter who stood up as the leader (Acts 15:7) (1 Chronicles 28:2) (2 Chronicles 20:4-6). Yet Paul was an Apostle, a high ranked position and he was able to correct Peter with a question in a submissive manner. Was this correction authoritative as if Paul was over Peter? Absolutely not. Let’s go to Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

{2:11} But when Cephas had arrived at Antioch, I stood against him to his face, because he was blameworthy.

In this letter, Paul asserts as certain that Peter was blameworthy; but keep in mind that Paul wrote this letter after such event at Antioch took place. Before that event, Paul knew the teachings of the Apostles but he did not stand against Peter with certainty regarding how the disciplinary laws of Moses should be handled because he approached Peter with a question (as we’ll see later), thus giving Peter the benefit of the doubt. Paul learned about the Christian Faith from the teachings of Peter himself and the Apostles (as we shall also review below). Therefore, previously, Paul did not pretend to have all the knowledge in this situation either, nor tried to impose his view upon Peter. It is evident that, in front of Paul’s concerning question, Peter must have acknowledged that he was wrong and that Paul was right regarding his attitude in order for Paul, some time later, write this letter to the Galatians with the certainty that Peter was blameworthy.  It was Peter himself who, after the exclusive revelation that he had from God (Acts 10), started with this new deed of eating with the Gentiles (Acts 11:2 ff).  Peter was the first who had already eaten with the Gentiles and was reproached by the Jews previously.

{2:12} For before certain ones arrived from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they had arrived, he drew apart and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.

Per the Christian teaching that Paul had received, he did not like Peter’s attitude of separating himself from the Gentiles even though Peter ate with them.  Peter did so because he feared that the Jews would be scandalized since they were faithful to the Mosaic laws (1 Maccabees 1:48-51) (1 Maccabees 1:62 ff) (2 Maccabees 2:21-22).

{2:13} And the other Jews consented to his pretense, so that even Barnabas was led by them into that falseness.

Barnabas was one of the first Christians whom Paul met (Acts 9:26-27). Paul and Barnabas were ordained Apostles together years after Jesus’ Ascension and they journeyed together (Acts 13:1-4). Since Peter is the chief Apostle, Barnabas was following Peter’s example.

Now, prior to Paul’s conversion, he was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) (26:5), he learned the Jewish laws under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) one of the most respected and prominent Jewish teachers (Acts 5:34), so the attitude of Peter would have been perfectly fine with him. Therefore, how did Paul know that Peter was not acting according to Christian teaching? How did he learn this new teaching? It was originated by Peter himself! Recall that, as previously explained in Part 2 of this article, it was because of God’s revelation to Peter (Acts 10) that he concluded in truth that our Lord is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and that no man shall be called common or unclean (Acts 10:28).  Peter was the first who started to eat with the Gentiles (Acts 11:3), for that reason, these types of separations regarding the Jewish Mosaic laws needed to be abrogated.

Certainly, our Lord Jesus left particular bases about this teaching (Matthew 15:11) (John 11:52). Also, the O.T. prophets have taught about people from all the world being brought together (Isaiah 66:18) (Jeremiah 3:17). But, up to that point, it was not clear whether Jewish mosaic laws needed to end or not. Prior to the revelation given by God to Peter only, the Apostles didn’t have this decision clear. Peter himself said: “Far be it from me, Lord. For I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). It was because God’s revelation to Peter that it became clear that Jewish and Gentiles can be united, and even eat together (Acts 10:15 ff) (Acts 11:8-7) (Acts 11:17-18).

Paul learned this unitive teaching (and other teachings as well) from the teachings of Peter himself and the Apostles. This teaching was directly revealed by God only to Peter in a clear way (Acts 10) and then Peter started to teach about it to the rest (Acts 11).

It was none other than Peter himself who received the vision from God revealing him that the disciplinary laws regarding clean and unclean were no longer needed because God has cleansed them all. Why didn’t any of the other Apostles also received this revelation from God? It was because Peter was left in the primary position of our Lord’s Church.

The author of Acts of the Apostles is St. Luke who was St. Paul’s disciple (Colossians 4:14) (2 Timothy 4:11) (Philemon 1:24) but, even so, the early chapters of his book up to Chapter 15 (the Council of Jerusalem) have St. Peter as the most prominent figure. It is from Chapter 9 (Paul’s conversion), but more specifically, from Chapter 13 when Paul starts to rise up to the scene and become more prominent up to the end this book. Paul’s conversion occurs in chapter 9 of Acts and then he becomes an Apostle in chapter 13. The first part of this book is mostly about St. Peter and the second part mostly about St. Paul. Therefore, the teachings of Jesus in early Christianity came from St. Peter and the Apostles. St. Paul who came to the active scene later, learned from them.

{2:14} But when I had seen that they were not walking correctly, by the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone: “If you, while you are a Jew, are living like the Gentiles and not the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to keep the customs of the Jews?

“Cephas” is the transliteration of the Aramaic word “Kepha” which means Rock. Paul acknowledges who the Rock is. Notice that Paul says that “they” were not walking correctly, this includes Barnabas. Why then Paul goes to tell only Peter? Not Barnabas, nor the rest of the people there? It is because Peter is the leader.

Did Paul command Peter? No. The way Paul approached and let Peter know his position was with a question. Not with an affirmation as if he already knew the answer with certainly, pretending that he is uncorrectable, or telling him what he should do. A question gave Peter the option to respond with authority in front of everyone whether he was acting correctly or not. Peter’s answer is not written in this letter, but it is evident by this teaching to the Galatians that Paul was right.

Notice also the word “compel”. As the leader, Peter compelled the people. The leader of the Church was compelling the Gentiles by his example to continue with this O.T. practices as if nothing has changed.

Paul did not agree with Peter’s prudential decision which was going against God’s new revelation given to Peter himself. What Peter tried to do is not to scandalize the Jews who faithfully practiced the laws prescribed by God to Moses and, among those disciplinary laws, there was abstinence of unclean foods.

Notice that St. Paul himself teaches the following:

{14:20} Do not be willing to destroy the work of God because of food. Certainly, all things are clean. But there is harm for a man who offends by eating.
{14:21} It is good to refrain from eating meat and from drinking wine, and from anything by which your brother is offended, or led astray, or weakened.

[1 Corinthians 8]
{8:8} Yet food does not commend us to God. For if we eat, we will not have more, and if we do not eat, we will not have less.
{8:9} But be careful not to let your liberty become a cause of sin to those who are weak.

{8:13} Because of this, if food leads my brother to sin, I will never eat meat, lest I lead my brother to sin.

This is precisely what, in his prudential decision, Peter was trying to do, so he was not doing something inherently wrong.

Paul himself did something similar with his disciple Timothy. Paul physically circumcised Timothy because the Jews were in the places where they were going to go (Acts 16:1-3). So, it’s all about a prudential decision on a determined circumstance.

Paul considered that such gathering at Antioch was the opportunity and the favorable circumstance to teach by example and words about the unity between Jews and Gentiles. There had to be a determinate time when the new teaching of no separation and also the decision of abrogating the Mosaic disciplinary laws had to be given at that place.

Note also that this new teaching was not an easy one, it could have been considered “liberal” in traditional Jewish context, not “conservative”. Our faith is not “conservative”, “liberal”, or anything in between, it is simply guided by the Holy Spirit with the living teaching office of the Church alone (CCC# 85) (#243) (#857) (#1008) (#1117).  “The Spirit inspires where he wills. And you hear his voice, but you do not know where he comes from, or where he is going” (John 3:8).  The Spirit is not static, or one sided.  Our Faith is not to be sided either to the right or to the left “You may not turn aside from it to the right, nor to the left” (Joshua 1:7), but is guided by Holy Spirit in the Church, the Pillar and Foundation of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15) wherever She goes.

Paul’s criticism was precisely because of Peter’s authoritative position in the Church and the opportunity that Peter had at Antioch in order to proclaim this new teaching and give example about it. As the head of the Apostles, Peter was not giving a good example of the New Covenant with God and even Barnabas was following this example.

Paul disagreed with Peter’s approach, on a prudential decision as to when to declare the new teaching and abrogating the Law of Moses.  Paul believed that the particular situation at Antioch was a great opportunity and it turned out that Paul was right.

Calling no man common or unclean (Acts 10:28), or the teaching that God is not a respecter of person (Acts 10:34), and that for that reason Jews and Gentiles can be united, was not settled or known to all of the early Christianity up to that point in time. However, the final decision was left to Peter who finally settled the matter regarding circumcision in Jerusalem (Acts 15:7. 12), and even so, the disciplinary laws for the Jews converted to Christianity were not abolished everywhere all at once (See Acts 15: 28-29). It took time. It took centuries, generations for those Mosaic disciplinary laws to be finally abolished from Christianity all together. It was a sensible matter, not an easy task to solve all at once in the early Church. Some traditions of thousand of years could not be abrogated all at once because it could cause more harm than good for the early Jew Christian converts (1 Corinthians 8:13). At the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea – 787 A.D. under Pope Adrian I, canon # 8, all the dietary Mosaic disciplinary laws were abolished.

At the present time, the Pope has a Council of Cardinal Advisers who do just that, advise and may respectfully correct the Pope when they think they have to. The Pope will have the last word but there is already a Council of Cardinal Advisers dedicated to this task of correcting the Pope if they have to. Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley is currently the only man from the United States who is in this position as member of this Council.

It is not our role or position to cause scandal, belittle or “correct” the Pope. We may show our respectful disagreements with the Pope on non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium or on his personal opinions or decisions of the prudential order but always being subordinate to him, taking in consideration that we are in no way above the Pope, the likelihood that we may be wrong (may have misunderstood) is high, and also we have to base our positions on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

Canon 212:

Canon law is no excuse for people to speak with arrogance towards the Pope, our sacred pastors, or anyone.

Interestingly, the emphasis is made on paragraphs 2 and 3. But paragraph §1 is often ignored. It reads:

“Can. 212

  1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.”

This Canon doesn’t open the way for us to be demanding, accusatory or give derogatory remarks toward our superior pastors whether explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, in any kind of platform, actual or virtual; and this includes everyone, lay people, priests, Bishops, for only God can judge the Highest Spiritual power who is the Pope (per Unam Sanctam).

  1. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

This is referring about our “needs”, our “desires”. This is about asking for advise or letting them know our opinions. This has nothing to do with becoming our “pastor’s teachers” or to be their explicit or implicit accusers or policemen/policewomen. Since there is a hierarchy in the Church, there is an order of importance and respect which goes in proportion with the position that such person is placed at, it goes from lay persons, ordained deacons, priests, Bishops, Pope.

  1. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

This is not talking about imposing “our pseudo-dogmas” upon them. We can manifest our educated opinions based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium and what we understand it teaches. We can tell them that, based on our informed opinion and teachings from authoritative sources, they can be acting contrary to the Gospel. Fine. But we cannot pretend that we know better than our superiors (1 Peter 2:18) (Romans 12:10) (Philippians 2:3), for they will be judged by their respective higher authorities. The final word has our superiors, the pastors. Our pastors are to be judged by their superiors up to the Pope who is judged solely by God. Our spiritual superiors are not to be judged by lower ranked persons, for the spiritual power is superior than the earthy power.

Room for limited faithful dissent on non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium or its decisions of the prudential order is licit:

The Church has two types of authority: 1 the Teaching Authority and 2 the Temporal Authority.

1 The Teaching Authority:

The teaching (or spiritual) authority refers to teachings from the Magisterium, that is, teachings from the Pope, or teachings of the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope. The Magisterium is the servant of Tradition and Scripture. The Magisterium teaches what is found in the Deposit of Divine Revelation.

The magisterial authority of the Church is only exercised when She teaches on faith, morals, or salvation.

Not every teaching of the Magisterium is infallible. The Magisterium teaches infallibly in any of the following ways: 1) Papal Infallibility; 2) Conciliar Infallibility; 3) Ordinary and Universal Magisterium Infallibility.

Papal Infallibility: When the Pope in virtue of his office, defines a doctrine of faith or morals that must be held by the whole Church.

Conciliar Infallibility: When the Pope and the body of Bishops in communion with him define at an Ecumenical Council a doctrine of faith or morals that must be held by the whole Church. (Sometimes the Pope is not present at a Council or in some sessions of a Council but, in such instances, he presides it with his representatives).

Ordinary and Universal Magisterium Infallibility: When the Pope and the Bishops in communion with the Pope, though dispersed through the world, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. (LG n. 25).

Whenever a teaching of the Magisterium does not fall under any of the three types of infallibility, it is a non-infallible teaching. Non-infallible teachings can err but only to a limited extent for the Church is indefectible (Lumen Gentium # 39, n1), this means that no teaching of the Church can err to extent of grave error, or even worst, heresy. No teaching of the Church can lead the faithful away from the path of salvation.

The types of assents that the faithful require are the following:

For infallible teachings = Full assent of the faith (theological assent, or sacred assent). An infallible teaching has no error or possibility of error.

For non-infallible teachings = Religious submission of the mind (intellect) and will (religious assent, or ordinary assent). Non-infallible teachings have the possibility of error up to a very limited extent.

Since there is a possibility of error on non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium up to a limited extent, the faithful can dissent but also up to a limited extent. Notice that in both cases there still “assent” or “submission” so no faithful is permitted to disregard the teaching from the Pope or a Magisterial teaching altogether.

2 Temporal Authority (Discipline):

When the types of authoritative decisions do not fall under any of the above, they fall under the temporal authority of the Church. And that temporal authority is generally fallible, not infallible or not non-infallible because it is not an act of the Magisterium. Since the temporal authority is fallible, it can err in any decision of the prudential order, such as whether a Bible translation should be approved, or whether it should be approved for use in the Mass.

The Temporal Authority refers to decisions or judgements of the prudential order in practical matters, rules, and rulings. The temporal authority does not extend to decisions of doctrine. These are not teachings, but these decisions are based on teachings of the Church. These decisions can vary depending upon situations of the times so they are reformable. However, the extent of possible error in these decisions are also limited, never leading the faithful away from the path of salvation because the Church is indefectible.

Personal opinions of the Pope, his personal theological books, his interviews, and the like, are not part of the Magisterium. However, only the person and office of the Pope has received the gift of truth and never-failing faith from God (Vatican I, #7). Therefore, though personal opinions of the Pope can be fallible he can never lead the faithful away from the path or salvation or commit schism, heresy or apostasy. Vatican I infallibly teaches that every valid Pope has the gift of truth and never-failing faith (See also Luke 22:32). Otherwise, the Pope’s faith would fail and, as Her head, the Church would not be indefectible.

The Pope and the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope are protected from going astray (to the extent of heresy, schism or apostasy) by the prevenient grace of God.

When there is a temporal decision of the prudential order, not a teaching, the faithful is free to respectfully disagree with the Pope in such issues to a limited extent but still be bound under his authority given to him by Christ.

On the other hand, individual Bishops (even if in general communion with the Pope, other than his grave errors or heresies) do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility (LG n 25). Individual Bishops can go astray and even teach grave error to the extent of heresy.

Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles, fell away from the faith but as an individual. The body Bishops cannot fall away from the faith as long as they are in communion with the Pope.

Jesus gave the authority to bind and loose to Peter as an individual (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus also gave this authority to the Apostles but only as a Body in union with Peter (Matthew 18:18). Peter is the only person who holds the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; therefore, the Apostles cannot break away from Peter.

Now, groups of Bishops (local Synods, Bishops’ Conferences) can become schismatics or heretics by NOT being in communion with the Pope. Their error can be recognized by the faithful and avoided by comparison with the teaching of the Pope and the Body of Bishops in communion with the Pope as a whole.

Whenever a Bishop or some Bishops fall away, they cease to be members of the Body of Christ, they become opponents to the Church.

Total dissent from individual Bishops or group of Bishops who have detached themselves from communion with the Pope or from the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope is licit, as long as this dissent is not from the Pope who is the Head’s Vicar. Otherwise it is not faithful dissent. We don’t want to be members of a sect (someone or some group who cuts himself from the Vine) within the Church.

For in-depth information on this topic read this book: The Indefectibility of the Pope by Ronald L. Conte Jr.

Never depart from submission from our spiritual authorities within our Church, especially the Pope who is the highest spiritual power and the only person who has the gift of truth and never-failing faith during his office, and the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope.

{15:5} I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without me, you are able to do nothing.

Jesus is the Vine and He is calling us the branches, so He is speaking figuratively here (for we are not a literal tree). How can we bear much fruit? By abiding in Him and He in us. How can this happen? By never separating us from Him.

{15:6} If anyone does not abide in me, he will be cast away, like a branch, and he will wither, and they will gather him and cast him into the fire, and he burns.
{15:7} If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, then you may ask for whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
{15:8} In this, my Father is glorified: that you should bring forth very much fruit and become my disciples.

Jesus is even promising that if we abide in Him, that is, remain in true communion with His Church, letting His Word be proclaimed through us, then we may ask for anything and shall be done for us so that our Father is glorified. But how can we know that we are not separated from Him? By being faithful to His Words. Obeying His teachings through His Church, the Pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

If we, as Catholics, reject the Vicar of Christ we are casting away ourselves, like a branch from the Vine.

Considerations to have when disagreeing with the non-infallible teaching office or the temporal office:

In order for a faithful to disagree with a non-infallible teaching of the Church, with a fallible opinion or decision of the Pope or the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope, or with a decision from our higher spiritual authorities in communion with the Pope, the faithful needs to have the following in consideration:

— Never lose charity. By charity we love (agape). This love is not all about sentiments or feelings but about willing others good as much as we will to ourselves. We love God, and we love our neighbor because God loves our neighbor. If you don’t have charity you are not acting in conformity with God’s will even if you are correct on a specific matter. Our Faith works through charity (Galatians 5:6).  If you don’t have charity, pray for this gift.

— Know that the Pope and the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope are especially guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-13) (John 15:26-27), that Christ works unceasingly through them. He operates through His ministers [i].

— Each pastor has received superior gifts from God, each according to their respective positions. Gifts that we don’t have.

— The likelihood that we may have misunderstood a teaching which goes deeper than we know; or the likelihood that we may have not been able to see the whole picture in a situation, especially if we are not personally involved in it, is high.  Therefore, keep in mind giving the benefit of the doubt for we are not God who knows everything.

— We cannot judge our higher authorities (this means their hearts or impose our ideas as certain upon them of how things should be handled as if we are over them or better than them, for each higher authority has the role and responsibility to judge them – per Unam Sanctam). Our higher authorities will be judged (and punished if needed) by their higher authorities and we all will be judged (and punished if needed) by our Transcendent Authority/Judge, God.

— Humbly and respectfully present our educated opinions based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium knowing that, in any case, we are bound by the Church’s authority.

Morally, we have a right to ask our pastors to do better at preaching the Gospel and leading the Church. But the solution to the Church’s problems is not to put the laity in charge. “Lay people, however devout, have no power to dispose of church property. Their lot is to obey, not to be in command.” – (Fourth Lateran Council – 1215 A.D. under Pope Innocent III; canon # 44).

Now, Jesus talks about who His true disciples are:

{8:31} Therefore, Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him: “If you will abide in my word, you will truly be my disciples.

Notice that Jesus is speaking to the Jews “who believed in Him”. He is speaking to the “believers”.  He is speaking to you and me as Catholics, supposed believers in Christ. He says “If you abide in My Word”, “you will truly be My disciples”.

Why does He said “truly”? because there are also false followers of Jesus. False Christians. False Catholics. Otherwise He wouldn’t have said “truly”. Who are the true disciples of Christ? Those who abide in His Word. Those who don’t, are false ones. Plain and simple.

{8:32} And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
{8:33} They answered him: “We are the offspring of Abraham, and we have never been a slave to anyone. How can you say, ‘You shall be set free?’ ”

Notice also that among those “followers” of Christ, they don’t let themselves to be taught by our Lord, but impose their limited understanding, interpreting Scripture according to the flesh, not the Spirit.

{8:37} I know that you are sons of Abraham. But you are seeking to kill me, because my word has not taken hold in you.

Those who do not have taken hold of Jesus Words, though claiming to be faithful, are not His true followers. They attack Jesus by attacking His Church whose main office and representative is the Pope. Jesus said to Saul “why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4), not “why do you persecute My followers or My people?”.  To attack Jesus’ Vicar is to attack Him.

{8:39} They responded and said to him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them: “If you are the sons of Abraham, then do the works of Abraham.
{8:40} But now you are seeking to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you, which I have heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

They contradicted Jesus with the affirmation “Abraham is our father”. But Jesus corrected them telling them that true sons of Abraham are those who do his works.

Those who denigrate, attack or belittle the Supreme Pontiff do not really abide in Jesus’ Word. Again, only those who abide in Jesus’ Word, are truly truly His disciples (John 8:31).

What is Jesus’ Word? What does Jesus say?

At the mount of the transfiguration, our Heavenly Father told us to listen to His Son, Jesus. “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him (Matthew 17:5).

At the wedding in Cana, our Blessed Mother told us to do whatever Jesus tells us. Do whatever He tells you (John 2:5).

This is Jesus Word:

{10:1} Then, after these things, the Lord also designated another seventy-two. And he sent them in pairs before his face, into every city and place where he was to arrive.

Our Lord Himself designated certain people and sent them with authority to cure and proclaim the Kingdom of God (10:9). The word “Apostle” from the Greek ἀπόστολος “apóstolos” means “one who is sent off”. Consequently, those seventy-two people were His little apostles, His “sent ones”. Though these seventy-two were not at the rank of the twelve Apostles, they were also sent ones, obeying Jesus particular order to them. Later the Apostles, as representatives of Jesus, received the authorization from Jesus Himself to also ordain (give a particular order) other people like Jesus did in this particular occasion (Matthew 28:18) (John 20:21).

Notice that it says that Jesus send these people to every city and place “where He was to arrive“.  If you don’t receive His sent ones, He will not arrive to you.  If you have already received Him but then knowingly despise His sent ones, He will depart from you and no longer abide in you (unless you repent).

Our Lord told to those people whom He sent:

{10:16} Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.”

Therefore, if we don’t hear to the ones that He has sent, we don’t hear Him!

[1 John]
{4:6} We are of God. Whoever knows God, listens to us. Whoever is not of God, does not listen to us. In this way, we know the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error.

Here the Apostle John (capital “A”, one of the twelve) is teaching us that anyone who does not listen to them, that is, the Apostles, and by consequence their successors, the Pope and the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope, are NOT of God. Notice also that there are two types of spirits, the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error. Some claim that they have the spirit with them, yes, but it is the spirit of error.

Now, what does the successor of the Apostles teach us?

Fellow Catholics, lets listen the words of our Lord Jesus Christ through His teaching authority:

We have to keep in mind that we are NOT the official interpreters of Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture.

The Church’s Magisterium is the authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition(CCC # 1008). Not us. 

“The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 [47 Dei Verbum 10# 2.] This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”(CCC # 85).

That being said, now let’s see what the living teaching office of the Church communicates to us.

What does Luke 10:16 really mean?:

“We believe that the saying of the Lord that Christ addressed to his holy apostles and disciples, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever despises you despises me, was also addressed to all who were likewise made supreme pontiffs and chief pastors in succession to them in the catholic church. Therefore we declare that no secular powers should treat with disrespect any of those who hold the office of patriarch or seek to move them from their high positions, but rather they should esteem them as worthy of all honour and reverence. This applies in the first place to the most holy pope of old Rome,…” – (Fourth Council of Constantinople – 869 to 870 A.D; canon 21).

This is the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ through His Church. Are we going to listen to Him?

The above teaching should be placed in the bedroom’s wall, especially those who ignore it. If you despise the Pope or the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope, you despise Christ. No one should seek the Pope’s resignation or for the Pope to be removed from his position. Instead, pray for the Pope. But do not pray for the Pope to act according to what you think he should do. This type of prayer is not justified because it is arrogant, self-exalting. Do not act like a person who brings a neighbor to the doctor but tells the doctor how his neighbor should be cured. Rather, pray for the Pope to act according to God’s will.

“If, then, any ruler or secular authority tries to expel the aforesaid pope of the apostolic see, or any of the other patriarchs, let him be anathema. Furthermore, if a universal synod is held and any question or controversy arises about the holy church of Rome, it should make inquiries with proper reverence and respect about the question raised and should find a profitable solution; it must on no account pronounce sentence rashly against the supreme pontiffs of old Rome.” – (ibid).

Whoever treats with disrespect any Supreme Pontiff is acting as an anti-Christ “They went out from among us, but they were not of us. For, if they had been of us, certainly they would have remained with us. But in this way, it is made manifest that none of them are of us (1 John 2:18-19).

Some come with this objection: “But Jesus called Peter, Satan” (Matt 16:23). The answer is that only God can judge the Pope (1 Cor 2:15) (Unam Sanctam), not you or me. You and me are not gods, not able to see beyond our noses, even worst, not able to see the spiritual beings around us. Jesus was admonishing Peter, yes; but He was also repelling Satan (a spiritual being whom we cannot see), not repelling Peter for he stayed with Jesus. One of the clever ways the devils use to tempt us is with our reason. Jesus was teaching Peter to get rid of such thoughts which go against the Will of God.  Ironically, those who think that they can belittle the Pope or that they know better than the Pope (as Aaron and Miriam to Moses) they themselves could have been tempted by Satan for going contra the Will of God.  Some even claim that “it is the spirit who prompts them” to rebuke the Pope, that is not from the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:6).  Do you think that arrogance, lack of charity, lack of reverence, usurping somebody else’s role, comes from the Holy Spirit? No, it does not.

Even King Saul who was anointed as ruler for secular matters (he was not a priest) was to be respected and honored despite his bad behavior.

[1 Samuel]
{26:9} And David said to Abishai: “You shall not kill him. For who may extend his hand against the Christ of the Lord, and yet be innocent?

[2 Samuel]
{1:16} And David said to him: “Your blood is upon your own head. For your own mouth has spoken against you, saying: ‘I have killed the Christ of the Lord.’ ”

If you don’t have charity (love), then you hate (1 John 4:20), and if you hate, you are a murderer and these people don’t have the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:15).  It is really worst for those who mistreat God’s anointed ones.

Paul ordained Titus so Titus became a spiritual authority and Paul taught him:

{2:15} Speak and exhort and argue these things with all authority. Let no one despise you.

{3:1} Admonish them to be subordinate to the rulers and authorities, to obey their dictates, to be prepared for every good work,
{3:2} to speak evil of no one, not to be litigious, but to be reserved, displaying all meekness toward all men.

The Church teaches us:

“We are all invited to trust in the Holy Spirit, to trust in Christ, by trusting in Peter.” (The Primacy of The Successor of Peter in The Mystery of The Church # 15).

If we trust in Peter, we trust in God.  If you don’t trust in Peter, then you don’t trust in God.

The Pope would not have received the title of “Pillar of Faith and the Foundation of the Catholic Church” [ii] if we were not to trust in him.

“…he [Jesus] entrusted its care to the blessed apostle Peter, so that by the firmness of his own faith he might strengthen others in the Christian religion and kindle their minds with the ardour of devotion to the works of their salvation. Hence we who by the will of our Lord, though without merit of our own, have been made successors of this apostle and hold on earth, though unworthy, the place of our Redeemer, should always be careful and vigilant in the guarding of that flock and be forced to direct our thoughts continuously to the salvation of souls by removing what is harmful and doing what is profitable.” – (First Council of Lyons – 1245 A.D. under Pope Innocent IV; Constitution # 18).

The above task has been given to the Pope by God, but some have auto-declared themselves “vigilants or guardians” of the Pope. That is not their roles.

“We declare that those who are called by divine grace to the office of bishop, since they bear the image and likeness of the holy hierarchies in heaven, that is of the angels, in accordance with what is clearly an hierarchical dignity and function, should be held as worthy of all honour on the part of everyone, rulers and ruled alike.” – (ibid; canon 14).

“Therefore in the case of those who boast that they have been appointed in the church by distributing gifts of gold [obtaining spiritual titles by means of temporal values or money], and who pin their hopes on this evil custom, which alienates a person from God and from all priesthood, and who take this as a reason for deriding quite shamelessly and openly those who have been chosen by the holy Spirit and appointed for the virtue of their lives, without any distribution of gifts of gold, when they first do this each should take the lowest rank in his order, and if they persist they should be corrected with a penalty.” – (Second Council of Nicaea; Canons 5 – [my comment in brackets]).

Here this Council is talking regarding those who illicitly obtain high positions within the Church, but this also applies for those who cleverly claim or imply to have a position higher than the Bishops or even the Pope and start to belittle or disrespect them. They have not been chosen by God to be rulers over our higher authorities. Many are like the Pharisees of old who judged according to the flesh (John 8:15).

“Lay people, however devout, have no power to dispose of church property. Their lot is to obey, not to be in command.” – (Fourth Lateran Council – 1215 A.D. under Pope Innocent III; canon # 44).

If you, like Saul (prior to his conversion as St. Paul) have been misguided or you were ignorant in persecuting the Church, but in your case, persecuting the Church in the person and office of the Pope, the body of Bishops in communion with the Pope, or any spiritual authority, sincerely repent and do no more. God is Merciful and will forgive you. Do not die in arrogance and disobedience.

Unrepentant schismatics will be trampled like Dathan and Abiram, and their followers, who were swallowed up alive by the earth (Numbers 16).

Be faithful to Jesus Christ by being faithful to the Pope. Or, like the Magisterium of the Church teaches it: “trust in the Holy Spirit, to trust in Christ, by trusting in Peter” [iii].

{16:17} But I beg you, brothers, to take note of those who cause dissensions and offenses contrary to the doctrine that you have learned, and to turn away from them.
{16:18} For ones such as these do not serve Christ our Lord, but their inner selves, and, through pleasing words and skillful speaking, they seduce the hearts of the innocent.

{4:8} In whatever way that you are able, so shall you be merciful.

{4:14} Never permit arrogance to rule in your mind or in your words. For in it, all perdition had its beginning.

[1 Peter 2]
{2:17} Honor everyone. Love brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

-Francisco Figueroa.


[i] (The Primacy of The Successor of Peter in The Mystery of The Church # 10); (Decree – Presbyterorum Ordinis – On The Ministry And Life Of Priests # 14, n 2 – Vatican II) (CCC # 1108).

[ii] 1st Dogmatic Constitution – Pastor Aeternus; Vatican I.

[iii] The Primacy of The Successor of Peter in The Mystery of The Church # 15.



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1 Response to How shall we treat the Pope? (Part 3)

  1. Ron Conte says:

    Thank you for this post, Francisco. Excellent work!

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