Professor John Rist was punished for signing the Open Letter reports: Pontifical university bans top scholar who accused Pope Francis of heresy in open letter

Rist states: “Since I had received no previous indication of it ― not even when I had collected the car ― this less than Christian response took me completely by surprise….”

The phrase “less than Christian response” is hypocritical, since Mr. Rist is a signatory to the Open Letter.

The OL accuses Pope Francis of formal heresy, in contradiction to the formal dogma that every Pope has the gift of immunity from grave error and the gift of a never-failing faith [Magisterial Sources]. By signing the OL, Rist publicly asserted heresy and caused grave harm to innumerable souls. He also committed public formal schism, since anyone who thinks that the Roman Pontiff is guilty of formal heresy necessarily does not submit to his authority and role as our Teacher and Shepherd. In addition, by these acts of schism and heresy, Rist and the other signatories are automatically excommunicated.

Rist’s participation in signing (and perhaps writing?) the OL was “less than Christian” in the extreme. He falsely accused the successor of Peter of heresy. The accusation is necessarily false since Christ promised that the faith of Peter would never fail (Lk 22:32), and the First Vatican Council infallibly interpreted this promise to means that every Roman Pontiff has a never-failing faith. Thus, in accusing Pope Francis of heresy, the signatories of the OL are accusing Jesus of either LYING in his promise or of FAILING to keep his promise. And that is unchristian.

So this is the hypocrisy of the conservative Catholic subculture. Their leader and teachers are treated as if they were above reproach. They can openly commit heresy, schism, and grave scandal, yet the culture treats them as necessarily innocent and incapable of heresy or schism. But when the Roman Pontiff teaches contrary to the ideas popular in that subculture, it rejects him. They are so much like the Pharisees of old, it isn’t funny.

The penalty of being unwelcome at Pontifical Universities is just and mild, since John Rist committed grave offenses against the Roman Pontiff. That he would except to be welcomed there, after accusing the Pope of formal heresy is surprising and even inexplicable. If you accuse your neighbor of very grave crimes, why would you be surprised to be uninvited to his dinner party?

Rist also says he had no indication that this penalty was coming. Really?! You publicly accused the Roman Pontiff of the grave sin of formal heresy, and you thought that Pontifical Universities would still welcome you? And the complaint that he makes is laughable. He wants to use the Pontifical University as a free long-term parking lot, because the long-term parking lot at the airport would cost him money.

“Rist suspects that he has been barred from the Pontifical Universities because he signed the Open Letter.” Suspects? No, that is the reason, obviously.

More hypocrisy: “I feel I have been treated with grotesque discourtesy,” he said. Hmmm. Okay, what should we call his action in publicly falsely accusing the Roman Pontiff of formal heresy, in contradiction to the dogma of the First Vatican Council and the promise of Jesus Christ? His deed goes far beyond a “grotesque discourtesy”. He caused grave harm to the path of salvation of many souls. He violated the commandment against bearing false witness. He implied that Christ lied or failed in keeping His promise that the faith of Peter would never fail.

He seems to have complained mainly about the parking situation. But the article at LifeSiteNews mentions that he also will no longer be permitted to supervise the work of a Ph.D. student at the Pontifical University. Sure. Of course. Rist is automatically excommunicated for the grave public delict of formal schism and has falsely accused the Roman Pontiff of heresy. Why would he be permitted that role at a Pontifical University? He might harm the faith of the student he supervises.

Rist made a few nasty remarks about the officials at the Augustinianum, for refusing him entry. He claimed the decision was made by an “apparatchik” at the Vatican. The term is a derogatory reference to low level bureaucratic officials in Communist nations. He also stated that in trying to resolve the situation, he was facing a “bureaucratic brick wall”. He also sniped at the priest who denied him entry to the University, calling his smile cynical and claiming that he was enjoying the situation. The priest was defending his University against a public schismatic who viciously attacked the Faith by falsely accusing the Roman Pontiff of heresy. (Even many conservative Catholics have observed that the Open Letter fails to prove its case and goes too far.)

It amazes me that Rist and others expect to be able to treat the Vicar of Christ like a pile of shit, and then be treated like Prima Donnas themselves. John Rist and the other signatories of the Open Letter are no longer Roman Catholics in good standing; they have suffered the de facto penalty of automatic excommunication. They are public schismatics and heretics. They should be excommunicated ferendae sententiae by their local ordinaries, or by the Holy See. They should be fired from any and all positions they might hold at any organizations which are truly Catholic. They should not be considered fit to teach the Catholic Faith to anyone. And that is a situation of their own making.

The Catholic University of America has refused to publish the Festschrift of John Rist, a book with collected contributions honoring the work of a scholar. LifeSiteNews explained that “the CUA Committee and Press believed it is ‘imprudent, at this time, to publish a volume’ in Rist’s honor.” Of course a Catholic University is not going to publish a book honoring someone who committed schism and heresy by falsely accusing the Pope of heresy. How is that in any way unexpected or unreasonable?

The CUA Press did publish a couple of other volumes, one written by Rist (Plato’s Moral Realism, 2012) and another with a contribution by Rist. But those works are in the realm of philosophy. A Catholic University will not hesitate to publish a work by a non-Catholic in a field other than theology. And, yes, John Rist is no longer a Roman Catholic. He is no more a Catholic than any priest or bishop of the SSPX, no more than of the present-day Feeneyites.

The Roman Pontiff is liberal and Catholic. The signatories to the Open Letter are conservative and non-Catholic. We need to stop pretending that conservatism trumps Catholicism. If you have greater devotion to President Donald Trump, because he is conservative, than you do to Pope Francis, because he is liberal, then you are not a Roman Catholic. Conservatism is not the most faithful version of Catholicism; rather, it is a political and social ideology. Conservatism is not a religion.

The LifeSite article begins by calling Rist: “One of the English-speaking world’s greatest living scholars of Classical philosophy.” That seems to me like something of an exaggeration. These days anyone who attacks the Pope is considered by papal critics to be among the wisest of sages. But in any case, the complement to Rist is irrelevant. Rist is not accused of failures in the field of philosophy. He is accused of schism, heresy, scandal, and false accusations.

Even if he were one of the greatest scholars in philosophy, that hardly qualifies him to judge and condemn the Roman Pontiff as being guilty of formal heresy. The other signatories are, for the most part, unfit for that role as well.

The First Vatican Council taught that no one may appeal the decisions of the Roman Pontiff, even to an Ecumenical Council. And it is a provision of Canon Law as well as an ancient teaching in the Church that the First See is judged by no one. But if we were to gather a group to judge the Pope, none of the signatories would even be up for consideration.

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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1 Response to Professor John Rist was punished for signing the Open Letter

  1. dom64verona88chrysostomos says:

    Sainte Jeanne d’Arc disait: “Messire Dieu, premier servi!” Ne jugeons donc pas, mais il est très certain que les papes règnant à l’époque de saint Louis et de sainte Jeanne d’Arc n’ont jamais été canonisés. Ne rien dire de plus…

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