Three Gifts that make Each Pope the Rock

The list of quotes from Church documents without commentary is here:
The Roman Pontiff: Immunity from Error and Never-failing Faith (Catholicism.io).

Each Pope has three gifts, not three only, but three pertaining to the possibility of error.
1. Papal Infallibility when speaking ex cathedra
2. Immunity from grave error when not speaking ex cathedra
3. A Never-failing Faith (his faith cannot fail by apostasy, heresy, or schism)

The Pope’s teaching is not only free from error when he speaks ex cathedra. The Holy Spirit assists the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops in teaching the Faith, even when they are not exercising the infallible Magisterium. To say otherwise would be to treat the body of Christ as if it were not His body at all times, but only when an infallible decision of doctrine is reached.

So the Pope has other gifts, from Christ, to assist him in his role as the Vicar of Christ, in addition to the gift of Papal Infallibility. He has the gift of immunity from grave error and the gift of a never-failing faith.

For what sense would it make for our Lord to call Simon by the name “Peter”, meaning “Rock”, if his faith could fail? That would be like calling a fat man “tiny” or a tall person “shorty”. Simon is not merely called “Peter” or “Rock” as a nickname. The name is representative of the gift that gives Peter and his successors, each of whom is a Rock for the faith of the Church, freedom from all error when teaching infallibly, freedom from grave error otherwise, and a faith that cannot fail (by prevenient grace). If a Pope could teach error when his teaching meets the conditions for infallibility, or if a Pope could teach material heresy or grave error at other times, or if a Pope could commit apostasy, heresy, or schism, then our Lord would have erred in calling Peter by that name. The Pope is only the Rock on which the Church is founded and on which the Church is forever built if he has these three gifts. And each successive Pope has the full authority and the full set of gifts given to Peter. Thus, each Pope could have taken the name Pope Peter II, III, IV, etc. They each are the Rock of the Faith and of the Church.

Now the non-infallible teachings of any Pope can err, but only to a limited extent, and this is why the Church can require the faithful to assent to non-infallible teachings with religious, even though some error is possible:

“In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” [Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 25]

The repetition of this teaching (on papal immunity from grave error and his never failing faith) by successive Popes, the gravity of the subject matter, especially as concerns the Pope’s essential role in God’s plan of salvation, as well as his “manner of speaking” and the “character of the documents” all weigh in favor of the requirement of firm and unwavering religious assent to these teachings of the authentic papal Magisterium. Non-infallible teachings are not all of the same doctrinal weight, and so those with greater weight have a correspondingly greater requirement of assent.

But the First Vatican Council taught the very same doctrine as the Council’s authoritative interpretation of our Lord’s words in Sacred Scripture. And the relatio of Vatican I indicates that the Council Father’s intended to teach definitively the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine, that no Pope can teach or commit heresy. So I believe that this doctrine is infallible, under the ordinary and universal Magisterium and under Conciliar Infallibility. Thus, anyone today who accuses any Pope of teaching grave error or committing heresy may well be guilty of heresy. So the papal critics today risk (and in some cases clearly commit) formal schism and formal heresy by their words against Pope Francis.

Pope Saint Agatho, 680 AD: “For Peter himself received from the Redeemer of all, by three commendations, the duty of feeding the spiritual sheep of the Church. Under his protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error.”

“And his authority, as that of the Prince of all the Apostles, the whole Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Synods have faithfully embraced and followed in all things.”

“but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end….”

“…the evangelical and apostolic uprightness of the orthodox faith, which has been established upon the firm rock of this Church of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, which by his grace and guardianship remains free from all error….” [Letter to the Sixth Ecumenical Council 680 AD]

It is often asserted, as if it were an incontrovertible fact or a widely-acknowledged dogma, that the Sixth Council (the third at Constantinople) condemned Pope Honorius for heresy. But even apart from the doctrine that Popes have the gift of a never-failing faith, many theologians, including Doctor of the Church Robert Bellarmine, hold that Honorius did not teach or commit heresy AND that the Sixth Council did not condemn him specifically for heresy.

During the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Pope Saint Agatho wrote to the Council Fathers teaching them on papal immunity from error — perhaps the first magisterial teaching on this question. He taught that the Pope has the role to prevent the Church from turning “away from the path of truth in any direction of error.” The faith of the Church Herself is received from the successive Popes, and as a result, that faith remains upright and orthodox, since the faith itself is established upon Peter the Rock. So the faith of the Pope, by the grace of God, keeps the Church’s faith free from error. All this would not be possible if the faith of a Pope could fail. The Council accepted the letter, which makes its teaching of the Council as well as of a Pope-Saint.

The next Pope, Saint Leo II, approved of the works of the Sixth Council. But he specifically stated that Honorius was guilty of negligence, rather than heresy. And this statement was made within the document approving of the Council’s works. So if the statement is not authoritative, then neither is the approval; but if the former is authoritative, then the Council did not condemn Honorius for heresy. No decision of any Council is authoritative, binding, or even formally of the Council, without the express approval of the Roman Pontiff.

Pope Saint Leo II did not confirm the attempted condemnation of Honorius by some Council Fathers for heresy. That some Fathers were of this mind is indicated by the letter of Agatho, which may well have been a response to talk among the members of the Council about an unprecedented Conciliar condemnation of a Pope for heresy. Agatho clearly would not have approved of that action, and Leo specifically did not. So that condemnation, not having been approved by either Roman Pontiff, is not of the Council, nor of the Church.

See my article: In Defense of Pope Honorius.

The claim that Pope John XXII taught heresy is contradicted by the facts of the case. He clearly presented his statements as opinion, freely encouraged disagreement, stated that he wished the discussion to reach a point where he might arrive at a magisterial teaching, and then changed his own opinion prior to his death. Heresy must be obstinate and contrary to dogma (among other requirements). The immediate reception of the Beatific Vision of God upon entering Heaven was not dogma until the teaching of Benedict XII, subsequent to the death of John.

Saint Robert Bellarmine argues that no Pope can ever teach or commit heresy, as God does not permit this to happen. Some commentators, lacking intelligence, knowledge, and insight, have suggested that God would strike a Pope dead if he was about to teach heresy. That’s not how God accomplishes His will.

Consider that sinners in Purgatory are prevented from sinning gravely, such that they would then deserve Hell, not Heaven, and are even prevented from sinning venially, such that they would deserve ever more punishment in Purgatory and so would never enter Heaven. This occurs by the prevenient grace of God, which no one can resist. Similarly, the Pope has the same type of grace, though only to prevent him from teaching any error when speaking infallibly, from teaching grave error at other times, and from failing in faith by apostasy, heresy, or schism at all times. And this is done for the sake of our salvation, not for his own sake.

The Pope’s holiness or lack thereof is not at issue here. Consider that the Jewish high priest, the same one who knowingly condemned the Messiah to death (Lk 20:14), was able to prophecy the truth about Christ from God precisely because he was high priest (Jn 11:49-51). And this occurred, not by his own holiness or insight, but by prevenient grace.

Neither is this solely a question of the gift of Papal Infallibility. That is a distinct dogma, which pertains to the freedom from all error of certain teachings, as opposed to the freedom from grave error and heresy and the gift of a never-failing faith. The three dogmas are interrelated, though. Papal Infallibility protects infallible teachings from all error. The gift of truth (Papal Immunity) protects his non-infallible teachings and even his opinions from grave error. And the gift of a never-failing faith (Papal Faith) protects him from apostasy, heresy, and schism. These three gifts protect the Church from grave harm on matters of faith, morals, and salvation for the sake of our souls.

Pope St. Nicholas I, 860 AD: “If anyone condemns dogmas, mandates, interdicts, sanctions, or decrees, promulgated by the one presiding in the Apostolic See, for the Catholic faith, for the correction of the faithful, for the emendation of criminals, either by an interdict of threatening or of future ills, let him be anathema.” [Roman Council 860 and 863; Denzinger 326]

Pope Saint Nicholas issued an anathema against anyone who condemns various types of teachings and actions of the Roman Pontiff. For placing oneself above the Roman Pontiff, whether individually or as a group, is inherently schismatic. And so, condemning the teachings or authoritative decisions of any Roman Pontiff across a wide range of different types of official acts and purposes, still today constitutes the offense of formal schism, which falls under a latae sententiae excommunication: anathema sit (“let him be cut off”).

By the way, the term “dogma” did not always refer to infallible teachings. Its earliest use was for authoritative decision of the (secular) Roman empire. It was adopted by the Church, at first for any decision of Church authority. Later, its meaning was narrowed to any decision of doctrine; and only afterward, any infallible doctrine. At 860 AD, I think the term was still broad enough to include any magisterial teaching.

Pope Saint Leo IX, 1053 AD: “By the See of the Chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter — which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail — been strengthened?” [In Terra Pax Hominibus, September 2, 1053; Denz. 351]

The Pope has the role to disapprove, reject, and overcome heretics and heretical teachings. And to accomplish this role, God gives Peter and each of his successors the grace of a never failing faith: “the faith of Peter — which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail”. One purpose is so that the Bishop of Rome may strengthen the body of Bishops, who together are the successors of the Twelve Apostles (Matthias replacing Judas). They are the foundation of the Church, with Peter as the cornerstone (the head of the corner). Another purpose is to secure our path of salvation.

Saint Thomas Aquinas: “Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation.” (ST I. 1. 1.)

For the same purpose, it was necessary that the Roman Pontiff be free from grave error and from apostasy, heresy, and schism. For every human person is required to be subject to the Pope. But if he could fail in faith or teach grave error, even inadvertently, our salvation would be at risk, since “man’s whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth” — truths of faith and morals [Ibidem].

If a Pope could teach or commit heresy, how would “the comments of all the heretics” be “disapproved, rejected, and overcome”? How would we know which teachings to trust, if some Popes could fail in teaching truth or in faith? And then each Ecumenical Council would be in doubt, as an Ecumenical Council is not a Council without the Pope as its head (Universi Dominici Gregis 34). The result is the arbitrary rejection of any Pope or Council whose decisions on discipline or doctrine anyone dislikes for any reason.

And this is seen quite clearly in the current situation, where not only Pope Francis, but various teachings and decisions of Pope Pius XII, Pope Saint John XXIII, Pope Saint Paul VI, Vatican II, Pope Saint John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI have been rejected by one or another of the critics of Pope Francis. The book “Infiltration” displays the full depth of this error, as it stands in judgment over all of the aforementioned Church authorities to accuse them, with no real theological argument or basis and with no regard whatsoever for their authority ordained by God, of very grave sins and errors.

The whole faith falls apart without faith in the Roman Pontiff. The whole faith would fall apart, if the Pope’s teaching was not protected from all error under Papal Infallibility, from grave error otherwise, and if his very person were not protected from failing in faith. For the head of the Church is not merely a role or office, but a person appointed by God, guarded by grace, teaching by the Holy Spirit, with the very authority of Christ. And whosoever accuses him of grave error or failure in faith is guilty of heresy and schism, if not, in the very worst cases, of apostasy.

Some papal critics are guilty of these errors only to a limited extent. But others have fully departed from the divine and catholic faith by utterly rejecting the authority of Popes and Councils, submitting everything to their own judgment and issuing their own decisions of doctrine and discipline. At its fullest extent, this error is truly apostasy, as the person who still claims to be Catholic and Christian nevertheless rejects the Church in Her entirety, and in doing so at least implicitly rejects Christ.

Pope St. Leo IX: “By passing a preceding judgment on the great See, concerning which it is not permitted any man to pass judgment, you have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils….”

“As the hinge while remaining immovable opens and closes the door, so Peter and his successors have free judgment over all the Church, since no one should remove their status because ‘the highest See is judged by no one.’ ” [Epistle: In Terra Pax Hominibus, 1053; Denzinger 351-353.]

The great See is the Apostolic See or Holy See. Passing a “preceding” judgment means putting oneself above the Roman Pontiff, as if you had authority over him. If the Pope has a personal opinion, and you disagree, that is not objectionable. But if the Pope teaches or acts under his authority as the Vicar of Christ, he acts with Christ’s authority. And no one has the role or right to stand in judgment over the Pope, except God. That is why it is said that “the highest See” or “first See” is judged by no one — meaning no one but God.

The critics of Pope Francis began, years ago, with fairly limited criticisms of him. But even then, I could see their pride. They spoke as if they had the authority to judge and condemn Pope Francis. And along the way, they would mention in passing that Pope Saint John Paul II erred on this point, and Pope Saint Paul VI erred in that manner. In addition, they generally present little or no theological argument, but instead speak as if their own inerrant minds were a source of dogma. So I stated openly then that eventually these papal critics would progress to accuse the Pope of heresy. And they did so.

They have passed “a preceding judgment on the great See.” They have judged “the highest See.” And so, in the eyes of God, they “have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable Councils.” Even an Ecumenical Council, apart from the Roman Pontiff, cannot stand in judgment over him, nor withstand his authority.

Pope Boniface VIII, 1302 AD, Unam Sanctam:

“7. Therefore, if the earthly power goes astray, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual power goes astray, [it will be judged] by its superior; and truly, if the highest [power] goes astray, it will not be able to be judged by man, but by God alone. And so the Apostle testifies, ‘The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one.’ [1 Corinthians 2:15]”

“8. But this authority, even though it may be given to a man, and may be exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine [power], having been given by the divine mouth [of Christ] to Peter, and to him as well as to his successors, by [Christ] Himself, [that is, to him] whom He had disclosed to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: ‘Whatever you shall bind,’ [Matthew 16:19] etc. Therefore, whoever resists this authority, such as it has been ordain by God, resists the ordination of God. [Romans 13:2]”

“9. Moreover, that every human creature is to be subject to the Roman pontiff, we declare, we state, we define, and we pronounce to be entirely from the necessity of salvation.” [Unam Sanctam, 1302; Fifth Lateran Council, 1512-1517]

The teaching of Unam Sanctam was confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council, and therefore falls under Conciliar Infallibility. No one may stand in judgment over the highest spiritual authority on earth, the Roman Pontiff, but “God alone”. No one may judge the Roman Pontiff. For the Roman Pontiff speaks with divine authority, which was given by the divine mouth of Christ to Peter and his successors. Unam Sanctam (and the Fifth Lateran Council) presents this doctrine as divinely-revealed in Sacred Scripture, so it is a required belief under pain of heresy.

The papal accusers who openly (or privately, when that is the case) resist the authority of the Roman Pontiff, ordained by God, resists the ordination of God. They also refuse, in this manner, “to be subject to the Roman pontiff,” and such refusal is the sin of schism.

Vatican I, 1870: “Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an Ecumenical Council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.” [First Vatican Council, First dogmatic constitution on the church of Christ, Chapter 3, n. 8]

Again, here is a teaching under Conciliar Infallibility. The Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge of all the faithful, including Bishops, Cardinals, and those with internet notoriety. It is a dogma of the First Vatican Council that the judgment (“sentence”) of the Apostolic See is not subject to the judgment or revision of anyone. There is no authority, except God, which is superior to the Pope.

So the papal accusers, who are adamant that the Pope, for example, must change his teaching in “Human Fraternity” or must revise “Amoris Laetitia”, or who themselves issue a list of alleged dogmas, have violated the above Conciliar teachings. They speak as if they have the role to judge and even condemn the teachings and even decisions of discipline of the Roman Pontiff. They pass judgment on him even to the extent of accusing him of propagating material heresy or committing formal heresy.

And they do so, laughably, in some cases as they offer no theological argument at all. They simply issue a list of alleged required beliefs. The list is nothing but their own understanding or misunderstanding on questions of faith, morals, and salvation. Other times, they attempt a theological argument, but the case they make is poorly thought out and easily refuted.

The foundation for their attacks on the authority of the Roman Pontiff is not, in the main, theological. They have a large number of persons, gathering virtually on the internet, who hold the same ideas. They know that they can simply state what this group believes, and it will be accepted. Moreover, many Catholics have been led astray by the false claim that conservative Catholicism is orthodox and liberal Catholicism is heterodox. So by simply presenting the Pope as liberal, and his accusers as conservative, they seem to win the argument in the minds of their audience.

Vatican I, 1870: “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.” [First Vatican Council, First dogmatic constitution on the church of Christ, Chapter 4, n. 7]

Now we have the dogma of the First Vatican Council which refutes two types of accusations against any Roman Pontiff:
(1) that he might teach material heresy or some other grave error (which might not rise to the level of heresy), and
(2) that he might commit apostasy, heresy, or schism.
The teachings which oppose these accusations are as follows:
1. Each Roman Pontiff has the gift of truth, and therefore, by the grace of God, he is able to keep “the whole flock of Christ” away from “the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine”. This would not be possible if a Pope could teach any grave error at all, whether his teaching is non-infallible or personal opinion. (His opinions can err to a greater extent than his non-infallible teachings, but neither can present material heresy or grave error.)

Moreover, the ordinary and universal Magisterium has taught for many centuries the “immunity from error” of the Roman Pontiff. The teaching of Vatican I on this point is in harmony with past magisterial teachings.

2. Each Roman Pontiff has the gift of a never failing faith. If he were ever to commit apostasy, heresy, or schism, his faith would have failed.

The objection that, if the Pope commits heresy, he ceases to be Pope is absurd. Of what use would the gift of a never-failing faith be, if his faith could in fact fail? The gift would be of no effect, and the situation would be the same as if no such gift were given. Moreover, this gift is a result of the prayer of Jesus and His prayers are not ineffectual:

[Luke]
{22:32} But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

The First Vatican Council interprets this verse as referring to Peter and his successors, and as indicating the gift of a never-failing faith. So the doctrine of the Council is divinely revealed, by the divine mouth of Christ.

Pope Pius XI, 1929: “Upon this Magisterium, Christ the Lord conferred immunity from error, together with the command to teach His doctrine to all….” [Divini illius magistri, December 31, 1929; Denz. 2204.]

We know from the dogma of the First Vatican Council that Papal Infallibility only applies to teachings which meet certain conditions. So we cannot interpret “immunity from error” as making every utterance, nor even every teaching of the Roman Pontiff free from error. However, immunity from grave error makes since in the context of the many other teachings of the Church on this subject.

For example, non-infallible teachings require religious assent, but admit of some possibility of licit theological dissent (without sin). The Church can require assent to non-infallible teachings, especially those of the Roman Pontiff (LG 25) because these teachings are free from every grave error. And the Church permits some limited dissent because errors which are not grave are possible in magisterial teachings, even those of a Pope.

Code of Canon Law, 1983:

Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

Those truths must be believed with divine and catholic faith which are taught, on faith and morals, by the infallibility of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, or Papal Infallibility, or Conciliar Infallibility. The three gifts to the Roman Pontiff:
1. Papal Infallibility – the ability and authority to teach without any error under certain conditions
2. Immunity from Error – the gift of truth by which the prevenient grace of God preserves the Roman Pontiff from teaching heresy and other types of grave error (e.g. on discipline or errors that simply fall short of heresy), not only in his non-infallible magisterial teachings, but also in his theological opinions.

If a Pope could teach heresy as a private theological opinion, the path of salvation would be gravely harmed and souls would be lost, as many of the faithful distinguish with difficulty theological opinions of the Pope, from non-infallible doctrine, from dogma.

3. Never-failing Faith – this gift is to the person of the Roman Pontiff, not only to his office. No Pope can fall into the grave sin of apostasy, heresy, or schism (regardless of whether this sin would have been committed with full knowledge or full deliberation).

This divinely-revealed dogma (Lk 22:32; Vatican I) is a required belief under pain of heresy. Moreover, those who accuse the Roman Pontiff of teaching or committing heresy are necessarily stating, or at least implying, that they will not submit to his authority over doctrine, and his role as their Teacher and their Shepherd.

Apostasy accompanies these sins when the claim that the Roman Pontiff, the Head of the Church, has gone astray extends to multiple Popes, especially consecutively, and when one or more Ecumenical Councils are also the subject of obstinate doubt or denial. For the accusers are attacking not only a single Pope, but the Church, the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts of truth and a never-failing faith through grace to the Roman Pontiff (and the body of Bishops), and Jesus Himself, who is the eternal Head of the Church.

And this type of attack on the Church is seen in some accusers, who, having exalted himself above the Roman Pontiff, quickly progress to making themselves judges over every Pope and Council, every doctrine and discipline, and the whole of the Church and the Faith. Thus, they usurp the role of Christ, seeking to replace him, rather than to follow and worship him. And that is apostasy.

Now many of the papal critics have not progressed in their grave sin to the extent of apostasy, but that is the end toward which their behavior is inherently directed.

Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”

Only formal heresy or formal schism carries this penalty. However, apostasy is always formal. Some papal critics have avoided the formal sins by ignorance and incompetence. Whether or not it is invincible ignorance is for God to judge. I will say that some of the more prominent and more vicious papal accusers openly speaks with malice toward the Pope, and that is indefensible in all cases. If certain papal accusers are not guilty of formal heresy and formal schism but only material…they should know better. When you speak to the whole Church via modern media, making a very grave accusation against the Roman Pontiff (regardless of the form of the accusation), you have a grave moral obligation to be exceedingly well-informed on the theological issues at hand AND on the dogmas of the Faith on the indefectibility of the Church and the gifts of truth and a never failing faith to the Roman Pontiff (which latter gifts are closely related to the gift of the indefectibility of the Church). The Pope himself is, in a sense, indefectible, but not for his own sake, rather for the sake of the Church and our salvation.

Can. 915 “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Almost all of the papal accusers, those who claim the Roman Pontiff propagates heresy, teaches material heresy or other grave errors, or commits heresy also vehemently reject his decision on Communion, in certain cases, for the divorced and remarried. So it is illustriously ironic that they themselves are prohibited from holy Communion for heresy, schism, and obstinately persevering in the manifest grave sin of bearing false witness against the Roman Pontiff and gravely harming the Faith itself and the little ones of the Faith.

The Church is like a giant Millstone that grinds the wheat of the Gospel into food for little faithful souls. That is perhaps why this imagery was chosen by Christ.
[Matthew]
{18:6} But whoever will have led astray one of these little ones, who trust in me, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be submerged in the depths of the sea.

When you fight against the Church and the Faith, it is like trying to swim with a millstone around your neck, and the result is likely that you will sink into the depths of the great abyss.

Canon Law 1373: “A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.”

Winner: Understatement of the Year Award. These papal accusers are disobeying Canon 1373 in the extreme. And one of them, as the mildest of penalties, is no longer allowed to use a Pontifical University as if it were a free long-term parking lot for the airport. He seemed surprised that after accusing the Pope of formal heresy, he would not be allowed this favor any longer. The lack of self-awareness of some of these accusers is astounding.

“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.”

Again, the papal accusers are violating this Canon, which is also clearly an expression of the requirements of the faith and of the moral law, to a grave extent. Not only do they refuse to submit their minds and hearts to teachings of the faith and rulings of discipline, but they encourage other members of the faithful to join them in this disobedience.

Canon Law 1404: “The First See is judged by no one”

Not merely a law of the Church, this ancient principle is founded on the role that Christ gave to Peter and his successors above the whole Church on earth, even Cardinals, Bishops, and any groups whatsoever of Church leaders and members. They not only judge the Roman Pontiff guilty of grave error, many times over — based mainly on the fact that his decisions of doctrine and discipline are contrary to one’s own understanding or preferences — but they also condemn him as a heretic and with many expressions of denigration and opposition. They judge the First See of Pope Francis, and then go on to judge other Popes and Councils.

[Matthew 7]
{7:1} “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
{7:2} For with whatever judgment you judge, so shall you be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, so shall it be measured back to you.
{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?
{7:5} Hypocrite, first remove the board from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

The papal accusers are acting directly contrary to this teaching of our Lord to a severe extent. They will be judged by Christ himself according to their own judgment.

Pope Francis may have a few splinters in his eye, very limited errors in non-infallible magisterial teachings, decisions of discipline, and personal theological opinions. But truly these are quite splinters or specks, not boards or planks. Their accusers, instead, are teaching grave errors and abject heresies, without repentance. They reject all criticism, do not listen to theological arguments against their own positions, and treat those who disagree with them with contempt (including the Pope). They are unable to see clearly enough to remove the splinter from the eye of the Pope by presenting to him the few mild corrections that might benefit him.

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

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