This is a true story. Many years ago, I was in an old stone church for confession on Saturday, and as I sat in the pews (before or afterward?), I saw a couple of children sitting near one of the booths. The church had the old style of confessional, with a booth for the priest, and then two booths, one on each side of him for penitents. And of course the priest’s booth had a door, but the penitent booths had heavy curtains.
Then one of the children ran up to the booth, pulled aside the curtain, stuck his head into the confessional, and shouted a rude remark at the priest-confessor. He laughed and apparently took great enjoyment in this behavior. Then he ran back to his peer, who praised him for this act. The peer then took his turn, ran up to the booth, pulled aside the curtain, and shouted an obnoxious remark at the priest-confessor.
The two boys took great delight in this objectively grave sin. And they encouraged one another. It seemed to me that each one behaved this way due to the support and encouragement of his peer. And so, when each boy sinned by this act, the other was guilty of formal cooperation. And the sin is of course grave, since it was an act of malice, which is always mortal, and a sacrilege.
Worse still, it is difficult to see how these boys could attain salvation, when they ridicule and contemn one of the primary means to salvation provided by God: the confessional. They must have had a reduced culpability for this sin, due to their age. But imagine if adults behaved in this manner. Such an act would then be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, since it is to the Spirit that we attribute the conversion of sinners from actual mortal sin, so that they avoid Hell.
What if adults behaved this way?
No, wait … What if priests behaved this way?
What if a group of priests gathered in the Church, and each one took his turn harassing the Pastor of the Church? And when each one shouts his words of derision, malice, contempt, disregard, or insult toward the Pastor, he runs back to the other priests — and to the laity who are watching in the pews — and they all praise and encourage him. Then the laity and other priests imitate his behavior, repeating similar insults out loud, to anyone who would listen.
If a priest commits this wicked sin, as I have described it, it is certainly objectively grave. In addition, it would be certainly an actual mortal sin, if it were accompanied by a fullness of any of these sins: pride, malice, or hatred. For no one can be filled with any of those sins and still be in the state of grace.
Moreover, the sin I describe, if it were committed by priests, would be a sacrilege. For sacrilege is an offense against a holy object, place, or person, and the Pastor of the Church is a holy person. Then, too, there is the question of a violation of Canon law:
“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.””
Such behavior certainly incites animosities and hatred against the Apostolic See. And this can be proven quite easily. Read the comments after a priest writes these types of insults against the Pope, whether on one form of social media or another, or in an article sinfully published by a Catholic media outlet. Many persons join in the attack, repeating similar insults, or saying even worse things along the same lines. This is a real example of the sin of scandal. One can readily see, online, how a sin committed by a priest, publicly, leads the faithful to commit similar sins, sometimes to a greater degree.
(Many of these Catholic media outlets, which publish attacks on the Vicar of Christ, at the same time proclaim their faithfulness to Christ. If the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had an internet publication, that’s what it would be like.)
Yes, the priests today who insult the Roman Pontiff are guilty of the sins described above. And they are just like malicious boys, committing sacrilege in the Church, sticking their noses into the holy place of the confessional in order to insult the Pastor. Their sins are malice, derision, extreme pride, bearing false witness against the Pope, scandal (of a gravity without precedent), formal heresy, and formal schism.
Imagine a teaching in a middle school, who sincerely loves his student and does his best to teach them. But being immature children, some of them harass and insult the teacher, to the delight of their peers. They launch spitballs at the teacher. They make fun of him. They blame him when they cannot understand his lessons. They complain that he will not teach them from the narrow range of subject they have any interest in learning. They consider him to be worse than their previous teachers, and hope that he will quit his job. That is what the priests who insult Pope Francis are like: immature badly behaved children.
Note Well: Those who claim that the Church has been infiltrated by Satan at the highest levels are also guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Yet they are praised by the conservative Catholic subculture for all these sins. All of them. Even those who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit are PRAISED by the conservative Catholic subculture for this particular sin. They praise and support the book “Infiltration”, which claims the Church has been infiltrated by Satan at the highest levels. The Church has Christ as her head, and the Holy Spirit as her soul. Accusations of this type are blasphemy against Christ and against the Spirit. For the Church “has received the Christian faith from her founders, the Princes of the Apostles of Christ [i.e. the Popes], and remains undefiled unto the end” [Pope Saint Agatho, 680 AD]
But if any of you papal critics think you understand the Faith better than the Pope, why don’t you write a book of theology? And I don’t mean a book of insults, attacking the Pope. I mean a book explaining how your claims against the Roman Pontiff can be reconciled with the teaching of Popes, Saints, and Councils:
* “The First See is judged by no one”
* Each Pope has the “gift of truth and never-failing faith” [Vatican I]
* “Upon this Magisterium, Christ the Lord conferred immunity from error” [Pope Pius XI]
* “every human creature is to be subject to the Roman pontiff” [Fifth Lateran Council]
* “Under his protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error.” [Pope Saint Agatho]
* “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.” [Vatican I]
* the Pope “cannot in any way be heretical, or publicly teach heresy” [St. Bellarmine]
* “upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” [Jesus]
* “whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven” [Jesus]
* “But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.” [Jesus]
You can’t. There is no way to reconcile these vile sacrilegious malicious attacks on the Roman Pontiff with the teaching of the Magisterium, the Saints, and the Gospel.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.
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