Summary of Reasons for Trusting Pope Francis

1. As per Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, even if a conclave were invalid in electing a putative Pope, he becomes the validly elected Roman Pontiff when he is accepted by the body of Bishops as Roman Pontiff.

This teaching implies that the authority to elect Popes resides primarily in the body of Bishops, even when it is exercised by the college of Cardinals. They are acting on behalf of the larger body. And this makes sense because while the Pope is the successor to Peter, the Bishops, not solely the Cardinals, are the successors to the other Apostles.

Pope Francis has been accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff. He is in his seventh year as Pope. So he is certainly a valid Roman Pontiff.

2. The First Vatican Council taught that each Pope has a never-failing faith, and this teaching is the Council’s authoritative interpretation of the words of Jesus:

{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.”

It is a Conciliar dogma that no valid Pope can fail in faith. Therefore, no Pope can commit apostasy, heresy, or schism. Whoever says otherwise contradicts this dogma, and thereby commits heresy as well as schism (by refusing submission to a valid Pope).

3. The First Vatican Council also taught that each Pope has the gift of truth. Past Popes have taught the same doctrine in different wording, such as that the papal Magisterium has “immunity from error”.

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.”

“…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….”

The above letter of Pope Saint Agatho was accepted by the Sixth Ecumenical Council and therefore is part of the Council’s teaching.

Pope Saint Leo IX: “the faith of Peter — which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail”

Pope Boniface VIII: “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]

Vatican I, 1870: “the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter…. Indeed, their Apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers, and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error….”

Pope Pius XI, 1929: “Upon this Magisterium, Christ the Lord conferred immunity from error, together with the command to teach His doctrine to all….”

Cardinal Ratzinger, CDF, 1998: “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]

The language that the Magisterium has variously used to describe “this gift of truth” indicates that even when the Roman Pontiff is not teaching infallibly, but either teaching non-infallibly or making decisions of discipline (non-infallibly), he retains the gift of immunity from grave error.

4. The Roman Pontiff is the Rock on which the Church is founded.

But can he be the Rock only when he is teaching infallibly, and at all other times, if indeed he were able to teach or commit heresy, he would then be sand? That is an absurd plan for the Church, and obviously not what our Lord intended. The Pope is the Rock not only when he is teaching infallibly, but at all times. For his gift of immunity from error extends even when he is teaching or acting non-infallibly. And the gift of never-failing faith is given to his person, not his office only.

5. The Roman Pontiff is the pilot of the Ark of Salvation.

Do you really think that God’s plan for the sole Ark of Salvation is to have a pilot and navigator (the Pope) whose eyes are only open when he is teaching infallibly, and at all other times to have his eyes closed? Or do you think that only some Popes have the help of the Holy Spirit in guiding the Ark and others are left to their own devices? No, each Pope is a true successor to Peter, with not only the same authority, but the same divinely-conferred ability to guide the Ark of Salvation without grave failure at any time, in any way.

Papal Accusers

The papal accusers have usurped the role of Roman Pontiff. They speak as if they may issue dogmas. They literally issue documents with lists of alleged dogmas (containing many errors). They speak as if they and their peers have immunity from grave error and as if they could never fail in faith. In this way, they attribute to themselves the very gifts that they deny God has given to the Roman Pontiff. They are so much like the Pharisees of old, it is frightening. And they don’t realize it.

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

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