This Simple Faithful Defense of Pope Francis

1. The Indefectibility of the Church

It is a dogma of the faith that the Church is indefectible. Any proposal or claim or narrative which contradicts this dogma is certainly false. It does not matter what the claim is, nor how many adhere to the alleged narrative, dogma is guaranteed to be true by the Holy Spirit. The contrary is heresy.

Every claim about the Pope, the body of Bishops, or the Church which is incompatible with the dogma of indefectibility is a heretical claim. The faithful must reject that claim, or else they are guilty of rejecting the words of Christ.

The Church can never be infiltrated by Satan, nor by evil human persons at the highest levels, at the level of Popes, Councils, and the decisions of the Church on doctrine and discipline. Such a claim is heresy.

2. When a Roman Pontiff is accepted by the body of Bishops, he is certainly the valid Roman Pontiff.

Saint Robert Bellarmine taught that even if a papal election is deeply flawed or invalid, the elected candidate becomes validly elected and the true valid Roman Pontiff when he is accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff. Clearly, the authority to elect the Roman Pontiff resides in the body of Bishops, even when it is exercised by the college of Cardinals as representatives of that body.

Pope Francis has been accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, he is the valid Roman Pontiff. The claim that Pope Francis was not validly elected is schismatic.

3. Each Pope has the gift of 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.”

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.]

When he is teaching infallibly under Papal Infallibility, or Conciliar Infallibility, or the ordinary and universal Magisterium, or declaring dogmatic facts, the gift is immunity from all error.

When he is otherwise making decisions of doctrine or discipline, as when he teaches non-infallibly or when he decides matters of discipline or prudential judgment, the gift is immunity from grave error. Some limited errors are possible, but never to the extent of harming the indefectibility of the Church, nor of gravely harming the faith or the path of salvation.

When he is not acting in his office, by speaking as a private theologian, the gift is immunity from the gravest of errors: apostasy, heresy, or schism. For the Pope has a never-failing faith.

4. Each Pope has the gift of a never-failing faith.

Vatican I: “For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter…. for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ [Lk 22:32]. 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….”

Pope Saint Leo IX: “the faith of Peter — which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail” [In Terra Pax Hominibus, September 2, 1053]

Therefore, just as Saint Robert Bellarmine taught, no Pope can teach or commit heresy. Neither can any Pope commit schism or apostasy. This is a dogma of the First Vatican Council. So every claim against Pope Francis of heresy and apostasy is itself an heretical claim. They commit heresy who accuse the Pope of heresy.

And the claim of the papal accusers, that the Pope ceases to be Pope when he commits heresy or apostasy, and therefore he loses all the gifts of his office, cannot be true. For that would be like saying that Peter is the Rock on which the Church is founded, until he fails to be the Rock. It would be as if the Rock at any time could turn into sand. Who would build their house on that kind of rock? No one. Certainly not Jesus.

5. The Rock on which the Church is founded

{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Pope Francis certainly is a valid successor of Peter, as he was accepted by the body of Bishops and he cannot commit apostasy, heresy, or schism. Therefore, Francis is the Rock on which the Church is founded. And he cannot cease to be that Rock, until he resigns or passes away.

The claim that a Pope can teach or commit heresy, or commit apostasy is contrary to the words of Jesus. For no one would found their House on a Rock that could suddenly turn into a pile of sand.

{7:24} Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them shall be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.
{7:25} And the rains descended, and the floods rose up, and the winds blew, and rushed upon that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
{7:26} And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them shall be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.
{7:27} And the rains descended, and the floods rose up, and the winds blew, and rushed upon that house, and it did fall, and great was its ruin.”

The papal accusers have heard the words of Jesus in the Gospels and through His Church and His Vicar, and they have rejected those words. They are the foolish who are attempting to found the Church on the sand of the majority opinion of the conservative Catholic subculture. They have openly rejected the Rock.

6. The pilot and navigator of the Ark of Salvation.

According to Unam Sanctam, which was confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council, the Roman Pontiff is the pilot and navigator of the Ark of Salvation. [Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, n. 1]

But the claim that the Pope can err to any extent, except when teaching infallibly, would be as if the pilot and navigator of the Ark of Salvation alternately guided the Ark with his eyes open or with his eyes closed. God certainly did not design the Church in such a manner. So it must be the case that the Roman Pontiff has immunity from at least grave error at all times. Even his non-infallible teachings and his non-infallible decisions of discipline are free from any error that would gravely harm the Church or lead the faithful astray.

7. The First See is judged by no one.

Pope St. Leo IX: “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.’ ” [In Terra Pax Hominibus, 1053.]

Pope Boniface VIII, 1302 AD, Unam Sanctam, later confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council:

“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]””

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

None of the papal accusers has the role, authority, or ability to stand in judgment over the Roman Pontiff, so as to decide if he were guilty of apostasy, heresy, or schism, or guilty of grave errors in doctrine and discipline. And faith tells us that the prevenient grace of God absolutely protects the Roman Pontiff from such sins and errors.

The Pope, as everyone knows, can commit personal sins, even grave sins. But when he exercises his role as Teacher and Shepherd, he cannot err gravely. And the gift of a never-failing faith is a gift to his person, so at no time and in no way, not even secretly in his heart and mind, can any Roman Pontiff be a schismatic, heretic, or apostate. Even his personal theological opinions are free from material heresy.

Thus, no one can remove the Roman Pontiff, and no one can demand his resignation. All such attempts are schismatic, and are based on the heretical claim that the Pope has either committed heresy or apostasy, or that he has erred gravely in doctrine or discipline.

8. Canonical Penalties

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

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.”

Most of these papal accusers are already automatically excommunicated for schism, for heresy, some even for apostasy (in that they accuse the Church of being infiltrated by Satan, thus seeming to destroy the entire faith). They are not worthy to receive Communion. They sin gravely by refusing to accept these penalties of automatic excommunication and denial of Communion.

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.”

“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.”

The papal accusers are violating the above Canons to a grave extent.

9. Usurping the Role of Pope

The papal accusers speak as if they have immunity from error and a never-failing faith. They speak as if they have the role of supreme judgment over the whole Church and over the Pope — a role possessed only by God. They have put themselves above the Magisterium and the whole Church to judge unjustly and mercilessly. They sin gravely by pride.

10. Apostasy and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

On the alleged infiltration of the Church.

It is not possible for the Church to be infiltrated by Satan. The Church is the body of Christ, with Christ as Her head, and with the Holy Spirit as Her soul. The accusation of infiltration of the Church by Satan would mean, if it were true, that Christ is possessed by a demon and that the soul of the Church would be Satan in place of the Holy Spirit. That is the necessary implication of any claim that the Church is infiltrated by Satan. And the claim is therefore blasphemy against Jesus and against the Holy Spirit. The claim is also apostasy, heresy, and schism.

And do not say to me that the “infiltration” of the Church is by something other than Satan. There is no person on earth who would want to infiltrate the Church and lead Her astray more than Satan. He has permission from God, due to our grave sins, to tempt persons and to lead other fallen angels in putting sinners to the test. If any human persons gained an opportunity and ability to harm the Church gravely, he would become involved (if he were not the one who prompted the attempt to harm the Church, in the first place).

The claim that the Church has been infiltrated by Satan, or that the Church has been changed into a new false Church, or that the Church has committed apostasy are each and all the sins of apostasy, heresy, and schism, as well as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. For they are saying that the body of Christ led by the Spirit has become evil. The accusation leaves nothing of the true faith left, so it is not merely heresy and schism but also apostasy. And to accuse the Church of evil is to accuse Christ and the Holy Spirit, so it is also blasphemy.

Eternal Punishment

The faithful need not go through each accusation against the Roman Pontiff and provide a defense. The above suffices, along with the supernatural virtue of faith. It is apparent that many of the papal accusers literally do not have the infused virtue of faith at all. This implies, for a baptized Christian, the lack of love and hope, the lack of the state of grace, and eternal punishment unless they repent.

The current group of pride-filled conservative Catholic leaders, who oppose the Pope, is a group of persons at least some of whom have no love, faith, and hope, and it is certainly a group all of whom are guilty of at least heresy and schism, if not apostasy and blasphemy. Yet they think themselves to be holy, faithful, and orthodox. Rightly does Scripture prophesy about them:

{3:17} For you declare, ‘I am wealthy, and I have been enriched further, and I have need of nothing.’ And you do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
{3:18} I urge you to buy from me gold, tested by fire, so that you may be enriched and may be clothed in white vestments, and so that the shame of your nakedness may disappear. And anoint your eyes with an eye salve, so that you may see.
{3:19} Those whom I love, I rebuke and chastise. Therefore, be zealous and do penance.

They think themselves to be holy, faithful, and orthodox, but instead they are devoid of love, faith, and hope, lacking the state of grace, and guilty of apostasy, heresy, and schism. They think themselves to be wise teachers of the true faith, but instead they are gravely harming souls by leading them into heresy and all manner of grave errors. They refuse to repent and do penance. So they will be vomited out of the Church.

{3:15} I know your works: that you are neither cold, nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.
{3:16} But because you are lukewarm and are neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit you out of my mouth.

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

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