The Failings of the Open Letter

From the May 2019 Newsletter (now discontinued)


* Material dogma is all the teachings of Tradition and Scripture.
* Formal dogma is any material dogma also confirmed by the Magisterium as an infallible teaching and required belief.
* Formal heresy is an accusation that a Catholic has deliberately, knowingly, obstinately denied or doubted a formal dogma (a teaching of the Magisterium that must be believed with divine and catholic faith).
* Material heresy is an accusation that an idea contradicts a formal dogma.


First and most extreme failing: They did not prove that a valid Roman Pontiff can possibly teach or commit heresy.

It doesn’t matter if most scholars think Popes can commit heresy. It doesn’t matter if some Saints spoke about the hypothetical case of a Pope committing heresy. Any sound scholarly argument would have to prove that possibility first. And they did not do so.

If someone wished to accuse a Pope of sinning venially, the first step would be to prove by theological argument that Popes can sin venially. Even though we all know that this is true (since Popes go to Confession), for a sound theological argument, that would be the first step. And it does not matter what the accusation may be, you first have to prove that it is possible.

Second failing: The Roman Catholic Magisterium has definitively taught that every valid Pope has the gifts of immunity from (grave) error and a never-failing faith. This teaching of several past Popes was made a dogma of the faith by the First Vatican Council. See the proof here.

Since Popes cannot teach or commit heresy, these first two failings combine to proves that the Open Letter falsely accuses a Roman Pontiff of the objective mortal sin and grave canonical delict of formal heresy. The signatories have therefore committed heresy themselves, by contradicting the dogma that Popes cannot teach grave error or commit heresy. They have sinned against the Ten Commandments by bearing false witness against the Roman Pontiff, a sin made all the worse by the fact that he is the Pope, and by the scandal given to innumerable persons around the world. And they have also committed the sin of public formal schism, since it is clear from their own words that they are rejecting submission of mind and will to Pope Francis.

Third failing: “we provide a selection of Scriptural and magisterial teachings that condemn them as contrary to divine revelation”.

Heresy is contrary to formal dogma, not material dogma. The infallible teachings of Tradition and Scripture are material dogma. But these dogmas are subject to varying interpretations. So heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt of a formal dogma, not merely a material dogma. All formal dogmas are also material dogmas, but not vice versa.

Fourth failing: Most of the signatories are not qualified to judge if a mere idea is heretical. The 19 original signatories includes mostly persons with little or no training in theology. If a Bishop, not the Pope, were ever tried for heresy, which of the signatories would be qualified to assist in judging that case? Few, if any. Which are qualified to judge a Pope? None.

Fifth failing: violating the ancient teaching and ancient law in the Church that The First See is judged by no one.

Not even an Ecumenical Council has the authority or role to judge the Pope. Not even all the Cardinals or all the Bishops put together can judge the Pope. Yet these 19 individuals presumed to judge Pope Francis, not only condemning his teachings, but also condemning him as guilty of formal heresy.

Sixth failing: accusing the Pope of guilty by association

Guilt by association is not a valid accusation, as each person is responsible for his or her own decisions. The Pharisees attempted to accuse Jesus Christ based on guilty by association. Sacred Scripture rejects this type of accusation:

{2:15} And it happened that, as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat at table together with Jesus and his disciples. For those who followed him were many.
{2:16} And the scribes and the Pharisees, seeing that he ate with tax collectors and sinners, said to his disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
{2:17} Jesus, having heard this, said to them: “The healthy have no need of a doctor, but those who have maladies do. For I came not to call the just, but sinners.”

The fact that Pope Francis chooses to work with some Church leaders, who are subject to various criticisms, does not prove that the Pope is guilty of the same errors. And it is absolutely unprecedented and absurd to accuse someone of heresy by their association with others.

Seventh failing: accusing Pope Francis of believing or teaching that God positively wills the plurality of religions, when he repeatedly stated that this falls under the permissive will of God. The signatories absolutely ignore the assertions of Pope Francis to the contrary of their accusation.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

This entry was posted in commentary, Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink.