A very small group of Hermits in the U.K. (www.trumpeteer.co.uk) have issued a “Declaration” (found here) against Pope Francis. They have been excommunicated (ferendae sententiae) by the local Bishop, and rightly so. They are schismatics and heretics. Here is my reply to their grave errors.
Declaration: “With great grief we look upon the Church, the beloved spouse of Christ, the Great Ark upon the raging sea of the world, and to our horror all seems lost. The bride has become the harlot of old (i) , and the Great Ship is holed and sinking. Wherever we look we see heresy in the ascendant, Christian marriage derided (ii), and morals depraved in the clergy(iii) , religious and among the people(iv) . The Barque of Peter is rudderless, and the crew, namely the Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests seem paralyzed with fear, unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation in which they find themselves, and oblivious to the underlying evils that are destroying the Church. The spirit of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal is not within them(v), the courage of the Holy Spirit seems to have abandoned them, and the Truths of the Gospel have not spurred them into action (vi). Just when they needed to speak, they have fallen silent, and they have no words to confront the captain of the sinking ship, who is the Pope himself(vii) .”
The above quote expresses the heresy of rejecting the indefectibility of the Church. The Councils of Constantinople (4th), Lyons (2nd), Florence, and Vatican (1st) all taught this dogma, as does the ordinary and universal Magisterium. The Church can never go astray from the true faith, nor can the Church ever lead the faithful away from the path of salvation. Whoever says that the Church has gone astray, or is leading astray, commits heresy.
The claim that the Church, “the bride”, as become the harlot of old is heresy against the dogma of indefectibility, as is the claims that the Great Ship is sinking, that the Barque of Peter is rudderless, and that the leaders of the Church are not following Christ or leading the faithful to Christ (as is implied by the text). The claim that the Holy Spirit has abandoned the body of Bishops is also heresy against indefectibility.
The Church is led by the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops. Neither the Pope individually, nor the body of Bishops as a body, can go astray or lead astray, otherwise, the Church would have defected. If the body of Bishops ever followed or accepted as true Pope one who was a false pope or antipope or heretic or apostate or idolater, then the Church would have defected — which is impossible according to the teaching of Christ (Mt 16:18; Lk 22:32). Since the body of Bishops accepts Francis as true Pope, he must be the one true valid Roman Pontiff, and it must be the case that neither the Pope nor the body of Bishops has taught heresy, nor committed apostasy, heresy, or idolatry.
Already, in the first paragraph of the Declaration, the Hermits have committed formal heresy publicly. They are automatically excommunicated under canon law. For they have rejected the indefectibility of the Church, which is a dogma of the Councils of Florence, Lyons (2nd), Constantinople (4th), and Vatican (1st).
Declaration: “Never in history has there been such a Pope, who by his actions, words and teaching, has thrown the whole Church into confusion.(viii) There have been bad and immoral Popes like John XII, and Alexander VI, there have been mad Popes, like Urban VI, there have been severe and unbalanced reforming Popes like Paul IV, and there have been pleasure loving Popes like Leo X, but none of them have spread such alarm throughout the Catholic Church. Such days have never been seen since the days of the Arian heresy(ix) , and yet these days are far, far worse.”
John XII was not a valid Pope, for he never accepted the role. John XII never taught or led the faithful. He occupied the papal quarters and immersed himself in temporal indulgences, but he never attempted to be the Supreme Teacher or Shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ. His family appointed him to the role, so that they might have power. He himself had no interest in becoming Pope. One of the conditions needed for a valid papacy is to accept the office, which he did not.
Alexander VI committed many personal sins, but he is not even accused by anyone of heresy or similar errors. “Two of Alexander’s successors, Sixtus V and Urban VIII, described him as one of the most outstanding popes since Saint Peter.” [Wikipedia]
In the time of Urban VI, the Cardinals had great spiritual and political power. Urban rebuked them for their luxuries, for accepting bribes, for expecting the Pope to submit to their pretended authority, so they called him mad and some (it is claimed) may have sought to murder the Pope. Catherine of Siena, defended Pope Urban, called the Cardinals “devils in human form.”[Wikipedia]
As for the judgments stated of Paul IV and Leo X, they are not Popes accused of apostasy or heresy. And the judgments of them given in the Declaration are oversimplifications, at best.
But the claim that Pope Francis has “thrown the whole Church into confusion” is a foolish exaggeration. The faithful attend Mass. The Bishops and priests run their diocese and parishes. The Cardinals and Bishops consult with the Pope and follow his leadership. Pope Francis has led the Church in a way that is pleasing to very many of the clergy and laity.
Most importantly, the body of Bishops, who are the successors to the Apostles, support Pope Francis, who is the successor to Peter. Since the Church is indefectible, the body of Bishops never follows a heretic, nor an apostate, nor any invalid or false pope. For no one can resist the prevenient grace of God, nor can the promise of Christ fail that the Church will never go astray.
Declaration: “A terrible darkness has spread over the world and the Church. Modernism, Secularism, Humanism, and Scientism are eroding the ancient Truths of Faith; and aided by the poisonous ideology of Evolution, which is no science at all (x) , have convinced many in the Church that Man is getting better all the time. Thus ignoring the fact that the last century has seen tyrants and wars which eclipse all others in recorded history, for aided by science the evils of war and tyranny have been magnified beyond all imagining, and that terrifying magnification is ever increasing, and evil is truly unrestrained.”
The state of sinful secular society is terrible. But this cannot be extended to the indefectible Church. And while some members of the Church have gone astray, this has also happened in every generation. Also, the above paragraph is poorly written, and poorly thought-out.
Declaration: “Tragically the head of the Church on Earth, Pope Francis, by his utterances, his behaviour, his teaching and his actions, has shown himself to be indeed a great heretic(xi) . He has proclaimed that no-one goes to Hell (xii), he has undermined the indissolubility of marriage(xiii) , he has approved of couples living together (xiv), he has behaved in an ambiguous fashion towards homosexuals, and received warmly, not only homosexual couples, but a transgender person and his fiancé and pro-abortion advocates. Pope Francis has said that the death penalty is inadmissible (xv), and finally, in outright contradiction to the First Commandment, has said that God has willed all religions (xvi), and that this must be taught throughout the Church in her seminaries, her universities, and her schools(xvii).”
The First Vatican Council infallibly taught that each successor of Peter has the gift of truth and a never failing faith. And this teaching of a never-failing faith is the Council’s authoritative interpretation of the words of Jesus in Luke 22:32.
The Council also taught the indefectibility of the Church. Since Pope Francis is accepted as Roman Pontiff by the body of Bishops, he must be the valid Pope. And every valid Pope has the gift of truth, to preserve even his non-infallible teachings from grave error, and the gift of a never-failing faith, to preserve him, even as a private person, from all grave failures of faith, including apostasy, heresy, and schism, idolatry, sacrilege, and blasphemy. Therefore, the accusations of the Declaration, which calls Pope Francis “a great heretic” and “an Apostate Pope”, are false as a matter of dogmatic fact, as these claims are contrary to dogma.
The particular errors claimed are in some cases lies: he did not say no one goes to Hell; he did not approve of cohabitation; he did not say that God willed all religions. He said that God permissively wills a diversity of religions (not all), and he defined religion narrowly for the purposes of that document. In other cases, the complaints are not errors at all: Jesus received many sinners warmly; the death penalty is, in a sense, inadmissible (given an prudential evaluation of the circumstances). And otherwise, the complaints are a misunderstanding of his teaching.
Declaration: “In all this, silence has enveloped the bishops. Unable or unwilling to confront the successor of Peter; either through human respect, fear of schism, or through the thought of being cast out of their dioceses by the Pope, they have been reduced to a state of helplessness (xviii). Integrity has collapsed, fortitude has given way to cowardice and the flock are left,(xix) not only to the wolves, but to ravening lions, and every other conceivable violent personification of heresy and untruth . The bishops have forgotten how to teach , are powerless to correct, and seem unable to prevent the cruel invasion of the LGBT propaganda machine into Catholic schools, and nowhere is this more evident than in Britain.(xx)”
The foundation of the Church, as decided by our Lord Jesus Christ, has the Pope as the successor of the Apostle Peter as the head of the Church, and the body of Bishops as the successors to the other Apostles. If, as the Declaration claims, both the Pope (the head) and the Bishops (the body) had gone so terribly astray, then the promise of Jesus to keep that Church indefectible would either have been a false promise, or a failed promise. Since that cannot be true, the Declaration must be false.
The Church is indefectible. If the Pope were to go astray, the Church would have defected, so the Pope is indefectible. If the body of Bishops were to go astray, the Church also would have defected, so the body of Bishops is indefectible, though only as a body, not as individuals. The Church, the Pope, and the body of Bishops are each and all indefectible. And since this occurs by the prevenient grace of God, it is not dependent on the personal holiness, nor even on the free will, of the Pope and the Bishops.
Declaration: “The approaching mass apostasy of the faithful, foreseen so clearly by Blessed John Henry Newman in 1878 , is now upon us.(xxi)”
The so-called “mass apostasy of the faithful” is of the faithful, not of the Pope and the Bishops, as the expression itself clearly states. So it is the departure of these hermits that participates in the apostasy. The Pope and the Bishops have remained faithful.
What is happening here? The faithful have become filled with such pride that they put themselves above the Pope and the body of Bishops to judge and condemn them. Pride goeth before apostasy.
Declaration: “Though we are utterly unimportant, for who is interested in hermits that dare to speak out, we cannot keep silent for fear of damning not only our own souls, but the souls of countless others(xxii) . We who are watchmen for the Church, who must speak from the watch tower of Truth, have no option but to withdraw our obedience from Pope Francis and sever communion with the Holy See(xxi) . We do this with great fear and trepidation, but we cannot take part in the Pope’s sin. This is not an act of schism, nor is it an act of defiance, it is an act of real prudence; for no-one in their right mind would stay in a burning building, nor would they silently go down with the sinking ship. They would try to save not only themselves, but warn others and help them to safety(xxiv) .”
Having publicly stated the withdrawal of their obedience from the Roman Pontiff and the withdrawal of “communion” with the Holy See, they are guilty by their own acknowledgment of public formal schism. They are automatically excommunicated, as their own Bishop has publicly stated.
It is in fact an act of schism and defiance. For Pope Francis cannot be an antipope, as he is accepted by the body of Bishops. And he cannot err gravely, nor fail in faith by apostasy or heresy or idolatry. So the hermits and their Declaration must be heretical and schismatic; it must be an example of bearing false witness against the Vicar of Christ.
Declaration: “The Holy Roman Church over the last 60 years is being transformed inexorably into the False Church prophesied by Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich (xxv). The Church’s structures and her teachings have been infected by heresy and wrongdoing, and those who are of the Church of Christ must come out of the False Church, just as the early Christians were miraculously called out of Jerusalem before it was destroyed in A.D. 70. Truly these are desperate times, which require desperate measures. We have most reluctantly had to take such a drastic stand because the successors of the Apostles, namely the Bishops, faced with the horror of an Apostate Pope have failed to defend the gates of the Church, as the hordes of Hell ransack so much of the City of God. However small we are, however much this declaration will lead to us being persecuted, it is worth it.(xxvi) For it is truly a wonderful thing to fight for the Divinity and Majesty of Christ who is our Lord, our Captain and our King , and for his beloved spouse the Church who has been so shamefully used and abused for far too long.
“With Great Grief and Sorrow in having had to write this Declaration, but in the Love of Jesus Christ…[list of signatories]”
The dogma of the indefectibility of the Church is taught by Jesus in Mt 16:18 and taught by the Church in multiple Ecumenical Councils. Therefore, the claim that the holy Roman Church in being transformed into “the False Church” is heresy, as is the claim that the Church and Her teachings are infected by heresy. The call for Christians to leave the Catholic Church is a very grave sin of scandal, which openly seeks to lead the faithful away from the Church founded by Christ. The claim that the Pope and Bishops do not defend the gates of the Church, and the hordes of Hell have ransacked the Church is contrary to the teaching and promise of Jesus in Mt 16:18 that the gates of Hell will not prevail over the Church.
I don’t believe that Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich prophesied that the true Church would turn into a False Church. My understanding of the end times is that the Antichrist, who has not yet arrived, will devise a new religion based on the worship of himself, and this false church will complete with the true Church. So there will be two Churches, one True and the other false. At no time does the one true Church transform into a false Church.
I have no idea how hermits, persons who should be dedicated to prayer and the service of God, could have gone so far astray from dogma and truth and trust in the grace of God. Their souls are in grave danger. If they repent and are saved, they may suffer a very long time in Purgatory.
May God have mercy on these poor lost souls.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.