My Simple Faithful Position on Pope Francis

I believe that the 21 Ecumenical Councils, from Nicea to Vatican II, are each and all valid Councils. And since an Ecumenical Council is the body of Bishops led by the Roman Pontiff, all that is taught by any Council — teachings of the Magisterium, which is to say, on faith and morals — is entirely without error. But for a teaching to be of a Council, it must be approved by the Roman Pontiff.

St. Robert Bellarmine, at the end of De Conciliis, Liber II, chapter IX says “we hold by Catholic faith that legitmate councils confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff cannot err” (ex fide Catholica habeamus concilia legitima a Summo Pontifice confirmata non posse errare) [per Dr. Robert Fastiggi]

I see no errors at all in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, nor the First, nor any other Council. The source of alleged errors is the sin of pride. People assume that their own understanding is correct, so when a Council or Pope says otherwise, they refuse to change their understanding to fit the teaching of the Faith. Instead of humbling themselves before the teaching authority of Christ in His Church, they condemn a Pope or Council. As for me, I am certain that my understanding is that of a fallen sinner, and I put the teachings of the Popes and Councils above my own mind and heart.

Infallible teachings of the Magisterium can have no error at all; non-infallible teachings can have no grave errors. For the grace of God guards and guides the Magisterium of the Church of Jesus Christ.

And as the First Vatican Council taught, each Pope has the gift of truth and a never failing faith, divinely-conferred on Peter and his successors. Therefore, I know that every valid Pope is preserved from all error when teaching infallibly, is preserved from grave error when teaching non-infallibly, and is preserved from grave failings of faith at all times. If my understanding differs from his, I should assume that he is correct and adjust my understanding according to his teaching. Faithful disagreement with a non-infallible teaching is possible, but never to the extent of accusing any Pope of grave error.

Prayer is very important to maintain faith in the Church and in Her teachings. Along with prayer, we must practice self-denial, and perform works of mercy toward those in need. Otherwise, correct theology will not suffice to save our souls. I recommend the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the other prayers/devotions mentioned on this blog. Unless you pray, you will not be able to be faithful to the Church and to Christ.

Pope Francis can never err to a grave extent in any of his teachings. Even so, I don’t read looking for errors, but looking for an ever better understanding of the Faith. I trust that Pope Francis is holy and faithful, that he is guided by the grace of God and by his own good intentions. I believe that Pope Francis may well be a future Saint.

And his validity as Roman Pontiff is a dogmatic fact. For the Church is indefectible. Therefore, neither the Pope nor the body of Bishops can go astray. Since the body of Bishops has accepted Pope Francis as the Roman Pontiff, he must be valid. For the body cannot lead the faithful astray by following a false head. And once a Pope is valid, he cannot cease to be a valid Pope, except by resignation or death.

Pope Francis is the valid Pope. He cannot teach grave error. His intentions are holy and he is guided willingly by the grace of God. Like every Pope, Francis is indefectible.

The body of Bishops, not as individuals but only as body, is indefectible. For the Lord Jesus promised that He would, by His own prayer, secure both the faith of Peter and his successors, and also, by means of Peter, secure the faith of the body of Bishops, who are the brethren of Peter [Lk 22:32].

I trust in the Pope and in the body of Bishops, I trust in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, just as I trust in Christ.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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3 Responses to My Simple Faithful Position on Pope Francis

  1. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,

    Thank you for quoting the position of St. Robert Bellarmine on the protection of ecumenical councils (also called general councils) from error. Professor Sydney Penner has kindly provided a link to the the “Opera omnia” of Bellarmine: As you may know, Ryan Grant has also done an English translation of “De conciliis” published in 2017 by Mediatrix Press.

    In De conciliis, Liber II, chapter II, Bellarmine makes this point: “A general Council represents the universal Church, and hence has the consensus of the universal Church; wherefore if the Church cannot err, neither can a legitimate and approved ecumenical Council err.” (Concilium generale repraesentat Ecclesiam universam, et proinde consensus habet Ecclesiam universalis; quare si Ecclesia non potest errare, neque Concilium oecumenicum legitimum, et approbatum potest errare).

    As you know, Bishop Athanasius Schneider claims there are errors in Vatican II that need to be corrected. Bishop Schneider graciously wrote the Foreword to the 2018 revised and updated translation of Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma published by Baronius Press. It’s interesting to read Father Ott’s understanding of the infallibility of ecumenical councils

    “It has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church from the earliest times that the teachings of the General Councils are infallible.” Ludwig Ott, The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Revised and Updated Edition (London: Baronius Press, 2018), p. 321.

    An earlier translation of The Fundamentals has this passage: “It has been the constant teaching of the Church from the earliest times that resolutions of the General Councils are infallible.” Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: Herrder, 1958), p. 300.

    The German original from the 2010 edition of Ott’s book reads as follows:
    “In der Kirche war von jeher die Überzeugung lebendig, daß die Beschlüsse der allgemeinen Konzilien unfehlbar sind.” Ludwig Ott, Grundriss der Dogmatik (Bonn: Verlag Nova et Vetera, 2010), p. 422.

    A 1955 French translation reads as follows:
    “Toujours, L’Église a eu la conviction que les décrets des conciles généraux sont infallibles.” Ludwig Ott, Précis de Théologie Dogmatique 2◦ Édition Revue et Corrigée (Mulhouse: Éditions Salvator, 1955) p. 421

    Now, the original is the German, and the word, Beschlüsse, could mean resolutions, conclusions, decisions, or decrees. In order to distinguish disciplinary resolutions from resolutions on matters of faith and morals, the 2018 Baronius Press edition chose “teachings” as the translation since doctrinal resolutions of ecumenical councils are teachings. Some people, however, claim that only definitions of ecumenical councils (also called “general councils”) are infallible. But if Fr. Ludwig Ott wanted to maintain this position he would have chosen the German word for definitions, “definitionen,” rather than the broader term, Beschlüsse (decisions, resolutions, doctrinal teachings or determinations).

    In any case, it seems that Ludwig Ott holds to the position of St. Robert Bellarmine, viz. that ecumenical councils cannot err. Apparently Bishop Schneider disagrees with Bellarmine and Ludwig Ott on this matter.

  2. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,
    Thank you for posting my comment. As a follow-up, I want to say that your attitude toward Pope Francis is exemplary and one that all Catholics should follow. I especially appreciate your emphasis on prayer. The following passage from Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical, Casti connubii, is one that we should keep in mind with respect to Pope Francis or any Roman Pontiff:

    104. Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.

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