Fr. Chad Ripperger accuses Saint Peter

In making accusation after accusation against Pope after Pope, Ripperger accuses Saint Peter of the same. For nothing is permitted to the successors of Peter that was not permitted of Peter himself. And finally, Ripperger does accuse Peter himself.

I happened across a book review, written by Ryan Grant, of the book Magisterial Authority, written by Fr. Chad Ripperger. I was appalled at the errors taught by Fr. Ripperger, and accepted as truth by Ryan Grant. The main problem here seems to be an implicit pseudo-magisterial authority given to the conservative Catholic subculture. Ripperger is writing on what is and is not infallible, what is and is not magisterial. But his source of truth is not Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, but rather the traditionalist culture in the Church.

For example, Ripperger and Grant both claim that Roman Pontiffs can fail in faith by teaching heresy and by being heretics. This claim itself is heresy. The First Vatican Council infallibly taught that every valid Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and never failing faith. But Grant claims that Vatican I never decided the question of Popes and heresy. Okay. Then answer this question: How can a Pope teach and commit heresy, and yet not have failed in faith or in truth? Material heresy is opposed to the truths of the faith, and formal heresy is opposed to the virtue of faith. Since every valid Roman Pontiff has the twofold charism of truth and never failing faith, he can neither teach material heresy, nor commit formal heresy.

Ripperger and Grant are not submitting their minds and hearts to the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, but to the teachings of the conservative Catholic subculture. For they cannot explain how a Pope could have the divinely-conferred charism of truth and never failing faith, and yet teach and commit heresy.

Ripperger gives the examples of Honorius and of John 22, both tired claims refuted hundreds of times through the centuries — and as Grant know well, refuted by Saint Robert Bellarmine. So one cannot PROVE that Popes are able to commit heresy by giving examples which are matters of dispute, in which the accused Popes are defended by a Saint and Doctor, or by many faithful theologians. In a court of law, the verdict would be “not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” And you would need to prove that a Pope taught or committed heresy beyond ANY doubt to reach the accusatory conclusion that ALL Popes can possibly teach or commit heresy — and therefore the faithful must not trust their Supreme Shepherd, and must sleep with one eye open, lest at any time, the Vicar of Christ turn into a wolf. Yes, that is the message of the book “Magisterial Authority”. The book is a traditionalist attack on the Magisterium because too many “members of the magisterium” have supposedly adopted the heresy of modernism.

It is obvious that a system in which the Popes could teach or commit heresy is untenable. For then we would never know which teachings to believe in the first place, so as to be able to judge what is and is not heresy. And as Grant himself has said (in his interview with Taylor Marshall), manifest heretics including Popes are no longer members nor heads of the Church. So that would invalidate any Council led or approved by an heretical Pope. The end result is that every Pope and Council is in doubt, every teaching is in doubt, and we would have no idea what to believe — unless there were a subculture within the Church that presents itself, implicitly, as being infallible. This is the hidden goal, unconsciously sought by conservatives on the far right, to convince the flock not to trust any Pope or Council, nor any teaching of the Magisterium, so that they will listen only to the conservative leaders. This is exactly the error of the Pharisees, who opposed Jesus, despite knowing He was the Messiah, so that they could be in charge of the flock, and not have to become sheep themselves.

As proof of this, I must point out that Ripperger and Grant both believe that the conservative theologian of a certain time period, only within certain years, were infallible when they all agreed. Uh-huh. I see. So the Popes cannot be trusted, as they may teach or commit heresy at any time. And the Councils cannot be trusted, witness Vatican II. Who can we trust? The favorite theologians of traditionalists. They are infallible, while the Roman Pontiff, the Judge of all the faithful, the Supreme and Universal Pastor, the one Shepherd of the one flock, the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, can teach and commit heresy and fall away from the Church altogether, becoming a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Could father Chad Ripperger teach heresy? Could Ryan Grant teach heresy? Could any of the most popular leaders of the conservative Catholic subculture teach heresy? Most of them teach at least material heresy. But they are also certain that Popes can teach heresy, and can commit heresy. And they make themselves judges over which Popes have taught heresy.

Ripperger and Grant give “the example of Pope St. Nicholas I, who taught that apart from the Trinitarian formula one could simply baptize “in nomine Christi”, (in the name of Christ), which was clearly against the tradition.” There it is, right there. The Roman Pontiff, who is a Saint, dared to contradict the tradition, with a small “t”. So he must be one of those heretical Pope-Saints. And to make this accusation even more laughable, Ripperger and Grant both believe that Popes are infallible in canonizations. So it is an infallible truth that Pope Nicholas I is a Saint, but he also taught heresy, which makes him, as Grant has said, immediately deposed by God, and subject to the judgment and condemnation of an Ecumenical Council. And that last part is the heresy of conciliarism.

What is the explanation, then? Why it is not a heresy to approve of the formula for baptism as “in the name of Christ” instead of “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”? One possible explanation, and I leave this to the Magisterium to decide definitively, is that, in the early Church, baptism seems to have been given in the name of Jesus, as well as, from the earliest times, in the Trinitarian formula. The Church has subsequently decided that only the Trinitarian formula is valid, as is Her right.

[Acts]
{2:38} Yet truly, Peter said to them: “Do penance; and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

{19:3} Yet truly, he said, “Then with what have you been baptized?” And they said, “With the baptism of John.”
{19:4} Then Paul said: “John baptized the people with the baptism of repentance, saying that they should believe in the One who is to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”
{19:5} Upon hearing these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
{19:6} And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came over them. And they were speaking in tongues and prophesying.

So there was the baptism of John, which is not the Sacrament, but foreshadowed it. Then there is baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus”, which is the Sacrament of Baptism. And then Paul imposed hands on them, giving them the Sacrament of Confirmation.

So St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67) did not teach heresy when he approved of both the Trinitarian formula and the ancient formula found in Sacred Scripture. What else does Ripperger say?

Grant: “Moreover some popes contradicted each other on Pauline privilege, and further still the error of John XXII, which was taught during preaching, a magisterial act to be sure.”

Some Popes disagreed with one another on the Pauline privilege. Okay. So what? How is that an accusation of error? Popes can disagree with one another. It doesn’t justify portraying them as sources of error. But that is the central theme of the book. Popes can err. The members of the Magisterium can err. Traust the tradition.

And I know that some traditionalists will be upset that I accuse Fr. Chad Ripperger and Ryan Grant of teaching material heresy (the denial of the Vatican I dogma on the charism of truth and never failing faith). But does no one find it objectionable that Popes are not to be trusted, but every single teaching in the conservative Catholic subculture is above reproach? Taylor Marshall was criticized by his good friend and video co-host (of TnT fame) Timothy Gordon, and Marshall’s response was to fire him, block him on Twitter, and then proceed as if Gordon never existed. They happily accuse Popes of heresy, but they can’t stand any criticism themselves.

And as for Pope John XXII, he taught an error during preaching. He allowed theologians to freely disagree and to discuss the matter further. He intended to reach a decision, so that the matter could be decided. He changed his mind before he passed away. And all this was before the question was defined by the Magisterium. His error was not heresy, as it was not contrary to dogma. And he did not teach the error definitively. Also, since he permitted free disagreement, and was working toward a magisterial decision, it is clear that his preaching was not magisterial, as Ripperger claims. There is no basis for an accusation of heresy there. None whatsoever. And yet Ripperger and Grant make the accusation anyway.

Unfortunately, Ripperger, with the agreement of Grant, think that the Pope can err to any extent, as long as his teaching does not meet the conditions for Infallibility. They think that a Pope can teach infallibly one day, and the next day teach or commit heresy. They are both undermining the faith of the one flock in the one Shepherd.

To the contrary, the charism of truth and never failing faith not only protects the Pope from material and formal heresy, but guarantees that his non-infallible teachings cannot err to a grave extent.

Ripperger also undermines the teachings of Ecumenical Councils, saying that the Council fathers have to intend a definition. Ripperger quoting “Berry” — “A large majority of the acts of councils are not infallible definitions, because they are not intended as such.” Wrong. Teachings are infallible when they meet the conditions for infallibility, regardless of the intentions of the authors of those teachings. What if some Council fathers intended a definition and others did not? How will we decide what is and is not intended, esp. centuries ago? A Council’s teachings are what it states. And as Bellarmine taught, every teaching of every Ecumenical Council is infallible.

Ripperger’s view undermines the authority of the Magisterium in Popes and in Councils, and makes the tradition seem infallible to fill in the gaps.

Then Ripperger takes his accusations against the successors of Peter to an unheard of extent. He accuses Saint Peter — the Apostle, the first Roman Pontiff, to whom Christ gave the threefold commission to feed His sheep, whom Jesus named Peter, meaning Rock, upon whom Jesus decided to found His Church — so much so that all his successors would take his name: successors of Peter — of grave error.

Ripperger: “The case of John XXII shows why the conditions of Vatican I are so important. John XXII had made erroneous statements during “magisterial” acts, i.e. preaching. However, these acts did not meet the conditions for infallibility and so there was no guarantee that they would be infallible, i.e. they are non-infallible statements. In all of this, we recognize that God, i.e. the Holy Spirit, will ensure the pope does not fall into error when he meets those conditions. The fact that these conditions are even seen playing themselves out with St. Peter over the issue of circumcision is a sign that God, Who is the Author of Scripture, wants to affirm that while Peter and his successors are infallible, they are so only under certain conditions.” [Ripperger, Chad. Magisterial Authority (p. 12). Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition.]

The accusation is subtle, but clear. And notice that the paragraph starts with an accusation of heresy against John. Then a subtle implied accusation against Peter. Is Fr. Ripperger accusing Peter of heresy? No? I have a better question for Fr. Ripperger, was Peter the first Pope capable of possibly teaching or committing heresy? A “Yes” is an heretical answer.

Ripperger tells us only to trust the teaching of the Popes when they meet the condition for Papal Infallibility. Then he sins very gravely by suggesting grave error on the part of Saint Peter. Notice the wording. God wants to affirm that Peter is only infallible when certain conditions are met. Okay. And this is “even seen playing themselves out with St. Peter over the issue of circumcision”. What he suggests is that Peter erred gravely on the subject of circumcision. That is a nasty malicious accusation, which Ripperger launches sotto voce. And the accusation is framed within the topic of Popes who erred to the extent of heresy. So Ripperger is suggesting grave error by Peter, certainly on a topic of great importance to faith; and we know that the Church infallibly teaches that circumcision is not needed.

Ripperger is referencing, implicitly, this passage from Galatians:

{2:11} But when Cephas [i.e. Peter] had arrived at Antioch, I stood against him to his face, because he was blameworthy.
{2:12} For before certain ones arrived from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they had arrived, he drew apart and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
{2:13} And the other Jews consented to his pretense, so that even Barnabas was led by them into that falseness.
{2:14} But when I had seen that they were not walking correctly, by the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone: “If you, while you are a Jew, are living like the Gentiles and not the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to keep the customs of the Jews?”

In my understanding, Peter’s error was not grave, and not heretical. He erred in his own behavior, not in any decision of doctrine or discipline. And his error was not even personally grave, not a mortal sin. So why does Ripperger raise the subject of his error in the context of John 22’s alleged heresy? He is suggesting that Peter could have erred to the extent of heresy, even if Peter did not err to that extent.

Like so many conservative Catholic leaders, Fr. Chad Ripperger has convinced his followers that he himself could never teach or commit heresy. They have absolute confidence in Chad’s teaching. And for his part, he has convinced all of them not to trust any Roman Pontiff, any successor of Peter, and even to believe that Peter himself could commit heresy. He has designed a version of the Catholic Faith founded on Chad, rather than on Peter (on Rock).

What percentage of supporters of Chad believe that he would never teach or commit heresy? A large percentage. And how many of his supporters believe that the Popes can never teach or commit heresy? Very few. And yet the latter is a dogma. A dogma denied and contradicted by Fr. Ripperger, so that the conservative Catholic subculture will never have to submit to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. Not really. They have left themselves a large loophole, so that they can disagree with any papal teaching at any time. All they have to do is recite the litany of heretical popes. And then they exempt themselves from obedience to the Magisterium.

“When the Church enters into a state where a pontiff is saying things contrary to the Faith, as was seen historically with Honorius I or John XXII, one simply cannot follow them because if one were to do so one would end up in heresy. The question then becomes: what must one do in order to avoid ending up in heresy and offending God when not just the pope, but also when a particular bishop says something contrary to the Faith?

“Firstly, it must be recognized that even the members of the Magisterium are bound to the deposit of faith and the remote rule of faith, i.e., that which pertains to the tradition. Secondly, so are the faithful. In the historical case of John XXII, he did precisely what was supposed to be done. Once it was brought to his attention that he had said something that could be considered erroneous, he consulted the remote rule; the tradition.” [Ripperger, Chad. Magisterial Authority (pp. 43-44). Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition.]

These two passages above are why a book by a traditionalist priest, Fr. Ripperger, turns into away to undermine the papacy with continual references to papal error and papal heresy — including accusations against Peter. So that the faithful will not trust the Vicar of Jesus Christ, but will instead follow the traditions of the Pharisees. What do you do, as a traditionalist follower of Fr. Ripperger, when a Pope teaches something contrary to the teaching of the traditionalist subculture? You consult the remote rule. That means you trust the subculture and its leaders more than the Vicar of Christ.

Ripperger’s explanation of “Magisterial Authority” is designed to place the traditionalist subculture above the Pope. Don’t trust Honorius. Don’t trust John XXII. Don’t trust a Pope-Saint, whose teaching on baptism agrees with Sacred Scripture. Don’t trust Peter. Trust Chad. Believe in the Church founded on the rock that is Chad Ripperger.

The term “Theologians” refers to a specific group of men, viz. those theologians of the various scholastic schools from the twelfth century until the middle of the eighteenth century (roughly during the years of 1100 to 1750). Pius IX in Tuas Libenter says that we are to hold those teachings as pertaining to the Faith not only found in the decrees of the councils but also in the universal and constant consensus of the Catholic Theologians. [Ripperger, Chad. Magisterial Authority (p. 30). Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition.]

So Popes are not to be trusted, according to Ripperger. But Theologians from the years 1100 to 1750 are infallible when they agree. That is absurd. It is not the teaching of the Church.

Here’s the passage from Tuas Libenter:

“The reason for this is the following: even supposing that we are treating of that subjection which is to be made by an explicit act of divine faith, this must not be limited to those things which have been defined in the express decrees of the ecumenical councils or of the Roman Pontiffs of this See; but it must also be extended to those things which, throughout the ordinary teaching of the whole Church throughout the world, are proposed as divinely revealed and, as a result, by universal and constant consent of Catholic theologians are held to be matters of faith.”

This is quoted from a Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863. It is not a dogmatic decision of a Pope. It is not binding on all the faithful, except in so far as it restates what has been taught by the Magisterium to all the faithful elsewhere. And the Pope does not, in the above brief comment to a Bishop, propose the infallibility of the schools of Catholic theology from 1100 to 1750. Such a reading of that text is untenable.

What the Pope is saying is that the faithful know what to believe not only from conciliar and papal documents, but also from what theologians teach, when they are in agreement on what is taught by Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. This does not give theologians an infallibility, not even as a group.

So after undermining the belief of the faithful in the Roman Pontiffs, Ripperger tries to give the schools of theology relied upon by traditionalist Catholics a type of infallibility. This enshrines the ideas of traditionalism, making those ideas infallible, and giving them ground on which to stand in disagreeing with those terrible Popes, who so often erred and taught heresy, going all the way back to Peter.

Then Ripperger goes on to misrepresent the sensus fidei. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following the teachings of Vatican II, does teach that when the whole of the faithful are in agreement, which of course must include the Pope and Bishops, they cannot err. But this is merely the living Tradition. The usual use of sensus fidei is not what is meant in that particular magisterial teaching. Usually, sensus fidei merely means the mind of the faithful, which of course can err.

Ripperger: “So even if one finds oneself in a situation where a particular member of the Magisterium is saying things contrary to the Faith, that does not allow us to make our own determination. What we are bound to do is take reasonable means to investigate what the tradition is and conform ourselves to it.”

Exactly. You as a traditionalist Catholic, following traditionalist priests, should feel free to decide that “a particular member of the Magisterium”, including the Pope, is “saying things contrary to the Faith”. But not the Theologians, as they are an “organ of infallibility”. And not the traditionalist subculture. And then, you are required, according to Ripperger, “to investigate what the tradition is”. So you have to turn to the traditionalist subculture and its leaders, and they will consult the theologians from 1100 to 1750, and then they will correct the Pope or the body of Bishops. Ripperger does not see any obligation to adhere to the teachings of the Pope and the body of Bishops, but only to “conform ourselves” to whatever the tradition is. Spoken like a modern-day Pharisee, who distrusts every Pope and Bishops since Vatican II.

This book, Magisterial Authority, teaches grave error. It teaches the heresy that Popes can teach grave error and can fail in faith. It accuses Saint Peter the Apostle, the Rock on which the Church is founded, of heresy. — Oh, and that accusation is done is a very clever and subtle manner, so he can deny it later. The book teaches the faithful not to trust the Popes or the Magisterium, but to trust the tradition instead.

And listen to the words of Ryan Grant, summing up Ripperger’s book: “Thus, this handy little work, while serving as an anti-dote to modernism and a solution to the problem when we see this coming from members of the magisterium…”

Right. The book supports traditionalism against modernism, and solves the problem of having to listen to “members of the magisterium”. What is the solution? Accuse them of heresy, and only ever trust the tradition and its leaders. Like Fr. Chad Ripperger. This book is self-serving. It does not serve Christ and His Church, but only serves traditionalism and traditionalist priests.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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6 Responses to Fr. Chad Ripperger accuses Saint Peter

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Fr. Ripperger is a very, orthodox holy priest. Expect him to answer your post. If he did make an error here, I’m sure he didn’t do it maliciously.

    • Ron Conte says:

      There’s the problem, right there. Certain priests, by being conservative or traditional, have the aura of infallibility. Fr. Traditionalist or Fr. Conservative-talking-points is orthodox or seems holy because he adheres to the majority opinion of a subculture. He can’t possibly have erred. His reputation puts him above the Roman Pontiff. And I’m not accusing him of malice. Just material heresy. And I don’t expect him to accept correction. If he won’t listen to Popes or Councils, he certainly won’t listen to me.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    I never said he couldn’t error. Overall everything I have read from Fr.Ripperger has been very good, and has helped me be more Christlike, just as you do. Would it be better for you to first contact Fr.Ripperger personally to see what he thinks about your disagreement with his theology instead of publicly writing him as a material heretic? Like I said, he will probably respond to you, as he responded to your post about him concerning unnatural sex acts, which he clarified as not taking the position of being in favor of them, but only cited saying “certain theologians say.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      No. He publicly, in theology published in a book, asserted numerous serious errors on the Magisterium. It is not a private matter. So I should not contact him privately. And if he disagrees, he can write a theological argument defending himself.

  3. erm6 says:

    Thank you, Ron, for this article.

    Although I did read and appreciated the whole article, I specifically latched onto one sentence, which reminded me of something that I have wondered about before, although it’s not the main point of your article. “The book is a traditionalist attack on the Magisterium because too many ‘members of the magisterium’ have supposedly adopted the heresy of modernism.” This reminded me of a longstanding basis of the traditionalist subculture—the idea that St. Pius X diagnosed the Church as being powerfully infiltrated by covert modernists who were inflicting systemic damage.

    So I went again to Pascendi Dominici Gregis at http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_19070908_pascendi-dominici-gregis.html and re-read the first four paragraphs, which I believe are what traditionalists utilize as their primary source for this idea.

    The funny (but sad) part of re-reading it, is realizing how well St. Pius X’s charge against the modernists, can actually be turned against today’s anti-papal, anti-conciliar subculture—if you just imagine a small change at the end of paragraph 2: instead of “not sparing even the person of the Divine Redeemer,” just read, “not sparing even the person of the Pope.”

    Yet even with this irony, I still find myself bewildered by a couple sentences in the opening of PDG. It’s not that I believe today’s anti-papal, anti-conciliar accusations, which say that the recent Popes and Vatican II are a false church erected by the heretical, modernist infiltrators of PDG infamy. No, I accept Vatican II and the recent Popes.

    What I wonder about is, why did St. Pius X give the heretics of his time such infamy in the first place?

    “The danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church”…. “They proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree”… “None is more skillful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious arts”… “Striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ’s kingdom itself”…. Why does St. Pius X attribute to them such uniquely evil mastermind abilities?

    I can almost understand how a traditionalist-leaning person of today, who does not understand the dogmas of Vatican One and the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine (which you and Dr. Fastiggi have been working hard to bring to our attention) could read these words of St. Pius X and could get the impression that, if it is possible for modernists to be so hidden, so widespread, so master-minded, and so successful in their mischief as Pius X says they are, then it is also possible for them to achieve some sort of defection of the church by “taking over” Vatican Two and the papacy. Which is not true, of course. BUT, I just wish someone could explain to me WHY St. Pius X chose to use this sort of rhetoric against the heretics of his time (using expressions which, unfortunately, and through no fault of the Saint, coincide with the language that is in vogue among traditionalist conspiracy theorists 100 years later, thus making it oh so convenient for them to adopt the Saint’s encyclical as part of their theories).

    This is not a theological question. It is more of a historical question, which could be a basis for someone’s research project about early 20th century church history, or also linguistic or stylistic research into the language of church documents at the time, and why certain types of rhetoric might be employed. And I am conscious that my comment has gotten very long—my apologies, Ron—and perhaps it’s getting out of your interest area, to the historical rather than theological question. But the smooth confidence with which traditionalists incorporate PDG into the fabric of their conspiracy theories—for the last several decades—just really, really bothers me, and your recounting of some of their accusations touched that nerve in me. Perhaps another one of your readers might have some insights on this. And I will avoid raising this topic again, unless you decide to write an article specifically about this :)

    • Ron Conte says:

      Good points. Worth the long comment. I have written many posts not unlike the complaint of Pope Saint Pius X. But the assumption was that he was referring to liberals, and that conservatives are exempt from his criticism of theologians. And that is obviously not the case, as God is proving to us by putting the conservatives to the test. (Liberals will be put to the test next.) There were not so many liberal theologians in the time of Pius X, and they did not have such high positions in universities during his time. If we consider the errors of Fr. Ripperger on the Magisterium, they fit some of the errors described by Pius X. Ripperger undermines the Magisterium, in favor of theologians and the traditionalist subculture. It is not far from the errors described by Pius, which do include errors today common among liberals as well.

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