Mark my words. I am convinced. There’s just no other path for circumstances to follow. Pope Francis will soon use Papal Infallibility to issue a dogma. The dogma will be absolutely unacceptable to the conservative papal critics. They will be certain that the dogma is heresy. But it will be issued under Papal Infallibility, meeting all the conditions for an ex cathedra statement. Let’s review those conditions:
1. “the Roman Pontiff”
2. “speaks ex cathedra” (“that is, when in the discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, and by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority….”)
3. “he defines”
4. “that a doctrine concerning faith or morals”
5. “must be held by the whole Church” [Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4.]
1. “the Roman Pontiff”
2. “in virtue of his office, when as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32),”
3. “by a definitive act, he proclaims”
4. “a doctrine of faith or morals” (“And this infallibility…in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends”)
5. “in accordance with revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with” [Lumen Gentium, n. 25, paragraph 3.]
Usually, the numbering of the criteria is four, but I have split the first into two parts, the first part being that the doctrine must come from the Roman Pontiff, not merely from an office of the Holy See, such as the CDF.
Notice that the criteria do not permit the faithful to examine the contents of the dogmatic teaching, to decide if it is true or not. The purpose of the criteria and the gift of Papal Infallibility itself is so that the faithful can be certain of the truth, without relying on their own reason. So if someone were to claim: “This attempted use of Papal Infallibility by Pope Francis fails, because the teaching is heresy (or is simply false)”, such an argument would itself fail. You can’t judge first whether a teaching is true, and then allow the criteria to confirm it is infallible. That would do away with the infallibility of the Magisterium. In such a system, the only thing that would be “infallible” would be one’s own opinion.
So what will happen when Pope Francis issues a dogma under Papal Infallibility which the papal critics will say is abject heresy? They have to claim that Pope Francis is not valid, in other words, that the first criterion is not met. That’s the only way that they can reject a dogma issued by Pope Francis under Papal Infallibility.
Right now, as I explained in a previous post, the papal accusers are adamant that Pope Francis is the valid Roman Pontiff. For they don’t want to admit that they are schismatics. But if he issues a teaching under Papal Infallibility, they have only two choices, accept the teaching — as all the faithful are required to do as with any infallible teaching of the Magisterium — or depart from the Church.
They can no longer “Recognize and Resist”.
And they will not be able to fall back on the position that Pope emeritus Benedict is the “real” Pope. For he will accept the teaching issued by Pope Francis under Papal Infallibility. If the papal critics try to claim that Benedict is the real Pope, how will they explain the “real pope” accepting the alleged heresy taught by Francis under Papal Infallibility? So the Benevacantists will have to recant their position.
Right now, I believe that the papal accusers secretly reject the validity of Pope Francis. For they have accused him of heresy, apostasy, and idolatry. You can’t really say that a valid Pope could commit all those offenses against faith. They are disingenuously claiming to believe Pope Francis is valid, I believe, because, if they admit they think he is not valid, they admit they are schismatics. And they will have to break communion with the dioceses and parishes which are in communion with Pope Francis. So they are hanging by a thread. And the thing that cuts that thread is a teaching by Pope Francis under Papal Infallibility, a teaching that the papal accusers cannot accept (without, you know, repenting and becoming faithful Catholics).
What Will He Teach?
It will be either salvation for non-Christians, or ordination for women as deacons. Those are the two big issues that seem to be heading for the forefront. And the pandemic could push either issue into the realm of a dogmatic declaration.
With so many persons dying of Covid-19, the question becomes all the more urgent, what happens to persons who have sufficient accurate knowledge of the Catholic Christian Faith, but who never convert to Catholicism or Christianity before they die?
Are all non-Christians necessarily in a state of grace if they sincerely and selflessly love other human persons, because they thereby implicitly love Christ? Yes. I believe so. And this assertion has no exception. Persons who commit gravely immoral acts, repent with implicit perfect contrition by an act of selfless love of neighbor (chosen in full cooperation with grace), thereby entering or returning to the state of grace. So even those who live an objectively sinful life, might be saved in this way. Jews and Muslims who love God and neighbor are certainly in the state of grace, and everyone who dies in that state, Jew, Muslim, other believers, atheists, etc. will go to Heaven (perhaps by way of Purgatory).
The other issue is women deacons.
Covid-19 has a particularly high death rate for elderly men, which describes the priesthood in many regions of the world. A large percentage of priests are old, and there are not many seminarians to take their places. Approving of women deacons allows the Pope to send more workers into the harvest.
I know I have not had a good track record for predicting things. But it seems to me the only way that this schism can be resolved. The Church cannot continue to have so many persons attacking Her head, remaining within the body of the Church. Something has to give. And this is the only thing that will push the accusers to admit they don’t submit to Pope Francis.