Every Papal Teaching is Free From Every Grave Error

The Church is not a political body, and Her members are her Children, not voters. The Roman Pontiff is the representative of Christ on earth, and he is not to be treated like a politician. Moreover, his teachings, even when non-infallible, require the religious submission of will and intellect. We are not free to disagree with the teachings of the Roman Pontiff, nor can we justify that disagreement by categorizing a papal document as “merely pastoral” or as not really an encyclical.

The teaching of Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti is without grave error. Anyone who says otherwise contradicts the infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council, that each Pope has the charism of truth and of never failing faith. Catholics who have judged this encyclical, and publicly condemned its teaching, are sinning gravely. They sin gravely also who treat the encyclical as if it were an essay written by a peer, with which they are free to disagree to any extent for any reason.

Fratelli Tutti is the teaching of Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Treating this magisterial document as if it were a speech written by a politician from an opposing party is gravely immoral.

Moreover, anyone who accuses the Roman Pontiff of heresy, for any reason, is himself a heretic and schismatic. For the Roman Pontiff, on whom the Church is founded as on a Rock, has the charism of truth and of never failing faith.

Pope Francis did not change Church teaching in Fratelli Tutti. He stated the desire of Christ to avoid use of the death penalty and to avoid war, as much as possible. For these actions are not solutions; they do not tend toward salvation. While the death penalty can still be moral, and a war can still be a just war, grave harm occurs in both cases, the loss of a human life, and the loss of many human lives. And of course we should avoid these acts, if possible.

But when it is a case of defending the innocent, deadly force can be used. It is moral. Pope Francis did not deny that truth, he simply asks the nations and peoples of the world to avoid recourse to violence if at all possible in the circumstances. I mildly disagree that we have reached a point where we can do away with the death penalty and life sentences; there is too much grave sin in the world. Similarly, I think that just wars must still occur.

As an example, suppose that a Muslim extremist amasses enough power to wage war against the West. Further, suppose that the enemy nations, led by extremists, have ICBMs with nuclear bombs on them. The leader demands that we all submit to the extremist version of the Islamic faith, or be annihilated in a nuclear war. We would have to use a first strike in order to prevent not only the destruction of our nations, but the destruction of our faiths. So just war is still necessary to the world, as long as we have these types of threats (such as Iran attempting to gain nuclear bombs).

But Pope Francis is entirely correct in what he says about war, its harm and the necessity of working against war using every possible means. But if we fail to prevent war, we are able to defend ourselves.

[Luke]
{22:35} “When I sent you without money or provisions or shoes, did you lack anything?”
{22:36} And they said, “Nothing.” Then he said to them: “But now, let whoever has money take it, and likewise with provisions. And whoever does not have these, let him sell his coat and buy a sword.
{22:37} For I say to you, that what has been written must still be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was esteemed with the wicked.’ Yet even these things about me have an end.”

The Pope did not change the teaching of the Church on self-defense and just war. He simply states the Gospel aspiration to avoid these acts of violence if at all possible.

I do not find Fratelli Tutti to contain any errors on faith or morals at all. I have only mild disagreements on the evaluation of temporal circumstances by the Pope, nothing more than that.

Those who have criticized the document are putting themselves above the Vicar of Christ, and therefore putting themselves above Christ himself. They put themselves above God who put themselves above the Magisterium which is of the Holy Spirit. They sin gravely who treat Fratelli Tutti like a tin can on the ground that they are free to kick in any direction. I see the words of Christ in this document; it is a holy expression of the love of Christ for all humanity.

Many of the critics of Pope Francis are already excommunicated, latae sententiae, for various heresies born from their own pride, and also for schism, in that they refuse to submit their minds and hearts to the Magisterium of the Church founded by Christ and still led by Christ.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
theologian

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