What Every Catholic Needs to Remember About Msgr. Charles Pope’s Opinions on the Roman Pontiff

What Pope Francis actually said. First statement: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” Second statement: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

The first statement is in accord with the Gospel. It is clearly the teaching of Christ himself. And, by the way, everyone in a state of grace is a child of God by spiritual adoption, including non-Christians, gay Christians, and gay non-Christians (and every other combination). Why would anyone reject such a teaching?

The second statement is a matter of prudential judgment. There is the good of protecting legal rights of human persons, which does great good for society. Then there is the unintended bad consequences of seeming to approve of gay unions. This can be addressed, and scandal avoided, by asserting the teaching of the Church on sexual ethics.

The fact that there is a CDF document proposing opposition to civil unions, and a decision of the Pope supporting that aspect of civil law is merely a difference of prudential judgment. It is not a teaching of the Church, but a question of temporal circumstances, as to which law does the most good and the least harm. But the Pope’s authority is greater than that of the CDF, so his judgment prevails. He is the Supreme Judge as well as the Supreme Teacher of the faithful.

And Msgr. Charles Pope is not. Someone needs to remind Pope that he is not a super-Pope chosen by God to correct the Vicar of Christ, the Teacher and Shepherd of all Christians.

Another compassionate Gospel-intensive lesson from Pope Francis, speaking as Christ himself would speak. And in reaction, another outcry from the modern-day Pharisees: “How dare you contradict our understanding of the Gospel!” If you don’t accept Pope Francis as your Teacher and your Shepherd, appointed by Christ and speaking in the Holy Spirit, then you are a schismatic and a heretic. The specifics of what he is saying do not matter. You don’t have the role to judge the Roman Pontiff, nor to contradict his teaching.

The Pope has the special help of the Holy Spirit when he teaches, even non-infallibly. The Pope has the continual charism of never-failing faith given by the Spirit by prevenient grace, which no man can resist. If you don’t believe that, perhaps you are a Protestant, not a Catholic.

Msgr. Charles Pope has once again sinned publicly and gravely by scandal and by schism in speaking out against the Roman Pontiff. He speaks as if he has the role to judge and correct the Pope. He assumes that if he and the Pope disagree, he must be right. Are monsignors given the gift of infallible faith? Can monsignors teach infallibly? It is arrogant in the extreme for all of these papal critics to constantly complain when the Pope says something that seems to them to be contrary to their understanding of Tradition or Scripture or past magisterial teachings.

The article by Charles Pope is here.

Fr. Charles: “Whatever the Pope’s reason and motives for making his remarks in the interview, they remain his personal opinions.”

No, they are not his personal opinions. It is clear from his manner of speaking that he is preaching the Gospel. And on the point about civil unions, it is clear that this is a matter of prudential judgment.

Vatican II: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” [Lumen Gentium 25]

Read it again: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” That is not mere personal opinion. The Pope is speaking about the human family and the children of God publicly to the whole world.

Charles Pope: “Many Catholics are once again grieved that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has chosen to indiscreetly express his personal views on a critical moral issue of our day.”

Thanks, father, for speaking up on behalf of those Catholics who are schismatics and heretics. They need a spokesperson, having rejected the Roman Pontiff as their Teacher and Shepherd. But, ironically, blogger Fr. Charles frequently chooses to speak indiscreetly expressing his own personal views on critical moral issues. He does exactly what he tells the Pope not to do. That is arrogant. The Pope has every right to speak out on moral issues, and this is not merely his personal opinion. He is teaching, and we have an obligation to believe.

Charles Pope: “Whatever the Pope’s reason and motives, they remain his personal opinions. Remarks made in interviews or documentaries do not qualify as acts of the papal magisterium.”

Hmmm. You said that already. I guess I should also point out that what Charles says in his blog is also not an act of the Magisterium. A priest cannot teach under the Magisterium at all. Only Bishops and the Pope can exercise the Magisterium. Also, no priest, even one with the last name of “Pope”, has the right to decide what is and is not of the papal Magisterium. It is scandalous that Msgr. Charles Pope constantly speaks out against the Roman Pontiff, presuming to teach or correct him, and telling the faithful to listen to Charles Pope instead of to the Pope.

Charles: “The pope and other clergy should not burden the faithful with trying to sort out and understand what is said, what it means and whether it binds or signals a true change in teaching.”

That is ordinary to papal and all magisterial teaching. It is not so easy and simple. Like the Gospel of Jesus. Like Jesus speaking in parables (Mt 13).

Charles: “The remarks of the pope here and on many previous occasions have confused, bewildered and saddened many Catholics who look for clear guidance in and age of confusion. This problem is not unique to Pope Francis. Pope Benedict XVI also gave a number of book-length interviews, and some of his remarks there along with public lectures also caused confusion….”

Exactly. As soon as some pride-filled priest decides he’s above Pope Francis, it never fails that he puts himself above other Popes and Councils as well. Tell us what you think of Vatican I and II, Charles. Are those teachings also scandalous because they are not so simple and clear as to be immediately obvious to you?

The real CONFUSION here is caused by the Magisterium teaching truths that are beyond what conservative Catholics have decided to accept. Many conservative Catholics have accepted a certain set of teachings, and then they closed their minds and hearts, and refused to be taught any further. Worse, they have distorted many teachings by over-simplification, so when the Popes teach in ways that are subtle and complex, confusion results. “Why are you trying to teach us new things?! Why are you contradicting what we mistakenly thought was dogma?! Stop teaching and correcting us!! It’s so confusing to be told we are wrong and our ideas need improvement.”

Charles: “My plea to our Holy Father, once again, would be that he refrain from interviews with secular sources, press conferences in airplanes and off-the-cuff remarks. It is best to stick with issuing carefully-reviewed statements through official channels and to speak a lot less in general.”

My plea to Fr. Charles: “You first. Why don’t you stick to carefully reviewed statements, reviewed by the Holy See. Why don’t you “speak a lot less in general” and stop scandalizing the faithful by encouraging them, by your bad example, to rebel against the Roman Pontiff. Maybe you should stop making off-the-cuff remarks on your blog.”

Charles: “His remarks about climate change, economic models and the presidential race in the United States are a mere annoyance to some Catholics.”

Wow. That is schismatic. How dare you encourage the faithful to treat the teachings and prudential judgments of the Pope as “a mere annoyance”. What do you think your role is in the Church? Why is a msgr. constantly speaking as if he were judge over the Pope?

Charles: “But when he opines in confusing ways about foundational matters such as the family, sexuality and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the effects can be devastating.”

He’s not opining, he’s teaching. And the only reason it is confusing to you is that you have the arrogance to assume that your understanding admits of no correction or enlargement. The Pope has the charism of truth and of never failing faith, so he cannot possibly teach in a manner that is harmful to the indefectibility of the Church. The Gospel can be “devastating” in a good way, causing radical changes to bad persons’ lives. But how dare you accuse the Roman Pontiff of teaching errors so grace the effects are devastating. That is not even possible for a Roman Pontiff.

What causes confusion is when priests whom the faithful, including myself, used to consider to be good and holy priests start opposing the Roman Pontiff and speaking schismatic and heretical nonsense. That causes confusion and does great harm to souls.

Charles: “As a priest, I can say his remarks here, and in the past, make my work of teaching and preaching a lot harder.”

LOL! Rolling on the Floor Laughing! Are you kidding me with that remark? Francis is the Roman Pontiff! And HIS teachings make YOUR work harder? What is wrong with you? Do you want your work of teaching and preaching to be less difficult? Then teach and preach in accord with the Vicar of Christ. You are not above the Pope. And I’ll say the same thing to many other commentators who are speaking just like msgr. Pope. Submit your mind and will to the teachings of Christ, and set aside your own ideas.

Charles: “Dissenters are emboldened and the faithful are discouraged.”

Right. When priests speak out against the Pope, and pretend to have the role to correct the Pope, then dissenters are emboldened and the faithful are discouraged.

Charles: “It is also very awkward to have to “popesplain” and remind people that private opinions of the pope can be ignored and do not bind.”

Really? You know what else never binds? The non-magisterial teachings of a priest-blogger. The faithful should ignore Charles Pope, and treat everything the Pope says as a source of Gospel wisdom. These many teachings of the Pope are not all “private opinions”.

Charles: “It is even more difficult to say I must publicly disagree with him. Priests and bishops should not be put in this position.”

No one put you in any position. Do you not see how arrogant it is to complain that the Roman Pontiff puts you in a difficult position by teaching ideas contrary to your own understanding? Are Popes supposed to consult priest-bloggers and restrict their teachings to whatever that blogger thinks is right? Have you not read that sometimes the Roman Pontiff rejects a document or decision of an Ecumenical Council (e.g. Haec Sancta Synodus)? Why should the Pope be bound by what you agree with.

And, Msgr. Charles, you are not put in a difficult position. You have the same obligation that we all have, to submit our minds and hearts to the teachings and judgments of the Roman Pontiff. No one is forcing you to disagree. If you think that Roman Pontiffs can teach or commit heresy, then perhaps you are in the wrong Church. Why don’t you give the Anglicans a call and see if they will take you?

Charles: “It makes us seem insubordinate and raises doubts about what we teach to generations of Catholics who have been taught to revere the Pope and pray for him. The unity of the Church is also severely undermined by such offhand comments.”

No, you don’t merely ‘seem insubordinate’, you are insubordinate. You are a schismatic, Charles Pope. And the faithful are right to doubt what you teach. Then the faithful are not merely to “revere” and “pray for” the Pope. We are absolutely required to submit our minds and hearts to his teachings and judgments, and to accept him as our Teacher and Judge. If you cannot do that, then admit you are a schismatic or a sedevacantist, and leave. You are the one harming the unity of the Church.

And is it really true, Charles, that you only object to Pope Francis’ off-hand remarks, and have no objection to any of his papal teachings?

Repeatedly, in his blog post, Charles speaks as if the Pope were rejecting Church teaching on sexual ethics, marriage, and the like. That is a false accusation against the Roman Pontiff. His remarks are entirely Christ-like and contain nothing contrary to past Church teaching. The only contradiction is with a prudential judgment of the CDF, which the Pope has the right and the authority to change.

In a previous blog post, Msgr. Charles expresses a strange attitude towards both Pope Francis and Pope Saint Paul VI. Here’s the post. He says: “I am convinced that just as we were spared from serious error in Humanae Vitae, so the Holy Spirit spared the Church in Querida Amazonia.”

Charles speaks as if the Popes, even a Pope-Saint, are a grave threat to the Church, and the Holy Spirit’s role is to hold them back at the last moment. That is ignorant. The Popes are guided by the grace of God, so that they willingly teach the truth from a never-failing faith. And priest-bloggers are not the judges or guardians of the Faith, above Roman Pontiffs, to judge or correct them.

Pope Francis is the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present. And Msgr. Charles Pope is not.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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1 Response to What Every Catholic Needs to Remember About Msgr. Charles Pope’s Opinions on the Roman Pontiff

  1. Matt says:

    Excellent post, Ron!

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