Catholics must speak up when shepherds contradict the Gospel?

There’s an article and a video show, where John-Henry Westen interviews Terry Barber on a particularly interesting question, what to do when Shepherds, like the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops, contradict the Gospel? It is just astounding how arrogant Westen and Barber are towards the Church, the Magisterium, the Roman Pontiffs, and the Bishops who are the successors to the Apostles.

Terry Barber begins by saying how he has been sharing the Gospel for 42 years, with all kinds of periodicals, radio shows, companies, and also millions of cassette tapes, records, CDs, and downloads, etc. Then Barber says, “Bishop Sheen had it right when he said the laity is going to save the Church.”

Westen and Barber then go on to discuss how lay Catholics must speak up when Shepherds contradict the Gospel. OK, now let’s examine what’s wrong with these claims. On what basis can Westen or Barber judge whether a Pope or Council or the body of Bishops has gone astray? Is it not possible for either of them to go astray from the true Faith? Barber brags about his 42 years and millions of media items. Right. The Church has been around for over 2000 years, and She has literally saved the souls of everyone who has been saved, since the Church is the sole Ark of Salvation. There are no credentials that one can hold up in order to say that persons should listen to you instead of to the Church.

An individual Bishop can go astray by rejecting the authority of the Roman Pontiff over that Bishop, and by rejecting the teachings of Popes and Councils, as Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Bishop Carlo Vigano have done. And they will be recognized as heretics and schismatics by rejecting what the Popes, Councils and body of Bishops teach. But that is not what Westen and Barber are referencing. Westen is well known as an opponent of Pope Francis and of Vatican II.

The Bishops have a special charism from God by virtue of reception of Orders to the Episcopal degree. As Lumen Gentium taught:

“The Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father, calling to Himself those whom He desired, appointed twelve to be with Him, and whom He would send to preach the Kingdom of God; and these apostles He formed after the manner of a college or a stable group, over which He placed Peter chosen from among them.

That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world, since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors.

And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.

Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together.

But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock.”

The above teaching of the Second Vatican Council is infallible, as it is the definitive teaching of the body of Bishops and the Roman Pontiffs. Never has it been known that any teaching of an Ecumenical Council on faith or morals was ever reformed, corrected, or nullified by any subsequent Pope or Council. For the indefectibility of the Church guarantees that the teaching of an Ecumenical Council can never go astray or lead astray, as there is no higher authority on earth to judge or correct a Council, or to judge or correct the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops in the ordinary universal Magisterium as well.

As Pope Francis has taught, Vatican II is the Magisterium, just as Vatican I was the Magisterium. And those who reject Vatican II are schismatics and heretics, just like the “old Catholics” who rejected the First Vatican Council.

From the above infallible teaching, it can be seen that the laity have no role to stand in judgment over the Pope and the body of Bishops, to “speak up” when the laity judge that they have contradicted the layperson’s understanding of the Gospel. Westen in particular has made himself judge over Popes and Councils, and he uses his website, LifeSiteNews (formerly a website for promoting the prolife teachings of the Church and for protecting life), as a platform to promote heresy and schism. He gives the schismatic and heretical Bishops, Vigano and Schneider, free use of LSN to fight against the teachings of the Catholic Church and to oppose the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops in communion with him, in contradiction to the Gospel.

So the first problem with the laity correcting the Shepherds is that the laity have no way to judge whether the Shepherds have gone astray, if indeed they begin with the premise that Popes and Councils and the body of Bishops at all times can teach or commit heresy. How would one judge whether a Teaching of the Magisterium were in contradiction to the Gospel? The lay person proposes that his own understanding is infallible; and this is the implicit assumption of Westen and Barber and all others who take this type of position. Is it not possible that an individual lay person or group can teach or commit heresy? Of course it is possible? But then, how do we know if a Roman Pontiff has taught or committed heresy? The ordinary universal Magisterium and the First Vatican Council teach that no Pope can teach grave error, nor fail in faith.

Jesus taught us to trust the teachings of the Church, the Roman Pontiffs, and the body of Bishops. The dogma of the indefectibility of the Church is from Matthew 16:18, and it includes not only the teaching that the gates of Hell (grave errors on faith and morals; grave failures of faith; attempts to destroy the Church and the Faith) will never prevail over the Church, but also the teaching that the Church is founded on Peter and his successors as on a Rock. Jesus also taught, in Luke 22:32, that Peter and his successors can never fail in faith, nor can the body of Bishops, his brethren, ever teach grave error or fail in faith as long as they, as a body, are confirmed by the successors of Peter.

{16:18} And I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
{16:19} And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.”

Since, also, whatever the Roman Pontiff binds on earth is bound also in heaven, no one can propose to correct the Roman Pontiff by appealing to any authority on earth or in heaven. Therefore, the laity do not have the role to judge or correct the Roman Pontiff, nor the body of Bishops teaching in communion with him.

{22:32} But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.”

The faith of each and every Roman Pontiff can never fail, and therefore no Roman Pontiff can teach or commit heresy, nor commit apostasy or idolatry or any similar grave failure of faith. This is the promise, teaching, and prayer of Jesus, confirmed by the First Vatican Council.

But notice also that the Roman Pontiffs, converted by the grace of the Holy Spirit to have a never-failing faith, then confirm their brethren the Bishops. This gives the Bishops as a body, not as individuals, the same charism of truth and of never-failing faith.

Therefore, the Roman Pontiff, the body of Bishops in communion with him, and the Ecumenical Councils can never teach grave error nor fail in faith nor lead the faithful astray.

When Westen and Barber claim that Popes have gone astray, the only conclusion that the faithful can reach is that Westen and Barber are schismatics and heretics. For they reject the authority of the Shepherds appointed by Christ over them, and in their extreme pride, they think to take the role to judge, correct, and condemn those Shepherds.

Westen’s article says this:

“Terry and I spoke about the importance of defending the Church’s perennial teachings. He revealed to me that on more than one occasion, he’s had run ins with priests and even some bishops because they veered off course. He said he couldn’t sit idly by as they did that. He’s dissapointed at the way liberal and pro-LGBT clergy are allowed to spread their beliefs and go unpunished.

Terry believes it’s the duty of the laity to speak up and defend the Church in these times, even when the Pope says something contray to the Gospel. Rather than run away from the Church, Terry wants lay Catholics to “call out” the shepherds who are not doing their job. They should do this but not in a disrespectful way, he told me, but rather, in an honest, charitable way.” [LifeSiteNews]

The role to defend the Church’s perennial teachings is given by Christ to the successors of Peter and the successors of the other Apostles, not to self-appointed lay persons. In addition, the Church has the role to issue new definitions of doctrine, just as Christ taught:

{16:12} I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.
{16:13} But when the Spirit of truth has arrived, he will teach the whole truth to you. For he will not be speaking from himself. Instead, whatever he will hear, he will speak. And he will announce to you the things that are to come.
{16:14} He shall glorify me. For he will receive from what is mine, and he will announce it to you.

So it is not correct for anyone to say that some teaching of a Pope or Council seems “new” and therefore is to be rejected. There are many truths implicit in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, which the Church shall announce to the faithful as time passes.

On what basis did “Terry” judge that some Bishops has veered off course? The Bishops, even as individuals, have the special charism of the Holy Spirit to teach with the authority of Christ. Although a Bishop can fall into heresy or schism, that does not appear to be the issue that Westen and Barber are discussing. For Westen uses his website to promote the heretical claims of schismatic Bishops Vigano and Schneider. And Barber simply assumes that any Bishop who disagrees with him must be in error. They are both disappointed that they do not have the authority to punish Bishops whom they judge to have gone astray. They usurp the authority of Christ who presume to stand in judgment over Popes and over the body of Bishops.

It is a dogma of the ordinary universal Magisterium and of the First Vatican Council that no Pope can teach grave error. Therefore, no Pope can contradict the Gospel with his teaching. Nor can any Pope fail gravely in faith. So it is absurd to propose a system where any lay person can accuse the Pope of grave errors or of heresy based on the layperson’s own understanding or misunderstanding of the faith.

And it is not a question of being honest and respectful and charitable. Rather, this is a question of lay person’s usurping an authority given by Christ to the Roman Pontiffs and the Bishops, not to the laity. And it doesn’t matter if the lay person has founded a website or a media company. They have no ground on which to stand to oppose the authority of Christ exercised by the Pope and the Bishops. A bank robber who speaks in a respectful manner while robbing a bank is still guilty of grave sin. A heretic and schismatic who speaks in a respectful manner, while opposing the teaching authority of Christ given to the Roman Pontiff is still guilty of grave sin.

Terry Barber tells John-Henry Westen to “fight the good fight”. Right. Who exactly are you fighting? They are fighting against the Roman Pontiff, whose authority is from Christ. They are not defending the teaching of the Church, but their own misunderstanding of the Faith. This demand that the Pope and Bishops do what these lay persons say, because the lay persons have a website or a media company is absurd. Jesus founded the Church on the Roman Pontiffs, not on individual lay persons who exalt themselves to be judges over Popes and Bishops.

They ask: What would Saint Paul do? What would Bishop Sheen do? Paul and Sheen were Bishops. They would tell the laity to obey the Popes and the Bishops, and to believe their teachings.

Barber and Westen are putting their own understanding of the Faith above the Magisterium and the authority of Christ in the Church.

Barber tells his listeners to remain in the state of grace. What he fails to tell them is that refusing to submit your mind and heart to the teachings of the Popes and the body of Bishops is the objective mortal sin of schism, and refusing to believe the definitive teachings of the Magisterium is the objective mortal sin of heresy. These objective mortal sin can be actual mortal sins, or, if less than actual mortal sin by reduced culpability, they can nevertheless lead the person into actual mortal sin by putting that person in a position of committing further sins: the sin of encouraging the faithful in schism and heresy, the sin of explicit formal cooperation with schismatic and heretical Bishops, the sin of scandal by opposing the Pope, the sin of pride in putting oneself above the Magisterium, etc.

Barber repeatedly quotes Bishop Sheen, a holy Bishop who never once rejected or opposed any Pope or Council. Barber is misusing the name of Sheen, just as the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6) used the name of the holy deacon Nicolas to promote heresy and grave sin. Barber also uses the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph to make it seem as if he is faithful to the teachings of the Church. But the Blessed Virgin Mary and her sinless spouse Saint Joseph would never propose that anyone should reject the authority of Christ given to Peter and his successors, and given also to the successors of the other Apostles, the Bishops. Mary would say to us as she said to the servants at the wedding feast at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you”, meaning Do whatever Christ Jesus and His Church tells us to do. So it is very disturbing for a schismatic like Barber to recommend opposing the authority of the Magisterium using the names of Mary and Joseph.

Also, Bishop Fulton Sheen participated in the Second Vatican Council. So he would never approve of the attacks on the Council by Westen and by the schismatic Bishops whom Westen assists in crying out against the Magisterium and the Church and the Council.

Even The Pope

Each Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. This is a dogma taught by the First Vatican Council. It is heresy and schism to reject the authority of the Roman Pontiff over doctrine and discipline. The faithful do not have the role to correct or oppose any Roman Pontiff.

What if a Pope teaches heresy or other grave error? It is not possible for any Roman Pontiff to err gravely on discipline or doctrine, for the Church is indefectible and the Pope is the head of the Church. Neither can any Pope commit any grave failure of faith; no Pope can commit heresy, apostasy, or idolatry.

So the faithful who judge that the Pope has gone astray are themselves the ones who have gone astray. And who can correct these self-appointed judges? They will accuse any Pope or Bishop of error, if the Pope or Bishop disagrees with the lay person. So these lay judges over the Magisterium are uncorrectable. For they do not accept the teachings of even an Ecumenical Council, if it is contrary to their own minds. In this way, they idolize their own minds and their own understanding or misunderstanding of the Faith. They claim to defend the perennial teaching of the Church, but instead they are defending their own misunderstandings. And since they refuse to be corrected by the Magisterium, they are on the path to Hell. For the Church teaches us the path to Heaven. And whoever puts himself above the Church, to reject Her teachings, cannot be taught that path.

Westen and Barber are schismatics and heretics. It is interesting to see what heretics and schismatics are like up close. It is different than I imagined from reading the historical cases of heresy and schism in the Church. They think they are preaching the true Gospel. But in their pride, they put themselves above Popes, Bishops, the Magisterium, and the whole Church.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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8 Responses to Catholics must speak up when shepherds contradict the Gospel?

  1. P.J. says:

    I wish every Catholic would read this post, and consider how they are being led astray by so many sites on the internet. I have told all my family and friends about this blog, (and, how it makes things clear, and sets the mind at rest to trust in Jesus’ promises to Peter. I had never even heard the word ‘indefectibility’ before I came across this blog – when that was explained, everything fell into place. And I have been much more confident and at peace in my faith, even though, ironically, the Churches here have been closed for months. I still get Lifesite News arriving in my inbox, but I am now very selective about which entries I read.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Thanks. I’m encouraged in my work by your words. I’m currently working on a book exonerating all the Roman Pontiffs and refuting the errors of the papal accusers.

  2. Sunimal Fernando says:

    1.Homosexuality , what is your idea ? Can someone motivate them? Can you clearly say it is good or bad?(0 or 1). Or else can you say ” Who, am I to judge?”( 0.5 or 0.6) or shall we accept their donations as gift? Presently Catholics don’t say exactly correct word.

    2. Abortion is similar as above.

    3. Conformation : I received this from my school , no pressure. But now , private tuition classes like system, during this pandemic period, without considering quarantine rules (1 meter distance) classes at church.

    4. Most Catholics don’t like Jesus 2nd coming to be very near. They like the present system, or culture. Say, Jesus will come in year 2435. But gospel says “as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming”- 2 Peter 3:6-12

    That’s mean, we can ask God to send Jesus soon because we are suffering due to present governments.
    ” those days will be shortened”- Matthew 24:22
    “At an hour he is not aware of”-Matthew 24:50

    • Ron Conte says:

      1. Homosexual sexual acts are gravely immoral. Many gay persons are in the state of grace because they love others, and have invincible ignorance concerning the immorality of sexual sins. But we must always distinguish between objectively gravely immoral behavior and moral behavior.
      2. Abortion is a very grave sin, and there are a vast number of abortions that occur due to abortifacient contraception, in addition to surgical abortions. I estimate that there are hundreds of millions of abortion deaths per year worldwide when abortifacient contraception is combined with abortion.
      3. I don’t understand the question
      4. Jesus returns in the year 2437 A.D.

  3. Todd Langis says:

    I agree with P.J. As a convert to Catholicism in 2005 I was raised in a very anti-Catholic heretical Protestant sect. Since my reception into the Church I have come across sources like Westen and Lifesitenews (LSN), etc., that emanates the same diabolical anti-Catholic spirit that I had experienced from the Protestant sect I was born and raised in. It’s the same unclean spirit that is obsessed with accusing the brethren in the Catholic Church by attacking the Seat of Peter, Vatican II, and Pope Francis (Rev. 12:10). I was foolish enough to read and watch just enough of Westen and LSN to plant a seed of doubt, despair, and confusion to have me doubting my faith in the Church. I came to my senses only after I had reminded myself that Westen and LSN is peddling the same condemnation and false accusing spirit of the Protestant sect I was raised in. Also, following Conte’s blog over the years helped me understand the issues so that I could put them in their proper perspective. Thanks Ron and many blessings in Christ. +++

  4. Sunimal Fernando says:

    How seperate grave and minor sins?
    Why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah?
    Why Nova’s time floods?
    Who told above separation theory?

    • Ron Conte says:

      1. See my article here
      2. Sodom was destroyed for grave homosexual sins and Gomorrah was destroyed for grave heterosexual sins.
      3. God permitted the great flood of Noah because of the great sinfulness of humanity.
      4. The Church teaches the distinction between mortal sins and venial sins. Mortal sins are so grave that they are incompatible with love of God and neighbor; venial sins are lesser.

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