Reply to the Papal Accusers

The title of my forthcoming book will be: Reply to the Papal Accusers.

There is a book by the accusers on Amazon as a pre-order, titled: “Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies“. It seems to be a collection of previously published material. My book works as a reply to that book, however, I will not be considering each claimed heresy, nor will there be a theological argument as to why the position of Pope Francis and other Popes and Vatican II is supposedly heresy.

Here is what Fr. Z. (John Zuhlsdorf) says about the book:

What I would say to those who are 1000% in favor of everything that’s been going on for the last few years, and who think this is a bad book, blah blah, is:

If you think this compendium is bad, then produce your own book, respond to it. Collect into one volume your supportive open letters and explanatory essays. Let people see the cumulative effect of your no-doubt-incontrovertible position, bound to persuade.

Rather than respond with “Shut up you kooks!”, put up or shut up yourselves.

Take it seriously and see what happens.

Yes, my book, which I have been working on for many months now, responds to the papal accusers. It is not a response to that particular book, which is not out yet. But in another sense, it is a kind of response, as I am responding to all the accusations made by those who have opposed Pope Francis at every turn, and who think that their own understanding of the Faith should be the measure against which Popes and Councils are judged. However, I do not reply point by point to each complaint against Francis.

There’s nothing wrong with replying to them point by point. But it is not effective. They will always claim that their theological arguments are right, and that those arguments which accuse the Popes and Council(s) are wrong. Then it becomes a matter of the fallible opinion and prudential judgment of sinners, or worse, a comparison of credentials. “Look at how many holy and wise persons signed our petition accusing the Roman Pontiff of heresy”.

In addition, the papal accusers can make a grave accusation out of almost anything the Pope says or does. So it would take an immense set of volumes to catalog all their ridiculous claims. Then they could invent new complaints off the top of their head. When Francis said God wills a diversity of religions, they complained this can only be true of God’s permissive will. And when Francis then said, Yes, it is God’s permissive will, they accused him of heresy, as if he had said the opposite (God positively wills). In addition, there is no dogma saying that God does not positively will a diversity of religions (to some extent). So how do you accuse a Pope of heresy when the position you accuse him of holding is not heretical, and is not what he asserted? The malice and severe intellectual dishonesty of his accusers is a serious sin.

The best reply, and that of my book, is on definitions of dogma: Vatican One defined that Popes have the charism of truth and of never failing faith, and that the Apostolic See is unblemished by any error, and the Ordinary Universal Magisterium taught the same dogma.

Their argument will be “Many past Popes taught heresy or committed apostasy, heresy, or idolatry.”

My reply is that any accusation of that type is a matter of the judgment of fallible fallen sinners. You can never prove that a Pope taught heresy beyond doubt, as a type of judgment of the evidence is required: Did he really say this? What did he mean? Have you correctly understood the dogma at issue? Was it a dogma at the time the Pope spoke or wrote? Etc. What you end up with is a set of claims and a fallible judgment of those claims. And you want the faithful to reject a Vicar of Christ on that claim?

Also, these papal accusers, as they are rightly called, claim that Ecumenical Councils can also teach heresy. So how do you establish that a particular teaching is dogma, so as to next establish that the Pope denied that dogma? You can’t. How do you know which Pope or Council is teaching dogma, and which heresy?

The claim is made that the infallible teachings cannot be heresy. But it is very easy for a popular speaker or author to argue that an infallible teaching is not really infallible, because the Pope who attempted to exercise Papal Infallibility (e.g. Pope Francis) lost his validity either before that point or in the attempt. And the same argument could be made against a Council.

So when you accuse Popes and Councils of heresy, you have no ground on which to stand to discern dogma from heresy as you have destroyed the source of formal dogma, the Magisterium. (The truths of Tradition and Scripture are material dogma.)

The case against Pope Honorius is considered the strongest case for an heretical Pope. And yet Pope Honorius is easily proven innocent. I’ve read his letters, as well as the letter of Sergius. Most of Honorius’ accusers have not. Especially by contrast with what Sergius wrote, Honorius was clearly teaching truth and trying to correct Sergius.

Them: “But the Sixth Ecumenical Council condemned him for heresy!”
Me: “I though you didn’t trust Councils to teach truth, right?”

But nothing is of a Council unless approved by the Pope. Pope Saint Agatho wrote a letter to the Council, which became part of its acts and is therefore the teaching of the Council, saying that Popes cannot lead the Church astray and cannot fail in faith. Then after the Council ended, Pope Saint Leo II, in his three Latin letters on the Council, changed the charge against Honorius from heresy to negligence. Since the Pope did not accept the condemnation for heresy, it is not of the Council. But the letter of Agatho is.

Once you claim that Popes can teach grave error, can err gravely on discipline, or can fail in faith by apostasy, heresy, or idolatry, then you cannot appeal to Councils, as their teachings are not formally of the Council unless approved by the Pope.

Vatican I’s teaching on the papal charism of truth and of never failing faith is enough to refute the accusations of the above-mentioned book. So are the teachings of the ordinary universal magisterium in this post.

The controversy boils down to only one question: Does God permit Popes to err gravely on doctrine or discipline, or to fail in faith?

The papal accusers say “Yes”. The result is that no Pope or Council can be trusted to teach the Faith, and people start to believe conspiracy theories like “Infiltration”. The Church becomes founded on Sand, and the faithful are scattered, each one believing whatever he or she likes.

The faithful say “No”. The result is that we can trust every Pope and every Council to avoid every grave error on doctrine and on discipline, to teach us important truths with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Christ, and to guide us on a well-lit, level, and straight path of salvation.

The papal accusers are schismatics. They reject the teaching authority of multiple Popes and at least one Council. They vehemently reject the authority of Francis over doctrine and discipline. It is not sufficient, to avoid a charge of schism, to say that you believe Francis is Pope. You must also accept him as the Teacher and Shepherd of your mind and heart, of your soul and your life. You must accept every Roman Pontiff as the Vicar of Christ. It is not sufficient only to accept those teachings which you in your own fallible judgment have decided are correct. IF you cannot accept those teachings of the Church that are contrary to your own reasonings and understanding, then you do not have faith at all. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Pope Francis is certainly the valid Pope, as he has been accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff. The Church is indefectible and Apostolic. The successors to the Apostles, the body of the Bishops, cannot go astray following a false head. Therefore, it is a dogmatic fact that Francis is the true and valid Pope.

Every valid Pope has the charism of truth and of never failing faith. He can never teach grave error in his non-infallible teachings, nor any error in his infallible teachings. He can never fail in faith by apostasy, heresy, or idolatry. And since these are the dogmas of the First Vatican Council AND of the ordinary universal Magisterium, the fallible opinion of fallen sinners, who exalt themselves above Popes, Councils, the Magisterium and the Church Herself, to judge and to condemn, cannot prevail.

Whom should we follow if the Popes and Councils are capable of teaching and committing heresy, apostasy, and idolatry? Vigano? Schneider? An odd collection of video bloggers and whoever ghost-writes those malicious petitions against the Pope?

The Church is Apostolic. There is no one to follow other than the successors of Peter and the successors of the other Apostles as a body. Individual Bishops who break away from the other Bishops and accuse the Pope of failing in faith and of having stained the Apostolic See with grave error are by that very fact schismatics and heretics.

The faithful are largely ignorant of Catholic teaching on this subject, so they are easy prey for these pride-filled false shepherds, who wish to destroy the trust the faithful have in the Popes and Councils, so that they can be their leaders instead.

Also, if anyone accuses Pope Francis or any other Pope of manifest heresy, if that were true, then the Pope would immediately lose his authority as Pope. You cannot say “recognize and resist”. If you think the Pope is a heretic, then you cannot recognize him as the current valid Pope. All the fathers and doctors agree on that point. Though it is dogma that no Pope can teach or commit heresy, if a Pope were guilty of manifest heresy, he would not be Pope. The reason the papal accusers reject this unanimous teaching of the Fathers is that they don’t want to be seen as what they really are: schismatics who think that the See of Peter has long been vacant.

Ronald L Conte Jr

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