The Worsening of the Schism: Pope Saint Pius V

In an article on Crisis magazine, titled A Model Pope, Roberto de Mattei shows us how bad the schism has become. He discusses the next Roman Pontiff. The Cardinals who elect the next Roman Pontiff need a model Pope to use as a comparator.

“in order to find one, it will be necessary to look in the other direction—not only from Pope Francis but also from all of the recent popes, who were all involved in the historical catastrophe of the Second Vatican Council. “

De Mattei states that none of the recent popes would make a good model for the next Pope, as they were all involved in the Second Vatican Council. This rejection, in whole or in part, of Vatican II AND all the recent Popes is schismatic. To accuse multiple successive Popes of failing to be good Popes by association with an Ecumenical Council that issued many teachings on faith, morals, and salvation is a rejection of the indefectibility of the Church; it is also a rejection of the authority of that Council and the recent Popes. And this rejection is not only found in that one article, but has become generally accepted on the far and not-so-far right in Catholicism.

The Church cannot go astray or lead astray precisely because She is founded on Peter and his successors. As Vatican One taught, each Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith; this makes each Roman Pontiff indefectible: no Pope can go astray or lead astray. For if the visible head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, went astray, then the Church would not be indefectible. For Her head and at the same time her foundation would be corrupted. Accusing any Roman Pontiff of teaching or committing heresy is itself a heresy. Accusing every Pope from Vatican Two to the present day of being unfit to lead the Church flies in the face of indefectibility. It is not possible for the Church to be indefectible and for a teaching Council and several successive Popes to all be worthy of rejection, denigration, and contempt. I am speaking generally about a common attitude on the right in the Church today.

De Mattei claims that he has to go all the way back to Pope Saints Pius V and Pius X for model Popes. This assertion is inherently contradictory. Neither Pius V, who was literally the General Inquisitor for life of the Church in his day, nor Pius X, would have tolerated open dissension against any Ecumenical Council, especially on with so many clear teachings, and against a succession of six holy Popes:

1. Pope Saint John XXIII
2. Pope Saint Paul VI
3. Pope John Paul I — who chose his papal name to show his approval for Vatican II and his intent to continue its teachings
4. Pope Saint John Paul II
5. Pope Benedict XVI
6. Pope Francis

The far right has rejected the authority of the Church so much so that De Mattei feels free to speak as if three canonized Popes are not really Saints. And though the Church teaches — and it is also Canon Law — that the First See is to be judge by no one but God, every Francis critic feels so free to judge the First See that they would utterly reject an Ecumenical Council and sweepingly reject all the recent Popes — precisely for accepting the teaching of that Council.

De Mattei’s open severe schism against the authority of the recent Ecumenical Council and the recent Popes is hidden behind a thin veil, that of seeking a Pope who will correct the alleged problems of Vatican II. No Pope has ever rejected an Ecumenical Council, after it was approved by the Roman Pontiff. Pope Vigilius argued with the Bishops over whether a Council should be held and considered withholding approval — but later he, the Supreme Pontiff, decided to accept the Council. The Council of Florence began at Basil, where a group of Bishops rebelled against the papacy itself, and issued a document (This Holy Synod) attempting to declare the authority of Ecumenical Councils above the Roman Pontiffs. That document was never approved, and so it was never “of a Council”. But once approved by a Roman Pontiff, any Roman Pontiff, even Pope Vigilius, no Ecumenical Council has ever been rejected by any Roman Pontiff.

Do Pope Saint Pius V and Pope Saint Pius X disapprove of Vatican II from Heaven? No, they do not. These two Popes, in Heaven, accept Vatican II. How can I know this? From the words of our Lord and Savior:

{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.”

Vatican II is approved by the above listed 5 or 6 Popes. (Technically, since Pope Saint John XXIII died before the end of the Council, he only called it, he did not approve of it. But no one doubts that the liberal John 23 would have accepted its teachings.) Those Popes have bound both heaven and earth to the authority and teachings on faith and morals of the Second Vatican Council.

And the teaching that every Pope is “this rock” on which “my Church” is built applies to every Roman Pontiff. No Catholic has the right or role to judge and reject any Roman Pontiff, nor any Ecumenical Council. And both Pius X and V would likely have excommunicated any Catholic who rejected an Ecumenical Council. Conservative Popes tend to be very authoritative. They do not tolerate heresy or schism. They take stern action against dissent. This is essentially the definition of a conservative Roman Pontiff.

So it is absurd to reject an Ecumenical Council, calling it a historical catastrophe, and to reject every Pope who approves of and teaches from that Council, and then hold up two conservative Popes as models. Follow those models and you would have to accept Vatican II and the recent Popes. For no conservative Pope, no valid Roman Pontiff at all, has ever rejected an Ecumenical Council — once it had been approved by a Pope.

It is schismatic, it is neither faithful nor in any way licit, to judge any Roman Pontiff and decide to reject his authority and his teachings. And the same is true for any Ecumenical Council. A few Ecumenical Councils only issued decisions of the temporal authority, on discipline and prudential matters, as that was what was needed at the time. But Vatican Two was a teaching Council, and all of its teachings are irreformable.

Pope Francis on Vatican 2: “This is magisterium: the Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church. We must be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated…. No, the Council is as it is. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity with respect to the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils. It makes me think of a group of bishops who, after Vatican I, left, a group of lay people, groups, to continue the ‘true doctrine’ that was not that of Vatican I: ‘We are the true Catholics’. Today they ordain women. The strictest attitude, to guard the faith without the Magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin. Please, no concessions to those who try to present a catechesis that does not agree with the Magisterium of the Church.”

If you reject Vatican II, as Roberto De Mattei does, then you are just like the schismatics and heretics who rejected Vatican I. In fact, one cannot reject any Roman Pontiff or Council without rejecting also the teachings of Vatican One on the freedom from grave error of the Apostolic See and the charism of truth and of never-failing faith of every Pope.

The article by De Mattei, if issued while a Pius V or X or similar Pope were in office, would likely result in his excommunication (ferendae sententiae) by such a Pope. For conservative Popes do not tolerate schism and heresy.

As for Pius V, prior to becoming Roman Pontiff, as De Mattei notes, he was General Inquisitor. He was specifically tasked with rooting out schism and heresy. So it is ironic in the extreme for De Mattei to issue his schismatic article, rejecting the teachings of Pope Francis and the recent Council and the recent Popes teaching from the Council, while upholding Pius V — the General Inquisitor Pope — as a model Pope.

De Mattei: “Because of the purity of his faith, he was appointed Inquisitor (1542), General Commissioner of the Holy Office (1551), and Summus ac perpetuus inquisitor (1558), Inquisitor General for life of all of Christianity. “

I corrected a misspelling of Christianity in the quote above. How fitting that an article which gravely misunderstands Catholic Christianity should also fail to spell it right. Christianity in the Catholic view is based on the Roman Pontiffs. Ecumenical Councils are only Councils if approved by the Roman Pontiff.

“A council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter; and it is prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm them. This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.” [Lumen Gentium 22]

A rejection of Vatican II is a rejection of the Rock on which the Church is founded. Vatican II’s teachings have been confirmed not only by Pope Saint Paul VI, the Pope who first approved of the Council’s acts, but also by four additional Popes, including Pope Saint John Paul II. The rejection of the canonization of Pope Saint John Paul II is one of the most ridiculous malicious faithless acts of the far right in the Church today. Even during his Pontificate, John Paul II was considered to be a living Saint. I recall that on one occasion, as he was visiting Mexico and literally walking through one of its worst slums, he suddenly stopped, inspired by the Spirit of God, and turned and walked into one of the shacks in the slums. He then removed his papal ring and gifted it to the family in that humble abode. That is a model Pope. Anyone who rejects Pope Saint John Paul II, in his canonization as well as his teachings from Vatican II, is clearly deserving of a condemnation from the Church’s General Inquisitor in Heaven, Pius V.

The rejection of Vatican II and the recent Popes and Pope Saints, by this Crisis magazine article from Roberto De Mattei and by so many conservative Catholics today, shows how bad the schism has become. But the next conservative Pope will not reject Vatican II, will not correct Vatican II, will not reject any of the post-Conciliar Popes, will not reject Pope Francis. Instead, the next conservative Pope is very likely to act like Pope Saint Pius V, our General Inquisitor Pope, and excommunicate anyone who rejects the Second Vatican Council or who rejects any Roman Pontiff.

No Pope has EVER rejected an approved Ecumenical Council.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church: “A general Council represents the universal Church, and hence has the consensus of the universal Church; therefore, if the Church cannot err, neither can a legitimate and approved Ecumenical Council err.”

Bellarmine: “It must be held with Catholic faith that general Councils confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff can neither err in faith nor morals.”

Ludwig Ott, The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma: “It has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church from the earliest times that the teachings of the General Councils are infallible.”

The theological opinion that every teaching on faith and morals of every Ecumenical Council is infallible is well-supported in the Catholic faith, and may be a dogma under the ordinary universal Magisterium. But even if an Ecumenical Council can teach non-infallibly on faith and morals, the faithful are not free to reject its teachings:

Blessed Pope Pius IX, Condemned the Error that: “22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.”

Pope Gregory XI, Condemned the Error that “19. An ecclesiastic, even the Roman Pontiff, can legitimately be corrected, and even accused, by subjects and lay persons.”

In addition, the freedom from blemish of the Apostolic See, and the charism of truth and of never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff implies that every approved Ecumenical Council is at least free from any grave error in its non-infallible teachings (if any) and free from all error, not only in its infallible definitions, but also in every definitive teaching on faith and morals.

The rejection of Vatican II is heretical and schismatic, as is the claim that any Roman Pontiff has taught grave error on faith or morals, or has led the indefectible Church astray.

If we take Pope Saint Pius V as our model Pope, we would then have to accept the First and Second Vatican Councils and all the post-conciliar Popes.

I believe the next Pope after Francis will be conservative. I also believe he will excommunicate all those who have publicly rejected the Second Vatican Council and/or Pope Francis.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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