Why is there is so much interest in accusing Roman Pontiffs, even those from the distant past, of heresy? The reason is that, if it can be proven Popes are able to teach or commit heresy, then this opens the door to the same accusations against Pope Francis. They accuse Honorius, so they can accuse Francis. They accuse John XXII, so they can accuse Francis. They accuse Saint Peter the Apostle, so they can accuse Francis. That is why. What a dishonest, deceitful, and malicious motivation to commit the grave sin of accusing a Pope of heresy!
And why do so many Catholics today wish to accuse their own Pope of heresy? Pride is the answer to the question. In their pride, they cannot accept that their understanding of the Catholic Faith is in error. When you live your faith for many years, and that faith depends upon certain beliefs beyond what is explicitly taught, definitively, by the Church, it is earth-shattering to have a new Roman Pontiff teach ideas contrary to those beliefs. It doesn’t just mean that you must change an idea, in the abstract. It means that either you have been living in error, or the Pope is wrong. Either you must admit that you have adopted and lived according to grave errors for many years of your life, and have taught those errors to family, friends, and perhaps students or online followers, or the Pope is wrong.
And when persons have lived their faith as part of a subculture, one with a strong sense of community and inflexible ideas about doctrine and discipline, the rebuke of that entire subculture by the Roman Pontiff leads to a choice. Either admit that this whole community has been on the wrong track for a long time, and is in need of grave correction, or the Pope is wrong.
And consider the leaders of these Catholic subcultures, those who lead traditionalist or other conservative groups, those who have developed their own following through social media and the internet, those who have presented themselves as teachers of the Catholic faith for many years. What are they to say to their followers, if the Roman Pontiff begins to teach ideas contrary to what they themselves have been teaching their groups for a long time now? Either these leaders and teachers must admit that their understanding of Catholicism is in need of serious correction, or the Pope is wrong.
Which answer will most devout, caring, intelligent, but fallen human persons give? They will decide that the Pope is wrong. The only other option is to admit that they and their teachers, leaders, followers, their entire subculture has been wrong on important matters for a long time. One decision is easy and the other is very difficult. So they accuse the Pope. It is the wrong decision, but also the easier decision. Humility is difficult; pride is easy.
Please understand that these accusers, many of them, perhaps most of them, sincerely believe that the Roman Pontiff is wrong. They rack their brains trying to understand how the Pope could be free from grave error in all of these things which are contrary to their own ideas. They have simply accepted too many grave errors, for too long in their lives. So they can’t accept that all these ideas they have held so dearly for so long, and have taught to others, are in error. They are walled in by the number and gravity of their own misunderstandings.
On the other hand, some papal accusers attack the Popes because they are not in the state of grace. They have no theological virtue of faith. They are unwilling to accept what Pope Francis teaches because they long ago lost the virtue of faith. Some lost the state of grace by one actual mortal sin or another. Then later they also lost faith. Some lost love, faith, and hope all at once, by some grave sin against faith itself. Pride is one reason certain Catholic leaders on the right (conservatives) have lost their faith. Their own understanding always seems better to them than what the Church teaches. Being in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin, they tend to attack the leaders of the true Faith with severe malice.
Then there are the papal accusers who lost the virtue of faith and the state of grace in reaction to Pope Francis himself. It is difficult for a conservative Catholic to submit to the teachings of a liberal Pope. There are no grave errors in the teachings of Francis. But he does teach in a certain manner, emphasize certain points, and otherwise favor a more liberal theological approach. This presents a challenge to conservatives. And some persons failed this test very badly, and perhaps ended up losing their faith.
I cannot be certain who among the papal accusers are in the state of grace, by a sincere but mistaken conscience, and who are not. But when so many persons rebel against the one true Church, and speak so many false and malicious accusations against the Vicar of Christ, it is likely that some are not in the state of grace. And while they accuse the Pope of being part of the “smoke of Satan” entering the Church. They are the ones who fit that accusation.