A conclave elected Pope Francis. There was nothing particularly unusual about this conclave. There were no accusations of simony. No powerful families of the city of Rome attempted to install their adult child as Pope. No emperor or king tried to determine who would be the next Pope. In the context of Church history, the conclave that elected Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis was unremarkable.
But some Catholics do not like Francis. He says things they don’t like. He doesn’t run the Church the way that they judge he should. He teaches contrary to their understanding. He’s not conservative, and he is very far from being a traditionalist. But he is the Roman Pontiff. He holds the keys.
One way that the opponents of Pope Francis undermine his authority is with storytelling. Have you heard the one about the Mafia? Not the Italian Mafia. The Saint Gallen Mafia. A small group of Cardinals met in the city of Saint Gallen, Switzerland. They discussed who the next Pope might be. Reportedly, Bergoglio received more than a few votes in the last conclave, the one that elected Benedict XVI. The Saint Gallen group favored Bergoglio.
When Benedict resigned, and the conclave was held, the St. Gallen group was greatly out-numbered. They could not determine the outcome of the election. But they had every right, as Cardinals, to discuss who might be a good choice for the next Pope, and to suggest their favored candidate. Bergoglio won the election at the conclave perhaps partly because of these conversations by some of the Cardinals. But even without those meetings in St. Gallen, he might have won anyway. Why? Because God determines who the next Pope will be. The Church belongs to God, has Christ as Her head, and has the Holy Spirit as Her soul. The Church is guided by God and ruled over by God.
God chooses the Pope. God chose Pope Francis. What about all the “bad Popes”? God judges souls, not you and not historians. Maybe some of the “bad Popes” were really antipopes (like Benedict IX, Sergius III). God had a good reason for choosing Pope Alexander VI, who is not accused of heresy by anyone, who knew Scripture very well, who sinned greatly in his personal life, but repented on his death bed. God had a good reason for every choice He has made in His Church, and it is not the place of a blogger or media outlet or video blogger to judge the Church that belongs to God. Have you no fear of the Lord at all?
The First See is judged by no one but God.
Now stories are told about the St. Gallen group, in order to play on the fears of the faithful, in order to make them think that Francis is not a legitimate Pope, or that he should not have been elected. Stories are told as if the St. Gallen group of Cardinals were plotting a conspiracy. I never understood why they were called the “St. Gallen Mafia”. All they did was discuss who might be a good Pope. And Bergoglio already had supporters. There are not many Cardinals in the Church. He was created a Cardinal by John Paul II in 2001, so he had been a Cardinal for 12 years (elected Pope in 2013). The other Cardinals knew who he was. And they voted for him. There’s nothing nefarious there.
The book “Infiltration” claims a 150+ year conspiracy culminated with the election of Pope Francis. The enemies of the Church were plotting for over a century, supposedly, and the apex of their evil designs was…electing a humble prayerful Pope who loves the poor, and who tends the flock of Jesus Christ as he would his own lambs. He is a Pope who clearly loves Christ and seeks to spread that love. That’s the culmination of an evil conspiracy? Absurd.
They are telling stories. They did this storytelling to undermine Vatican II, and it is still going on. Here is a storytelling article by Peter Kwasneiwski, claiming that a document of Vatican II, which led to the Novus Ordo Mass, is a Trojan horse used to lead the Church astray by having a Mass in the vernacular, a less formal Mass than the Traditional Latin Mass. He weaves an entertaining story about different personalities who supposedly tricked the Council fathers into voting for the document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, to set the stage for the new order of the Mass. Then Pope Saint Paul VI oversaw the implementation of the Mass. The whole story of how evil infiltrated the Church in the form of a liturgy used to worship God, a liturgy based on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture and in the Eucharist (Jesus, the Word made flesh), is supposedly evil because … well, because it is not the Latin Mass.
There’s nothing wrong with the Latin Mass either. Some Catholics find it a better fit for their lives, and that is fine. But a subculture has grown around the Latin Mass that usurps the Magisterium, condemns Popes and Councils, and judges all things poorly.
But whether or not one is better than the other is irrelevant. The Mass is for saving souls and worshipping God. Certainly millions of souls more are saved with the Novus Ordo Mass than without it. There are many Catholics who would not attend Mass in the very formal Latin Traditional Mass. They prefer a Mass in their own language, that is less formal. As long as we are listening to the Word of God, worshipping God, and receiving the holy Eucharist devoutly, souls are on the path to Heaven. Without the Novus Ordo Mass, a vast number of Catholics would very likely not attend Mass at all, and would leave the Church. And there are far right Catholics who would make that trade-off. They would like to see TLM be the only Mass, and let anyone who doesn’t like it walk away and lose their salvation.
Storytelling of this type does not use theological arguments. It assumes certain biases against a particular Pope or Council or against the Novus Ordo Mass. And then a story is told to play on those biases, using empty rhetoric, baseless claims of nefarious influence, and an unsupportable plotline that also assumes something quite impossible: that God himself was tricked or overcome. How else could these claimed nefarious conspiracies supposedly succeed in harming the Church?
Jesus promised that the Church would be indefectible (Mt 16:18) because She was founded on Peter and his successors. Jesus promised that each Pope would have a never failing faith, and that the Apostolic See would never lead the Church astray. See the articles here. The Church belongs to God. She cannot be infiltrated at the highest levels by evil. She cannot go astray or lead astray. She cannot teach grave error, nor err gravely in discipline or prudential judgment. And this preservation from grave error applies not only to the infallible, but also to the non-infallible. It applies to both Keys of Peter; both swords of the Church — doctrine and discipline.
So if you believe any of these stories about how the Church went astray or was overcome by a conspiracy, you believe God was tricked and overcome — Almightly God. How stupid do you need to be to believe such claims.
So no matter what the story is, and how compelling the plot and characters, it is false to say, regardless of the explanation, that the Church ever went astray or led anyone astray. The Novus Ordo Mass is not evil; it does not lead astray. It is a dogmatic fact that the Novus Ordo Mass was not a grave error made by an Ecumenical Council or a series of Roman Pontiffs. Any Catholic who says that a Pope or Council erred gravely in doctrine or discipline, or taught heresy, or committed heresy, apostasy, or idolatry is a schismatic and a heretic.
Behind the scenes of Vatican II, they say, evil persons were plotting to make the Church more liberal. Ahhhgh!!! Oh, no! liberal! … That’s it…. Not mass murder. Not a world war to conquer nations. Not terrorism. Not bank robbery. Not purse-snatching. Not stealing lollipops from children. Just a liberal Council or a liberal Pope? When did Jesus teach conservatism? Or Latin? Or hatred of liberals? Never.
Sometimes the new Pope is more conservative, other times he is more liberal. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just how the Church works. But if you have decided to worship conservatism or liberalism or your own version of Catholicism, or some subculture in the Church, or secular culture or anything but the one true God, you are the one who is lost, not the Church.
The Apostolic See of the Roman Pontiff:
+ always remains unblemished by any error
+ has never wandered from the path of Apostolic tradition
+ has never succumbed to heretical novelties
+ remains unsullied
+ has neither stain nor blemish
+ Blessed Peter lives in his own See and presides there
+ whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering
+ in charge of all those seeking the truth of faith
+ dangers to the faith are mended
+ there, one cannot think the faith is lacking
+ remains pure and spotless
+ free from all leading into error, or heretical fraud
+ enforces silence, stopping the mouths of all heretics
+ remains free from the heretical stench
+ polluted by no crack of depravity and no contagion
+ Peter is less able to err than the Church herself
+ the truth cannot be falsified
+ the faith of Peter can never be shaken or changed
+ pure from all stain of error
+ has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error
+ all the venerable Fathers have embraced its Apostolic doctrine
+ the holy orthodox doctors have venerated and followed it
+ has always held and defended the true faith
+ has never erred from the path of the Apostolic tradition
+ never yielded to heretical innovations
+ remains undefiled unto the end
+ whose authority there is none greater
+ is to be refused by no one
+ is to be judged by no one but God
+ holds perpetual and divinely rooted and planted privileges
+ the faith of Peter has not failed, nor can it be believed that it is ever going to fail
+ the faith of Peter, which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail
+ whoever resists this authority, resists the ordination of God
+ this authority, given to a man and exercised by a man, is divine
+ every human creature is to be subject to the Roman pontiff
+ Peter is the pilot and navigator of the Ark of Salvation
+ could never teach something against the faith
+ the guardian of dogma and morals
+ the counselor of princes and peoples
+ that Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head
+ guards with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith
+ the refuge from heresy and strife
+ it alone promises safety in extreme crises
+ refuge whenever heresy or internal strife troubles
+ perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit
+ charged with guarding, teaching, explaining and spreading Divine Revelation
+ has divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission
+ homage is most justly due to this Apostolic See
+ and finally: love the Pope.