Dogmatic Fact: Never were Most Bishops Heretics

It is contrary to the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church to claim that most Bishops, have been, are, or will ever be heretics, or apostates, or idolaters, or schismatics. This will remain true, so that the faith and the Church remain indefectible, even in the future worst times of the Church, the End Times.

{Rev 12:4} And his tail drew down a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.

Even during the time of the Antichrist in the distant future, no more than a third of the Bishops ever depart from the true faith.

Another dogmatic fact is that no Roman Pontiff has ever or will ever fail in faith while Pope. For Vatican I and the ordinary universal Magisterium have interpreted Luke 22:32 as meaning that Peter and his successors have the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. Apostasy, heresy, idolatry are all failures in faith. This was the understanding of the fathers of Vatican I, that they were approving a dogma that meant no Pope had ever or could ever be a heretic or teach heresy. Peter and his successors have the gift and promise of Jesus to never fail in faith.

As for Honorius, the dogma of the First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n. 6 takes the words of Pope Saint Agatho in his letter to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, in defense of Honorius, and makes them a dogma of the Council. Moreover, Pope Saint Agatho, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Maximus the confessor, Pope John IV, Cardinal Manning (a father of Vatican I) and many scholars have defended Honorius against the charge of heresy.

The claim that the Sixth Council condemned Honorius for heresy, therefore he must be guilty is false for two reasons. First, Pope Saint Leo II, in the three letters that approved the Acts of the Council also changed the charge against Honorius from heresy to negligence. Nothing is of a Council unless approved by the Pope. The Council of Chalcedon was approved by the Pope, except for Canon 28. Second, Ecumenical Council, while infallible on every definitive teaching on faith or morals, is only non-infallible is most prudential judgments (except dogmatic facts).

It is hypocrisy for the papal accusers to claim that Vatican II taught heresy or at least erred gravely on faith and morals, and then treat a prudential judgment of an Ecumenical Council as dogma. If they think Ecumenical Councils can err gravely on faith or morals, they cannot treat prudential matters as infallible. As for the subsequent Councils and documents that seem to support the condemnation of Honorius, these can be read as merely stating what the Sixth Council did, and even as merely condemning his negligence.

The heresies of one nature, one energy (or operation) and one will caused much trouble in the Church for many generations, and people were looking for someone to blame. Honorius could have done more; but what he did was not in error. I’ve read his two letters, and the letter of Sergius. There’s no heresy in what Honorius says; but by comparison, Sergius is a manifest heretic. Honorius did not realize Sergius was proposing heresy, as the new theological term (never fully adopted in the West) was foreign to his mind. However, the concept being proposed was clearly rejected by him.

As for Bishops, the Church is indefectible. But She is also Apostolic. If most of the Apostolic College had ever gone astray into heresy, then the Church could be said to have defected, which is impossible and contrary to dogma. The body of Bishops was established by Christ to teach and guide the Church with the Roman Pontiff as their head. As long as they remain in communion with one another and with the Roman Pontiff, and also obedient to him, they can never fail gravely in faith either, just as Luke 22:32 teaches.

{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.”

Peter and his successors have a never-failing faith, and then the Pope confirms the body of Bishops, his brethren, so that their fail also may not fail, though only as a body. But if most of the Bishops had failed in faith, as Eric Sammons claims, then the promise of Jesus would have failed and the Church would have defected, contrary to dogma.

Instead, what happened historically in the case of the Arian heresy was this. The Roman emperor, an Arian heretic, ordered the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops to meet with him. This can’t be good. At the meeting, the emperor, who fancied himself a theologian just like Sammons does [dig], suggested to the Pope and Bishops what he thought was an excellent formula for resolving the conflict between Arianism and the traditional Catholic faith. It was not. The Pope walked out. Bishop Hosius, at age 99, stood up and gave the emperor a talking to. And the Bishops all refused to sign the emperor’s compromise statement of faith. Then the emperor drew his own sword, threatened the Bishops (and like also their flocks, at least implicitly) with death. They signed under duress. Then each when back to his own diocese and continued to teach the true Faith, not Arianism.

That signature under duress does not make them Arians. Heresy is obstinate denial or obstinate doubt of a truth that must be believed with divine and catholic faith (post-baptismal). Signing under threat of death is not obstinacy, and does not indicate what the person truly denies or doubts. Whether or not they should have accepted martyrdom, rather than sign is for God to judge. But they are obviously not heretics.

Catholic Commentators

Some of the Francis critics are priests and some are theologians. But most of them are poorly-catechized self-exalting commentators who have a large following because they hit all the right talking points to please one subculture or another (right or left). They don’t write theology. They do not contribute to a better understanding of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. They undermine the authority of the Pope, the Councils, the Bishops, and the Church. They claim to believe that the Church is indefectible, but it is a teaching that has been bronzed and placed on a shelf. It is not used in their faith; it has no effect on their understanding of the Church.

They scandalize the faithful by making them distrust Popes, Councils, and the body of Bishops. Then what is left for the faithful to rely on? Catholic media outlets and their commentators. They speak as if they were teaching the Church on every subject. None of them ever bothers to teach the faithful a dogma or a longstanding non-infallible doctrine. Their theology contains no evidence of actual faith in the Church or Her teachings. They claim that Popes can err to any extent when not exercising infallibility. But there’s no indication that they actually believe any of the infallible teachings of the Church. Nothing is a dogma that is contrary to their own understanding.

The Church is Apostolic

The Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith and the Apostolic See has always been unblemished by any grave error. This dogma has been taught by the First Vatican Council and by the ordinary universal Magisterium. It is heresy to claim that any Pope has taught or committed heresy or idolatry. It is heresy to claim that any Ecumenical Council approved by the Pope has taught heresy or any grave error in doctrine or discipline.

The body of Bishops participates in the very same charisms as the Roman Pontiff, except those charisms that are specific to his role as Head, rather than their role as body. The Bishops can participate in the infallible teaching authority, but never without the Pope. But he can teach infallibly without them. In him, the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present.

Notice that infallibility is a charism and it is present in the person of the Roman Pontiff. This does not mean that he is personally infallible. But it does mean that he has that charism in his person, and can exercise it as he wills, under the grace of God.

So the charism of truth and of never-failing faith given to the Roman Pontiff, to protect him from ever teaching or committing heresy, also is given to the Bishops, only as a body united to their head [Lk 22:32c].

So the charism of never-failing faith and the charism of indefectibility of the Church are present in the body of Bishops, as long as they are united to their Head, the Roman Pontiff. They cannot fall away as a body. That is contrary to the promise of Jesus in Luke 22:32c (“c” meaning the end of that verse) and contrary to indefectibility.

If most Bishops ever went astray, then the Church would have lost Her indefectibility and Her charism of never-failing faith as found in the Apostolic College. The Church can never be the Pope alone, or the Pope with only a few Bishops, as She is Apostolic.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

Please consider reading my new book, Reply to the Papal Accusers: Volume One, available in print and in Kindle formats.

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2 Responses to Dogmatic Fact: Never were Most Bishops Heretics

  1. P.J. says:

    I have Luke 22:32 burnt into my memory because you cite it so often in your writings. My attention was caught by a Protestant blogger using it, so I had a look, and to my surprise found that he was citing it as a ‘proof’ of ‘Once saved, always saved’! He conveniently didn’t mention the preceding verse, in which Our Lord addresses Simon by name. Anyway, can you please explain what is meant by “when you are converted” , as in Luke 9:20, Peter calls Jesus ‘the Christ of God’, so in that sense he had already converted to become a Christian. or am I wrong about that?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Jesus knew that Peter would sin against faith by denying Christ. But at that point in time, Peter was not Roman Pontiff. Once Jesus ascends to Heaven, then Peter becomes the Vicar of Christ and from that point on he has the gift of a never failing faith. The conversion means when Peter receives the charism of never failing faith. Each Pope, at the moment he becomes Pope, is “converted” into a Rock of faith. So Peter did not need conversion in the sense of becoming Christian, but he needed the papal charisms which convert a Bishop into the Roman Pontiff, with all his powers and abilities.

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