Pope Francis: true and perpetual Roman Pontiff

I believe that the papal accusers will soon claim that Pope Francis has lost his validity, and they will declare that he is an invalid Pope or antipope. This article proves otherwise (as does my book: Reply to the Papal Accusers)

The Apostolic Primacy has the character of permanence. The Church will never cease to have Roman Pontiffs, one after another: vertical permanence. But also, each Pontificate continues unceasingly until death or resignation: horizontal permanence. Once valid, always valid. No Roman Pontiff can lose his validity, because he is the Rock on which the indefectible Church is founded. If a Pope could become invalid, then he would not be a Rock, as he could at any moment turn into Sand by that loss of validity.

If a Pope could become invalid, then we would not know which teachings were of the Magisterium, and therefore of Christ, as perhaps the Pope lost his validity before or in that teaching. If a Pope could become invalid, then we would not know which teachings of Ecumenical Councils to trust, as Councils have nearly taught heresy, except for the refusal of the Roman Pontiff to approve those teachings (Haec Sancta, Chalcedon’s Canon 28; Constantinople III’s condemnation of Honorius for heresy). The permanence of the successor of Peter is absolutely essential to the indefectibility of the Church, and the trustworthiness of the Magisterium.

What if the conclave were invalid? Even in the case of an invalid conclave, once the Roman Pontiff is accepted by the body of Bishops as the successor of Peter, as the Head of the body of Bishops and of the universal Church, then he becomes the valid Roman Pontiff. For the body of Bishops cannot go astray by following a false head; that would imply that the Church had defected, which is contrary to dogma. The indefectibility of the Church and the acceptance of the new Pope as Roman Pontiff by the body of Bishops “heals in the root” any failings or even total invalidity of the conclave.

The Antipope Vigilius ruled from Rome, while the true Pope, Silverius, was in exile. When Silverius died, the Roman clergy and people, and the body of Bishops accepted Vigilius as the true Pope, despite no conclave or election at all, and his previous status as an antipope who taught manifest heresy. Once he became true Pope, the grace of God converted him, just as Jesus promised in Lk 22:32, into a Rock of never-failing faith.

Each Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. Therefore, no valid Roman Pontiff can ever teach or commit heresy, nor commit apostasy or idolatry, nor err gravely in doctrine or discipline, so much so that there can never be a valid reason for declaring any Roman Pontiff to be invalid or deposed. Every Roman Pontiff accused of grave failings of faith in the history of the Church was innocent, as a matter of dogmatic fact. For the First Vatican Council and the ordinary universal Magisterium teach that every Pope has the charism of never-failing faith and that the Apostolic See is always unblemished by any grave error.

Therefore, Pope Francis is the valid Roman Pontiff. He has been accepted for many years as the valid successor of Peter. He has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. His Apostolic See has the perpetual help of the Holy Spirit to be free from every grave error in doctrine and discipline. Christ and His Vicar, Pope Francis, constitute one only Head of the one indefectible Church. As the indefectible head of the indefectible Church, Pope Francis cannot lose his validity by any grave error or failing in faith.

The deposition of a Roman Pontiff is impossible, as the prevenient grace of God preserves him from every grave error in doctrine and discipline, and from every grave failure of faith. For the same reason, no Roman Pontiff can lose his office by teaching or committing heresy, or by apostasy or idolatry or any other grave offense.

And we know that Popes are fallen sinners. Some Popes sinned gravely in personal matters. But we also know that the fathers and doctors and Saints are unanimous in holding that no matter how personally sinful a Pope may be, he is still the valid successor of Peter. So there is no sense in bearing false witness against a Pope, accusing him of grave personal sins, with the goal of removing him from office. Sinful Popes have the full authority of Christ.

As for the claim that Pope Francis has an interior disposition against the Faith, that he desires, plans, or is attempting to corrupt or destroy the faith — that is contrary to the charism of never-failing faith. The prevenient grace of God absolutely keeps every Pope from such a sin. For anyone else who committed such a sin, even merely desiring to destroy or corrupt the true Faith, would lose their infused virtue of faith. And that is not possible given the gift of never-failing faith to each Pope from Christ Jesus.

Pope Francis has been accepted by the body of Bishops as the successor of Peter, and so he is the valid Roman Pontiff. Pope Francis has the papal charisms, and therefore he can never lose his validity, until death or valid resignation.

1. Supreme Authority
2. Judged by God alone
3. Absence of Appeal
4. Principle of Unity
5. One Head of the one Church
6. Rock of the Indefectible Church
7. Charism of Truth and of Never-failing faith
8. The Apostolic See is unblemished by grave error
9. Free from all heresy, he judges heretics
10. Papal Infallibility
11. Perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit
12. Subjection to him is from the necessity of salvation

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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6 Responses to Pope Francis: true and perpetual Roman Pontiff

  1. Fr. Matt says:

    Ron,
    Questions for you. You probably deal with it in your book and you seem to answer it at least indirectly from what I have found on your blog. But my questions is a 3 part question that deals with the “counter-example or counter-examples ” of history where there were multiple claims to the Papacy. In the case of more than one claim to the Papacy, other than obviously there being antipopes and not valid Roman Pontiffs when there are multiple claims at the same time and point in Church history but there must be and will always be Christ’s Vicar, a valid Roman Pontiff teaching, sanctifying and governing the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church (other than during interregnums after the death or resignation of the Supreme Pontiff.. How would you argue that the reality of the Western Schism for example, 1.) is not contrary to the universal acceptance manifesting the true Roman Pontiff and or 2.) is not contrary to the permanence of the Papacy and or 3.) does not undermine the indefectibility of the Church in many bishops of the Body of Bishops and other members of the Church following a false head? As a Catholic and a priest, I adhere in faith (as well after by reasoning ) to the indefectibility of the Church and of her visible Head, the Vicar of Christ and the Body of Bishops in communion with the Supreme Pontiff and of all of the teachings of the Church regarding the Supreme Pontiff. But I just wanted to get your answer to the above as to how you by faith and theological reasoning answer the above question. Thanks and God bless.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Schisms and heresies have plagued the Church from century to century, even from the beginning:
      {2:19} They went out from among us, but they were not of us. For, if they had been of us, certainly they would have remained with us. But in this way, it is made manifest that none of them are of us.

      The East West Schism shows the indefectibility of the Church, in that even the Patriarch of Constantinople and a large group of Bishops cannot cause the Church to defect. She did not give in to their demands (such as for equality for new Rome, Constantinople). The acceptance of the Pope by the Bishops is not all the Bishops, but the Bishops as a body. Those who depart from communion with, and obedience to, the Pope have departed from the body. So the acceptance by the body of Bishops still verifies the true Pope, even at the time when many Bishops left the faith.

      Revelation speaks of a time when a third of the stars are swept from the heavens, meaning many Bishops falling away. That time is still in the future. But it instructs us that a fairly large number of Bishops can fall away and not affect indefectibility.

      The Eastern Churches do not have a false Pope, a Bishop who claims to be the Supreme Pontiff; they do not have that type of theology, as I understand it. So their leaders are not antipopes. They reject the idea of a Supreme Pontiff. So they have fallen into heresy and schism, but there’s no question of competing claims for the papacy.

  2. Fr. Matt says:

    Good points above. But sorry Ron I should maybe have been more clear. I was not talking about Eastern Schism but what is commonly called the Western Schism in around 1378 until 1414 when you had Urban VI and Clement VII both with significant followings and acceptance from the Body of Bishops so much so that who had majority was not clear at least during that time. To show how contentious and confusing a time, for your readers who may not know, St. Catherine of Siena accepted Pope Urban as Roman Pontiff and St Vincent Ferrer resisted Pope Urban and accepted Clement. Note that Pope Urban was valid Pope. My 3 part question in my first comments above concerned that historical reality.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I see. I misunderstood. We are not in the situation today that occurred in the past. There was even a case, many centuries earlier, when Saint Hippolytus of Rome became an antipope. But he is a Saint! And the antipope Vigilius became a true Pope. But over time, it has become clearer which Popes are true and which are not.

      As for Urban and Clement, the body of Bishops is one, and so we cannot have a situation where there are two decisions, as if there were two bodies. The Church is One; She is the seamless garment, and since She is Apostolic, the Apostolic College must be one. It is difficult to know the exact situation back then, as we do not have the type of access to information worldwide that we have today. I don’t think the body could be said to have supported Clement if Urban was the true Pope. It was also important, in the years when communication with the worldwide Bishops was difficult and slow, as to which Bishop was accepted by the clergy and people of Rome, as the Pope is the Bishop of Rome.

      But regardless of that past situation, and the error of St. Vincent Ferrer, we today cannot doubt that Pope Francis is the true Pope, as the body of Bishops has clearly accepted him, as has the universal Church on earth. Even his opponents say “recognize [that he is the valid Pope] and resist”, and I think Vigano even said at one point that Francis is (somehow) the valid Pope, although his words indicate clearly the opposite.

      You are saying that which Pope is accepted by the body is not always clear. We are fallen sinners, and that is the reason for the lack of clarity. But the Church was never lead astray into heresy or grave errors on the liturgy by any false Pope being accepted by some Bishops.

  3. Fr. Matt says:

    Yes Ron, I agree with your comments above. And regarding is not being in that situation of the 14th century, I think it very possible that we maybe headed for similar situation in the future. Such as the Church facing a valid Pope Francis and a popular antipope. Or after Pope Francis dies or resigns then the next valid Roman Pontiff and antipope or even more than one antipope. However, the Church is indefectible and I trust in God Providence.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, I believe we could see one of the most popular antipopes in history, in the near future. We will have to be very attentive to make certain that we are following the true Pope, and not the most media-friendly or most popular with the masses Pope.

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