Skojec: “If Peter has never-failing faith, explain Francis”

Steve Skojec on Twitter:

Skojec — “If Peter has never-failing faith, explain Francis”

Okay, I will. Never-failing faith protects every Roman Pontiff from grave failures of faith, such as heresy, apostasy, or idolatry. This is the dogma of the First Vatican Council and the ordinary universal Magisterium, as proven by this linked set of teachings from Saints, Popes, and Councils. It is a dogma requiring the full assent of faith. And if it doesn’t make sense to your fallen human faculty of reason, you must still accept it on faith. It is a grave error to refuse to accept any teaching of the Magisterium, unless i tis in agreement with one’s own understanding.

As for Pope Francis, the evaluation of his words and deeds is matter of prudential judgment exercised by fallen sinners. Neither an individual Cardinal or Bishop, nor any number of priests and theologians have the ability to make such a judgment, finding the Roman Pontiff guilty of heresy, infallibly. So while the dogmas of the Church teach one thing, requiring the full assent of faith, and guaranteed by Christ to be free from every error (the dogma itself, not every papal teaching), the assessment that Francis is a heretic or apostate or idolater is entirely fallible, not being a judgment by any form of magisterial infallibility.

So your question can be rephrased: If this dogma of the Roman Catholic Magisterium is really true, then explain these contrary, entirely fallible, claims made by fallen sinners who are entirely lacking in the many charisms given to the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops in teaching the Church. It is dogma versus the fallible assessment by you and by a subculture of sinners. A point by point explanation of every accusation against Pope Francis is not needed. The faithful live by faith.

Skojec — “You know that Peter was promised never failing faith right BEFORE he denied Christ three times, right?”

{Luke 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.

Then the prayer and promise of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is that the gift of faith to Peter will never fail — once converted. This means that the never-failing faith of Peter does not begin right away, at the time that this was declared to him, but rather after his conversion. And Peter’s conversion could be when he repented from betraying Christ, or when Peter made his three-fold expression of love for the Lord (and received the three-fold commission to feed the sheep), or when Peter began his Pontificate (which Pope Pius XII states in Mystical Body of Christ, n. 40, began at the Ascension).

Then for each successive Pope, the “once converted” stipulation is the beginning of each Pontificate, when he becomes the Rock of faith on which the Church is founded. A Pope can fail in faith before he becomes Pope. Peter could and did fail in faith before he became Pope. (Thus, a Protestant can convert to Catholicism and eventually become Roman Pontiff.)

Skojec — “Feeling like ‘never-failing faith’ is kind of a giant hyperbole.”

The dogmas of the Faith are not hyperbole. And a never-failing faith does not imply a kind of constant infallibility by the Pope. His faith cannot fail, which excludes heresy, apostasy, or idolatry, but his non-infallible teachings can err, though only to a limited extent.

Also, we are talking about the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God. To call His promise and prayer a giant hyperbole is insulting to Christ and to His Church, which has infallibly interpreted this verse of Sacred Scripture.

Skojec — “Where is the never failing faith Peter was promised?”

I see nothing of apostasy, heresy, schism, or idolatry in the teachings and decisions of Pope Francis. What is happening is that a subculture within the Church has usurped the authority of the Church, taking illicit possession of both keys, and judging the Roman Pontiffs and the recent Council with a severe bias and with fallible judgment. Then those who have chosen to live the Faith within the conservative Catholic subculture or in traditionalism (further to the right), they have been immersed in attacks on the Roman Pontiff for the last 8 years, so much so that they are unable on a human level to accept the dogma that no Pope can fail in faith and that the Apostolic See is unblemished by any grave error. It is contrary to the culture which they have made the king of their own hearts. It is contrary to the culture that has rejected Pope Francis as Teacher and Shepherd. They have chosen culture over dogma — just as many liberal Catholics have done. The only difference is that liberals choose the culture of sinful secular society and many traditionalists choose a conservative culture instead.

Skojec — “How is the Holy See ‘untainted by any error’ as V1 says?”

Vatican I: “Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ [Lk 22:32].” [Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n. 6].

This should be read as unblemished by any [grave] error. For the ordinary universal Magisterium has taught the same doctrine from the earliest days of the Church as summarized here. And as we consider the language of all these expressions, as well as the dogma that the teaching of the Roman Pontiff is only free from all error (Papal Infallibility) when certain criteria are all met, we must understand the teachings as free from every grave error, or, to explain it in language closer to the text, free from every error that would be considered a blemish. For a less-than-grave error in a non-infallible teaching, that allows limited licit theological dissent, and can be reformed, is not a blemish or stain or type of corruption.

Note also that the wording of paragraph 6, chapter 4 of Pastor Aeternus, is taken almost word for word from the Letter of Pope Saint Agatho to the Sixth Ecumenical Council. That Letter was accepted into the Council’s acts, and so is infallible. So the Council fathers considered the case of Pope Honorius I, and dismissed the idea that he was guilty of heresy. Instead, they agreed with Pope Saint Agatho, Bishop Vincent Gasser (in the Relatio of Vatican I) and Cardinal Manning also a father of Vatican I.

Skojec — “The pope is supposed to have ‘never-failing faith.’ He’s supposed to be the ‘rule of faith.’ This is manifestly false.”

What seems manifest to fallen sinners or to a certain subculture is not dogma, is not infallible, does not have the guarantee of complete freedom from error that is given by the Holy Spirit to the Pope and the body of Bishops. So here is another example of fallen sinners (or the subculture to which they adhere) treating their own judgments as if infallible, while rejecting the dogmas of the Faith.

What Jesus taught in John chapter 6 on the Eucharist was considered to be manifestly false and very offensive to some of the disciples. So they walked away from the Lord. And did Jesus call them back and say, “Wait! Let me explain! Let me clarify and answer all your questions!” No, He did not. He let them walk away and some of them may have lost their salvation and ended in Hell. For the Lord Jesus and His Church require FAITH. They require us to believe based on authority, and not only on our own judgments and ideas. The latter is self-idolatry or the idolatry of a culture; the former is the path of salvation: FAITH.

As for the rule of faith, Steve, Vatican I quotes the Fourth Council of Constantinople:

“2. So the fathers of the fourth Council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church [Mt 16:18], cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honor. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the Christian religion [56].” [Pastor Aeternus chapter 4, n. 2]

The rule of faith is maintained by Peter and his successors by the divine gift of never-failing faith, not to the extent that they never err in what is non-infallible, but that grave errors are excluded entirely. This is for the sake of our salvation, for the sake of the indefectibility of the Church, and so that the Catholic religion will always be preserved unblemished. The interpretation that the Apostolic See is infallible at all times, rather than infallible under the criteria also taught by Vatican I is contrary to faith and reason. The Council obviously decided that Popes are not always infallible, and so what is excluded is grave errors in doctrine and discipline, as well as any grave failures of faith.

Skojec — “How can Peter — he of ‘never failing faith’ — be the RULE of faith, when he is so clearly and so frequently in error?”

This question assumes that the questioner is infallible. “Ah-ha! Pope Francis is not infallible!” and “But Vatican II is not infallible!” Okay. Are YOU infallible? No? Then why do you speak as if you were inerrant. What is clear to fallen sinners is not necessarily true at all. And if you point to the many scholars and clergy who accuse Pope Francis, I will point out to you that the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon’s 28th canon is heretical and was rejected by the Roman Pontiff (and so it is not formally “of the Council”). Even an Ecumenical Council, apart from the approval of the Roman Pontiff, can err gravely. So an assortment of clergy, scholars and laity signing a document accusing Pope Francis of many errors is not so clear and not so certain.

Also, never-failing faith does not speak to errors that are other than grave failures in faith. Never-failing faith does not imply constant infallibility or impeccability.

I would also suggest that the appearance of so many errors is due not only to the fact that we are fallen sinners who can easily err frequently in our judgments, but also that a subculture that opposes Pope Francis has a strong bias against him. He is liberal and they are very conservative. Some conservatives think that liberalism is error; so they are inclined to find many faults in a liberal Pope.

Skojec — “Saw a thing where Super Dave Armstrong said that someone thinks ‘Pope Francis is a heretic, even though Vatican I dogmatically declared that such a state of affairs is in fact impossible.’ But Francis **IS** a heretic. So either VI doesn’t say that, or we’ve got a big problemo.”

Ecumenical Councils can err to the extent of heresy, apart from the approval of the Roman Pontiff. In some cases, Ecumenical Councils proposed grave errors, which did not finally become part of the teachings of the Council because the errors were not approved by the Roman Pontiff. So if an Ecumenical Council can err to that extent, absent papal confirmation, then Steve Skojec or even a large number of leaders in the conservative Catholic subculture can err to the extent of heresy and schism also. Therefore, it is not certain that Francis is a heretic, just because Skojec and others make the claim. It is not manifest or clear, not to true faith or right reason, but only in the minds of fallen sinners.

Skojec just asserts it, so it must be true — and then he complains that the faithful of Christ wish to place their FAITH in the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff, the Father and Teacher of all Christians, the successor of Saint Peter the Apostle, the Head of the universal Church and the Head of the body of Bishops, the Rock on which the Church is founded. There is no “big problemo.” We place our faith in the teachings of Popes and Councils. The First Vatican Council taught what the ordinary universal Magisterium had been teaching for centuries: the never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff and the freedom from grave error of the Apostolic See.

Summary of Teachings

The dogma of the never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiffs was infallibly taught by the First Vatican Council. It is also the perennial teaching of the Saints, Popes, and Ecumenical Councils: as proven here.

Vatican I:
6. “Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: ‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ [Lk 22:32].

7. “This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.” [Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4, n. 6-7]

First, the fathers of Vatican I were well aware of the accusation that Pope Honorius I taught or committed heresy. They rejected this claim. As Cardinal Manning, one of those fathers states, there were at the time many more scholars supporting Honorius than accusing him [The Vatican Council and its Definitions]. Then the 6th paragraph quoted above is taken almost word for word from the Letter of Pope Saint Agatho to the Council, and was accepted into its acts, making the Letter infallible.

Pope Saint Agatho: “under whose protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error….”

Agatho: “For this is the rule of the true faith, which this spiritual mother of your most tranquil empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, has both in prosperity and in adversity always held and defended with energy;”

Agatho: “which, it will be proved, by the grace of Almighty God, has never erred from the path of the Apostolic tradition, nor has she been depraved by yielding to heretical innovations, but from the beginning she has received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and remains undefiled unto the end,”

Agatho: “according to the divine promise of the Lord and Savior himself, which he uttered in the holy Gospels to the prince of his disciples: saying, ‘Peter, Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that (thy) faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ [Lk 22:32] Let your tranquil Clemency therefore consider, since it is the Lord and Savior of all, whose faith it is, that promised that Peter’s faith should not fail and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, how it is known to all that the Apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always confidently done this very thing: of whom also our littleness, since I have received this ministry by divine designation, wishes to be the follower, although unequal to them and the least of all.”
[Pope Saint Agatho, Letter to the Sixth Ecumenical Council]

The Council of Florence (1438 AD) taught: “the most illustrious profession of the Roman Church about the truth of the faith, which has always been pure from all stain of error.”
[Council of Florence, Session 13; 30 Nov. 1444.]

Lateran V: “it arises from the necessity of salvation that all the faithful of Christ are to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”.

If the Pope could ever fail in faith, teach or commit heresy, or lead the Church astray, then it would not be from the necessity of salvation to be subject to him; therefore, the Pope cannot fail in faith, teach or commit heresy, nor lead the Church or the faithful astray.

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