Can a Pope be misguided or go astray? No.

Saint John Henry Newman: “I have said that, like St. Peter, he is the Vicar of his Lord. He can judge, and he can acquit; he can pardon, and he can condemn; he can command and he can permit; he can forbid, and he can punish. He has a Supreme jurisdiction over the people of God. He can stop the ordinary course of sacramental mercies; he can excommunicate from the ordinary grace of redemption; and he can remove again the ban which he has inflicted. It is the rule of Christ’s providence, that what His Vicar does in severity or in mercy upon earth, He Himself confirms in heaven.

“in his administration of Christ’s kingdom, in his religious acts, we must never oppose his will, or dispute his word, or criticize his policy, or shrink from his side… We must never suffer ourselves to doubt, that, in his government of the Church, he is guided by an intelligence more than human. His yoke is the yoke of Christ, he has the responsibility of his own acts, not we; and to his Lord must he render account, not to us. Even in secular matters it is ever safe to be on his side, dangerous to be on the side of his enemies.”
[St. John Henry Newman, The Pope and the Revolution, Sermons Preached on Various Occasions, Sermon 15]

Over at the new and not-at-all improved Crisis magazine, Schism still reigns supreme. The latest article is heretical and schismatic: Adhering to the Papacy when Popes go astray.

1. Popes do not go astray. The Church is indefectible, and so is the faith of Peter and his successors. Popes are indefectible. The body of Bishops led by the Pope is indefectible. Each Pope has the charism of truth and never failing faith. And the Apostolic See is unblemished by any grave error. I would like ALL of my readers to read this summary of teachings on the Church, the Pope, and his exercise of the keys of Peter in the Apostolic See.

Popes never go astray. That is heresy. It is also schism, since, if you think that Popes go astray, you will not submit your mind and heart to their decisions on doctrine and discipline. There can be some less-than-grave errors in what is non-infallible, and the faithful can “contradict” the Pope by holding a different opinion than a non-definitive teaching or decision by the Pope. But they can never assume that they are right and the Pope is wrong. Saying the Popes have gone astray, merely because they contradicted the majority opinion in a subculture in the Church is in effect raising that subculture above the Magisterium. And since the Magisterium exercises the authority of Christ in the Holy Spirit, putting any culture above the teaching of Popes and Councils is idolatry.

Christ teaches through the Popes. Dogma: that Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head of the one Church. In so far as any Pope, Saint or sinner, is exercising the authority of Christ given to Peter in the Keys (authority doctrine and discipline), there can be no grave error as Christ is One with the Pope in said exercise of the Keys.

The article at Crisis magazine says: “many Catholics who find refuge in the sacred tradition preserved by the old Mass.” Wrong. The old Mass does not preserve Sacred Tradition. The Church preserves the living sacred Tradition, and the Church is the sole authoritative interpreter of Tradition and Scripture. Equating one form of the Mass, especially in its non-essential exterior points of form, with Divine Revelation is idolatry. The new Mass contains all the essentials of the Last Supper, which shows us, along with every approved form of the Mass in East and West, what is essential and what is not essential in the Mass. The Mass expresses some parts of Tradition, but it does so in every approved form.

To speak as if the only good form of the Mass is the TLM is blasphemy, as Christ celebrated the Mass once, and it was in the form of a Passover Supper followed by a very rudimentary Mass (as clearly a way to transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant). The TLM is not Tradition itself.

And what will the Mass be like in the Last Days? Masses will be held in secret. Christianity will be outlawed. There will be no singing, no incense, no vestments, no sanctuary, no altar (just a decent table with cloths), and the bare minimum of instruments will be used. Bread and wine will be very difficult to obtain. Persons found attending such Masses will be severely punished. They will risk their lives to attend the Mass in such a rudimentary form, in whatever language the priest available may speak. And their example puts to shame those Catholics who refuse to attend Mass except in the form that they prefer, the TLM.

The article then speaks of a Pope predicted by Saint John Bosco (which unknown to that article author is the Angelic Shepherd). That claim that Catholics can simply wait out any Pope they dislike, and eventually a Pope will come along who will teach what they think is truth, is schismatic and heretical. Even after the Pontificate of Pope Francis ends, his teachings remain forever the teachings of the Church. Very little can possibly be changed: some disciplines, some non-definitive teachings and any remarks made in passing. But the rest remains the teaching of the Church, and if you reject those teachings of Pope Francis, even 300 years after his Pontificate ends, you are still a heretic and a schismatic. No Pope will reject Vatican II ever. No Pope will reject the teachings of his predecessor, Francis. That is not how the Church works.

The article then cites Canon 212, n. 2, ignoring n. 1.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

Making known their needs and desires is not the same as assuming that your every thought and desire is Tradition or Truth, and that any Pope who disagrees has gone astray. And note the obligation under Christian obedience to follow both teachings and decisions of discipline. They cite n. 2 as if it gave them the right to reject any teaching or discipline, in contradiction to n. 1 of Canon 212.

The article also cites Benedict 16: “The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law…. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.”

The subculture of traditionalism acts like an absolute monarch, as if its every thought and desire is law. Any Pope who refuses to obey that subculture is treated as disobedient to God. The faithful are obligated to do what Benedict says: bind themselves to the Church and to Her teachings, which are the Word of God, instead of adapting, changing, and rejecting that teaching in favor of what a subculture teaches.

The article then says: “One need not agree with the pope in matters not infallibly defined—and such matters are in the vast majority.”

This claim contradicts Vatican II and Canon Law. We are obligated to believe what is non-infallible.

Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

Religious assent is required for teachings that are non-definitive, that is, non-infallible. Lumen Gentium 25 says the same thing.

But is it true that the vast majority of Papal teachings are not definitive? My opinion is that most teachings of every Pope are definitive and therefore infallible. The Pope teaches infallibly not only with formal definitions like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, but in every definitive teaching on faith or morals. That is why Canon Law says that the non-infallible teachings are the ones that are non-definitive. Everything proclaimed by the Pope by a definitive act is infallible, including teachings of Fratelli Tutti, Amoris Laetitia and many other teachings.

And the same is true for Vatican II. Every single definitive direct teaching of Vatican II is infallible, even though the fathers of that Council did not realize it.

Finally, the article says: “But a Catholic must trust in providence, even while suffering persecution from within the Church and enduring misguided ecclesial decisions.”

Oh, please. The martyrs of the Church deride you! They are not suffering persecution who have to obey a Pope who contradicts their own misguided understanding of ecclesial doctrine and discipline. That is the ordinary daily course of being a Catholic Christian. And it is not trust in providence to wait for a Pope who agrees with you. That will never happen. No Pope will idolize the TLM, reject Vatican II, reject Pope Francis, “correct” all the alleged errors in the Vatican II Popes and all the rest of the errors that prevail in the conservative and traditionalist subculture.

Is this subculture that opposes Popes and Councils and claims to be the true Church led by conservatives or by traditionalists? It is like a two-headed monster, rising up to try to fight the Popes and Councils for control over the flock. Christ will never allow that subculture to succeed.

Pope Francis is not standing still. While those who reject the Magisterium, and instead follow a subculture, complain about the past, Francis is readying his next document, and the next, and the next. And he is well aware of the false claim of his opponents that they can reject anything he says or does that is supposedly non-infallible. I think he will use a formal definition under Papal Infallibility.


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4 Responses to Can a Pope be misguided or go astray? No.

  1. P.J. says:

    Sorry, Ron, but I got a bit confused. You wrote, “ The article then speaks of a Pope predicted by Saint John Bosco, (which unknown to that article author is the Angelic Shepherd).
    Does “Angelic Shepherd” refer to the future Pope, or to Saint John Bosco? This is all new to me. And why wouldn’t the article author know this? Is it from an obscure source? I don’t read ‘Crisis’ magazine, probably a good thing!

    • Ron Conte says:

      It’s my opinion that the future holy Pope who guides the Church during the lesser tribulation, often called the Angelic Shepherd, is the same as the pope predicted by Saint John Bosco. The article author probably does not know eschatology very well.

  2. P.J. says:

    Thanks, Ron, for explaining that.
    I think I am going to take a break from the internet for a while. I was so appalled by the evil and sick tweet that ‘Restoring the Faith’ Mike sent in response to a good priest, who happens to have a different opinion on the vaccine, that I wonder if I made a big mistake getting online at all.
    I could see that much of ‘Catholic’ internet was poisonous, but I thought I could rise above it. I was never on Twitter, because I saw from the start that it would be an occasion of sin, to me at any rate. But after I read about the infamous tweet in The Skojec File, I thought, ‘ this is a bridge too far’. And I am informed that the culprit hasn’t even deleted it! No shame at all!
    Apparently it is now fine for ‘devout’ Catholics to pray for the Pope to die, and to utter vile calumnies about a priest, as long they have political or theological differences. But I don’t have to be a part of it.
    I have a number of your books at home, and I will concentrate on reading them over the next few weeks.
    Thanks for all you do for the Faith, Ron!

    • Ron Conte says:

      Thanks, P.J. I know what you mean about the poison in Catholic social media. Anyone can hang out a sign, saying “faithful Catholic” and start judging and condemning Popes and Bishops. That is a serious problem in the Church today. I think the internet is one of the driving forces behind the current schism.

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