Dr. Taylor Marshall has accused Pope Francis of teaching heresy for his remarks in his General Audience on the Communion of the Saints. Dr. Marshall has also publicly stated on Twitter that Francis is no longer a valid Pope, as “a pope would remove himself ipso facto from the papacy by ‘manifest heresy’.” [Link to Tweet] He now calls Pope Francis “Bergoglio”. Dr. Marshall says that Francis has directly contradicted the words of Pope Pius XII on the communion of the saints; therefore, he concludes that one is right and the other is a heretic.
Here is my previous article explaining that there is nothing wrong in what Pope Francis taught. But even if a person, let’s say for example a priest, were to err in some way on the topic of the communion of the saints, such an error would not necessarily be a grave error, and cannot simply be assumed to be heresy. Francis did not deny the Communion of the saints itself. The controversy is over the extent of that Communion. One might disagree with Francis’ position, without sin or heresy. And Francis could err to a limited extent, in this or another non-infallible teaching, without grave error or heresy. So while I find nothing wrong with the teaching of Francis on this topic, I also think Francis could possibly err to a limited extent on the topic without being a heretic.
As for the apparent contradiction between Pope Francis and Pope Pius XII, if we look at Sacred Scripture, there are texts that appear to contradict one another, but when understood correctly, they are not in contradiction. And even if we cannot see, in a particular case of contradiction in Scripture, by faith we know, that the contradiction is merely apparent. We believe by faith, even when reason does not clearly understand.
When Jesus said eat my flesh and drink my blood (Jn 6), the disciples and even the Apostles did not understand what this meant. The Mass and the Eucharist has not yet been established. Some disciples walked away from Christ because His words did not agree with their fallen faculty of reason, the reasoning of sinners. But the Apostles believed based on faith, though they too did not yet understand.
To accuse the Roman Pontiff of heresy, merely because you, a fallen sinner, whose mind and heart is obscured by concupiscence and personal sin, do not see how his words can be reconciled with the words of another Pope, is arrogant and faithless. And there are ample teachings, throughout the entire history of the Church, telling us that no Roman Pontiff can ever fail in faith, nor teach false doctrine. For the Church is indefectible, and the Roman Pontiff is the head of the Church and the Rock on which the Church is founded.
Taylor Marshall references the encyclical Mystical Body of Christ, by Pope Pius XII, so as to accuse Pope Francis of heresy. But that document contradicts Marshall. It teaches that the Church cannot teach false doctrine, that Christ and His Vicar constitute one only head of the one Church, and that the Church is indefectible. I’ve already explained how the words of Pope Francis do not contradict the words of Pius XII. Something can be true in one sense and not in another. A person who sins by apostasy, heresy, or schism loses his membership in the Church and therefore in the Communion of Saints, to one extent, but not to another. But regardless of any explanation, we are required to have faith in Christ and His Church. We are not to live by reason alone, but by faith above reason. No Pope can fail in faith, and so no Pope can teach or commit heresy. This is the ancient and constant teaching of the Church.
* Let me explain to you why Pope Francis is a heretic.
** Let me explain to you what the word “Faith” means.
Let’s review what Pope Pius XII teaches in Mystical Body of Christ, about the Church and the Roman Pontiff:
“Just as at the first moment of the Incarnation the Son of the Eternal Father adorned with the fullness of the Holy Spirit the human nature which was substantially united to Him, that it might be a fitting instrument of the Divinity in the sanguinary work of the Redemption, so at the hour of His precious death He willed that His Church should be enriched with the abundant gifts of the Paraclete in order that in dispensing the divine fruits of the Redemption she might be, for the Incarnate Word, a powerful instrument that would never fail. For both the juridical mission of the Church, and the power to teach, govern and administer the Sacraments, derive their supernatural efficacy and force for the building up of the Body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine and enable her to rule them for the salvation of their souls through divinely enlightened pastors and to bestow on them an abundance of heavenly graces.” [n. 31]
Notice that the divine gifts which protect the Church from grave errors, such as teaching false doctrine, also extend to discipline, that is, to the juridical mission of the Church to govern and rule the faithful, as well as to teach them on faith and morals. Here Pope Pius XII is teaching on the indefectibility of the Church. But since the Roman Pontiff is the Head of the Church, and is the Rock on which the Church is founded, and is one only Head of that Church with Christ, this freedom from grave error — which extends to all teaching and all discipline, i.e. to any exercise of the Keys of Saint Peter — excludes that any Roman Pontiff would teach false doctrine. See my previous article affirming that the Pope can never teach or commit heresy.
Pope Pius XII: “Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ’s Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into Heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.” [n. 40].
And yet Taylor Marshall cites this very same document by Pius XII to accuse the Vicar of Christ, the Roman Pontiff who is, with Christ, one Head of the one Church, of teaching false doctrine. This mystical union of Christ and His Vicar as one only Head of the Church prevents any Roman Pontiff from failing in faith or from teaching false doctrine. Then the charism of truth and never-failing faith was taught by Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n. 7) as the culmination of centuries of this same teaching by the ordinary universal Magisterium.
Pope Pius XII: “They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.” [n. 41]
See how Taylor Marshall contradicts himself by citing Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystical Body of Christ, while ignoring its teaching. Multiple teachings of that encyclical clearly contradict the claim by Marshall that any Pope could teach false doctrine or fall into heresy. The encyclical even rebukes those who think they can accept Christ while rejecting His Vicar.
We must accept by faith that whatever Pope Francis has taught, it cannot be a false doctrine, it cannot be a heresy, and he, the Vicar of Christ, cannot be a heretic.
The Book “Infiltration”
In his recent video accusing Pope Francis of heresy, Taylor Marshall boasts that he did his part by handing his book “Infiltration” — a book which accuses Pope Francis of being “a pope for Satan on the Roman Chair of Saint Peter” — to Pope Francis face to face. Here is my criticism of that act by Dr. Marshall.
The Man who interrupted the Pope
In the video, Marshall says that he is just a layman. Then he takes time to point out and support the man who interrupted the Pope’s general audience. Marshall praises this layman for saying that God rejects Pope Francis. Notice that Taylor Marshall rejects the teaching of the Roman Pontiff, and instead takes the position of another lay person.
But Christ founded His Church on Peter and his successors, not on any lay person who happens to disagree with what the Pope or the Church teaches. The faithful are to be taught and led by the Roman Pontiffs and the Bishops. It is not the place of the lay faithful to judge the Roman Pontiffs and to decide what they should teach to us.
Saint Bellarmine: “Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him [the Roman Pontiff] so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men. On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope; yet from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err, if the Pontiff would err.” [On the Roman Pontiff, vol. 2: Books III-V (De Controversiis) (p. 162). Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.]
Pope Leo XIII: “To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor. In this subordination and dependence lie the order and life of the Church; in it is to be found the indispensable condition of well-being and good government. On the contrary, if it should happen that those who have no right to do so should attribute authority to themselves, if they presume to become judges and teachers, if inferiors in the government of the universal Church attempt or try to exert an influence different from that of the supreme authority, there follows a reversal of the true order, many minds are thrown into confusion, and souls leave the right path.” [1885, Epistola Tua, Letter to the Archbishop of Paris]
Whoever Accuses a Pope
If any Catholic accuses a Roman Pontiff of heresy, that Catholic commits schism and heresy. For the ordinary universal Magisterium teaches, just as confirmed by the Letter of Agatho to Constantinople III, and Vatican I, that every Roman Pontiff has the charism of never-failing faith. Then many teachings of Popes and Saints throughout Church history confirm the meaning of this teaching, that no Pope can ever teach or commit heresy.
LifeSiteNews has given details from the remarks of Taylor Marshall on Twitter, about his accusation against Pope Francis. A debate ensued on Twitter as to whether an heretical Pope loses his office automatically. To my mind, this is irrelevant as no Roman Pontiff can ever teach or commit heresy. So it can never be that a Pope loses his office, as Taylor Marshall claims Pope Francis has, since a Pope can never be guilty of heresy.
When Taylor Marshall was asked how many Cardinals and Bishops it would take to declare Francis a heretic who has lost his office, Marshall replied that heretical Cardinals and Bishops “have lost their office”. This suggests that Cardinals and Bishops who remain with Pope Francis are also committing heresy and have lost their jurisdiction.
Taylor Marshall is Schismatic
Here is what Dr. Marshall says in a video on May 2, 2019, while speaking about the Open Letter that accuses Pope Francis of formal heresy: “But if you’re saying that he’s a heretic, which they say in his opening line, an heretical Pope, my ecclesiastical sense says, you also have to say: ‘And therefore I am not in communion with him.’ ”
Taylor Marshall has accused Pope Francis of heresy. He also claims that Pope Francis has lost his office. Taylor Marshall has also accused Cardinals and Bishops who agree with the Pope of heresy, and of losing their office. And so Taylor Marshall is not in communion with the Roman Pontiff, or the body of Bishops.
He is refusing submission to the Pope and refusing communion with him, which is public formal schism. And according to Dr. Marshall, in his misreading of Pope Pius XII, Marshall himself would then not be in the communion of saints. For he has rejected the Faith by heresy and schism. But according to Pope Francis (and my explanation here), Marshall is not entirely excluded from that Communion, but he certainly does not have the full communion to which we are all called by Christ and by His Church.
Taylor Marshall on Twitter:
“A ‘heretical Pope’ ipso facto loses the Papacy.”
“St Robert Bellarmine, St Alphonsus Liguori and Cardinal Newman teach that a pope would remove himself ipso facto from the papacy by ‘manifest heresy’. That’s the escape valve.”
“A manifest heretic is outside the church.”
“Are we in the Great Apostasy?”
Subsequently, Taylor Marshall began to refer to Pope Francis as “Bergoglio”, indicating that he no longer thinks that Francis is the valid Roman Pontiff of the Catholic Church.
Dr. Taylor Marshall is a schismatic, who rejects the authority of Pope Francis. The body of Bishops has accepted Francis as the true Pope and successor of Peter. Since the Church is apostolic and indefectible, the successors to the Apostles cannot go astray following a false successor of Peter. Thus, the acceptance of Pope Francis by the body of Bishops confirms that Francis is the true Roman Pontiff, and neither a heretic, nor a false or invalid Pope.
Now in criticizing Pope Francis, Taylor Marshall wrongly draws the conclusion, from what Francis says, that even the damned in Hell would be in the communion of the saints. To the contrary, Pope Francis clearly states that the communion of the saints is “a community of saved sinners”. This obviously excludes those who lost their salvation and are in Hell.
He persecutes the Church, who accuses the Pope of heresy. He persecutes Christ, who persecutes the Church. “Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.” (Lk 10:16)
Taylor Marshall has exalted himself in pride to judge and to condemn the Roman Pontiff, to judge between two Roman Pontiffs, to judge matters of doctrine as if definitively, and to declare that Francis is no longer a valid Pope. And he also says that he is only a layman, that he is not a Bishop or Cardinal, that he is not a canonized Saint. Yet Marshall never considers that he himself might be wrong. That is the tacit assumption of all these papal accusers, that they cannot themselves err in judging and condemning Popes and Councils.
Once you have put yourself above the Church, to judge and condemn the leaders of the Church, how will you be corrected? You will not accept correction from Bishops, Cardinals, Popes or Ecumenical Councils. You will not accept the teaching of the Saints throughout the ages. Repentance is the only path for these persons who reject the Shepherds of the Church appointed by Christ.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Thank you very much for this posting. Your explanation of what Pope Francis said in his February 2 General Audience was extremely helpful. I also appreciate how you show that Dr. Marshall is contradicting the very encyclical of Pius XII that he cites. We need to pray for Taylor Marshall. Let’s hope he will return to full communion with Pope Francis and the holy Catholic Church.
I see grave errors in the work of Taylor Marshall. But I’ve also seen what seems to me to be sincere devotion to Christ and to Mary, devotion to the Rosary, and love for the faithful. May God have mercy on him, and may the graces that are at work in him win out over his errors.
Yes let’s pray for Taylor Marshall. He started off very well in his early years as a convert to the Church, but, like many others was tempted and succumbed to a disordered frustration and anger due to Pope Francis’ more “liberal” orientation and ambiguity in some of his remarks and teaching. Now due to his continuing down this path, the “fruits” of this disorder has provided the tempter with other means to keep him from returning to full communion – 1) the adulation of his “fans” which confirm him in his ever increasing recklessness and extreme accusations regarding Pope Francis and the so called “Vatican 2 church” 2) the financial rewards he is reaping from #1 which he may be increasingly dependent upon at this point, which will also be an obstacle to his turning around – he likely will lose a great deal of this “treasure”. I don’t know what his day job was before he had these “patrons” and “students”, but others have estimated the amount of money coming in and he may have been able to quit his day job. So pray for him – as this will be a huge obstacle the tempter will always be reminding him of in the back of his mind.
This is very good. Particularly this point which may be important for those influenced by Taylor Marshall and others (1P5 etc):
“Francis did not deny the Communion of the saints itself. The controversy is over the extent of that Communion. One might disagree with Francis’ position, without sin or heresy. And Francis could err to a limited extent, in this or another non-infallible teaching, without grave error or heresy. So while I find nothing wrong with the teaching of Francis on this topic, I also think Francis could possibly err to a limited extent on the topic without being a heretic.”
Like you , I don’t think he taught something contrary to the faith if we just charitably interpret his words – charity in this case assuming he intended nothing contrary to the faith. And thus your distinction that an apostate is in one sense not in the communion of saints and in another sense they are – i.e. still have the sacramental character of baptism imprinted on their soul and thus have an ongoing disposition towards returning to the faith (and repentance). In this limited way, they still have a connection to the communion of saints. I don’t think that Pius II would disagree – he simply had no reason to get into that rather nuanced distinction. He rather sound the clear warning and there was nothing wrong with that (I think we need more of that).
As for interpreting Pope Francis charitably, we aren’t doing him a “favor” when we do so. It is our duty to due so. That is another thing the papal accusers have lost sight of due to their disordered frustration with Pope Francis mode of teaching (I also get frustrated with him at times, but I remind myself to be challenged by his magisterial teaching and dispose myself to be taught by it).
Very nice. Thanks, Todd.
Is Taylor Marshall automatically excommunicated for leading others astray and against the Pope and being opening schismatic?
Public formal schism carries the penalty of automatic excommunication. It is certainly public formal schism to declare that the Pope is a heretic who has been automatically removed from his office by God, as Taylor Marshall has claimed. So, unfortunately, he is a schismatic who should be considered cut off from formal membership in the Church.