Conservative and Traditionalist Opposition to Pope Francis

Introduction

I wish to begin by emphasizing that many conservative and traditionalist Catholics have remained faithful to Pope Francis, Vatican II, and to the Church and the true Faith. But some others have fallen away.

I have been discussing Catholicism online since the mid-1990s, and have been publishing books on Catholicism since the late 1990s. For many years, I saw conservative Catholics say that they support the Pope and the Magisterium, with many calling themselves “100% faithful to the Magisterium” or similar expressions. Some conservatives would argue that the Pope can hardly err at all in what is non-infallible, and they multiplied the teachings considered by them to be infallible. But they also denigrated liberal Catholics, considering them to be necessarily “heterodox”. They took pride in being conservative, and often adopted conservative positions on socio-political issues, regardless of Church teaching. And many adopted the attitude that they were the defenders of orthodoxy. They set themselves up as the arbitrators of what is and is not orthodox, even on questions not settled by the Magisterium.

Reactions to Pope Francis

Then God tested conservative Catholics, by sending the Church the liberal and holy Pope Francis. Many conservative Catholics remained faithful to the Magisterium and this new Roman Pontiff. But some began to struggle. They had difficulty reconciling their own understanding of the Faith, which they had (inadvertently) dogmatized, with the teachings of Pope Francis because their own understanding was faulty. But they did not stand corrected by the Pope and the body of Bishops who followed, obeyed, and taught in unison with Pope Francis.

Many conservative Catholics had confused their own understanding of the Faith with the Teaching of the Church. They had confused conservatism with orthodoxy. And due to the influence that many conservative Catholics obtained by means of the internet, they had set themselves up as Teachers and Shepherds, without accepting the authority of the successor of Peter, and the successors of the other Apostles, the Bishops. They accrued to themselves, on the internet, their own virtual flocks, who supported a subculture within Catholicism which placed conservatism and/or traditionalism above the Pope and Bishops. This subculture was and is led by various speakers and authors, most of whom owe their outsized influence to the internet, not to the Church.

So, as time passed, early in the Pontificate of Pope Francis, they began to fall away. They turned from trying to reconcile the words of Pope Francis with their own faulty narrow understanding of the Faith, to arguing against Pope Francis with the tacit assumption that they, their supporters, and their subculture could not have erred. They developed an opposition to the Roman Pontiff which became more and more strident. They began to issue one online petition, letter, or other type of document after another, openly proclaiming that the Pope had erred gravely, and that their understanding of the Faith should prevail over his. And as time passed, these papal accusers progressed from criticism to accusations to formal opposition to the Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis.

But very few Bishops or Cardinals supported this growing opposition. The body of Bishops acknowledged the valid resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and the valid papacy of Pope Francis. The body of Bishops accepted the teachings of Pope Francis, and did not join this opposition. The body of Bishops did not join the papal accusers in claiming that Pope Francis was not the valid Pope, or that Pope Francis taught heresy, or that Pope Francis committed apostasy, heresy, or idolatry.

During this same period of time, the opponents of Pope Francis, whose accusations increased month by month and year by year, began to judge and condemn other Popes and various Ecumenical Councils. Having set themselves above Pope Francis, to judge and condemn him, they began to act as if they were above every Pope and Council, above the Magisterium, and above the Gospel. They had long held disdain for the Second Vatican Council. But now they openly rejected that Council, calling for it to be ignored, forgotten, corrected, or overturned. And next they progressed to rejecting the First Vatican Council, due to its definitive teachings on the authority and never-failing faith of the Roman Pontiff. They then dug into Church history, making lists of Popes who supposedly failed in faith or taught grave error under the Magisterium, so as to bolster their accusations against Pope Francis and also so as to bolster their continued pride-filled claim that they are right and the Church is wrong. Many rejected both Vatican I and II, and some rejected or called for a reevaluation or rejection of other Ecumenical Councils.

Please understand that, in the history of the Church, every group rejecting an Ecumenical Council has been judged by the Magisterium and by Church history to be schismatics and heretics. The faithful are always called to accept the authority of the Pope and the body of Bishops, as the successors to the Apostles who exercise the authority of Christ. And while decisions of discipline, other than dogmatic facts, can be changed by a subsequent Pope or Council, and non-infallible decisions of doctrine are non-irreformable, the faithful must accept those decisions as these are from the authority of Christ.

This loose-knit group of conservative and traditionalist Catholics disagreed among themselves on many points. Some resisted the authority of Pope Francis without accusing him of the worst failures of faith. Others fell into worse accusations, even accusing the Church Herself of being a “pornocracy” and of having been infiltrated and led by evil conspiracies, thereby denying the indefectibility of the Church and making Christ, who promised this indefectibility, seem to be a liar. This heterodoxy is often found among groups of heretics. Once they have rejected the authority of the Magisterium, exercised by the Pope and the body of Bishops, they lose the unity of the one true Faith, and are scattered with various ones following various schismatic and heretical self-appointed judges of doctrine and discipline.

While many conservative or traditionalist Catholics thereby fell away from the Church, many other conservative or traditionalist Catholics remained faithful. There remains in the Church today traditionalist Catholics who accept Pope Francis and Vatican II, and while they prefer the Latin Mass, they will attend a Novus Ordo Mass if a traditional Latin Mass is not available. They may be critical of Pope Francis, but they do not accuse him of grave errors or grave failings of faith. The same can be said for those conservative Catholics who are not within the traditionalist and Latin Mass subculture of the Church. Many have remained faithful; they do not reject Pope Francis, or the Ecumenical Councils, or the body of Bishops.

Publications

As the number of conservative and traditionalist Catholics opposing Pope Francis online grew in numbers, they began to gather themselves to certain schismatic and heretical leaders. These leaders were once orthodox (or seemingly so, as God may know), and often had either popular blogs, video blogs, or they led or often wrote for popular Catholic publications online. Some new Catholic online publications also rose up, proclaiming themselves to be faithful, but obstinately opposing Pope Francis. And due to the weak or failed faith in many conservative Catholics, support for these publications and websites grew. The authors of tracts accusing Pope Francis, other Popes, Vatican II and other Ecumenical Councils of grave errors gained many followers. Openly schismatic and heretical writings received approval from many readers and supporters. Online petitions and letters accusing Pope Francis of grave errors or grave failings of faith accrued many signatories, as well as much notoriety and approval in the Catholic online sphere of influence.

Those who accused Pope and Councils, the papal accusers, were solidified in their schism and heresies by receiving many supporters, much influence, as well as much financial support. They received power by rejecting the Magisterium, the Popes, the Ecumenical Councils, and the body of Bishops. And their pride grew as their faith weakened and perhaps failed completely in some cases. Yet many Catholics continued to consider these leaders of the schism and heresy as if they were the ones who were faithful. Many were led into grave sins, not only of schism and heresy, but also of malice toward the Vicar of Christ and the body of Bishops.

Some publications accuse the Pope, Councils, and Bishops on a weekly or near-daily basis. Other publications mix ordinary faithful articles with gravely erroneous ones, as if the editors of these other publications cannot distinguish between doctrine and heresy. And while it is a grave sin for any individual Catholic to fall into schism or heresy, even privately, leading the weak in faith among the flock of Jesus Christ into schism and heresy and away from the Church is an exceedingly grave sin.

[Matthew 18]
{18:1} In that hour, the disciples drew near to Jesus, saying, “Whom do you consider to be greater in the kingdom of heaven?”
{18:2} And Jesus, calling to himself a little child, placed him in their midst.
{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
{18:4} Therefore, whoever will have humbled himself like this little child, such a one is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
{18:5} And whoever shall accept one such little child in my name, accepts me.
{18:6} But whoever will have led astray one of these little ones, who trust in me, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be submerged in the depths of the sea.
{18:7} Woe to a world that leads people astray! Although it is necessary for temptations to arise, nevertheless: Woe to that man through whom temptation arises!

Yet these papal accusers, these leaders of a false version of Catholicism, who glory in their worldly success in openly opposing the Pope, remain unrepentant. Pride goes before a fall. Pope Francis has already corrected them many times. At some point in time, subsequent Popes will correct them, and an Ecumenical Council will correct them. May God himself correct them.

Beloved children of Christ, do not delve into every accusation against the Pope, Councils, Bishops, or the Church herself. Stand on faith, no matter what the claims against the true Faith may be. And do not listen to those who claim to correct the Church, as if they held the position of Christ as eternal head of the Church.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

This entry was posted in commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are moderated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.