Some People object when the Pope speaks extemporaneously

This is a common complaint about Pope Francis, that he often speaks to the press or to groups of persons spontaneously. He sometimes departs from his prepared remarks in speeches. He speaks his mind to many persons, in addition to issuing decisions on doctrine or discipline in documents.

The persons who object to this behavior are largely those Catholics who make ample use of the internet to spread the Gospel, or at least to spread their own version of the Gospel. They speak extemporaneously very often online. And they find it very disturbing when the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, contradicts them in his extemporaneous remarks. When their understanding and that of the Roman Pontiff disagrees, they assume they are right and he must be wrong. I have seen this assumption play out innumerable times on the internet, and it is clearly the error of pride. But such persons would not complain if the Pope’s remarks supported their own version of Catholicism. They object because they present themselves as faithful Catholics with a good understanding of the Faith. But it wounds their pride when the words of the Pope contradict that understanding.

Now it is true that a Pope is not exercising the Keys of Peter when he makes extemporaneous remarks; it is not an act of the Magisterium. On the other hand, it is possible for Peter and his successors to teach authoritatively or even infallibly by the spoken word. Jesus did so, and each Pope is the Vicar of Jesus Christ. But Popes seem to be clear that their extemporaneous remarks are not binding acts of even the non-infallible Magisterium.

Even so, who is more likely to be right when you and the Pope disagree in your respective opinions? The Pope is more likely to be right. If you think you are more Catholic than the Pope, that is pride. If you think you understand the Faith better than the person who God chose as the Roman Pontiff, that is pride. All the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints followed each Roman Pontiff. It is true that Paul corrected Peter, but Peter was not exercising the Keys given to Him by Christ; he was merely acting as a private person (regarding with whom he might take a meal). Paul never contradicted the teaching of Peter, nor his decisions on discipline.

So it is hypocritical when Catholics, who themselves speak extemporaneously on the internet and in remarks to the press, complain that the Pope does the same think. They have many times said publicly that the Pope should stop speaking extemporaneously. What should the Pope say to them? “You first.”

Some of these persons have attained notoriety and a large following. And they teach the version of Catholicism found in their own minds, hearts, and lives. That is all well and good, if you are Jesus the Lord. But fallen sinners often err in their own understanding of the Faith. These errors are much less harmful if the Catholic who errs is willing to be corrected by the Pope, the Bishops, and the Ecumenical Councils. But when someone presents themselves to a large following as a teacher of Catholicism, sometimes they fall into the sin of pride. They begin to imagine that they should judge Popes and Councils, and that their own understanding of Catholicism cannot err gravely. They begin to condemn any Pope, Bishop, or Ecumenical Council whose teaching is contrary to their own understanding. Such persons have departed from the Catholic Christian Faith. Only God is above the Pope, the body of Bishops, and the Ecumenical Councils. Only Jesus is the eternal Head and Rock of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. When these persons judge and condemn Popes, the body of Bishops, and Ecumenical Councils, they separate themselves from the true Church by an act of extreme pride, as well as by formal schism and formal heresy.

How does this happen? Some of these persons have attained notoriety and a large following, so much so that these followers will believe their chosen leader more than the Church Herself. This happens with some priests, with some lay leaders, and with a few isolated Bishops. They replace the authority of the Church with their own pretended authority, the doctrine of the Church with their own ideas, the discipline of the Church with whatever they prefer instead. Some traditionalists have departed from the Church in this manner; they no longer accept anything the Church decides on doctrine or discipline, unless it agrees with the ideas of their own subculture and its leaders. Some conservatives have also departed in the same manner. And the same can be said for some liberal Catholics, though for now God is testing conservatives in particular, to see if they are more faithful to Christ Jesus and His Church, or to their own ideas, or to their favorite subculture.

So these pride-filled persons no longer believe what the Church teaches based on faith. They reject Pope Francis; they say “recognize and resist”. They oppose the Roman Pontiff at every turn. They are absolutely convinced by their own pride that their understanding of Catholicism cannot err gravely, and that any Pope or Council that disagrees must have erred.

Pride goeth before a fall, and before schism and heresy.

This prideful error reaches a stunning height in certain persons, who proclaim that the Second Vatican Council went astray from the true Faith, as did the subsequent Popes. They accuse Pope Francis of heresy, apostasy, and idolatry. They accuse the Church Herself of being a “pornocracy” (and they claim that we are now in the third pornocracy in Church history). They review the teachings and decisions of many past Popes and accuse them of grave errors and grave failings of faith also. And they call the teaching of the First Vatican Council, in the obvious sense, a false spirit of Vatican I. Then they go on at great length opining, as if infallibly, on many matters of doctrine and discipline, with no regard for the decisions of the Church on the same subjects. Their pride seems to have no limits. No trace of the infused virtue of faith shows itself in their words and behavior. And those who do not have faith, also do not have love and hope. Now I am sure that some of them are merely very lost in their understanding, and might still have love, faith, and hope. But when someone commits objectively grave sins against the Church and the Faith, leading astray many souls, the fall under the judgment of Jesus, who condemned those who lead little ones astray.

{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!

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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1 Response to Some People object when the Pope speaks extemporaneously

  1. Mark Balnaves says:

    With due respect to Ronald, it is also what is *not said* that can be of concern to Catholics. I am not sure this has anything to do with attitudes towards the Holy Father. The prime example is President Biden, the U.S. President, and his, President Biden’s, formal, publicly stated, support for abortion. The Holy Father has been publicly silent on the fact that President Biden attends Communion but calls those who criticise this situation as “political”. President Biden recently went further and told a news presser that the Holy Father supports tax-funded abortion (references can be provided). I agree with Ronald on the issues he raises, but whether or not the Holy Father said things or not, or President Biden is right or not, there is ambiguity and confusion. For those of us who teach Catechism classes to 14 year olds (Australia) it is within their ability to get news reports and give them to me, one set showing Bishops in the U.S. banning Nancy Pelosi, a U.S. public official, from Communion and another set showing President Biden free of restrictions. Catholic parents and students turning to the Holy Father to support their own, positive views, on abortion, is new to me. From my point of view, therefore, it would be helpful for the Holy Father to say, “President Biden should not attend Communion if he publicly supports abortion”. “The Holy See does not support tax funded abortion”. For my Asian and African Catholic friends this is not needed, because that is what they will say on His Holiness’s behalf. For my Western Catholic friends, most definitely. Mark

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