In short, Pope Bergoglio is literally a font of error whose immense output of heterodoxy and plain nonsense would fill a book, as shown by this online catalogue of Bergoglianisms maintained by anonymous diocesan priests and constantly updated to reflect the latest addition to the ever-growing canon of Bergoglian folly.
The confused Catholic might ask himself: How is such a Pope possible? What of Our Lord’s promise concerning the indefectibility of the Church? The answer to these questions is clear to any Catholic who understands the nature of the Petrine office and its relation to ecclesial indefectibility. In fact, the answer was provided to the Church, providentially enough, by Benedict XVI at the very outset of his mysteriously terminated pontificate:
The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: The Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. 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 Pope is a servant. But he is not a servant of “the people of God” in the demagogic Bergoglian sense, which is merely a disguise for the abuse of power by one who is no servant at all but rather behaves precisely as “an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law.” The Pope, rather, is a servant of the Truth that has been handed down to him for safeguarding and transmission intact to his successors as the deposit of faith. The Petrine office is thus essentially conservative, not creative. As the First Vatican Council famously decreed in the very process of defining the strict limits of papal infallibility:
For the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
That is, the conservative function of the papacy is custodial. The Pope has custody of the deposit of faith, and his primary duty is to guard that deposit against “every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.” Thus even John Paul II, whose traditional teaching on marriage and family Bergoglio labors ceaselessly to overthrow, declared in promulgating his new Catechism that “Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord has entrusted to his Church and which she fulfils in every age.”
What, then, of Pope Bergoglio, who clearly has little or no interest in confining himself to guarding the fidei depositum? Quite the contrary, speaking of his sham Synod on the Family, which was nothing more than a vehicle for the preconceived disaster that is Amoris Laetitia (AL), Bergoglio explicitly rejected the concept of the Pope as faithful guardian of Tradition, declaring that the Synod was “an ecclesial expression” by “the Church that questions herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor just something to safeguard, but is a living spring from which the Church drinks, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate the deposit of life [emphasis in original].”
By introducing the idea of a “Church that questions itself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith”—as if the Church qua Church could ever be unfaithful to the fidei depositum— and by sophistically pitting the deposit of faith against a merely rhetorical “deposit of life,” Bergoglio audaciously subjects the whole of Catholic doctrine and related discipline to his questions, which are merely the reflections of his own liberal Jesuit mentality. And by “living spring from which the Church drinks” Bergoglio means, of course, his own ideas, which he has promoted relentlessly from the moment of his election. The synodal sham was merely the means by which his ideas were assigned to what he quite ludicrously expected the faithful to believe was “a space for the action of the Holy Spirit,” wherein the bishops could “put on apostolic courage,” meaning the “courage to live life and not to make a museum of memories of our Christian life.” Once again, the sophistical pitting of doctrine against “life.”
When the bishops failed to “put on apostolic courage,” however, but rather insisted on defending the “museum of memories of our Christian life” by rejecting his attempt to ram Holy Communion for public adulterers down their throats, Bergoglio simply promulgated his own ideas anyway via AL, while continuing to pretend that his errant novelties in moral theology were an inspiration of the Holy Ghost working through the Synod Fathers. As if anyone could seriously believe such a blatant lie.
Pope Bergoglio, then, is a Pope who simply refuses “to 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.” But since the Pope, no less than any other human, possesses free will, such a refusal is possible. The charism of papal infallibility is limited to immunity from error when the Pope teaches what the Church has constantly taught or formally defines a matter of faith and morals that has already been handed down to him in the deposit of faith as transmitted by the ordinary Magisterium. But not even when he infallibly defines a dogma does a Pope do anything more or less than to “religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”
The Holy Ghost will not, however, force a Pope to perform his proper conservative function should he refuse to do so. Whether Pope Bergoglio’s refusal to conform himself to the proper function of the Petrine office makes him a formal heretic is not a question we have the competence or the knowledge to decide, for only God can know the subjective state of soul that determines the difference between material and formal heresy and there is no forum in which the faithful can compel a wayward Pope to reveal his subjective intentions.
This much, however, is certain: If a Pope insists on advancing the novelties of his own thinking, we can have no assurance whatever that his teaching is reliable. Quite the contrary, it may well be that virtually everything he says and does according to his own lights is wrong. Such a Pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
What then of the Church’s indefectibility? Did not Our Lord declare by His divine authority “Thou art Peter (Kepha), and upon this rock (kepha) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)? Is not the papal office the foundation of the indefectible Church? Yes, of course it is, but that foundation rests in turn on Christ Himself and, to recall the words of Pope Benedict, “obedience to Christ and to his Word.”
Again, the question comes down to the free will of a Pope respecting obedience to Christ and His word. The Magisterium itself has never declared that a Pope is incapable of such disobedience. There is at most a pious presumption that a Pope would never become an enemy of orthodoxy. But no less than Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, wrote matter-of-factly about the right to resist a Pope who is “invading souls… and much more if he should endeavor to destroy the Church.” [De Controversiis on the Roman Pontiff, trans. Ryan Grant (Mediatrix Press: 2015), Book II, Chapter 29, p. 303].
That a particular Pope consistently acts in a manner contrary to his foundational role as the conservator and defender of orthodoxy does not mean that the papacy as such has failed in that function, contrary to the promises of Christ. It means only that a particular Pope has defected from his duty, even though the Holy Ghost will prevent him from formally defining theological error and imposing it upon the Church. And it is either the formal dogmatic definition of a doctrine always held by the Church, by way of the extraordinary Magisterium, or the repetition of that doctrine without a dogmatic definition, by way of the ordinary Magisterium, that comprise the limited object of papal infallibility. (I do not address the common theological opinion that the object of infallibility includes universal disciplinary mandates, versus mere permissions).
When a Pope does not act within that limited scope, no teaching of the Magisterium denies that whatever can go wrong will go wrong with a given pontificate. Literally everything that can go wrong with a pontificate has gone wrong all at once with Pope Bergoglio. His pontificate is thus an historic demonstration of every way in which it is possible for a Pope to fail in his duty to “confirm the brethren.” His governance of the Church represents what would have to be the ultimate intensification of the pursuit of novelty that more or less marks all of the post-Vatican II papacies. Unlike that of his immediate predecessors, his program is one of pure novelty, all of it operating outside of the charism of infallibility.
As Sandro Magister has just put it: “With Francis the Church has become an open construction site. Everything is in movement. Everything is fluid. There is no longer dogma that holds up. One can reexamine everything and act accordingly.” We are witness to the reality that Bellarmine considered only in theory: A Pope who would “endeavor to destroy the Church.” It is not for us to know how far God will allow Bergoglio to proceed with his hubristic madness, which, however, will inevitably be undone. For our part, resistance is the remedy, each of us according to his station.
Then again, it might behoove us to consider the outcome of an upcoming unprecedented academic conference in Paris, evidently convened to address this unprecedented papacy: Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenge. Also worthy of consideration in this regard is the view of the renowned canonist Ed Peters, who writes (in line with the opinion of Bellarmine) that “in the view of modern canonists from Wernz to Wrenn, however remote is the possibility of a pope actually falling into heresy and however difficult it might be to determine whether a pope has so fallen, such a catastrophe, Deus vetet [which God forbid], would result in the loss of papal office.”
Here, however, we can only watch and wait as history unfolds.
Catch Chris's regular column in the Print/E-edition of The Remnant