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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Key Considerations Often Omitted from the Debates on the Crisis of the Papacy

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Key Considerations Often Omitted from the Debates on the Crisis of the Papacy

For several decades, many of the most ardent and capable defenders of Catholic tradition have debated the question of how to respond to a heretical pope. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, for instance, had this to say about the reign of Paul VI:

“Perhaps one day, in thirty or forty years, a meeting of cardinals gathered together by a future Pope will study and judge the reign of Paul VI, perhaps they will say that there were things that ought to have been clearly obvious to people at the time, statements of the Pope that were totally against Tradition. At the moment, I prefer to consider the man on the chair of Peter as the Pope; and if one day we discover for certain that the Pope was not the Pope, at least I will have done my duty.”

In all of these years of the best men in the Church (such as Archbishop Lefebvre) thinking about this issue, none have been able to set forth unambiguous Church teaching that definitively resolves the relevant questions of how to respond to a catastrophe like the one we face with Francis. If Archbishop Lefebvre had lived to see Francis, perhaps he would have concluded that it is “clearly obvious” that Bergoglio is not the pope. Even if he had determined that Francis was not the pope, however, would he and the remaining faithful bishops and cardinals have been able to take action to resolve the matter?

Good Catholics care about these questions because they are of immense importance, not only to the Catholic Church but to the entire world. Something would be amiss if our faithful shepherds were indifferent about the question of how to respond to Francis. At present, it appears that our few remaining faithful cardinals and bishops have prioritized the question but understandably disagree on what path to take. As such, it seems prudent to consider those matters upon which all faithful Catholics should agree:

God is Permitting the Crisis. We know with absolute certainty that God is permitting this crisis for a reason. In all of salvation history, we find that God permits such evils to correct our ways and lead us to Him. As a general matter, we should not expect God to remedy the crisis without any effort on our part to cooperate with His grace to extirpate the faults that gave rise to the crisis. With this foundational reality in mind, we must consider what has caused the crisis and whether or not we have addressed the cause of the crisis.

Francis is a Symptom of a Crisis that Has Existed Since the Council. Although one could reasonably argue that Francis is significantly worse than his predecessors, the fact remains that he is a predictable fruit of the rotten tree that was Vatican II. Nonetheless, many of the most vociferous opponents of Francis will vehemently defend the Council and the “saintly” popes who advanced it. These Catholics who think our bishops should declare that Francis is not the pope because he promotes too much error are often quite comfortable with the errors of Vatican II. But why would God rescue us from the deadly fruit (Francis) if we are determined to keep defending the bad tree that produces the fruit (Vatican II)?

We Already Have Many of the Answers We Would Want from a Good Pope. We can add to this consideration the fact that the pre-Vatican II popes clearly opposed the novelties of Vatican II. Why would God give us a good pope to clean up the mess caused by our refusal to pay attention to the pre-Vatican II popes He gave us to help prevent the mess? If we are serious about wanting a good pope, does it not seem prudent to glean all we can from the popes who warned us not to imbibe the poisons offered by the Liberals and Modernists?

The Good Shepherds Can Act. As we know from the spiritual life, God often rewards us for taking the first steps toward Him — we do not need to always see a clear path to begin walking in the right direction. For example, nothing prevents the good shepherds from explaining to their flocks that Pius XI’s encyclical on religious unity, Mortalium Animos, teaches us so much about what is wrong with the Synod on Synodality. Nothing prevents them from teaching the truths of St. Pius X’s Oath Against Modernism. Not only do they have the holy wisdom of the pre-Vatican II popes, they now have the irrefutable demonstration that these popes were correct in warning that great harm would result from acceptance of the errors against which they warned.

We Should Make Reparation. In addition to leading us to understand the Catholic truths opposed to the errors promulgated by Francis, our good shepherds could lead us to make reparation for the grave offenses committed against God for so many decades. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange gave the following guidance on how we must turn to Jesus and His Blessed Mother when faced with evils like those we face today:

“Whenever some major and deeply entrenched evil, such as Freemasonry and its effects, must be fought, whenever evil manifests itself as truly satanic, then to appease God’s justice spiritual action no less profound must come forward under immediate direction of her whom God set up as the terror of demons, Mary . . . Every apostle, even every fervent soul within the Church militant, should take some part in the contemplative life and its struggle, making renewed offering of self daily at Holy Mass with increasing devotion to the consecration, the act of the Savior’s eternal priesthood, and continuing the same offering throughout the course of the day in difficulties and trials and in the more and more perfect accomplishment of the duties of our state of life. When we accept supernaturally the daily trials sent to us by Providence, we should also ask God not for crosses but for the love of the crosses which He Himself has laid upon us . . . that we may be purified and become instruments of salvation for our neighbor.” (quoted in Archbishop Lefebvre’s The Spiritual Life)

In all of our fighting for the Faith we can sometimes lose sight of the reality that God has been offended by the grave sins committed by those who have spread so many errors in the Church.  If today we do not see a clear way forward, perhaps it is the case that God would intervene to resolve the crisis if we were to make adequate reparation. Can we imagine any of the saints who would not advocate for reparation as the primary means of appeasing God’s justice for the current crisis?

God is Good. In all of this, God is good and will not abandon Catholics who truly wish to do His will. Our Lord did not establish the papacy to deceive or torture Christians. In The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, Fr. Matthias Gaudron cites Cardinal Thomas Cajetan’s commentary on the Summa Theologica:

"If someone, for a reasonable motive, holds the person of the pope in suspicion and refuses his presence and even his jurisdiction, he does not commit the delict of schism, nor any other whatsoever, provided that he be ready to accept the pope were he not held in suspicion. It goes without saying that one has the right to avoid what is harmful and to ward off dangers. In fact, it may happen that the pope could govern tyrannically, and that is all the easier as he is the more powerful and does not fear any punishment from anyone on earth.”

By all appearances, Francis is actively trying to destroy the Catholic Church. This is a reasonable motive to “hold the person of the pope in suspicion.” Our good shepherds could do more to make this clear so as to keep souls attached to immutable truth and alleviate the anxiety and confusion caused by the current crisis. God will not damn us solely because we refuse to follow the man who is trying to lead us to hell. Anyone who says otherwise is misleading souls.

Francis is a Key Component of the Church’s Passion. Finally, we must retain a supernatural appreciation for the current crisis. God is good, but also omniscient and omnipotent. He can end the crisis at any moment, just as He could have ended His Passion at any moment. He permits this for a reason. We must cooperate with God’s grace to do all we can to combat the evils in the Church; and on that front we know that the bishops and cardinals have special graces of state. Once we have done all we can, though, our task is to trust God and hope for His intervention. If we do all we can to be docile to His will, we may find that He soon gives us the saints necessary to put an end to this crisis.

God knows better than we do what Francis is. God is offended more than we are by what Francis does. May God grant all of us the graces we need to do all in our power to faithfully serve Him in this Passion of the Mystical Body of Christ. Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!

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Last modified on Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.