Pope Francis in the Philippines (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
papalotry |pāpǝlätrē|: the belief or stance that everything the Pope says or does is without error.
I’VE been getting bagfuls of letters, very concerned letters, since the Synod on the Family began in Rome last year. That stream of worry didn’t let up the past few weeks as the closing sessions began to wrap up. At the center of these letters were consistent fears regarding the words and actions, or lack thereof, of his Holiness Pope Francis. And so, I did what any ex-news reporter would do: go to the sources. And without fail, ninety-nine percent of the time, I found that the links people sent me with heinous charges against the Holy Father were due to:
- words of the Holy Father taken out of context;
- incomplete phrases extracted from homilies, interviews, etc. by the secular media;
- quotes that were not compared to earlier statements and teachings of the Pontiff;
- Christian fundamentalist sources that, relying on dubious prophecy, theology, and bias, immediately paint the Pope as a false prophet or heretic;
- Catholic sources that have bought into heretical prophecy;
- a lack of proper discernment and theology on prophecy and private revelation; cf. Prophecy Properly Understood
- poor theology of the papacy and Christ’s Petrine promises. cf. Jesus, the Wise Builder
And so, I have written time and again to explain and qualify the Pope’s words, to point out the errors in the mainstream media, the errors in theology, and even the false presumptions and paranoia in the Catholic media. I simply waited for the transcripts, homilies, published apostolic exhortations or encyclicals, read them cover to cover in their proper context, and responded. As I said, ninety-nine percent of the time, the interpretation of the reader was wrong for the reasons above. Still, I received this letter yesterday from a man purporting to be a faithful Catholic:
Let me make this simple for you. Bergoglio was elected by demons. Yes, the Church will survive, thanks be to God, and not you. Bergoglio was elected by demons. They attempt to subvert the Church by attacking the Family, and promoting every sort of illicit, however popular, sexual relationship. Are you stupid? Stop it—you are going astray. In the name of Jesus, stop your obstinance.
While most readers have been far more charitable, I have been accused more than once of papalotry, of being blind, of not listening to my conscience, of being… stupid. But, as I wrote this time last year, many of these people are acting on a Spirit of Suspicion. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what the Pope says: if he says nothing, he is therefore complicit with heresy; if he defends truth, then he is lying. It’s both sad and funny how these souls, in defense of orthodoxy, transgress the very heart of the Gospel—which is to love your enemy—by spewing the most astonishing venom toward the Pope.
Still, with the closing remarks of the Synod for October, 2015, Pope Francis has once again demonstrated his orthodoxy. But I doubt it will make a difference with those who believe that the Pope is best friends with the Antichrist.
But before I speak about this past year’s Synod, I feel it is necessary to repeat these crucial points:
- A pope is only infallible when he is pronouncing ex cathedra, that is, defining a dogma that the Church has always held as true.
- Pope Francis has not made any pronouncements ex cathedra.
- Francis has, on more than one occasion, made ad lib remarks that have required further qualification and context.
- Francis has not changed a single letter of a single doctrine.
- Francis has, on several occasions, stressed the imperative of fidelity to Sacred Tradition.
- Francis has boldly waded into matters of climate science, immigration, and other fields that one may safely disagree with when they are out of the Church’s divinely appointed jurisdiction of “faith and morals.”
- Being pope does not mean the man is not a sinner nor does it
make him, by default, a strong leader, a great communicator or even a good shepherd. The history of the Church is pocked by pontiffs who were in fact scandalous. Peter, thus, is both the rock of the Church… and sometimes a stumbling stone. An “anti-pope” is someone who has not been canonically elected to the papacy, or who has taken over the papacy by force.
- Pope Francis is validly elected, and therefore holds the keys to the papacy, which Emeritus Pope Benedict resigned. Pope Francis is not an anti-pope.
Last, it is necessary to repeat the teachings of the Catechism regarding the ordinary exercise of the Magisterium, which is the teaching authority of the Church:
Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 892
THE SYNOD OF SATAN?
I would describe it as “panic”—the stream of news stories, reports, and conjecture that has issued forth from the media during both last year’s and this October’s Synod on the Family. Don’t get me wrong: some of the proposals put forth by certain Cardinals and bishops were nothing short of heresy. But the panic ensued because Pope Francis “hasn’t said a word.”
But he did speak—and here is the part that has me absolutely baffled as to why so many Catholics have not paid attention to this. From the very beginning, Pope Francis declared that the Synod was to be open and frank:
…it is necessary to say all that, in the Lord, one feels the need to say: without polite deference, without hesitation. —Greeting of Pope Francis to the Synod Fathers, October 6th, 2014; vatican.va
Typical of both a Jesuit and a Latin American, Francis urged the Synod participants to lay it all out:
Let no one say: “I cannot say this, they will think this or this of me…”. It is necessary to say with parrhesia all that one feels.
—parrhesia, meaning “boldly” or “candidly.” He added:
And do so with great tranquility and peace, so that the Synod may always unfold cum Petro et sub Petro, and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and a safeguard of the faith. —Ibid.
That is, “with Peter and under Peter” to ensure that, in the end, Sacred Tradition will be upheld. Furthermore, the Pope said that he would not speak until the end of the Synod until all the prelates had made their presentations. This speech was repeated again, for the most part, at the beginning of the 2015 sessions.
And so, what happened?
The Synod Fathers spoke boldly and candidly, leaving nothing off the table, and the Pope said nothing until the end. That is, they followed the instructions set forth.
And yet, both those in the Catholic media, and many who wrote me, were utterly panicked that prelates were doing exactly what the Pope told them to do.
I’m sorry, am I missing something here?
Besides, Francis clearly declared:
…the Synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. —October 5th, 2015; radiovatican.va
Now, I am not diminishing in any way the gravity of some of the proposals that some Cardinals and bishops made that indicate the presence of not only apostasy in the Church, but even the possibility of a coming schism. cf. Sorrow of Sorrows It’s unfortunate that these proposals were made public, since the reporting gives the impression that these are official positions. As Robert Moynihan pointed out,
…there have been “two Synods” — the Synod itself, and the Synod of the media. —Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan, October 23rd, 2015, “From Rome to Russia”
But we’re not talking about modernists or heretics; the issue here is the Pope, and the allegation that he is a conspirator with them.
And so, what did the Pope say after everyone else had their say? After the first meetings last year, the Holy Father not only corrected both “liberal” and “conservative” bishops for views that were unhealthy, (see The Five Corrections), Francis made it unequivocal where he stood in a rather stunning speech that garnered a standing ovation from the Cardinals:
The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church”. —POPE FRANCIS, closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
And then, at the close of the 2015 sessions, Pope Francis asserted that the Synod was not intended to find ‘exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family,’ but to see them ‘in the light of the Faith.’ And he affirmed this Faith once again, as he has on numerous occasions:
[The Synod] was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life… apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium… and without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only that “all be saved” (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). —insidethevatican.com, quoted from Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan, October 24th, 2015
While I cannot quote his entire speech, which is well worth reading, the Pope echoed his predecessors by stressing the heart of the Gospel, which is to make known the love and mercy of Christ.
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:37-54)… The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50). —Ibid.
This is precisely what Jesus said:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
TRUSTING JESUS… OBEYING THE POPE
Brothers and sisters, it is not papalotry to defend the office of Peter, much less defend the holder of that office, particularly when he is falsely accused. Neither is it wrong for those of you, alert to the swelling apostasy and false prophets among us, to wonder whether the Holy Father’s approach is the right one. However, more than proper decorum, more than simple courtesy, it is imperative that we strive to preserve the unity of the Church cf. Eph 4:3 by not only praying for the Pope and all clergy, but by obeying and respecting them even when we may not like their pastoral approach or personality.
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17)
For example, one may not agree with Francis’ embrace of “global warming”—a science fraught with contradictions, fraud and outright anti-human agendas. But then, there is no guarantee of orthodoxy for the Pope when he pronounces on matters outside of the deposit of faith and morals—whether it is on climate change or who is going to win the World Cup. Nonetheless, one should continue to pray that God will increase in him wisdom and grace so that he may be a faithful shepherd to Christ’s flock. But too many today are looking for absolutely any sentence, photograph, hand gesture, or comment that will “prove” that the Pope is another Judas.
There is papalotry… and then there is zealotry: when one thinks he is more Catholic than the Pope.
The Lord publicly proclaimed it: ‘I’, he said, ‘have prayed for you Peter that your faith may not fail, and you, once being converted, must confirm your brothers’… For this reason the Faith of the Apostolic seat has never failed even during turbulent times, but has remained whole and unharmed, so that the privilege of Peter continues to be unshaken. —POPE INNOCENT III (1198-1216), Can a Pope Become a Heretic? by Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, Oct. 20th, 2014
Thanks for your love, prayers, and support!
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