19 February 2015


Unless the interview published yesterday and given in an English translation on Rorate today is totally mendacious, the fact that such a thing can happen constitutes, in itself, a very grave scandal. The involvement in this scandal of the current Bishop of Rome makes it a great deal  worse. The scandal will only be slightly attenuated if Lombardi is wheeled out to give a full explanation.

It is not surprising that we have among many people a great fear that the Holy Father will oversee either a reversal of Christ's and the Church's teaching that Marriage is indissoluble, or else a relaxing of the principle that unrepented adultery, like any other unrepented grave sin, has to be seen as a factor excluding those concerned from the Lord's Table. If such a thing were to happen, it would be a reversal of the teaching of S John Paul II in Familiaris consortio and of Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis; and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Jorge Bergoglio, as a member of the Catholic Church, is just as much subject to the Church's Magisterium as you are and I am.


SSPX  has a wise long-term policy of excluding sedevacantists from its ranks.

Bishop Williamson, on his Eleison Blog, has repeatedly demonstrated the absurdity of Sedevacantism.

Sedevacantism is pure nonsense.

Catholic theologians are agreed that a heretic cannot be pope, but have differed about how this principle is to be given practical effect. Some have argued that a heretical pontiff ceases to be pope when he adopts his heresy, but that a direct intervention by the Church is needed to certify that the See of S Peter has thus become vacant. Others judge that the heretical pope does not ipso facto cease to be pope, but has to be deposed by a direct intervention by the Church. In either case, this is not an area for Do-it-yourself experts on heresy such as you and me. Sedevacantism is not a personal fashion statement. It is, as far as you and I are concerned, most definitely not an option. 

Let's be honest ... there have been in history occasions when Roman Pontiffs have wobbled in their adherence to orthodoxy .... Liberius ... Honorius ...  In these circumstances, there does have to be a duty to resist that wobble and to decline to give effect to edicts purporting to enact the wobble. But here is the Red Line: at Vatican I, a great deal of historical work was done to ensure that the Decree on the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff was so worded as not to be vulnerable on such historical grounds. It is watertight. We can be sure that whatever a pope says ex cathedra is protected by the Holy Spirit from any error (but even here, we are not obliged to believe either that the decree concerned was necessary, or that it expressed things in the best of all possible ways). But it is not unknown for a papal decree which falls short of the ex cathedra status to be flawed. Of course, that cannot be a good position for the Church to be in. But it is not some sort of Ultimate Catastrophe! The Church survived Honorius! And so did the Papacy! And, to the end of time, both will survive!

It is very important to remember the limits of the Papal Magisterium. This is best done by a careful reading of the decree Pastor aeternus of Vatican I. That is the touchstone. That is what Christ's One Holy Catholic Church teaches. Do not exaggerate, overestimate, what a pope can do, and then, if some pope or other goes a bit off the rails, or you think he has, or your friend next door tells you that he has, start running around in a frantic fear that you have "lost your faith". The pope is not an Absolute Monarch. B Pius IX made this very explicitly clear. Benedict XVI taught this with determined vigour. This is serious! The Pope is not some God-on-Earth who can never make a mistake! Not a few of them have made quite a lot. There is no reason why the same should not be true in the future. Learn not to fret! Learn to live with it, as so many Catholics in previous generations have done! And if you're the sort of person who can laugh at it, laugh. In any case, sit yourself down comfortably, pour yourself a drink ... and learn the following off by heart:

"The Holy Spirit was not promised to Peter's successors so that they should, by His revelation, disclose new teaching, but so that, with His assistance, they should devoutly guard and faithfully set forth the revelation handed down through the apostles, the Deposit of Faith."

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