There is a report that some daft archbishop somewhere has suggested that since the Pope has the power of the keys, perhaps he can dissolve valid consummated sacramental marriages. But, however hard these extreme ultrapapalist mavericks struggle to portray the Holy Father as some sort of magically cunctipotent wizard or godlike superman or supremely effective alchymist, the fact remains that only a nutter, surely, really believes the Pope could do anything. He can't, for example, in my humble and respectful but cynical and decided opinion, turn the Alps into cheese or add the Da Vinci Code to the Bible or beam Obama up to Mars or grow a tail or turn Walter Kasper into the Dalai Lama or abolish the Sacrament of Baptism or suppress Easter or turn a pumpkin into a carriage or abolish bodily death or transsubstantiate a consecrated Host into bread or dissolve a Christian marriage or erase the character of Holy Order or transmute lead into gold.
I repeat, underneath, a previous post about what the Pope is for and is supposed to do and does have the grace of the Holy Spirit guaranteed to him to accomplish. You might have thought that someone, such as a seminary lecturer, would have broken this somewhat ancient news, dating from at least 1870, to wannabe archbishops.
Doellinger, poor old thing, was excommunicated because he felt unable to accept Vatican I. Why do we now have an open season ...
"The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter so that by His revelation they might disclose new teaching, but that, by His assistance, they might devoutly guard, and faithfully set forth, the Revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith."
A very sensible reader asked me where this came from. I am happy to oblige. I can reveal that it came from the Decree of the First Vatican Council, on Papal Infallibility. It is a dogma which every Catholic, from the Pope downwards or upwards or sideways, is obliged to believe. Here's some more splendid stuff from the same source:
"So this gift of truth and of unfailing faith is divinely invested in Peter and his successors in this chair, so that they may discharge their lofty job [munere] in order that the whole flock of Christ, turned away through them [the popes] from the poisonous food of heresy, may be nourished by the food of heavenly teaching so that, all occasion of schism being done away, the whole Church may be kept as one and, resting upon its foundation, may stand firm against the Gates of Hell."
I will oblige further with a fine quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman:
"It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift."
And, finally, with a neatly incisive passage from Joseph Ratzinger:
"After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. ... In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... it is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition."
Our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis is most truly and visibly pope when you see him formally and officially condemning doctrinal error; when from the Chair of S Peter he carefully and lucidly puts into words what some erroneous innovation consists of, and then, in effect, declares "If anyone says that, let him be anathema". Or "This judgement is to be definitively held by all the faithful."
THAT is the job ['munus' in that Decree of Vatican I] that he's really there for: keeping the Church in unity by banishing the 'poisonous food' of heresy.
God bless him; may God in due time make of him a worthy successor to his great predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. As Benedict prayed for himself at his own inauguration, so may Pope Francis, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, discover the strength to resist the Wolves. He will not find this easy; but God does provide for our human weakness whatever graces are needful for the job we are, each of us, put here to fulfill. Pope Francis so very badly needs our prayers.