When would we have to resist the Pope? Wherein Fr. Z Rants.

peter paul RiberaWhat do we do when legitimate authority gets something important wrong?

We respectfully resist legitimate authority.

Pope Francis does or doesn’t do, A, B or C. He doesn’t, for example, wear proper pontifical garb, as tradition and decorum require, in the proper moments. I think that is wrong. However, while this is important, I don’t think it is important enough to resist him. His not putting on this or that vestment is not enough to merit resistance.

However, what if Pope Francis were to say that the divorced and civilly remarried without declaration of nullity could be admitted to Holy Communion, without any other clarifications?

I have in mind a well-known text by Jesuit St. Robert Bellarmine (+1612), Doctor of the Church, in his work De Romano Pontifice:

“Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body, it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed.”

Do I think that Pope Francis would do something so grave as to merit resistance?  I don’t  think so.  I pray not.

His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke has given an interview to a French TV station. He was asked a question along these lines. The site of the SSPX has a translated partial transcript.  Excerpt on France TV Info:

Cardinal Burke: I cannot accept that Communion can be given to a person in an irregular union because it is adultery. On the question of people of the same sex, this has nothing to do with marriage. This is an affliction suffered by some people whereby they are attracted against nature sexually to people of the same sex.

Question: If perchance the pope will persist in this direction, what will you do?
Cardinal Burke: I shall resist, I can do nothing else. There is no doubt that it is a difficult time; this is clear, this is clear.

Question: Painful?
Cardinal Burke: Yes.

Question: Worrisome?
Cardinal Burke: Yes.

Question: In your opinion, can we say today that the Catholic Church as an institution is threatened?
Cardinal Burke: The Lord has assured us, as He has assured St. Peter in the Gospel, that the powers of evil will not prevail, “non praevalebunt” as we say in Latin, that the forces of evil will not have victory over the Church.

Question of the end: Is the Pope still your friend?
Cardinal Burke (with a smile): I would not want to make the pope an enemy for sure. That is fine for now. [from the context: “That is enough for this interview”].

It seems to me that Card. Burke’s response was correct and appropriate.  He didn’t say that that is what is going on now, that he is resisting the Pope now.  He was asked a hypothetical question that all Catholics should be able to answer.

This is not a new question and answers to the question are not new.  In Acts 5:29 Peter says, “We ought to obey God, rather than men.”   In Galatians 2:11 Paul says, “But when Cephas [Peter] was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” Through the centuries great Fathers and Doctors of the Church along with many prominent theologians have pondered the hypothetical situation of a Pope who goes off the rails and what the faithful ought to do in response.   They conclude that if even a Pope errs in some matter, they must be resisted for the sake of avoiding scandal, defending the Faith, and the salvation of souls.

So, in Card. Burke’s response, there is nothing terribly new.  He is merely stating what all Catholics ought to know and ought to do.

Should it happen, quod Deus avertat, that even the Holy Father try to change clear Catholic teaching founded in the clear words of Christ Himself or the clear teaching of the Magisterium rooted Scripture and Tradition, then the Catholic faithful would have to resist him in that matter.   For example, were a Pope to attempt to ordain a woman, he must be resisted.  Were a Pope to attempt to marry two men or approve of such a thing, he must be resisted.

However, I don’t believe that we will ever see such a situation.

I am with Benedict XVI on this one.  Before Joseph Ratzinger was elevated to the See of Peter he explained something about the working of the Holy Spirit in the election of a Pope.  I, like Ratzinger, do not think that the Holy Spirit directly chooses the Pope, just as I do not think that the Holy Spirit dictated word for word the Scriptures which we hold to be divinely inspired.  God leaves a lot of room for human insights and will.  What the Holy Spirit does do, however, is ensure in His providence, that the Pope who is elected isn’t going to be a total disaster for the Church.  Similarly, just as I believe that the Holy Spirit guides and works within the mind and will of Popes in their governance of the Church and in teaching, I don’t think the Holy Spirit tells them directly what to do.  Popes remain men, subject to the problems all men have.  Popes can err in judgment.  They can weaken in will.  They can become infirm, ill, and even become demented or otherwise off their rockers.  In that situation, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit, in that role of preserving the Church against the attacks of Hell and in guaranteeing the Rule of Faith and the Magisterium, would intervene.  What might the Holy Spirit do to prevent disaster?   That’s hard to say.  However, I wouldn’t rule out that the souls of hypothetical Pope Nutcase or Pope Loonytoon would suddenly be called forth from this earthly vale of tears to their eternal reward before God’s throne, were they about to gravely damage the Church in a fundamental way.  The stakes would have to be pretty high, and only the Holy Spirit would grasp those stakes.  Moreover, just as the human body and mind can take a lot of punishment and wounds, so too the Body of Christ the Church.  A good father doesn’t stop junior from running simply because he might fall and skin a knee or, even better, just because he has fallen and skinned a knee.  So too, God the Holy Spirit.

Enough for now.  Here is a video of the interview with Card. Burke.

The moderation queue is ON.  I want a whole bunch of responses before I turn it on.  That way people won’t be reacting to each other… at first.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Woody79 says:

    Yes, and I believe as a Church, we are given the leaders that we deserve, correct? [I am not sure about that at all.] Perhaps that is the conundrum we are in at this time.

  2. jacobi says:


    I would not have dreamed a decade ago that the question Cardinal Burke and you and now a great many loyal, profoundly knowledgable and thinking Catholics throughout the Church are asking, would ever be something we would have to face up to.

    There are strong indications we might!

    But as you point out this question has been considered before, by Bellarmine and, incidentally, by several Councils. Nothing is new in this world, or Church, and we had better all get used to that.

    I am not a theologian, but do have, I trust, have a sense of logic stemming from my own professional training, and some straight forward common sense, stemming from my upbringing.

    The Catholic Church does not, and can not, allow remarried adulterers in a state of mortal sin to receive Holy Communion unless they have Confessed, have the intent never to commit that sin again, and carried out their penance. That is, they must remove themselves permanently from whatever partnership arrangement they are in with the serious intent never to re-enter into it again.

    That applies to any other persons who are in a state of mortal sin, whatever that mortal sin is.

    Were the pope to decide to change this practise on remarried adulterers, then he would be in error. Catholics would be under an obligation to resist, to disobey him. It’s really quite simple.

    At the risk of repeating myself, the second session of the Synod will decide this.

    It is important that all bishops out there realise and grasp the critical importance of this. The Catholic Church is now in danger of a deep and probably permanent split and it is up to all Catholics to do what they can, however little their individual contribution may be, to avoid this and to ensure that the Church advances in Continuity.

  3. Mike says:

    Well, we are living in interesting times, no doubt. I applaud Cardinal Burke for his clarity of mind in regard to doctrine and the Papacy.

    Papa Emeritus often reminded us that God’s silence in the face of life’s mysteries is part and parcel, so to speak, of God’s essential mysterium in regard his creatures, be they ever so gifted. Hence, while totally trusting God, we can cry out to him, for he hears us most lovingly.

  4. Matt Robare says:

    I don’t understand how Kasper became so influential. I mean, Communion for unreprentant, active adulterers should be a settled question. It should have been settled in the Apostolic Age. What did Hans Kung do to become persona non grata that Kasper managed to avoid? And why did St. John Paul II make him a cardinal?

  5. Jacobi: Those in irregular marriage situations also have the option of continuing in the common home while not engaging in acts that are reserved to those validly married–i.e., to live as “brother and sister.” This option is especially common when there are children involved, as from both a spiritual and psychological standpoint, an intact home is a far healthier situation for them.

    As to the post…all I can say is that the Holy Father needs our prayers now more than ever. God keep him safe.

    On a somewhat-related note, I’d be deeply grateful if one of the excellent commenters here, or perhaps even our reverend host, could point me in the direction of a comprehensive and authoritative explanation of papal infallibility. I’d like to read more.

  6. I’d have to disagree with Cardinal Burke (I can hardly believe I just wrote that line). It seems a very slippery slope indeed to start deciding when we should or shouldn’t resist the Pope. God puts the Pope in place, He calls Him home and judges Him. Our job is to obey marching orders not decide whether we agree with the Magisterium or not. Do Popes do bad things? Of course. Have there been bad Popes? Absolutely. Could Francis be a bad Pope? I wouldn’t say that, but time will tell. Nonetheless, deciding whether we ought to resist Peter when he disagrees with us rather than submit to the judgement of the Church is the calling card of Protestantism. Wouldn’t Arius, Photius, Luther, Calvin, etc all have answered that question the same way His Eminence did? I’m reminded of a very difference answer related by Benedict XVI in his memoirs. Gottlieb Söhngen, a then-famous theologian, had argued passionately against the definition of the Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary before a mixed group of Catholic and Lutheran theologians. Once finished, a Lutheran theologian asked the all important question, “what will you do if the dogma is nevertheless defined? Won’t you then have to turn your back on the Catholic Church?” Came the reply, “If the dogma comes, then I will remember that the Church is wiser than I and that I trust her more than my own erudition.” (Milestones , pg 59). I’m a big fan of Cardinal Burke but he sounds a lot more like the Lutheran theologian here than he does like Söhngen. [No.]
    I’m sure he’d clarify if given a chance. It’s one thing to not cooperate with a Pope set on doing something immoral (as Bellarmine envisions), another to take our erudition over the wisdom of the Church. [Apples and oranges. The declaration of the infallible dogma of the Assumption is not like admission of adulterers to Communion.]

  7. Tantum Ergo says:

    Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) rewrote the Bible, a horrible translation full of errors, and intended to add his stamp of infallibility. Fr. Z is correct in his assertion that the Holy Spirit sometimes steps in, as dear Sixtus was called from this life the day before the official promulgation of the Sixtine Bull was to take place.

  8. Orphrey says:

    On the question of a pope who would attempt to ordain a woman or marry two persons of the same sex, I think I heard one theory that by taking such action, the pope would immediately cease to be pope because he would become a heretic, and a heretic cannot be pope. Does that theory hold any water, theologically or canonically (or even just logically)? [That is the opinion of some important theologians.]

  9. donato2 says:

    I have been thinking about these issues ever since the first session of the Synod last October. The approval of Holy Communion for those in adulterous relationships would be an intolerable attack on the sanctity of the Eucharist. I do not know if I would lose my faith in the Church if such a thing were not successfully resisted; I might. I am in any event so glad that Cardinal Burke is thinking about these issues in advance. Were the Pope to approve of Holy Communion for those in adulterous relationships, a whole host of complex theological and canonical issues would arise. These are questions that are beyond my own competence to address. If I were to have the choice of anyone in the world other than Pope Benedict to provide advice on them, it would be Cardinal Burke.

  10. Patti Day says:

    God bless Cardinal Burke for responding to this question. It needed to be aired. Maybe some in the clergy and the laity will get their heads out of the sand and consider what is at stake before the ordinary synod in October.

  11. Bosco says:

    The old expression “firing a shot across the bow” comes to mind.

  12. Bender says:

    The safer course of action is to follow the office, not the man. That is to say, to continue to proclaim and teach what the magisterium down through the centuries has always taught.
    We might then see papal infallibility not through the lens of the actual words or actions any one man in white might do or say, but through the lens of interpreting those words or actions so that they are always and everywhere consistent with the one teaching of the Church.

    There is only one Peter, even if his names and faces occasionally change. In practice, this might mean simply teaching what Pope Benedict taught or Saint John Paul II or Pope Pius XII, etc., and more or less leaving unremarked upon what a current pontiff might say. Don’t argue with him, don’t “resist” him, simply teach what the Church has always taught and maintain that what the current Pope teaches does and must necessarily be interpreted in that light. This course of action does not divide Peter, but keeps him whole.

  13. Gerard Plourde says:

    I note with trepidation the failure of many to note that the Church has consistently taught that an individual may commit a grave sin yet not be in a state of Mortal Sin. To commit a Mortal Sin three conditions must be present- that it be a grave matter, that the individual apprehend the gravity of the matter and that the individual give full consent of the will to commit the sin. Absence of any one of these conditions makes the sin a Veneal Sin. This is why the Code of Canon Law speaks of “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” as a bar to admission to the Eucharist. An individual may be known to have committed a grave sin yet not be in a state of Mortal Sin but, because of the community’s knowledge of the act but not the state of mind, the individual’s admission to the Eucharist would cause scandal.

  14. Andrew D says:

    “Pray very much for the holy father.” – Our Lady of Fatima

  15. Pingback: Resistance is Not Useless - OnePeterFive

  16. Pingback: On Faithful "Resistance" - OnePeterFive

  17. Charles E Flynn says:

    This article has an explanation of how Hans Küng lost his license to teach as a Catholic theologian (unrelated to the title of the article):

    Hans Küng considering suicide

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    Great responses by Cardinal Burke. He is clear as a bell, and we need that. His words are so well chosen he doesn’t need many of them.

  19. lana says:

    Dont we have to make a distinction about pastoral practice versus definition of sin?

    If the Pope were to say that without annuling the first marriage you can remarry, have sex, and not be in mortal sin, objectively speaking, that is one matter in which one would have to resist.

    But it is a different matter to allow such people to communion. I do not think it advisable, etc etc, but that is not the point. The point is that it is _permissible_, as part of discipline, and _not_ something to resist. It may be something to rue, weep, pray, write, etc. but that is different than resisting.

  20. SimonR says:

    Following Cardinal Burke’s most recent interview, one wonders what Pope Francis said to him during his audience on 8 January 2015.

    I do not recall any time in recent years when a senior Cardinal has openly stated he will resist the Pope if he takes a certain direction.

    Did Pope Francis tell Cardinal Burke in his audience that he does intend to permit divorced and remarried Catholics to be given communion?

    Again, I think this Pontificate has been a disaster.

    The Pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict were not perfect of course, but what clarity of teaching we were given, how the Christ’s Church under their leadership was not afraid to be a sign of contradiction and proclaim the splendor of the truth in season and out of season.

    I intend to visit the Blessed Sacrament tomorrow and pray for the Pope, for the Church and for my own sins.

  21. Joseph-Mary says:

    With a government no longer seeking the moral high road or the common good and now who knows what distressing event or words, etc. will come from Rome…it can make one despondent and that is just what the ‘enemy’ wants. he wants good faithful Catholics to be disgusted and leave the Church, etc. I pray about this and what I know is that I must trust Jesus today. Today. Look to Our Lord and Our Lady and seek holiness and the will of God in my own little life. To do what I can to bring others to God. To set an example. I am fortunate in that I can pretty much worship in peace because I do not hear heresy from the pulpit and there are minimal liturgical abuses, etc. And I have arenas in which to serve. I cannot change the govt. or the Church but I can seek with the grace of God to change myself. Saints such as Therese have shown the value of little things done with great love of God. This is what I try to cling to.

  22. Lin says:

    I am prepared to resist as I cannot do otherwise but I pray that it is not required. It is disturbing that the impressions from the last synod on the family are permitted to flourish until next October. The word on the street from the uncatechised and/or non-Catholics, is that the Church is going to modernize and be more in line with the secular culture. Who am I to judge has made Pope Francis a rock star.

  23. Traductora says:

    It’s a very frightening thought, but I’m glad somebody finally said it. Maybe this was meant as a warning to Pope Francis, who appears to be very authoritarian, acts unilaterally, and seems to believe that his powers are unlimited. I think it was meant to get the Pope to take these questions seriously and in fact to take the entire rational and juridical structure of Christianity seriously, since he acts as if it unimportant and merely something that gets in the way of the welling emotions that are now the mark of a true Christian, according to him.

    What would Cdl Burke do, and when would he do it? At what point would Pope Francis have gone too far? I don’t know, but perhaps these words will prevent the Pope from going that far. And if he does, and denies or rejects Church doctrine or established practice, is he even still Pope? (I’ve never been very clear on that.)

    BTW, if anything brings down the Pope, I suspect it may be Argentinian politics rather than Cdl Burke or being called to his eternal reward.

  24. FrHorning says:

    Thanks Fr. Z for posting this. These are thoughts that I have had recently and you captured them exactly and thanks for letting us know of Cardinal Burke’s interview. Let’s continue to pray for the Church, our Bishops -among them first and foremost, the Holy Father, and the Synod Fathers as well.

  25. This is just depressing. Our perception of the Church is changing before our eyes. The times we are living in today and the Church, our refuge and solace during these times, only confuses, waves secular wands over the media, belittles large families, and makes the people wonder where on earth to turn any more. Perhaps these things have to happen even to our Church so that at the last days, we no longer look to earth for Redemption, but up to the Heavens.

  26. Mike says:

    One fairly cringes anticipating the screeching cries of “FUNDAMENTALIST! EXTREMIST!!! SCHISMATIC!!!!!11!!@!!” that presently will issue from Burke-deranged dissenters — who, sadly, will fail to appreciate the ironic contrast of Burke’s principled theoretical response to a most unlikely contingency as against their own wonted tantrums whenever the previous Pope spoke ex cathedra.

    Let us pray for His Eminence and for Holy Mother Church — and, always, for our own conversion, contrition, and amendment.

  27. DJAR says:

    I am wondering what the “resistance” will entail. Assume arguendo that the pope were to change the Church’s uninterrupted discipline in this regard. Cardinal Burke makes a public statement that the pope is in error and he won’t follow him on this point. Exactly what effect will that have on anything, practically speaking? The majority of bishops are going to follow the pope.

    Cardinal Burke has already made it plain that bishops should not be giving Holy Communion to politicians who vote in favor of abortion. His words have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears. What, if anything, would his resistance here result in?

    And what of the laity? Of what does our resistance consist? The Sunday after the pope changes the Church’s discipline, the lay person goes to Mass and sees his/her parish priest give Holy Communion to a divorced and remarried person. Then what?

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Two points:


    “Cardinal Burke: The Lord has assured us, as He has assured St. Peter in the Gospel, that the Lesser pointpowers of evil will not prevail, ‘non praevalebunt’ as we say in Latin”, soon followed by “In Galatians 2:11 Paul says, “But when Cephas [Peter] was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”

    And so Fr. Z once again successfully sends us to consult the Vulgate: “in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat” – “restiti”!


    ” Through the centuries great Fathers and Doctors of the Church along with many prominent theologians have pondered the hypothetical situation of a Pope who goes off the rails and what the faithful ought to do in response.” Thanking you for the splendid St. Robert Bellarmine quotation, I would urge you to consider posting an “ACTION ITEM” here, analogous to your recent “Crusades, Inquisition” one:

    “I think we should compile a reading list about…. Good books. Good articles.

    “It could also be good to point out which books are really bad, so that we recognize them when they are cited.”

    (By the way, a quick visit to Internet Archive and a couple Wikipedia articles in English and German, did not turn up an obvious translation to “De Romano Pontifice” (or more about it specifically). Would you like to kick off a reading list with good or bad news about its accessibility?)

  29. Pingback: When Would We Have to Resist Pope Francis? - BigPulpit.com

  30. gramma10 says:

    I said in a different post “the gates of hell will not prevail against the church”! I agree with Cardinal Burke!
    I also have heard of instances where someone off track in God’s teachings and in history, who was spreading heresy or messing with God’s plan or will….was taken from this earth.
    It most likely has happened more than we know!
    I think Pope Francis will keep things as they are.
    Actually for us all…we have a mission that God asks us to accomplish while here. When it has been done I suspect that is when He calls us home. Hmmm

  31. JBS says:

    Thank you for the Bellarmine quotation. We should all memorize it, while praying we never need to recall it.

  32. Liz says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z. I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. It’s very helpful and interesting. God bless you! (Once again, it reminds me to pray.)

  33. LarryW2LJ says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z. Even though there’s nothing we can directly do about this situation, it’s been kind of gnawing at the back of my mind. What would I personally do in the event, had the world turned upside down? Concern aside, your references to a hypothetical “Pope Nutcase” or “Pope Looneytune” brought a much needed smile to may face and a chuckle to my heart. Thank you for the respite of humor.

    On a serious vein, though, if the world were to turn upside down, would I be willing to become a schismatic in the eyes of the Church? With my whole heart, I believe that the teachings on marriage, which came directly from our Lord and Savior’s own lips are non-negotiable. To be turned away by the Church you grew up in, and spent your entire life in would be a hard road to walk. But walk it, I would. In good conscience, I could not be part of that teaching.

  34. ocalatrad says:

    Would that more of our church fathers had an iota of the courage and clarity of mind that Card. Burke has. He is noticeably pained at having been brought to this point, but he replies as a soldier does when he hears the call of duty.

    With regards to the blind obedience to false authority of so many misguided bishops and cardinals, I can’t help but think of the account of the Gerasene demoniac, in which the devils entered into the swine and drove them over a cliff to their deaths. In “Demons” by Dostoevsky, this same Gospel account is his epigraph, summarizing his prophetic vision that modernism and the loss of the Faith would destroy Russia and, in our case, the West. Only the courage of a Card. Burke can guide us in the right direction.

  35. StnyPtGuy says:

    It looks like Card. Burke is planting the flag … setting a marker … drawing a line in the sand … but in a civilized way.

  36. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    I’ve talked with many faithful, active Catholics of all ages who would accept whatever a reigning Pope would say. Women priests, homosexual marriages, makes no difference. “To you is entrusted the key etc, and what you bind and loose on earth etc”

    How can you blame them? That’s what they’ve been taught. Is that not Catholic doctrine? Who are you to claim the authority to say what should be resisted and what not?

    This is the conundrum. Having put the Papacy on such a high level, there is no facility, no capability for Roman Catholics to limit Papal authority without becoming Protestants. Thereby revealing the Papacy as a centuries old institution for progressives, and Not traditionalists. For the innovations of the Papacy made the Pope, ironically enough, the first Protestant.

    I don’t find many Catholics comfortable with this thesis, of course. But it would explain the present, and predict that the future holds more -not less -innovation emanating from those holding the levers of power in the Papal machinery.

  37. SaintJude6 says:

    Taking into consideration that this is Fr. Z’s Blog and not some “catholike” site, you can probably stop posting the three conditions necessary for an act to be considered a sin. (Why did you post it both at this discussion and the one about Cardinal Burke and the Fishwrap?)

  38. anilwang says:

    Matt Robare says: “I don’t understand how Kasper became so influential. I mean, Communion for unreprentant, active adulterers should be a settled question. “

    True. But fundamental things in the liturgy and Catholic daily life should also have been settle questions, yet they changed after Vatican II. I’m not talking about doctrine or even a properly celebrated NO mass or proper Catholic devotions in the NO rite. I’m talking about the common daily Catholic life and Catholic education. There’s a disconnect between where we were for two thousand years and where we are by de facto now.

    It’s quite understandable that Catholics who think of themselves as being faithful reach one of two erroneous conclusions, namely the Pope can change almost anything if he calls it “pastoral” or the bulk of Catholics including the Pope (for allowing and in some cases promoting it) are in schism with the Church handed down by Christ. Unfortunately both views are common, even within the Catholic communion today so Cardinal Kasper isn’t shunned and some Catholics are just a synod away from joining one of the groups that are out of communion with Rome.

    Cardinal Burke has been forced to walk a fine line and he needs our prayers. He is correct and I’m gratified that he is not alone, but both of the above factions are working on him, as is Satan.

  39. chuckharold says:

    I have been led to believe that Cardinals go into the Conclave to choose a new Pope but that the Holy Spirit has the final vote. If each Pope is the choice of the Holy Spirit, isn’t it up to us to figure out what the Pope was sent to do. Of the seven Popes, so far, in my lifetime, each has had different strengths. If we take the media’s 10 second soundbite hysteria out of the equation, Pope Francis has been very orthodox in his statements, but he is making us think about how we minister to those who are not so orthodox. If nearly a half of Catholic marriages end in divorce, how do we minister to those people, other than to exclude them? If nearly half of people under thirty five years live together in long term relationships rather than get married, how do we minister to them, other than to exclude them? If a person believes that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, why should we keep them from Communion for any reason?

  40. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think the counsel of C. S. Lewis is appropriate here. “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. . . For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier and is usually helped by this direct action.”

    In the current situation, the fact is that no Doctrine or Dogma has been overturned. What we have is a lot of speculation and some gossip about what may come to pass. This provides a fertile ground for Satan and his minions to tempt us away from God. As Lewis also points out, our task “is primarily that [we] should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to [us]—the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that [we are] to say “Thy will be done”, and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided.”

  41. Mary Pat says:

    I find it interesting, but not surprising, that the end of his answer about “same sex marriage” was left out. Rorate has the English translation: “Those people, we must help them to live chastely. But there is no relation to marriage and family, it is a separate issue.”
    God bless His Eminence for his clarity. Catholics must remember that the Pope is not a God. If he preaches heresy, he is not to be followed. Papa Bennie predicted that there would be a smaller, more faithful Catholic Church. Those who would follow the Pope into heresy would cease to be Catholic.

  42. Gerard Plourde says:

    Regarding the previous post – the quotes are from The Screwtape Letters ” and since Screwtape is a devil please substitute God for “the Ememy” in the first paragraph quote.

  43. Andrew says:

    I would like to note regarding the issue of St. Paul reprehending St. Peter:

    The Apostle Paul criticized Peter for trying to please the Jews, but Paul himself circumcised Timothy, a gentile, in order to please the Jews. Then he shaved his head in accordance with some mosaic custom. Then, following the advice of some, he underwent some ritual purification offering sacrifices slain in accordance with the law, all in order to please the Jews.

    As St. Jerome writes (letter 112:11): “Through fear of the Jews both Peter and Paul alike pretended that they observed the precepts of the law. How could Paul have the assurance and effrontery to reprove in another what he had done himself?”

    Entire volumes have been written about this question. I don’t claim to know the answer but it is not as simple as Paul, the righteous, standing up to Peter the wayward, for something that Paul himself would not have done. It may be, therefore, that the Scriptural passage of Paul reprehending Cephas can have nothing to do with our present situation.

  44. anilwang says:

    chuckharold says: I have been led to believe that Cardinals go into the Conclave to choose a new Pope but that the Holy Spirit has the final vote.

    I don’t think this is a doctrine any pre-concilliar Catholic held. I don’t think even the Ultramontanist held this view. Remember, the Catholic Church has had some horribly immoral Popes and some Popes that have caused huge schisms (e.g. the Orthodox, the Western Schism, and Protestantism) that has resulted in countless souls leaving the Catholic Church. I can’t see the Holy Spirit’s hand in this evil, except in allowing it for a greater ultimate good.

    What is doctrine is that the Pope cannot lead the Church into outright heresy and that the Church must stick by the Pope even when he deserves to be excommunicated if he were not the Pope. In essence, the Holy Spirit prevents the Pope from outright destroying he Church so we must not leave the Holy Spirit’s protection by leaving the Church under any circumstances. It doesn’t mean we’ll get a faithful Pope, or the Pope we deserve, or even the Pope God desires. It does mean, if there is reform to be made, it must be made within the Church, even if it means saints must be forged.

  45. jacobi says:

    @ Pie and Palestrina,


    Moving into separate beds/rooms, not for anyone else to say, their business.

    The important thing is that they and any other sinners, and who are in mortal sin, are fully welcome at Mass, and always have been. But to receive Holy Communion all must be in a state of grace and otherwise properly disposed.

    There must be sincere intent to finally end the relationship and change it to what is described, perhaps a bit unfortunately?, as one of “brother and sister”.

    Confession, followed by a bit of “nooky” when the kids are asleep, (Father won’t know after all) is not on.

    Re infallibility, oodles of books, but you could start with that excellent note by Fr Finigan on Infallibility and the authority of different Papal documents. I can’t give you a link but I did note it from his blog of 06/08/2013.

  46. St Donatus says:

    I see president for these times in the old testament when God allowed the nation of Israel to fall to the gentile nations. When I read the old testament prophets I see almost everything they condemned in the Church, on one side we have at least 85% Catholics who have virtually abandoned the faith. Yes, that is the number who either do not go to mass on a weekly basis or have not been to communion at least once per year. (Of course, most of those 85% ‘disagree’ with the Church on many other issues like contraception, fornication, divorce, and even gay unions.) On the other side we see many who are ardently supporting the law of the Church without showing any compassion for the poor (either in body or spirit). I know, nobody need starve in the US, but what are we doing to help starving Christians in the wake of the Islamists?

    Anyway, the point is that we as a whole are far from Holiness and perhaps God is not going to be a enabler in our sin but allow us to fall on our face so we can learn a lesson and return. Remember, in Israel, even the few that served God faithfully suffered by God’s wrath on the nation. I believe we are all suffering for the sins of our people. We must though realize that our suffering is for God and the needed cleaning of his Church.

  47. Latin Mass Type says:

    I have just finished reading a short book Magisterial Authority, by Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD. It mostly deals with what is and is not considered infallible. I recommend purchasing a copy using Fr. Z’s Amazon link in the sidebar if you want a copy. It’s reprinted from a series of articles in Christian Order.

    If you are worried about something like the Holy Father inviting divorced and remarried to receive communion the book will give you food for thought. (He does not Mention our current Holy Father by name.)

    At times, people will even be scandalised by
    what the Holy Father says. Scandal is when one
    allows what another person does to affect one’s
    faith. But as St. Thomas points out, one is never
    permitted to allow oneself to take scandal because
    we have an obligation to preserve our faith
    regardless of what other people do. And this includes
    everybody from the pope all the way down to the
    lowest person on the planet.

    (Here he comments on taking care when getting info from the news media)

    Moreover, all of those
    things which are necessary for salvation have
    already been revealed and taught by the Church. So
    even if bishops or popes say things contrary to the
    Faith we already know what is necessary for salvation.
    Therefore, nothing should disturb our faith or interior life in this regard.

  48. iteadthomam says:

    My question is that if the holy father gives the green light for Communion for those living in adultery, would he become a heretic and cease to be pope? How does this work?

    [Good question. I suppose that the heretic ex-Pope’s successor would have to declare as null all the juridical acts of his predecessor. In that case it might get sticky if the new Pope were elected by Cardinals appointed by his heretic ex-Pope predecessor after his heretical act that ended his pontificate. A head scratcher.]

  49. MGL says:


    The premise of your argument (that “the Holy Spirit has the final vote”) is incorrect. The cardinal-electors are free to disregard the counsel of the Spirit and elect a scoundrel, if they so desire. They have arguably done so in the past, and we have no assurance that they could not do so again.

  50. JesusFreak84 says:

    There are those who think JPI died so quickly because the Holy Spirit knew something was coming, BUT I’m, at best, skeptical of this claim. If I were a 70-odd Pontiff with one lung, however…I would not wish to test this theory. It seriously seems like His Holiness is drawing a bulls-eye and daring God to smite =-( God DESTROYED TWO ENTIRE CITIES for the people the Holy Father says, “have gifts to offer,” now that we know he personally approved that disastrous mid-Synod report, and Pope Francis presumes we are to be spared?! Really???

    This is not the Lent to half-butt our penances, I think…

  51. Rouxfus says:

    Here is an excellent explanation of Papal Infallibility from the youngest bishop in attendance at the First Vatican Council, James Cardinal Gibbons, from his great explanation of the teachings of Christ, The Faith of Our Fathers (Murphy, 1876):

    As the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is strangely misapprehended by our separated brethren, because it is grievously misrepresented by those who profess to be enlightened ministers of the Gospel, I shall begin by stating what Infallibility does not mean, and shall then explain what it really is.

    First–The infallibility of the Popes does not signify that they are inspired. The Apostles were endowed with the gift of inspiration, and we accept their writings as the revealed Word of God.

    No Catholic, on the contrary, claims that the Pope is inspired or endowed with Divine revelation properly so called.

    “For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in order that they might spread abroad new doctrine which He reveals, but that, under His assistance, they might guard inviolably, and with fidelity explain, the revelation or deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles.”[Conc. Vat. Const. Pastor Aeternus, c. 4.]

    Second–Infallibility does not mean that the Pope is impeccable or specially exempt from liability to sin. The Popes have been, indeed, with few exceptions, men of virtuous lives. Many of them are honored as martyrs. Seventy-nine out of the two hundred and fifty-nine that sat on the chair of Peter are invoked upon our altars as saints eminent for their holiness.

    The avowed enemies of the Church charge only five or six Popes with immorality. Thus, even admitting the truth of the accusations brought against them, we have forty-three virtuous to one bad Pope, while there was a Judas Iscariot among the twelve Apostles.

    But although a vast majority of the Sovereign Pontiffs should have been so unfortunate as to lead vicious lives, this circumstance would not of itself impair the validity of their prerogatives, which are given not for the preservation of their morals, but for the guidance of their judgment; for, there was a Balaam among the Prophets, and a Caiphas among the High Priests of the Old Law.

    The present illustrious Pontiff is a man of no ordinary sanctity. He has already filled the highest position in the Church for upwards of thirty years, “a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men,” and no man can point out a stain upon his moral character.

    And yet Pius IX, like his predecessors, confesses his sins every week. Each morning, at the beginning of Mass, he says at the foot of the altar, “I confess to Almighty God, and to His Saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed.” And at the Offertory of the Mass he says: “Receive, O Holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, this oblation which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer for my innumerable sins, offences and negligences.”

    With these facts before their eyes, I cannot comprehend how ministers of the Gospel betray so much ignorance, or are guilty of so much malice, as to proclaim from their pulpits, which ought to be consecrated to truth, that Infallibility means exemption from sin. I do not see how they can benefit their cause by so flagrant perversions of truth.

    Third–Bear in mind, also, that this Divine assistance is guaranteed to the Pope not in his capacity as private teacher, but only in his official capacity, when he judges of faith and morals as Head of the Church. If a Pope, for instance, like Benedict XIV were to write a treatise on Canon Law his book would be as much open to criticism as that of any Doctor of the Church.

    Fourth–Finally, the inerrability of the Popes, being restricted to questions of faith and morals, does not extend to the natural sciences, such as astronomy or geology, unless where error is presented under the false name of science, and arrays itself against revealed truth.[Conc. Vat. Const. Dei Filius, cap. 4; Coloss. ii. 8.] It does not, therefore, concern itself about the nature and motions of the planets. Nor does it regard purely political questions, such as the form of government a nation ought to adopt, or for what candidates we ought to vote.

    The Pope’s Infallibility, therefore, does not in any way trespass on civil authority; for the Pope’s jurisdiction belongs to spiritual matters, while the duty of the State is to provide for the temporal welfare of its subjects.

    What, then, is the real doctrine of Infallibility? It simply means that the Pope, as successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, by virtue of the promises of Jesus Christ, is preserved from error of judgment when he promulgates to the Church a decision on faith or morals.


  52. DJAR says:

    It seems to me that all priests and prelates who have their heads screwed on correctly regarding this matter should come out with a public statement that states the matter succinctly: Neither the Church nor the pope have the authority to change the Church’s discipline in regard to permitting the divorced/remarried to receive Holy Communion without a decree of nullity of a prior union. The Church, and by extension the pope, simply does not have that authority. It runs contrary to Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Scripture trumps any other authority.

  53. Traductora says:

    I think the thing the Holy Spirit does is help clean up the mess after a bad decision…by inspiring people such as Cdl Burke, for example.

    That said, I think we all have the same questions about the situation when the Church has a bad or possibly heretical Pope. Cardinal Newman was very apprehensive about infallibility (which I think is a good doctrine if it is not interpreted to mean that the Pope is Master of the Universe – only the Triune God is Master of the Universe). The doctrine was not very well elaborated or in fact elaborated much at all, and I think some of the bishops had a different and more modest understanding of it from what has evolved. Also, I doubt that most of them could even imagine a pope who would oppose or cast aside the established teaching of the Church.

    To me, the big problem is that the Church abandoned reason in 1965. That was all the rage then in the secular world – I was a teenager and in my early 20s in the 60’s – and I literally saw my college classes in NYC hollowed out by the rejection of reason and its replacement by emotion and politics. But the same thing happened to the Church, and the forces behind Vatican II made it possible and are still working to do this. BXVI tried to bring reason back to the Church, but he was obviously overwhelmed and brought down by the enemies of reason.

    We need a new St Thomas Aquinas now, but at Internet speed. That is, somebody who can synthesize and state existing doctrine in such a way as to guide us. But we don’t have time for that between now and October, so I think we need to be considering (privately) our next steps. Incidentally, I’m a big reader of Spanish sources, and I think half of Catholic Spain has already volunteered to follow Burke…the Spanish are very rational, loved BXVI, and are awaiting orders. Not to be scoffed at from the heirs of a country that evangelized half of the globe.

  54. Pingback: Burke on Communion To Adulterers: “I will resist. I cannot do anything else.” « Consolamini

  55. St Donatus says:

    We must remember that Satan NEVER brings about change all at once, he does it slowly. I think his plan has been going quite well so far. He has been using multiple tactics in his efforts, so suffice it to say, he has created a situation where close to half of all married Catholics are in a illegitimate marriage (committing adultery). Then we add a society where every major decision is made based on not hurting the ‘feeling’ of someone. What is right and wrong isn’t nearly as important as not hurting someones feelings. Both of these things have taken Satan many years in themselves to achieve. Then we add Bishops and Cardinals that refuse to enforce canon law against those who are in some state of sin. They don’t remove errant priests, they don’t call out Catholic colleges for teaching heresy, they don’t call out even Bishops that teach heresy, they don’t call out the LCWR for teaching heresy, and on and on.

    Now those that want to change Church teachings on this issue will not immediately say, “anyone can receive communion”. No, they already started it many years ago by not stopping the promotion of it by Bishops and priests. Have any priests been disciplined because they welcomed divorced and remarried (illegitimately) to communion. In effect, the rule was already not being enforced. Next they will say that it must be decided on a case by case basis, perhaps while the decision of the nullity of a marriage is being decided, perhaps some other incremental way of allowing it in. Then perhaps they will say something like that they will call the second marriage valid if the first marriage was childless but the second had children, something like that. This way they will stop schism and it will be difficult for Cardinals like Cardinal Burke to say that they have broken Church law. Over the years, they will continue to make incremental changes until for all practical purposes, the Church teaching on communion will be completely gone.

    If you don’t believe, look at all the stories of priests removed, moved to Church of Islamibad, or disciplined because they actually enforced the law on communion for those living in a state of sin. In many if not most diocese, the priest, in effect, is forced to give communion to anyone no matter what their state in life.

    In fact, I have come to the conclusion that the water is already under the bridge on this one. In fact, on coming back to the Church, I was surprised to find out that divorce was even wrong in the Catholic Church.

  56. ThankyouB16 says:

    This really bothers me: Please, Father, HELP!

    1) How is this talk about resisting any different from the SSPX’s “resisting” the N.O. Mass, V-II Ecumenism, and Collegiality? I am sure HE Burke would say that what he means by resistance is different from what Archbishop Lefebvre did in the 70s and 80s, but could you plausibly state what Burke would say the difference IS?

    2) A thought experiment for Father to comment on, if he wished. My own thinking is that we must take what the Kasperites SAY themselves: They claim that there would be no change in doctrine–in faith and morals; that it would be a purely disciplinary act. As far as I can tell, a pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals–not discipline, which in not per se irreformable. I can imagine a future apologist saying, “Yes. The Pope and Synod of 2015 erred in a prudential, pastoral, disciplinary decision. The decision to admit the divorced and “remarried” to communion under very rare and strictly defined circumstances, including circumstances about objective sin and subjective culpability–, MIGHT have a logical, implicit contradiction that cannot coexist with the doctrines on Grace, mortal sin, worthy reception of the Eucharist, and Marriage…BUT we must consider the Pope’s words: he categorically stated, and reaffirmed in his Exhortation, that there was no change in the doctrines on the indissolubility of marriage; he allowed the change in discipline and, yes, allowed objective adulterers to Receive, but after a very dark time in the Church, the successor, Pope Zed I, corrected this now-recognized abuse: definitively declaring that the disputed logical link indeed does exist, and the Church must forever bind itself to the older discipline of not admitting to communion the divorced and “remarried.” The Pope committed a pastoral error, but never hurt the Church’s infallibility because he never defined anything; was not dealing with faith and morals directly, but only indirectly; and did not in his Apostolic Exhortation ever come close to suggesting that his new discipline represented the Ordinary, Universal Magisterium–a fact that St. Leo Burke and the authors of the Synod “majority report” give ample witness too.

    Bottom line: No Church infallibility was destroyed because no organ of Church infallibility was used, or even claimed to be used, nor, as a self-proclaimed act of “discipline,” was this even within the Church’s guarantee of infallibility in the first place.

  57. Harris says:

    Zed-Head gear… “I WILL RESIST”

  58. sw85 says:


    “1) How is this talk about resisting any different from the SSPX’s “resisting” the N.O. Mass, V-II Ecumenism, and Collegiality? I am sure HE Burke would say that what he means by resistance is different from what Archbishop Lefebvre did in the 70s and 80s, but could you plausibly state what Burke would say the difference IS?”

    I suspect what Burke means is simply noncompliance with a new discipline that is destructive of the common good of the Church, paired with public statements to that effect. What got Abp. Lefebvre in (the most) trouble was consecrating new bishops without Papal approval; this is an excommunicable offense, because bishops, when they go into schism, can start parallel Churches.

    “2) A thought experiment for Father to comment on, if he wished. My own thinking is that we must take what the Kasperites SAY themselves: They claim that there would be no change in doctrine–in faith and morals; that it would be a purely disciplinary act. As far as I can tell, a pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals–not discipline, which in not per se irreformable.”

    We already know that doctrine cannot be authoritatively repudiated. That is not what is at stake here. The Catholic faith cannot be reduced to a laundry list of propositions to be affirmed in a merely intellectual way. It is an entire lived reality, a way of life, which is based on those doctrines but still technically distinct from it. Since people live in reality and not merely in an abstract sphere of doctrinal correctness, separating the doctrines from the lived reality is futile. To say “everything is fine so long as doctrine doesn’t change” seems, to me, to be a deeply impoverished and even demented vision of the faith.

    Moreover, it is not sufficient to say that there is doctrine and then there is discipline and we can’t touch the latter and can do what we like with the former, as if that exhausts the issue. Let’s consider two different disciplines: the one-hour Eucharistic fast, and the practice of not ordaining women. Both of these are disciplines, but their nature is different. The former is ecclesial in origin, and can be changed (and has been changed). The latter is doctrinal in origin, having to do with the Church’s teachings regarding her own authority to confect the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It is a discipline, but it is not a discipline which the Church is free to change.

    The question then is whether the prohibition on administering communion to adulterers and their concubines is one which is merely ecclesial in nature (as the Kasperites say) or doctrinal. It is clear to me that it is the latter. If we instituted it, we would NOT have doctrinal change, but we WOULD have an instance of the Church living in formal disobedience to her own teachings.

  59. Tony Phillips says:

    A lot of the problem goes back to Vatican I, not Vatican II. We’ve allowed such an ultramontane view of the papacy to develop we won’t know what to do if a future pope turns out to be a cuckoo in the nest. Despite the historical record.

    Look, we’re all infallible–as long as we keep our mouths firmly shut. The less we say, the more infallible we are. That certainly applies to the pope too.

  60. Bea says:

    We must remember that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. He is not Christ.

    St. Paul wrote (don’t remember off-hand in what place in the bible): “Even if an angel comes from heaven with a message other than what we have passed on, he must be declared anathema” (Or words to that effect).

    After Vatican I, the faithful began to believe they could not criticize the Pope. This was an error. He is human, he can make mistakes. As to dogmatic statements, I believe the Holy Spirit will step in but in discipline matters (which is the argument that is used by the synod) , if the “discipline” contradicts Dogma then that is definitely a time to rebel.

  61. PaterAugustinus says:

    Here’s an hypothetical: what if Francis invited a bunch of pagans to worship idols in some of the most important shrines of the Catholic Church? Would we resist then?

    What if Francis, contrary to the declarations of Trent, had ALL the rites of the Roman Church rewritten, from Sacraments to sacramentals, and, contrary to Quo Primum, effected a state where the received and approved rites of the Church were forbidden in practice? Would we resist then?

    Or, what if Francis and all the clergy started to abandon the logically necessary (and Magisterially defined) opposition to the assertion that men are always entitled to act freely in certain matters, say, of speech and religion, irrespective of the moral content of those acts? Would we resist then?

    It is especially absurd to hear some folks’ discomfort at the mere mention of resistance to the pope, as though this brought us too close to the SSPX and “their ilk.” I’m not a member of the SSPX, but as a recent convert to the Catholic Faith from the Orthodox Church, I could already tell that something horrible, blasphemous and sacrilegious was going on in Catholicism… even at the level of the Papacy, where events such as occurred at Assisi should have caused immense indignation and elicited severe consequences from the Catholic faithful. Having immersed myself in the Magisterial documents of the past few centuries, especially, dealing with the fight against Modernism, I have to ask: are today’s Catholics not aware of how far they have drifted from the Catholic mind of even a century ago?

    Certainly the pope should be resisted if he starts giving evil commands about marriage and divorce. But one is an heretic whether he believes one heresy or twelve heresies. Trent condemned as heretical the mere opinion that “the received and approved rites of the Church” could be changed into “other, new ones” by “any pastor of the Churches whomsoever.” This means that one does not have to actually write new rites or celebrate them, he simply has to concede that it would be possible for someone to do so, in order to have an heretical opinion. If he holds this opinion deliberately, knowing the Church condemned it, he also becomes a formal heretic. Quo Primum defined that no priest can be compelled to say Mass in any other way than as codified in the Missal of St. Pius V. Yet both the heretical opinion and the forbidden compulsion regarding new liturgies are the norm in almost every Catholic parish in the world. In Libertas Praestantissimum (and in many other Magisterial works) it is asserted quite plainly that only truth has rights, that the Church concedes “no right to anything, save to what is true and honest,” and that any other activity is at best tolerated by the state for some reason at the service of the common good. Yet most Catholics nowadays will speak about human rights rooted in human dignity as though they were a Robespierre redivivus. Much of what passes for “Ecumenical Dialogue” is in fact an anti-Catholic farce, and the novel tolerance of communio in sacris with non-Catholics, a matter of divine law and not mere custom, is so shockingly divergent from the Tradition that any other age would not have hesitated to immediately remove themselves from the communion of anyone who tolerated it, popes included. To knowingly commune with a non-Catholic is to prove that one is not himself a Catholic.

    These are all heresies, and, in fact, are even more gravely erroneous than adapting a sloppy pastoral practice of tolerating sacrilegious communions from those in a state of sin. Why should we draw the line at marriage and divorce, but look down at other Catholics who thought the destruction of the Liturgy, the tolerance of syncretism even to the point of profaning Catholic shrines with idolatry, the preaching of the ideals of the humanist revolution in the Church, etc., etc., were already a bridge too far? Surely they were right to recognize that one is an heretic whether he believes one heresy or twelve, and so we had better make our willingness to resist known at the outset of the crisis, rather than waiting until we have come to such a pass as our present situation.

    We all know that there is no obligation to obey unjust commands, and there is in fact an obligation to disobey evil commands. What have all of these tragic defections been, if not evil and unjust? I am a new convert, and I am not a member of the SSPX, but it seems plain to me that Catholics can and should have been resisting these totally unacceptable conditions for decades, already. One does not become a schismatic for telling a pope “no,” when he commands evil and unjust things, even if the pope himself tries to excommunicate you for doing so. Nobody is advocating leaving the Church; simply tell the pastors “no” when they demand that we acquiesce to evil. If they tell us that we are excommunicated for it, why should we give a fig? They can’t validly excommunicate us for refusing to tolerate evil. If the pastors issue such commands, there is already good reason to suspect that they are not Catholics themselves.

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