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.
Cardinal Burke: Yes.
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.