A different compendium

Yesterday, I posted about Socci’s views on who the true Pope may be.  HERE.  A couple days ago, I posted about the new highly critical Compendium about the odd teachings of Francis, HERE.  In that post, I said that, if someone had a contrary view let him come up with his own compendium favorable toward Francis.

Today I received a link to a blog called Roma Locuta Est written by Steven O’Reilly, which has a compendium not about how wonderful Francis is (the challenge I issued) but rather responding to the claims of Socci and our friend Ann Barnhardt that Benedict is the true Pope.  For the sake of fairness and for the sake of the mind-exercise I invited you all into, it seems good to share the link: HERE.   Socci has his arguments, and Ann hers.  Others opine as well.  This fellow has his view: even though Francis has been sowing confusing and division, he really is the Pope.  In the linked post he summarizes his position and then provides a compendium of the articles he has written on the topic.

You can go there, read, and decide for yourself who is right.


That last thing I typed stops me in my own tracks.  “Decide for yourself….”

When it comes to the papacy we really shouldn’t have to be in this position.

But what are we supposed to do?

When we see really strange things going on, are we simply suppose to disengage our brains and stop thinking?  Blindly accept claims in a time when – rather often – we find that our leaders are liars or complicit in nefarious things?  God gave us reason.  God also offers us graces, including the gift of Faith.  God gave us a Church with the Petrine Ministry as a constitutive element to help us get to heaven.

I go back an forth with myself about the question of the papacy today.  On the one hand, the question doesn’t have a huge impact on my (or your) daily life.  We have our Catholic lives to live.  The name of the Pope might come up once a day if you go to daily Mass.  But that’s about it.  For centuries most people had no idea even who the Pope was, even his name, and they lived their lives and went about their business without worrying about it.  Hence, I will sometimes suggest to people that if they are really upset by this question, they should leave it aside and go do something else.

On the other hand, I am haunted by the clear teaching of the Lord about obedience to authority, even authority that is corrupt.   In Matthew 23:2-3 Our Lord says:

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

In this chapter Christ condemns in the strongest terms the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their teachings, while telling his disciples to submit to them because they sit on the “seat (kathedra) of Moses”, that is, they have the authority to teach.   Looking at the Greek, the Lord uses the same words that undergird Peter’s authority to bind and loose, which gives us an insight into what Christ meant for Peter’s authority.   The question of what Christ meant in Matthew 23 is complex and fascinating, but at least we can say that His view was that obedience was owed even to lousy leaders.   Given that, yes, it really is important to know who has legitimate authority, the kathedra, today, especially since modern means of communication shoves information “the Vatican”, “the Pope” down our ears, noses and throats in great gobs.

It’s nearly impossible to ignore.

Since God gave us reason, I say, let us use it.  Prayerfully.

Perhaps if you are going to delve into these issues at all, it would be good to start with prayers.  First, use the so-called internet prayer when you get online.  Then, if you come to a thorny question, ask your Guardian Angel to guide you to and through what you find in a way that is helpful, not hurtful.   This world has its prince, the “father of lies”, who wants you confused and divided, mired in falsehood and without the use of reason.  Don’t get into it with the forces of evil.  Be vigilant and disciplined in your looking at these troubling topics.   Leave them aside if you must.

Some of us must pay close attention to these things.  That doesn’t mean that everyone does.

Finally, I conclude with something that I have offered more than once in the past.

In the large arc of time, Popes come and go. Councils are called and concluded.  Some of these Popes and Councils are important and some of them are not so important.  Some of them were better than others.   Some of them have great impact still today, others not so much.  Not every Pope or Council was equally important, or good.  Time will tell.

So don’t get overly concerned even about today’s goings on, which are ephemeral.  Yes, we are living in them, so they are pressing on us, but our goal is ultimately heaven, not an eternal prolongation of an earthly life wherein we see only as if through glass, darkly.

In the New Creation, all things will be made new.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Here is the question that I would pose…if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (former Joseph Ratzinger) passes away before Pope Francis, would there be a new conclave to elect a new pope? If not, then, the former Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis was and remains the pope. Even if there is not a conclave, would anything change in how the Church is governed? I think that makes the answer clear to me. Pope Francis has been and will remain pope until he voluntarily resigns or the Lord calls him home.

  2. Aliquis says:

    I speculate about this from time to time, though I try not to focus on it because it’s not mine to decide. I do think often about Pope Francis’ decision not to use the title Vicar of Christ. Maybe this is something we’re to think is more true then P.F. realizes, as when Caiaphas said it was better for one man to die, or Pilate titled Jesus the King of the Jews.
    The Matthew 23 allusion seems to me not relevant here (at least as an argument FOR obedience). Jesus was distinguishing the Pharisees’ conduct (bad) from their teaching (thus, apparently sound). We seem to have a different situation here.

  3. oledocfarmer says:

    Dear Msgr-to-Be Z.:

    How about this thought: my understanding is that St John Paul II’s Will established the rules for succeeding Conclaves, and these rules had not been altered by Benedict XVI. The rules reprobated any pre-Conclave lobbying-for-votes and imposed automatic excommunication on anyone who engaged in pre-Conclave lobbying.

    A reasonable person could conclude — particularly in light of the later-revealed machinations of the St Gallen Mafia — that Cdl Bergoglio engaged in pre-Conclave lobbying. If so he would have entered the Conclave excommunicated.

    If excommunicated, could his election be valid? One would think an excommunication would disqualify him, but….you’re the Canon Lawyer!

  4. Rob83 says:

    The question of whether a new conclave is called or not after the death of either man is not actually relevant to the issue of who is the pope now. The Cardinals gathered after the death of anti-pope Anacletus II to seemingly elect Victor IV, but that conclave was void.

    A grave concern is that attending the pope’s liturgical services should not be an occasion of blasphemous or idolatrous worship. It is hard to think of the infamous bowl being present on the altar of St. Peter’s in 2019 as not being that.

    We are in an unusual period right now. Benedict is alive, is still using some symbols of the office, and still lives in the Vatican. Francis has eschewed some symbols and titles of the office, besides causing a lot of people to wonder what exactly papal infallibility is supposed to protect against if he is the real pope.

    Eventually, time resolves the matter. The claims that John XXIII or Paul VI were not valid popes were rendered definitively impossible when there were no longer any Cardinals from those conclaves able to vote for a new pope.

  5. LeeGilbert says:

    Since the reality is looming ever larger we should be clear that the word is pronounced sism, as in scissors, not skism as in skeptical. In all charity, is it not a schismatic act even to ask the question, “Who is the real pope?” For myself, here and elsewhere I have promoted the prayer, “May another take his office,” which while a very scary thing to do seems ultimately less divisive, particularly if successful.

    Suppose, for example, that a sizeable number of Catholics follow Ann Barnhardt into schism, when Pope Bergoglio dies she and they would say that all of his acts as pope were invalid, including his creation of cardinals. Under that view Cardinals Cupich, Tobin etc etc would not be valid electors, and the decision of the conclave would be also be invalid.

    [Re Ann Barnhardt what is to schism as heresiarch is to heresy, the feminine form?]

    Upset with the election of Pope Francis II, Cardinals Sarah, Burke, etc may well withdraw to San Eugenio and elect Pius XIII. Suddenly we are back to 1378 and a second, Greater Occidental Schism.

    What is so weird is the analogy with our political situation in the United States. For myself I cannot bring myself to say “President Biden.” We did not elect him, and the same prayer seems eminently justified.

    Honestly, in either case I cannot see anything wrong with its fervent use. It is not, to be clear, asking for anyone’s death, but rather that the office simply be taken by another. however the Lord chooses to do it.

    It is of course a prayer for private use, not to be said after every psalm, but perhaps at the end of every office, or at the end of the day. As a private Mass intention for priest or people, how would it be sinful?

    In my view, it is ludicrous to think that we can think or argue our way out of this situation. We emphatically need divine intervention both ecclesiastically and politically, for in both situations we have an intolerable crisis of legitimacy.

    “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forsake us? “

  6. Rod Halvorsen says:

    “…observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”…

    I have pondered this passage many a time during the last 8 years. The problem facing us today is not that the leadership is hypocritically telling us to do what they say, not what they do, nor is it that they are telling us right and good things to do that they themselves are simply avoiding. The problem is that they are telling us to do AS they do; in short, to effectively reject the past teaching and practice of the Church in favor of novelties which represent, spawn and foster a rupture with the past consistent teaching of the Church.

    To that conundrum I feel we are best served with another passage of Scripture voiced by none other than the first Pope who when confronted with such a dilemma as ours today responded:

    “We ought to obey God, rather than men”.

  7. PRJ says:

    If Pope Francis is truly the Supreme Pontiff then (obviously) we owe him our obedience in relation to those matters within the scope of his authority. If Pope Emeritus Benedict is still the true Supreme Pontiff, then out of obedience to the Supreme Pontiff we should obey his legate: the current Bishop of Rome.

  8. TonyO says:

    Fr. Z’s comments are very balanced, as usual. Which is one of the things I love about Fr. Z and his web pastoral work. He is serving the cause of truth – which is always connected to Him who is Truth.

    It is fair to point out that for most of us, for most of our days, we don’t need to know who is pope (if anyone – maybe there IS NO POPE?) But it can indeed matter in point of concrete decisions for some. For example, if you are called to serve on a jury for a (potential) death penalty case, you might want to know whether a Pope Francis changed the Catechism, or some Argentine bishop “changed” the catechism.

    But much more generally: the papal acts whereby he elevates consecrates priests to the bishopric, and when he appoints them to a diocese, has a lot of direct impact on people. If Bishop Smitty was not validly appointed to be the bishop of the see of Upper Leftwards Libdanavia, then (arguably) that “bishop’s” juridic acts and canonical penalties might not have any force. Equally, that “bishop’s” acts of releasing someone from the state of sin for delicts that can only be released by the bishop might not be valid. And to apply that more broadly to the holder of the papal chair himself: if he is not really the pope, what effect does that have on all of his juridic acts that he only had the authority to do as “pope”? Are they all invalid? What about the appointment of men to the College of Cardinals, who then elect the next pope? If they aren’t REALLY cardinals, does that undermine the election itself? What if the “real” vote – by “real” cardinals who were so appointed by prior popes – would have been settled on an earlier ballot by someone who seemed to have less than the needed majority, but really had the requisite majority of VALID votes?

    These are virtually insoluble problems, and for this reason alone I think we would have to subject Francis’s possibility of being not-pope to an extremely high test, an extraordinarily difficult hurdle to get over.

    In the earlier post someone (was it Fr. Z?) the point about whether the office of the Papacy and the office of “Bishop of Rome” were unalterably combined into the same person. Because Peter was bishop of Antioch before he was bishop of Rome, I take it that at least in theory the two are separable. Here is a hypothetical to make this clearer. Let’s say that in some war an enemy uses a series of “city-killer” nuclear bombs on Rome to not only obliterate it, but make it literally uninhabitable for several thousand years. The rest of the cardinals around the world could get together in a consistory to elect a new pope, but it would be rather odd to suggest that the new pope would have to first be “the bishop of Rome” given that Rome no longer existed. They would, presumably, have the authority to designate some other city as the new seat of the papal office-holder. (I didn’t want to get into the Avignon popes, who remained the bishops of Rome even if they didn’t live there.)

    oledocfarmer, I believe that lobbying for votes prior to (or during) a consistory might land the cardinal in hot water and even (possibly) an automatic excommunication, but (so I have read), rules that would appear to levy automatic excommunications must be interpreted extremely strictly and narrowly, and (in areas like this) might be little more than words on paper that can never be enforced. Having (as I urged above) the effect of apparently valid juridic acts be invalidated by NOT-manifest delicts that not everyone can know happened would place the Church in an entirely untenable position. (For this reason, some canon lawyers like Edward Peters are in favor of deleting most – or all – of automatic excommunications from the rolls of canon laws.) I am no shill for Francis, and I have many times pointed out difficulties in what he has said or done, but I don’t think THIS is going to be a successful pathway to deal with him. My guess is that God is going to have to deal with him directly, because his office makes him answerable to God alone (at least as far as removing him goes).

  9. Spinmamma says:

    Thank you for this excellent advice. I remain very troubled by the situation, but rarely ponder it anymore as I don’t consider myself learned enough to draw the correct conclusion. I did however purchase the books recommended. The use or nonuse of the title “vicar” is to me the most troubling. However I try to spend my time increasing my faith in Our Lord and in Holy Mother Church and all of her treasures, regardless of who is currently bearing the title of “Pope.” I have recently been immersed in the lives of the 40 martyrs of England and Wales. I am in awe of their courage, faith, and loyalty to the Church. Since many of them were priests who died because they refused to abandon the Faithful in England and Wales, and this in a time when the Papacy was just as political as today, if not more so, I have increased my devotion to my prayers for priests, including you, Father Z.

  10. This is an interesting subject, but I’m left hoping that the next Pope– whoever he is– will address this subject directly with an encyclical on the nature of the papacy and do what our current leaders seem determined not to do, namely, teach with clarity. If that doesn’t happen, perhaps we need a Vatican III to deal with the topic since our current situation is raising far more questions than answers. The question of “who is the Pope?” shouldn’t require a book to answer… sigh.

  11. snegopad says:

    APOSTLE PAULUS TO THE GALATIANS 1,6-10 * I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.* You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News
    7 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.
    8 Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.
    9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.
    10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.


    6 Miror quod tam cito transferimini ab eo, qui vos vocavit in gratia Christi, in aliud evangelium;
    7 quod non est aliud, nisi sunt aliqui, qui vos conturbant et volunt convertere evangelium Christi.
    8 Sed licet nos aut angelus de caelo evangelizet vobis praeterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit!
    9 Sicut praediximus, et nunc iterum dico: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id, quod accepistis, anathema sit!
    10 Modo enim hominibus suadeo aut Deo? Aut quaero hominibus placere? Si adhuc hominibus placerem, Christi servus non essem!

    THIS IS THE ANSWER TO: “In Matthew 23:2-3 Our Lord says:
    “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.””

    Because the problem is, that we are ! taught and shown ! bad, falsified teachings….

    And the question, who or what is valid, —-this is in some cases not possible to be decided by us, but by God.

    I agree, Rod Halvorsen “We ought to obey God, rather than men”. !

  12. Robert_Caritas says:

    Frankly Father, I think that you should use what I think you’ve called the Padre Pio test in the past.[That I have called…? I don’t recall that, but it isn’t a terrible idea.] The theorizing for the split Petrine ministry is tortured, at best, and the available data fits the official position at least just as well, and in my view, significantly better. [Caveat: Be careful not to ascribe to me positions that I don’t hold. Just because I bring them up and drill at them a little doesn’t mean I hold them personally.]

    How do you think Padre Pio, or saints Bernadette and Joan of Arc would react when faced with the idea that the pope who openly resigned designed a hidden arrangement to somehow split the petrine ministry between himself and his successor ? God doesn’t work in such tortured, overly complex and hidden ways, regarding the fundamentals of the faith, which the papacy is a part of. Sure, we’ve had antipopes in the past, but the situation was clear : two people were openly claiming the title. Here one person is claiming it, and the words of the whole hierarchy and his predecessor can be most clearly interpreted as a full recognition of that claim. God would not deceive the simple in such a manner. Padre Pio, Bernadette, and Joan would submit to Francis.

    As you put it, popes come and go. But we ourselves can definitely exit the Church. As the example of the Lefebrvists sadly illustrate, once disregarding the authority of a pope and a council has become a habit of mind, it can be extremely difficult to get rid of. What matters now is that we follow the examples of the prophetic pastors God has quite clearly given us as support, such as bishop Schneider or Cardinals Sarah and Müller, and fully submit to the pope which common sense and these men of God indicate as being the legitimate one, all the while carrying out our personal missions and vocations out to the fullest. If half the energy being used against the Holy father was being used to refute the errors being falsely spread in his name, the Church would be in significantly better shape than it is. The quality of Catholic content on the internet has fallen quite signicantly over the past few years, and quite clearly because many of the main players have changed the spirit of their work. This papacy will end, but our attitude towards it will have extremely heavy consequences as to whether we will still be here, in full communion with the Church, for the next one.

  13. William Tighe says:

    Please excuse, Father, what is largely a repetition of a comment I made within the last month to another posting on your blog.

    TonyO wrote, ” Because Peter was bishop of Antioch before he was bishop of Rome, I take it that at least in theory the two are separable.”

    This traditional account goes back to the Fourth Century, if not a little earlier, but is it really historically certain, and a matter from which we can thus draw “paradogmatic” conclusions, such as that of TonyO, that St. Peter was bishop of Antioch BEFORE he was bishop of Rome? Ever since I discovered the book in the late 1970s (at a time when it was rare outside scholarly or academic libraries) I preferred the “hypothesis” found in George Edmundson’s The Church in Rome in the First Century: The Bampton Lectures for 1913 (London, 1913) which now can be read here:


    In brief, Edmundson argues that when St. Peter “disappears” at Acts 12:17 and “left for another place,” that place was Rome, and that his sojourn in Antioch came after the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the Emperor Claudius, perhaps around AD 49. Edmundson also postulates two later sojourns of Peter in Rome, the first for some years in the mid 50s, and the second for some time preceding his martyrdom ca. 65 AD.

    Interested readers should consider perusing Edmundson’s book, which is scholarly but also accessible and IMO extremely readable.

  14. Discipula says:

    Some day in the future the Church will address all the questions that this papacy has brought to light, that or the Lord will return. Either way this really isn’t our problem to solve. Benedict XVI insists that he resigned of his own free will. I have no reason to doubt him. The Cardinals introduced Bergolio as our current Pope. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of them voted for him in good faith. Therefor he is pope, no matter how I feel about it. Truly his failures are their problem more than they are mine. The laity are free (and able, for the most part) to learn what the Church has always taught and abide by that, as far as they are able. It is our birthright and no one has the authority to take that away from us. The rest is just noise and not worth anxiety.

    I remember telling my sister, back when we were both teens, that God does not play “gotcha!” He does not set out impossible tasks for us to accomplish on our own, nor does He abandon us in the face of insurmountable temptations. If we are in a jam, it is not because God put us there, but that we put ourselves there and God just took the blinders off. Pope Francis and all the troubles that spring from his actions and words are highlighting several problems that have existed before his papacy. I’m convinced God permitted this pope in order to draw attention to something that needs attention so that they can be solved.

    God Himself will save His Bride. Be not afraid.

  15. TonyO says:

    Mr. Tighe, even if there is adequate historical evidence (about which I have no no position for or against) to consider other hypotheses than the traditional one, such as the hypothesis that Peter went to Rome, then Antioch, and later to Rome again, I don’t see how it is relevant to the question I was addressing: either way, Peter was a bishop of more than one city before he died at Rome. (He started out in Jerusalem, after all, and this is not disputed.) Either way, the Church’s seat of primacy of governance existed in different locations over time. Either way, the Church can move its primatial see to a different city if necessary.

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