Of gauntlets, spaghetti wall art, and St. Robert Bellarmine

The other day I posted about Antonio Socci’s remarks at Libero about the Benedict XVI piece in Corriere della Sera. HERE  I also posted about a new book by Lamont and Pierantoni which is a provocative compendium about Francis.  HERE  I mentioned, too, work on a bullet-point compendium that Steven O’Reilly posted on his site.  HERE

I wrote to those who will dislike the very existence of such a book as that by Lamont and Pierantoni, and who will summarily dismiss it’s conclusions, that they themselves should put together their own compendium, a defense of all that Francis is, has said, and has done.

I was informed that Mike Lewis at Where Peter Is took up the challenge.   Sort of.  I’ll get to that.

I wasn’t much interested in what he posted, but he used an image of a plate of pasta which suggested to me that he could have a) a sense of humor and therefore b) a decent motive and c) perhaps it was an olive branch.  As it turns agere sequitur esse and he used it as a cheap shot since I sometimes post food posts here.  I guess food is bad.  Or maybe good food is bad… or something.

I won’t go into length responding to Lewis, because his whole post drips nasty.  Why bother.

Lewis manifestly wishes me ill and has worked to harm me personally.  When I wrote my posts about praying for enemies [HERE], this is the group of people I had in mind.  I will, nevertheless continue on the uphill rocky and narrow path and I will pray for him.

Back to the pasta image. His image of pasta at the top of his post is apt: the post is tantamount to spaghetti thrown at a wall.  Nevertheless, a few strands merit attention.

Lewis wrote: “To my knowledge, you [meaning me] have never responded to anything we’ve ever published on this site.”

That’s because. Mr. Lewis, I never look at your site.  I didn’t know it, or you, even existed until quite recently.  It took some urging from others to get me to respond this time, given your open bad will towards me.

Lewis wrote: “In what I believe was our only direct interaction on social media, I asked you a question and you responded, ‘That was a good example of an Alinsky tactic. I won’t play your twisted game,’ before blocking me.”

On Twitter I often block people who are rude.  Lewis didn’t get special treatment.

Moreover, if I brought up Alinsky, I must have had a good reason.  Saul Alinsky in his Satanically-dedicated Rules For Radicals [US HERE] recommends this technique:

  • RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

That’s exactly what Lewis and others he associates with have been doing to me.  I do not know the cause of Lewis’s hatred, but I hope he uses the rest of Lent to consider his course.  I submit to him that it is anything but Christian.

Lewis: “Fr. Zuhlsdorf, we [sic] respond to your challenge with the work of this website.”

“…with the work of this website”.  Okay.  But that isn’t a response to the challenge I issued.

What I am looking for is a compendium … like the other guys did; that compendium book or else the sort of compendium that Steven O’Reilly posted on his site.

O’Reilly defends Francis against the “Benedict is Pope” theory, but he he does not let Francis off the hook for the strange things he has said and done.  It’s worth a look.  HERE O’Reilly could have, like Lewis, written: “This whole site/blog has been….” But no.  He took the time to put together a list of the posts with bullet points which he thought supported his position.

So, I don’t think saying that “the work of this website” is a response is helpful.

Look.  I haven’t spent time at that blog and I absolutely won’t have time to do so in the near future.  If I missed something, I’d like to know so I can – in fairness – acknowledge it.  If there is, buried in there, some sort of compendium like to those I mentioned, please let us know in the combox.

Lewis: “Fr. Zuhlsdorf, engaging in productive dialogue and debate is a two-way street. That wasn’t on display here.”

What is on display is a continuation of your campaign, with others, in personal destruction.  I do not believe that in “taking up the challenge” there was a good motive, which is at the very core of productive dialogue.  I truly want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  However, the fact that wrote your post in the style that you did suggests a determined lack of good will.

For the readers’ background, Lewis took part in an organized a “cancel culture” terror campaign – there is no other way to describe it – against my bishop, in order to hurt him and in order to hurt me personally. It’s not that they just disagreed with what I think and they wanted to dismantle some position I hold, they wanted to harm me personally.  They know that their status as lay people allows them with impunity to say any damn thing they want, true or not, about clerics – who can’t “fight back” in kind – no matter how it hurts them.

I throw the gauntlet back.  Well… I’ll flip it back over my shoulder as I walk away.

If Lewis creates such a compendium (not just points to the whole site) great!  I’ll acknowledge and when I have time, perhaps I’ll look at it with an open mind.  If it already exists, great!  Ditto.

If he does it/did it readers here and elsewhere could have something useful.

Nota bene: We will have compendia, as it were, of arguments a) against Francis being the true Pope, of arguments b) in defense of Francis being Pope but not being entirely favorable toward him, and of arguments c) for Francis and also enthusiastic to the point of euphoria.

There are a lot of people out there who might benefit from having pages with easily identifiable topics with links in the various positions.

If done well, those arguments which are persuasive will persuade and those that aren’t, won’t.

Moving on, there were couple of comments under Lewis’ post which need attention.

Lewis: “He [I] is incardinated in an Italian diocese near Rome, apparently never ministered there, then worked for a while in the Vatican before moving back to the US, supposedly to pursue graduate studies (which I suppose he never finished).”

I was for quite a while rector of church in Velletri, which I also helped to rebuild/restore.  It had been damage by American bombs in WW2 since it is on the hills above Anzio.

Lewis, and a lot of others, haven’t the slightest clue about my life, but they jabber all the same, in a hurtful way, which in some contexts could get them sued.  Anyway, he allowed his commenters to engage in rash judgment and detraction… and added disinformation.

I suggest for us all in this time of Lenten preparation a reflection on the “Golden Rule”.

Commenting on that site in the combox is also Robert Fastiggi, a pretty smart guy who teaches at Sacred Heart in Detroit.

Fastiggi says a) I embrace “tradition” (why he added scare quotes, I’m not quite sure) but b) I did an un-trad thing by “departing from some very traditional sources by endorsing a book that claims that Pope Francis (and therefore other popes) can teach heresy.”

very traditional sources as opposed to … what?… merely traditional?

Anyway, Fastiggi brings up a position St. Robert Bellarmine takes in De Summo Pontifice about Popes which was endorsed by Vatican I.   Prof Fastiggi wonders how I can “reconcile endorsing a book that claims a pope can teach heresy [mentioned at the top, etc.] with the clear teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine and Vatican I?”

Did I?  No, on both counts.

Firstly, I didn’t “endorse” the book in the sense Prof Fastiggi intended to convey: eagerness, etc. , as in “Wow, what a great book, surely it’s right.”  I wrote about it because it is useful.  Someone who is really into the question will find this a useful book.  Frankly, I think the fact that books like this are coming out at all is pretty darn sad.   But this is the deck we’ve been dealt.  These are our times.  Maranatha.

Second, Prof Fastiggi seems to have confused, conflated Vatican I’s teaching about infallibility with the notion that a Pope can never get anything wrong about faith or morals, or anything else, either in private thoughts or public statements, a kind of ultramontanism on piety steroids.

Vatican I didn’t say that Popes can’t err at all.  Popes can be wrong, about a lot of things.  They can even say in public things that are wrong about faith and morals.  While St. Robert Bellarmine personally believed that a Pope cannot publicly teach heresy (he was in the minority on this point), he also admitted that his opinion was not certain.  On the other hand, Bellarmine did hold as certain that a Pope cannot define a heretical teaching that the faithful are bound to believe.   That is what the Church teaches.  That is what Vatican I endorsed.  Vatican I didn’t endorse Bellarmine’s (minority) belief that a Pope can’t ever be wrong. Vatican I endorsed Bellarmine’s correct position that Popes cannot err when they define doctrine that must be accepted on faith and morals.

There is a good post with quotes from Bellarmine on this at Eric Giunta’s Laboravi Sustinens.   That would be a good starting place to untangle what Bellarmine thought.  Ironically, the post is entitled “Where Peter Isn’t”.

And with that I turn from this distasteful but necessary post to many other pressing things, with a request for prayers.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Francis, Green Inkers, New catholic Red Guards, The Drill. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jacob says:


    Lewis wrote: “To my knowledge, you [meaning me] have never responded to anything we’ve ever published on this site.”

    That’s because. Mr. Lewis, I never look at your site.

    Reminded me of this:

    “Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don’t you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.”

    “But I don’t think of you.”

  2. iamlucky13 says:

    I’ve been wanting to make time over the last few days to read the various links and thoughts being shared in careful detail. Since I’ve instead only had time to read in abbreviated fashion but do want to respond to parts of it, I will focus on my own perspective rather than try to make conclusive arguments.

    Pope Benedict XVI is far better educated on both canon law and theology than I am. Considering a respectable amount of time has passed for other knowledgeable prelates to carefully construct and present contrary positions for consideration by the college of bishops, I see no cause to doubt Pope Benedict’s right to resign and for a new conclave to be held.

    His words in the consistory in 2013 were explicitly clear and appear very carefully considered. His actions since then, including choosing the title Pope Emeritus, and continuing to wear white, but limiting his public comments, also appear carefully considered.

    A conclave was subsequently called, and the normal scrutiny completed. Therefore, I am quite confident that we have a pope (only one), and he has chosen for himself the name Francis. That does not mean I am confident in the wisdom of everything he does, and that we don’t need good bishops to help us carefully interpret what Pope Francis says and writes, but that can be a separate discussion. I only suggest we do not need for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to clarify further whether Francis is Pope.

    Even trying to read carefully, I’m still not certain I fully understand the point Mr. Socci was intending to make, nor yours, Father, when bringing it up in multiple posts this week. Regardless, when discussing active and contemplative Petrine ministries, and distinguishing between the Petrine ministry and the person who holds the office of Bishop of Rome, I think it is critical that the approach be precise and reserved. Using the poll asking who the Pope is as part of the context for the discussion seems to have led to a lot of confusion over what the point is.

    We all know there is deep polarization within the Church, as there is within secular society. I view this division as one of the devil’s snares, baited with many individual controversies to trap different elements of the Church further apart. Some of these controversies do need to be addressed, but very carefully, so as to rescue the issues being used as bait without triggering the snare. I worry the poll itself served as a snare that was stepped in hastily, tangling us up in suspicions of sedevacantism or a selective view of papal infallibility.

    I will continue to pray for you as you asked.

  3. ChrisP says:

    Lewis and his whole fan club of Orcs are a truly horrible website.

    A digital monument to Modernism and its predilection to find the highest bidder.

    Nary an original thought but loads of well funded malice. It should be renamed WherePorkBarrelIs

  4. grateful says:

    Father, thanks for setting the record straight.
    And Yes, thank you very much for having studied philosophy.
    St Joseph, pray for us.

  5. Jean-Marie says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful reaction. This is exactly what I think on these matters.

    “Using the poll asking who the Pope is as part of the context for the discussion seems to have led to a lot of confusion over what the point is.”

    Indeed, indeed posting such a poll doesn’t help. It only adds to the confusion in a very unfruitful way.

  6. Dan Millette says:

    I am sorry to hear of yet another headache like this thrown your way, Father. Pardon the pun, but his posting of a food pic was done in bad taste.

    You’ve been asking many questions lately, and I think I speak for many when I ask for clarity. Why, for instance, did you link to that bizarre poll where the Benedict-is-pope crowd asked themselves who they think the pope is (and then declared victory on the matter)? Why do you keep linking to Socci?

    We’re wondering where you’re going with this. Your motives seem covert.

    Prayers for you Father. Keep fighting the good fight.

    [People are so eager to read things in. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I am interested to know how many people who are thinking about the “Benedict is Pope” question really think that Benedict remains the Pope. I don’t know how else to do that but to look at things like polls put out on sites which might attract people who think about this. It was unscientific. It was susceptible to ballot stuffing. BUT… it was something. And the results were not nothing, even though it was informal. If the majority of people who have thought about this matter think that Benedict is now the Pope and the only Pope, that matters.]

  7. WVC says:

    I appreciate all the posts about the question over Pope Benedict’s resignation and the legitimacy of Pope Francis. I, for one, was almost entirely unaware that so many people were taking this topic so seriously. So I’m grateful to be enlightened about the arguments on both sides of the question. I still firmly believe Pope Francis is the Pope, but now I feel better able to communicate this position with anyone I encounter who may be in doubt.

    Regarding Mike Lewis – never heard of him. From what’s been said here, that doesn’t appear to have been much of a loss on my part.

  8. Sandy says:

    May Mother Mary’s Mantle cover you, Father. I’m sad that you have to deal with this evil. God bless you.

  9. rwj says:

    I am taking this moment to acknowledge the kind of nastiness Fr. Z opens himself to by putting his thoughts out in the public for the world to view. No pseudonyms.

    I do consider these pages an important part of your ministry- and I thank you. I think I owe you some prayers!

    Pastors have the fun of being the target of all kinds of crazy-hate, because they live public lives and make public decisions. Having a high-traffic site like this must amplify the chances being under constant attack, along with reaching so many of us who benefit from it. God bless you!


  10. Lurker 59 says:

    The Poll on Canon212 was very informative because it showed a general breakdown of the readership of WDTPRS on the whole issue. Honestly, I was expecting the needle to move more towards Francis is Pope than it did after Fr. Z posted it here and encouraged his sizable readership to vote. The ‘why’ it is posted is pretty obvious: to keep dragging the confusion that exists into the light as the only way to get rid of confusion is to talk through it. As to those that are questioning Fr. Z above, Father is a priest and is is a weighty matter to a priest whose name is said in the Canon of the Mass so a priest’s views on the matter at hand are what he says in the Mass.

    “Where Peter Is” is one of those websites that I stay away from. I engaged there a bit multiple years ago. At that time Mr. Lewis struck me as too much of a Combox Warrior turned Blogger. Perhaps he has toned down a bit over the years, but probably not.

    Benedict XVI’s abdication really brought into light disharmony / misconceptions/ corruption in Western Ecclesiology. Vatican II tries to round out / course correct issues in and that resulted from Vatican I, but also creates new problems due to intentional vagueness, conflicts between parts, and unnecessary obtuseness (“subsists in”, anyone?). It is unfortunate that Ratzinger sits at the center of two major areas of ecclesial confusion: the subsists in issue and the whole ‘where is Peter’ issue.

    The issues that revolve around Benedict XVI’s abdication (which are real and won’t go away) would be moot if Pope Francis acted and conducted himself more like what one expects a Pope to do according to the definition of what it means to be Pope, not by one’s sentiment. It is not just that Pope Francis acts differently, but that he acts, does, and teaches in manners that are in at least conflict (arguably in contradiction) to that which a Pope is, by definition, to do.

    It is also very true that Pope Francis is, in the arguments and frustrated affects of people, also a surrogate for one’s local bad priest and/or bishop. A frustrated Catholic of a bad local priest/bishop might have found solace that at least they were in communion with Pope Benedict. Think of the turmoil of their consciences now!

    But this also brings to light the confusion in ecclesiology. One is not in communion with the Church, and thus Christ, by being in direct communion with the Pope. That is not how the hierarchical constitution of the Church works. Now how communion exactly works is part of the ongoing confusion, but, while the Petrine Office is a supra jurisdictional and spiritual authority, and while one’s local deacons and priests derive their jurisdictional and spiritual authority from the authority of their local bishop, the local bishop does not derive his jurisdictional (even if he is so assigned a geographic area) and spiritual authority from the Petrine Office, as if the Petrine Office is the fullness of what it means to be a bishop.

    Of course none of what I have written solves the issue at hand, which really is an academic issue, for the real issue is how does one, not from a theoretical standpoint but a practical one, live life with clergy who are not just bad but insist on jumping up and down on the Faith?

  11. Prayers, certainly headed your way in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord and Good St. Anne that she shield you as she protected the Blessed Mother to prepare her to become the mother of Our Lord.

    With protection like that…you are held in good stead.

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  13. The Astronomer says:

    Father, sometimes an entire website can function as a modernist troll-aggregator.

    Keep up the good work. You KNOW you’re over the target when you take fire from troll AAA guns.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    I don’t read that blog regularly, now I shall actively avoid it. I do not intend to be mean, but has the IQ of the entire planet decreased? This is not content, this is agitating as in a vendetta, and they are not the same. There is a certain group, we know them, the haters, the resentful, the mean-spirited, the general dissidents against Catholicism, who hate anybody faithful, they post this and that and we generally can avoid them but oh boy, when they smell blood in the water, it’s chum, and here they come. But with this article there’s no there there, it’s just personal complaints. Where’s the beef, or, the compendium. Attempting to demonize someone is not good argument. It’s clearly personal. And silly.
    I know some people get in a lather whenever you post a food picture, Fr. Z. I LIKE the food pictures, because I will never go to Europe. Good grief if you don’t like the food pictures why do you look! Could I at least enjoy them? If that’s the most your critics can find, well, good on ya, Fr. Z. The photos are beautiful and I like them. But they’re trying, aren’t they. What black infection is festering in these people, to harass a faithful priest because he’s faithful. Have they no fear of God.

    iamlucky, I’m sure I agree with you on most things, but not this one. It is a valid and legitimate topic of discussion, who is the pope, and your statement “A conclave was subsequently called, and the normal scrutiny completed”, is a point of contention. Not all agree with that, and many believe there are indicators Francis is not actually the pope but Benedict is. Some feel by the words and actions of Francis he has made his own papacy doubtful. Anyway, it is a legitimate topic to many Catholics, who deserve to see it addressed. It should be addressed by Cardinals, but, that’s not going to happen. They prefer their comforts.

  15. TonyO says:

    Fr. Z, I am sorry you have to bear these attacks on you, and I will add you to the prayer list.

    I have been over at WherePeterIs only a few times, and I have found it spotty. In some cases, where the pope or the papacy is being attacked unjustly, they have given good defenses of him or it. Other times, when the pope is being critiqued justly, they have defended him stridently, on occasion even rabidly. Most recently, on the scandal that appeared to have Pope Francis supporting civil unions. That’s my experience, and (admittedly) I am using subjective terminology for what I have found.

    If it is possible to draw out conclusions from such (limited) experience, the writers there seem to have placed themselves into a mode of warrior-defenders of the pope, and (roughly speaking) it just isn’t their job to cautiously consider whether a critique of the pope might be justified. Their (self-appointed) job seems to be “defend no matter what”. Well, that might be a worthy and noble job – if the pope is above reproach. But what happens when we land a pope that is NOT above reproach? We had an amazing string of 2+ centuries of popes who were, mostly, very erudite and very devout, but that’s only 10% of the history of the Church. We have also had the Borgia popes, and others who were clearly reprehensible, including the pope explicitly reproved by his successor for his Arian squishiness. We had Pope John XXII, who tried to teach error in his sermons, and he was (rightly) corrected by theologians on the truth that saints enjoy the beatific vision before the Final Judgment. The attitude of WherePeterIs would seem to have it that those theologians SHOULD NOT have corrected John XXII, even though he was in error (and the next pope confirmed just that). They (seemingly) should have said “yes sir, yes sir” and changed their own teaching 180 degrees to conform. That cannot be right.

    When Mike Lewis (and others) stoop to personal attacks on upstanding priests, that’s definitely gone too far. Defending Francis doesn’t justify that.

    As for who the pope is right now: I agree with the points made by Iamlucky13, and (even though I might wish Benedict were still the pope) I don’t think there is enough evidence to overturn the extremely strong presumption in favor of Francis.

  16. iamlucky13 says:

    Kathleen, as I mentioned, I’ll settle for presenting my case as my viewpoint. I won’t be too troubled if it is not taken as a conclusive argument.

    But although my relaxed position is based in part on not having examined many of the arguments that Pope Francis was not validly elected (such as due to invalidity of Benedict’s resignation), the lack of clear support for the idea among the other successors to the apostles makes conducting such an examination of the arguments uncompelling to me. Archbishop Vigano, for example, clearly someone willing to stick his neck out on related matters, asked that Francis resign, but did not challenge his status as Pope unless I missed such a statement.

    With that in mind, I am concerned that the desire many of us share for a Pope more like Benedict XVI is leading to wishful thinking that, depending how it is expressed and acted upon, could harm the Church rather than help it.

  17. Thetaman says:

    I’ve followed you for a long time Father, but felt the need to setup an account and comment in support of this sort of discussion and asking for answers. As seen with the poll, many of us who are uncertain of the papal situation due to many obvious irregularities are very confused as to the numerous issues that are brought up on both sides. I’m almost beginning to feel that it is like the recent “election,” where it seems they actually want there to be questions and doubt in the system, rather than to be sure one way or another. It certainly seems to the benefit of Satan to have vast uncertainty as to who in fact is Christ’s vicar on earth… (Let’s be real, they don’t have to let Benedict dress in white and they don’t have to show him imparting the papal blessing if they didn’t want to) But avoiding the questions and problems does not prevent any of the uncertainty or help the resolution; only approaching them head on and demanding answers from our church leaders will bring clarity at this point. So although I as a layman cannot make any formal judgment of who is the pope, I will certainly continue to ask for answers and backup anyone who also asks for truth to be made clear in this regard!

  18. catholictrad says:

    Saint Joan of Arc lived in a time of three competing popes between Avignon and Rome, yet she and many others managed to become great saints. Several great saints backed the wrong “pope”, yet still they were saints.

    Let’s focus on Heaven and let time sort out who was pope after we’ve gone to our reward.

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