21 June 2016

In a Nutshell: "We have a Pope who is convinced that in all matters, not just marriage, the Church ought to be conformed to the way he thinks things ought to be, regardless of all prior teaching and discipline."

The unfortunate but entirely unsurprising debacle of Francis' remarks last week on marriage (most Catholic marriages are null but many fornicating shack-ups are true marriages) continues to resound in the Church.  The well is so poisoned for the bishop, priest, or layman who tries to uphold the sacramental reality that the incident bears continued deploration. In the context of the internet, a whole week is forever, but until this thing is repudiated by Francis himself it should be deplored forever.  

It is with that in mind that I present a take by Christopher Ferrara on this subject, one in which he also notes the dismay of Phil Lawler and Ed Peters. As usual, clearly thought out and persuasive.

In other news just normal for the end of the world, Ann Barnhardt came out and declared her opinion that Francis is an antipope, and that Benedict XVI remains the true pope-- based on her view of the invalidity of the purported abdication. Rorate, whether in response to her or not, I know not, published a piece opining that Francis is just the horrific (but real) pope we deserve.

Since it is my blog, and you are still reading this, I'll restate my take, which you can assume unless I ever publish something to the contrary.  I understand the theory that Benedict may have either resigned out of grave fear, or may have not resigned everything of his office (the ludicrous papal expansion/ two popes/ active contemplative thing). If true, his abdication would not be effective and he would remain pope. I also get the argument, which I find less persuasive, that the irregularities in the conclave that elected Francis made the election invalid-- though I find this most unlikely. The problem with these theories is that whether they are true or not, we do not have enough information to confirm them. Ann Barnhardt, God bless her, has strong opinions and is not afraid to share them (good).  But she has a habit of taking one possible scenario and declaring it as an established fact, as though her own act of concluding it is a foundational piece of evidence.

On the other hand, Rorate's editorial that Francis is true pope, and a scourge sent from God, is also an opinion.  They make that clear in the title of their post: Editorial. That's what an editorial is, an opinion. They say that our sins have earned such a pope; they are 100% right about that.  But one could also say that our sins have earned an antipope. Like Ann Barnhardt, and indeed most of us in the world, we do not have enough information to discredit the notion that Benedict didn't abdicate.

Which is worse? Does it matter?

The end result for me is that until we have such evidence to confirm or deny the abdication of Benedict XVI, I must assume that Francis is actually the reigning pope. And believe me, it is not because I like that assumption.  As a lawyer, everything is easier for me if Francis is antipope, because all his nonsense and purported changes of Church policies (or worse) are simply null and void, legally. A practical mess of biblical proportions, maybe, but legally void. The charism of the Church, her spotlessness, her infallibility, are all blissfully untouched and unbesmirched. It isn't an impossibility; the Church has had many antipopes. Why not now? Yet again, I certainly see God smiting us with a horrible pope. In the face of uncertainty, I have to give the apparent results of 2013 the benefit of the doubt.

If I were not trying to be a faithful Catholic, but merely an observer with a legal education placing a bet at a Vegas book, I would state that I think it more likely than not that Benedict's purported abdication was invalid, and that he is still pope, making Francis and anyone who comes after him during Benedict's life an antipope. But that is too light a burden of proof for so weighty a matter, and I distrust my own motives and opinions.

Well, there's another wordy post coming to an end. I'm sorry it's so long, and I really do regret that I felt the need to write explicitly what I have felt for a long, long time. My own struggle with this whole stupid blog exercise comes down to this: I don't want to deny Christ before men, I want to be "on record" in support of Him. I submit to the Roman Pontiff and love the Church.  Yet I don't want to lead any well-meaning readers astray with what are, essentially my own very fallible opinions. So I seek prudence. And finally, I definitely don't want to be among the lukewarm, whom Christ will begin to vomit from His mouth. I simply lack the wisdom to know the right answers on this, and thus you see my blog go silent, careen from "positive" to "negative" without warning.

In the end, pope or antipope, we are called to resist any directives of Francis or anyone else that are sinful. And we are called to submit to the Roman Pontiff if we are to be among the saved. Unam Sanctam is still in effect.

How to live this? Pray, be faithful to the duties of our state of life, fast, give alms, avoid sin, try to get to heaven. The identity of the pope in this mission is irrelevant.  

Welcome to our wonderful times.


Fr. Andrew said...

I think we are in agreement, more or less. At the end of the day I am unable to judge- nor am I authorized to make judgment on authenticity. I am charged, by my baptism and my ordination, to first study, then live, and finally preach the Holy Deposit. I pray I do my best. Will my own bishop, my own Pope, my own circumstances always be favorable to living that out? I live out that mystery. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!"

nancyv said...

Reading this has given me great comfort and courage. Thank you and God bless!

Sam said...

I am disappointed to hear you speak approvingly of Ann Barhardt. I don't care if you agree with her views because she is nothing short of vulgar.

thetimman said...

I agree that AB is vulgar. I don't link to her for that reason. And I don't agree with her conclusion, as I've said. But she isn't stupid, and she has an interesting and often insightful point of view.

traddadof4 said...

It's all so confusing. This is where we're at, I think: the CGTOW movement. Catholics Going Their Own Way.

thetimman said...

Nancy, thanks for your kind words!

Konstantin said...

Benedict cannot be Pope. "Resignationism" is an error that is very similar to Sedevacantism. The logical consequence of both lines of thought is that the entire Church and the Magisterium (and Pope Benedict himself, since he publicly stated that his abdication was valid) are in error as to who is the visible head of the visible Church. Like Sedevacantism, this is a dead-end street and a very dangerous one at that.

thetimman said...


It is certainly possible to fail to fulfill the requirements necessary to complete an act. History shows us that at times one could not know who was Pope, most notably in the Great Western Schism, where canonized saints were in opposite claimants' camps.

That being said, I agree that we cannot assume the abdication was invalid, and all sorts of prudential reasons should lead us to acknowledge Francis as pope unless there is a definitive pronouncement by the Church herself, or God should intervene more dramatically.

Konstantin said...

The difference back then was that all members of the Magisterium were in one of the three camps of the claimants to the papal throne, and one must have been the true Pope. This is not the case with Resignationism or Sedevacantism. In the case of Sedevacantism, Archbishop Thuc, the first member of the Magisterium to believe to have figured out that Pope Paul VI wasn't the pope didn't make this opinion public until the late 70's. The question for them would be how to solve the problem that ++ Thuc adhered to a heretic and a schismatic for over a decade...which would probably render him that if you think like a consequent sede.

The same holds true for Resignationism, with the only difference that there still hasn't been a member of the Magisterium to ring the alarm and tell us that we are being ruled by an anti-pope. Sorry, that just doesn't work. If you believe that, you would have to say that the Church as a whole is not infallible since not a single member of the Magisterium can tell where the true Pope is, since they all publicly adhere to Francis and not to Benedict and Benedict considers his resignation to be valid.

thetimman said...

I believe you are confusing the term "magisterium", the teaching authority of the Church, with "hierarchy", which is the prelatial ruling group within the Church, from the Pope on down. Again, noting that I do not assume Benedict's resignation was ineffective, your conclusion doesn't follow. There may be one, ten, fifty or a hundred bishops who (arguendo) "know" Benedict is still pope, but who through prudence, cowardice or fear don't say anything about it.

You're saying it takes the hierarchy to "ring the alarm" to tell us Benedict didn't really abdicate. Presumably because they would know. And if you read my post, I say the same thing. But the moment before the hierarchy tells us that, if it were true, reality is still reality-- Benedict would have been pope the moment before as much as the moment after.

Konstantin said...

I use the term "member of the Magisterium" for bishops since Fr. Ripperger used it in his book "The Binding Force of Tradition". Or call it the ecclesia docens as Fr. Michael Mary, FSSR did when making the same argument as I do:


I also think you do not quite understand my argument. I assume my wording is not precise enough, so I'll try again ;-) If there are no bishops who point out to the Church that we are all accepting an anti-pope as pope, this would mean that the entire Church has fallen into error since all members of the Magisterium (which is infallible in such matters, and this is precisely why I use this term) cannot err at the same time. As Fr. Michael argues in his post, when there was a anti-pope back in the day, at least some bishops would raise their voices and warn against the wolf: "Some part, large or small, of the Teaching Church, the Bishops, guided by the Holy Ghost, immediately knows the Antipope is there and declares the fact."

If this does not happen, it would mean that the Catholic Church has defected and is following a schismatic and a heretic. This argument applies to Sedevacantism and Resignationism.

This is what I was trying to get across. Take it or leave it.

God bless!

The Bear said...

The Bear knows this to be the current reality. Pope Francis is irrelevant to Bears. We do not care about the details or theory, only about the facts. Humans are welcome to join Bears in this clear-eyed and unsentimental judgment of one of the most realistic apex predators on the planet. You have to be willing to seriously bend reality (something humans are addicted to, for some reason) to conclude anything else. The Bears and all the other woodland creatures are like, "Hey, look! Humans got everything screwed up again!" And then we laugh. it's not that big of a deal. We sort of expect it (sorry). Animals, you see, don't get the luxury of playing make believe all the time, because nature is red in tooth and claw, etc. and will kill us dead if we do.

c matt said...

To timman's point, reality does not change by a vote of the Magisterium. The Magisterium confirms/recognizes thing as they are. Thus, being silent on the validity of the resignation does not mean it is necessarily valid. Also doesn't mean it is invalid. It is simply similar to the Supreme Court denying writ - it chooses not decide on the question at this point. The facts we have at the moment are PF's actions, Benedict's actions, and the apparent acceptance by all the squishops of PF's election. So we have to go with that (we not being a duly constituted authority to decide the issue for all) until such time as the Magisterium sees fit to pronounce on the issue. Ann may be quite correct, but at this point, we simply have not had an authoritative decision. There are far more vulgar than Ann out there.

Konstantin said...

Please read the book "True or False Pope" by John Salza and Robert Siscoe, c matt. You will see the many insoluble problems the resignationist theory brings with it.