Francis is the Pope

From Felix Miller of the European Conservative. God willing the anti Francis sentiment that continues to grow like cancer, will soon be relegated to the fringes of the Church. :pray:

Recently, conservatives and traditionalists in the Catholic Church have been rediscovering the need to emphasize masculinity and courage in the face of watered-down forms of Christianity (often called ‘the church of nice’). At times, this courage means speaking truth to power, even power within the Church. When this rebuke to the Church’s hierarchy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, it can be the stuff saints are made of; one need only think of St. Catherine of Sienna’s letters urging the pope to return from the comfort of Avignon to his proper place in Rome. However, much of contemporary conservative and traditional speech to and about the Church hierarchy crosses the line from proper Christian fraternal correction to scandalous disobedience or even schism, acts that come, not from God, but Satan.

Perhaps the most frightening form that this speech takes is the denial that Jorge Bergoglio is the pope. This is a lie, and a demonic one. This lie often goes along with a justification of schism, whether explicit or not. We must never forget that nothing makes Satan, the Father of Lies, happier than to use the good things of God to sow division and falsehood. Satan can even use our devotion to the truth or the liturgy to pull us into sin, and this is what we see happening more and more. Catholics must stand against these evils and correct, whether privately or publicly, those who perpetuate these lies.

## Is the Pope Catholic?

The denial of Pope Francis’ authority come in many forms. There are the most extreme ‘sedevacantists’ who argue that the seat of Peter has been vacant for many decades. Then there are those who hold that Pope Benedict’s resignation was invalid, and that he remained pope during the conclave that elected Francis. There is yet another group who hold that, while Pope Benedict’s resignation was valid, the conclave itself was not, perhaps because Francis supposedly engaged in nefarious activities to be elected pope.

Finally, there are those who hold that Francis was validly elected the pope, but that he has since placed his authority over certain matters in a “state of suspension” because of his supposedly illegitimate restrictions on the Latin Mass. Perhaps the most prominent Anglophone proponent of this line of argument is Peter Kwasniewski, whose article on the subject in Catholic Family News was recently republished in the winter print edition of The European Conservative. This position, though perhaps not technically ‘sedevacantist,’ dances dangerously close to that line.

While I am naturally very hesitant to speak publicly in opposition to my fellow Catholics on Church issues, it seems to me that doing so in this case constitutes a spiritual work of mercy. It could be construed as counseling the doubtful, as these people are falling into doubt about the Holy Spirit’s protection of His Church. It could be understood as comforting the sorrowful, for they are being driven to despairing sorrow and anger over Pope Francis’ actions. Finally, I may even be admonishing the sinner, because, whether they are culpable of it or not, those who deny the pope’s authority are rebelling against the rightful vicar of Christ, those who do so publicly are causing scandal, and those who go further to attend Latin Masses not sanctioned by their dioceses are in great danger of the sin of schism.

The last group listed, who hold that the pope’s authority is in a “state of suspension,” has the greatest veneer of respectability. Its members appear to be ‘moderates’ in the discussion, and thus they likely pose the greatest danger to souls. This group often cites (in a rather general way) a text written by St. John Henry Newman entitled The Arians of the Fourth Century—never mind the fact that this text was written in 1833, twelve years before Newman’s conversion to Catholicism.

Contemporary denials of papal authority often go along with a justification of, or at least tacit approval of, the initial formation and continued existence of the Society of Pope Pius X, often called the ‘SSPX.’ The precise status of the SSPX is a very knotty subject. However, it is extremely clear that, on the whole, the Society is far more interested in their own man-made structures of authority than on following Christ’s. Its bishops have never been obedient to the pope. Its priests have been obedient to their own bishops, and not to the bishops the pope has appointed over their geographical areas. In addition, many SSPX priests explicitly discourage the faithful from attending even Latin Masses said by diocesan priests. These are not the actions of priests and bishops that are in right relation to the pope.

I am not a theologian. Nor am I someone who is accustomed to or skilled in disputation. There are polemical speakers, such as Michael Voris, who have taken these falsehoods to task in more rhetorically-skilled ways than I could, and there are Catholics schooled in theology who have made better historical and theological arguments than I am capable of making. Thus, I do not aim to do either of those things. Instead, I would like to do something quite simple, something Catholics have been doing for two thousand years: I will point to the lives of the saints.

## The testimony of the saints

Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, was not a soft man. He preached the Gospel uncompromisingly and was no-nonsense, perhaps even to a fault. Like Saints Longinus, George, Jerome, Ignatius of Loyola, and so many before him, he was a manly man who courageously laid his whole life down for Jesus Christ, who first laid down His life for us.

Padre Pio is an excellent saint to look to in times of ecclesiastical confusion. A stigmatic, he was investigated by the Vatican and even ordered to cease public masses. At one point, the Holy See went so far as to state that the seemingly miraculous things in his life were not due to divine causes. On a purely human level, he had every reason to be angry with the Church and speak out against Her treatment of him. However, he did no such thing. Instead, he submitted himself to the proper authority, even when it was treating him poorly.

This, one might object, shows St. Pius’ humility about his own person, not any willingness to concede authority over the liturgy. However, Padre Pio submitted to the Vatican in liturgical matters as well. He was deeply skeptical of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform that occurred in its wake. We possess clear records of this. Yet, when the novus ordo, the new order of the Mass, was required, he said it. He requested permission to continue saying the old Mass. He did not demand, he did not order, and he did not disobey. Thankfully, he was given permission to celebrate the old Mass, but the crucial point is that St. Pius humbly submitted to Christ’s earthly representatives, fallible though their judgement may be.

There are many similar accounts of saints who have accepted the Church’s mistreatment. There is not a single hagiography of which I am aware that details a saint denying that there is a pope, refusing censure from the Vatican, and fundraising based on their following’s anger. To put it bluntly, Padre Pio is a canonized saint; Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who founded the SSPX, is not. The former centered his life around Christ, while the latter rejected the authority of St. Peter’s successor in what Pope St. John Paul II called “a schismatic act.”

Today’s Catholics live in difficult times. There is no denying that the Church has been led by more prudent men in the past. There have been popes like St. Peter, whose zeal for the Gospel lead to martyrdom. There have been popes like Leo XIII, whose clarity of teaching on political matters helped the Church to face the modern world with great power. There have been popes like the recently departed Benedict XVI (may God rest his soul) whose devotion to the liturgy helped bring so many souls much closer to the Eucharist. But those are not the men leading us now. The one leading us is Pope Francis. We should pray for him. Bad popes and good ones make up the unbroken line reaching from us back to Christ’s founding of the Church. And we should thank God for this line, thank God that we have a pope—even a pope like Francis.

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