First, there is no doubt that we believe all the dogmas of the
Church, especially those concerning the office of the papacy:
A) That it was divinely founded:
Thou art Peter; and upon this
rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the
kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it
shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose
upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Mt. 16:18-9)
B) That the Bishop of Rome has a
primacy no other bishop has:
We point to the tradition of
that very great and very ancient and universally known Church,
which was founded and established at Rome, by the two most
glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point I say, to the
tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her
faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the
succession of her bishops, and so we put to shame... all who
assemble in unauthorized meetings. For with this Church, because
of its superior authority, every Church must agree - that is the
faithful everywhere - in communion with which Church the
tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who
are everywhere. (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III,
C) That the pope is infallible
under certain conditions:
The Roman Pontiff, when he
speaks ex cathedra - that is, when in the exercise of his
office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by
virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith
or morals to be held by the whole Church - is, by reason of the
Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of
that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His
Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals;
and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are
irreformable of their own nature and not by reason of the
Church’s consent. (First Vatican Council, Dz. 1839)
There seem to be two errors
common in these turbulent times. The first temptation is to
presume to judge the Holy Father of being a formal heretic, a
situation which would, according to them, cause the apparent pope
to be an anti-pope, possessing no true jurisdiction. Although this
has been put forward as a theoretical possibility by some
theologians historically, such a theory cannot explain what
happens to such doctrines as the visibility of the Church, or
Christ’s promise to be with His Church until the end of time. Such
a simplistic notion is actually based on the same premise as the
opposite temptation: that the pope is actually protected by an
extended infallibility which cannot account for any error.
The opposite error is far more common and assumes that whatever
the pope does or teaches is correct. This is perhaps
understandable since, in normal times, this is in actuality what
happens. But one must distinguish: history is replete with
examples of popes who taught or did things which were not proper.
As an example, Pope Liberius signed some form of a semi-Arian
document, and Pope John XXII temporarily taught that the souls of
the saved do not see God until after the Final Judgment. Some
Renaissance popes led lives of dubious morality. In all these
cases, though wrong, papal infallibility was not involved.
The pope is infallible primarily
in matters of faith and morals, and secondarily in matters of
discipline (legislation for the Universal Church, canonizations,
etc.) to the extent that these involve faith and morals (cf.
4), and then only when imposing for all time a
definitive teaching. Indeed, if the pope had some form of personal
infallibility with regard to his ordinary teaching, there would be
no need for a definition of its limits.
"Infallible" means immutable and
6), but, the hallmark of the conciliar popes, like
the Modernists, is a spirit of evolution. To what extent can such
minds want irreformably to define or absolutely to impose? (Cf.
15, n. 3)
How then are we to judge him?
- First, it must be understood
that it is a duty and necessity to pray for the Holy Father and
his intentions As St. Clement Mary Hofbauer says: “A
Christian who does not pray for the pope is like a child who
does not pray for his father.”
- It is not for us to judge his
culpability in the destruction of the Church. Only God can so
- Nor is it for us to judge him
juridically - the pope has no superior on earth - or to declare
unquestionably null all his acts.
- We must thus make a judgment
of his words and actions inasmuch as they affect our eternal
salvation, as our Savior said:
Beware of false prophets who
come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are
ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. (Mt.
We are not to co-operate blindly
in the destruction of the Church by tolerating the implementation
of a new religion or by not doing what we can to defend the
Catholic faith. Archbishop Lefebvre was surely our model here:
No authority, not even the
highest in the hierarchy, can compel us to abandon or to
diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed
by the Church’s Magisterium for 19 centuries.
“Friends,” said St.
Paul, “though it were we ourselves, though it were an angel
from heaven that should preach to you a gospel other than the
gospel we have preached to you, a curse upon him.” (Gal.
That is why, without any
rebellion, bitterness, or resentment, we pursue our work of
priestly formation under the guidance of the never-changing
Magisterium, convinced as we are that we cannot possibly render
a greater service to the Holy Catholic Church, to the Sovereign
Pontiff, and to posterity.
1 By such men as Cajetan, St. Robert Bellarmine, and John of St.
2 There are different levels of theological certainty. Among these
levels we might count revealed dogmas, which all Catholics must
believe; teachings proximate to the Faith, which, though not
defined, are generally regarded as true, and theological opinions,
which the Church has not definitively settled and about which
3 It should be noted that we do not speak primarily of the pope’s
personal, subjective intentions. The six objective intentions of
the Holy Father, traditionally understood, are: the exaltation of
the Church, the propagation of the Faith, the extirpation of
heresy, the conversion of sinners, concord between Christian
princes, and the further welfare of the Christian people.