Certain popular errors are paving the way to the conservative Schism.
1. Papal Heresy
Truth: The prevenient grace of God ensures that no Pope will ever teach material heresy, nor commit apostasy, heresy, or schism.
Popular error: that a Pope may teach or commit heresy, and thereby lose his membership in the Church and lose the validity of his Pontificate.
This error allows some members of the faithful to accuse the Pope of heresy, and to claim that a sitting Pope has become invalid. If the accusation is believed, many persons might be led to commit schism by rejecting a current Roman Pontiff.
2. Papal Election
Truth: Each and every valid Roman Pontiff is chosen by the grace and providence of God. In choosing each Pope, God does not merely permit a bad choice; rather, God decides the particular man who will be Pope, just as Jesus decided each of the Twelve Apostles whom he chose.
Popular Error: That the Cardinals choose the Pope, and sometimes they make a choice contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit.
This error allows the Pope’s accusers to claim that Jesus does not really want the current occupant of the See of Peter to be His Vicar. It allows them to portray the Pope as the result of a bad choice by the Cardinals, thus undermining his authority. This makes it easier to convince people to reject the Pope.
(Unfortunately, this error is supported by an extemporaneous remark by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. The Cardinal erred in his opinion on this point.)
3. Evil Popes
Truth: God never permits any man who is truly evil or corrupt to become Pope, nor does God permit any Pope to become evil or corrupt after his election. Some Popes are holier than others; some have great personal faults. But none is evil or corrupt. For that would contradict the indefectibility of the Church. An indefectible Church cannot have an evil head.
Popular Error: that there are two types of Popes, good and evil. When you have an evil Pope, you have to ride out the papacy, or fight against that Pope, to limit the evil that he does.
This error allows opponents of any Pope to portray him as evil and corrupt, convincing the faithful to reject the direct and immediate authority which each successor of Peter has over the faithful. This error allows papal critics to convince the sheep to reject their shepherd, to run from him, bite and kick him, and flee to the wolves instead.
4. Substitutes for the Magisterium
Truth: The faithful are required to believe what the Magisterium itself teaches.
Popular Error: Many of the faithful rely on the interpretation, and sometimes the radical reinterpretation, of magisterial teaching presented by popular authors and speakers. Individual conservative Catholic leaders and certain conservative Catholic publications have become substitutes for the Magisterium. The faithful trust them more than the Holy See or the Roman Pontiff. The result is a chasm between what the Magisterium actually teaches and what conservative Catholics believe, due to distortions and errors introduced by conservative Catholic teachers.
Articles opposing the Roman Pontiff are commonly published in conservative Catholic magazines or websites. Why don’t the owners or editors of those Catholic media outlets refuse such articles? Why don’t they use their position in the media to support the Roman Pontiff? Conservative Catholic publications are committing formal cooperation with sins of teaching heresy and promoting schism. They are relied upon by many to present Catholic teaching faithfully. Yet they publish articles containing grave errors.
So many articles and posts show gravely immoral pride. The authors speak as if they have the role to judge, teach, and correct the Roman Pontiff. They speak as if they have the right to call for a Pope’s resignation. They speak as if the Pope can err to a very grave extent, while they themselves are inerrant. Many of these papal critics have poor theological credentials, yet they think themselves fit to judge the Magisterium itself. They show no humility, no fear of God, no respect for the power and authority of the Supreme Pontiff. They treat the Vicar of Christ as if he were an annoying student of theirs.
Pride goeth before a schism.
At its heart, the conservative schism is a battle for power in the Church. The conservative Catholic subculture and its leaders decided — long before Pope Francis was elected — that they are the true leaders of the Faith, they are the ones who decide what is and is not truth. And what happens when the majority opinion in the conservative Catholic subculture conflicts with the teaching of the Roman Pontiff? What happens when most conservative Catholic leaders disagree with the current Pope’s teaching? A power struggle.
The leaders of the conservative Catholic subculture are not willing to be led by the Pope. They want a Pope who teaches them what they already think is true. They will only support a Pope who agrees with their own understanding of the Faith.
All the faithful should submit their minds and hearts to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. But that is not what is happening now. Rather, the leaders of the conservative Catholic subculture are fighting the Pope for leadership of the faithful. They sees themselves as guardians of truth, and if the Pope disagrees with them, they cannot imagine that he would be right and they would be in error.
* Are not conservative Catholics faithful to the Church by definition?
No, they are not. This has become clear in the way that so many conservatives treat Pope Francis.
* If the Pope is wrong, and conservative Catholics are right, how could they be the ones who are schismatics?
Even when the Roman Pontiff errs — and he can err in his teachings only to a limited extent — the faithful are required to give the submission of their minds and hearts to his person, office, teachings, and decisions on discipline. Some faithful disagreement is possible. But open opposition to the Pope is by definition schismatic, even when the papal critics are correct on some point of dispute.
* When will the Schism begin?
It has already begun. Many conservative Catholic leaders have publicly committed formal schism — and few noticed. But soon it will become absolutely clear. I expect Pope Francis to issue a decision on doctrine, perhaps that women can be *deacons*, or that non-Christians can be saved without converting. And in response, he will be accused of heresy. There will be open revolt against his authority. More than a few Bishops will reject the Pope’s authority publicly.
I expect the final conflict between Francis and the papal critics to begin at the Youth Synod. Look for him to release a surprise document about that time.
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