How to Remain Faithful during the Schism

“For I came to divide a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” — Jesus (remember Him?)

There will be divisions in the pilgrim journey of the Church. Just make sure you are always on the side with Christ and His Church. For the Church is indefectible; She has Jesus as Her head and the Spirit as Her soul.

Pride goeth before a schism.

Pride. That’s what I see many times, over and over. Each commentator exalting himself or herself above the Supreme Pontiff, to judge his every word and deed, and to judge unjustly. Each assumes that his or her understanding of the Faith is truth, and anything contrary, from a Council or Pope or Saint, must be false. No one wishes to be a student or follower of the Pope. Each person is their own Pope and their own Magisterium.

And this problem gets all the worse when it is a group or a subculture in the Church adhering to a majority opinion. They can’t see the forest for the trees. They can’t understand that all these respected persons around them, in their liberal or conservative or traditionalist subculture, could all be making the same mistake, from the same set of erroneous premises.

Here are 9 TRUTHS TO BELIEVE, in order to avoid falling into the Great Conservative Schism:

1. Each and every Roman Pontiff is chosen by the grace and providence of God.

Do you not see the work of God’s grace and providence in your own life, even in relatively minor matters? So how is it that you think God ignores the more important matter of who will lead His Church, reserving grace and providence for your little life?

Why doesn’t God choose the holiest person on earth, in each time period, to be Pope? First of all, Jesus did not choose Mary to be Roman Pontiff, nor the Apostle John, but rather Peter, a man with a sinful past. So we know as a matter of fact, that when Jesus chose the first Pope directly, He did not choose the holiest person.

Secondly, perhaps God wishes the Church, at one point in time, to have a harsh Pope, so as to reign in the stubborn and powerful Cardinals and Bishops. Then, at another point in time, God might choose a pastoral Pope, or a doctrinal one. In past centuries, perhaps God wished the Church to have a Pope with many personal faults and sins, to show the faithful how lacking in holiness and faith they themselves are. For their leader would be like them. Sometimes God gives the faithful the Pope that they deserve to have as their leader.

Thirdly, Divine wisdom is inscrutable.

{11:33} Oh, the depths of the richness of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable are his ways!
{11:34} For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?

Perhaps God has reasons that are beyond our understanding. It is arrogant and foolish to demand that God make choices in accord with our limited knowledge and perspective. We should trust God, not play god.

2. The valid Roman Pontiff is the Bishop accepted by the body of Bishops as the Head of the Church, and the body of Bishops is those Bishops only who remained in communion with each successive Roman Pontiff.

For the Church is indefectible. If an antipope were permitted to be accepted by the body, then the Church would have gone astray. Remember that many persons believed the Church had gone astray during the Protestant Reformation. And history records that the true Church was the one led by each successive Roman Pontiff, no matter what his flaws may have been, and that the true Church did not go astray, despite the errors of some of Her members.

3. No valid Roman Pontiff can ever teach material heresy.

4. No valid Roman Pontiff can ever commit apostasy, heresy, or schism.

For as the First Vatican Council taught, each Roman Pontiff has the “gift of truth and never-failing faith” which was “divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See….” Teaching heresy is contrary to the gift of truth, and committing apostasy, heresy, or schism is contrary to a never-failing faith: “in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32).

5. Any teaching of the Magisterium which meets the conditions for Papal Infallibility, Conciliar Infallibility, or the ordinary and universal Magisterium, is certainly without error, regardless of its contents.

So one cannot argue that the teaching, presented under Papal Infallibility, is in error, therefore, it cannot be infallible. Instead, as long as it meets the conditions, we can accept by faith that its teaching is certainly true.

6. No valid Roman Pontiff can become invalid, nor be removed from his office by anything other than death or his valid resignation.

The indefectibility of the Church implies an indefectibility of the Pope, and he cannot cease to be the Pope by any type of defection. For Jesus promised that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18), that is, against the Church, and that Peter would hold the key to bind and to loose.

Neither can it be said that the Pope ceases to be Pope by his defection (i.e. by teaching heresy, committing heresy, intending harm to the Church, etc.), and therefore the promise of Jesus remains true, about whoever is truly Pope.

Suppose you are given a crystal bowl as a gift, and you are told it is unbreakable. Then, when you drop it, the bowl shatters into a thousand pieces. Does it make sense to say that the bowl truly was unbreakable, because, having been broken, it is no longer a bowl? No, it does not. We cannot say that the Church remains indefectible, if the Pope goes astray in any way, on the basis of a claim that he is therefore no longer Pope. By going astray, indefectibility would be broken. So that can never happen, just as it can never happen that our Lord’s promise would be false.

7. No Roman Pontiff can intend to harm the Church, nor can he harm the Church, in any substantial way, unintentionally.

The motivations of each and every Roman Pontiff are not subject to the judgment of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, theologians, or other members of the Church on earth. And it is a grave sin against Jesus himself, to accuse any Pope of evil intentions toward the Church. For the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. So we must trust in the grace of God that the Pope does not have evil intentions and cannot be or become evil himself. For a Pope with evil intentions against the Church would be contrary to the gift of indefectibility.

8. No Roman Pontiff can be truly evil or corrupt, and this is particularly true in any and all matters that concern the Church and the salvation of souls.

We know that Popes go to Confession, and that not every Pope is a Saint. But even the allegedly sinful Popes of the distant past did not harm the Faith, whatever their personal sins may have been. The gift of a never-failing faith does not permit any Roman Pontiff to intend, desire, plan, or act so as to harm the Church. For the Church is the guardian of the deposit of faith. Neither does God ever permit a man who is truly evil or corrupt to be Pope, nor permit any Pope to become evil or corrupt.

9. The prevenient grace of God preserves the Roman Pontiff from any decisions of his free will that are contrary to the indefectibility of the Church.

This type of grace is God operating, not cooperating. The human person cannot refuse prevenient grace; it acts prior to the opportunity for the exercise of free will. But neither is it unjust for God to keep the Roman Pontiff from certain decisions, since the Pope freely accepts his office, and he can freely lay it down.

Notes: I wonder whether God would ever permit any Roman Pontiff to commit an actual mortal sin. Certainly God does not allow it, when such a sin pertains to the indefectibility of the Church. Popes can commit personal sins, but I wonder what the limits may be. We cannot hold that there are no limits. Such a position lacks faith in the promises of Christ.

The grace of God keeps the Church indefectible in many ways, and we must have faith in all of them.

Here are 9 RULES TO FOLLOW, in order to avoid falling into the Great Conservative Schism:

1. Do not speak or act as if anyone on earth has the role to judge the Roman Pontiff.
2. Do not delve into accusations and complaints against the Roman Pontiff. Trust in the grace of God, instead.
3. Believe what the Roman Pontiff teaches.
4. Accept correction from the Roman Pontiff.
5. Do not assume that you are right, and he is wrong.
6. Permit yourself to disagree with few (if any) non-infallible teachings of the Roman Pontiff, but then only occasionally, and in a tempered and quiet manner.

The Magisterium does permit the faithful to disagree with some non-infallible teachings of a Pope or Council, or of any lesser authority in the Church. But the disagreement must be based on sound theological arguments from Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium. You cannot disagree merely because you prefer your own opinion over his teaching. His non-infallible teachings have the special help of the Holy Spirit, to be free from all grave error (but not all error). Your opinions do not.

7. Do not sign any document that criticizes the Roman Pontiff, or tells him what to do.
8. Do not join or support any organization that stands in opposition to the Roman Pontiff.
9. Do not consider yourself to understand the faith better than the Pope, nor to be holier or more faithful than he is.

Believe these Truths and Follow these Rules, then you will avoid falling into the sins of the great conservative Schism — which will claim millions of foolish and arrogant souls.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

3 thoughts on “How to Remain Faithful during the Schism

  1. “4. For this reason it has always been necessary for every Church–that is to say the faithful throughout the world–to be in agreement with the Roman Church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body [48].

    Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.” – (Chapter 2. On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs; Vatican I)


  2. These are teachings from Vatican I, Chapter 3:

    4. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation.”

    “7. And therefore we condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that this communication of the Supreme Head with pastors and flocks may be lawfully obstructed; or that it should be dependent on the civil power, which leads them to maintain that what is determined by the Apostolic See or by its authority concerning the government of the Church, has no force or effect unless it is confirmed by the agreement of the civil authority.”

    “8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52] , and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53] . The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon[54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.”


Comments are closed.