7 Mistakes that Papal Critics Are Making

1. The assumption that Popes Honorius I and John XXII committed or taught heresy.

They never offer a theological argument to prove this accusation. They simply assume it. And that assumption establishes, without basis, half of their conclusion. For Pope Francis to be guilty of teaching or committing heresy, it has to be first of all POSSIBLE for a Pope to do so. The papal critics have not established this essential criterion, they only assume it.

The papal critics have NOT established that either Honorius or John taught or committed heresy. They have not taken account of arguments which exonerate those Popes. If they did, their arguments would be seen to be founded on sand.

2. Ignoring the dogma of the First Vatican Council that each Pope has the gift of truth and a never-failing faith.

They ignore this dogma because it shatters their conclusion. The gift of truth prevents the Pope from ever teaching heresy. The gift of a never-failing faith prevents the Pope from ever committing heresy. The papal critics absolutely ignore Vatican I’s teaching on the very subject about which they are writing.

In fact, all the papal critics who accuse Pope Francis of teaching or committing heresy, or who state that Pope Francis may have done so, are committing heresy by rejecting or doubting, obstinately, the dogma of Vatican I. And notice that they do not even acknowledge that this teaching exists! For it absolutely contradicts their entire argument and conclusion.

3. Ignoring past teachings of the Magisterium that the Pope has the gift of immunity from error and a never failing faith.

Even prior to Vatican I, the Magisterium definitively taught that every Pope has these gifts. None of these teachings are EVER quoted by any papal critic. They do not want their readers to know what the Church teaches on the possibility, or lack thereof, of Papal heresy.

4. The First See is judged by No One.

This is Canon law 1404, and it is an ancient teaching of the Church. The papal critics have violated this law severely and repeatedly. They are openly judging the Roman Pontiff, which is a role reserved solely to God. And they judge him unjustly.

5. Hiding exculpatory evidence.

In a court of law, each defendant has a right to a fair trial. One of the violations of due process is when the prosecution hides evidence from the court, in this case the court of public opinion, which would show that the defendant is not guilty.

They have not tried Pope Francis fairly, for many reasons, including that they hide or ignore exculpatory evidence. For example, on the seventh accusation, the claim that Pope Francis taught God positively wills a diversity of religions, they hide the fact that the Pope agreed with the conservative theologians, who said that this belongs to the permissive will of God.

They accuse him of teaching the opposite of what they themselves know he did teach. Moreover, that point has not been the subject of an infallible teaching of the Magisterium, so no position on that question can be termed heretical.

The same is true for most of the other accusations, Pope Francis did not even teach what they claim. Rather, they think that his teaching implies certain falsehoods. They hide the fact that he never actually stated those falsehoods.

6. Assuming that their own interpretation of Tradition and Scripture is true and dogmatic. They fail to establish that the dogmas that Pope Francis is allegedly rejecting are formal dogma. They fail to distinguish between material dogma and formal dogma. They assume that their own views are entirely dogmatic, and cannot err.

7. Submission of mind and will

They refuse to submit their mind and will to the teaching of the Magisterium. Instead, they are attempting to submit the Pope and the Magisterium in its entirety to their own judgments and decisions. This error is schismatic.


The papal critics had a theological responsibility to PROVE that a Pope can commit heresy. Instead, they just assume it. It’s the majority opinion in the conservative Catholic subculture, so they treat that position as dogma. No need to prove dogma, right? They had a theological responsibility to address the teachings of the Church that a Pope has immunity from error and a never-failing faith. They failed to address that. And then the accusations are not well founded, nor well formulated. Finally, no one has the role to judge the Pope, so the whole exercise is sinful and without any merit whatsoever.

The accusations against Pope Francis in the Open Letter are a joke. The whole document is poorly written, and many of the signatories are entirely unqualified to judge if ANYONE is guilty of heresy. Some are not qualified to teach a religion class in a high school. Oh, wait. One of the signatories is a high school teacher. What a complete and utter farce.

No person or group of persons has the role to judge the Pope. But if there were a group of human persons on earth who had that role, it would not include most of the signatories. They are, for the most part, unqualified for the role to which they have exalted themselves.

And since the Magisterium infallibly teaches that no Pope can teach or commit heresy, ALL signatories to the Open Letter and it supporting petition are automatically excommunicated for the sins of heresy and schism.

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

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