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When petitions just don’t cut it…

“We accuse Pope Francis”: Semi-Traditionalist Trio publishes Book of Accusation against Jorge Bergoglio

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Michael Matt, Christopher Ferrara, and John Vennari have had enough. After three-and-a-half-years of open apostasy by Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”), the semi-traditionalist newspaper trio have decided to upgrade their resistance from merely providing critical commentary and launching petitions, to issuing a Liber Accusationis (“Book of Accusation”) against the man they believe is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. The charge in a nutshell: He just ain’t a Catholic. (This is something we actually pointed out from the very beginning, while Matt and Ferrara were still trying to spin Francis into a Catholic, but okay.) This move was triggered by Francis’ recent explicit confirmation that his “apostolic exhortation” Amoris Laetitia must be understood to allow some public adulterers to receive the Novus Ordo sacraments without abandoning their adulterous relations.

The title of their collection of charges against Francis is “With Burning Concern: We Accuse Pope Francis”, and it is being published in three parts. So far, only the first part has been released, and it is posted at The Remnant, for which Matt and Ferrara write, as well as at Catholic Family News, edited by Vennari. The title “With Burning Concern” is identical to that of Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge on the dangers and errors of the Nazi ideology in the Third Reich.

No doubt, Francis will be shaking in his boots knowing that three newspaper columnists in the United States have finally had enough. Please forgive the sarcasm, but this whole thing is a tragicomedy because the authors in question are intelligent individuals who know very well how serious Francis’ apostasy is, and yet they absolutely refuse to consider even as a possibility the only reasonable answer to the whole business: Sedevacantism. Francis, not being a Catholic, cannot be the head of the Catholic Church. Like it or not, that much is certain.

Matt likes to decry the Sedevacantist position as the “easy answer” that he thinks cannot be true for the simple reason that it is easy, whereas Vennari seems to take the opposite approach and argues that it cannot be true because it supposedly raises more questions than it answers. We note that what Matt and Vennari have in common here is their rejection of Sedevacantism for bogus reasons: It frankly does not matter if it is too simple for the complex mind of Mr. Matt, or whether it raises more questions than it answers in Mr. Vennari’s mind — the only thing that matters is whether it is true, and that is not determined by either factor. As for Ferrara, his modus operandi is simply to contend that the idea that Francis or any of his five predecessors of infelicitous memory are not real Popes is a “patent absurdity” — which is ironic, coming from a man who has recently described Francis as an “Undertaker Pope” and “anti-Catholic Pope”. We’ll let the reader decide on which side the absurdity is to be found.

So, three laymen who claim to be traditional Catholics have the audacity to issue a book of accusation against the man they believe to be the Pope. What does traditional Catholic teaching say about the Pope and the Papacy?

Let’s review:

From these events men should realize that all attempts to overthrow the “House of God” are in vain. For this is the Church founded on Peter, “Rock,” not merely in name but in truth. Against this “the gates of hell will not prevail” [Mt 16:18] “for it is founded on a rock” [Mt 7:25; Lk 6:48]. There has never been an enemy of the Christian religion who was not simultaneously at wicked war with the See of Peter, since while this See remained strong the survival of the Christian religion was assured. As St. Irenaeus proclaims openly to all, “by the order and succession of the Roman pontiffs the tradition from the Apostles in the Church and the proclamation of the truth has come down to us. And this is the fullest demonstration that it is the one and the same life-giving faith which has been preserved in the Church until now since the time of the Apostles and has been handed on in truth” [Adversus haereses, bk. 3, chap. 3].

(Pope Pius VII, Encyclical Diu Satis, n. 6)

This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful….

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7; underlining added.)

Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic…. “You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held”.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13)

In the Catholic Church Christianity is incarnate. It identifies itself with that perfect, spiritual, and, in its own order, sovereign society, which is the mystical body of Jesus Christ and which has for its visible head the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Prince of the Apostles. It is the continuation of the mission of the Saviour, the daughter and the heiress of His redemption. It has preached the Gospel, and has defended it at the price of its blood, and strong in the Divine assistance, and of that immortality which have been promised it, it makes no terms with error, but remains faithful to the commands which it has received to carry the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the uttermost limits of the world and to the end of time and to protect it in its inviolable integrity.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Annum Ingressi; underlining added.)

So the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: ‘The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [Mt 16:18], cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion.’…

To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received. It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world … referred to this apostolic see those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing….

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour 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].

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; underlining added.)

Messrs. Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari: Do you believe this? Do you adhere to this? Yes or no?

In addition to the above, let’s also recall Pope Leo XIII’s instructions regarding submission to the Pope, with a special focus on Catholic journalists:

The task pertaining to [journalists] in all the things that concern religion and that are closely connected to the action of the Church in human society is this: to be subject completely in mind and will, just as all the other faithful are, to their own bishops and to the Roman Pontiff; to follow and make known their teachings; to be fully and willingly subservient to their influence; and to reverence their precepts and assure that they are respected. He who would act otherwise in such a way that he would serve the aims and interests of those whose spirit and intentions We have reproved in this letter would fail the noble mission he has undertaken. So doing, in vain would he boast of attending to the good of the Church and helping her cause, no less than someone who would strive to weaken or diminish Catholic truth, or indeed someone who would show himself to be her overly fearful friend.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

No, it cannot be permitted that laymen who profess to be Catholic should go so far as openly to arrogate to themselves in the columns of a newspaper, the right to denounce, and to find fault, with the greatest license and according to their own good pleasure, with every sort of person, not excepting bishops, and think that with the single exception of matters of faith they are allowed to entertain any opinion which may please them and exercise the right to judge everyone after their own fashion.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Est Sane Molestum)

Again we ask Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari: Do you assent to this? Put your money where your mouth is, for you are already putting your souls there.

As justification for their act of accusing the man they insist is the legitimate Roman Catholic Pope, the journalistic trio offers three defenses: Canon 212 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter in Galatians 2:11, and the famous “resistance” quote of St. Robert Bellarmine. To this we respond as follows:

(1) Canon 212 §3 reads as follows: “According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons” (source). Unfortunately for Messrs. Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari, this canon exists only in the Novus Ordo Code of Canon Law and not in the traditional Catholic 1917 Code of Canon Law. In other words, it is a Vatican II novelty, something the individuals in question usually denounce — except when it helps their case, apparently. There is no principle at work here other than “let’s use whatever floats our boat.”

(2) St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter in Galatians 2:11: “But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” This passage, however, only establishes that it is licit to resist and rebuke one’s superior — even the Pope — if he engages in scandalous conduct. And while this certainly applies to Francis to some extent, the fundamental problem is of a different nature: Bergoglio does not simply cause scandal by imprudent actions — he teaches heresy and other doctrinal error, “canonizes” false saints, establishes heretical and sacrilegious universal discipline, and so on. We are talking here not about personal conduct but about magisterial and official acts as (putative) Pope.

That St. Paul rebuked St. Peter merely for blameworthy personal conduct and not for teaching false doctrine or anything of the kind, is easy to verify. The popular Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible has the following note on this passage:

The fault that is here noted in the conduct of St. Peter, was only a certain imprudence, in withdrawing himself from the table of the Gentiles, for fear of giving offence to the Jewish converts; but this, in such circumstances, when his so doing might be of ill consequence to the Gentiles, who might be induced thereby to think themselves obliged to conform to the Jewish way of living, to the prejudice of their Christian liberty.

(Challoner Note on Galatians 2:11)

St. Peter was simply afraid of giving offense to the Jewish converts by eating with the Gentiles; hence, he withdrew from the Gentile converts when the Jews arrived. Because this conduct can give the false impression that Christians are still bound by the Old Law, it was imprudent for St. Peter to act this way, though he probably simply sought to avoid giving so-called “scandal of the weak” to the new converts from Judaism, and so his intention was good. But this differs in essence from the case of “Pope” Francis and therefore is not really applicable in our situation.

(3) The famous “resistance” quote of St. Robert Bellarmine: “Therefore, just as it would be lawful to resist a Pontiff invading a body, so it is lawful to resist him invading souls or disturbing a state, and much more if he should endeavor to destroy the Church. I say, it is lawful to resist him, by not doing what he commands, and by blocking him, lest he should carry out his will…” (De Romano Pontifice, Book II, chapter 29). Fr. Anthony Cekada has written a short article explaining the meaning and surrounding context of this passage, something always ignored by recognize-and-resist traditionalists, who simply mindlessly recycle this quote to justify their resistance to the Vatican II Church. Here are the facts in a nutshell:

(1) Bellarmine is talking about a morally evil pope who gives morally evil commands — not one who, like the post-Vatican II popes, teaches doctrinal error or imposes evil laws.

(2) The context of the statement is a debate over the errors of Gallicanism, not the case of a heretical pope.

(3) Bellarmine is justifying “resistance” by kings and prelates, not by individual Catholics.

(4) Bellarmine teaches in the next chapter of his work (30) that a heretical pope automatically loses his authority.

(Fr. Anthony Cekada, “The Bellarmine ‘Resistance’ Quote: Another Traditionalist Myth”, p. 1)

So much for that. At some point, these supposed “traditional Catholics” simply have to start accepting traditional Catholic teaching on everything, including the Papacy, and not just what suits them.

As far as the substance of the Liber Accusationis goes, we do not intend to give a full review of it — there are simply too many other things going on in Novus Ordo Land for that, and most of it would simply be repeating what we have said on this blog for years anyway.

However, a few critical observations are in order.

The trio starts out slamming Francis for his banality on the evening of his election on March 13, 2013. They rightly criticize the Argentinian Jesuit as follows:

Your strange remarks on that historic occasion began with the banal exclamation “Brothers and sisters, good evening” and ended with an equally banal intention: “Good night and sleep well!” Not once during the first address did you refer to yourself as Pope or make any reference to the supreme dignity of the office to which you had been elected: that of the Vicar of Christ, whose divine commission is to teach, govern and sanctify the Church universal and lead her mission to make disciples of all nations.

Almost from the moment of your election there began a kind of endless public relations campaign whose theme is your singular humility among the Popes, a simple “Bishop of Rome” in contrast to the supposed monarchical pretensions of your predecessors and their elaborate vestments and red shoes, which you shunned…

This criticism is spot-on. What’s puzzling is only that this condemnation of banality does not at all sound like the Christopher Ferrara we heard on that very day when he covered the election of Francis with “Fr.” Nicholas Gruner for Fatima TV. You can watch the 28-minute broadcast at this link and see for yourself.

Regarding the fake humility Francis has displayed “almost from the moment of [his] election”, we remember the words of Ferrara printed in The Fatima Crusader’s Spring 2013 issue:

…[C]ertain pundits and commentators of the Internet [are] already publicly rending their cyber garments and pronouncing the new Pope anathema: his humility is really pride, he hates the traditional Latin Mass, his former archdiocese is a disaster area, etc. Read why the author and Father Gruner tell us that these pronouncements are wrong.

(Christopher A. Ferrara, “Some Wise Words from Father Gruner”, The Fatima Crusader 105 [Spring 2013], p. 2)

This just for the record.

Later in Part I of their missive against Francis, Messrs. Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari write:

Respecting the Protestants, you declare that they are all members of the same “Church of Christ” as Catholics, regardless of what they believe, and that doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants are comparatively trivial matters to be worked out by agreement of theologians.

(underlining added)

Again the criticism is warranted, although one cannot help but notice a delightful irony here, for the three authors are guilty of the very same thing of which they are accusing Francis: They too believe that you can be a member of the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ, regardless of what you believe — at least when you claim to be the Pope in Rome. Then somehow it doesn’t matter what you believe or profess, even if it is heresy. Earlier in the same document, Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari accuse Francis of heresy (“heterodox … statements”), yet they continue to insist he is the head — and thus a member — of the Catholic Church. Do these people ever think about what they write?

No, it won’t do to claim that Francis might just be a material (i.e. innocent) heretic rather than a formal, pertinacious one, because as far as Church membership (and thus the Papacy, in his case) is concerned, this distinction is irrelevant:

Manifest heretics and schismatics are excluded from membership in the Church. Heretics separate themselves from the unity of faith and worship; schismatics from the unity of government, and both reject the authority of the Church. So far as exclusion from the Church is concerned, it matters not whether the heresy or schism be formal or material. Those born and reared in heresy or schism may be sincere in their belief and practice yet they publicly and willingly reject the Church and attach themselves to sects opposed to her. They are not guilty of sin in the matter, but they are not members of the Church. For this reason, the Church makes no distinction between formal and material heresy when receiving converts into her fold.

(Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1927], p. 226; underlining added. The 1955 edition of the book is available here.)

The Francis “pontificate” is simply the logical chickens of the false resistance position coming home to roost: If you are willing to accept a public heretic as Pope, that’s exactly what you will get. Of course this leads to utter chaos, because a non-Catholic Pope is an impossibility, an utter absurdity. But because Matt, Ferrara, and Vennari have stubbornly refused to accept the simple fact that what cannot be true, is not true, they now have to face the consequences of their errors: absurdity. They believe in an absurd church with an absurd pope, and yet they somehow believe themselves to be traditional Catholics in the process. We are witnessing the advanced consequences of a dogmatic rejection of Sedevacantism.

The entire Vatican II religion is false and fraudulent from the ground up, and our triumvirate of columnists knows it. That’s why they reject practically everything that is peculiar to the Modernist Sect as false, heretical, impious, or otherwise harmful: its peculiar beliefs and doctrines, theology, practices, disciplinary laws, liturgical rites, canonized saints, and so on. Yet somehow the only thing that cannot be questioned or rejected is the authority behind it all: the “popes” since 1958. How come everything else is false but this one thing cannot be? How come everything is always “non-binding” except the idea that the monsters who perpetrated this false and dangerous religion are true Catholic Popes, genuine Vicars of Jesus Christ?

Don’t say that their claims to the Papacy are guaranteed to be valid because Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail (see Mt 16:18). No, this would turn Christ’s promise upside down, as we have proven in this article and in this video clip.

So there is now a book of accusation against Francis, similar to the books issues against Paul VI, John Paul II and the author of the 1992 Novus Ordo Catechism. What will the Matt-Ferrara-Vennari missive accomplish? Nothing, absolutely nothing; and they know it. As we said in July, the semi-traditionalists really are at the breaking point.

Things are going to get really interesting now. Make popcorn.

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