Calls Bergoglio a Theological “Train Wreck”…
John Vennari: “I would never allow Pope Francis
to Teach Religion to my Children”
Mr. John Vennari is the editor of the traditionalist but anti-sedevacantist (which we call “semi-traditionalist” or “neo-traditionalist”) monthly paper Catholic Family News. He is one of the few semi-traditionalists whose belief in the claim to the papacy of the leaders of the Novus Ordo Church since 1958 does not cause him to disregard or minimize the ugly facts about these men with regard to their theology and morals. (In this, he distinguishes himself from many of his colleagues, such as the Rev. Nicholas Gruner, Michael Matt, Michael Voris, or Christopher Ferrara).
In his latest blog post, entitled “Blessed Pius IX, a Model in our Struggle”, he vents his spleen on the theological “train wreck” (his words) that is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, otherwise known as “Pope Francis”. It is worth quoting Vennari’s salient points in full up front:
I’ve been following Pope Francis’ words and actions, and read the entire book On Heaven and Earth that he co-wrote with Rabbi Skorka.
He seems to have a good heart and some good Catholic instincts, but theologically he is a train wreck – remarkably sloppy.
Though this might shock some readers, I must say that I would never allow Pope Francis to teach religion to my children.
For example, Francis recently claimed that all men, Catholics, non-Catholics and atheists, are all “first-class” children of God. There are 16-year-old traditional Catholics who know better than to make such a claim. Scripture and Catholic Tradition teach that we are adopted children of God only through Baptism and incorporation into the Church by means of Faith and Sanctifying grace. (Read Part I of Abbbot Marmion’s Christ the Life of the Soul that describes this truth with doctrinal clarity and immense beauty).
Bergoglio is thoroughly of the Vatican II orientation. He was formed in the 1960s by the Jesuits, so we cannot expect much else. A man of the 70s, he reminds me of some of the soft ‘social justice’ priests in high school (1972-1976) whom I found repulsive.
Anyone with a devotion to Our Lady can be rescued. I hope whatever devotion he has to Her rescues him from himself.
His co-author Rabbi Skorka just attended a huge interreligious Focolare meeting in Rome and praised Francis to the skies, promising that Francis will be a “pope of change”.
National Catholic Reporter recently noted that Francis is not so much a Lumen Gentium Catholic but a Gaudium et Spes Catholic. I think this assessment is correct.
Francis admitted there is a gay lobby in the Vatican, but also said he is too disorganized to enact a reform, and will leave that to his committee of Cardinals.
While in Argentina, when Bergoglio could not get permission for exorcisms from the Vatican, he would send the person who needed ‘exorcism’ to a Lutheran Pastor!
Bergoglio is ecumenical to the gills. It is pointless to pretend otherwise. As the Fatima Message says, “Pray a great deal for the Holy Father”.
I see the need to step up our resistance to the Vatican II chaos is greater than ever, since John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have more and more established the new orientation as the new norm. Too many of today’s Catholics believe the ‘spirit of Assisi’ and ecumenical gatherings constitute the true face of Catholicism.
Vennari’s frustration is entirely understandable and right on the money. Where he goes wrong, as usual, is in his (at this point inexplicable) refusal to see that Bergoglio could not possibly be the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Let’s examine Mr. Vennari’s comments a bit:
“He [Bergoglio] seems to have a good heart and some good Catholic instincts”
Translation: “He appears to mean well and sometimes he says and does things a Catholic would also say and do.” Apparently that’s enough in the New Church to qualify as a Roman Catholic, i.e. a member of the Church. Pope Pius XII had something else to say about this, though: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed” (Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22). Minor detail, eh? Notice specifically the word “profess” – to be a member of the Church, you must profess the true Faith, not merely hold it. This is why a Lutheran, for example, even though he be invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Faith and even possess the virtue of Faith, could never be considered a member of the Catholic Church, because the faith he professes is a false one, not the true one. Does Francis profess the True Faith? Of course not – that’s why Vennari frankly admits he wouldn’t allow him to teach religion to his children. But more on that later.
“but theologically he is a train wreck – remarkably sloppy”
Ah, if it were only sloppiness we could accuse him of! This is where Vennari cloaks reality in a euphemism in order not to have to contemplate the seriousness of the matter, for it would lead him to conclude that Francis cannot be Pope, and he doesn’t want to go there. But is it fair to accuse Bergoglio merely of being “sloppy”, that is, “unsystematic”, “careless” or “excessively casual” in his theology? And precisely what would that mean, anyway? When, in his book On Heaven and Earth, Bergoglio says that priests don’t have the right to “force” anything on someone’s conscience, or that fornication does not possess the “fullness of marriage” (see here), then there’s a lot worse going on here than mere theological sloppiness. A man who is theologically sloppy doesn’t draw necessary distinctions, doesn’t think sufficiently about certain matters, doesn’t do enough research, or uses imprecise terminology. But in the case of Bergoglio/Francis, the man simply isn’t a Catholic – that explains everything. Period.
Vennari is absolutely right in calling Francis a theological “train wreck”, but he fails to notice that the theology of Jorge Bergoglio is not merely sloppy but, more than anything, non-Catholic. Bergoglio sends people to a Lutheran for “exorcisms”, he tells theological left-wingers not to worry about doctrinal orthodoxy, and hosts a Jewish-Masonic memorial service in his Catholic cathedral. Sloppiness? Sorry, but that’s not the right word to describe the stark reality of the non-Catholic Bergoglio.
We must remember that the Catholic Faith is an all-or-nothing proposition. To be a member of the Church, you must profess all of it, not just some “elements”, or possess “instincts”, or enjoy “imperfect communion”, or what have you. Pope Benedict XV summarized the matter beautifully in his first encyclical: “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: ‘This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved’ (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’ only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself” (Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 24).
Listen up, then, all you non-sedevacantist resistance traditionalists (esp. SSPX): There is no “Novus Ordo Catholic” vs. “Catholic attached to Tradition”; no “modernist Catholic” vs. “traditional Catholic”; no “progressive Catholic” vs. “conservative Catholic”. You’re either Catholic or not. So, if Catholics are those who hold to the Faith before the Council, then the Vatican II believers are not Catholics. It’s as simple as that!
“I would never allow Pope Francis to teach religion to my children”
Thank you, John Vennari, for this candid admission, which no doubt many of your colleagues share but are too afraid to state in public. Of course you wouldn’t allow Francis to teach the Catholic Faith to your children – because the man doesn’t have the Faith. He is not a reliable guide of orthodoxy. (If anything, he’s a reliable guide in what not to believe.) Vennari’s statement here is an implicit admission that he knows Bergoglio is not a Catholic.
But does Vennari ever contemplate that there are repercussions to what he’s saying? Since he absolutely refuses to be a sedevacantist, he seems to have accepted the absurd and wholly non-Catholic position that he can think or say whatever he wills about the Vatican hierarchy and it will not make a difference to anything. But we have news for Mr. Vennari and all who believe like him: Theology has consequences. There are consequences to certain facts, principles, and beliefs.
The Pope, as such, is the universal Teacher of the Faith. He is the proximate rule of Faith. He is the measure of orthodoxy. He teaches all Catholics, including the Vennari children:
“The Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have primacy in the entire world. The Roman Pontiff is the Successor of Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, true Vicar of Christ, Head of the whole Church, Father and Teacher of all Christians.”
(Pope Benedict XIV, Apostolic Constitution Etsi Pastoralis, May 26, 1742; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 32; italics added.)
“If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.”
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chp. 3; Denzinger 1831; italics added.)
“To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.”
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua to Cardinal Guibert, June 17, 1885; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 263; italics added.)
This is what Catholics believe about the function and authority of the Pope. Now, if you can’t apply this to Mr. Bergoglio without risking your eternal salvation, perhaps this should be an indication to you that the man couldn’t possibly be the Pope.
The semi-traditionalists like Vennari have long stopped allowing themselves to be taught by the men they acknowledge to be Popes after 1958, anyway. Or does anyone seriously think that they submit, for example, to what John Paul II teaches in Ut Unum Sint (1995), or Paul VI in Populorum Progressio (1967), or John XXIII in Pacem In Terris (1963), or Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est (2005)? Of course not. If anything, they teach the “Pope.” They are usually the ones criticizing the documents coming from the Vatican, rather than seeking instruction from them, as a Catholic must do. And why? Why do they do all this? Because they refuse to say that these theological bozos are not Popes. So they twist and destroy Catholic teaching on the authority of the Pope in order not to draw a conclusion they do not wish to hold. That is not the way out of this mess, folks.
Vennari might as well put it more bluntly: “Francis is the Pope – but it doesn’t matter”, or “Pope Francis – Who Cares?” For him, nothing follows from his belief that Bergoglio is Pope. In the recognize-and-resist position, the Pope is nothing but a figurehead. He is adhered to whenever the individual judges his teachings, his laws, his decisions to be in confortmity with “Tradition” – at other times he is ignored. And he is always very conveniently brought up when arguing with sedevacantists, yet forgetting that their version of the “Pope” is meaningless.
In practice, the semi-traditionalists take the position that it doesn’t matter if Francis is the Pope or not. Why? Because they don’t submit to him anyway (the statement “I wouldn’t let the Pope teach religion to my kids” is a clear refusal of submission, which is the essence of schism). But in the Catholic Church, the Pope, of course, is “the citadel and bulwark of the Catholic faith” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Qui Nuper, n. 3). “In the Apostolic See,” as the First Vatican Council teaches, “the Catholic religion has always been preserved untainted, and holy doctrine celebrated” (Denz. 1833). What? You can’t say that about Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI, John XXIII, or their Novus Ordo circus? That’s exactly our point. Case closed.
“For example, Francis recently claimed that all men, Catholics, non-Catholics and atheists, are all “first-class” children of God. There are 16-year-old traditional Catholics who know better than to make such a claim. Scripture and Catholic Tradition teach that we are adopted children of God only through Baptism and incorporation into the Church by means of Faith and Sanctifying grace.”
See, this is how bad it is. We’re at a point where 16-year-olds, nay, even First Communicants, know the Faith better than the “Pope”. The most basic truths about the Faith are not held or professed by the “Holy Father”, and a journalist from upstate New York can tell that the “Vicar of Christ” does not have the foggiest clue about the True Faith. Well then, will we finally draw our conclusion? There is no such thing as a non-Catholic Pope, any more than there could be a married bachelor.
“His co-author Rabbi Skorka just attended a huge interreligious Focolare meeting in Rome and praised Francis to the skies, promising that Francis will be a ‘pope of change’.”
Yep, nothing like getting an endorsement from a Jewish rabbi for doing a good job as “Pope”. But as for the praise — it’s mutual (see here).
“Bergoglio is ecumenical to the gills. It is pointless to pretend otherwise. As the Fatima Message says, ‘Pray a great deal for the Holy Father’.”
Yes, it is indeed pointless to pretend that Francis is somehow a Roman Catholic. But it is equally pointless to pretend the man is the Pope, and for the same reason.
“I see the need to step up our resistance to the Vatican II chaos is greater than ever, since John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have more and more established the new orientation as the new norm. Too many of today’s Catholics believe the ‘spirit of Assisi’ and ecumenical gatherings constitute the true face of Catholicism.”
The reason, Mr. Vennari, why your remedy of “resistance” isn’t working is that you have incorrectly diagnosed the disease. Your refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation means you will always use the wrong remedy. You’re behaving like a doctor who tries to treat bone cancer with pain killers because he refuses to believe it’s cancer and keeps insisting it’s just a headache. Until you get the diagnosis right, you will never find the correct remedy. The Vatican II church is moving further and further away from the Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII, and the farther along it moves, the less it will resemble the Catholicism it at first tried to imitate. Let the thing die – it’s over. It’s done. It’s a false church, a false religion, teaching a false faith with a false pope. No amount of resisting can ever make an impious harlot into the Bride of Christ. (See this post for how the Eclipse of the Church began.)
The true solution is to beg Almighty God to end the eclipse of the Church and restore to us a true Pope. We may not know how this may come about, but let us not doubt or curiously inquire into details but rather have full confidence and faith in Almighty God and His Church: “Credo Domine” – “I believe, Lord” (John 9:38).
We must stress one more time that the “recognize-and-resist” position of the non-sedevacantist traditionalists is absolutely impossible and at odds with Catholic teaching. The idea that a Pope can be Pope without professing the true Faith is absurd; and it is even more absurd to say that when we have such a heretical “Pope”, in the meantime doctrinal orthodoxy is then assured by some self-appointed set of clerics (SSPX, The Fatima Center) or laymen (The Remnant, Catholic Family News, etc.) who direct the show. If the Holy See could deviate from the True Faith, then certainly no other organization or group of people could claim to be exempt from the possibility of such defection. In other words, if you can’t rely on the Pope to give you the True Faith, then you surely can’t rely on a bishop from Switzerland, a priest from Canada, a journalist from New York, or a lawyer from New Jersey either.
But of course the Holy See cannot defect – it can be occupied illegitimately, as is the case today, but it cannot lose the Faith. (Hence Our Lady of La Salette spoke of Rome losing the Faith, not the Holy See.) Rather, as His Holiness Pope Leo XIII pointed out beautifully, “the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate” (Leo XIII, Allocution of Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 353). This is Catholic teaching, and it is denied or distorted by the neo-traditionalists who want to have their Pope and beat him, too.
Sorry, Mr. Vennari, but your own convoluted theological “resistance” position is no less of a train wreck than Francis’ 1960s drive-by theology.
On March 21, 1853, the very same Pope Pius IX, whom Vennari calls a “model in our struggle”, published an encyclical letter in which he said that even the Church’s enemies know that as long as there is a true Pope, the true religion can never falter:
“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 [of St. Peter]; 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, n. 7)
Well, Mr. Vennari, how about it? Do you accept what the Novus Ordo Vatican “teaches, determines, and decrees”? Of course you don’t! But what Pope Pius says here, he says about the Holy See as such, the Pope as such, not about any particular occupant. So when you, John Vennari, insist that Francis and his five predecessors of unhappy memory are true Popes, you are saying that Pius IX’s teaching — and all Catholic teaching on the Pope — applies to them. This is what is meant by saying there are consequences, repercussions, to acknowledging someone as Pope. It’s not just a pretty picture in the sacristy or an emotional band-aid when arguing with sedevacantists.
The absurdity of both the Novus Ordo and the recognize-and-resist positions is sufficient proof that the only truly Catholic position one can hold on these matters is that of sedevacantism: The Vatican II Sect is a false church headed by a false pope – it has eclipsed the Catholic Church of Pope Pius XII and his predecessors. Let us pray fervently that Almighty God will have mercy on us, end this exile, and restore the eclipsed Church to all her glory.
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